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.”

The Man Who Ate Stones.

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.”

“Jerry, I…”

“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 know.”

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.