Home > Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1)

Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1)
Author: Helen Harper

Chapter One

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as curling up on the sofa with a glass of red wine and chatting to your boyfriend about the best way to bring down a snarling six-foot-tall bloke armed with a machete.

‘He had this crazed look in his eye,’ I said, twirling my finger at my temple. ‘I knew deep down that he was seconds away from spinning round towards the restaurant and slicing at as many people as he could. We were a hair’s breadth away from total bloody carnage.’

Jeremy shook his head in dismay. ‘You’re still in training, Emma. I can’t believe they put you in such a dangerous situation.’

I tried to act casual, as if the incident hadn’t left me shaking uncontrollably for an hour afterwards, and took a sip of my wine. ‘It’s not like it was planned. And,’ I added, ‘this is the best way to learn.’

‘By almost getting your head chopped off by a psychotic madman?’

‘He didn’t even get close,’ I dismissed with the surge of invincibility that only comes after you’ve confronted your own mortality head-on and walked away still breathing.

I placed my glass on the table and stood up, tugging at Jeremy’s hand to encourage him to do the same. Then I gave him the butter knife, which still had crumbs clinging to its dull blade, and stepped back about six paces. ‘He was roaring loudly enough to wake the dead.’

Jeremy grinned, swishing the butter knife from side to side before letting out what could only be described as a remarkably feeble attempt at a roar.

‘But,’ I continued, ‘he was expelling so much energy on the noise he was making, and was so focused on the weapon in his hand, that he didn’t realise Williams was coming up behind him. I pulled out my baton and feinted left with it.’

I reached for a magazine and rolled it up, using it as a prop to act out what had happened. Jeremy responded, lifted up his butter knife to block my ‘attack’, and roared again. I beamed and nodded.

‘And while that was happening, Williams got right up behind the perp…’ I hustled round the table until I was at Jeremy’s back ‘…reached round his neck with one arm, while at the same time slamming his free hand into his carotid artery.’ In slow motion, I pretended to do the same to Jeremy. ‘The blow caused the perp’s blood pressure to drop instantly and he collapsed.’

Jeremy groaned and fell to his knees, releasing his hold on the knife. It clattered to the floor.

I stepped in front of him and dusted off my palms. ‘Hey presto,’ I said. ‘One incapacitated criminal.’

He choked and spluttered melodramatically. Hollywood wouldn’t be calling any time soon. ‘This criminal might need the kiss of life to recover,’ he told me.

‘Well,’ I said softly, lowering myself to his level, ‘I’d better get onto that before it’s too late.’ I leaned towards him, my lips meeting his. For a moment he didn’t react, then he opened his mouth and his tongue pushed towards mine. With both of us on our knees it was a clumsy clinch, and it wasn’t long before discomfort overcame passion. We broke apart and smiled awkwardly at each other before returning to our previous positions on the sofa.

‘Anyway,’ I shrugged, ‘it was all over within seconds. I was never in any real danger.’

‘All the same, I’m glad that this rotation is over and you’re moving to a new department on Monday. I’ll sleep a lot better at night knowing that you’re safe. I don’t like the idea of my girlfriend putting herself in danger. It’s certainly a far cry from accountancy. I could never do something like you did today. You should never do something like it again either.’

‘You’re underplaying the danger of spreadsheets,’ I teased.

His eyes twinkled. ‘The wrong data can be a killer. And that’s not the only thing I have to worry about. This morning I forgot my briefcase with all the papers I needed for today. That’s the third time this month. Brewster told me that if I do it again, he’ll give me a formal warning.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘From the look on his face, I thought he was going to lop my head off. It’s ridiculous. Everything is digitalized now. I think he just likes being the big, bad, scary boss.’

I laughed. ‘There are risks and dangers everywhere.’

‘Indeed.’ He reached across and brushed my cheek with his fingers. ‘You still reckon you’ll be placed in Cyber Crime for your last rotation? That sounds considerably safer than the Criminal Investigations Department. I think you’ll be much better suited to it.’

‘CID has been an experience, but I do think desk work is my thing.’ I ignored the twinge that told me I was lying through my teeth and squared my shoulders. Jeremy worried about me too much and the least I could do was set his mind at rest. Besides, it wasn’t as if I didn’t enjoy the office-based work I’d done so far. There was more to being a detective these days than patrolling the mean streets and physically running down criminals.

I set my jaw and met his eyes. ‘I did well with the Fraud Squad, and DSI Barnes seemed happy when I asked to finish my training in Cyber Crime. My last two-week stint before final exams and then,’ I spread my arms out wide, ‘yours truly will finally be a real detective.’

Jeremy picked up his glass and clinked it against mine. ‘I’ll drink to that. Here’s to London’s finest.’

I beamed. ‘Cheers.’

***

I strolled into the Academy building first thing on Monday morning wearing a plain white blouse and a black skirt suit. Ease of movement wasn’t a consideration when I’d be sitting behind a computer for most of the day.

I nodded at Phyllis on the front desk before taking the lift up to the meeting room on the third floor. Most of my fellow recruits were already there, milling around in small groups, catching up on the details of their previous assignments, and anxiously anticipating the next one.

At this stage, there was little attrition in numbers. A few people had dropped out in the early days, but the selection process to attend the Academy was stringent and, as a result, there was a high pass rate. Our residency at the Academy might only last twelve weeks but achieving detective status was a two-year process that, unless you were already in the police, only started after you’d experienced life outside education. No one wanted detectives on the streets who had no direct knowledge of the real world. In any case, to get this far required considerable time and dedication; there was virtually no chance any of us were going to fail now.

That didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous about what was coming next. I’d received glowing reports from my previous rotations, and I wanted to keep it that way. The better I did here, the more chance there was that I could have my first choice of postings when I finally graduated.

I’d barely entered the room when Molly scooted over to me. We’d bonded on the very first day, when we’d been paired up during our first skill session designed to teach us how to find tell-tale evidence from grainy CCTV footage.

Molly had joined the police initially to flip the finger at her family. Her parents seemed to think that she should focus on finding herself a fella and settling down with a little part-time job in a shop or a school, rather than running around the grimy streets of London and infiltrating its underbelly. It hadn’t taken her long to realise that, in the process of foiling her family, she’d found her true calling.

For my part, I’d dodged her questions about my reasons for signing up and mumbled something about it being a childhood dream. Molly was smart enough to know there was more to it than that – and kind enough not to press me for more information.

‘A little bird tells me that you had quite the day during your last shift with CID.’ She punched my arm. ‘You go, girl! I said you’d be great. You bagged a real bad guy.’

I smiled at her. ‘It wasn’t really me. The detective I partnered did all the heavy lifting.’

‘Stop being so freaking modest, Emma. You held your own, and that means you did a good job. If it’d been me, I’d be crowing about it from the rooftops.’

‘How did things go in the drug squad?’ I asked.

She pulled a face. ‘Grim. Very grim.’ She held up her hand and crossed her fingers. ‘Criminal Investigations Department next, though. Bring on CID.’

‘Here’s hoping,’ I said, dropping my voice as Lucinda Barnes, the Academy’s head, walked up to the podium at the front of the room.

Detective Superintendent Barnes, to give her full title, didn’t smile although there was a warmth to her gaze as she looked round the room. For all that she’d been an experienced, hard-nosed detective before she took on the role as head of the Academy, she still retained something of a mother hen aura.

‘Welcome back,’ she said. ‘I’ve been reviewing the reports from your last rotations and I can only say how impressed I am at all of your performances. You’ve done yourselves proud.’

Her gaze swept across our upturned faces, and I was certain I didn’t imagine her eyes lingering on mine for longer than necessary. ‘Now we are moving into the final phase of your training. You only have a two-week placement to complete, before final debriefings and testings. After that, you will be fully-fledged detectives, ready to take on the world. Rotation postings are going up on the noticeboard as we speak. I trust that you will continue in the same professional manner that you have done so far – but remember that being a police detective is not just about image.’ She touched her chest briefly. ‘It has to be part of your heart and your soul.’

I bit my lip, a tingle of pride rippling through me. It had taken me a long time to get to this point; the Academy was merely the tip of the iceberg in what had been a very long journey. I’d do it, though. Two months before my thirtieth birthday, and finally I was going to be in a position to achieve everything I’d ever wanted.

We bustled out into the corridor, eager to find out our new assignments. At half a foot shorter than most of my fellow trainees, I couldn’t see the board for the other heads in the way. I knew from Molly’s crow of delight, however, that she’d got her posting to CID. I pushed myself onto my tiptoes to get a better look, just as I heard several sharp intakes of breath and spotted more than one swift glance in my direction.

   
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