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I am delighted today to be one of two stops for the Ash and Bones blog tour. The blog tour also stops with my #BBFF over at Crime Book Junkie so don’t forget to drop by. For my stop, Mike Thomas has done a brilliant guest post about Ten Unusual Things Found On A Prisoner. What a fantastic post, don’t you agree? Today also just happens to be the day that Ash and Bones gets released, so Happy Publication Day Mike, hope you and your book have a fabulous day.
A cop killer on the loose in Cardiff – introducing a dark and gritty new voice in crime fiction, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride and David Mark
At a squalid flat near the Cardiff docks, an early morning police raid goes catastrophically wrong when the police aren’t the only unexpected guests. A plain clothes officer is shot dead at point blank range, the original suspect is left in a coma. The killer, identity unknown, slips away.
Young and inexperienced, Will MacReady starts his first day on the CID. With the city in shock and the entire force reeling, he is desperate to help - but unearths truths that lead the team down an increasingly dark path…
Ten Unusual Things Found on a Prisoner
As a cop you deal with some very odd situations and even odder personalities. Many times, typically during a ‘Stop Search’ or just after an arrest when you want to make sure your detained person – who has warnings for mental health issues/violence/is known to assault officers – is not hiding a machete up his sleeve, it will involve you putting your hands into other people’s pockets, or rucksacks, or even their nice muddy trainers and sopping wet socks. Most of the time you will don a pair of latex gloves because, y’know, some people can be quite lax in the hygiene department and catching scabies is a rather unpleasant experience. And most of the time you will empty a prisoner’s pockets and find nothing but the mundane: smartphone. Wallet or purse. Some loose change. House keys. Maybe a pack of smokes and a lighter. But there are other times – and not as rare as you’d think – when you dip into someone’s jeans, or carrier bag, or hood, and find the utterly bizarre… and not a little troubling. So here are ten pretty unusual things found on a prisoner. Some of these are mine, the rest are from other officers who I worked alongside (including my wife, before she became my wife…). All of them really happened. And a warning – one or two of these are quite graphic…
Drugs are Bad, M’Kay? Once, in the small hours of a night shift and when I was still wet behind the ears, I found a male hiding in the back garden of a house, and noticed he was a little worse for wear. During a quick search of his pockets I found –ta-daaah! – a little green tablet, which he obligingly told me was ecstasy. My first drugs arrest! As the male was unfit to be interviewed, I spent three hours preparing a full ‘handover package’ for the morning crew, complete with statements, an in-depth summary of the case, the ecstasy tablet bagged and labelled, and everything else they would need to ensure they could interview him when sober, and that he ended up with a charge sheet for possession of Class A. When I returned to work that night, I found he had been released NFA (No Further Action) and my handover file had been shredded. In my paperwork drawer I found the ecstasy tablet, with a note from my irritated colleague: ‘This is a Cloret mint, you idiot.’
A Man’s got to Eat. People like to have a good time. Blow off some steam. Let their hair down. I’ve stood on street corners with my silly helmet on at three in the morning on a cold, miserable Saturday while women flash their chests at me, and men take turns to either gurgle something incomprehensible or offer to fight me down a side alley. One of those men – extremely polite, but as drunk as I’ve seen anyone before or since – muttered something about ‘getting some munch’ and wandered off into the night. I found him, four hours later, asleep in a bush outside a hotel. I couldn’t rouse him, so brought him in as Drunk and Incapable, just to make sure he survived (it was freezing at this point) and in the custody suite I conducted the routine search all people undergo. Shoved down the front of his underpants was a whole 24 oz. T-Bone steak. We duly bagged it as his property, and let him sleep off the drink. When he was released without charge later that morning, he ate the steak while waiting to be picked up by his parents.
Perfect Candidate. Want to join the police? Fight crime, serve your community, try and make your little corner of the world a better place? There are ways to go about it, and ways to avoid. Another drugs arrest of mine, this time of a twentysomething guy who’d just left university, and who’d badly assaulted somebody while high on amphetamine. He was quite miffed at being searched, and even more miffed when I arrested him for possessing the large amount of speed I found in his coat pocket. And in his rucksack: the application pack for my police force. Completed. Ready to be posted. Never posted in the end, because he was sent to prison several months later.
Do You Have the Time, Officer? All police areas have their regular callers. People who will ring 999 several times a day, or pop into their local police station to complain about aliens interfering with their TV. One such person, a woman who was a nuisance of epic proportions and who often attacked officers who attended her home, was arrested during one of her ‘episodes’ in order to prevent a Breach of the Peace. During the journey back to the police station she urinated all over the back of the police car, then over the officers themselves. Once in the custody suite, she was searched to make sure she had no hidden weapons. No weapons were found. Instead, secreted inside her private parts, was an antique pocket watch.
All the Fun of the Fair. Every year Cardiff hosts The Big Weekend, a carnival of funfair rides, excellent live music and ridiculously loud fireworks. It’s free, and it’s fun, yet there’s always one who has to play silly beggars. Like the teenager who, upset that he was too short to go on one of the rides, decided to turn arch criminal. When he was stopped, the cops found eighteen goldfish in his pockets, all swimming about in sealed plastic bags. He’d never been given a goldfish as a child either, apparently. The horror.
Memento. One colleague of mine arrested a male for some petty matter a few years ago. As is routine, he was searched after being detained. In his trouser pocket were his grandfather’s false teeth, in a very fancy presentation case. When asked why he was carrying them about he became quite uppity, pronouncing that ‘It is none of your business whose teeth I carry.’ Which is a fair comment, really.
We Don’t Serve Lamb Here, Sorry. If you are drunk, and wandering the streets of an afternoon, at a loose end and a bit bored, it is always advisable to steal from a farmer’s field, isn’t it? Then, when you are being pursued on foot by police officers, it is best to run for about four miles until you come to a Nando’s restaurant, where the officers will catch up with you, and you can open your jacket and lob the live lamb you’d hidden there at horrified diners just for shits and giggles. This is what happened a few months ago in a South Wales Valleys town. Had to be sheep related, didn’t it?
Always Game. Cardiff, like every major city, has its dodgy areas. One of those is alongside the River Taff, on an embankment opposite the Millennium/Principality Stadium, where no matter the weather the local drinkers will congregate to swap bottles of meths, get a winter tan by lying in the snow, and spend several hours shouting at themselves. On one such occasion two drunken pugilists were arrested for battering each other, and duly taken to the custody suite. Where, interestingly, one of them produced a live pheasant that he had shoved down his trouser leg.
Now Wash Your Hands. People do desperate things not to get caught doing naughty stuff. A handover prisoner I dealt with – a woman in for drug possession – was a tough lesson for me in this respect. The handover package itself was rubbish, with the arresting officer doing the bare minimum: all I knew was that the woman was in for possessing Class A (heroin, in this instance), and the one exhibit was a strange conical pod, about three inches in length, hollow in the middle, and fashioned out of lengths and lengths of Sellotape. During the course of the interview – during which she was open and honest and admitted she’d had the gear on her for personal use – I was touching and holding the Sellotape cylinder, rolling it between my fingers, waiting for the exact moment to ask her what it was for. And then I did. And she replied, ‘I hid the drugs inside it then shoved it up my bum.’
And Finally… Don’t Read on if of a Delicate Disposition (you have been warned!) This is the one incident that makes me wince, and feel very glad I didn’t have to deal with it. A colleague and close friend of mine – who is still, to this day, traumatised by what took place – was called to Cardiff city centre after reports of a distressed male staggering around in the late evening, blood all over his coat and hands. He wouldn’t let anybody near him, and was close to attacking several members of the public. When my colleague arrived he was unable to calm the male down, so – reluctantly – arrested him just to be able to take him away and find out what was wrong. Before he was placed in a police car the search was carried out. In the man’s jacket pocket were his own testicles. He was suffering from mental health problems, and had travelled from England to Cardiff on the train. During the journey he’d used a fingernail to rip himself open, such was his distress. I’m not sure what happened to him afterwards, I never heard. But this is one of those that never goes away.
Mike Thomas was born in Wales in 1971. For more than two decades he served in the police, working some of Cardiff’s busiest neighbourhoods. He left the force in 2015 to write full time. Mike is in a unique position to write a truly authentic police procedural since he has more than twenty years’ experience in the force.
Mike has previously had two novels published and was longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year and was on the list of Waterstones ‘New Voices’. His second novel, Ugly Bus, is currently in development for a six part series with the BBC.
Ash and Bones is gritty British crime novel for readers of Stuart MacBride and Peter James.