Chasing Shadows

By Jay St John Knight

There was no traffic about on the roads as PC Anne Coldine and her partner drove their route. An indigo sky fought with the tentative rays of sunlight as dawn crawled its way over the horizon. They were on their routine patrol, cruising up and down the streets of one of Hammerside’s nightclub districts, keeping the peace. She had forgotten the amount of tickets she’d written for public urination. Or the amount of times she’d advised inconsolable friends who had fallen out to ‘just sleep on it’. Back at the station they called these shifts the ‘parent patrols’. She could see why. Her partner pulled a right down Eustene Street and drifted past a kebab shop that was closing up.

“I reckon their jobs are harder than ours on nights like these.” Tom said as he nodded towards one of the workers mopping up vomit outside the shop.

“I think you’re probably right you know.”

“Bet they get paid shit all too. A fraction of what we get for the same abuse.”

The patrol car carried on down the road and Anne stared out of the window, watching a flock of birds in the distance pulsate in the air like one giant entity. It reminded her of the view from her mum’s house out in the country, birds dancing in the fresh dawn over the Downs and morning hikes with the kids in their bright wellies through pine forests and over wet marshland. She missed the countryside.

“Oh, what have we got here?” Tom’s voice snapped her back and she saw a man sprint across the road, vault over the central barrier and disappear down an alleyway, quickly followed by another man dressed in black.

“They’re making for the underpass. Try and cut them off.”

The car raced down the road and towards the exit of the alleyway. There, she spotted the first man burst out and make for the underpass that led to the park, the other close behind.

“Drop me here, I’ll pursue on foot.”

Anne was a fast runner. She got to the stairs leading down to the underpass and took three at a time, practically jumping down the last set before she heard the shot. She paused, if only for a nanosecond to take her gun out, before sprinting towards the entrance. There, silhouetted in the amber glow of the strip lighting, the man in black knelt over the body of the runner, rifling through his pockets.

“Freeze!” She slowed her pace; panting heavily, panic settling in.

The man stood up slowly and turned to face her. His gun hung at his side and in the other hand he held a wad of bank notes.

“Drop your…”

“Stop.” His voice echoed down the underpass. “You won’t hit me by the time I raise my gun at you, you’re shaking too much and I’m too good at this.”

She stared at him, in shock at his calmness. Words failed her.

“I’m going to leave half of this money on the floor. You’re going to turn around and I’m going to disappear. You will say you lost me, and then you can either pocket the money, or not, that decision is entirely up to you.”

She looked at the figure, unable to speak, as he picked out half the notes and dropped them on the floor. She pictured her children running around in their garden, her husband making dinner in the kitchen smiling. Tom’s voice crackled over her radio.

“Anne? What’s your situation?”

Tears welled in her eyes.

“Anne? I heard a shot.”

She slowly turned around.

“He got away Tom. Call in back up.”

Strolling Through the City of Shadows.

By Jay St John Knight.

TV White Noise

The television roars white noise in my darkened room.

Outside silent roads flank giant concrete tombs.

Empty cubes stacked high,

Each a square faced abyss

Filled only with specks of dust that hover there as if by unseen strings.

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The 771: Manchester and the North – Part Four.

By Jay St John Knight.

The final part in a series of posts from my third year creative writing portfolio produced for my dissertation. This portfolio was comprised of a series of short stories from a variety of narrative points of view leading up to, and surrounding, a fixed event to provide a puzzle-like fragmented narrative on an ill-fated coach journey upcountry.

The Man on the Bridge – 3

…The flyover was a two minute walk from the car park; he’d driven passed it on the way. When he got there he remembered being six, stood on the bridge at Clearbrooke with his father throwing sticks into the river and racing to the other side to see which one emerged first. He smiled and dropped his phone over the edge, half expecting it to be swept away in the urban river below and not smashed to pieces under relentless tyres of the cars flowing beneath…

Theo Harley.

Theo grabbed his ticket out of his wallet and made sure he had picked up all his bags. His mum’s voiced echoed in his head, telling him to make sure he had everything with him and to keep his coach ticket safe. She was always a nag, and an annoying one at that, but it was only because she was always right. That’s the annoying thing about mums thought Theo, they’re always right at the end of the day. He stepped onto the coach and climbed the steps to the driver. He was an old man in comparison to Theo’s measly seventeen years, at least in his fifties, and he had a horribly disgruntled look about him. His eyes had that slight glaze that you see when people are either sick, drunk or worried about something and his complexion seemed to shift from being pallid to flushed. Theo thrust out his ticket to the driver who took it from him bluntly and stamped it, before thanking him and strolling down the aisle to find a seat. He was on his way to Manchester to see his dad for the weekend. He hadn’t seen his dad for the best part of a month now and he was surprised at how much he actually missed him, ever since his parents had split he still harboured a bitter resentment towards his dad for abandoning him and his mum but even that was starting to fade. Theo put it down to growing up, maturing; he was seventeen now and pretty much a man he thought. He couldn’t bear grudges for that long and the clichéd line ‘You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family’ seemed to revolve around inside his head like some sort of catchy advert jingle for happy domestic families.

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The 771: Manchester and the North – Part Three.

By Jay St John Knight.

Part three in a series of posts from my third year creative writing portfolio produced for my dissertation. This portfolio was comprised of a series of short stories from a variety of narrative points of view leading up to, and surrounding, a fixed event to provide a puzzle-like fragmented narrative on an ill-fated coach journey upcountry.

Henry Blackner.

The sweet and alluring smell of honeysuckle wafted down the short garden path as Henry locked the car and picked up his work bag. It was so powerful that he paused for a moment, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before walking up the garden towards his house. Jangling keys rang out across the street like the shuffle of shackled feet as Henry tried to pick out his front door key in the dark, eventually finding it and ramming it into the lock. Before he pushed the door open, he silently prayed for a peaceful night, one free of arguments and snide digs. His marriage, after thirty seven years, was finally on shaky grounds. It wasn’t even a painful thought anymore; they weren’t the same people that walked down the aisle just days after his twentieth birthday. They used to be devoted to each other, symbiotic; living in a cushioned bubble only big enough for the two of them. Now they were two very different people, strangers that happened to live in the same house and their cosy bubble had burst, letting a grim void grow between them.

He breezed in and began taking off the trappings of his day. Henry was a coach driver; his job involved long hours of monotonous motorways and stopping off at service stations and depots to swap passengers. Years ago he used to be a bar manager at a reasonably swanky inner city hotel, before the drink got out of control and cost him his job. The drink had cost him a lot in the past: friends, family, job prospects, and his self-respect had all fallen victim to his past inability to put down the bottle. But all that had changed; he’d turned it around and had been clinging desperately onto sobriety like a stranded sailor on a piece of flotsam for the last seven years. He had his slip ups on the way, rare relapses that served to remind him why sobriety was so important.

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The 771: Manchester and the North – Part Two.

By Jay St John Knight.

Part two in a series of posts from my third year creative writing portfolio produced for my dissertation. This portfolio was comprised of a series of short stories from a variety of narrative points of view leading up to, and surrounding, a fixed event to provide a puzzle-like fragmented narrative on an ill-fated coach journey upcountry.

Charlie Edmundson.

Grey clouds hung menacingly in the sky as the afternoon rush hour traffic crawled out of the towering city. Tendrils of slow-moving cars spread out through the narrow streets and onto the main roads and dual carriageways, which themselves led to the suburban outskirts that gave life to the bustling metropolis. Cyclists weaved in and out of traffic like skittish minnows down urban streams and, under the streets where the city above is a constant hum, trains packed with blank faces wormed through tunnels, periodically stopping to spew a handful of dreary coated passengers onto a platform before carrying on into the gloom. A man stood partially leaning against a lamp post watching the oncoming traffic for a hulking coach that would take him upcountry. The pavement under his feet rumbled as one of the bloated metallic earthworms snaked away below him and a pair of pigeons fought over a discarded deli sandwich wrapper that had fallen out of the nearby bin. He was a skulking and gaunt man with thin black hair, wearing the monotone greys of corporate office buildings and wrapped in a black coat that he seemed lost in. In one hand he clutched a small briefcase that was filled with countless documents of garbled digits and graphs and the other, a black umbrella ready to ward off the perpetual dreariness that hung about above.

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