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Jazz Robinson’s world was a night-time world of harsh streetlights diffusing into puddles that never seemed to dry, and of the constant awareness of the threat around corners and the misery in shop doorways. She wouldn’t have said she loved patrolling at night, because Jazz didn’t put things that way, but her colleagues could sense an eagerness, a belonging, and a sense of ease and confidence emanating from her every pore. The half-lit, harsh-lit concrete limbo of menace and abandonment was her natural territory. 

    They supposed she wasn’t really called Jazz, but everyone accepted it. Even her superiors in the constabulary called her that, and her name badge and warrant card proclaimed “PC Jazz Robinson”. She could probably have been promoted several years ago, but Jazz didn’t hanker to be a sergeant or an inspector.

    “Too much desk work,” was all the explanation she was prepared to give if one of her more daring colleagues raised the subject. They deferred to her anyway. They made jokes, the inevitable ones, about her being as “Quick as Jazz Robinson”, but knew perfectly well she had moods when it was best not to make jokes at all, and her eyes, almost the same navy as her uniform, took on a cold fire. But she wasn’t generally hasty-tempered.  She didn’t need to be. Though she was a fairly tall woman, she was quite slim in her build, and any local villain who hadn’t been forewarned might have thought she was – sometimes quite literally – a pushover. When one neat, swift, almost impersonal throw had rendered them prostrate on the pavement with their hands cuffed as part of the same movement, they knew better. The drunks, the rowdy, or the both, she could usually tame with a “look” (and her colleagues almost felt sorry for them!) or the simple, contemptuous words, “Go Home”. 

    You most definitely didn’t mess with Jazz, though she did, on occasion, in her own brusque way, display a kinder, if not a gentler side, with rough sleepers, and was of the unfashionable opinion that two able-bodied men outside a pub who were indulging in rather ineffectual fisticuffs and not disturbing anyone else were best left to it, and would be best mates the next day.

    She had, apparently, no time for political correctness, but still bestowed the “look” on anyone who unthinkingly referred to her as a WPC, or any miscreant who thought he could charm his way out of trouble.

    She was not universally popular, and she knew it, but she was respected. She was even nicknamed “Supercop” though she made her disdain for such things quite obvious. Still – when she had been recruited to giving the Stranger Danger talk at the local primary school (the kind of thing she regarded as a tiresome task to be evaded, but the officer who was planned to give it had been taken ill) and one of the children, who evidently was a little pitcher with big ears, whose parents were fond of the more sensational sections of the local newspaper, put up his hand, and asked, “Please Miss, are you the one they call Supercop?” the teacher swore she saw a smile twitch at her lips. All she said, in her rather dry, not over-loud voice was, “I am a police officer doing my duty.” 

    She preferred to patrol alone, on foot, a lioness stalking her prey, but if she had to, she was an excellent driver, with that trademark swiftness and efficiency of movement. She wasn’t wild about car-chases, but if needs must, she was good at them. 

    When she came on shift that particular evening she had been called in for a talk with the Superintendent, Patrick Potts, nicknamed Potty Paddy. True, he had his little ways, and did tell the same jokes rather too often, but Jazz had time for him. Like most serving officers she realised, as it seemed the writers of detective fiction often did not, that though there were always dishonourable exceptions, you didn’t get to be a high-up if you were a bumbling idiot. Potty Paddy, for all he was ensconced in his office most of the time, didn’t miss much, and those who could remember when he was on the beat said that he always pulled his weight. The desk job and too many dinners in posh restaurants were making that weight a bit heftier now, thought Jazz, but she only said, “You wanted to see me, Sir?”

    “Yes, Jazz. Sit down, will you?” Jazz had a tendency to pace.  It could make folk nervous.

    “You know we’re all impressed with your work. I don’t know if you’ll thank me for this, but have you reconsidered the matter of promotion?”

    “It’s not a thing I hanker for, Sir,” she said, dryly. 

    “I used to think that,” he said, pensively patting his expanding paunch, and sounding as if he were not quite sure if he had done the right thing changing his mind or not. “Well, I’m not going to force you. Just bear in mind we’d back you up. The other matter I wanted to see you about – as you’ll know, Josh has been transferred to another force. We’re a fire arms officer down. Would you like to be considered for training?”

    “I don’t know, sir,” she said, frankly, and for once, and nobody had ever accused Jazz Robinson of being indecisive, she meant it. On principle she wasn’t necessarily against all the police being armed, though she knew it wasn’t the panacea some of the tabloid press seemed to think it was. But as long as they weren’t, she didn’t know quite how she felt about joining the ranks of the armed. She knew, without any great conceit, but with no great modesty, that she would be good at it. She was a good shot. When she’d been a child the owners of fairground rifle ranges had come to dread seeing her coming. She also had a cool head, and knew that though she despised the trigger happy, her nerve wouldn’t fail her when it came to actually using a weapon. “May I think about that, too?”

    “Of course.” He knew he could trust Jazz on that. She had little time for others who left folk hanging about and dithered and shilly-shallied, but if she had jumped at the chance before he’d barely finished speaking, it would only have proven that he might have been mistaken in thinking her suitable. Her yea or nay would come soon enough.

    It was a quiet night on patrol. Even Jazz’s keen ears caught few apart from a discarded beer can rolling up the road in the fitful wind and a mournful seagull squawking as, seeming to forget he wasn’t nocturnal, he flew over the rooftops of the town. 

    As dawn broke over what seemed was going to be a drizzly, nondescript March day, she left the patrol to the day shift, and drove home. 

    Jazz had little time for the current craze for “mindfulness” . Her own stress-buster, and even Supercop wasn’t totally immune from stress, was a few glasses of white wine. That might have surprised her colleagues. When she was reluctantly coerced into one of their nights in the pub, she generally stuck to mineral water, at most an occasional half of lager, but they’d have said that she was more of a spirits drinker. But she did have an ability to detach her mind from matters other than the one immediately at hand, and the one immediately at hand when she was on patrol was, always, being on patrol. She had learnt not to trust quiet nights and to know that in a nanosecond they could become anything but. 

    This one hadn’t, but she had still determinedly shut out thoughts about what she termed “the fire arms business”. 

    What would Jeremy do, she thought, wryly, as she poured her wine and slipped out of her uniform boots and tunic, and changed into a soft dark blue crushed velvet skirt and pink floral top. She was still wakeful, and there was no point to trying to sleep when you weren’t tired, so she might as well get on with the latest book. She put on one of her favourite CDs of soft piano music, and went over to her computer. The romance between Leonie and the handsome, tough but sensitive police officer Jeremy was coming along very nicely. It would be the eleventh Jasmine Robertson novel, and her readers knew they were in safe hands. She told gentle, involving romances about people you could believe in with a sure and tender touch. She now even had her own personalised book jackets, with a little logo of jasmine in the corner. The words flowed easily from her mind to her hands, though as she looked down at those hands she decided she must treat herself to some nice expensive hand cream. Something light and floral.

    After she’d written two chapters, much as the wine tempted her to go back to more, she had her own rules. You didn’t drink alcohol when it was properly morning. Anyway, she’d love a mug of coffee. Going to her fridge she discovered that the milk had gone off. Jazz drank builders’ tea. Jasmine liked coffee with milk, though she could drink it without if push came to shove. Putting her pretty pink floral mug down on the kitchen table, she decided that a bit of fresh air would do her good anyway. Not that she hadn’t been out in the open air all night, but this was different. The convenience store on the corner was already open, but so far as most people were concerned, it was still very early morning. Mr Khan didn’t keep his store open all night, officially, but you would be hard pushed to find anyone who had been disappointed if they thought it would be open at any hour of night or day. 

    She bought her milk, and a newspaper, and decided those cupcakes looked very tempting. She and Mr Khan were old friends, and he did sometimes worry about her, as much as he did about his own daughters. She’d once inadvertently let slip that she liked to go out for a very early walk to clear her head sometimes. And although Mr Khan was naturally trusting and inclined to think the best of people, there was no denying that there were what the gentleman who delivered the newspapers to the shop called “Some wrong ‘uns” about.

    And Jasmine ( a lovely name, and it suited her) was such a mild, defenceless looking person!

November 14, 2019 08:13

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