The Shine Journal

Exceptional Flash, Poetry, Art and Photography!





Harold Kempka





It had been another hectic day in Tinsel town.  I sat in my office, or should I say, a shack I’d built by the pool in the far corner of the yard beneath an overgrown Bird of Paradise.  I gulped down a shot of Cognac and fumed over a client who’d hustled me for help, and then stiffed me for my fee.  I heard a noise behind me, and swung around.


I slid my snub-nose .38 halfway out of my shoulder holster, but found myself staring into the ravishing eyes of Beverly Bel Air, the blond bombshell reporter from ‘Caustic Confidential’.  Bev was a fearless reporter.  She had the tenacity of a pit bull and the huevos of a Matador.  When it came to piling on the poop, she wasn’t afraid to grab a shovel.


“He’s out to get us Danny,” she purred.  “You and me, and Cal got caught in the middle.” 


The urgency in her voice, however, sounded more like a two AM tomcat that had lost its footing while straddling a fence. 


“Who is he?” I inquired.


Beverly held the .38 on me with the steady grip of someone who meant business.  Her eyes bore through me like she was searching my soul for some sign of sincerity.


Why would she was coming to me?  Sure, we covered different aspects of the same business, the waste management of tinsel town trash, but we were never friends.  


I dug up trash for clients who paid me well for my services.  Beverly dug up trash because it made good headlines.  We’d both made a lot of enemies, foreign and domestic, and I could tell she no longer knew whom to trust.


“How do I know you won’t spill the beans to those psychos in homicide, and blame me for clipping Cal?” she asked, wiping a dribble of spit from the corner of her mouth.


Her words hung in the air like icicles on a January rain gutter in Juneau.  I could tell she was about six seconds from cashing me in, and I wasn’t about to shortchange her on the answers.


Cal only trusted two people with the dirt he dug up,” I said, shoveling it on.  “You and me babe.  So, if you got the goods on the garbage pail that greased Cal, you’d best fill me in.  I’m all you got left.”


Beverly slowly lowered the piece.  She motioned for me to park my carcass on the slashed sofa.  After pouring us two stiff shots of scotch, she sat next to me on the couch.  I knew she was really scared.  Her buxom frame shook like a nervous Miss Muffett with knocking knees.


She said Cal called her just before he called me.  He wanted to give us both the goods, whatever they were.  Cal knew the deck would be stacked in his favor, as the mud he stirred up was always magnificent.  He knew we were prepared to cough up cold cash to connect.


Beverly received the message before I had.  When she arrived at Cal’s dingy office over the Rusting Raven nightclub, a well-known haven for Hollywood’s hookers and hotshots, the slinking slime of the city, she found Cal, a cold corpse kissing the carpet with bloodied lips. 


She stooped to feel his pulse, and noticed Cal clutched a handful of tinsel in a death grip.  She thought it might be a clue to the killer or killers’ identity, but wondered who it could be.  There were loads of losers traipsing about tinsel town.


Bev said she heard the screen door slide sideways, which I though was kinda stupid as it certainly wouldn’t have slid up and down.  She grabbed Cal’s piece, cocked it, and swung around.


“The perp jumped the Jacuzzi and crashed into the cabana,” she confided.  Then, she burping unashamedly, and continued, “But, I recognized him right away.  It was...”




A bullet buzzed past my ear.  It slammed Beverly against the sofa, silencing her before she could disclose the desperado.  She slid to the floor, a dying diva devoid of a song to sing. 


I pulled the piece I was packing and pumped six rounds into a large porcelain pedestal on the porch.  The perp stood briefly, and then collapsed face down in the peonies planted around the pedestal.  It was the last porcelain pony he’d ever ride. 


I slowly approached, and rolled him over.  I recognized the cold cadaver immediately, and reeled back in shock.  It was Cal’s boss, Lieutenant Lefske, a lowlife career Copper with an insatiable appetite for sleaze.


“Danny,” he whispered, “Cal caught me with my claws in the Coppers’ Christmas Kiddy Coffer.  He was gonna spill the beans, and I couldn’t let him.”


Lefske took a shallow breath.  He’d soon be one more corpse for the coroner to count.  In this city, body counts were the only way to score the game.


Cal knew you’d both pay a pretty penny for the poop, and figured he could blackmail me and double his dough.  But, I couldn’t let him do it, see.  He was gonna ruin my career, so I dusted him.”


“Why’d you bump off Beverly?” I asked. 


Beverly got in the way, and I couldn’t let her I.D. me.  You were next.”


Then, he faded to black, a less than benevolent burglar biting the big one for his blunder.  It all came together.  Cal, low on loot, blackmailed Lefske who was clipping the kiddy coffers.  Lefske copped a plea, but Cal decided to sing to Bev and me, knowing the information would be music to our ears.  Lefske liquidated Cal, then Bev.  I would have been next.


I wiped my fingerprints from the furniture before calling the cops.  Then, I slipped out through the side door and headed for the nearest bar.  It was a dirty business and I needed a drink. 


Tomorrow was another day, and I had to search for another snitch.  Tinseltown would be business as usual.




Harold ‘Butch’ Kempka is a former Marine, and Vietnam Veteran.  His poetry and short stories have been published in Leatherneck Magazine and the Circle Magazine. BUTCH was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota.  He joined the Marines after graduating from high school, and spent six years on active duty.  He was awarded three purple hearts in Vietnam.  After his discharge, he opted to stay in Southern California, where he currently lives with his wife, Celeste, and son Derek.  In addition to Derek, they have two sons and two daughters, all of whom live in Southern California.  Butch is currently working on a novel based on his experience in Vietnam.





"I guess my real motivation was to play with and generally lampoon  the detective genre.  Since most of my stories are written in a more serious vein, I wanted to write something fun."


Click the pics to meet the members!


Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

Click button at right to get in touch.

Send to a friend

Share on Facebook

Share on Facebook