The Man with One Body and Two Personalities


I have a problem.

You see, I have two personas and only one body.

I am Jack Mackenzie, author who is trying to write a sequel to his book DEBT’S PLEDGE and who is trying to keep this blog updated on a semi-regular basis.

But I am also M.D. Jackson, an artist who occasionally gets paid to do actual illustration work. Kind of like the one at the top of this blog post but… not that one. That one was just done for shits and giggles.

No, M.D. Jackson is a real artist who has to actually do real artwork. That takes time. And despite having two personas I only get twenty-four hours in a day and I spend a disturbing amount of that time sleeping and eating.

So, the point of this post is that M. D. Jackson is in the middle of working on a commission and so Jack Mackenzie has to be quiet, just as if he were bound and gagged and stuffed in a closet.

Don’t worry. He can breathe. I’ll let him out when the job is done… hopefully soon.

Time Like Broken Glass

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Okay. This is the post where I say: Buy my book. You can click away if you want. I’ll understand.

On the other hand, if you’re on the hunt for a book for your Kindle or other e-reader and you like fantasy novels, then this just might be the post for you.

Time Like Broken Glass is a fantasy novel but it is also a time travel story. If you like Doctor Who, you might like this book. If you like fantasy novels with lots of magic, then you’ll like this book. If you like urban fantasy… if you liked Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere… then you may well like this book.

It has elements of Medieval fantasy, Elizabethan fantasy and Urban fantasy all mixed together. And it has time travel.

If you like any of those things then you may well like Time Like Broken Glass.

So… buy my book!

There. I said it. Now let’s move on to something else…

Vampirella: Character or Commodity?

(This is a cross post with the AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE website where I blog as MD Jackson)


gonzalez6ftposterPoor Vampirella.

You look at her and you think that she’s free to do what she wants, that she is in charge of her own destiny. The truth is, she is merely a commodity, bought and sold like so much chattel. She is a slave dancing to the whims of her cruel master, who, at this time, is Dynamite Entertainment.

Like a slave from bygone times she has had several owners throughout her miserable life. She has been bought, used up and then sold off to the next buyer.

But it’s not just her alone. All fictional characters are owned by somebody and most of the ones that everyone knows about have likely been bought and sold at least once. They are properties of their creators or their publishing or other entertainment companies and will be until they get so old that they get to enjoy a kind of retirement when they finally slip into the green pasture known as Public Domain.

It was September of 1969, just after the “Summer of Love”. Flower children everywhere were basking in the warm glow of the apex of the hippie era, blissfully unaware of the harsh cold winter that was about to come upon them. It was a time of great upheaval and social change and Forrest J. Ackerman thought: “Hey! We need a sexy vampire woman!”

vampi_trina_robbinsInspired by Jean-Claude Forest’s science fiction heroine Barbarella, who had been made into a film the year before by Roger Vadim, starring his then wife Jane Fonda, Forrest J. Ackerman and James Warren of Warren Publishing came up with the idea of a “vampire-ella” as a counterpoint to the ghoulish male presenters of Warren’s comic magazines Eerie and Creepy.

Ackerman and Warren took the idea to artist Trina Robbins who came up with the general look and a costume which would suggest a vampire’s usual attire but be kind of bathing suit-like to show off Vampirella’s physical attributes.

They took this idea to a rising star in the art world, a powerhouse of an artist named Frank Frazetta. Robbins described the outfit and Frazetta provided the first illustration of the character. Frazetta’s interpretation of Vampirella from Trina Robbin’s description gave her more of some things and less of others… like clothing.

frazetta_vampirella69sep“His original cover art of Vampirella looked a lot like my idea,” Trina Robbins said. “but her costume shrunk.”

With each issue the men drawing the sexy heroine seemed to find ways to make the costume smaller to show off more of Vampirella’s other assets. “By now it doesn’t bear any resemblance to what I designed.” Robbins says.

Vampirella began life as a slightly tacky bit of titillation used to introduce the real horror stories in the early issues of the magazine that bore her name. Eventually, though she grew into a strong character in her own right with her own entourage of supporting cast – both heroes and villains. As time passed the focus was less and less on the traditional horror story and more on the Vampirella story, which quickly established itself as the lead story and the cover page subject.

Jim Warren had the good sense to recognize real artistic talent and many of the top writers and artists in comic book history were published in Vampirella. The one artist who stood out head and shoulders over the rest and who’s art defined Vampirella for decades to come was José “Pepe” Gonzalez, a talented artist originally from Barcelona, Spain.

barbaraleigh-fjaThe magazine was a big success and it ran for 112 issues, finally ending its run in 1983 with the demise of Warren Publishing. After a period in limbo Harris Comics bought the Vampirella title and launched her back into the spotlight.

Their first foray was a “continuation” of the Warren magazine format with issue #113, which had limited success. As such, it is one of the most sought after and rare Vampirella comics. Having tested the water, Harris then produced a range of comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines as well as various peripheral items such as statues and trading cards.

After a steady decline in sales Harris Publishing decided that the Vampirella character was no longer a viable concern. In 2010 Vampirella was sold to Dynamite Entertainment. Dynamite kicked off a new look Vampirella with a monthly series in November 2010.

talisa-soto-2In her time as a comic book icon Vampirella has been drawn by many artists and portrayed by a multitude of models and other pin-up girls. Hammer films tried to turn the property into a movie in 1976. Plans were to have Peter Cushing and John Gielgud in supporting roles to Barbara Legh’s Vampirella. Sadly the project fell through as did Hammer Films shortly afterward.

Vampirella eventually did make it into the movies, albeit not in such a big way. Roger Corman produced a direct-to-video Vampirella in 1996. The film was done on the cheap and it looks it (Vampirella’s outfit looks like an off-the-rack plastic Halloween costume). Former Bond Girl Talisa Soto was cast as Vampirella, despite not having quite the same… assets.

Poor Vampirella. She has been bought and sold, exploited by men, forced to wear a skimpy, barely-there costume, had her origin story changed several times, had her memories stolen, altered and returned to her, and still she goes on working for her cruel masters, providing cheap titillation for the fanboy masses.

When will her suffering end? Will she ever reach the promised land of the Public Domain?

Okay, maybe I’ve pushed the slave metaphor a bit too far. Maybe I’m trying too hard to make some sort of salient and profound point in order to turn this post into something more than just an excuse to show pictures of Vampirella. Then again, Ralph Waldo Emerson said that beauty is it’s own excuse for being. Maybe we can say the same about Vampirella?

Or maybe I’ll just be quiet and you can look at the pictures.










VAMPIRELLA-181Lucio Parillo



It’s About Time…

Time Like Broken Glass_Cvr

TIME LIKE BROKEN GLASS is my first fantasy novel, although not my first fantasy story. Nor is it even the first story that I have written for this particular fantasy setting.

This novel represents my third foray into the world of Magistria, a fantasy universe created over ten years ago by writer G. W. Thomas. Inspired by the shared world anthologies like Robert Lynn Aspirin’s THIEVES WORLD or the WILD CARDS universe created by George R. R. Martin, Thomas conceived of a magical world where mages controlled a certain element. There were mages who could control fire, some who could control ice and others who could control metal or plants. There were even mages whose specialty was death and whose arcane talents could reanimate dead flesh.

511bpMnaamL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I was only one of more than a dozen authors who contributed a story to the first anthology, MAGISTRIA: THE REALM OF THE SORCERER back in 2005 and I was in good company. Lillian Csernica, Joshua M. Reynolds, Laurence Barker, Robert Burke Richardson and Robert J Santa were only a handful of the anazing writers who submitted stories. (The book is still available today from if you want to check it out).

Working from the shared world introduction and outline – the “bible” of the universe, if you will – I seized on the idea of the air mage. The air mage was a sorcerer who could control the winds. I liked that idea but I wondered if there could be a subset of those mages who controlled the air in a more subtle way, by manipulating the air using vibration.

To that end I wrote The Singer and the Song, a story about Foundman Singer, an air mage who had lost his memory due to a trauma and did not know that he was an air mage.

The first anthology was moderately successful so a second anthology was planned. For this I wrote a story called Seeds in Winter about a plant mage attempting to learn the secrets of a death mage to ressurect her dead lover.

Magistria2displayThe first anthology had been edited by G.W. Thomas. The second one was to have been edited by Robert J. Santa at his own Ricasso Press. At the time, freshly excited about the Magistria universe, I suggested to Rob that I could write a novel length story about Magistria. He was behind the idea so I began writing the story that would eventually become TIME LIKE BROKEN GLASS.

Unfortunately Ricasso Press never released the second anthology.

By that time, G. W. Thomas had moved on to other things and the anthology was forgotten. TIME LIKE BROKEN GLASS sat in a (virtual) drawer for a long time.

Years later and G.W. Thomas is now in charge of RAGE MACHINE BOOKS. Rage Machine had published my first two novels, the second of which, DEBT’S PLEDGE enjoyed considerable success. I immediately began to write a sequel to DEBT’S PLEDGE. I was keen to have it finished and published one year after the publication date of the first book.

Unfortunately, other obligations got in the way and progress on that book was slowed down to the point where I was not going to make that deadline.

I had another book written, but was not convinced that it was “up to snuff”. I suggested that perhaps Rage Machine could finally publish TIME LIKE BROKEN GLASS. G.W. Was behind the idea and now, finally, the book can see print.

TIME LIKE BROKEN GLASS is a fantasy novel, featuring magic and magicians, But it is also a time travel story. I am chiefly a science fiction writer and I have always been fascinated with time travel. I love books, movies and tv shows featuring travel through time from Kieth Laumer’s Dinosaur Beach to THE TIME TUNNEL to DOCTOR WHO.

But time travel is usually a science fiction trope. What kind of a high fantasy could I write with time travel as its central conceit? So I created the time mage and with a lot of enthusiasm and heedless of the potential confusion I went ahead and wrote it. Constructing a narrative that involves time travel can be tricky. It requires meticulous planning and careful plotting.

But I didn’t do any of that. I just threw all the pieces in the air and started juggling as best I could, hoping that the entire thing would make sense when it was all done.

Surprisingly, it did!

How well? You can judge that for yourself. It is available at right here and will soon be available at other e-book venues as well as print versions.

Coming Soon: Time Like Broken Glass

Time Like Broken Glass_Cvr

“In a world of magic one city is the focal point for a desperate struggle that is fought through all of time.

Mages harness the powers of different elements – air, fire, ice, metal, even death – and wield that power in their struggle to survive. But one powerful mage can cantrol time itself. Now mages and mortals alike find themselves allied against that power and three heroes, separated by vast gulfs of time, must find a way to save the magic, the great city and existence itself.”

This is my first fantasy novel and it will be released in the next couple of days from RAGE MACHINE BOOKS. Look for a longer post about the book and about the universe in which it is set: Magistria!


Did you buy a Kobo on Boxing Day? Did you recently get an e-reader either as a gift or at a bargain price?

If so, may I make a few humble suggestions?


The Mask of Eternity and The Green Beast are both available for Kindle.


Or check out the Rage Machine Bookstore page where you can find other titles by Jack Mackenzie and other terrific writers!

Exciting fiction available at Boxing Day prices!


I’ve been hearing a lot lately about a literary genre that has been dubbed Slipstream.

Now, I’m not really one to care about literary genres. As far as I’m concerned a good story is a good story regardless of what genre box it is placed into (and to me, Slipstream is the title of a song from Jethro Tull’s 1971 album Aqualung). However, reading about the slipstream genre has got me thinking about this because the definition so ephemeral.

According to Wikipedia, Slipstream is: “…a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction/fantasy and mainstream literary fiction…Slipstream falls between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction. While some slipstream novels employ elements of science fiction or fantasy, not all do. The common unifying factor of these pieces of literature is some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely-real, or the markedly anti-real.”

Okay, that sounds good but as a definition it is kind of slippery. So what are examples of writing that can be called Slipstream? Well, apparently Kurt Vonnegut was writing slipstream fiction without even knowing it. His 1969 novel Slaughterhouse 5 is an example of the Slipstream genre. J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun is an example. So is Brian Aldis’ Life in the West and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Okay, these are “literary” works with somewhat of a fantasy or SF element to them, sure, but let’s go on. Also on the list, apparently, is The Princess Bride by William Goldman and Arthur Rex by Thomas Berger. Huh?

So what gives?

The term slipstream was coined by author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in July 1989. Sterling, along with William Gibson, was one of the early writers of the so-called “cyberpunk” movement back in the 1980’s. He also seems to specialize in creating literary genres. He is credited with (or at least he takes credit for) creating the literary genre of steampunk along with William Gibson in their 1990 novel The Difference Engine. This was before steampunk was co-opted into a visual esthetic.

Of slipstream Sterling writes: “…this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility.”

Okay. That doesn’t help much either. I lived most of my life in the twentieth century, so how can living in it feel strange? Strange as compared to what? Do we all feel better now that we’re living in the twenty-first century? Within this broad definition also could fit works as disparate as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

And what about literature from previous centuries. One feels strange when reading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Are they slipstream books?

It’s starting to sound like one of those: “…whatever I am pointing to when I say the word” kind of definitions. You know, as I try to chase this slipstream thing down I begin to feel more and more like Alice chasing the white rabbit.

Curioser and curioser indeed!

The Times They are a Changin’

Joshua Reynolds over at his Hunting Monsters Blog, weighs in on the current kerfuffle over Weird Tales. It’s too long and complicated for me to detail here and others have done a much better job than I could. Nevertheless, the incident has put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, including Josh who, as a result, has given up on his lifelong dream of getting published in the pages of Weird Tales.

Weird Tales debuted in 1923 and in its run as a pulp purveyor of tales of the strange and fantastic the magazine introduced readers to many wonderful authors, among them the two giants: H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Having a story published in that sainted publication is a dream held dear by many including myself.

But, let’s be honest, the Weird Tales that we can read today is not the Weird Tales of yesteryear. The original Weird Tales folded in 1954 after 279 issues. In that time it was no stranger to controversy. From outrage over the lurid covers to the furor caused by C. M. Eddy’s The Loved Dead, the original Weird Tales managed to remain somewhat less than respectable.

In its various iterations Weird Tales has acquired a certain degree of respectability, though, particularly most recently under Ann VanderMeer as editor. Therein, however, lies the problem.

It is highly doubtful that many of the authors who published stories in the original Weird Tales would have been accepted for today’s publication. If he had been writing today would H. P. Lovecraft have a forum for his work in that magazine? What about Robert E. Howard? Seabury Quinn? Frank Belknap Long? Somehow I very much doubt it.

Same goes for Analog (formerly Astounding Stories). How many of the authors who eked out a living selling pulp tales to John W. Campbell would make the cut with Stanley Schmidt today? Not many I’ll wager. Things are different from the wild and wooly days of the old pulps. The editors and publishers were individualists from various backgrounds. They were defining the genre and were not concerned about maintaining an editorial “tone” or giving the reader a “specific reading experience” beyond plenty of action, hair raising thrills and terrifying stories.

Today’s editors all seem to have graduated from the same school. They are steeped in post-modern literary theory. They have specific ideas of how a story should go and what the reader’s experience of it should be, This makes for a uniformity that sometimes goes right across the board — fantasy, science fiction, horror — as disparate as those genres are, the elements of the story become more and more the same. Many of the newer magazines specify in their submission guidelines that “…the fantastic element may be slight”. And it is.

It’s also a self fulfilling prophecy. Editors frequently advise writers to read the magazine that they are trying to sell to and see the kinds of stories that they publish. On the face of it that makes sense. You don’t want to sell a police procedural to a romance magazine. However, it also means that the magazines are looking for stories that are more of the same.

I think of it as the American Idol syndrome. The young hopefuls who audition in front of Simon Cowell and the rest of the judges are all hoping that they “have what it takes” but what the judges are really looking for is a very specific kind of performer and they have a very specific criteria for judging who gets through to the final. There is a specific “American Idol” shaped hole that needs to be filled. Deviations from that ideal are winnowed out over however many weeks.

Ask yourself this: How would Bob Dylan have fared on American Idol? Janis Joplin? Tom Waits? Michelle Shocked?

The fact that magazines have to face is that the old paradigm of anthology magazines is changing. The whole concept is being smashed to pieces on the shoals of the electronic ocean: the internet. Fiction available online is like one gigantic anthology and readers can pick and choose what they read, how much they want to pay for it (if anything) and how they want it delivered. That kind of freedom of choice can’t be matched by the table of contents of one magazine, even if they did put out twelve issues a year (an rarity these days).

I believe that the future of fiction is similar to the future of music. Experts and pundits have been predicting the death of the CD for decades. Traditional music venues are being replaced by itunes. One’s ipod becomes a unique expression of one’s individuality. This seems evident.

Experts have been predicting the death of the paper book for even longer and that has raised a great hue and cry from many (myself included at one time) that it would never happen. Well, with the proliferation of Kindles and similar devices and the closing of many bookstores and chains, that reality seems to be at hand.

Traditional magazines like Weird Tales, Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction and others are finding their print sales dwindling but their electronic sales increasing. Eventually the mindset of the issue of a magazine and it’s table of contents as a package in and of itself will fade away.

In the internet age the web is a back catalog, a gigantic table of contents, from which the reader can pick and choose. The “packaging” of a monthly or bi-monthly or quarterly magazine will eventually fall away. That is the reason I have made my stories and novels available in this way. They will succeed or not on their own merits without the delivery system of a magazine.

Times have changed and magazines like Weird Tales will have to find their way in the new paradigm. They just have to try not to stumble along the way.


The woman with armor is a popular trope in fantasy literature and illustration (although in fantasy illustration it is usually women without armor).

When this subject gets broached on the internet it is usually fraught with peril, opening up all sorts of accusations of sexism on the part of the author and/or various commentators. Therefore I will try to tread carefully. Historically there have been women who have donned armor and gone into battle. This is an undeniable fact of history. Boudicca and Joan d’Arc are testimony to that reality. However, it is also pretty safe to say that the vast majority of warriors throughout history have been male. Women warriors have been a minority if not an oddity in history.

This is not so much the case in modern fantasy. Although not always the majority, modern fantasy novels tend to have a preponderance of women in armor. The Warrior Maiden is not unknown in mythology. The Valkyrie of the epic sagas — most familiar to us today represented by Brunhilde from Wagner’s Ring Cycle — was a tradition that Tolkien borrowed from with the character of Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien, however, was predated by Robert E. Howard who had a number of female characters who took up the sword and armor and were just as capable as a man. Despite the many who criticize Howard for being sexist, the pulp writer from Cross Plains was, in fact, ahead of his time in his attitudes towards women. A writer who created characters such as Valeria, Dark Agnes and Red Sonya of Rogatino cannot, in all fairness, be characterized as sexist.

From the pulps C.L. Moore created Jirel of Joiry, and Lin Carter had Tara of the Twilight. At the time they were considered little more than a literary novelty act but in latter times have been adopted by certain factions as proto-feminist heroes.

Other women warriors in modern fantasy range from the realistic to the outright impossible. From Howard’s Sonya of Rogatino comic book writer Roy Thomas morphed her into Red Sonja. This Sonja was born from the outrage of rape (echoing the historical Boudicca) although she moves quickly into outrageous territory with her predilection for wearing very scanty chain mail.

It is certainly absurd to go into battle wearing little more than an armored bikini, but artists tend not to dwell on realism, preferring to dwell on womanly curves.

Touted as being more realistic is George R. R. Martin’s Breanne of Tarth, and yet given the historical reality of women warriors Breanne is unusual. She is physically unattractive and she is huge and super strong. She is also the ONLY woman to don armor in all of Westeros. She is an oddity and the recipient of much scorn and abuse. The conventional wisdom is that she is a more “realistic” portrayal of a warrior woman then, say, Xena, Warrior Princess, yet given the examples from history — Joan d’Arc, Boudicca, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi – Breanne is less realistic than Xena.

I’m not sure if I’m getting anywhere near a point in this ramble of words, and I certainly don’t mean to be reductionist, but it is a topic that is fascinating to me (and I’m not ashamed to admit that the unrealistic fantasy images are some of my favorites) and further exploration, both in terms of research and writing is warranted.


A while back I began writing stories inspired by Edward Hopper paintings. Hopper’s most iconic painting, Nighthawks, inspired this first one.

“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper, 1942
I was sitting at the counter of my favourite diner in Greenwhich village. It’s right at the corner of Mulry. You remember? The one with the big curved window? It’s not there anymore, of course. It’s just a vacant lot now, but back in 1942 it was a diner, one of the best in New York in my opinion.

I was sitting in my usual seat finishing a cup of coffee and waiting for Danny to come up with my bowl of chili. Danny made good coffee, and decent sandwiches, but he made a great bowl of chili.

Anyway, there we were, me and Danny, late on a Tuesday night when this couple walked in. I remember the fella was a tall drink of water with deep set eyes under the brim of his fedora and a long, pointed nose. The woman was a looker — red hair and a red dress — a nice shape, but pale.

They paused in the doorway, like they were assessing the place. Then theyy they walked in together. Not arm in arm but slowly and in step. They had to pass behind me to get to the seats that they wanted. As they passed I breathed in, trying to get a whiff of the woman’s perfume. Nothing. No odour whatsoever.

They walked all the way around the angled counter to the two furthest seats in. They sat quietly and said nothing. The man reached into a pocket and pulled out a single cigarette, then leant forward, his elbows on the counter and he stared ahead, seemingly at nothing. He made no move to light the cigarette. The woman was holding a compact in front of her face. I remember it because it was bright green and shiny. She made no move to open it. She just stared at it.

“Coffee?” Danny asked. The man nodded — a barely perceptible dip of his head — and Danny set them up.

Danny is dead now. H was an old man back then, but you wouldn’t know that to look at him. He had a full head of hair and his smile was one of the most youthful I’d ever seen. He was quick with a joke and went out of his way to make sure everyone in his place was happy. “Late night or early morning?” he asked the couple. It was something he often asked late-night patrons.

The man regarded Danny with a look of confusion. The woman didn’t look up at all.

Danny’s expectant smile faded in the face of the man’s stare. Danny dropped his eyes and turned away, catching my eye as he did so. I gave an slight shrug, as if to say It takes all kinds.. and Danny topped up my coffee. “Where’s that chilli, Dan?” I asked.

“It’s comin’, Mike. Keep your shirt on.” Danny tried to smile, but he seemed a little rattled.

Two minutes later Danny placed a piping hot bowl of chilli in front of me. He handed me utensils and crackers, gave me a smile and a wink, wiped his hands on his apron and then went into the back of the diner, through the swinging door with the little porthole in it.

The steaming bowl smelled incredible as usual and I dug my spoon in eagerly. Before I could get it to my mouth the man in the fedora piped up:

“The towers will fall,” he intoned. His voice was deep and seemed to come from deep in his chest and the sound of it sent a chill up my spine.

I looked up to see him staring at me, his deep set eyes seemed to be trying to burn their way out of his skull. “Sorry?” i managed, my voice a little weak sounding in my ears.

“First one tower, then the other. They will fall in fire and smoke.” The man just kept staring at me from under the brim of his fedora. I blinked. I wasn’t sure what to say or do. “What towers?” I asked.

The man blinked then and turned to the red-headed woman. The woman gave him a look and then went back to consulting her compact. This time the man seemed interested in it as well. The man scowled and the woman pursed her lips. She touched something inside the compact and then both of them vanished into thin air.

I froze, my mouth hanging open and my eyes goggling at the place that the strange couple were a few seconds ago and then suddenly weren’t.

Danny came back behind the counter and saw that the couple were gone. He went over and picked up the still full coffee cups, looking for payment on the counter and finding none. He turned to me. “Did they say anything?” he asked, then furrowed his brows at my expression. “What’s the matter with you?

I shook my head. “Nothin'” I managed. “They didn’t say nothin'”

I don’t know why I didn’t want to tell Danny what the man had said or how they had vanished. Maybe I was afraid that Danny would call the guys in the white coats. For a moment I was almost afraid that I really would need to be taken away.

I felt a cold chill all over and I just wanted to forget it ever happened.

Danny took the cups and dumped them in the sink. “Lousy chiselers”, he muttered.