Friday Flash

“My Path to Publishing” interview up at fridayflash.org

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April 15, 2011

Any regular readers here will know that I occasionally indulge in a bit of Friday Flash. It’s basically a community of writers that put together a flash fiction story (1,000 words or less) and post it on their site. They then tweet the link with the hashtag #fridayflash and get to share their story with others in the group. It was started as an idea by Jon Strother a while back and has grown into a pretty cool community.

I don’t post often, as most of my writing time goes into things that I plan to sell and I don’t write a lot of flash these days, but I still have a stab now and then. My story, Decennial General Meeting, made it into the first group anthology, The Best Of Friday Flash Vol. 1. You can see all my Friday Flash related stuff by checking the Friday Flash category here.

Anyway, there’s a dedicated website now – http://fridayflash.org/ – and they’ve started a new series of interviews called My Path To Publishing. In their words, “This series will feature writers’ stories and their experiences on the many different paths to publication.”

They picked me for the inaugural interview, so if you’re interested you can find that chat here. I’m giving away a signed book as part of the thing too, so get over there and have a look.

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Free fiction and the value of our efforts

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February 3, 2011

The advent of the internet has had many effects, not least of which is giving a voice to pretty much everybody. We’re all sitting at keyboards making noise, like a flock of a billion seagulls fighting over one bag of chips. It’s not a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned. The really strong voices lift above the white noise and everyone gravitates towards those voices that interest them. It’s a big world and an infinite internet, so there’s room in this sandbox for everyone. However, another aspect of that easy online voice is a million wannabe writers posting their stuff online and hoping people will read it. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but a potentially damaging one for a writer’s career in the long run.

I’m one of those voices, obviously. I’ve got some of my own fiction posted here for anyone to read. I’ve engaged in the Friday Flash phenomenon. Is this damaging for my career? I don’t think so. I think it’s helping my career, by giving potential readers an insight into some of my stuff. I’ve had some nice comments from people about stories they’ve read here. But I’ve engaged in the practice with careful forethought.

I decided to write about this after reading this post on Benjamin Solah’s blog. You may remember that Benjamin guest posted here about a week ago, talking about his experiment self-publishing an ebook of his fiction. The power of the internet gave him some pretty solid and honest feedback very quickly. It can be summed up quite well in these comments on Ben’s post by Jason Fischer:

My two cents is this: trunk stories belong in your trunk. You either take them apart and make them good enough to sell, or you leave them there. Why would you want anyone to see a piece of your writing that isn’t working? If your career takes off, do you *really* want these out there?…

There’s so much fiction out there for the reading, even more with the new e-book markets. As such, it is remarkably easy to slide into the infamous “90% of everything that is crap” of Sturgeon’s Law. You should be aspiring to be in the other 10%, not taking the path of least resistance and self-publishing your unsellable trunk stuff.

Work on the nuts and bolts of your writing first and foremost. Be brutal with your own writing, edit, and edit some more. If you can’t get it to work, trunk it and try something else, and LEAVE IT IN THE TRUNK. You can promote something till the cows come home, but if it’s no good, no-one will want it…

These comments are culled from a longer conversation and it’s worth reading Ben’s post to see the whole discussion. Jason is someone worth listening to – apart from being a top bloke, his advice comes from great experience. He’s made many quality short fiction sales and is a recent winner of Writers Of The Future, among many other awards and nominations. Check him out here.

I agree with his sentiments. So how is what I’ve done with fiction on my site different to Ben’s experiment? There’s one simple difference – all the fiction I’ve made available to read here is previously published somewhere (with a couple of exceptions that I’ll talk about in a minute). Some of it is older stuff published in non-paying markets, but it’s still stuff I’m proud of. Other stories are published in better markets and the links here are directly to sites where the story can be found. The point is that it made it past an editor, so I’ve got unbiased, third party confirmation that it’s worth a read. For that reason, I’m happy to direct people towards it and say, “Here’s some of my writing for you to check out, I hope you like it.” If I wasn’t able to sell that story to an editor, even “sell” it to a for the love market, then I certainly won’t put it up here with a pouty face and a “well, I think it’s good enough” attitude. Because it’s not. Writers are the worst possible critics of their own work. Of course we love everything we write – we wrote it!

If people do like it, with any luck they’ll seek out some of my other stuff, they might take a punt on my novels. Hopefully then they’ll enjoy my books and recommend them to friends or buy copies to give as gifts. Using the same hypothesis, the first three chapters of both my books are available here (just click on book covers to find them) so that people can try before they buy.

The other exercise in free fiction I engaged in was Ghost Of The Black: A ‘Verse Full Of Scum. In an effort to generate return visits to my site and more interest in my fiction, I wrote a 30,000ish word novella in a series of episodes, which I then posted here every Monday during 2008. This was a conscious decision to write a piece of fiction that I had no intention of trying to sell. Rather, it was a deliberate exercise in giving something away to showcase my writing. It’s still available on the Serial Fiction page and it’s also available as an ebook and print book, that I’ve self-published. On the whole it’s been very well received and garnered a few decent reviews. Whether it’s really done much to enhance my career is hard to say, but I certainly don’t think it’s done any damage. Whether I leave it here indefinitely is also hard to say. For now, I’m happy to leave it for people to enjoy. I may take down the Serial Fiction page one day, and just leave the ebook and print edition available for people to buy. I may take those away too at some point. (Leave a comment if you have a particular opinion about that – I’d be interested to know.)

What I haven’t done is post here those stories that I couldn’t sell. Believe me, my story trunk is a dark and nasty place, full of things I really don’t want anyone else to see.

Another example of free, unpublished fiction here comes from my occasional jaunts into the Friday Flash meme. This is essentially a community of writers that post flash fiction on their websites and promote it with the #FridayFlash hashtag through Twitter and Facebook. A lot of those people don’t care about getting published, they’re just happy to be part of a community of likeminded people. Things that I’ve posted on Friday Flash are stories that I’ve decided are a good idea and an entertaining little yarn, but one that I don’t want to spend time trying to sell or expand into a longer piece. They’re all taster stories, exercises in writing and storytelling.

For me, writing is a very serious business. Friday Flash was a brief hobby. I don’t mean to denigrate the community by this statement at all, it’s just my own personal situation now. I’m not likely to post any more Friday Flash – I agree with the comments on Ben’s post that it’s a time-sink and I intend to spend that time on sellable short stories and novels. I’ve had fun with it, but now I’m moving on.

These days I only approach semi-pro and pro markets with my work. I know I can get stuff published in other places, but I’m improving my craft and expecting better results from myself. If I can’t sell a story to at least a semi-pro market, I won’t sell it at all. Nor will I post it here on my website. As the things on my site here attest, I was happy to get acceptances from much smaller markets before. Every writer starts somewhere. But I won’t stay there. I want to improve as a writer and I want to sell my work to better and better places all the time. I intend to be a pro writer, as in, get paid pro rates for my work, and I’ll keep working towards that. Recent sales are bearing out the worth of this endeavour – I’m making better sales all the time. I’m still yet to crack the big time pro markets, but I will one day.

In the meantime, I’m happy to leave the stuff here that I’ve already posted. I may well decide to take it all away at some point. Who knows?

What do you think? Do you appreciate free fiction as a taste of a writer’s work? Are you a writer for or against the idea? Have you had good or bad experiences posting fiction on your site? Do you think I should leave free fiction here or take it away? Leave your comments – I’m interested in people’s thoughts.

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Waystations of a journeyman writer

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January 17, 2011

The life of a writer can be a thankless one, with rejections peppering a career far more often than acceptances. But it’s the rejections that teach a writer their chops. With any luck you get a bit of feedback with a rejection that helps to improve a story. A writer should continually improve through the practice of writing, and through reading other peoples’ stuff. I do believe that a writer also gets better with every passing year of life experience, with every trial and tribulation giving us more to draw from. Hpoefully, in the end, the acceptances start to outnumber the rejections.

So I thought it worth taking stock of where things stand for me as we start a new year, and how the last year went. I’m very much a journeyman writer – I’m still learning my craft, hopefully improving all the time. I want to sell stories to the best pro markets, I want novels published by the big mainstream publishers. I’d love the recognition of prizes and awards. All these things will help to prove that I’m doing well at my chosen form of artistic expression, that other people are reading my stuff and enjoying it. I want to get better all the time. So, how am I doing?

Well, 2010 saw my novels, RealmShift and MageSign, acquired by Gryphonwood Press in the US, which was a fantastic result for me. I can’t express how pleased I was about that and I hope it’s just the start of my career as a novellist.

As for short fiction, 2010 saw the publication of these short stories:

Trial Not Required in M-Brane SF Issue #13, February 2010;
Strange Death at Flashes In The Dark, March 2010;
Pushed Too Far at House Of Horror, May 2010;
Decennial General Meeting in Best Of Friday Flash Vol. 1 anthology, August 2010;
Jeff Newman’s Headaches in 52 Stitches, August 23, 2010;
The King’s Accord in Flesh & Bone: Rise of The Necromancers anthology from Pill Hill Press, August 2010 (I think this is my best published story last year, I’m really proud of it.);
Idle Chatter at Bosley Gravel’s Cavalcade of Terror, September 2010.

I also scored myself an Honourable Mention in the Writers Of The Future competition in 2010.

So not a bad year for publications. You can read a lot of these via the Dark Shorts page right here on this website – click the link at the top. But I plan to do better. I’ve already started 2011 in much better form. I sold some stories in 2010 that are due for publication this year. Those are:

Stand Off due for publication in Night Mantled: The Best Of Wily Writers Vol. 1 anthology, which should be out any time now. This is a reprint of the story published and podcast by Wily Writers in July 2009.

Mirrorwalk due for publication in Murky Depths #16 – I’m really pleased to have had a story accepted by Murky Depths and I really like Mirrorwalk. It’s a magic story with a twist. Another great thing about Murky Depths is that each story has a piece of artwork commissioned for it, and Mirrorwalk will be accompanied by an illustration by Rick Fairlamb. I’ve never had a story illustrated before and looking at Rick’s site makes me very excited at what might come about, so I’m looking forward to that.

Unexpected Launch in Anywhere But Earth anthology (Coeur De Lion Publishing) – This one is a sci-fi yarn that I won’t say anything else about just now. You’ll have to read the story. But the concept of this anthology is excellent and the list of authors included is really shaping up nicely. I’m honoured to be in this one and really looking forward to it.

My flash fictions Terminal Illness & The Book are going to be reprinted in the Pill Hill Press 365 Flash anthology. These were originally published by Antipodean SF, so it’s good to see those stories get another outing.

I’ve started 2011 with a few sales as well:

Kasma SF will be publishing my urban sci-fi short story Mistaken Identity any time now.

Ticonderoga Publications will be publishing my vampire horror story, Punishment Of The Sun, in their Dead Red Heart anthology – this is another anthology with a stellar cast of writers contributing, so another one I’m very proud to be included in. This is also a great concept antho, with all the stories being specifically Australian vampire yarns, so I can’t wait to see what else comes out in it. I’ve also been a part of a group of about a dozen writers who all contributed a small amount to a story written in news clippings, that will be included in this anthology. So I’ll get my name in it twice!

My story Duty & Sacrifice will be appearing in the Hope anthology from Kayelle Press later this year.

Seven Realms Publishing in the US are putting together an anthology of short stories based on the classic short story The Most Dangerous Game. Each contributing author will present a story inspired by Richard Connell’s classic featuring characters from their published work. My story Running Wild With The Hunt, featuring Isiah, the protagonist from RealmShift and MageSign will be included in that book.

The Red Penny Papers will be publishing my novellette The Darkest Shade Of Grey, but we’ll be waiting a while for that one. It’s due for publication at the start of 2012, but all the contracts and stuff are signed off now. It’ll be worth waiting for as I honestly believe it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written.

On top of all that I have a few other short stories out under consideration in various places, so I’ll hopefully continue to make sales, hopefully to better and better publications all the time. I’ll continue to write short stories, of course, so who knows what else will happen.

And I’m working on my third novel, which is really shaping up nicely. I’ll be on the lookout for a publisher for that one before too long. There’s an open call for submissions by Angry Robot in March, so I might start there.

As you can see, I’m keeping busy. Writing this post is as much for myself as it is for the interest of readers of this blog. It helps me cope with all the rejections when I see a year or two of work laid out like this and see the successes that have come along. My journey as a writer continues. I’ll keep writing, with a bit of perseverance I’ll keep getting better and hopefully people will enjoy reading my work.

Wish me luck!

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“Idle Chatter” at Bosley Gravel’s

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September 10, 2010

My Friday Flash story, Idle Chatter, first posted here back in July, has been reprinted at Bosley Gravel’s Cavalcade Of Terror. Apart from having a very funky name, this new fiction site looks set to publish some pretty interesting stuff. Give a look if you get a chance.

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Friday Flash – Jeff Newman’s Headaches

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August 27, 2010

FrdayFlashBadge Friday Flash   Jeff Newmans HeadachesThis is a little bit cheeky, but as I don’t have a new flash fiction piece for today, I thought I’d redirect people to the piece that was published at 52 Stitches on Monday. It’s still the same week and it’s still flash fiction, so it counts, right? The story is called Jeff Newman’s Headaches and you can find it here. I hope you like it.

If you already read the story after I posted an announcement about it on Monday, I apologise for wasting your time. For you, just so you don’t feel cheated, here’s an Arabic robot made of microwave ovens:

microwave robot Friday Flash   Jeff Newmans Headaches

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BOFF and a free book

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August 18, 2010

If you’re a regular around here you’ll know that I periodically post a bit of free fiction under the Friday Flash banner. Friday Flash is the brainchild of J M Strother. His idea was that every friday people post a piece of flash fiction (1,000 words or less) on their websites and share said fiction with others via the #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter. It grew very popular and now J M has an engine on his site that collates all the stories every week and it’s become quite the fiction movement. So much so that there’s now a Best Of volume – BOFF, or Best Of Friday Flash Vol. 1, is available now as an ebook with a trade paperback coming soon.

I certainly don’t post every week, but one of my stories was lucky enough to be selected for inclusion in this first Best Of. As a promotion for the launch of the book, you can win a free copy along with a free copy of another novel, just by commenting on J M’s blog. The other novel might be Strange New Feet, by Shannon Esposito, Prophecy Moon by Laura Eno or RealmShift, by little old me. Two free books, just for making a comment. You can’t say fairer than that.

Get over to J M’s site now to enter and learn more about the BOFF while you’re there.

The full Table of Contents for the collection can be found here.

BOFF Cover BOFF and a free book

Friday Flash – Misery Most Delicious

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August 6, 2010

FrdayFlashBadge Friday Flash   Misery Most DeliciousHere’s another of my irregular and infrequent Friday Flash efforts. This is something a bit different to my usual fare and, to be completely honest with you, it’s a bit daft. But I enjoyed writing it so hopefully some of that enjoyment will rub off when you’re reading it. If not, I apologise. May I present:

Misery Most Delicious
by Alan Baxter

For millennia the misery of humans has sustained me, though I have never known such sumptuous feasts as these. Time and again the human race surprises me with its pathological ability to bring wretchedness down upon itself.

I walked the sands of Jericho as trumpets blared and voices roared and the walls fell. I feasted then while every man, woman and child screamed as they were slaughtered, supping of that despair as an indolent king takes wine from a golden goblet. I strolled in the footsteps of the Israelites as they sacked Canaan, and their legacy engorged me.

I fed at the first genocide as Carthage was destroyed and I lounged in a tent with Alexander as he crushed the fatigued Persians, drinking in their laments as the Macedonians soaked the earth with their blood.

I stalked this fetid earth from Crimea to England in the wake of the black death that reduced humanity’s numbers and its will, celebrating that invisible, unstoppable, insatiable wave of bereavement.

I laughed as the Inquisitors tortured and violated minds and bodies, terrifying humans away from evils the Church itself created. I thought then that humanity had reached its peak of imposed suffering, but I was wrong. Has ever humanity suffered so much as at the hands of religiously sanctioned atrocity? How many times have I taken sustenance from the anguish of families as blood washed the streets of Constantinople?

I rode in the dark, stinking bellies of creaking ships as they sailed with a cargo of desolate souls from African coasts to the new world. But it was an old world to me, no different from those that had gone before and no less ripe with nourishment.

Wherever spirit is crushed, wherever hope is torn away, wherever light is snuffed with anger, greed and hatred, there walk I. For the history of humanity I have lurked and never have I gone hungry. Never have I lacked provision. Always have I been spoiled for choice.

And forever the numbers grow, a virus across the sweet green face of the land. People spread wherever there is space and pile upon one another whenever space runs out. They rut in desperation, propagating themselves and their ideals and always with them goes the abhorrence that leads them to desecrate and debase each other, for power, for money, for gods. For the pure sake of it. As their numbers grow so too does their misery. And their misery is the nectar I live for. Was there ever a creature more suited to this mortal realm of carnal decadence and carnage than I?

So many human guises I have worn over the centuries, walking through the killing fields, riding the plague winds, following the footsteps of suffering. Always have I hidden in plain view, disguised as one of them, feasting as I go. Yet always I had to seek out my sustenance, track down the pain of existence. It has never been as easy as this. Finally it comes to me.

And now my current role calls for my attention again. What slices of personal despair await my slavering taste tonight. Within this human guise, this suit and tie and glossy smile, I hunch with fervent anticipation. My mouth waters. I must be careful not to let my hunger show. Let it begin. Let the human misery wash over me. I clear my throat and speak through this modern medium of mass communication, that brings the desolation directly to my tongue. ‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to another edition of “A Current Today”. On the program tonight, are you paying too much in the supermarket? Plus, a look into why nursing homes are possibly the worst place to send your aging relatives. But first, who would abuse and starve an eight year old child like this? Our exclusive report follows. Stay tuned!’

Ahhh, delicious.

END

NB: For any overseas people confused by that ending, “A Current Today” is an amalgam of a couple of Australian shows (A Current Affair and Today Tonight), both of which are awful magazine news programs. You know the kind of thing – it parades as a news show while actually digging around to sensationalise the worst of humanity for ratings success. Parasitic and ugly. I’m sure your local TV stations have equivalent shows.

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Friday Flash – Idle Chatter

By
23
July 23, 2010

FrdayFlashBadge Friday Flash   Idle ChatterIt’s been a while since I posted a Friday Flash piece so I thought I’d offer up this one today. It’s a nasty little piece, so brace yourself if you’re of a sensitive disposition. Then again, I don’t imagine you’d frequent this site if you were of a sensitive disposition. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

Idle Chatter
by Alan Baxter

Incident Report: Sgt Greg Moran
Thursday, 18th March 2010, 21.45 hours
Apartment 14/4 Broughton Street

Response to repeated calls from multiple callers re: home invasion.

Constable Murray and I attended address as per dispatch following multiple calls from several frantic teenage girls regarding a home invasion. When we arrived at the scene there were no signs of force and no response to knocking. As per dispatch instruction, we forced entry. This proved difficult as the chain was across the door inside. We spotted a notice on the back of the door that read:

Back by eleven, honey. Don’t forget the chain! Love Mom.

On entering the apartment we found no signs of a struggle or any open windows. We first noticed blood around the door from the hall to the rear bedroom. No one answered our calls.

On entering the rear bedroom we discovered the victim, Jessica Mellay [addendum: AKA WildGrrl_93]. At this point Constable Murray vomited and became unable to go on. I sent him to wait by the broken door while I investigated further.

The victim was spread-eagled on the floor of the bedroom, her chest split through the middle and wrenched open. Blood covered everything, across the walls, even the ceiling. There was a gaping hole in her chest, I think where her heart should have been. I could smell a strange sulphurous, burning odour throughout the place, strongest in the bedroom with the victim. There were no other doors to the apartment aside from the locked and chained front door. All windows were locked closed and the fire escape steps were still up.

We searched and found no one else in the apartment.

We called it in and awaited command.

Attachment: Internet chat transcript. Recovered from victim’s PC cache.

WildGrrl_93: darren totally blushed today when i sat next 2 him

TehB1tch: you wish!!! he never go 4 u

WildGrrl_93: y not?

TehB1tch: darren likes cock!!!

LotusHoney: lolz!

WildGrrl_93: no way

candy_lips: jess, evry1 nos that

WildGrrl_93: no way!!!

LotusHoney: haha. pmsl!!!

TehB1tch: tammy saw darren sucking toby after footy finals under the bleechers!

LotusHoney: omfg is dat tru?!

WildGrrl_93: no way!!!!!

TehB1tch: hahaha! stop sayin no way at everything yeh its true!!! darren a cock lover hahaha

WildGrrl_93: fuck hes hot wat a waste

AMON: You know, gossip can be destructive.

TehB1tch: whos dat? this is private chat

LotusHoney: ew freak fuck off!

AMON: Such ripe young flesh, you shouldn’t waste time with human boys.

candy_lips: who r u? this is private chat

LotusHoney: piss off freak perv

AMON: The air is so fresh up here.

TehB1tch: guys, log off. i start a new chat

TehB1tch has left this chat
LotusHoney has left this chat

candy_lips: fucking PERV!!!

WildGrrl_93 has left this chat
candy_lips has left this chat

*

TehB1tch: guys?

candy_lips: yeh. who was dat creep

LotusHoney: wtf was dat???

TehB1tch: i no, right. creepy perv hacker

candy_lips: wheres jess?

TehB1tch: jess?

LotusHoney: sam u invite her?

TehB1tch: course

candy_lips: im callin her cell

LotusHoney: so whos amon? nvr heard name b4

TehB1tch: me either kinda freaky

LotusHoney: how did he get in our chat?

TehB1tch: dunno

candy_lips: guys jess isnt answering her cell or landline

AMON: Jess is busy with me. She’s very good for someone just learning what I require of her.

TehB1tch: WTF!??!?

LotusHoney: YOU FUCKING CREEP HOW YOU GETTIN IN HERE?!?!?

AMON: For millennia young girls have been so sweet. And you get ever easier to find.

candy_lips: omfg guys im rly scraed.

AMON: Jess is very good at this. Don’t cry, sweetie.

TehB1tch: im callin the police right now

candy_lips: me too

AMON: You’re all too late.

LotusHoney: and me keep callin

AMON: Jess is very shiny on the inside.

END

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Pushed Too Far on Dark Shorts

By
7
May 21, 2010

My duel winning story from House Of Horror has been added to the Dark Shorts page. Use the button on the left or this is a direct link to the story.

It’s a little under 1,500 words and Friday Flash stuff is supposed to be 1,000 words or less, but I thought I’d mention this in Friday Flash circles anyway, for those of you interested to have a read. I hope you enjoy it.

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Friday Flash – Death Of A Taxi Driver

By
26
April 16, 2010

FrdayFlashBadge Friday Flash   Death Of A Taxi DriverIt’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post a Friday Flash story. It’s my birthday tomorrow (April 17th) so I thought I’d use that as an excuse to do one. I hope you like it. It’s a little sci-fi detective thing, with a touch of noir.

Death of a Taxi Driver

by Alan Baxter

Inspector Grey squinted up into a cold, gusting rain. He pulled the collar of his heavy coat tighter, shivering. The last cup of lukewarm coffee he had managed to grab before leaving the station was doing little to warm him. He trudged across the shiny road towards a dented Chrysler AT47 Hovercar, wedged at an obtuse angle between lamppost, wall and kerb. A standard city taxi, like dozens of others flitting back and forth, up and down. The triangular sign on its roof was cracked, dark. The passenger door hung open.

A young officer stood by the wreck, his shoulders hunched, cap pressed tightly down on his forehead. He nodded as Grey approached. Grey nodded back. ‘So what am I doing here, kid? Some bozo wrecking his cab hardly warrants my attention.’

The young officer smiled tightly, pointed to the driver’s door. Grey bent to look in. The driver’s face was pale, shock frozen in his features. Or surprise? He wore a bright white T-shirt, with a dark scarlet stain spreading below his left shoulder, an obvious puncture wound in the centre. Pretty accurate targeting of the heart. But what with?

Grey looked past the driver at the toughened security screen that surrounded his seat, floor to ceiling plastic bubble. There were scratch marks on it, a few tears in the ceiling fabric, scuff marks on the dash. Right at the level of the driver’s elbow was smear in the toughened plastic, like it had melted and run, about two inches wide. ‘Got a crowbar?’

The kid nodded and walked away. When he returned Grey simply pointed at the driver’s door. The kid, with considerable effort, popped it open.

Grey reached inside his coat, rooting around for a pen. He leaned inside the car, past the driver, used the pen to gently probe the melted plastic. It was soft, thick, viscous in the middle. His pen was slightly melted when he pulled it away. ‘Forensics on their way?’

The young officer nodded. ‘Should be here any minute.’

Grey pointed at the rippled teardrop in the security screen. ‘Have them analyse that first. It’ll be some kind of acid.’

The kid leaned in for a closer look. ‘No problem.’

Grey stuffed his hands deep into his pockets, shaking his head slightly, rain flicking from his tousled hair. ‘Anything else I should know about?’

‘No, sir. We didn’t touch a thing yet. Just waiting for you and the lab boys.’

Typical street cop, new on the force, scared by all the horror stories. Find something a little out of the ordinary and immediately call in a higher ranking officer, a different division. There were an infinite number of deaths and injuries awaiting every soul in this overloaded, degenerating city. Anything a person could do to avoid bumping into one was a constant priority. Grey rummaged in his voluminous coat again, pulled out a flashlight, laser pointer one end, regular torch the other. Flicking his thumb over a small stud he let his eyes follow the bright beam into the driver’s lap, punching away the shadows.

The driver wore faded blue jeans, his limp left hand rested on his ample thigh. Grey let the beam wander down into the floor pan, sneakered feet among steely grey pedals. Something flashed dully, catching his eye. ‘Got an evidence bag?’ he asked, not looking around.

‘Sure.’

A polythene grip-top bag appeared over his left shoulder. Grey put his hand inside, pulled it on like a glove. He reached down and picked up the object from the floor of the car, pulling the bag back the right way, the item, untouched, now inside. He stepped back from the car for a look at it just as the forensic team arrived. He heard the young officer pointing out the acid mark to them as he watched his evidence bag gently reflect the street light. Rivulets chased each other across its plastic surface as the rain blew past.

‘They’re checking that mark now, sir. What the hell is that?’

Grey smiled inwardly, but his face was far too out of practice to follow suit. How quickly times change. ‘It’s a firearm, kid. Only it fires little lead projectiles, forced out at great velocity by an explosion caused by a chemical reaction in the barrel.’

The young cop looked closely for a second, wiping rain from his eyes. ‘Really? That’s an old gun? I’ve never seen a real one before.’

Grey didn’t bother to answer that. He simply said, ‘It’s an antique. Probably a family heirloom.’

‘Hey, Grey.’ The forensics officer, Derkins on his nametag, handed over a data chip. ‘It’s acid all right. Pretty powerful stuff too.’

Grey nodded. ‘Thanks. You’ll find he died of a projectile wound to the heart.’

Derkins looked at the bag in Grey’s hand. ‘From that?’ His voice betrayed his uncertainty.

‘Yeah. From this.’

The young cop called out as Grey headed back to his own car. ‘Hey, is that it?’ He looked lost and forlorn through the haze of rain.

Grey paused, half turned around. ‘Yeah, that’s it. Your taxi driver has a fare that tries to melt through the security screen with acid to rob him. So he pulls out the family heirloom, thinking he’s going to defend himself. Trouble is, he doesn’t understand an old weapon drawback – ricochet. Look it up in the dictionary. That security screen was tougher than he thought it was.’ He lobbed the evidence bag containing the old revolver to the young cop, who caught it awkwardly, like it might explode in his face. ‘You may as well file the report too, kid.’

END

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The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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