Series: Street Duty
By Chris Ould
HOME OFFICE PRESS RELEASE:
“The Trainee Police Officer programme is a pilot scheme which will enable the Police Service to enrol and train new recruits from the age of sixteen. Training will last two years, combining Academy study with Street Duty placement at selected operational stations.
On completion of the initial two-year training course, Trainee Police Officers will serve an additional year as Probationer PCs before joining their selected station as regular officers.
We anticipate that the TPO programme will enable the Police Service to more actively engage with younger elements of the community, as well as provide a fast-track entry to the Service for recruits demonstrating outstanding ability.
The TPO programme will be conducted on a trial basis in England and Wales and applicants will be chosen by selective interview. It is anticipated that the first intake of TPOs will number fifty, divided between three areas of the country: the South-west, North-east and the Midlands.”
“Why don’t you just go then? Go on – you’re old enough, you know everything. Just go! Give us all some bloody peace and quiet for a change!”
So that’s what she’d done, a couple of weeks after her sixteenth birthday – packed a bag and left.
She was sick of the rows anyway – on and on and on. Every time they were in a room together he was just looking for some reason to have a go at her. And her mum just let it happen, as useless and pathetic as ever. It was like he’d wanted her to leave, and now that she had she wouldn’t go back – it would just be one more thing he’d use to rubbish her. He’d like that.
Dean was different though – the way he looked after her, right from that first time they’d met in the park. He’d asked if she was okay and she’d said that she was, even though she knew she probably didn’t look it. She’d been sleeping rough for a few days by then, wearing the same clothes, wanting a shower.
Gemma knew enough to be wary when a bloke came up to her like that, but Dean wasn’t creepy. He acted like he was genuine and he was decent-looking too – about thirty – so Gemma reckoned he’d probably got a girlfriend or a wife. He was just asking if she was okay, so she smiled at him and said Thanks for asking and that was how they got chatting – sitting on the steps of the bandstand in the park in the August sunshine.
Even after she went to stay with him at the flat she liked to go back to the park when the weather was nice. They’d just stroll together in the sun, holding hands, talking, making plans. When it was really hot they’d sunbathe on the grass and she’d lean her head on his chest, like a pillow. They’d share a can of lager, exchanging beery kisses, or get sticky from melting ice creams, bought from the kiosk by the gates.
Whatever they did, Dean made Gemma feel like she was special. He never treated her like she was only sixteen, but always like she was more his own age. He didn’t make her feel like an idiot either, and he was always honest with her. Like when he told her that he’d had a girlfriend for three years, but she’d left him six months ago and it had taken him this long to get over it. He said Gemma was the first person he’d met in a long time who he knew he could trust. That was why he was telling her this. He could trust her, couldn’t he? She was different.
And because of the look on his face and the need in his eyes, Gemma held him close then and said Yes! – meaning it and knowing, for the first time, that she was in love with him.
Of course, he wasn’t perfect, she knew that. She knew the stuff he kept in the spare bedroom was nicked, but so what? It was like he said: he didn’t nick it, he just sold it to people round the estates who couldn’t afford to pay supermarket prices for vodka or fags.
And sometimes he did have a temper, but not often. And if he did lose it he always said sorry afterwards, making it up to her with kisses and presents. That was more than Gemma had ever seen her dad do with her mum, so this had to be better. It had only been a few weeks, but she knew that she loved Dean and that he loved her too.
She looked at him now, across the busy pub lounge, waiting for him to come back to the table. He was chatting with a guy in a denim jacket by the fruit machine, but every now and then he glanced over to her and smiled and she smiled back.
She didn’t mind waiting. She knew he was probably talking business, doing a deal. It didn’t matter. She always felt good when she went out with him like this. She liked it when he watched her get dressed up before they left the flat, like he was proud to be taking her out, like they were properly together: Gemma and Dean; Dean and Gemma – a real couple.
She was still thinking about that when she felt him sit down next to her again and put a hand on her arm. She hadn’t realised that she’d gone off in a dream, staring blurrily at the tabletop and the glasses. She jerked her head up to look at him and smile, but it took her a few seconds to focus on his face. Maybe it was because of the rum-and-Cokes she’d been drinking, or the half an E from earlier. But it didn’t usually make her feel this way. Could it have been something else…?
“All right, babe?”
Gemma nodded, smiled again. “Yeah.”
Dean stroked her arm, then nodded away to the guy by the fruit machine.
“He fancies you.”
“No, he does: he said.”
Even so, she couldn’t help looking towards the guy in the denim jacket. She was still having trouble focusing though. Everything more than a metre away was a kind of hazy blur – fuzzy and weird. And now her head felt heavy – disconnected, kind of unbalanced.
While she was thinking about that she lost interest in trying to see the guy by the fruit machine and instead pulled her gaze back to the table, refocusing with a kind of blink. Then she saw that Dean had been watching her – letting her look at the other guy, like he was waiting to see what she’d say.
“So?” he asked. “What d’you think?”
She smiled at him, even if it was a bit lopsided. By now she’d forgotten the question. Had there been one? – How pissed was she?
That hadn’t come out right, had it? She frowned and felt dazed.
“D’you fancy him?”
“Wha’? No! Get out!”
She tried to make a gesture so he’d know she really meant it, but her hand and arm didn’t want to cooperate. It was odd, seeing them jerk around, all uncoordinated.
“I don’ fancy nobody – nobody else – ’cept you. I love you.”
She managed to find his hand on the table, grabbed hold of it, squeezing. He stroked her fingers.
“How much d’you love me?”
The question confused her. It was hard to work out what he meant. She wanted him to talk about something easier.
“Mass-es,” she said. “You— Masses ’n’— massesnmasses…”
She lopsided-smiled again but then she felt her head loll downwards because she’d forgotten to keep it upright and when she tried to correct it it went too far the other way, backwards. Why was it so hard to get it to be in the right place? It wasn’t usually this hard, was it?
“I love you masses too,” he said.
She must have closed her eyes for a moment. Next thing she knew he was beside her, helping her stand, putting an arm round her waist. She giggled as she stood up. Giggled because it was funny, trying to stand when she felt all floaty and floppy and lovely and loving. She could just hug him, and she did, or at least tried to while he helped her towards the door on her uncoordinated feet.
Outside the fresh air felt good – cooler – and because it was dark she didn’t bother to try and see where they were going as he supported her across the car park. She knew he’d be taking her to the van, to go home. She thought she heard him saying something but she wasn’t sure. It didn’t seem like he was talking to her.
“You got it, right?”
Who was he talking to?
She tried to look round but her head was too heavy to lift from her chest.
“Shh-shh,” he told her. “Not far. Just to the van. You need a lie-down, babe, that’s all.”
“Mmm… Lie down wi’ you,” she said, snuggling against him, feeling dreamy and lovey.
“Yeah, later,” he said. “In a bit.”
When they reached the van he held her up with one arm round her waist as he unlocked the doors. Through the heavy, warm cloud in her head she was vaguely aware that this was the back of the van, not the front, but it didn’t seem to matter. Dean knew what was best. He must be doing something… Could she— What?
“There you go, all cosy – look.”
Look at what? What was he showing her?
“Just climb in there. – Yeah, that’s it. That’s the way. Pull your legs in. – See? Nice and soft with that mattress, didn’t I tell you? There you go.”
Soft… It was soft. Like a bed… Like snuggling up on a bed in the back of the van. Lots of space… Dreamy, floaty space – like she was swimming…
“Come on then. Christ’s sake…”
“No, man – she’s out of it. I don’t do…”
…Like she was swimming – floating – just on top of the water…rocking…rocking…
Something on her cheek. Harder. Sharp. Slapping. Try to look. Move.
“There. See? She’s awake enough. Won’t make no difference anyway. Do it in her sleep. I told you.”
Rocking…rocking… She heard the van door close, tried to sit up, to see where he was. Dark – or were her eyes closed?
Then she felt him moving beside her.
“All right, sweetheart.”
No. No, it wasn’t.
“It’s okay. He’s just outside. – Come on, turn this way…”
She cried out but it was hardly a sound.
Gemma loved Dean, but now he's making her do things she doesn't want to do. Taz is being paid as an informant for the cops, but is she getting too close to the targets? And when trainee copper Holly attends two suspicious deaths in two days, can she cope with the fallout? Especially when it starts getting personal...
Three different lives, all on the line. No way back. No way out.
The second book in the gripping Street Duty series from BAFTA award-winning writer, Chris Ould.
“A brilliant, down-to-earth crime drama.”
The Lancashire Evening Post
Chris Ould was first published as a novelist for adults before going on to become a BAFTA-winning screenwriter, writing for television dramas including The Bill, Casualty, Soldier Soldier and Hornblower. Street Duty is his first book series for young adults.
“Unmissable and thrilling fiction for teenagers grown up enough for a tough-talking, brutally honest lesson in the harsh realities of youth crime.”
The Lancashire Evening Post