By Jay St John Knight.
This piece was intended as an extract from the beginning of a larger work of detective/noir fiction, potentially a novel, and was an exercise in trying to write something outside of my genre comfort zone. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment box below.
The tungsten bulbs in the hallway are cold and the corridor sways with me as I zigzag off the walls. She keeps talking, asking inane questions about the neighbours and the local cafes and bars. I respond with grunts of affirmation, not listening, not caring. The key struggles to find its way into the lock. She laughs and I can smell the red wine and cigarettes on her breath. Key meets lock and we burst in. The apartment is dark save the fingers of amber that reach out through the blinds. I ask her if she wants a drink as I pour myself a whiskey. She asks what I’ve got. I hold up the bottle.
I slam two glasses on the coffee table and slump into the sofa. She walks around my apartment, picking up old reports and photos from past cases as I fumble for the lamp switch. She asks if I’m a policeman or something. I tell her I’m a detective as the lamp explodes into life and she sees the wall covered in notes and statements and photographs. She begins asking what they are and I tell her not to look. They’re not pretty, darling. She sits down next to me. I finish my drink and pour another. She sits there sipping. She strokes my hair and tells me catching criminals is sexy. You know, cops and robbers and good versus evil. There’s nothing sexy about my job, I tell her. Not when you’re up close and personal with a hunk of meat that was once a person. Not when you catch the killer and you stare into their eyes and see nothing but an abyss of hatred, of evil, of pleasure. She’s doesn’t say anything for a while. I neck the rest of my whiskey and kiss her to break the silence.
The phone’s ringing and my head is pounding. I untangle myself from the mess of limbs and bed sheets and stumble for the phone. “What is it?” She asks. Just the phone I say, go back to sleep. The sun’s not even crept over the skyline. The clock on the wall says 07:28. I groan.
“Wolfe is that you?” A voice replies. “It’s Hempsbury.”
“What do you want?” I rub my eyes.
“We’ve got a situation in Devon we need help with.”
“Nope.” I go to put the phone down.
“Wait, you’ll wanna hear about this one. They found him full of stones.”
I hesitate. “Where?”
“Dartmoor. Lacerations too, they look pagan.”
I put the kettle on. “Text me a postcode, I’ll leave in the hour. Send me everything you’ve got so far.”
“It’s got all the tell-tale signs, Wolfe.”
“It’s been five years, Chris. It was bound to happen sooner or later.”
I go back to the bedroom. She looks up at me, barely covered by the sheets.
“I’ve gotta go to work. I’ll ring you a cab.”
The roads are clear. I see the commuters in the other lane stuck in traffic jams with expressionless faces. It’s five hours to Devon normally and I want to make it there in three. I pull into the fast lane and scroll through the contacts on my phone. It rings several times before I’m greeted with silence.
“…Christina, it’s Jerry.”
“I know, you rang my mobile.”
“I’m on my way to Devon. I’ve had a call. I think it’s another one.”
“I’m just letting you know. This could be it, Chrissy. This could be the one I’ve been waiting for.”
“You can’t drop it, can you? You could never forget about it, never let someone else carry on where you left off.”
I can’t think of a response. I hear the muffled sound of a boy’s voice in the background.
“Is that him?”
“Yeah, he’s about to leave for school.”
“Give him a kiss for me. Tell him I love him.”
Silence. “…I will. But you shouldn’t be ringing me Jerry, not anymore.”
I hang up and focus on the road. Rain’s starting to speckle my windscreen and I’m driving into a growing mist. I light a cigarette. It’s still a long way to go.