When she's six, they ask Sharon Granger what she wants to be when she grows up, and she answers "a copper".
Eight years old, ten years old, thirteen years old, sixteen years old, the answer is the same. Shaz Granger is going to be a copper, because she wants to help people. Becoming a copper won't bring back Dad, and it won't stop Mum from crying herself to sleep every night, and it won't stop Penny from being scared of knives, but it just might help someone else.
And so when she turns twenty-one, Shaz Granger joins the Rochford Constabulary. She does all the stupid plod work, even though it's 1992 and women are supposed to be better than this. She does the "hearts and minds" tours of schools, goes back to St. Andrew's Primary and suffers through the safety lectures and the cooing of all her old teachers talking about what a good copper she is. She files and staples and copies facsimiles until her eyes bleed, and she itches to be out on patrol duty. It's two years before she's off the desk, and then that's only to move up to cell duty.
When she's 24, she finally talks DI Compton into letting her work a patrol, if she goes out with a PC at all times. Shaz doesn't care, she puts up with all of PC Harper's harassment and foul language because she's doing it. She's a real copper.
But then comes Marcus Richards, who runs a carjacking ring. Shaz and PC Harper are out on Westbury Lane, and Harper's off "interviewing" an associate of Richards. Shaz is keeping her eye on a couple kids playing footie in the street when she sees a man with a screwdriver trying to boost the lock on a car. It's Davey Miller, one of Richards's boys, and she yells "stop!", goes after him.
The screwdriver in her stomach and the blood pouring out is a shock, and all she can think is "someone help me". There has to be someone on this street that will see her, call an ambulance, get her help. But there's no one - the kids have run away, and she can see Harper at the end of the block, oblivious to her shouts of pain because there's a bird in fishnets in front of him.
She wakes up in an alley outside the Blitz, lace petticoat, stockings, and a gorgeous ruffled black shirt. Makeup all over her face, hair crimped out, and there's a bloke in a godawful yellow shirt calling her name. His name is DC Christopher Skelton, and one day in the past, he'll ask her to marry him. She meets the team - Ray all gruff and harmless teasing (for all his bluster, he knows the line between rudeness and outright harassment); Viv, their skipper, who takes her to West Ham games like her dad never did; and the Guv, who scares the hell out of her and treats her like his personal waitress, but will one day promise and deliver her a detective's position.
Still, she keeps thinking "someone help me, I can't do this on my own", and maybe the universe is listening, because the next day, Detective Inspector Alex Drake is carried into CID looking like the poshest of hookers, but proceeds to up-end the entire world. She teaches Shaz the importance of trusting her instincts, trusting her colleagues, and being the best plonk in the station. She sits at Luigi's and gossips with Shaz, telling her scandalous stories of men and giggling at Shaz's in return. She reassures Shaz that she's got potential, and talks Shaz up to the Guv whenever she can.
What Alex Drake really teaches her, though, is that you can't wait around for people to save you. You've got to save yourself.