Having recovered from our rodent related raucous as described in my earlier post Room Raiders, our evening had returned to some form of normality, well as best it could in the Frosty Jack encrusted estates of Bigtown. At least the reminiscing of jumping around a perfectly respectable persons bedroom chasing a pair of degenerate, disobedient animals kept us chuckling through the more mundane and ever so regular jobs that we encountered for the next couple of hours; the ‘My ex’s brothers uncles next door neighbours budgie has just threatened me on FaceSpace’ and ‘My boyfriend’s a b@$t£*&d he shagged my sister while I was down the bookies, I want him out’ – you know the ones, I’m sure you’ve all been there on a daily basis.
But yet again, things were about to take a turn for the strange as a call came through the radio from the control room …”Chaos, can you and your colleague attend 14 Foxglove Way, call from a distressed occupant shouting ‘police quick’ and something about a snake – can you pop along and see what’s going on ?”
“Well that’s a novel one” I said to Big Pete who had accompanied me to the last job “Let’s hope we haven’t got to chase that round the house” I joked.
We were only a few streets away as it happened; our last domestic being over at Primrose Gardens, a salubrious block of flats in one of the finer parts of town … or so it said in the advertising blurb thirty years ago !! Now it resembles somewhere not even elephants would go to die.
As we rounded the corner into the street of Foxglove Way, there were quite a few people milling around the address we were heading towards – normally the sign of some family dispute going on that Auntie Ethel and the entire extended familial unit had decided they wanted their ten-penneth of. Unlike most those sort of job though, we were met with ‘we’re glad you’re here’ and quickly ushered into the house itself where we found mom, beside herself, shaking like a leaf and two young lads, probably 8 or 9 years old sat, perfectly quietly on the settee, although it was quite clear they had both been crying.
“So” I said to the lady of the house, “how can we help …”
“It’s these pair … they’ve brought it home” she started, pointing wildly at the two children, who promptly started to cry again. Trying to take control of the situation, and calm the woman down, never mind stopping her turning the kids into the domestic equivalent of a fire hose I managed to interrupt the flow of half syllables long enough to allow the poor woman to breathe again. All the while people were coming in and out of the room in varying levels of panic and excitement.
“Gonna love watching you lot sort this out” quipped one of the delightful, yet filthy blue tracksuit wearing teenage members of the entourage that had formed. This appeared to create an amount of chuckles in its own right from the others ‘in the know’ but at this time, we were still unaware of what they all found so whimsical – the main content of the original message passed by the comms room had already faded into the depths of times as we tried to make sense of the apparent domestic situation around us.
After a couple of minutes of getting absolutely nowhere Big Pete had had enough “Right” he commanded “If you don’t live here please go out the front door and wait there”. He continued in the same breath “If you do, go and wait upstairs”. This did in fairness seem to have the desired effect and pretty quickly we were down to just us two, mom and the two kids again. “Okay” Pete went on, “so what is it that’s so bad the kids have done that you’ve had to call us then ?”
“I told the woman on the phone” mum said, “they’ve brought a bloody snake home with them … it could have killed them, what’s it doing here ?” I scratched my head as I quickly remembered that part of the original call. I turned to the kids “and where did you find this little beastie then ?”. The younger one piped up “it was on the park, we was playing on the swing and it was just there in the grass”. The park to which he referred was only at the end of the cul-de-sac, and was heavily frequented by families during the day, but in the evenings some of the older youths congregate there to ‘hang out’ and more often than not, sneak a few drinks and fags out of parents watching eyes.
“Where is it now” I asked. Mom got up and went towards the back door with us following her. She pointed to an upside-down grey washing up bowl on the grass in the garden. “They carried it into the house and had it on the sofa” she said “I nearly died when I saw it – they kept picking it up, it could have killed them”. “Okay” I replied, still looking at this upturned washing up bowl in front of me and still not registering what she was actually telling me. Clearly realising this, mom piped up “It’s under the bowl, I used a broom to get it off the settee and chucked it out there”. Ding !! the penny dropped at last. “Of course !” I said confidently, whilst at the same time glancing at Pete, looking for inspiration, ideas, or at the very least, what we were going to do next.
Pete, being the big brave soul that he is, promptly led the way to the garden with me in close step behind him. Mom and the kids waited at the back door, with mom offering some wise words of advice “Be careful she said, it might bite you”. “Ahhh never mind, it’ll just be a toy some other little one has left behind on the park”, I said, trying to convince myself of the fact as much as anything else.
Both Pete and I looked at the bowl, and then at each other, then back at the bowl. “Funny thing happened earlier” Pete called back to the mom and kids … “we went to a job we thought was someone being burgled, turned out they’d left a window open and two squirrels had got in. Made an awful mess they did” Part of me thought he was trying to create a bit of banter with the watching family, who had by now been joined by most of the periphery of people who were in the house when we first arrived; the other part of me detected a slight nervousness in Pete’s voice about what was actually under the plastic bowl.
“Want the broom ?” tracksuit teen called from the back door step …. “to move the bowl like”.
“We’ll be fine” I called back whilst at the same time bending down and grabbing the curled up lip of the bowl. “You sure you know what you’re doing” Pete asked. “Yeah, for goodness sake it’s hardly going to be a real snake is it, the kids have been carrying the damn thing round the house ..” and with that I lifted the bowl up and nearly jumped out of my skin as one end of this curled up, orange striped plastic toy span round at me and a forked tongue appeared along with a faint but definitely there ‘hissssssss’.
I’m not sure if the bowl went back down first, or the laughing started from the back doorstep behind me “We did tell you” came a chorus of voices.
“What the ….” I exclaimed as Pete wisely commented “well its not a toy then …” Thanks for your assistance mate ! “So” Pete continued “what do we do with a stripy orange snake in someone’s back garden, it couldn’t go in the kennels back at the nick even if we still had any, and the pound won’t have it”. “RSPCA” I said “going to have to be, what else can we do ?”.
After a moments thought Pete piped up “I know” and started rummaging through his pockets, looking for something or other. “Pete” I said “it’s not like a horse, you can’t just give it a polo mint and tell it to follow you”. “Don’t be saft” said Pete “don’t you remember a month or so ago we went to that burglary at the pet shop in Medbury, the one that has all the weird spiders and stuff, they had snakes as well”.
My brain clearly wasn’t on track tonight “It’s gone eight Pete, the shop won’t be open now. And anyway, I don’t think this is one they’ve lost, probably a pet that’s got out”, “Fool” replied Pete as he carried on rummaging through his pockets, “the chap who runs it gave us his mobile number, just in case we needed advice …. and I reckon this is a just in case moment”.
“Bingo” Pete called, as he found the right scrap of paper from the many he keeps in the back of his notebook, and quickly punched the number into his phone. “What you going to do with it” one of our spectators” called over “well they ain’t leaving it here” the mom of the house quipped in. In all honestly, I’m not sure what we are technically supposed to do with it – I mean we don’t even deal with stray dogs nowadays so a runaway reptile is probably as far off our remit as you could get. “Working on it” was my wise and structured response.
“He needs a picture” shouted Pete, handset pressed to one ear and finger blocking the other so he could hear what was being sais to him. “What for” I called back over “it’s a snake, don’t he know what they look like – tell him it’s orange”. “That’s the problem” Pete replied “depends what the pattern is, could be a relatively harmless to us one, or mom might be right, it could be a nasty one, he needs to know what kit to bring” Great, of all the places to put my life on the line, the back garden of a suburban semi in Bigtown, finished off by 12 inches of scaly, stripy orangeness was not high on my list of options.
“Take a picture on your phone” Pete called “and text it to this number” waving the notebook in my face. “Hang on” I replied, you just told me this snake might want to eat me, and now you want me to lift the bowl off and get close enough to get a portrait pic, shall I ask it to say cheese as well ?” “Don’t be a wuss” Pete replied, “ Just get on with it …. and anyhow, I don’t think snakes like cheese, tell it to say chick or mouse instead”
“Well I can’t do both, you lift the bowl, I’ll take the picture” I said. “I ain’t touching it” replied Pete “where’s that broom handle ?” And so that’s how we did it; Pete, at extreme arms length, still clutching the phone to his ear, almost on tip toe and arm stretched as far as he could, almost to the point of overbalancing, holding a yard brush the wring way round to scoop up the lid of the plastic bowl long enough for me to bend down low enough to take a a couple of happy snaps of our latest friend. We must have looked a right pair as our audience was only too happy to take the odd pic or three of us in our ballet like poses, which are probably already on YouTube or elsewhere.
With picture taken and sent off to Mr Weird Animal Man, we waited for eternity or so it seemed, before Pete got a call back. “It’s harmless” Pete called over “just a small corn snake, can get up to five feet long apparently. Won’t bite so he says we can just pick it up and he’ll meet us at the shop to take it”. I looked back at Pete, “Fine then, you pick it up …” “No thanks” replied Pete “it looks like you two have already built up a friendship, I wouldn’t want to interfere”. Typical.
“What we going to put it in” I asked, and quickly mom of the house appeared with, of all things, a large Quality Street tin. Much amusement then followed with myself and Pete taking it in turns to try and balance the snake on the end of the broomstick in such a position that we could lift it off the grass and into the waiting tin. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, one of the young kids obviously felt sorry for us as he trotted down the garden to where we were and calmly picked the animal up and put it in the tin without a care in the world. “Shall I put the lid on for you as well ?” he asked, quite innocently, but to the much further enjoyment of family and friends gathered to watch.
We carried our catch out through the house, safely encased in the tin we had been given to a round of humoured applause from all watching and once back in the panda, headed on over to Medbury to deliver Mr Snake into the safe hands of someone who would know how to look after him until his owner was found.
“I really have had enough of craziness today” Pete commented as we pulled into the back yard at Bigtown nick “I’m glad the shift’s nearly over. Just as we de-kitted the car a couple of the night shift came running out of the station door “Give us your keys” they said “someone’s just reported another big cat sighting down the industrial estate. Not going to miss this for the world” …..