By Mal Radcliff

(discovered by Gary Phillips)

No one could have shown more enthusiasm than GARY PHILLIPS did when we brought up the idea of Blood & Tacos. In his words, “I got a Mal Radcliff story no one’s ever read, baby! The Silencer, baby!” We know we don’t have to tell you who Mal Radcliff is. We tried to contact Mr. Radcliff, but due to gambling and other debts he has not maintained any address for too long since his heyday. Either way, you can enjoy this 1975 masterstroke by a true legend.


Booker Essex, now known as the Silencer, grabbed the hood in the fedora with an arm around his neck just as the second hood let loose with a burst from his Thompson machine gun.

“You goddamn moulie,” were the hood’s last words before bullets from the chopper ripped a diagonal up from his stomach across his chest — his body jerking at the impact of the high speed .45 rounds.

As those rounds tore through the crook’s body, Essex was already moving. Crimson spread like ink blots on the dead man’s custom-made dress shirt as his corpse collapsed onto the floor. Returning fire to drive the other two torpedoes back, Essex had shoved the body aside and dove through the swing door into the kitchen.

“Hold on,” the machine gunner said to the third hood next to him who began to advance. “Looks like this fuckin’ jay-bo ain’t gonna be easy pickins like we figured.”

The third member of Laugher Graziano’s gang nodded briefly. He carried a snub-nosed .38 revolver in a hand with a diamond pinky ring in a gold setting. The two separated some, each slowly approaching the kitchen door of the Fuzzy Feather Gentlemen’s club. The metal rear door was locked and they heard no gunfire indicating their quarry was trying to exit. But they figured he wouldn’t leave as they had the bait.

“We’ll deal with you after we take care of this mook,” the one with the handgun whispered. He shook the barrel briefly at a woman in a short robe tied-up on the stage. She was a stripper in the club, on her side, bound and gagged, a colorful silk tie around her mouth. Her eyes were wide not with fear, but with defiance. Her blonde hair was tangled and unruly. To the side of the stage, a staircase led to the VIP section on the second floor. A steam room and curtained alcoves were available there.

Now the gunmen were on either side of the swing door, the Thompson man looking through the portal-style window. The lights were on inside but Essex wasn’t visible. There was a long counter with stainless steel pots and pans suspended above on hooks, and they assumed he was low behind that.

“You’d think it being all white in there the jungle bunny would stand out,” the other hood cracked nervously.

The stripper, who did the bump and grind as Ginger Strawberry, swore at them but it came out muffled.

The machine gunner eased the swing door open with the muzzle of his magazine-fed Tommy gun, hoping the Silencer would show himself to take a shot. Nothing happened. He reared back and looking at his partner. They reached a silent decision. Together they both crashed into the kitchen. The Thompson handler laid down a barrage to keep the Silencer crouching, while the other hood’s goal was to round the counter and blast him.

But a step away from the counter, the lights went out and there was a hiss like the quick release of air from a truck’s power brakes. Then cold silence. Diffused spill light came in through the portal window illuminating little.

“Tony,” the snub-nosed man ventured. Tony was the now deceased Thompson gunner. “Tony,” he repeated. Again no answer and he backtracked out of the kitchen in a hurry. He took hold of the trussed up woman and sliding her off the stage, got her to her bare feet. He dug the business end of the gun into her cheek.

“Okay, hotshot, better show yourself or your girlfriend here gets got,” he called out. There was no movement from the kitchen and he repeated his threat. He undid the tie over Ginger Strawberry’s mouth.

She began, “Why you lousy low life, scum–” He struck her in the face with the pistol. This elicited a groan as he intended.

“That’s enough,” Essex said from the kitchen doorway. He had one hand holding the swing door open, the other one out of sight. His voice was sibilant, shadowy, as if talking was an effort. It was not the voice he’d always had.

“Throw your piece out,” the remaining hood demanded.

“Don’t do it, Book,” the woman advised.

He did as ordered. The gun was a modified .32 semi-auto machine pistol with a 20-round magazine and was fitted with a stubby sound suppressor on the muzzle. Twin tubes lead from the suppressor back into the body of the weapon.

“That’s something,” the hood said admiringly of the gun. He gestured with his revolver, using the woman as his shield as Essex had done with the first hood. “Now come all the way out with your hands up.”

The Silencer did as ordered again. He wore a jean jacket over a ribbed turtleneck and flared slacks that broke just so on his Nunn Bush boots. His Fu Manchu mustache glistened with sweat. Though unlike the current style, he didn’t sport an afro, rather he kept his hair boot camp short.

The gunsel wore a checkered leisure suit, his shirt open to expose his hairy chest and a heavy gold chain over the thicket. He smiled. “The boss is gonna be happy to have your magic gat,” he said, referring to the specialized weapon. So-called silencers really weren’t silent like in the movies. It muffled a gun’s retort, but you could still hear it, just quieter. Essex’s weapons were truly mere whispers when they went off.

In a flash the thug took the gun from the side of the woman’s face and as he squeezed the trigger to kill Booker Essex, he was quite surprised to feel a sting at his temple. He hadn’t heard a thing.

“What the fu…” he muttered then fell face first onto the plush carpeting of the Fuzzy Feather — the body dying as his brain ceased function.

Essex crossed the distance and set the wobbly Ginger Strawberry in a chair.

“How’d you do that, Book?” she asked.

“Ever see the show, the Wild, Wild West? How ol’ Jim West had this derringer on a slide mechanism up his sleeve?” He held his arm such so she could see the end of what looked like a small rectangular box with four holes in the end of his sleeve.

“Your version of that,” she said. “Always cooking up a gadget.”

“Better get your stuff and let’s get out of here before the fuzz come pounding through the doors.”

“Good idea. I’ve got the cassettes too.” She stood and the robe flapped open, revealing her sculpted nude torso and sequined G-string. Essex looked away, his face warm.

Strawberry, whose real name was Marcia Mathers, noted this with a wry smile. She came over to him, pressing herself against his back. The blonde put a hand on his shoulder. “I know women don’t scare you, Book.”

He looked sideways at her. “It’s not that, Marsh. But you’re Bobby’s sister.”

“I’m also my own woman. And we’re not kids anymore.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” he agreed.

She kissed him on the cheek and went into the dressing room to get her clothes on and retrieve her purse and items. Thereafter the two left the club by a side door to Essex’s three-year-old 1972 Ford LTD. The vehicle had a pristine Landau top and mag wheels, with a big block 460 Brougham engine under the hood. There were special items Essex had also built into the car besides further souping up the motor. He brought the machine to life and Mathers wasn’t surprised she could barely hear the thing running.

“Living up to your name, huh?”

“Guess so.” He turned on the heater and a police scanner hidden behind a fake grill in the dash.

Tires crunched over gravel as he drove off in the dark of post-three A.M. from the strip club. The place was a few miles out of town off the highway, mostly industrial facilities around, large structures made of metal sidings and low roofs. The trees were bare, their limbs pointing up to the wintery sky as if accusing the weather of indifference.

Paul “Laugher” Graziano, sometimes called the Laughing Man by friends and enemies, wore slacks and slippers, an athletic undershirt underneath the silk robe he’d tied around his trim waist. He was pushing sixty but maintained a regime of racquetball, swimming, and athletic sex with young women his daughter’s age. His nickname was derived from a childhood incident when he was eleven.

He and a friend were running from a copper after robbing a blind newshawker at his sidewalk stand. They ran into the street and Graziano was struck by a street car, causing nerve damage in his face. He was caught and sent to reform school. The other kid, Benny “Bean Pole” Mathers, got away. Thereafter the left side of Graziano’s face drooped, and he learned to talk out of the other side of his mouth. His melancholy appearance earned him his opposite sobriquet.

He prided himself that he pretty much weighed the same as he did when he played basketball at Theodore Roosevelt High. They were the Rough Riders. That is before he was kicked out of school for taking bets on the games. The same school some years later that Booker Essex, Marcia Mathers and her now deceased brother Robert had attended as well. Less than a year after they graduated, Essex was drafted and Bobby Mathers volunteered for Vietnam.

Laugher Graziano puffed on his thin cigar, looking out the window from the study to his backyard and the pool he better cover soon. A few ducks swam about in the water, quacking happily. What did it mean to be happy, he pondered as he turned back to Loomis Kassel, his Bill Blass-dressing, Yale-educated, half-German, half-Italian consigliore.

The time was just past dawn and both men were aware of what had gone down at the Fuzzy Feather a few hours before. Indeed Kassel had already dispatched a crew to clean up the mess. Due to having a homicide cop named Bert Chastain on the pad, he’d gotten a call from the detective and with his help, was keeping a lid on the matter — for the moment.

“I know,” Graziano began unprompted. “I should have listened to you and not given in to my weakness. But who the fuck checks on the background of these broads? They all use a made up name strippin’ and hookin’ on the side.” He shook his head. “Who could figure that chick would be undercover snatch?” He laughed sourly at his joke.

“We not only need to deal with her, but this colored gentleman.”

“I need to color him red ”

Kassel adjusted his Yves St. Laurent-designed frames. “I have a solution, only it’s going to cost.”

The Laughing Man spread his arms wide. “Doesn’t it always, Loomis? Doesn’t it always?”

Ever since physically recovering from the fire resulting from the bomb, the Silencer had gone underground. With Chastain, Graziano’s gang, and the self-styled revolutionary Rahim Katanga and his bunch all crowding him about making deadly inventions for them, he had little choice. But before it all changed, he and Bobby Mathers had managed to make it back to the world from ‘Nam and opened their auto garage. It didn’t hurt that both men had earned a few medals and were welcomed back as hometown heroes.

At their Danang Drag Motor Specialists shop, they repaired everyday cars and customized those who could afford something special. Life was good then.

He looked toward the sound of water coming from what had been the boss’ office and the private bathroom and shower within.

In there Marcia Mathers was finishing up and turned off the hot and cold faucets. Leave it to Booker, she noted appreciatively, to be able to bootleg electricity and running water into a place that went belly up months ago.

She pushed the pebbled glass door open and stepped out of the shower, taking off the rack one of the large towels Essex had provided. Drying off next to the portable heater, she stood in the compact office area he’d converted to a kind of bedroom with a cot, lamp sans shade and numerous technical books on a makeshift shelf. There was a photo taped to the wall of Essex and her brother as soldiers in a jungle clearing in Vietnam. Both had vacant smiles on their faces — the smiles of men who had seen and done too much over there.

There were no pictures of Charlotte Sumlin about. There was though a charred piece of what had been the hand painted sign over their garage. The fragment leaned atop some of the books and Mathers picked it up, looking at it wistfully. She vividly remembered that terrible day. She’d just gotten off the phone with her brother and it would turn out to be the last time she’d speak to him.

Mathers learned later that afternoon about how a bomb had gone off in the garage. Her brother, the police surmised, must have been talking to Charlotte Sumlin who’d stopped by to see Essex. Essex had been away to pick up a part and was just driving up when the blast went off. From his eye witness report, Sumlin had been in the open bay of the garage, waving at Essex. Bobby Mathers was behind her, wiping his hands on a shop towel. Then there was the orange-red flare that filled his vision and the boom of the exploding sticks of dynamite. His windshield shattered into his face from the concussive force.

She put the fragment down and taking the towel from around her and unwrapping the other one from her wet hair, she got dressed. Marcia Mathers came into the kitchen area – mostly a jury-rigged stove that had been thrown out and a coffee maker — where he was preparing breakfast for both of them. Her hair was wet from her recent shower and she smoked an unfiltered Marlboro. She wore tennis shoes, jeans, and a sweater top.

“Hash and eggs,” she said, chuckling. “Some things don’t change.”

“I’ve added paprika,” he said, turning off the fire as he stirred the concoction in a skillet.

There were two plates on the one small table and she picked them up so he could spoon out food onto them. There was toast and fresh coffee, too. Essex had turned this corner of the once-thriving refrigerant coil factory into living quarters and more. There was a work bench nearby with parts and tools strewn on it, a blueprint tacked to the wall above it as well. Also hanging on the wall were three different shoulder holster rigs with specialized silent handguns in each.

Sitting and eating, Essex said, “I got a wig for you and some padding to make you look less, you know.”


“Voluptuous,” he got out. “Recognizable I mean.”

“No, I meant what the heck are you talking about?”

“So I can get you out of town,” he said.

“I’m not leaving.”

“But Graziano’s on to you, Marsh.”

“He’s on to you, too.”

“I’m prepared.”

“Then prepare me. We both loved him, Book. I want to get his killers, too.”

He was going to argue but could see she was in no mood for the hassle. He allowed too that a smart sexy woman who on her own did a gutsy thing like infiltrate the strip club, knowing it was owned by the Laughing Man, then making sure to insinuate herself to him to learn a few of his secrets, well that was certainly not someone you sent packing given the firefight was about to light shit up.

“So what’s out next move, sarge?” she said, chewing on the hash and eggs.

“You know that waiting ain’t my bag, but they’ll make a move. Soon. That smart boy of Graziano’s, Kassel, he’s like those West Point greenhorn lieutenants we had to suffer in ‘Nam. He’s read up on his Alexander the Great and von Clausewitz. He’s going to bring in the heavy hitter and draw us out to trap us.”

She regarded him. “Always thinking and always prepared.”

“Let’s hope so,” he said dourly. “But in any battle, there’s always the unexpected factor, that turn of bad luck or roll of capricious fate you didn’t account for.”

“Seems we’re both pessimists.” She got up from her seat and picked up her plate and his even though neither had finished breakfast. She put them on the stove as there was no sink.

She turned back to him and her intent was clear in her eyes as she took off her shoes using her feet.

“Look, maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” he hedged. Because of vocal cord damage from the fire, his voice was coarse and whispery. And at the moment, he was so caught up in conflicting emotions, he could barely talk at all.

“Maybe,” she said, unzipping her jeans and stepping out of them. “Most times you’ve thought of me as a sister. And me, you’re my other brother. We’ve known each other since junior high, Book. The two white trash kids, miserable thief for a father, and that goofy black kid who always had his nose, appropriately, in a book. We’ve known too that we’ve gone back and forth in our feelings for each other.” She paused, a solemn look settling on her face, then added.

“Charlotte isn’t coming back. But don’t misunderstand, I’m not pretending I’m her. I’m not trying to take her place.”

“I know.”

She was close on him now and he leaned forward and gently kissed her mound encased in her lacy black panties. She caressed the top of his head. He looked up at her, his hands on her thighs.

“This might be our one and only time. We might not come out of this whole or alive,” she said, her voice as hoarse as his. She touched a tear at the corner of his eye, the scars from the fire on his face. She undid his zipper and straddled him. They made love as the Laughing Man and Kassel planned their executions.

“How is it you call yourself a cop, Chastain?” former petty street thug Ronnie Brownlee, who now went by Rahim Katanga, growled. As leader of the Ministers of Praxis, names were everything.

The beefy cop spread his arms wide. “Hey, I’m doing my job here, Ronnie boy.”

There was bristling from the other members of the Ministers of Praxis, MPs for short. The two uniformed officers with Chastain, one black the other white, reacted too. Their hands went toward the hilts of their tethered nightsticks.

The plainclothesman continued. “It’s a known fact your little troop here has had run-ins with them Reds,” he gestured with his hand as if conjuring up the name. “The Luxumberg League,” he finally said, snapping his fingers. “Them.”

“They wouldn’t kidnap our youth, Chastain,” a woman with a bubble afro said.

Chastain gave her an up-and-down, like sizing up a double cheeseburger slathered with bacon and onions. “Y’all say four kids went missing after they attended your propaganda class.”

“After school program, policeman,” a tall MP emphasized. “We help them with their math and reading skills.”

Chastain pursed his lips, biting back a sarcastic comment. “So anyway, these four don’t make it home afterward.” He consulted his notepad. “But these are teenagers, between 13 and 16 you said.” He looked up, a sincere expression on his face. “They could be off smoking reefer or grabbed a car to go joy-riding, doing who knows what they get into at that age.”

“Jesus,” the woman exploded. “We’re calling your boss, Chastain.”

He laughed hollowly. “You call on us oinkers only when this kind of shit allegedly happens and you expect the department to be at your beck and call. But any other time you’re spitting on us and cursing us out.”

“How about you just do your job, man?” Katanga said.

“We’re on this,” the black officer answered.

Chastain shot him a withering look. “This matter will be dutifully investigated. Starting with me grilling their parents, a couple of whom, single mothers and all, have records.” He and Katanga glared at one another then Chastain exited the storefront office. He was followed by the two uniforms who looked embarrassed.

“I’m calling Councilman Ricks,” the woman with the large afro said, stalking toward a dial phone.

Katanga had a different idea.

As a youngster, Graveheart, not a family name, was fascinated by TV western shows like Have Gun Will Travel and The Rifleman. This was not unusual for a red-blooded American male of that generation as kids were given cap guns modeled on their favorite lawman’s six-shooter or bounty hunter Josh Randall’s tricked out sawed-off rifle from Wanted Dead or Alive. It wasn’t the delivery of frontier justice that fascinated him but the power those masters of the gun wielded on such shows. Seems whatever bit of folksy wisdom they dispensed had more import given their handling of shootin’ irons.

Of course the fact that these actors were the leads and therefore the script was tailored to show them as infallible and stalwart, seemed lost on Graveheart. Or more likely he’d long ago learned to ignore such realities. Ever since he was big enough to hold a gun he had. Not only learned to hold them, but use them quite well.

The limestone quarry was at the opposite outskirts of town from where the Fuzzy Feather strip club was located, though both off the same highway. The facility was owned by a middle-aged, country-club-going, married church deacon who, in cliché fashion, had tumbled hard, for one of the big-breasted strippers at the Fuzzy Feather. Laugher Graziano had some compromising photos and thus he had no choice but to let his facility be used for the nefarious undertaking underway there this weekend.

The trap was simple. The kidnapped teens were in a van wired with dynamite in the quarry pit. The instructions were relayed by several dope fiends and other such riff-raff along the underworld grapevine. The Silencer was to appear at dawn or the youngsters would be sent to Kingdom Come.

His LTD drove up on schedule and he exited the vehicle. It was cold and he was wearing a full length Super Fly-style patterned coat and broad, flat-brimmed hat with a buckle headband. He had on shades too.

“How do you know you won’t be cut down as soon as you step out of your car?” Mathers had asked. “Somebody with a rifle and a scope. What do you call ‘em, a sniper?”

He was cleaning one of his guns and looked over at her. “You’ve read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man?”

She had a hand on her hip. “At your urging, yes,” she answered sharply.

“There’s a few soul brothers and sisters, skycaps at the airport, housekeepers at a couple of the swank hotels and what have you that I make sure to put a few extra twenties in their Christmas funds each month.”

Essex derived income from several patents he owned or had sold for goodly amounts. One of his innovations had been a prototype for a miniaturized walkie-talkie, a kind of phone the size of a cigarette case you could put in your jacket pocket — inspired by those episodes of Star Trek he watched as a kid. He started to re-assemble his weapon. Essex had invested his monies in such enterprises as a childhood buddy’s black hair care products line and an auto parts chain.

“Yeah?” she said, interested.

“So white folks see them as part of the furniture. They’re there, but not there, dig?”

“What’re you getting at, Book?”

He smiled. “Figuring some newcomers might be coming to town, I spread extra green around and got the lowdown.”

“Yeah?” she said.

“Yeah,” he answered.

“You know what they say, Silencer,” Graveheart was talking, “I thought you’d be taller.” He stepped out from the girders of the elevated office shed made of corrugated metal. Several massive dirt haulers and crane trucks were parked about as well.

“Ain’t no stress.” The other man was unbuttoning his coat. A slight breeze came up, exposing the shoulder holster underneath, strapped over his black turtleneck. Sweat dappled below the edges of his sunglasses.

The two were about 25 feet apart. They stood down each other on the edge of the main pit, the van with the captured teens at the bottom. The wind ceased. Graveheart, all in black including his Stetson, a six-shooter strapped around his waist gunslinger fashion, spread his boots a bit further apart.  He was in his shooting stance.

“This is how it works, hombre,” he said. “You live, the kids go free. You die, they die.”

“Let’s get to it…honkey.”

The Silencer took a step to the right and time slowed as the two readied themselves for the showdown. It was only seconds that went by but each worked to keep their heart from thudding too loudly in their ears. Each took the measure of the other, each with eyes on the opponent’s hands and then in the time it took a dog to flick its tail, the guns came out. Both men fired, the Silencer’s round zinging past Graveheart’s torso.

Conversely, the Silencer dropped his modified gun, clutching his chest as he went over onto his back. Graveheart had grouped two dead center mass.

The out-of-town hitter had assumed he’d feel more elated but it was what it was — killing was becoming as blasé to him as going to the corner store for a carton of milk. How sad. He raised his hand to signal for the toggle switch to be flipped, transmitting a radio signal to the dynamiter to blow up the teens. But nothing happened. He looked over to where two of Laugher Graziano’s men were supposed to be crouched down beside the huge tires of one of the big haulers.

He couldn’t see them from where he was, but why hadn’t they stood up once the Silencer was put down? Smith & Wesson in hand, he advanced. Both hoods were proned out, dead. The remote control device was gone. The Silencer had struck.

“Holster your piece and let’s settle this for real, Graveheart,” Booker Essex called out. He wore no fancy coat or hat, but was in sans-a-belt slacks and a similar black turtleneck Rahim Katanga, as his stand-in, wore. His gun in its shoulder holster.

Graveheart knew better than to try and spin around, firing. He was fast but not inhumanly so. He’d be dropped in a blink. From above he heard a sound, and glancing up, saw a female head with a puffy afro atop the raised office. In the clean light of morning, he could easily see the glint off her rifle. She’d slept up there through the night.

“I’ll be more fair than you,” Essex continued as the gunman stepped away from the truck. “You win, you walk away.”

Graveheart didn’t waste energy or risk distraction with a response or gesture. His hand trembled slightly from excitement. Every sense was breathlessly on edge in him. It was as if each millimeter of his skin were receptors for all the atoms swirling about him. He’d never felt this alive before. This was a challenge.

Nothing happened, then simultaneously both men drew their guns and each fired a single bullet. The bang of Graveheart’s pistol was the only one audible. They gaped at one another and Graveheart worked up a crooked smile as he wheeled about and fell over, exhaling one last time.

The teenagers were freed and Katanga and his Ministers of Praxis started to leave. The militant paused and looked back at the Silencer. “You did good, brother.”

Essex nodded and they went their separate ways. He still didn’t know which of the three had been responsible for the bomb. He wouldn’t rest until he found out.

Bert Chastain had a big grin on his mustachioed face as the foxy blonde lead him by his erect penis to one of the happy alcoves after his steam. After the deaths here at the Fuzzy Feather and the subsequent newspaper investigation, Laugher Graziano had been forced to sell the establishment. Not much was known about the buyer but he’d retained a number of the girls who’d worked their under the old management -– and re-opened the upstairs VIP section as well. One of those chicks was this knock-out called Ginger Strawberry who had his stiff johnson in hand leading him.

“Baby, I can’t wait to get down with you.”

“Me either,” she grinned, looking back at him.

In the alcove the blonde sat him down on a built-in bench. He now sat on the towel he’d had around his waist. She kneeled before him, Chastain’s erect member quivering. That feeling and his hard-on faded fast as an arm went around his neck and the cold muzzle of a modified .32 pressed against his temple.

“Essex,” he wheezed.

“Listen to me, asshole,” the Silencer said to the suddenly uncomfortable and vulnerable nude man. “I knew sooner or later you’d come around for your usual taste,” he began.

“I’m a cop, Essex, if you kill me they’ll hang your black ass for sure.”

The Silencer squeezed harder, choking his captive. “Don’t kid yourself, Chastain. As shitty as you are, won’t too many of your fellow blue on blues get too worked up about your demise.”

“Look, I already told you,” Chastain said, his voice cracking some. “I had nothing to do with planting that bomb.”

“Shut up. For now you’re of value to me. Make sure you let the other scumbags like you, the vice cops on the make, the robbery-homicide boys getting their cut, that the Fuzzy Feather is open for business. Let the word go out to the crooked city council members, judges, all of them, got me Chastain? Tell ’em they get a discount.”

“What the fuck are you up to?”

“What my loot in country would have called reconnoitering.”

Chastain understood. “You want dirt on them. You got this joint bugged.”

Essex released his hold and tapped the bent cop twice, hard, on the cheek. “Now you’re getting smart. And just in case that rat brain you call a mind is thinking of crossing me, you should know I’m just taking over what the Laughing Man started.”

If it was possible, Chastain’s eyes got wider. He’d done all sorts of activities and had certain conversations over the years at the Fuzzy Feather — activities that could get him fired and conversations that would get him federally indicted.

“Looks like I got no choice. I’ll be your Huckleberry…for now.”

“Good boy,” Essex said, disappearing into the passage behind the trick panel in the wall he’d come out of to surprise the cop.

Marcia Mathers had stood before the two in her short robe and heels, though she’d tied the robe shut. “I’m the manager here now, so you’ll report to me. We clear?”

An uppity, devious colored and a broad had him by the short and curlies. What had he done to deserve this? “We’re clear.”

She walked out and after getting dressed and back outside in the wintery evening, Chastain pulled his coat close. Despite being a stone killer, the idea of not knowing when the Silencer would strike next made him uneasy — very uneasy.


Among discoverer Gary Phillips‘ latest is another short story, “Feathersmith’s Excellent Plan,” in the Dead of Winter e-anthology, and a collection of his previously published short stories, Treacherous: Grifters, Ruffians and Killers, is out from Perfect Crime Books.

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