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