Scafell Pike #7 (finale)

Scafell Pike #7 (finale)

Lu stepped over the threshold and into the bustling warmth of the country pub. Hikers, ramblers, locals and tourists were crowded around her, laughing and talking over pints of ale, gin and tonics. She felt a tightening in her throat where the killer had tried to strangle her. The warmth was close to suffocating after the chill of the mountainside.

Suddenly, she spotted something distinctive. All of her attention was focused on the red anorak draped over the back of a chair, her field of vision closing in so that it was the only thing she saw. Lu didn’t know what she was doing, but the coat was drawing closer to her. She was walking towards it like a woman in a dream, a waking nightmare. Her hand reached out and brushed against the slick plastic material.

A man turned, casting a casual look around the pub. Beyond him she saw mouths open in laughter, teeth bared in aimless chatter and lips pressed to the rims of pint glasses. But in the man’s face there was utter shock, perhaps even fear.

“Murderer!” Lu shouted, stabbing at the man with her finger. “He’s a murderer!”

The hubbub died down to a soft murmur. Every tongue in the place was stilled and each pair of eyes fixed itself on Lu’s quivering face. She was exhausted and emotionally drained, but elation leapt in her breast when she realised that the killer had been caught.

“You’re her.” The man said, narrowing his brows and taking a hesitant step back. “You’re the madwoman who chased me down the mountain.”

“Don’t play dumb!” Lu snapped, stepping after him. “I saw you throw her off the cliff. I saw you kill your girlfriend.”

People muttered darkly on all sides, moving away so that a wide circle formed around Lu and the killer. A wall of stern faces and suspicious scowls surrounded them.

“My girlfriend is back home. What are you talking about?”

The man took out a mobile phone and starting pressing buttons. Lu heard a dial tone ring a few times and a woman’s voice answered. Voices grumbled  and, as she looked around for support, Lu saw that their angry stares all fell on her. Her hands began to shake with mingled frustration and embarrassment.

But she had come too far to give in. She knew what she had seen. If she hadn’t seen it, she would have taken her own life. Witnessing that innocent woman’s death had given her a purpose, a reason to go on living. She refused to let it go.

“Then it was another woman.” Lu said, and then turned to the onlookers. “It was a woman in a bright blue anorak. He killed her because she wouldn’t marry him. Trust me, I saw it!”

She had thought the pub patrons’ glares were the worst of it, but they weren’t. Now people turned away, whispering to each other in tones of sympathy. Lu didn’t want them to feel sorry for her, she wanted to be believed.

A rough hand touched her arm and she jerked backwards. The killer was standing close, near enough to her that she could smell hops on his breath. He gestured to something, pointing at her chest. She looked down with the patron’s muttering loud in her ears.

“Poor thing, it’s sad really.”

“Probably unhinged. Someone should do something.”

“Is there anything we can do?”

Lu looked down and saw the bright blue anorak she had put on that morning.

You can read the first Scafell Pike here.

Scafell Pike #6

Lu’s feet were a hard canvas of rough skin marred by tender blisters and cracked callouses. Each and every step down the gravel track brought with it stinging pain and a burning in her tight calves.

Ahead of her, through the night darkness and shadowed trees was a distant yellow haze from a small town nestled in the valley. She knew that there would be a hostel or bed and breakfast there, perhaps even a pub where she could enjoy a late, hot meal.

But these things hardly even touched on her thoughts, even though she was feeling desperately cold and frayed around the edges. She knew that the killer, her attacker, had come down that way. He would be somewhere in the town that evening, unless he planned to spend the night out on the mountain.

He was in the trap, and now was her chance to catch him at last. Lu saw an old-fashioned wooden sign swinging in the breeze outside a pub and headed straight towards it. Through the thick, patterned windows came a flood of warm light and a low rumble of chatter.

Read the latest installments of Ripper and Killer in the Shadows.

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Scafell Pike #5

A world of black, utter darkness, surrounded by a narrow ring of light. That was all Lu could see and her only point of reference in a confusing, empty void of a world. It seemed so fitting to her.

That was how the world had always seemed, empty. There was nothing for her to focus on, nothing to drive her forward. She had given up long ago. But then a point of light appeared right at the centre of the void.

It reminded her of something, some purpose that she had forgotten. Concentrating as hard as her pounding head would allow her, she tried to remember what it was she wanted and why she was there. She tried to imagine what had persuaded her to go on living, not to throw herself off the mountain’s summit.

As the memories crept back into her mind, the point of light swelled until only a thin haze of blackness remained, a shadow of despair in her mind. She sat up and looked around at the hills and valleys, the high peak rising behind her. All were flinty grey in the darkness of dusk.

Ahead of her a pair of large boots had trampled grass and scuffed mud in a trail leading down from the mountain. For all that she tried, she could neither remember the killer’s face nor imagine why he had not finished her off.

But she swore to herself as she sat on the damp earth, rubbing the bruises on her neck, that she would continue to hunt the killer. It did not matter if she died, so long as she could live long enough to see his face.


Have you read the latest installment of Ripper? Find it here.

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The Confrontation (short story)

Scafell Pike #4

-In the last installment, Lu was stalking the killer down from the summit of Scafell Pike-

 Lu crouched on the lip of the small gully and looked around. There was no other way ahead that she could see, only down into the shallow stream and up the steep bank on the far side.

Already she had allowed her indecision to waste precious time. Lu had lost sight of the killer and, if she did not get moving again soon, she might never catch up with him. The sense of adventure had begun to wear off and she could feel the wind pricking at her skin.

Her first step down failed to find solid earth. A tuft of soil and grass gave way, and Lu was sliding down the side of the gully. Her feet went into the water first, then her shins and knees.

It was deeper than it had first appeared. Water so chill it was almost frozen gripped her ankles, soaking through her thick walking socks and thin trousers. She waded forwards, wincing with each step and feeling the biting cold burrow itself deeper into her legs.

Not caring about the mud and muck, Lu scrambled up the far bank on hands and knees. Her long fingers dug into the wet brown sludge and came away with grit lodged beneath the nails.

Lu reached the top of the gully and stood. Shivers racking her whole body and her teeth were chattering together.

Something hard hit her in the ribs, crushing the air out of her lungs. She rolled sideways with the heavy thing tumbling with her, large hands scrabbling to pin her arms. Lu did not care that she was being attacked, death was not something she cared about either way.

She only prayed that the struggle would not carry her back into the gnawing cold of the mountain stream. Something burned in her heart, not pain or fear, but a desperate desire not to die cold.


Read a historical crime story here.

If you like fantasy, then check out Beneath the Tower, .a short story.

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The Chase (short story)

Scafell summit

Scafell Pike #3

Lu felt like the greyhound which chased the hare. Except that her quarry did not know he was being hunted. Though the man never once looked around, Lu kept a distance between them and moved from one shadowy rock to another.

Her eyes never left the back of his red anorak. She had seen what he did and would make sure that he paid dearly for it. Images flashed through her mind, a woman flapping her arms as though trying to fly.

Lu remembered how the woman had hung in the air, suspended for a moment outside time and reality, then dropped away from the mountain’s summit. She remembered the sight of her broken corpse at the bottom of the slope, blood staining grey stone a dark red.

But then it had not been more than an hour ago. They had left the clearly marked path and were moving over grassy mounds, through chilling streams and scrambling past sharp outcrops.

She had no idea where they were or in which direction they were heading, but it did not matter. The greyhound’s blood was up and she would catch her prey before night fell. For the first time in years, it felt good to be alive.


For the first in this series, click here.

Or click here for another crime short story.

Falling (short story)

Scafell summit

Scafell Pike #2

The voices were clearly audible to Lu, even though the words were indistinct. They were low and carried faintly on the wind, but still they tore apart the silence that she had so briefly enjoyed on the mountain’s summit.

It was not fair. How could it be fair for a woman to climb thousands of feet away from the world, expecting to find a barren nothingness, a release from life, only to have that taken away without warning?

She wanted to scream at them for destroying the expedition. It was supposed to be her chance to escape, a chance to start again on the descent or end it all in a moment’s flight from the summit.

But even with the whole weight of the world seeming to fall back onto her shoulders, Lu was curious. She lifted her head and peeked out over the top of the boulder behind which she crouched.

“That’s sickening.” She thought. “I actually want to be sick.”

Lu was looking at a moment shared between two people which was so intimate that the fact she was even seeing it revolted her. The woman stood at the opposite edge of the summit, feet planted on bare rock, blue anorak whipping around her in the wind and two delicate hands braced on her hips.

Her partner was kneeling in front of her, holding out a small box in both hands. Something glinted from within it, a ring. The man’s face was twisted with anxiety and distress.

“His knees must be killing him.” Lu thought. “Just say yes so he can get up and you can leave me in peace.”

The woman shook her head in a sharp, brutal movement like the crack of a whip. Something heavy sank in Lu’s chest as she saw the despair etched in the man’s face. But there was also a cruel sense of glee twisting inside her. It was better than any soap opera she had ever watched.

He stood slowly with his head bent. For a few seconds, Lu could not see his face and began to wonder, partly with sorrow and also with the same sick fascination as before, whether he was crying.

It seemed that he would try to embrace his intended. The man’s reached his hands towards her sides and she flinched slightly. It was an instinctive movement on the woman’s part. Her face was stern and brave, but her eyes showed that the man’s grief tormented her.

Then Lu saw his face. It was red with pure rage, burning white hot inside his chest. His hands took hold of the woman under her arms and he pushed. She seemed to hang motionless in the air for a moment, held there perhaps by Lu’s gaze or a desire to live. Her hands clawed the air, trying to cling on to something or reach the man’s face, Lu could not tell.

The woman fell with the blue anorak flapping around her like a pair of ugly wings. Without waiting to see how far she fell, the man turned and began his own, slower descent. Lu doubled over behind the rock and vomited against its side. Something fell with a snapping, cracking sound on the slope below.


For the first short story in this series, click here.

For something different, click here.

Summit (short story)

Summit (short story)

Scafell Pike #1

It felt as though there were small fires burning in each of the muscles of Lu’s legs. Ribbons of pain ran along the bottoms of her feet where blisters had formed and broken. But Lu did not stop walking.

Loose rock shifted under the treads of her thick walking boots. The sun was high and bright, but obscured behind a thick canopy of misty clouds. Lu was moving steadily closer to those rolling hills of vapor which hung above her head. She was climbing into the clouds and escaping the world below.

The environment around her was so uncomplicated, life stripped bare of unnecessary accompaniments. All that she could see was the white sky, iron-grey rock and tufts of emerald green grass. She was climbing the tallest mountain in England, escaping from her life and rising higher than anyone else in the country. At the summit, she would find something invaluable, freedom.

All at once, the world fell away. Suddenly, there was nothing solid above or to either side of her, only empty air. Lu was standing on the summit and there was nowhere higher to go.

The first thing that she felt was a sinking sensation in her stomach as all of the security she had known in her life was stripped away. Lu was alone, exposed on a broad pinnacle of rock jutting into the sky. If she walked a hundred paces to either side, she would be trying to walk on clouds.

Her heart raced and she felt something horribly familiar stir inside her. Anxiety, a cold hand gripping her heart. The summit was not a pill which cured all ills. It was a task like any other. She had overcome it and that gave her some sense of achievement, but she had been a fool to think that it would eliminate her unhappiness.

A gaping hollow seemed to be growing inside Lu’s chest. It was dragging her towards the top of a steep cliff. She dropped to her knees and hunched behind a low boulder. It was a relief like nothing she had ever felt before to have something shielding her from the yawning vacuum beyond the summit.

Lu heard voices and the breath caught in her throat.


Find another short story here or here.

For something a bit different, click here.