The Crown (Karen Betts) Verses James Fenner
By Kristine and Richard
Jo found Karen splashing her face with cold water.
"Are you okay?" She said touching Karen on the shoulder. Then, catching a sight of Karen's pale face in the mirror, she said, "Sorry, stupid question."
"I'll be okay," Said Karen, not at all sure if she would. Jo tried to change the subject a little.
"Who are those women you saw at lunchtime?" Karen smiled for the first time that day.
"Nikki and Yvonne used to be inmates at Larkhall. I guess they've both come to support me. I wasn't surprised to see Nikki because she's Helen's partner but I was surprised to see Yvonne. They both used to hate the sight of Jim. They've probably just come to see him get a taste of his own medicine. I never thought I'd be glad to see two ex-cons, but I am. If nothing else, they've both had firsthand experience of what Jim's like on a day to day basis. I know he's treated them both pretty badly in the past." Karen realized she was rambling but she couldn't seem to stop talking.
"I'm sorry," She said. Jo smiled.
"John tells me it's a sign of stress when I don't stop talking and I'd say that today, for you, that's an understatement."
"You know him well, don't you?" Asked Karen. Jo's smile looked to Karen as if it went soul deep.
"Yes," She said, "I've known John for years. Are you ready for the next hurdle? I can't promise that the defense will be very nice to you."
"I think we both know that the defense are going to try and tare me to shreds," Said Karen.
The court ushers passed the word that court was in session again and Karen more than ever before felt the need of a cigarette. She had been blocking out what questions might be asked by the defense barrister, now it had to be faced and she had to fight down feelings of total panic as if she were reliving that night of April 30th.
Once again, she took her stand in the witness box where she felt painfully exposed, shot a glance to Nikki's and Yvonne's concerned faces and took in the man dressed in an expensive suit that seemed poised, ready for the attack. Something about him gave her the creeps.
"Miss Betts, I would like to ask you about your relationship with the defendant, James Fenner. How long has your working relationship been with him?"
"About a year and a half."
"And in that period of time, had you known him to be violent or aggressive to you in any way either in his professional duties or in your romantic association with him as you describe it." Brian Cantwell clearly relished 'playing back' to the jury the word 'romantic.'
"I have known him to be violent to Shell....."
But Brian Cantwell cut her off and sharply reminded her that she had to answer the question. John Deed mildly and regretfully concurred with the defense barrister.
"I have to admit that till that night, I cannot say he has been violent or aggressive," Karen admitted. "There are other forms of aggression."
"What was the nature of your relationship? Did you live together?" asked Brian Cantwell piling on the pressure.
"Yes, we lived together?"
Karen was feeling trapped by the relentless questions and answers which gave her no chance to qualify her remarks. She had to admit that he appeared to be an attentive lover who took her once on a holiday to Spain, which she had to admit, she enjoyed. She had to admit that she had never felt frightened of him during her relationship and when she was about to say 'yes but that was what made the rape so shocking' but again Brian Cantwell cut her off.
"The bastard" Nikki murmured to Yvonne her heart going out to Karen and her expression trying to convey it across the court room. "Fenner is just an amateur bastard. This guy is being paid to be one and more than we could earn in a lifetime. Isn't he getting a kick out of this?" Yvonne replied.
Brian Cantwell brought matters forward to the night in question and Karen had testified that only that night did she know that he lived in a bed and breakfast, not back with his wife as he had mentioned. She slipped in, 'that shows how secretive he is about himself.' Out of Karen's vision, Jo Mills made a mental note to pick this out to ask Karen after Brian Cantwell had finished. Keep going Karen, she mentally urged her.
Brian Cantwell registered shock and horror when Karen Betts said that she had gone over to Jim Fenner's place at nine in the evening.
"This is the twenty first century, not the nineteenth century, Mr. Cantwell" with a touch of acid wit in the tone of her voice.
The prize buffoon, John Deed, thought to himself. The man still thinks that unmarried women ought to be chaperoned by their papa and mama when entertaining strange gentlemen. He is still cloistered in an unreal world. Karen is being frank and honest, even to her disadvantage and that will pay in the long run.
You can see his Achilles heel. He hates looking ridiculous, that is why he comes over so aggressive. The more so when he could see smiles on the faces of the jury.
"I do not think the witness is taking the questioning seriously, my lord, or yourself if you allow this to pass comment." Brian Cantwell appealed to John Deed.
"Just occasionally a little levity is in order." John Deed replied with amused disdain." I am quite sure that the witness is taking the matter only too seriously as do I. Carry on Mr. Cantwell."
"Is it not common for work colleagues to end up in the same bed together. Would you not say that there was an element, however small that 'you asked for it?" Brian Cantwell ,either in feigned or real fury, threw at Karen.
"Objection, my lord" Jo Mills pitched in for all she was worth. "The person on trial is James Fenner and not Karen Betts. Furthermore, it is inappropriate for her to be asked to second guess how she may or may not appear in her behaviour to James Fenner and the question goes beyond what is permissible in defense cross examination."
"I agree. You are experienced, are you not, to know better. Need I remind you of case law that long ago put out of bounds the 'she asked for it' line of reasoning." John Deed's carrying voice struck the weapon from Brian Cantwell's hands. He knew Brian Cantwell's self esteem as a long serving barrister would prevent him arguing the point.
"I withdraw the question, " Brian Cantwell's oily voice replied, trying to limit the damage. "instead I am asking you what you felt when you got into bed with James Fenner."
Karen had just recovered her self control with the fraction of the time that the heat was taken off her.
"I felt that this was not right despite his attempts to persuade me otherwise. when he was lying on top of me I said no. I kept telling him over and over that this was not right and I did not want to go on any further but he ignored me. In the end he forced me. He did not take any notice of me and at that point I felt frightened and that I had not seen the real Jim Fenner. The considerate lover that I thought I knew was not there but just a man who was only bent on his own pleasures. If he really had any feelings for me he would have stopped."
Jo Mills, and John Deed were struck with a mixture of horror at the situation described and admiration that Karen could keep going and the courage she showed in going to court. Karen had hit her stride even as the images of that night were going through her mind and it was as if she didn't see Brian Cantwell or anything else around her.
Nikki looked on white faced and speechless as Karen's voice took her back to what might have happened to Trisha and events that were burned upon her mind those years ago.
A red faced unimpressed Brian Cantwell next asked her at what time she left the flat.
"As far as I remember, at one in the morning."
"What," Brian Cantwell spoke in mock astonishment." You stayed in the bed of this alleged rapist all this time and didn't make a run for it?"
"I waited for Jim Fenner to fall asleep," Karen said patiently, some sixth sense telling her she was on the home run." I wanted to make sure I could put my clothes on properly, find my handbag and car keys and get to my car before him. He nearly caught me on the way out. I had to push him into a hedge ,jump in the car and head off for home." Karen at that point remembered pushing the accelerator to the floorboard and abolish the sight of him as her car accelerated crazily down the road.
Jo Mills got the chance to put questions to Karen as Brian Cantwell grumped his way into silence.
"I know you've been through an ordeal today in having to recall an evening I know you would sooner forget and only as I believe you are an exceptionally strong woman would I ask you this. What in your own words was the most horrifying aspect of this horrible business?"
Karen drew in her breath as the events were brought into sharp focus.
"The feeling that the man I thought I knew I could trust was someone who betrayed that trust. Whatever I've said in court today about the Jim Fenner I thought I knew is the opposite of what I now know him to be, which is a misogynist and a rapist. He is a secretive man who knows how to deceive. People told me that but I never believed them, until that night."
"No more questions, your worship" Jo Mills said briefly, glancing up at John Deed to see what only she could see that John was riveted to his seat in total horror.
Karen felt as though she was walking out of the court with rubber legs to collapse into the arms of Jo Mills who caught her before she could fall. Nikki and Yvonne clattered down the stairs seeing that they were needed. Helen who was waiting in the foyer shot over to join them, also. They all escorted Karen into the same side room where she had been what seemed like an infinity ago.
"Is it OK to smoke here" Karen asked, the little thing like 'no smoking bans' in public buildings sounding out of sync in a crazily humorous way from the events she had described.
"Need you ask," Jo replied as three hands competed to pass Karen her much needed nicotine "Smoking's bad for your health as I get told repeatedly."
The lighthearted joking concealed a confused mixture of sheer admiration for Karen, horror for what she had had to go through, twice and the feeling that they had won through the first and perhaps nastiest day. Despite their different backgrounds, they were all in it together. They sat in a mentally exhausted state for someone to decide the next thing to do. For once, none of them could make up their minds.
"I thought you said you could fix the bitch," hissed Fenner to a rather discomforted Brian Cantwell.
"Yes, before the age of 'politically correct'" and Brian Cantwell uttered the phrase with distaste as if he'd just found a fly in his soup "once you show that the woman is a tart, the charge gets thrown out easily. It just took twelve men of the world and a judge coming from the right school and all this got swept under the carpet instead of headlines in the Sun or some such rag."
"Well, this isn't pissing well helping me now. a few more cock ups and I'm doing time in the scrubs." And Fenner stomped off in a huff followed by Brian Cantwell trailing after him.
Jo had stayed with Karen as long as possible, just offering silent support. She could see the closeness of Helen and Nikki like it was being shouted from the rooftops. They didn't show any public displays of affection because this wasn't the time or the place. But the looks that passed between them showed a feeling of love and security that Jo realized was probably making Karen feel more alone than ever. But she wasn't entirely alone. The other woman, Yvonne Karen had said her name was, there was a silent acceptance between those two, which Jo perceived, was the result of Karen having once been Yvonne's jailer.
But that hadn't stopped Yvonne from coming. She seemed not to know what to say, similar to the others but it appeared to Jo that Yvonne didn't feel the need to say anything.
Jo at last left to go home. She'd told Karen that the next day would be the testimony from the policewoman who took her statement and the character witness, Neil Grayling, would be giving his evidence. She felt completely drained. It had taken a lot out of her watching Karen give her evidence. She went home, following a similar routine to that she had after visiting the prison. She lay in the bath, drifting in and out of thoughts when the phone rang. She had half a mind to leave it, but when she heard John's voice on the answer phone in her bedroom, she grabbed a towel and went to see what he wanted. He was in the middle of telling her he was on his way over with a takeaway when she picked up the phone.
"Sorry," She said, "I was in the bath."
"Can I join you?" He asked with a smile.
"Depends how far away you are," Said Jo playing to his attempt to lighten her mood. "Though I wouldn't want the food to get cold."
"I'll be over in about half an hour," He said. "I thought you could probably do with some company."
"Thank you," She said quietly. When John had put the phone down, Jo realized she was crying. Why was this case getting to her so much? She'd dealt with more rape and sexual assault cases than she cared to remember. But this one just wouldn't let her be. She was finding it harder and harder to leave it behind at the end of the day. She couldn't remain the detached, aloof yet caring barrister that she normally was. Jo had no problem in treating the case with pure professionalism, but the emotional toll it was taking on her was immense.
Later, when she opened the door to John, all Jo could say was,
"You look like I feel." John gave her a brief smile.
"If that's worn out and fed up of bureaucrats who've got nothing better to do with their time than harass me in to going easy on Fenner, then no, I probably don't look all that good."
"I thought I saw Lawrence James in court, but I wasn't sure."
"You know he wanted to speak to me this morning? Well, he wanted to make me aware of how much bad publicity a guilty verdict would give the prison service, as if I don't already know." As they ate a Chinese which neither of them really wanted, John filled her in on the warning he'd received from Lawrence James
and Sir Ian Rochester. Putting her fork down, Jo said,
"They do this to you every time there's a trial they want fixed. Every time something might bring the LCD in to disrepute, they threaten you with just about anything they can come up with."
"Which is exactly why I came here instead of suggesting you came to see me. I can do without them pressuring you as well."
"John, you remember what happened with the witnesses in the Tracy Spink trial. You don't think they'll try and give my witnesses a little careful persuasion, do you?"
"How open do you think your witnesses would be to persuasion?"
"Helen Stewart wouldn't do anything to jeopardize this trial. She wants justice as much as Karen Betts does. But then so would I if I were in her position. Unless the LCD has something on the policewoman I'm calling, I wouldn't have thought that would achieve anything either. They can't get at Shell Dockley because she's being kept in segregation during the trial to prevent something like that. Neil Grayling's a possibility but as long as they don't try anything before tomorrow, we're safe."
"I was watching you when Karen was giving her evidence. You looked like you were there, watching what happened." Jo stared at him.
"Was it that obvious?" She asked. The remains of their meal forgotten, they moved over to the sofa. "I probably have no idea how she felt," Jo continued. "but I felt like I did."
"I can't believe Cantwell brought out the she asked for it argument," John said in a sudden rush of pure anger.
"I was about ready to kick him in the teeth when he did that."
"I think Karen Betts gave him as good as she got, though."
"Yes, she did. I was proud of her. I wasn't sure if she'd be okay to continue after I'd questioned her."
"I think that's the worst part of any very emotional case like this," Said John. "The witnesses having to tell an entire court things they'd no doubt like to leave buried."
"Jesus!" Exclaimed Jo. "How could he do that to her? How could he sit there and watch her describing everything he did without even flinching. You'd almost think he was enjoying it. You saw the way he spoke to her this morning, how can he do something like that to somebody and act as if it never happened."
Jo was aware that she was winding herself up further by saying all this but she didn't seem able to stop. "What I'd like to know is why and how he's got away with doing that to inmates for as long as he has."
"Well, with people like George's boyfriend running the country, it's hardly surprising." Ms George Channing, Deed's ex-wife, was having an affair with one of the ministers of the Lord Chancellor's Department. On numerous occasions George had attempted to persuade Deed to adopt various procedures with trials on her boyfriend's say so.
"John, should I really be doing this case?" He looked at her in surprise.
"Of course. Why?"
"Because I can't detach myself from it. I can't leave this one behind. I can't stop thinking about everything I'm hearing. I'm not sure I can give it the level of professionalism it deserves." John turned her face so he could look her in the eye.
"Jo, listen to me. Yes, this case is getting to you more than it should be. I think it's the responsibility of the outcome of this case that's getting to you. You spent most of today watching a woman go through utter torment because of what the defendant had put her through. I've only heard the story once and believe me, once was more than enough. You've had to go over and over the evidence for this case, most of which is truly horrible stuff. You are a wonderful barrister. You wouldn't be a silk if you weren't. You might have to learn to use your attachment to this case to your advantage. Try to put all that feeling behind the way you act in court. I have faith in you because I know that you're not about to let Karen Betts and those other women down."
"Why are you always right?" Jo asked.
"It comes from knowing you for so long," He said.
A mirror image of the conversation between John Deed and Jo Mills took place at Nikki's and Helen's flat.
Nikki lay back in a comfy settee feeling totally white faced and drained. Being in a witness box fighting for her life was one thing but seeing someone else whom she had got close to as a fellow human being and fellow victim in her way was something else. She had had to work hard and keep her mouth tight shut when all her instincts to protect and stand up for someone else told her to speak up.
"Want a drink, sweetheart." and Helen passed a glass of wine into her hands which Nikki drained with a gulp. "So how did it go?"
"I thought I was going to be sick at one point when that bastard of a barrister was having a go at Karen. Just the right person to defend Fenner. You'll have to watch him when you take the stand, Helen."
"So what is he like, Nikki."
"Like a pompous up market version of Fenner," Nikki spoke with passion. "He'll use every dirty trick in the book to get at you. He has this unshakable belief that he belongs to a superior species than the rest of the human race because he is a barrister. If I've got it right he has a total contempt of women and will see you as a threat. Just watch him, Helen."
"I'm hoping that I'm quick witted enough. Did you see that fair haired lad that was right at the back of the visitor's gallery."
"No," Nikki said smiling. "If a hurricane had taken the roof off the courtroom, I wouldn't have noticed."
"I was out in the foyer and this lad came tearing up begging the usher to be let into the visitor's gallery. Something in him looked familiar. The female usher was like the usual doctor's receptionist in a black gown and giving him a hard time of it. Then the penny dropped and I realized that he was Karen's son Ross. I went over to put things right."
"At which point you gave the woman a right bollocking." smiled Nikki. "You never change."
"Well, I may have been a bit forceful," Helen admitted with a half smile.
"That judge," Nikki said reflectively. "He's a decent man, I'm sure of it. He can't let on how he feels as he's got to be impartial- I picked that up from you, Helen, remember" and Nikki smiled at her. "but the way he slapped down that defense lawyer. It's like he's one of us in a judges uniform"
Karen had had a feeling of loneliness when the crowds dispersed and everyone went their separate ways even after Jo Mills made her way home. Presently, one of the ushers made her way to her.
"Can you make your way up to the visitors gallery, miss. I think your son is waiting for you,"
Karen put her hand to her mouth in shock. She'd forgotten about Ross with all the tumult of the day. Ross had said that he would make his own way to court as he had to phone up and explain to the university why he was taking time out and wanted to sort that out on his own. She shot up the stairs and saw a fair haired lad crying his eyes out in a way she hadn't seen since he was little. Ross had always seemed grown up beyond his age, He had had to, when his father left home and then her previous partner, a prison officer called Steve was on the scene for a while.
"I'm sorry mum. I shouldn't be crying like this."
What could Karen say? That her son had had the courage to hear her private life being coldly dissected by a barrister and, for a lad of eighteen/ nineteen to sit there and listen and do nothing. Karen had had to fight the totally irrational feeling that she had been somehow cheapened by the whole experience even though on another level, the finger of accusation pointed fairly and squarely at Jim Fenner. that was what she had gone to court about, wasn't it and also that every wrongdoing he had done to every woman he'd abused would come back and haunt him. But her son should be protected from all this.
"I just wish I'd been around to protect you, Mum. That's all."
Tears started rolling down Karen's cheeks, the tears she had not been able to shed in court when everything was mercilessly and graphically been brought out into the open.
"All right, all right. I know you've got homes to go home to, so surprisingly have we." snapped Karen at the ushers ten minutes later on when they made there way downstairs. Ross looked up at mum, with pride. Only mum could manage that turn of phrase.
"The trial is not going well at all." Sir Ian Rochester looked severely at his rather discomforted boss Lawrence James "Fortunately the Conservative press, which is most of the press, have a high sense of public duty and a respect for law and order and have kept this story quiet. You don't have to drag them into a quiet room and read the riot act like with troublemakers like Deed. They know where their responsibilities lie."
"We could do with the Beckhams separating right now. All the papers from the Times to the Daily Star would cover half their pages with this. And the Home Office Minister could sleep soundly at night....even if the Beckhams don't" added Lawrence James cynically.
"What went wrong in court today," Sir Ian Rochester asked.
"Only that Brian Cantwell is a fool and got it wrong. And the woman was inconveniently awkward. Cantwell won't be an appeal judge if he goes on this way. It isn't enough to believe. You have to deliver."
PC Maureen Grenville was used to a policewoman's life, which wasn't like all the TV drama would have you believe. Most of the time, her main routine was occasional duty officer when the most exciting thing in her day was filling in the sheets that showed that the insurance policy, MOT certificate and log book were verified as up to date when some luckless motorist was pulled up by one or two of the more 'points scoring' policemen. Equally exciting was going down to the Social Security office to persuade the local head case that the guy behind the counter couldn't change his mind and pay him and can he move elsewhere out of the office . It was between such exciting duties that she had first seen Karen when she first came down to the police station. Attractive Middle-aged woman who had quite an air of command but something about her was somehow dislocated. She had smoked cigarette after cigarette and had the air of a strong woman who was profoundly shocked and was fighting for control. She'd lay her money on it that this woman was genuine.
She looked at the defense barrister with contempt as she saw him bustling around in his self-important way. I bet he hasn't gone anywhere near some of the crummy estates at night time over some of the local crooks and drug dealers. His appearances in court are his fleeting ghmpses of a world seen through the wrong end of a telescope to be put down and away in its neat little drawer.
On the witness stand Jo Mills took PC Grenville through the statement she had completed at the police station.
" 'And on the night of April 30th 2002, I , Karen Betts visited the house of James Fenner, a fellow officer of Larkhall Prison. I went to visit him at home having been concerned at the state of his health as a fellow officer knowing him to have had problems in the past in his home life. He plied me with drinks having had a few drinks before. Being upset, I put my arms round him to comfort him.......................While we were in bed together I noticed that his penis was erect....there was no foreplay apart from kissing him....he positioned himself on top of me and had sexual intercourse with me despite me telling him repeatedly that he should stop....I explained that this was wrong but he did not appear to listen..... I waited for him to be asleep and ran off before he could stop me....I told him he had raped me but he said that this was never rape......' Signed K Betts Witnessed PC Grenville Dated May 2nd 2002"
"And what was the witnesses manner," Jo mills asked
"Like someone who was in shock. I was immediately struck by her appearance of a normally strong self-contained woman who was struggling for control. She appeared to find what she was doing totally distasteful but said that she was bound by duty in case it happened to yet another woman. The emphasis on the word 'yet' seemed striking.
"And what was your opinion of the witness as far as you can tell"
"The manner of an honest woman," PC Grenville said simply.
Brian Cantwell took over with a languid air looking at the policewoman as an uneducated minor functionary of the system, OK for pounding the beat but leave all the clever stuff and theories to her betters. And what are these women coming into yet another man's job?
"PC Grenville, can you explain why the witness delayed by one day before coming to make a charge."
"Indeed I can," she explained in level tones. "She said she had been in an association with him and was confused. She explained that she had, herself, read files of female prisoners who had been beaten , raped and she had not paid them the concern she should have done. It took her a day to put a name to the crime and feel it. Those were her very words."
"In your experience, is this a common occurrence? I would have thought a woman who is hardly a slip of a girl, who has been in a profession of locking up criminals would have been hot foot down to the police station the very next day."
"This is far from uncommon, your worship. It has not been unknown for women to waste valuable police time to make an immediate charge which they later withdraw. The ones who are initially hesitant are the honest ones."
Nikki and Yvonne were inwardly dancing for joy at the policewoman's testimony. "First time I've been grateful for the Old Bill" Yvonne grinned. Jo Mills
smiled inwardly while John Deed thought the trial was going swimmingly.
Neil Grayling had spent a very pleasant lunchtime in a discreet room in the Whitehall corridors of power following a phone conversation. This was a welcome change from his days spent in a poky prison which, though in the London area, was the back of beyond from where his heart was set. Spending his time haranguing staff in the dark ages and dealing with staffing levels took him away from where he felt his true vocation was. He had a bit of part time involvement in the heady world of aims of values when he got the occasional invitation to seminars. There he rubbed shoulders with the 'movers and shakers' in the Home Office and related professions where he could hold forth on his visions of privatization. The day would come when the free market imperative would sweep away the stuffy rule infested prison regime. he could be like a manager in the cut and thrust of private industry and all red tape could be cut through with a sharp edged scythe. True, he has to keep quiet about his sexual orientation though even then he could ride the 'equal opportunities' bandwagon to suit his purposes. He felt frustrated though. The dream was close to being within his grasp but tantalizing inches away. That is, till the phone call from a Sir Ian Rochester.
In his smartest suit, he passed along the soft pile carpets and into a room that made his own managers room in Larkhall seem shabby in particular. This is where he was destined to be.
"I believe you are the Governor of Larkhall prison".
Grayling looked at him with secret contempt at the man that started to waffle at him. He felt himself twice the man as him, twice as tough however hard he tried to make himself out to be.
"So you are asking me to tell the court the truth about Miss Betts, her work record and about her relationships in Larkhall?" he asked Sir Ian Rochester.
He smiled back in return saying that they would 'look after him' and don't ask too many questions about what would happen, but not to worry as they 'look after their own.'. Sir Ian also explained that the Home Office was rather short of chaps who had had some experience 'on the factory floor' so to speak but his talents would find an opening here. At that point Sir Ian Rochester waved his arm to invite Neil to take in the surroundings. Neil's heart swelled with pride. He had come a long way.
When Neil Grayling took the stand, Jo watched him carefully. She again had the feeling that she was dealing with an unknown quantity. There was something about his demeanor that just didn't add up. She'd had the same feeling when she'd spoken to him at Larkhall prison.
"Mr. Grayling. How long have you been governor of HMP Larkhall?"
Grayling gave her his little half smile that only spoke of insincerity.
"About six months."
"And have you always had a good working relationship with Karen Betts?" A slight pause.
"Not always, no. We got off to a bad start." Jo stared. This hadn't been either part of his statement or part of anything he'd said to her on Tuesday. She let it go for now.
"Have you usually found Karen Betts to maintain a professional manner both in her job as a prison officer and as a wing governor?"
"For some of the time, yes." Jo's pulse quickened. What in god's name was the man up too. Then she happened to take a look over at the dock. James Fenner, was sat there, smiling. Picking up Grayling's statement from the pile of papers on the prosecution bench, she approached the witness stand.
"Mr. Grayling. I would like to refer you to a section of your statement." She glanced up at the judge's bench. "This is 2B in your bundle, My lord." Then she returned her attention to Grayling. "You say here," She said gesturing to his statement, "That you have found Karen Betts to act in a constantly professional manner and that you have never found reason to reprimand her or disagree with her on her performance as a prison officer or as a wing governor. Is this not true?" Again Neil paused.
"Not strictly, no." Jo took in a deep breath so as not to let her true feelings be uttered. Walking to the Judge's bench she addressed Deed.
"My Lord, might I have permission to treat this witness as hostile?"
"If the defense agrees, Mrs. Mills." Cantwell merely nodded. In the public gallery, Yvonne who was sat between Karen and Nikki said,
"What the bleedin hell is he doing?"
"You tell me," mumbled Karen.
Jo moved back to stand in front of Neil.
"Mr. Grayling, I am obliged to remind you that you are under oath. Please explain to the court why you are electing to change the statement, which you signed some months ago?"
"As you reminded me, I am under oath."
"Then why, when you were asked to testify to the character of Karen Betts, did you put your signature to a statement which you now claim to be untrue?"
"My opinion of Karen Betts has altered since I made that statement." He hadn't looked Jo in the eye when he said that.
"So," Said Jo, trying to go for damage limitation. "Would you like to explain to the court why your hitherto good opinion of Karen Betts has altered?"
"I do not believe that Mr. James Fenner would commit the crime he is accused of."
"And is that why you had him transferred to another prison? Is that why, in your statement, you said that you have never had cause to question the truth of anything said to you by Karen Betts? Mr. Grayling, I put it to you that you have been asked to alter your statement." She got no further. Brian Cantwell marched to the Judge's bench.
"My Lord I cannot let this continue?" Deed, privately agreeing with Jo, said,
"Mr. Cantwell this is a valid question."
"But my Lord, where is the evidence for this accusation?"
"In the fact that the witness is clearly saying differently to what was in his statement. Mr. Cantwell, you have been a barrister long enough to know the difference between the warranted line of questioning of a hostile witness and the mere fabrication of a belief, have you not?"
"Yes, my Lord." Jo returned to the attack.
"So, why then did you have the defendant transferred to another prison? A male prison I might add for the benefit of the jury."
"I felt it was not in the best interest of the women to have a prison officer who was being investigated for charges of rape in their vicinity on a daily basis."
"In short, you did not feel that the presence of a suspected rapist would prove to be a satisfactory measure in keeping the women safe, which is after all a major part of your job." All Neil could say was,
"No, I didn't feel that it was in the women's best interest."
"I have no more questions my Lord."
Brian Cantwell swiftly moved forward.
"Mr. Grayling. Were you aware of the relationship between Karen Betts and Mark Waddle? For the benefit of the jury, Mark Waddle was until fairly soon after the alleged event, also a prison officer of Larkhall prison. I will be calling him as a witness later on."
"Yes, I was aware of it," Answered Neil.
"And did you not on a number of occasions feel it necessary to ask the wing governor, James Fenner, to reprimand Karen Betts on her lack of discretion?"
Neil stayed silent.
"You must answer the question," intoned Deed.
"Yes, I felt it necessary to do this on two occasions."
"Also," went on Cantwell with a gleam in his eye. "Were you not also aware of the previous relationship between Karen Betts and James Fenner?"
"Yes," Was Neil's only reply, muttered through gritted teeth.
"Did this apparent disregard for standards of moral decency give you reason to question her accusations when she reported the rape to you?" At this, Deed almost lost his temper.
"Mr. Cantwell, I will not tell you again. Any previous relationship that Karen Betts may or may not have had with a work colleague has absolutely no baring on this case!"
"My Lord, I am simply trying to establish that Karen Betts was not above distributing her sexual favors to all and sundry."
"Mr. Cantwell, I will not allow the pursuit of this line of inquiry. Either start questioning the witness in a satisfactory manner or submit that you have no further questions. Which is it to be?" Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Cantwell said,
"I have no further questions." Deed looked at Jo.
"Is your next witness available, Mrs. Mills?"
"My Lord, my next witness is currently an inmate of Larkhall prison. She was not asked to appear until Monday morning."
"Court is adjourned till Monday then." As Deed left through the door behind the Judge's bench and the clerk called out,
"All rise," Yvonne turned to look at Karen. She'd gone very pale.
"Are you okay?" Yvonne asked. Karen shook her head as if to clear it of fog.
"No, not really. I think I need some fresh air." As Karen, Yvonne and Nikki went downstairs, they saw Jo Mills waiting for them. She stopped Karen.
"I think we need to talk," She said, her face trying to conceal the anger at not being told the entire story about Neil Grayling.
"Can you give me five minutes?" Karen asked Jo.
"Sure," She said a little too brightly. "I'll get us some coffee, and you may or may not want someone to stay with you for this. That's up to you."
Nikki went to find Helen and Yvonne followed Karen outside. Karen just leaned against the wall and took in huge lungfuls of air. Yvonne lit two cigarettes and handed one to her. Immediately sizing up the situation, Yvonne asked,
"What didn't you tell her?" Karen gave Yvonne a brief smile.
"You don't hang about, do you?"
"You can't in my line of work," Said Yvonne.
"Neil agreed to testify to my supposedly good character, because he owed me one. He knew that if he didn't, I would be informing anyone who cared to hear, that he had tried to fool me in to dropping the charges."
"Jesus!" Said Yvonne, not all that surprised.
"So I think Jo Mills is about to make it her business to know the nature of mine and Grayling's deal."
"Would you like me to stay, for some moral support?" Asked Yvonne. Karen stared at her for a minute, hardly able to believe an ex-con was saying this to her.
"Are you sure?" She asked. Yvonne simply nodded.
"Then, thank you. I think I'm going to need it."
"I know how you like fighting crusades, Deed old chap." Sir Ian smarmed rather unsuccessfully to John Deed, summoning up a bad imitation of a smile." But this case has now become unsound. This case may affect unfavorable press publicity that may bring the Crown Prosecution service into disrepute, not to say the Prison Service."
"Strange that all these weeks, including the court hearing so far has been studiously avoided by the fourth estate, the Power of the Press, the mighty bastion of freedom."
Sir Ian seemed to twitch at this remark, uttered with all the studied irony John Deed was capable of summoning up.
"I insist you direct the jury to a verdict of not guilty as the witness is hopelessly compromised by her actions."
"And what happens then, supposing I were as morally compromised as you would have me be to adopt your course of action? How do you know that Miss Betts does not determine on a private prosecution. She is a very determined woman as far as I can see. That would show up the moral shortcomings of the legal system, especially if the press are as interested as you say. Stop a minute while I reflect on this situation."
John Deed closed his eyes and seemed to look inwardly on himself. In manner, he looked not unlike an old hero of his Sherlock Holmes whose austere morality and reasoning power he admired when he was at school. The resemblances were mostly in the way that in private meditation they were both transported into a world of pure reason.
"Assuming that what has been said is the truth," John Deed spoke at length." Miss Betts has been guilty of the sin of omission in not revealing the terms of the bargain she made with Neil Grayling to the court. This contract is, of course, the rightful property of the court and its deliberations. This was a private contract made between the two parties but not on the basis of equality. Mr. Grayling had his favor to offer or withhold to a woman desperate and fearful in not being believed in the aftershock of a rape, if what miss Betts alleges is found to be true. It is more than probable that Mr. Grayling was aware of the inequality of power of his position and exploited it for his own advantage, what intrigues me is just why he chose to go back on his bargain at this moment." At that point, John Deed looked at Sir Ian directly in the eyes. Sir Ian was the first to look away.
"The question of the private morality of Miss Betts is, of course, one I shall not entertain as an objection to the trial to proceed. My mind is made up. I bid you good day, Sir Ian and thank you for the concern shown in my welfare."
At this point, Sir Ian lost his temper and snarled that there were people who questioned his judgment and that they wondered if a future career as an Appeal Judge was where he was really suited and of course, his own private morals left much to be desired. That was why he had this foolish crusade for Miss Betts.
John Deed let the man waffle on and on. The man was spineless just as a boy he was spineless. The establishment liked people like him so that the harsh glare of public morality did not show them up as cheap and fifth rate.
He helped himself to a glass of wine and phoned the familiar number of Jo Mills.
When Karen and Yvonne returned inside, they met Jo who led them to a small but comfortable room. Jo poured them some coffee and they all lit up cigarettes.
Jo cut to the chase.
"Karen, what the hell is going on with Neil Grayling?" Realizing Jo wouldn't take anything but a straight answer, Karen gave her one.
"He agreed to give me a character reference because he owed me one."
"I thought as much. If I am going to continue representing you, you have got to be straight with me. I can't go out there and deal with witnesses if I don't know what to expect."
"Trust me," Said Karen, just as furious as Jo, "I didn't expect today's debacle any more than you did."
"That was blatantly obvious." Yvonne made a suggestion to try and calm them both down.
"Shouldn't someone be asking why he changed his mind?" They both looked at her, as if only just remembering they weren't alone.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Countered Karen. Jo had a thoughtful look on her face.
"Putting this together with other things I'm aware of that you're not, I'd say someone's been leaning on him." Yvonne, well versed in the business of leaning from her pre-prison days agreed.
"Let's face it," She said. "It's not as if the home office is going to want any bad publicity for the prison service, now is it."
"It's got enough already," Said Karen. Jo brought them back to the current problem.
"I need to know why Neil Grayling owed you." Karen went very quiet. Karen took a deep breath.
"Okay. After I'd been to the police, I went and told Neil what had happened. He obviously talked it over with Jim, and a few days later Neil presented me with Jim Fenner's threat." Jo merely raised an eyebrow. "Jim has some pictures of me, pictures that were taken when we were on holiday. They're the kind of pictures that the Sun wouldn't say no too." Yvonne's eyes widened but she did her best to hide it. Karen continued. "Neil told me that Jim was ready to send the pictures to any paper that would have them. But, I didn't let that scare me. So, a couple of days after this, Neil called me in to his office to tell me about a chat he'd supposedly had with someone at the GPS. Neil said that he'd been told that the GPS weren't going to take up the case. He almost convinced me that dropping the charges would be in my best interest. but I wanted confirmation of this and I called Neil's bluff. he'd given me the card of his friend and I called him to see if this was true. It wasn't." Jo quickly rearranged the pieces of the story in her mind.
"So Neil Grayling was doing his best to make you drop the case. do you know why?" A look of dawning recognition crossed Yvonne's face.
"He did that so that Fenner would have to owe him one," She said quietly to Karen. Karen looked at her.
"Yes," She said. "It seems that when you taunted Jim with the identity of his would be seducer, you were right."
"Bloody hell," Said Yvonne in amazement.
"And do you think that's why he changed his mind in court?" Asked Jo.
"I don't know," Said Karen. "All I know is that there probably wouldn't still be a trial if you hadn't done what you did. Thank you." Jo smiled. The damage hadn't been too great. If anything, they had proved that somebody was working behind the scenes to sabotage the case.
"Is there anything else I need to know?" Jo asked this seriously hoping there wasn't.
"No," Said Karen. "Nothing that I'm aware of."
When John phoned that evening, he sounded like Jo had felt earlier in the day.
"I am sick of that bloody imbecile nobbling witnesses," He said without any preamble.
"John, if you're that furious, come over here and we'll see if we can do anything about it." He needed no further encouragement. Within fifteen minutes he was on her doorstep blistering with rage that Jo hadn't seen for a very long time. Without a word, she poured him a large scotch and sat down next to him on the sofa.
"Now," She said in a purposefully calming voice. "Start at the beginning." John told her about his meeting with Sir Ian. John didn't seem able to stop the torrent of words coming from him.
"Every bloody time he does it. He seems to assume that I'll just bow to the whims of the Lord chancellor, just to keep the government out of the firing line. I mean, why should any victim go uncompensated just because the government can't be bothered with the bad publicity of someone actually being found out as bad. Why isn't justice allowed to run its course. That's what we make all these laws for. For people like Karen Betts and Helen Stewart and the other witnesses you're bringing out next week. Why shouldn't Fenner go unpunished if he's guilty." Jo just let him talk. Obviously the LCD had tried to manipulate John once too often. When he finally came to the end of his tirade, he asked, "why weren't you surprised?" Jo laughed mirthlessly.
"It seems that the LCD have been leaning on Neil Grayling."
"But why did he change his mind in court? And more to the point, what was the deal he had with Karen Betts?" Jo explained everything she'd heard from Karen.
"This just gets better and better," Said John his face twisting in to a grimace. "But you're sure there's no-one else they can get at?"
"Possibly Helen Stewart, though I don't think it'd work. I'll call her and fill her in." After she'd talked to Helen, Jo glanced at the clock, it was nearly nine thirty.
"Are you hungry?" She said.
"No, but go ahead and eat if you are."
"The thought of food just doesn't appeal. I think I've seen too much of Fenner's slimy face this week."
"Did you see the way he was smiling when Grayling began giving his testimony?" Asked John.
"why do you think I asked to treat the witness as hostile." John grinned. He turned to her, put his arms round her and kissed her. When they eventually broke off John said, "I didn't realize just how much I needed that." Jo laughed.
"It always was your cure for stress. I think that's why you have so many flings."
"I don't care about the flings," He said seriously. "I've missed you, Jo. It's been too long since we spent any time together."
"I know," She said quietly.
"Is it all right if I stay?" He said.
"Like you need to ask," Jo replied. Their eventual lovemaking may have been hard and furious, but it gave them the emotional release necessary after the passed week. In achieving their goal, they were both, in a positive way, able to let go of all the anger and frustration of a case such as this one.
"Now I know what weekends are for, Helen" Nikki said lying stretched out on the settee." One day used to follow on just like any other when I was in Larkhall. Only difference was the pathetic Christmas tree round Christmas. Not like the real thing nor going out on the town."
"You've been lucky having the ringside seat all this week. I've been cooped up in the foyer. Courts are bloody boring places to hang around, just watching smart suited solicitors popping in and out and ordinary people looking kind of lost."
"I'm not sure whether or not to envy you when you step into the ring. You want to watch what that bastard Cantwell throws at you."
Just then the phone rang. "I'll get it Nikki."
Nikki watched Helen as she put the phone against her ear and with real concern watched the play of emotions cross her face. This was no ordinary phone call. In answer to Helen's gesture, Nikki grabbed the other phone.
Jo Mills at the other end had picked up her phone with some uncertainty. The Great British Public associated conspiracies with James Bond films where this gadget equipped superman fighting for Freedom and Democracy foiled the devious Russian Communist conspirators and the filmmakers pulled the happy ending out of the hat just before the hero was going to be painfully killed. The hero looked like a hero. The villain bared his teeth and snarled. Everybody could go home thinking everything was safe and cozy. Conspiracies against the state by hostile foreign powers was well understood. Not so conspiracies by the state against individuals or groups or against democratic freedoms. It took a rare person to consider that the real conspirators were members high up in the government and were not out for World Domination. All they were about was that inconvenient scandals were hushed up, a person in the way of their schemes was quietly stepped on and the crime went unpunished. Legislation was passed in the world of Great Britain PLC and people had the illusion that what they were or what they felt mattered. It was still harder for people to consider that their everyday lives could run against the system. It was just that she and John Deed seemed to be in the vortex of the system where it ran up against people's lives. Still she trusted to her gut feelings that Helen may understand.
At the end of the day, they were always proved right.
"Helen Stewart, there? It's Jo Mills. I was going to warn you in case you have any visitors call or phone."
"What do you mean, Jo." a puzzled expression passed across Helen's face.
"You ask Nikki what happened in court today in case Nikki hasn't told you. It was no accident that Grayling changed his tune and turned from a reliable character witness into someone who was out to compromise Karen Betts. We know someone leaned on Grayling and you may be next."
This was too much for Helen to take in. Conspiracies in Larkhall were rife that nothing was what it seems and the Old Boy network had worked insidiously to undermine her at every turn but this? This was bigger scale stuff altogether.
"Its OK, Jo." Nikki's calm voice broke in. "I understand exactly what you are saying."
Jo was a bit confused by the three-way conversation but realized that this was as convenient a way of getting over what she needed to say.
"Only thing, Helen. Think of anything that you may have done, however innocent that could be used against you. I wouldn't talk like this to a witness in the middle of a big trial if I didn't have a lot of faith in what you are doing. Think about this one and we'll talk about it first thing on Monday before the start of the trial."
At that point, Jo put the phone down and the blood seemed to run cold in Helen's veins as she put the phone down and tried to take in the enormity of it all. The logical part of her readily accepted that what Jo was talking about was only what happened at Larkhall in her time translated onto the big screen. The emotional part of her froze at making such a connection and became very fearful.
"Darling," Nikki came over putting her arms round her "I know what you're thinking. It's about what led to you resigning from Larkhall, about me."
Helen nodded at that one. All her past at Larkhall seemed to whirl past her before her eyes.
"We tell Jo Mills everything. Let her be the judge of it. Somehow I think that if Fenner used the one bloody thing he could use against you in all your time at Larkhall that would drag out into the open how and when Fenner came to know it, his use of it for blackmail purposes and why it wasn't reported at the time. The whole thing cuts both ways."
Helen hadn't thought of that one and her panic level subsided a bit.
"Oh and you'd better tell Jo about that time I grabbed at the steering wheel when I tried to stop you taking me back to Larkhall that night and you were guilty ,thanks to me of dangerous driving only that female policeman let us off with a caution." Nikki said with a trace of a smile.
Helen threw a cushion at her that missed by a mile.
"So where were we talking about a normal quiet weekend?" Helen said.
Fenner was at a pub 'out with the lads'. The pub was small, packed with a crowd of men all shouting at each other about their favorite team and telling long rambling stories that, in the cold light of day, might have been less than interesting but with several pints of beer downed in quick succession were brilliantly witty. There was background thump thump music booming away which achieved its desired effect of stopping people thinking.
"So Miss Karen bloody Betts, you think you'll put one over Jim Fenner?" he drunkenly slurred to a younger lad from another prison that really didn't know the details but went along the alcohol flow of conversation. Jim Fenner waggled a pointing finger in the lad's face as he imagined Karen Betts in front of him and he was telling her a thing or two. Alcohol was a very temporary and unreliable crutch to bravery and later on, as he went for a piss in the gents, his fears came back to him that he was trying to drown with alcohol that night. It doesn't pay to think too much.
John and Jo were still sound asleep on the Saturday morning when the phone rang. Jo dragged her brain in to some semblance of wakefulness and reached for the receiver. Jo's "Hello," was full of the husky overtones of sleep, and John, also beginning to surface thought it was one of the sexiest sounds he'd ever heard.
"Jo, its Helen Stewart," Came the clear, very awake voice on the other end of the phone. Jo glanced at the clock to see it was after half past nine.
"Helen, what can I do for you?"
"I'm sorry, did I wake you?"
"Yes, but don't worry about that. I take it you have something to tell me." Helen went quiet.
"Yeah, something like that. After you rang last night, I got to thinking that you should probably know everything sooner rather than later." Jo's faith in the ongoing state of the trial was beginning to sink.
"Do you want to meet up today?" Jo asked, resigning herself to the fact that her Saturday was disappearing before her very eyes.
"Is that okay?"
"It's fine. When and where?"
"Do you want to come round for lunch, about one o'clock?"
"Yes, that'll be fine."
"Jo, I don't know if it's protocol or not, but would it be advisable for the judge to know about any of this?"
"He already does." Said Jo, a smile creeping in to her voice as she ran a finger down John's stubbly cheek. "He's fully aware of what happened with Neil Grayling, and if it's necessary to inform him about whatever you're going to tell me, then I will."
"Okay. I'll see you later." When she'd put the phone down, John said,
"You're incorrigible. Conducting trial business whilst in bed with the presiding judge, I don't know." Jo gave a rye smile.
"Yes, I know. Terrible isn't it. But if clients will insist on phoning me on a Saturday morning, what else can they expect."
"It's obviously important," Said John his smile fading.
"She wants to tell me something that Fenner obviously has over her. He seems to be in too much of a powerful position where my witnesses are concerned. You'd think he made blackmail part of his regular employment."
"You don't know that he doesn't."
When Jo arrived at Helen and Nikki's, she could tell that Helen was extremely nervous. She reflected that what they had to tell her must be something big.
They ate filled jacket potatoes with salad and after Nikki had dumped the plates in the sink, she brought them coffee.
"So," Said Jo lighting a cigarette. "what kind of leverage could the LCD have over you?"
"That depends what Fenner may have told his lawyer," Said Helen. "We don't know if he would have done, because it wouldn't make him look all that good either. You see, he found out about my relationship with Nikki, whilst she was still in prison." Jo had wondered if it was something like this. But sensing there was more to come, she said,
"And is that all?" Helen didn't seem able to continue so Nikki began to speak.
"Fenner discovered that one night last year, I absconded for a night to see Helen." Jo's jaw dropped. "Helen knew nothing about it till I arrived on her doorstep." Jo began putting the pieces together.
"So," Jo said with dawning realization. "Helen managed to get you back to the prison unnoticed but Fenner somehow discovered this fact quite a while afterwards. Did he blackmail you in to resigning?"
"Yes. I was the acting number one at the time, and after what had happened with him, well, he saw a convenient way of getting rid of me."
"So Fenner knows you broke the law," Jo put it succinctly. Then Nikki asked the question they were all wondering.
"Do you think Fenner will try to use it?"
"Not unless he really has too," Said Jo. "Because he didn't report what he'd discovered, it'd look almost as bad on him as it would on you."
"But you think it's a possibility?" Asked Helen.
"The fact that he's got good reason to want you and your evidence discredited or even to persuade you not to give evidence at all, yes, it's definitely a possibility. You'll hopefully be on the stand on Monday afternoon. If we can keep any people from the LCD away from you until then, we should be okay. However, I would encourage you not to take any phone calls for the next couple of days unless you know who it is. I don't want them to have any opportunity to talk to you. We can't afford to take the risk. Your evidence is almost as vital as Karen's. This may be a bit overzealous, but I'm going to assign you police protection whilst you're at the court on Monday. Nobody will be allowed to speak to you any time on Monday before you take the stand. That way, neither of the people in question will be able to apply any pressure."
"So it's two people from the LCD who've been doing the leaning?" Said Helen.
"Yes, they leant on Neil Grayling, and though I shouldn't be telling you this, they've also been leaning on the judge to persuade him to tell the jury to bring in a verdict of not guilty. They really don't want Fenner being sent to prison. It'd give them too much bad publicity and they've got enough already. Nothing positive is ever printed about the prison service and something like this trial is getting interest from every national paper. I don't need to spell out to you how desperate the government are."
As Nikki walked Jo to her car, Jo asked,
"Nikki, this may be something you don't want to answer, but why did you take such a risk in breaking out to see Helen?" Nikki smiled, clearly remembering the outcome of that escape.
"We'd had a huge row that week and the prison environment isn't very conducive to making up."
"And if Helen hadn't given in to Fenner, she would have lost her job, and you would have lost your appeal."
"Yeah. How did you know I got out on appeal?"
"Not to put too fine a point on it, virtually every barrister in the business knew about the Nikki Wade appeal. You couldn't miss it."
"I forget sometimes just how much people know about my life," Said Nikki. "That's why, apart from the obvious, keeping mine and Helen's relationship quiet was and to some extent still is so important." Getting in to the car, Jo said,
"You're both very lucky to have someone who would go to such lengths to maintain something so special. Hang on to it." As Jo drove away, she marveled at how two people could take such risks in order to show their love for the other. Nikki in absconding in the first place, and Helen for getting her safely back to Larkhall. That was the kind of love that would last a lifetime.
Shell Dockley was in her own bare cell on basic brooding to herself. She had better get something better than this dump if Fenner gets sent down for being a rapist. The flaking paint on the ceilings and the lousy bed she was sitting on all spoke of how far she had come down in the world. Same old brown stained sheets and a quilt that was thin and let in the cold. That was what her abiding memory, cold and dark at night.....unless it was Jim Fenner coming round at night times or when she shared a cell with Denny. She suddenly thought of the time of getting sun tanned and heat and sun , a glass of sangria at her side , the open deck of the cabin cruiser off the coast of Spain and her best mate Denny who was with her, more than just mates. That split second memory was swiftly extinguished as if it were a stubbed out cigarette.
No curtains here, just a crappy cupboard. There was a board up on the wall that she had a picture of her two kids who had probably forgotten about her. In some home with some middle class bitch teaching her that she had never really existed for them. Come to think about that, she did like going out and the bloody kids were in the way, always wanting to climb on her lap. Couldn't they take a hint, how many times did she have to push them away? She'd been inside for years and it was ages since she saw them when they were little. Then her mum 'looked after' them for her and her cotton wool head thought she would be typical mumsy mum. As if. From a mum who abused her as much as her drunken dad who buggered off years ago. No one stays around her not that she wanted anyone getting soppy and romantic over her. Once they got that way they were straight out on their ear. Mostly, she got the guys who saw how tarty she looked and were attracted to that so romance and love wasn't what they were looking for. She knew what men liked and the part of her that thought she liked what was best about herself was proud of herself of how good she was that way. That was what Jim Fenner was first after and in return, she got all her little perks and didn't end up in trouble. Others could go down the block but not her. Later on she thought she was in love with him when he sent letters to her saying how much he missed her. That was when he was still with that stupid wife of his.
Trouble was that there weren't many available men in Larkhall so she had to find other ways of keeping herself warm at nights. It was what she had learned at her mother's knee and odd times before she got sent down when she felt that all men were bastards she found another woman who was up for it.
How did she ever believe in Jim Fenner? He had he same charm as her dad, same gift of the gab though perhaps they were well suited that way. She'd been told what had happened to Karen Betts when she was back in Larkhall when Jim Fenner had been posted away. She hadn't expected that as she thought Jim Fenner would always be around. Betts was the only screw that really listened to her and helped her to talk to her mother who had told her so many lies years ago, always came swaggering round the school to mouth it to the teachers to show what a good mum she was.
Anyway, she thought she had definitely had it with Jim Fenner now. She would say her piece and she would laugh to see him taken down to a prison cell, the same place that that bitch Lorna Rose has gone to.
Di Barker came to talk to her, on Monday morning. She told her not to worry, that she'd be looked after. All the other cons seemed to treat her nice for a change, rather than treat her like dirt. She got her best makeup and spent ages getting her lipstick just right and dab on the mascara. She was going to give a performance, like when she used to do singing from stage and tap dance when she was little. She had to be dressed right that would make her appealing and a bit little girlish. All the attention would be on her for a change.
"You tell it like it is, man." Denny called out, smiling at her." We're all relying on you."
It was a change for Shell to play the hero. The last brief flavor she had of this was when she had got out from the Muppet wing when that Podger Pam had gone nutty over her and she had to dress up for Tessa Spall who had the hots for her.
She smiled at the audience, avoided the glare of that Grayling whom she was laughing her socks off at for fancying Jim Fenner.
She went outside in the yard and blinked at the sudden daylight and the open space, even for a prison yard. Di got in next to her and clicked her handcuff tight on her wrist and, to take no chances, her other wrist was secured to a bracket to the other side of the car. The forbidding wooden gates swung aside for the sleek black car and she had a dazzling glimpse of the outside world she had all but forgotten. Suddenly, her heart started beating at the thought of going back to court, back in the witness box.
"Don't worry, love, you'll be all right." Di said.
For once her blue eyes looked guileless as she smiled gratefully.
The car seemed to veer all over the place, through the crowded streets until the imposing ancient facade of the court building came into view.
As Shell was led in to the witness box, Jo looked her up and down. She marveled at how Shell had managed to make herself look like a tart and a little girl all at the same time. She looked knowing and vulnerable, guilty and innocent all at the same time. Jo approached the stand.
"Miss Dockley, could you tell the court what your first impression was of Mr. James Fenner?"
"Mr. Fenner was always nice to me. He looked after me when I first got sent to Larkhall. You could say he made it easier for me." Jo, remembering the half zombie state that Shell had been in on Tuesday of last week, reflected that she'd obviously stayed off the drugs for the sake of the trial.
"And when did you start to realize that Mr. Fenner's interest in you was somewhat different to the other inmates?"
"It was about a week after I'd arrived. He told me that he could make things better for me. He said that if I was nice to him, he'd make things better for me."
"And what did he mean by, if you were nice to him?"
"He wanted me to sleep with him."
"Mr. Fenner said to you that if you had sex with him, he would make your life in prison easier?"
"And was this to be a one time deal, or was it to happen on a regular basis."
"He used to come to my cell quite often after lock up. He used to tell me I was special. Sometimes he'd tell me I was his little girl, sometimes he'd say I was his whore. He always said that nobody could give him what I could." Jo allowed this to sink in with the jury.
"And was Mr. Fenner ever violent towards you?"
"Yeah, he beat me up once, after someone had grassed him up to his wife." Jo made a mental note to question Mrs. Marilyn Fenner thoroughly about this when she took the stand.
"And did you report this to anyone?"
"I told Miss Betts and Miss Stewart."
"And had you expected such a display of violence?"
"No," Shell said with a smirk. "He'd been shagging me an hour before that. He couldn't get enough of me that day." Shell's eyes began to glaze over slightly, which gave Jo reason to worry. When Shell began speaking again, she sounded like she was reliving her experience. "He came in to my cell and shouted at me to tidy it up. This was in case there were any screws outside. Then he came and looked at me like I was his toy, his thing to play with. He said, you're a whore Dockley, and I asked him if he liked whores. It always turns him on to talk to me like I'm his whore. He tried to tell me he loved me once. He wouldn't know love if it bit him on the arse." At this, Shell began to laugh. Then, to the slight shock of Yvonne and Nikki sitting in the public gallery, Shell's tears of laughter turned to tears of pure self-loathing. Repeating her action of Thursday with Karen, Jo handed Shell a glass of water. Shell's "thanks, Miss," made the jury all too aware that this vulnerable young woman had probably been in prison longer than she'd been out of it. When Shell had calmed down, Jo tried to take her back to the case in hand.
"Miss Dockley, I'd like you to tell the court, exactly what Mr. Fenner's actions were on the night of prison officer Sylvia Hollandby's party, when you were acting as a waitress in the officer's club." Brian Cantwell moved forward.
"My Lord, as my learned friend is no doubt aware, Michelle Dockley is herself awaiting trial for the outcome of the events on this very same night. This automatically makes discussion of these events sub judice." John was slightly astounded that Jo had even considered bringing this up.
"You know better than this, Mrs. Mills. You will not proceed with this line of inquiry. Members of the jury, anything pertaining to this particular sequence of events will be omitted from any record." Jo, although knowing that John was right, sent him a glare of monumental proportions. In the dock, Fenner was heard to chuckle. Jo turned her back on the Judge's bench and returned to stand before Shell.
"Now, Miss Dockley, I'd like to take you back to the time when Rachel Hicks was an inmate of Larkhall. How did Rachel Hicks get on with Mr. Fenner?" Brian Cantwell had clearly had enough.
"Objection, My Lord, this Miss Dockley is in no position to have the knowledge of any relationship between the defendant and another woman." Jo approached the Judge's bench.
"My Lord, I am simply asking Michelle Dockley what she observed about the relationship between Mr. Fenner and Rachel Hicks."
"I will let it stand, Mrs. Mills, but please be clear about your questioning." Jo returned to Shell.
"Could you tell the court, when you first became aware of the relationship between Mr. Fenner and Rachel Hicks?"
"It was when he put her on enhanced. The stupid twat put her in the cell next to me." Deed's voice resonated from the bench.
"Miss Dockley, please refrain from using language like that in this court." Shell gave Deed one of her most innocent yet sexually compelling looks.
"Sorry, sir," She said in a voice that couldn't be mistaken for anything but a come on. Deed shuddered. Just what was this girl capable of. Jo again brought herself back on track. John's reaction to Shell had not gone unnoticed by her.
"So, as Rachel Hicks was in the cell next to yours, you became aware of Mr. Fenner's frequent visits to her. Was there any other sign of his interest in Rachel?"
"Yeah, he started going off me around that time. He kept sticking up for Rachel, kept telling me to be nice to her. He told me that if I kept being horrible to Rachel, he'd make sure I was put back on basic."
"Now, will you take us through what happened on the day of Rachel's death?"
"Rachel got moved off enhanced 'cos she trashed her cell, really tore the place apart. Anyway, when she was moved back down to basic, Fenner was really horrible to her. He asked her why he'd ever want to shag her. When we were unlocked the next morning, she was dead." Jo, perhaps to try and prevent Shell doing the case any damage, decided to quit the questioning while she was ahead. She left the jury with the feeling that Rachel had committed suicide because the man she had unwittingly trusted had taken advantage of his position to have his pleasure and then discard her like a French letter.
There was a stir round the court when Brian Cantwell got to his feet with a self-satisfied look on his face. He had talked long and hard with Jim Fenner and had listened intently to Shell's testimony. The account was riddled with holes like a Swiss cheese and it was as if a shark that had been robbed of its prey all week, moved in for the kill against an easy target.
"Miss Dockley, I must ask you on what terms were you with the late Rachel Hicks?"
"All right I suppose," Shell said evasively.
"That is no kind of answer. I ask you , did you like her, were you on good terms with her or did you dislike her, hate her even for James Fenner paying as you testified 'frequent visits to her.' and 'going off you.'"
"I suppose I was a bit jealous of her." Shell replied, looking uncomfortable.
"I put it to you, Miss Dockley, that you threatened her mistreated her, made her life a misery from being ,as you said, 'horrible to her' so much as she 'trashed her cell', Miss Dockley. Is this not especially likely as, in your own words, she was in the cell next to you, not one or two floors away, with all the opportunity in the world to harass her. In the light of all this, I put it to you that you aren't being entirely honest with the court." Brian Cantwell's voice was raised, increasing a notch at a time as he launched into his speech.
"Miss Dockley," John Deed said regretfully , his eyes not taken off Shell Dockley for a second. "You must answer the questions that are being put to you. At the same time, Mr. Cantwell, I must advise you not to either badger the witness or use leading questions. You should not need to be advised of this."
"All right I was a bit nasty to her, I blamed her for taking Mr. Fenner off me. Who wouldn't be if another girl was moving in on your fella?" Shell replied querulously with a bit of spirit.
"Are you testifying that you were in love with James Fenner" Brian Cantwell asked with malicious satisfaction at all the cards being put into his hands so easily.
"Well I was, some of the time, I never said nothing different earlier. He could charm me one minute and, next thing, be a total bast......."
Again John Deed pulled her up for the language she was using.
Nikki looked down with total horror on what was going on. For so long, she had hated Shell Dockley's guts, and especially when Shell had spoken so callously of 'one less mouth to feed' with that horrible laugh after Rachel Hick's suicide that had made her see red and leap over the counter to strangle the life out of her. Equally vividly came back to her that time she had been banged up in solitary as a result yet here was Shell the victim of one of the worst 'pricks in wigs' and she was testifying from whatever confused motives to help put behind bars the other person in her past life she had loathed beyond description. Torn between two violently competing emotions, she came down on Shell's side as the underdog at that one moment in time.
Jo Mills watched helplessly as Brian Cantwell forced Shell Dockley to admit that her actions 'may have had something to do with Rachel Hicks to commit suicide' before Brian Cantwell next turned to the time that Fenner beat her up in her cell. She watched anxiously as Shell's eyes were glazing over and she was stumbling for words at this point.
"Might the client be in need of a glass of water," she cut in before Brian Cantwell could ask her next question. Shell Dockley was holding herself up with both hands braced against the witness box in case she dropped.
"I think it is in order for you to wait for the witness to collect herself before you resume your questioning, Mr. Cantwell." John Deed's voice resonated round the court and he glanced up in to the gallery to see two most unwelcome visitors, Lawrence James and Sir Ian Rochester gathered there like two vultures on there accustomed rock.
"Thanks your worship." Shell replied in a low voice and her childlike smile. Just for once in her life she was genuinely grateful for kindness and didn't shrug it off as 'softness.' Keep going, Nikki and Yvonne willed Shell to go on, also keenly aware of two smart suited visitors with their black official cases with their aura like that of sinister undertakers. The words 'bad vibes' were made for them.
"Why, Miss Dockley should James Fenner beat you up, if you say that you were his 'whore'?" Brian Cantwell finished with an exaggerated gesture of distaste. "I cannot imagine that men beat up women they describe as 'whores'"
"Oh so you've had one?" Shell Dockley's voice rang out with total classic unconscious humor, which drew a snigger from the jury and a smile from Jo Mills.
She desperately needed some humor at that point.
"I am afraid, Miss Dockley that you have to answer the question that is put to you," John Deed answered gravely but with a twinkle in his eye that both Shell Dockley and Sir Ian and Lawrence James reacted to in very contrasting ways.
"I think the witness should be strongly advised that her continual evasiveness can amount to contempt of court." Brian Cantwell spluttered, his face going red. He had noticed the officers of the LCD and was 'playing to the gallery' in the real and metaphorical sense. He was outraged that this cheap tart made him ruin his lines.
"I put it to you that James Fenner found out that you were making malicious phone calls to his wife."
"That isn't true." whined Shell. "On God's word I swear it."
"As much as your word is worth with the continual evasions you have subjected the court to." sneered Brian Cantwell. "I think the value of your evidence is, not to put too fine a point on it, extremely shaky."
Jo Mills's spirits went down and down at seeing Brian Cantwell rip the evidence apart but right at the end, asked for the chance to quickly reexamine Shell Dockley. John Deed nodded assent to her request.
"I know that talking about these events are extremely upsetting but can I ask you one or two questions." She willed Shell with eye contact and the tone of her voice to pick together her crumbling self confidence and ability to articulate.
"You have given testimony that James Fenner was 'nice to you' some of the time and mistreated you on other occasions. In your years of experience of your sexual relationship with James Fenner, is such a man capable of raping a woman such as Miss Betts and why?"
Shell looked at Jo directly in the eye and says, "Yes, because he is nice to them if they do what he wants and he treats them like a thing if they don't. Fenner is a rapist." Shell finished and stared long and hard at Fenner as he winced. Then two policewomen clicked their handcuffs on each of her wrists. As she was led back down to the cell, she passed close to Nikki and Yvonne who, for the first time in their lives, looked at her with mingled respect and sorrow for her. Something in Shell's screwed up mind registered this impression in all her chaotic emotions.
"The court is adjourned for lunch" John Deed's impassive voice announced, concealing his own version of Nikki's and Yvonne's feelings. Jo Mills drew an intake of breath of sheer mental exhaustion while Brian Cantwell scowled.
John Deed sat alone in the empty court and his mind raced forward to what lay in store in the afternoon and also back to the weekend when Jo Mills had walked through the door. John Deed had immediately picked up on her mood from the expression on her face.
"Is there something that I as an independent judge ought to know, Jo from your visit to see Helen ?"
Jo Mills put her tumbled thoughts into logical order and spilled the beans.
"I am pretty sure from what I've seen that Helen Stewart has a sense of public duty quite as much as you have ,John." John Deed smiled at this.
He thought he was the most obstinate of all the rebels and he clung on tighter to his principles and his position the more he was leaned on , like a limpet to a rock. That reassured him that Helen Stewart was a woman that must indeed be very tenacious and true of heart. "Very attractive looking and ,yes, she has that strength. What's worrying me is that it is likely that James Fenner will have told all to Brian Cantwell and in turn Sir Ian Rochester and Lawrence James are going to put the pressure on you, John."
"In times past, there was no need to operate any sort of underhand intelligence agency, Jo. The judge was left to operate as his conscience felt best."
And John Deed closed his eyes and thought of happier days.
"You're going to tell me, John, that everyone played with a straight bat on the playing fields of Eton." Jo said ruffling his hair. Her heart went out to him knowing that, inwardly, he felt the pain of the pressures put on him . His background had trained him to grow a thick skin but only she saw the moments when he let that defense down.
"I know that the Lord Chancellor's Department missed their vocation and their period in history. They belong to the period of time in Stalinist Russia when ignorant political Commissars with an appetite for bullying imposed their wills on more learned university professors. Instead of them being fired and driven by the desire for learning and enlightenment, they got to live perpetually worried of official disapproval and fearful of being out of step with the 'political line of the moment.'"
Jo Mills smiled. "And to hear your opponents talk, you are secretly in the pay of Marxist extremists, if you aren't one yourself"
"Good God no," John Deed raised his eyebrows. "That would be unthinkable."
Those thoughts were in John Deed's mind when again his least favorite lunch companions, Sir Ian and Lawrence James zeroed swiftly over in his direction, bringing their own lowering storm of an atmosphere.
"I would not wish to presume how to run your own trial, Deed," and John Deed smiled at this one. "But certain facts have come to light which we insist that we have to discuss with you as a matter of urgency." John Deed smiled and shrugged his shoulders and allowed himself to be led into a quiet room. This was becoming a routine.
"You have insisted in proceeding in a case where, in the LCD, we have had reservations from the start and have expressed them to you, not least when one of the prosecution witnesses was less than frank to the court." Lawrence James spoke in his usual abrupt manner.
"It was your authority we were concerned about," Sir Ian tried to smile but ended up pulling a grimace to John Deed's eyes.
"But now we hear that a witness due to testify today was herself guilty of a most serious breach of prison regulations, if not outright criminal activity, the concealment of a female prisoner with whom she had an illicit association who had broken out of prison . Such a matter...."
"An allegation, much like the allegation against James Fenner of statutory rape for which charges have been made at the instigation of the complainant." interrupted John Deed.
Sir Ian Rochester's face twitched at that, a sure sign of his discomfort and his dishonesty.
"Such a matter compels us to most strongly urge you that you cannot call this witness. You will be opening up a can of worms where not only is one Prison Officer of long standing is dragged through the mud but, potentially, so will an ex Prison Acting No 1 Governor. Think of it, John, there's a good man."
"And what strikes me with immediate force is precisely when these alleged" and John Deed trod heavily on the last word." events took place, when they came to light and why they have not become a matter of public proceedings yet."
Sir Ian Rochester looked more uncomfortable and hastily assured John that the matter was not one made public yet but might become so if he let the witness be called.
"And there's another matter with the calling of Michelle Dockley for the prosecution. It's one thing to produce witnesses who conceal vital evidence," this at Karen Betts, "and another witness whose public record is less than perfect "this at Helen," but the latest I hear is that the woman in court today whose performance today mocked the gravity of court proceedings is little better than a tart"
In his best legal style John Deed stepped in "You will be doubtless aware of the precedent set by the Crown versus Stephen Ward in 1963, commonly know as the Promo Affair where the Crown Prosecution of the time assembled an endless parade of women of easy virtue like Miss Christine Keeler to testify that Stephen Ward lived off immoral earnings and went on to call as witnesses half the women of the night whose moral standards and honesty were somewhat to be questioned if I remember reading Lord Denning's report into the matter. The precedent has been set by judiciary of the time . My mind is made up. I wish to cut through all the complexities of the matter and to let twelve men and women of England to finally decide justice. Let them have the last say and let justice be done."
"If you end up with egg on your face, don't expect the LCD to get you out of this one." Sir Ian Rochester finally exploded.
"As if I'd rely on the good offices of the LCD to help me out" John Deed retorted in his best languid unhurried manner though his heart was thumping from this very tense verbal duel where he was sticking his neck out as never before.
"Looks like your LCD friends can't keep away from you they miss your company so much." Jo Mills smiled at John." What's it about this time?"
"Their usual heavy handed feeble pretence at subtle persuasion," John replied. "Just how confident are you that putting Helen Stewart on the witness stand won't go to your client's disadvantage. Think carefully on this, Jo and don't let your emotions cloud your judgment."
"I've been worrying about this all morning. It's as if they are playing some cat and mouse game with us. At the end of the day I back my gut feeling and put my faith in Helen Stewart. I have thought backwards and forwards over the logical structure and all the 'what ifs' and at the end of the day I'm trusting to my instincts.
"There will be a lot riding on Helen Stewart." reflected John Deed. Their professional reputations, so important to so many of their profession, seemed to be totally overshadowed by more momentous things, like justice for a single woman and for society at large. John Deed lay back in a reclining chair to ready himself for the afternoon while emotionally catching up with the vivid glimpse of the chaos of Shell's world.
As she approached the stand, Helen took a deep breath to try and settle her nerves. It didn't help that she had Fenner almost directly in her line of vision. She half wondered if this was to try and make the defendant feel guilty or to make the witness screw up their evidence. She looked up at the public gallery and saw Nikki, Yvonne and Karen there giving her moral support. Jo came to stand in front of her.
"Miss Stewart, I would like you to begin by telling the court about your working relationship with Mr. Fenner."
"When I started working at Larkhall, Mr. Fenner was constantly rubbing my position in my face. He gave the impression that he resented a university graduate getting the position as wing governor when he'd been in the job for years. He didn't like taking instructions from me. He continually went behind my back to the governing governor whenever he didn't agree with something I proposed or suggested for the wing." Brian Cantwell held up a hand.
"My Lord, do we have evidence of this apparent effort on my client's part to make Miss Stewart's working life hell?" He asked this because he knew there wasn't. All evidence submitted had to be available to both the prosecution and the defense. Deed, after having more than enough of petty bureaucracy simply glared at Cantwell till he sat down. Then he nodded at Jo.
"Now, Miss Stewart, I'd like you to go through the events you were aware of on the day of Rachel Hicks' suicide."
"Rachel had a visit in the afternoon. Her mother came to see her. She told Rachel that she'd put her ten-month-old daughter in to care. Rachel was obviously very upset by this and after the visit she trashed her cell. I had her brought to my office and asked her why she'd done this. As a result of the news she'd received that afternoon, I was lenient with her and didn't send her to the segregation block. For some reason, this surprised her. I knew there was something she wasn't telling me, but I couldn't persuade her to talk. I put her back on a basic regime and the next morning when I came in to work, she was dead."
"Now, could you tell the court what your impression was of the way Mr. Fenner treated Rachel Hicks."
"He was always very supportive of Rachel. Not long after she came in to Larkhall, he asked for her to have the chance to have a job working in the officers' room on the wing. He also suggested that she be put on an enhanced regime. At the time, I thought nothing odd about this, but after Rachel's death, I began to wonder at his motives." Jo held up a hand.
"We'll come to that," She said, trying not to give Brian Cantwell anything with which to make an objection. "What was Mr. Fenner's reaction to Rachel trashing her cell?"
"He suggested that it was a direct result of the news that her baby had been put in to care."
"So, what made you have doubts about Mr. Fenner's conduct towards Rachel after her death?"
"I was informed, in confidence I might add, that Rachel had been having an affair with Mr. Fenner." At the merest sign of Brian Cantwell's rising hand, Deed said,
"I would like the jury to take note of the words, in confidence, before Mr. Cantwell raises an objection." Totally thwarted, Cantwell lowered his hand in defeat.
"What else, apart from this, gave you cause for concern?" Asked Jo.
"Mr. Fenner was far too willing to place the blame on either myself or Rachel's mother. He also went behind my back to the governing governor, Mr. Stubberfield, to clear his name, even before I had the chance to raise my concerns."
"Thank you. Now I'd like to take you forward to the time when Shell Dockley alleged that Mr. Fenner had beaten her up. Did you believe her?"
"Yes, I had no reason not to. She told me that she'd been having an affair with Mr. Fenner and that, to quote Shell Dockley, he did the same with Rachel Hicks. When I asked her directly if he'd had sex with Rachel, she said that he had. However, when I raised this with Simon Stubberfield, he didn't want to know." Jo asked,
"Just to make this perfectly clear for the jury, you are saying that when you raised your concerns over Mr. Fenner's conduct to Miss Dockley and Rachel Hicks, Simon Stubberfield didn't want to know?"
"Yes. He told me that this was just conjecture. He wasn't prepared to listen to anything that would jeopardize the credibility of one of his prison officers."
Jo left a short pause to let the jury take this in.
"What happened when Miss Dockley changed her allegations?"
"I didn't think she was telling the truth. I was suspicious as to why she had suddenly changed her mind."
"And is this the reason why you left your job as a wing governor?"
"Yes. I couldn't work for a man who wasn't prepared to take an impartial attitude to allegations made towards his officers."
"Now, Miss Stewart. Please could you tell the court, in your own time, what happened on the day that Mr. Fenner assaulted you."
"It wasn't long after Mr. Fenner had returned to work after he was stabbed. He had been in a state of nervous anger since his return. I was then working as the head of the lifer's unit. Mr. Fenner disagreed with many of the policies I was in the process of implementing. I had gone in to the office to obtain a file for one of the inmates. I observed that he looked ready to explode. The anger radiated off him like heat. When he didn't respond to my request for the inmate's file, I asked him if he was all right." Helen suddenly looked as if she wished she'd never asked him this in the first place. "He said to me that if one more bitch asked him this, but he didn't finish his threat. He said, you want a file? I'll show you what you really want. Then he pushed me up against the filing cabinet. I struggled with him, which was when he pushed his hand roughly between my legs. He had complete power over me. I fought with him but I couldn't match his strength. Eventually, I managed to get away from him before he did anything else." There was silence in the court as they all took in what Helen had said. Jo took a quick glance up at the public gallery and seeing the tears silently rolling down Karen's face, she said,
"I have no further questions My Lord, but might I ask for a short adjournment?" Deed cleared his throat and said,
"Yes, court will resume in fifteen minutes." Yvonne looked at Karen to see the guilt coursing down her face in two streams of self-reproach. Without a word, she took Karen's arm and steered her downstairs and outside. Handing Karen a tissue she said,
"Don't try and blame this on anyone but Fenner."
"Yvonne, you have no idea, do you?" Said Karen, all the anger in her voice directed at herself. "I didn't believe her. When she tried to warn me off Fenner, when she left me the report of what happened, I didn't believe her. At least, I didn't want to believe her. I didn't want to listen to what I knew he was capable of."
"Listen," Yvonne said quietly. "Yes, you were blind where Fenner was concerned, but we all do it, Karen. We've all been there, unable to admit to seeing what we don't want to see. What happened to Helen was not your fault. Don't ever think that."
"I feel so weak. Helen just stood up there and held it together. I couldn't even do that."
"Only because she's managed to put all her anger in to giving Fenner what he deserves. You were much closer to Fenner than Helen ever was, that's why it's easier for her. It might take a long time, but you'll be able to feel like that eventually. If you weren't strong enough to get through telling an entire court what he did to you, you wouldn't be here, doing this now."
Brian Cantwell got to his feet and there was aggression in every subtle mannerism of his body language. He had seen Helen perform and felt that she was the most dangerous and accomplished of all the witnesses. While he was capable of synthetic rage when it suited him, this was the real thing.
"If I might ask you, Miss Stewart.." And the alliterations of Helen's name were hissed into the air." What were your feelings about the defendant?"
There was an incredulous expression on Helen's face till she realised that Brian Cantwell was talking in the general, not specifically as if she could ever in her nightmares feel affection, if not love for the man she could see seated across the way.
"Jim Fenner and I had a personality clash from the start. I disliked the man as he was dishonest, untrustworthy, not fit to look after women and finally....."
"That is not what I asked. You are here to testify how you felt about James Fenner, not to describe him."
Helen composed herself and fought down the anger she felt at the man she felt to be colluding with Fenner's crimes, not just acting as his advocate with a job to do.
"Very well, I deeply distrusted the man . I resented him . I felt it almost impossible to work with him on any level. He offended every value that I hold dear. I felt undermined by him at every turn." Helen's Scottish accent cut clearly through the air.
"Would it be true to say that all your actions were driven by hatred of the defendant, that you wanted revenge against him, that you would do anything to discredit him and ruin his reputation?" Brian Cantwell was getting into gear and was projecting himself centre stage to upstage Helen like the actor he was.
"No!" Helen's voice rang out.
"What , you deny that because you have hostile feelings, that you would not give vent to them in actions that is the logical consequence of what you feel?" Brian Cantwell was in his best incredulous tone.
"Yes I absolutely deny anything of the sort, because I have been brought up to behave justly, to examine my feelings and not let them cloud my professional judgement. I did my damnedest to work with him as, believe it or not, I had a prison wing to run and prisoners to care for." Helen counterattacked with lightning speed.
Jo Mills drew breath at the lightning speed Helen covered her weak spot and turned it to her advantage. If she were not admirably fitted to be a social worker with her caring attitude, she would make a brilliant barrister.
"Now, let us turn to the events of February 10th when you allege you were sexually assaulted by the defendant. You are seriously telling me that the sum total of the sexual assault on you is that he put his hand between your legs?"
Helen turned white. She knew this was coming up but this felt like being assaulted twice over. He was seriously trying to diminish it and herself in front of a jury and that she was being put on trial. Then in a flash of will, she clung on to what had happened to Karen, much more disturbing as it had come from a sometime lover who she had deluded herself about.
"And were there any witnesses to the alleged assault?"
"No. You don't seriously suggest that this sort of incident will happen for witnesses to see and to testify against him." Helen hit back scornfully.
"Then why did you, as a senior officer in Larkhall Prison service immediately not report such an appalling event to the authorities concerned ?"
"Because , besides going to the police, I would have to have made an official complaint internally within the prison service through Mr. Stubberfield and I felt sure that what I said would not be believed."
"'Because you would not be believed'" repeated Mr. Cantwell with relish." And why, pray tell me why that would be so?"
"Because he is part of an Old boys network that would cover it up that covers anything up. That's the name of the game. Mr. Cantwell. Is it not so?" And Helen looked unflinchingly into Mr. Cantwell's eyes which asked him straight to deny it.
Nikki and Yvonne gazed with admiration, neither of them having seen Helen so directly clashing with authority. They had seen her being an authority in times past and slapping both of them down. Now they felt that Helen was truly speaking for every prisoner in Larkhall in standing up directly against unjust authority.
John Deed looked gravely on, his eyes glancing at Lawrence James and Sir Ian. That woman speaks for me as well.
"It is not usual for defending barristers to have to answer a question in turn from witnesses but I will allow Miss Stewart's remark and ask Mr. Cantwell to respond in turn before carrying on with his investigation."
"Of course we all want justice to be done and to be seen to be done ." He replied mechanically and without real conviction. "This is, of course, Great Britain," he proceeded more grandiosely, "and the very cradle of democracy and the rule of law. I ask you again, more specifically, why did you not make a complaint, either internally or to the police when you had the chance to? Your delay, you must admit, goes against you and makes your claim look shaky."
"Because I was sexually assaulted," Helen shot out "And ordered rational thinking in this situation tends to go out the window or haven't you learnt this from all your years of experience in the criminal court ? Besides, as I explained earlier on , I had every reason not to look for a fair and proper hearing from Mr. Stubberfield when I resigned as Wing Governor and nothing in my experience since then had made me change my opinion of him."
Brian Cantwell stopped in an atmosphere of furious silence as he had fired the last shot in his locker and to no avail.
"Have you finished your examination, Mr. Cantwell? Then as there was no obvious response, he asked Jo Mills if she had any questions in turn.
"I was going to ask you, Miss Stewart a simple question and that is, what do you want to see come out of this trial?"
Helen smiled for the first time as she realised that the pressure was off her and the thoughts instantly fell into shape.
"Only that for the sake of the prisoners that were in my care who I have left behind, that Jim Fenner is no longer in a position of care of , and power over, women . And also that justice is done."
The simplicity of the remark that was pure Helen was as if the coping stone on some elaborate edifice was neatly and geometrically tapped into place. While Karen Nikki and Yvonne from their opposite perspectives were as one with the sentiment , Sir Ian and Lawrence James shuffled their feet uncomfortably.
Jo Mills signed off her case with the time-honoured words. "That concludes the case of the prosecution." Helen Stewart, on an adrenaline high, hardly heard them as she prepared to step down from the witness box.
"The court is adjourned till tomorrow to call the defendant, James Fenner into the witness box." John Deeds sonorous voice carried round the cavernous chamber.
Jo came over to congratulate Helen while Brian Cantwell scowled at her. If there was any suggestion that , as in past court cases, they belonged to a common profession and that they were merely cast in opposite roles that had long since gone. They were on opposite sides for real.
"My turn tomorrow after all these days to share the ringside seat with you all," said an excited Helen to the others. "Come let's go for a drink, I could really do with it." Helen felt an adrenaline rush as a reaction from the tense verbal cut and thrust in the witness box and her head was whizzing with points she could have made better.
It was a curious combination of people, once divided by the prison bars, now involved in a common cause . That had to be so or else they could have gone on in their workaday lives but each chose for various reasons not to. "Yes, we'll see that bastard Fenner after all these years stand in the dock where he belongs." Nikki said grimly. Then in lighter mood. "All right, which pub are we going to?"
Karen was trailing after the others a bit as the general mood gave way to lighthearted banter. She had got used to seeing Nikki as no longer the prisoner to turn the cell door on and still more as Helen's partner. That belonged to the far away evening when she had timidly knocked at their front door and found camaraderie in an evening's relaxed drinking and conversation. A part of her expected that Yvonne would take a lot more getting used to. Surely she must have remembered the night when she and Jim Fenner, could it really have happened that way, had foiled her escape plan with the rope ladder over the prison wall and them coming to blows? She must have felt some residual resentment at that. Yet she had acted with instinctive decency to instantly come to help her when help was most needed. She saw Karen in distress and she had acted . Somehow, dressed as they were all were in their civilian clothes, the prison bars had come down.
"You're thinking of something bleeding deep." Yvonne smilingly said as she grabbed her arm to stop her walking across a busy road with a stream of traffic whizzing past. "You would have been part of the bloody tarmac if I hadn't stopped you." Karen smiled and shook her head and said that she was thinking about past times at Larkhall and if Yvonne felt the same, whatever had happened between them was in the past.
"Course I do. We're in the same club now"
Nikki managed to ease her way through the throng and shouted out asking what everyone wanted to drink and they yelled out the orders. They found a little corner where they could share a table and make sure that there would be no intruders.
Karen looked at Yvonne anew as they chatted away, she had a down to earth style and a razor sharp sense of humour. How had she overlooked her very real qualities what with the 'criminal' tag that unconsciously she had accepted from her fellow prison officers without thinking. Yet here she was yet another smartly dressed woman able to hold her head up high.
"You did a great job, Helen, what with that bastard of a barrister. Does such a guy really believe in what he is doing?" Yvonne asked.
"I can't imagine how someone like him sleeps at night." Helen said with passion." I've said and done things in the past that I've regretted only because I've not been able to do different" And here Yvonne and Nikki were invited to look through Helen's eyes on experiences that they were on the receiving end of and that gave them a curious sensation. This affected Nikki far less than Yvonne as Helen had long since filled in the gaps that Nikki for one reason or another hadn't known but this was all new to Yvonne.
"That man either doesn't feel or doesn't think or both. I could never live that way, nor you Karen either." Helen gave an all-including glance at her.
Nikki and Yvonne knew that Helen put it that way as they were free agents, not bound to administer rules and regulations that, at bottom ,they were bitterly opposed to. Karen didn't have that freedom right now and, Helen likewise in the past. Yet they were all knocking at the door of justice with the aid of Jo Mills and , very discreetly, John Deed. They were experienced administrators but the Law with its mysterious arcane rituals was a world that might and did, intimidate the most confident.
"Wonder what Jo Mills is doing and feeling right now, not to say the Judge" Helen said thoughtfully. She was conscious that she and Karen had given it their best shot and now they would be spectators . Helen was highly conscious of the burden they were both carrying, Jo Mills with a case she obviously felt deeply about and, to her eye, so did John Deed. The pressures were on him as plain to see and she wished she could do or say something to help him but knew she couldn't. All that she, and the others hoped for was they realised that their thoughts were with them. Soon, the atmosphere changed to a light hearted bantering mood to drive away the shadows of the night.
As they were chattering away, a middle-aged couple wondered if they were hearing things as the four women who were talking lightheartedly, without stop about prisoners and guards. It was as if they were getting hyper about characters in some theatrical production that they were discussing and how best they would fit into their roles. They couldn't possibly be talking about their real lives, they looked too smart and good looking for either women prisoners or prison officers. Such things like that didn't happen, did they? The Daily Mail that told them that prisons were like holiday camps, and what the Daily Mail said must be true. If these really were prisoners and prison officers, then the prison system was in a scandalous state and what prisoners needed was a short sharp shock to teach them the error of their ways to judge by what they were overhearing.
"Come on, it's time to go home." And they sniffed their disapproval of the women who were laughing away trying to forget that the next day, Jim Fenner would be in the dock and that would be no laughing matter.
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