You feel uneasy. You’re sat opposite a handcuffed man, with two ‘large’ colleagues clutching an arm of his each on either side, with CCTV recording every move, and yet you feel uneasy. And that’s mainly because your mind has gone blank and you have no idea what you are doing. Again.
‘Constable?’ The colleague on the right looks at you, widens his eyes and gives a nod as if he is trying to remind you to do something, urging you on. Inside, your mind is whirring at a hundred miles an hour, but all with completely useless stuff: cars, aeroplanes, holiday destinations, the Geneva Convention. Try again: wine regions of France, how to fly a kite, how to ask for the bill in Italian (’Il conto, per favore’). But you have nothing. You’d been told to stay calm, and not to panic, but here you are, in the final part of the final phase, and you’re completely unable to string two logical thoughts together. And wine list is carte di vino.
Its seconds, but it feels that its hours that are passing you by as you grasp for breath and clutch at an ever diminishing stack of straws in the back of your head. You can do this. You know this. You bring your left hand up to your temple, trying to look smooth, but knowing for sure that the frantic look of your eyes is giving away the fact that you’re a clueless mess.
More ideas – nonsensical ideas – drift to the fore: facts about horses, lyrics from the songs your parents used to like, even characters from computer games you used to play when you were young. But nothing that can help with the case.
Your training finally kicks in, trying to make some sense of the matter at hand: let’s go back to square one: You know he’s guilty, but he tells you he didn’t do it. You know that there were witnesses, and you know that his alibi is patchy. Where do we go next? The cogs begin to turn: you need to involve the evidence. A flicker of light.
But there’s a beep over a tannoy from behind you, then a voice. You recognise it instantly as the Inspector, the lead facilitator on this particular Police training course and your stomach churns. ‘That will do. I think we’ve seen enough’.
Your heart sinks with a mixture of despair and embarrassment. You already know what this means. You lower your head into your hands at the same time as both of your elbows snap heavily on to the wooden table and your shoulders droop. In shame, in anger, in disappointment. You cover your closed eyes with the palms of your hands to do your best to halt your tears from showing, but you know that there is nowhere to hide.
A sigh. Actually, about the third sigh you’ve made, but you barely noticed. And a couple of groans. And now you’re sniffelling.
The door opens – you brace yourself, because you know that your hopes and dreams are about to come crashing down.
‘Constable’ – it’s the Inspector again, but in real life now, so his voice is less tinny than through the tannoy. You notice that he doesn’t try to speak in a particularly sympathetic way – in fact, he actually sounds quite satisfied. ‘I think you know what I’m about to say?’
You try desperately to say a real word, but your tongue is knotted and all you can manage is a sniff and then whimper something which is pretty much impossible to type.
’You have failed ‘Basic Detective skills 101’ for the third – and, might I say, final – time’. He speaks authoritatively, with the kind of confidence that you can only get from sitting in your own ivory tower for a number of years. You sense that there’s a smugness in his words, in how he says it. You add a touch of anger and hatred to the heady mix of feelings already in play. You still have your head in your hands, but you know almost definitely that he is twisting one end of his moustache with a self-satisfied smirk. Swine.
The Inspector pats you on the back of your shoulder as he waltzes out the room, before musing: ‘Some people just aren’t cut out to be Detectives’.
The rest of the day is a blur of alcohol and genuine misery.