Friday, 24 February 2017
Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Sunday, 29 January 2017
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
The Litany Against Fear from Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
Thursday, 26 January 2017
Friday, 20 January 2017
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Friday, 13 January 2017
Monday, 19 December 2016
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Monday, 21 November 2016
THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK
AND YOURS TRULY!
Tuesday 22nd Stanmore Library (Harrow) 18:00 - 19:30
8 STANMORE HILL
Contact the library for tickets.
020 3724 7705
Buy advance copies of the book from Stanmore Library
Light refreshments will be available
Wednesday 23nd Hammersmith Library 18:00 - 19:30
Bookings 020 8753 3820
Shepherds Bush Road
Near Hammersmith underground station, opposite the police station.
Saturday 26th Chipping Barnet Library 15:00 - 16:30
3 Stapylton Road
Barnet, EN5 4QT
Telephone (Enquiries) 020 8359 4040
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Q&A and Thing!
Hackney Central Library
1 Reading Lane
London E8 1DY
Tonight! 16th November
WHAT THEY SAY!
Ben Aaronovitch will be at Central library to promote his new book, The Hanging Tree, book 6 in the Sunday Times bestselling Peter Grant series. Come along, listen to a reading, grab a selfie with the author and get yourself a signed copy of one of his books. Copies of all the titles in the series will be on sale on the night through local bookshop Pages of Hackney.
WHAT I SAY!
Be there or be a rectangular thing!
Monday, 24 October 2016
Guleed always claimed that she’d joined the police on a dare. ‘My sister bet me I wouldn’t send off the application,’ she’d told me when we’d been doing the thing with the haunted BMWs, ‘but I didn’t think I’d be accepted.’ When I’d asked about the mandatory interview, she said she’d had nothing better to do that day. ‘What did your parents think?’ I’d said.
‘They thought the starting salary was a bit on the low side.’
‘What about your friends?’ I’d asked, and Guleed had changed the subject.
Guleed was one of Seawoll’s favoured few, one of his Valkyries. And he was determined to push her up the fast track. Sending her off to handle a tricky interview like the one with Olivia McAllister-Thames was part test, part toughening exercise, and part vote of confidence.
Tyburn lived a kilometre east of One Hyde Park, just off the Shepherd’s Market, in a five storey Georgian terrace whose elegant proportions would have caused the most hardened Canadian property developer’s soul to weep to see such beauty – just prior to having the place gutted and filled with the latest in personality-free interior design. I couldn’t see Tyburn doing that – she wanted the connection with the past, with the old institutions and traditions of the city. She saw it as her birthright.
I rang the doorbell and as we waited me and Guleed intoned the Londoner’s lament.
‘Look at this place,’ said Guleed.
‘How much do you reckon?’
‘Eight million,’ I said. ‘Last time I looked.’
‘Alright for some,’ said Guleed, to which my ritual response would have been ‘isn’t it just’? But right then the front door opened and Lady Ty stood there looking at us if we’d turned up with some colourful pamphlets and an evangelical zeal to get her to change her energy supplier.
I let Guleed do all the talking – I’m good that way with my colleagues.
When Lady Ty led us into the kitchen, Olivia wrinkled her nose and shot an inquiring look at her mother who cut her off with a glare.
Olivia McAllister-Thames was pale, much lighter than me, with brown hair that fell into the sort of natural ringlets that my mum would have sacrificed her first born to possess. She’d retained her mother’s eyes though, a deep brown colour and pinked up at the corners like a cat’s. She wore an oversized amber rugby jersey that fell almost to her knees, jeans and purple flip-flops. Sitting next to Olivia was a white middle aged man who Lady Ty introduced as her solicitor. He got up politely as we entered and shook our hands – Olivia did not. We all sat down at the kitchen table.
Outside London, modern policing leans towards table-free interviews on the basis that it’s easier to read someone’s body language, and record it on CCTV, if there isn’t a cigarette scarred stretch of laminated chipboard in the way. I wondered if Lady Ty knew that, which was why we weren’t doing this in the living room – or if she just didn’t want me rifling through her Blu-ray collection.
Guleed passed me the statement form, so I had to hunt around in my pockets for a decent pen. Most statements are taken by hand, and it pays to picky about your writing implements and cultivate an easy flowing style – I use a Mitsubishi uni-ball, in case you were wondering.
We started with caution plus two, which involves us scaring the interviewee to death with the normal caution – ‘You do not have to say anything, etcetera, etcetera . . .’– and then right when they’re sure we’re going to march them off to the cells we throw in ‘but you are not under arrest at this time and are free to leave if you want to’ at the end. The solicitor nodded sagely as Guleed reeled it off, Olivia stared at the table and Lady Ty gave me a sour smile at ‘free to leave’.
Guleed warmed up by asking where Olivia went to school. St Paul’s, which was a hideously expensive private school in Hammersmith, although because she was a day student it probably only cost the equivalent of a police constable’s starting salary. She was hoping to go to Cambridge, but first there was the gap year – Olivia pronounced it ‘gap yar’ – when she planned to do good somewhere in the third world.
‘Teaching English,’ she said. ‘Or building orphanages – I haven’t decided which.’
‘Somalia perhaps,’ said Lady Ty. And then, to me, ‘or Sierra Leone.’
‘Mrs Thames,’ said Guleed, ‘I’d be grateful if you could allow your daughter to answer the questions on her own.’
I saw a flash of anger on Lady Ty’s face followed by a hint of amusement and respect.
Guleed asked where Olivia lived, whether this was her only address and other questions she already knew the answers to but which allowed her to circle around to where Olivia had been last night. I clocked the brief – he looked a bit complacent to me, but there was a sheen of sweat on his lip. Family solicitor, I decided, more used to conveyancing and moving Lady Ty’s wealth around than to police interviews.
‘Was your mum here last night?’ asked Guleed.
Olivia hesitated and her eyes flicked towards her mum, who stared fixedly at Guleed.
‘Yes,’ said Olivia, ‘as far as I know.’
‘Was your father at home too?’ asked Guleed.
‘He’s out of the country,’ said Lady Ty.
Guleed asked where he might be.
‘Is this relevant?’ asked the lawyer.
‘Just establishing a timeline,’ said Guleed.
‘He’s in Dubai,’ said Lady Ty. ‘On a contract.’
‘Really,’ said Guleed. ‘What kind of contract?’
‘He’s a civil engineer,’ said Lady Ty and then, staring directly at me, said, ‘He specialises in hydrology, water management systems, that sort of thing.’ She looked back to Guleed. ‘He’s the top man in his field.’
Me and Guleed knew all this, of course, because not only had we asked for an IIP check before we’d arrived, and not only do I, as a matter of routine, keep dossiers on all the Rivers these days, but also because Beverley had got pissed a couple of weeks previously and spent all night bending my ear about Lady Ty and her ‘perfect bloody husband’. According to Bev there were only two things that could improve George McAllister-Thames in her mum’s eyes, one was a medical degree and the other was a bit more of a sun tan.
‘And what do you do?’ asked Guleed.
‘Detective,’ said the lawyer, staring at her. ‘Really?’
‘I’m curious,’ said Guleed.
‘Hasn’t the starling told you?’ asked Lady Ty.
Lady Ty tilted her head in my direction.
‘Your colleague,’ she said.
‘She sits on a bunch of quangos,’ said Olivia, staring at a point on the table midway between us. ‘And is a director on like a gazillion boards.’
‘Five,’ said Lady Ty. ‘I’m a non-executive director for five firms.’
‘So not the Goddess of the River Tyburn then?’ asked Guleed.
I winced and Olivia rolled her eyes, but fortunately Lady Ty was in a whimsical mood.
‘That’s not precisely a job, now is it?’ she asked. ‘And rather beside the point.’
The lawyer opened his mouth to speak, but Guleed quickly turned to Olivia and asked how many people had been in the flat.
‘Don’t know,’ said Olivia.
‘I see,’ said Guleed. ‘Why don’t we start with the people you do know were there.’
Olivia squirmed in her seat like a five year old – this is why your brief tells you to keep your mouth shut during an interview. She made Guleed work for it, but in the end she confirmed that she along with several others had been in the flat. She hadn’t known the dead girl, Christina Chorley, and she didn’t know how the party had gained access to One Hyde Park.
‘We went through the hotel next door,’ she said. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel provided a complete package of services for the denizens of One Hyde Park, ranging from cleaning and catering to dog walking and aromatherapy, and there was an underground tunnel from the hotel to the estate. From there, the kids travelled up the segregated service core and into the flat.
‘I was just following everyone else,’ she said and claimed to have been a bit squiffy. One of the guys might have known the codes to the security doors – she thought his name was James, but she didn’t know his surname. So it could have been James Murray, the unfortunate Christina’s boyfriend, but you can’t afford to make assumptions like that. She did know the names of Albertina Pryce, a fellow student at St Paul’s, and her boyfriend Alasdair somebody or other who was at Westminster, Maureen who was someone’s older sister and Rod, whatever that was short for, Crawfish or something like that – definitely Scottish.
‘He had one of those posh Scottish accents,’ said Olivia.
Guleed circled around the names and the timeline for twenty minutes, twenty minutes being about the amount of time it takes your average suspect – sorry, I mean witness – to forget the details of the lies they’ve just told you, before asking about the drugs.
‘What drugs?’ asked Olivia, her eyes flicking towards the walnut reproduction French farmhouse cupboard with, I was pleased to note, one shelf that displayed a 1977 Jubilee commemoration plate along with two more plates with photographs custom printed on them – one each for Olivia and her brother from at least three years ago. Judging by the pained expressions, formal pose and school uniforms they’d been reproduced from school photographs. My mum has a shelf like that in the living room with, amongst others, a Lady Diana commemorative plate set and my Hendon graduation photo.
‘These,’ said Guleed and showed Olivia a picture on her tablet – a spray of small pink pills lay across a sheet of white paper. Each one was marked with a smiling elephant’s head – Magic Babas.
Olivia glanced at the picture, then sideways at her mother, and I saw her make the wrong decision. But, before I could say anything, she opened her mouth and stuck her future in it.
‘Yeah, I bought those,’ she said. ‘What about it?’
Available to buy here and in all good book shops and most of the bad ones as well.
iBooks: http://apple.co/2ehCsTFKobo: http://bit.ly/2ehgqRU
Friday, 21 October 2016
Monday, 17 October 2016
This a continuation of an extract from Chapter One of the upcoming The Hanging Tree
You can find Part One here.
She led me through the transparent cylindrical airlock style door onto a mezzanine balcony and down a set of stairs into a double height reception area with leather chairs and the sort of meaningless sculpture that’s bought by the ton by particularly greedy banks. Through transparent walls, rumoured to be bullet proof, I could see a small faux garden and – through another layer of security glass – the dim and dangerous streets of downtown Knightsbridge.
Beside the reception desk stood a fit looking man with brown skin, black hair and a good quality off-the-peg suit. Possibly Indonesian, I thought. He also managed the trick of looking both alert and bored out of his skull at the same time – ex-Job, ex-military, ex-intelligence – something like that.
The level of security struck me as a bit paranoid but, as my dad says, the more they have the more they worry about it being taken away.
The security man gave me and Guleed a sour look as we passed and I responded with a friendly smile and a cheery ‘Good morning’. Because I am an officer of the law and, providing I’m not nobbled by political considerations and/or influence peddling, my arm doth reach into all places, yea even unto the citadels of the mighty.
This particular citadel of the mighty was reached by a glass sided lift which ran up a completely transparent service core that allowed one – and one assumes that here one refers to one as one – to appreciate the view over Hyde Park which, after all, is what one has paid upwards of ten million to enjoy.
The glass elevator led out into a cross passage where we did the dance of the noddy suit whereby the grave dignity of the law is mitigated by the need to hop on one foot while you try and get the stupid paper leg over the other. Guleed, it turned out, was wearing leggings under her skirt – which she left, along with her scarf, in the clear plastic bag provided. Once we were safely zipped up in our hygienic forensically-neutral paper suits Guleed led me to the left, where a pair of mahogany doors had been propped open with a portable light stand. Beyond was a short hallway with a curved far wall and a lot of abstract art on the walls.
In home furnishing terms, past a certain point, more money doesn’t get you anything except an increase in insurance premiums. An elegantly proportioned room can have whitewashed walls and a bare wooden floor. But if it’s an awkward shape, then all the piano-finish rosewood occasional tables riches can provide aren’t going to do anything more than annoy the cleaners. One Hyde Park, I saw, had all the basic architectural charm of a brutalist council flat – except on a larger scale. The rooms were much wider, of course. But pressure to maximise the number of flats meant that the ceilings were disproportionately low.
We found Seawoll just around the corner in what the plans listed as a ‘study’. The architects had laid out each wing to maximise the light, with a long central corridor and side rooms branching off like the veins in a leaf. This meant they all had walls on the diagonal, severely restricting the decorator’s choice about where furniture could be placed. If you didn’t want to block the doors, the access or blot out the windows then the beds, cupboards, shelves and all the other stuff that turns a concrete box into a home had to go where the architect thought they should go. In the study, this meant a desk that could neither face the window for the view nor face away to take advantage of the light. Instead, the black mirror finish desk with the stainless steel legs stood in front of matching glass fronted bookcases that, as far as I could tell, contained a number of lumpy glass and chrome objects and a couple of soft porn albums cunningly disguised as cutting edge nude photography. Still in their shrink wrap, I noticed.
Seawoll sat in the executive leather operator’s chair behind the desk wearing a dangerously stretched noddy suit that made him look like the Michelin Man’s slightly deflated older brother.
‘You’ll notice that you can’t swivel all the way round,’ he said. ‘What fucking use is a swivel chair if you can’t fucking swivel on it?’ He spotted me trying to read the titles on the books.
‘Don’t bother, they’re just window dressing,’ he said. ‘As far as we can tell nobody lives here.’
I looked at a framed photograph of a young white woman with a dog.
‘Who owns the place, then?’ I asked.
‘Some tax dodging shell company out of Jersey,’ said Seawoll, running his fingers along the bottom of the desk top – looking for secret drawers, I guessed. ‘We won’t be able to trace that until the lads at Proactive Money Laundering can drag one of their experts out of bed.’ He gave up on the idea of secret drawer and jabbed a finger at Guleed.
‘Sahra,’ he said. ‘Get on the phone and give them a kicking.’
‘Gladly,’ said Guleed, and left.
‘Her brother’s an accountant,’ said Seawoll, watching her go. ‘So. What the fuck are you doing here?’
I considered lying for all of about two nano-seconds, but I don’t have a death wish – not even a figurative one. Of course, philosophically speaking, truth is a slippery concept and one should always be alive to nuance.
‘I got a tip off from a source that there might be some tangential Falcon involvement,’ I said. And because I saw Seawoll begin to draw himself up, ‘Lady Cecelia Tyburn-Thames believes her daughter may have been here when the incident occurred.’
‘And she wants you to put the fix in?’
‘Do you know what the “incident” is?’
‘Accidental drug overdose,’ I said.
‘So I bet you’re wondering what the fuck I’m doing here?’ he asked.
I felt a trickle of sweat work its way down my back.
‘You wanted a peek into the lifestyles of the rich and shameless?’ I said.
‘Because nobody was supposed to have access to this flat,’ he said. ‘Did you see the DPG cars downstairs?’
The Diplomatic Protection Group do bodyguard work for Royals and those people HM Government would rather were not done-in while resident in the UK. They’re routinely armed and drive around in red liveried vehicles – red to indicate that they are not there to break up fights, find your toddler or tell you the bloody time.
‘No, sir,’ I said.
‘Really?’ said Seawoll. ‘The lazy buggers must have sloped off for refs.’
He explained that, what with the screened entrance, bullet proof quality glass on the lower levels and the kind of semi-professional security that would gladden the heart of a putative generalissimo, this was the sort of place that the DPG knew they could park their high value targets.
‘Qatari Royal Family amongst them,’ said Seawoll.
And then not have to worry about them until they ventured forth to shop at Harvey Nicks or go to the opera or impoverish a small nation – or whatever else it was the very, very rich did when they had time on their hands.
‘So when a bunch of fucking kids waltz into the building, the DPG wants to know how. And I get woken up in the middle of the fucking night,’ said Seawoll. ‘And told to find out on pain of getting a bollocking. Me?’ he said in outrage. ‘Getting a bollocking? And just when I thought things couldn’t descend further into the brown stuff – here you are.’
With a grunt he levered himself to his feet, causing the chair to bang against the bookcase behind him and set the various objet d’bollocks rattling.
‘See,’ he said, once he was up. ‘Not even room enough to lean back and get yourself a bit of light relief. Mind you, there’s a media room next door that would do very nicely for a private viewing room.’ He must have seen that I’d lost the thread of his conversation.
‘Like they used to have in porn shops when there were proper porn shops?’ he said slowly, and then shook his head. ‘I suppose you lot get your mucky pictures uploaded to your phones.’
I wondered if he talked like this to Guleed. I doubted it, somehow.
He led me through to the media room, which was a cool grey-green and lined with sound absorbing material. There was a vast television, wider than some of the screens I’ve seen in retrofitted multiplexes, and an elegant curving sofa that actually suited the room it was in. It had also, if I’m any judge, been shagged upon in the last few hours. There was a V-shaped stain in the middle and the throw cushions, in amethyst and teal covers, had been pushed onto the floor. There was an island of wine bottles in the centre of the coffee table and a pair of wine glasses on the shelf by the Blu-ray player – both were white with fingerprint dust.
‘Behold,’ said Seawoll. ‘The wank palace itself.’
‘I don’t think they were wanking, sir,’ I said, and Seawoll sighed.
‘You’ve always got to push it, haven’t you Peter?’ he said, and outlined the details of the case.
At twelve thirty a 999 call had been made by a young man from a mobile phone asking for an ambulance and claiming that his friend ‘Chrissy’ was having an overdose and needed help. He was . . .
‘. . . hysterical, desperate and,’ said Seawoll, ‘obviously out of his box.’
But when the ambulance arrived, security wouldn’t let them into the building, claiming that the flat was unoccupied. The ambulance crew reported it to CCC who sent an instant response vehicle around, which ran straight into a pair of DPG officers responding because the building alarm was set up to inform them directly. Everyone piled up in the lifts, security opened the flat door and, voila, they found Christina Chorley aged seventeen lying in the entrance hall in the midst of a seizure.
She’d been dragged there by her boyfriend James Murray, also seventeen. James told the paramedics and everybody else in the immediate vicinity that ‘It was just E’s, it was just E’s.’ Had he taken them? Yes, he had. Who else was in the flat? It was just them. Oh god, it was just E’s.
Off in the ambulance went the pair of them while both sets of police kicked their problem upstairs until it bounced off DCI Seawoll’s bedroom window.
‘Metaphorically speaking,’ said Seawoll.
The ‘entrance hall’ was the wide, wedged shaped, low ceilinged room with an unparalleled view over Hyde Park. I was getting used to the sheer amount of money wasted on the furniture, which was spread out like something designed for The Sims. In amongst the money there were signs that people had been having a good time — more bottles, wine glasses, empty cellophane packets, a flat pool of oatmeal coloured vomit on the carefully chosen hand-woven cream wool rug. Definitely more than two people. At least six or seven, I thought. Maybe more, if they were particularly tidy teens.
Not so tidy that they didn’t leave their pills behind when they scrambled to get out.
‘We think they left as soon as James Murray made his 999 call,’ said Seawoll. Both the police and the paramedics entered a description of the pills into the TICTAC database and got a name – Magic Babas – and the worrying information that this particular brand tended to be heavy on the PMA, otherwise known as paramethoxyamphetamine, or Dr Death. Not MDMA, otherwise known as Ecstasy, otherwise known as the drug that allows you to listen to really dull music without your brain imploding from boredom. Seriously. PMA is a lot more toxic than MDMA and kicks in slower, so users have been known to swallow another couple of pills thinking the first were duds, and then suffer what Dr Walid would describe as ‘deleterious effects’.
Given that Christina Chorley had died on the way to hospital, it was important to find out who else had taken the Magic Babas in case they needed treatment – and to find out quickly. Before James Murray keeled over himself.
At first James had tried to claim that he and Christina had been alone in the flat, but five minutes with DI Stephanopoulos, who having been pulled untimely from her wife’s embrace, was particularly pissed off that morning, saw him coughing names as fast as they could be written down.
‘Amongst them was the name Olivia Jane McAllister-Thames,’ said Seawoll. ‘Now, I’ve got a few questions that need answering. Like, how did they get in? Where did the drugs comes from? And can I get a result before this case turns into a great big fucking media shit storm?’
I joined him at the window. It was getting light and a thick mist was washing out the trees and pastures of Hyde Park and the city beyond. Seawoll pointed down to a pair of statues in the faux garden at the back of the estate – two bronze heads that looked like they’d been flattened in a Corby trouser press and then had their brains scooped out.
‘It’s called Waiting For Enlightenment,’ said Seawoll, looking at the statues. ‘But if you ask me it’s a fucking rip-off of The Foothills of the Headlands from Yellow Submarine.’ Which meant nothing to me. ‘God, money is so wasted on the rich.’
‘Do you want me to statement Olivia McAllister-Thames?’ I asked.
‘No,’ he said. ‘I want Sahra to do that.’ He waved airily back at the flat. ‘Have you had a chance to check for any tingles?’
I said, with some dignity, that I had done an initial Falcon assessment and found nothing that indicated that a supernatural event had taken place on the premises.
‘Thank Christ for that,’ said Seawoll. ‘In that case you can go with Guleed and make sure nothing weird happens to her.’
Seawoll, like most of the senior officers who were aware of the Folly, might not like me using the m-word. But they weren’t about to ignore anything that might have an impact at an operational level. It’s understandable. You may not want to dwell on the fact that eighty percent of infant homicides are committed by the parents, but you’re still going to make the grieving mum and dad your prime suspects until proved otherwise.
‘In fact,’ he said, ‘I’m making you personally fucking responsible for making sure nothing weird happens to her. If you can’t guarantee that, I want your boss down here to do the job instead – understand?’
‘Yes, guv,’ I said.