The general public have a warped view of the speed at which an investigation proceeds. They like to imagine tense conversations going on behind the venetian blinds and unshaven, but ruggedly handsome, detectives working themselves with single-minded devotion into the bottle and marital breakdown. The truth is that at the end of the day, unless you've generated some sort of lead, you go home and get on with the important things in life - like drinking and sleeping, and if you're lucky, a relationship with the gender and sexual orientation of your choice.
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Not being invited in is one of the boxes on the "suspicious behavior" bingo form that every copper carries around in their head along with "stupidly overpowerful dog" and being too quick to supply an alibi. Fill all the boxes and you too could win an all- expenses-paid visit to your local police station.
As I stepped onto the gloomy landing a word formed in my mind: two syllables, starts with a V and rhymes with dire. I froze in place. Nightingale said that everything was true, after a fashion, and that had to include vampires, didn't it? I doubted they were anything like they were in books and on TV, and one thing was for certain - they absolutely weren't going to sparkle in the sunlight.
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The problem with the so-called bloody surveillance state is that it's hard work trying to track someone's movements using CCTV - especially if they're on foot. Part of the problem is that the cameras all belong to different people for different reasons. Westminster Council has a network for traffic violations, the Oxford Street Trading Association has a huge network aimed at shop-lifters and pickpockets, individual shops have their own systems, as do pubs, clubs and buses. When you walk around London it is important to remember that Big Brother may be watching you, or he could be having a piss, or reading the paper or helping redirect traffic around a car accident or maybe he's just forgotten to turn the bloody thing on.
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Most people don't see half of what's in front of them. Your visual cortex does a shit load of imaging processing before the signal even gets to your brain, whose priorities are still checking the ancestral Savannah for dangerous predators, edible berries and climable trees. That's why a sudden cat in the night can make you jump and some people when distracted, can walk right out in front of a bus. Your brain just isn't interested in those large moving chunks of metal or the static heaps of brightly colored stuff that piles up in drifts around us. Never mind all that, says your brain, it's those silent fur-covered merchants of death you've got to watch out for.
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The Metropolitan Police Service is still, despite what people think, a working-class organisation and as such rejects totally the notion of an officer class. That is why every newly minted constable, regardless of their educational background, has to spend a two-year probationary period as an ordinary plod on the streets. This is because nothing builds character like being abused, spat at and vomited by members of the public.
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What frustrated me was the thought that with three thousand years of history someone in China, some monk in a monastery halfway up a mountain, must have developed a magic kata, a physical expression of formae. Or at least have got close enough to explain all those legendary swordsmen and their inexplicable desire to roost on the tops of bamboo trees.
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Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the "London once-over" - a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport - like BASE jumping or crocodile wrestling.
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What's the biggest thing you've zapped with a fireball?' I asked. 'That would be a tiger,'said Nightingale. 'Well don't tell Greenpeace,' I said. 'They're an endagered species.' 'Not that sort of tiger,' said Nightingale. 'A Panzer-kampfwagen sechs Ausf E.' I stared at him. 'You knocked out a Tiger tank with a fireball?' 'Actually I knocked out two,' said Nightingale. 'I have to admit that the first one took three shots, one to disable the tracks, one through the driver's eye slot and one down the commander's hatch - brewed up rather nicely.
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My Dad says that being a Londoner has nothing to do with where you're born. He says that there are people who get off a jumbo jet at Heathrow, go through immigration waving any kind of passport, hop on the tube and by the time the train's pulled into Piccadilly Circus they've become a Londoner.
If you just warn people, they often simply ignore you. But if you ask them a question, then they have to think about it. And once they start to think about the consequences, they almost always calm down. Unless they're drunk, of course. Or stoned. Or aged between fourteen and twenty-one. Or Glaswegian.
You put a spell on the dog," I said as we left the house. "Just a small one," said Nightingale. "So magic is real," I said. "Which makes you a...what?" "A wizard." "Like Harry Potter?" Nightingale sighed. "No," he said. "Not like Harry Potter." "In what way?" "I'm not a fictional character," said Nightingale.
If you ask any police officer what the worst part of the job is, they will always say breaking bad news to relatives, but this is not the truth. The worst part is staying in the room after you've broken the news, so that you're forced to be there when someone's life disintegrates around them. Some people say it doesn't bother them - such people are not to be trusted.