Monday, 2 July 2012

Heart beat

  “Vampires, for crissake, Sarge! Now I’ve seen it all. I can’t believe it. Bloody vampires. And joinin’ the Met, too. Now I’ve seen it all.”
   I braked to miss a large dog that ran out in front of our unmarked patrol car.
   “Dave, your grandfather couldn’t stick walking the beat with people with German surnames for years after the War and we’ve got a couple of Irish plods I’d trust my life with who won’t be blowing up anything any time soon in revenge for Cromwell’s merry pranks. And you can’t even say you don’t trust Big Mo in a fight as he’s never pushed anything onto us - least of all you - and he always volunteers to be the designated driver on quiz nights when I’m on leave. We’ll get used to just about anything in the Met and get on with The Job. You know we will.”
   “But how will we manage policing people – things – that are five times as strong as us and three times as fast and twenty times as resistant to damage? Tell me that, Detective Sergeant Einstein.”
   “We’ll do it the time-honoured way as always, and to Hell with what the touchy-feely Brass say. We’ll use the Peelian principles of citizen policing: commonsense, patience, our senses of humour and proportion and, if that fails, we’ll serve up the occasional good old-fashioned kicking to bring a happy conclusion to the evening’s work.”  
   Dave looked away from me and remarked “You’re right Ned.” We’re first-name pals whenever Dave isn’t too stressed. “We’ll get used to anything. We’ll even police them, somehow. Despite not even being allowed to take the piss out of anyone any more, as long as you do the job right you’re accepted. Kind of. I mean, we get on alright don’t we?”
   “What d’you mean by that?” I asked.
   “Ned, I’m a detective too aren’t I? We’ve worked Serious Crime and vice together for the whole seven years since I made detective and I’ve never even suspected you of taking a freebie off the girls; not even after you was shot at an’ it got all tense on the street. And you go to most of the stag nights but none of the weddings. Plus you’re always very smartly turned out. My Ma thinks you’re just lovely. That’s got to mean something, yeah? Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind.” He paused. “It’s just not my cup of tea, is all I’m saying. Just so you know.” 
   We were both very quiet all the way to the station after that little gem.

  Some muppet with a degree and probably all of two years’ street policing experience stood at the front of the training room; his uniform cap (that had never got dirty and would never be knocked off by a scrote in full baseball hat, trainers and hoodie) was all a-glitter with brass and those cute little checks that just shouted Accelerated Promotion at you. “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen… and others?... Thank you all for coming here tonight.”
   As if we had a choice. Some of those attending were clearly civilian volunteers for the new combined organisation but from the expressions on their faces a lot of them were experienced coppers and they were in agreement with my own pessimistic expectations. I’d almost rather be dead than attend a briefing that looked set to be a weapons-grade embarrassment in its earnest wish not to upset anyone according to their, let’s see now : gender; class (a tricky one if you’re a real toff amongst the mostly proletarian and petit bourgeois Metropolitan Police Service: there’s an actual hereditary peer in Tower Hamlets but he’s been there for ages); race or ethnicity (or?); faith or absence thereof; disability; orientation (both sorts of orientation, Inshallah)… or Heart Beat Status. Or whatever the Common Purpose numpties at command level were going to call it. Since when had policing stopped being a job where you occasionally needed to upset some people in the course of your duties? Ah, yes: 1981.
   He waffled on. “These are exciting days and nights and it’s a great challenge and I believe a privilege to be here at the founding of an entirely new branch of the Metropolitan Police Service; the Combined Support Unit.
   You’ll see that we’ve arranged the seating into three files from the front to the back of the room with gaps in between. In a short while we’ll split you up into mixed groups for self-introduction and team building but at first (forgive me for this), we’re going to, ah, segregate you by types.” He looked as embarrassed about this as if he’d been caught in possession of a Sjambok and The Collected Speeches of Enoch Powell. Rivers of blood, my arse. “Um, ever since the unpulsed community-” So that’s what they were calling it! “- came out of the, er…came out, it’s been widely known that though some vampires are in fact slayers and while some police officers are vampires, most slayers were in fact human - if I can use that word in its old-fashioned sense. Now, while the Metropolitan Police Service takes a very firm position” –“Oh God, please make him stop! “- against slaying or any other kind of illegal violence against the unpulsed we also have a solemn duty to the broader community. This includes managing offenders” – whatever happened to just plain old nicking villains? “- or potential offenders who are (not to put too fine a point on it… Um.) more physically able than the normally able-bodied amongst us. I mean the naturally able-bodied. Er.”
    Just swallow me up, I prayed. Just let the ground swallow me up and take me far, far away from this horrible place.
   “And since some of the former slayers are entirely quote human unquote and they aren’t yet equipped with strategies for dealing lawfully with the unpulsed, and while on the other hand some of the unpulsed are not yet reconciled to centuries of persecution by slayers of all sorts -” Dear Lord, will this never end?  “- we’re asking all the vampires: slayers or not; police officers or not, to sit in the right hand file for now. Similarly we want all the purely human slayers (whether they’re officers or not) to sit in the left-hand section. The ordinary, non-slayer coppers should be in the middle.”
   Typical. As usual, honest coppers were going to be stuck between two hostile camps and tasked to keep order, the poor bastards. So we danced the dance of the politically correct like an Aesop’s Fable made flesh until we settled into the three unequally populated oblongs and perched our backsides on cheap-looking (but actually very expensive and quite uncomfortable) Metropolitan Police Service issue tacky plastic chairs. The police-only slayers glared over the heads of their sandwich-filling ordinary Plod colleagues at a very much smaller groups of vampires; uniformed and otherwise. This was going to be such fun. Hollow laughter.
    “Ned, Ned! What are you doing?” Dave asked: white-faced and jumping up from his chair across the aisle from me. He really was an old-fashioned copper and right now he looked like an outraged Robert Peel - or he would have if Robert Peel had been the great-grandson of a Jewish grocer from Hackney. Also, Dave was a lot taller and didn’t have the bad breath and peppermint smell old Bobby had.
   I tried my famous charming smile. “Seven years together on Serious Crime and Vice, mate, and we got into all kinds of scraps and even a shooting and I never got a scratch on me. At least; not one that lasted for more than a few seconds. And stag nights are just that: nights. They hold weddings in the daylight Dave. Join the dots. Just give me a chance, yeah?”

   He sulked through the whole of the inaugural briefing and we weren’t in the same group for the team building. I’d give him as much time as he needed to come around but I doubted he’d need as much as his grandfather had with the Germans. Dave was basically a proper old-fashioned copper serving in this new, crap, politically correct police ‘service,’ so his sense of duty and fair play would win through eventually. And his legendary heavy-handed sense of humour, of course.
   I couldn’t wait till he remembered what Ned is short for.
   Oh, joy.

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