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The Underdog

Brush with the law

By Caroline CravenPublished 2 months ago 13 min read
Top Story - February 2024
35
The Underdog
Photo by Pavel Herceg on Unsplash

I don’t quite catch what he mutters under his breath, but judging by his flushed cheeks and murderous expression, I’m not sure I want to.

“Sign and date here… and here,” he growls, stabbing his finger on the sheet of paper and slinging it across the desk.

The pen trembles in my hand as I scribble my signature at the bottom of the page, squeezing my eyes closed as I struggle to remember today’s date.

It was mum’s birthday last Tuesday so that means it’s… wait, or was her birthday last Wednesday, or perhaps…

“Jesus Christ, Constable Bennett,” he barks, slamming his hand down, milky tea slopping onto the table. “It’s Wednesday 12 December.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” I say, nudging the sheet towards him, wincing when I notice Inspector Matthews’ twitching mustache. He’s literally fizzing behind his desk and if anything, his face looks even more fiery and red than before. Like ketchup bottle red.

I slide down further in my seat, trying to blend in with the fabric, hoping he might forget I’m even here. Maybe? My heart sinks every time he flicks over a page and sighs. This is going to be bad. Really bad.

I stretch my arm over the side of the chair, smiling when a warm nose nuzzles my hand. I’m glad I’m not here by myself otherwise…

“Constable Bennett. Did you hear anything I just said?”

My hands fly to my lap, and I sit up straight, my feet tap dancing on the carpet.

“Sorry sir.”

I said, this is your final warning. If you mess up one more time, that’s it, game over. You’ll be off the force,” he pauses, scowling and tugging on his mustache. “You and that hapless hound.”

“Sir,” I mumble, blinking back tears and taking comfort from Sarge’s tail thumping up and down on my foot.

“… Sergeant. What a ridiculous name for a dog,” he tuts, shaking his head. “Of all the things you could have called him.”

“Sir,” I whisper, gazing through the half-open door. Mrs. Jones the office manager is perched on the edge of her desk, dipping a biscuit into her mug. She smiles and waves a custard cream in our direction.

Sarge’s ears prick up and he bounds across the room, ditching me in favor of Mrs. Jones’ secret stash of cookies. He flops down at her feet, resting his front paw on her leg. He’s certainly taken advantage of our frequent visits to Inspector Matthews’ office to weasel his way into her affections. She’s even started saving him leftover sandwiches and cakes from the senior team meetings.

Wait. Is she giving him a whole doughnut? I hope she’s saved one for me too as... I startle as Inspector Matthews clears his throat.

“I’ve just looked over your last appraisal,” he says, removing his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose.

I shift in my seat, peering just above his head at the row of framed photographs on the wall. The man in the pictures doesn’t look anything like Inspector Matthews. For a start, he’s smiling, and his hair is jet black with a touch of silver frosting at the temples. Now he’s almost completely grey, with two angry lines between his eyebrows. I thought Inspector Matthews was supposed to be in his 50s but he looks way older than my grandad and he’s…

“Constable Bennett,” he sighs.

I gulp. He no longer sounds mad, just tired and a little bit broken. I don’t think this is a good sign.

“To think you were one of the top police recruits in your class and now…” he trails off.

I wring my hands together and whisper: “I think I’ve had a run of bad luck sir.”

“Bad luck?” he laughs, but it’s not a nice laugh and his eyes are all squinty and glittery. I shiver, hoping Sarge will reappear and lie back down on my boots, but he’s too busy rolling around on the floor with Mrs. Jones rubbing his belly. Traitor.

“Bad luck,” he repeats, throwing himself back in his chair. “You’re a complete liability.”

“I think…”

“That’s just it,” he snaps. “You don’t think. How else do you explain the absolute disaster at the jewelry store on Monday?”

“Well, I…”

“Even though it was three o’clock in the morning and the alarm was blaring, you didn’t find it odd that the suspect was loading boxes of jewelry into his van?”

“The gentleman said he’d forgotten the alarm code and he seemed quite nice and…”

“And then you helped him carry the rest of the boxes into his van and watched him drive away. I mean, what the actual fuc…?” he bellows.

“Well, when you say it like that...”

He doesn’t let me finish. Just ticks off all the things I’ve done wrong in the last few months. So many things. His words wash over me, and I gaze out of the window, as a police van reverses at speed into the yard. It clips the wing mirror of the superintendent’s shiny new Jaguar and crumples the front bumper. At least nobody can pin that one on me.

I consider telling Inspector Matthews about the damaged car, but he’s still ranting, his mustache quivering like it’s possessed.

“… And then you and Sarge happily accepted the ice creams from the lady and just waved her through customs. If she hadn’t been stopped by another officer, then more than a million pounds worth of cocaine would have ended up on the streets…”

I clench my hands together and don’t say a word. It was an honest mistake. And to be fair, the ice creams weren’t even that good.

“… And what can I say about the hunt for the missing hiker? You and Sarge wandered off from the main party and got stuck on the side of the mountain. Do you know how much it costs to call out the rescue helicopter? Do you?”

I shrug my shoulders and murmur how sorry I am, but he just keeps talking. Is he ever going to stop. Finally, there’s a knock at the door and I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved to see Mrs. Jones. She sticks her head round the doorframe and taps her watch, reminding Inspector Matthews about the briefing at half past one.

“Thanks Jenny. I’ll be right there,” he says, standing up and snatching his hat from the bookcase. He freezes when I ask him if I need to attend the briefing.

“Absolutely not,” he says. “We’ve got a major drugs bust this evening and I don’t want you or Sarge within a million miles of the warehouse.”

I hang my head and stare at my polished boots, my bottom lip wobbling. Being a police officer is all I’ve ever wanted to do. How am I ever going to prove myself to Inspector Matthews and get back in his good books?

“What you can do though is cover the front desk,” he says, pausing in the doorway. “Everyone else is going to be tied up with the raid. Hopefully even you can’t muck that up.”

+++

As soon as Inspector Matthews turns the corner, I race along the corridor to the locker room. I throw myself into the far corner and fling my arms round Sarge’s neck.

“I’m so sorry Sarge,” I whisper into his fur. “I keep mucking everything up for us.”

Sarge licks my ears and mops up the tears rolling down my cheeks. I’m about to suggest going to the café over the road and grabbing a coffee and doughnut to cheer ourselves up when the door cracks open. Oh no. It’s Jean Butcher. She was a nasty piece of work in police training college and she’s even worse now.

“What are you doing skulking in the dark?” she asks, folding her arms and leaning against the bank of lockers.

“Nothing,” I mumble, stumbling to my feet. “Just on my way to cover the front desk.”

She blocks the doorway and sneers: “The front desk, how exciting. I’m going on the drugs raid. It was my tip off, so I’ll probably be in line for another award. I’ve got so many now I’ll have to get a bigger trophy cabinet.”

I try to squeeze past her, but she pokes her finger in the middle of my chest, pushing me back.

“I heard you were in trouble again,” she laughs. “Your future in the force doesn’t sound too rosy to me Rosie.”

I stare down at my feet. I won’t cry. I won’t. Not in front of her. I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.

She smirks, stepping aside and pulling the door open: “Run along Rosie Bennett. You and your dog. Make sure you hang on to him though as that’s the closest you’ll ever get to Sergeant.”

+++

“Let’s get out of here Sarge.”

I trot across the police station car park with Sarge ambling a few paces behind. He sighs and settles into the passenger seat, raising his front paw so I can fasten his harness. I think he’s as relieved as I am that our shift is finally over. It seemed to last days not hours, although I don’t know why he looks so tired as he slept through the entire thing, snoring hard underneath the front desk. I start the engine and pull out onto the main road. What an absolutely terrible day.

We head along the one-way system and join a line of stationary traffic at the red light. I glance sideways at the townhall clock, its face glowing in the darkness. It’s a little after six o’clock. My fingers drum on the steering wheel. They should all be at the warehouse now, crashing through the doors and slapping handcuffs on the ringleaders. No doubt Jean will be smarming up to Inspector Matthews and asking him where he recommends buying an industrial sized trophy cabinet. Stupid bloo…

The driver behind me leans on his horn and I stomp down hard on the gas pedal almost catapulting Sarge out of his seat as the car kangaroos away. It’s no good. I have to know what’s going on.

“Shall we go and see how the raid’s going?” I ask him. “It sounds like it was going to be massive.”

Sarge doesn’t say anything, just glares at me from underneath his bushy eyebrows. Even when I promise him, we’ll swing by Starbucks for a puppuccino on the way home, he isn’t appeased.

“Do you think this is the right place?” I ask, a few minutes later when we pull up at the abandoned warehouse. There’s no sign of any police cars. No flashing blue lights or sirens. Nothing. The entire place is in darkness.

I’ve probably got the wrong address. I can’t even get that right.

“Maybe we should just have a quick look around anyway,” I say, unbuckling his seatbelt and letting him out of the car.

We skirt round the edge of the building, the gravel crunching below our feet and the beam from my torch casting small circles of light in the gloom. I hang onto Sarge’s collar as we creep along the brick wall and reach the back of the warehouse. It looks even more derelict here than out the front. The metal sheeting is jagged and rusty and all the glass in the windows is punched out like missing teeth. And there’s still no sign of anyone.

Not a soul.

“Let’s get out of here Sarge,” I whisper. “Extra-large puppuccino for you and a huge glass of wine for me. What do you reckon?”

We’ve only taken a couple of steps when we hear raised voices and what sounds like a gun shot. We throw ourselves against the wall and drop to the ground, both of us panting hard.

“What was that?” I gulp, my arm round Sarge. “Do you think I should call for back up?”

I reach into my pocket and close my eyes. I can’t believe I’ve left my phone in the car. Of all the stupid things to do… What now?

Sarge licks my face and I tell him he’s right, that’s exactly what we need to do.

We slink along the wall until we reach the commercial waste bin underneath one of the huge windows. Sarge leaps up first and I grab hold of his leg and heave myself onto the roof of metal container. We stand there together, holding our breath. It’s so quiet, I begin to wonder if it was just a trick of my imagination. Sarge darts behind me, his tail catching the back of my leg and I almost topple off the container.

“Jesus Christ Sarge, you almost gave me a heart attack,” I hiss. “Watch out.”

I wait a few seconds for my heart rate to return to normal and hurl myself at the window ledge. My fingers grip the frame and I haul myself up, my feet scrabbling against the wall. I balance on my forearms and peer through the opening into the warehouse below.

Oh no. Oh no, that’s not good at all.

I leap down, landing softly on the metal container, my body shaking violently.

“It doesn’t look good,” I tell Sarge through chattering teeth. “They’re all being held at gunpoint by two men in balaclavas. I don’t understand what’s gone wrong, but we need to go and get help.”

I crouch on the edge of the bin ready to drop to the ground when I pause, gnawing on my fingernails. I should probably check the warehouse again, make sure there are only two men with guns. I’d hate to get that information wrong. I’m in enough trouble as it is.

I pull myself up to the window and dangle over the ledge, my eyes scanning left and right. Inspector Matthews is slumped against the wall, cradling his arm. He looks quite pale even from here. I wriggle a little further through the gap, my eyes scanning left and right. Nothing. And then I look down.

What the hell,” I hear someone shout, right before I lose my balance. I snatch at the ledge but all I clasp is air, my arms flailing as I plummet to the floor.

+++

“I can’t believe I’m going to say this,” says Inspector Matthews. “But I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see you, Constable Bennett.”

“Sir,” I say, bending down and ruffling the top of Sarge’s head.

“I honestly thought we were all done for and then you sail in through the window and land on top of one of the shooters. And seconds later Sarge flies in behind you and takes out the other guy. Outstanding bravery. I’m so proud of you both.”

“Thank you, sir,” I say, feeling my cheeks flame and wondering if I should confess that I had no intention of confronting the men and it was only because I slipped and…

Sarge nudges my hand. Quite right. We should probably keep that one to ourselves.

Inspector Matthews rests his hand on my back and guides me to one side as the men are stretchered outside. Two police officers hop into the ambulances with them.

“What’s up with her?” I ask as Jean shuffles past, dabbing at her puffy eyes with a tissue.

“She’s in big trouble,” mutters Inspector Matthews. “She hit the superintendent’s car and tried to blame you for the damage. We were having a chat in my office at the time so obviously it couldn’t have been you. Her behavior is completely unacceptable.”

I raise my eyebrows. I didn’t see that one coming.

“Anyway, enough about Constable Butcher,” he says. “I’d like to talk about your promotion to sergeant…”

“Well, that would be amazing,” I gasp, dropping to my knees and kissing Sarge’s head. “But if I’m going to be promoted then we'll probably have to change this guy's name from Sergeant to Inspector too.”

Short Story
35

About the Creator

Caroline Craven

Scribbler. Dreamer. World class procrastinator.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (29)

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  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    Glad things turned around for her! Loved the doggie in your story, too...such a delightful dimension.

  • Natasha Collazo2 months ago

    This was fantastic!!

  • Erica2 months ago

    I love this story! Puppies, cops, and under dogs always get me! I couldn’t put it down! Awesome work!!

  • Daphsam2 months ago

    Congratulations on top story well-deserved.

  • This was such a great story. The bumbling sergeant who became inspector. This had a Naked Gun feel. (I use to love those movies)

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!!

  • Thought Markets2 months ago

    Couldn't stop reading!

  • R N Sharma2 months ago

    Not fare Caroline to use cute canine to force my read. Love the way you write, keep rocking ❤️

  • Dana Crandell2 months ago

    My kind of duo and a great little adventure! Well done, Caroline and congratulations on Top Story!

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    This is brilliant, and heartwarming and funny and just awesome. Congrats on the TS.

  • Lacy Loar-Gruenler2 months ago

    Gotta come back to say congrats on TS! Well deserved, my friend!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Kendall Defoe 2 months ago

    Perfect! 🐕 🏅

  • L.C. Schäfer2 months ago

    Back to say congrats!

  • sleepy drafts2 months ago

    Oh, this is so lovely!! I could read a whole series about Captain Bennett and Sarge! Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Hayley Matto2 months ago

    This was a fantastic story Caroline!!! So fun and so very well written!!! You have the best way of unfolding a story, loved the pacing and how you unfolded from is this a human or the dogs perspective? Then into such a fun voice for Rosie. Congrats of TS!!! 🎉🧡

  • Zlet Ai2 months ago

    https://www.zletai.com/storage/tools/pdf-tools/pdf.html

  • Blake Booth2 months ago

    Wow! Wonderful. I couldn't believe it was over so quick. Perfect short read. Sucked me in from the first sentence. Great development and fun.

  • Test2 months ago

    Kudos! Keep excelling in your work—congratulations!

  • Celia in Underland2 months ago

    Brilliant! I really loved the internal dialogue running through and the gentle humour. Fantastic ending and so glad the hapless Rosie amde good in the end, if only by accident! 🤍

  • Hey Caroline, I found this story posted in another place. It uses the same cover pic, title and subtitle. And the story os exactlyyyyyyy the same. So I thought you might wanna see this. I'll put the link in the comment below. It's just so crazyyyyyy!

  • Lacy Loar-Gruenler2 months ago

    Caroline, I am still chuckling at all the mishaps! Again, you are the best at developing characters, even Sarge the dog. This is a really fun read, and I can envision this stretched into a detective novel, with such well-drawn characters! Bravo!

  • Hannah Moore2 months ago

    Oh dear, she's going to have a stressful time as Sargent! Smoothly, written as always, you always give such a pleasurable read.

  • Kodah2 months ago

    🤣🤣🤣 Loved this story, Caroline! 💗 The whole concept of this was genius!! 😂😂💗

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