“Right you little monkey, come and sit here for a cuddle, I’ve got crisps, Twiglets and Chocolate Buttons.”
Ella’s face lit up as she bounced down on the sofa next to me. Clicking the video remote I started the film. Our favourite. Mary Poppins.
She crunched a Twiglet and pointed the remaining bit at me. “Mum have you ever seen a dead person yet, you know a real dead humung beening?”
I tried not to laugh. “It’s human being Ella, erm no, not yet….but that’s such a strange thing to want to know sweetheart.”
She shrugged her shoulders as her hand disappeared into the Twiglet tube. “I just wondered if they had wings when you found them or do they come later?”
Jeez, questions on Theology, I could spell the word, not have an in depth discussion on it.
“Err I’m not sure I get what you mean Ella.”
“Oh nuffink, I just thought it would make it hard to get them out of the front door if they were dead AND had a big pair of wings. Can I have another Twiglet?”
…and with that the conversation on dead people was over.
“Neighbour from No. 32 is reporting he hasn’t seen the old lady next door for several days Mavis, voters show an Alice Creighton, 87 years.” The ensuing silence from the other end of my police radio gave me time to think.
I groaned. Thanks Ella!
No sooner does she mention something, then it happens. I’d avoided the optional Post Mortem visit during my early probation as I didn’t quite fancy savouring my breakfast twice in one day. After all, I wasn’t going to be the one that had to bloody dissect them. I just needed to know how to deal with finding them.
Standing in front of the dull black door to No. 34, the abode of the unseen Mrs Creighton my heart sank. The backlog of newspapers and milk bottles could mean only one thing.
Grimacing, my stomach did a huge flip. It’s more the anticipation of death that is so disturbing, so unless someone has ever taken the opportunity to actually keel over and expire in front of you, the chances of seeing a dead body are probably few and far between.
I lifted the letterbox and had a discreet sniff. I baulked. Yep, something smelt very dead inside the little terraced house.
“Here yer are love, it’s her spare key, use this.”
The kindly neighbour from 32 proffered the shiny bit of metal on a piece of string. I looked at it, looked at him and looked at the front door. It was at this exact moment I realised that I was the one wearing a uniform, and as such, I was probably expected to do something about the unseen Mrs Creighton.
Why on earth couldn’t I have worked at Sainsbury’s, they never have to find dead people do they?
I let that thought hover in the air before slipping the key into the lock, tentatively turning it and stepping through the door. I glanced back to a sea of faces belonging to the concerned neighbours outside, watching in a medley of keen anticipation and sheer nosiness.
Just on the remote chance that there was anyone alive to hear it, although I did seriously doubt it judging by the stench, I loudly announced my arrival in a quivering voice.
“Mrs Creighton, Mrs Creighton, it’s the Police Mrs Creighton…….”
No reply, nothing. Not even a whisper.
I carried on along the hallway, checking each room in turn with no sign of Mrs Creighton. In the kitchen I found a pan of some foul smelling gunk on the old enamel gas stove. The furry growth on top had been fermenting for some considerable time. I held my breath, this was going from bad to worse. I tried again.
“Mrs Creighton, don’t panic, it’s the Police, just need to know you’re okay”
With my heart thumping in anticipation, I began to climb the staircase. Picking my feet through the threadbare runner, I swept my fingers along the dark brown bannister. I was utterly convinced I was going to find the elusive Mrs Creighton rather deceased somewhere upstairs.
Oh please God don’t let her be all horribly….. well, you know what I mean… just make her sort of fresh…ish…!
The first bedroom was empty apart from an old 1930’s wardrobe, several dead flies on the ledge of the cast-iron fireplace and a commode. Motes of dust whipped up, catching in the muted sunlight from the window. Coughing I closed the door. Creeping out onto the landing, I put my very sweaty hand on the door handle to the second bedroom, pausing long enough to control my breathing as my heart threatened to explode through my shirt.
I turned and pushed.
The door creaked open….
…… and there, lying in bed amongst her pink rayon sheets and green polyester quilt, mouth wide open and eyes hooded was Mrs Creighton.
Very grey, very still, very cold and very, very smelly….
……and in my expert opinion…. just a little bit dead!
Oh shit, I’ve got a dead body, a real life dead body.
Think Mavis, think. What did they teach you at Bruche?
For a split second I didn’t care what they had told me at Police Training college, it didn’t matter. All I wanted to do was to get the hell out of there…….
…..and then I remembered. It all came flooding back, I knew exactly what I had to do.
My priority was to confirm that there was no output from Mrs Creighton, no breath, no pulse, nothing that could be resuscitated, no signs of life.
Way to go Mavis.
I held my breath and walked gingerly over to the bed, jumping as the floorboards creaked. Oh blimey, facial hair! Mrs Creighton has facial hair. I hesitated, wondering if she still had her false teeth in, which in turn reminded me of Marj at our first aid classes. A quick glance at the bedside cabinet confirmed that her teeth were accounted for, they were floating in a glass of disgusting yellowy green…err…. something.
Fantastic that was all I needed. I’d never get a good seal around her mouth for CPR if it was caving in through lack of teeth. The thought of shiny gums and spit made me feel sick.
Taking hold of her limp wrist, I bent over her to check for a pulse. As I tentatively moved closer to her face, I paused waiting to see if any air was being expelled from her nose. The hairs on her top lip remained static. Oh dear, this seriously wasn’t looking good.
I moved in closer, my own breath barely perceptable. At the exact moment my nose almost touched hers, her eyes shot wide open. A low moan drifted from her mouth as she suddenly sat bolt upright in bed. Every nerve in my body went into high alert as I stumbled backwards in fright, knocking into the mirrored wardrobe.
Letting out an almighty screech akin to a banshee, she flailed her arms in the air. “What the fuck are you doing in me bedroom……?”
Mrs Creighton screamed….
….and I legged it out of the bedroom in sheer terror, flying down the stairs, missing several steps as I went.
The neighbours, fearful of my findings and the wailing from inside the house, crossed themselves in godly reverence before disappearing back into their own houses as I fell over the door mat landing sprawled out on the pavement.
Standing alone outside, I gathered what was left of my dignity and quietly meditated my predicament before forcing myself to return inside the House of Horrors.
I made Mrs Creighton a cup of tea, washed her dishes and contacted a relative to advise them she had been suffering a rather awful bout of influenza, which had been aggravated by a Nightnurse induced coma.
Plumping the pillow behind her, I folded back the quilt and handed her a bowl of chicken soup the next door neighbour had brought round. “Here you go, that’ll make you feel better Mrs Creighton.”
She grumbled, sniffed, tasted the soup and let the spoon rattle back into the bowl. “D’ya know what would really make me feel better?”
I was mesmerised by the flake of chicken adhered to her top lip as her tongue snaked up trying to dislodge it. “Anything, just say and I’ll see if I can sort it for you” I gently crooned.
She wiped away the chicken with the back of her hand, flicking it across the counterpane.
“I’d feel a whole lot better if you’d just fuck right off…… and don’t let the door smack you on the arse on the way out…!”
Back at the nick I filled in my report on Mrs Creighton before going off duty, still stinging from her ingratitude and gobsmacked that an 87-year-old lady could actually know, let alone use, the F-word.
“There you go Mave…” Bob dunked his biscuit in the chipped mug, brought it up to his mouth with seconds to spare before it drooped, “…it’s the four S’s, you should’ve known that.”
I closed my notebook, “What on earth has sun, sea, sand and sex got to do with an ungrateful old biddy with Tourette’s?”
He grinned, cramming the rest of the biscuit into his mouth.
“Nope, it stands for not all Shitty Smells Sniffed are Stiffs….”
Extract from Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Primark Thong (c) 2016