Written with passion and dynamic energy, The Happy Pigs by Lucy Harkness is at once a unique portrayal of police life from a truly fascinating perspective and an outstanding new novel about a smart young woman trying to keep her sanity and sense of humor in a world that's crumbling around her.
Six years into her stint with the London police force, Louisa Barratt is burned out. Because she is a woman in a largely male profession, Louisa has been relegated to the Child Protection Unit, where her primary task seems to be baby-sitting a fragile young abuse victim who clings to Louisa like a mother. Trouble is, she's suffering from a bad case of compassion fatigue, and with nothing to look forward to each day but her depressing caseload and nonexistent social life, just getting up in the morning is threatening to become more than she can manage.
She wants out, but the young rape victim she spends her days counseling has no one else to turn to. When Louisa herself is viciously attacked in the street by a would-be rapist, she fights hard, determined not to become another victim. Unfortunately, the consequences of these fleeting moments of life-and-death struggle are more grave than she can possibly imagine, and before she knows it her entire life is thrown into the depths of a turmoil the likes of which she has never seen.
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About the Author
Lucy Harkness is a former police officer. She lives in London, where she is studying to become a lawyer. The Happy Pigs is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Happy Pigs
By Lucy Harkness
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1999 Lucy Harkness
All rights reserved.
not entirely sure how to do this ...
hot bath cold beer hot bath cold beer hot bath cold beer hot bath cold beer and I'm repeating this to myself until it is completely meaningless, a chanting mantra to keep my head together as long as it takes to get into the tube station through the people through the hot pre-breathed air through the barrier down the escalator onto the platform, hot bath cold beer hot bath cold beer and I might as well be concentrating on cold bath hot beer for all the good it is doing but on I go, mind the gap, get in get on get home, why can't this work now this always gets me through? hot bath hot bath hot bath cold beer, stand in the middle of the carriage so as to be in position to slip into a seat as soon as someone gets off but look there's a nice man letting me sit down, shit I must look like shit, quick check for bloodstains, mudstains, maybe he's just being nice, shit I am in a bad way, concentrate, hot bath cold beer hot bath cold beer, not counting the stops but only three to go, bag over shoulder, tube pass in hand, hot bath cold beer running in my head, this could be a normal bad day, hot bath cold beer, and up and off and let the escalator carry me home, let the tide of rush hour wash me onto the street, will this little hand ever be clean? hot bath should do the trick, key in door, hi Margaret, no answer, good, drop bag feed cat open fridge select cold beer run hot bath clothes in wash, powder, power, hey I'm not usually this organised, the back bit of my head must have been working this out all the way home. Step into bath. And ... re ... lax.
* * *
The hot-bath-and-cold-beer thing started at uni. Actually, in those days I'd have had a joint as well, but obviously, what with the job and so on, I can't really keep dope in the house any more. It worked when dearJon left me for an older woman with money (even I could see that made sense but I've always said, I'd rather be sensitive than logical) and it worked when my philosophy tutor said I was the worst student he'd had in twenty-seven years of teaching. OK, so this is a fairly large crisis but quite frankly I have to get a grip. I don't have a choice here, I can't just fall apart, feel sorry for myself, give up or break down ... more bubbles, more steam and more beer.
Wipe a face-cloth width of steam off the bathroom mirror and look at my face for a minute – I'm flushed, bright-eyed, hectic. I almost look drunk. I don't look like myself at all. I look wide awake, alive, kind of excited. I recognise the look I get from skiing too fast on unfamiliar slopes, driving too fast on country roads, and as the mirror steams over again I turn out the light and climb back into the bath in the dark. I don't want to face myself with that face on. It is not a face for public view. I look as if I've just won a race, or had an amazing shag. No visible marks or scars, that's the main thing. No obvious scratches or bruises to explain away.
There are a couple of important things that I have to do before I can think about what happened this evening. I have to get Candy through her trial, I have to get my annual appraisal over with, convincing the new boss who starts tomorrow that I need to move into another department, and I have to sort out my love life – what am I saying? I need to get a love life – and work out what to do about my warring Irish parents. I need to stop feeling guilty over my depressive ex-boyfriend, Keith, and I need to decorate the house, get fit, have a holiday, get out of London. Then, maybe, I can work out how to pick up a Get Out of Jail Free card ... There have been stages in my life where I've had the time to sit and think and sort out my head, it's just that this month isn't one of them.
Let's face it, there have been times in my life when I did nothing but think, not very good thoughts, not very good times, times when there was just no satisfactory answer to the basic why. But eventually I stopped living entirely in my head and tried living in my body occasionally – taking care of it, exercising it, even pampering it from time to time – so now, although deep down I am aware of the essential futility of everything, I can always put things to the back of my mind and occupy the front with a yoga- or swimming-induced feeling of calm. Calm is something I have been steadily working towards, and one day I will be good at it.
The only thing I've ever been really good at was one summer when I had a job driving tractors on a farm in Kent, doing the potato harvest and bale-carting, and all that. I was a great tractor driver, but sadly the career opportunities were lacking and I headed back to town when the autumn came.
And I'm a good waitress too. I can do all that taking-bookings-while-carrying-four-plates and noticing which tables need clearing and reminding chef that the woman on six is allergic to dairy products stuff while smiling at the right people to ensure a large tip, but in the end I realised that if I was going to work silly hours and deal with awkward people every day, I might as well get a decent wage for it, and looked for better paid employment.
I was never that good as a uniformed constable – not patient enough, I suppose, not really concerned enough about other people's problems. That's OK if you're a bloke, of course, but even in the police force – oops, that should be police service – women are expected to lend a sympathetic ear to every tale of woe, soothe and calm every hysterical runaway, pick up the drunks and rescue the waverers on high bridges. Well, I lived with someone for five years who was always threatening to kill himself, so maybe that inured me to similar scenes at work. I'm not saying I was needlessly harsh. I mean, I gave everyone a chance, lent people money to get home, drove lost and confused elderly persons round in the hope they'd recognise where they lived, called out social services and ambulances where and when required. But it is a great relief to get out of uniform, so that you are no longer so obviously at everyone's beck and call, owned by the taxpaying public at large.
And, of course, while you are in uniform, everyone you meet thinks you're stupid, because if you had a brain you'd be in CID. Or doing a proper job. OK, so from time to time you'd get a good job in – a stolen credit card, or a possession of drugs with intent to supply, or a bagful of forged fifty-pound notes – but someone else would always step in and take it over and that would be the last you'd hear of it. And no one ever says, thanks, that was a good job, well done.
Part of a chain, alienated from the end product, you could say.
You can spend thirty years chasing shoplifters and taking them to court over a tenner's worth of chocolate or a couple of books, nicking drunks for being disorderly or incapable, crossing people for public order offences and poor people for begging, breathalysing motorists, and so on and so forth – many people do and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that – it is just, when I was doing all that, I thought there were more interesting ways to pass the time, bigger fish to angle after. So now I'm stressed out and at the end of my tether, contemplating putting in a request to go back to the easy life. Well, easier, anyway.
One of the things I am pretty good at is taking statements. Not nearly as easy as people think. If they tell you their story back to front with bits added on at the end and a few contradictions here and there, as they almost always do, you still have to turn it into a coherent, reasonable whole. I turn up, sit down, ask a few questions, get patronised by some fat middle-class woman who thinks her daughter's the only person ever to get groped on the tube and assumes I must be stupid because I'm only a police officer not something expensive in the city. I don't get annoyed. I am appropriately concerned, although, of course, being a mere police officer, I could never understand how the poor sensitive darling feels. At the end of an hour and a half (I'm quick and fluent but sometimes I have to go slow, so they think they're getting their taxpayers' money's worth) I leave with all the information I need to identify the assailant, prove the offence and convince the court that this particular case is indeed a nasty attack. I know the right things to say and the right way to say them. I can even spell quite difficult words, which surprises a lot of people.
How about: 'Try and go into as much detail as you can, the more you remember now, the less you'll have to think about it in the future ... We can make it into a complete story and you'll feel it's at a distance from you. We'll get it out of your head and onto the statement paper – that way you won't have to try and remember because it'll all be here in black and white when you go to court.'
Well, if only it was that simple. Here I am trying to do the same thing for myself and I know I'll go round the issue so often it'll be wrapped and buried and concealed in no time. The gaps where the walls used to be have been papered over, with pictures and colours and textures so fine, as I wrote in my first year logic exam.
How about: 'It's not your fault, nobody has the right to do that to you. Think about it, you'd never do that to a stranger/loved one/child, would you? Well then, how can you let them get away with doing it to you?'
How about: 'Don't start to feel sorry for him, you're the victim in this. He knew he had a wife and family and job and mortgage when he attacked you – he's the one putting them at risk, not you.'
How about this: I'm supposed to uphold the queen's peace and protect life and limb. Serve the public. Still, that must include me somewhere along the line. Everyone has the right to defend themselves, it is as basic as that. And, anyway, I haven't got time to think about it now.
Problem: too large to go into now.
Solution: sort out all other top priority problems (see above) and hope it goes away in the meantime.
The main thing is Candy: she's ten years old, she's been kidnapped, raped and tortured, she's been through it all in court once already and the man who did it has sacked his defence and the trial is starting all over again. I'm her chaperone. I pick her up and drive her to court. I did the initial video statement along with her social worker and I've spent the last year at the beck and call of her dreadful mother and dreadful stepfather, who are only too glad to have a free babysitter and would lumber me with the other four kids given half a chance. The other four being permanently enraged and jealous because of the extra attention Candy is getting. Never mind that she's incontinent and can't sleep alone; never mind that she's terrified of strangers and whimpers at loud noises; never mind that she's a tiny child who looks more like an eight-year-old – her siblings are still pissed off because she gets taken out for the day now and then courtesy of my DCI, who seems to think that children can get over anything if you just feed them enough McDonald's.
So all in all it wouldn't help her one bit if I disappeared or resigned or whatever. I'm stuck with her and she does seem to trust me, even if she doesn't think much of the way I dress. (Not enough glitter.) She'll need looking after for years, and I'm the only volunteer for it so far. The trial should start this week and barring accidents/further manipulations by the defendant, it should be all over within ten days or so. Apparently he's going to defend himself. Shitbag. Hope he tells the court what he said to the chap who arrested him – 'she loved it; it was her idea, I tell you, she was gagging for it', et cetera, et cetera. (Lovely, she is, only ten years old but has the body of an eight-year-old.)
Men really are revolting, I think, but some of them hide it better than others.
Some of the first interview I did with Candy has been made into part of the training package now – they use it for people doing the new child protection course. There's a passage in the transcript where Candy's saying about the bad man putting a thing into her bottom and it really hurting and I ask, what thing? And the social worker says to me, for God's sake, I think we all know what thing, and Candy says, no, not his willy but a spike thing. And when the Central Operations Unit boys did another search of his house they found a home-made torture instrument, a kind of modified cattle-prod thing with a couple of nails in the end, lovingly crafted and fully adaptable, plug-in or battery operated, hidden round the bend in the chimney.
One of the Central Ops boys asked if he could have it when the trial is over.
See what I mean about men being pigs?
(How does a paedophile know when it's bedtime? The big hand touches the little hand.)
Sorry if I sound at all hysterical, but I have had rather a bad day.CHAPTER 2
Evidence gathering: initial statements
NB: CRIMINAL DAMAGE ACT 1971, SECTION 1
Don't knacker something if it isn't yours, unless, of course, you think the owner wouldn't mind.
OK, so if I were taking my statement about today it would start like this:
Statement of LOUISA BARRATT
Age OVER 21
Occupation DETECTIVE CONSTABLE
This statement consisting of — — — — pages each signed by me is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I make it knowing that if tendered in evidence I shall be liable to prosecution if I have wilfully stated anything which I know to be false or do not believe to be true.
Which, by the way, is standard police language; you probably need an above average IQ to work out what it means. You certainly need to be pretty smart to work out the new caution, which strikes me as funny, really, since most of the people who get cautioned wouldn't be in that position if they were anywhere near smart. Then again, their solicitors usually understand it, and at the end of the day the actual suspect or offender isn't that important in the whole process, playing a fairly minor role in the proceedings.
'You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.'
Try and say it out loud ... that way it makes sense.
'You do not have to say anything' pause 'but it may harm your defence' pause 'if you do not mention' emphasise the last three words 'when questioned something you later rely on in court' pause 'anything you do say may be given in evidence.'
Whenever you start a taped interview with someone you are supposed to ascertain that they fully understand the caution, what it means in theory and how it affects them in the present instance. So there you are, sitting not terribly comfortably in a small soundproofed interview room, usually badly lit and painted a dark magnolia, overheated and stuffy and stale, furnished with a desk, four or five chairs, a tape recorder, a metal wastepaper bin doubling as an ashtray, and a typed sheet of procedural requirements stuck to the desk – the cheat sheet, it is called, it reminds the interviewing officer to caution the suspect, give the special warnings where necessary, state the time and date at the start, all those details you can so easily forget. There are always torn bits of cellophane from the tape wrappers on the floor, cigarette butts in the bin, burn marks on the edges of the desk. A great setting to put people at their ease and encourage frank and open discussion of the offences under consideration.
Police Officer: So can you explain what the caution means in your own words and how it affects you in this particular case?
Suspect: Um, well, I don't have to say anything if I don't want to, yeah?
Pompous Male/Pushy Female Solicitor: I have discussed this with my client and am satisfied that he/she understands the implications.
Always a pleasure, never a chore, dealing with the legal profession.
So, that statement.
I'm approaching this with a statement because I think I'm going to try and remember that I'm the victim in here – obviously the more people get to know this, the more likely it is that I'll end up answering questions having been cautioned. Hopefully not by someone I know; how embarrassing – like the last time I had a smear done at the family planning clinic, the doctor said, by the way we have some student doctors with us this week, would you mind if they sit in with us? And not really being in much of a position to argue, I said, oh, of course not, bring them in by all means. But I was worried about recognising one of them – maybe one of my brother's friends, or someone I'd dealt with at work. As if knowing the person would make it shameful somehow.
But no, they wouldn't make me talk about it to someone I work with, surely not.
I did say that I might circle round the nitty gritty of it, didn't I? Sure, everyone is entitled to set the scene to some extent – a reply to a caution, for instance, can be as long as you like. If it seems relevant, put it in.
Excerpted from The Happy Pigs by Lucy Harkness. Copyright © 1999 Lucy Harkness. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Table of Contents
Evidence gathering: initial statements,
Investigation: identification procedures,
Review available information,
Consider secondary sources,
Liaise with colleagues,
Relationships with others,
Court and custody duties,
Further witness statement,
Balanced summary of evidence,
Action plan – appropriate, achievable, measurable,
Non-Home-Office-approved restraint techniques,