Am setting aside social amenities (much as I hope you all have had a lovely weekend, and as grateful as I am for your valiant participation in this week’s shoe-fest) to hand the mic as promptly as possible to dear judge Erin McCabe.
Judge Erin McCabe says: As a judge, I am always desperate to see what prompt I’m going to get and I have to admit when I logged on at some point on Friday morning, I let out a little shriek of excitement when I saw this one. It’s exactly the type of thing which gets my grey matter going and I suspected we were going to get some excellent stories from it. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. I was amazed this week by the many different interpretations this community presented and how skilfully each story embedded the “Dragon’s Bidding” i.e. to include a Detective.
I want to include a note of Congratulations to PMColtrane, whose wife gave birth to their second born daughter on Thursday and who still managed to submit a story this week; which stands as clear testimony to what a committed and vibrant writing community we have here!
Deciding on my favourites this week was hard and involved going over the case facts again and again to identify my prime suspect for winner. I’m happy to say, case closed! So let us begin.
I felt the calibre of stories this week was really high and so I have four Special Mentions: Firstly, “In Her Footsteps” by Sinead O’Hart; this was a really touching story about a boy on the hunt for this Mother, and I particularly liked the deliberate spelling errors which brought the character of the young boy to life. Secondly, “Broken Open” by Betsy Streeter; I loved the feel and flow of this piece, which captured the excitement of finally cracking a case and then stirred this within the reader. Thirdly, “First Case” by Tinman; I adored the dialogue in this piece; sassy and smart, the last line: “It’s not quite the car chase from Bullitt” was a particularly good choice for the ending and for this character. Finally, “Skin Deep” by Sarah Miles; Through great use of structure and style Sarah was able to convey so much in such a short word count, it read like a TV crime drama which had me engaged from the get go and left me eager to read the next episode.
Image Ronin, “Bus Stop Slasher.” This story read like a piece of authentic film noir set in NYC, delivered through lines such as “the shoes I bought from a perv shop down on 128th.” and “I’ll call up a black and white for a lift.” Each line adds to the Noir visual and transports the reader to a different time. The phrasing puts the reader straight into the mind of the detective and through a chilling ending (death by little old lady) allows the story to come full circle.
Margaret Locke, “Sole Sisters.” A completely different take on the prompt; Margaret creates her central character entirely through judgement of another. Each judgement ultimately tells us more about the judger than the subject of their scrutiny, giving them a clear voice, perspective and even a hint of back story. There is no mistaking that the character is a detective, but not of murderers of philanderers; she spies fakes; “I know my Manolos from my Miu Mius, my Jimmy Choos from my Christian Louboutins.” The last line: “As they say, takes one to know one.” Is the perfect ending for this piece.
Rebecca Allred (@LadyHazmat), “Fancy Footwork.” This was a really interesting and unique take on the prompt and rather gruesome, which I adore. I’ve been playing “The Wolf Among Us” on Xbox; a detective story which intertwines murder and fairy tales and have just discovered Snow White’s severed head. So clearly this story really spoke to me, as here Cinderella is identified via severed foot and frankly I just love that. The idea of someone who finds people through wearing their shoes I also thought was a brilliant concept for a fable detective.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Joidianne4eva, “Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall (Who’s the Best Monster of Them All?).” Once I had read the reveal, which conveyed that the detective was also the killer I went back over this piece and it was then that I realised just how devious this writer had been. For instance, the line: “When she’d taken the job to find Mrs Stevenson’s missing husband Marlene knew that the woman had expected her to find a mistress or even a secret family not this…carnage.” On first reading, to me Marlene had unexpectedly found this “carnage” but on a second reading as I knew Marlene was the cause of said “carnage” I then took it to mean that it was to Mrs Stevenson’s surprise. These double meaning are scattered throughout the piece, for example within the line; “at least that’s what the cops told her” Again on first reading I took “her” to be Marlene and on second reading “her” had to be Mrs Stevenson. I really liked the way in which this was done, extremely clever and well imagined.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Charles W. Short, “The Time Travelling Detectives and the Self-sacrifice of Grace Evangelista.” When I think about time travel it is often in the context of solving a grand mystery, meeting someone long dead or stopping an atrocity. The idea that this central character would use it to gain better understanding about the events of her own life really captured me. It was the interconnectedness of it all, thread through lines such as: “She learned why her favourite teacher left in the middle of the term.” To have the time to solve all of these tiny mysteries in order to create one giant enlightenment, I thought was really novel and introspectively thought stimulating for the reader. Then the end premise knocked me for six; “Today she would find out if her sacrifice mattered. She chose to die for her friends. Had they chosen to live?” This took me from the concerns of a very ordinary sounding character to one whose life had clearly had huge significance in the grand scheme of things and I wanted to know more; wonderful.
And now: for the FIRST TIME EVER (toldja it was coming), it’s Flash! Friday
I loved so many things about this piece: the imagery is so beautiful and true, this line particularly, “Commuters blink at each other, slightly bashful; like afternoon cinemagoers, the sudden sunshine drying up our black and white daydreams of detectives, lovers, motels, eggs easy over.” It really captured my attention and with it had me seated right beside our main character, blinking in the sunlit tube carriage, “too British to move apart.” I love the world building conveyed through panic induced deliberations; “After the surgery, I thought I’d be safe.” It hints at a quite epic underlying story and as it ends one character follows another and we can’t help but feel something climatic is about to happen, but to me it still feels like a natural ending as I’m still in the tube carriage and it is about to depart from the station.
This story is all about disguises. We don’t know if our character is male or female, we don’t know if they were the victim or the aggressor, and through these carefully constructed gaps we find ourselves unwittingly turning into the detective and it is exactly for that reason that this story is a winner for me. Congratulations!
Congratulations, AB! Your winner’s badge waits for you below, with an extra dragon sparkle for the Jane Austen reference (always a clever move in my book!). Here is your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
After Finchley Central, the tube comes up above ground. Commuters blink at each other, slightly bashful; like afternoon cinemagoers, the sudden sunshine drying up our black and white daydreams of detectives, lovers, motels, eggs easy over.
There aren’t many left, now. The girl next to me is still reading. “I have been walking in the grove some time in the hope of meeting you.” We’re too British to move apart.
This is when I always get scared.
If I tip my head slightly, I can see you under the brim of my hat. You’re greyer, since the court case. After the surgery, I thought I’d be safe. You’d never recognise me again; never put me through it all again. But now, my palms are damp.
Totteridge. You get up, wait for the doors to open. As they close, I take a breath, then walk after you.