by John Pilling
Inspector Hayes of the Police public liaison branch replaced the telephone receiver with and blew out his cheeks with a sigh of relief, leaning back in his chair he stretched and yawned mightily.
“Thank the Lord for a good boss” he said “he’s going to take the press conference this morning, in the meantime you and I can get off home…with his thanks. Ye Gods what a night, spare me from another like that.” Sergeant Jim Ames seated across the desk across the desk grimaced.
“It’s not over yet Sir, not by a long chalk, when the morning papers come out the press will have a field day.”
“I know Jim, but what can we do? What happened is a living disgrace, a perfectly innocent muslim family having their front door smashed down in the middle of the night by a bunch of heavily armed police …an old lady has a heart attack, the son gets shot trying to protect his parents…then they find out it’s the wrong address. A simple apology won’t be anywhere near enough this time, if either of those two die, we could have a race riot on our hands…and I wouldn’t blame them.”
Yawning heavily again the inspector reached into a drawer on his desk and pulled out a bottle of whisky and a couple of glasses. Pouring himself a drink he looked over at his sergeant.
“D’you want a drink Jim?…I reckon we could both do with it.”
“Love one sir but I can’t…I brought the car in last night, reckoned I might need it, drop you at the end of your road if you like.”
“That’s good of you Jim…I’ll just have a couple and we’ll get off out of it.”
Dawn was just breaking and the first commuters starting to show when Inspector Hayes made his unsteady way down the road towards his flat. The couple of drinks had turned several and the combination of whisky, no sleep and the cool fresh morning air were having their effect.
“What a bloody cock up.” He mumbled to himself, “and I bet the bloody phone rings as soon as I get home.” He stumbled and stopped for a moment leaning his hand against the lit window of a shop. He could make out chairs inside and realised it was the new barbers shop that had recently opened.
“That’s an idea” he thought, “a good freshen up and shave, wake me up properly then a bit of breakfast, I’ll be fine.”
Moving to the door he opened it and went in, slumping down with a sigh of relief in the first chair he came to. He was conscious of a sudden silence in the shop but after a moment or two a voice said.
“Good morning Sir…how can we help the police?”
“Oh,” he said, realising he was still in uniform, “No, nothing like that, I just want a freshen up and shave please.”
“Of course sir” the voice said, “if you could just lean forward for a moment.” Minus his jacket the inspector settled back in the chair and closed his eyes feeling deft fingers settling a gown round his neck and the first cool touch of an astringent on his face.
“Going to be a lovely day sir,” the voice remarked. The inspector sighed.
“Wish it was.” He said tiredly, “but after last night I don’t think so.”
“Last night sir?”
“Oh…trouble at work.”
“I’m sorry to hear that sir, if you could just lean your head back a little.” Lifting his chin, the inspector felt warm towels being tucked in around his face. Relaxing completely, he was unaware of the shop door opening and the rapid burst of hushed conversation behind him. After a few moments the towels were readjusted and a different harder voice said.
“You were saying about trouble sir?”
“A mistake” the inspector said sleepily, “a bad one, innocent people hurt.”
“We’ve just heard about it…still… only immigrants.”
“What’s that got to do with it? They’re citizens, entitled to the same rights as anyone else. I don’t give a damn where people come from, it’s how they behave when they’re here that matters…and how we behave towards them. How do you think that family view the police now?”
“I would think they want revenge sir.”
“Exactly” the inspector said, “that’s how it starts. A bomb goes off and immediately all Muslims are murderous killers. In truth, it’s some sad young man who’s convinced that he’ll be happier in the next world. Nobody asks why he thinks that. So, a bunch of scared, hyped up young policemen, are sent to kick in his door in the middle of the night.”
“Terrified, they’ve been told to expect guns, explosives, God knows what. Then of course things go wrong. Why do it?…Why not just send a couple of plain clothes chaps to pick up the suspect quietly…when he goes for his morning paper or milk or something.”
“Perhaps things would be better with you in charge sir? If you could just lift your chin sir.”The inspector relaxed again enjoying the smooth glide of the razor against his skin.
“Close shave.” He murmured, then feeling the blade still against his throat he looked up into the dark eyes of the man leaning over him.
“Yes indeed Mr policeman, I think you can say you’ve had a very close shave.”