‘Something’ – 2nd Place at the 2011 Reading Festival of Crime Writing

This is my entry in to this years Reading Festival of Crime Writing, Short Story Competition. My entry have won 2nd place! Yes! I am most happy with this.

The competition rules had a famous author write an original opening paragraph to a story. The challenge for all entrants was to write a crime story in 1,600 words using that paragraph as your opener.

Mark Billingham was this years famous author. Mark Billingham is most famous for his ‘Thorne’ detective novels, two of which were turned into a TV series on Sky1. Although Mark’s fame for me, will always remain in my childhood, when he play Gary the Norman in ‘Maid Marion and her Merry Men’. Ruddy loved that show.

My story was short listed from all the entries, and then the top three stories were chosen by Mark Billingham.  So with out further ado, here is my story. Enjoy.

Something – By Gary Shaw (A.K.A. The Resident Weebler)

They say that you always know when you meet the ‘one’.
You’ve seen it in countless films and read about it in books. There’s usually some combination of the mouth going dry, sweat breaking out, the heart thumping like a drum/thunder/the wings of a captured bird etc.
I’d always thought it was nonsense.
That was before he walked into the shop. Before the sweating, the dry mouth and – since you ask – a heartbeat that felt like a racing engine about to tear itself out of my chest.
Before I clapped eyes on the one I was meant to kill.

The bell on the door tinkled as he closed it behind him. The man who’d walked in was James Cranston. He matched the picture Laura had given me, stocky build and a thick monobrow. Mind you, I’d seen this guy before. He only came here every three months, but he had one of those faces you don’t forget.

He scanned the shop until his eyes fell on me. He stared at me for what felt like an age, but was probably only two seconds. I had to calm down and take my eyes off him, or I felt sure I’d give the game away.

I surveyed the shop and saw two other customers, one old woman bent over just staring at various toothpastes, and a nervous looking teenage boy fulfilling all the clichés of trying to buy condoms. So far he’d picked up a toothbrush, a comb and a bag of cotton wool. He was now standing by the vitamins looking over at the family planning section.

I looked back to Cranston. He’d started to approach me. My world plummeted in to slow motion, even the steady hum of the ceiling fan seemed to fall in to a rhythmic whomp, whomp, whomp.

I recalled the last time I’d felt such anxiety. It was when I’d first seen her, my Laura, my love. The way she had walked over to me with such grace, she seemed to glide across the deserted dance floor, with that song playing.

You know, the irony of having the same feeling for love at first sight and the prelude to ending another’s life was not lost on me, nor that the life in question was Laura’s oppressive boyfriend. A monster of a man who would not let her leave him, and if she tried he would beat her. Hard. The evidence of which I’d seen when I first met her, her make up was good, but I saw the bruises when her face drew so close to mine that I could smell the sweet scent of her skin. From that moment a flame was lit inside me and the more Laura told me about him, the more that fire grew.

The world reverted to a steady speed again and Cranston had reached the counter, face to face with me. I stared at him, waiting for him to speak first.

“Hi there, I’ve got a repeat prescription to pick up”

Entertaining a half smile, I took the prescription from him. Before speaking, before beginning my exchange with this piece of scum, I had to remember what I’d rehearsed in my mind a hundred times. I had to remember to act like I didn’t know who this man was. I made myself look at the name on the prescription before I spoke.

“Certainly Mr Cranston, I’ll just be a few minutes”

I turned and went through the archway and out to the back room. I continued round behind the shelves that contained all the prepared prescriptions and let out breath I didn’t realise I was holding.

I found Cranston’s prescription right where I’d left it, and I made the final addition, the pill I’d prepared. The pill that was the same shade of red as Cranston’s heart pills, the pill I knew would not show up as the cause of death on any toxicology report. The massive heart attack it would induce would be passed off as an artery blockage, quite normal for a man with his condition.

As I added the label to seal the capsule of pills a flash of conscience hit me hard. I was about to poison another man and take his life. My mouth’s dryness increased to Saharan levels. I put down the pills and leaned forward to rest my head on the shelves and closed my eyes. I thought about her. The most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and she had approached me, me, a guy who spent so much time studying in science labs that my skin had paled from lack of sunlight. She moved so smoothly wearing that white dress that showed off her glorious curves, with that song playing…that song. I can hear it now, it’s in the air humming to me.

I began singing it softly under my breath with an image of her in my head. Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover, something in the way she…I stopped. It was still humming, still there. I opened my eyes and stood upright. I really could hear it. I slowly moved towards the end of the shelves and carefully poked my head round the corner and looked back into the shop. There he was, Cranston, casually leaning on the counter humming that song. My heart was no longer a racing engine; It was a rocket, blasting off up into my throat. What the hell was going on? Did he know? What are the chances he would be humming that song? This wasn’t in the plan, what can I do? I have to carry on as normal, there’s a chance this is a coincidence. Oh God, is he here to kill me? No, he couldn’t know. I had to go back to my internal script, carry on like he was any normal customer. Do this, do it for Laura.

I walked out back through the archway and handed over the pills.

“Can I help you with anything else sir?”

Straight away Cranston replied. “Yes please, could I trouble you for a glass of water?”

Still on autopilot, I said “No problem”. I filled a cup from the water cooler beside me. I turned back to see Cranston emptying out a red pill into his hand. He took the water from my out-stretched hand, thanked me and swallowed the pill. This was definitely not in the plan, what if that was the one? I know I want him to die, but not here, not in my shop. This was my lottery, the odds were stacked in my favour that he hadn’t taken the poisoned pill. However, I also knew what my luck was like, and with the exception of meeting Laura, it was rotten.

“One more thing” Cranston said. He was now reaching for his inside pocket.

This is it I thought, he’s going to blow me away, he’s going to pull out a gun in broad daylight with two witnesses present and spray my brains over the Oral B poster behind me. I found myself accepting it. Then Cranston produced an envelope.

“…I was wondering if you could help me find a road.” He read the name of it as Fleishman Road. My body went numb. That was my road. I couldn’t move, I just stared at him and he stared back. He looked down at the envelope again and handed it to me. “Maybe I’ve mispronounced it, take a look.” My eyes dropped to the address on the envelope. Sure enough it was my address and my name, Philip Price, written above it.

I didn’t say anything for a full ten seconds and felt my face flush. When he hadn’t said anything either I looked up to see that his face had turned ruddy too. When the convulsions started, I knew I’d lost the lottery and his number was up.

I’d never seen anyone dying before. All my adult life I had made pharmaceuticals to make people healthy. I rushed around the counter and broke Cranston’s fall as best I could. He lay there in my arms dying, desperately looking around. I looked down at him and began to cry, I had caused this, I was the monster. I told him I was Philip Price. His eyes looked up to mine flickering with a child-like confusion, then they stopped, and so did the convulsions.

After the ambulance was called and Cranston’s body had been taken away, I saw the envelope again and opened it.

Hello Mr Price, 

I would have liked to talked to you face to face, but since you’re reading this letter, that opportunity must not have presented itself.

This letter is a confession and a warning. Firstly I am admitting that I have killed a man. I’m telling you this because I did it for a woman who I know you’ve been seeing called Laura Pine.

Laura is a very disturbed individual. She is an influential sociopath who preys on men in order for them to commit atrocities. I became involved with her to my detriment.

I now know I am not the first victim of hers, but if you listen to me, I hope to be the last.

Don’t be a fool as I have. She made me fall in love with her and I fell hard. I believed her stories and I have been damned for nothing more than a manufactured love.

Trust me, you must leave her before she makes you do something, something bad.

Your friend

James Cranston

—————The End————-

I hope you enjoyed that, i know i enjoyed writing it. To read another entry into the competition using the same opening paragraph, to see how different a story can be using the same begining, check out my fellow bloggers site here.


About residentweebler
Short Story Writer and Opinionated observer. Visit my blog for all this and more. https://theresidentweeble.wordpress.com/

4 Responses to ‘Something’ – 2nd Place at the 2011 Reading Festival of Crime Writing

  1. Slowlycreepingdeath says:

    You was robbed mate… excellent stuff.

  2. motherofpearl says:

    Congratulations, Gary the Norman. Keep on trucking

  3. Pingback: (28DW) Fiction,The Billingham Challenge: Second Chance | SudoOne

  4. Pingback: Fiction, The Billingham Challenge: The Gap between the Willow trees | The Resident Weeble

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