This story opening was written in response to an ongoing Writing Challenge set for my Year 6 writing group, inspired by Philip Pullman’s Little Red Riding Hood and The Girl in Red by Roberto Innocenti..


 Murky Mudlarking

Becky and Stan met in their usual place, by the gate at top of the steps.  Becky had been waiting for longer than she would have liked, especially at this time of year.  Stan had only just escaped the flat in time for low tide; his mum had made him tidy his room first before she left for her night shift.   She knew exactly how to motivate him!

The same old group of older teenagers sat on gathered by the wall overlooking the river. Stan nodded to them and some nodded back.  They recognised one another but Stan didn’t know them.  Anyway, they were drinking beer and a couple of them were swearing.  Stan was glad to have a friend like Becky.  There was a definite chill in the air, as he pulled back the heavy iron latch and the two children descended the familiar slippery steps stairs.  They placed their feet carefully on each step, knowing that each patch of green icy moss could find them lying injured at the bottom of the River Thames!

They hopped across the damp stones that littered the foreshore.  Becky’s scarf trailed dangerously close to the gloopy silt and she wound it securely around her neck before fastening her hood more tightly.  The worries of the day slipped away, those blasted fractions and that argument with Jenny at lunchtime.  Becky peered between the stones searching for tiny, abandoned treasures.  The daylight was fading fast and she enjoyed the challenge of searching for pieces of clay pipe, animal bones and fragments of pottery.  Jenny and the Pokemon cards magazine could wait until tomorrow.  Lost in a world of her own, Becky almost forgot Stan was there when he called her over.

“Look at this!” he exclaimed pointing at an old tyre, partially submerged in the mud.  She walked over calmly, as she could see there was no emergency.  Stan poked at the tyre with his foot, trying in vain to free it from the river bed.  Becky looked at the object of his frustration.  It was a tyre, a dirty old tyre.  It had been worn down on one side and the tread was encrusted with mud.  This wasn’t the kind of treasure they usually searched for at low tide, the kind of ancient objects they could take home and rinse in the bathroom sink before displaying on Becky’s windowsill for passers by to marvel at.  She noticed the tide was slowly rising and one by one the street lights turned on as if by magic.

“OK. We should head back soon, it’s getting dark,” she suggested.

“No, look properly!” Stan insisted, kicking the tyre again. It shifted in the mud and Becky thought she saw the blade of a knife nestled under the rim. She looked at Stan, who nodded seriously.  Little did they know they were being watched.

“Leave it,” she said, knowing that this could only lead to trouble but Stan wouldn’t listen.  He took off his coat and used the sleeve to pick up the knife. He held it to his face.  “Stop it!” Becky said again insisted turning towards the steps.  She wasn’t just worried about the tide and the dark anymore.  The blade glinted ominously in the street lights; Stan was fascinated by his find. Staring intently at the weapon, he didn’t notice that Becky was already halfway back up the flight of stairs.  She knew that her friend was messing about with something he shouldn’t and her fear grew her chest started to feel tight. She was tempted to run but remembered just how precarious these steps could be.  “Stan!” she said again called one last time in desperation, before rushing past the older teenagers and heading home for Hollyoaks.

The man stood under the street light, watching the children.  There was only the boy now, Stan, he thought.  He had the knife but he looked pretty harmless.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to get it back, he the man thought but he knew he would have to be careful wary.  There was too much at stake.  The tide was rising fast now.  He would have to be quick.  The man thought he would be able to get it back retrieve the knife easily after throwing the evidence off the boat.  It was not the first time he had used this plan when being chased and the body he had left behind had not looked too pretty.  A watch, a phone and a wallet though.  Not bad for a night’s an afternoon’s work.

Sidling up behind the distracted boy, the man paused. He considered his tone of voice before speaking. “I think you should give that to me,” he suggested in his sweetest, kindest voice.  Stan was startled, turned and attempted to hide it behind his back.  He knew it was no good, his mouth was dry and he was frozen to the spot. Where on Earth was Becky?!

The man held his hand out insistently.  ‘OK. Sorry,” responded meekly Sam, placing the weapon in the man’s palm. He felt incredibly vulnerable all alone on the murky foreshore with this threatening stranger.  Where could Becky have gone? Stan couldn’t believe she would just leave him alone in the dark.  She was his best friend.  He looked back at the steps, his escape route, as he felt a hand grip his wrist. “Get off!” screamed Stan as the man dragged him effortlessly towards the water.  Leaving the boy here would be too dangerous, he had decided.  He had seen his face, he had heard his voice, Stan was dangerous.


Stan did not feel dangerous. He felt foolish and he wanted to cry.

Becky changes her opinion of Sam.



To be continued …