Sarah Reynolds

Flash Fiction Month | ‘The Crime Stopper’ by Sarah Reynolds

It’s been seven minutes since Shell made the call. They’ll be sure to send a squad car. An ambulance too for all it’s worth. The evidence swings between her fingers – a golden wishbone on a silky chain. She tucks it away in the ball of her fist, slides a finger down the seam of the curtains and peers through the slit. A solid beam of sunlight strobes across the living room, hundreds of tiny dust specks suspended in its grip.

The estate is quiet for a Monday morning, its gridlines bare of foot traffic. Two hundred and twenty housing units, as regular as cells in a honeycomb. The only movement comes from laundry, flickering along the grey railings. A red towel, swagged like a grin.

From up here on the eleventh floor, Shell can keep an eye on things. Not that she can do much, what with her leg and all. But she does have a phone. And leccy for the telly. She knows all about ‘Crime Stoppers’ and toll-free information lines. She’s an expert in the anonymous tip-off. It keeps her busy while she’s waiting for the clank of Eddie’s boots on the metal mesh.

The smell from the bedroom has begun to thicken. She imagines tiny particles of matter, drifting down the hall and into the lounge, being dragged up into her nostrils. It makes her nauseous. Eddie was right; she’d have made a terrible nurse. No stomach for the rough stuff.

Shell plumps down into her easy chair, hauls her leg up onto the footstool and the sciatic throb in her calf begins to ease. Some days it’s easier not to get out of bed at all. Eddie’s resorted to The Legion for his dinner – soggy chips and karaoke. On the nights he makes it home, he snores like a chainsaw. Once, he pissed the bed. That time, Shell lost her rag; hit him with the cordless telephone. The beast barely stirred but the bruise next day was shocking – black and angry as thunder.

So when, last night, the snoring revved up, she reached for something to hit him with. Her stick was closest to hand but it had got wedged on something – a caster perhaps. When Shell finally managed to dislodge the rubber stop, it brought with it a torrent of debris from under the bed. A stack of payslips, some trinkets, a wishbone necklace. A scrapbook of news clippings. Pasted onto its sugar pages, six little girls stared back from different decades. Little Danni Skelton had gone to school with their Kelly. Eddie had been part of the search party.

A siren screams in the distance. Shell zips up her jacket, double checks her handbag. She’s placed the scrapbook in a plastic bag, the trinkets in another. She knows all about crime scene contamination, from CSI Miami. She decides she’ll take the pillow too, a trophy of her own. Who’d have thought that’s all it would take? Something soft and smothering as love.