Stones – playing with tenses

Like I said, he’s lived and loved in my head for years…

I have no idea where this very shot one shot came from – top of my head, need to write something, and yes, she was always trouble.

Comments welcomed!


Daniel sits, head in one hand, looking up to where the peeling paint of the wall meets the ceiling. It’s been three hours and forty- two minutes and he wants to exit the room that’s hotter than a Bikram yoga studio. He’s sure the paint’s changed colour since he sat down here, letting Ryan do the talking, interrupting whenever he could stir up enough motivation. Maybe the paint’s the same, it’s the words that have creates this haze, and Ryan’s temper.

His mind wanders away from the fractured paint job and outside of the room. Tessa’s a few rooms down the corridor, sitting with some pock-skinned adolescent with bad breath who’s been brought in again on another shoplifting charge. Daniel wonders if she’s as bored as he is, thinking about getting out of here, like he is. Thinking about the bed that’s just become theirs, like he is.

A bead of sweat drops into his eyelashes and he wipes it away, the sensation of the liquid reminding him of the room he’s in, the situation that’s not for ending. The bloke opposite is sitting defiantly pretty, his arms folded, lips sealed tighter than a miser’s purse. He’s too hot as well, Daniel can tell, can see the soft twitch of his thumbs that signify discomfort causing red patches against the flaccid skin of his arms.

But Ryan’s having no luck in breaking him, and neither is the heat. At some point, Daniel wants to home, find Tessa on the way and pick up out a takeaway, maybe. Or just go home, get into bed with no sheets. “Look, mate,” he says, feeling Ryan’s glare against the stubble of his cheek that seems to have appeared because of the stifling heat, growing like grass. “I want to get out of here. Just tell us where she is.”

Thomas Ginder looks at him, his eyes laughing. “Why the fuck would I be arsed about you wanting to go home? Shouldn’t have joined the scum if you didn’t want this.” He looks about the room with humour, as if he has seen it all before, which he has. Charges that haven’t stuck lie like stones around his feet, forever weighing him down. They just need one thing, one thing to get him off the streets and out of the way for a few years and this could have been it. A missing girlfriend. A missing fifteen year old girlfriend.


It was rumour. Tessa had told him when he’d found out about the disappearance. Nikita Angela Mone, pupil at the local high school, last seen three days ago. Tommy Ginder, she’d said, one of the girls in Nikki’s class had mentioned she’d been going out with him, gone on about his car and the money he’d flashed about.

It’d taken two days to find him, staying at a mate’s, hiding in the cellars with a pool table and PS3, drugged up on something they hadn’t bothered to identify yet. He’d laughed as they’d dragged him in, drove him round for a couple of hours, waiting for a room to come free. “You’re not saying you weren’t sleeping with her then?” Daniel says, taking the rest of his accent out of his voice.

“We didn’t do much sleeping,” comes the reply, a chuckle punctuates the sentence. “But I ain’t saying we did anything wrong. She was a minor, mate, and I don’t break the law.” He laughs again, a laughed weighted with those stones they all know he’s kicking around.

“She was going out with your mate Andy, I hear.” There is a flicker of a memory; a conversation from before Tessa’s lips had sunk onto his. “She was into older men with cars.”

“Whoever told you that’s a fucking noob,” Tommy says. “She wouldn’t have looked twice at Andy; he was a retard. Besides, he was never around when she needed him.”

“When was that? To pick her up after school?” That was when Nikki had gone missing. Immediately after escaping detention, walking down the wrong corridor and slipping out of a door that should have been locked. “You helped her miss her DT?”

Tommy looks away, his eyes cast onto a poster spelling out the rights he has declined. “No. She needed an education, didn’t she?”

Daniel sits up, a chord connecting in his head, tying things together. He stands up, a shiver waving down his spine like cold water, suddenly chilled. Detective Sergeant Ryan looks at him, annoyance soaking his face, lemons at his lips. “She needed teaching.” His accent returns, the northern lilt of the Pennines widens out his vowels. “Keep him here.”


Her skin is moving when they find her, the strange early spring heat having pushed decomposition into a hundred metre sprint, leaving them its wriggling aftermath to find. Daniel fights the urge to heave, the sight not one he is yet used to. Ryan’s taken control now, barking orders until the boss gets there, credit for the one who shouts the loudest. Nikita is round behind the disused bike sheds, in the wooden hut abandoned by smoking teachers long before the ban came into force. The dyed blonde hair that she defined herself with is reddened with her blood, the colour of dried love.

“Well done, Kid,” he hears the boss says. “Scene of crime will sort in now. Go home, get some rest for a couple of hours. It’ll be good for you to see this through.”

Daniel nods, not wanting to go now. Then he sees Tommy, standing with his back to the hut, defiant and smiling still, his hands bound behind him, flanked by two of Daniel’s colleagues. Daniel feels his own heart pound. They’ve brought Tommy here to see his work, to spook a confession that might never trip off his tongue.

“Still don’t want to tell us?” Daniel says as he passes, pulling off the blue plastic overshoes.

“Nothing to tell. You got an eduaction, you work it out, Sherlock, with your fake-arse posh accent,” Tommy gives him another smile, this one hiding more than Daniel is asking for.

He ignores it, begins to walk away.

“You’re the copper who’s doing that social worker bird, aren’t you?” Tommy says it loud enough to create a silence Daniel finds wrapped around him, strangling. Only the thumping of his heart cuts it. He turns around, looks at Tommy.

Tommy laughs. “It doesn’t matter. She’ll never tell you.”

Something inside Daniel turns to stone and he lets it drop around his feet, kicking it away, even though he knows it’ll always find its way back, back to trip him up.



Short, but bitter. ‘Ware typos. Enjoy. Was on old, now redundant blog.


Early Sunday morning. An October mist lingered over dampened grass, the field quiet except for the pounding of feet against the pitch and an occasional sharpened intake of breath. Overhead, a triangle of geese flew; their shape immaculately unconsidered. For a moment Daniel stopped, his chest heaving, heart pounding, and watched the birds without thinking. The silence was rare, both outside and in his head. There was nothing to consider, not yet.

He began again, turning out his knees into a quarter circle to stretch the inside of his legs as he jogged up the side of the pitch. It was early, too early, but it had been a few weeks since he’d last played a match, and he wanted this time now to get his head into the right place, think about the game. Sunday morning football. Escape.

A dog barked, the noise echoing through the trees, from the running track, breaking the spell he was wrapping around himself. The last few weeks still haunted him; the thrill of the chase somewhat lost after what they had found; humanity’s vomit. His boss had suggested a holiday, using up some leave, but Tessa was in a world of her own, and had dismissed the idea, saying she was too busy, and there was no point without her.

Daniel lifted his knees high, feeling muscles loosen, tendons give. A whisper of adrenaline infiltrated his veins and a little bit more life kicked in, the air less chilled. He looked towards the trees that fenced the pitch from the river, aware of another. A familiar sight emerged, wearing the same blue and black, the belly more rotund than his, redder eyes. The same, unchanged.

“Morning!” The accent was clipped, southern. A decade in the north had not robbed Andy of his roots. “You’re up early. Should bloody think so though, after missing so much training. How do I know you’re match-fit?”

Daniel shrugged, laughing. “You’ll have to relegate Cooky to the bench and see.”

Andy laughed, its tone chewed and roughed up. “’Pends who’s paying later.”

“Not seen Cooky buy a pint yet,” Daniel said, stopping the ball that came his way, then kicking it from one foot to the other, his eyes focused on the new leather. “How’s the missus?”

“Still in bed. Seeing her mother this afternoon, so I’m off the hook. Told her you’d probably be here – she said to come round during the week when Tessa’s on a late or something. Think she prefers you to me,” Andy said, stretching pitifully.

“Most women do,” Daniel said, passing the ball roughly to him. “Ones that have taste anyway.”


It was a weak sun that dripped through the gap between the curtains. She’d heard the door close, even though he’d tried to be quiet, wanting to let her sleep. She felt her chest expand with something she’d not felt for months, not since the whole other thing had started. Tessa sat up, holding her knees to her chest and looked around the room. She couldn’t take everything, barely anything. Bile crept up into her mouth and she rubbed her face. This had to be done quickly, before she could think about it too much. She inhaled, smelling him, Daniel. Dan. Danny. Daniel. The names that would no longer be hers. She wondered how long it would be before there was another woman in his bed, in their home. Would he stay here after she had gone? Would he know why she had gone?

Tessa made the bed, neater than usual, leaving his old t-shirt that she had slept him under her pillow. He would realise quickly, maybe as soon as he walked through the door this afternoon, half drunk, happy. He’d know. She didn’t try to stop the tears this time. It would be the only time she could let them fall.

She packed nothing personal, leaving jewellery, photos, the stuffed toy he had given her two years ago that slept on her pillow. She didn’t need much. He would be left with the detritus of their lives together, the clean up job. He didn’t deserve it. Not this, but there was nothing else, nothing she could do, or wanted to.

She went into the lounge, clearing the dishes from the takeaway last night, putting what was left of the wine back in the fridge, its pink liquid tart against her eyes. Her last supper. But she wasn’t Jesus, being sacrificed. Not this time. This time she had turned traitor. Judas. The kiss yet to be given, but it would come in time.

Church bells rang, calling the pious to prayer. It had been three years since her last confession, and there wouldn’t be another one soon. No one would have that length of time to listen. She laughed and it sounded hollow, the decision made.

Tessa sat on the sofa one last time, looking round at the room; photos of them; her; holidays; paradise. She could leave a note, a few scribbled lines a death knell on a scrap of paper, but he would never expect her to write. She always upped and left and he swept up, making everything clean for her return, the prodigal girlfriend who never did repent and this time would never return.

Tessa stood up, a chill gripping her. Their home seemed dusty, the particles choking her. She turned her back, her hand already gripping the small holdall that contained the only parts of this current life she wanted to save. Save from what? She had no idea how deep this pool was into which she was diving.

Outside the air was cold, its frosted fingers poking her as she walked away. She didn’t look back.


Victory was always sweet, especially after putting two goals away. Especially when the opposing goalie was the idiot who talked louder than anyone else in the station canteen. Daniel felt good; his legs ached, felt stretched; a slight bruise from a rough tackle thudded, but it was enough to make him feel alive, that life was good.

Home looked quiet, the windows empty, as if it had closed its eyes. Tessa wasn’t in – he’d already tried to phone, to see if she wanted to join him at the pub for a carvery, but he’d figured she’d probably gone shopping or to one of her friends. He turned the key in the lock and noticed the dust dance in the glare of the light.

The room was tidy. She’d washed up before she’d left, thrown away the wrappers from the Chinese, piled their magazines. Daniel left the door open, forgetting to shut it, and went into their bedroom. The bed was made, a drawer slightly open. Realisation didn’t hit like a train, but caressed his skin with a sickening embrace, freezing him, every inch inside went cold.

He sat down on the bed. Inhaling the faint scent that was hers, from them. His eyes caught sight of her jewellery, make up, underwear, the dress she’d worn on Friday night. He heard her laugh, her cry as she came, the way she said his name. She was paradise, however much harm she’d caused.

But she’d left.

Early Sunday morning.