Excerpt from Warrant for Love - Chapter 17
Oh, go a-way. Lee reluctantly parted company with the duvet next morning and trailed across to press her face against the window, trying to see who was ringing the doorbell at this…
Quarter past nine?
'All right. Wait a minute. I'm coming.' She searched fruitlessly for her flip-flops. 'What's the flipping emergenc… Oh, my…' she had that blood-freezing feeling again. The kind of feeling that told her with sickening certainty who the official looking body on the doorstep was.
Damn. Lee galloped downstairs. 'Doorstep! Shift! You great, hairy fleabag.'
'Good morning,' she sing-songed, swinging the door wide open a moment later.
'Good morning,' the snooty suited sort said, peering over her spectacles at Lee's Simpsons tee shirt. 'Mrs… ?'
'Miss.' Lee smiled. 'Leanne Curtis, at your service.' She glanced at the woman's identification then extended her hand. 'Do come in. Sorry about the, um, nightwear. We've overslept.'
'Ms Jones,' the suit introduced herself. 'I was hoping to see Mr Davis.' She stepped over the threshold, appraising everything in sight, from the yucky-flowery hall carpet Lee couldn't afford to replace to the… Oh, no. Lee's heart sank… empty wine bottle perched on the hall cupboard.
'Right, well, um…' Lee widened her smile until her face ached. 'Do make yourself at home in the living room. I'll just go and get Paul.'
She raced back upstairs. 'Paul. Shift your backside. Quick!'
Paul looked a little confused as Lee dragged him out of bed and propelled him to her room. 'Look as if you sleep in my bed,' she whispered, struggling into her inside-out dressing gown.
Paul scratched his head. 'I'm not sure how I'd look if I slept in your bed.'
'Idiot. The social services are here. Where's James?'
'Not sure. Bathroom I think. Lee, I know you mean well, but I don't think the social worker wants to interview me in bed.'
Lee scooped her knickers off the floor and flew back downstairs, James' presence in the bathroom confirmed by flushing loo as she did so. 'Paul sleeps heavily,' she panted. 'He's just coming. Would you like some tea or coffee?'
Ms Jones checked her watch. 'No, thank you.'
Drat. Lee searched for another way to break the icy officialdom.
'Water would be nice though.'
'I'll see if we've got some.' Lee headed for the kitchen. 'Sorry. Sorry.' She poked her head back around the door. 'I meant, bottled or tap?'
Ms Jones looked at her askew. 'Tap's fine.'
Just as well, Lee thought. 'Tea, Pauly?' She glanced up the stairs as she skittered past.
'Yes. Thanks… Leelee.' Paul shook his head, looking bemused, as he came down, shirtless and shoeless, luckily not trouserless, Lee having vamoosed his clothes from the spare room.
'Hi.' He smiled and walked into the living room. 'Sorry about that. I, er…'
'Sleep heavily?' Ms Jones finished. 'Not to worry.' She smiled.
Yes, well, she would now, wouldn't she? Lee caught her perusal of Paul's half-naked body as she dashed back in. It was a wonder her glasses hadn't steamed up.
'Shall we get on with it, then?'
You wish, thought Lee, handing her a glass, which Ms Jones duly inspected.
'Just a few questions to establish you have reasonable permanent accommodation for James and that you've made proper provision regarding childcare. Do you have adequate care arrangements while you're working, Mr Davis, should you get custody?'
Paul nodded. 'Yes. Yes I do. I, er…' He glanced helplessly toward Lee.
'My sister,' Lee filled in. 'She runs a crèche.'
'Oh, yes.' Paul raked his hand through his hair. 'Nicky, Lee's sister, she's a qualified nursery nurse. She'll look after James when I'm on earlies.'
'On duty early.'
'Ah, yes, you're a police officer, of course.' Ms Jones looked impressed.
'For my sins.' Paul smiled his best, winning smile. 'If I'm on nights, Lee will look after him.'
Lee folded her arms smugly and nodded.
Ms Jones continued to barrage Paul with questions whilst Lee did the guided tour. 'What about access arrangements, Mr Davis? How often would you want your wife to see James?'
'No problem,' Paul stated categorically. 'Kate can see him anytime she likes.'
'That's very reasonable of you.' Ms Jones nodded, glancing around the kitchen, her gaze coming to rest on the sink.
Perfect. Balti dishes at breakfast time. 'Sorry about the mess,' Lee apologised. 'We weren't expecting company.'
'Oh, please don't apologise Mrs… Miss Curtis.' Ms Jones smiled indulgently. 'We do expect to see signs of living.'
'Well, you've seen downstairs, so shall we?'
Lee led the way upstairs and paused outside her bedroom. 'This is Paul and James' room.' She peered around the door, to see Paul's boxers neatly folded on her bed. Another plus. He was definitely not the leave-his-clothes-where-he-stepped-out-of-them sort. Lee couldn't help thinking a bigger plus would be him neatly folding them there at night, though.
'Oh, that's fine. We only need a cursory glance.' Ms Jones had a good look. 'Mmm. Nice aftershave,' she commented, sniffing the air.
'Is it?' Paul did likewise. 'I think that's probably Lee's perfume.'
Lee gave Paul a despairing glance. 'Actually, it's unisex,' she said quickly. Eternity. For Him and Her. I think James must have had a squirt of Drew's.'
'And this…' she skirted around Ms Jones to swing another door open '…is my room, though James comes and goes pretty much as he pleases when he's here.'
'He's…' Paul began, his face suddenly as pale as the tee shirt he could have been wearing.
James had gone from bathroom to spare room, Lee realised, where she'd parked Richard's PC. In front of which James was seated, and logged on… to www.hugebits.com.
Paul obviously thought fast, and doubled up faster. 'Sorry, old war wound,' he gasped, clutching at the doorframe.
'Oh, my word!' Alarmed, Ms Jones flew to his assistance. 'Are you all right?'
Lee dashed over to save the day whilst Ms Jones supported the brave soldier.
'James,' she trilled, swinging the chair around so fast she almost launched him, 'go and get daddy some water, there's a good boy.'
While I just swallow the computer.
The F9 button, Lee, her guardian angel spoke. 'Blank the screen, idiot.'
Thank you, Lord. She reached for the keyboard, and instantaneously the writhing bodies vanished.
The rest of the tour was conducted in subdued near-silence, leaving Ms Jones in the dark, and Paul hugely enlightened.
'Oh, Paul, I am so, so sorry' Lee said, shamefaced, when Ms Jones had departed.
'No problem.' Paul shrugged. 'Your personal life is your business. But I'd appreciate it if you didn't leave hard-core porn around for James to fall over in future.'
With which he offered Lee a tight smile and left.