Many thanks to everyone that entered the competition to win the place at the Crime Writing Retreat in June, where Angela Clarke will be teaching us about plotting, pacing and leaving clues for the reader.
Congratulations to the winner, Sally Harris, who has won the retreat with this brilliant piece of crime-themed flash fiction. Look forward to meeting you at the retreat, Sally!
Deafening Silence by Sally Harris
I’ve sat here too long on this wet bench, my sketchpad balanced on my knees. My numb fingers work the pencil. You glide onto the page.
‘A man is dead, Mrs Keeling. We need to ask you a few questions.’
I look up from the sketchpad into the DCI’s grey face. He looks as though he’s had less sleep than I have. Why doesn’t he listen to me? He doesn’t even get my name right. But then no one listens to me, do they? Not really. Silly to expect anyone would after all that’s happened. I look back at the page, at the outline of your face. At you.
‘Mrs Keeling?’ He’s a persistent man, the DCI.
‘Kate,’ I say again. River fog seeps through my boots, my clothing, into my bones. Everyone calls me Kate or Katherine, except you. You called me Katie, always, didn’t you?
‘This isn’t a negotiable situation, Mrs Keeling. Do you understand?’
The DCI misses nothing. The filth on my skin, the dark rim of blood under each fingernail. The blood I couldn’t wash away in the greening river water. I glance up at the lean-faced sergeant standing just behind the DCI. Would a woman understand me better? Listen to me? Help me out here but her expression is blank. She’s holding my bag. Has she searched through it? Through my stuff? She has my mobile, the bottle of diazepam. I guess she has.
The police cordoned off the towpath, a line of plastic tape strung across the muddy track, the blue and white stripes I’ve seen on the news and in countless police dramas. Two officers stand guard against a swelling throng of sightseers blurred into a solid mass by the fog. No one I recognise. No one I can ask for help. All the village has heard of this morning’s events. The Weldon grapevine is working well, it seems.
‘I’m asking you to come in voluntarily, Mrs Keeling. I’d prefer your cooperation.’
I look back at the DCI then down at the page. There you are. The pencil moves back and forth, doesn’t stop. The DCI is speaking again. His noise flows unending like the black river at his back. I can’t grasp his words, can’t stop them.
‘You do not have to say anything…’
More of you spills onto the page. The curve of your lips, the faint lines at the corners of each eye deepening as you smile. You haven’t changed, all of you is just the same.
‘…may harm your defence which you later rely on in court.’
I should have known you would understand. Forgive me.
‘Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’
The DCI stops speaking. I stare up at him. Should I try again to explain? I can’t go with him, can I? Confusion curls through my brain like the fog swirling across the river. Why doesn’t he understand? But he’s not listening. No one is listening. The silence is heavy in the damp air. Faces behind the tape stare out of the fog.
I look back at the page. At you. Silly, Katie, you would say, why would anyone listen to you
If you’d like to join us at the beach for this retreat there are currently 2 rooms still available. Get info and book here.