Louisa Scarr, author of the Butler and West crime thriller series, and speaker for our January meeting further donated her time to us over the Christmas period to adjudicate our January competition.
An opportunity to let our writers’ dark sides run riot, the brief this month was to:
Write a short piece from the point of view of the person committing the crime. What are they thinking and what might they have done? (300 words)
And the winners are:
First Place – Sam Knight with The Storm
Second Place – Martin J. White with Cadaver
Third Place – Natalie Morant with Desperate Measures
First Place: The Storm by Sam Knight
The author’s original writing style really stood out for me, almost poetic as it conjures up the feeling of the rain and the murder scene. I really liked the imagery – the juxtaposition of the innocent yellow duck sitting on the blood. And I could feel the emotion – the repercussions from the murder.
It had been a long time coming, this storm, sweeping in from the Atlantic. Bringing an end to eight summers of foreshore play, pine scented love, dreams cradled in midnight whispers.
At five minutes past one precisely, by the kitchen clock, silver blades, jagged edges, stab the wounded earth, again and again. And again. My own savage thoughts keep tearing my head apart. Black thunder muffles tap dancers hailing from Ireland, drum rolling conservatory glass. Roofs turn a darker shade of red.
tipper tapper tip tap.
God. How quickly everything had changed.
I close my eyes and feel the deafening darkness invade the space in my secret world. Sudden silence. I stand up at the window and watch the wind pick up its skirt and race away across the rooftops. Wish I could escape like that.
The last tipper tapper disappears.
And then it came. I knew it would. One final climactic clap of thunder. No time to lose. I dash to the worktop and grab the meat knife. A drunk Sebastian is lying in the warm water, eyes closed. Three lightning strikes. That’s all it took. Never knew I had such strength.
I cross the hall into the shower room. Hot water cascades over bruised arms, pinched nipples, between ivory thighs shown no regard for their beauty. Night after night after night. Standing in a cloud of steam I feel blood run down my thigh. I turn off the shower, but it will not stop dripping.
Naked, I stumble into the bathroom. Sebastian is still lying there, but this time his eyes are wide open, a contorted grin looking up at me, a yellow duck floating onn blood.
Bastard, I scream. You f-ing bastard.
Now back into the kitchen. Cold water drips from the tap, pastelling the bloodstained towel.
Stop. Stop. My head is bursting. Everything is too loud.
Second Place: Cadaver House by Martin J. White
There are some wonderful descriptions in this story – the ghostly mist and the cat committing genocide. I like the concept of the story and the turn at the end. It left me asking questions and looking for more.
This would be the last time.
I had delivered the goods three times, and every time he was displeased.
‘It has to be fresh!’ He complained.
A slice of the moon offers a pale glow in the dark hours, and a ghostly mist strokes the damp ground like the long fingers of an old hag. I watch the cats’ eyes moving amongst the gravestones committing genocide on the resident rodents from behind a leprous yew tree.
The two men I had been watching finally put their shovels over their shoulders and walk away from the freshly dug soil. I wait for the sound of the churchyard gate to close, and I move forward with my shovel and horse.
It must be fresh; it must be male; it must be this and must that! Damn that Doctor!
My hands bleed with every pass of the shovel, for this had been a task I commit regularly, and yet the bastard hasn’t paid me. This cadaver will be warm; I will demand double my price.
Eventually, my shovel hits the hard coffin lid, the usual stench of rotten flesh being devoured by parasites is absent; this is exciting; tonight, I will drink like a king.
Attaching rope around the handles of the coffin and to the saddle of my mare, I move her forward. The coffin easily comes out of the earth, sliding along the damp grass.
Something is wrong? Why is the coffin so light? Please no, don’t let it be a child’s remains. My evening of rum and whores evaporites, and I decide to prize open the casket.
Empty? Why would they bury an empty—
I spin in time to see the shovel come towards my head, and I see my fate in the crazed, freakish face of the Doctor.
Third Place: Desperate Measures by Natalie Morant
The reveal that the killer is thirteen is nicely done here; it subverts our expectations and brings us something original away from a common ‘battered-wife’ theme.
I watched as Adam’s face screwed up in fury at a message on his phone and he hurled the whisky glass at the wall. Its poisoned contents dribbled to the floor. I’d failed again and he had been saved by his temper. I straightened from the keyhole and crept back to bed.
I couldn’t afford another botched attempt. At some point Adam – I preferred to call him that – would guess what I was doing. Next time, the last time, I would use a more direct approach. The result would be death for him, or, almost certainly, death for me.
Every evening while I cleared away the pans and plates from the dinner I’d cooked, Adam would fall asleep in front of the tv. If I made too much noise, he would wake up and shout at me. Then would come the invisible punches. I called them invisible because he would make sure, even though he was half drunk, that the bruises would be hidden under clothes. He did have self-control when he wanted to use it.
That night, I padded carefully around the kitchen in my socked feet, like I always did. But instead of putting the sharp knives in the dishwasher, I picked up the longest and before I had time to lose courage, I walked up behind the armchair he was slumped in, reached over the top and plunged the knife into his chest. To be honest I was surprised how easy it was. His eyes opened for a second as the blood flowed out of him and that was it. At last, I’d done it.
Now I live in a locked room, but I feel more free than I can remember. Do I have nightmares? No. Killing Adam was the best thing I’ve ever done. So far. After all, at thirteen years old I’ve got my whole life ahead of me.