A Detective Trail ~ By Lucy Atkinson

I don’t know why I started following them, maybe I was bored, maybe I could just tell they were up to no good, the people just looked shifty, maybe it was the mist creating an atmosphere of mystery.

They kept checking over their shoulders, me slightly following behind, out of sight in the mist. I turned 16 a month ago, and had recently become deeply enthralled by detective novels. Maybe that was it, maybe it was all the stories swirling in my mind, car chases, magnifying glasses and imagining the interior of 221 Baker Street and Sherlock’s flapping coat.

I had always been jealous of the people in books, maybe of books themselves, the exciting stories in between the pages.

I saw myself as a character, I loved the thought of daring midnight chases, of wrongs put right and clues left in the clefts of trees waiting to be found. I had always loved reading, lost in magic worlds, but now dramatic mysteries were my books of choice, running my fingers down the spines of books in dusty libraries, searching for moments that I would vicariously live.

Then the mist had fallen and the gentleman had passed me, speaking in whispers their collars folded up against the cold, and I dropped in behind them hoping for stories of my own, my bag full of books of mystery and intrigue, urging me on with their suggestion, the books sitting up and taking note of my life for a change, as I followed these men into the mist.

The gentleman parted ways. ‘Left or right,’ I thought, ‘who shall I follow? The taller man I think…’ and off towards the pier we went, moving faster as his gate quickened, me hanging back and hiding, as I have seen in countless movies, holding my bag so the books don’t make a noise.

I can hear the water now, underneath the old creaking pier. The man sits down and I write notes of his appearance in a battered notepad three benches down. He doesn’t seem to notice me, ‘Why would he?’ I think.

‘This is stupid, I should move on’ I start to think to myself, ‘I am wasting my life, things do not happen as they do in books and films and dreams and imaginings.’! Then the man’s phone rings. He has a quick conversation, and then tosses the phone into a bin and almost runs off into the mist.

I sit there watching him go. Then the phone rings, I don’t know what to do, the phone rings off…

I walk over to the bin and fish around in the banana skins and old crisp packets for the phone. It rings again and I answer it, but in the shock I say nothing… ‘We’ve changed location, we’ve had to’ the voice says, ‘there will be no one there, everything will be left at the end of the old pier. Write this number down, you will need it to open the suitcase!’ I jot down the numbers and the phone hangs up!

I look towards the end of the old pier and listen, I listen so hard I swear I can hear the books listening too.