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.
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.
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Me, Andrew Cartmel and Lee Sullivan together again - signing things!
Because things need to be signed of course but also...
Black Mould Issue #1 is out that day!
Wednesday 12th October 2016
At Forbidden Planet's London Shop
Monday, 10 October 2016
Chapter 1: One of Sir Roger’s Lesser Works
I dreamt that I heard Mr Punch laughing gleefully by my ear, but when I woke I realised it was my phone. I recognised the number on the screen and so wasn’t surprised by the cool, posh voice that spoke when I answered.
‘Peter,’ said Lady Ty, ‘do you remember when we spoke at Oxford Circus?’
I remembered her finding me after I’d managed to get myself buried under the platform. I remembered her leaning over me once they’d dug me out, her breath smelling of nutmeg and saffron.
‘One day I will ask you for a favour. And do you know what your response will be?’
‘Yes ma’am,’ I said, remembering what I’d said then. ‘No ma’am – three bags full, ma’am.’
It was five in the morning – still dark – and rain was smattering against the French windows at the far end of Beverley’s bedroom. The only serious light came from the screen of my phone. The other half of the big bed was empty – I was alone.
‘One of my daughter’s friends has had an accident,’ said Lady Ty. ‘I want you to ensure my daughter is not implicated in the subsequent investigation.’
Oh shit, I thought. That kind of favour.
She gave me the address and what she knew of the circumstances.
‘You want me to prove your daughter wasn’t involved?’ I said.
‘You misunderstand,’ said Lady Ty. ‘I don’t care what her involvement is – I want her kept out of the case.’
She really had no idea what she was asking for, but I knew better than to try and explain.
‘Understood,’ I said.
‘And Peter,’ said Lady Ty, ‘Nightingale is not to know about this – is that clear?’
‘Crystal,’ I said.
As soon as she hung up, I called the Folly.
‘I rather think I’d have to have taken an interest in any case,’ said Nightingale once I’d briefed him. ‘Still, I shall endeavour to adopt a façade of ignorance until such time as you need me.’ He paused and then said: ‘And you will let me know when that moment arrives.’ It was not a question.
‘Yes, sir,’ I said, and hung up wondering why everyone felt the need to be so emphatic at this time of the morning.
Beverley owns both halves of a 1920s semi-detached house on Beverley Avenue in SW20. It’s a strange place, half furnished and under-used. Beverley told me when I first visited that she ‘sort of inherited it’ and hasn’t really decided what to do with the property yet. She sleeps in a ground floor room with easy access to the back garden. There’s just the Ikea bed with an incomprehensible name, two mismatched wardrobes, an antique mahogany chest of drawers and a Persian carpet that covers half the bare floorboards.
I reached out and felt the empty side of the bed – there was just a trace of warmth and a hint of oil on the pillow – Beverley had slipped away hours ago. I sighed, got out from under the warm duvet and shivered. The French windows were half open, letting in a cool breeze and the smell of rain. The bathroom upstairs didn’t have a shower so I had a quick bucket bath in the huge oval tub, which I knew from happy experience easily accommodated two people at once, and got dressed.
Everything related to operational matters in the Met is monitored. Which means you can’t just open your AWARE terminal and go fishing for information without having a damn good excuse.
So while I was buffing up my shoes I called DC Guleed, who I knew was doing the night shift in the Homicide Assessment car that week.
‘Hi Peter,’ she said. Behind her I could hear a hushed indoor ambiance and people being professional.
I asked whether she’d heard of a shout in Knightsbridge, a suspicious drug-related death.
‘Why do you want to know?’ asked Guleed, which I suspected meant she was on the scene.
In the background I heard a vast and familiar Mancunian voice demanding to know who Guleed was talking to – DCI Alexander Seawoll. Who, as SIO, shouldn’t even be out of bed until the Homicide Assessment Team had finished their work.
‘It’s Peter,’ she called back. ‘He wants to know about our suspicious death.’
‘Tell him if it’s not one of his he can fuck off,’ said Seawoll.
‘Do you have an interest in this?’ asked Guleed.
‘There may be some related issues,’ I said, which was sort of true given that Tyburn’s daughter was involved. I heard Guleed pass this on and some grumbled swearing from Seawoll.
‘Tell him to get his arse down here pronto,’ he said.
‘He wants you to come in,’ said Guleed and gave me the address.
Before I left I switched off my phone and stepped out the back into the garden. The rain had eased to a misty drizzle that quickly beaded my hair and the leather of my jacket. Beverley’s garden is vast by London standards, running fifty metres down to the bank of the river, and twice as wide as her neighbours’. Despite the light pollution sullenly reflected off the low cloud, I decided not to risk tripping over the random bits of garden furniture I knew littered the overgrown lawn and conjured a werelight to show me the way.
Beverley Brook rises in Worcester Park in southeast London and flows through a ridiculous number of other parks, recreation grounds and golf courses before joining her mother at Barn Elms. She says that while she averages half a cubic metre of water per second, she’s had it up to six cubic metres per second a couple of times. And unless she gets some more care, attention and the occasional bottle of Junipero Gin, she’s not going to be responsible for where that surplus water’s going to end up.
Not a threat, you understand. But it’s wise not to take a river for granted – trust me on this.
At the end of Beverley’s garden is a bank fringed with young alder and ash striplings that drops down to the river. For most of its length Beverley Brook is shallow enough that you can clearly see the stones at the bottom, but here there was a deep pool overshadowed by a weeping willow. The surface was dark and coldly reflected my milky blue werelight as it bobbed around me in a slow orbit.
‘Hey, Bev,’ I called. ‘You in there?’
For all I knew she was kilometres away visiting her mum’s place in Wapping. Or patrolling the Thames for waifs and suicides, or whatever else it was she and her sisters spend their time searching for.
But she’s been known to surface when I’ve called her name, and once she leapt like a salmon, naked and glistening, into my arms – so it’s always worth a try.
This time there was no response. Just the drizzle and the grumble of the Kingston Bypass on the other side of the river. I waited about a minute, just so I could claim I’d waited five, and then headed back up the garden.
I walked out via the side gate, past Beverley’s Kia Picanto to where the Orange Asbo was parked. Once inside I checked my evidence bag was in the back and that the Airwave charger was plugged in, started her up and headed for Knightsbridge.
One Hyde Park squatted next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel like a stack of office furniture, and with all the elegance and charm of the inside of a photocopier. Albeit a brand new photocopier that doubled as a fax and a document scanner. Now, I have – as Beverley says – views about architecture. But there’s modern stuff I like. The Gherkin, the Lloyd’s building, even the Shard – despite the nagging feeling I get that Nazgûl should be roosting at the top. But the truth is that in the case of One Hyde Park my boy Sir Roger was definitely just putting in the hours for the pay check. It’s not ugly as such . . . it’s just not anything in particular. It is famously the most expensive block of flats in Britain, which just goes to show that property really is all about location, location, location.
The actual building is comprised of four towers that the brochures call ‘pavilions’ running between the Oriental Mandarin Hotel on the east side and the Edinburgh Gate into Hyde Park on the west. The north and south aspects are wedged-shaped to maximise natural daylight. As a result, if you look at a floor plan it looks like two Star Destroyers have backed into each other during manoeuvres. As I approached up the A4 I saw that all the lights were out on every floor, except for one flat halfway up the second tower from the end – so no trouble finding the crime scene, then.
Parking was a different matter, but the secret to avoiding a ticket when you’re police is to snuggle your reasonably priced unmarked motor in amongst the Battenberg checked IRVs and sprinter vans that accumulate at any crime scene. These I found crowded under the strange concrete canopy that stretches over the Edinburgh Gate. I noticed they also blocked the driveway to where the car lifts waited to whisk the money-mobiles of the rich down to the underground car park.
I’d read that the facilities below ground included a private gym, swimming pool, squash court and wine cellars – I really hoped that I didn’t have to go down there. It’s not that I’m claustrophobic, only that I’ve had practical experience of just how much the sodding earth can weigh and the taste despair can leave in your mouth.
Guleed was waiting by the cylindrical glass entrance to the lobby. Having worked with me on numerous occasions, she fell on me with cries of glee.
‘I don’t suppose you’d just consider fucking off?’ she said.
I was shocked.
‘Language,’ I said.
‘Don’t you start,’ she said.
I noticed she was wearing a rather fine purple silk hijab with a fringe design picked out in silver thread, a matching jacket and an elegant long black skirt. I did not think she’d planned to be out policing tonight.
‘Did you have a date?’ I asked.
‘No,’ she said. ‘Birthday party.’
‘I thought you were in the HAT car this week.’
‘I swapped,’ she said. ‘So I could go to the birthday party.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Sorry.
‘Is this going to be like the thing with the BMWs?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘I’ve only just got here.’
Guleed nodded to the PCSO guarding the entrance.
‘Put him on the list,’ she said and then to me: ‘You’re going to love this place.’
More next Monday!
Available to buy here and in all good book shops and most of the bad ones as well.
Friday, 7 October 2016
Monday, 19 September 2016
Guleed in Action!
Gospel Oak's Answer to Natalia Romanova isn't about to tolerate any aggro from fungus!
On sale: October 12
Rivers of London: Black Mould #1
Writers: Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel
Artist: Lee Sullivan
FC - $3.99 - 32pp