IS THERE ANYBODY THERE…………………..
Swinging my car into the much coveted parking space next to the industrial wheelie bins, two broken chairs and a bike minus a saddle, I spotted Petey. He was obviously having a bad start to his night as I watched him grapple with his rucksack, which had become firmly wedged in his car door.
“Evening Mave, hhrrmff, I erm, is the grrrmff…….is the new lad starting tonight do you know, hey?” He grinned, looking at me expectantly as he pulled and tugged on the unyielding bit of khaki canvas.
The poor lad was so desperate to have someone else on the Section to run the gauntlet of pranks, jokes and general teasing because no matter how good natured it all was, he had decided that he’d enjoyed his fair share and now wanted to be one of the ones that was playing the games rather than being at the receiving end of them.
“Yes matey, he’s with us from tonight, but before you get too excited he’s not…..” but before I could finish I was rudely interrupted by a loud ripping sound as he gave one almighty tug and catapulted himself across two parking bays, landing on his back, as the material on his rucksack gave way, scattering a cheese and ham sandwich, two packets of smokey bacon crisps and a strawberry Telly Tubby fromage frais onto the Tarmac. Hastily picking himself up to retrieve his goodies, he continued to mumble to himself.
“Super, oh super, so what have we got planned for him? Hey, I know, can we do the ‘wet weather bike test’ Mavis, can we? I could do the hosepipe bit, that’ll be such a laugh.”
Shaking my head and smiling to myself, I headed off to the locker room, leaving him muttering away in childish excitement as he disappeared under a car to grab a packet of Iced Gem fancies from behind the rear tyre.
To the rhythmic banging of locker doors as we gathered our kit together for Parade, Bob shouted across the din.
“Yay Mave, all set for later, can’t wait to see his face, promise it will defo be the last time. Lets call it for old times eh?” He winked with an impish grin as he clipped his tie into place.
Shoving an avalanche of old sweaters, mismatched slash-proof gloves and half a box of 70 denier black tights circa 1988 onto the shelf, I grinned back and gave him the thumbs up as I slammed my locker door shut.
“Just don’t go too far though Bob, he’s quite a sensitive soul really”.
All through parade Petey jiggled and wriggled in his seat in unbridled excitement at what the night was to hold, whilst keeping a watchful eye on our newest member, Constable 5682 Shaun Lovell. Now, contrary to what Petey believed, although Shaun was new to us, he had already served six months in a neighbouring division and wasn’t as wet behind the ears as Petey thought. This was the advice I was about to impart earlier when his rucksack had given up the ghost cutting me off in my prime. Oh well, bit late now I mused, as I shoved a hastily written note of our plan of action across to Bob and Adrian; and if Shaun fell for it, all the better.
Getting Petey on his own after Parade, I ran through what we had planned.
“We’re not doing the cycling proficiency wet weather mate, mainly because it’s raining, so it wouldn’t be very effective with you and the hosepipe, or very funny. We’ve gone for the ‘old body in the Mortuary’ trick, okay?” He studiously nodded as I continued. “It’s not been done for a while, so it should be good”.
A smile spread across his face, clearly happy to be part of the planning.
Final preparations in place, our little prank was all set for scoff break, 3 a.m, dead of night, the bewitching hour. Petey was doubled up with me again and as I tested the lights, klaxons and checked the vehicle log book, he sat in the passenger seat rubbing his hands together in glee.
“Right Mave, can I just run through it again, I get on the slab, you shut the door and then when Shaun comes along I burst out and shout ‘aaaarrrrrgggghhh’……….”
Sighing I closed the book, started the engine and ran through it with him again. “No Petey, once in the mortuary you go to the cold storage section, get on one of the empty trays and cover yourself in a sheet, I’ll slide the tray back in, close the door and you just wait in there. Got it so far?”
He chewed the end of his pencil and then stuck it in his left ear giving it a robust jiggle. “Yep, yep, got that Mave….”
“Right, okay. You don’t move, you don’t say anything until the tray is pulled out again by Shaun who will have been sent to check a tag on what he believes to be a John Doe. Still with me?”
Inspecting to end of the pen he gave a nod as he vigorously wiped it on the sleeve of his jumper.
I grimaced. “So that’s when you sit up and start groaning, still with the sheet on okay? But for God’s sake watch your head on the tray above, wait until your tray is fully cleared.”
“Yep, yep, got that Mave…..” he paused for a moment, chewing his bottom lip “…..errr Mave, what’s a John Doe?”
My patience had hit its limit. “Bloody hell Petey, we’re in a mortuary what do you think a John Doe is? How long have you been in the job? There’s going to be at least six other bodies in there with you, are you sure you want to do this?”
He sat looking out of the window, biting his fingernails in silence. I stifled a giggle. What neither Petey or Shaun knew was that the mortuary was closed and empty of any residents as a new chiller section was being installed the following day. For the price of two packets of Digestive biscuits and a Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut bar, we had endeared ourselves to one of the mortuary assistants and had secured thirty minutes uninterrupted time in the existing chillers before they were removed.
I gave him what I hoped was one of my more sincerest looks, whilst at the same time feeling ever so slightly guilty for knowing what he was about to endure
The early part of the night shift passed quickly with only one drink driver and two minor scuffles outside ‘Ali’s AbraKEBABra’ shop. Indian Joe and his lovely girlfriend Liberty Lil had objected to the lack of chilli sauce with their kebabs. Subsequently Ali had objected to Lil wiping the word ‘Chilli’ from his window display after she had ripped off her rather rancid, crusty fishnet tights to use as a duster whilst advising him on the Trade Descriptions Act.
At 3 a.m prompt, Petey was ensconced on tray 5, covered head to toe in a white sheet after having climbed between two shroud covered bodies, who were the unexpected residents of trays 4 and 6. As much as the excitement had thrilled him, he clearly hadn’t been thrilled at the prospect of being in such close proximity to dead people.
Sitting up on his tray, with his eyes as wide as saucers he started to whine.
“Oh God Mavis, do you know what they died of? It’s not catching is it, I mean, well, you know what I mean…..” He looked horror struck.
“Oh for goodness sake Petey, the dead can’t hurt you, they’re dead, gone, deceased, not of this world. Look if you don’t want to do this…” I kept my fingers crossed, hoping he wouldn’t back out now.
Sighing he put on his best stiff upper lip, leant back in repose and resigned himself to playing his part whilst I pushed his tray into place. As I slammed the door shut I could hear him giving a very muffled and quivering rendition of ‘Jesus Wants me For a Sunbeam’ from inside.
At 3:10 a.m on the dot, Shaun, after receiving a radio message to attend the Mortuary, was preparing to open the huge stainless steel door which housed trays 4, 5 and 6, which in turn contained the two unidentified bodies and sandwiched in the middle of them, our very own shivering Petey.
As Petey held his breath in eager anticipation of playing a rather good jape on Shaun, he heard a groaning noise emanating from tray 4 above.
“Ooooooh it’s a bit bloody parky in ‘ere isn’t it?” wailed a ghostly voice from above.
Petey froze as a second voice shouted from tray 6 below him
“Yeah, no shit Sherlock, I popped me clogs in me underpants on the way to the bog, I’m feckin’ freezing me nuts off in here…”
A brief silence followed before the occupant of tray 4 sighed
“Hey, you in number 5, what did you die of then?”
In that split second Petey let out a scream of utter terror whilst banging his head on the bottom of tray 4. The realisation that he was number 5 and that his two neighbouring dead bodies had just carried out a little tete-a-tete was too much for him, finally tipping him over the edge.
At that exact moment Shaun opened the door and started to pull out tray 5 containing the hapless Petey. Seeing the shroud covered vision moaning and flailing in front of him, Shaun screamed, Petey screamed again, the residents of trays 4 and 6 screamed and wailed and Shaun turned on his heels and legged it through the doors into the night air, closely followed by Petey with his sheet attached to his trousers, billowing in the wind.
As the Mortuary doors slammed shut in the eerie silence that followed, I came out of hiding to see Bob and Adrian swinging their legs over the side of trays 4 and 6, completely helpless with laughter as they flung off their sheets, waving their arms in ghostly fashion.
“Woooooooo. That was bloody epic Mave, absolutely bloody epic, a two-fer-one….” wheezing with laughter Bob wiped his sleeve across his eyes. “….did you see them go? Freezing me nuts off and underpants!!! Ade when have you ever worn gandipants mate?”
I had a horrible feeling that wherever they where by now, Petey and Shaun would be very grateful for clean underpants, any style, any colour or any brand.
(c) 2015 Gina Kirkham
Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Primark Thong