Friday 20 February 2009


This tale comes straight from most cops' dread tank...

Death Message

Probationary Police Constable Dave Keane was brimming with apprehension as he walked gingerly down the dimly lit cul-de-sac. He took in a deep breath as he counted down the door numbers of the garden-less terraced houses…12, 10, 8… and came to a halt at number 6. The curtains were shut, but a light was on inside.
It was his first ‘job’ since becoming independent after ten weeks with his Tutor Constable, Johnny ‘Robbo’ Roberts, and he recalled his ex-tutor’s words before Dave had set off on foot from the station, A to Z in hand: ‘Take a deep, breath, compose yourself, get them to take a seat then just cut to the chase as there’s no other way. Don’t patronise, but try to sympathise and empathise where possible, and be prepared to act as a buffer. Then get the hell out of there – job done!’
Robbo made it sound so bloody simple. Dave was shitting himself. Of all the jobs to be tutor-less at, it had to be this one. If he fucked it up he’d never live it down. He’d seen it done on the telly and now he was about to do it himself. Dave Keane, the trainee mechanic-cum-window cleaner-cum-postman from Salford. Although he wasn’t delivering letters anymore…he was now delivering a death message!
Just as he had an urge to nip round the back alley for a sly cig he saw the curtain pull back and a man’s concerned face eyeballed him.
The hall light came on and within seconds the door was open revealing a middle-aged man, unshaven and generally unkempt. Probably the dad.
‘Evening, Sir. Are you Roger McPherson?’
‘May I just step inside?’
‘Why…what’s up officer?’
PC Keane glanced over his shoulder at a couple of hooded teenagers gawking at them from across the street. ‘It’s best if we talk inside, sir.’
Mr McPherson moved aside and gestured PC Keane in. The Constable could feel his heart palpitating behind his body armour as he briefly spoke into his radio to inform the comms operator he was in attendance at the job, his voice wavering somewhat in the knowledge the rest of the shift would all know which job he was doing.
‘Take a seat, Officer. Do you wanna brew?’
‘No thanks.’ PC Keane sat on an old sofa while trying to maintain focus, clocking that the place was a tip and had a musty smell. Could I ask you to take a seat, too, please, Mr McPherson?’
‘Sure. How can I help you?’
‘Have you got a son, named Steven?’
‘Yeah…yes I have…what about him?’
‘Well, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.’
‘Bad news? What’s happened?’ Panic swept across his face.
‘There’s been a road traffic accident and…’
‘Please…don’t tell me!’ Mr McPherson stood up abruptly.
PC Keane hesitated then recalled Robbo’s advice. ‘I’m sorry to inform you Steven has been killed....’
‘NOOOOO!’ The father put his head in his hands and fell to his knees in front of PC Keane.
The Constable felt for the man and placed a consoling arm on his shoulder. Mr McPherson responded by gazing at the officer and they were soon locked in an embrace. PC Keane was professional enough to ignore the smell of BO and could feel the sheer sorrow emanating from this poor man as the hug graduated into a squeeze.
After a few minutes Mr McPherson, clearly in a state of shock, released his grip and PC Keane made him a brew, glad that the worst was over, feeling a tad guilty he’d again declined a cuppa himself because the kitchen resembled a warzone.
Mr McPherson, who he was by now calling Roger, had asked for the details of the accident and PC Keane had informed him in a hushed voice that his son didn’t suffer and most certainly died on impact as the HGV had no chance to brake whatsoever, because according to witnesses Steven just walked straight out in front of it. Also the formal ID could be conducted at the hospital’s mortuary tomorrow: a necessary evil, despite Steven’s friend being present and Steven having had his student ID card on him.
PC Keane chose the right moment and after a handshake and another prolonged hug he bade Roger McPherson a sad farewell.
Once the door shut he resulted the job on the radio stating, ‘The message has been passed successfully,’ after which he heard Robbo’s voice pipe up on the radio: ‘Well done, Dave!’ followed by Patrol Sergeant Thompson's gruff tones: ‘Nice one Keano, lad!’ This made him feel a whole lot better: another step to becoming a decent cop.
Then an elderly woman opened the door at number 8 and asked, matter-of-factly, ‘What’s he been up to this time?’
PC Keane looked up at her, observing the curlers in her bluish grey hair and her lack of dentures. ‘Pardon?’
‘That bloody faggot next door. Your lot are always there. Bloody sick of it I am.’
‘Faggot, madam?’
‘Yeah, bent as a nine bob note, that one. Mad as a box of frogs, too. Was sectioned only last month, but they let him out…again!’
‘Who, Roger?’
‘What…? No Billy Jones…or the Crazy Bender, as he’s known round ere.’
Then it hit him. ‘Is this Granger Street?’
‘No, you berk…Granger Street’s round the corner…this is Granger Avenue!’
PC Dave Keane glared at Billy Jones who was waving out of the window, before he grinned manically and blew the Constable a kiss.

To catch more of Col's writing why not take a look over at


  1. This one takes me back, I'll tell you. Thankfully I only had to do this once and I was lucky in that the recipients of the Death Message were away from home and it fell to some other unlucky PC to do it instead.

  2. Great twist Col and realistic story about what you guys have to go through

  3. Cheers, Matt & Chris.
    I've delivered one or two of these messages myself. The first one as a rookie, and just as the recipient's door-lock clicked to open my colleague pulled a funny face like a kid and I burst out laughing. A split-second from disaster (& the sack). Oddly it relaxed me somehow for the job in hand.

  4. Came on the computer to do some writing and spent the afternoon being entertained on this site - thanks Col!
    Great stories guys - and a nice mix of humour, redemption, twists - liked them a lot.
    PS - Do you ever write about NICE people?

  5. Clare,
    In a word...No!
    Thanks for the positive feedback which makes writing the stories worthwhile.
    Sorry we stopped you from writing (reading is important, too, though!), but if you like the stories so much why not 'follow' the blog and each time you log on it will show you any new stuff?
    Catch you on Talkback...or back here!

  6. Hi Clare and welcome. Glad you liked what we're trying to do here - a venue for unpublished writers to have their work seen and read by others. Stick around, there might be some nice people along at some point (only their stories don't seem to be too thrilling most of the time. Please feel free to disagree!!).

  7. This is BILL!
    I liked this. You have a way of creating an atmosphere about ordinary people in ordinary places in matter of fact common situations. Not quite sure how you do it, but don’t lose it. It is your strength.
    More on TB

  8. Bill,
    Thanks for your kinds words.
    I try to be attentive and I'm from the streets, myself, remember.




  10. Thought you might like that, mate! :-)