March 26, 2011

"Trap Zombie" by Paul Grzegorzek

This is something that happened to me while I was a PC on the Divisional Intelligence Unit in Brighton back in 2007. At the time I was in charge of vehicle crime as well as working on undercover heroin test purchase operations, but this one particular thing happened while I was off duty and perhaps a little drunker than I should have been...

One particular type of vehicle crime that the division was being stung with was moped thefts. There were probably about a dozen early teen aged thieves who specialised in nicking mopeds for a laugh, and every morning I would come into work to find two or three more reported stolen across the division.

It was my job to stop these thefts from happening, and it’s a very different type of policing from responding to incidents on a job by job basis, which was what I had been used to before joining the intelligence unit.

Looking at the crime maps that my analyst, Amy, painstakingly put together, I realised that my house was smack bang in the middle of the hotspot area for these thefts, and after a fair bit of persuading I managed to convince one of the sergeants to let me run an operation with a trap moped, using my house as the OP.

I lived in a maisonette just down from Fiveways on Ditchling Road in Brighton, so the lounge had a wonderful view of the area outside from an elevated perspective and LST had been tasked to assist in my endeavours.

LST are the Local Support Team, a unit that specialises in riot duties, searches and a bit of plain clothes here and there. It was also my old unit so it was nice to be working with them again.

They were all pleased with the briefing, as it was in the lounge with tea and biscuits laid on, but after that it all began to go south. We briefed at about 2300 hours, with the intention that we would have the moped outside with the plugs removed so that they wouldn’t be able to start it. We then had a plain van at fiveways and an unmarked car just down the road, so between the seven of us (as it was my house I would stay in the OP with another officer on a rotation), we had the area well covered.

Initially I’d requested that the operation run from midnight until 0800 hours, as the peak times for thefts were at about 0300 – 0500, but as LST don’t work nights, I’d been lent the team from 2300 to 0400 instead. The team came complete with a sergeant, so despite the fact that it was my operation I was still outranked.

So when 0200 came around and the bike hadn’t been touched, I had to give in when the sergeant called it and took his troops off to do something more productive.

A couple of lads had looked at the moped just after midnight, but other than that we hadn’t had so much as a tickle, so I couldn’t really blame him.

When I went into the office the next afternoon I tried to explain that the timings hadn’t been right, but I got told in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t going to happen again so I’d lost my shot at it.

Grumbling, I tried to work out something else that might work, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t involve chopping peoples fingers off.
The weekend after this failed operation was Halloween, and as I had weekends off I actually made it to a friend’s party about fifty doors down on the other side of the road. I’d decided to go dressed as the lowlander (kilt and fencing shirt but done up as a zombie).

Having spent many years doing theatrical stuff I’m actually pretty bloody good at horror makeup. I spent about forty minutes making myself look as dead as possible, complete with proper stage blood all over me and liquid latex dried and then rubbed to make it look like my skin was peeling off in places.

Shoving my warrant card and my phone in my sporran, I ambled off down the road and got myself very, very drunk with my friends.

I woke up at about 0400. I was still zombified and had crashed out in one of the armchairs in the front room at the party. Someone had given me something horrific to drink called Schlob 40 or similar and it had totally wiped me out.

The party was pretty much reduced to drunken couples snogging in corners and people playing acoustic guitars in the back room, so I made my goodbyes and staggered back up the road, wondering how many sizes too big my head would feel when I sobered up.

As I crossed the road and walked up the hill towards my house, I saw something very strange just a few doors up from where I lived, next to the bus stop.

Two lads in their early teens had a for sale sign complete with post, and had one end of it in the road behind the bumper of a four wheel drive.

As I got closer, one of them noticed me and nudged the other one, and they both dropped the sign and hid in the bus stop. Suddenly I realised what they were doing.
Behind the 4x4 was a moped, with the post of the for sale sign wedged in the front wheel where they were trying to break the steering lock.

They were still peering at me from the bus stop, but I was too far away from them to make out any features so I stumbled drunkenly (an act, suddenly I was dead sober) into someone’s front garden with my keys out so that they would think I had missed them.

As soon as I was out of sight behind a bush I dialed three nines and explained what I’d seen. They promised to get a unit out to me straight away and were asking for more details when I saw one of the kids approaching, looking into gardens to see where I’d gone. I hung up and stuffed my phone back into my sporran, lurching out from behind the bush just in time to come face to face with the kiddie looking for me.

“Oy, come here!” I growled.

“Aaaarrgghh!” He screamed, and ran off faster than I would have thought possible.
It only occurred to me afterwards that I was still made up to look like a zombie.
As he ran, I saw the second lad come out from the bus stop and look down the road.

Realising that he was probably about to run, I steamed out of the garden and up to the bike. He stared at me with wide eyes as I stalked him round and around the moped.

“Come here, you,” I said, but he shook his head.

“No fucking way, no fucking way!”

“Come on, I’m not going to hurt you, I just want to talk.”

“No mate, you ain’t coming anywhere near me!”

We were going around in circles, him staying just far enough away that I couldn’t easily grab him, when suddenly I realised who he was.

“Pullen!” I said, and hearing his surname made him stop dead.

“Yeah, Jordan,” he replied as I leapt the several feet between us and grabbed his arm, throwing him to the ground and locking him into a ground pin.

You might think that I was being overly harsh, but the last time I’d seen young Mr. Pullen it had taken five officers to restrain him and he’d been foaming at the mouth while he assaulted three out of the five holding him down. I wasn’t about to be subjected to the same treatment, so he was firmly but not brutally pushed face down into the road while I arrested him for attempt theft.

He looked up at me and grimaced. “Uh, officer, can I ask why you’re wearing a skirt?”

I looked down, having forgotten all about my choice of apparel for the evening.

“Ah. It’s not a skirt, it’s a kilt. Far more manly than a skirt.”

“Oh.” He thought about this for a minute then looked back up. “Is that real blood?”

“No, Jordan, it’s not real blood.”

“Oh. I bet this is one of them fucking trap mopeds, innit?”

It took me almost a minute to stop laughing. When I finally finished he was looking really confused. “What?” He asked.

“Jordan, if this was a trap moped, do you really think I’d be dressed like a fucking zombie?”

Realising that I should probably update someone, I called again on three nines and spoke to an operator, explaining that I now had one in custody and that the other had made off. In the middle of the call I looked down at Jordan.

“What was your mate’s name?” I didn’t expect him to tell me, but bless him he gave everything but his partner in crime’s shoe size, which I relayed to the operator.

“Great, Inspector Pirrie is on the way and you’ve got another unit making.”

“Oh, bum. Did I mention that I’m made up like a zombie, covered in fake blood and wearing a kilt?”

The operator went silent for a minute, then “and you think you’re going to live this down, do you?”

“Probably not.”

As I waited for the inspector to arrive, I saw someone walking up the road towards us and freed one of my hands in case Jordan’s mate had grown some balls and decided to face down the zombie apocalypse.

Instead, it turned out to be just some random bloke walking past. As he passed us, he looked over at the kilted zombie holding a small teenager face first in the road in a nasty looking arm lock and tutted, then walked on without looking back.
Jordan and I shared an astonished look.

“Only in Brighton,” I muttered, and Jordan nodded agreement as best he could.

A few minutes later the Inspector arrived on scene and to her credit she managed to keep a straight face as I explained what happened and she cuffed Jordan. Another couple of officers turned up to assist, and I was asked if I could go the Nick and make an arrest statement, but the moment I let go of Jordan the alcohol came flooding back into my bloodstream and I could barely stand up or put two words together.

I begged off and promised that I’d come in first thing in the morning and make my statement, then staggered off home to get some well deserved rest before dragging myself back in a few hours later to write it all up as best I could with the mother of all hangovers.


Paul Grzegorzek is an ex-police officer from Brighton who had an interesting and varied career before moving back into private security for a number of reasons that will eventually come out in his blog.

He’s just finished his sixth novel and is forever writing short stories and blog entries when he should be doing the second draft. More stories like this one as well as lots of other interesting (he hopes) stuff at


  1. First off, thanks for the -30-. It's sadly fallen out of usage on this side of the pond, sigh. I have a friend who is a 911 dispatcher for the Sheriff's Dept. and this tale would not surprise her a bit. While reading and laughing I kept wondering if the cops from "Hot Fuzz" might have been the main characters. Ranks right up there with the best of the wonderfully deadpan police tales -- both true and fictional -- I've read over the years. Thanks for the giggles, Paul.

  2. And thank you for noticing, AJ. The print journalist nerd in me can't let the -30- go, or its originators the -xxx- and xxx.

    Police officers, like Paul, have the best stories. They live the definition of "stranger than fiction" every day.

    Smashing story, Paul, and thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. Working with the seedy underbelly of humanity for so long certainly provided a few good stories, and hopefully will provide many more before i hang up my pen...

  4. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm toying with the ieda of actually trying to get my police memoirs published (with the title Fall From Grace which will be explained by the last few chapters), but i think they might need more of a common thread rather than a jumbled collection of funny and sad memories...