I am guesting in this years anthology for Folkestone Writers; a talented group indeed and this was the entry I submitted around this time last year.
The story was any subject but had to be within 2000 words. This doesn't really suit my style so it was quite a challenge and after numerous edits it came in at 1999!
Count them if you don't believe me...
The Anthiology will be available to buy very soon. I'll post a link up when I know it.
‘In my experience, those who beg for mercy seldom deserve it’ Police Constable John Crouch stepped out of the driver side of his patrol car where he found a long, satisfying stretch. His colleague’s balding head appeared the other side of the roof.
‘That might be true, but you were kicking him in the bollocks.’
‘Which is exactly what he did deserve’. Crouch turned away and made for their target address.
Police Constable Darren Tainton watched him go. The spring air had a real freshness, for Tainton this was the best time of the year where the shackles of winter had been shaken from the world and it seemed like everyone was stepping out again, blinking in the strengthening light and feeling a sense of hope and wellbeing. He took a moment just to close his eyes and feel the sun’s rays.
‘Oi! You got love eggs in or summin’? We ain’t got time to be standing round smiling at the sky. Let’s get this done and get in for a coffee.’ PC Crouch continued his stomp up the path to number 17 Blackbell Road, an address where they had been asked to check on the welfare of the old fella who called it home. It was a common call; elderly occupant, not been seen for a couple of days, not answering the door or the phone, letters piling up, feint whiff maybe. This would often end with one or both of the officers sat in the living room flicking through television stations whilst the other goes through the moralities of making a cup of tea in the kitchen. The tea would then be quietly consumed whilst a corpse sits wide-eyed and lacking in conversation in its favourite chair.
Undertakers were always 45 minutes. Plenty of time.
As the door went in on Blackbell Road a stale stench met their noses.
‘HELLO... MR ANTRIM? POLICE!’ a small pile of letters slipped underfoot as Tainton made for the living room. He pushed at the frosted glass door and the disturbed air seemed to increase in pungency.
‘I don’t think he’s gonna be answering us mate’
Crouch turned his own nose up. ‘Maybe, but all old people’s houses stink don’t they? I reckon all old people smell like they’re dead, the only thing that makes that worse when they actually are is that they don’t cover it up with the lavender body wash or whatever any more’
‘That’s an interesting theory.’ Tainton was no longer affected by his colleague’s bluntness. ‘Well he isn’t in here’.
‘Or in here.’ Crouch had leant round into a kitchen diner that was next to the living room. His torso was distorted black and white behind more glass frosting. ‘Shall I put the kettle on now or come back down?’
Tainton didn’t reply as he placed his foot on the first step leading to the first floor. He never enjoyed these situations; he would rather stride down a pitch-black alleyway after a knife wielding suspect than pace up a set of stairs with the possibility of finding someone dead and rotting. Tainton had never been good with the concept of death, as a child he could recall finding a dead cat scraped up by a car driver who believed he was being thoughtful when he had placed it’s little body by the side of the road. It was the eyes that had stayed with him, the image at least; it was always the eyes that told such a sad story.
Tainton moved up the stairs with deliberate movements, tensing his neck so that should anything be lying on the landing he could snap his gaze away. He paused at the top and he heard his colleague start at the bottom. He turned to face him and noted he was chewing. ‘What’s that?’
‘Tell me you ain’t eating his biscuits.’ Tainton already knew the answer and Crouch smiled in response to the disapproving look.
‘Well he ain’t gonna need them is he’.
‘What if it was the biscuits that killed him?’ Tainton found himself whispering, still stood at the top of the stairs holding the high ground and forcing his mate to stop.
‘Well there was no sign of a fucking struggle’
Tainton shook his head once again before climbing the remaining stairs and stepping onto the empty landing. Gingerly he made his way to the room directly in front of him. The door groaned on its hinges as it swung open to reveal a bathroom empty of corpses, if a little unkempt. Tainton was a little surprised; he’d had a run of discovering bodies in the bathroom and he had fully expected this to continue. Many popular conditions such as heart failure and pneumonia tend to fool the unfortunate recipient into believing that they are in need of emptying their bowels when in fact all it serves to do is ensure that they shed their mortal coil in such a fashion as to leave it sat upright on the toilet with trousers round its ankles.
Or worse, slumped forward. With trousers round its ankles.
Perhaps fate had shown mercy and allowed this gentleman the quite literal deathbed, gently slipping away overnight as outside of his bedroom window the world spun madly on.
‘Hello... Mr ANTRIM’ Tainton called out again ‘POLICE’ his voice lacking in any conviction as he stepped across the landing to the only closed door on the top floor. The door when pushed open revealed drawn, thick curtains, which blocked out the daylight into what was actually a relatively small room. The door’s swinging movement was halted very suddenly and both officers looked down to see a slipper-clad foot pointing directly upwards.
‘Here we go’ Tainton knew that he couldn’t hesitate or he simply wouldn’t enter, he wiped at his nose as the musk of the room was disturbed by movement and tried to step over the prone figure to reach the curtains. The sudden change from the bright light of spring to a darkened room rendered him almost blind and two sure ingredients for Tainton’s worst nightmare would be a dead body and darkness.
Tainton kept his head and eyes up and slowly reached toward the window to tug at the curtains, quickly he realised they were beyond his reach and Crouch expressed his usual patience.
‘Come on mate, get in there, fucking hell.’ Tainton rocked back onto the flats of his feet and fixed his colleague with a stare. He slid his asp from his load vest and snapped it to the open position before taking up the stretch position once again. This time the additional reach of the asp put the curtains just in reach. Tainton spoke as he tried to get a grip of one of the curtains.
‘You know how I am around bodies, I really don’t like it. Freaks me out’
The curtains had been twitched enough to open them up by just an inch or so, but with the sun so bright it was enough to increase visibility tenfold.
Mr Antrim was wearing a grey robe with blue piping, expensive looking. His face was mercifully tilted away from Tainton who now hesitated, he needed just to step over the old fella and tug the curtains open fully. He took a breath then lifted his foot far higher than was necessary and swung it quickly over the body, now off balance his foot fell back to the floor with a thud.
In an effort to get both his balance and his composure back Tainton paused to shift his weight. And that was when it happened.
Some time later, both officers would admit to it happening so fast they have had to piece it all together retrospectively. It is believed that Tainton firmly placing his foot on the floor had the effect of jolting Mr Antrim who’s eyes suddenly bulged wide and terrified; Mr Antrim, not fully conscious but confused then snapped up to a sitting position and raised his arms, wrapping them firmly round both of Tainton’s legs in a vice like grip. Tainton, on edge due to circumstance and now believing that he was being dragged to the underworld by a dead-eyed corpse reacted without conscious thought and screamed at the top of his voice, firmly shut his eyes and slammed down the asp that was still in his right hand, striking Mr Antrim.
The blows, designed to free him from the tight grip, connected with the top of the skull and forced the man’s head back down to the floor and for Mr Antrim death followed very quickly.
Blood flowed freely from two wounds, pooling on the surface on the cheap, non-absorbent carpet and around the boot of shocked Police Constable Crouch whose trousers were also smattered with blood and tiny skull particles.
‘Why..? Why did you do that?’ Crouch’s eyes beamed wide and staring. The very same expression was mirrored on the ashen face of his colleague. He flicked from the scene laid out on the floor to his bloody asp and back again as he struggled for a word, a sentence, an explanation.
‘I didn’t mean to. I mean, he just caught me out, I thought he was dead’
‘He fucking is now!’
‘Well maybe he isn’t.’ Tainton fell to a squatting position making a two finger salute to find a pulse. ‘Jesus, fuck, there isn’t a pulse. He’s dead! He really is dead! Get an ambulance, get an ambulance here quick!’
The radio strapped to his chest burst to life. ‘Alpha two one, alpha two one are you receiving?’
It was their call sign; the two men exchanged a look like for a second they believed that the Control Centre knew that they had just clubbed a man to death after he was found lying down in a bathrobe. The pause went on too long.
‘We have to answer them’ Crouch said.
‘And say what?’ Tainton had changed his mind about the ambulance.
‘Alpha two one, alpha two one for a status update please?’
‘Our status! What the fuck do I say that to that!’ PC Crouch turned and moved back onto the landing, feeling like he had to step away from the scene, from what had happened before he could transmit a response.
‘Think of something, you can think of something can’t you?’ Tainton was pleading as he slumped onto the bed, the asp, still in his hand lolled against his leg, smearing blood on his trousers.
Crouch lifted his radio to dry lips ‘Alpha Two One, we’re all in order here control, we’ll update shortly’
Tainton’s head snapped upright and towards his colleague who turned to meet his stare as the radio kicked in again.
‘All received two one. Have you managed to locate Mr Antrim?’
Crouch was held in Tainton’s desperate glare as he replied. ‘We’ll update shortly’
Tainton broke his stare as his head fell into his hands. He gripped fistfuls of his own hair, tugging at it like the pain might be some sort of retribution for what he had done. He closed his eyes. ‘Why did you say that? Why would you say we were fine? He’s dead’
‘What would you have me say?’ Crouch demanded ‘Yeah standby, I think my colleague’s just clubbed him to death!’
‘Something! We can say he was already dead! We found him like this?’
Crouch looked over the scene, his hands rubbed his eyes. ‘You’ve got blood on your asp, hair fibres, probably pieces of skull. Your trousers and mine; both splattered in blood and shit. He’s still fucking warm and he’s bled out within the last few minutes. CSI are gonna want answers; the autopsy is gonna want answers. Every fucker is gonna want answers and right now all we have is that you twatted him with an asp. You stupid, stupid bastard, this is prison time, proper prison time’
Tainton fixed on his colleague, his eyes wide and desperate. ‘Well’ he managed. ‘You ate his biscuits’