December 16, 2011

"The Criminal Did WHAT!?" - John Hansen

(The following is not my own experience, nor did I bear witness. I read about this on and after laughing out loud, decided to turn it into a humorous true crime story. Hope you like it!)
August 2010
It is a sultry summer afternoon and a group of young boys – all of who are younger than the age of 18 – decide to spend their time robbing a house. They are your classic dimwitted gang of rebels in need of making yet another idiotic mistake. And that’s just what one of the group’s members, a young boy, did.
This young criminal is looting the stranger’s attic of all old jewelry and trinkets that appear to be of value, dreaming of riches and good fortunes, when he turns to leave. But he realizes something. He locked himself in the attic. 
In his daze, he forgot to make sure he had a way out; he, instead, simply shut the door behind him. He struggles with the lock, tries kicking the door open and screams for his friends. Nothing. They can’t hear him, he assumes.
So our genius criminal waits there, cursing at his own idiocy, for some time until he finally realizes he has a cell phone in his pocket. Oh, what do you know? Because his fellow unintelligent thieves could not hear him, he decides to call the one person he knows he can already rely on, the one person who will always be there for him. 
Who, the police? No, not the police. He calls his mother. What else would a young boy do in a crisis situation as such? Mommy picks him up hours later and although she is furious, she doesn’t turn him in. That would be the neighbors’ job days later.
It is funny, amazing and all-the-more unnerving to see how entirely ignorant and dimwitted some people are. You would think that a boy of that age would at least watch TV, right? The news? A magazine? A book, even? 
But it would appear that this is not so. I mean c’mon people, if you want to rob someone’s house, wouldn’t you at least think first? Maybe check to make sure you have suitable means of escape? Apparently not.
John Hansen is a crime author and blogger. His website is The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer.

October 31, 2011

A True Ghost Story

In honor of the Halloween holiday, here's a true ghost story that happened to me. Have any of your own? Share them in the comments.

Sleepwalking a Thin Line

by Benjamin Sobieck

Sleepwalking can be an unsettling byproduct of an otherwise peaceful activity. The line between dreaming and reality is thin as your eyelids. But I never knew how thin until a dream stepped into my reality.

The spell of tinkering on the Internet proved too alluring late one sleepless night I was home from college. To keep from disturbing my parents, I turned out the lights and closed my bedroom door completely before firing up the computer. I never drifted off to sleep in this time, not even for a moment.

A couple hours later, I clearly heard the knob on my bedroom door turn and unlatch. The door swung open exactly as if manipulated by a person. It even stopped before the knob hit the wall.

My parents? I looked up. No mom. No dad.

But something was standing there. The shadow of a person - a darker-than-night outline - appeared in front of the door. The apparition did not have discernible features. It looked like a human-shaped black hole. I sensed it was looking at me.

Within a few seconds, it dissipated. The door remained open. Most people would have panicked. I didn't. I recognized this shadow person.

But before I allowed myself to process this, I wanted to be sure one of my parents hadn't opened the door.

I walked out of my room and into the hallway. My dad snored away from inside one of the bedrooms. I went to the living room where my mom dozed. The blankets curled tight around her still body.

I am an only child. We had no indoor pets at the time.

Maybe a sudden draft opened the door? No. I had latched the door completely. It wasn't going to just drift open. Something had to turn the knob to open the door.

I went back to my room, still not frightened. In fact, I felt a sense of closure. I would never see that shadow person again. I can't explain how, but I knew that now.

A bit of history.

For many years prior to this incident, I was a hardcore sleepwalker. For those who haven't experienced sleepwalking, what you do in your dream is what happens in reality. For example, I once had a dream about trying to wake someone up. In reality, I was shaking my parents as they slept.

Most of the time, though, the same dream played out again and again. I'd walk to my bedroom window and look out into the woods. I'd see a small black figure warbling off in the distance. The more I watched, the closer it came. Soon I would make out the shape of a person. A "shadow person," if you will. The darkness that made up this figure stuck out against the backdrop of the night.

The shadow person would come out of the woods and into the lawn. It would then circle the house. Almost like it followed a path. I'd track it from window to window.

Remember, I thought this was a dream. Except I really was walking from window to window.

It progressed to the point where I would turn lights on to try to get a better look at it. That would wake my parents, who would try to get me to "snap out of it." When you sleepwalk, you appear normal. Almost like a high-functioning zombie. But there's a veil of sleep that keeps you from being truly conscious.

Once I came out of that dream and into reality, I'd be confused. I couldn't see the shadow person anymore. I could only see one of my parents saying, "Go to bed, Ben, you've been sleepwalking again."

I'd tell them about the shadow person. They'd say something more reasonable. I yielded to the likely explanation it was all a product of my sleepwalking. But the line between reality and dreaming during a sleepwalk is so thin, I couldn't help but wonder.

On the night I stayed up late on the computer, the situation reversed. My "dream" turned the knob, opened the door and stared at my fully conscious reality.

I still don't know what to make of all this. The past offers a possible clue, albeit a far-fetched one. The previous owner died on the property. Not of old age, but of drowning in a hot tub.

Care to take a guess where that hot tub sat before it was torn down?

Outside. In the yard. Near the woods. A storage shed now stands in its place. I never saw the shadow person at that storage shed, though.

Years later, my wife and I lived in the basement of that house - a product of the bad economy and me needing a kidney transplant. My wife would recall a man's face looking at her through the window late at night, after I'd fallen asleep. Where? From the direction of the storage shed.

Months after we moved out, I received a call from the house's security alarm company. Something had tripped the motion detector in the hallway outside my old room. No one was supposed to be home, which is why I got the call. The police conducted a search and found nothing.

In the dead of night, I drove to the house and investigated for myself. I replayed the memory of that door opening. Something told me there was a connection. I found nothing. No signs of forced entry. Not a single other alarm tripped. Whatever happened took place only in that hallway.

Are these events all a product of imagination and coincidence? I'll never know for sure. Ever since my brother died in the home we lived in many years prior, I've felt connected in some ways to "the other side." Perhaps this deceased owner recognized that and wanted to contact me. I have no idea.

It's tempting to interpret your latter years through the lens of the paranormal if you believe something supernatural happened in your younger years. I may be fooling myself.

Or maybe that doubt is fooling me. Sleepwalking is still a mysterious phenomenon. Perhaps my state of mind let me meet this shadow person on its own plane of existence. One where it's damned to a perpetual walking sleep in those woods. I wonder if this shadow person thinks it was all a dream, too.

But I won't explore it any further.

Ever since that night, I never sleepwalked again.


Benjamin Sobieck is the author of the crime novel Cleansing Eden. His website is

June 26, 2011

Audio: Law Enforcement Officer Stakes Out Haunted Crime Scene

In this segment from the podcast, "Jim Harold's Campfire," a law enforcement officer stakes out a haunted crime scene. It's spooky, and I had to share it here. "Ned" tells his story at the 8:08 mark.

June 4, 2011

"Author Takes Ride in Police Car (In a Good Way)" - Jennifer Chase

One of the most exciting and rewarding experiences that I’ve had as a crime fiction writer was the opportunity to participate in a police ride-along.  I have observed patrol, K9, and detective investigative duties for various police agencies throughout the state of California.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with a police ride-along, it’s a program through city and county law enforcement agencies that allow adult citizens to accompany and observe police officers out on patrol.

The main purpose of a Ride-Along Program is to improve police and public relations by familiarizing citizens with the complex and unpredictable nature of police work. It can also be a great introduction to daily life on the police force and it will enlighten most participants on local crime activity. Most people who participate in the program are generally interested in becoming a law enforcement officer, concerned local citizens, students, and of course writers. It you have viewed the popular television show “Cops”, it’s quite similar to that in regard to the type of calls police handle on a daily basis.  

I feel that this program is important to help bridge the gap between citizens and the police. It helps to dispel the typical stereotypes that are sometimes taken as fact. I can honestly say it was a great experience for me. I felt very honored to be able talk and ride with some of our finest. My appreciation goes out to these men and women of law enforcement.  They do a great job.

I just have a few important points that I want to convey if you do decide to go on a police ride-along. It will ensure the best possible experience for you.

1. Be professional and reserved.

2. Wear appropriate clothing.

3. Be respectful of your host police officer and your surrounding situations.

4. Take plenty of notes.

5. Bring a bottle of water and some type of energy bar just in case.

6. Be observant, relax, and have a great time!

The police ride-along has been an invaluable tool for me in my writing experience. It has helped me to give realism to my novels by being able to observe police procedures, listen to actual radio codes and experience all types of calls for service.

If you’re interested in participating in a Ride-Along Program contact your local police agency and find out the details.  Every police department varies slightly on the requirements, procedures, days available, and length of ride.


Jennifer Chase holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master's degree in criminology. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. She is also a member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists. She has authored three thriller novels: "Compulsion," "Dead Game" and "Silent Partner."

In addition, she currently assists clients in publishing, ghostwriting, book reviews, blogs, articles, screenwriting, copywriting, editing and research. Her website is

May 13, 2011

Submissions Sought

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!

Just putting the word out that "Fingerprints" is on the hunt for submissions. I've received some the past few weeks that didn't work out for one reason or another. Figured I'd put the word out so it doesn't get dusty around here.

I also figured it'd be tough to find a regular stream of submissions (especially in this specific niche), but that's OK. You can't make up non-fiction.

So if you're looking to submit, click here to check out the guidelines.



April 28, 2011

Photo: A Crime Story Told in Needle and Ink

"Authorities relied on a chest tattoo that depicted the murder scene to apprehend and convict a California gang member for a deadly shooting.

"[Anthony] Garcia's tattoo captured the night of the shooting, from the Christmas lights outside the liquor store to the bent light post in the store's parking lot to the convalescent home called the Rivera, next door to the liquor store. The scene shows a chopper spraying bullets on a victim. Garcia's gang nickname is 'Chopper.'"


(Photo source)

April 22, 2011

"What's the Difference? True Crime vs. Crime Flash Non-Fiction" - Benjamin Sobieck

Friday is normally the day for new stories, but seeing as there's a break between submissions (it is Easter weekend), I figured I'd throw in some food for thought.

I've received tremendous feedback after starting "Fingerprints." Readers love the stories and concept. There are plenty of great flash non-fiction 'zines out there, but none focused exclusively on crime.

Hence the term "crime flash non-fiction." But aren't they really "true crime" stories? That's something readers wanted to know.

Although all the stories here are true and about crime, they're not "true crime." They're "crime flash non-fiction." The difference is how each handles the narrative.

The true crime genre chronicles events from a journalistic perspective. The crime event happened, then someone researched and memorialized it in various media. The narrative component is there, but it's secondary to the journalistic component.

The opposite is true with crime flash non-fiction. The narrative component comes first. Because of this, it's much more personal, and written from the perspective of someone who experienced the crime event. The journalistic component is secondary.

That allows crime flash non-fiction more room for creativity and catharsis.  The titles can get funky ("Trap Zombie"), serious allegations can take a light-hearted bent ("Public Enemy Number One") and the criminal events don't have to be earth-shattering ("The Heart of Saturday Afternoon").

That's the difference. The story matters. The ability to tell it in an engaging way matters. The way it affected the storyteller matters.

With true crime, facts matter. The who, what, where, when and how take the front seat.

Don't get me wrong, I love true crime. It's just not quite what "Fingerprints" is about.

Be well and have a Happy Easter!

April 15, 2011

"The Heart Of Saturday Afternoon" - Paul D. Brazill

Back in the Seventies, Sir Elton John apparently considered Saturday night to be "alright for fighting" - and I bet you those platform shoes could give you a good kicking too - but what the hell did he do on a Saturday afternoon? Maybe Elton, like me, spent most of the time wandering around a grey and nondescript shopping centre with a couple of other waifs and strays?

There were usually three of us: me, Theso (David Theasby) and Norman (Kevin Norman). Theso had a face so acne scarred that it looked like a chewed up toffee apple. Norman had a big barrel chest and long arms that reminded me of the character Monk from the Doc Savage books. Other odd sorts hung around - such as my nephews Kevin, Wayne and Lee - but we were the hardcore!

The usual walk centred around record shops - including Boots The Chemist! - and would segue into a trip to Woolworth's "pick n mix" sweet section, which we called "nick" and mix. Shoplifting from department stores, in fact, was one of the main activities. Did anyone actually ever BUY a Pan Book Of Horror Stories? The only one ever to get caught was Theso, who was taken to court for stealing a packet of jelly.

The shops, though, were full of the mercenary eyes of staff and busybody customers. The Laughing Gnome was a super-short Asda shelf stacker who never laughed. Mr. Barba also worked at Asda and had earned his nickname because, the moment you walked through the shop door, he would stutter "Ba-ba-ba basket over there."

Our nemesis - Dr. Doom to our Fantastic, er, Three - was a beige-suited Woolworth's under-manager with a Freddie Mercury 'stash who, the moment he saw us, would escort us straight back out of the shop. At some point we found out that he was called Mr. Whiffen, which of course earned him the nickname Cuddy Wiffer - local slang for left-handed.

The Battle Of Britain of our war with Cuddy was when we found his extension number and got my six year old nephew to phone and call him a c***.

Halcyon days, of course.


Spinetingler Award nominee Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England - yes, the place where they hung the monkey. He is currently on the lam in Bydgoszcz, Poland. 

He started writing short stories at the end of 2008. Since then, his stuff has appeared in loads of classy print and electronic magazines and anthologies, such as A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Crime Factory, Dark Valentine, Needle, Powder Burn Flash, Thrillers, Killers n Chillers, and Radgepacket Volumes Four and Five. He writes an irregular column for Pulp Metal Magazine and he even has a story included in the 2011 Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime. So it looks like he's getting away with something, eh?

His blog, You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? is here:

April 8, 2011

"Public Enemy Number One" - Philip Dodd

When I moved down to London there were loads of anarchists. In Hartlepool however, where I grew up, there was just me.

I formed an unholy trinity with the towns other two lefty extremists. One was in the Socialist Workers Party, the other in the Labour Party but as far to its left as it was possible to be without falling off the edge.

We worked together and socialised together. It was a very intense relationship I suppose, and we'd talk long into the night. People often rubbish this sort of introspective lefty chat, but it was crucial for me. Without it I wouldn't have developed intellectually in the way I did, and neither would my character. There were of course also many comedy moments. Three earnest young men in a small town, plotting to overthrow the state. I must do it as a sitcom sometime. But that's what I love about this period really, a rich vein of idealism, punctuated by moments of farce.

I found myself working at a place called Community Enterprise Trust. It was a government funded scheme for people who'd been unemployed for a while. Basically the government closed down the industry that gave people proper jobs and paid us a pittance for doing community related work. But this organisation did its best to make use of its opportunity to do some useful stuff. I provided welfare benefits advice, taught vegetarian cookery and showed people how to play basketball. Not a bad way to make a few quid.

My mate Graeme (the extreme left of the labour party chap) worked there too. One day in a team meeting it was announced that we were going to get a Royal visit. Charles and Diana were going to visit in a few months time. As you can probably imagine I wasn't the biggest fan of Royalty. It was made clear to me (with an emphasis that now seems ludicrous) that I wasn't to wear a t shirt with any controversial slogans. During the meeting me and Graeme started whispering and joking about it. Then we were all asked what we thought of the visit, and did we have any ideas. I don't recall now whether it was me or him but one of us said:

"I hope someone puts a bomb up their arse."

It was the kind of thing we said all the time. We certainly didn't mean it as a threat, a dream maybe, but not a threat.

Our team manager was an ineffectual woman called Jean. She tutted at us a bit, and that was that. Me and her had already had a few run ins, but she never really had the determination to boss me around. Her management skills (such as they were) were all gleaned from an evil little book called "The One Minute Manager". The basis of this book was that you could carry out any key decision or task within 1 minute. Including sacking people. I fucking hated that book. It stood for everything I despised.

One day Jean was out of the office for the afternoon after a particularly stupid morning when she'd employed its wisdom. I was saying to everyone that we should stand up to her. There was a lot of silent resentment and someone said "She'll probably look at that bloody book and do whatever it says in there". It was summer and the door to our portakabin was open to get some air in. "Not anymore she won't." I said , picking up the book from her desk and flinging it through the door, as far as I could. It landed in a hedge on the other side of the bit of grass outside the portakabin.

Strangely she never mentioned its disappearance, and no new version of the book ever turned up. Anyway, as usual I digress.

A few months later the day of the Royal visit arrived. I kept a low profile, not wanting to meet the visiting parasites. It all went off rather smoothly. In the evening I found myself in the same pub as the chief exec of the organisation I worked for. Tony was a good guy. He was really committed to what he did, but he did have an ego the size of a planet. He also quite liked me. We'd sometimes chat about politics and I think he saw in me a younger version of himself. A young firebrand idealist. After a few beers he couldn't resist talking to me about the Royal visit. He asked me how I thought it had went. There was just a glimmer of a smile across his eyes. Eventually he couldn't hold it in any longer.

"You noticed anything weird about the last couple of days?"

"What, apart from all the Royal shit?"

He sat back in his chair and smiled at me. "You've been followed by Special Branch for the last three days."

"What?" I thought he was taking the piss.

"I swear it. They've been following you for 3 days in case you tried to disrupt things". I looked at him incredulously. He continued, "Do you remember saying something about 'putting a bomb up their arse'?"

"No, they didn't follow me because of that. Did they?"

He laughed and bought me a pint. I went to bed that night wondering how they could have followed me around for all that time without me having even the faintest hint. Scary.

The next afternoon when the local paper came through the door I wasn't looking forward to the coverage of the Royal visit. But as I flicked through the first few pages a headline caught my eye.


They had written it up in a way which suggested that some great plan had been hatched by an "anarchist group". Group? That'll be me. Apparently there was a big plan to disrupt the event, possibly including violence, and that this threat had been efficiently dealt with by the authorities. They meant me. Public Enemy Number One.

Editor's Note: These are the actual pictures of that newspaper story.


Philip writes stories, some are fact, some are fiction. His stories can be funny, or they might be sad, and are often about memory and how we are shaped. Find him at and on Twitter as @PhilipDodd.

April 1, 2011

"Guilty Footprints" by C.J. Edwards

It was January, and I was assigned as a patrol officer on East District day shift on the Indianapolis Police Department. There was eight inches of fresh snow on the ground, and I was scheduled to get off in about an hour when I was dispatched on a domestic disturbance between a female and her ex-boyfriend.

Wonderful, it was just what I needed to ensure I wouldn’t get home on time.

My back up and I arrived and found that the boyfriend had already left. I spoke briefly to the female. She told me her ex-boyfriend, Lamont, had been pounding on her back door but ran away when she called 911.

I was relieved. Lamont was gone, his ex-girlfriend didn’t demand a report, and it was looking like I might get home on time after all.

Not five minutes after leaving I was dispatched to the same house, but this time the dispatcher informed me that the ex-boyfriend was now breaking out the back window.

I hurried back as quickly as the snow would allow, determined this time to catch Lamont. I knew if I didn’t he would keep harassing his ex and we would keep getting called there.

When I arrived the second time, the female was on her front porch barefoot wearing a t-shirt and underwear with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders waving frantically, screaming, “He’s around back. He’s around back.”

I ran around the side of the house to find an empty back yard. When I looked at the window next to the back door, I saw that it was broken, and glass was lying in footprints freshly pressed into the deep snow. They led away from the window toward the alley.

While the backup officer spoke with the girlfriend, I began following Lamont’s trail.

At the alley, they turned north, and I followed. Lamont had to be hiding close by. The tracks led me past three more yards stopping at a privacy fence. Many of the yards had fences separating them, but they did not completely enclose the side of the yard facing the alley. This allowed residents to park their cars in the back yard. The privacy fence where the tracks stopped was no different.

As I walked around the open side of the fence, I discovered that the tracks continued toward the house.

Lamont’s footprints finally ended at a door on the back porch of a home four houses away from where his ex-girlfriend lived. Walking around to the front of the house, I used my radio to call for the other officer to come and assist me. He stayed by at the back door while I knocked at the front. A female in her early twenties answered, and looked out at me with her big brown eyes opened wide. “Is Lamont here,” I asked? The girl shook her head no. I explained to her that I had followed Lamont’s footprints to her back door, and I knew he was there.

She then nodded, glanced over her shoulder towards the hallway and whispered, “He’s in the closet,” and pointed to one of the back bedrooms.

As I walked through the living room, I noticed soggy footprints leading toward Lamont’s hiding place. I let the other officer in the back door and together we followed the trail. In the bedroom, we stood to one side of the closet, and quickly slid the door open.

Like a small child, Lamont was lying half buried in a pile of dirty clothes with his hands covering his eyes pretending not to know we were there.

After dragging him out of the closet and handcuffing him, we walked him to the living room so he could put on his shoes, and then marched him out to our cars. Lamont had a warrant for theft. He stood resignedly by my car while I filled out the arrest paperwork, and called for a wagon.

As he stood there, he asked me, “Man how did you find me? Did my girlfriend tell you what house to go to?”

I shook my head and told him his ex had not told me because she didn’t know. I had simply followed his footprints.

“Nah, she told you where I was,” Lamont said.

I looked up at him, “No I followed your footprints.”

Lamont kept denying that I could have followed his foot prints, and I was starting to get frustrated. I finally stepped out of my car, yelling at him, “Lamont! You see all that white stuff on the ground? It’s called snow, and when you walk in it you leave behind these things called, footprints. I followed your footprints through the snow to the house you were hiding in. That’s how I found you.”

I stared at Lamont as he shook his head. “No way man. That’s impossible.”

Dumbfounded, I asked, “What are you talking about? How is it impossible that I followed your footprints?

He looked at me and said, “Because. I took my shoes off.”


C.J. Edwards has worked as a police officer for the Indianapolis Police Department since 2000, and is now currently assigned to the department's Investigations Division. He is also a student at the University of Indianapolis, where he studies English and Creative Writing. In 2010 he won the Lucy Munro Brooker prize for his poem, "A Tent Of My Own." His short story, "The Peeper," will appear in the September 2011 edition of the crime fiction webzine, "All Due Respect," at

March 29, 2011

"Heavy Begging" by Donna Moore

I was in Glasgow city centre shopping and left in the early evening when the place was starting to empty of shoppers. To get to my bus stop, I decided to cut through a back alley.

Yep. Bad idea. There was no-one around except three NEDs in flammable shell suits.

Now I'd better explain NED as I think it may just be a Scottish term. It stands for "non educated delinquent," but is specifically used to describe the types that hang around causing trouble.

Some Scottish politician recently said that we shouldn't use the term NED, as it is demeaning to young people. Well, it's not. Young people are great - it doesn't describe all teenagers. It describes...well...NEDs, and, quite frankly, they deserve it.

The Glasgow version of the NED is a quaintly dressed specimen. He's invariably kitted out in a shell suit (generally white or various shades of blue) that rustles cheaply when he walks, and causes sparks as his legs rub together. It usually has "Lacoste" or "Fila" emblazoned on the back, front and all down the side of the legs. He wears trainers of the expensive variety, but the only exercise he does
is kicking empty cans down the street.

His socks are white sports socks and also have a famous brand name down the side. You can easily tell this because for some reason, the fashion this year is for
shellsuit bottoms to be tucked into the socks, leaving about 4 inches of sock showing.

Perched on top of this lovely ensemble is a baseball cap. Often Burbery. When the hell did Burbery start making baseball caps? And, more to the point, who told these arbiters of fashion that a blue and white nylon shell suit went like a dream with a beige, red and black checked cap? Anyway whatever baseball cap they're wearing,
it too has a name emblazoned on it.

Seeing a NED is like seeing one of those taxis covered in advertising. I keep expecting to see one lurching along the street carrying a sign saying "This NED sponsored by Reebok. To advertise on similar NEDs call...."

Without the baseball caps their hair is short and stuck down with enough gel to float a battleship. Either that or he has a Barlinnie haircut (i.e. shaved in jail). Should you be unfortunate enough to see a NED naked, you can still recognise him without his flamboyant plumage, by the enormous gold sovereign rings. About 8 of them.

The female NED is distinguished by the 18 gold necklaces round her neck (most of them saying "World's Greatest Daughter/Sister/Mum") and the ponytail poking through the back of her baseball cap (the Glasgow facelift).

Anyway, back to my three specific NEDs (who were indistinguishable from the rest of their obnoxious breed so I don't need to describe them any further.)

As I walked past them they fell silent and stared at me. I carried on walking and heard the ominous sound of the crackling of shell-suited thighs as they followed me. There was still no one else around. Oh dear.

They surrounded me so I had to stop, and one of them said:

"Gonnae gi's yer money."

Several responses floated through my head:

"It's 'Gonnae gi's yer money, PLEASE' young man."

"Listen, I've been mugged three times - the first time I got hurt, the
second time no-one got hurt and the third time the mugger got hurt, so
come on punks, make my day."

In the end I settled for a stern "No."

"Aye ye are."

"No I'm not."

"Aye ye are."

Scintillating though this conversation was, I tried to move off. They closed in until I thought I was going to be smothered in nylon. And the smell of cheap aftershave was making my eyes water.

"Gi's yer purse."

OK, I was a bit fed up now. I was wearing cheap unlabelled clothes, a pair of silver earrings and a silver watch. Tweedledee, Tweedledum and Tweedledumber were covered from head to foot - literally - in labels, and between them they were wearing enough gold sovereign rings to send a small gold mine owner into an orgasmic frenzy (by the way, it's the gold mine that's small, not the owner. I have no idea of the average size of goldmine owners).

I could tell they weren't serious (as in slash my face with a razor serious). And I was more exasperated than scared, so I said the first thing that came into my head, which for some reason happened to be:

"Look, I'm tired, I'm pissed off, and I couldn't find any boots that I liked, so fuck off."

So they did.

I wish I could say that they limped off licking their wounds from the ass whooping I gave them, using my finely honed self defence moves. Well, I could say that, but it wouldn't be true.

Instead, they just slithered off like poorly co-ordinated lizards badly in need of a

Not much of a mugging - more of a heavy begging.


Donna Moore is the author of "Go to Helena Handbasket" - a spoof PI novel which won the Lefty Award for humourous crime fiction in 2007 - and "Old Dogs" - a caper novel set in Glasgow featuring two elderly ex-hookers (nominated for the Lefty Awards). Her short fiction has been published in various anthologies. 

Moore runs the blog "Big Beat From Badsville" focusing on Scottish crime fiction at

March 26, 2011

"Trap Zombie" by Paul Grzegorzek

This is something that happened to me while I was a PC on the Divisional Intelligence Unit in Brighton back in 2007. At the time I was in charge of vehicle crime as well as working on undercover heroin test purchase operations, but this one particular thing happened while I was off duty and perhaps a little drunker than I should have been...

One particular type of vehicle crime that the division was being stung with was moped thefts. There were probably about a dozen early teen aged thieves who specialised in nicking mopeds for a laugh, and every morning I would come into work to find two or three more reported stolen across the division.

It was my job to stop these thefts from happening, and it’s a very different type of policing from responding to incidents on a job by job basis, which was what I had been used to before joining the intelligence unit.

Looking at the crime maps that my analyst, Amy, painstakingly put together, I realised that my house was smack bang in the middle of the hotspot area for these thefts, and after a fair bit of persuading I managed to convince one of the sergeants to let me run an operation with a trap moped, using my house as the OP.

I lived in a maisonette just down from Fiveways on Ditchling Road in Brighton, so the lounge had a wonderful view of the area outside from an elevated perspective and LST had been tasked to assist in my endeavours.

LST are the Local Support Team, a unit that specialises in riot duties, searches and a bit of plain clothes here and there. It was also my old unit so it was nice to be working with them again.

They were all pleased with the briefing, as it was in the lounge with tea and biscuits laid on, but after that it all began to go south. We briefed at about 2300 hours, with the intention that we would have the moped outside with the plugs removed so that they wouldn’t be able to start it. We then had a plain van at fiveways and an unmarked car just down the road, so between the seven of us (as it was my house I would stay in the OP with another officer on a rotation), we had the area well covered.

Initially I’d requested that the operation run from midnight until 0800 hours, as the peak times for thefts were at about 0300 – 0500, but as LST don’t work nights, I’d been lent the team from 2300 to 0400 instead. The team came complete with a sergeant, so despite the fact that it was my operation I was still outranked.

So when 0200 came around and the bike hadn’t been touched, I had to give in when the sergeant called it and took his troops off to do something more productive.

A couple of lads had looked at the moped just after midnight, but other than that we hadn’t had so much as a tickle, so I couldn’t really blame him.

When I went into the office the next afternoon I tried to explain that the timings hadn’t been right, but I got told in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t going to happen again so I’d lost my shot at it.

Grumbling, I tried to work out something else that might work, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t involve chopping peoples fingers off.
The weekend after this failed operation was Halloween, and as I had weekends off I actually made it to a friend’s party about fifty doors down on the other side of the road. I’d decided to go dressed as the lowlander (kilt and fencing shirt but done up as a zombie).

Having spent many years doing theatrical stuff I’m actually pretty bloody good at horror makeup. I spent about forty minutes making myself look as dead as possible, complete with proper stage blood all over me and liquid latex dried and then rubbed to make it look like my skin was peeling off in places.

Shoving my warrant card and my phone in my sporran, I ambled off down the road and got myself very, very drunk with my friends.

I woke up at about 0400. I was still zombified and had crashed out in one of the armchairs in the front room at the party. Someone had given me something horrific to drink called Schlob 40 or similar and it had totally wiped me out.

The party was pretty much reduced to drunken couples snogging in corners and people playing acoustic guitars in the back room, so I made my goodbyes and staggered back up the road, wondering how many sizes too big my head would feel when I sobered up.

As I crossed the road and walked up the hill towards my house, I saw something very strange just a few doors up from where I lived, next to the bus stop.

Two lads in their early teens had a for sale sign complete with post, and had one end of it in the road behind the bumper of a four wheel drive.

As I got closer, one of them noticed me and nudged the other one, and they both dropped the sign and hid in the bus stop. Suddenly I realised what they were doing.
Behind the 4x4 was a moped, with the post of the for sale sign wedged in the front wheel where they were trying to break the steering lock.

They were still peering at me from the bus stop, but I was too far away from them to make out any features so I stumbled drunkenly (an act, suddenly I was dead sober) into someone’s front garden with my keys out so that they would think I had missed them.

As soon as I was out of sight behind a bush I dialed three nines and explained what I’d seen. They promised to get a unit out to me straight away and were asking for more details when I saw one of the kids approaching, looking into gardens to see where I’d gone. I hung up and stuffed my phone back into my sporran, lurching out from behind the bush just in time to come face to face with the kiddie looking for me.

“Oy, come here!” I growled.

“Aaaarrgghh!” He screamed, and ran off faster than I would have thought possible.
It only occurred to me afterwards that I was still made up to look like a zombie.
As he ran, I saw the second lad come out from the bus stop and look down the road.

Realising that he was probably about to run, I steamed out of the garden and up to the bike. He stared at me with wide eyes as I stalked him round and around the moped.

“Come here, you,” I said, but he shook his head.

“No fucking way, no fucking way!”

“Come on, I’m not going to hurt you, I just want to talk.”

“No mate, you ain’t coming anywhere near me!”

We were going around in circles, him staying just far enough away that I couldn’t easily grab him, when suddenly I realised who he was.

“Pullen!” I said, and hearing his surname made him stop dead.

“Yeah, Jordan,” he replied as I leapt the several feet between us and grabbed his arm, throwing him to the ground and locking him into a ground pin.

You might think that I was being overly harsh, but the last time I’d seen young Mr. Pullen it had taken five officers to restrain him and he’d been foaming at the mouth while he assaulted three out of the five holding him down. I wasn’t about to be subjected to the same treatment, so he was firmly but not brutally pushed face down into the road while I arrested him for attempt theft.

He looked up at me and grimaced. “Uh, officer, can I ask why you’re wearing a skirt?”

I looked down, having forgotten all about my choice of apparel for the evening.

“Ah. It’s not a skirt, it’s a kilt. Far more manly than a skirt.”

“Oh.” He thought about this for a minute then looked back up. “Is that real blood?”

“No, Jordan, it’s not real blood.”

“Oh. I bet this is one of them fucking trap mopeds, innit?”

It took me almost a minute to stop laughing. When I finally finished he was looking really confused. “What?” He asked.

“Jordan, if this was a trap moped, do you really think I’d be dressed like a fucking zombie?”

Realising that I should probably update someone, I called again on three nines and spoke to an operator, explaining that I now had one in custody and that the other had made off. In the middle of the call I looked down at Jordan.

“What was your mate’s name?” I didn’t expect him to tell me, but bless him he gave everything but his partner in crime’s shoe size, which I relayed to the operator.

“Great, Inspector Pirrie is on the way and you’ve got another unit making.”

“Oh, bum. Did I mention that I’m made up like a zombie, covered in fake blood and wearing a kilt?”

The operator went silent for a minute, then “and you think you’re going to live this down, do you?”

“Probably not.”

As I waited for the inspector to arrive, I saw someone walking up the road towards us and freed one of my hands in case Jordan’s mate had grown some balls and decided to face down the zombie apocalypse.

Instead, it turned out to be just some random bloke walking past. As he passed us, he looked over at the kilted zombie holding a small teenager face first in the road in a nasty looking arm lock and tutted, then walked on without looking back.
Jordan and I shared an astonished look.

“Only in Brighton,” I muttered, and Jordan nodded agreement as best he could.

A few minutes later the Inspector arrived on scene and to her credit she managed to keep a straight face as I explained what happened and she cuffed Jordan. Another couple of officers turned up to assist, and I was asked if I could go the Nick and make an arrest statement, but the moment I let go of Jordan the alcohol came flooding back into my bloodstream and I could barely stand up or put two words together.

I begged off and promised that I’d come in first thing in the morning and make my statement, then staggered off home to get some well deserved rest before dragging myself back in a few hours later to write it all up as best I could with the mother of all hangovers.


Paul Grzegorzek is an ex-police officer from Brighton who had an interesting and varied career before moving back into private security for a number of reasons that will eventually come out in his blog.

He’s just finished his sixth novel and is forever writing short stories and blog entries when he should be doing the second draft. More stories like this one as well as lots of other interesting (he hopes) stuff at

March 18, 2011

Photos: Crime Scenes as Visual Art

Click on the right or left of the photo to advance the slideshow.

"If she was allowed inside the home, [Angela] Strassheim would ask to photograph the room where the murder was committed. After making sure the room was dark and setting up her tripod, she sprayed the chemical reagent Bluestar on the walls. The bright spots that show up in her black-and-white photos are the results of the chemical revealing bloodstains that remained on the wall even after being wiped away."


What Kind of Submissions are You Looking For?

I've been asked that question several times by people interested in submitting. Here's the rundown.

"Fingerprints" is looking for the kinds of stories you've told a million times to a million people. Those crazy, messed up stories that skirt the edges of the law. Fingerprints calls it "crime flash non-fiction." You might call it, "That time we were in that gas station and this guy tried to rob the place with a Super Soaker."

If you've got a story like that, write it up in 500 to 2,000 words and e-mail it to ben [dot] sobieck [at] gmail [dot] com. Make sure "Fingerprints Submission" is in the subject line. Also include a brief bio at the end of the story.


March 13, 2011

Submissions are Now Open

Submissions are now open for "Fingerprints." You can find submission guidelines here.

If you can't submit, please help get the word out about "Fingerprints." It's new, so it still has to be "found" by writers and readers. I'm hopeful this could turn into something really cool.

UPDATE: I've been asked whether I'll be paying for accepted works. While I do believe talented writers deserve some sort of compensation, I can't pay for accepted work at this time. I would be willing to consider it if I can get the traffic to where a sponsorship makes sense. So get the word out!

March 12, 2011

"Stomach > Brains" by Benjamin Sobieck

Cool. A hotel in Warsaw. At the bar. Me, a Yankee with a Pollack last name. I tell the locals this. “Sobieck is just Sobieski, Americanized.” Sobieski. It’s on the vodka. And the smokes. Look.

Not cool. The Asshole Elite on my trip. We come from the same college. They have more stomach than brains. They bitch for lunch. While touring Auschwitz.


We see rooms of shaved hair. We see rooms of prosthetic limbs. We see the oven. They see food. “I’m sooo hungry.”

More stomach than brains.

They have it coming. So I keep away. They leave the bar in our hotel. I stay. Perfect.

I order drinks in Polish. The bartender enjoys this. “Jeden zubrowka, proszę.” Zubrowka vodka. A blade of bison grass floats in the bottle. Like the worm in tequila. Tastes like apple pie. Burns like an oven.

Guy next to me, he’s a Pole. Speaks a little English. We talk a while. Then he says, “Go talk to her.”

Who? Then I see her. Across the bar. She smiles at me. Blonde extensions. Liberal make-up. Black tank top.

She retreats to a table. Zubrowka smolders in my stomach. I follow.

I say “hi” in English. She smiles. I ask, "Where are you from?" She smiles. I ask, "Do you want a drink?" She smiles. I say it all again in Polish. She smiles.

We need an interpreter.

Just my luck. A second woman sits down.

I say, “hi.” She shrugs it off. Heavy accent, she works out, “What time do you want Sasha in your room?”

My interpreter is a pimp.

I look at “Sasha.” She smiles.

What the hell?

“What time do you want Sasha in your room?” So clinical. So mundane. Like ordering deli meat.

I say “no” every way I can. They still don’t get it. The pimp seems offended. “Sasha” smiles.

The pimp tries a last time. “What time do you want Sasha in your room?” I walk away. The universal sign of “no.”

The Polish guy laughs. “You’re a straight-shooter,” he says. I ask if my Polish was bad. Did they understand me? “They’re Ukrainian,” he says.

I learn more. The Polish guy knows the hooker. She’s here all the time. She finds guys with the bad proportion. More dick than brains. She fucks them. She makes them immobile. She takes their money. All their money.

He knows a lot about this.

She injects people, too. Maybe. I don’t remember. The zubrowka oven in my stomach. It makes me forget.

I wonder why the Polish guy didn’t warn me. "Go talk to her." Is he in on it?

Nah. He just wants a rise out of a Yankee.

I spot “Sasha” again. With an old guy. More dick than brains. I wonder if I should warn him. They wait by the elevators.

I think back to Auschwitz. To the Asshole Elite. To the oven. Some people have it coming.

The elevator doors shut.

And some people need help to get there.

The Asshole Elite return. I tell them what happened. They laugh. I know their proportion. More dick than brains.

But I leave out what "Sasha" looks like. She comes to this bar a lot. So do the Asshole Elite. The zubrowka oven in my stomach. It makes me forget. More stomach than brains.


Benjamin Sobieck is a stubby Polack from Minnesota, where he manufactures screen doors for submarines. This is his first piece of crime flash non-fiction. His website can be found at or