The Crime Readers' Association

Featured Author Friday: Chris Simms

31st January 2014

A Price To Pay – the ideas behind the story

For the last three weeks, I’ve been discussing where ideas for novels come from. Sometimes, they ambush you. You might be sitting at home, minding your own business. Say, for instance, you’ve just taken delivery of a reconditioned laptop. You plug it in and turn it on, wanting to check the internet connection is working. As the screen settles down, you look through the carry-case the machine came in. This pocket contains the spare charger. That one has the instruction manual. And here’s an inner pocket, hidden away. Something is in it. A few sheets of A4. Seeing writing, you slide them out. The top one has a photo of a girl’s face. Hang on, she looks familiar. You turn to the news website on the laptop’s screen. There she is, reported as missing. One of four girls who’ve recently vanished from care homes. You read the writing on the sheet. Her height, weight, bust and hip size, all listed out. At the bottom it states she has a British passport.

This isn’t good. In fact, this is very disturbing. Who the hell owned the laptop before you? Should you go to the police? What if they just seize the laptop as evidence? The thing cost over three hundred quid.

A short while later, you’re back at the shop. One of those little places that also sells refurbished phones, international dialling cards and cartridges of cheap printer ink. Only now there’s a fire-engine outside it. Police cars. As you watch, an ambulance crew emerges from the blackened shop doorway. They’re wheeling a gurney and on it is a body-bag.

‘The owner,’ a nearby onlooker murmurs. ‘I heard the police saying he’d been tortured and set alight.’

You look around uneasily. Most people are watching the ambulance crew. But one man isn’t. He’s looking at you. Or rather, he’s looking at the carry-case hanging from your grip.

There were some sheets of paper in the carry-case of a second-hand laptop I once bought. They listed nothing more harmless than points from a business meeting. A year or so later, I was reading an article about the high number of vulnerable girls who run away from care homes. A few are never heard of again. My eyes went to the carry-case sitting by my desk. Now, that could be the start of a story…





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