The Crown (Karen Betts) Verses James Fenner
By Kristine and Richard
When Jo arrived home after her extremely long and harrowing day in court, all she really wanted to do was to curl up with John and a large bottle of wine.
She lay in a hot bath thinking about the momentous day just behind her. She knew she'd risked a lot in trying to ask Shell about the night she'd stabbed Fenner, but anything was worth a try. Shell had clearly done her best though. Jo smiled when she remembered Shell's quip to Brian Cantwell. From the look on his face, he clearly had been with a prostitute before. But Helen had been wonderful, absolutely brilliant! Jo couldn't get over that woman's utter dedication to her job or the way she'd not allowed Cantwell to bombard her. She'd kept her wits about her at all times and not once had she slipped up.
If nothing else, Jo reflected, they'd certainly closed the case leaving the jury in no doubt as to Fenner's conduct with all three women. Jo took a lazy swig of her glass of wine. It was only the beginning of the week and only halfway through the case, but she was exhausted. This case wasn't just intellectually draining; it was emotionally draining as well. Jo had seen at first hand the way Fenner had affected these women's lives. She'd seen the power of love which existed constantly between Helen and her ex-con partner Nikki. She'd seen the way Karen was clearly sinking deeper and deeper in to despair in having to bare her entire soul in front of a court full of people. She'd also seen how Yvonne Atkins, the wife of the late gangster Charlie Atkins no less, had come forward to be there for Karen, even though Karen had not long ago been Yvonne's jailer. There was a strength in all these women that Jo could only dream of. She couldn't even begin to estimate the levels of fear and torment that all these women, Nikki and Yvonne included, had gone through over the years, yet they would hopefully all come out of the experience as strong as ever. But Jo couldn't predict such a positive future for Shell. Shell was clearly a woman who had been led to commit the most hideous of crimes because of the system's failure to help her sooner. Oh, Jo was well aware of Shell Dockley's previous criminal history and was in no doubts as to the girl's guilt. But Karen had also told her something of Shell's childhood, of her father's regular abuse of her and of her mother's encouragement of it.
Content to remain where she was for a time, Jo refilled the bath with hot water. The gentle scent of jasmine and lavender soothed her senses, and the wine began to slowly relax her brain. Her mind was unconcernedly drifting from one thought to another when the doorbell rang. Cursing whichever inconsiderate bastard it happened to be, Jo wrapped herself in a towel and with hair still dripping ran down the stairs. Peering through the blind, she grinned. It was John. When she opened the door, he just stood and stared at her.
"If you're coming in, hurry up, it's freezing out here," Jo said. John came in and shut the door.
"Good god, Jo," He said almost in awe. "You look wonderful."
"Then before I catch my death," She said grinning. "Come and join me." John needed no further persuasion. Slipping in to their familiar yet far too long ago position in the large bathtub, John took a swig of Jo's wine.
"We haven't done this in too many years," He said wistfully. After the first few years of furious passion which they'd snatched whenever possible, they had gradually drifted apart. They had both had other lovers on and off, but they always returned to the other's bed somehow. Jo began to ease the tension out of John's tired muscles.
"So," He said, in an effort not to drift in to blissful unconsciousness at her ministrations. "The case for the prosecution is finally closed."
"Yes. I thought we'd never get there."
"Your witness Helen Stewart did well, gave Cantwell all she was worth."
"I think she's been preparing in her mind for this for some time. Karen's pain is still so raw that she can't really concentrate on anyone but herself. But Helen has managed to channel all her anger in to fighting for the cause, for herself, for Karen, for Shell, for everybody, because I'm betting those three aren't the only women he's got at over the years."
"That Shell Dockley's a bit of a strange one." Jo stopped her slow massaging to refill the glass they were both sharing.
"She scared you, didn't she?" John looked at her steadily before he answered.
"What makes you think that?"
"Spoken like a true lawyer," Smiled Jo. Then she became serious again. "I saw your face after she apologised to you for swearing in your courtroom. I don't think I've ever seen you look like that before."
"Well, I don't think I've come in to contact with anyone quite like her before," He countered. "She's a complete mix up of innocent child and all knowing woman at the same time. I could see the come on a mile off, but the innocent look she gives you at the same time really makes you feel evil for recognizing what she's up too."
"All her life she's been told by men that she's their pretty little whore. I guess some of that takes root in your psyche after a while."
"I've looked at her history. She won't be coming out of prison any time soon."
"I know. I might try and see her occasionally though. I'd like to keep an eye on how she's doing."
"Don't get involved, Jo," John's warning tone was all too familiar to her.
"I am involved!" Jo said hotly. "I'm completely entangled in all these women's lives. John, if we don't succeed in getting Fenner sent to prison for a very long time, I'm not sure that either Karen or Shell will survive. They're pinning every last ounce of emotional strength they have on this case."
"Yes, and clearly so are you," John replied trying to calm her down. "all I'm saying is be careful. You know only too well that neither of us can guarantee that the jury will find him guilty. I won't even try to predict what they'll come up with. But if they bring back an acquittal, I don't want you to feel that you've failed. I need you, Jo. I need you to be the same wonderful woman I've always known, even if this trial doesn't go the way we both think it should."
The atmosphere turned electric when the figure that had lurked on the sidelines now moved to centre stage in the witness stand facing Brian Cantwell on the Tuesday morning. Jim Fenner was wearing his best blue suit .From the moment he promised to tell "nothing but the truth" holding the bible in one hand and reading from the card he held in the other hand, the theatrical performance began. He had that superficial air of deference and sincerity that was poles apart from the angry sneering Fenner, that Nikki , Helen and Yvonne were used to.
"My lord and members of the jury," Brian Cantwell's theatrical tones echoed through the cavernous room, "You have heard up till now allegations without substance, mere tittle tattle about the accused you see before you who only now has the opportunity to set the record straight."
John Deed's raised eyebrows directed in Brian Cantwell's direction indicated that he should get down to the examination as he was verging on the summing up speech for the defense.
"James Fenner, could you explain to the court what your job was at Larkhall Prison at the time of the incident of April 30th."
"Your worship, "Jim Fenner struck the obsequious note from the word go. "At the time, I was wing governor. I had recently taken over from Miss Betts"
"And what were the circumstances leading up to the change in job and what did your job entail."
"Well, it's difficult to say." Jim Fenner feigned an initial reluctance to give embarrassing confidences of Life at Larkhall. " We had had a new No 1 Governor who considered that Miss Betts showed , shall we say, certain shortcomings in her performance in her reluctance to be 'part of the team' and he demoted her. He thought that I would do a better job though I was reluctant to push myself forward naturally. The new responsibilities brought with it greater pressures than before and I had to work all sorts of hours. Life in a modern prison is much more demanding than it used to be as we have to be much more conscious of the welfare of the prisoners. It involves much more of the personal touch and much more detailed reports. After all the prisons are much more in the public eye than they used to be from my earliest years in the Prison Service."
"And how long and at what levels have you worked in the prison service, Mr. Fenner.?"
"Man and boy" And Jim Fenner seemed to mentally search through the voluminous experiences of a long working life. "After I came out of the army, I worked for years as a basic grade Prison officer doing everything from listening to women pour out their troubles to me, the day to day lockups and admin right through to the tricky situations of trying to deal with situations before some of the women kick off. It takes jail craft and keeping things smooth. Because my bosses, male and female, liked the way I did things, I've risen through the ranks to Senior Officer with spells of temporary promotion to Wing Governor. I've served a period of twenty years in the Prison Service."
It was difficult to see who was more enraged, Helen at Fenner's bare faced theft of her own ideas which he had in reality been bitterly opposed to, Nikki and Yvonne at ugly memories of his so called 'care' or Karen who muttered "you prick" under her breath. Sir Ian and Lawrence James were lapping up this verbal treacle for all they were worth.
"Did Miss Betts express any ill feeling at you being promoted over her head?"
"Well, we are all professional in our attitudes, we have to be. But there just may have been an underlying resentment. That may have had a bit to do with me and Karen breaking up. I wish that that had never happened." Fenner finished with an appearance of regret in his eyes.
"And what caused you and Miss Betts to break up.
"Well," Jim gave a deep sigh "Too many long hours in the prison service , doesn't do relationships any good when your other half thinks you're married to the Prison Service rather than them. That caused me and Marilyn to break up."
"But you were working in the same place as Miss Betts, I don't understand" Brian Cantwell looked genuinely puzzled.
"Ah well, then it comes the other way that you are in each others pockets and matters of stressful work and discipline get in the way of your relationship. It isn't easy, I tell you." Jim Fenner heaved a sigh.
It isn't easy being a prisoner , thought Nikki and Yvonne, being locked up by bent corrupt prison officers who turn the rules against you to suit their prejudices. It isn't easy working in a prison service with devious corrupt bastards who try and stab you in the back at every turn and use the Old Boys Network against you, added Helen ..and pretend to be the perfect lover when he is a rapist, finally added Karen.
"Have you any comments about the allegations?"(and Brian Cantwell stressed the last word as if to undermine it) "of your sexual relationship with Michelle Dockley."
"It's a sad world," Jim Fenner at this point went into Tony Blair mode, acting 'sincere and concerned' "when women come into prison and start having fantasies about you as one of the few men that there are around in a women's nick from the disturbed backgrounds they come from. One minute, you're being sympathetic to their needs, someone like Rachel Hicks who has 'victim' written all over their face, and next they sincerely believe you are some sort of lover and father figure and boyfriend. Michelle Dockley was a seriously screwed up psycho who is in prison for life and she can make anything up, it's her style, unfortunately . It's the risks you take working in Her Majesty's Prison."
Jo Mills watched this performance mind working on overload. She had seen him trying to get at Karen Betts before the trial to get her to withdraw the charge and kept this fixed in her mind. A superb performance by an accomplished liar. Now she knows why the likes of Karen Betts , an intelligent woman, was taken in by him. Everything is just blur and fudge and she'll have to concentrate on the jagged edges, the bits that don't fit.
"Can I take you through the events of April 30th, James Fenner. In your own words. I have not asked you as many questions as I would otherwise ask you, as you make things so crystal clear." Brian Cantwell's sanctimonious voice filled the air.
Which means that Jim Fenner has been well coached in his lines, John Deed thought. Talk likes to talk in this situation. The training is so easy.
"I'd had a rough time since I'd been stabbed by Shell Dockley. You know from that what a raving psycho she is ........."
"Objection, my lord." Jo Mills jumped in. "You are aware that the testimony I was trying to elicit from Shell Dockley in the witness stand was stricken from the record by your direction. It is hardly the time and place to reintroduce it by the defense barrister."
"Mr. Cantwell. As a matter of public record, and for the attention of the jury, Michelle Dockley is awaiting trial over this matter. Matters like Mr. Fenner's feelings after that incident are admissible only in so far as they do not impinge on and prejudge the impending trial. You of all people, Mr. Cantwell, should have advised your client. If you had wanted to introduce the incident in any shape or form, you should have applied to me beforehand." John Deed's voice reverberated through the court with tones of real personal anger. Brian Cantwell is pulling a fast one here just like Sir Ian and Lawrence James are.
Brian Cantwell actually groveled a bit and Jim Fenner likewise.
"Since the incident of the stabbing, my nerves were all to hell. I had been drinking more than I should and had been snapping at people, Karen Betts, Helen Stewart, even Sylvia Hollamby who had always stuck up for me. I was having particular problems with some prisoners who were spreading malicious rumours about me"
"And what rumours were those?" Brian Cantwell asked.
"That the No 1 governor fancied me. Not true. I am 100 per cent straight". Jim Fenner at this point spoke in ringing tones, which made Nikki Wade smile. Perhaps he doth protest too much , that's why he hates women.
"I'd gone home to my b and b and was having a drink or two. It had been a rough day. Karen Betts was a million miles from my thoughts when I heard a knock at the door and Karen was there. I let her in and naturally invited her to join me for a drink. She was really sympathetic as she knew what my problems were and what was getting me down. We were talking on my bed and we started kissing. Naturally I though this was going to be a 'kiss and make up' session as you do. I could see that she was up for it and it seemed the most natural thing to end up in bed together as we had shared the same bed for months in the past."
"And did she indicate any reluctance to take things further, James Fenner?"
"She was never reluctant in the past and why should she be this time around? I can't remember her saying anything."
"You can definitely state that at that point, she gave no indication that she did not want sexual intercourse with you."
"I can so solemnly swear."
" Then what happened."
"Well, I'd fallen asleep after I'd had one of the best nights with her that I'd ever had. I was half asleep and became conscious that she was out of the bed and she had got dressed and said she was going to go. I asked her what she was doing and she started going on about me raping her. I was totally amazed. This wasn't the Karen I knew. I wanted her to stay but she did a runner on me, pushed me into some bushes and was off in her car."
"What happened the next day. Mr. Fenner?"
"Well she was just mouthing off at me about rape. She wouldn't listen even when I told her I loved her and that it was never rape. I tried to explain but she still wouldn't listen. Next thing I knew, she had gone to the police."
"And how do you feel about Karen Betts now?"
"I'm deeply hurt by all she has done to me but underneath it all I still love her."
"I am sure the jury will be touched by the generosity of feelings you are showing to the woman who is pressing criminal charges against you. I can see you are evidently upset but I must ask you in general about your relationship with Helen Stewart and the allegation she has made that you sexually assaulted her. "At this point, Brian Cantwell turned to the jury with a theatrical and oratorical flourish.
Jim Fenner looked on the point of breaking down at this point.
"Constant aggravation from the word go. She never listened to a single piece of advice that I gave as an experienced prison officer to an inexperienced Wing Governor. She made bad decisions, in particular to let Shell Dockley stay in Larkhall after the stabbing incident. We just had row after row, especially when my nerves were shot to hell when Shell Dockley was winding me up. Eventually I lost it. I did say sorry the next day, repeatedly but she didn't listen."
"And did you sexually assault her?"
"I might have laid a hand on her to get her to see sense but, no I did not sexually assault her."
And Fenner finished his most accomplished performance with just the contrite tone in his voice and the odd tear in his eye that he calculated would sway a jury and even the judge who seemed far too 'politically correct' for his liking, a bit like that cow Stewart he could see glaring at him from the gallery.
Before beginning to speak, Jo approached the stand to take a good look at the man she was there to prosecute. It felt like this is what the last few weeks had been building up to. From the time she'd received the call from Karen Betts' solicitor, she'd been waiting for this opportunity to ask James Fenner as many awkward questions as possible. As she took a good, long look in to Fenner's eyes, a line from Chris de Burgh's Spanish Train came in to her mind.
"And then we'll play for the biggest stakes yet, the souls of the dead." The irony of the words were not lost on Jo. She might not be playing for the souls of any dead, except maybe Rachel Hicks, but she was certainly playing for the souls of the injured and the innocent, and Fenner was as true a representation of the devil as she had ever come in to contact with.
"Mr. Fenner," Jo began. "I would like to take you back to the time when Miss Helen Stewart first arrived at Larkhall. What were your feelings on her appointment as wing governor?"
"I don't agree with the prison service's new fast track policy of giving wing governor status to university students. They haven't had much if any actual experience with dealing with inmates on a day to day basis." He's been carefully coached, thought Jo.
"So you certainly weren't in favor of Helen Stewart being in charge of a wing of female inmates?"
"I suppose not, no."
"Would it be safe to say that you bore a grudge against Helen Stewart from day one?"
"I wouldn't say a grudge, I just didn't like the way she did things."
"Would it also be safe to say that you obstructed her at every turn, even going so far as to go behind her back to the governing governor, Simon Stubberfield, whenever you felt she was doing something that you didn't approve of?"
"If I ever raised a complaint about Helen to the number one, it was purely on a professional basis."
"Really. Why then, did Helen Stewart say in her statement that you had accused her of being overly fond of murderers?" Jo picked up Helen's statement. "Helen Stewart states that you said, "One look at a murderer and you go moist." Is that not an overtly sexual reference meant to directly offend if not threaten?"
At his written words, Fenner had gone white. He hadn't thought Helen would remember that inference so accurately. When he didn't answer, there followed a prompt from John.
"You must answer the question, Mr. Fenner." Fenner took a deep breath.
"I suppose it could have been seen as overtly sexual, but..." Jo jumped in,
"Thank you, and is this only an example of the continuous sexual threats you made towards Helen Stewart." Fenner's rage rose to the surface.
"I don't think so, somehow," Said Jo, not waiting for John's reprimand. Jo continued her antagonistic approach. "Why, when Helen Stewart later asked you for an inmate's file, did you tell her you'd show her what she really wanted? Why, if your continuous behaviour was in no way sexually threatening towards Helen Stewart, did you push her up against a filing cabinet and shove your hand uninvited between her legs, making your threat all too clear to a woman who had been rocking your professional boat of despicable treatment of inmates since the day she'd arrived?"
"Helen bloody Stewart enjoyed keeping all her PO's at her beck and call. She reveled in making us a laughing stock with the inmates. Soppy Stewart was always the prisoner's friend and never gave a shit about her officers. It was about time someone taught her who was boss on that wing." Realizing that he'd probably just signed his own prison sentence, Fenner stopped. Jo allowed all his words to sink in with the jury. Then she looked Fenner straight in the eye.
"And was that why you sexually assaulted Helen Stewart?" Fenner regained some of his composure.
"I didn't assault Stewart. She just thought it'd look good in court. Like I said, she's the prisoner's friend. I guess she just wants to see me become one of them." Jo made a pretense of consulting some papers.
"Now I'd like you to tell the court about your relationship with Karen Betts. When did you start a relationship with her?"
"After my marriage broke up."
"Now, that's not quite true is it, Mr. Fenner. Didn't you have a brief affair with Karen Betts a couple of years before she came to work at Larkhall?"
"Is that what she called it. It was nothing more than a one night stand at a conference."
"Well, we'll leave the issue of what took place between yourself and Karen Betts before your marriage break up until I question Mr. Stubberfield who I know was aware of the situation. But you did have a relationship with Karen Betts, which lasted some months. There was even a proposal of marriage. Why did this relationship end?"
"As Karen said during the first day of this farce you call a trial..." John's voice again resonated from the bench.
"Mr. Fenner, the court wishes to hear what happened in your own words, not those of someone else." Also not wanting the court to become aware of the fact that Karen had discovered his possession of a pair of Maxi's knickers, Fenner took the easy way out.
"We fortunately discovered before anything concrete had taken place that we weren't suited. It happens."
"Fortunate for whom?" Wondered Jo.
In the public gallery, Yvonne muttered to Karen.
"More like you found out about Maxi's knickers and the porn mag." Karen stared at her.
"How the hell did you know about that?" Yvonne winked at her.
"You didn't seriously think we were going to let you make such a monumental mistake, did you?" Karen just gaped. She'd never known who had sent her the underwear and the magazine from Fenner's locker. This would require some further explanation from Yvonne, but now was not the time.
"Mr. Fenner," Jo continued. "would you tell the court, in your own words, what happened on the day of the 30th of April last year?"
"I'd had quite a hard day. Some of the inmates had been causing more trouble than usual, and all I wanted to do was to get back to the B and B where I was staying and chill out for a few hours."
"And what does your kind of chilling out usually consist of?"
"Some music, a bottle of Scotch, what more could a bloke want."
"The company of an attractive woman, for example?" Prompted Jo.
"Well, I wasn't expecting company that evening."
"But you did have a visit from Karen Betts that evening."
"Yeah. She knew I'd had a bad day with the cons and came round to see how I was doing. I wouldn't have let her in if I'd known she was going to pull this stunt." In the gallery, Karen tensed as if about to spring at Fenner and claw his eyes out. Yvonne put a calming hand on her arm.
"What happened when Karen arrived at your door?"
"I poured us both some Scotch, we talked about how much I was hating my job. She managed to convince me not to quit. I think she felt sorry for me." There was suddenly a look in Fenner's eyes that clearly showed that even though he hated what he thought Karen was doing to him, he regretted the loss of those days before Virginia O'kane's death and the finding of the knickers. Those wonderful honeymoon days of his relationship with Karen had been and would always be special to Jim. He had loved Karen, and deep in the recesses of his soul he probably still did. But he couldn't get passed what she was putting him through now.
"Mr. Fenner, could you tell the jury who initiated physical contact?"
"I can't remember. I think Karen hugged me."
"Then what happened?"
"What do you think happened?" Said Fenner, leering at Jo. This made John furious.
"It is Mrs. Mills who is asking the questions, not you, Mr. Fenner. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir," Said Fenner, somewhat chastened. "We started kissing," He continued. "We ended up in bed together."
"And why did you ignore Karen's pleas for you to stop?" Asked Jo, now getting angry herself. She wasn't about to cut this bastard any slack.
"She didn't tell me to stop, ever. Leading someone on and then telling them to stop was never Karen's style. She liked a good shag as much as any normal\woman."
"Well, you clearly weren't listening to her," Said Jo her voice rising. "Karen Betts told you to stop. She didn't want to have sex with you. She changed\her mind and you didn't listen to her. I put it to you that you didn't care whether or not your ex-lover wanted sex with you or not. You have a deep lack of respect for women, James Fenner, and when Karen Betts continually told you to stop, you completely ignored her. All you were concerned with was reaching orgasm. Not once during the sexual act did you give a thought to how much Karen didn't want what you were doing to her."
"You're talking crap," Said Fenner clearly riled.
"Mr. Fenner, I will not tell you again to moderate your language," Said John.
"How did that make you feel?" Asked Jo. "How did it make you feel to take from a woman something she wasn't prepared to give. Did that make the sexual act more exciting for you?"
"No matter what the silly bitch says," Fenner almost shouted. "I didn't rape her!"
"What you did, was to have sexual intercourse with a woman who persistently told you she didn't want it. That is rape Mr. Fenner, and that is the crime you are guilty of." There was silence in the courtroom as the jury took in everything they'd seen and heard. Then came Jo's quiet,
"No further questions, My Lord." John briefly looked over at Cantwell, and getting a mere shake of the head said,
"Court is adjourned till tomorrow morning."
As was their wont after an adjournment, Karen and Yvonne made their way outside for a much-needed hit of nicotine. Yvonne could clearly see the pain in Karen's eyes.
"Don't feel sorry for him, Karen," She said quietly.
"What have I done to him, Yvonne?"
"All you've done is to put him in the line of fire from the British justice system. Anything Fenner gets from this he deserves, and don't you ever stop believing that."
"He did love me, you know," Karen said quietly. "I think part of him still does."
"That doesn't excuse what he did," Said Yvonne firmly. "Karen, he hurt you in the worst way a man can ever hurt a woman. There is absolutely nothing that can excuse what he did to you."
"Well, as someone who's been through the justice system, I'll just have to believe you," Said Karen. Then, realizing what she'd said she blushed. "I'm sorry. That didn't come out the way it was meant too."
"I know," Said Yvonne good-naturedly. "do you want to go for a drink?"
"I need to see Jo first, but yes, if you're sure, that'd be good." As they walked back in to the court building, they met Helen and Nikki. Helen looked as drained as Karen, though undoubtedly for different reasons. Helen didn't have any misplaced guilt to deal with.
"We're going home," Said Nikki and looking at Karen she said, "Are you okay?"
"No," Said Karen with a sigh. "But I think I will be."
Fenner wandered blindly out of the court the shadows of which he felt were starting to swallow him up, the time he had spent there, day after day. He emerged, blinking at the sunshine, into the busy streets of the outside world where, everyday angry car tyres driven by boy racers burnt rubber into the tarmac.
They normally annoyed the hell out of him as they were boys pretending they were men in a man's world. Now he thought almost nostalgically of the sounds of the busy city streets with the growing fear at the back of his mind that he might be shut away from them one time.
"Watch what you're doing, you stupid bastard." One driver yelled at him as he almost blundered into the path of a typical driver. Ordinarily he would have sworn back with the dignity he took for granted of wearing the uniform of locking up people for a living. He would have given the stupid idiot a right mouthful. Now there seemed to be a paralysis of the will, which overtook him. Did it really matter in comparison with what was hanging over him? As he wandered down the street, he realised that he had no idea, up till now, that the Jim Fenner personality that he wore like a glove came from his position in society and what he did for a living. Now someone was pulling the glove off and without that, who was he? He pulled back from that frightening thought and ran blindly down the street. He latched gratefully and instinctively onto a stray comforting thought as he normally did in moments of extreme stress, and that was to head in the direction of the nearest bar. He blundered into it feeling hot and sweaty but grateful for the comforting noise surrounding him.
He was already starting to slur his words to the barman as the fourth pint went down his throat. No one noticed as others in the bar were getting loud and raucous. Normally he would have done as he had done when 'out with the lads'. His eyes focussed with difficulty. Where were the lads he had grown up with when he was a young ex army man settling in for a secure job? They were ghosts in his mind but, what was worse, even he couldn't fight down the thought that he was being taken away from them not by time and change of job but that he was mentally half way to being behind prison bars. This could not be as it was his job to lock people up for a living The thought squeezed itself into his brain that, sure but that was because they had broken the law. But I haven't broken the law, I haven't done anything I haven't done from time to time in the past. It was all these bitches, first Karen calling in the police, then all these people telling tales to bring him down led by that bitch lawyer with smart phrases that dragged all that shit out of him.
Suddenly, in a fit of rage, he threw his glass across the room till it splintered into shards of flying fragments. The yells of protest were followed by the landlord threatening to call the police on him. Ordinarily he would have laughed but in one moment of frozen horror he saw that every sudden act done in a blind rage is next followed by the police who suddenly aren't his friends anymore, then the dragged out solemnities of being in the dock and then the clanging of prison bars wielded by prison officers like himself who cynically talk about cons such as himself. But he's Jim Fenner, Principal Officer ,isn't he?
No it can't happen to me he yelled running out into the streets which he was still part of. He couldn't remember how he got home but shivering with fear and dog tired, he lay back in an armchair. How many times are his troubles brought on by bloody women who want to take care of him and understand him. Karen Betts wanting him to have therapy when he was going through a rough patch which he just had to tough it through. Stewart getting all concerned and wondering if he was all right when he was alone in the Prison Officers room that night when he, when he.... when he... And now, the worst woman of all his life, one very dangerous fair haired bitch and physically attractive underneath the black gown of the judiciary and trying to do what a man should be doing, like Wade. He hated that most of all. Anyone who knew Jim Fenner well who wasn't taken in by him could see that he had always hated anyone looking at him and seeing through him and most frightening was a woman's ability to stare into his soul.
And all the time he failed to grasp that if he wasn't so scared deep down he could have been helped and healed.
Suddenly a blinding flash of hope came to him. Stubberfield will be on the stand tomorrow. He'll fix it for him. He'll look after him and swing that bloody jury for him. He'd phone him right now but it's a bit late. With that flicker of hope, he flopped into his bed to get his head down for the next day.
"Funny guy that was", said one drinker to another. "That bloke knocking back the booze looked as if there was something mentally wrong with him. The way he threw that glass just shows you there are some right head cases around. They should be locked up. Prison's the place for the likes of him, Maggie Thatcher was right years ago in saying that what criminals need are a short sharp shock. Then they won't want to commit the same crime again if they've once had a taste of prison." Then they returned to their workaday drinks washed down with their prejudices.
Nikki was glad that she had escorted Helen back home and she was safe and sound. Nikki was more worried about her as today's trial went on than when Helen had been on the witness stand herself. Helen lay back on the sofa and Nikki was only too happy to potter about and let Helen chill out with a glass of wine on the floor within hand's reach. This was taking more out of them both than she bargained for.
"You've told me many times of the shit you went through with Fenner, Helen darling. I've never really properly lived it till I heard that bastard Fenner mouth off at you." Every ugly word he spoke was as if he was ripping open old wounds on Helen's body that had never healed in front of her and she was helpless to heal them for her. If there was any strong drive in her personality above all else, it was being this healer for people. Holding tightly onto Helen's hand throughout the day was a very inadequate tenth best that she could do but she knew, knowing Helen it was felt by her as anything but a token gesture.
"You know Nikki that the sound of Fenner's voice brought everything back from Larkhall in one go. I could feel that." She shivered at the memory and in particular the full force of the hatred that spilled over from Fenner ,and the sidelong looks in her direction.
Nikki knew better than to even attempt to mention Fenner's sexual assault on her, crushing back the thought to make a feeble joke that she really would have smashed the milk bottle and stuck it in Fenner's neck if she had fully understood what had happened that night.
"Jo Mills was bloody good in putting Fenner on the spot. I thought I'd have long been shouting from the gallery and getting done for contempt of court but I never even thought of saying anything once she got going. Bet he's drowning his sorrows tonight."
Nikki smile and the way she could say the right thing at the right time brought a smile to Helen's face and immediately her body relaxed and settled more comfortably into the contours of the big all enveloping sofa.
"At least Fenner has had some of the justice long overdue coming to him To watch him being pinned down by Jo Mills who scared the hell out of him was one of my dreams in life coming true. As well as you being released from prison and the moment when I saw you run out of that club after me."
Nikki forgave the very smug expression on Helen's face as, could she really disagree with that one?
"I hope Karen is being looked after," Helen spoke thoughtfully. "You know, it's really strange as one time I thought of Karen as that bloody irritating woman who I could not make her see through Fenner for love nor money. I'd warned her what Fenner was like when I came back to Larkhall and had a drink with her and I thought she understood. Karen's bright enough. She'd once threatened me for harassing Fenner for Gods sake. Strange how times change. I like her a lot now and I felt so much for her pain. At least I've never had any illusions about the bastard like she did." And Helen's eyes were edged with tears.
"Come here", Nikki said gently and she cradled Helen in her arms.
"Yvonne'll look after her," Nikki spoke positively. "We were good mates when we were both at Larkhall and she'll call a spade a bloody shovel but she's strong for other people."
And the two of them were there as one joined in friendship and a common cause with Yvonne and Karen who were out there somewhere in the darkness of the world outside.
"Come on, we need a nightcap and we'll watch the fun as Jo puts Stubberfield through it. She'll take him to pieces."
And with that amusing thought, though that hadn't struck her before of Stubberfield getting his public comeuppance , Helen had wound down enough for them to grab some sleep and to be up bright and early the next day.
Once they are back at work and they get asked, did you enjoy your holidays, they'll think to themselves. some holiday and say polite nothings about having a nice time.
When Karen and Yvonne met up with Jo outside court, Jo said,
"Are you okay?" Karen grimaced.
"Everyone seems to be asking me that today. I have to say well done, to you. You really made him hammer the nails in his own coffin." Jo was touched.
"Well, let's not count our chickens just yet. But how're you holding up?" Yvonne saw the fight for emotional control in Karen's eyes. It also hadn't gone unnoticed by Jo.
"I'm sorry," Jo said quietly. "Sometimes that's the worst thing anyone can ask." To Karen's surprise, Yvonne asked,
"Would you like to join us for a large Scotch?" Karen couldn't believe that she was witnessing the infamous backbone of the Atkins empire offering a temporary truce with anyone in the business of upholding the law, no matter what the circumstances were. Jo smiled, clearly having some of the same thoughts.
"Thank you, but I've got some reading to do before tomorrow."
Karen and Yvonne made their way to a fairly quiet bar not far from the court.
"I bet this place does a roaring trade from the court," commented Karen ruefully. Yvonne returned with two large glasses of whisky. After taking a hefty swig, Karen said,
"Now will you tell me what all that was about with Maxi Purvis's knickers and that porn mag?" Yvonne grinned broadly but then turned serious.
"When you announced to all and sundry that you were going to marry Fenner, there was no way we could let you go through with it. You see, we all knew he was screwing Maxi." Karen held up a hand.
"Me, the two Julies, Crystal, Babs, you name it."
"Okay, but I take it you did actually find what you did in his locker."
"Oh yeah, all authentic. The Julies as cleaners had access to the locker room. I persuaded them to pick the lock on Fenner's locker and to see what they could find. Initially they were looking for anything tying him in with Virginia O'kane's murder, but when they found the knickers and the magazine, we decided to send them to you, so that you'd see what kind of a bastard Fenner really was before you did something as stupid as marrying him."
"What I don't understand is why?"
"Look," Said Yvonne lighting a cigarette. "You might have been a prison officer but you were still a woman, still in a way one of us." This touched Karen.
She'd never looked at the way women officers were treated in that way before. "I suspect that's got something to do with why Dockley stabbed him," Said Yvonne. Karen shook her head.
"I don't think so. Shell had told me things that she'd never told anyone. She hated the thought that I might have told Jim about what happened to her as a child. She thought he'd enjoy that kind of knowledge and hold it over her."
"Jesus," commented Yvonne blowing a smoke ring at the ceiling. "I'll say one thing for this trial, you couldn't have got a better barrister."
"Yeah, she's brilliant. It's odd but I really feel like she cares about the outcome of this case. It doesn't feel like she's just doing it because it's her job."
"I'd love to know exactly what her relationship is with the judge," Was Yvonne's response. Karen grinned.
"Yes, you're not the only one. There's definitely more than professional respect between those two. Helen and Nikki was another couple I wasn't aware of before this week either." Yvonne laughed.
"No, I guess you wouldn't have been."
"I take it you were?"
"Yeah. I think I was aware of that one more than they were some of the time."
"Are you telling me that started whilst Nikki was still inside?"
"Shit!" Muttered Yvonne.
"Oh, come on, Yvonne," Said Karen. "I'm hardly acting like your average prison employee at the moment, am I?"
"Well, just remember that Helen's probably the best witness this case has apart from you," Said Yvonne in a voice that Karen knew wasn't to be messed with. When she returned with refills, Karen said,
"So, fill me in on all the details I didn't know at the time. I'm intrigued to say the least."
"What do you know?" Asked Yvonne.
"Just that Nikki and Helen are now partners, and that they, for obvious reasons, avoided telling me that their relationship started before Nikki's appeal."
"I don't know everything about what happened," Continued Yvonne. "All I do know is that while Nikki was still a con, it was a very on and off thing. I don't think Helen could compromise both positions as acting number one and as Nikki's lover, partner, whatever you call it these days." To Karen's relief, she realised that Yvonne was as backward in lesbian politics as she was. "Babs is the best person to ask," Said Yvonne. "She knew everything there was to know."
"So why did Helen resign?"
"Fenner found some evidence that would have not only got Helen the sack but which could have wrecked Nikki's appeal."
"What kind of evidence?"
"From what Babs told me after Nikki got out, Fenner found some evidence that Nikki had got out for a night to see Helen, the night of Sylvia's party." Karen looked like a light had suddenly gone on in her head.
"So that's why Helen was so near to the prison when I phoned her after Shell stabbed Jim. She was on the way back with Nikki."
"Yeah. Nikki was a complete wreck for ages after that. A taste of the outside suddenly being snatched away from her was driving her mad."
"It's amazing to think of the amount of things that went on right under my nose, and probably still do," Said Karen slowly drifting in to more desolate thoughts.
"That's just part of prison," Said Yvonne trying to draw Karen out of the downward slope of depression.
"I just wish I'd known about what he was doing to Shell all those years, and then to Helen and probably to countless others."
"You can't blame yourself for what he did," Said Yvonne gently.
"Maybe not," conceded Karen. "But I can and should blame myself for not listening. Time and time again Helen tried to warn me off him, and not once did I take her seriously.
"And you don't think I made the same mistake with Charlie?" Said Yvonne. "Even after he'd been knocking off that tart Renee Williams, he tried to come back to me and I let him. All it took was for him to say he was sorry and me being a stupid cow, I believed him."
"At least you realised what he was up to before it was too late," Said Karen remembering how Yvonne had tried to stitch Charlie up at his trial.
"And that's what you're doing now," Said Yvonne.
"But if I'd opened my eyes sooner, Helen might not have had to go through what she did."
"And if I'd opened my eyes about Charlie sooner," went on Yvonne. "Lauren might not have had to live the life she has. Karen, if we continually beat ourselves up about what things we didn't do but should have, we'd never get anywhere. The important thing is that Fenner is now getting what's been coming to him for a long time. You have done everything you possibly can by standing up in court and telling a jury what that bastard did to you. You can't do any more than that."
"Why are you being so nice, Yvonne?" Yvonne's only response was to laugh.
"After I blacked your eye during my infamous escape attempt, I'm just surprised it's taken you so long to ask." Karen grinned sheepishly. "I know what it's like to trust somebody so much and to have them throw it back in your face," Yvonne said seriously. "At one time, I loved Charlie probably similar to how you once loved Fenner. Charlie betrayed what I felt for him, okay not in as bad a way as Fenner did with you, but still in a way that hurt me badly. I have absolutely no idea what you're going through as regards what Fenner actually did, but I do know how it feels to trust somebody that much and to have them break that trust."
"Thank you," Said Karen, meaning it. "I just hope the jury find him guilty because far too many people have got everything riding on this case. Not just me, but Helen, Shell and I think even Jo Mills."
The smug ample form of Mr. Stubberfield took his place next in the witness box. He looked a great deal more suntanned than Helen could remember and the very look of him spoke of retired prosperity. He wore a loud coloured shirt with his grey suit, which looked fresh from the cleaners. He had similar body language to Brian Cantwell each giving that impression of overflowing his personal space and a lifetime of being listened to. Helen's grip tightened on the rail round the gallery.
"Can I ask you, Mr. Stubberfield , what is your present status?"
"Your honour, I have the honour of being Chairman of the local School of Governors and I am also the local Conservative Councilor for Larkhall." Stubberfield's voice rolled out like treacle.
Poor bloody kids, thought Yvonne. Glad my kids have left school now.
"And did you used to work at Larkhall and can you explain in what capacity?" Brian Cantwell asked, getting into gear.
"I have had the honour, your worship, of being the Number One Governor for ten years up till before Jim's unhappy incident. This means that I was the manager and in overall charge of the prison. I was superior to, and above the Governors responsible for each Wing, I was so to speak, the man with his hand on the tiller." Stubberfield's pompous tones emphasised the word 'I' and irritated the jury.
Is it possible, John Deed wondered, that Brian Cantwell's spiritual long lost twin brother has taken shape in this man? No wonder there are periodic crises in prisons if this is the sort of windbag in charge. He would get on with Sir Ian Rochester come to think of it, they probably both go to the same clubs. He had problems at time in keeping his face impassive but he could see Helen Stewart getting visibly angry even at that distance.
"And how long have you known the defendant, James Fenner?"
"Extremely well indeed. I first knew him as a rising young recently promoted Senior Officer and was one of the officers I managed through the Wing Governor of the time. I came into frequent contact with him over the years with matters he brought to his attention. There was an open door to my room."
"And was that the extent of your contact with him?"
"I played golf with him on a periodic basis and know his wife well."
"What is your assessment of the defendant, as prison officer and the man?"
"I found him to be totally sound in every way. He had a rapport with the prisoners, at least the better elements of one. He has a wife from whom, regrettably he has separated, and two fine children. He is first rate in a crisis and all the prison officers look up to him. He has worked for me without a stain on his character. The current allegations against him are quite out of character from my long experience of him." At that point Stubberfield was glancing at his watch.
"And if there were anything untoward in his behaviour, would you have heard about it."
"Most certainly," Stubberfield's voice replied with certainty and precision. "If there was anything wrong, I would hear about it in an instant. Matters like the present allegations against Jim would come very quickly to my ears."
At that point Simon Stubberfield turned to leave but the voice of John Deed stopped him.
"You are not free to go yet because I am sure the council for the prosecution will have some questions to ask you." John Deed looked sternly and contemptuously down at the fool in front of him who must surely have a better idea of court routine than he was displaying.
"If you excuse me, my lord, I have a most important council meeting to attend. I had thought that the hearing would not take as long as this." The man started to get increasingly flustered to Helen's delight. And this man was the one who belittled her when she was an inexperienced Wing Governor.
"If this is a request for the court hearing to be adjourned, Mr. Cantwell, and for us to be kept waiting till your council's weighty and no doubt interminable deliberations are concluded, I am refusing it outright. Does your witness. Mr. Cantwell, appreciate that he may be subpoenaed to attend and run the risk that some young journalist from the local rag be presented with the scoop of a lifetime?" John Deed thundered.
"Helen," Nikki whispered. "You are not allowed to laugh in court. Everyone knows what your laugh is like. You'll get us thrown out and maybe locked in a cell together." Yvonne nudged Karen in the ribs who for the first time for ages found something to smile about.
Mr. Stubberfield looked round with incredulity to realise that he had to conform to someone else's timetable after a lifetime of expectations that others conformed to him. Mr. Cantwell offered to transmit a message via one of the ushers for a mobile phone call to be made to his friend. He turned to face Jo Mills who stood up with a determined look on her face and his eyes flicked to Helen Stewart's broadly grinning face in the background.
"Mr. Stubberfield, you have given ample testimony of your evident closeness and open door' policy to Jim Fenner who I understand was a Principal Officer, not Wing Governor in the time you were in charge. Did this closeness apply to other officers who were your immediate subordinates, the Wing Governors and in particular Helen Stewart."
Stubberfield flinched at the force with which the questions were directed at him and, a rare time in his life, having his conduct questioned at all. He had wiped from his memory the nightmarish time the Area investigators raked pitilessly over the conduct of his supervision of the Kicking Productions TV team at the time Shell Dockley escaped which caused his early retirement.
"My door was always open to any member of staff who wanted to see me," lied Stubberfield to Helen's fury.
"But is it not true that your door was more open to some than others, like Jim for instance?" Jo pursued, the bit between her teeth. "Were there any occasions that Jim Fenner talked to you behind Helen Stewart's back."
"I could not stop my staff from coming to me with any problems," Stubberfield said starting to get flummoxed.
"Let us put it another way, Mr. Stubberfield. What were the relations like between you, Helen Stewart and Jim Fenner?"
Stubberfield had to admit that there were constant arguments between Helen Stewart and Jim Fenner and Jim used to come to him with complaints about Helen Stewart. He of course got on like a house on fire with Jim Fenner.
"And what about your relationship with Helen Stewart?" Jo Mills pulled up Stubberfield as she could see him trying to slide out of that one.
"Erm, she was young and enthusiastic, an innovator and speaks her mind but didn't take into account the views of more experienced subordinates.."
"I did not ask for you to rehash Helen Stewart's last annual report, Mr. Stubberfield." Jo Mills asked and her blue eyes nailed him to the spot, much to Helen's delight. "I asked you how you got on with her or not as the case may be." Jo spoke the last sentence slowly and clearly as if to an idiot or as a non-English speaker is often addressed.
"We had frequent clashes as we disagreed about the way she saw her job I thought she was headstrong and opinionated," Stubberfield said with a flash of irritation.
Jo Mills strode slowly from her accustomed position to take up a position more centre stage and to let Stubberfield's words hang in the air in front of the jury.
"So how did you try to resolve these difficulties ?" Jo asked eventually. "I won't ask you if you talked to Helen Stewart for her side of any disagreements as instead I put it to you that you consciously and consistently undermined Helen Stewart's position in favour of Jim Fenner on each occasion? Is that not so, Mr. Stubberfield?"
Stubberfield was becoming increasingly rattled by Jo Mills deadly focussed series of questions that, bit by bit, were undermining his credibility as an impartial witness. Her constant repetition of "Jim" taking up his most natural form of address was unsettling him. He really didn't like strong women in the professions having been used to his wife cleaning the house, doing the domestic duties and going to bridge club with her friends.
Helen Stewart looked on with grim satisfaction riveted to her seat Nikki holding her hand in sympathy. The hurt and pain of justice denied to her all those months ago was transformed into the unbelievable feeling where there are no words in the English Language to describe the sense of long overdue justice being repaid. Her heart went out to Jo whose voice was the umbilical chord that ran to her thoughts and feelings . She was so used to fighting her own battles and speaking her voice but there was no need to.
"I understand that Karen Betts and the defendant had had a brief association even before Karen Betts arrived at Larkhall prison. Were you aware of that?"
Jo Mills asked in a deceptively casual tone.
"I understand that to be so, your worship." Stubberfield replied in lowered tones.
"Did Karen Betts inform you of this and when," Jo Mills asked?
"As soon as she started work at Larkhall Prison. She said it was a one night stand and nothing more."
"And did the defendant likewise inform you separately and in what circumstances?" Jo enquired with almost theatrical casualness, propping her elbow up against the bar.
Stubberfield looked round like a hunted animal that had just walked into a trap and the door was clicked shut. Now he could see the direction where the questions were leading.
The row of four women looked down from the gallery with a mixture of pity and contempt. Each of them from different backgrounds could see and admire the skill with which Stubberfield had been manoeuvred into the trap. And this guy used to run the prison, Nikki and Yvonne's minds were working. You might well ask, came the Helen and Karen chorus thought.
Stammering all the way, Stubberfield sheepishly admitted that while they were on the thirteenth hole, Jim Fenner (he couldn't help himself) told him that Karen had 'come onto him' that week and he was bloody glad to get back to his wife and that's probably why Karen at that stage 'had it in for him' and that it was some time after Karen Betts started work for him.
"Exactly how long was it?" Jo Mills asked seeing Stubberfield's self importance deflate like a balloon into which a sharp point had been jabbed.
"Two months," Stubberfield mumbled.
"For the benefit of the jury, can you repeat your last statement", upon which John Deed smiled at Jo Mills apparent hearing loss.
"I shall pass over your less than perfect knowledge of the defendant in a part of his life that has a bearing on the case and the defendant's strange reticence and ask you a final question." Jo Mills closed for the kill. "Why did Helen Stewart resign as wing governor?"
Stubberfield's mind went blank as his reasoning ability shut down altogether. He explained that it was something about Jim being accused of assaulting a prisoner whose name he had forgotten. He wanted to let Jim Fenner carry on in his job while we had some sort of internal inquiry and Helen Stewart wanted Jim Fenner suspended while the inquiry went on. It all blew up from then and Helen Stewart just upped and left. Anyway the prisoner withdrew her complaints. It was a long time ago and he couldn't remember the details. It was all such a long time ago.
"You can't remember much where it matters, Mr. Stubberfield." Jo Mills observed dryly with a sharp glance in the direction of the jury.
Brian Cantwell waived the right to reexamine Mr. Stubberfield and let the value of the witness have a decent quiet burial. Fenner's hopes for salvation were buried in that coffin from the expression on his face.
When John Deed adjourned the trial, Stubberfield scuttled out of the court as fast as his legs could take him to his meeting where he could hold forth to a more appreciative audience. If there had been an advert for the Council meeting as open to the public, there would have been no takers from the court.
On the Wednesday afternoon when Mrs. Marilyn Fenner was sworn in, there was a few cursory glances sent her way from the public gallery. All four of the women up there were intrigued to see what evidence she would give. They all knew that Fenner had broken up with his wife around the time of the stabbing, but none of them knew the precise ins and outs of it.
"Mrs. Fenner," Began Cantwell, his level of obsequiousness on overload. "How long did your marriage to Jim Fenner last?"
"Nearly fifteen years."
"And was he always a good husband and father?"
"Yes, he's always loved his children."
"And does he still spend a large amount of time with his children even though you are divorced?"
"Yes, he tries to spend all the time possible with our children, though a job in the prison service doesn't allow for as much free time as any parent would like."
"What were your thoughts on him pursuing a relationship with Ms Karen Betts?"
"We all move on. I couldn't expect him never to get together with someone else, that wouldn't have been realistic, would it."
"And has Jim's conduct to you and the children ever been in any way threatening?" Marilyn hesitated, but only slightly.
"No, never. Our relationship may have deteriorated, but the crime he is accused of is simply ludicrous. Jim would never do that to anybody."
As Jo moved forward to cross-examine Marilyn, she marveled that any woman could for fifteen years remain married to such an individual and even more to bare him children.
"Mrs. Fenner, why did you break off your marriage?"
"Well, I think we just got bored of each other. It's not exactly uncommon, is it?"
"I'm not talking about the general population, Mrs. Fenner, I'm talking about you specifically. What was the one thing that made you leave your husband?"
"There wasn't one particular thing."
"Oh, I think there was," Stated Jo confidently. "Didn't you receive some anonymous phone calls? Phone calls from a woman claiming that your husband was having a relationship with a Miss Michelle Dockley?"
"Yes," Came the timid reply.
"I'm sorry," Said Jo again wanting to draw out the answer. "Could you repeat that?"
"Yes, I did receive some phone calls from that girl Dockley. She told me all about what her and him," here she gestured at Fenner's stony face in the dock, "Used to do together. One time she even left the phone on in the cell so I could hear them at it." Pure, hateful venom issued from this woman's eyes.
"Poor cow," Muttered Yvonne.
"And on the night Mr. Fenner was stabbed," Jo went on. "Weren't you heard to say "It's her isn't it, it's that Dockley?" Before Marilyn could answer, John said warningly,
"You are treading a very thin line, Mrs. Mills."
"I am aware of that, My Lord," Said Jo, clearly seeing just how much she could get away with. She had realised earlier that whilst talking about Shell's direct involvement with Fenner's stabbing was sub Judice, using another person's opinion on this fact was technically admissible.
"Yes, I did say that," Said Marilyn quietly.
"So, to make this perfectly clear for the jury," Said Jo, knowing she needed to do no such thing. "You were directly aware of your husband's sexual involvement with a female inmate of Larkhall prison, his place of work."
"No more questions, My lord."
"Do you have any more witnesses Mr. Cantwell?" John asked.
"Just one, My lord. But he hasn't been asked to appear till tomorrow."
"Court is adjourned till tomorrow morning then."
As the court rose and Deed left through the door behind the Judge's bench, Nikki murmured to Helen,
"That was the day you got me dragged round the country in a cattle truck, wasn't it?"
"Yes. That was why he beat up Shell," Was Helen's reply. Nikki leaned closer to Yvonne.
"Fenner came in to my cell, saying I'd got a phone stashed somewhere. He thought it was me telling his wife about him and Dockley. He got me taken down the block because I blacked Dominic's eye for trying to help him search my cell." Yvonne put the pieces of the jigsaw together.
"So, when Fenner found out you'd been shipped out, he realised it couldn't have been you and that it must have been Dockley?"
"Yeah. It's weird looking back on stuff and finally knowing all the facts."
"He's not going to thank her for adding more fuel to the fire," Said Nikki.
"I always wondered why she'd known it was Shell who'd stabbed him," Remarked Karen. "Like you said Nikki, odd the things you find out after the fact."
"So who's Fenner's last witness?" Asked Yvonne.
"Mark," Said Karen quietly. Yvonne gaped at her.
"What? Mark, as in Mark Waddle?"
"I know, I know," Said Karen. "Unbelievable, isn't it."
"What the bloody hell is he doing testifying for Fenner?" Asked Yvonne in disgust.
"His solicitor got him subpoenaed before mine could," Said Karen matter-of-factly.
"Let's just hope Jo can do her stuff," Said Yvonne, slightly feeling that the justice system was trying to pull a fast one on them.
Since the trial started, John Deed had seen each witness standing in the dock, attracting a different unspoken response and had conducted himself or herself as true to character. This was not the 'return to childhood' and safety of stock characters out of a pantomime, this was played out on a lot deadlier level.
A snatch of an old song thought for the spectators in the gallery ran through John Deed's mind 'Anyway now, any day now I shall be released' which was surely written and sung, post dated, for the brave women in the gallery, for Jo, even for himself and even for Shell Dockley, damaged human being though she was, back behind prison bars. And the release wasn't just from jail, but a release from injustices never brought to account and the blocked emotions that go with them. A fanciful thought John Deed said to himself as he brought his mind back, sharp focus onto the proceedings of the day.
When Mark Waddle took the stand, he had the manner of a hunted animal despite his smart suit, and the nervousness of his manner was obvious to all. He avoided the hurt expression on Karen's face and looked resolutely away from Fenner who, for the first time was smiling with the expression that would have incited the most meek and mild pacifist to hurl a brick at him. Looking back afterwards, the four strong women in the gallery wondered how they, of all people, kept their cool. Mark's eyes flicked to the gentle eyes of Jo Mills beseeching her not to condemn him with even a look. He saw Brian Cantwell smiling with satisfaction and thought, what am I doing here in the wrong place and playing the wrong part?
Brian Cantwell's smile was restored to his face after so many of his tactics had misfired. Surely someone like Mark Waddle who was so close to Karen at one time had to tell the truth even if the truth may damage her case
"Mr Waddle, I would like you to recall exactly and truthfully, the events surrounding what happened on the date of April 30th." Brian Cantwell's smooth voice rolled out over the courtroom. "How long had you worked on G wing at Larkhall up to the night in question and in what capacity."
"About six months." Mark mumbled.
"And what was the nature of your relationship with Karen Betts and the defendant."
"In what way," Mark asked. "Do you mean professional relationship or what?" Mark's mind had gone blank at this point.
"I mean professional and personal, of course." Brian Cantwell retorted with irritation in his voice while Jo Mills hid her smile unsuccessfully behind her hand.
"Karen Betts and Jim Fenner were both my senior officers, though at different times they were Wing Governor. Personal ..well I was on friendly terms with Karen and after she had broken up with Jim Fenner, I started going out with her. Jim Fenner, I was on reasonable terms with until I started going out with Karen. After that, I fell out with him."
"And what did you fall out over, Mr Waddle, might I ask?"
"It's difficult." Mark had a dazed expression on his face while he tried to collect his thoughts."Basically over Karen. He resented the fact that I had moved in as he thought on his territory. He was constantly telling me that a relationship between colleagues is bad for discipline when he was really jealous that we were getting on when he had blown it with Karen."
"Was Mr Fenner's behaviour that of a man still in love with his one time partner, wouldn't you say?" Mr Cantwell's droning tone tried to pin Mark down.
"Objection, my lord. Mark Waddle should not be put in the position of making suppositions about events of the defendant's one time relationship with Karen Betts which, for understandable reasons, he would not have directly observed".Jo Mills asked in a softer tone than she usually employed glancing in his direction.
"I rule that out of order. Mr Cantwell, for the reasons given." John Deed's voice, once again, fenced Brian Cantwell in.
"Let me put it another way, Mr Waddle, what possible reason, knowing the defendant as you do, can you think of as to why would he have reacted in the way he did?"
Mark suddenly looked away from Brian Cantwell who was crowding him for all he was worth and took a deep breath. The thought flashed in his mind that he could play for time and he looked at Karen and the pity in her eyes gave him access to a flash of spirit.
"Like a dog that had had its bone taken away from him. If he was going to be miserable then he'd make sure that everyone else would be too. It wasn't out of love for Karen."
The plainspoken manner of Mark's reply and the spirit behind it raised smiles round the court, not least from the gallery. This is interesting, Yvonne thought.
"I am asking you now, Mr Waddle," Brian Cantwell was roused to real anger now. "to describe the events of April 30th in so far as it relates to Miss Betts and the defendant."
Mark retold the events of the day, that Fenner had had trouble with the inmates and that he was working on a late shift and he had not seen Karen that night.
"And what about the events of the next day. When did Karen Betts tell you of the events of April 30th, what did she say and what was your reaction. I must remind you you are under oath."
The steel teeth in that question started to unnerve Mark. He had never enjoyed experience giving evidence in a witness box and this was on matters that he wasn't personally involved with.
"Karen took me on one side at first break saying she wanted to talk quietly. I could see she was really upset, more than I could ever imagine her being .."
"Come to the point, Mr Waddle " Brian Cantwell butted in at which point John Deed mentally noted that, one more time and he would take Brian Cantwell to task yet again.
"Karen told me that she had gone round to Fenner's place last night and was sexually assaulted."
"And what was your reaction, Mr Waddle?"
"I was just horrified, I felt sorry for her like anyone would. I wanted to comfort her"
"And when and how did Miss Betts explain that she had got into bed with the defendant."
Brian Cantwell said relishing every moment of it.
"She explained that she felt sorry for him, but that Mr Fenner kept pouring her drinks. She said that she should have never let things get that far. I couldn't understand that one, my mind just sort of froze. She explained that they kissed and that they got into bed." Mark's voice slowed temporarily to a stop and looked wildly around him, the gallery mercifully going out of focus.
"Pray continue, Mr Waddle."
"I could tell she was embarrassed about the whole thing but she said that she told Fenner no, that she didn't want it."
"And what was your reaction."
The sweat was pouring down Mark's face, his voice started to go and he was propping himself up with his hands gripping tightly onto the rail round the witness box as his only friend. He felt that all the other friends in the witness box he was cruelly betraying and hating every minute of it and himself also.
"My lord, I think the witness needs a glass of water." Jo Mills broke in. She was genuinely afraid for him with the stress he must be under and wondered why didn't Brian Cantwell whose mentality was that of the red coated fox hunting squire out for the kill be unable by blood lust to be sidetracked by the human misery before his eyes.
"What did you say, what did you feel, Mr Waddle. Come on, you must have said something." yelled Brian Cantwell.
"That is enough, Brian Cantwell. Your behaviour is outrageous towards someone who is supposed to be a witness in your case. I won't tolerate this sort of behaviour in a court of law and you risk a formal complaint to the Law Society for your lack of professional standards. Now, in your own time, Mr Waddle."
" I said that she got pissed and she got randy, God help me. She kept telling me she said no." The words left Mark Waddle's lips as if they were extracted by torture with one more ratchet turn of the rack.
"Can you repeat the last statement, Mr Waddle." Brian Cantwell asked in evident amusement.
"No, Mr Waddle does not have to repeat it. I think everyone inside and outside the court room will have heard perfectly well." John Deed glared down at the man who was hated as much as Mark Waddle was pitied despite the dreadful damage his testimony had appeared to do to Karen's case.
When Jo moved forward to begin cross-examining Mark, she gave him a brief smile to show that she wasn't about to crucify him.
"Mr. Waddle, could you tell the court about your working relationship with Karen Betts?"
"What do you want to know."
"Well, did you always find Karen to be an officer who was fair and honest in her dealings with the inmates and the other officers?"
"Yes. It was always a pleasure to work with Karen. She is always professional, someone who always does her job to the best of her ability." In the public gallery, Karen blushed at Mark's words.
"And did Karen Betts ever let her personal relationship with you interfere with the professional one?"
"No, like I said, Karen takes her job seriously. She wouldn't let anything like a personal relationship with a colleague influence any decision she made with regards to her work." Brian Cantwell was quietly seething. He couldn't believe what he'd thought to be his star witness was doing to the case! Mark Waddle was acting as if he were a witness for the prosecution. He thought it might be time to raise an objection.
"My Lord," Cantwell said stepping forward. "I believe that my witness may be allowing his previous relationship with the complainant to influence his evidence."
Deed partly agreed with him but he could also tell that everything Mark was saying was true.
"Sit down, Mr. Cantwell. You have absolutely no grounds to make such an unsupportable assertion."
Cantwell hated Deed with every fibre of his being at that moment. He just hoped that the people from the Lord Chancellor's department who were also in the gallery would be witnessing this and would henceforth take Deed down off his far too high pedestal
"Now, with your experience of Karen Betts, both as a fellow officer and as a lover, do you think she would ever fabricate such an allegation as this one?"
"No." There was no hesitation behind that word whatsoever. "I know I didn't believe her at first," He continued. "But that was because I didn't want to believe that such a horrible thing had happened to my Karen. Jim Fenner has absolutely no respect for women. He uses them and then discards them like chocolate rappers. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that he did this to her. I just hope he gets what he deserves."
"And, could you tell the jury if, at any time after the alleged assault, Mr. Fenner spoke to you about it?"
"Clever," murmured Yvonne to Karen.
"Yes, he did," Said Mark. "He kept rubbing the fact that he'd slept with her in my face. He really enjoyed pointing out to me that he'd had her whilst she was going out with me."
"What changed your mind, and made you believe that Karen had been raped by James Fenner?"
"I've never seen Karen that disturbed by anything. The slightest little thing made her cry. She started smoking again. I could tell she was scared of him."
"And why was this so different from her usual behaviour?"
"Karen's always so together, so controlled."
"Not anymore," muttered Karen to Yvonne, who gave her a small smile. Mark continued.
"It's just, Karen would usually be able to shut out any hint of her private life when it came to her job. But after what Fenner did, she found it really difficult to hold everything together."
"And finally, Mr. Waddle, what would you consider to be a satisfactory outcome of this trial?" Mark looked Jo straight in the eye.
"Fenner deserves to spend a very long time behind bars. He hurt Karen in the worst way possible, and no decent man or woman could possibly think otherwise."
"No further questions, My Lord."
When Mark had stood down, Deed looked over at the defense bench.
"Does that conclude your case,Mr. Cantwell?" Brian Cantwell's face looked devoid of emotions. He could see his case crumbling before his very eyes. He just hoped that Sir Ian Rochester and Lawrence James would be able to get a word in before Deed passed sentence.
"Yes, My Lord," Was Cantwell's only response. Deed took a deep breath.
"We'll hear the closing speeches after lunch. Court is adjourned until two o'clock." As everyone moved out of the courtroom, Karen made a decision. She had to speak to Mark. She couldn't possibly let him go without acknowledging what he'd done for her.
As the crowd of people funnelled their way out of the courtroom, everyone stood back to let aside Fenner as, with a face like thunder, he stormed out of the courtroom. Even Mark Waddle had seen a glimpse of the slow cruel smile on his face when Mark had been forced to speak words which he had, in his mind, taken back tenfold but that Fenner's sharp ears had overheard at the time. The court ushers treated him as someone not to get too close as if otherwise, they would contract some deadly contagious disease. On the other hand as Mark made his way out of the door he was overflowing with a feeling of sheer relief that he had "come good" for Karen. Mark heard the rustle of "well dones" and the smiles not least from the normally impassive court ushers. The glare he got from Brian Cantwell was something of a compliment. The shackle binding him to the man was broken off now his testimony was done and now he was as free as Fenner's trial outcome let him be.
Mark hurried his pace and was just in time to catch Karen as she clattered down the base wooden steps to the gallery.
"Hey Karen, I hope you don't mind if I have a chance to talk to you over lunch"
He needs to ask, Karen's eyes melted at him before she said many times over that she was hanging around to meet him for just that reason. The smiles from the others clearly indicated that they knew they had some catching up to do.
"Hey, Mark," Nikki called. "We hope you're going to join us for the ringside seat in the gallery and aren't going to disappear for the rest of the day."
The way Nikki's cordial tones greeted and included him swept aside any remaining fears as to where he stood in their eyes.
"Give Karen and me time to kiss and make up over lunch and we'll be there." he said back to being his relaxed and friendly self.
The others made their way to the usual pub round the corner which was part of a routine that was becoming ingrained in their lives. Karen slipped her arm in Mark's and they found a small wine bar with a discreet room upstairs where they could talk properly without the lunchtime row going on.
"Karen, I have to explain how in hell I ended up in court, testifying against you. I know we haven't got much time," Mark said looking at his watch, talking very rapidly and taking in Karen's nod and smile at being addressed as 'we.' "So I'll make it quick. You know I shot out of Larkhall like a bat out of hell on transfer."
"And looking back on how I was and how you were, I wouldn't blame you." Karen cut in looking straight at Mark.
"Well, I spent months stewing and being all over the place about you. Then one day, out of the blue, I received a letter asking me if I'd be a witness in this trial. I wasn't in my right mind when I signed the bloody thing and put it in the letterbox without thinking. It wasn't till I received a stream of letters after that that I realised what a nightmare I'd let myself in for. That bastard of a solicitor didn't help either." Mark rattled his way through the nightmare he lived, having to be all pally with Fenner who he knew that however bad he'd felt about Karen, he had hated Fenner's guts as he had hated nobody before him. He'd had one nightmare of an evening 'going out with the lads', his drunken friends who formed a fan club around him only as he was nastier than them all and was pushier than them all.
"Can you forgive me for all I've done these last few months, Karen?" and his eyes looked in Karen's. He had laid himself totally on the line where nothing but total honesty would suit and, in doing so, she knew everything that he hoped against hope she'd forgive.
Karen thought instinctively that the only possible thing she could do was to give him the biggest most passionate kiss she could give, and for ages they sat at their table with their arms wound round each other.
"I was sat in the gallery watching the one decent guy stand in a witness box get verbally crucified by the most evil barrister I've seen in my life." Karen whispered clearly into Marks ear emphasising this by every subtle squeeze of her arms "and only because you were tortured into telling the truth. I know you, Mark Waddle, you could have damned me to hell or try to lie your way out of it but you didn't. And then, right at the end, you said things about me straight from the heart and straight from the head. It's worth a million times more than all the smooth talk I've ever had and in the worst possible situation. I'm asking you to forgive the hard time I gave you after that night. I feared I'd never see you again and I wouldn't blame you . All I ask is that we start again, if you want to."
Karen backed away a little and Mark was confused and gratified to see the same look in her eyes that he felt. They realised that they had both crossed that bridge which took as much nerve and blind faith as anything they'd done in their lives. After one impossible thing, standing in the witness box they'd dared to do an equally impossible thing.
"Shit, court's starting in five minutes time. Christ, we can't be late."
And they hurried down the stairs and rushed through the crowds who seemed to have bunched up at the worst possible time. With a minute to spare, they clattered their way across the tiled floor and up the staircase.
"Bird's eye view from here, Mark. You two take a seat with us," Helen called out.
The perspective of the courtroom looked strange to Mark as he took in John Deed already seated below him after seeing him on high. The principle players in the drama were in their seats and Mark stole a glance at Fenner who glared back at him.
"Jo Mills is doing her summing up speech for the prosecution." Karen said. And they became keyed up as Jo was rolling one more throw of the dice as she moved to the position in the courtroom that was habitual to her.
After the lunchtime recess, court resumed for the closing speeches. Jo couldn't believe they'd been going at this trial for a week now. Last Thursday morning they'd started this acting of roles and saying of lines. At times it had almost been more theatre worthy than any production of Macbeth or Othello. Jim Fenner had played the part of the evil and traitorous Iago to perfection but who had been Desdemona. Was it Karen, the tragic heroine? Helen who had been brave and strong to the end? Or Shell, for whom there would likely never again be any chance of freedom or anything resembling a normal life. Jo moved forward to address those twelve men and women from all walks of life who were there to decide the fate of Jim Fenner as well as that of all his victims.
"Members of the jury, you have heard testimony from three women who have suffered directly at the hands of James Fenner. You have heard from Helen Stewart, a former work colleague of James Fenner. She told you of his constant undermining of her professional status first as a wing governor and then as the head of the lifers' unit. James Fenner clearly resented Helen Stewart's professional success. You are all witnesses to the fact that Helen Stewart is clearly a competent and well-balanced woman who would never fabricate what James Fenner did to her. You have heard her describe the callous and violent way in which he sexually assaulted her. You have also heard testimony from a very young and vulnerable woman, Michelle Dockley, who told you of James Fenner's persistent sexual advances and relationship with her whilst she was an inmate in his care at HMP Larkhall. You can clearly ascertain from this evidence that Mr. Fenner delighted in taking advantage of the vulnerable women whom he was there to take charge of and to assist towards rehabilitation. That such crimes could and clearly have taken place is, however, only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I have presented before you irrefutable evidence that James Fenner did, on the night of the 30th of April last year, rape his colleague and former lover, Karen Betts. There should no longer be any doubt in your minds that this act of pure horror did take place. I have brought before you not only the policewoman who took Karen Betts original statement and who believed her allegations without question, but I have also asked Karen Betts herself to tell you of the crime she suffered on that fateful evening. Karen Betts has stood before you and described to you how she went to visit James Fenner because she was concerned about his well-being after a particularly harrowing day at work. She stood in the witness box and told you of her very natural response to a former lover's distress which involved her putting her arms round him. Karen Betts put herself through the utter torment of telling an entire court of how James Fenner, during her repeated pleas for him to stop, held her down and forced himself inside her. As you witnessed, this was not an easy thing for Karen Betts to tell you. I openly admire the courage it has taken for Karen Betts to stand up in front of a large number of people, many of them her former colleagues, and to describe to you one of the most horrific yet one of the most personal events of her life. At no time whatsoever has Karen Betts told this court an untruth. Every word she has said to you concerning the defendant is totally and utterly true. I ask you, members of the jury, to think back on all you have heard. I ask you to consider the clear, unequivocal facts that have been laid before you and to find the defendant, James Fenner, guilty of the crime with which he is charged."
As Jo went to sit down at the prosecution bench, Yvonne turned to look at Karen, who was staring at Jo, clearly gob smacked
"They can't not listen to her," She said to Karen. Karen seemed to come back to the land of the living.
"Yes," She said surprised. "I just hope they listen to her and not to that pathetic little imbecile representing Jim." Sir Ian Rochester, sitting a couple of rows behind Karen and her group of supporters, nevertheless heard her description of Brian Cantwell and privately agreed with her. Cantwell had loused up this case good and proper. Sir Ian would see that he didn't become a judge for a very long time to come.
Brian Cantwell rose to his feet; inwardly nervous as he could see the sharp eyes of Sir Ian and Lawrence James focussed upon him. He had come a long way up the slippery ladder towards becoming a judge. He was proud of the connections he had built up to those who are in a position to bestow favours. He was accustomed to go to social gatherings where, with glasses of rare wine in their hands, the group opened up to admit him to the circle of conversation. A spasm of fear ran through him at the thought that all the people whose smiles had been bestowed him up till now would be replaced by the cold shoulder and being studiously excluded from the conversation of the moment. He had tried every trick in the book and every time it had misfired, thanks to the witnesses and Jo Mills who looked cool and calm while he was now run ragged. That seesawing between inner fear and frustration gave him fresh access to anger and the final attempt to bluster his way through.
"My lord, members of the jury, I ask you, I entreat you to focus your mind on some simple points that have emerged during the cross examination. That is, that the defendant James Fenner has been the victim of systematic prejudice and emnity which I put to you has inevitably distorted the accuracy of recall of the facts of the matter by these witnesses. There is, for a start, clear evidence of a long standing resentment by Helen Stewart of the defendant and the events she describes are a separable matter. The defendant is not on trial for that."
Helen smiled that she was singled out first, as top of Fenner's 'hate list', a worthy compliment.
Brian Cantwell paused a moment in his delivery as he collected his thoughts and time seemed to stand still as the drama unfolded. The forensic skill in applying himself to whichever side of the case he was hired to pursue was second nature but a sudden flash of disbelief in his client and that perhaps what he was doing in defending his client was fraudulent, as was Mr Fenner , and with deadly logic, so was he. This temporarily sealed his tongue while the second hand of the old fashioned clock on the wall ticked its way through suspended time. "Come on you fool," Sir Ian silently mouthed, "what's stopping you?"
"We have the testimony of Michelle Dockley who testifies that she did not make malicious phone calls to the defendant's wife on the one hand and on the other hand, we have direct testimony from Mrs Fenner that it was indeed, Michelle Dockley who made the phone calls to her. And while this court is not here to try Michelle Dockley for the stabbing of the defendant, that she will stand trial for, and her attitude to the defendant should not be overlooked. I ask you to dismiss statements concerning his behaviour towards Rachel Hicks hearsay evidence without any substance as the one person capable of giving evidence, besides the witness, is dead."
There was an audible gasp that travelled round the court as Brian Cantwell, carried away by the flight of oratorical logic jarringly miscalculated the tone of the proceedings. Ultimately, twelve men and women, though bound to consider the voluminous and conflicting evidence that had been put before them were of the community which Brian Cantwell was not. They visibly winced at the callous way Brian Cantwell landed with both feet, verbally speaking on the word 'dead.'
Nikki alone realised that that was the ploy a similar barrister had used to discredit the evidence of the brave ex policewoman who had testified in her appeal trial hearing in the same way Helen had done for Karen. She turned white when those words from years back jumped back into her mind and hearing.
"Can I have some hush and let Mr Cantwell continue." John Deed's voice, somehow emotionless despite himself, cut through the sounds which though soft, echoed round the court room.
"In contrast, I would impress on you the testimony of Mr Stubberfield who, as his former boss, knew him professionally over a great many years as to be someone of good character in the same way as Mrs Fenner, his wife, who knew him to be a good father and family man. The evidence of these two people must be given their due weight. I also would like to point out that Karen Betts's most recent superior, Neil Grayling, though apparently a witness for the prosecution testified that he did not think that the defendant would commit the crime he is accused of. Finally I come to deal with the evidence of Karen Betts who clearly resented how she had been passed over by the defendant whatever she might say about her so called concern about the defendant. There is a clear conflict in evidence between what the defendant says about the night of the incident and, to secure a conviction, it is not enough that that is more probable that Karen Betts version is the correct version than the defendant. To find the defendant guilty, Karen Betts version of the events has to be found to be the case 'beyond reasonable doubt.'
Brian Cantwell finished his speech that this concludes the case for the defence at which point John Deed with the same dispassionate tone that he had tried to maintain adjourned the hearing till the next day.
Mark was whisked by the others down the staircase where he was naturally assumed to be 'part of the gang' for a 'girls night out' down to the pub that was their regular for the trial. It all seemed strange to him as he was used to 'lads night out' and not to be the token guy. Still, it felt better straightaway than that dreadful night he had with Fenner and his sycophants. When he thought about it, company with four attractive lively women seemed to be not such a bad deal.
"He was always the decent guy around, apart from Dominic." joked Yvonne.
"I can only remember Mark briefly in my time and, from what I saw and heard today, yes, my principles allow me to go along with that one," Nikki said with a hint of a smile and a twinkle in her eye which totally went over Mark's head.
A bemused Mark asked what Nikki was getting at and, even with her hand firmly holding Helen's, didn't get the point till Helen told him.
"Oh" was all he could get out. Then he stumbled his way into saying that he supposed that they were all on the same side anyway or that's how he felt.
They were chipping into a kitty for rounds and this he understood and shouting out for a pint of lager and lime while Helen threaded her way through the crowds, relaxed a bit with Karen looking at him admiringly and Nikki and Yvonne who were witty and good company started to relax him
"You're one of the gang now, Mark." Yvonne said seriously looking at him with that direct gaze that gutroot instinct made him trust in. "We've got used to trusting each other all this time and supporting each other through thick and thin. Somehow being on the opposite sides of prison bars at Larkhall seems a lifetime ago. We were different people then. Somehow I don't want this part of my life to end, being around people like you. And get Yvonne Atkins coming over all soft like this."
The soft reflective tone in Yvonne's voice said it all for the others. Mark, when he thought about it felt proud to be part of a crowd of people who cared for each other. There wasn't anywhere he wanted to be right then than being part of the circle of people around him. The alcohol in him , the relaxing chair, the good company around him and the enormous feeling of relief left a big happy smile on his face which the others picked up on. Despite conventional ideas to the opposite, he was one of them.
When Jo awoke on the Friday morning, her brain felt like it was full of cotton wool. She dragged herself out of bed and looked in the mirror. The haggard, worn out face that stared back at her was not one she cared to present to anybody, especially John. He would be giving his address to the jury this morning and then would come probably an entire day if not more of long, interminable wating. She dreaded the day ahead. They would all of them be on a short fuse.
Karen, understandably because she was pinning everything on Jim Fenner being taken out of public society for a very long time. If he wasn't found guilty, Karen would live the rest of her life in fear of him. Jo also reflected that Yvonne and Nikki wouldn't sit still until they'd given him some other kind of justice. This was always Jo's least favourite time of a case. The waiting, the tension of everyone involved, and the cold feeling of mixed dread and anticipation when the jury finally came back in with their verdict. As her car slowly made it's way through the rush hour traffic, Jo applied her makeup, but no amount of false colouring would get rid of the shadows under her eyes today which spoke of too little sleep and too much stress. As Jo eased her way in to the already filling car park, mascara wand in hand, she spied John getting out of his black Mercedes. Jo finished applying her mascara as he walked over to her.
"I wish you wouldn't do that and drive at the same time," He said with a stern yet fond look on his face. Jo held up a hand.
"John," She said and the warning tone in her voice told him not to mess with her. "Not today. Moan at me any time you like, but not this morning." As she locked the car door, he took a closer look at her.
"Are you okay?" He said with obvious concern.
"Let's just say that this is always the part of the trial that I hate the most. There's nothing useful I can really do."
"Well it looks like a day doing not very much is exactly what you need."
"Yes, you might be right. Doesn't look good for the prosecuting barrister to be half dead though, does it."
As the court rose, and Deed swept in through the door behind the judge's bench, the atmosphere could have been cut with a knife. To Jo's slight satisfaction, even Jim Fenner was looking apprehensive. Last night might have been his last night of freedom. Serve the bastard right, she thought in an uncharacteristic show of anger. Then John looked every member of the jury straight in the eye. His gaze moved along the row, taking in each and every face, as if committing it to memory. It had the effect of making the jury concentrate on nothing but what he was about to say.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Over the last week, you have been presented with an emotionally complex case. You have listened to testimony from a number of witnesses both for the prosecution and the defense. You have heard many conflicting arguments all of which may either appear to be those of truth or those of fiction. It has now come to the time in this trial where you must do your duty. It is your task to decide whether or not the defendant, James Andrew Fenner, is guilty or not guilty of the crime of rape. Whichever verdict you come to, it must be one on which you are all agreed, unless there is a request for me to allow otherwise. If you are satisfied that all the evidence points to the guilt of the defendant, then you must bring back a verdict of guilty. If, however, there is any doubt, any reasonable doubt, you must bring in an acquittal. You may arrive at a decision today, but if you don't, you may arrive at a decision on Monday. Please, take all the time you need, and do not feel in any way pressured to either acquit or convict. However, I do urge you to treat this undertaking seriously. The future life of the defendant lies in your hands, which is why you must be sure beyond any reasonable doubt of the verdict you choose to give. Do you all understand what is before you?" At the collective nod of the jury, Deed left, almost before the clerk of the court could call out, "All rise."
"Jesus," Said Karen. "I hope they don't take until Monday."
"What do you want to do?" Asked Mark.
"Well, we can't go far. So I guess coffee calls." Karen and Mark made their way downstairs followed by Helen, Nikki and Yvonne who felt slightly at a loose end with everyone else so obviously paired up. They made there way down to the canteen where they were soon joined by Jo carrying a large mug of coffee.
All four women looked pleased to see her.
"Jo, are you all right?" Came Helen's dulcet Scottish tones.
"Yeah, you don't look too good," Commented Karen. Jo blushed slightly under their concerned gazes.
"I'm fine," She said unconvinced. "I think this case is just getting to me, that's all." Then, realising how that must have sounded to the very women she was working for, she stammered an apology. "I'm sorry, that wasn't supposed to come out like that." Helen's warm hand closed over hers.
"It's all right. It's getting to all of us in different ways and you've been on the front lines for every day of it."
"I think I'm going to go and get some fresh air," Said Jo, feeling unable to cope with the immense level of warmth coming from all the women round that table. John was right, telling her not to get too involved. She knew that if Fenner didn't go down for a very long time, she would be the one feeling guilty. She would be the one who had let them all down.
Karen followed Jo outside where they sat on a bench by the small fountain in front of the court building.
"We all think you're doing your best, you know," She told Jo quietly. Jo just shrugged.
"I just hope it works," Jo said, sounding more depressed than Karen had ever seen her.
"Jo, there's no way I'd have got this far without you," Said Karen, meaning every word of it. "I wouldn't have had the guts to stand up in front of an entire court and say all those things, if I hadn't had you there supporting me." Jo didn't know what to say. She'd had people say things like this to her before, but this seemed to mean more somehow. Jo had become so embroiled in the lives and feelings of all three women, but especially Karen, that her whole life seemed to revolve around the case she had been prosecuting.
"I don't know if it'll be the right time later," Went on Karen. "But I wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me, and for Helen." Jo held up a hand as if to staunch Karen's words, but Karen simply took hold of it. "don't tell me that it's just your job," She said with a smile. "Because I know that you've become far more involved in this case than is perhaps wise. You've given everything to prosecuting this case, and I can't ever thank you enough for it. I just wanted you to know how much it means."
"Thank you," Said Jo quietly, giving her hand a squeeze. "I just hope we get the right result. Like you said, too many people have given their all to this case. If the jury find him not guilty, I don't think you'll be the only one giving up maintaining the law as a career."
It was difficult to work out who was more snappy and prickly, Sir Ian Rochester or Lawrence James. It seemed that some perverse fate conspired to laugh in their faces and upset their calculations at every turn as the trial progressed even when their ace in the pack, Neil Grayling had been played. John Deed seemed to get more wilfully obstinate the more they had words with him just to spite them. People like John Deed were an affront to life as they were accustomed in their ordered world of privilege. Inside the bureaucracy of the LCD, the local office managers and such minor officials below them showed almost a pathetic willingness to please in comparison and only too willing to cooperate in the ethos of the mission statements of the moment. The problems about the judiciary was that it was too independent and apt to hand down judgements not in the spirit of 'government friendly' cooperation.
They saw John Deed leave the chamber after scrutinising his closing address which, damn the man, stuck to the straight and narrow. Treading fast and purposefully, they overtook John Deed's casual relaxed saunter and asked for a private word in his ear.
Sighing, John Deed asked himself was he like the man in the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner destined to bear the dead weight of the albatross of Sir Ian and Lawrence James slung round his neck for eternity. What was it this time?
"John old man," Sir Ian started off with his face a mixture of false smile and glare. "We have held off as you have asked for and to let justice be done and seen to be done.."
John Deed hesitated. There must be a catch somewhere. They aren't just coming to see him to congratulate him and buy him a drink. Not by the way that they jangled all his instincts of danger.
"Only, should the jury decide to find him guilty, we were wondering what sentence you had in mind to impose on the defendant. The law allows considerable latitude in sentencing in either direction, as you well know. Not that we were wanting to dictate to you." Sir Ian's smile was visibly slipping at this point.
"Quite." Came John Deed's monosyllabic reply
"Only the LCD were of the point of view that, justice in this case could be tempered with mercy. For such a marginal case of rape "
"Oh, for two of my most assiduous fans who have been watching the case from the gallery every day, the case struck you as marginal, did it?" John Deed remarked dryly. "You are presuming of course as to the guilt of the defendant and that any sentence I would hand down would not be a light one?"
"The Home Secretary is answerable for the conduct of a member of the Prison Service, and the LCD feels a severe sentence would not be felt to be in the public interest, it would attract bad publicity." Sir Ian dropped the pretence and the full and deep enmity showed through. He had always felt this way for John Deed since when they were at school together in the way that John Deed could look through him with contempt.
"I think the answer to your question lies in the saying 'wait and see.'"
Damn the man, Sir Ian thought. He is playing with us and he knows very well what he would do given half a chance. He is a renegade member of the Old School who is serving the enemy. Lawrence James's cold and proud personality was outraged in the offensive individuality and lack of respect the man showed him. Not least in his memories was the feelings of humiliation at the sound of the clanging of the cell door on him on that day when John Deed had him locked up for contempt.
The man was impossible and likely to be made worse the more they talked to him and Sir Ian pulled Lawrence James aside as John Deed's parting shot about the separation of the executive and the judiciary reminded them of an inconvenient outmoded way of thinking in the LCD. As Sir Ian and Lawrence James were leaving, John Deed cast about in his mind for words to describe them and out of the mists of time, a poem came back into his mind that his English teacher had taught him. That teacher cannot have thought too clearly what he was teaching as it was a poem by Shelley. He remembered that day sat at his school desk, worn and marked by past generations of schoolboys, as he studied and was inspired by the words he saw in front of him.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said 'two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert Near them on the sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on those lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!"
Nothing beside remains, Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
It was the words 'sneer of cold command' that sprang back to mind when he pictured the members of LCD he battled with in these modern times and he recalled a poem with such modern inflections. Curious and ironic that a long ago teacher helped him to become the scourge of such overmighty kings that he is today.
At around three that afternoon, when everyone's nerves were well and truly frayed, a call came over the tannoy.
"Will everyone involved in the Crown verses James Fenner trial please return to court one."
"This is it," Said Karen unnecessarily. As the rest of them made their way upstairs to the public gallery, Jo walked towards the door leading to the prosecution bench. She couldn't sit down. She just stood facing the Judge's bench and gripped the edge of the table. When John appeared in his crimson robes, he looked almost as nervous as she did. He'd obviously had a visit from Sir Ian and Lawrence James, thought Jo.
When the jury filed in, Jo and Karen simultaneously stopped breathing. The clerk of the court moved to stand in front of the jury box. She addressed the foreman.
"Have you reached a verdict on which you are all agreed?"
"Yes," Was the foreman's only word.
"On the charge of rape, do you find the defendant, James Andrew Fenner, guilty or not guilty?" In the public gallery, Karen had already been squeezing Mark's hand, but on the other side of her, she suddenly found herself gripping Yvonne's like a vice. The foreman of the jury took a deep breath.
"Guilty." Jo realised she'd been almost digging her fingernails in to the warn oak table in front of her. Karen simply deflated, almost like a balloon that had been pricked. At the collective murmur around the court, Deed held up a hand and turned to face the dock. James Fenner had gone white. His hands were gripping the bar in front of him and he was visibly shaking. So you bloody well should be, thought Deed.
"Mr. Fenner," He began. "I have presided over many cases of sexual assault and I have listened to many testimonies of the pain and suffering of victims. But never have I heard of such a systematic wearing down of women, than I have heard over this passed week. Not only have you taken advantage of the very vulnerable women in your care, but you have taken advantage of your obvious physical strength over the women you have assaulted. During the sentence which I am about to bestow on you, I would recommend that you think carefully on the crimes you have perpetrated. Your barrister will no doubt have made you aware that there is an incredibly wide range of sentence that I could give you. However, after hearing what I have about you this week, I am not of a mind to be in any way lenient Mr. Fenner, I sentence you to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that you serve a minimum of fifteen years. I will also recommend that it be made obligatory for you to be given some form of counselling to deal with your obvious issues surrounding your persistent abuse of vulnerable women. Take him down."
Karen felt completely shellshocked. It was finally over. All the effort of bringing this case to court, was finally over. Jim would be going to prison for a minimum of fifteen years. He would never come near her again. With a feeling of total unreality, Karen followed everyone else downstairs. Waiting for her was Jo. She looked completely drained, but she managed a small smile.
"I told you we'd get there in the end," She said to Karen. Karen gave Jo a huge hug.
"I can't ever thank you enough for what you've done."
"And now you're free to finally move on," Said Jo gently. She knew what it had taken for Karen to describe every little detail of what Fenner had done to her, and she didn't think that she, Jo, would have been able to do the same. Then came Nikki's voice.
"Jesus, I think there's more press outside then when I got out." Jo gave Karen a final squeeze and moved away.
"Go and greet your public," She said to Karen, her smile broadening.
"As the woman who achieved this success," Karen said, "You should come with me." Jo held up a hand.
"No thanks. I'll leave the press in your capable hands." As Karen and Helen moved towards the stream of cameras and microphones, Jo observed Sir Ian Rochester and Lawrence James making their way downstairs. It was when she caught their words that she grinned. Sir Ian was saying,
"I thought you said Deed could be manoeuvred to be lenient. Do you know the kind of publicity this will stir up for the home office?"
"Which is why, Sir Ian," Came Lawrence James' acidic tones. "I was not in favour of giving the case to Deed in the first place." As they walked passed Jo, she couldn't resist driving the dagger home.
"I'd have thought that you two would have learnt long ago that Mr. Justice Deed only ever fights for the cause of justice, and not for the inner prejudices of the cabinet" Grinning widely at their stunned faces, she walked back towards the courtroom. Once inside, she sat down at the prosecution bench, where she had for the passed week been fighting for the cause of justice herself. But whilst Jo was contemplating the immense toll this case had taken on her, Karen, Helen, Nikki and even Yvonne were outside giving their all to the nation's press.
Karen had moved slowly sensing blindly for the front door of the court. She had been slowly realising that this was the last time she would see the inside of the ancient building but impressions of it would be ingrained in her mind for the rest of her life. Nikki had tightly held her hand as a similar journey came back to her mind and she knew that she needed all the moral support she could get. Helen was on the other side had been feeling almost as shellshocked as Karen was as it was almost as much her trial as Karen's. This was justice and payback time for the bastards who never believed me all those years ago from when she was an inexperienced Wing Governor.Yvonne brought up the rear with feelings of satisfaction that a corrupt bastard was getting his deserts. If Charlie hadn't bought off the jury and hadn't been killed, he might have ended up sharing a two-bed dorm with Fenner right now. That thought had brought a feeling of manic exaltation to her and a big grin to her face. Next to her, Mark had walked with a big grin on his face and wondering what sort of smile Fenner is wearing on his face as they click the handcuffs on his wrists. Can he remember the time he bragged to him to wind him up sneering that 'if you believe her, you're a bigger fool than I thought you were.'? More than ever before, Karen had been conscious of the emotional comfort blanket that was wrapped around her that gave her the strength to carry on.
The small crowd emerged from the chill air and darkness of the court foyer into the brilliant sunshine that dazzled her. Suddenly, she was conscious of a crowd of people with cameras and a number of reporters. The nearest of them held a TV camera and a microphone was pushed near her face. In a blinding flash, they were all conscious of what they had been battling with for months through the labyrinth of legal procedures, signed statements and the drama of the court scenes. Suddenly this was blown up into a major news story and the whole thing was suddenly bigger than them. Nikki had been through this one before and held onto Karen's hand to steady her. None of them had let themselves think, till the last minute, that Fenner would be as much as convicted, still more sent down for life. Life seemed to spin before them like a kaleidoscope with them in the middle of it.
"Can you tell me, Miss Betts, what is your reaction to the verdict today."
Karen didn't register this for a second. It was enough to live through the events of all these months much less comment on them. But her mind came into sharp focus just in time, this moment was the public face of private events which she must do justice to. It was her job.
"This is the day when all Jim Fenner's past crimes are brought to justice, it's not just for me. This is one for all women whichever side of the prison bars they find themselves and outside the prison gates as well. And I'm going back to the prison service knowing that it will be changed by this verdict. And I'd like to thank my barrister for believing in me and for all she's done and to thank all my friends with me who have been as much a part of this as anything and have lived through all this. All of them have tales to tell."
An arrogant man in an expensive suit who worked for the Daily Mail barged in and asked her that 'don't you think that you have done damage to the good name of the prison system' which Helen shot back at him that 'she used to be acting Governing Governor of the prison and that people like him , left to themselves would cover things up, that it was officers like me and Karen whose professional careers have been dedicated to make the prison service a better place who know what we are talking about , not some jumped up reporter.' Yvonne looked at the prat in disgust and it was her hostile stare as much as Helen's angry words that made him back off.
"I'm Nikki Wade and I was an inmate in Larkhall and what happened to Helen, what happened to Karen is typical of the way Jim Fenner treated people he had power over. I got out of prison thanks to Helen Stewart who believed in me when the likes of Jim Fenner knew nothing else than to bang prisoners up in solitary confinement." Nikki made a short and sharp contribution to take the heat off Karen who at that point had two interviewers trying to talk to her at that moment while coping with the flash, flash of the cameramen . Yvonne moved over to Nikki's place and made a similar short statement to an interviewer.
"Hope they get my best side," muttered Yvonne afterwards, thinking that a life posing for photographers wasn't such a bad life.
"And what do you plan to do with the rest of your life." Asked another female interviewer who was looking more for the background angle on things.
Karen asked herself, what indeed? Her life had been focussed on the court trial for so long that it was like a train journey that she was embarked on and now she had got there, what then?
"I plan to carry on with a normal life, to go back to my job and I've got my freedom now to move on. And to be around for my friends."
Helen was asked who she was and what she felt about the verdict.
"I'm Helen Stewart, Karen's one time Wing Governor and acting Governing Governor of Larkhall." The description of her position of authority was designed not as self aggrandisement but Helen's bid to put the stamp of legitimacy on their actions. "I cannot describe what I owe Karen for her sheer guts in taking a case to the courts which I know took so much out of her. I was one of Jim Fenner's victims and what Karen did has given my life back to me."
Mark Waddle hung back as he was shy of talking to the press. Knee in groin to Jim Fenner was something he was comfortable with but after the nightmare of appearing in the dock, he thought he'd leave the talking to the others. He was prepared to act as bodyguard if need be.
Suddenly, there seemed to be a silence as the interviewers, one by one, had got all the copy they wanted and the interviews were complete.
Mark went to the front and asked when their slot would be appearing on TV to which they were told that they would be on the 6 o'clock news but they couldn't guarantee how much of the filmed interviews would be actually transmitted. Mark nodded to say he understood they were doing a job.
They looked around in bewilderment at the sudden silence, and the wind rustled an old newspaper down the street. Tomorrow they would be in it.
"Hey Helen," Nikki nudged her, "it's those two guys from the LCD that have been following the trial."
"We'd better go over and tell them the good news," Yvonne said with a wicked grin on her face. "I'm sure they would want to know."
A sudden bubbling over of crazy humour overtook them, reminiscent to Nikki's and Yvonne's memory of the lighter moments of Larkhall. This time Helen, Mark and Karen were with the collective mood. They couldn't resist the impulse.
"Hey have you heard the news, Fenner's been locked up for life." Yvonne's carrying tones reached Sir Ian and Lawrence James as they tried to sneak away when things were quiet.
"You better hope that Neil Grayling isn't transferred to his prison as Governing Governor. There are some strange stories floating round about prisons these days." Karen chimed in with a broad grin spread all over her face.
"Bet you are going back to the office to break open the champagne to celebrate," Nikki spoke in her best cheeky tone an essential part of her graduation from Larkhall.
"Enjoy the fame while you can," Sir Ian tried his best lofty tones which failed dismally. "Who'll read yesterday's papers."
"Jim Fenner will." grinned Helen Stewart with a killer verbal punch. "He'll have all the time to read all about it with his new friends."
The two of them slunk off in total humiliation. And they had to prepare a report to the minister of what went wrong while Karen and her friends had a debate deciding which pub they were going to ,to celebrate.
Jim Fenner was brought up in handcuffs from the cell to be taken to the familiar white cattle truck to who knows which prison. His best blue suit was rumpled and his tie was askew but that was nothing to the humiliation and realisation that his worst nightmare was taking shape for real. It couldn't be that after 20 years of locking up prisoners for a living and lording it over others, he was just a common criminal. At most he expected six months. He mentally flashbacked to when Lorna Rose was led off in a police car to prison but he had not thought much about that She had just disappeared out of the collective life and no one thought twice about it. Now he was going to do the same for the men's prison and 'the lads' he used to buy drinks for would likewise forget about him.
He went forward to the cattle truck where an expressionless Prison Officer motioned him up to step into the cattle truck. He went up the narrow steps and, clang went the door behind him and all his past life. His eyes took time to take in the gloom of the truck with its scruffy seats and the prisoners he was used to locking up, all the dead beats , burglars and petty criminals being wheeled away.
"Hey, ain't you that screw that's raped all those women," a menacing voice called out from the dimly seen unshaven face before him. "We'll have some fun with him once we get to prison, won't we lads, an ex screw. Pity for him there aren't any women around, where he's going to." he called out to the chorus of other prisoners around him.
This was the highlight of his nightmare, one that he was starting to live as he started to sweat and get into a panic.Things could only get worse, much worse.
"Hey Helen, guess who's going to be inside that cattle truck." Nikki called out to be answered by "Enjoy the ride Fenner" from Yvonne. Karen said nothing, thought nothing. This was going to be part of her life that would at last be given a decent burial. And while Fenner was led off to imprisonment, Karen and the group walked off down the sunlit road to freedom and the pub they had decided on.
As Jo sat in the quiet, empty courtroom, she gave her brain time to settle. Over the course of the trial, she'd witnessed an enormous amount of mental pain. From Karen to Helen, Shell, and even Mark. Helen would definitely be able to move on, and it already looked like Mark and Karen were in the process of rekindling their old flame, but what of Shell. As a result of her numerous crimes, Shell Dockley wouldn't be getting out of prison any time soon, if ever.
There was a girl who was seriously unstable but who might, with the removal of Fenner, now have a chance to begin putting her life back together again. Karen had told Jo all about Shell's childhood, as well as her giving up her children for adoption. Jo didn't know how one brain could sustain itself under so much mental degradation. Jo knew she would in all likelihood lose contact with Karen and Helen, but she vowed to at least attempt to maintain some kind of contact with Shell. John had warned her not too, but even he wasn't always right about everything.
As she sat there, her head balanced on her hand, with the wintery sunlight filtering in through the high windows, she heard the creek of the door behind the Judge's bench. Only one person would come to find and disturb her here. Still keeping her back to the approaching figure of John, She said,
"I think the entire nation's press is out there."
"As they should be," He said sitting down in the seat next to her which had remained vacant all week. "Why aren't you with them?" He said quietly.
"Oh, come on," She said, "You know me, I hate attention from the press. The cases I prosecute get enough of that, they don't need me to ice the cake."
"I was very proud of the way you handled this case," He said, smiling at her. Jo shrugged.
"Were you? I'm not sure why."
"Jo," Deed said in astonishment. "You got him convicted. You were successful."
"Oh, I might have solved Karen's and Helen's and Shell's problem in the short term, but what difference will that really make."
"Hardly the short term, Jo. I sent him down for a minimum of fifteen years. As for any lasting effect that he's had on several women's lives, there isn't anything you can do about that. You did your best, and you got the best result possible."
"I hope so," Said Jo somberly. John ran his hand in circles over her back, trying to ease away some of the tension
"How do you feel, now that it's over?" He asked. Jo took a while to answer this.
"I'm obviously pleased that Fenner's been taken out of public society for a long time, and I'm incredibly relieved that putting Karen through the torment of telling all and sundry one of her worst nightmares wasn't done in vain, but I don't know, I feel kind of deflated."
"That's because you've exerted an enormous amount of mental energy on this case and now it's over. Now you have to move on in the same way that Karen and Helen do." This made Jo slightly angry.
"Look, I know that you've been telling me all week not to get involved, and okay, maybe you're right occasionally on that one. But it isn't always that simple. Every time I looked at Fenner I was reminded of all the things he'd done to the women I was representing. Every time I had to look in to his evil, slimy little face, it made my skin crawl. Whenever he looked at me, I was made certain again and again of everything he'd done. Do you have any idea of what that feels like?"
"As I'm not a woman, no I don't."
"You're absolutely right you don't. I had to watch a woman who, perhaps like me, usually manages to maintain a strong exterior, being torn to shreds by a defense barrister who clearly subscribes to the same principle of women in their proper place as his client. Women are nothing to men like that. All we are to them is something to sleep with when the urge takes them and to keep their happy little worlds together."
"You're preaching to the converted, Jo," John said trying to calm her down. She seemed to realise just who she was saying all this too.
"I'm sorry," She said quietly.
"I know this case has got to you more than cases usually do," He said. "But you will move on from this. I know you will. I know that there are things about this case that you will never forget, but that comes with the territory."
"Why are you always so infuriatingly sensible?" She said as if submitting to a long, hard fight. John laughed.
"I'm hardly that," He said with a grin. "As well you know."
As they continued to sit close together in companionable silence, her head leaned on his shoulder and their arms wrapped around each other, Jo smiled.
"This would give Sir Ian Rochester and Lawrence James the proof they've always wanted," she said. John's smile broadened.
"And after what you said to them today, they'll be looking for it even more."
"Oh, you heard about that did you?" She said in mock surprise, John always heard about everything.
"I didn't get this second hand," He said. "I was out of sight but well within earshot. That's one of the best defenses of my character I've ever heard."
"Well, I probably managed to seal my fate on not becoming a Judge, but to see their faces it was definitely worth it." She leaned her head back to kiss him. "We should go, or the ushers will be rounding us up and then there'll really be something for the gossips to get their teeth in to." As he took her hand and led her out of the courtroom, John suddenly grinned.
"I hate to delight in someone else's misfortune, but I wonder how Fenner's getting on at Wormwood Scrubs."
"Let's hope he gets everything he deserves," Said Jo.
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