Epistolary Short Story Competition - Winner

Terry Lowell

Epistolary Short Story Competition


Writing has been Terry’s passion for many years. His comedy material has been performed on British and German television and in The Treason Show stage show. His children’s book My Zombie Best Friend was published in 2017, and in 2020 he won the Green Stories for Young Readers Competition. His story, Police Pets – Mind Swap, was recently long-listed for the Writing Magazine Children’s Chapter Book Prize. When not writing you can find him reading, watching comedy and finding excuses not to go to the gym. This is Terry’s second short story win with Writing Magazine.

Consequences By Terry Lowell

Excerpt from WakelyExpress.com. Date: 18/2/23.

Man Arrested in Local Stabbing     
Following a raid in the Pidmoor area of the city in the early hours of this morning, police have arrested a forty-three year old local man. It is thought the arrest is in connection with the stabbing of Mr Augustus Forsythe (34), who was found dead at his home in Pidmoor last week. Mr Forsythe was last seen alive…

Extract from police interview. Date: 18/2/23.
Suspect:  Thomas James Hauxwell
Interview Conducted by Officers from Wakely C.I.D.
Location: Wakely Police Station

DS ROBERTS:     This interview is being taped on the eighteenth of February, twenty-twenty-three. The time is ten-twenty-seven a.m.  Present are myself, Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts, Detective Constable Harry Webster, and Duty Solicitor Simon Richards. Also present is the suspect. Can you please confirm your full name for the tape?
HAUXWELL:    Tommy Hauxwell.
DS ROBERTS:    Full name, please.
HAUXWELL:    Sorry, sir. Thomas James Hauxwell. I was named after mi dad.
DS ROBERTS:     And please confirm your date of birth.
HAUXWELL:    Twentieth of July, nineteen-seventy-nine. It were Wednesday. I know that, ‘cos mi mam always says I’m full of woe.
DS ROBERTS:     Thank you.  You said earlier to call you Tommy. Is that still OK?
HAUXWELL:    Yeah. Only mi mam calls me Thomas. When I’m in trouble and that.
DS ROBERTS:     Are you often in trouble, Tommy?
HAUXWELL:    Don't know. Don't think so. I spilt some milk and mi mam shouted at me, but I cleaned it up.
DS ROBERTS:     Can you tell me how you knew Augustus Forsythe?
HAUXWELL:    He were a teacher at St Martin’s.
DS ROBERTS:     You work there, yes?
HAUXWELL:    Yeah. I’m not a teacher nor nothin’. I clean up. Some kids put shit on the walls in the toilets. I cleaned that up.
DS ROBERTS:     What was your relationship with Mr Forsythe?
HAUXWELL:    He weren’t a relation.
DS ROBERTS:     Was he a friend?
DS ROBERTS:     Did you like Mr Forsythe?
HAUXWELL:    I don't know.
DS ROBERTS:     I heard that you didn’t like him.

Extract from Witness Statement by Harold Tomkins. Date: 17/2/23.
I could see them through the trees. Oggy kept poking Tommy in the chest. He was shouting something, but I couldn’t hear what. Tommy kept backing off, but Oggy wasn’t having it. He kept shouting, and then he pushed Tommy and he went down.  Oggy stood over him, you know, like that picture of Ali standing over Sonny Liston. Then the bus moved on. I didn’t see anything else.

Extract from Hospital Records of Thomas James Hauxwell. Date: 12/2/23.
Mr Hauxwell presented with severe contusions to his upper torso. X-rays revealed two fractured ribs. Mr Hauxwell stated that he had sustained the injuries in a fall, but the pattern of bruising was more consistent with having received a severe beating…

Extract from police interview. Date: 18/2/23
HAUXWELL:    He said I touched her. I wouldn’t touch her.

Extract from Witness Statement by Mavis Jessop. Date: 17/2/23.
She’s only twelve, for God’s sake. He was laughing and flirting like she was a grown woman. There’s something not right with him. You could see it in his eyes. I wouldn’t want my kids anywhere near him.  

Extract from MyWakely Facebook Page. Date: 18/2/23.
•    MaxyOne I heard it’s Tommy Hauxwell they’ve got.
•    PrinzJr Good. F**king perv. Give me ten minutes with him in a dark room.
•    SOS4 Pizza Shouldn’t judge. You don't know what’s going on.
•    PrinzJr He was sniffing round Oggy’s young lass. I’d cut his balls off.
•    ForeverBlue That’s crap. I’ve known Tommy since he were a lad. He’s not like that.
•    PrinzJr Aye, none of em are like that til they get caught.

Exhibit DC/4 – Birthday Card.
Have a lovly day Tanya. From Tommy xx

Extract from police interview. Date: 18/2/23.
DS ROBERTS:     Have you sent any other kids in your school a birthday card?
DS ROBERTS:     So, why did you send Tanya one??
HAUXWELL:    She was… nice.
DS ROBERTS:     Are the other kids not nice?
DS ROBERTS:     Why? (PAUSE) The tape can’t see you shrug, Tommy. Why are the other kids not nice?
HAUXWELL:    They make fun. Say I’m thick, and that.
DS ROBERTS:     You put kisses on the card. Why did you do that?
HAUXWELL:    Mi mam always puts kisses on mi birthday card. It’s what you do.
DS ROBERTS:     Did you ever kiss Tanya?

Extract from Witness Statement 1 by Tanya Forsythe. Date: 17/2/23.
The kids all say Tommy’s weird, but he’s not. He makes me laugh. He never did anything wrong. Never.

Extract from police interview. Date: 18/2/23.
DS ROBERTS:     Where did you go after leaving the hospital, Tommy?
HAUXWELL:    Nowhere. Home.
DS ROBERTS:     You went to Mr Forsythe’s house, didn’t you?
DS ROBERTS:     Did you go to see Tanya?
DS ROBERTS:     So, you went to see Augustus. Have it out with him, yeah?
DS ROBERTS:     He’s given you a good kicking and now you want to sort him out. Isn’t that the truth?
DS ROBERTS:     But you got angry, didn’t you? Angrier than you intended.
DS ROBERTS:     Sometimes our actions have unintended consequences, Tommy.
HAUXWELL:    I don't know what you mean.
DS ROBERTS:     I mean I don't think you went there intending to kill him. There’s a knife missing from the block in his kitchen. Did he threaten you first?
DS ROBERTS:     Then tell me what happened.
HAUXWELL:    I didn’t stab him. I weren’t there.
DS ROBERTS:     Then why is his blood on your hoodie?

Extract from Forensic Biology Casework Report. Date: 17/2/23.
DNA samples taken from a black hoodie (TJH/1) were tested and attributed to three separate individuals. Results confirmed DNA belonging to both TJH and to PTH (TJH’s mother). The third DNA sample was derived from blood spots on the garment and is attributed to AF.
DNA results are confirmed with an accuracy of 99%.

Extract from police interview. Date: 18/2/23.
HAUXWELL:    I just hit him. That was all. I just bust his nose, but then I left. I promise. I didn’t stab him. I didn’t.

Extract from Charge and Summons Sheet. Date: 18/2/23.
Details of the charge against you:
That on the Twelfth of February, Twenty-Twenty-Two, the accused did carry out an unlawful act involving a danger of some harm that resulted in the death of Augustus Forsythe.

Extract from Crown vs Hauxwell. Wakely Magistrates Court. Date: 24/2/23.
It is the opinion of this Court that there is no significant risk of the defendant committing, while on bail, an offence that would, or would be likely to, cause physical or mental injury to any person other than the defendant.
As the defendant lives at home with his disabled mother, has limited savings and no passport, this court considers the chances of the defendant absconding to be minimal.
Bail in this case is, therefore, granted on condition that the defendant continues to reside at his current address, has no unapproved contact with any persons involved in the investigation, and reports to the police station once a week on a day and time to be agreed.

Extract from MyWakely Facebook Page. Date: 25/2/23.
•    PrinzJr Guess who I saw, walking down Station Road, bold as brass? Only Tommy f**king Hauxwell. Can you believe it?
•    Jimmy Cox His mum told me he’s on bail.
•    PrinzJr Murdering pervy shit.  
•    MaxyOne What!!! I thought he was locked up!!! How can he be out if he murdered somebody? This is crazy!!!
•    ForeverBlue Back off Billy. Tommy’s a decent lad and you don’t know what happened.
•    PrinzJr I know Oggy was a good bloke. If I see the perv again I’ll be having words.

Excerpt from WakelyExpress.com. Date: 27/2/23.
Wakely Man Hospitalised
A police investigation has been launched after a man was attacked on Wakely High Street. Police are requesting anyone who was in the area around three o’clock yesterday afternoon, and who may have witnessed the attack, to get in touch.

Extract from Hospital Records of Thomas James Hauxwell. Date: 29/2/23.
Medical Examiner: Dr Ranjeet Singh
Patient was located in Henderson Ward, Room 07. He had been unresponsive since his admission on 28/2/23, scoring 5 on the Glasgow Coma Scale.

Patient’s mother (Pauline Hauxwell) and Chief Nurse Ida Goodinson were present during the assessment.

Confirmation assessment:
•    Patient’s identity confirmed from wristband as Thomas James Hauxwell.
•    No respiration or pulse present
•    No response to physical or verbal stimuli
•    Pupils fixed and dilated
•    No heart sounds over a five minute period
•    No breathing sounds over a five minute period

Death confirmed at 02:46 a.m. on 28/2/23.

Extract from Witness Statement 2 by Tanya Forsythe. Date: 01/3/23.
He said he loved me, but I don’t think he did. He used to make me do things. I didn’t like it, but he didn’t care. He hurt me sometimes. I didn’t mean to hurt him. I had the knife ‘cos I was cutting veg’ for our tea. Then he started, and he wouldn’t stop. I tried to fight him off. I didn’t mean to stab him. He was my dad and I loved him. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.









Judges Comments

Telling an unfolding story through a series of documents, a contemporary epistolary story can draw upon a wide variety of communications, including social media messages and tape transcripts. 'Consequences' by Terry Lowell, the winner of WM's Epistolary Short Story Competition, wonderfully demonstrates how effective the form can be in telling a 21st century crime story.

The various elements in Terry's story have been so well assembled, and are an object lesson in showing and not telling, as Terry makes his readers play detective, presenting them with 'evidence' assembled in a murder case. With great flair, he's included a mix of newspaper reportage, police interview transcripts, witness statements, medical reports and Facebook posts, each of which add to what the reader knows, or infers, about the case. The register in each case is just right, adding an extra layer of credibility.

Another interesting aspect of the way Terry's story works is that, within a brief word count, it demonstrates the extent to which a community becomes involved in a crime case. The many different voices in this story all add something to the reader's understanding, and the epistolary form allows for crime fiction staples like opposing viewpoints and red herrings to be presented in fresh ways.

The earliest novels were written in the epistolary form because an apparent exchange of letters made the 'fiction' believable. As communications evolved, so did the form, and a story as good as 'Consequences' shows that epistolary tales can be brilliantly updated to tell modern stories in an original, contemporary way.


Runner up and shortlisted
The runner up in WM’s Epistolary short story competition is Melanie Rowsell-Docherty, North Walsham, Norfolk. Read the story at www.writers-online.co.uk/writingcompetitions/showcase
Also shortlisted: Sue Allen, Leicester; Zoe Barkham-Manlow, Shirley, Surrey; Dominic Bell, Hull; Michael Callaghan, Clarkston, Glasgow; Maria Dean, Thackley; G.P. Hyde, Grimsby; Damien McKeating, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs; Jacqui Seddon, Homerton, London; PJ Stephenson, Crasier, Switzerland; Claire Wilson, Falkirk, Scotland