“So, madame, this happened just a couple of minutes ago?”
“Can you describe the man, please?”
“Well, he wasn’t very tall.”
“He was short?”
“Not really short, no.”
“So, average height then. Skin colour?”
“Well, he wasn’t a black man, but then he wasn’t really white white either.”
“Okay. Hair colour? Light, dark?”
“Mmm, hard to say. Somewhere in between?”
“Right. Any distinctive features. At all?”
“He had an old-fashioned face.”
The sergeant’s pencil paused above his notepad. He glanced about at the milling Covent Garden crowds.
“An old-fashioned face, madame?”
“Yes,” the woman nodded emphatically.
The sergeant wrote the words ‘OLD FASHIONED FACE’ slowly and deliberately, then frowned at them.
“So, he was an older gentleman then?”
“No, no. Not old. Not young, though, either.”
The sergeant looked at the woman. “Can you explain in what way his face was old-fashioned, madame?
“Like it was from a bygone era.”
“I see. Was he wearing anything old-fashioned? Vintage, perhaps?” The sergeant added hopefully.
“No, nothing like that. His clothes were perfectly normal. It was just his face.”
“From a bygone era?”
“Any particular era, madame?”
“Maybe,” she thought for a moment, “Victorian?”
The sergeant wrote ‘VICTORIAN’ below ‘BYGONE ERA’. “Right madame, I’ll just inform my colleagues and we’ll see if we can track him down. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot.”
He spoke into his walkie-talkie. “Suspect is a male, not IC1 or IC3, of average height, hair between light and dark, wearing normal clothes and he has…” the sergeant took a breath, “an old-fashioned face.”
Static crackled. “Say again, Sarge? Old-fashioned face?”
“That’s right, Dobbs. Possibly Victorian.”
“Victorian, Sarge? When was that?”
“Bit over a hundred years ago, Dobbs.”
“So, he’s over a hundred, Sarge?”
“Just see if you can spot a man who matches that description, will you, Dobbs?”
“There he is,” the woman shrieked and pointed. “Hey. Hey, you with the old-fashioned face, come back.”
A man in the crowd turned his head then broke into a run. The sergeant leapt after him, dodging round tourists and street artists. The man glanced over his shoulder at the pursuing officer, tripped over a gold-painted mime and rolled to the floor. The sergeant ran up and hauled him to his feet.
“Right son, you’re nicked. Bloody hell, you really do have an old-fashioned face.”