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I could die for fish and chips

by  Carlton Relf

Posted: Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Word Count: 1727
Summary: This is a chapter from my memoirs, although I am not sure where it will sit in the book as yet. Would be grateful for any feedback or advice.

Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

I have never been to a brothel, but the room smelt as how I imagined a brothel would smell. Deep, potent aftershave combined with the sweeter aroma of perfume. The parade room was busy, but not as full as it should have been; two officers were off sick, and one was late. I was never late; there would have been no excuse. I only had to descend two flights of stairs from the living quarters and I was at work – If I was late someone would have been knocking on my door! It was 2pm on Saturday 16th October 1993, and I was just starting my late shift, 2pm until 10pm (if we were lucky).

I did not realise as I sat, notebook open, listening to the briefing from Sergeant Hoggard that the shift to come would alter my life forever - in many more ways than one. Hoggard was a slim man, well spoken, pompous in his manner. His neat blonde hair flicked back over his head, not a hair out of place. He spoke whilst raising his chin slightly upwards to convey his arrogance. I did not like him from the first moment we met. You have to assess people’s character quickly within the police – boy didn’t I get him right. At the time I just did not realise the effect he would have on my life as it has become now.

There were eight of us on duty on this day, all single crewed. That may seem a lot but when you have to cover every incident in South Telford, it was not many at all. Members of the public always thought there was about forty officers on duty – Oh how that use to make us chuckle.

With the briefing complete; notebook brimming with descriptions of suspects, registration numbers for vehicles of interest and a neat doodle of an array of cubes, skilfully drawn parallel to each other, it was time to test the radio, grab the keys and get out and about. My paperwork was all complete so I had a shift free to roam about and hopefully apprehend an offender or two.
“Foxtrot alpha from foxtrot alpha two five, test call, over,”
You would not believe how many weeks it took to master this sentence, let alone learn the radio procedure!
“Good afternoon Carlton, Foxtrot alpha two five, you are loud and clear,” echoed the reply.
This particular radio test was probably the most important act I have ever carried out in life.

I took a set of car keys from the hook and wrote my name beside the registration number marked on the board. I then checked that I had my handcuffs. I did not need to check that I was in possession of my truncheon as I could feel it in my trouser pocket. The pocket was long and use to sit at the side of your leg but it would twist and dig in to the rear of your knee. I had devised a simple solution to this and that was to loop the leather handle around my handcuff pouch on my belt – that pulled it up away from the knee – How clever was I?

“Thank god I’m not working with you today,” laughed Billy.
His ginger hair fiercely occupied his scalp, unkempt looking but in a styled kind of way. Billy had been in the police service for about two years; he loved stopping cars for no reason. I always wondered if he was bullied as a child – was just a thought!
“I will be trying to catch criminals, so know you wouldn’t like working with me,” I replied.
“Piss off, I keep the roads safe”.
“By harassing granny drivers?”
“Billy would do his own granny, wouldn’t you Bill?” piped up Jenny.
“She died last week” he replied sullenly.
Jenny was only short, plump looking with breasts that any woman would be proud of. Her face was slightly chubby, but pretty with it. Her dark brown hair was short, cropped and on first appearance boyish looking. Her brown eyes displayed her mood; this day she had been in a teasing mood; now she her face was glowing with embarrassment.
“Oh my god, I’m sorry Billy, me and my mouth,”
Billy turned away from her, glanced at me, smiling broadly; winking as he did. As he walked out of the room he shouted and laughed out loud;
“Bastard”, Jenny replied sharply.

Thirteen months of my service had passed and it had only been four weeks since I had been allowed to patrol by myself. I loved the independence and had found that the learning curve had steepened. There was one by my side to correct my mistakes or support my decisions. It had not mattered though. Since my solo patrol, I had arrested four suspects for burglary, two for theft; I had felt invincible.

The shift had been quiet. Ushering horses off of the road, back to their pasture was the highlight of the day so far. It was five o clock and my stomach told me by a combination of rumblings that I need to eat. This decision was not hard – The girl in the chip shop liked me - I liked her so that was the obvious place for me to pick up some food; even though I had not fancied fish and chips. We had been told to mix with community and utilise their services, keeping our integrity intact; of course.

I had passed the Police station, and was about half a mile from both the station and the chip shop. Adhering to the 30 mph speed limit was a struggle, it seemed so slow, but setting an example was important.

My attention was distracted from my stomach when I notice that the car I was following suddenly slowed down to about 15 mph. The Ford Cortina was about twenty years old, but appeared in good condition. I could see from my driving position that the tread in the rear tyres indicated that they were new. My first thoughts were that the driver may have needed medical assistance. This thought was compounded when the Cortina suddenly crossed the opposite carriageway and mounted the grass verge opposite. My pending hunger had dismissed itself from my mind, and I now found myself driving erratically across the road, mounting the kerb with a thud. I parked directly behind the subject vehicle, hoping that my first aid skills were going to be enough to assist the driver; the only occupant of the car.

I jumped out of the patrol car at the same time as the driver of the Ford Cortina did his. The man looked about fifty years old, but in all probability was only in his forties. He was overweight, but not excessively; the loose skin on his face gave the expression of being bigger than he was. This man was bald, except for two bush eyebrows that appeared to have been misplaced, bordering the top of his head.
“I’m so sorry,” he said as he walked towards me.
“Are you ok?” I enquired as I moved towards him.
All of a sudden, this man moved his left hand down quickly to his belt and lunged towards me as if a professional fencer – the sport, not the gardener. In reaction to this I jumped back about one metre but could not stop the knife entering my chest. I felt no pain. It was one, quick sharp lunge and withdrawal – I was 22 years old and fit and reacted quickly. If I had been the age of some of my colleagues I may have died instantly.

I dropped to my knees as I watched the blood jet from my chest in front of me, simultaneously grabbing my radio, transmitted, and shouted:
“I’ve been stabbed, Oak drive.....”
I had no time to say anymore. I looked up to see this man holding a kitchen knife, the blade about six inches long, blood stained from me – This time he held the handle, at shoulder level with the blade pointing downwards. He shouted;
“I’m gonna fucking kill you,”
I hurriedly felt for my truncheon but could not release the loop which was wrapped around my handcuffs. I could feel the sweat coming off of my brow, the blood pouring from my chest. I had no energy and believed I would die.

The man stood over me, towering the knife over my head. I waited for the plunge into my skull but instead to my surprise watched as he turned and started to run. I looked up and saw a Police van approaching at speed. What I did not realise was that they were just approaching me as I had called for help; they had just been passing.

Officers now arrived by the dozens, many had run from the police station and included office staff, off duty officers and civilians whom were curious.

I was placed on my back, shirt was ripped off and a cold hand placed over my wounded chest.
“We’ve got him.....You better not have any disease Sven” barked Gavin.
“Trust you Sven, trust you” he continued.
Sven was my nickname – well Sven the Swedish love god – and to this day I am unsure as to why but I liked it.
Gavin had taught me much about police work. He was a good man, but one whom had so many domestic problems, mainly brought about by his own infidelity. As I looked up at him, I could see that he was crying as he carried out his first aid.
“Where is the fucking ambulance” Gavin kept shouting.
I remember being so scared, annoyed with me, and above all upset that I was going to die without saying goodbye to my mum and dad.

I lay in the back of the ambulance drifting in an out of consciousness. The paramedic was apologising whilst adjusting the drip feed into my body;
“Sorry my tits are in your face,”
I could not reply, but smiled to myself inside.
“Well done” a deeper voice said.
I recognised the voice as that of Sergeant Hoggard. His words did not merit a response, not even in thought.

These events which nearly caused my death saved my life many, many years later.

©arlton Relf2010