Symphoricarpos - Also known as Snowberries: are a commonly used ingredient of alchemy and are said to have all three resist effects: fire, frost & shock and also possess the power of enchantment.

Chapter 1

Port In A Storm

"It's just started snowing again," Harry observed with a note of despondency in her voice.

Those few colleagues still in the office looked towards the windows, each voicing, by varying degrees, their displeasure at the sight of the huge fluffy flakes drifting against the black oblong panes.

There had been snow on the ground for ten days now. The novelty had worn off around day three when it became apparent that the country as a whole wasn't exactly coping with the treacherous weather conditions. With many hundreds of side roads impassable, private vehicles had been ditched in favour of public transport. But as more and more snow fell, more trains and buses were forced out of commission.

Hundreds of schools were closed and shops were starting to report panic buying of staple foods and tinned goods.

To everyone's annoyance, Lieutenant Jim Dempsey had been regularly declaring that "this wouldn't happen in The States". He informed them repeatedly that New York would have been prepared, would have been gritting, salting and ploughing twenty-four-seven. Harry realised early on that he was deliberately trying to wind them up and now refused to rise to the bait, merely distractedly agreeing with his condemnation of the 'Limeys' and their collective handling of the situation.

Abruptly Harry got to her feet.

"That's it. Time to call it a day, I think."

Dempsey looked up from his two fingered report typing. "Why, Sergeant, leaving so soon?"

"Yes, Dempsey, I am," she smiled brightly. "Unlike you I was here on time this morning."

He glowered at her. "Yeah, well, that's because you didn't have some moron sliding into your rear-end this morning."

Picking up her shoulder bag, Harry smirked, "Thankfully not," and was pleased to hear Chas murmuring, "Ouch" over in the far corner of the office.

Dempsey nodded resignedly. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Guess I set myself up for that one, huh?"

"So when do you plan on booking it in for repair?" asked Harry.

He shrugged. "It's minor damage. I dunno, I may wait 'til the snow clears first, just in case there's a repeat performance of my rear-end violation."

By staring her right in the eyes as he said it, it was almost as if he'd managed to turn the tables and Harry felt her cheeks starting to grow warm.

"Let me know when you want to take it to the garage," she told him briskly, "so I can arrange to give you a lift into work."

"Thanks, I appreciate that," Dempsey smiled. "So you got plans this weekend? You goin' skiing with your pals? Tobogganing maybe? You won't even have to fly to to do it, huh?"

This had, over the last few weeks, developed into the usual routine. At some point on a Friday afternoon, they would extract from each other in the most nonchalant fashion, what the other one was going to be doing over the weekend period. Invariably there would be a gap left in the timetable; a Saturday afternoon, a Sunday evening, a couple of hours in which Dempsey might happen to find himself driving by Camberwell Grove with a bottle of Chardonnay beside him on the passenger seat. Last Sunday afternoon a tenuous phonecall from Makepeace about a missing page of casefile notes had resulted in Dempsey telling her to drop by his place so they could fill in the blanks together. They both realised it could have waited until the morning but for some reason, neither of them felt inclined to wait.

After briefly collaborating on the absent section of the report, they had spent nearly an hour hanging out of Dempsey's apartment window drinking mugs of steaming hot chocolate and laughing at the abortive attempts of road users to negotiate the steep, snow-packed incline of Carling Hill a few streets away. It had been surprisingly good fun, standing there, wrapped snuggly in hats, scarves and gloves, faces warmed by the chocolatey steam.

Harry plucked her long winter-white coat from its peg on the coat stand and shrugging into it, casually outlined her schedule.

"Weather permitting, shopping with Angela tomorrow followed by an early supper and then we're meeting up with a few friends for drinks and the theatre."

She wound her brown mohair scarf about her neck and fluffed her hair out with her fingertips.

"Then a nice Sunday lie-in and hopefully a lazy day."

Dempsey turned in his seat to face her. "Nice Sunday lie-in sounds like a euphemism to me, Makepeace. You plannin' on getting' lucky Saturday night?"

Harry smiled serenely as she drifted across to the door. "Who knows?"

And then infuriatingly she winked at him before calling out, "Bye everyone. Have a good weekend."

After she had gone, Dempsey sat for a few moments, contemplating possible reasons for getting in contact with her over the weekend.

Why did he get that buzz out of working so hard at their relationship? What made Makepeace so special? Why couldn't he just give it up as a bad job and accept that she would never be anything more than a colleague and verbal sparring partner?

Dempsey eyed the empty coffee pot on top of the filing cabinet and wondered who would be the first of the three others left to give in and make a fresh pot.

As Harry got to the bottom of the wide staircase and turned into the main corridor, she considered Dempsey's last comment. Over the last few months she had found herself less and less inclined to become involved with anyone and the idea of getting lucky as he had so crudely put it, was not exactly one of her priorities

She wasn't quite sure who or what she was holding out for, certainly not Dempsey, the very idea was preposterous. He had just managed to get under her skin somehow, that was all. There was no denying he was attractive - she was… attracted… but animal magnetism did not a relationship make, it made for a bloody messy working environment. And God, he was brash and loud, lewd and annoying… and funny and strong-minded, thoughtful and on occasion, unnervingly sensitive. It was like she felt inexorably drawn to him one minute but totally repelled the next and the question was, how long could she go on like this for before something snapped?

Harry shoved open the swing door into the downstairs service reception area, feeling slightly peeved for no good reason.

"Goodnight, Hazel," she told the woman at the reception desk as she passed.

Hazel half stood from her chair. "Oh, Sergeant, there's a packet here for you." She reached behind her into the SI-10 post pigeon hole and turned back with a ten-by-eight padded manila envelope. It had her name hand-written in block capitals on the front.

"Delivered by hand!" she observed. "Thanks."

It was a couple of inches deep but weighed very little.

She pushed it into her shoulder bag, intending to open it after she got home. As she did this though, the main entrance door suddenly flew open and a young woman albut exploded into the foyer.

Dressed in a bulky white ski jacket, skin tight jeans and white moon boots, she gave off an impressively sexy/casual air.

"Jeez, it's a blizzard out there!" she exclaimed aloud to herself as she stamped her oversized boots on the dust mat. She then pulled off her snow sprinkled emerald green woollen hat with her emerald green gloved hand and shook her head slightly to loosen the mass of long auburn tresses that fell to her shoulders.

She looked up, seeing Harry walking towards her and grinned.

"They told me to expect rain in London not snow storms! Spent a fortune buyin' this survival gear since I've been here!"

Harry recognised the accent – it was Dempsey's but with a little something else thrown in.

"Yes, it is pretty inhospitable at the moment," Harry agreed, curious now as to the woman's reasons for being here. "Erm, can I help you at all?"

The statuesque creature smiled radiantly upon her and Harry realised that she was quite beautiful. She felt her chest tighten momentarily; surely this wasn't to be another loud-mouthed redhead come in search of Dempsey?

"I hope so, ma'am. I'm lookin' for a Lieutenant Jim Dempsey. You heard o' him?"

"Yeeees." Harry drew the word out, forcing herself to smile back. "Yes, I've heard of him."

Unbelieveable! How many more desperate molls had he left pining on the other side of the pond?

"If you'd like to wait here a moment, I'll have a call put through to him upstairs."

Even to her own ears, Harry sounded a little 'snippy' – brusque maybe. Well, there would certainly be no need to dance around their social diaries this weekend because it looked like Lieutenant Dempsey was about to have his every waking hour filled… no doubt every sleeping hour too for that matter.

"That'd be great, thank you ma'am," the woman purred.

Beautiful and well mannered. Harry felt a ridiculous, angry sort of frustration building inside her.

"What name shall I say?" she enquired politely.

The American, who had just unzipped her jacket, now peeled off a glove and flicked a hand through the front of her stunning fall of rich, fiery auburn hair and Harry noticed the unusual widow's peak at her hairline.

"Oh sure", she grinned. "Can you just tell him his wife is here to see him?"