Monday, 31 December 2012


Image from here

My New Year's resolution for 2013 is to actually finish the crime novel I started a while ago. Chapter one is almost there so I thought it would be a good time to post it and ask for reactions from readers and whether it excites and makes you want to read on and follow the story to its conclusion.

If you are able to comment then please do. Feedback and constructive criticism is always welcome but I hope you enjoy this anyway.

Hot puffs of breath mixed with the frozen mist in rapid clouds that melted into the fog, knees thudded in objection beneath a skirt too short, every muscle in her torso tightened, the tendons at the back of her legs strained and pulled against their will. Her vest top clung to her in an impossible sweat and made her freeze even more. Her arms were red and blotched with purple patterns around the goosebumps like tiny pimples in need of a skin cure.

The streets were quiet but she knew she'd have a chance if she could just get across the new development site to the High Street or the alley car park. Taking main roads to the town centre where the police station was, and where she knew people would still be out celebrating Saturday night, could be a blessing but she couldn't take the chance again of flagging down a passing motorist for help. He must know she'd gone missing by now and he'd be looking for her. She squeezed through a gap in the fence around the development site, squatted down behind a parked car on Victoria Street, her stomach cramped in panic, forced bile to her throat which she spewed out into the gutter.

Dirty hands with long fingers that ended with jagged and broken fingernails torn into bloody tips wrapped across her mouth and swiped it dry leaving a grubby trail. Her mind was numb, focussed only on cold and fear. It was incapable of rational thought made senseless by the drugs he gave her. She repeated to herself to wake it up : “car park, alley, High Street.” She had to stay focussed. They were just ahead and help was just beyond. She darted looks left, right, behind her, crept out from around the car, the road was still quiet. No moving cars, no people, but several vehicles, white with frost were parked along each side obviously asleep until rush hour in the morning when their owners would struggle to get them started again.

The lights of the apartment blocks on one side of the street were out except for a couple near the top in a soft hazy daze against the fog. The grand houses with stone steps leading up to big doors looked formidable and dark. The tatty houses on the other side of the street looked mostly uninhabited. She weighed up her best chances. Knocking doors would leave her exposed, out in the open, unprotected and bait if he came cruising by as she stood freezing, filthy, blood-stained and wretched waiting for someone to answer the door. If she tried to make town he could be hiding, waiting and he'd see her before she got there. Her brain wouldn't work. It just told her to run and run fast. She stood, wrapped her arms around her and hunched into herself as if trying to squeeze her slim frame smaller into invisibility. She walked rapidly to the end of the street, past the corner shop, and then broke out into a sprint over the bottom end of High Street and to the car park at the entrance to the alley. She bobbed down again behind a parked car panting rapidly but hope of help there left her when there was no one around and no sound but that of her own breath still making the air around her warmer that it made her.

She crawled through the cars on all fours towards the alley that would take her to the top end of High Street where she was certain she'd get help. Somewhere deep from the depths of panic, fear and pain her brain agreed and proved her right when she entered the long dark old brick alley where she immediately heard cackling laughter and floating chatter rise up from the town centre.

The sound of normal happy life crept along the top end of High Street and got stronger as revellers approached the far end of the alleyway that shrouded her. Her intended roar for attention dissolved into a pathetic squeak from a parched throat on fire that did nothing to protect her from the freezing cold but robbed her of her voice. She screamed again as best she could as she ran along the alley but her voice again deserted her and was easily strangled by guttural laughter and playful high pitched squeals as the drunks walked on oblivious to the hope she had in them. Then there was silence. A stillness, like the moment when birds stop singing, insects vanish and flower petals close in defence against the sudden and furious storm that beats down in blind fury through heavy still clouds onto the exposed and open landscape.

The only sound was her own breath and her heart thumping against her rib cage. She stopped to listen to the noise outside of her own body and held what little breath she had. Nothing. No-one. She released rhythmic gasps as she fought to refill her lungs with air and bent over, hands on her ripped knees. She darted anxious looks up and down the black alleyway, hair in rats tails hung each side of her face and flicked like whips as they blew away from her as she puffed. Street lights bounced pale light into the blackness and she knew she was not far. It would be over soon. They'd have to believe her. She stood, and straightened, more relaxed this time, more focussed on where she needed to be and turned to run again. And then the blow. Sharp, searing pain in her temples and the back of her eyes, warmth spread like thick syrup down her face, and then darkness descended into black.

A man smiled, bent over her and lifted her up as if she was drunk and had to lean on him for support as he half carried and half dragged her back along the alley to the car park. Footsteps and mixed gentle voices sounded at the top High Street end of the alley so he shifted quickly into one of the old piss-stained and littered alcoves in case they turned in. He held the girl up against him and both melted into the darkness under cover of his black clothes. He held his breath as the clip clop of shoes and chatter of lovers got closer, level, and then moved past him before they stopped a little further up. They embraced. He heard the sound of their kissing like dogs slurping the last of the food in their dish. Animals, he thought. People were only animals with basic needs and he knew what they'd be doing tonight when they got home. Animals.

The girl moaned. He put his hand over her mouth and nose and held tight until she went limp again. A flicker of excitement ran through him as she slumped against him, heat rose in his chest and his heart beat a little faster.

The lovers were too engrossed in each other to notice the world let alone anyone else around them but after the embrace they walked on, chatting, giggling, laughing. He listened carefully and heard a car engine start at the other end of the alley. He waited a minute and then heaved the girl along. The fog had thickened and he could barely make out his battered old Mondeo in the car park but that was a good thing. There was no one around, vision in this weather was limited anyway so he was sure that no one would see him.

He opened the boot of his car and slung the girl inside. She shouldn't have come looking. It was her own fault. She deserved all she got.


  1. It's good Pat.I don't have much criticism,but I do want to read more of it.:)

  2. Thanks Jan. It might change and expand as my plot and characters develop but it helps to set the framework. I have got loads (and loads) more work to do but I thought posting up chapters or excerpts from it as I go along would help to keep me at it. x

  3. I like it. I can visualise it and it makes you hold your breath for her.
    My criticism would be the first paragraph. Too many words reduce the impact of the description.

  4. Thanks Avril. I hope readers feel her panic and exhaustion but you're right that the first par is a little convoluted and cluttered. This story started with an image of a running girl in my head and from that I've tried to build a plot around why she is running, where she has come from and where she is running to - also who she is and who "the man" chasing her is.

    I now have my victim - and I'm working on my suspects.

    I think it was useful posting this up here even though it's not really finished. I think it should be a bit longer - maybe another couple of pages - I've noted clues in there that I need to follow up such as "she shouldn't have come looking" and the telling rather than showing like "the drugs he gave her". I don't think she would be thinking outside of herself especially if she is disorientated because of those drugs. I thought I could show that with track marks on those cold and blotchy arms, in her confusion and lack of good decision making - why didn't she knock on the doors of the street for example, why is it so important for her to get to the other side of town? I think I should also show the reader a bit later on that he is giving her drugs as a way of keeping her where he wants her.

    I'm also working on the setting of my fictional town - or rather small city because it has a cathedral - which is undergoing development and huge changes like never before. I wanted to call it Fakham :)