18 January 2014

One night

It was late one winter night in a flat in Leith when I decided to rise from my bed to investigate the prolonged shouting that had been coming from the top floor balcony, just one flight of stairs above my own. For about ten minutes a drunken male voice had been screaming many foul-mouthed variations on the theme of, 'let me in', while a muffled woman's voice had been reiterating, 'go away', in several foul-mouthed variations also.

Then for a while the stairwell had gone silent, until I heard a loud metallic scraping and a heavy panting slowly ascending the stairs and past my door. I looked out through the thin crack beside my letterbox flap to see an old and dishevelled man staggering slowly upwards, dragging a scaffolding pole behind him. It was a short linking section, maybe six feet long. I reckoned he was too drunk to notice me, so I opened my door as he reached the top floor and I leaned out sideways just enough to look up. I could see him as he began hammering the pole against the first door of the top floor like a battering ram, and he was screaming again.

'Let me in! Let, (bang) me, (bang) in, (bang) you fucking (bang) fucker!'

The final bang was followed by the crash of the pole falling onto the stone stairway. The woman inside began screaming. The old guy lifted up the pole again and resumed his attack on the door. I went back into my flat and headed for the phone, but someone must have beaten me to it because just as I picked up the handset I heard the police siren out on the street below.

The timing of what happened next was exquisite. With my door shut again and my face pressed to the letterbox I heard, and then saw, the two burly policemen running upwards, two steps at a time, but then pausing momentarily on my landing to gasp for breath and for one of them to wail, 'Why does it always have to be the top floor!'

And just as they tackled the first step towards the top floor I caught a glimpse of the drunk old guy, walking quite swiftly downwards. As the policemen approached him he blurted out, 'Thank Christ you're here lads, the buggers are going crazy!'

And just as the policemen rushed on past him I heard the door of the flat directly above me open and the young lad who lived up there shouted out, 'What the fuck are you...?'

But the phrase was never finished as the first policeman must have charged into him, and from the heavy thud above my head it was pretty clear he had knocked the young lad to the floor. Then the jumbled chaos of angry voices began: 'What the fuck are you doing?' 'Oh it's you again sonny is it?' 'What the fuck?' 'Stop struggling! You're under arrest.' 'Me? What the...' 'Shut up! Didn't you get enough of this last week eh?'

Then a scuffle, a few kicks, a punch. A wail. Then a bit of quiet. The jangle and click of handcuffs.

Then I heard, 'You stupid fucking Keystone Cops! I wasn't doing anything. It was the old guy. I was just coming to see what it was all about!'

'Shut up!'

Some more scuffling. The sound of another door opening, then an elderly woman's voice asking, quite calmly, 'What are you arresting him for? It was my old man Jim that was kicking in my door. Where is he? Have you let him go?'

I left my door and walked through my lounge to look out of the window, just in time to see the old guy - Jim I presumed - wandering down the path into the dark parkland across the road.


Elephant's Child said...

And did they let him go? I am betting the answer is negative.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Yes actually, after a while.

Claude said...

Survival of the fittest?

susan said...

Excellent story.

Syncopated Eyeball said...

Stupid cops. . .