Author's Note:

Yesterday, something wonderful happened. We had a breakthrough.

For some time now, new publisher sign-ups in the Google Play Books Center have been closed. It still is, but Google Play asks publishers to convey their interest via their website in the event of an opening.

Once publishing interest has been submitted, it is by invitation only at this stage. It is unknown to us what the criteria were used to get in; we are just happy to announce that Massachusetts Books is very honoured to have been accepted. Its first offering on the site is COURTING PIPPA.

Every day, e-books in its catalogue will be added to Google Play Store one at a time.

To express our appreciation for your support, we will be offering something in the next few days. So, if you are an android phone user, please watch out for the announcement HERE.


Ladybugs for Pippa

UNIT ONE IS SCHEDULED TO GO OFF to the firing range and then to the yard for training exercises. Keith Stuart comes around to Pippa's desk to check if there are any messages for them before taking the team out.

'No messages,' she says.

Keith taps her desk, as he often does. 'Okay, you know where to find us…'

She smiles as team members file past her on the way out in full battle gear and in a buoyant mood. Joshua trails at the end—left out yet again. She feels for him. He wants to be with them, but his fractured elbow hasn't completely healed.

'How much longer?' she asks.

Joshua guesses she means his arm. He looks down at it and says, 'Maybe two more months before I get clearance.' He walks round to sit next to her which is, in all honestly, nice. She has gotten used to the smell of his aftershave and occasionally touching knees with him. He is such a nice fellow to be with. A laugh and a half sort of guy. Cheeky. Bright. And, yes, good-looking.

But the perfect guy also has his share of quirks and annoying habits.

Since Unit One is out in the yard, and Unit Four is out on city patrol, it is an unusually quiet day for SPG. It isn't long before Joshua is showing signs of boredom. He fidgets and, worse, he taps on the desk. A truly irritating habit if she has ever seen one.

She watches him carefully. It is an unconscious thing, not malicious at all. He isn't deliberately trying to annoy her. She holds both his hands to keep them still, looks him in the eyes and says, 'Stop it.'

'Stop what?'

'Tapping on the desk,' she says, slowly releasing his hands.

It happens several more times before she cottons on that holding his hands seem to encourage the behaviour more and more. Her suspicion is proven right when he beams at her and says, 'That's nice of you to hold my hands.'

Her eyebrows go up. It is certainly a sticky situation for her. She is stuck with him for the time being, but it doesn't mean she should suffer in silence beside him either. 'Joshua, you know how some of the files are still in VHS, and they're taking so much space? Can you transfer them to the hard drive?'

He smiles. 'Yeah, I suppose it'll make all our jobs easier, too.'

Her eyes automatically move to his hands, which are about to start tapping the desk again. He catches her reaction, and he chuckles, promising, 'Okay, no tapping. I was just thinking…'

Minutes later he is up on his feet and makes a move to the archive room, but not before pinching her cheeks lightly and saying, 'Good idea, clever Miss.' She rolls her eyes.

Skinner comes out of the office and is surprised to see Pippa alone in her cubicle. 'You haven't fired him, have you?' the cherub-faced boss teases.

'No, I asked him to transfer all the files still in VHS into the super computer's hard drive. He went to the archive room, and I think he's gonna do it.'

Skinner is pleased. 'Good idea.'

Transferring files from VHS to a computer hard drive is child's play. Anyone with rudimentary computer skills could do it, but the Police Department has other priorities. It prefers to put its resources on more pressing matters. So, since Josh is free and on minimal duties, it might as well be him.

With the number of files that need to be transferred, it will be a repetitive and tedious job, but at the end of it, Josh would have something to show for all his hard work. The one thing remotely cerebral about the whole business is formulating the best way to search for the information once it's all stored.

He quarantines himself in the archive room programming different ways the information could be accessed. He makes sure that a whole range of parameters can be used. By the last name. By the first name. By date of birth. By maiden name. By date of the incident. By criminal record.

With everyone away and Josh sequestered in another room, Pippa regrettably misses his company. She is fretting, although she refuses to admit it to herself. He spends hours in the archive room, and when he comes out, it is only to requisition for stuff.

'Pippa, do you have coloured pens and a big notepad?'

'Sure. Here take these.'

At one point, he disappears into the belly of the archive room for four hours straight without a break. She calls him on the intercom linked to the archive room.

'Joshua?'

'Yeah,' he replies, sounding busy and immersed in what he is working on.

'You okay?'

There is a momentary pause before he answers, 'Why shouldn't I be?'

She detects a light teasing chuckle in his voice, which makes her cringe inwardly. 'I was just wondering if you might actually be sleeping in there instead of working.'

'Really? Then you should have said, 'Wakey, wakey.'

'Arrgh!' she says.

Josh comes up for air around three p.m. 'I'm hungry, Pips. Are you hungry?'

'I had a sandwich earlier,' she said. Then she realises the poor guy hasn't eaten. 'Would you like something to eat? I have a left-over sandwich … if you like.'

'I don't refuse anything edible.'

She hands it to him. He unwraps it, bites down on the sandwich and gobbles it hungrily. After he swallows the last bite, he asks, 'Is Keith around?'

'Nope, he's with the Unit outside. Training exercises.'

He nods. 'Be right back.'

Joshua is gone for half an hour to get more food in him. On his way back from a fast food shop, he passes by a convenience store and buys a box of Ritz biscuits, a small tub of cream cheese, a small jar of Nutella spread, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, some olives, and some alfalfa sprouts. On his return, he disappears into the staff canteen and stays there for some time.

Pippa is taking down notes when Joshua appears in front of her with a food tray.

'Ladybugs for you,' he says.

She receives it with both hands. 'Oh, wow.'

What a colourful and delightful surprise! He has smeared cream cheese on half a dozen Ritz biscuits, quartered three cherry tomatoes and placed two on each one to look like ladybug wings. He pitted six olives and placed them nicely on each biscuit to give them the appearance of a ladybug's head. He then put a couple of alfalfa sprouts inside the hollowed olive to give it an antenna. Lastly, he dotted the wings with Nutella using a toothpick. Result! Six ladybug biscuits.

He leaves her standing there with the most alluring look of surprise. He turns around and goes back inside the belly of the archive room.

I miss you, she says to herself.