Rose Simons and her boyfriend, Tony Hopkins, sipped their beers as they stood at the bar, examining the pub’s menu. To be more precise, Tony sipped his pint, but Rose was already more than halfway through hers by the time they’d made their food choices. She gazed at her glass in mock astonishment.
‘Where did that go?’ she asked of no one in particular. ‘This always bloody happens. I come into a pub, get a pint, take a few sips and, blow me, it’s half gone and I need another. I’ll join you in a tick.’
Tony, a paramedic with the local ambulance service, returned to their table while Rose re-examined the row of handpumps. By the time she’d made her choice, her first glass was empty.
‘Don’t look at me in that tone of voice,’ she said to the young man behind the bar. ‘I’m absolutely stone cold sober and intend to remain so for the rest of the evening. Girl-guide’s honour.’
She glanced out of the window as she made her way to re-join Tony, her attention attracted by the sight and sound of an expensive, black saloon skidding to a halt on the gravel surface of the carpark. She frowned and walked across the room.
‘So why did you join the police, Rose? You’ve never told me.’ Tony reached out to take the offered pint.
She shrugged as she sat down. ‘I was influenced by watching Wonder Woman on the telly. I couldn’t wait to get into a bright-coloured outfit and save the world. Anyway, I wanted to beat people up. It seemed a good way to go about it.’
Tony sat forward in astonishment. ‘What? You’re joking.’
‘No, I’m not.’ Rose smoothed out a crease in her dress. She wore dresses so infrequently that, when wearing a glamorous one like this, she’d spend half the evening smoothing, tugging, lifting and generally fidgeting. ‘When I was ten there was a creep at school who bullied me constantly. He used to pinch the cake from my lunchbox every time my mum put some in. I swore I’d get even with him one day.’
‘And did you?’
She laughed. ‘Too bloody right. I lifted him for assault a few years down the line and socked him in the face for resisting arrest. I might just have elbowed him in the ribs too. It was one of the high points of my life.’
She looked up as two men walked in through the door, and moved towards the bar, laughing. She scowled and took out her phone. ‘This bloody had to happen, didn’t it? A night off and two low-lifes walk in. Wanted for car theft.’
‘You’re not going to start something in here, are you? Aren’t you off duty?’ Tony whispered, looking around the busy pub.
Rose snorted. ‘What, with these heels on and in my best frock? Course not. I’m a well-respected sergeant and middle-aged to boot. No, I’ll get my juniors to start something on my behalf. Anyway, from a philosophical and sociological viewpoint, someone like me is never off-duty,’ she added in a mock-snooty voice. ‘It’s the same with you, isn’t it? A paramedic’s hardly ever off duty either. If someone in here collapsed suddenly, you’d be leaping across the room to examine them.’ She nodded glanced across at the two newcomers, settling at a corner table across the room. ‘It’s their own fault, anyway. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, they had to walk into the one I’m in.’
She spoke a few words into her phone then lay it on the table in front of her. ‘Five minutes. Let’s hope our food doesn’t arrive before then. I don’t like being disturbed once I start eating. It makes my stomach gurgle.’
She kept an eye on the view through the window and was soon rewarded with the sight of two squad cars quietly arriving. She stood up.
‘Need the loo,’ she explained. ‘Convenient that the door to the corridor opens out this way, don’t you think?’
With that, she walked the few yards to the entrance to the toilet corridor and slid quietly through.
Tony watched as the main door opened and a pair of uniformed police officers came into the bar, moving quietly towards the corner of the room where the two suspects were sitting. One of the young men remained where he was when he spotted the police duo approaching, but the other hurled himself out of his seat and careered across the room towards the toilet corridor, with its emergency exit to the rear car park. Glasses went flying as he rushed past groups of drinkers, but he didn’t get far. Just as he was reaching for the handle, the door jerked open and caught him hard on the nose. He stepped back, groaning in pain. Rose emerged, resplendent in her sky-blue bodycon dress.
‘Oh, my goodness, I am so sorry. How clumsy of me. Are you all right, young man?’
She moved forward and somehow managed to collide with him as he tried to push past, her elbow ending up jabbing him in the stomach. He hunched forward, badly winded but somehow tangled with her outstretched leg. He fell to the floor. Two more squad-car officers appeared and quickly cuffed him.
Rose returned to her seat. ‘I thought they’d both be sensible. Should’ve known better. Ricky there is an out-and-out nutter.’ She bent down to inspect her legs. ‘I hope I haven’t laddered my tights. They’re new.’
Tony, open-mouthed, couldn’t think of anything to say. Luckily their food arrived at that point. ‘Let’s tuck in,’ she said. ‘My metabolism always gets stimulated by a bit of excitement like that.’
‘Another pint, Rose?’
She narrowed her eyes. ‘Maybe make it a half? For you, anyway. I don’t want you falling asleep on me tonight. Remember that chocolate dipping sauce? I’ve got a new pot of it. On my bedside table.’