Photobucket “MURDER!” exclaimed a surprised Cyril Marple. “Good heavens, man! That’s a hell of a twist first thing in the morning. And look at the state of my kitchen. Have you been having an orgy in here?”
An amused twinkle creased the corners of Cuthbert Stephensby’s blood shot eyes. “ Steady on, Cyril, steady on. “, the portly gentleman chuckled. “ Only if you count my affair with that pound of bacon you had so kindly left in the Fridgedaire. I assumed you had intended it for my consumption?”, he queried as his tongue flicked out in search for a grease spot barely concealed in the forest of his regimental moustache. “ Here, drink your coffee. I say, this Sumatran roast is devilishly good. Must set you back a pretty penny, wat?”
Indeed, that particular addiction was one of the few luxuries that Cyril allowed himself these days, that and the occasional purchase of an old Al Bowlly disc at the St. Waldo’s jumble sale if one turned up in playable condition. Unlike his better known sister Jane, the “talented amateur”, Cyril Marple had been a professional copper for some 28 years at The Yard, rising from a foot beat in Southgate, to the rank of Chief Inspector before being made redundant at the age of 52 and unceremoniously put out to pasture here in Runnycheese on Cornbread in favor of younger, and cheaper officers. He had continued to keep his hand in the game, helping the local constabulary in solving particularly difficult, gruesome and peculiar crimes, always to little or no acclaim or recognition, or renumeration for that matter, and it often rankled his delicate ego and sense of self that he was now viewed as a has-been with little to contribute beyond assisting in finding the occasional Jack Russell gone walkabout. His powers of observation and deduction were, if anything, at their zenith, but Marple’s creative mind often felt the fetid tug of stagnation when faced with forced idleness. A zeal for puttering about the garden had never appealed to him, and he had been jumping at shadows for far too long.
Marple raised the cup of coffee to his lips. The fine Indonesian beans were earthy, not too darkly roasted, and the intense chocolate and caramel biscuit tones were nicely muted with the addition of the fresh, clotted cream from the Hocking’s dairy down the way. While outwardly easy-going and usually of a jovial and chipper disposition, the last few months of inactivity had set Marple on edge, and the added financial strain of prolonged unemployment tended to make him a trifle testy. He desperately needed to get out of the cottage and find a worthy activity for his under-worked brain.
“Murder, you say? “, Cyril cleared his throat and took a bite of sausage. He thought he heard his girthy companion mutter something about “scrapple” beneath his breath. Scrapple? He’d have to look that up later. A new poison? A dance? He seemed to recall that it was somehow associated with the Yanks. Mr. Marple surveyed the devastation that had once been his kitchen. The high profile consulting positions that he had been promised had never materialized after his redundancy, and now his former friends and colleagues would not even return his phone calls and telegrams, and he was at a loss to understand the reason. Shunned, ignored. How embarassed his old friends must feel! He missed their company. The old comradery. Marple took another sip of coffee, then pulled the red dressing gown closer around himself and tightend the knot on the sash. His hand dipped into the oversized pocket and his fingers instinctively found themselves fondling a short length of cord connecting a series of rough bead-like objects, forming a kind of necklace. He gently pulled the trinket from his pocket and massaged the discs between his digits. “Aha,” he thought.” The little grey shells!”
Cyril Marple narrowed his gaze and turned to focus his full attention on the man sitting across from him at the cluttered and flour dust covered table.
“Now, my friend! You must tell me all you know about this murder. And, please, my dear Stephensby, leave nothing out.”



with apologies & sincerest admiration to Dame Agatha
Cover Design adapted by Spencer Stewart

Cyril Marple awoke with a start. The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the air of his immaculately tidy cottage. He sat up in bed and perused the surroundings of his prim bedroom. The rose patterned wallpaper was the same as always. The leather bound copy of Sir Titus Weatherspoon’s autographed copy of “Poisons of the World” was just as he had left it the night before, opened on the Chippendale bed stand and bookmarked to his favorite chapter on Curare, the deadly South American poison favored by the natives indigenous to the Amazon rain forest. The Big Ben alarm clock showed the time to be 7:45 as an early morning sun pierced the fine Irish lace of his bedroom curtains with the promise of a warm and peaceful day in the quiet English village of Runnycheese on Cornbread. The song of a red-rumped Swallow from a branch outside his window caught his attention and he rubbed the wispy silver hair on his nearly bald pate. “My word!”, he ejaculated. “I’d completely forgotten. Cuthbert!”
Mr. Marple rose from the rumpled bed and eased into his red brocade dressing gown, a gift from his older sister, Jane, who lived a short distance away in the village of St. Mary Mead. Like his sibling, Cyril had never married, and lived the unencumbered life of a life long bachelor, a man firmly set in his ways and daily habits, and the inviting, but unexpected aroma of freshly brewed coffee rising from the kitchen had caught him unawares. Cyril brushed past the rumpled size 46 tweed trousers draped carelessly across the polished mahogany bannister and bounded toward the kitchen, the smell of coffee and frying bangers and mash filling his nostrils.
“What ho, Old Trout!” came the exuberant exclamation from amidst the chaos of Cyril’s formerly pristine kitchen. Pots, pans, flour, lard, tins,eggshells, knives, forks, whisks, butter, butcher’s paper, beans, grounds and a vast array of assorted debris littered the kitchen. In the eye of this hurricane of clutter stood a husky figure of a man, his snowy white beard flecked with raspberry jam,his bottle thick spectacles dusted with flour, holding aloft a fork with a large rasher of dripping Canadian bacon. A smile and the air of gentle satisfaction floated about him like the London fog. “Care for a cuppa?” he asked.
“Good Lord, Stephensby! Look what you’ve done to my kitchen!”
“Well, good morning to you, too, Old Man. A stout English breakfast was the least I could do, after your hospitality last night.”
The memory of the previous evening came creeping back on stealthy cat’s paws. The public house. The warmth of the fire. The exquisite port. That sixth or seventh glass of port. Marple closed his eyes. When, seconds later, he reopened them, the grinning face of his corpulent companion still beamed at him from the ruins of his kitchen. A small black cloud of smoke was beginning to rise from the toaster.
With an agility that belied his large stature, Cuthbert Stephensby simultaneously crammed the bacon into his eager maw, whirled toward the burning toast and flipped it into the already overflowing dustbin, and grabbed the percolator from the stove.
“Come now, Ducks”,said Cuthbert. “Sit down and have some breakfast. I have some news that just might get your juices flowing. Here, drink this!” he ordered, offering a slightly stained antique porcelain tea cup overflowing with bitter coffee as Mr. Marple surveyed the battle zone for an unoccupied chair. Marple pulled the dressing gown tighter as he brushed aside some loose tea and an errant sausage from atop a kitchen chair and sat gingerly down. Mrs. Glossop will have a fit come cleaning day, he thought, as the rotund raconteur pushed a plate literally dripping with sausages, fried tomatoes, cheese and what, he suspected, had once been black pudding toward him, leaving something like a slug trail across the flour-dusted table. “What, no spotted dick?”, Marple inquired.
“Laugh if you like, Cyril, but you’ll need your strength today.”, said Cuthbert. “While you were sleeping in, the Vicar from St.Waldo, the Blessed came ’round. There’s been a death in the village last night. …..and it looks like MURDER!


Photobucket Carleton Towers squeezed his impressive girth into the narrow confines of the worn mahogany booth and glanced toward the grease stained menu board behind the counter of the Outrider Diner. His faded blue sweater strained against the surging tide that was his ever expanding belly, and he sighed as he eyed the approaching waitress, her hips swaying in time with an oldies tune on the jukebox- Thunder Road, Springsteen, 1975- almost forty years ago. He sighed again.
“Morning Carl, Whatllitbe? Coffee? The usual?”, the fading blond inquired, her heavy mascara framing pale green eyes, a button missing from her wrinkled white blouse, revealing the lace of a red bra that had known more than its share of eager, yet fumbling hands. Carl quickly averted his gaze and returned his thoughts to the menu and his stomach. “Good morning, Isabelle, looking good. Sure! Bring it on ,and hey, make it a double order of bacon. Please.”
“’Kay, Hon, be with you in just a minute. You alone this morning?”
“Actually Izzy, I’ve got a friend joining me, should be in shortly. Might as well bring a second cup of joe. be ready for him.”
The massive plate of creamed chipped beef was mostly devoured, along with the double order of bacon, an extra side of scrapple, greasy home fries and three cups of coffee, black, when the tall lanky man with weathered snakeskin cowboy boots slid into the booth opposite Carleton.
“Jeeze, you fat fuck, you could’ve at least left some food in the joint for the rest of us! ….and this coffee’s cold.”
“And a cheery good morning to you, too, Barney. Sorry, I showed up early, and well, you know me and bacon. Settle in sport, I’ll get you some fresh coffee. Sit tight. Izzy!?!” Carl waved his cup toward the waitress.
“Yeah, I remember. You’re the guy who had the ham flavored ice cream on that job down in Mississippi a few years back. How could I forget. What’s good here?
Carleton flicked a bit of bacon from his snowy white beard. Since retirement he found that Santa Claus was a more and more familiar face grinning back at him in the mirror. Or perhaps the latter day Papa Hemingway. “Well,” he laughed, “the creamed chip beef is pretty tasty.”
“Sure, Carl, sure, and I can see why your wife doesn’t let you out too often on your own”, chuckled his old colleague. “ I think I’ll stick to the coffee and two eggs, over hard” Barney said to the waitress, as she bent low to retrieve Carl’s now spotless plate, giving him a long glimpse of her freckle dusted cleavage. Victoria’s Secret dancing in his sub-conscisious, Carl snapped his head back across to face his friend as the waitress retreated toward the kitchen, a practised grind to her step, pony-tailed hair swinging in time to her hips like an old fashioned metronome.
“Carl, old buddy, you will surely burn in hell for what you’re thinking right now. Why don’t you try and pull your eyes back into their sockets and tell me why you dragged me out here so early in the morning. I know it wasn’t just to share this heart attack on a plate with you. You’re retired now. You can sleep in as late as you want. What’s up?”
Carleton Towers leaned in closer across the boomerang festooned formica, his belly oozing onto the tabletop, threatening his coffee cup with a tsunami of flab. He adjusted his thick, black-rimmed glasses and took a deep breath. “Damndest thing, Barney. I had the weirdest dream the other night, woke me up in a sweat. It was so vivid, so clear. We , I mean you…. and me, we were in a diner, just like this, and a bunch of punks came in, started shooting. Barney, it was just too real. I mean, your brains were splattered across my scrapple for God’s sake.Did I mention they killed you in the dream? It was all, you know, just so real. Too real. It’s been bothering me for days.Like Newtown. I told LouAnne about it, she said I woke up shaking, you know, babbling in my sleep, and she suggested I sit down and talk to you about it. I’m sorry, Barney, I realize this all sounds crazy, but it was like a premonition, it’s stayed with me for days now. I know the last case we were working on before I retired was wading into some pretty murky waters, and well, I, I guess I just wanted to be sure you were alright. See for myself.”

Barnswell Chesterfield sat upright and smiled as Isabelle the waitress set the plate of eggs in front of him, and topped off both their coffees, the earthy aroma of the dark, bitter liquid mingling with the scent of cheap perfume rising from between her breasts. “ I threw a couple of pieces of bacon there on the side, in case my boy Carl here hasn’t had enough.”, she giggled. “ I like a man with healthy appetites.” Another flash of lace and flesh past the missing button, and Izzy sashayed off behind the counter to tend to the coffee machine.
“Carl, my friend, if you ever had a go at a young girl like that you’d have a heart attack before she even got to that missing button, “ chuckled Barney. Besides, even if you managed to come out the other side alive, LouAnne would kill you the minute you stepped through the door at home. God, did you smell that perfume? Must cost a whole dollar a quart down at Walmart! She’d smell you coming for blocks. Christ! ….but, hey, maybe that’s the solution to my problem. The whiz kids down in research don’t seem to be having much luck.”
Carl sipped on his coffee and removed his glasses. He slowly and methodically wiped the lenses with a corner of his sleeve, and returned the spectacles to his face. Carleton Towers leveled his gaze across the booth at his friend and spoke in a lowered voice. “Barney, I know something’s up. This dream, this feeling. I just can’t shake it. I was in the business more than thirty years.I just know.
Listen, I understand I’m retired, and maybe I’m not the hotshot I used to be, but maybe I can help.”
Barney closed his eyes and kneaded the bridge of his nose. Steam rose from the cups of coffee. A Keno machine blared from the opposite end of the diner. A woman sneezed on her stool at the counter.
A car honked as it drove past down Route One. Imitation maple syrup made its lazy way down a short stack of pancakes. From somewhere in the kitchen came the smell of burnt toast.
Barnswell Chesterfield leaned closer to his fat friend and in a voice as still and dark as a stagnant pond asked “What do you know about……zombies?”


The dead walk! Sometimes by day, but always by night, the shadowy corners of our subconscious lie prey to the fears of times past, when superstition ruled and the re-animated corpses of the recently deceased stalked the streets and alleys of city and village, craving the flesh and brains of the living! Zombies, or the undead, have been a part of myth for hundreds, if not thousands of years, spanning cultures and all manner of diverse society. Recently, these ghouls have re-established their hold over our terrified populace becoming mainstream staples of not just cinema, television, pop literature & music, but also have taken a firm hold over the streets of otherwise quiet suburbia. Not content with their place in classic horror movies such as Night of the Living Dead or in the mythology of cultures like Haiti, these shuffling, drooling creatures can now be seen battling the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Jane Austen. In cities all over America, our fascination has led to the phenomenon of “Zombie Walks” where fun-loving fiends, young and old, don the tattered and gore soaked garments of the flesh eaters and take to the streets for nights of fun and fright. Silver Spring, Maryland was host to such an event on Saturday night as the brain munchers danced, strolled, howled and shuffled their way from Jackie’s Restaurant & Sidebar up Georgia Avenue terrifing unsuspecting passers-by and delighting those in the know. Beware!!! They are everywhere! Maybe even in your town!PhotobucketPhotobucket
Everyone needs a little love- even the walking dead!Photobucket
Tippi Hedren & Hitch battle some Undead BirdsPhotobucketPhotobucket


The shadows fall within the massive and foreboding stone walls of this ruin of a structure, the forgotten cries of forgotten men merely an echo through time. The sounds of sobbing, of anger, of iron and steel grating as hard and desperate men ( and women) struggled to live out an existance of enforced confinement within the walls of this Philadelphia landmark, The Eastern State Penitentiary are now only a fading memory. According to the official website, ” Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guardtowers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true penitentiary, a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts.” Opened in 1829, the spoke design was one of the most copied buildings in the U.S., and it is estimated that over 300 prisons world-wide are based on the Penitentiary’s “radial” design. After 142 years of use, the Eastern State Penitentiary was abandoned in 1971, left to suffer the ravages of time and the elements. Today the site is operated as a tourist attraction and home to lectures, outreach and art installations. Today, Death Row is silent, except for the moaning and shuffling of lost souls and spirits, and the laughter of children, as they gasp in wonder at the cages that for generations housed some of the nation’s most violent and notorious criminals.PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket<Photobucket


A dark, pervasive gloom hung round my soul, like an evil wind blowing east out of the dry and dusty prairie. No amount of ukulele music could lift this oppressive veil of shadows, and I knew of only one remedy, one mystical elixir powerful enough to dispel this blanket of misery. As the dark and heavy clouds rolled into the city, I set forth to the one place capable of bringing the sun into my otherwise dead and miserable soul… the local cemetery! Yahoo! Tombstones! Crypts! Mausoleums! No, honestly, it is always fun to see the art and artifice surrounding our treatment of the dear departed, and generally a still and peaceful oasis for quiet contemplation and reflection. Today I was concentrating on small carving details and reliefs, and the minute beauty to be found surrounding the eternal monuments to grief. Here are but a few of the many bits of funerary art I discovered on my brief field trip before the rains sent me seeking a drier and warmer embrace.


Mendocino Jones slowly lowered his formidable frame onto one of wing chairs, despite the protestations of the springs and the cracked and aged brown leather and lifted his tiny slipper clad feet so that they rested on the buttocks of the vinyl attired woman acting as his human coffee table and now, hassock. There was a subtle shift in her body as she attempted to compensate for the weight that pressed down upon her, Jones’s legs like twin manatees splendid in gold satin- while desperate not to let a single tremor of her straining body spill even a droplet of the custard colored liquid resting on her back.
Jones reached into a fold within the yards of fabric of his smoking jacket and extracted a remote control, switching on the plasma screen that dominated the west wall of the otherwise antiquated room. A brief flicker and the gloom of the Victorian surroundings were suddenly illuminated by the harsh glow of the 65″ screen, the sound of panting and pleading amplified to almost ear splitting volumes by the towers of Dolby attuned speakers hidden behind antique Italian velvet damask draperies framing the screen like the curtains at an aging movie palace.
Daryll shifted uneasily on the couch, the thick yellow sillabub sloshing from his glass onto the leg of his trousers as an obviously frightened and unwilling young woman sought to keep from gagging as a powerful and determined brute of a man rammed what appeared to be a fleshy human baseball bat into her. A distressed breath escaped Barlow’s lips with a slight “spfffff” as he sought to avert his eyes from the dominated screen, while Alton Lee Findley and Mendocino Jones stared at the video in rapt attention, a slight smile on Findley’s freakish lips while a small stream of drool meandered down the valleys of Mendocino’s scarred chin.
A giggle burst from Findley as the poor woman cried out in pain as yet another overly endowed man forced further indignities upon her. Findley felt a welcome and familiar swelling between his legs. Daryll felt sick. Barlow felt like a man trapped underwater.
“I’ll wager you know intimately well how gifted your mother can be in the womanly arts”, said Jones to Alton Lee Findley. “I realize you always had a, ah, how shall I put it, special bond with your Ma Ma, but I’m sure you never knew the full extent of her talents. A charming and accommodating vixen, your mother, Evelyn Mulwray. Always eager to please, as I’m sure you well realize. As for myself, I have always found it far more satisfying to let others do the sweaty and strenuous work, and watch from a discreet and pleasurable distance. Much less bother, much less mess, much less…..tiresome involvement. Pornography can be such a joy, such a selfish release, especially in the privacy of one’s own cocoon. And of course One never has to meet another’s demanding expectations, and my needs can sometimes be rather immediate and eccentric, to say the least. But…..Mr. Findley, your companions appear a trifle ashen and addlepated. Perhaps they did not realize your mother was a film star of such epic proclivities. Or perhaps they merely wish that they, too, had experienced the delightful heights to which I, and, I am quite sure, you as well, have been transported? Drink, gentlemen, drink up! Is my humble hospitality not to your liking?”
Daryll felt the bile of stale coffee rising in his throat. Barlow felt all the oxygen quickly sucked from the room. Alton Lee Findley felt a glorious and refreshing tightening in his trousers.
The woman in the black latex suit felt the combined weight of Mendocino Jones’s beef slab legs and the silver serving tray upon her back as she knelt on her hands and knees, prone, still and silent as humiliation after humiliation blared from the giant screen on the wall. After what seemed like a marathon of deviance, the screen became quiet, the only sound from the video the moist, labored panting of the exhausted participants, curiously echoed by Findley.
At that exact moment, the ancient radiator in the corner shuddered and rattled as the aging heating system forced hot steam to course through the pipes and into the system. The unexpected noise startled the four men sitting in the room, and their attention immediately turned toward the loud hammering of the pipes, setting into motion the mayhem that was to follow. The woman leapt to her feet with alarming speed, toppling the glasses and tray onto the floor and grabbing the confused little dog and flinging it into the face of the stunned Mendocino Jones. In a seemingly simultaneous action, she reached beneath the cushion of the couch, seized a menacing looking knife and drove it through the embroidered red slipper and dainty foot of the incredulous Jones, pinning his tiny foot to the scuffed hardwood floor. Daryll and Barlow had fallen from the chesterfield and sat dazed on their behinds as a small fountain of blood erupted from Mendocino’s foot, covering them and the hysterical dog Goliath in a misty red fog.
“Bitch!” screamed Jones. “God damned, fucking BITCH!”
“I’m not your bitch, or anyone’s dog or doormat!” the wraith in black calmly intoned. “My name is Merris Piper and your foul, abusive days are about to end. I am a woman AND a human being and you, you self absorbed sack of shit, are about to taste a bit of your own medicine.” From the edge of the sofa, Findley struggled to his feet, the remains of his pornography induced erection hampering his mobility. As he reached into his jacket pocket and bobbled for purchase on the Chief’s Special, the stainless steel chain that had supposedly secured Merris to the radiator whipped through the air and caught him full on the mouth with a force that knocked him backwards and over the couch, sending the gun arcing forward to land at the feet of the avenging young woman. She deftly lifted the weapon and chambered a round as Mendocino Jones sought to remove his foot from the spot where the knife held his rotund bulk awkwardly pinned to the floor. “Oops, clumsy me!”, she laughed, as she fired a round squarely into his other foot, sending another geyser of blood into the air. Jones howled in pain and anger. From behind the couch, Alton Lee Findley launched himself toward the woman in an infuriated frenzy, one of Mendocino’s straight razors held aloft in his clenched fist. No woman ever treated him this way. Never! “Bitch, bitch, bitch!”, he shrieked as he tried to clutch at the slippery latex suit that enshrouded her shapely and hooded body. “BITCH!”
The antiquated parlor of the Baltimore rowhouse reverberated with the report of first one, then two, then three, four and five shots from the smoking handgun as Merris Piper, the avenging phoenix, pulled the rubber hood from her head, shaking loose a cascade of pale blonde hair. She narrowed her ocean blue eyes at the pulpy remains of Alton Lee Findley’s head, now lacking those distinctive lips, as well as most of his brains, which clung splattered to the flocked wallpaper.
“I am a free woman and NOBODY’S dog.” she quietly said. “Anybody got a problem with that?”