By Becky B
As the pair relaxed once more in Yvonne's wake, Nikki said, "That was close," smiling.
"Yeah," Helen agreed, but couldn't keep the grin off her face either. "Seriously Nikki, I'm so sorry for messing you around like I have been doing; it isn't fair."
"So does this mean that we're back 'on'?" Nikki asked jokily.
"I don't know," Helen said sucking her teeth, and looking dubious. "I'm joking sweetheart!" she added, taking mercy and kissing the other woman. "I love you," she said quietly as they parted.
Nikki was happier than she had been in a long time. Firstly, she was spending time with Helen in private, and now she was telling her she loved her. Things were looking up. "I love you too."
Jim Fenner and Karen Betts walked up the G Wing stairs together.
"I'm telling you Karen, she's got it coming to her," Fenner told his companion.
"Jim, will you stop it!" Karen said in hushed tones. "I am sick of your anti-Helen Stewart crusade!"
"It's not that, Karen. I've been suspicious for a while now, but it's only recently look, you'll see what we turn up in the search and realise I've been right all along!"
"This couldn't have anything to do with the fact that she filed for assault against you could it now Jim?" Karen said, her tone edged with a cold sarcasm.
"That has got nothing to do with this matter," Fenner told her. The woman merely rolled her eyes and continued up the stairs next to him.
"Well I hope you know that this is a very serious allegation," she told him gravely as they paused at the top landing.
"Oh, I know that Karen. But I'm right."
He led her towards Nikki Wade's cell. He had to find something to use against the lezzie bitches even if he didn't manage to catch them at it in the cell, there was always Maxi's plan.
Karen stepped ahead of him and pushed the cell door open first. She saw Helen stood leant against the small writing table initially, then sweeping her eyes across the room, Nikki was sat on the bed.
"Karen did you want to see me or Nikki?" Helen asked warmly.
"Well both actually," the blonde woman replied awkwardly, stepping inside and allowing Fenner entrance to the cell. Helen's and Nikki's faces fell when they saw him.
"There's been an accusation of inappropriate behaviour towards the prisoners against you Helen, and Nikki is the prisoner in question. Jim's going to have to do a cell search."
Helen laughed in shock. "What?!" she said disbelievingly. "From whom?!" Nikki noticed her accent strengthen.
"I'm not at liberty to say."
"Meaning, that person is in this room," Nikki said wryly, and Karen looked at her and raised her eyebrows almost imperceptibly, without saying a word.
Helen looked towards Jim Fenner, who was now rummaging through Nikki's things.
"I knew you were low, Jim, but this is a new level even for you."
Her defiance was only an exterior layer, though and she and Nikki locked eyes, both wondering about Yvonne. Nikki shook her head a little it couldn't be Yvonne. She wouldn't do that. Especially to Fenner!
Karen started to speak but was interrupted by Fenner's voice from behind Helen.
"Well, lookey here!" he said in mock surprise. "What would you be doing with this then, Wade?"
He gestured to a shining silver door key, obviously made for one of the prison gates, in the drawer.
Helen looked sharply at Nikki, who was too stunned to even formulate a response. Her mouth opened but no sound came out. She looked at Helen properly for the first time, and shook her head desperately.
"I didn't put that there! I have no idea where it came from!"
"Well, that's original," Fenner drawled, taking the key and pocketing it.
"Nikki, this is your cell, how else would it have got there aside from you putting it there!" said Karen Betts, a little angrily.
"And I wonder who could possibly have given Nikki a key?" Fenner said, overly sarcastic and looking directly at Helen.
"I hope you're not inferring that I gave Nikki my keys?" Upon his smug look, she added, "That's ridiculous!"
She couldn't believe it of either of the woman, but Helen and Wade did seem to be very, very guilty.
Maxi watched with satisfaction as Stewart and Nikki Wade were followed down the stairs by Betts and Fenner. She grinned smugly as they all walked down and out of the gates. To a watching inmate, it seemed that they were all just walking the same way, but she knew different. This was it. They were gonna get it, and Fenner would have her rewards waiting. Oh, boy, was she good .
"Hey, Wade's gonna get it now!" came a loud voice from the wing as Nikki stepped through the gates. She turned to face the owner of the voice, Al McKenzie. God, she was barely intelligible sometimes, Nikki thought. For one country, Scotland sure had a range of vocal talent, she mused hearing Helen speaking to Karen in front of her.
"Karen, this is preposterous! You can't honestly think I would hand my keys over to a prisoner!"
"Miss Betts, she didn't give me any keys, I swear. This hasn't got anything to do with her."
Karen looked at her for a moment and then turned to Fenner. "Oh come on Jim, this is pushing the limits. You don't honestly think Helen would do that do you?" she asked matter-of-factly.
"Well, you never know with "
"No Helen, I'll see you later, for the minute we'd better take Nikki into the office."
They left Helen stood helplessly watching at the door to her office as her lover was taken for questioning.
Nikki was instructed to sit in a chair and questioned endlessly about the key.
"Nikki, if you didn't put it there, in YOUR cell, then who the hell did?" demanded Karen Betts, vexed.
"I don't know! It's not like I don't have my fair share of enemies, is it Miss?!"
"Okay, okay " said Karen calming a little. "So, you are saying that someone planted that key in your cell?"
"Who could have had access to the 3s who would do that Ma'am?" butted in Jim Fenner.
"Mr. Fenner, I'd appreciate it if you kept your comments to yourself at this stage. So, Nikki? Who do you think put it there if you did not?"
Nikki sighed and leant back in her chair. "I don't know. And you're going to assume I put it there whatever I say anyway. So just go ahead and put me down the block, gimme some extra days, whatever. But don't bring Miss Stewart into it; she didn't have anything to do with it."
Karen watched her thoughtfully. Jim said, "Why are you so concerned about Miss Stewart then Wade? Perhaps because you're shagging her?"
Nikki looked at him with contempt, and Karen turned to him irritably, but didn't say anything.
"Think what you like, it obviously turns you on Mr. Fenner," Nikki said flippantly, avoiding both answering the question and lying.
"Nikki," Karen warned her. After a pause, she looked up at the inmate and said, "Alright, you can go. Jim, could you wait a moment please?"
Nikki left and was escorted away by an obedient PO by the door, and as soon as she was out of sight, Karen turned on Fenner.
"Jim, I've warned you before now, I don't want you throwing accusations at Helen Stewart like this! It's ridiculous! I have no idea what you have against her, but get it sorted, and quickly. Because if I have to put up with any more of your shit, I don't want you on my staff. Clear?"
Her loud, angry tones reached Nikki as she walked away from the room and she smiled to herself. Looks like Betts wasn't as conned by Fenner as she had thought!
Jim Fenner left the room feeling thoroughly pissed off. Sort it eh? He'd bloody well sort it for good. That bitch had caused him enough problems, she wouldn't get another bloody chance. He stormed off in the direction of the wing, leaving Karen sat pondering at her desk.
Okay, she knew that Jim had a problem with Helen. She also knew that Helen had a problem with Jim, although this was more justified since he sexually assaulted her and Karen really didn't know what Helen could have done to draw such resentment from the senior PO. Standing up, she went to see the woman in question, to ask her cautiously about the whole Key business, and also try to pry some information out of her about her ongoing troubles with Jim Fenner.
Standing up and stepping out of the office, she was almost knocked over by Di Barker, who was moving at such great speed that she overran where she should have stopped and had to walk back to where Karen was stood, perplexed at this apparent urgency.
"Di, is there a problem?"
"Yeah," The smaller woman said, out of breath. She lay a hand on her chest as she recovered her breathing and Karen raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"It's Maxi Purvis, ma'am. She's been found unconscious in her cell, beaten up pretty badly by the looks of it."
Karen began walking briskly toward the wing, the PO trailing exhaustedly behind her.
"When was this?" she snapped.
"Just a minute ago," Di told her. "She didn't seem to have been there for too long though. The doctor said only a few minutes."
Karen went to the infirmary, where Maxi was being treated by the new doctor, demanding some answers.
"Who did this to you?"
"I fell, miss," Maxi told her stubbornly.
"If you tell us who did this then they can be punished, and they will never know that you grassed them up, I promise."
Maxi looked undecided, but finally told her that it was Nikki Wade. Karen added up the minutes and realised the timing was perfect. Shit.
Purvis's cell was turned upside down, the furniture strewn across the small room and signs of a struggle evident. Karen couldn't see any reason why it shouldn't be Nikki Wade, looking around and thinking about Nikki's temper. But why would Wade have attacked Maxi Purvis?
Helen rested her head in her hands as she sat at her desk. How could things have gone from so bad, to so good, and then so horribly awful so quickly? She had made up with Nikki. But then Nikki had gotten into trouble, and if Helen was honest with herself she thought she would be in deep shit too.
She knew Nikki wouldn't have gotten a key from anyone, it wasn't like her at all. And from Nikki's reaction she knew that she wasn't lying when she told Karen that it had nothing to do with her. She could read her like a book, and this book was telling the truth.
But where had it come from? Fenner wouldn't have given her his keys, and Helen sure as hell didn't! The other POs were too thick or trustworthy too. Helen was lost. All she did know was that things were about to go horribly wrong, and she was going to be in the middle of it all.
She was roused from her reverie by a sharp knock on her door. Looking up, she saw Karen Betts enter the office.
Karen was about to give Helen a similar interrogation to Nikki's, but upon seeing the strain and fatigue on her face, she changed her mind.
"Are you alright?" she asked cautiously.
"No," Helen breathed. "How can I help you Karen?"
The older woman entered the room and sat down in a chair opposite Helen. Karen studied her for a moment before clearing her throat and saying, "I'm sorry, I need to ask you for the record Helen did you give Nikki Wade your keys?"
"no," Helen told her quietly, without emotion, looking at her desk. Karen had expected an explosion of indignation and defiance, and was shocked by this calm response.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Karen offered. Helen shook her head, looking at her as if to say, 'was there anything else or would you piss off and leave me alone now please?'
Karen stood up and walked to the door without a word.
"Well, I'll see you later then," she added as she left.
Fenner entered the PO's room where Karen was sat reading a magazine.
"I want to pursue the case against Stewart in this whole Key business," he said matter of factly.
Karen looked up and rolled her eyes, but as she was about to speak, he continued, "there's a witness to hearing Nikki asking her for keys, on the wing. I'm telling you Karen, I'm right."
Karen looked perplexed. She knew Helen wouldn't be so immoral and Nikki so stupid. So what was this about an overheard conversation?
"And you have someone who is not you, who is willing to testify to hearing that exchange?"
Fenner nodded smugly, and left her abruptly.
Sarah Johnson stepped into Karen's office the following morning, accompanied by Jim Fenner.
"Alright, let's hear it." Karen switched into ultra-professional mode and Sarah stepped up to her desk.
"Well go on then, tell 'er," Jim prompted her.
Karen glared at him but her gaze shifted back towards the girl before her as she said, "The other day, I was walking down the wing and I heard Miss Stewart and Nikki Wade talking."
"and ?" Karen said.
"Well I 'eard Miss Stewart say fanks for summat, and Nikki Wade said to remember this when she wanted the prison keys and an escape car."
Karen rolled her eyes, but was not permitted by law to ignore the statement, however wrong the girl had got it or stupid it sounded.
"Thank you Sarah, Jim could you escort her back to the wing please?"
He reluctantly left.
Nikki Wade was suddenly seized by two POs and taken to the block.
"Hey! Do I not get to ask what I've done?!" she cried.
They ignored her.
It was, in fact, Helen Stewart who stopped them.
"Excuse me," she said in her best governor voice. "What's going on?"
She was higher than them, they knew. So they reluctantly let go of Nikki, who shook herself straight again and eyed them angrily.
"It's orders, ma'am. She has to go down the block."
"What for?" Helen asked.
"For an assault on another inmate. It's orders of Mr Fenner Ma'am."
Nikki's head spun round at this. "WHAT?!"
Helen pleaded with her eyes for her to be quiet just this once, as she said, "Well, PO Fenner doesn't have that authority so please let her go and I'll take this up with him myself."
They obediently walked off, leaving the two women alone.
"What's this all about?" Helen asked.
Nikki had been on the verge of bringing down the angry barriers but upon hearing the question spoken in the Governor voice, they went right back up again.
"You amaze me, you know that!" Nikki cried. "I didn't bloody do anything! It's Fenner trying to stick the boot in!"
Helen grew angrier as she heard Nikki's tone, and said quietly but intensely, "Nikki, I hope for your sake that you're not lying to me, because if after this, you have attacked an inmate, the shit will never have hit the fan so hard."
Nikki glowered at her but walked off. Helen was in two minds to go after her and demand a reasonable explanation, but her head throbbed with a migraine and she was too tired to have a fight with her right then. She went in search of the Wing Governor to ask what was going on.
"Yes, Maxi Purvis is pretty messed up," Karen told her ruefully ten minutes later.
"But what proof do you have that it was Nikki Wade?"
"Well we all know the infamous Nikki Wade temper, and she did have an ongoing rivalry with Purvis. And it was just after I let her go after questioning her over the key found in her cell. Perhaps she suspected Maxi was behind it?"
Helen thought for a moment. Her heart was telling her that Nikki wouldn't have done it, but her mind was making all sorts of connections that contradicted that. It did make sense, and if she looked at it objectively, if she were Karen she would also have blamed Nikki.
Suddenly she realised that Nikki wasn't the only one who left the office in time to have attacked Purvis. She made her way to the wing.
Jim leant closer to maxi Purvis. "Now, it's simple really. You tell them that Wade attacked you. You say she just hit you unprovoked, and you don't know why. Plead the victim. Cos if I hear you've done any different from that, you're gonna be in so much trouble you'll wish I'd finished what I'd started and killed you. Clear?!"
Maxi looked at him defiantly, yet helplessly.
"Crystal clear. SIR."
"Good," Fenner said smiling. "You know, you could come in useful in future."
He left her cell and stopped an inch short of bumping into Helen Stewart. Oh boy was this turning out to be a good day.
"Morning Ma'am," he said, although his tone did not match the greeting.
"Morning Jim," Helen said coldly. "Don't call me Ma'am, I'm not the bloody queen."
"Whatever you say Ma'am."
He smirked and walked past her, not missing the opportunity to let his hand touch her backside.
"Hello Maxine," Helen said as she entered the cell. Purvis looked up. "It's Maxi, Miss," she told her.
"Okay, Maxi," Helen said friendly. "Would it be okay if I had a word?"
Maxi agreed moodily, throwing the magazine she was holding to the side.
"I wanted to talk to you about your injuries," Helen began. "Miss Betts tells me that you obtained them when Nikki Wade attacked you, is that correct?"
Although her words were formal, her tone was soft.
Maxi opened her mouth to reply in the affirmative, but then stopped herself. Why should she lie for Fenner? Bastard had it coming to him. He could fucking well kill her but she wasn't gonna lie for no screw.
"No," she said pointedly. "That ain't right, Miss."
Helen affected surprise, but was feeling very different on the inside. "It's not?" she said. "Then, could you tell me how you hurt yourself?"
"Jim Fenner attacked me," Maxi said confidently, and clearly. "He beat me up, and told me to blame Nikki Wade. He wants her in trouble, shipped out or something. So he gave me one of his keys to plant in 'er cell, and beat me up to frame her for it. I can say it to Miss Betts if you like, Miss."
Helen was overjoyed. "Thank you very much, Maxi," she said, "I'd appreciate it if you came with me to see miss Betts now, please."
Maxi followed her from the wing. Catching the worried look on Jim Fenner's face as he saw them, she smiled smugly.
Karen sat back in her chair as Helen Stewart leant against her desk and Maxi Purvis sat defiantly opposite her.
"Ok, then. I just hope you know what you're getting into," she told Purvis, who laughed under her breath but said nothing.
"Alright, you can go back to your cell."
She stood and left, accompanied from the door by the PO on duty.
"Helen," she said when Maxi had left. "Do you really think he's that bad?"
"Yes, I do," she told her emphatically. "Jim Fenner is a misogynist bastard who won't stop at anything. I've had my suspicions in the past about his behaviour towards some of the younger women on G Wing, but we have concrete proof with Maxine Purvis, and the case I filed against him. He's gotta go down, Karen."
Karen sat in silent thought.
"Well then, I'm glad I broke it off with him as soon as I did," Karen voiced her thoughts aloud. "I know you warned me, time and time again, but you were right. I was too close to see it. And perhaps because of me, he's had the chance to abuse the prisoners and yourself."
"It's not your fault, Karen," Helen told her colleague warmly.
Karen looked at her in admiration, wondering what sort of shit she had been through when and since she had the job Karen now held.
Nikki Wade was in a pisser of a mood. First Fenner had tried to get her sent down the block and now Helen was mad at her. And to top it off, the inspectors were coming in that afternoon!
Remembering her promise to Helen, she was dreading what might happen. Picking up a book, her eyes skipped over the words but they didn't go in. She read the same page over and over and gave up after a while, collapsing onto her bunk with a sigh.
Deciding to write Trish a letter, she sat at the table in her cell. There came a knock at the door.
"Heya," came a soft voice, and Nikki glanced up to see Helen's head round the door.
"I thought I'd bring you a peace offering," she told the inmate.
Nikki smiled and sat up. "Hiya."
"You still angry with me?" Helen asked, and even if Nikki had been, she wouldn't have been able to resist forgiving her when she saw her sad face.
"No," Nikki said. "Are you still angry with me?"
Helen laughed under her breath as she entered the cell fully, shutting the door behind her. "I'm sorry for before Nik."
She sat on Nikki's bunk. "I've just had a lot of stuff on lately, and I was stressed out "
"I know," Nikki told her, pulling her into a close embrace. "Inspection soon," she said almost brightly.
Helen groaned into her neck. "Shit."
Nikki smiled and rubbed her back affectionately. "It'll be fine, Helen. You've got me and Yvonne and the Julies and everyone looking out for you. How can it go wrong? Actually, scratch that, anything the Julies are involved in is bound to go wrong."
Pulling back, Helen looked at her and said, "That's not exactly what I was hoping to hear, sweetheart."
"I'm joking. Sorry. It will be okay, I promise."
Helen sighed. "What would I do without you?" she asked more lightly. "Oh, I meant to tell you."
"I was just talking to Claire, your solicitor."
"And she says that they are very near to setting a date for your appeal," Helen grinned at her.
"That's great," Nikki said happily, kissing her.
"I've gotta go," Helen reluctantly said after a moment.
"I know," Nikki said trying to make it easier for her. She knew Helen felt guilty at the small amount of time she had to spend with her. "Hey, before you go," she added, pretending to be miffed, "Where's my peace offering?"
Smiling, Helen reached into her pocket, and produced two phone cards and a packet of cigarettes.
"Ooh, I'll have to argue with you more often," Nikki joked.
"That doesn't mean I approve," Helen told her mock-sternly tapping the cigarette box.
"Thank you," Nikki said, kissing her again, and she stood up to leave. "See you later," Helen told her with a smile, and left.
Maxi Purvis was in her cell with Al McKenzie, looking out the window as a car pulled up outside.
"Suits are in," She commented to her.
"Inspectors, you twat," Maxi said tapping her head. "They're 'ere."
As she watched, the two men and a woman walked across the courtyard. Maxi smiled to herself, wondering thinking of the fun she could have at Fenner's Stewart's and Wade's expense that afternoon.
Fenner stormed out of Karen Betts' office angrily. How dare she suspend him pending an investigation?! He was gonna lose his job, that's what was gonna happen. How could that stupid bitch Purvis have grassed, after all he had threatened her with?
He headed towards the officers' bar and ordered a triple scotch.
"Right, well obviously we'd like to talk with the wing governor and the number one," said John Fields. His colleague added, "then we'll be going for a brief wander round the prison if that's okay, maybe talk to a few of the inmates."
"Right. Fine," said Gina as she led the three officials through to G Wing's offices.
She knocked on Karen's door and introduced the visitors, before leaving them to it.
"Hi, you must be Miss Betts," smiled Fields holding out his hand.
"er, yes. That's right," she returned shaking his hand. "Please, call me Karen."
"Karen it is then," he said smoothly, and introduced his colleagues.
"This is Robert Jacobson, and Sandra Preston."
"Nice to meet you," Karen smiled, shaking their hands, but felt sick inside. Her job might be on the line, a prison riot might happen if they got their way, and here she was exchanging pleasantries with Home Office officials.
"Right, so what's on the agenda?"
Yvonne walked quietly down the G Wing stairs towards where Nikki and Julie S were playing pool. She saw Maxi Purvis on the next flight of stairs, and as she passed, muttered to her, "remember what we said darlin'. No funny business."
"Maxi looked at her with an unreadable expression on her face, and Yvonne walked on.
"Hiya 'Vonne," Nikki said as she approached, potting a red ball with a thud.
"Hi," Yvonne said, picking up one of the balls from the table and rolling it back and forth distractedly as she spoke.
"I've just seen the suits comin' in."
"Well, it's alright, they'll probably wanna talk to Betts, won't they?"
"Yeah," Yvonne agreed. "And your girlfriend."
Nikki faltered at this term for Helen she had never thought of her as her girlfriend. She wasn't sure if she liked it or not.
"Yeah," she said lining up another shot.
"Look out, here comes little miss sunshine," Yvonne muttered to her as Maxi approached the pool table. Nikki hit the cueball with a loud crack and watched a ball shoot across into the far pocket with the force she had injected into it.
"What we got 'ere then? Screwlovers' meetin'?" she said with a note of sarcasm.
"Piss off Purvis."
Yvonne lamented that it did not have quite the same ring to it as "Piss off Dockley" had had.
"What, you gonna make me?" Maxi countered, leaning closer to her face.
She walked off without waiting for an answer.
"So, nothing out of the ordinary in the last six months? No major problems at the prison?" John asked the wing governor.
"Well, we have had our share of incidents, I'll admit, but nothing too major," she lied, thinking of Jim's stabbing, Helen's assault, the numerous fights and the fires on G3. Not to mention a certain event with a yoghurt pot and two jailbreaks.
"Well, G Wing seems to be running smoothly," he said, seemingly impressed. "I'm sure you do a good job here."
"We'll have to go and speak to the number one before we make our visit to the wing."
Karen stood up. "Right, I'll try and track Helen down for you," she said picking up the phone and pressing a speed dial.
"Oh, a woman?" John said, surprised.
"Y-yes," Karen assured him. "Is that a problem?"
"No, no!" he said smiling again. "I just expected it to be a man."
Karen listened to the phone ringing and smiled back, thinking what a smooth operator this guy was.
"She's not picking up in her office, I'll take you down to the lifers' unit."
He raised his eyebrows as he led his companions out behind her.
"Helen runs the lifers' group here for Area management as well as her job as number one."
"Quite a superwoman," he commented. His colleagues didn't speak.
Karen hesitated, before telling him, "She's good at her job, Mr. Fields."
Whatever she was expecting as she crossed the wing, among the possibilities was not Jim Fenner lurching drunkenly across the hallway shouting obscenities and threatening both officers and prisoners. Her heart stilled as she imagined the bollocking. God, she's lose her job, Jim would lose his job, and then what?
As they turned to her and she was lost for words, a door opened to their right and Helen stepped out, pausing in her tracks as she encountered the obviously pissed Jim Fenner.
She stepped forward and unlocked the gate. Stepping through briskly, she was really worried as to the impression this might give to the visitors. There would definitely be disastrous consequences now closed visits, tighter regulations ..
Walking up to him she said powerfully yet quietly, "Jim, go home and sleep it off. We'll have a serious talk about this when you're sobered up."
He looked at her for a moment as though absorbing the information, before stepping closer and spitting, "What, don't you dykes ever drink?" He sneered and Helen looked at him stony faced before ordering him out of the building. John Fields stepped up beside her. "I think you'd better do what she says Mr "
"Fenner. Jim Fenner. I was meant to get her job, you know. Fucking women."
John didn't look impressed. Fenner staggered off past them and toward the stairs, where a pleasantly surprised Maxi Purvis stood watching. Looked like she wouldn't have to make the effort after all!
"I'm sorry about that," Karen Betts said as she recovered her voice, turning to the three visitors.
"Seems like you aren't as brilliant a prison as we had thought!" said Sandra, speaking for the first time.
"Are you aware that an officer drinking on duty breaks more than four prison regulations?"
Karen looked dumbstruck. "I can only apologise, he's been going through a rough patch recently and he was meant to have taken time off. But he's still here is seems," she lied.
At this point, Helen stepped forward to help her friend out.
"Hi, I don't believe we've met," she said with a smile to the first man. "Helen Stewart, governing governor and lifers' liaison officer," she said as she held her hand out. He shook it and smiled at her.
"Hello, we were actually just coming to find you," he said. "Fields, John Fields."
"Nice to meet you. Are these your colleagues?"
The inmates watched in admiration as Helen charmed the visitors, leading them across the wing.
"I'm very sorry for Mr. Fenner's behaviour, the fact is that he was suspended from work this morning, and he shouldn't have been here. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'll be getting to the bottom of it as soon as he's in a fit state to talk."
The noise level began to rise again from the silence along the wing, which Helen was grateful for as she kept up the brilliant acting, flashing winning smiles at John Fields and his colleagues. On the inside, she was crapping it, wondering what the reaction would be to this outburst.
Fenner was, at that moment, staggering down the wing towards the gate at the other end, hitting the wall intermittently and kicking inanimate objects in his way.
"Di," called Karen as they walked. "Would you mind ?" She indicated Fenner approaching the gate and Di smiled and scurried off to unlock the gate and usher Fenner out.
"I'll leave you to it," Karen told the others as she left to walk down the corridor to her office.
"Yeah, thanks Karen," Helen told her.
Nikki was leant over the top landing watching Helen in awe. She really was amazing. The way she'd got their attention and sorted out Fenner and not even flinched under the gaze of the entire wing
Suddenly Nikki felt something cold on her neck. She kept still as an arm followed it, and Maxi Purvis said quietly in her ear, "Move or make a sound and I'll cut you."
Nikki closed her eyes briefly.
"Now. You're going to help me."
Nikki could easily have wrenched away from her and gotten the blade from her without injury, but she couldn't cause that fuss while Helen's visitors were stood below her.
"Don't be so stupid," Nikki told her quietly. "What, you gonna cut me in front of the whole wing?"
"Yeah." She pushed Nikki towards the stairs. "Walk."
The blade moved to her side so as to be unobvious to onlookers, and Maxi waited until they had reached G1 before stabbing her sharply with the blade. Nikki cried out, spun on her heels and Maxi threw herself on the floor with a scream.
"She hit me!" she cried clutching at her already swollen eye.
Helen spun round, as did the two men and the woman, and the rest of the wing looked round to where Nikki stood, half-bent and seemingly clutching her hand between her body and her other arm as though she had hurt it punching her.
Maxi continued making noises, and Yvonne suddenly stood up. "You bloody liar Purvis! She did no such twatting thing!"
Others began to second this, and say how Maxi just threw herself on the floor.
"She's a psycho, innit," said Crystal.
Helen turned to her visitors. "Would you excuse me just a moment please?" she said quietly and as they nodded, walked back across the wing to where Nikki was valiantly standing straight despite the agony she was in, desperate not to let it show that she had been stabbed by another inmate.
Helen reached Maxi first, and told her to get up.
"She hit me!" Maxi whined.
"Well then, if you're eye's as bad as your acting, you'd better go to the infirmary!" Helen said, her accent becoming more prominent with each syllable as her anger rose.
"Miss Rossi," she called to Gina at the far end, who came up to her. "Would you please take Miss Purvis to the infirmary to be examined?"
At this, Maxi said, "No!"
Helen turned to her in mock surprise. "But I thought you were hurt, Maxine? Didn't Nikki punch you?"
Maxi was lost for words for a moment. "I'm fine, miss," she ended lamely.
"Right then," Helen said enthusiastically, "Take her down to segregation please miss Rossi!"
Gina complied, trying not to smile at both Purvis's retribution and Helen's actions.
Nikki would have been watching proudly if she hadn't have been sure she was about to pass out. Yvonne stepped up next to her and stopped her falling over.
Helen turned back to her visitors with a quick glance towards Nikki. "Right, well you said you'd like to talk to the prisoners?"
"Yes, if that's alright with you," Sandra replied.
"No problem at all. If you wish to leave the wing, just ask the officers on duty and I'm sure they will be more than happy to open the gates for you." Helen smiled at them.
She walked off.
"Miss Stewart, could we 'ave a quick word please miss? It's about the lifer's group."
The three officials wandered to the other end of the wing, and Helen approached Yvonne suspiciously, knowing that she was not a lifer.
"What are you up to Yvonne?" she said as she neared them.
"It's me, not her," Nikki managed.
Turning to her lover, Helen saw she was in pain. "What's wrong, have you hurt your hand?" Helen asked softly as she saw the way Nikki was stood.
"No I think I'm gonna pass out Helen she cut me," Nikki managed, briefly lifting her hand to reveal a bloodstained side.
"Jesus Christ," Helen said, "We'd better get you to the infirmary. Thanks Yvonne."
She led Nikki off the wing not touching her, but when they had rounded the corner in the corridor she put an arm round Nikki's shoulders.
"What happened?!" Helen asked as she sat being stitched up by the nurse.
"Purvis was trying to ruin your visitors' day. This was the icing on the cake."
"Oh God Nikki, I'm sorry. This is all my fault."
"How d'you work that out?" Nikki asked her.
"If I hadn't have asked for your help, then they wouldn't have done this."
"Yeah, but if you hadn't have asked, then they would have done a lot worse, believe me."
"What do you mean?" Helen asked, perplexed.
"Well let's just say that Yvonne had her work cut out today."
Helen ignored the ambiguity, more concerned for her injuries for the time being, as she took her hand and gently squeezed it. Nikki squeezed back, trying to smile at her, wincing as the nurse finished dressing the wound and moved away and out of the room.
"You could have been killed, Nikki, why didn't you say anything sooner?" she asked softly, running her fingers through the hair at the back of Nikki's neck as she sat looking down.
"I didn't want to get you into any more trouble," Nikki told her. "With the suits."
"Oh sweetheart, thank you so much, but your safety is more important to me than whether I get a bollocking from the Home Office, you should know that by now."
They kissed softly, and Helen told her, "I've got good news for you."
Nikki looked at her. "What?"
"your appeal date is next week," Helen said smiling and watching the other woman's face change to a look of astonishment and happiness.
"What?!" Nikki gasped, grinning broadly.
"Next Thursday," Helen told her, their hands clasping playfully.
"How long have you known that?!" Nikki asked.
"About an hour. I was just coming to tell you when I got mobbed by the suits." She tutted. "I'm talking like you," she reprimanded herself with a quiet laugh.
Nikki laughed and pulled her into an enormous hug, overwhelmingly happy.
"Thank you," she repeated, smothering the governor in kisses until Helen laughed and pushed her away.
"You're very welcome," she smiled at her.
It was now just over a week after the prison visit. Despite Maxi's, Fenner's and general attempts to sabotage it, the Home Office had no cause for complaint, and Larkhall had kept its open visits and avoided a riot. Amongst the officers, Helen Stewart was praised for recovering the potentially disastrous situation. The wing had turned against Maxi Purvis and her Peckham gang after the Nikki incident, much to the lifer's relief.
Now, Nikki Wade sat in her cell wearing a smart suit with a black shirt, waiting for someone to come to take her off the wing for her court date. She was nervous as hell, and felt faintly sick at both the prospect of coming back to Larkhall that evening, and being released. In short, she couldn't shake the feeling no matter what she believed.
She wiped her sweaty palms on her trousers and stood up as a key sounded in the lock of her cell.
"Alright Nikki," Came Gina Rossi's cheerful tones. "Up and at 'em, got an appeal to get to."
Nikki tried to smile as she passed her, and met Helen outside on her way to collect her.
"Hiya Nikki," she greeted her, as she always had.
"Hi," Nikki replied worriedly.
"No need to look so terrified, you know," Helen said softly, smiling at her. "It'll be fine."
"Well, we'll see soon I suppose!"
Gina walked back past them. "Good luck Nikki."
"Thanks," she said, and she and Helen walked down the wing.
Mark left the officer's room and walked outside to the waiting car, where he was rostered to accompany Nikki Wade to her court case. He saw the other officer allocated was Sylvia Hollamby. Inwardly groaning at the amount of time he was sure to be spending with the old bag that day, he leant against the side of the car and lit a cigarette.
Helen led Nikki down to the gate and paused briefly. With a deadpan face, she said to Nikki, "I'm sorry, I know you're not going to like this but the price for your freedom is that you have to sit next to Sylvia Hollamby in the car."
Nikki smiled faintly.
"Come on, please sweetheart. It'll be okay, I promised you didn't I?"
"Yeah," Nikki breathed.
"So trust me. You'll be out of here for good today."
She spoke the words with such conviction that Nikki almost believed she knew something Nikki didn't.
"Will you be there?" she finally asked.
"Yeah, I wouldn't miss it for the world," Helen told her. "I'll be coming down later."
"Okay. Wish me luck," Nikki said, more enthusiastically, and Helen hugged her.
"Good luck, but you won't need it."
Mark tossed his cigarette to the floor and stood up straighter as he saw Helen Stewart signalling him from the gate. Hollamby moved to go and fetch Nikki, but he took pity on the lifer and said quickly, "It's alright Sylvia, I'll go."
He walked up to where Nikki was stood and held out the handcuff ready to snap onto her hand. As she scowled, he said to her, "Don't be like that Nikki. I just saved you from being chained to Hollamby for the day."
She smiled slightly, allowing him to close the cuff over her hand and then cuff himself, and they walked to the car.
Helen sat in her office unable to concentrate on the work in front of her. She had reread the page more than six times, because the words weren't sinking in. Finally she shut the file and sat back in her chair with a sigh. There was still another hour before she had to leave to be at court, but she couldn't concentrate on anything.
She had kept telling herself and Nikki that she would be released today. That's what both their hopes were resting upon, and Helen had faith in her but at the same time realised that there was a chance that she would be coming back to Larkhall that evening. But she wouldn't allow herself to think of that; for Nikki's sake and her own she had to be positive.
She wondered what Nikki was doing now. Probably sat waiting while they went through all the official pre-trial crap.
In fact, Nikki was doing just that. She sat with a cigarette, nervously tapping her foot as they went through the court procedure and What-ifs. She was listening enough to follow conversation with her lawyer Claire, but not really concentrating. What if she didn't get out? She would go back to Larkhall that night with no hope of being released in the next ten years. She wasn't sure of she could cope with that. Not after everything. The build up to the appeal date, and Helen, and .
"Are you alright Nikki?" Claire interrupted her. Nikki focused back on her.
"Yeah. Sorry, I just " she trailed off quietly.
"You're nervous. I understand."
Claire smiled at her and Nikki put out her cigarette.
Half an hour later, they were waiting. Claire's mobile suddenly rang out of the silence. She got it out of her pocket and looked at the screen. Smiling she held out the phone to a frowning Nikki. Not comprehending, she took the phone and saw on the screen "CALLING: Helen Mobile" and smiled at Claire before pressing answer.
"Hello," she said playfully.
"What're you doin' with Claire's phone?!" came Helen's soft accent, a smile evident in her voice.
"I stole it. Didn't you know? I'm a convict."
Nikki could detect background sounds and guessed that she was talking in the car.
Claire left the room in search of the Ladies' and after a pause, Nikki said softly, "I love you."
Helen was momentarily struck for words as she heard her say the words. "I I love you too sweetheart." She paused. "Nikki, I think you'll be free to go this afternoon. But if you're not " she struggled with words and Nikki silently waited. "I'll be here, okay?"
Nikki was touched. She replied, "thank you," quietly.
"I'm on my way there now. How're you feeling?"
Nikki exhaled heavily. "Okay, I guess. Nervous."
"You'll be fine. Just remember what Claire's told you. I'll see you afterwards."
"Yeah. See you later."
"I'd better go sweetheart. Love you."
When Claire returned she found a considerably happier lifer waiting for her as she passed her a coffee.
"OK?" Claire asked.
"Yeah," Nikki said, sighing. "Oh, by the way, I have a message for you."
Claire looked at her inquisitively.
"Yeah, Helen said to call her tomorrow."
"Ok," Claire acknowledged. "Better make it late in the day," she teased, "Seeing as you'll be leaving here today."
Nikki went red and shook her head. "You're incorrigible," she told the other woman.
Nikki couldn't believe her ears. The judge was saying she was guilty of manslaughter. Guilty: She was going to be sent back to prison. Her head spun.
"However, the I have decided to release the defendant on probation. Providing you do not commit any crime within the next "
Nikki tuned out as she looked up at Claire, then Helen, then back at the judge, grinning madly.
She didn't pay much attention to her surroundings as she was led from the dock and the handcuffs released. Standing rubbing her wrist outside, Claire congratulated her, as did Mark, who was being dragged away by a frustrated Sylvia Hollamby back to the car, complaining she had to get back.
Nikki looked up and saw Helen walking towards her and she smiled as she walked down the road towards her and they met in the middle.
"Congratulations," Helen told her, throwing her arms round her and doing a fair impression of the Cheshire cat. Nikki hugged her back, and as everyone disappeared in different directions, they were left standing on the pavement.
"Wanna come back to my place?" Helen asked her teasingly.
"Well, I don't have much of a choice, do I miss Stewart?"
"No, you don't. So get your arse in that car, Wade."
"Love it when you're bossy."
Return to Bad Girls Fiction
Return to Main Page