Sunday Story

The Dead Police
By Bradley Heywood

‘There’s someone in the garden, Lionel,’ said Maude as she stared through the window.
‘It’s probably just a couple of kids fetching their ball or something,’ said Lionel, who was sat in his favourite chair, reading a book.

‘There’s only one of them, and it isn’t a child.’

‘Do you want me to do something about it?’ asked Lionel, looking up from the book.

‘It’s just stood there.’

‘What do you mean, it?’ asked Lionel, rising to his feet. ‘I thought you said someone, not something?’

‘I don’t know whether it’s an it or a someone, but I think we should do something. Call the police or something.’

Lionel looked out of the window at the form in the back, and his face became flat and serious. ‘I think it’s an it, Maude.’

‘What are we going to do then?’ she asked. ‘We should phone the police. Get someone to come round and remove it.’

‘I don’t want the police coming around here,’ Lionel snapped. ‘People will talk, start treating us differently, and then there’s the smell.’

‘If that thing decides to come in here you will have more to worry about than the smell, Lionel.’

‘Fine,’ Lionel said with a huff. ‘I’ll ring the damn police.’
He removed the phone from the pocket and dialled the emergency services.

‘State the service you require,’ said a voice on the other end of the line.

‘Erm, Police, please.’

‘Has there been a crime you wish to report?’ said the voice.

‘No,’ said Lionel with a sigh. ‘The other police, please.’
‘One moment,’ said the voice and there was a pause for several moments before a new voice on the other end started to speak.

‘Hello there.’

‘Hi,’ said Lionel. ‘Is this the err police?’

‘Yes,’ said the voice on the other end i such a way Lionel could here them smiling. ‘This is the err police. What seems to be the problem?’

‘Look,’ said Lionel angrily. ‘There’s one of them, you know, your lot. And I want you to come over and remove it.’

‘The person in question is in your house?’

‘No, the garden,’ said Lionel. ‘My wife and I moved out of the city to avoid all of this, so we don’t appreciate being treated like it’s some kind of joke.’

‘Rest assured that this issue is considered extremely serious by us, Mr?’

‘Feltcher, Lionel Feltcher.’

‘Well, Mr. Feltcher, make sure your exits are locked, the windows are closed, and all manner of cat-flaps and pet entrances are bolted firmly shut. Is the person whole?’

‘What sort of question is that?’ said Lionel with a frown.

‘One of significance as far as home security is concerned,’ said the voice.

‘Wait there,’ said Lionel as he headed over to the window and peered out. ‘It seems fine, well except for the obvious.’

‘Any missing limbs?’ said the voice. ‘Feet, arms?’

‘It’s got both of its feet, I think,’ said Lionel. ‘I can’t really see it’s arms as it’s dark outside.’

‘We aren’t all blessed with light sensitivity skills, are we, Mr. Feltcher.’

‘No,’ said Lionel. ‘Doe it matter?’
‘Certainly so,’ said the voice cheerfully. ‘Lost feet are one thing, but hands, even fingers can cause problems, so do try and be a little more vigilant, Mr. Feltcher.’
‘What sort of problems?’ asked Lionel, peering out of the window.

‘A scratch isn’t considered life threatening, Mr. Feltcher, but it is concerned something of a problem. You see the person in your garden relies on senses you would not believe, the main being a rather effective nose, pardon the pun. A scratch is their equivalent of peeing on your house. Ever wonder how so many find the same spot?’

‘And what would happen if we were scratched?’

‘It would mean we’d be seeing a lot more of each other, Mr. Feltcher,’ said the voice cheerfully again. ‘And we both know that isn’t an ideal situation, so why don’t you try and count if its got all of its fingers for me.’

‘Alright,’ said Lionel through a thick and clammy throat. ‘I can see it’s left hand, and it’s got all its finger, but, oh crap, there isn’t a right one!’

‘Do not worry, Mr. Feltcher,’ said the voice. ‘One of my colleagues will be with you shortly to remove the person.’

‘Thanks,’ said Lionel, and then he hung up and placed the phone back in his pocket.

‘What did they say?’ asked Maude.

‘Just to make sure everything’s locked and secure, so it can’t get in.’

‘Well the doors locked,’ said Maude. ‘It might be the countryside, but we’re not mad.’

‘Well that’s good, and all the windows and the cat-flap?’

‘Well it’s January, love,’ said Maude. ‘We don’t have the windows open in January. You get mad because you don’t pay to heat the street.’

‘That’s good then,’ said Lionel. ‘Looks like my common sense has saved.’

‘Twitch isn’t in though, so I haven’t locked the flap yet.’

‘That bloody cat!’ cried Lionel as he ran over to door.

‘I don’t think we have to worry about It sliding through the flap,’ said Maude as she gestured at the window.

‘The erm, person on the phone told me that some of the fingers might have fallen loose and gotten into the house.’

As Lionel locked the flap he saw the encrusted mud on the bottom of the flap. Twitch was a cat, and like most cats he didn’t come into the house muddy.
‘What about Twitch?’ asked Maude.

‘Forget the bloody cat for a moment,’ said Lionel angrily, then as he looked at the floor, noticing the dirty smears in the carpet he swallowed hard. ‘I think there’s a hand in the house.’

‘Like a helper?’

‘No like a bloody hand,’ said Lionel as he followed the trail to the kitchen.

‘Is it a bad thing?’ asked Maude. ‘I heard you couldn’t catch it?’

‘It’s not the catching i’m worried about,’ said Lionel. ‘They can leave smells. It brings more of them.’

‘And that’s a bad thing?’

‘Yes sit’s a bad thing,’ said Lionel. ‘It’s a very bad thing. More of them means trouble. People might start getting the idea that we’re involved with them, rights and all that.’
‘But I don’t think they’re so bad,’ said Maude. ‘They haven’t done anything to me, and besides I think they’re kind of interesting to watch.’

‘Then why did you make me phone them?’ said Lionel.

‘I thought it might have been a burglar or something.’

‘Well lucky for us its just a reanimated dead thing in the back garden that wants to eat our brains.’

‘Not all of them are like that,’ said Maude. ‘I saw videos online of them trying to be normal.’

‘What’s normal about a rotting corpse shuffling through the streets?’ said Lionel. ‘And they can’t talk.’

‘Well some people believe that they deserve rights just like everybody else. They might look different, but they’re still people.’

‘They’re people that eat people, Maude,’ said Lionel. ‘That means they break the law, and they tear up all the graveyards, so that’s got to be vandalism or something.’
‘They just don’t know any better, that’s all.’

‘They’re not animals, Maude.’

‘I read that they’re like children at first,’ said Maude. ‘They don’t know what’s going on, and all they want to do is moan and eat. That’s why the older ones don’t attack people. They want to set up areas so they can help the new ones understand and grow up.’
‘Not all this dead rights stuff again, Maude.’ said Lionel. ‘We moved out of the city to get away from all the politics and trouble.’

‘You can’t run away from the world, Lionel.’

‘Well i’ll try as hard as I can, now help me look for a hand.’

Lionel crawled on the floor, pushing aside the bins, and looking into the corners of the rooms and behind the couch. Maude opened the cupboards, and pushed aside the tins.

‘What are you doing?’ asked Lionel.

‘I’m looking for the hand,’ said Maude.

‘In the pasta cupboard?’

‘It might be hungry.’

‘I don’t think fallen limbs suddenly start to develop a more robust palette, Maude.’
There was a bang coming from upstairs. Lionel turned to Maude with a look of fear on his face. They headed up stairs, where they heard a strange wet sound like someone stepping through thick paint. they spend the door to find Twitch on the bed, gnawing on a trembling pea green hand.

‘O look, he’s caught himself something to eat,’ said Maude proudly. ‘Who’s a big strong wild cat, eh?’

‘I think we should take it off him,’ said Lionel. ‘I can’t imagine it’s good for him.’
‘You can try and take it off him if you like,’ said Maude. ‘Remember that time he took a bit of roast chicken off your plate, and how much you regretted trying to take it back off him?’
‘I remember,’ said Lionel with a serious sniff as he watched Twitch bite off strips of mouldy green skin, while the hand tried desperately to drag itself away.

‘Besides he’s caught it. It’s his prize for being such a brave man,’ said Maude then grinned as she added. ‘Who’s a booby do? Who’s a booby do?’

‘What about the fingers?’ asked Lionel.

‘What about them?’

‘It’s missing two,’ said Lionel as he pointed at the hand. The index and the thumb were gone.

‘Twitch has probably eaten them.’

‘Bones and all?’ said Lionel. ‘I don’t think so.’

There was a knock at the door, and Lionel felt his stomach knot.

‘That will be them,’ said Maude. ‘Better go and answer it.’

Lionel walked down the stairs and stood by the door, wondering what to do next.

‘Open the door, Sir,’ said a voice on the other side of the door, causing Lionel to almost fall over. ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of.’

Lionel opened the door, and tried to smile as convincingly at the person by the door, who looked surprisingly more human than he would have thought. The eyes were a little too big, and as he waved a hand Lionel noticed the fingers were longer than normal. He had a mop of greasy hair on his head, but George didn’t know whether it was real or not.

‘Hello, Sir,’ said the man with a wide smile that revealed all of his teeth, which were white and long. ‘I’m Mr. Ravella, but you can call me George, if you like.’

‘And you’re the err -’ Lionel trailed off, as his eyes trailed the man up and down, looking for any sign of wrongness.

‘I’m the one you called to deal with your little problem, Mr. Feltcher,’ said the man named George with a sniff as if he’d just taken a whiff of the finest perfume. ‘Now I don’t want you to worry, Mr. Feltcher. We’ll soon have everything tickity boo.’

Lionel nodded, and the man sniffed once more and let out a slow groan of pleasure as if he were smelling the finest cuisine at the grandest diner. He turned and ever so slightly shuffled off into the night.

Maude was downstairs now, and after Lionel had closed the door once more, they both walked to the window facing the back, where a strangled cry pierced the dark. It sounded as if some wild animal had been caught by a large and terrible predator. The shrieks were not human, but the vocal chords used to beg and whimper most definitely were. They couldn’t see anything, just the swift darting movements of something that seemed darker than the night, and as they heard the great dry tearing noises of leathery flesh they saw a pair of large green eyes looking up at them like a massive cat.

Some time later there was a knock at the door, and it was the man again, his clothes slightly askew, and his greasy hair slightly ruffled. As if remembering something the man stood up a little straighter, pushing his long arms down, till his finger tips brushed the top of his knees.

‘Now all of that’s been sorted out, I just need a little word with you if you don’t mind.’
‘Why do you need to talk to us?’ asked Lionel, holding Maude’s hand tightly.

‘It’s routine, Mr. Feltcher,’ grinned the man named George. ‘We’re sticklers for routine, and we need to know all of the variables, just in case we need to frequent this wonderful neighbourhood again.’

‘Ok,’ said Lionel, who as he stood to one side, made sure to keep his hands on the man.

‘You have to invite me in,’ said the man named George. ‘It’s traditional you see, and its something we take gravely seriously at the station.’

Lionel said nothing.

‘It’s a joke, Mr. Feltcher,’ grinned the man named George. ‘Grave, get it? Because we are frequenters of the final resting place, just like your little problem out there.’

‘You’re welcome in,’ said Lionel.’

‘Tar very very much,’ said the man named George, as his knees buckled and he hobbled in like an ape in a suit. ‘’s very nice, very nice indeed, Mr. Feltcher. I can see why the post-hume was knocking about here. Very nice indeed.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Lionel.

‘Thee posthumous are not entirely the same coming out as they went in, but there seems to be some sort of memory retention, that draws them near their past-life activities.’
‘What are you saying?’

‘What i’m saying, Mr. Feltcher, is that poor and unfortunate soul out there was more than likely the original tenant of this fine establishment. He was probably a bit confused, and sought a little taste of home to quiet his nerves.’

‘Did he know what was going on when you, you know?’

‘It’s best not to dwell on such matters, Mr. Feltcher,’ said the man named George. ‘The facts are that your home is now free from the the slow shuffles of the posthumous, so there is no trouble.’

‘Do you want a cup of tea,’ said Maude. ‘Or a buiscuit? We’ve got some left over pie if you want?’

‘No thank you, Mrs. Feltcher. I don’t even eat that sort of thing, and besides after all that slow food i’m practically bulging. Looks like i’m going to have to go on a diet if i’m to fit in my suit, so it’s only lean meat from now on,’ said the man named George.

‘We have a hand,’ said Lionel then grimaced as he added. ‘Well the cat does.’

‘And this would be the hand associated with the gentleman outside who brought us all together?’

Lionel nodded.

‘Well that is interesting, Mr. Feltcher, very interesting indeed.’

‘I was told that they can leave scents, and bring others.’

‘True indeed, Mr. Feltcher. True indeed, but I wouldn’t worry too much.’
‘Why’s that then?’ asked Lionel, not liking the broad sinister grin on the man’s face.
‘Because you have within your fine establishment what I am proud to say is the newest member of The Dead Police Service.’

‘Who?’

‘Your cat, Mr. Feltcher,’ said the man with a wide-eyed wink. ‘Rules are rules, and it is known that anyone to imbibe the flesh of the dead will henceforth be known to ghoul-kind. We’ve got a couple of ghoul-dogs down at the station, but i’ve not heard much about cats. Not very good at being told what to do are they, Mr. Feltcher?’

‘You’re saying my cats going to turn into one of you?’ asked Lionel.

‘I’m afraid so,’ said the man named George with a smug smile. ‘Think of it as another warrior to fight the good fight against the walking dead. And you won’t have to worry about feeding him anymore, he’s going to go through some changes, but he’ll sort himself out, we’re very versatile you see.’

‘And what’s going to happen to him?’ asked Lionel.

‘Well he’s not going to want kibbles for tea I can tell you that, Mr. Feltcher,’ the man named George said in a dark dank tone. ‘No his appetite is going to become somewhat more macabre, but I wouldn’t worry about that, he’ll find his way home. He’s one of us now.’

‘But you look alright,’ said Lionel, then added ‘Ish.’

‘It’s all about public relations, Mr. Feltcher. We make an effort to look more presentable, it helps with morale and engagement you see. Don’t want people associating us with a bunch of grave robbing ghouls now do we?’

‘But that’s what you are,’ said George. ‘Aren’t you?’

‘What we are, Mr. Fletcher, is a group of individuals, capable of helping you with your little wandering worries.’

‘You can’t just take out cat,’ said Maude.

‘He’s not your cat, mrs. Feltcher. Not anymore. He belongs to the barrow men now, and to the great protective service. Where would you all be if it wasn’t for us to clean us to clean everything up.’

‘You’re a monster,’ said Maude, and the man named George shrugged as he walked back to the door, his head taking in every inch of the room in those wide grey eyes.

‘We’re here to protect and serve. They are the ones who are the ones who are concerned with the living, while we are only concerned with the dead.’

‘And what if they come back?’ asked Lionel.

‘Then we will return,’ said the man named George. ‘We’re always open for business, Mr. Feltcher, even on Christmas. Good day.’

The man named George left into the night, and as Lionel closed the door, they heard the soft patter of tiny paws. Twitch was coming down the stairs, leaving trails of ginger tufts as he moved. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, his once green eyes now grey, looked up at George. The bald patches revealed loose grey skin with blue lines running through it, and he let out a call that chilled George to the bone.

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