Tag Archives: crime

Lockdown Fiction: Party Trick

This story was inspired by the 26 May Clandestine Press story prompt.

Party Trick

“Never have I ever been late for a date!” declared Mira with a grin. Of the four others playing the game, only Alec took a drink with her.

“Unholy demon of punctuality,” Daisy said, making a wobbly sign of the cross.

“Courtesy costs nothing,” replied Mira primly, then roared with laughter because she was punctual for sure but nothing like prim.

“Never have I ever,” said Alec, taking his turn, “kissed a girl.”

Alec and his boyfriend Chris gulped a mouthful of beer.

“This is a bit wishy washy, isn’t it?” said Daisy. “Let’s get down and dirty. Let’s talk about crime!”

She flashed a grin at Hannah. They were exes, but amicable. Hence tonight’s drinking game with all their mutual buddies who had seen them through the transition from lovers-to-enemies-to-friends. Alec and Chris, who’d been so supportive of Hannah through the brief burst of fighting and had so kindly and patiently reasoned with Daisy about her inability to let it go. Mira, who had given Hannah a place to stay when she’d fled Daisy’s desperate entreaties of “we can work it out! Don’t go!”

The whole mess had taken weeks to sort out, but there were no hard feelings, none at all. Hannah wanted to go, Daisy couldn’t make her stay, but that was all water under the relationship bridge. Just because they couldn’t be lovers, that didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends. Pride had been dented but not smashed.

“Crime, eh?” Mira raised an eyebrow. “Is there something you want to tell us?”

“Not me. Are you scared of spilling your secrets?” Daisy countered.

“I’m the one who did time in juvenile detention,” pointed out Chris. It was an open secret. A month for attempted arson. He still wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t meant to burn down the family house, and he still wasn’t entirely sure he was sorry, but at least setting fire to the Californian bungalows of homophobes to whom he was related had not become a habit.

“Why don’t you start, Daisy,” Chris prompted. “Since it was your idea.”

“Okay. Never have I ever robbed a bank!”

All five of them swigged their beer.

“My turn!” shouted Alex, boozy and eager. “Never have I ever sold drugs!”

Gulps all round, except for Mira, who shrugged. “A bit of weed, but it counts. My turn. Never have I ever stabbed someone, even if they deserved it.”

Chris didn’t drink that time. “Don’t judge me. It was a tough month in juvie. The dude only needed four stitches and they didn’t try to gang up on me in the showers again after that.”

The general consensus was that the bastard deserved it and was lucky he hadn’t had anything actually chopped off. Chris took his turn next. “Never have I ever stolen anyone’s wallet.”

Five drinks all round and then the glasses were empty.

“Refill!” called out Daisy. She ran to the table to get a fresh bottle. It took some effort to get it open and she had to fiddle with it a bit. Finally, she sloshed it freely into glass after glass. “Hannah, your turn! Hey, hey, Hannah, hey, remember that thing we talked about last Christmas? About my gross Uncle Glen?”

Hannah, flushed pink with drink and fun, giggled and nodded. “Your awful Uncle Glen! Ew! Okay. Never have I ever spiked someone’s drink!”

Hannah, Alex, Chris and Mira drank heartily.

Daisy just smiled while all her friends gulped their beer and belched and turned glassy eyed. And one by one they clutched their throats and swooned and dropped like flies. Hannah fell sideways into the remains of the party pavlova. The crunch of the meringue sounded like someone breaking to shards inside. The strawberries and jam and cream smeared on her shirt like blood.

“Never have I ever,” Daisy whispered at the dying light in their eyes, “been murdered for petty revenge.”

She took a sip of beer. “Feels pretty good, actually.”

Daisy drank her beer to the bottom of the glass and waited.

Review: Ghost Story by GV Pearce

The latest book from Improbable Press gives us a piquant blend of love story, character study and spoooookiness.

This Holmes/Watson tale has an original contemporary London/York setting and opens with John and Sherlock, married for several months now, on what ought to be a belated honeymoon but which John knows to be a case – a case which Sherlock said he wasn’t pursuing. Already it’s clear that while they love and adore each other, there’s rockiness ahead.

Sherlock’s not the only one keeping secrets, however. From the very first chapter we know that John sees ghosts, and has done since he was a child. He can’t tell anyone – people would think him unbalanced – so he avoids thinking about it whenever possible. That is not as often as he’d like.

Ghost Story is both a great little Holmesian mystery about the missing Gloria Evans: it’s a fantastically spooky tale of a man haunted by ghosts and the traumas of his past; his relationship with a man who seems equal parts obliviousness and devotion; and a study of the cracks in a loving relationship when the deceptions pile up, whatever the motivations.

The unravelling of those secrets and why they’re being kept are part of a beautifully texture of a low-key case that feels very intense in terms of its impact.

A couple of the scenes are deeply affecting and gorgeously evocative. Gloria’a abandoned flat, where greenery has invaded the spaces; the streets and buildings of York; the banks of a river; the flashbacks to John’s childhood and the attack on the ambulance convoy in Afghanistan – all of these are described so splendidly that I could almost scent the atmosphere – Gloria’s flat particularly.

One of the many things I love about Ghost Story is how it becomes gradually clear that the spirits that John encounters are not the only ghosts of the title.

John and Sherlock are both a little ghost-like themselves, not quite anchored in the world or entirely present for each other. Sherlock flits in and out of John’s life for a while, through the flashbacks of how they met and their first case, and he still keeps secrets and disappears without explanation. At the same time, in avoiding confrontation and acceptance of his unwanted gift, and the secret that he’s therefore keeping himself, combined with the effects of his war injuries, John is absent in key ways too.

It’s a beautiful theme that threads through the whole and makes the conclusion – in which the resolutions for the hauntings and John and Sherlock’s relationship are linked – particularly satisfying.

GV Pearce has written us a wonderfully atmospheric, beautifully paced book – it may take a little time for case/relationship/ghostiness to come to a head, but every step is deeply involving and the reader is fully engaged with wondering how all the elements will turn out. It is in turns poignant, charming, funny and unsettling, but it’s deftly wound together in a conclusion that satisfies without being heavy handed.

I hope Pearce considers another book for Improbable Press – in this universe or any other they care to write in. I’ll pounce on it the minute I can!

Buy Ghost Story

Lockdown Fiction: Getaway

Another story written for a Clan Destine Press prompt!


Jase couldn’t afford a getaway car, and anyway, neither of them had a driver’s licence, so his  best friend Max waited outside the ratty house on a getaway bicycle.

Once Jase did the deed, he came belting out of Greasy Don’s house at top speed, the ill-kept puppy clutched to his chest. The puppy had yelped once, when Jase yanked the brutally short chain and the wooden stake out of the ground. Jase yelped too, because of the splinters, but he grabbed the dog close, even after she peed on him in terror, and ran for his –  and more literally for the dog’s – life.

Mounting the bicycle was a challenge, even though they’d rehearsed with a loaf of bread in Max’s back yard. But Jase got on behind Max and Max took off, dinking Jase and the rescued puppy, as though Greasy Don was in hot pursuit.

Greasy Don wasn’t. Greasy Don was snoring in front of the television in the front room of his neglected house. Greasy Don didn’t have much going for him, but at least he was an equal opportunity slob, neglecting the house, his own hygiene and sobriety and his health in general, as well as the puppy. He possibly had forgotten he even had a dog, which would explain the poor animal’s state. 

Jase, cynical about adults even at thirteen, had assumed Don enjoyed his power over the weaker creature. He couldn’t abide a bully.

The puppy shivered against Jase’s chest as Max pedalled his bike through the streets and back alleys – he was so good at shaking any pursuers that it was almost a shame they had none – and finally slewed to a halt in Jase’s back yard. He held the bike steady while Jase clambered off with the puppy.

Jase was covered in mud, blood and puppy pee. The rescue had indeed been a dirty deed. But they had rescued the animal. Jase put the puppy down and offered her the bowl of water and dog food he and Max had prepared earlier.  They watched, happy and proud, as the puppy drank and ate her fill, and then clambered all over them, wagging her tail and licking their hands and faces.

‘Stinky needs a bath,’ said Max.

‘Don’t call her that,’ protested Jase. ‘It’s not her fault.’

‘You stink too.’

Jase pulled his shirt out to take a long sniff, and his whole face wrinkled in disgust.

After they bathed the puppy – who frolicked in the water like it was the best game ever, delivering a series of high happy yips – she earned the name Flipper. Jase showered too, and then presented the now fluffy white dog to his father.

‘She followed me home. Can I keep her?’

Jase’s father was fully aware of the drunkard four streets away and the poor neglected dog chained in his back yard. He knew right from wrong, of course, but like his son, he didn’t consider a rescue the same as a theft.

‘You can,’ he said. ‘And if Greasy Don shows up and wants her back, we’ll say we bought you the dog for your birthday.’

 Flipper wagged her stumpy tail.

Greasy Don never did come looking.

Lockdown Fiction: Patience

You know, I often don’t know where things in my stories come from, and that’s doubly true when I’m responding to a prompt. I’m just trying to use the suggested words and images in an interesting way.

Which leads me to this poem, written for Clan Destine Press’s latest story prompt. The words were: Don’t go; Paws; Slam; Burn.

Since CDP publishes a lot of crime, I wanted to write a story about murder and revenge, but I honestly did not expect it to come from this angle.


I have meant and done you harm
Disguised beneath my canny charm
So none believe in you

You are trapped, imprisoned here
There’s no escaping me, my dear
Not straight away, that’s true.

Don’t slam the door or slink away
Or plot to burn me down today
Revenge is better cold

And served up with a clever, sly
Pre-determined alibi
That under stress will hold.

Resist the worn out metaphors
Equating stealth with padded paws
Find other ways to stalk

Bide your time and make your plot
Until you think that I’ve forgot
Your will to do me in

And enjoy the wild surprise
Reflected in my dying eyes
As I perish for my sin