The Crime Readers' Association

Never Endings


The Perfect Hill

London, 1955


It’s the perfect hill.

There’s no sound on the hill tonight. All communication is dead, and the urban rats scurry far out of sight. I sit and breathe. There’s no agenda here. No hidden motives to make me feel as I feel. Thoughts are pure and whole.

I last came here as a boy. I used to hide here before the war. I had no friends then, and I have no real friends now. But I wish Marie had held on tight.

I wish I could bottle the air here and take it down below. Savour the fresh feeling it gives me. But I know I must return to the choking haze below. Gasp for air with an emotional emphysema.

I stand up and slowly throw the canvas bag over my shoulder. I sigh before I pick up the shovel. I never realised she was so heavy.


The Blind Cyclops

London, 1955


Grey streets lead to where you observe. A streetlamp blinks with struggling power. The clock in the square chimes midnight. The time is eight minutes to the hour. I walk into your vision: young, tall, and strong. I have to hold my hat on tight, as the wind blows mercilessly. My heavy coat is tailored well, and I wear it with style. I dress as I feel- on top of the world.

I’m hurrying back from the concert hall. A piece I wrote is being rehearsed- it took me almost nine months to compose, and it wasn’t an easy birth. It will take only twelve minutes to perform.

Blue, yellow, orange, green, red, black; back to blue: coloured major and minor keys kaleidoscope my mind. The colours surge and swirl, illuminating the night. My music produces melodies, and they spiral to your right.

Give me a colour and I’ll give you a note. Give me a spectrum of colour and I’ll give you a movement. Pastoral to urban, the majesty of deep green fields and cheering crowds in major, to blue murder and breaking glass in minor, I will give you all. I’ll write a nocturne greater than Debussy, my colours more Impressionist than any Ravel saw.

I’ll compose for real life, and every moment of every day will have a movement. Nobody will ever feel lost and without music again. It’ll reach every hidden crevice, and crawl into every unfilled hole.

Blue, red, green- primary leads to secondary, dancing in a syncopated rhythm inside my waking dreams. But I can see them all around me, forming relationships and shapes, making music in my steps and shadow. Patterns form notations, the vibrations spinning up from the left and right, flaring up, before dissolving out of sight.

The shop with the naked bulb on the corner shuts down. Several men hurry across the deserted street opposite. They carry brown parcels, and rush through the wind to the underground. The jazzy magazines under their arms will console them for a few moments. I cannot relate to them. My consolation waits at home.

Home isn’t far from here. I turn into the residential street off the square. The streetlamp still blinks far behind me. You’ll have to be quick to keep up with me. I race through the wind on nights like these.

London air feels thick and unhealthy, but a certain noirish glamour engulfs me. I could be any stand-up guy, but my name is Francis Leahman, composer. Frankly, I’d prefer it if you called me Frank.

I can’t see a rainbow, but the colours blow my mind. I can see no rainbow, but the hues and shades are bright. Let my music feed your need and devour you in your fright. Let it seep in and enter you, before it fades into the night.

I see the light on in our hallway. Marie is probably looking forward to seeing me. I know that I want to see her. I can tell her the news about the rehearsals going well. She’s been down lately, and this should cheer her up.

I walk up the path to our first home, a rented bedsit, or an artist’s studio, as our landlord tells us. The three cars in our street gleam with arrogance. Their owners are very proud of them. I see a final blue and yellow, as a red melts away behind.

I turn the key in the door, wipe my feet, and then decide to take my shoes off. We have a new carpet and Marie wants to maintain it. I reach to turn the light off, and as I do I see her. It’s the first time I’ve seen her naked without becoming aroused.

But then her body looks grey, her face almost blue. She looks at me sideways. The cord around her neck cuts tight. I know I’m too late. I rush to pull her down but feel faint before I get there.

I sit down on a wooden chair, and Marie still dangles above me. The expression on her face holds a final, teasing smile. I wonder if she ever smiled at him like that, wonder if Tommy would smile back now. I spring up and begin to punch her stomach as a boxer might pound a frozen slab of meat. Exhausted, I collapse into the chair again.

After a few minutes, I stand up and slip back into my shoes. I walk behind Marie and kiss her on the bottom. She’s cold to the taste. I stroll through the front door, leaving her exactly as I left her yesterday morning, leaving her exactly as I left her the morning before.



The City of the Heart

London 1955


My life, a noir wet dream; the world a film set, long abandoned; my days are full of takes. Nothing gives no more.

But I once had a future, before the blight. In those days I didn’t have to wait for a director to beckon me into shot, an imaginary scene in a film that seems to last forever. I was the star once.

Back then I laughed at a hunched old man who seemed to have spilt the whole world over his clothes.

‘Do your time, boy, do your time,’ he said.

I had no idea what he meant then. I remember laughing an immortal laugh. And now that old man or another like him must be warning somebody else, whilst I live in the prison he alluded to. Parole is a dream I dare not dream. The loss of Marie has beaten the life into me.

I can’t recapture the innocence. Nobody can regain that feeling once they’ve lost it. It slipped from me in a split-second, as if the life had drained away from me. That is, the old life, the one I can’t bring back. My old piano teacher once told me that potential is greater than actuality, as no limits can be placed on the future. ‘Potential future is ruled by the actuality of life,’ I would tell him now.

I used to walk on the same level as the highest buildings. Nobody can ever take those moments away from me. These inspired moments are laid in stone like those very buildings which still stand. I once dreamed that the highest windows would be penetrated by the sounds of my symphonies, a true soundtrack of the city, and all the love and death contained within it.

Other people would walk in the notes of my imagination, and old women would sew to the patterns of my notation. Lunch hours would pass in daily recitals, heads full of the deep passion I offered. Like a disease, my infection would spread until everybody made their own music and reciprocated the power I had sacrificed so much for. Christmas would dance with my festive overture, and murders be committed to my overture of death. For even in my state of euphoria, I knew that one couldn’t exist without the other.

And the colours would come from all directions, painting my notes, and guiding me: the pitch, rhythm and tempo, the Treble, Alto, Tenor, Bass, Neutral and Octave clefs, exploding in blues, greens, reds, yellows and oranges, and many other shades and colours besides. Every colour would sound an emotion, a note, the patterns a time signature for my notation.

I wondered if everybody had such a fire, a passion burning within. It crackled and spat at my very centre. It would act as a beacon to others, drawing them to me like metal moths to a magnetic light. I was unaware of any green ugliness in the souls of people. But back then I analysed nothing.

The sun couldn’t last forever, nothing ever does. Marie was strangled by society, and it was all inevitable. And outside, the shards of rain cut clean as glass.


A Conversation

London 1954


He pored over the paper, reading the obituary for the second time. Marie fingered the keys of the piano, a piece of furniture in the room for her as she couldn’t play it. Suddenly, I broke the silence.

‘I never thought he’d die so young.’

‘Who?’ said Marie.

‘Jim Bridges, the broadcaster.’

‘How old was he?’


‘That is young. For a broadcaster, anyway.’

‘What do you mean by that?’ I said.

‘Only that he got to the top young.’

‘Load of good that is to him now.’

‘How did he die?’

‘Heart disease.’

‘Lack of exercise? Poor diet?’

‘How should I know?’ I said, ‘It’s an obituary, not a coroner’s report.’

I began to pace the room. She continued playing with the keys. But Marie knew me too well and wouldn’t let it pass.

‘What’s wrong?’ she said.

‘Nothing,’ I said.

‘Is Tommy coming over later?’

‘What does it matter to you?’ I said.

‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘Why do you ask then?’ It was my turn to not let it pass.

She glared at me, her dark looks reading like a book, looking as I felt.

I rested back into the red armchair, the one that had only just been paid off in instalments. It would soon be time to buy another. I looked at her there at the piano, her back to me. It was as if she would always be facing away from me now, slipping away emotionally.

I switched on the wireless, tuning through the fuzz. Marie put up the ironing board, to iron my shirt for work. This was a routine we performed every evening, with matinees on weekends. But that evening we were five minutes behind.

Due to the conversation.


Adapted from the longer short story sequence Tall Stories, available to subscribers at

Read more about Neil, who also writes true crime non-fiction, here.

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