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Friday, August 21, 2015

True Story: A few days in the life of a detective by Luke Delaney (The Toy Taker book tour)

A few days in the life of a detective. 
Luke Delaney. 
Metropolitan Police Detective - Retired.

Sunday– a little past seven in the morning and I’m standing at a bus stop on my way to work. It’s absolutely freezing and the rain, that feels more like ice, is coming down at a forty-five degree angle, forcing me to take cover behind the side of the bus shelter. I think of the warmth of my wife and the faces of my three young children who will soon be demanding to know why daddy isn’t there – again. 

The weather truly is foul, making the sky dark of forbidding, as if it knows something I don’t, but I welcome it. Apparently it’s been as bad as this all night. I breath I sigh of relief and remind myself of the old saying – Rain? Best policeman in the world. I’m pretty confident the adverse conditions would have kept the particular part of London I covered quiet overnight, which means there shouldn’t be too much to deal with. I may even get a chance to catch up on some paperwork – the curse of every busy detective. Who knows – I might even be able to salvage some of the weekend and get home before the kids are marshaled off to bed. It’s already been a heavy week at work – a heavy month and I could have done with the weekend off to re-charge, but it wasn’t to be. Never mind – at least the weather’s foul.

I feel my mobile phone ringing before I hear it and pointlessly look around to make sure I’m alone. The display says number withheld. This is bad news. This time on a Sunday morning it can only mean one thing. I start to feel a little sick, but answer anyway. What choice do I have? My fears are quickly confirmed – it’s the Night Duty CID phoning to give me a heads up. There’s been two serious robberies. Both victims are seriously injured and in hospital – four local hooligans have been nicked and await my attentions.

Instinctively I know what the next three days will be like – no sleep, bad food, dangerous amounts of caffeine and pain killers, but this one’s especially bad because I already feel exhausted and the job’s only just begun. If I could have just had one day to rest. Still, you rarely got to choose in this job. The bus arrives and takes me on the short mournful journey to the station. By the time I get there I’ve already scrambled the other weekend staff to get in as fast as possible so we can get on with the investigation as soon as possible. From the moment the suspects were arrested the clock is against me. I have twenty-four hours to get enough evidence to charge my charming guests or they’ll be released. I can ask the Superintendent to give my a twelve hour extension and I already know I’m going to need it and if that’s not enough I can always apply to the Magistrates for a longer extension, but they could say no. Better to get the job done, so we’re going to have to push ourselves to the limit or fail.

The first day if a constant blur of talking to defence solicitors, interviews, checking on the unfortunate victims, both of whom have been kicked near to death, their heads looking like grotesque footballs, eyes swollen shut, lips sealed closed with dried blood. They’re both still unconscious. One’s sixty-years old and never truly recovers from the attack – all faith he had in humanity lost forever. And there’s forensic evidence to preserve, witnesses to find, CCTV to recover and watch. One piece of footage shows the suspects attacking the old man and for the first time we see they initially smash a bottle over his head to bring him to ground before kicking him unconscious. It’s hard to watch, even for a seasoned detective. What I wouldn’t give for a little time alone with our four heroes.

I get home around 3.30am, exhausted, but unable to sleep, my head buzzing and throbbing and fully aware I’m not even halfway through the investigation yet. I sneak upstairs, trying not to wake the kids and slip into bed next to my wife. She asks me if I’m ok and I lie and tell her yes. I lie their for about three hours until the alarm clock goes off and sure enough I feel like I could sleep for the first time, so quickly climb from the bed and head for the bathroom. After a shower and a change of clothes I feel surprisingly human, but I know it won’t last.

I get to the station around seven and meet the Superintendent who gives me my extension of detention and so the day begins – a carbon copy of previous day, only we start to pull the investigation tighter and tighter, until finally I’m satisfied we have more than enough evidence to convict the heartless, remorseless, brainless thugs, but there’s still the CPS to convince and it’s getting late again. They won’t like me pushing them for a decision at this time of night, but they and I have no choice. After some pointless arguing and rather pathetic issues they finally agree to authorizing the charging of the suspects. I head back to the office relieved, but cursing the day the powers-that-be decided we police were too stupid to make our own decisions on charging.

We charge the four little loves, who spit and curse and threaten. I enjoy giving them the good news we’ll be opposing bail. More threats, more curses. I give them a wink and head back to the office to tidy up the paper work for court the following morning and eventually head home. I get back about 3am, have a hit of something strong and crawl into bed, more relaxed than the previous night and able to sleep for almost three hours, which after almost no sleep, feels unbelievably good.

A little later that morning I make my way to the Magistrates Court and go in hunt of the CPS lawyer, finding him reading through the morning files and looking sorry for himself. He has no idea what my last two days have been like and lays on the superior attitude thick – tells me he hasn’t got time to read the file properly and therefore it won’t be his fault if the little angels get bail. I give him a look that leaves him in no doubt of what I think of him and tell him just to stick to what was in the case file that I was up until two in the morning preparing, my computer screen blurring and warping as exhaustion threatened to swallow me. He’s a good boy and does as he told, sticking to my script and the four heroes all get remanded. Bye-bye boys. A few months later they all plead guilty and get indeterminate life sentences and the streets of London are a little safer – for a while anyway.

It’s another robbery crew off the streets. Another group of psychopathically violent hooligans safely locked up because my team and I worked our tails off and got everything right and got it right first time – everything – the law, the forensics, the interviews, procedures, medical evidence. Everything, and all without the luxury of time to think or refer to books and manuals. We got it so right that even the defendants army of highly paid barristers couldn’t find a single chink in our armour and hence the little charmers were forced to plead guilty and save the tax payers a small fortune. So why was it that a few days later I opened my pay packet and saw I was still being paid an insultingly poor wage? The sort of money that made it impossible to make ends meet when you have a young family, especially in London. I knew in that moment I had no choice but to leave the job I loved – the job I thought I’d do for life, but I couldn’t stay and be so undervalued anymore. You have to know your value in this world and I knew mine.

A few years later I had a top literary agent, Simon Trewin and a fantastic three-book deal with Harper Collins. My first novel, Cold Killing, hit the shops shortly after with novel number two, The Keeper, hot on its heels. People keeping asking me what’s it like trying to make the publishing deadlines and how I’m coping with the pressure. Pressure? Trust me – after the police nothing feels like pressure. Nothing!

The Toy Taker (DI Sean Corrigan #3)
By Luke Delaney
Publication Date: July 28, 2015 HarperCollins PublishersOutside the house, it’s cold and dark. Inside, where it’s warm, children are sleeping.

Former detective Luke Delaney returns with the third chilling novel in his DI Sean Corrigan series: THE TOY TAKER (Harper Mass Market; July 28, 2015; ISBN: 9780062219503) might be the most thrilling installment yet. Cold Killing and The Keeper, the previous two books in the series were published to high acclaim, delivering a “gritty and hard-hitting crime novel” (Iron Mountain Daily News) with “scary authenticity” (The Sun). Now, with THE TOY TAKER, Delaney has created another gripping, realistic work of crime fiction with a sharp psychological edge.

D.I. Sean Corrigan might have a tiny new office at Scotland Yard and a huge new beat—all of London—but the job is the same. His team has a knack for catching the sickest criminals on either side of the Thames, thanks in large part to Corrigan's uncanny ability to place himself inside the mind of a predator.

But he just can't get a read on this new case. Four-year-old George Bridgeman went to sleep in his bedroom in a leafy London suburb . . . and wasn't there in the morning. No tripped alarms. No broken windows. No sign of forced entry or struggle.

As his investigation zeroes in on a suspect, Corrigan's gut tells him it doesn't add up. Then another child is taken. Now someone's toying with Corrigan. And the game is about to turn deadly.

The Toy Taker Chapter 1:

The street was quiet, empty of the noise of living people, with only the sound of a million leaves hissing in the strong breeze that intensified as it blew in over Hampstead Heath in north-west London. Smart Georgian houses lined either side of the deserted Courthope Road, all gently washed in the pale yellow of the streetlights, their warming appearance giving lie to the increasingly bitter cold that late autumn brought with it. Some of the shallow porches added their own light to the yellow, left on by security-conscious occupiers and those too exhausted to remember to switch them off before heading for bed. But these were the homes of London’s affluent, who had little to fear from the streets outside—the hugely inflated house prices ensuring the entire area was a sanctuary for the rich and privileged. Constant highly visible police patrols, private security firms, and state-of-the-art burglar alarms meant the people within slept soundly and contentedly.

His gloved fingers worked quickly and nimbly as he crouched by the front door, the small, powerful torch—the type used by spelunkers, strapped to his forehead by an elasticized band—provided him with more than enough light to see inside the locks on the door: two deadlocks, top and bottom, and a combined deadlock and latch in the center. His warm breath turned to plumes of mist that swirled in the tubular light of the torch before disappearing into the night, making way for the next calmly expelled breath. He’d already unlocked the top and bottom deadlocks easily enough—a thousand hours of practice making the task simple—but the center locks were new and more sophisticated. Still he remained totally calm as he gently and precisely worked the two miniature tools together, each of which looked similar to the type of instruments a dentist would use—the thin wrench with its slightly hooked end holding the first of the lock’s pins down as the pick silently slid quickly back and forth until eventually it aligned all the pins in the barrel of the lock and it clicked open. It was a tiny sound, but one that in the emptiness of the street made him freeze, holding his breath as he waited for any reaction in the night that surrounded him. When his lungs began to burn he exhaled the dead air, taking a second to look at his watch. It was just gone 3 a.m. The family inside would be in the deepest part of their sleep—at their least likely to react to any slight sound or change in the atmosphere.

He inserted the slim hook wrench into the last remaining lock and once more slid the pick through the lock’s barrel until within only a few seconds he felt the pins drop into their holes and allow him to turn the barrel and open the lock, the door falling open just a few millimeters. He replaced the tools in their suede case along with the other dozen or so lock-picking items, rolled it up and put it into the small plastic sports holdall he’d brought with him. He added the head-torch, then paused for a second before taking out the item that he knew was so precious to the little boy who waited inside—the one thing that would virtually guarantee the boy’s cooperation—even his happiness.

He eased the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind him and silently returning the latch to its locked position. He waited for the sounds of an intruder alarm to begin its countdown to the wailing of sirens, but there was none, just as he all but knew there wouldn’t be.

The house was warm inside, the cold of outside quickly fading in his mind as he stepped deeper into the family’s home, heading for the staircase, his way lit by the street light pouring through the windows. Their curtains had been left open and lights strategically left on in case little feet went wandering in the night. He felt safe in the house, almost like a child himself once more—no longer alone and unloved. As he walked slowly toward the stairs that would lead him to the boy, he noted the order of the things within—neat and tidy, everything in its place except for the occasional toy on the hallway floor, abandoned by the children of the house and left by parents too tired to care anymore. He breathed in the smells of the family—the food they had had for dinner mixing with the mother’s perfume and bathtime creams and soaps, air fresheners and polish.

He listened to the sounds of the house—the bubbling of a fish-tank filter coming from the children’s playroom and the ticking of electronic devices that seemed to inhabit every modern family’s home, accompanied by blinking green and red lights. All the time he thought of the parents rushing the children to their beds, too preoccupied with making it to that first glass of wine to even read them a bedtime story or stroke their hair until sleep took them. Parents who had children as a matter of course—to keep them as possessions and a sign of wealth, mere extensions of the expensive houses they lived in and exotic cars they drove. Children they would educate privately as another show of wealth and influence—bought educations that minimized the need for parental input while guaranteeing they never had to step out of their own social confines—even at the school gate.

More discarded toys lay on the occasional step as he began to climb toward the boy’s room, careful not to step on the floorboards that he already knew would creak, his gloved hands carrying the bag and the thing so precious to the boy. His footsteps were silent on the carpet as he glided past the parents’ bedroom on the first floor, the door almost wide open in case of a child in distress. He could sense only the mother in the room—no odors or sounds of a man. He left her sleeping in the semidarkness and climbed the next flight of stairs to where the children slept—George and his older sister Sophia, each in their own bedrooms. If they hadn’t been, he wouldn’t be here.

He reached the second-floor landing and stood still for a few seconds, looking above to the third floor, where he knew the guest bedrooms were, listening for any faint sounds of life, unsure whether the family had a late-arriving guest staying. He only moved forward along the hallway when he was sure the floor above held nothing but emptiness.

Pink and blue light from the children’s night-lights seeped through their partially opened doors—the blueness guiding him toward George, his grip on the special thing tightening. He was only seconds away from what he’d come for. He passed the girl’s room without looking inside and moved slowly, carefully, silently to the boy’s room, easing the door open, knowing the hinges wouldn’t make a noise. He crossed the room to the boy’s bed, which was pushed up under the window, momentarily stopping to look around at the blue wallpaper with white clouds, periodically broken up by childish paintings in the boy’s own hand; the mobile of trains with smiling faces above the boy’s head, and the seemingly dozens of teddy bears of all kinds spread across his bed and beyond. He felt both tears of joy and sadness rising from deep inside himself and swelling behind his eyes, but he knew he had to do what he’d come to do: a greater power than he or any man had guided him this far and would protect him the rest of the way.

He knelt next to the boy’s bed and placed the bag on the floor, his face only inches away from the child’s, their breath intertwining in the space between them and becoming one as he gently began to whisper. “George . . . sssh . . . George.” The boy stirred under his duvet, his slight four-year- old body wriggling as it fought to stay asleep. “George . . . sssh . . . open your eyes, George. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I have something for you, George. Something very precious.” The boy rolled over slowly, blinking sleep from his narrow eyes—eyes that suddenly grew large with excitement and confusion, a smile spreading across his face, his green eyes sparkling with joy as he saw what the man had brought him—reaching out for the precious gift as the man’s still gloved hand stroked his straight blond hair. “Do you want to come to a magic place with me, George? A special place with special things?” he whispered. “If you do, we need to go now and we need to be very, very quiet. Do you understand?” he asked, smiling.

“A magic place?” the boy asked, yawning and stretching in his pale blue pajamas, making the pictures of dinosaurs printed on them come to life.

“Yes,” the man assured him. “A place just for the best, nicest children to see.”

“Do we have to go now?” the boy asked.

“Yes, George,” the man told him, taking him by the hand and lifting his bag at the same time. “We have to go now. We have to go right now.”

About the Author:
Luke Delaney joined the Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1980s and his first posting was to an inner city area of South East London notorious for high levels of crime and extreme violence. He later joined CID where he investigated murders ranging from those committed by fledgling serial killers to gangland assassinations.

1 comment:

  1. Great guest post - it's an unfortunate fact that police all around the world are under paid and under appreciated - it's a shame when a good one has to quite because of financial issues but good for us readers when they turn to writing - this sounds like a series I would really enjoy reading - thanks for the guest post!