Somewhere in the middle of all this Denise lost consciousness. The next thing she knew, there was a firm pounding on the door of her room.
“Open up,” the female voice said. “It’s the constabulary.” Denise awoke to find Jack gone and herself unable to escape through the door. She went from total oblivion to absolute panic in an instant, looking around to see if there was an alternate exit.
She went out through the bedroom window, unprotected by a silver spoon or anything else. Somehow she flipped upon exit and landed cat-like on both feet, only to discover a flashlight pointing right at her. Also pointing at her was a 12-gauge shotgun, the favourite weapon of Serelian constables.
“Put your hands up,” said one of the men with the shotgun ordered her. She obliged.
“Come on around, Bertha,” the man with the flashlight yelled towards the window. “We’ve got her out here—but get her clothes first.” Denise was still wide-eyed with fear, not worried as much by her exposure but by the dread that the Serelian constable would empty his shotgun into her if she made a false move.
Bertha came out from the inn with Denise’s clothing. “Put these things on now!” she barked to Denise, who meekly complied. Bertha turned on her flashlight.
“I’ll go in and check for evidence,” the other constable with a flashlight said, which he did.
“You’re coming with us, Miss Kendall” Bertha said, taking Denise by the arm as she had barely finished getting dressed. Bertha was a heavy-set woman who had a strong grip on Denise; even someone as athletic as she was thought twice about resisting it.
She put Denise in the back seat of the constabulary car, cuffing her first. She then got in the passenger seat and the officer with the flashlight got in and started the car.
“You know we’re going to Central,” the driver said.
“I know,” Bertha replied. “I was rather hoping I’d get to do this job myself.”
The drive to “Central,” or the Central Constabulary in Serelia town proper, seemed like an eternity. Since the Serelians hadn’t bothered to build a bridge across their lake it was necessary to take the Old Beran Road all the way to The Conch, make the hard left, and go back into town. All Denise could see out of the back were the backs of the constables’ heads and the darkness that they passed by on the outside. As they drove on Denise began to put her mind back together again, but said nothing to the officers.
The Central Constabulary was located in the main government building in Serelia, right next to the palace gate. It shared space with the newly established Intelligence Service, which was in theory part of the Constabulary but with a different mission. As they turned off of the main road, Bertha pointed at the gate and said, “That’s where they hang people, they do.” At that Denise got an empty pit in her stomach, although she was beginning to believe that she was in a stronger position than she originally thought when she was stuffed into the car.
She was led into the office and interrogation room. Serelian constables were known for their rough treatment of prisoners, but Denise was escorted as if they were ushering her into an office. They removed the cuffs and the three of them sat down at the table, Denise at one end and the two officers on the table sides.
At the end of the table stood Francis Bancroft, Chief Constable for Serelia. A handsome man with a full head of silver hair, he had been the King’s servant almost since there was a King of Serelia. He looked at the meagre paperwork he was presented by the Amherst constables, then looked at Denise with an intensity that frightened her.
“Miss Denise Kendall, is it?”
“Yes, it is,” Denise replied. “My father is President of the Republic of Verecunda.”
“I am very aware of that,” Bancroft replied. “But you are in Serelia now.”
“Before you start in on me,” Denise said, her anger rising in her voice, “you’d better know that I hold a diplomatic passport. You can’t hold or try me for anything.”
Bancroft looked at Bertha. “We didn’t find any passport on her,” she said. “The only way we knew who she was is because the innkeeper and some of the patrons told us.”
“I left it in your so-called ‘guest house’ at St. Anne’s school, if you’d bother to go look.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Miss Kendall, we will certainly do that.”
“We’ve already dispatched a constable to the guest house,” the other Amherst constable said. “We knew she was staying there; her team practised at All Saints’ yesterday afternoon.”
“Yesterday? What’s time is it?” Denise asked.
Bancroft looked at his watch. “0250.” Denise was shaken by that remark.
“She had been there for some time when we arrived. One of the patrons suspected unlawful activity and called us.”
“Unlawful? What’s unlawful?” Denise said.
“It is unlawful in the realm of the King of Serelia for two unmarried people to have conjugal relations,” Bancroft solemnly informed her.
“You’re kidding!” Denise exclaimed.
“No, Miss Kendall, I am very serious about that, as is our dread sovereign.”
Denise thought for a minute. “Get the ambassador over here. I demand to see our ambassador! And how did you know what we were doing? And what are you going to do about Jack Arnold, you double standard people?”
“I believe Mr. Arnold left his calling card on the bedsheets,” Bancroft stiffly informed her.
“That’s correct,” Bertha confirmed.
“So what are you going to do about him?” Denise asked.
“Let’s deal with you first,” Bancroft said. He looked at the male constable. “Go get the night officer to summon the Foreign Minister. He will awaken the Verecundan ambassador.”
“Yes, sir,” he said. He bowed to Bancroft and left the room.
Bancroft turned again to Denise. “While we’re waiting, can we serve you some coffee?”
Denise looked up at Bancroft with a glazed look, more like a frightened animal than the blustering, self-confident woman she showed a minute before. “I’m starved,” she said. “Jack never bothered to feed me before we made love.”
“Our cuisine isn’t the finest, but I’m sure we can come up with something.” He turned to Bertha. “You stay with Miss Kendall, and I’ll see what can be brought.”
His night officer returned in about fifteen minutes—which seemed like an eternity to Denise in her state—with a tray with split pea soup made with smoked sailfish and bread pudding. Denise attacked her meal with gusto.
“This stuff’s pretty good,” she told Bertha and Bancroft after a few bites. “Sure a lot better than the bilge they serve at the ‘guest house.’ Maybe we should have come down here and eaten.”
The Serelians got a chuckle out of that. “I must confess, their food is rather horrible. Our constables refuse to eat there under any circumstance,” Bancroft admitted. “Our Foreign Minister and your ambassador should be in shortly.” He leaned over and whispered something to Bertha and then left the room.
Denise worked her way through her meal. Towards the end, Bertha asked, “Can I ask you a few questions?”
“I guess so,” Denise replied. “I’ve already spilled my guts on this ‘crime’ of yours.”
“When did Mr. Arnold arrive at the guest house?”
“I dunno—maybe about nine o’clock, about 2100 as we’re supposed to say now.”
“Why did you go with him?”
Denise was silent for a second. “To drink and have fun. It was pretty boring out there.”
“What kind of vehicle did he take you in?”
“It was some kind of truck, I think it was American. It had some kind of seal or crest on the door. I didn’t see it too good, it had a big red cross in the middle—with skinny arms, not like the kind of Red Cross that hospitals use.”
“Do you know when he left you at the Flying Dutchman.”
“No—I was out by then. Are you the only one allowed to ask questions here?”
“Why do you ask?”
“How long have you been a police matron?”
“Oh, about twenty years.”
“Why did you become one? I mean, this is the kinda place where women are supposed to stay home and not work. Although I saw a pregnant barmaid over in Claudia today—or yesterday.”
Bertha got a chuckle out of that. “I wish it were that simple sometimes. But we can’t afford that kind of life. As for me, my husband was killed in a tavern brawl. Left me with three children. That’s when I joined the constabulary. It gave me as good of a life as I was going to have and raise the kids too. Married the last one off just before this past Epiphany. Miss Kendall, I know you come from a very important family, but may I give you some advice?”
“What kind of advice?”
“I joined the constabulary because of what happened to my husband. I only go there as part of my duties, like this evening. I can see you’re an attractive young woman with a good position in the world and a long life ahead of you. Don’t waste it in the bars and taverns of the world. And don’t waste it letting young men take advantage of you like Mr. Arnold did.”
Denise was silent at that admonition. It seemed like another eternity waiting for the rest of officialdom to arise from bed and arrive. Denise put her head on the table and tried to sleep but could not; she was simply too keyed up. At last Bancroft opened the door and two men filed in the room along with him.
The Serelian Minister of Foreign Affairs was a gaunt elderly gentleman named Eugene Morgan. He was as proper as was possible considering it was almost 0400. Behind him was the Verecundan ambassador, Hank McCasland. An old political crony of Denise’s father and an early member of the Committee for Personal Liberty, he looked the part of a superannuated hippie with balding on top and flowing hair on the shoulders. A “beat generation” refugee with a paunch caused by too many beers, he shuffled in the room, hugging Denise as he entered.
“Well, it looks like you guys have blown international law big time now,” McCasland said.
“We did confirm her diplomatic passport,” Bancroft noted.
“Who was in doubt?” McCasland challenged them. “So I assume I’ve come to take her back to St. Anne’s? She has a tennis match in the morning—although you people should delay that to give her some additional rest. You can’t hold her any longer.”
“Since there’s no doubt that she is a diplomat legally, the only thing we can do is to declare her persona non grata and deport her immediately,” Morgan said. “The Serelian Navy will be happy to take her back to Verecunda at once.”
“When are you talking about doing this?” Denise asked, agitated.
“Oh, now,” Morgan said.
“You can’t do that!” McCasland declared. “She’s done nothing wrong.”
“She certainly has,” Bancroft reminded him.
“According to your stupid laws!” Denise snapped. “We ought to force you people to enter the modern world.”
“Quite frankly, Miss Kendall, your country isn’t in a good position to force much of anything, especially since you abolished your own navy earlier this week,” Morgan calmly said. He turned to McCasland. “We are fully within our rights to deport her immediately, tennis match or not, and you know it. So I suggest you inform your government to be ready to receive her sometime late this afternoon.”
McCasland wanted to blow his stack, but been ambassador long enough to know it wouldn’t do any good. “Surely something can be worked out so that she can play her match and then leave. Our relations are so much better when they include sporting events like this.”
Morgan thought for a minute. “Very well, we propose that Miss Kendall be taken back to the guest house, and that she be allowed to play her match as her team-mates do. After that, they get on the bus, they head to the border, all of their Serelian visas will be cancelled, and the matter will be at an end.”
“But what about Jack?” Denise asked. “Is he going to get off?”
“Does Mr. Arnold have a diplomatic passport also?” Morgan asked McCasland.
“Of course not!” Denise snapped, not waiting for McCasland, who shook his head in agreement.
“Then he should be brought in for questioning—that is, if you will sign a confession of what you did stating that he was your lover.”
“You don’t have to sign anything,” McCasland advised her.
“I’ll sign anything that’ll put his ass in a sling,” Denise said.
“We will prepare such a statement, then,” Morgan stated. Bancroft immediately exited the room to begin that process. Morgan and McCasland also left to make sure the statement got done to everyone’s satisfaction.
It was a swifter process than usual; about fifteen minutes later they returned with the statement. Denise signed it after a glance. She then left with Morgan and McCasland in the Serelian government car, an Opel Senator.
Bancroft assured himself that they were gone, then went directly to the desk of his night officer along with Bertha.
“Do we know where Mr. Arnold is?”
“He’s definitely in Drago,” the officer replied. “He made no attempt to flee the country. He’s staying with Rev. Langley in their temporary quarters.”
“Langley’s there?” Bancroft asked, puzzled.
“No, the Rev. Langley and his wife are in the Bishop’s Palace this evening. Mr. Arnold is with their son Richard.”
Bancroft and the others were silent in thought. “Why didn’t he leave the country? He surely knows what he did was unlawful,” Bertha asked.
“Perhaps he wants to return to see the fruit of his labour,” Bancroft said.
“It’s too soon for that,” the night officer said.
“Not that fruit,” Bertha corrected him.
“Not at all,” Bancroft agreed. “He came here for more than just ‘unlawful conjugal relations.’ He can get those legally at home, if you will excuse my frankness,” he said to Bertha.
“I understand,” Bertha replied. “He came to humiliate her. She speaks of him as a boyfriend in the past.”
“Evidently a few Verecundans still have a sense of honour,” Bancroft mused.
“But we still must deal with him,” Bertha said.
“If we don’t, we’ll have a parade of fornicators coming off of the West Island,” the officer reminded him.
“I’m aware of that,” Bancroft agreed. He thought for a second. “Didn’t Mr. Arnold use a vehicle owned by the Church of Serelia?”
“He did,” Bertha said. “Denise’s description and that of those at the tavern confirm it. You see he’s brought it back to the parish.”
“Perhaps we should let the Ecclesiastical Constable handle this,” the officer suggested. “That would eliminate any jurisdictional problem with the Drago constabulary.”
A wry smile came to Bancroft’s face. “That’s a splendid idea,” he said. “Ring him up and let me speak with him. Mr. Arnold is about to find out that he’s not the only one on this Island with a sense of honour.”
Serelia was the first place on the Island to see the light of day, and it wasn’t too long after that when Jack and Rick set out in the same truck and along the same road that Jack had used last night. Rick drove while Jack got to admire the scenery which he had missed the night before. The best part of that scenery was along the stretch of road between Drago and Fort Albert where the highway ran along the coast; they got to see several kilometres of unoccupied beaches as they travelled along.
“You still haven’t told me when you got back from seeing Denise last night. I was long gone, whenever it was.”
“I went to see her. We went out to drink. Then I screwed her. Got back about, let me see, about one,” Jack reported matter-of-factly.
Rick looked at Jack wide-eyed. “Man, you can get into big trouble up here for going to bed with her. What’d you do that for? You’ve can get plenty of that back home.”
“I know what I’m doing,” Jack responded. “Besides, they won’t look for me. She’s not going to admit it. She’ll just get a ride back to St. Anne’s and play tennis. Drinking’s no crime up here.”
“Then why are you going back to see her?”
“Every time she goes out before a match, she blows it. That’s why she lost to Carla Stanley. I wanna see that.”
“I don’t know. . .” Rick mused.
“So what was your hot date like last night?”
“Not very hot. I went over to her house for the first time to be ‘formally presented’ to her parents.”
“That’s not too hot.”
“Athena’s old man is a geezer, barely sits up in his chair. Her mom is real young—younger than any mothers like her back home.”
“Let me think. . .I think she’s thirty-two, or something.”
“Thirty-two? Is Athena in Lower Division? You are robbing the cradle.”
“Nah, I’m not. She’s seventeen, in Fifth Form.”
“Wait a minute. . .that means her mother was fifteen when she had her. What kind of deal is this?”
“Athena told me her mom was twelve when she married. It was forced on her.”
“What kind of crap is that? They can’t criticise me with that going on.”
“I told you, this is a strange place. You’ve gotta be careful. There’s no telling where you’ll end up.”
“So what’s she look like?”
“She’s got long wavy brown hair, brown eyes. First time I saw her at school, I thought I’d die. She’s beautiful. Perfect bod. Can’t wait to go to the beach.”
“What does she wear?”
“Most of the time, her school uniform. They still have those up here.”
“So that’s why you looked like a dork yesterday.”
“Don’t ride my case. Anyway, she’s got four brothers and sisters. Oh, I forgot, her aunt’s the Queen.”
“The Queen? Now you’re starting to make sense. At least you’re reaching high.”
“Didn’t do you any good.”
“Don’t remind me.”