Thursday, 12 November 2020

Things I saw and learned from 18 years working as a police officer in the most crime-ridden district in Olivier Norek


Called out in the middle of the night to investigate the death of a twelve-year-old girl, I have to console the parents. The father collapses in my arms. I let him do it. The medics call me over discreetly. There’s a problem. The child’s body is too cold. She died the day before. The parents have been lying to us from the start. They poisoned her. I held a murderer in my arms. Trust no one. Not even those closest to the victim.

Called to investigate a woman who has been mutilated… eaten: a piece of her breast is missing. Her boyfriend is in tears. We find their dog in the wardrobe, under some dirty linen. It’s been sliced open, with a fork in its belly. We are worried about the boyfriend. We don’t like his attitude, his furtive manner. We take a swab from his mouth, and find DNA from his dog, and from his girlfriend. Trust no one. Not even boyfriends. Especially when they’re cannibals.

Called to investigate the death of an old age pensioner with no police record, in his studio flat on the 25th floor of a notorious tower block. It’s three in the morning. By chance we discover 13 kilos of cannabis under his bed. The old man was a ‘minder’ for drug dealers. My colleague looks out of the window. The estate is waking up. We’ve stumbled on their main stash. We are three police officers; down below, there are 60 of them, and they’re angry. They set our patrol car on fire. The flat has become a cop-trap. They won’t let us leave with their drugs. It’s going to be a long night… and an extremely violent one. What happens next? After I’ve lived an experience, it finds its way into my novels. Read what came next in Turf Wars, the second novel featuring Capitaine Coste (published by MacLehose Press in Summer 2021). Trust no one, not even nice pensioners with no criminal record.

Called to investigate a crime scene at two o’clock in the morning. A young man is lying in a pool of blood, with gunshot wounds. A fireman is giving him CPR. We're in an alley. On one side, about a hundred angry-looking youths. On the other, twice as many, also obviously tense. We realise this is a settling of accounts between two gangs, one on each side of the alley. I go up to the fireman to ask if the victim can be saved. The fireman asks me to come closer and, without stopping his heart massage, whispers to me: “He's been dead ten minutes. I'm just pretending. If the rival gangs find out there’s nothing more to be done, it'll be war… and we're right in the middle of it.” Two cops, three firemen, and 300 angry kids carrying iron bars and baseball bats, who can hardly wait to ‘fuck up some police’. To get out alive, we continued to pretend we were trying to save the victim and we all got into the emergency vehicle, abandoning our patrol car. There was no hope for him; all we could do was save our own lives. Trust no one. Even a fireman can put on an act. 

Called to investigate the death of a young man lying strangled on his bed, we find a wallet on his chest. It belongs to his neighbour. Our investigation finds that the neighbour had discovered the man was sleeping with his wife. As he was strangling him, the wallet slipped out of his pocket. Stress and anger meant he didn’t notice. My easiest case, because all I had to do was knock on the door of the next flat. Trust no one, even yourself. Only disillusion can come from trusting others.

The Lost and the Damned by Olivier Norek (Published by MacLehose Press) Out Now

A corpse that wakes up on the mortuary slab. A case of spontaneous human combustion. There is little by the way of violent crime and petty theft that Capitaine Victor Coste has not encountered in his fifteen years on the St Denis patch - but nothing like this. Though each crime has a logical explanation, something unusual is afoot all the same, and Coste is about to be dragged out of his comfort zone. Anonymous letters addressed to him personally have begun to arrive, highlighting the fates of two women, invisible victims whose deaths were never explained. Just two more blurred faces among the ranks of the lost and the damned.

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