Lucy Vickery

Poison pen

In Competition No. 3043 you were invited to provide a short story inspired by the Salisbury poisonings.
Ian McEwan, a writer who is fascinated by spying, was asked recently on the Today programme how he would begin a novel inspired by the current confrontation with Russia. The image that comes to mind, he said, was of a lion hunting a pack of deer-like creatures in a herd. ‘There’s one that’s trailing behind — too old, too young, perhaps, or has just left the EU…’ We find ourselves, McEwan said, back in that strange Cold War world of brazen lies. Many of you clearly agreed with him, judging by the regular appearances of George Smiley in the entry.
John O’Byrne, Terence Horrocks, Roger Phillips, Bill Greenwell and Joe Houlihan all put in strong performances. But they were pipped by the prizewinners, printed below, who are rewarded with £25 each. The bonus five pounds goes to Alan Millard.

Sid Swain awoke in his squalid bedsit and, without washing, threw on his dirty rags and fried an egg in the greasy pan. He gagged on the first mouthful but still ate it. His immune system had learned to cope with rotten food. Having previously replenished his mobile snack bar with produce salvaged from supermarket waste bins, he made for his usual lay-by on the city outskirts to await his customers.
Later, on seeing the newspaper photographs of the poisoned pair, he remembered them stopping at the lay-by. He had piled tomato ketchup on their hot dogs to disguise the taste. Knowing the police were eager to learn of their whereabouts during a missing 40 minutes he was tempted to phone them but, as the investigations were well under way, he decided against it. Everyone believed the Russians were to blame. It was best to let sleeping dogs lie.
Alan Millard
Smiley sighed and slowly cleaned his glasses.

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