Above the sound of pealing bells from St Bartholomew’s church, the rasp of a motorcycle engine caught her ears. WPC 388Z, Shannon Aguerri, drew back into the shadows of the tree line that skirted the village green. She reduced the volume of her police radio and walked calmly towards the source of the noise. By now she could hear shouts and laughter. She made her way through a woodland copse, glad she’d worn trousers.
At the edge of a clearing she saw them. Three teenage lads were smoking and drinking from cans of beer or cider. A fourth boy was riding an old motor scooter in circles while swerving around trees and brambles. She watched them in the deepening dusk of the late July evening. It was only her second day as a village constable and at last she had some sort of mission. Although Brixton lay only a dozen miles to the north it was as if she had changed continents for the second time. The first had been when she had left the North Peckham Estate to join the police.
These soft white boys were no more than sixteen. Two days ago she would merely have driven by on the way to a report of robbery or burglary. So far, these lads represented all she’d seen of organized crime and anarchy in Fleetworth-Green. It was time to make a move.
“Yo!” she called out.
The boys looked around, still not spotting her. She walked out into the clearing.
“Yo! I said. Can you all see me now?”
They all froze and stared at her.
“Yeah, it’s the cops. Ain’t any of you gonna run off?”
They all glanced at each other, tossing away cans and cigarettes. She caught a whiff of ganja on the still air. So, there was a drug issue in paradise perhaps. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad here after all?
“Underage drinking, drugs, and I bet one of you nicked that bike,” 7
“No, no, it’s my bike,” said the lad sitting astride it.
“Ah well, just the drink and drugs then. Two out of three ain’t bad is it?”
She was sure that at least a couple of them would run. By now they would have figured that she couldn’t chase all of them. Instead of escaping they simply stared at her. She studied their mesmerized features and gave a theatrical shrug.
“No point in running now is there? I’ve seen all your faces. I’ll grab one of you and he’ll grass up the others,” she said.
“You’re not PC Flowers,” stammered a boy.
“I’m not PC anyone. I’m a WPC. You’ll be able to see that when you sober up.”
Another lad sniggered.
“Nothing to laugh at, young man. You lot are in the shit,” she said.
The motorcyclist had turned off the engine. Shannon spotted the key in case she had to grab it. He appeared more confident than the others.
“I’m entitled to a lawyer if I’m arrested and I refuse to answer any questions,” he said in a posh accent.
“A lawyer would be a good idea. Do you always call the same one when you get locked up?” she asked.
Her response seemed to unsettle him. “What?” he said.
“Well, that’s what all the big tough criminal masterminds do on TV, innit,” she said.
He didn’t reply. There was a sound to her left as one of the group ran. Another quickly followed. A third lad, visibly trembling watched them go and hesitated, trying to assess Shannon’s mind.
“Just run then. I don’t want you to wet yourself standing there,” she said.
With that he bolted, tumbling and scrambling through undergrowth in panic. Shannon turned to the motorcyclist and snatched the key.
“Just you and me then,” she said.
“You’re not chasing them,” he said.
“No, no, I’m not, am I? Since you and your lawyer won’t be answering any questions you must be happy to take the rap all alone. So, there’s no point is there?”
The lad looked dismayed.
“That’s not fair,” he mumbled. Shannon smiled and shook her head.
“Ah, this life, eh? Not fair. Dear, oh dear. I can tell you’re not the kind of guy who’s gonna grass up his mates, even though I could torture it out of you,” she said.
“Torture?” the boy gasped.
Shannon smiled again.
“You’re gonna have to work on your sense of humor. I’m not asking you for names. I’m not gonna knock on their doors so that’ll give you a big wedge of cred and you’ll owe me,” she said, looking him in the eyes. “So what’s your name?”
“Ben,” he replied.
Shannon let an awkward silence embarrass him. “Big Ben?”
“Date of birth?” she asked.
“Twenty-fourth November, 1997,”
“So where’s the bike from?”
“My father. He has a workshop. It’s a bit of a project. He’s a brilliant engineer. He says the Mods used to have scooters and grandfather was a Mod,” said the boy, seeming to grow more cheerful.
“I bet your dad doesn’t know you’ve got it,” said Shannon. A silence answered her.
“I’ll take that for a ‘No’ then. Who’s at home? Your mum?”
“She died,” he said simply.
Shannon gave him a quick smile and a nod of understanding. She kicked herself for being cocky with her remark about the fairness of life. He already knew that hard fact.
She pulled her radio from her belt and ran a PNC check on his name. A response came back.
“There’s a trace. Cautioned for possession class B last year.”
Shannon studied the boy. He was obviously quite privileged and respectable. All the same at fifteen he had a small record for possession of drugs and no mother. In her experience, this lad could go either way.
“Your dad’s at home then?”
“Well, you’re in the garden, you know, the grounds. The house is over there,” he said, pointing through the trees into the distance.
“The grounds?” Shannon questioned. “I didn’t see any fences.”
“Father doesn’t believe in shutting people out,” said Ben.
“Let’s go then. I’ll have to check out the scooter story with your dad. Lucky I didn’t see any drinking or smoking so I’ve solved that crime wave,” she said.
Ben looked up at her with almost an open-mouthed expression of shock.
“You’re a bit different,” he said.
“Not PC Flowers you mean?” “Not just that, I mean....”
The lad stumbled to a halt. Shannon smiled at him.
“You mean I’m a kinda half-black woman.” He smiled back.
“Yeah, there’s that too. But mainly you’re cool.”
“Not many people told me that in Brixton. Come on. Get pushing the bike. How far is it?”
“About a mile,” said Ben groaning.
“Think of it as punishment in the community. It’s the modern fashion. If you still think I’m cool when we get there I’ll know you meant it.”
Without further complaint he took the handlebars and started to push. Soon they were out of the wood at the edge of a large paddock that ran down to a lake. On the other side of the water the ground rose through open lawns to a huge mansion. Shannon stared at it.
“Christ! Is it real?” she asked.
“Yes. It’s Bloxington Manor and this is the Bloxington Estate. My father is the 11th earl,” said Ben.
“And who’s the guy who was a Mod and had the Vespa?”
“That was Grandfather, Sir Rupert Spofforth. He was my mother’s father. He still lives in Chelsea.”
Shannon couldn’t believe what she could see. The place was pure breath-stopping magnificence. She didn’t know too much about such things but she guessed the grounds had been created by the likes of Vanburgh or Capability Brown. They had reached a road and walked together in the deep dusk. Late swallows were giving way to bats almost brushing her face as they swooped around them.
“Our bodies attract bugs and the bugs attract bats,” said Ben, 11
seeming to pick up Shannon’s innocence and discomfort when it came to the countryside. She wanted to use the walk to good effect. A peacock flapped up into a tree with an enormous shriek.
“Jesus, what the hell was that?” she asked.
“Peacock. They’re all over the place,” said Ben.
“Like drugs in the village?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do. You’ve been cautioned for possession and one of your mates was smoking skunk.”
Ben didn’t answer.
“This is off the record Ben, and you owe me,” she said, allowing a little edge to creep in to her voice.
“Yeah, there’s stuff everywhere,” he mumbled.
“OK. What little region of everywhere would I go to if I wanted to score?”
Ben sighed and looked down.
“I’ll tell you something—but please don’t....”
“I’ve told you, Ben. This is between you and me, OK? Your friend was smoking skunk and don’t think I don’t know the smell.”
He nodded. She could tell that he was wrestling with a big decision. He stopped the bike and looked at her with tears in his eyes.
“I want to tell you. I want to tell you everything but you won’t believe me. I’ve never taken any drugs. I know I’ve got that record but it wasn’t fair....”
Shannon’s heart went out to the boy. She’d been wrong to push him. In the inner city this kind of thing was routine. In truth the lad was probably terrified.
“The kid with the weed lives out on a new development outside Fleetworth-Green. I only know his first name is Ashley. He’s a bully and Mr Big-twat at school. He steals the skunk from his parents. That’s all I know. The house is in the corner on the right and it's got a flint stone facing and those windows in the roof," he said in a big rush.
Shannon reached out and touched his shoulder.
“Thanks for that, Ben. You’re a star and I promise you no one will ever know you told me that. Not even your father, although really I should tell him you’ve helped me.”
“Thanks,” he said.
Shannon reflected on her good luck. If the skunk smoker was stealing the stuff from his parents then maybe they were in the business. Luckily he’d run off. She guessed he wouldn’t be owning up and alerting his mum and dad any time soon.
The imposing facade of Bloxington Manor now filled her vision. In the center was a columned classical entrance with massive stone pillars. To either side brick-built Georgian-windowed wings stretched away in perfect symmetry.
“The stables are at the back,” said Ben, wearily trudging along with the scooter. They followed the drive to an enormous cobbled courtyard which was surrounded by stables. From the half-doors several horses’ heads gazed out with an air of calm nobility. A brand new metallic black Range Rover towing a matching horse- box sat in the middle of the yard. Shannon glanced at it and noted the number plate “JA51 LAW.” A pool of light spilled from a large open door at the far end of the stables. She caught the sound of an angle grinder and saw the blue flickering flash of an arc welder.
“My father will be in there,” said Ben.
She stepped inside. An old-fashioned racing car was on a garage- style ramp and a tall broad guy was welding the underside. He wore a full face protective mask and blue overalls. She knew not to look at the intense light from the sparks. At a quick glance he was working on aluminum. So, he knew what he was doing. She was happy to study the engineer. He was about six foot three. He was broad and powerful. His boiler suit was open showing a tanned dark-haired chest and some belly hair arrowing down through the waistband of his boxers. His body was strong and sexy. When he paused she spoke.
“Good evening, Sir. Looks like you’re welding aluminum.”
He stepped out from under the ramp and flipped up the mask to reveal a handsome aristocratic face smudged with oil. Crow’s feet around his eyes stood out where dirt hadn’t penetrated. She guessed he was about forty.
“Good Lord! Are you some kind of police officer?” he barked in deep loud voice.
“I like to think so. I’m gonna keep trying anyway,” said Shannon with a smile.
“Where on earth are you from?”
“The village, Fleetworth-Green. It’s just beyond the trees over there,” she said, well aware she was being mischievous.
“I know where the bloody village is,” he said with an exasperated tone.
“Are you going to say that I’m not PC Flowers?” “Yes, you certainly are not PC Flowers.”
“We’re agreed then,” said Shannon.
“Look. What the hell is this?”
She could tell he was hovering between anger and laughter. She
had to tease. She just had to.
“It’s a police raid. Hands behind your back while I put the cuffs on,” she said, smiling all the while.
“What, what? Who the hell are you?”
“Sir, I was joking.”
“Where is PC Flowers? He’s the only man I deal with.”
“Where have all the flowers gone, eh?” Shannon remarked. “What? What?”
“I’m WPC Shannon Aguerri, your new local bobby on the beat.” “No one told me,” he blustered.
Slowly he pulled off his welding gloves to reveal big strong- looking hands and forearms. He wiped his face with a rag. Shannon held his angry stare, noting his deep brown eyes and long straight nose like that of a Norman knight. She could tell that he was softening as he took in her coffee skin and blue eyes. She smiled and knew he couldn’t resist a small smile in return.
“And you are the local police officer?”
“Yes. Fresh out of the box from Brixton. Someone important thought you guys needed me.”
“Brixton?” he said, almost aghast.
“Yeah, Brixton Academy, Brixton Market, Brixton riots and don’t forget Brixton Prison.”
“This is astonishing. No one told me,” he said.
“I’ll mention it to the Commissioner,” she said.
“I could tell the bloody Home Secretary.”
“And I’ll tell Boris Johnson and he’ll go on TV and tell everyone,” said Shannon, enjoying the sport.
Without warning he let out a bellow of laughter.
“Yes. Bloody Boris would, wouldn’t he?”
For a second he stared at her and appeared to have a light-bulb moment.
“I get it. Good Lord. You’re a ‘stripogram cop.’ This is Jazzy’s idea of a birthday surprise. You bloody near had me fooled,” he said chuckling with hearty mirth.
“Father, she’s the village cop,” said Ben who had walked in behind her.
Shannon smiled broadly.
“I’ll take it as a compliment, Sir,” she said. “Anyway, is it your birthday? No party?”
“No,” he said with a kind of plainness that conveyed a sorrow.
“Are you this young man’s father?”
“He was in the woods on a Vespa scooter. He claims it belongs to you.”
“Yes. Yes it does,” he said, turning his attention to Ben. “Is this so? It’s not a dirt track machine. Have you damaged it?”
Ben shook his head and studied the floor. Shannon was aware of the clatter of horses’ hooves.
“Sir, I just wanted to check he hadn’t stolen it.”
“Stolen?” said a sharp posh female voice from behind her.
“Ah, Jazzy,” said the earl with a smile. Shannon glanced at Ben, noting that his face had clouded. She caught the boy’s eye and gave a small wink.
The woman came and stood beside the hunky guy in overalls.
“I hope you have not dared to question a minor without all the proper protocols, Officer,” she said.
Shannon looked her up and down. She was slim and elegant even if she did have over-large teeth. She was dressed in riding jodhpurs and a beautifully cut black jacket. Wisps of blonde hair trailed from her riding helmet.
“Who are you?” asked Shannon with deliberate formality. 16
“I am Jasmine de Montfort. I’m a barrister-at-law at the Marlborough-Fortescue Chambers. You will know of us I think. Although at your rank you won’t be dealing with top level cases,” she said with an icy smile.
“I dunno. I’ve locked up all kinds of toffs but so far, no barristers. One never knows though, does one?” replied Shannon.
“Toffs! Toffs! What is your name and number, Officer? I think you need to be aware of the limits of your authority.”
Shannon held her stare for a moment.
“The numbers are on my shoulder. Is that your ‘Chelsea Tractor’ four-by-four out there?”
“How dare you?”
“It’s easy, Madam. Is it yours?”
“Yes. What of it?”
“The number plate is illegal. The letters are mis-spaced. You know it and I know it.”
Shannon glanced at Ben’s face. His expression barely hid some kind of joy.
“Yes. It reads JA51 LAW. I guess you are trying to make it read ‘Jazi’? It’s all a bit vulgar to my mind,” said Shannon.
Ben let out a howl.
“You are impertinent!” said Jasmine de Montfort.
“And you are risking a sixty-quid ticket if you drive that out of here, Madam,” replied Shannon.
Although Jasmine de Montfort, barrister-at-law at the Marlborough-Fortescue Chambers didn’t actually stamp her foot, her boiling rage looked near to explosion. Shannon smiled and carefully drew out her notebook and made a show of recording some official matter. In fact she sketched her version of a volcano. Poor Ben squealed again.
The earl glanced awkwardly between all of the faces. 17
“Spencer, what the hell is going on?” asked Jasmine.
“Jazz, perhaps you should leave me to speak with the officer,” he said.
His tone was firm and Shannon saw at once that Jasmine was not going to contradict him in front of her, although she continued to look down her nose at Shannon as if she wanted to spit.
“I’ll be in the house,” she said, strutting off across the yard. “Ooh, my little pony’s not too happy,” said Shannon.
It was all too much for Ben who appeared to go into a fit of laughter that could physically harm him.
“My little pony. My little pony,” he repeated.
“Ben, get across to the house. We’ll speak later,” said Spencer.
Shannon shot a last smile at the lad. She didn’t know the set-up here but it wasn’t happy and there was room for improvement. She sensed she was on a case. She let out a sigh.
“I guess I didn’t handle that too well,” she said. “I shouldn’t have been rude.”
He smiled and seemed relaxed.
“Oh, frisky fillies can rear up a bit I suppose,” he said.
This time it was Shannon’s turn to be gobsmacked. Just where the hell was this guy from?
“I’m not any kind of frisky filly,” she stated.
“No—I’m sorry—but you introduced my little pony didn’t you.”
“Yes, that’s a fair comment,” said Shannon.
He beamed at her with the most genuine warmth she had ever seen in a human face.
“Do you truly believe in fairness?”
“Well, that’s a question, Sir. Yes I do, but I guess I accept a lot of compromise.”
He nodded and smiled again.
“So what was Ben up to?”
“Just hanging out with some mates and riding the scooter. You know, he’s a good lad, but maybe in the wrong company he could go astray.”
She watched his expression change.
“I don’t feel I need the police to tell me his character,” he said.
“I’m not telling you the police view. I’m telling you as me, as a woman, as a frisky filly.”
He smiled at her again and she smiled back. “I guess that’s touché,” he said.
She watched him take up his tools to re-start his work. She saw him notice her eyes on his body and appear almost shy.
“You should keep those overalls buttoned up, Sir. Bare skin is very sensitive to a hot spark,” she said.
“You know about welding?”
“My dad’s a mechanic. He started in Antigua. I used to go down the arches with him when I was a kid and my mum was out at work in the hospital. He sat me in the corner but I was always helping out if I could,” she said, warming to the memory.
“That’s amazing. You know, a cop and, you know, just someone like you knowing about cars,” he said.
She sensed the fragile innocent boyishness in him that had called to her heart when talking to Ben.
“What’s your project here?” she asked.
“Ah well, she’s a D-type Jaguar that raced at Le Mans in the fifties. I’m hoping to take her back there.”
“Can I come?” she said.
“My dad rates me as a top dog oily rag.” “Really. You’re very—”
“I know. Forward, I suppose. Don’t ask, don’t get, Mister, innit?” she replied.
“Innit?” he questioned.
“Innit – chav-speak for ‘is it not,’ ‘n’est-ce-pas,’etcetera,” she said.
He stared at her and she let her eyes soften, expand, and accept him. She breathed in deeply, knowing that the swell of her chest drew his gaze and him into her.
“Well, thank you, Officer,” he said slowly. “Goodnight and sleep tight,” she replied.
“You won’t turn into PC Flowers, will you?” he said.
“I won’t change if you don’t,” she said, “and you can tell Miss High Horse Legal Knickers that I won’t be stopping her car tonight. In case she’s afraid I’ll lay siege to your castle.”
“Yes. Thanks,” he said, replacing his welding mask and picking up his tools. And yes! He was laughing as he turned away. She knew that he knew she knew. A little buzz in her belly thrilled her as she stepped outside. A little voice whispered that it was time to go back on the pill.
The night air was sweet and filled with sounds of vibrant mysterious life. The scent of newly cut grass and roses filled her senses. She walked slowly back to the empty police house. The lives of these two guys, a father and his motherless son, had touched her. She knew that. She had connected from within herself. In the vital fragrance of the night some juice of her was flowing down an umbilicus that had always been waiting to ambush her soul. Some emotion was pouring helplessly out of her and some kind of love and connection was pouring in. Above her were cold stars and beneath her feet was the stored warmth of a summer’s day that her physical body could still feel. Her mind, her ability to reach both beyond and within herself, was the essence of conscious life. It had taken merely the question in the eyes of a being who needed her. She knew she would never quite be the same again and that the word “lost”’ had no meaning or leverage until someone found you. From then on, nothing other than that has any meaning.
Excerpted from "Seduction of Dynasty" by Emma Calin. Copyright © 2014 by Emma Calin. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.