Story Teaser: “Fiasco” from Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021

giant snake in fire pit threatens man and woman
Art by Gary Carbon

Now that the Kickstarter campaign for Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021 has passed $5,000 (on its way to its first goal of $6,000), I am making good on my promise to share the first scene of my new crime-noir short story, “Fiasco,” which I wrote for this new anthology of short fiction written in the classic pulp style.

As I explain in my segment of the campaign’s promo video, my story was inspired by the role-playing game FIASCO. I used one of its Los Angeles-themed playsets to randomly generate story elements until my imagination took over.

Two of the eBook add-on packages will contain reprints of my original short stories Midnight Rider and Our Possible Pasts,” so if you’ve not had a chance to read those yet, this would be a good time to remedy that.

Because I’d really love to have art on my story’s title page, we need to get this campaign past its baseline goal and into stretch-goal territory.

So, if you enjoy this little taste of “Fiasco,” please consider helping us by spreading the word about the campaign or, even better, adding your own pledge (if you’ve not already done so).

‘Nuff sales pitch. Enjoy the preview!


David Mack

MARCH 1956

I’m six whiskeys into a Friday night at The Blue Moon, basking in the club’s nicotine fog and grooving to a jazz sax that sounds like a rusty hinge, when two apes with crew cuts and cheap suits step in front of my table and block my view of the band.

One of them shows me his badge. “Detective Jack Halligan?”

I take a drag off my Lucky. “Y’askin’ me? Or tellin’ me?”

His pal brushes open his suit coat, casually, and rests his hand on the grip of his holstered revolver. The one doing the talking leans down and fills my face with his sour-milk breath. “I’m Walker. He’s Morris. Internal Affairs. You need to come with us.”

I hoist my drink and my half-finished coffin nail. “I’m busy.”

Walker snatches my Lucky, snuffs it in my rye. “You’re done. Get up.”

So much for professional courtesy. I drop a sawbuck on the table and nod at my waiter as I follow the rat squad dicks outside.

It’s a cool night, dry as a bone. Somewhere above downtown Los Angeles the stars are shining, but good luck seeing them through this ceiling of pink smog. Walker and Morris march me back to my car, which is guarded by a pair of patrolmen. The passenger-side window has been smashed in, and the glove compartment is open. Lying on the passenger seat is a brick of heroin that I’ve never seen before in my life.

Morris points at the kilo and looks at me. “Care to explain that?

“If you’re too dumb to know a frame-up when you see it, I can’t help you.”

Walker steps toward me. Jabs my chest with his meaty index finger. “Wise up, Halligan. That brick’s just one of three that went missing from Hollywood Station’s evidence lockup two days ago. Where are the other two?”

“With whoever’s framing me would be my guess . . . you fuckin’ mook.”

I never see the punch that sends a sickening jolt through my right kidney. All I know is one second I’m standing, the next I’m on my knees in the gutter, seeing purple and tasting sour bile. I take a few deep breaths and fight to keep my shit together as I get back on my feet.

Walker tells the patrolmen, “Bag and tag the brick, have the car towed.”

Morris pushes me back against my car. “Jack Halligan, you’re under arrest for theft of evidence and possession of narcotics. We’ll need your badge and your weapon.”

As I reach inside my jacket, Walker adds, “Slowly.”

I hand Morris my badge. Then I use two fingers to remove my Smith & Wesson .38 from its holster. As I hand the pistol to Walker, I do a sleight-of-hand trick a skel once taught me, and with a flick of my wrist I open the revolver’s cylinder.

All six bullets fall out. The bright sound of brass on pavement is like music.

Walker bends down to retrieve my bullets. I knee him in the face.

Blood pours from Walker’s broken nose as he sprawls on the sidewalk.

Morris reaches for his weapon. I still have my empty .38, so I clock the bastard in the temple with it. He hits the street like a 230-pound sack of flour.

On the other side of my car, one of the uniforms clumsily starts to draw his sidearm. I throw my empty roscoe at him. It smacks him in the forehead as his steel clears leather, and he fires a wild shot—into his partner’s foot.

I run like my ass is on fire. I’m half a block away when the stunned rookie opens fire. He hits a store window and a random citizen on the sidewalk before he puts a slug through the bulge of fat beneath my ribs. I press my hand over the bleeding exit wound and lunge onward.

Distracted by the burning pain on my right side, I dart down Skid Row side streets. Weave through a dark trash-strewn alley where scabby hookers blow their johns against brick walls, hidden behind garbage bins that reek of rotten fish and a hundred things far worse. At the far end of this urban slice of hell, I pay a bum twenty bucks for his tattered gray overcoat, which smells like he’s been using it to wipe his ass for a year, and I snatch a grease-stained beige trilby from a pile of trash behind a Chinese restaurant.

Wrapped in my disguise of filth, I stagger onto San Pedro as a fleet of LAPD radio cars races past, lights flashing and sirens screaming. None of the cops in those cars spares me even half a look. I’ve rendered myself invisible to their eyes. To them, I’m just one more bum in the night, another ghost in the City of Angels.

Time’s against me now. Doing my best not to look like a man on the run, I keep my head down and my hand over my wound as I turn my steps toward a place I used to call home.

© 2020 David Mack

That’s scene one; to find out where the story goes from there, you’ll need to make a minimum $10 pledge to the Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021 Kickstarter (though I strongly recommend upgrading to the trade paperback or cloth hardcover editions).

Thanks for reading, and remember to spread the word!

— David Mack

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