Posted on July 7, 2008
I brushed some specks of dust from my police uniform, straightened my regulation tie in the mirror, then turned and walked downstairs.
“Morning, Darling,” I said as I entered the kitchen and headed for the coffee percolator. Sergeant John Darling looked up from some paperwork he had been studying, took a swig from the steaming mug in his hand, and grunted a quick “Morning, guv” before returning to the task at hand.
I filled a chipped Metropolitan Police issue mug with hot coffee, added some cream and one spoon of sugar, then carried the concoction into the main office where preparations for the morning shift were taking place. The office was bustling. The members of ‘A Relief’ had been assigned their patrols and were now busily filling pockets with books of various forms, pens, batteries, signing out keys to vehicles, and desperately trying to find a personal radio that actually worked. Sergeant Darling wandered into the office and sat at his desk, finalising some last minute changes to intelligence information from the Collator, and we both silently wondered what the day would bring. We didn’t have long to wait.
A few minutes after 9.30 that morning, a member of the public came into the outer office. “Morning” said Darling. “What can I do for you, sir?”
The man was dressed in a heavy duty duffel coat, orange overalls and very badly scuffed steel-capped boots. “Morning. My name’s Ian Morrison…” he said…”and I know it’s highly unlikely that I will get it back, but I’ve dropped a wage packet somewhere, and I thought I’d report it just in case some kind soul hands it in.” I looked on as Sgt Darling pulled out the Property Lost in the Street book from its home in the counter drawer, and began to take down the details. “Description of property lost” he asked without looking up from the page. Morrison opened his duffel jacket and from the inner pocket retrieved a buff coloured wage packet, which he threw on the desk. “It was exactly the same as that one,” he said, “…colour, size, and amount. I’d put them all in my holdall when I left the rig last night, and it wasn’t until I got home this morning that I noticed that there should have been twelve of them, but one was missing.” Sergeant Darling picked up the envelope and nearly choked on his words. “SEVEN-HUNDRED-AND-NINETY-FIVE POUNDS!” he spluttered, turning to glance at me. “What in hell do YOU do to earn a living?”
It seemed that Ian Morrison did, indeed, earn his living in hell: he was a Deck Officer on a North Sea oil production platform, one of the roughest, toughest, and most dangerous jobs on the face of the planet. It was 1975, the oil industry was booming and offshore workers were being paid salaries that only Board Room members could dream of – the average salary onshore was £90 per week. It would be years later before companies paid salaries directly into bank accounts and oil rig workers, like millions of others, collected their wages in small buff packets every week. Because their board, lodgings and food needs were all taken care of on the platforms, there was no reason to open the packets and risk losing the contents so they were locked, unopened, in steel containers bolted to the floor under their bunks and brought home on shore leave.
I abandoned my search through the previous night’s Incident Book and joined the sergeant at the counter. He glanced at the wage packet now lying on the counter top, and addressed Mr Morrison. “I’m gonna be brutally honest, sir. You have absolutely-no-bloody-chance-what-so-ever-of-getting-that-money-back!” I added my twopennyworth: “…and we’d be lying if we said you would. It is most unlikely you will ever see it again. The amount is too big and too much of a temptation to whomever finds it.” Sgt Darling added sympathetically: “However, rest assured Mr Morrison, we will send out an all stations notification and, if it is handed in anywhere, I have your contact details and will call you.” So saying, he removed the page on which he’d written the details from the property book, replaced it in its drawer, and we both watched as Morrison replaced the wage packet in his jacket, thanked us then turned and walked out into the bright sunshine. Darling and I looked at each other, shrugged, and I reluctantly returned to the Incident Book, whilst he took the details of the missing packet to the Comms Room.
The following evening, ‘A Relief’ was on night duty, and just after 11pm, the door to the outer office opened, then swung back and forth silently on its hinges as if The Invisible Man had just entered. The counter bell rang once. Sergeant Darling twisted at the waist to confront the bell pusher, but seeing nobody there, walked to the counter and peered over. What greeted him was not, in fact, one of H.G.Wells’ most famous fictional characters, but an elderly, grey-haired lady, all four foot two inches of her, wearing a dark brown overcoat, a hair net, and sensible shoes. Because of her short stature, her head could not be seen above the counter; however she was tall enough to reach the bell push, which she now used a second time just as the officer spotted her.
“Mrs Dunk!” said Darling in mock seriousness, “You’re out late? What brings you here at this time of night – not having problems with intruders again, are you?” Mrs Dunk was a local resident who was well known to police only because she had at one time adopted the habit of calling the station almost every night to report an intruder outside her home. The fast response emergency car was always despatched to deal, but no arrests were ever made because, although a thorough search of the area was undertaken, the ‘intruder’ had always made good their escape. It had taken one young bright spark (just out of training school) and destined for great things, a mere few minutes to put two and two together and arrive at an answer: he had noted that on each occasion, just before the officers left the scene, Mrs Dunk proffered a one pound coin and asked if one of them would be kind enough to put it in the gas meter because arthritis in her arms made it difficult for her. The real reason was that dear old Mrs Dunk was too short to reach the gas meter herself, and since her husband had died a few months ago, the only way she could ensure her gas supply was to call out the emergency services on false pretences! After that discovery, Mrs Dunk’s calls stopped abruptly because patrols now visited her on a daily basis to assure her that they were keeping an ‘eye out for intruders’ – and an officer always put a coin in her meter before leaving!
“No, Sergeant,” she countered pleasantly. “I don’t have any trouble these days, not since your young officers started to visit me regularly.” She smiled widely as she spoke, showing toothless gums, then continued: “No. I’m here because I found this on my way to bingo this evening, but I had to wait so long for the bus home, that I’ve only just got here. It was down the side of the bus seat.”
She rummaged around in the small handbag she was carrying, then placed Mr Morrison’s missing wage packet on the counter. Sergeant Darling could not believe his eyes!
“Mrs Dunk…” he said “…you will NEVER believe this, but the man who lost that was in the station yesterday morning reporting it!” Mrs Dunk’s wrinkled face lit up. “Oh, I am SO pleased,” she said. “It is a lot of money, and I’m sure he can’t afford to lose it.” The sergeant’s face clouded over slightly as he looked at the wage packet. “You shouldn’t have been wandering around with that amount of money on your person, Mrs Dunk. You could have been mugged and THEN where would we be? You should have called and I’d have sent one of the lads to pick it up!” Mrs Dunk looked slightly crestfallen, but nodded in agreement. “Yes, you’re right, but all the phone boxes between here and the bingo hall have been vandalised, and I would have been late for the first game. I won’t do it again, though,” she said, bidding everyone a “Good Night” and turning to go. “I’ll call the owner straightaway and notify him of his good fortune. He’ll want to know, of course, who handed it in and there could be a small reward in it for you. Am I allowed to give him your contact details?” Mrs Dunk turned to face the sergeant. “Please, I don’t want anything for handing it in. I did it because I’m an honest person, and I couldn’t live with myself if I’d kept it because I’d always be imagining the owner having to go without something. They could have kids, you know! No. I don’t want them to know who I am because they may feel obliged to give me something – and may not be able to afford it. I’d just like to go home now and go to my bed. I’m tired.” If Mrs Dunk refused permission for her details to be given to the loser, Sgt Darling had no choice but to accept her decision. Neither was he in a position to tell Mrs Dunk that the owner COULD afford to lose it. However, there was something he could do. “Mrs Dunk,” the sergeant said to the old lady’s departing back, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to detain you.” Mrs Dunk stopped dead in her tracks. The sergeant continued: “That is until I’ve allocated one of my chaps to drive you home!”
Ian Morrison had just returned home from the pub and was preparing his supper when the phone rang. “Good evening. Is that Mr Ian Morrison?” inquired Sergeant Darling brightly into the mouthpiece. “Yes, it is,” replied Stanley, “…and who is this?”
“This,” said Darling excitedly, “…is your lucky day, Mr Morrison. It’s Sergeant Darling from Earlsfield Police. Your wage packet has just been handed in! Can you believe it?” Morrison couldn’t believe it, but thanked the sergeant profusely, then immediately made his way to the station to collect his property. When he arrived, he found the sergeant in a very jolly mood.
“In all my years on the force, I’ve never come across anything like it. You must be the luckiest man alive.” He opened the station safe, retrieved the wage packet and handed it to Morrison. Darling took out the Property at Station book and filled in the details. He turned the book to face Morrison, and pointed to where he should sign to indicate his property had been returned to him intact. Morrison took the proffered pen, and scanned the details before signing. “It doesn’t say here who found it. I’d like to reward them whoever it was.” Sergeant Darling closed the book and looked at him. “I’m awfully sorry, Mr Morrison but unless the finder grants permission for their details to be given, I can’t divulge them. On this occasion, permission was withheld. However, if you wish to reward them, I will ensure that the finder gets it. Paperwork is involved, but in this particular case, I’m happy to do it!”
Morrison opened the wage packet and counted out £50 which he deposited in the Police Widows and Orphans box situated on the counter top, much to Sergeant Darling’s delight. He then separated the notes into a further amount of £350. “Here,” he said, handing over the money, “please give this to the finder with my very best wishes and grateful thanks for their honesty. As far as I am concerned, I’d lost that money completely so I’m happy to have some of it back.”
Sergeant Darling thanked Morrison for his generosity and assured him that he would pass the reward onto the finder the very next morning on his way home from night duty.
Pulling up outside Mrs Dunk’s home just after 8.30am the following morning, Darling was as happy as he could remember. He literally ran up the steps to the front door and pushed the ancient doorbell. It rang for a few seconds then fell silent. After a very short while, the door opened and Mrs Dunk appeared. She smiled as he realised it was Sergeant Darling, then asked him to come in.
As they were walking into the lounge, Mrs Dunk spoke to the sergeant over here shoulder. “I hope you haven’t come to arrest me for handing that money in last night, sergeant?” she said, giggling like a schoolgirl. “No, definitely not,” replied Darling, smiling. “I’ve come to give you some very good news for you. If you put the kettle on, I’ll share it with you over a cup of tea!”
Mrs Dunk brought the tea and a small plate of biscuits, and then settled in the easy chair opposite where Sergeant Darling had seated himself. “Now,” she began, “what brings you to see me?” The sergeant could contain his happiness no longer. Grinning from ear to ear, he said: “Mrs Dunk, the owner of the wage packet you handed in was so delighted to get it back, he wants to reward you, and as you wouldn’t allow me to pass on your details, I guaranteed I’d give it to you personally.” So saying, he took out an envelope from his jacket pocket, and placed it on Mrs Dunk’s lap.
Mrs Dunk opened the envelope with a little difficulty, and then pulled out the bank notes inside. Medics could have spent countless hours debating whether her eyes or her mouth opened widest. “Sergeant Darling,” she said, “There must be at least £50 here!” The sergeant was still grinning. “There’s more than that, Mrs Dunk – it amounts to £350!”
Mrs Dunk glanced at the money, then replaced in the envelope. When she looked up at the sergeant, her eyes were brimming with tears. “You are so very kind, sergeant, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am,” she said quietly. “But I cannot accept this.” She handed the envelope to the sergeant, then took out a small handkerchief which had been tucked up the arm of her cardigan, and gently dabbed her eyes.
Sergeant Darling was exasperated. “Why ever not, Mrs Dunk – you earned it! As I’ve already told you, the owner of the money was delighted to get it back intact and he wants to reward you. I know you were worried that he might not be able to afford a reward, and I shouldn’t be telling you this, but let me assure you he definitely can afford it! Please, take the money and do something nice with it. You only have to sign this document and it’s yours!”
Mrs Dunk looked over at the police officer and placed a hand gently on his knee. “Sergeant,” she said, “if it pleases you so much, I’ll take it. It will help with my gas bills. Please thank everybody at the station and tell them I’ll pop in with some cakes later.”
After the sergeant left, Mrs Dunk rang her sister in Scotland. “Agnes,” she said, “you’ll never guess what’s happened. My local police station has given me a reward of £350 for handing in a lost wage packet I found on the bus. They told me it was from the owner, but although I’m old, I’m not daft – I know they’ve held a collection…!”
Last edited by Ronmac on July 7, 2008, 3:49 pm