Also by Joerg Lisegang
by Joerg Liesegang
Chief McCollins started. "It was one of those
nights, you know...'
The evening was quiet enough. It was 11 already gone. Arthur McCollins
was putting the tea cups down on the table and Stuart was making himself
comfortable. This was fun. He had thought it would be a lot harder. He
was 24, straight out of the academy. Stuart Miller was his name, born
in Sussex, just recently moved up to Birmingham to join his wife, who
was studying here. They had been together since school, and Stuarts
mother had always told him, "Stuart, hold onto that girl, I dont
know how you got her, but youll never get one like her again."
Con Redbridge was still writing up some open files on the computer over
in the office room. You could hear him go on from time to time about what
he thought of the new system. "If somebody would finally blow shit
through Bill Gates head, I wouldnt even move out of this chair
to stop him, why Id even pay him something for it!" Arthur,
about 58 years old, was smiling, having a seat in the easy chair that
seemed to be his very own and gazed generously over to young Stuart.
"So how do you like your first night shift so far, Stuart?"
"Very nice, sir! Of course Im sort of missing the action, I
mean, weve just been sitting around here, I mean at least Ive
been sitting, while youve been doing your paper work."
"Still doing it, young lad, still doing it." That one came from
the other room, Con was joining in the talk.
"Yes, sir. Of course, sir."
"Dont you worry. Youll get youre action. Youll
be glad for every second you can look at these ugly walls from the inside."
Arthur McCollins was reclining in his chair, he had been the chief for
so long that everything in these rooms seemed to be his.
The rooms were ugly. Hidden in one of those brick houses on Bordersley
heading out east. The little blue sign with "Police" on it.
The specially enforced door. Video cams to check the entrance area. The
poster with the malignant faces of wanted terrorists in the reception.
The commons room they were sitting in now was fair enough. Hadnt
been redecorated since Thatcher first came to power, though. Con was coming
from the office. "Thats done with." He sat down beside
Stuart, the sofa cushions moved down and Stuart had to keep himself from
sliding down over to him. Took a sip from his tea.
"I made you one with sugar and milk, Redbridge, just like my little
daughter likes it." Stuart could tell that Arthur didnt like
sugar, and he was glad that he had decided to take his tea just like his
"Thanks, Chief. Just goes to show that someone in the family has
taste. You also gulping that stuff bitter like pure ground coffee? I suppose
youre still at the stage where you have to do everything like the
chief does, thats all right."
Stuart didnt answer.
"Leave the kid alone, Con. Just because I didnt put enough
sugar in your tea is no reason to turn sour on us."
"The sugars all right, chief. Sorry, kid."
The minutes went ticking by. The radio was crackling over in the corner,
but headquarters would only call them in an emergency. Chief had told
them that he didnt want to work that much, and Arthur was one of
the oldest in the whole force. They made themselves comfortable. Talked
about this and that. You could hear a weather coming up outside. It was
story telling time.
Chief McCollins started. "It was one of those nights, you know. Half
of my colleagues were over at the stadium working at the Tina Turner show,
that was when she still toured with Ike, and I was on motorway patrol.
Fine. So then, at about 10 oclock, we get this call you dont
ever want to get. A car ran right into somebody walking on the M6 direction
to Stafford. The driver was all shaken and could hardly be understood
on the emergency phone. An ambulance was alarmed but would take a while
to get there. So the dispatcher asked us whether we werent close
by. Dispatchers in those days always knew exactly where you were. I dont
know how they did it. Theyd actually ask you to stop in this and
this shop to buy something for them, and ten seconds later, you were driving
past this shop that you had never heard of in your life.
"Anyway. We were close by and drove to the scene. The traffic was
jammed, the hard shoulder was free, we slowed down and came up to the
car that was obviously involved. You didnt really see that much,
the windshield was broken. Up ahead there was a truck standing at the
left. Without lights. The man was probably from the truck, my mate said.
And then we saw the driver. He was all shaking. But seemed to be doing
reasonably enough. He just pointed to the back of his car. He died instantly,
the driver said. I wasnt satisfied, always did want to do a thorough
job back then. So I went to the rear door and opened it up. There was
this bloody mass hanging about on the bench. I saw a shoulder and shook
it. "Hello? Can you hear me? hello?" Thats when a head
rolled out of the door and fell on my feet. I swear. There it was, cleanly
cut at the neck with some chords hanging out from it. Rolled on my feet
and came to an end looking up at me with freaky eyes."
"Oh my god, I think I would have died." Stuart said. As if he
wanted to add a missing exclamation mark he added, "So what did you
do, Chief?" Con Redbridge was just sitting there enjoying his tea
with sugar. He loved that one of Arthurs stories.
"Well, I cant really remember what I did. I guess I carefully
slid my shoes out from under the hair and called over to my mate that
the man was dead for sure. And then I walked on over to the driver to
take up his story. Turned out he was a pathologist from the university
here, and that he was just driving home where a friend was waiting, when
all the sudden he saw this shadow running in front of his lights, and
then there was this crash and something he thought to be a body flew through
his windshield and straight on to the back of his car.
"Thats exactly when the ambulance came. They were, of course,
a little sore with us, because -me with that head on my toes and my colleague
staring at me- we had forgotten to call back to the dispatcher to say
the ambulance neednt hurry. They were kind enough to help us with
the body though. They took over all the scratchy work. While we kept back
and worked on the traffic to flow again. Which was rather nice. And then
this paramedic sneaks on over to me, keeping an eye on the driver, and
says that weve got a problem. What could that be, I wanted to know?
Couldnt really shock me after the one with the head. Well, the paramedic
said, we found three ripped off arms in the back!"
Con Redbridge was waiting for that one and was looking at the lad Stuart,
relishing the thrill produced in his face. "You mean there was another
arm in the car, Chief? Thats unbelievable, sir! You mean the driver,
the pathologist, was a killer who was on the way to get rid of his corpse,
and then some truck driver runs into his car? Thats fantastic!"
Con Redbridge was having fun. What an unwitting little nipper this was.
Chief Arthur in turn was getting parental.
"Now, now. Youre going fast. I told you the clue, young man.
Always look out for clues and dont go on assuming anything. The
man was a pathologist. After some talking we got the facts out of him.
There was this Russian colleague visiting him, a very famous man, supposedly.
And to impress him, this guy had taken the arm of a woman with something
special to her vessels from his institute and they were going to cut on
the little piece of flesh just for the fun of it. And he was going to
return everything in the morning and everything would have been all right.
In fact, nobody would ever have noticed, if that truck driver, it really
was the truck driver we later found out, hadnt run over the motorway
just to end up cutting himself all to pieces with the glass edges of the
"So you took the man in and called the institute?" Stuart was
wanting to get something right.
"No. So we gave the arm back to the pathologist, he made sure it
was the right one, then we said goodbye and I cleaned my shoes before
I got back into the car." Con was giggling and the sofa cushions
were going up and down.
"What a queer story," Stuart said. He was on safe grounds with
"Youll see some mighty queer things when working in the Birmingham
force, boy," Chief smiled. The radio crackled but didnt want
anything from them. Con got up for the next round of tea.
"You sure you dont want any sugar, Stuie? I think you can say
so, if you prefer."
"Dont go converting people to cissies, Con." Chief McCollins
was becoming amiable.
"All right, Chief, Ive got a story for men after I come back
with the new tea for everyone."
Con Redbridge settled himself. The new cups were steaming on the table.
McCollins was lounging in his easy chair and Stuart had turned a little
on the sofa to get the full view of the narrator. He was about 45, a bull
of a man, no hair and was the former wrestling champion of the Blacklands,
held the title for eleven years in a row, until his wife made him give
up the sport. He couldnt wait to start himself.
"It was about twelve years ago, I was on the weekend shift, when
at about four oclock in the afternoon we received this call from
the central station."
"Are you sure this story is something for the kids ears, Con?
Hes only been married for a year."
"Well, Chief, then its time he learned something about women,
Arthur McCollins opened his broad smile. "Well, all right, I suppose
youve got a point there."
"As I was about to say: it was a beautiful, sunny Saturday, we had
just started licking on our second ice cream cones of the day, when the
central station tells us to drive over to so and so street, a girl just
called for help, she seemed quite distressed, and the operator of the
emergency line thought it better if a police car would join the ambulance
all ready under way. Fine, we thought. Another little teenager threatening
to kill herself, thats what these type of calls usually meant. Her
Friday-night disco acquaintance probably didnt call today, I thought
and we finished our ice cones driving calmly to the place.
"Eventually, we got to the house, the ambulance in front made the
search easy enough. Our dispatcher got a bit uneasy, cause we should
have been there five minutes earlier, they really do know their way about
town. We blamed it on the traffic, whereon he shouted, that there wasnt
one single car on all of bloody Birminghams streets, cause
theyre all out in the country having fun, which was exactly what
he wanted to do at the moment. We did actually go into the house then,
where a bled-out paramedic with an incredibly hoarse voice came to our
greeting. Everything was fine, he went on tittering, no problem, we should
just come on up and look for ourselves. Just a slight medical inadequacy,
"We climbed up the stairs, obviously the parents werent at
home and hadnt been for quite some time. The rooms were littered
with the usual pizza packings and colourful bags from different curries.
Upstairs, in her bedroom, we found a seventeen years old girl sitting
on her bed, her legs bare, with some pink feathery gown thrown over her
shoulders. She would have been quite pretty if her eyes hadnt been
all swollen and her whole posture hadnt had that hysterical note
to it that kills all romance. Another paramedic was standing helplessly
about a meter off, retreating himself as far as he could against the doors
of the wardrobe, his hands hidden behind his back. He turned himself to
us, his face trying hard to conceal the pure mockery written all over
"It took us a while to find out what was so clear for everybody else.
Do you know these old Coca-Cola glass bottles with something like 330
mls in them? I think they still sometimes have them in a few places."
It took Stuart a while to understand that an actual question had been
put to him. "Yeah, uh, sure. You mean like the ones on the Warhol
pictures?" That was a good one. Stuart showing off a little, not
that he actually knew anything about art.
"I guess. I mean these glass bottles with the long slim neck and
Coca-Cola imprinted on the side. Well, she had apparently used this bottle,
with nothing better to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon
have to put this rather rude, she had inserted the bottle, empty and lid
off, into her vagina, trying to make herself happy or something. Anyway,
having done this and leaving it there for a while, the bottle had gotten
stuck, and I can plead as a witness myself, because I tried to help, it
was stuck real hard. The paramedic told me quietly something about mucosal
air absorption and the building up of a vacuum later, but understanding
the problem didnt really help. We were all picking our brains, but
nobody had any real experience data to go back on."
"Couldnt you have broken the bottle to let air back in?"
Stuart was feeling smart.
"Nice thought, Stuie, except that the broken glass would have been
sucked right in, and you wouldnt want that, would you?" Stuart
was turning a little red on his ears. Con went on.
"No, we did something completely different. It was my idea, actually.
We tried to talked some sense back into the woman. And then I explained
to her the thing with the vacuum, and that all she had to do was to give
a good pee in the bottle and everything would be fine. So she got herself
some squash, took a long gulp, weed, and the bottle plopped off like the
glue suddenly didnt work anymore."
"Really!" Stuart had never heard anything like it. This police
business was really teaching him stories!
"No, not really." Con Redbridge was laughing his socks off.
Even Chief McCollins couldnt hold himself back. Stuart did look
a little outlandish on that one.
"Sorry, Stuie. But maybe you missed that we were talking about two
different holes here. One being the wee hole, the other
, well Im
not going to teach you everything."
They were having a smacking time, and Stuart Miller thought it best to
join in after a while. No point in being a bore. He would have his laugh.
He knew a story or two. Things settled down a bit. Stuart let them catch
their breath. He wanted them to listen. The radio crackled. Nobody wanted
anything from them. The minutes were ticking away.
Stuart caught his breath.
"I havent been on too many calls, of course. But I remember
one time, when I was a trainee and was just joining rounds, that we were
sent to this house. A neighbour was worried because the family next door
was known to have a lot of social problems, and they had this one child
that was hyperactive and always crying his lungs out, except that lately
the neighbours hadnt heard the child anymore, so they were just
wondering if everything was all right, and thats why we were supposed
to have a look."
Arthur and Con were listening all right.
"So we rang the bell and this woman answered the door, she had this
huge bosom and a dirty Levis jumper over it, she smelled of cold
cigarettes and alcohol, and her eyes were swollen and she was limping.
We just introduced ourselves very kindly, I was holding myself back, because
everything was so new to me, and we said that there were some concerns,
and whether they would mind if we would come in and have a look, just
to quiet down the minds of caring people. And she didnt
mind, so we found the house to be everything that the woman was, there
were two children scrumming on the floor, and two men were sitting on
the sofa with the television running, we knew that there should be three
children, so we asked about the third child, and the mother got all awkward
and one of the men said that the child was with his grandmother. My colleague
asked the man whether he was the father, but he wasnt, neither was,
so we didnt really know, and my colleague asked if he could look
around some more, and they didnt dare object, so we sort of spread
out around the house, and they went upstairs and me, I was thinking where
would I hide an overheated, hyperactive child? I had somehow gotten into
the garage by then, and there was all kind of garbage and this huge icebox
there, and I opened it, and I found the child lying there, crunched into
a sort of block, blue, with a white crust on him like powder."
Arthur and Con didnt say a word.
"I mean it was funny. Ha ha. There I was, a trainee on my first round,
thinking where on earth would I hide an overheated, hyperactive child,
and then I go and have an idea, open an icebox, just to find the child
beaten up and dead. It was just beginners luck I guess."
Nothing but silence followed. Chief Arthur got out of his chair and walked
out to the office. He took his cup with him. And Con? Con was sitting
next to the boy and looked at him. That little wretch, Con Redbridge thought.
Hell have a hell of a time at this station. Con couldnt believe
it. The boy was actually trying to show off.
© Joerg Liesegang, 2001
Who is Joerg Liesegang? Read on:
A dedicated short story writer. He likes coming
to a point when there is one, but doesn't mind whistling and a few distractions
on the way. His first motto is "everything is interesting",
followed by the second motto "and does it interest me". He
definitely values living a very normal life, as long as this normality
doesn't implore entrenchment or hinder infatuation. He likes to go home
with the recognition that home is everywhere.
To come to facts, the man is a German, so be glad that you're just reading
his words. Beautiful B'ham is Jörg's home right now, he has spent
four years of his life in California, gazing at the desert sun, and
from this and the enjoyment of a couple of decent English books he derives
whatever words he uses. What else can be said? He has actually made
the effort to learn the profession of a doctor, and will go on doing
so, having changed his place of study from Germany to Estonia to China,
so let's wait to see how he gets on with Lady Britannia.
Books that he definitely does want more people to read are those by
William Saroyan, Halldor Laxness, and Heinrich Böll. Not to forget
Calvin and Hobbes from Bill Watterson. Places he recommends for personal
pleasure are the orthodox cathedral of Smolensk in Russia, especially
when the choir is singing. The mountains close to Guilin in China when
the sun is rising, and the top of Mount St.Victoire in France at night,
when the moon is full and there is somebody sitting besides you.
And the future? Jörg has two plays in the works, both of which
have been ruled nice but unplayable by friends. Good friends. A hump
of short stories are collecting themselves, standing in line, a trifle
of impatience murmuring in their feet. You just wait and listen
There. Anything else waits to be expected.
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