Friday, June 29, 2007


by Cormac Brown

This is who they send to watch me?

Even over the hyper-fluttering sound of the money counter tallying bills like an amplified flock of vultures, I could hear the snort. I looked over by the door and there he was, the true Lizard King, forget Jim Morrison. This character was a reptile, from his mannerisms, to his clothes and shoes made from snakes and alligators. To his bulging eyes that suggested his brain was all reptilian, with not a dash of ape or mammal to dilute it.

He had an Altoids tin open and there was a light pink powder inside. He was using one of those tablespoon-teaspoon spoons on a ring that your mom used to use in the kitchen when baking pies and the second smallest spoon seemed to be in heavy rotation, today.

I shuffled and stacked some more money like a blackjack dealer in Vegas and fed the pile into the money counter.

I nodded at him and said slowly "what's that, Pixie-stick dust?"

Even though I said it slowly, I figured it wouldn't register and it didn't.

"I said, 'what is that, Pixie-stick dust?"

He blinked for what had to be the first time since he had been in the room, some thirty minutes, and he blinked again as he glared at me with those cold, reptilian eyes.

He rasped "what are you talking about? Are you high?"

Talk about the kettle...

"The stuff, what is it?"

"Strawberry Quick, yo."

I banded the counted pile and shuffled up another deck of five dollar bills.

"Don't you want some milk to go with that?"

"Really, are you high?"

I repeat, this is who they send to watch me?

In between sorting singles, "no, I haven't been high since the elder Bush was in office." Fives, "what is that supposed to be..." Twenties, "some new kind of designer drug?"

"No, it's meth. Strawberry-flavored meth."


"And it's not as strong as regular meth, so you don't become addicted. Shit, you are so retarded."

Yeah, how dumb can I be? I must be a raging idiot to not want have my eyes bugging out of my head and my brain bouncing against my ears.


A light pink plume shot up as he closed the tin. He slipped it into a Ziploc and sealed the bag. He walked over to the water cooler and doused his fingers with water. Then he snorted the wet off of his fingers.

"What, you don't have no vices?" he sneered and nodded towards my ample frame.

"I like a sifter of Jack Daniels every now and then. But, see, unlike you, I like my death to taste like death."


"I said, I don't need my death sugar-coated with a parasol, I take mine straight-up."

"Who asked you, any-"

There was a gentle knock on the door that silenced us and got our attention like the rattle of a sidewinder.

BECOMING — Chapter Seven

by Patrick Baggatta

It had been four hours since we let Warner Lynch leave with a head full of questions. I was banking on him taking at least that long to do his own ruminating before setting out for answers.

Hammond was proving surprisingly good at holding his liquor and his edge for the work. I wasn’t sure yet if this was a good thing or not. When I finally got tired of deflecting case questions, I excused myself and made a private call to the station.

“Let’s go,” was all I had to say when I got back. Hammond was up and heading toward the door in a flash. It wasn’t until we were in the car that he even bothered to ask where we were going. He was like a dog that way, happy to be along for the ride.

“God damn right,” he shot back, when I finally told him where we were going.

I blocked a driveway a few doors down from Lynch’s house and killed the lights.

“Which one is it?” Hammond asked.

I pointed out a two story Edwardian, nothing special. You could find at least one like it on just about any block in the city. There were no lights in the front, but a faint glow from deep inside said someone was home. The light was most likely from the kitchen or bedroom. I scanned the street for Lynch’s car, another detailed I’d collected on my call. There was no sign of it.

“I’m going to check something,” I told Hammond. “Stay here.” I slid out of the car sticking to the shadows as I made my way to the garage. I peered in, but it was too dark to see anything. Suddenly, a car horn blared behind me and I turned to see a pissed-off neighbor unable to get out of his own garage because of where I’d parked.

Hammond jumped out of the car and flashed his badge for the whole neighborhood to see. So much for keeping a low profile.

Just then Lynch’s garage door lurched to life, rolling up with a terrible clatter. “Shit!” I hustled back to the car where Hammond was yelling at the neighbor.

“Hammond, come on,” I ordered as I dove back into the car.

Lynch played it off like he didn’t see us as he drove past, but I caught a flash of panicked recognition and a slight swerve to go with it. It wasn’t how I’d wanted to play it, but it was what it was. A good plan is flexible if nothing else.

“Was that Lynch?” Hammond asked. I balled my fist for the second time in our brief partnership. “Well, are we gonna follow him?”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

BECOMING — Chapter Six

by Patrick Baggatta

I’d struck a nerve bringing Lynch’s wife Violet into play. Violet, the name felt sticky somehow. It was more exotic than she deserved, based on the photos I’d seen anyway.

Lynch admitted his two women knew each other, but downplayed their relationship. I’ve never been married, but I’ve come close enough to know the woman at home doesn’t sit easy with her man holed-up in a studio with a better looking woman. I needed to talk to the one who was still breathing, but the day was getting old by the time we left the scene and I needed to let it sit. Hammond had other ideas.

“Where to now? The wife? The cleaning crew?”

“No,” I said, taking a sharp left. “Now, we get a drink.”

I took Hammond to a shitty little bar I knew in the Mission, not one of the usual cop hang-outs. On-duty drinking was different, you had to at least make an effort to lay low. The old Mexi guys at the bar gave us the evil eye until they felt sure we meant no harm. I ordered a scotch and the same for Hammond.

“To the dead,” I said, toasting our new case, partnership, whatever else Hammond wanted to read into it. I could tell he didn’t like wasting time at the bar when there were leads to chase. I waited for him to make it an issue.

“What are we doing here, Pachwolynzki?”

“Call me Patches.” I was in that kind of mood.

“What are we doing?”

“We’re ruminating.”

“Ruminating what?”

“Close your eyes,” I said, motioning to the bartender for another round. Hammond hesitated. “Close ‘em, goddamnit.” He finally did. “Ashley Brown. What do you see?”

“A dead girl in white. Our case.”

“Her face? What do you see?”

“I don’t know.” He was getting impatient. “Pretty, I guess. Dead.”

“Ashley Brown,” I repeated, stressing the name. “What does Ashley Brown look like?” He opened his eyes and stared at me, trying to decipher if that itch he was starting to feel was real or not, if I was real or not. I was glad to see him thinking like a detective already.

“You don’t think that was Ashley Brown we found back there?”

“I don’t know. I never met Ashley Brown. I’m just ruminating.” I downed my second scotch and ordered us another round. We drank for the next two hours without talking much.

Hammond kept throwing anxious glances at the door. It was for effect, for my benefit, but it came from something honest. Finally, he played his card. “I keep expecting her to walk in here and ask what we’re doing to find the bastard who killed her.”

At least I knew who I was partnered with now. I didn’t tell him that nothing would have made me happier.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

BECOMING — Chapter Five

by Patrick Baggatta

Warner Lynch dressed like a modern day beatnik, striped shirt, shag haircut, black jeans, the works. It was probably a bold move in Topeka or wherever he denied being from, but in San Francisco it was just another uniform. I was embarrassed for him.

We talked in his office. The space was tight, and I’d angled him to sit with his back to the door. I wanted him facing me while he listened to the boys taking Ashley out. Hammond took up a position behind me.

“When did you see her last? Breathing, I mean.” Hammond’s eager breathing behind me spawned the jab. Lynch didn’t appreciate my manner. That was good. I wanted him agitated.


“Here?” He nodded. Trying to listen to the action in the other room.

“Personal or business?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I showed him my shittiest grin. No one plays innocent with me.

“Business. A shoot. We finished at eight last night and she left.”

“Commit that time to memory, did you?” Hammond jumped in. His timing surprisingly good.

“I had dinner reservations, with my wife.”

I took a shot. “The pretty girl on the wall, right? Behind the sheets? Pretty girl.”

“Yes. She is...pretty.”

“So, you and Ashley met back here late night? After putting the wife to bed?”

“Her name is Violet, my wife. And it wasn’t like that with Ashley.”

“How was it then?”

“We worked together. She was important to my career, admittedly, but that’s all.” I pretended to write something in my notebook. He was getting anxious. “How did you find her, anyway? Ashley.”

I saw her face again, that look. I suddenly wanted to hand the whole mess over to Hammond and get the fuck out of there. I needed a drink.

“We’ll ask the questions,” shot back Hammond, covering my silence. I shook it off and got back to business.

“Your cleaning service called,” I replied calmly. “Said some messes were too big for six dollars an hour.” I’d expected that to get him riled, but he only got confused.

“Lupa? She comes Thursdays. It’s only Wednesday.”

“What are you trying to pull? It is Thursday.” I could see this was more troubling than the dead girl on his floor.

“Are we done?” he asked after a telling silence. “This is all a little much for me.”

“We’re done when we say we’re done,” Hammond piped-up again.

I turned to Hammond. It was time to see what kind of instincts he had. “How about we give Mr. Lynch time to collect his thoughts?” Hammond nodded dutifully, sharp enough to stay out of my way. “You’ll come to the station tomorrow to give a full statement?” Lynch nodded gratefully. He had questions of his own, and I wanted to see where he went for answers.

“One more thing, though. Did Violet know the deceased?” Lynch took a moment to blank his expression. “It is Violet, isn’t it?”

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Welcome to HBC

Now that we have a little momentum going, it seemed like a good time to officially welcome our new readers and invite you to check out some of our first original fiction. If you like what you read, come back often for frequent updates to our crime, mystery, detective, noir, and hard boiled series from emerging authors in the genre.

If you're an author who'd like to contribute to the site, email a sample chapter. We can't promise to publish every submission or pay for your trouble, but if we do publish your work, we're happy to offer an author link so your fans can start pestering you for the next chapter in the series.

Friday, May 11, 2007

BECOMING — Chapter Four

by Patrick Baggatta

I found a wooden stool at the far end of the room and watched the lab geeks seal up invisible fibers, trying to let my head relax into the case. I could hear Hammond asking TV cop questions in the background. I muttered shut the fuck up about a hundred times, but it was my own shortcoming to care that he was wasting his time.

I’d already committed Ashley Brown to memory. It wasn’t easy going. I had the feeling she didn’t like being admired so closely, a by-product of being a product model, maybe. I’d found her picture several times in the portfolio books stored in the attached office. She was hard-wired to be there and not be there at the same time. She was a lifestyle, a prop, a feeling you were supposed to get when you purchased the right detergent. She was not to be studied too closely. She was not real. Reality puts us out of the buying mood. But she was real now.

I was trying to soft focus the room one last time before making my first move. “What’s behind the sheets?” A passing tech, assumed the question was for him.

“Nothing. Some photos.”

I went to look for myself, taking a wide berth around Ashley who was still there under my orders. I peeled back the first curtain. It was soft, expensive shit. The wall was bare. I caught a whiff of fresh paint. I worked my way around the perimeter, the same all the way around except for one wall that contained a neatly lined column of portraits, all of the same woman. They were technically good, professional, but they didn’t exactly send me. The girl struck me as forgettably pretty and I got the impression that this was what you got when an advertising photographer tried to recapture his verve for the art he’d long since sold down the river.

“Warner’s here,” Hammond called to me from the door. “The uniforms are keeping him downstairs.” It was time to meet the photographer. “Tell them to let him come up.” I wanted to see how he entered the room.

Lynch Warner, a bullshit name if ever I heard one, turned the corner a moment later and ran straight for the body. It told me he probably loved her. A mad dash like that was an instinct to save. Of course, that didn’t mean he wasn’t in on her death, it just meant he didn’t feel good about it. He’d have to be rattled.

“Get away from the body,” I demanded from my stool. He stopped and looked at me as if I’d just pissed on the Pope. I leaned back on the stool, letting him know I had the support of the room. I didn’t need to act personally to get my way. He stood and approached me because he knew he was supposed to.

“You can take the body now,” I told the coroner.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

LEFTY — Chapter Three

by Mary Thomas

The smoke was starting to come out of the basement. The couple would notice soon. Fire alarms would go off soon. Yes! I would go up to a higher floor and run out with everyone when the fire alarm went off. If I came from upstairs, with a crowd of hysterical people I wouldn’t be noticed.

Flawed plan. Projects go up like a match box, and poor people don’t have working fire alarms. Within two minutes smoke was reaching the 3rd floor and I heard a siren in the distance. I had to act quickly. I start yelling fire and banging on doors. That worked. I swear there were ten Mexicans to every apartment running out like the tamale lady had shown up. They were great cover. I was happy it was a predominantly Mexican slum. I didn’t stand out as much as if it had been all black. When I saw this, I made an attempt to yell fire in an accent, drawing from Speedy Gonzalez and the valets from the country club.

I had my escape. I just couldn’t be the first one out, and had to resist knocking over the women and children. Those things would draw attention. I could see the door. I was almost there when my foot went through the stair. I couldn’t get it out and everyone was rushing past me. I was feverishly pulling on my leg with my one and only hand. I heard a cracking noise over my head, and then everything went black.

Next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital a hero. I had saved a building full of impoverished, illegal aliens and lost my hand while doing it. I was a celebrity. I got an offer from the largest law firm in the city to handle all of there pro bono cases. It was a great PR stunt for them to cover up all of the shady shit they did. I got a high paying job and wasn’t really expected to do anything except occasionally wave the nub at cameras for photo ops.

My life was set, until Esmeralda Garcia came into my office.