An original story from Gabriel Krauze, about drugs, the police, and precious gems.
Gabriel Krauze is a writer from south Kilburn, London, who has pioneered his own 'estate noir' genre – literary non-fiction, real events told in his own inimitable style. 'Rough Emeralds' is based on a true story.
I'm at this chick's house – my boy's cousin – I'm at her yard and we're getting faded, smoking cro into the evening and that. It was a Monday. And we walk out of her yard, and my boy Rex just built a zoot, so as we walk out the yard we stop on this landing between the stairs and the block with all the balconies and flats. So we stop on the walkway, spark the zoot and start bunning it. And as we're smoking we can see the road and on the corner of the road there's a police car. And first it looks like it's parked up and then we clock there's a fed in there and the headlights are on, dim and whatever, but the car's not moving. It looks like he's about to buss the corner but he never he just jams there for time. So obviously we move out of the viewpoint of the car to bun the zoot, whatever, go down the block stairs, finish the zoot and come out the block and the fed car's gone innit. So we're like whatever, we don't really think nothing of it.
We're walking down the road – we're in Kingsbury – walking to the tube station to go back to ends. So man's walking down the road and a car passes us going in the opposite direction and my boy's like rah that was jakes innit that's undercovers right there. And I'm like what? Nah man that wasn't undercovers – swear down? And he's like truss me. Now I done know Rex has got a mad instinct for this kinda shit – like he can proper clock undercovers from a stare, a step, a movement, the way they watch too long and too calm – plus he's like my brother, I trust the words that come out his mouth one hundred. And anyway, these times he's fresh out of pen after two years inside so he's more alert, on his toes and shit. But at this point I'm still thinking to myself maybe he's just being parro – we've been bunning ammo all evening and we just bunned a next zoot before leaving the block, eyes all red up, head all fucking numb and shit you get me. So we carry on down the road, we're going to the park to cross through to get to the high road where the tube station is, and as we're carrying on down the road my boy says that's them again and I'm like what dyou mean that's them again? and he says the undercovers just went past us again.
I'm like nah man that wasn't the same car and he's like blood that was the same whip truss me, that's them again in the whip. I didn't think it was the same whip, this one was going in the same direction as us and I wasn't paying attention anyway. Whatever. We cross the road into the park, it's night time, it's black everywhere like the sky itself came down to the pavement. As we walk through the park I see there's two exits: one to the far left that goes onto the high road and another one to the right that goes onto some next quiet streets with rows of houses and so on. The exit where there are streets and houses is blocked by a fed van – a bully van you get me – and at this point I'm thinking it's mad hot round here, like first we saw a fed car on the corner of the road, then my boy's saying undercovers (although I'm still not a hundred percent sure that he's not just being parro) and now a bully van. But at the same time I didn't really think much of it. I just see there's a van blocking that exit I'm like whatever. You know them ones; it's northwest, it's late night, you see jakes, it don't really mean shit – especially if they're not clocking you. For them it's just another night of hunting, looking for something to raise the arrest stats. Anyway, we're going to the exit that goes onto the high road so we turn left through the park and we come out of the inky darkness and get onto the high road.
As we're walking down the high road we walk past a parked car and my boy's like rah that's them again! those are the undercovers parked up right there! And I'm like nah blood you're just being parro and he's like nah brudda that's them, hundred percent that was the same whip. But I'm like still like nah nah you're being parro. As we carry on up the road, literally on the other side of the road I see a silver BMW police car come screaming down the road and then it jerks suddenly into the next lane into oncoming traffic, headed towards the pavement we're on. And as it screeches across the road towards us, my boy's like that could never be for us! And at this point everything's added up and I'm like blood it is. And obviously a silver BMW, it's CO19 armed police. Straight away as soon as the car touches the curb the doors open. They jump out quicktime, three of them jump out, black gloves black body armour and MP5s – submachine guns – straight pointed in our faces like GETTHEFUCKAGAINSTTHEWALL GETTHEFUCKAGAINSTTHEWALL.
And it's mad coz I actually look into the barrel – it's so close, so in my face, like if the fed squeezes the trigger my brains getting burst onetime end of story. I remember looking at his finger on the trigger, proper on the trigger ready to squeeze and that, so I'm like: what da fuck. I look to my right at Rex and the next CO19 officer is pointing his MP5 in Rex's face and both of us instinctively put our hands up like it's some fucking Western film or some shit – slowly, to show we're unarmed and that. And TURNAROUNDNOW GETTHEFUCKAGAINSTTHEWALL DOITNOW and I guess we don't do what they want fast enough and they slam us against the steel shutters of a shop that we'd just been walking past and they start searching us for weapons. They do it mad quick and anytime me or Rex try saying something they push our faces into the shutters shouting SHUTTHEFUCKUP DONTTURNYOURHEAD DONTLOOKATME KEEPYOURHANDSONTHEWALL. They search us mad quick.
When you get stopped by normal jakes they take their time, they chat shit to you, try provoke you, they go through your pockets, proper touch up the lining of your garms, feeling up your trouser legs, proper feeling up to your balls and shit, they open your wallet, look through your phone and everything. The way the armed police searched us was nothing like that. It was quick tap-tap all over the body like all they were searching for was guns and shit.
Now the one who searched me says ok they ain't got any weapons and they stood there talking among themselves saying they ain't got them it's not them it's not them or something like that. So I ask the one who searched me why did you jump out on us? And he says because there were reports of a black male and a white male with a firearm involved in a shooting incident on the high street. And I'm like yeah but what was it about us that matched the suspects? And he's like the suspects were a black male and a white male. And I'm like but what about our description – as in what details matched their description, our clothes or whatever – and the fed just repeats it was a white male and black male.
So they're about to jump back in the silver whip and I can hear them saying something like what the fuck are they sitting over there for? fucking wankers – and they're looking down the high road and I'm thinking who are they talking about? Then I realise they're talking about the undercovers, basically taking the piss out of them for acting scared to get out of their car until CO19 has dealt with the situation. I see the car – of course it's the car that Rex noticed three times – and as soon as the undercovers get out and walk over to us the armed feds jump back in the silver BM and disappear into the night. Gone.
Then the undercovers come and surround us, typical bait-looking undercovers, all white brers wearing North Face jackets and Superdry hoodies with jeans and hiking boots or New Balance trainers. Then they start searching us but this time the way they're searching us is like a proper typical search looking for food, even the faintest crumb of weed, looking for anything they can find on us to have an excuse to shift us. And they're taking the piss with us, getting rude, proper trying to take man for dickheads – the fed who's searching me even pulls my boxers forward, stretching the elastic exposing my dick to the night and everything. And you know that it's fucking illegal but you're in that typical situation where no one's gonna be able to say anything, prove anything, so they can take the piss. I mean armed feds have just jumped out on us; they can justify whatever they want to justify.
So they search me and Rex, they don't find whatever they hope to find and I had my little black shoulder bag on me and when they look in it they find two little plastic bags with rough emeralds in them. And they're like what is this? And I say they're rough emeralds. And they're like rough emeralds?!
Rough gemstones aren't all clean and shiny, they don't look like the pictures of gemstones we're used to, all cut and polished and glittering. Before emeralds are cut, they look like some kind of dark melted lump, you can barely see the green in them. The weight in carats of the stones was written on the bags – one of them was four point something carats and the other one was three or a bit more. Then one of the officers says hang on he's involved with jewellery robbery we're taking him in. And I'm like what? That doesn't prove jack shit. Since when was it a crime to have a bag of rough emeralds, how is having a bag of rough emeralds a crime under British law? But they just carry on saying he's involved in jewellery robbery we're taking him in we're taking you in, and they snap handcuffs on me.
And I'm like No Fucking Way. I've had enough of this shit in my life – how many nights of my life, how many days have I lost in police cells? I start to say fuck this whatever, my lawyer will come and prove you wrong, watch what happens, but Rex is like nah brudda don't do the long ting I wanna get home tonight and he means if I get shift he's gonna have to get himself arrested as well coz he ain't leaving me on my own in this situation. And the undercovers are like why do you have rough emeralds on you then, if you're not involved in jewellery robbery? And I tell them I work in Hatton Garden, I'm a diamond grader.
I bought the rough emeralds that same day in the diamond lab I worked in from an emerald dealer who'd just returned from Colombia. Straight after work I went and linked my boy and we went to his cousin's yard to bun it up. But obviously when we got stopped by the feds, we were looking all hood – I mean it's not like I look like some fucking jeweller, rocking Nike creps and a hoodie and shit. So they don't believe me and I'm like I swear down I'm a diamond grader, I work in a diamond lab in Hatton Garden, you can phone my boss, his card is in my wallet. And one of the undercovers has my wallet and he gets the card out and he's like what's your boss's name? And I tell him and I say phone him now, phone him on that number.
How many nights of my life, how many days have I lost in police cells?
He walks off a bit of a distance, phones the number and as soon as he starts talking his tone changes. He's like good evening sir I just wanted to ask you about something, and he's talking to my boss and obviously I'm waiting to see what happens. They're talking talking and then I hear the police officer saying sorry about that sir, sorry to disturb you. He puts his phone in his pocket and walks over to me, says to the other undercovers he is a diamond grader he did buy the stones, and they take the cuffs off. The police officer who searched me, all pulling my boxers open and harassing me, says so what is this ring made of, tell me what's this ring made of then?
He's showing me a ring on his finger and it was a burnt red colour of gold like sunset and I know the type of gold, I've seen it before – Welsh gold. It comes from this one mine in Wales and it's the same mine that produces a lot of gold for the Royal family, royal wedding rings and all that. So I recognise it straight away as and I can see he's trying to stunt in front of the other feds so I say that's brass, someone took you for a fool, that's brass it's not even real gold. And he's like nah it's fucking Welsh gold mate, that's Welsh gold that is. And I'm like nah it's brass, someone had you up. And that was it. And all the other undercovers were laughing at him like mate I thought you said that was real Welsh gold like the Queen's wedding ring but it's brass.
And the next day I go to work in the diamond lab and obviously I see my boss and he mentions the incident to me, voice all aristocratic as always – your bit of bother with the Met he calls it – and he asks on what grounds they stopped me. So I tell him that they were responding to reports of a shooting incident involving a black and white male, and that the only way in which my friend and I matched the description of the suspects was that we were a black and white male. And he says ah but you see that's because we don't m–mix. His mouth strains against the stammer (it's not sudden, he's always had it) and he repeats himself. We just don't mix.
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