The Crown (Karen Betts) Verses James Fenner
By Kristine and Richard
Mr. Justice Deed walked in to his chambers carrying a coffee and a bacon sandwich. His secretary, Mrs. Cooper, commonly known as Coope, was sorting through case details for Deed's upcoming court sittings. As he appeared she held up a sheaf of documents.
"I don't envy you this one, Judge," She said handing him the papers. After depositing his breakfast on a nearby desk, John Deed took the folder, which contained many of the details filling this morning's newspapers. On the front of the folder were the words, the crown verses James Fenner. Recollecting something he’d seen in the morning's papers, Deed flicked to the front page of the Guardian.
"Prison Officer On Trial This Week!"
James Fenner, 45, Principle Officer at Her Majesty's Prison Larkhall, will this week be going on trial for the rape of a wing governor, also of HMP Larkhall, one Karen Betts. This assault was alleged to have taken place 8 months ago. Should the public be asking whether or not the English prison system is a satisfactory establishment when its officers are being accused of serious crimes.
John Deed threw the paper in the bin in disgust. "We'll be lucky to get a jury who don't have any previous opinions on this," He said ruefully. "When is the trial scheduled to start?"
"On Thursday, Judge." Deed opened the folder and began to read.
Defendant: James Andrew Fenner.
Charge: That on the 30th of April 2002, he raped a woman, Karen Betts, a colleague.
Current Plea: not guilty.
Prosecuting Council: Mrs. J Mills.
At this, Deed looked up and smiled. "Hmm," He said, "I haven't seen Jo for a while."
"Yes, I thought that would interest you," Smiled Coope. Deed returned to the folder.
Council for the defense: Brian Cantwell.
This time Deed looked up in annoyance. "Oh god, not him again. I had quite enough of that irritating imbecile in the Tracy Spink trial." Picking up his sandwich and coffee, Deed made his way to his private office. Unearthing his mobile from his jacket pocket, he scrolled down to the very familiar number. In answer to the greeting on the other end of the phone, he said, "Jo, I hear I'll be seeing you on Thursday." There was a short silence, then a surprised voice.
"John, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I'm overseeing the rape trial this week."
"Oh, I see. Actually, John, I have the complainant with me now. Can this wait till later?"
"Can we meet for lunch?"
"Sure. I'll come to you. And John, it's been too long."
With a smile, Deed ended the call and replaced the phone in his pocket. Reopening the folder, he began to read up on the supposed crimes of one James Fenner. It appeared that as well as Karen Betts herself, Jo had quite a long line up of witnesses for the prosecution. There was a woman named Helen Stewart who claimed Fenner had sexually assaulted her. There was the prison governor, a Neil Grayling, who would testify to Karen Betts' character. There would be testimony from the police woman who took a statement from Karen Betts on the day after the alleged assault. At the details of the next witness, Deed's eyes rose almost above his hairline. A Miss Michelle Dockley, currently an inmate of HMP Larkhall, the defendant’s place of work, was also claiming that on a number of occasions James Fenner had raped and/or sexually assaulted her. Deed lifted the internal phone. "Coope, could you try and find out about someone for me? A Michelle Dockley, currently an inmate of Larkhall prison."
"I'll see what I can do, Judge."
At around one that afternoon, Deed’s office door was opened, revealing the council for the prosecution, Mrs. Jo Mills. Deed stood up and went to hug her. “Jo, good to see you. You look exhausted.”
“Oh, good afternoon to you too, John. This case has taken a lot out of me, that’s all.”
“And it’s not even gone to trial yet.”
“I know. I think I’ll be ready for a holiday after this one.”
“I’ve been looking at your line up. Very interesting.” Deed again got through to his secretary. “Coope, can you organise some lunch, for two?”
“Of course, judge. I thought you had company.”
Putting down the phone, Deed grinned.“Coope sees too much sometimes.”
Jo got to the point “So, why was my company requested?”
“Well, for a start, I haven’t seen you for quite a long time, and second, I want to talk to you about one of your witnesses.”
“Well, I have an ulterior motive as well so maybe we can do a deal.” Deed smiled.
“Don’t ever change, will you, Jo.”
Over a large plate of chicken and ham sandwiches, Deed began questioning the council for the prosecution on her choice of witnesses.
“So, where did you dig up this Helen Stewart?”
“She was a work colleague of Karen Betts. Before Helen Stewart resigned, she reported the assault to my client.”
“And your client did nothing about it?”
“No, unfortunately not. She was in a relationship with the defendant at the time.”
“This is getting complicated, Jo. And I probably shouldn’t be listening to all this.”
“This case is really getting to me. You know how most cases you can stay emotionally detached? Not with this one. There’s something about the defendant that makes me want to kick his face in. Everything I’ve found out about him makes my skin crawl.”
“You know I’m going to have to remain impartial, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I know. Just, if this complete bastard doesn’t get proved guilty, well, I might be looking for a change in profession.”
“Well, we’ll have to try and make sure that doesn’t happen, won’t we.”
“I suppose you want to know about Michelle Dockley?”
“Yes. She’s the most interesting of all your witnesses. Tell me, what’s the story with her?”
“Well, She’s doing life for murder, and she was on the wing where James Fenner worked. She claims that he raped her and sexually assaulted her continuously throughout the time he was an officer on that wing. There’s just one problem.” There was a knock on the door and Coope put her head in.
“Here are a few old newspaper articles about Michelle Dockley. I took the liberty of raiding the Guardian’s online archives.” Deed smiled.
“Thanks, Coope.” Jo began to look slightly apprehensive as Deed started looking through the printed off articles. First he came to an account of an attack with a glass bottle on a prison officer. The attacker was one Michelle Dockley and the victim was one James Fenner. Then to his mounting incredulity, he came across an account of an escape and subsequent assault where one of the assailants was again Michelle Dockley. Deed stared at Jo in utter amazement.
“The defense will crucify her, Jo.”
“I know, I know. But her testimony is good, strong evidence. She can also give evidence about another woman that Fenner assaulted. Rachel Hicks.”
“And why isn’t this Rachel Hicks going to testify for herself?”
“She hanged herself about three years ago. One of the other witnesses, Helen Stewart, can also testify as to Fenner’s involvement in Rachel Hicks’ suicide.”
“Was this woman an inmate as well?”
“This case is going to attract all the worst kind of press.”
“John, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Is there any way you can stop the press being present in court?”
“That’s asking a lot, Jo.”
“So’s asking me to give you the background on all my witnesses.”
“No, you don’t understand. What I mean is that it’ll be hard to find a reason that’ll stick. I’ll see what I can do. I can’t promise any more than that.”
“My client’s reputation has been ruined enough as it is by all this.”
“Well, I don’t envy you your battle ahead, Jo. But it just might prove to be one of the most enlightening trials I’ve ever supervised.”
Karen was at home fumbling for a fresh cigarette immediately after crushing the last one out in the overfull ash tray and let her mind wander after what seemed a very long day. She had got herself ready earlier thinking that she was part of the cog in the machinery of justice that was taking its first click forward and that this was somehow alien to her when she realized that it was the echo of her decision of months ago that had first tripped the machinery into action. Her pulse started racing to realize how close she had been to let things drop so life in Larkhall could go on in its usual tranquil routine, everything running dead smoothly.......bar the odd rape, the odd escape and Jim Fenner figuring out which woman took his fancy and at the same time squirming at the quid pro quo that Grayling would ask back off him. Yes a sexually predatory boss who pulled the strings wasn't going to be put off by the mere fact that Fenner was straight, at least sexually so.
The world had turned on the ordinary day that Karen received a phone call to pop over to the Number One's office and would never be the same for the public world just as an evening after work had never been the same for Karen.
"Come in Karen," Grayling had gestured her to a chair more effusively than his normal tight lipped gesture. He had a matter of concern he wanted to talk to her about and his face appeared concerned and the tone of his voice soft. He threw over a collection of photos of Karen in her swimsuit from the last holiday she had been on with Jim Fenner when he had been the perfect lover, romantic evenings out in cafes with a bottle of the best wine.
"This is supposed to scare me." Karen could remember saying acidly. Grayling had retrieved the prints but the negatives, she presumed, would be safe with Jim Fenner.
"Well, he's a desperate man." Grayling explained
"Good. When I went to the cops, I knew there was a fair chance of a tabloid story. It didn’t stop me then and it won't stop me now." Karen could remember.
Just what side is this guy on, she remembered thinking. He's playing off both sides against the middle so he doesn't lose.
"The truth is, Karen, I had dinner last night with a pal who works in the GPS, Michael Hendry, they're not going ahead with your case."
"What," Karen yelled. She remembered thinking that what had happened that night was a clear-cut crime. What in hell was justice for, not least for someone who'd been paid with dealing with the consequences of justice?
She ignored Grayling's plea to calm down as he seemed like the anxious parent only doing what he felt right. She wanted to know whom else he'd been blabbing to, how many pals in high office had the biggest traumatic moment of her life been casually discussed by. The whole thing was beginning to make her feel totally cheap.
"I didn't hear details, I assure you, Michael simply felt it right to say that the prosecution stood very little chance of success. Please ring him yourself by all means."
Karen felt the business card put into her hands but she had this overwhelming feeling that she couldn't sit down any more and calmly discuss something as if they were at a vicarage tea party and isn't it sunny today. This was her life for Gods sake. She automatically stood up and walked over to the corner with her head in her hands. The thoughts were hammering through her head that she was being dealt the same sort of justice that some of the prisoners were being dealt and why should she think she would be better placed. This was an annoying embarrassing little episode to be discussed and brushed aside over the second glass of port and the forthcoming club night out would be discussed at an annoyingly superior level. She turned around and peeked a look at Grayling whose face had an insidious half smile, like a mask that was grotesquely out of line with the tragic news he had to offer, or rather, she had talked to a concerned mask and the mask had slipped just a fraction.
Wait a minute, she thought. I’m sitting here as if what Grayling is telling me is the truth. Haven't I made enough mistakes by taking as gospel what some smooth talking guy tells me, lets him spin a web of lies around me and wake up when it is too late. He said that he knows Michael Hendry, I've only got his card that even that is true. He could have had the card given to him by a casual acquaintance at some fleeting conference.
"I know I'm clutching at straws, it isn't as if I don't believe you but I'd sooner hear the bad news for myself, Neil." Karen managed a brief twitch of a smile as she grasped the telephone and with it, her destiny.
Noticing the twitch at the corner of Grayling's mouth and his eyes swiveling, Karen could not get over how calmly he took it. An honest man would have shown some annoyance that his word was being doubted. Karen could remember how her heart was hammering with every ring ring of the phone and the cultured voice spoke to her. With more front than she thought she could command in the rapid confident way she explained her phone call to a hitherto disconnected stranger in high authority.
"Yes, I know Neil very well, we had an excellent evening the other night but I think we'd both had one or two ports too many. This is a high profile sensitive case and the final decision is being taken at a higher level than I can decide."
Karen mouthed those words to herself in incredulity to herself and in anger to Grayling. Why does he have that peculiar smile like a naughty schoolboy whose lies have been found out. She remembered turning on her heel in case she would do or say anything she might regret even though so would Grayling. The anger from being nearly done over drove her to a single minded burning anger that sustained her into starting the ball rolling.........even up to today when she started to realize the enormity of what she was doing.
She had been in court before, as a character witness to prisoners who stood in the witness box huddled before the various instruments of justice of whom she was a minor one. She could now say that she had not felt how she was beginning to feel. She also recalled the various barristers who paraded there forensic skills on hire to adopt the role of prosecution or defense as seemed fit. Even then, she could recall the more brutal members of the legal profession who seemed to enjoy verbally slicing up witnesses on court who stumbled into the traps set for them.
In the homely office, she looked at the letter of appointment to see Jo Mills. Instead of the young male solicitor that in her confusion she thought she would face instead came a tall fair-haired woman who courteously showed her a chair.
"You must be Karen Betts," she said with that air of sympathetically taking the measure of her.
"What can I say about Jim Fenner" she repeated in a dazed fashion as if trying to explain such a tangled web to a stranger, no matter how sympathetic. How could she recall Shell Dockley's blood stained face when with Helen Stewart she had come to them after Jim Fenner beat her up. And how do I get over the tortuous affair of Rachel Hicks committing suicide and Shell Dockley stabbing him and the investigation. And how do I explain , after Helen Stewart who knew him longer than her was sexually assaulted by him and she did nothing, in fact she took his side and lived with him. How to explain how she was caught in a spiders web of smooth words and the sexual abuse of other women that had gone on until that night....... She saw Jo Mill's turn from professional concentration to incredulous horror right up to the moment when tears started running down her face.
Jo Mills was indeed horrified. This was not the easily shed tears of some neurotic woman who could turn them on but a very strong woman, in the same league as her, from whom tears were forced. This wasn't a straightforward murder case with all exhibits neatly packaged for court but some sort of nightmare that this woman had lived through, like the other women in the story. Shell Dockley seemed to lie at the heart of Jim Fenner's past life and, from the way Karen spoke of Helen Stewart, she was someone Karen looked up to in unashamed respect as someone wiser than her.
She looked to be someone to look up to at the earliest moment. Tears welled out of Karen's eyes smudging her mascara as she fought for control and with a shaky flourish said that she hoped she understood this ramble, believe me, I'm normally the together one. "I was talking about Helen, Jo. She came in as Wing Governor and two years wasn't enough to harden her to begin with.....though she toughened up. and I thought with my years, I was immune to it all. Just shows how wrong you can be."
She gratefully accepted a cup of coffee and lit up a cigarette.
"Tell me, Jo. Where do we go from here?"
Jo did her best to smile and look like the professional Karen expected her to be. in reality she couldn't wait to phone John Deed. Her head was spinning
I couldn't believe I'd found someone who not only listened to everything I had to say, and that was no small amount, but who quite obviously believed me. She didn't question, at least not at first. She simply let me tell it in my own way. When she got her secretary to bring me some coffee she tried to lighten the atmosphere a little.
"If it wasn't this early in the morning, I'd pour us both a scotch." I smiled slightly. Then she began, gently, to ask me to explain various things in greater detail. "I'm going to have to ask you to tell me exactly what happened," She glanced at a document, "The 30th of April. I know this will be difficult but this is what will happen in court. The defense are likely to question every detail. It's better that you try and get used to telling it beforehand."
I felt like my throat was clogged with cement. At first I couldn't speak, the words just wouldn't come. but she didn't pressure me. Jo Mills just sat there and waited, giving me as much time as I needed. Eventually, I managed to force the words passed the barrier of my mind, enough to give her the bare, basic facts. I felt completely drained once I'd said all that. It was as if I'd used up all my energy. Then it was my turn to ask a question.
"This may sound odd," I said tentatively. "But why didn't you write any of this down?" Jo smiled.
"Because anything I write down pertaining to the case, the defense has a right to see and it would give them an unfair advantage if they knew what you were going to say before we reached court. though I have noted that the defense council is also taking the same precaution."
"It's quite odd, not having whoever has had to hear this question my judgment," I said, meaning it. I was almost expecting her to ask me why I'd gone to bed with Jim if I hadn't intended to sleep with him.
"We all make mistakes, Karen. I'm not about to question your judgment because my own has lapsed on a number of occasions. But I will tell you that the defense will question you on why you did everything that day, as they will the other witnesses. I can't pretend that this is going to be easy because it's very likely going to be the hardest thing you've ever done. But we do have a more than favorable chance."
"What odds would you give it?"
"Only a judge would openly take a bet on a case."
Somebody must have been listening to her when she said this because her phone rang. Lifting the receiver she said, "Jo Mills?" At the sound of the person on the other end her face brightened. I listened to the one-sided conversation, ascertaining that she was talking to someone involved with my case. When she replaced the receiver, she said, "Well, we definitely have one thing on our side. That was Mr. Justice Deed. He's the best judge I've ever worked with. You won't get anyone to be as fair as he will." From what I'd heard of the conversation and the look in Jo Mills' eye, I wondered just how well she knew this judge. But that wasn't for me to speculate. Then I asked,
"When are you seeing the other witnesses?"
"Well, it isn't necessary for me to see the police sergeant who took your statement. I'm seeing Helen Stewart tomorrow morning and I'm going to the prison in the afternoon where I'll see your Governor Neil Grayling and the inmate, Michelle Dockley. I take it Mr. Fenner is no longer working on the same wing."
"No, he was transferred to another prison, a male prison. The home office insisted on him being moved."
"Well, that's something. What can you tell me about Michelle Dockley that I don't already know?"
"You'll be aware of her previous?"
"yes. I was in two minds whether or not to call her. she might prove to be a liability. But I was assured by your solicitor that her evidence was worth the risk."
"She was on the run. But she had read about what happened in the paper and was apprehended attempting to break in to Jim Fenner's house. With what intentions, heaven only knows."
"I think so. She knows from personal experience what it's like to be on the receiving end of Jim Fenner."
"Was that what the broken bottle incident was about?"
"Partly. She told me at the time that she was trying to protect me from him. She'd found out I'd started a relationship with him again and I think she knew what would happen. I never expected to say this, but if only I'd listened to her." At this, I seemed to drift off in to my own little world. Why didn't I listen to Shell? Why didn't I listen to Helen? Was this my own fault for not listening to those who knew what Jim Fenner was like? Jo seemed to sense what I was feeling.
"It's pointless to go down that path," She said gently. "We'll just have to make him suffer the way that will hurt him most. Prison officers don't have an easy time of it in prison." she was right and I knew it, but would I ever forgive myself for not having listened to Helen and Shell and countless others who in there own ways tried to warn me off Jim.
Jo Mills was rapidly running her thoughts back to what Karen had said about Helen Stewart. A young, fast track Wing Governor who had resigned and came back after doing an area job to be eventually acting No 1 Governor only to resign unaccountably over Jim Fenner. 'Helen had always had a personality clash with Jim Fenner and, she admitted with some embarrassment, that she had fallen out with Helen over him. What angle would she have on this and what axe would she have to grind?
Right on the dot of 9am, came the knock on the door and a smartly dressed petite, very feminine woman entered with outstretched hand and friendly smile.
"If anyone had asked me, would I ever go back to Larkhall, the nightmare that I lived for three years I would say never in a million. But Jim Fenner is unfinished business and what I came that close " here she held out two fingers with a tiny gap between them " to finishing, then this trial may succeed. It's the people I left behind I still have a duty to- even if he is transferred."
Very rapidly, Helen in her distinctive Scottish accent led Jo through a concise tale of her dealings with Jim Fenner drawing out that he had hated her as a young woman in authority over him though he is a 'sly bastard' and 'very plausible'. She carried out investigations in person, once when he beat Shell Dockley black and blue and once when Shell stabbed him. He is a 'misogynist bastard.
"Why did you finally resign from your job in Larkhall, Helen?" Jo asked as this seemed out of character for a woman clearly dedicated to her job.
Without hesitation, Helen told Jo that Fenner was blackmailing her over a female prisoner called Nikki Wade, her present partner who......
Jo raised her eyebrows at this point and she was struck by the way Helen's emotions were reflected in her face. She remembered going on holiday in Wales and one moment the land became dark with storm clouds overhead and next minute the land was lit by sunshine when the dark clouds were blown over to the next valley. It was that way now when Helen switched the conversation to Nikki Wade who was hated by Fenner, 'not because they were gay though that helped but because they could see through him.' Jo appreciated the answer to her unasked question.
"Nikki is no ordinary woman." Helen smiled, her eyes sunlit and expressing everything to Jo." I thought it best that you should know everything as otherwise you can't do your job properly."
"What about your own experience with Jim Fenner, like Karen's" Jo asked Helen delicately, The question had to be asked as Helen was the only person besides Karen and Shell Dockley whom there was direct evidence that could be used.
Helen's face clouded over with pain and it was not so much remembering the traumatic event but reliving it. In one flash, everything in that moment with Fenner came over with a frightening flash and a terrifying feeling of helplessness as her worst nightmare came true.
"Would you be able to handle going up in a witness box and saying what you are saying, and going up against the defense barrister, " Jo asked gently.
Helen could see all the sympathy and strength in her eyes and nodded a decisive yes. whatever it took to finish Fenner once and for all. Jo, in turn, could not help but warm to the woman even though a part of her held back in professional detachment. If she was going to go out on a limb, Helen was her strongest branch.
The rest of the day went downhill for Jo as she set out to Larkhall. She was plunged from the sunlight of the outside world in to the gloom of narrow corridors, barred doors and distempered walls. She was ushered into a smart typical managers office which had everything normal, except the occupant.
Jo was struck immediately with the contrast of Helen's transparent honesty of difficult topics to Grayling who rang loud warning bells immediately. Jo started asking Grayling generally about his experiences of both Jim Fenner and Karen who far too smoothly shifted the conversation around to his description about how Karen had come to ask him for advice about what to do internally after the rape and he recalled how sympathetic he was about what must have been a terrible experience. What about the advice he had given her about his friend in the GPS, Jo asked him coldly. Grayling spread his hands wide and said anyone could make a mistake, especially when he had had a few to drink, He is right on Karen's side now to testify as her boss at a time when this terrible event took place and hopefully as her friend. He repeated himself more than once and, as someone who Karen talked to immediately after the night with Fenner, with great misgivings, she went ahead with the business.
Jo was still more uneasy when she first set sight on Shell Dockley and her down turned gash of a mouth was a warning signal.
"I want to tell the court what he done to me, not just once like he did Miss Betts but for years. A rapist like him should be put away with all the other psychos. I can tell you everything Miss."
At that point, Shell's blue eyes turned limpid with apparent candor and the first wrong note was struck in her apparent caring desire to see justice for Karen and the callous way she referred to what happened to Karen. This switching back and forth frankly disturbed Jo.
"I felt dead sorry for that red-haired girl what happened to her. She had lovely hair, smelt horrible after it got burnt. Couldn't do a thing to stop those girls torturing and killing her. and they go and blame it all on me. And Rachel Hicks , all the girls and me felt sorry for her....except that Nikki Wade, always badmouthing her, she was".
Jo led her on to the most direct evidence she could give, being beaten up by Fenner and the stabbing. On the face of it, Fenner came on like a maniac to her and all because some bitch had made malicious phone calls to his wife and he had gone off on one. Things had got so bad that the night of Body bag’s party Fenner had come on to her and wasn't going to give up so she had got a broken bottle and had stuck it in him when he tried to rape her. So was there an investigation and why hadn't he been charged then, Jo asked. "Yes well, the screws will always cover their own, like when that Rachel Hicks topped herself." Shell said grumpily under her breath.
The warning bells went off in Jo Mill's head at that point after hearing Helen Stewart's version. she was on the point of confronting Shell on this but thought she'd hold back. Helen was right, this is a nightmare world where anything could mean anything else. She needed desperately the security of her home to go back to, her mind buzzing.
My mood sank lower and lower after I left the prison. Whilst I didn't doubt a word of what Shell Dockley had to say regarding Fenner, her attitude to those in authority wouldn't do her any favors in court. I drove slowly home through the drizzle. I was trying to figure out what about this case had drawn me in so deeply. I'd been affected by cases before, one could hardly avoid it. but this was something different. I felt almost consumed by the lives of the women this bastard Fenner had all but destroyed. I thought that no matter the outcome, Helen would survive. She had something to keep her going. But I wasn't sure about Karen, and it was almost a foregone conclusion that Shell would never be the same again. By the way she had talked to me earlier, I could tell this was her last attempt at making Fenner pay for what he'd persistently done to her. I knew that the only thing to take me out of this depression was company. I dialed John's mobile. He answered on the first ring.
"Jo, where are you?"
"I'm on my way home from the prison."
"How did it go?"
"Are you busy tonight?"
"I've got some reading to do for a sentencing tomorrow but I should be free around nine. Why, do you want some company?" It still astounded me that he could read me so well.
"yes. I think I need to get drunk."
"Okay. I'll see you later then."
As a result of the combination of terrible weather and early evening London traffic, I didn't reach home till six. Just before I got home, I again felt the craving for nicotine that had assaulted me a number of times over the last few days. I hadn't smoked for quite a few years but having spent time with Karen yesterday and Shell today, both of whom lit up at the first sign of stress, I could feel the need drawing me back in. Giving myself a metaphorical lecture, I stopped at a garage and bought some. This was certainly a testament to how much this case was getting to me. As soon as I arrived home, I opened a bottle of wine and lay in a hot bath for at least an hour. I always did this after visiting a client or a witness in prison. The feeling of human lives suspended in time, of those who were only partly existing due to drug use or mental instability. The listlessness on the one hand and the hate of anything authoritarian on the other had invaded my soul. In scrubbing my body, I felt like I was clearing my mind of the failings of humanity, if only for a few hours.
John arrived just after nine, baring two bottles of red. I went to hug him, forgetting my earlier indulgence. He looked at me as might a stern father.
"I thought you gave that up years ago," He chided with a smile.
"No addict ever gives up entirely." He opened the wine and poured us both a glass and I lit up one of the offending objects.
"So," He said after a long swallow of wine. "How did it really go at the prison?"
"Shell Dockley’s a time bomb waiting to go off. I just hope she doesn't do that in court. Jesus! I've seen some mixed up people in my time but she's just about ready to crack.
"Sounds similar to someone else I know," He said looking intently at me.
"Oh thank you for that vote of confidence," I said, but I knew he was right.
"Jo, by the sounds of it, you're getting far too involved with this case."
"Don't you think I know that?" I stood up and began pacing. "John, I've never seen so much hurt and pain in one case. Fenner has hurt so many women so ruthlessly. What I felt with all three women was how this epitome of all society's evils has invaded their lives leaving nothing but hurt and devastation and in Shell Dockley’s case emerging insanity."
"It's what comes with the Job, Jo. That's what people like you and me work for, to put scum like that behind bars. That's all we can do."
"But why has he got away with it for so long. He has continuously and persistently abused his position as a prison officer in order to take advantage of the vulnerable women in his care. Women like Rachel Hicks and Michelle Dockley who haven't had enough good in their lives to know the difference between cruel, sadistic frauds like Fenner and the genuine article." I put my cigarette end in an ashtray and sat down next to John. I knew I shouldn't have said all that to him. With the evidence placed before him, he would have a hard enough job remaining impartial in court, without my little tirade to add to it.
"I'm sorry," I said quietly. He shook his head.
"Listen. I know that apart from your usual technique as a silk, you won't attempt to prevent me from being impartial in court and that's what matters. I'm not quite sure why you're so caught up in this case, and I'll probably find that out on Thursday. But you obviously needed to let out some anger." He put his arms round me and I leaned against him, finally able to relax. Whilst there was definitely a constant sexual undercurrent to our relationship which occasionally rose to the surface, John was above all the closest friend I had. part of being a barrister is being able to guard your feelings and to argue the case no matter how much you disagreed with its cause. But I never had to do that when I was alone with John. Anything I felt, I could say and it didn't matter. With John I could be free. Free from all the constraints of protocol, free from every convention which tried to keep us apart. We disagree regularly on cases, I've been known not to speak to him for days after he's sent a client of mine to prison. But that's the difference with us. We can leave the court behind when we're together as we can leave our friendship and our bed behind when we're in court. But this case was different. Whilst I had no intention of attempting to crack John's necessary layer of impartiality, I almost felt like the battle ahead was as important to me as it was for Karen Betts.
Helen was busy uncorking a bottle of wine that evening while Nikki was busy clearing away when there was a timid knock at the door.
"Hello, I wonder who that could be at this time of night?"
Nikki smiled at Helen's persistent quirk at trying to guess the visitor from the knock on the door, the rare occasions Nikki's father called being more like a military tattoo.
Passing into the hall and looking into the dark Helen saw a most unexpected figure, Karen Betts with long blond tousled hair and not in her usual sleek gray trouser suit.
"Mind if I called. I had heard you'd offered to stand as a witness at...the trial," Karen stumbled." I really wanted to talk to you tonight.. that is if you'll let me in"
Karen's eyes looked beseechingly at Helen, asking for forgiveness for the way Karen had last behaved towards her. She was smitten to the core at the way she threatened Helen with an official complaint for harassing Jim Fenner. Still more could she recall the look in Helen's eyes when Helen told her that she had no quarrel with her. Helen could have pulled rank on her but tried the soft way to persuade her. Her mind had been made up in a snap decision rather than spend one more lonely night counting down the days, if not minutes or seconds. She was taking a risk just poling up like that but she trusted that Helen would understand. She always did.
Helen smiled that broad smile of hers that she'd not seen for ages and welcomed her in. Just when she had gone a few paces and the dark of the night was shut firmly behind her, she caught sight of a familiar figure.
"Oh if you've got company, Helen, I wouldn't want to intrude......."
"It's all right, Karen....if I can call you that" Nikki answered smiling.” We live together, as partners."
"Oh," Karen said taking a little while to register that one. So that was the one thing Jim Fenner said that was actually true about Helen. She thought it was best just to accept this and try and move on, She said that she had been stewing over the thought in her mind that, while she had long since apologized to Helen in her mind, she hadn't actually said so. She prided herself in being fair minded and just, pretty well the same as Helen and she had to overcome the shame and guilt barrier. Yes she had messed up with Helen, even if Jim Fenner was at the back of it all, but she couldn't watch Helen put herself up on trial as a witness without atoning for the past.
"I'd come round to apologize to Helen, Nikki, for the way I behaved to her over Jim. You must know a lot about it from Helen, apart from what I'm sure you picked up at the time." This was a gracious nod at Nikki's intelligence, which she had come to see more and more in recent months.
Karen just had to spit out the thought in her mind, smiled with a shake of the head that it just had to be the best kept secret that Helen was sort of....and then tailed off and started talking about all the gossip and speculation as to who Helen's new boyfriend might be. She looked so tongue tied and embarrassed that Helen graciously stopped Karen from toppling headfirst into the pit she'd dug herself. Karen then launched into wanting to talk about old times.
"This feels like a school reunion," Nikki smiled with gentle irony. "Honestly, Karen, you did the right thing by coming round. You have to bury the ghosts of the past before the trial takes place. We'll all be up against it then."
Karen looked gratefully at Nikki and for the first time, she could see Nikki as she was free of the prison bars. The rest of the evening passed in Karen taking them all through from the first time she came to Larkhall being introduced by Stubberfield in her absence as 'the troublemaker' and then when they were there together and Helen questioned Shell about the beating up she had had at Jim Fenner's hands or fists. She sat back and admired Helen's sharp mind as she questioned Shell. Karen had no problems in accepting Helen's authority as the younger but brighter woman and felt happy in following Helen's lead.
"I was shut up in a cattle truck being shipped round the country while all this was going on," smiled Nikki to which Helen smiled back and said that she had since made up many times with her over this, couldn't she remember the first few nights after she was released?
It was like a reunion and Karen remembered Helen advising her not to underestimate Jim Fenner when they were chatting over a nighttime drink in the far off days when they were friends. "Yes, I remember you saying that Helen, and I thought I knew what you meant at the time. Goes to show how wrong you can be." Karen shaking her head slowly in incredulity at herself.
"I'm really sorry, Helen, more than I can ever say about the things I said to you later on. " Karen said slowly. "And when this is all over, whatever, I want to be friends with both of you." and her eyes took in Nikki as well. "I know that you're going into the witness box for me, and I know for everyone he's abused, including you and what happened to you, I didn't believe at the time. It's that that gets to me most."
"Believe you me, I know just how insidious the bastard is, Karen. He shows a different face to different people and is a task master of playing one person off against another. Don't forget we were both victims of him. And he always hated my guts, remember. Anyway, who's for a refill," Helen said reaching for the bottle of wine .
The conversation flowed along with the wine and they recalled all the little incidents, all the more lighthearted moments of Larkhall as they all knew consciously, they would hear all too much of the grimmer moments. Nikki fell about laughing when she heard how Karen had heard about Body bag's skiving routine with the neck brace and the 'get fit' routine that she had ordered and Karen likewise at Nikki's description of the way she had stashed the home made hooch under Fenner's very nose in the potting shed. Karen asked Helen and Nikki how they had got on since they both left Larkhall and they were able to chatter on about the details of the jobs they were both doing and Nikki told Karen that, yes, she had not forgotten her best wishes before she went off for the trial.
"Don't forget, Karen, I'll be in the public gallery this time around. I'll be there for you same as Helen will be."
This was the best thing she could have done, Karen thought. If I'd stayed in on my own, I would have been stewing things over in my mind and got more and more worked up. Looking at Helen and Nikki side by side on the sofa , she couldn't help thinking how good they looked together and the words found voice.
"Not that I'm interested in women , not that way." Karen hastily assured them and though she saw Nikki smile at that she did not hear Nikki say under her breath that 'they all say that -in the beginning'. It was a much more relaxed Karen who had to 'love them and leave them' and be ready for the morning.
John Deed mulled over what Jo Mills had said. On the face of it, this was a straightforward rape case, no complicated fraud case with masses of documentation to pore over and expert witnesses to be cross-examined. There were no major legal precedents to be researched and it was a case of one person's word against another just a simple matter whether the test of 'beyond reasonable doubt' applied to the charge.
If that were the case, what was upsetting Jo Mills so much, one of the brightest of the silks? It wasn't just the monstrosity of the allegations that were bothering her as they did him, perhaps the very lack of evidence was the problem. It wasn't because this was a potential high profile case. It was strange because he had never really thought about what happened to those who were sentenced by judges like him. The actual prison sentence belonged in the range of tariffs he could decide on in sentence as an abstract reflection of the balancing scales of justice and the gravity of the crime. He had a feeling that this was to be transformed into a flesh and blood experience and that he would be living it, despite the impartiality he would have to maintain at all times.
On the Thursday morning, both John Deed and Jo Mills were at court early. From his office window, Deed spied Jo pacing back and forth in front of the court building, cigarette in hand. Picking up two coffees from the canteen on his way, he went down to join her. She didn't seem to notice him at first, so he stood in front of her.
"You looked like you could do with this," He said, handing her the steaming substance.
"Thanks," She said, taking it.
"How did you sleep?"
"Not brilliantly." They were then approached by a woman looking pretty but very tense. Jo did the introductions.
"John, this is Karen Betts. Karen, this is Mr. Justice Deed. He'll be overseeing the trial." Deed and Karen shook hands.
"Cantwell's arrived," Deed said to Jo. "I saw him in the middle of last minute reading."
They were then approached by the man of Karen's nightmares, a person whom Jo had never seen but whom she knew enough about to warrant a surge of pure anger at his words.
"Karen, good to see you. It's been a long time." Jim Fenner said this as he looked at Karen in a way that only an ex-lover can do. His expression showed that he knew everything there was to know about the figure Karen kept hidden by her clothes.
"Jim, this is neither the time nor the place," Karen said, barely managing to keep the shudder of revulsion and fear out of her voice.
"Oh, I don't know," Fenner said in his sinister, oily tone. "I'd say this was just the place. You can still pull out you know, Karen. You can still put an end to this farce." John had heard enough and took the situation in hand.
"Mr. James Fenner I presume." Fenner turned to him as if only just realizing he and Karen weren't alone.
"And who might you be?" He asked.
"I am Mr. Justice Deed. I will be overseeing your trial." Fenner's expression lapsed in to one of complete subservient squirming.
"Please accept my apologies, sir. I am simply trying to save the court the time and money of this trial. After all, I'm sure we have better things to do."
"It is against the law to interfere with a witness, Mr. Fenner, as well you know," Said Jo, bristling with anger. John put a gentle hand on her shoulder, which didn't go unnoticed by Karen.
"And I would like you to remember that I still have the power to remand you in custody, and will do so if I witness anything of this nature again during this trial. Do I make myself clear?" Totally beaten, but determined to have the last word, Fenner's only response was,
"Of course, sir." As they watched his retreating back, Deed gave Jo's shoulder a little squeeze and said,
"I'd better go. I'll see you in court." Then, catching sight of the two men walking towards them, he added, "Oh I might have known they'd show up." Jo looked to where he was gesturing. Sir Ian Rochester and his sidekick Lawrence James were walking purposefully towards them.
"who are they?" Asked Karen.
"Two of the Lord Chancellor's lackeys. why do I get the feeling I'm about to be given a firm warning." Lawrence James, the more insipid looking of the two, reached Deed first.
"Mr. Justice Deed, might we have a word?" As John walked away with the two men, Karen was left wondering just what else was going on behind the scenes of this soon to be infamous court case.
For a split second, John Deed had the feeling that he was going to be metaphorically led away to his own prison with two determined jailers, one on either side. John Deed looked at the expensive shiny suit of Lawrence James and his perpetual scowl gave him no indication of what was in store for him. As for Sir Ian Rochester, his expression was trying to be stern and forceful or as much as a spineless individual could look. He hasn't changed since school.
Once into the private room, Sir Ian Rochester dispensed with any attempt at civilities and came to the point.
"John, the Lord Chancellor's Department thought it only proper for your benefit to advise you that you are taking on a case of some delicacy." He gave a discreet cough to indicate the gravity of the occasion.
"Which case do you mean, Sir Ian? I only have one case on at the present, unless you are talking about something that is stuck somewhere in the CPS's out tray." smiled John.
"You know perfectly well what I mean. The Crown versus Fenner. You don't indulge your bad sense of humor here. We are to be treated with respect" This was a telling off from Lawrence James.
"This is a case which affects the public interest. You know very well that this matter involves two serving officers in the Prison Service. The press are starting to show an unhealthy interest in the story. Public confidence in the prison service must be maintained. The whole matter is unsavory and the public might get the idea that the prison service is staffed by........"
"Rapists?" asked John Deed with raised eyebrows. "I was brought up under the old fashioned doctrine of justice being done and being seen to be done. If the two parties concerned were just ordinary people in the street, you would not be so concerned for my well being."
John Deed knew very well from what these precious pair were saying was that produce the verdict that the LCD wanted, and the Home Office Minister would be able to be congratulated on what a sound fellow he is.
"You must understand that all the prison service will be tarred with the same brush. It is not fair on them." Sir Ian Rochester sounded almost concerned about the welfare of the ordinary people, John thought cynically.
"Pity the man didn't think of that beforehand, if that is what happened. I wouldn't want to prejudge the matter. Keep an open mind."
The conversation came to a chilly end, totally lacking in the bonhomie that other more pliable judges were used to. A cozy working relationship was what they expected from the judges who were part of the judiciary, free to make their decisions but they were all in the same club and came from the same schools.
John held a cup of coffee in his hand and reflected on those past days back to when Deed and Rochester Minor were in the same cloistered public school whose list of Old Boys and their achievements in the field of battle were up on high in the high arched assembly hall.
He remembered how Rochester minor was always a toady and a sneak and was always the apple of the eye of their teacher. There was some childish prank that they were all involved with and Rochester Minor pointed the finger that 'Deed did it.' He could remember the feeling of shame and humiliation of being ordered up to the front of the form for a public beating and the way the teacher wasn't prepared to listen to what he had to say. It was arbitrary unjust punishment that angered him and still more Rochester Minor's oily comment that 'they were all glad that he hadn't let the side down.' Well that was what he remembered, his deep desire if he grew up and had the exercise of power that whoever came within his power would be listened to justly and, yes, he would let the side down if it was morally right. That was why he admired the purity of the law where there was no smudge in moral standards. Justice followed from a chain of logic following from a set of facts.
He knew that was an old fashioned view but, after all, he had absorbed the ideas of 'the level playing field' and 'British justice' in his schooling. He was both radical and traditional. He just expected his contemporaries in the club to practice what was preached at them all those years ago. That clubbish atmosphere had attracted him with the need to belong to a common calling, but repelled him at the same time with the need to break free. He had the same theatrical expressive power of command of the English Language as his fellows but turned to a nobler cause than they were. When he first started, the enemy was the stuffy old dinosaurs of the club but now it was the creeping control of the Lord Chancellors Department infested by the same toadies and sneaks from his schooldays.
From the moment Karen shut the door on the outside world, all her fears that she had bottled up came rushing back now she was ‘off duty’ . what scared her most was that the trial hadn’t even started yet. From the feeling of safety with Jo Mills sympathy and professionalism there came the jarring shock of the creature at the back of some of her nightmares at a time when she was totally unprepared for him. Her mind flicked away from that to the quick sight of the very reassuring John Deed. Her confidence in her judgement of men was at an understandably all time low but she picked up a very fatherly air from him mixed with a feeling of humanity that was totally reassuring.
"Mum, you sit down and I'll make the dinner. You've got to take it easy."
Bless Ross, thought Karen. His wide eyed fresh face was only aiming to please. She was not reassured to begin with when she remembered him being the all time slobbish teenage son till he reassured her that he had learned to look after himself at university and he was very domesticated. It would do her good to be spoilt a bit. She sank sideways on the sofa and let herself drift away while being conscious of cooking smells, not burning, coming from the kitchen.
He was as good as his word and she was touched that he was looking after her. He was like a younger male version of herself with the untouched fresh faced look that she had had once been and felt.After she had been let down time and time again by the smooth promises of ex partners who failed her and failed themselves, her son had taught her that it was actions that counted.
Once the jury had been sworn in and Fenner had been asked to state his name, full address and current plea, Jo slipped in to her professional role. She began pacing back and forth in front of the judge's bench as was her wont. Before beginning her speech, she walked over to the dock and took a good, long look at the man she was about to prosecute. Then she turned about to address the jury.
"It is the job of any prosecuting council, to prove the defendant guilty, in a truthful, lawful manner. It is their job to present before the jury, all submittable evidence pertaining to the crime in question. I must and will, prove to you beyond all reasonable doubt that the crime in question was committed and if I am to be successful, I must endeavor to leave no room for speculation. In the coming days, I will prove to you beyond all reasonable doubt that this man," Here she walked back to Fenner, "James Andrew Fenner, one of Her Majesty's prison officers, did on the 30th of April 2002, commit the act of rape against a fellow colleague. I will furthermore illustrate that this was not an isolated incident. I will bring before you not only the woman whom James Fenner undoubtedly raped in April last year, but two further witnesses who can testify to the unwanted sexual advances and assaults, which they have themselves received from this man in the dock. You will hear evidence pertaining to my main witness's character, showing that she would not contemplate fabricating that such a crime took place and you will hear testimony from the police Sergeant who took the initial statement from my main witness. Throughout this case, I will present to you a catalogue of crimes, which you will scarcely believe one man could commit. You will be given a picture of a man who has continuously and persistently abused his position as a prison officer to take advantage of the vulnerable women in his care. One of the witnesses you will see is an inmate of Larkhall prison where she has on a number of occasions been forced to take part in sexual acts with the man you see before you. You will hear further evidence from two of my witnesses who can testify to the sexual involvement of James Fenner with a young vulnerable, single mother, who was also an inmate of Larkhall prison but who, sadly, hanged herself three years ago. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I do not envy you the knowledge of the things you are about to learn. You will hear of things which you will wish you hadn't. You will hear from three women who were not in a position to defend themselves against this man's predatory sexual nature. You will, in short, have no doubt as to this man's guilt of the crimes of which he is accused. I only hope that you yourselves will not be as irreparably scarred by this experience, as James Fenner's victims were of theirs." At this, Jo walked to the prosecution bench and sat down.
In the public gallery, Nikki sat stunned, staring at the prosecuting barrister. Realizing that Jo had come to the end of her speech, she became aware of someone beside her. Looking to her left, Nikki met the gaze of Yvonne Atkins. She gasped and smothered anything she was about to say. Yvonne smiled at her. Whilst the council for the defense, Brian Cantwell was rifling through a number of papers, Nikki leaned towards Yvonne.
"I didn't expect to see you here," She said in a whisper.
"I got out a few weeks ago. I thought I'd come and see the old bastard get his comeuppance. I take it you're here for Helen?"
"yeah. I wouldn't let her go through testifying on her own."
"So who's the other witness she was talking about?" Yvonne gestured in the direction of where Jo was sitting.
"Shell Dockley of all people."
"Jesus, she must have come back since I got out."
"yeah, she did. I'll fill you in later."
"She's bloody good, isn't she?" Said Yvonne looking at Jo.
"Yeah," Nikki agreed. "Could have done with her as my defense the first time round."
"Let's just hope she can persuade the jury to put Fenner where he belongs," Said Yvonne, looking over at Fenner with pure Atkins-style loathing.
A feeling of tension rose in Nikki as she saw the defense barrister, Brian Cantwell rise to his feet and she saw in him the type of barrister that had landed her in Larkhall and had done his best to squash her appeal.
"You're not carrying a broken bottle with you this time, Nikki." Yvonne smiled catching her eye. "We're going to have to keep our gobs shut and all."
Nikki smiled in gratitude to the one person who had gone through the same experience as she had and was able to lighten things and steady her.
Brian Cantwell's method of delivery was very different from Jo Mills as someone whose instinct was to play to the gallery and overact and whose confident tones and accent were that of England's ruling classes that had been brought up from childhood in a class born to rule and to be deferred to. His technique was to put his stamp on proceedings with the mystique of 'the majesty of the law'
"Members of the jury, your worship, you have before you a man who is accustomed to and has served an honourable career, from serving in Her Majesties Forces to working in Her Majesties Prison and not once in nearly 30 years has his professionalism been publicly impugned. I shall be calling for witnesses ,his former boss who knows him like no other person in his working life and had there been anything untoward, he would have been brought to book years ago. I am asking you to treat in this light such witnesses as may be called for the prosecution. I shall be asking of you above all else to ask yourself one question and that is that if there was such a catalogue of alleged crimes that is said to have taken place, then why has he not stood in the dock long ago? I shall also be calling his wife and mother of his two children as someone who knows the private side far better than the woman with whom he has had a brief passing association. I shall finally call on the man who is brought before you and to give his side of the events of the night of the 30th April 2002 that, no rape took place but instead what happened took place with the free consent of the main prosecution witness. That he is less than perfect, I shall not seek to deny and that he has lapsed in his relationship with Miss Karen Betts is not something the defense will also ask the jury to believe either. I am sure that an astute body of men ..and women drawn from the finest in the town of Larkhall will have no trouble in acquitting James Fenner of the charge of rape."
"The bastard" muttered Yvonne under her breath to Nikki's nod. "Yet another member of the 'all men are bastards' club."
John Deed heard the blatant attempt to curry favor with the jury in the same manner that he does with the Lord Chancellor's Department and is doing so in this trial. He smiled at the hesitation in his voice at the 'astute body of men' which was typical of the man. His face was impassive from long training to maintain an Olympian detachment. He did make a mental note just how much rope he would allow Brian Cantwell in his line of legal savagery, which would be bound to be directed at Karen Betts as if a personal element would be creeping in.
Jo Mills was into icy cold quick thinking mode already and found Brian Cantwell's approach nothing if not predictable but thought that her quick thinking would be a match for his bluster. This was the opening exchange in verbal artillery. The main battle was to come.
At the lunchtime break ,Karen smiled when she saw the trusted and reliable faces of Nikki and Yvonne come down the staircase.
"Might have known I'd find some of Larkhall's old lags come to watch the show."
Nikki and Yvonne knew straight off that this was Karen's way of buoying herself up ready for the afternoon and Jo Mills picked up on the easy camaraderie between them.
"And here's a fourth to join you." came a broad Scottish accent from behind them as Helen pushed through the throng .She had brushed past Fenner and exchanged glances of sheer hate as he was being bustled into a side room with Brian Cantwell, both looking like furtive conspirators.
Jo Mills took them through the line of questioning that she had planned and Karen's thoughts shuttled back and forth from feeling a disembodied professional spectator of herself to feeling the reality that it was really happening to her. The cool voice of Jo Mills helped to steady her plus the very real feelings of sympathy from Nikki and Yvonne who had been through similar trials and Helen whose real friendship she felt she could rely on. That gave her enough clarity of thought to face in advance what would be thrown at her.
"Time to go," said Jo Mills looking at her watch.
With just the right pitch of keyed up feeling, Karen was led into the witness box, grasped the Bible in one hand reading from the card held in the other. She spoke the time-honored phrases as she had done many times before as a professional and, that thought steadying her, looked up at the assembled court, to the red robes of John Deed transformed into the Judge up on high yet sensing his humanity and looking into Jo Mills eyes as she set forth to open the battle.
Karen stood in the witness box, shaking with nerves and craving a cigarette almost like a talisman. She'd been slightly surprised to see Yvonne there with Nikki but pleased all the same that those who could from Larkhall, were there openly supporting her. She glanced over to the public gallery and Yvonne gave her a reassuring smile. Then Jo walked over and stood in front of her.
"Ms Betts, I'd like to take you back to the 30th of April last year. Tell me what you were doing on that day." Karen took a deep breath.
"I was working."
"And would you like to tell the court what your job entails?"
"I am a wing governor at HMP Larkhall, but back in April I was an ordinary, average prison officer. Part of my job involves the supervision of inmates."
"And would you tell the court about your working relationship with the defendant, James Fenner."
For the first time in a long while, Karen looked fully over at Jim. He met her gaze, stonily showing her that he thought what she was doing was utterly ridiculous. Karen cleared her throat. "At the time, Jim Fenner was the governor of the wing where I work. He has never been an easy man to work for, though we had previously worked well together for some time."
"And now can you tell the court what your personal relationship was with the defendant."
"At one time, I was romantically involved with him. There was at one stage even a question of marriage." At this, Nikki and Yvonne stared at each other in utter, gob smacked astonishment.
"And why did a marriage or an engagement not take place?"
"Because we discovered that we weren't suited and that we both wanted different things from life," Karen said evasively. She could hardly tell the jury that she'd discovered a pair of Maxi Purvis’s knickers and a porn mag in Jim's possession, now could she.
"Now I like to move on to the events of the evening of that day. First of all, what prompted you to go and visit James Fenner at the boarding house where he was staying?"
"I'd observed during the day that he seemed very preoccupied with something. A number of the inmates were attempting to provoke a reaction out of him, more than was usual and it seemed to be getting to him. I believe that several inmates were making references to a sexual relationship between Jim Fenner and the prison governor, which of course were not in any way true." At this, Yvonne went white. Nikki looked at her questioningly. Shit, mouthed Yvonne. Nikki gave her an, we'll talk about it later, look.
"So you went to see him because as a friend and as a work colleague, you were concerned about him," Jo continued.
"Yes. I wanted to make sure he was all right."
"Tell me what happened when you got there," Jo had altered the questioning to the manner in which she'd questioned Karen when they were alone. Karen noticed this, and though it didn't help, she was grateful.
"He was listening to music. He poured us both a scotch. I don't think it was his first." Karen stared straight in front of her, as if she was witnessing the scene all over again. "He was complaining about the job, even considering resigning. I was worried about him because that was the most depressed I'd ever seen him. He kept refilling my glass." Here, Karen faltered, but Jo didn't pressure her, she simply allowed Karen to continue in her own time. "We were both sat on his bed. I put my arms round him, just to give him a hug. He began kissing me."
At this, Karen looked like she felt like throwing up. Jo poured her a glass of water from the jug that was on the prosecution bench and handed it to her. Keeping hold of the glass, almost like a type of comfort blanket, Karen continued. "I didn't really think anything of him doing this. We lay down on his bed." Karen's voice started to tremble. "He began unbuttoning my blouse. It didn't feel right. I realized that I didn't want it. He started undoing my skirt, that's when I told him no. But he didn't stop." Tears began coursing down Karen's face, as if she'd reached the point of no return. The empty water glass slipped from her hand and shattered on the stone floor. But she could no more stop talking now, than she could stop Fenner doing what he'd done to her. "I told him that I didn't want this. He kept insisting that of course I did. I kept telling him to stop, but he held me down and just kept on going. He wouldn't listen to me." Jo picked up a box of tissues from the prosecution bench and, avoiding the broken glass, handed them to Karen.
"What did you do afterwards?" Asked Jo.
"I pulled my clothes on and got out of there as quickly as possible." At this, Brian Cantwell moved forward. What he said brought a glare of monumental proportions from Jo.
"My Lord, if the witness took the time to put her clothes on, this surely shows that she did not fear the defendant." John was about to cut Cantwell down to size but Karen got there before him. Looking him straight in the eye, she said,
"I was hardly about to drive naked through central London, was I." In the public gallery, Nikki privately thought that the sight of Karen driving naked anywhere would be something worth seeing but she knew this wasn't the time for even nervous laughter.
"Mr. Cantwell," Said Deed, his voice resonating throughout the court. "You will not raise such an outrageous objection again in this court. Do I make myself clear?" Cantwell's "Of course my Lord," was very subdued. Jo returned to her line of questioning.
"What were your thoughts immediately after the event?" Karen's face darkened.
"I kept remembering what Helen Stewart had said about him. Before her resignation, she had left me with a report of sexual assault, by Jim Fenner. She had told me that I couldn't see what he was like because at the time I was too close. All I could think of that night, after I left him, was that Helen had been right." The tears were again making their way unheeded down Karen's cheeks. Jo moved to stand in front of the judge's bench.
"I have no more questions my Lord, but might I ask for a short adjournment?" John took his gaze away from Karen and said,
"Yes, of course. Court will resume in fifteen minutes." As the clerk called out, "all rise," Karen fled out of the courtroom and didn't stop till she reached the ladies'.
"Come on," Said Yvonne to Nikki. "We've got time for a cigarette." When they got outside and had both lit up, Nikki asked Yvonne,
"So, what was all that about in court?"
"I know when it happened. She talked about several inmates taking the piss out of Fenner, one of them was me. We'd found out that the number one was making a play for Fenner and him being as homophobic as you can get, most of us kept talking about it in front of him. You know what it's like, especially with someone like Fenner. If you get the opportunity to take the piss, you don't let it go."
"That isn't why he did it, Yvonne," Said Nikki following Yvonne's train of thought. "Karen might still have gone round there and he still might have raped her."
"Yeah, and she might not have gone to see him if we hadn't pulled his chain till he snapped."
"Now listen, Yvonne. Don't even think about feeling guilty for something that at the time you weren't even aware of. Just because you got on Fenner's tits doesn't make what he did to Karen any easier to deal with. He's been doing this for years, Yvonne. I don't guess you know about Rachel Hicks and about Helen or really any of the things that are going to come out during this trial, but this has been coming for a long time. Fenner's pushed his luck once too often and now he's going to get what he deserves."
"Yeah, okay. They just better find him guilty, that's all."
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