The middle-aged lady sat in the living room of her upmarket apartment and tapped her fingers on the glass coffee table. She looked at the empty seat again. The police officer was late. In fact he was so late he clearly wasn’t going to bother coming. It was nearly a week now since her car accident and still nothing had been done.
Seething, she picked up her mobile phone, its screen still cracked from the impact. Looking at it just made her more cross. She dialled the Sergeant’s number. She was going to make a complaint, she’d get the lazy waste of space into a room and give it to him with both barrels. Who did he think he was making her wait like this?
The Sergeant hung up the phone and sighed. Another complaint, that was the fourth one this week. First there was the theft, £47 worth of meat. The shop knew who had done it and they’d kept the CCTV but they wanted him arrested. The officer had made an appointment to take a statement but he’d never turned up.
Then there was the antisocial behaviour. Mopeds on the canal tow path. She shifted in her seat, feeling uncomfortable that nothing had been done about it. It needed an organised operation to catch the offenders. Their balaclavas and blacked out number plates meant they didn’t even have a description.
The other complaint was from someone who had been on bail for too long. They were examining his mobile phone but the High Tech Crime Unit had a huge waiting list. The Sergeant understood why they were all so unhappy. The officer had more unfinished jobs in his tray than she’d ever seen.
A door slammed nearby and the officer sauntered in. The Sergeant looked him up and down and wondered how he stayed so calm about it all. The officer handed him an unruly bundle of paperwork.
“I found the misper.”
That was a relief. He was only nine years old and the balloon had gone up when he hadn’t gone home last night. It turned out he was safe and sound at a friend’s house but it had been all hands to the deck to find him. The only problem was, the Sergeant’s shift of four was down to just the two of them – her and the scruffy, gaunt looking officer standing in front of her.
The Sergeant felt guilty about being in the office all day but there was so much paperwork to deal with. Two off sick and needing welfare visits. Handovers to put together for the next shift and files to sign off for CPS. Not to mention the complaints stacking up. She turned back to her desk and groaned as the phone rang again.
The afternoon shift the next day started in the usual way. The Sergeant sat alone in the briefing room and stared at the empty seat. She thought back to days gone by and the eight high-spirited officers who used to sit in that room. She’d brief them on what had happened during the previous shift and give them their assigned areas for the day. A few Special Constables would usually join them too.
As she swivelled her chair back to her desk, the Sergeant’s radio sprung into action. The emergency alarm was going off and it sounded like there was a scuffle. She could hear the officer screaming but couldn’t make out what he was saying. He’d only gone to take a statement, what on earth was going on?
The Sergeant ran to the car feeling reassured to hear that the two officers from the overlapping shift were en route as well. The officer’s radio was still transmitting but worryingly he’d stopped making any noise. The Sergeant’s heart was in her mouth as she slammed on the lights and sirens and screeched out of the yard.
By the time she arrived she already knew it was too late. Colleagues around the corner had bravely tackled the man to the ground and he was under arrest.
Two ambulance men were giving the officer CPR but they were shaking their heads. A child standing over the road wouldn’t stop screaming. She thought of the officer’s two young children and realised that she would have to deliver the death message.
As she pulled up outside the house, the Sergeant looked into the dining room. The officer’s wife sat at the table with two little boys who were bouncing around, excited to see the police car outside. The Sergeant bowed her head as she caught sight of the empty seat.
The Sergeant felt like she was in the middle of a terrible dream as she knocked on the door. She could hear the words tumbling out of her mouth. She remembered the words of her tutor constable. Always tell the relatives that the person is dead. Don’t tell them that there has been an accident and leave them guessing.
The officer’s wife only picked up snippets of what the Sergeant said. Your husband… I’m sorry… dead… the officer attended a routine call… hard working officer… nothing they could do… the officer was proud of his job… the officer… the officer… the officer…
The little blonde boy appeared at the door looking confused but not upset. He turned to his mother;
“Is the officer dead mummy? What’s an officer?”
The Sergeant looked at the officer’s wife. The little boy’s question had broken her. The Sergeant bent down to speak to the little boy.
“The officer is your daddy.”