About The BookA sexy aristocrat. A wild-child inner city cop. A crime wave of passion.
Shannon’s Law is a steamy romance novel introducing a sassy female police officer who locks up criminals and always gets her man.
The second book in the “Passion Patrol” series featuring hot cops, hot crime and hot romance. Following the success of “Knockout!” the drama in “Shannon’s Law” revolves around another feisty female cop – Shannon Aguerri.
Moved out from the city after one-too-many maverick missions, Shannon discovers there’s more going on in this sleepy country village than meets the eye. The son of a local aristocrat arouses suspicion of drug crime activity… but his widower father arouses more animal instincts!
As a loner she has attracted men but nothing has stuck. When she meets Spencer, the hunky and widowed Earl of Bloxington, there is an immediate rapport between them. Their social differences mean nothing to their passion and need. Already in the mix is an upper class female rival who has long plotted her way into the Earl’s bed. The jealousy is an evil shade of green and the anger is a violent scarlet.
Could she really mix with the British royal family? Can she risk her heart and career on yet another high risk unauthorised investigation? Can she get justice for an innocent boy? Dare a kid from the gutter dream of being a countess?
Often inhibited by a sense of duty and honour, Spencer is slow to reveal his feelings. When Shannon confronts him with the need to choose between her word and that of her rival, he does not immediately support her.
All the same, when they are forced together to carry out a desperate rescue mission, their love is stronger than everything ranged against them.
Please note: This book contains joyful explicit love scenes between adults in a consenting relationship. There is also strong language in high-stress police confrontations with criminals.
There is a companion cookbook to Shannon’s Law, called Cop’s Kitchen. All the recipes for meals and snacks from the romance story are included. Read the romance, feel the passion and taste the love!
Get Up To SpeedWPC Shannon Aguerri is the new police officer in the village of Fleetworth Green. Very early on in the course of duty she encounters the wayward son of the lord of the manor and through him, gets to meet the man himself – Spencer, the widowed, 11th earl of Bloxington. There is an immediate emotional and physical attraction between them.
He invites her to traditional afternoon tea to welcome her as the new village constable. He is beguiled by her honesty and forthright attitude. They talk openly about his son, the village and their lives. She is intrigued and impressed by him as they exchange their inside stories. Against the overwhelming backdrop of Bloxington Manor, its seductive history and glorious ambiance, a tentative relationship between a reserved and lonely nobleman and a streetwise cop begins.
In the mean time Shannon has to concentrate on her duties as the local police constable. She has no idea if Spencer will seek her out, or if such a relationship is even possible, given their social differences. The sleepy village of Fleetworth-Green, with its air of apparent calm is about to be shocked by a serious crime….
It was approximately 10:20 a.m. the following morning when a farmer found the body of a young woman in a roadside ditch. Shannon received a call by radio and made it first to the scene on her bike. First procedure was to secure the area and preserve evidence. A glance suggested the girl was no more than twenty. Possibly she was Cambodian or Vietnamese from what she’d learned on a temporary posting to an immigration unit. The spot was in open country about half a mile from the village. In the distance she could see the flags from the show house at Badger’s Knoll. High above the field a bird sang on the wing.
She wasn’t alone for long. Within a few minutes she was joined by Scenes of Crime officers and senior detectives. She had had little time to assess the situation. All the same she was sure the body hadn’t been there for long. It was just too visible and the insects had scarcely started their work. At a glance she could see the victim had a large graze on the side of her face. She wore a T-shirt and light cotton trousers. The style didn’t look British.
Being new on Z District, Shannon knew none of the police team. Soon she was helping to place incident tape and set up a roadblock. A white tent went up over the body and a pathway was pegged out to prevent contamination of the scene. It was a procedure she had seen many times. Two bus loads of officers arrived to conduct a fingertip search of the ditch, roadside, and adjoining field. The police radio was calling her.
“There’s gonna be a conference at 1400 hours. The superintendent wants to use your police house. Can you set it up Zulu Delta over?”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Great. Get the kettle on.”
“Looks like I’ve found my level. I’ve only got two cups and no bloody teapot.”
“Initiative my dear Watson. If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined. Zulu Delta out.”
Shannon cursed. In the distance she saw Inspector Lilly.
“Guv, they want a conference at my place. I’ll need tea, milk, sugar, and cups, or at least a bucket and some straws. Maybe a trough could do it,” she said.
“Bloody typical,” he replied smiling. “Come on, we’ll get some stuff. I’m just poncing about as a spare part here.”
“So what’s the theory?” she asked.
“Well, odds on she’s an illegal immigrant who’s either been clinging under a truck or jumped. There’s blood on a telegraph pole fifty yards away. My guess is she’s come up from Dover and come off the M25 motorway at junction 5.”
“That makes sense,” she agreed, “but no big trucks come along here from what I’ve seen.”
“True, but maybe she got away at Clacket Lane Service Area. My gut feeling is that we’re never gonna know.”
Shannon nodded. A Home Office pathologist would perform a post-mortem examination. Until then everything was a guess. She couldn’t resist adding to the mix.
“My gut feeling is that there’s more to it. I’ve only intuition.”
Inspector Lilly chuckled.
“In the old days we could have said it was female intuition, but if I said that I’d be a sexist and drummed out of the job.”
“Don’t worry, Guv, I’m not wired up today,” she replied, laughing and giving him a friendly push.
“I’d leave this one to the detectives if I were you, Shannon, unless you can come up with something extraordinary.”
At the ASDA supermarket checkout she knew they looked a comical sight. It wasn’t often that two police officers in full uniform were wheeling a trolley load of milk, biscuits, and plastic cups. She trotted up some pace and whizzed a few yards with her feet off the ground. The operator on the till stared at them.
“We’re just feeding the pigs,” said Shannon.
The girl giggled as Inspector Lilly raised his eyes to heaven.
“You’re a complete bloody anarchist,” he said as they drove back to Fleetworth-Green police house.
* * * * *
An hour later, 46 cups of tea and plates of biscuits had been distributed. Bodies filled the whole of the ground floor. Shannon searched in vain for a familiar face. The officer in charge of the case was Detective Superintendent Tom Mitchell. He was a smallish man of about fifty with a balding head, a carefully contrived comb-over and the aura of the fox in his eyes. Immediately she liked him. This guy was a villain catcher. He took three steps up the stairs and called the conference to order.
“Thanks everyone. Let’s sort out what we’ve got here. Female body in a ditch. No obvious violent rape. Injuries are consistent with a road traffic accident. Blood on telegraph pole and fence post. Grazing along one side of body indicates that she landed with some speed. What do we think we’ve got here ladies and gents and what questions do we need to ask?”
His voice was calm, unemotional, and precise. There was no big ego there to slap anyone down. He wanted to listen. She liked him even more.
“Any I.D?” asked a detective.
“No. No docs, no jewelry. Clothing probably foreign.”
“Illegal, Guv, fallen or jumped from a truck,” suggested a voice.
The superintendent nodded.
“Anyone got any other theories?”
Shannon bit her lip. Just maybe, just maybe in a fraction of a split-second glance she’d seen an oriental girl in that Chrysler with Sylvie Arrowsmith. She’d been in so, so much shit in the police for jumping in on half hunches. So what? She might have seen a girl. So what? She wasn’t even sure she’d seen anyone. She could shout her mouth off and waste everyone’s time on a red herring.
“Maybe a sex worker thrown out of a vehicle?” suggested another detective.
“Possibly. Yeah, for sure. She had no footwear. Somewhere there’s a reason for that or a pair of shoes somewhere to find, or both. Makes you want to be a detective doesn’t it.”
There were a couple of chuckles. “We’ll know a lot more after the post-mortem. We’ve done the scene and recovered the body. Let’s move on from there.”
Shannon knew he was right. Charging about on a Sherlock Holmes clue-fest wasn’t police work. She had only her own long-shot intuition and this was not the time to go for gold. Within a few minutes her house was empty except for the faithful Inspector Lilly. She was starting to warm to him.
“I’ll help you clear up,” he said.
“You’re a cool guy, Guv,”
He moved with the domestic competence and acceptance of a man who had cleared up after kids. The doorbell rang. Somehow she just knew who it was.
“You must be busy. I heard what’s happened.”
She gazed at him. He was serious and yet his dark eyes smiled at her for just long enough to send a delicious flood of warmth down and deeper into the woman being of her.
“Come in. Meet my boss,” she said taking his hand and leading him through to the kitchen. He responded to her hand and held hers in return. He glanced to catch her response of complicit willingness. Inspector Lilly put down his dishcloth.
“Your Grace….” he stammered.
Spencer looked embarrassed and put out his hand to shake. Shannon still held the other. The inspector returned the greeting. While the two men exchanged a few words she stood on tip toes and kissed Spencer’s cheek
“Shannon!” exclaimed Inspector Lilly.
The earl smiled.
“The modern police can do incredible things,” he said, holding her in his gaze. “I called to see if I can do anything to help in this terrible business.”
She didn’t want to fill him in on all the details while her boss was there.
“It’s all under control, your Grace. Possibly she’s an illegal fallen from a vehicle.”
“What a sad business. That poor girl,” said Spencer.
“There’ll be a medical examination in the morning. We’ll know cause of death and a lot more of the forensics after that.”
“Thank you, Inspector. This kind of thing is very distressing.”
“We’ll do everything possible, your Grace.”
Spencer turned to Shannon.
“What can I do now?”
“You can collect all the garbage. Cops aren’t called pigs for nothing. Put all the plastic stuff in bin liners and then bring out the rest and put it in the dishwasher,” she said with a massive grin.
“Sure thing, Officer,” he replied.
“Shannon, you can’t treat his Grace like that!’
Spencer smiled and kissed Shannon on the cheek.
“It’s wonderful just to be helping, Inspector…. It’s Brian, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Sir. Brian.”
“Brian, I need a top man. Someone of quality and presence. May I ask you a question?”
“Of course, your Grace.”
“Do you play cricket?”
The inspector looked bemused.
“I don’t play these days. I am an umpire.”
Spencer blinked and looked at him with an expression of pure glee. For a moment she thought he was going to hug him.
“That’s wonderful. If I had an umpire for the match on Sunday I could release a chap who could play for us.”
“What’s the problem, Spencer?” she asked.
“Oh, it must seem so trivial to you when that poor girl has died. Three of my team have pulled out. One of them has an international banking crisis, the foreign secretary is caught up in that wretched Syrian war, and then there’s the baby.”
“Baby?” queried the inspector.
“Yes, Kate and William’s baby. It’s due Monday. William rather fears a situation with breaking waters while he’s batting.”
“That’s THE baby! The future-king-of-England baby,” said Shannon, watching her boss’s alarm.
“Security issue, but yes, a very significant baby,” Spencer explained.
Inspector Lilly had turned pale.
“Sir, your Grace, I’m not sure I could umpire players at that level.”
“Nonsense, Brian. Who could be better than a man of guaranteed integrity like you?”
“That still leaves you two players short,” said Shannon with a huge grin.
“I have a couple of days. You look radiantly optimistic if I may say so.”
She knew her smile had reached him. She could see the inspector glancing between them as she held Spencer’s eyes.
“Leave it to me. Consider it fixed,” she said.
While the question hung in the air, Inspector Lilly jumped in.
“Excuse me, your Grace. I should be getting back to HQ.”
Shannon walked with him to his car, glad of the chance to talk with him privately.
“You actually had hold of his Grace’s hand,” he gasped. “You kissed him. He kissed you. I can’t believe it.”
“It was only a peck on the cheek. Do you think he likes me? Anyway Guv, you’re definitely up for the match on Sunday, OK?”
“Of course. It will be a great honor. And yes, I think he likes you.”
“You’ll bring your family I hope.”
“Well, that would be up to the earl….”
“Nah, I’ll tell him they’re coming and that’s that. And can you get the vehicle garage to sort me out some wheels?”
The inspector shook his head but smiled warmly at her.
“Yes m’lady,” he said.
“And can you get me into the post-mortem examination?”
“It wouldn’t be normal but I’ll see what I can do.
“Cheers Guv, you’re a gent.”
He started the engine.
“I can’t believe you had hold of his Grace’s hand. And now he’s in there cleaning up.”
“He’s as sweet as you, Guv,” she said, kissing her fingertips and touching them to his cheek.
* * * * *
She found Spencer in the lounge brushing crumbs from the sofa into a dustpan. He was wearing his normal style of formal white shirt, the neck open and the long sleeves rolled up. He looked up at her. She could feel the warmth of his dark eyes on her face. She felt her heart pump a little harder.
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“Thank you, I’m sorry I’m so bloody cheeky,” she said.
He smiled. A warm surge ran through her belly. She squeezed her thighs together a little to catch the awareness of her pleasure. He straightened up to his full height. He was big, hard and broad in front of her. Whatever her personal space was, he was in it. She remembered how it had felt to hold his waist and rest her head against his chest. She had only just met him yet everything seemed so natural. She wondered if she could live without ever feeling this joy of his presence again.
“Um … Shannon.”
“Um … Spencer.”
“You know what happened last time we were together,” he began.
“No, I can’t remember. Show me,” she teased.
“That would be impossible. You’re in full police uniform.”
“I can soon fix that,” she said pouting her lips and undoing the top button of her blouse.
“That’s not what I meant. Oh dear—look, it was wonderful—that’s what I wanted to say. Now there’s been this awful business and all I was thinking about was you.”
It was wrong of her to tease him. He was a sincere and serious man. She respected that. She’d only known him a few days yet everything seemed to be flowing as if these were the moments that had already been written for her. She wanted to hold back but knew no reason why she should. Every portion of time has the same value. Why the hell should life have waiting days?
“I might have been thinking about you. I could feel guilty about that—but I don’t,” she said.
“It’s a cliché, but I’ve not met anyone like you before.”
“You’re my first 11th earl you know. You’ll have to be gentle with me.’
He held out his arms from his sides, his palms open and facing her.
“I don’t know what I’m trying to express exactly, but I want to express it just to you.”
“Good job I know then,” she said, stepping forward, raising her lips, and fixing her eyes on his. He reached out for her cheek with his powerful but gentle hand. His fingers folded just a little behind her neck. She closed her eyes as the warmth of his touch and the closeness of his body molded into her. Now she was screaming inside for his kiss. Their lips brushed, then united in a joy of fold and touch. Her mind flew to some senseless place of blooms and physical release. She was naked of possession, without care for anything. His arms were holding her. His body was hard and strong. Everything of him was a fit, as if she had always been a statue carved within him. She brushed her hands up and down his sides, longing to feel his skin. She pulled out his shirt and slid her fingers across his flesh. She felt his deep groan of pleasure in his chest and sighed back her own response. She opened her eyes to find his still closed. She teased along his lips lightly with hers. He took her chin and kissed her in return, watching her eyes.
“’Now that’s why you didn’t know what you were trying to say,” she said.
“How’s that?” he asked dreamily, softly kissing the lids of her eyes.
“Cos there’s no words for it.”
“I’ll have to remember that in case I ever want to kiss you again.”
His voice was low and slow. He pulled her tight to him. Something was happening to her with this man. This passion must always have flowed like a hot river for all those reckless lovers in fiction and history. In this moment here with him she was wanton and naked on the banks of that river, longing to release or drown. She knew she had to stop now. For sure she was prepared to see it through but she wasn’t quite ready. For a few more days she wanted to keep her secret parcel of desire unopened. She sensed he wanted to speak, and laid her head on his chest.
“Heavens above,” he whispered, “that was wonderful. You are so beautiful I can’t stop looking at you. I shouldn’t be saying things like this, should I?”
She smiled inwardly at his old-fashioned manner and reserve.
“No, you certainly should not. You’ll make me vain and horrid. Then I’ll need you to say it more and more to stop me being insecure.”
“You don’t seem insecure.”
“I wasn’t but I’m a ruined maiden now and it’s too late. You’ll have to tell me again….”
“You’re beautiful. I can’t stop….”
She raised her fingers to his lips and smiled. He responded by kissing them.
“It’s OK, I’m still secure enough. You, Spencer, are a lovely hunk of handsome man.”
“Are you sure? Tell me again,” he said.
“You’ve had your ration. It’s only the third time we’ve met. But you’re a big lovable bear in overalls too.”
“Lovable?” he repeated.
“Yeah, could be that way. I’ll have to see….”
He kissed her forehead and stood back.
“You look like a man who’s had too much weak posh tea. You need a proper brew.”
“You and your Yorkshire tea.”
She went through to the kitchen and put the kettle on.
“That poor girl in the ditch, what will happen to her?” he asked
“Next up will be a post-mortem examination. I’m hoping to be there.”
“And after that, if you never know who she is and no one reports her missing?”
“Eventually the authorities will carry out an official funeral.”
“With nobody there? How can some lives be worth so much and others be just nothing?” he asked.
She could detect a sincere sorrow in his voice.
“Now you’re asking why I’m a cop, Spencer. It’s because life’s not bloody fair.”
“I think any funeral should be in the chapel at the Manor. I’ll arrange a plaque and a proper grave so that her life is recorded, so that some hearts will carry her on.”
Shannon looked at his sombre expression.
“Now you’re being a big lovable bear again.”
He reached out and squeezed her hand.
“I wasn’t trying to be sentimental,” he said. “And just how are you going to find me two cricket players. Ideally I need a first class batsman and a decent bowler.”
“Did I mention my dad is from Antigua?”
“Have you heard of Richie Richardson?”
“Of course, he captained the West Indies.”
“He’s a mate of my dad. They played together as young men for the Leeward Islands. My dad had the chance to come to London to work and he chose that path. I’m glad he did cos that’s how I got made in England.”
“He can bat?”
“He sure can. Have faith. The other one is my mate, Mel.”
“A young lady?”
“Mel is a bloke. He’s played for the Met Police.”
“He may have a match already.”
“He’ll cancel it for me. He’s my absolute BFF. He’s bringing me a curry tonight.”
Spencer’s expression conveyed several other questions.
“BFF—best friend forever, we worked together in Brixton.”
“Bonds made in adversity are the strongest,” he said.
She could tell he didn’t want another man in her life. She was enjoying the tease.
“Am I being a minx?” she said, holding his eyes.
“I don’t know. Are you?”
“Look, Mel is gay. He does not do women.”
“No man could resist you.”
“You’ll meet him Sunday. You’ll see how he is. I promise.”
“I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“You did OK for the first forty-one years.”
“That’s because I didn’t know I was going to meet you,” he said with a look that nearly stopped her heart.
“Wow!” she said, surveying the new Mitsubishi Shogun SUV in the police house car park.
“It’s very special,” said the garage sergeant. “The police service has decreed that you merit such a vehicle. It is a very valuable piece of kit.”
“I’ll try not to scratch it,” she said in a girlie voice.
“Normally an ordinary driver, someone not trained to an advanced level would not be issued with such a machine. I take it you are not advanced.”
“Some people say I’m a bit forward and cheeky, but I’m not advanced, Sarge. I’m just a regular girl underneath.”
He looked at her from under his slashed peaked hat. Mirrored sunglasses hid his eyes. She stared back with an expression of insolence. She hated driving specialist snobs. She’d been shuffling cars around the garages under the arches in Peckham since she was about ten. “I’ll soon get some pink fluffy dice and a ‘bitch on board’ bumper sticker so that I’ll feel at home.”
The sergeant gulped.
“I imagine that’s a joke. Here’s the keys and remember not to put petrol in it.”
“Is it a battery car? Where do I plug it in?” she asked disingenuously, well aware of his meaning.
“It’s diesel. DIESEL. It’s a type of fuel oil.”
“Oil—ooh yes, you pour that in the engine, Sarge! I’ve seen my dad do that.”
“No! No! Diesel fuel. It goes in the tank!”
Shannon started to laugh.
“Sarge, I was winding you up….”
“Well, you never know with non-advanced drivers.”
“I’m sure, but I’ll look after it. I wouldn’t have chosen white as a color and all those stripes are a bit brash—but hey,” she said with a shrug.
The sergeant smiled feebly, pulled on his backless kangaroo-leather driving gloves and strode to a waiting patrol car. She jumped her bottom up onto the bonnet and swung her legs and waved as he drove away. She needed a shower and there was some work to do.
* * * * *
Her computer screen was showing the results on all the checks she had run on the “Bluegrass” house at Badger’s Knoll. Both vehicles were registered to a company “Green Pasture Properties.” The register of voters showed the occupants of the house to be Sylvie and Ron Arrowsmith. She flicked to a company director search and sure enough, the business was their baby. She noted two previous bankruptcy warnings on their credit record. A Criminal Records check at once revealed Ron Arrowsmith to be a very serious villain indeed. Until now he’d been a violent gangster. He had followed traditional pathways of extortion, protection rackets, armed robbery, and a sideline as a fence handling stolen goods. He’d been acquitted of the murder of an undercover cop ten years ago. Sylvie had no recent record but had been locked up for a sexual assault on a female many years ago. The charges were dropped before trial. She had a conviction for operating a brothel in the West End of London in 1987. Since then she had gone off the radar.
So, there were millionaire criminals living on the edge of rural paradise. Her mind turned to the body in the ditch. She knew, she knew these people were involved. She remembered her childhood days at her dad’s little back street garage. Everyone knew the owner paid money for protection from thugs. Even as a kid her blood had boiled at the humiliation of seeing her dad’s wages docked when the boss had to pay the crooks. As a teenager she’d wanted to stand up to them but her dad had always shaken his head sadly and said, “The weeds will always choke the orchids.” From what she had learned in the police, the victory of the orchids would be a long time coming.
Even a week before now, her soul would have churned with anger at these thoughts. Now, there was that man in her life. That man who’d kissed her. That man she’d kissed. No, that wasn’t right! He was that man with whom she had kissed. Soon Mel would be coming with the curry. There was time to phone her dad.
“Hey, are you really my father?”
“Depends who you are.”
“I’m the sheriff of Fleetworth-Green.”
“That’s my girl.”
“Shall I come to the point?”
“Is it a nice point or a nasty point?”
“It’s a big, big extra sweet love for my daddy point.”
“OK. What do I have to do and how much will it cost?”
“You have to play cricket for the Earl of Bloxington’s team on Sunday. A cabinet minister and a prince have dropped out.”
“I guess I could cruise down if I’m free.”
“Shannon, I thought I’d never hear you say that word.”
“I didn’t mean to say it. It just slipped out.”
“I’m fifty-three. I’m a car mechanic in Peckham.”
“You’re a star of the Leeward Islands in my heart.”
There was a silence.
“OK, what’s the crack?”
“It’s just a little game down here.”
“There’s no such thing as a little game of cricket.”
“That’s why you’re a star.”
“I’ll get some practice on the balcony outside the flat. I’ll get your mum to bowl some bouncers.”
“You’ll be here!’
“Didn’t I say? Yes, I’ll be there.”
“I love you.”
She put down the phone. That was one problem solved. She turned over the circumstances of the Arrowsmith family. She had a clue that there was skunk weed cannabis in the house. She had no idea of the quantity. She just could possibly have seen a dark-haired girl in Sylvie’s car. She was a village cop, serving a bit of a sentence on the sidelines for jumping in on a death-or-glory mission. The last thing she wanted was to make the same sort of mistake again. With the zizz of Spencer’s kiss still on her lips, there was no way she wanted a forced transfer out of here. For now a still tongue would make a wise head.
She saw Mel arrive in his battered old car with the take-away curry. He looked tired and older. His grey office suit was creased and shapeless. At one time he would always have been immaculate. He’d been alone for too long and now even she had left him. She ran out and hugged him.
“My Sugar baby love,” he said.
“I’m so happy to see you!” she said, aware that his body was thinner and wiry. He smelled of police stations, prisons, and Brixton.
They took the food through to the kitchen and opened Cobra beers in the pungent atmosphere of Vindaloo and steaming pilau rice. Mel took a long grateful slug from the bottle. He was a tall good-looking guy. He was a couple of years older than Spencer. He needed a shave and his intelligent hazel eyes conveyed a sad weariness.
“Hope you’re staying out of trouble down here. There’s been no crime here since records began and now there’s a body in a ditch as soon as you arrive.”
“Trouble finds me.”
“Love the hairdresser’s jeep. How the hell did you swing that?”
“Things aren’t quite normal in these parts.”
“There’s Spencer—the earl….”
“He kinda swings things.”
“Like you’re kinda swinging him?”
“Shannon, you changed the tone of your voice. It shows, Sugar. I’m a bloody detective. No way would they give a plod that vehicle. So the earl is caught in your tractor beam. He might as well surrender.”
“Aristocrats don’t surrender. They fall on their swords and get cremated on their shields.”
“So what’s he like?”
“Big guy, dark hair, forty-one years old. And he needs you far more than he needs me.
“He’s a cricket nut. He needs a player for Sunday. My dad can pick you up.”
Mel glanced at her and took another slug from his beer.
“Yeah, it’ll be great. Thanks for asking me,” he said, reaching out a hand to squeeze hers. His loneliness had started to eat him alive.
As they ate the curry and drank too much beer Inspector Lilly phoned to tell her the post-mortem was at 10:30 a.m. at the Croydon mortuary. She gave a little shudder. Dead bodies and intestines were not her favorite element of police work.
“Why you gonna be there?” asked Mel.
“I feel involved. I want all the info while it’s fresh.”
Mel looked at her shrewdly. “She’s got road traffic injuries. She’s an illegal fallen off a truck.”
“But why there?”
“Why anywhere? We ain’t gonna know. If you were in charge of the case where would you start? You might find out she came in on a Romanian truck towing a hired Belgian trailer. How many men could you commit to it?”
“I feel lucky,” she said.
“If you get lucky just share it with the big boys and be a good village cop.”
“I’m allergic to cats.”
“I do want your help with a case.”
“Spencer’s son was nicked for possession of cannabis. I don’t think he knew the stuff was in his pocket. Can you get me the file?”
“So, he had his mate’s coat or the copper planted him up or what?”
“There’s a something and I want to check it out.”
“Cos you’re loved up on his dad?”
“No. Because I believe him.”
“That’s good enough for me. Give me the details.”
She scribbled them down and put them in his jacket pocket. Then she warmly kissed his cheek and left him to the sofa and her spare duvet.
She watched the careful dissection process. She had showered and had dressed in a one-piece disposable white suit and a plastic hair cover. Only her eyes were visible. The body lay like a discarded doll on a stainless steel table. What life had that poor child known? What tears had she cried? Had she hugged her mum and dad and set out for some dream of a new life? Was there a silent phone in a foreign place watched by a desperate boy?
The pathologist worked with two assistants. Methodically the information that added up to a human being was revealed.
Oriental female, moderately undernourished. Weight 42 kilos, height 160 centimeters. Age 19 to 22 years, all teeth present, no tattoos, surgical scars, or indications of pregnancy or birth. Sexually experienced. Menstruating at time of death. Weight of brain 1290 grams. Cause of death, internal bleeding due to frontal impact to chest and head. Large loss of skin on left leg and face. No indication of violent penetration. Stomach contents poorly digested.
Shannon’s ears pricked up. She had eaten not long before death. She watched the pathologist dip his fingers into the flesh, sniff, and separate the material into a bowl.
“Fish fingers and beans at a guess,” he said.
She felt an excitement. No way had she eaten that on board a truck! It was unlikely to be a restaurant meal. She had to have come from a location not too far from the scene.
The examination continued. The weighing of her little heart, the sampling of her blood and spinal fluid, the taking of scrapings from under her finger- and toenails. Her hair was combed into a large steel bowl.
The pathologist spoke again.
“Presence of foreign hair fibers. Will need further analysis, probably animal such as cat, dog, etc.”
Shannon took in the implication of these words. If these were cat or dog hairs there was a house with a link to this girl. She could taste and see that very house. She knew. She just bloody knew. The examination was coming to its end. The nameless discarded doll of a being was measured, recorded, photographed, sampled, and labeled. Plaster casts of her face and teeth were carefully made and the body slid back into a refrigerated compartment. A heavy click finalized the closing of the door.
“Do we have a name for her?” asked the pathologist.
Shannon thought quickly. Her own Spanish name was an accident of slavery and yet her name was her. No name meant no being. What was her own true West African name? In this moment she held the power to give this girl an identity. She remembered something she had learned on the immigration squad.
“Kakkada Song,” she said.
“’I like it. What’s it mean?”
“Kakkada means the month of July in the Khmer language. There was a bird singing overhead while she was lying in the ditch,” she said.
“That’ll be it then, forever probably,” he commented.
She got changed. As she went to leave she saw the pathologist putting on his shoes. He was older than she had thought, maybe sixty-five. She noticed a gold ring on his wedding finger. The inscription looked like Hebrew. His hair was more or less white.
“Thanks for taking that name for her,” she said.
“Thanks for your input. May I ask why you wanted to come?”
“I don’t know. She hasn’t got anyone…. I don’t want to sound pious but I want justice for her.”
He looked up into her face and seemed to be appraising her.
“And you’re a sleuth right?”
“I’m the local bobby. I don’t get on the A, B, or C list as a sleuth.”
“Well, you go girl, all the same,” he said.
“Can I ask for your opinion, Doc?”
“Sure, relativity and evolution are opinions,” he replied with a cheeky sparkle in his eyes.
“Those animal hairs, what’s your guess?
“Dog. Short-haired dark dog.”
“Can you link dog DNA to a particular animal?”
The pathologist laughed.
“Well, humans are about ninety-five percent dog and vice versa. I’ve known humans who were more like dogs than dogs.”
“So you can?”
“Yeah. Homo sapiens, canine crapiens, it’s all the same stuff.”
She loved this guy and warmed him with her best smile. He reached in his jacket, took out a business card, and handed it to her.
“If you want any opinions or information give me a call. I’ll always try to help,” he said.
She glanced at the card. “Professor Max Strauss FRCPS. D.Path. DFM.”
“Looks like you’ve made all the A lists,” she said.
“You’ve made my A list for caring about a stranger,” he replied.
She could hardly contain her excitement as she drove back to Fleetworth-Green. The girl had eaten a meal. There were dog hairs on her body. She hadn’t fallen from a truck! She knew top detectives would receive the same information. No one expected her to solve it. Her job was simply to pass on any intelligence. No one would want to hear any maverick theories from a uniformed cop with a record for drama. She needed just a little bit more. Maybe she had seen that girl before? There was perhaps a way to settle her doubts—and she felt lucky.
She checked her iPhone. There was one message and it was merely a line of four xxxx. It was enough to swell her heart remembering their kiss. He was thinking of her and in every single space between her work, she was thinking of him. She replied with a screen full of xxxxx!!!!
* * * * *
Thursday night was parish council night. She booked on for an afternoon shift and went out on foot to make herself professionally visible. The citizens were quick to remark on one thing. She was not PC Flowers. She drank tea at the village shop and met the landlord of The Hunter’s Inn, the very traditional pub. By seven o’clock she was footsore and glad to sit down for the meeting in the village hall. The chairman of the parish council was Colonel Robertson CBE, DSO. He was in his mid-seventies and clearly a man of military heritage.
He opened the meeting and welcomed Shannon. The minutes of the last meeting were approved and followed by a discussion about the public purchase of a further red telephone box. A younger lady councillor suggested that no one used telephone boxes any more. It was unlikely the phone company would install any equipment.
Colonel Robertson blustered to his highest point of oratory.
“This is not a matter of trivial telephony. It is an ancient principle of the traditions of England!”
There was a murmur of assent around the table. It was agreed that a phone box would be installed without a phone inside. Citizens could then stand in the box to use their own mobile device, pod, or pad. The colonel thanked everyone for demonstrating the wonderful value of British compromise.
Next an elderly lady complained that her cat had returned home soaked with water on several occasions.
“Probably a gardener. Didn’t want vermin shitting on his onions,” said a middle-aged guy dressed totally in corduroy.
“Perhaps Constable ‘Ag-Where-ee’ could keep an eye out for wet cats,” said the colonel. “I wonder if you have any further news about that ghastly business of the dead body.”
“I’ve no special inside information. A team of detectives is on the case.”
She certainly couldn’t release news of any leads.
“Thank heavens it happened outside the village. I believe it’s at least a mile from the parish boundary. The nearest place is that vile housing project with those vulgar flags,” said Colonel Robertson.
It was clear that anything outside the Fleetworth-Green frontier may as well have happened in Antarctica.
“I would ask you all to be aware of the incident and pass on any information to police. If you hear or merely suspect something please come and see me or just call 101. Something that may just seem like gossip can be very important,” she said, trying to sound formal.
“We don’t want a bloody Gestapo state,” boomed a fruity male voice.
Shannon looked down the table to see a large, bearded man with a long pony tail. He sported a gold earring and was dressed in what looked like a lilac-colored caftan. An enormous bling watch hung from his wrist. Before Shannon could respond Colonel Robertson stepped in.
“Constable ‘Ag-Where-ee’ please forgive our member. He’s our resident champagne-socialist.”
“I love champagne,” she said.
“And I bloody well don’t,” said the large guy. “I’ve spent my life struggling to expose on film the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists, Comrade. It’s a working man’s pie and a pint for me.”
She resisted the temptation to suggest that his appetite for pies was obvious.
“I’ll keep an eye open for wet cats and Gestapo,” she said.
“Thank you, Officer. I’m sure we’ll all help,” said the colonel.
The meeting closed. She made a show of recording matters in her notebook. She drew a cat wearing a Nazi hat. If ever anyone looked in her book, she’d be in trouble. She shook hands with all the councillors. The guy in the caftan squeezed her hand tightly.
“I can see by the look of you that you’re a comrade underneath,” he said.
“I’m a comrade on the surface as well.”
He let out a bellow.
“I knew it, Comrade. That bloody Flowers was an old-school fart you know. More Tory than Thatcher. He used to inform on me to Special Branch.”
“How did you know that?”
“The old bumbler told me. Got him pissed and he let it slip. After that I used to feed him false info about where the barricades would be going up. By the way I’m Vandervell O’Brien.”
Shannon knew the name.
“You made ‘Red Flag of the Grimethorpe Zombies.’ It’s a cult classic.”
“Comrade! Comrade! You’ve seen it then?”
“I’ll never forget it.”
Her mind sped back to a spotty intense guy she’d once dated at art college. He’d bought her a Fidel Castro T-shirt and given her a year’s free membership of the Socialist Workers Party. He’d taken her to see the movie.
“It was my introduction to Socialist Zombyism. The only way to release the capitalists from their captivity of conformism was to eat their brains. I thought it was a masterpiece. It’s a true honor to meet you sir,” she said, watching his eyes burn with delight.
“Comrade! Together we can bring the revolution to Fleetworth-Green. I assume you’ve infiltrated the police in the same way I’ve infiltrated the parish council. Our time is coming.”
“We’ll rise up like zombies together,” she said, raising her clenched fist in a worker’s salute.
“That girl in the ditch, Comrade—a lot of those girls are trafficked you know. They’re victims of a system that sees only profit in the poor and powerless.”
“I’m with you there,” she said, sensing he wanted to say more. He was a movie director. He would have shone lights into some dark corners in his time. He was playing Mister Big. She was happy to play Miss Small. “I’ll look forward to hearing about that business.”
“I’ll pop round. Maybe we could meet up for a pie and a pint?”
“Give me a date,” she said.
He smiled and returned her clenched fist salute.
“See you at the barricades, Comrade,” he said, striding off towards the pub in his flapping caftan.
A Land Rover was parked outside. Her heart leaped. Colonel Robertson strode towards it. For a second she had thought it was Spencer’s. Her spirits sank. Then the driver’s door opened and Spencer stepped out beaming a huge smile over the head of the advancing colonel. He brought himself to attention and saluted. Both men stood facing each other, stamped feet, and snapped their hands back to their sides. She kept a little distance, both amused and impressed by their military discipline. Her own police career had nearly ended in an insolent comedy on the drill square at the Hendon police college.
“Still good for Sunday?” said Spencer.
“Absolutely! Absolutely!” replied the colonel in a stentorian tone.
“Top man,” he said, waving for Shannon to join them. “The Colonel will be our other umpire at the match. He’s a first class chap.”
“It’s an honor.”
“We’ve had a couple of players cry off on world affairs and maternity matters. Shannon has saved us.”
He reached out and took her hand and brought her to his side. The colonel’s eyes widened and he appeared to gasp for breath. Clearly he had never seen the earl holding hands with the village cop. Spencer took mercy on him and let him go with another round of stamping and saluting. Then he put his arm around her waist and pulled her to him, smiling happily. “I hope you didn’t mind me—you know—being here.”
“I think you shocked the poor chap.”
“Maybe a little. He’s my superior officer. I only made it to major.”
“He’s a sweet guy.”
She sensed his awkwardness. He longed to be spontaneous and had come to find her. Now his reserve left him not knowing what to do. She watched his face, his eyes on hers pulling her in. She was dying to kiss him. She let his gaze brush a thrill through her body. She pressed the button on her police radio.
“Three-eight-eight to Zulu Delta off duty Foxtrot Golf.”
“See, just like that, I’m all yours.”
“Are you? Are you?” he said with such a compelling shyness that she hugged his waist as his arms folded around her.
“You’re my hugga-bear man,” she said.
For a while he simply swayed her gently holding her to him. One hand had moved to her head that rested against his chest. She breathed in the maleness of him, letting a small switch click in her core. He stroked her hair. Pins and needles shot through her. She kissed his chest through his shirt.
“I wanted to see you. I had to….”
“I’m glad you did.”
“Glad I wanted to or glad I actually turned up.”
“Glad you saved me from inventing some way to see you.”
“You just say what’s in your mind, don’t you?”
“If I can, I’ll always give you what you give me, Spencer.”
She heard herself saying these words. It was what she wanted to say simply because she knew it was true. She knew she was signaling a bond and commitment to him. She was falling for this man and she was losing things to cling to.
“Shannon, can we talk a little?”
“I’ve just finished my shift. I’m in uniform and grubby.”
“Come up to the house for supper. You must be hungry.”
She thought for a moment. She wasn’t prepared but she had no will to fight against the flow of the moment.
“Supper, eh? We never had supper in our house.”
“It’s a simple snack with a shy posh bloke.”
“Decision made. Let’s go,” she said, vaulting into the Land Rover.
He drove round into the stable yard and parked in a garage.
“Not going out again tonight then?” she said, kissing his cheek.
He let out a sigh.
“I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I must seem very presumptuous….”
“Relax, Spencer. I wouldn’t have said yes if I’d thought you were gonna throw me out.”
He looked at her, leaned forward, and brought his lips to hers with such a tenderness that she felt as much emotion as desire, as if he had kissed her mind.
He took her hand and led her through the orangery where they had had tea just two days before. A corridor led to an enormous old-fashioned kitchen with a flagstone floor. A scrubbed wooden table big enough to seat twenty was set with two plates, two glasses and a bottle of wine. She stared up at the old oak beams high above her head. Spencer went to the fridge and took out plates of meat, cheese, and salad. She wanted just to look at him and feel his eyes on her. Just for these last normal moments of her life she made some conversation to give her some control.
“There was a fantastic character at the meeting. Vandervell O’Brien—do you know him?”
“Good gracious, yes. He’s one of the luvvies you know. He was some sort of media guru to the prime minister’s wife. She got him a knighthood. He’s harmless and quite famous for some film….”
“Red Flag of the Grimethorpe Zombies,” she said. “I’ve seen it, and I told him.”
“Yes, that’s it. God, he’ll love you forever.”
“That’d be wonderful,” she said.
He stopped and stared at her.
“Wonderful if Vandervell loved you?”
“No, to be loved forever.”
His eyes stayed on her. She’d known him for less than a week. “I wouldn’t want to be loved for any other length of time by anyone. Would you?”
“No, it wouldn’t be love, would it?”
He pulled his eyes away and went to a cupboard. He returned with a loaf of crusty bread. He seated himself opposite to her.
“Do you have a preference in wine?”
“They do three-for-ten-quid in Walmart. They suit my budget. You guess what three colors I like.”
“Red, red, and red,” he replied with a quick shy glance.
She laughed and leaned back, holding out her arms. She’d wanted him to be right or funny because she could feel him tuning in to her and she didn’t want to lose reception.
“I’m a right old open book, aren’t I?”
He opened the wine and poured it. Her heart was suddenly banging as she took a sip. It was deep rich and smooth.
“Not a Walmart bargain special, I guess?”
“Um … no.”
She closed her eyes and breathed in the fragrance. She tried to relax as the wine spread pleasure in her belly. So far they had filled the time with words. He had said he wanted to talk to her and that conversation lay between them like an unopened letter. She had no doubt that on the other side of this time with him lay the rest of her life, either because of what would happen or because of how she would feel.
“It’s silly. I just had to see you,” he said.
She didn’t think it was silly but she was desperate not to say anything flippant. She looked into his deep dark eyes and let him try to express himself. She wanted him. She didn’t need too much explanation.
“Things have come along very quickly, haven’t they?” he said
“These things can be that way.”
He cleared his throat before trying again.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t—you know—be like this.”
“This is what I like being like, you know—when this sort of thing comes along.”
“I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect you. I haven’t had the chance to catch my breath.”
She watched his face. He was looking down into his wine as if trying to rescue his drowning words. She knew she was letting him struggle. She also knew he was a man who would need to explain himself to her. He would not take her for granted even though she was wantonly granting herself the joy of being with him.
“You feel it’s improper to be at this point after just a few days?” she said.
He smiled and jumped into the warmth of her understanding. She was a woman. She was at least six weeks ahead in this conversation.
“Yes, exactly, but I don’t want you to think I’m right to think that.”
“I promise never to think you’re right. Unless you completely agree with me of course.”
He shook his head.
“You’re amazing. I had to see you and I’ve brought you here and I’m just bumbling about.”
She took both his hands in hers across the table. This great dam of a man was ready to burst. He was strong, chivalrous, and proud. She would draw out the essence of him and swim in it.
“Shannon … I did something today. I’d like to show you later.”
“You finished welding the Jaguar.”
“No, nothing like that.”
She knew that he hadn’t invited her to see his car-mending skills. Her mind flicked back to the jolt she’d felt when she’d first seen his chest through his open overalls. She just had to stop teasing him! For a couple of seconds he fell silent, then stood up and came round to her side of the table. He was behind her and let his hands fall on her shoulders. She felt his kiss on the top of her head as he massaged her flesh. Added to the warmth of the wine, the sheer maleness of the man, and the exquisite sensation of his hands on her, this was a moment of paradise. She groaned in pleasure.
“Sweet, sweet woman. I’m so stiff aren’t I? There’s never been anything like this and no one since….”
She put her hand on his. She couldn’t tease him now. How must it feel for him here, on the edge of a relationship with a new lover? His last few years had been a homage to memories. Probably he hadn’t thought of another woman until she’d barged into his life. Maybe to him this was a kind of goodbye to Saskia and he was stepping out alone with burdens of guilt as he left her at last. She would hold him firmly but he didn’t know that. He was a complex man. As a wealthy aristocrat he had a natural self-confidence. Yet, here with her he was shy and stumbling. He made sudden advances and then drew back in fear of his desire, emotion, and hopefully, lust.
“Spencer, we’re in the same place. If you built a perfect clock, it would just have the word NOW written on its face. I’m here with you now because I want to be….”
He continued to squeeze and soothe her shoulders. She resisted a temptation to mention Saskia. She didn’t want to tread anywhere on sacred soil. A time would come for that.
“I want you so much,” he said in his deep, considered voice. “I don’t think of anything else.”
“I don’t want you to think of anybody else. I don’t mind the odd random thought about the rest of the world.”
“That’s a deal then. How the hell did you come to me?”
“There was a vacuum in nature,” she replied.
She pushed her head back against his body and tilted her face upwards. She sensed that he too was bursting to kiss. He moved to her side and knelt down, taking her hands in his. She swiveled towards him and brought them up to her face as their lips met The joy of the kiss flowed from his hands into her body. An erotic charge released inside her. His lips found her soft, warm flesh. Any restraint had burned up in the heat of her flowing desire for him.
“This is your woman if that’s what you want,” she said.
“God, how I want you.”
She folded her hands around his head as he kissed her
“My lovely man, my lovely man,” she groaned.
“You are beautiful.”
“You’re a gorgeous hugga-bear.”
“I’m like a bloody teenager,” he said.
“I sure hope so, now that you’ve boiled me over.”
He stood up and drew her into his arms as she joined him.
“I was telling you about something I wanted to show you. I wasn’t sure, I’m not sure if it was the right thing to do.”
“Were you thinking of me when you did it?” she asked with a grin.
“Yes, it’s about you. That’s why I did it.”
“Then it was the perfect thing to do.”
“I fear I might seem a bit forward, a little presumptuous.”
“I won’t know if you don’t show me!”
She could tell he was still hovering on some kind of inner ledge. He poured the last of the wine and she slugged it back. He was such a handsome man. Even in his conservative shirt and plain trousers he could have been a model. She could only guess what was running through his mind. He was a peer of the realm. She was a street urchin from one of Europe’s roughest estates. Much could be made of their social differences, she knew that. She could have many motives for seeking such a man. She let the wine speak a little for her.
“Since we met I’ve wanted you too. I want you to know that. I’ll try to return whatever you give me. I know you’re a reserved man in some ways, but you don’t have to be with me. Does it help you for me just to say that?”
“Yes. Yes, very much. I want to say things that seem wrong to say. It’s like an ache. I’ve not had these feelings.”
“Me too,” she said simply.
“It’s like Napoléon and Joséphine,” he said suddenly as if some beam of inspiration had found him.
Her nature got the better of her.
“Napoléon—wasn’t he the top pig in Animal Farm? I did it at school.”
“I was being a minx, wasn’t I?”
“I think Joséphine was a bit of a minx too, and a lovely one. Napoléon fell so hard for her after one meeting.”
“And we’ve had four. Tell me more, my handsome emperor.”
He shook his head.
“I can’t hide how I feel about you…. I don’t want to hide it.”
“OK, I’m Joséphine. Tell me how beautiful, sexy, and intelligent she was.”
“She was all those things and she was very generous and extravagant too. I must admit I wanted to turn the conversation to her. She has a bearing on things….”
The wine was finished. He took her in his arms and kissed her deeply. She let herself relax and flow into the sensation of a wave floating her away. She was breathless as he took her hand and led her through the gallery. He stopped in front of a portrait of a beautiful elegant blond woman.
“She is Odile, Vicomtesse de Saintonge. She was a close friend of Joséphine. She is connected to what I’m going to show you.”
Still flushed with sexual heat, now she was also bursting with curiosity. They mounted a wide marble staircase to the second floor. He stopped at a large paneled door. He turned the brass knob. He took a deep breath.
“It’s in here,” he said sheepishly, leading her in. The room was warm. A huge Georgian window looked out into the darkness. The polished floor was boarded but mainly covered by expensive exotic rugs. To her right was a bed, but not a bed like anything she had seen or even imagined. It was a four-poster, each post topped with a bronze eagle. Swaths of rich red and gold fabric hung down in luxurious sweeps. The mattress was high and thick and covered with an embroidered counterpane.
“Voilà,” he said, indicating the bed with a flourish of his hand.
She stared at it. So, this shy guy had thought of her and come up with a bed. In the still air of the room she could smell his skin. Some presence of him zinged and flicked her inside.
“This bed belonged to the Empress Joséphine. She slept in it with Napoléon. She was a generous woman and gave it to my great-great-great-grandmother Odile. It’s been here unused until now.
Shannon gave a squeal of excitement.
“Am I gonna sleep in it?”
“I thought, I hoped….”
She let him tail away. There was no way she was not going to sleep in it.
“Is this your room?”
“No, it’s the Royal Suite. King Charles II slept here with Nell Gwyn, but not in this bed.
“Who sleeps here now?”
“No one…. I wanted a beginning, something apart from everything that had gone before. I had this put here today for my own special Joséphine.”
She slipped off her shoes and swung herself onto the bed. Looking up, the curtains seemed to sweep up to infinity. The mattress was soft. She propped her head up and turned to look at him.
“You’re so lovely,” he said.
“Better come and see up close then….”
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