Inspector Amanda Statton pretended not to hear the whispered comment between her juniors in the hallway as she strode towards her office with the day's case reports. Inwardly, however, she was smiling. She had worked hard to establish her harsh, no-nonsense demeanour and she was glad it had taken hold. She was new to this station, unknown to most of her officers. She could live without being liked in the short term; respect and a certain amount of awe were more important right now.
Especially as she was feeling uneasy. It was something about the new station. Up until a month ago Redfell Police Station had been a duty desk, a tea room and a temporary holding cell. Then, suddenly, the station had been upgraded and transferred into a nearby derelict building.
The upgrade was still a mystery to everyone. Amanda did wonder about that, and about who her benefactor in the high command was, but she didn't lose sleep over it. What she mostly saw was opportunities. She had been given seniority at a younger age than any other station commander, it was a fresh initiative which could only enhance her career and she had to admit that there wasn't much dead wood in her officers. All were young, fit and eager.
Perhaps too young and fresh, she mused to herself as she entered her spartan office. A few 'old hands' would have been useful to get a better idea of local problems, and a grizzled 'bruiser' or two would be nice for when reasonable force needed to be unreasonable.
Amanda put the case reports down on her desk and went over to the small mirror on the wall to check her makeup. It wasn't something she did often, her makeup was deliberately light and discrete but she was fully aware of the importance of appearance. But - something wasn't quite right when she regarded herself in the mirror, the perspective seemed wrong for some reason until she realised that the mirror was lower than normal. That didn't make much sense, it was attached directly to the wall giving little opportunity for even the bravest prankster to move it.
Only mildly concerned she turned back to her desk and came up short as she reached for her in-tray. Then it dawned on her, it was the height of her heels putting her off, she was easily three inches taller than normal in them.
She didn't wear heels to work, no woman in an active profession like policing wore high heels while working and for that matter, Amanda almost never wore them at any other time. But looking down she couldn't deny that in place of her normal black dress shoes were shiny black pumps with three inch heels. Stranger still, Amanda felt no desire to take them off and rationalised that (a) she didn't have any other shoes to wear, and (b) it wasn't like she was going to be walking the beat. Still, it concerned her that she had chosen to wear heels that day and that she hadn't noticed up until now.
Straightening her skirt, she decided to get on with the day as her footwear wasn't going to interfere with her paperwork. Lifting up the seams of her skirt she sat down and crossed her legs, preparing to get on with the required form filling and report writing beholden on her position.
Looking down she confirmed that she was wearing her dark dress uniform skirt, the one she only wore on ceremonial occasions and even then on sufferance. What was happening to her today? Had she had a total brain freeze when she had dressed this morning? The skirt, however, was something she could remedy and she got up and set out for the woman's locker room where she had a spare pair of trousers. From tomorrow, she told herself, she would also keep a spare pair of shoes at the station.
Halfway down the hallway Amanda felt something tug unevenly at her leg. Without thinking, she stopped, hiked up one side of her skirt and carefully adjusted the garter that was holding up her stocking. Smoothing down her skirt again, she proceeded on her way making a mental note to check that her seams were straight when she got to the full length mirror in the locker room.
Behind her, unnoticed, PC Guy Boyd stood in stunned silence with his mouth gaping and sheets of paper sliding one by one to the ground from the folder he was holding.
Amanda was still wondering about her mysterious benefactor as she let herself into her apartment that night. It was night too, which struck her as odd when she thought about it. She had left the station just after 7 pm, yet it was now nearly 10 pm. Even in rush hour it didn't take that long.
The best explanation was the clock in her office was wrong, a less palatable answer was that she had dozed off on the train and done an extra circuit. It worried her that she couldn't remember much of the journey.
With some relief she kicked off her high heels and headed to the bathroom for a long, relaxing shower. It was as the hot water was running over her trim body that she had a thought who the benefactor could be.
Amanda had met Councillor Harlow at an award ceremony a year back. The woman had initially struck her as an ageing trophy wife; married to a senior civil servant, well dressed with too much jewellery and with a lavishness in her makeup that marked someone who was used to relying on her appearance. That hasty opinion had quickly evaporated when, much to Amanda's surprise, the councillor had singled her out for a private chat. The older woman was shrewd, intelligent and compelling. Amanda, aware that she should be mingling, making small talk with those who could enhance her career, instead spent almost the entire evening with Mrs Harlow.
Strangely, Amanda couldn't remember much of what they had talked about. At the time it had seemed important, she was almost embarrassed at how she had hung on every word, every gesture Mrs Harlow had made. But she had obviously impressed the councillor, because they now lunched together every Thursday.
Okay, Amanda told herself, she had a likely candidate for her recent promotion. Now she just needed an explanation for why she had put on pastille pink stockings and a matching teddie as bed wear.
Sergeant Carol Blaine caught Amanda checking the edges of her deep red lipstick in the toilet mirror. That the senior officer pulled away from the mirror guiltily caused embarrassment to both women and there was a moment's silence as Amanda tried to pretend that she hadn't been touching up her excessive make-up and Carol pretended not to have noticed.
"'Scuse me, ma'am," the sergeant mumbled as she slipped in to one of the cubicles and gladly closed the door behind her. Amanda noted with some annoyance that Blaine, like the rest of the female officers, had taken to wearing the uniform skirt in preference to the trousers. However Amanda was in no position to advise them otherwise at the moment, she hadn't worn her trousers for over a week now. Every morning she made a conscious effort to opt for the more sensible leg wear, yet by the time she reached her office she would always find herself in her a skirt.
Worse, it was getting shorter each day. It was only half an inch at a time and had gone unnoticed until the hem had cleared her knees. Soon there was a risk of it being so short that it would expose the darker bands at the tops of her stockings.
That was another thing, she didn't own stockings yet her legs were clad in a different pair each day. The first day they had been sheer black with seams running up the back, the next day navy blue with lacy tops, the day after black again with delicate flowers embroidered up the sides, and on it went.
She was also becoming more convinced that she was having black-outs, bits of her days that she couldn't account for. It was something that she should probably see a doctor about, it was just that she never seemed to get around to making the appointment.
With a last touch to her lips, Amanda put her make-up kit away and left the toilet. In the adjoining locker room she found an unfamiliar WPC in the process of putting on her hat to complete her uniform. Wearing a skirt, Amanda noted, before having to ask, "Hello, are you a new transfer?"
"No ma'am," the attractive young woman replied, "I've always been here."
"Oh," Amanda was confused, then a bit worried. She didn't know this woman and she had made the effort to meet all of her officers. It flashed through her mind that this woman could be an impostor, and it would take a mentally unstable one to actually enter a police station.
Apparently reading her thoughts, the newcomer explained. "This is my first day in uniform. This uniform anyway," she added with a hint of a cheeky smile. "I've been seconded to the station My paperwork is with Sergeant Blaine."
"Oh," Amanda repeated. There was something in the casual confidence of this girl that she found disarming, it was almost like she already trusted her even though they had just met.
"WPC June Doxy," the girl finished with a police college salute.
"Uh - Inspector Amanda Statton," Amanda felt herself respond then she had to smile too. The situation was a little strange, but if the paperwork was in order then she wasn't going to refuse another WPC, especially one who seemed to have it all together like Doxy. "Carry on then," Amanda finished and left.