The other night had been special. Jackie sure knew how to turn him on. Heavy metal rock chick in bed, complete with chains and whips; he couldn’t believe the transformation. Or maybe he could. He had seen her all tarted-up in DI Hemming’s office when he brought in the cuppas and biscuits. Hardly your regular Detective Sergeant; maybe she had a split personality. But she was smart, he gave her that. Passed all the DS exams with flying colours; top student in the region. And a decent athlete; he could testify to her stamina.
He dabbed after-shave over his stubble. Looks sexy, she had told him. He had two days leave left before back on the BECS murder investigation full-time. Maybe Jackie would give him second helpings. Another invite to the Butcher’s Arms? It was coming up to lunchtime. He decided to go over and check it out. Motorheavy had been awesome that night: could it be Black Metallica soon?
Of course they knew he was a copper. Even in his designer gear that his mother insisted he wore off-duty. He glanced around. Public bar pond-life discussing Mad Cow disease ... or the size of Sam Fox’s knockers, more like. The shifty looks and the smell of hastily stubbed-out fags. Sudden interest in the Sun’s racing page.
So much for the new image.
The other night, Chris, the new landlord, had explained. Local characters; real-life stereotypes. The tourists lap it up.
He sauntered around to the spacious lounge bar, past the CAMRA award sign hanging on the newly painted magnolia stone-clad wall, and up to the freshly varnished wooden bar. Dark-oak yacht paint, Chris had said. Lasts for years. He climbed onto a matching high-legged stool with arm-rests and smiled his winsome smile at the chubby barmaid, who was snacking on a packet of Cheese and Onion crisps. Milkmaid more likely. ‘Relax, I’m off-duty; and I could kill for a pint of 6X,’ he joked.
She grinned. Jiggled her churns a little under a tight fitting blouse. One size too small; or she was one size too big. ‘No need to kill, Chef’s already done that.’ She pointed to the Specials board, freshly chalked up with “Home-made steak and kidney pie, garden potatoes and veg.”
‘I’ll have some of that too,’ he said, while she pulled him his award-winning pint. ‘Pile it all on. I’m starving.’
She brushed a hand across her fringe. ‘I like a man who knows what he wants.’
He looked all innocent. ‘Really?’
She giggled, blushed, and busied herself writing out his order on a yellow post-it note. She tore off a red raffle ticket. ‘That’s your order number when the waitress shouts it out.’
He looked at the ticket. 69. He smiled. Somehow he knew everything was going to turn out okay.
‘Jackie, it’s Paul ... DC James ... remember? I’m at the Butcher’s Arms. You want to go see Black Metallica tonight?’
He listened. ‘Oh, I see. Working the streets again. Pity. Maybe tomorrow, huh?’
He felt empty when she ended the call.
She did sound disappointed. Didn’t brush him off. Let him down slowly. Fuck it. Time to drown his sorrows.
Lunchtime was a blur. The extended bar game of ‘Spoof’ with a socialising group he didn’t recognize, didn’t help. Four elderly gentlemen, freshly pressed suits and ties, invited him to participate. Challenging their worldly experience against his youthful sharpness. Guessing the number of coins held in the hands of the group. Last man standing buys a round...
...The milkmaid’s name was Patty or Polly, or was that the waitress? He couldn’t remember much after the first few vodka shorts on top of the four pints. Except landing up in a king-sized bed.
She shook him awake. ‘My evening shift, Paul.’ She pointed to the Donald Duck clock on the wall. ‘It’s seven o’clock. Chris said someone’s booked in. You gotta go.’
He sat up, puzzled. Groaned, and felt his throbbing head. ‘Where am I?’
‘The guest room above the bar, silly. Don’t you remember?’
No he didn’t. Then maybe he did. Jeers of raucous laughter from the pond-life. Shaking of heads from the elderly gentlemen. A brief recollection of stumbling up the sturdy wooden stairs, and being led by both girls into the room. A sudden thought occurred. He pulled back the covers. He was naked.
She was dressed, and tugging at his arm. ‘Don’t be shy; now we’re getting engaged.’
Bloody hell. What have I been saying? It’s not like me at all.
He forced a smile. ‘Really?’
She pouted, and threw his rumpled clothes at him. ‘You proposed. Got down on one knee. Or were you just saying it?’
‘Ermm ...’ he started to explain, but she interrupted.
‘I knew it. Drunk.’
He nodded his head. Looked ashamed. ‘Maybe I came on a bit too strong ...’
She surprised him. Laughed, her cleavage heaving. ‘It’s okay Paul. I was winding you up. We just let you sleep it off. Chris didn’t want you to get into trouble with the law.’
He still looked puzzled. Pointed at himself.
She laughed again. ‘Don’t tell Chris. That was our girlie treat. We tried to get you a hard-on, but you were out of it. Maybe next time, huh?’
Thank you God.