Inspector Jason Salt was well equipped to deal with the unusual. Having lived in London all of his thirty-five years and serving with the Met for fifteen, it had left him with a weary resignation for the eccentricities of the human mind.
The most memorable incident was a call out to flat in Stratford where a tearful and bald young lady was furiously accusing her ex-boyfriend of braking into her home and shaving her head. He later pleaded guilty, claiming he’d shaved her head so that she would remain unattractive to other men. No one thought to ask what her current boyfriend thought when he awoke to find his girlfriends ex looming over him with an electric razor in hand.
The Inspector pulled into a hospital car park where his first call out of the day had brought him. Quickly running a comb through his greying hazel hair, and downing the last of his Starbucks Cappuccino, the Inspector hopped out of his car, adjusting the left trouser leg as it had once again managed to tucked itself into his sock, and headed towards reception. Stepping over the threshold, Inspector Salt was instantly hit by overly bright lighting and a smell of disinfectant, ammonia and old people musk, also known as 'That Hospital Smell'.
His newly polished Jimmy Choo shoes clipped loudly against the motlled plastic flooring as he crossed the foyer to the desk. There appeared to be only a handful of people waiting around in the foyer today, unusual for this part of town. A few glanced up, indifferent, at the sight of the Inspector, but most remained engrossed in the repeated 999 episode flickering upon the small television in the corner of the waiting room.
As Salt approached the reception desk, the young woman behind it acknowledged him with a fleeting glance before returning to her crossword. ‘Can I help?’ she asked, vacantly, tucking some blonde hair behind an ear.
‘I’m looking for a Sidney Turner,’ said the Inspector. ‘I’m here to interview him.’
The dispassionate receptionist look up at the Inspector, set down her pen and smirked. ‘Sidney Turner?’ she repeated, the grin widening across her face. ‘One second, I’ll just grab Doctor Kawase for you. I think he wanted to take you up himself.’
The receptionist pushed herself away from the desk. The chair rolled her towards a door where she stuck her head in and spoke to a disembodied voice. She glanced out and smiled at the Inspector, who smiled and nodded politely, but frowned as her head disappeared through the door once again.
A few minutes later the receptionist’s head emerged from the door and a young Asian man walked from the room, the same smirk plastered to his face.
‘Good-evening, ah –,’
‘Inspector Salt,’ said the Inspector, extending a hand towards the Doctor.
‘Doctor Kawase,’ replied the young man, accepting the Inspectors hand. ‘You’ve come about Mr Turner?’
‘Yes, we received a call from the hospital asking us to come down. They said something about cannibalism.'
The Doctors smile grew wider. ‘Not the way he tells it, Inspector.’
‘I’m sorry; I appear to have missed the punch line on my way here. What exactly is going on?’
Doctor Kawase let himself out from behind the reception and motioned towards an elevator. ‘Let’s go up, shall we?’
Both Doctor and Inspector stepped into an empty elevator. Doctor Kawase pushed the third floor button and stepped back in line with Salt, grinned at the Inspector then turned to face the front, the smirk staying firmly on his face.
‘Doctor Kawase is it? I’m sorry, but could you elaborate on what exactly is happening.’
‘I would, Inspector, but I really think you need to hear the story from Sidney yourself.’
The lift doors slid open and Doctor Kawase stepped out, looking back to check that Inspector Salt was following, and then took off down a wide, dimly light, grey corridor. Nurses and their patients bustled passed, some greeting Doctor Kawase, others eyeing Inspector Salt curiously.
Doctor Kawase stopped beside a room and motioned for Inspector Salt to enter. As Salt pushed open the door, a frail looking man looked around and beamed at the Inspector. Salt glanced at Kawase who merely nodded for him to go in.
‘Mr Turner is it?’ asked Inspector Salt, stepping into the room, pulling out a frayed notebook and a pen from his jack pocket.
‘That’s right.’ The old man extended a frail liver spotted hand towards the Inspector, who took it and shook firmly. ‘Sidney Turner.’
‘I’m Inspector Salt, Mr Turner. I’m come regarding the claims you’ve made that you were abducted and were unwillingly parted from your foot.’
‘Unwillingly parted,’ Sidney repeated, sounding somewhat surprised. ‘No, Inspector, I let him eat it.’
The Inspector blinked. He looked down at his notebook, staring blankly at the page, then back up. He blinked again. He became vaguely aware of his mouth moving, opening and closing like a fish out of water, and promptly stopped. The Inspector glanced towards Doctor Kawase who half smiled and shrugged.
‘You let another human eat your foot?’ asked Salt, looking at Sidney and thinking that this was quite definitely the most peculiar conversation he would have throughout his entire career.
‘Zombie,’ corrected the old man calmly. ‘I let a zombie eat my foot.’
I was wrong, he thought grimly, scribbling in his notebook. Inspector Salt took a deep calming breath. ‘I’m sorry, I don’t –’
‘We’d both been locked up for a couple of days and they hadn’t fed him anything in that time. I hadn’t walked anywhere for years so it wasn’t of use to me. I couldn’t let the poor chap starve, could I?’
‘I suppose not,’ mumbled the Inspector. ‘How did you know he was a zombie?’
‘He shuffled around with his arms out like this,’ – and here, Sidney demonstrated by holding his arms out at a stiff right-angle. – ‘The old chap groaned quite a bit too, and occasionally he would burp moths.’
The Inspector glanced down at the word “zombie” he had scrawled across a page in his notebook and looked back up into the old man’s creased face. ‘Are you on any medication, Mr Turner?’
‘You don’t believe me?’
‘No, it’s not that, it’s just that this is,’ – and here the Inspector paused, not for effect, but to search his vocabulary for the least offensive word. – ‘an unusual story. I’m not accustomed to dealing with zombies.’
‘Well, I don’t want you to deal with the Zombie, Inspector. I want to prosecute the bastards who put us in the room.’
‘Very well, but cannibalism is illegal in England Mr Turner so I will need to investigate these claims as well.’
‘I don’t see why that’s necessary,’ replied Sidney, waving a dismissive wrinkled hand. ‘I was merely performing my duties as a fellow prisoner. I fought in the war, you know.’
‘Oh?’ said Inspector Salt, feigning interest. ‘The second world war, was it?’
‘Korean,’ said the old man proudly, puffing out his scrawny chest. ‘No offence, son,’ he added to Kawase.
The Doctor looked up from Sidney’s chart, grinning widely. ‘None taken, as it happens, I’m Japanese.’
‘They had their part to play too –,’
‘Mr Turner,’ snapped Inspector Salt, his patience wearing increasingly thin, ‘if you could stay focused on the matter at hand. You say you let a cannibal eat your foot.’
‘Zombie,’ corrected the old man, scratching a liver spot on his bald head.
‘To physically eat your foot he would have to be alive,’ interjected Kawase.
‘Yes, but he was a zombie so, technically, he would be dead,’ argued Sidney.
The Inspector massaged his temples with an exasperated sigh. ‘Right, so, to sum up; you allowed a technically dead cannibal to eat your foot.’
The old man nodded. ‘Correct.’
Inspector Salt flipped his notebook closed. ‘I think I have everything I need to conduct the investigation,’ he said, accompanied by a forced polite smile. ‘Thank you for your time today and we’ll be in contact as soon as we have any more information.’ He turned towards the doctor. ‘Thank you for your time, Doctor Kawase.’
‘Thank you for coming down, Inspector,’ replied the Doctor, grinning.
The Inspector turned and marched from the ward. Ten minutes later he dropped into the driver’s seat of his faithful ghost of a car, jammed the key into the ignition and headed for the station, all the while looking out for a pub. He could do with a whiskey.