DISCLAIMER: The characters used in this fiction are not mine, they are the property of Shed Productions and Talkback Thames.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This came to mind after incessantly watching episode after episode of Bad Girls one week and then switching to The Bill and my tapes the week after. I wanted to combine the two and this is the result which I hope you all like! Thanks for reading.
SPOILERS: Bad Girls- up to series two. The Bill- no specific time frame, slight spoilers from months ago.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
'Sleep well?' Jo enquired when she skidded past Nikki in the small confines of their cell early the next morning. The lifer didn't volunteer an answer so she added, 'I appreciate everything you told me last night.'
Nikki snorted. 'You better keep your end of the bargain, that's all.'
'I'm not out to hurt anyone. Except Jim Fenner and I don't think that's gonna hurt you all that much.'
A few moments of silence passed. 'It isn't a fling, you know. Helen and me. She's not doing this for some kick, just remember that, alright?'
Jo nodded at the unexpected show of emotion from her cellmate. 'Yeah, I will. Just keep your ear to the ground for me, yeah?'
Jim Fenner was to Larkhall what the Black Plague had been to England many centuries before, Sam observed with a grim feeling as the Principal Officer made his usual trek down the lunch queue, stopping to talk to a select few women. None of the ones he singled out looked particularly happy to be given the special treatment, though Yvonne Atkins' sharp eyes did follow him when he had proceeded down the line to have a crack at Nikki. The lifer was stood with Barbara Hunt and visibly tensed when Fenner started what Sam could only presume was needless goading. Even from this distance she could see Barbara's lips thinning and an arm being stretched ready to, not restrain Nikki if necessary, but just to warn her what a lunge would put in jeopardy. Glancing at Jo further along the queue Sam recognised the same agitated feeling on her colleague's face.
Clearing her throat as loudly as possible, she shouted over, 'Mr Fenner, Miss Betts would like to see you in her office.'
He was clearly irritated, both at the nature of the message and the time at which it was delivered but he smiled and nodded his head. 'Thanks. I'll be right there.'
When he sauntered off the wing Sam rushed to the PO's office to call Karen Betts and let her have time to come up with a cover story.
It was raining so no work. Nikki hated it when that happened. She'd gladly be out in the gardens in the heaviest thunderstorm potting some begonias. It was one pleasure she'd allowed herself on the outside- walking in the rain till her feet grew numb but these bastards here didn't want anymore deaths on their watch, especially not from pneumonia. Then again, at least that was a natural cause and couldn't create a scandal like Rachel's suicide had.
The thought of Rachel brought her head back to what she was doing on the threes. Stubbing out her cigarette onto the floor she made to move towards Yvonne's cell but hesitated when she heard an all too recognisable voice inside.
'So Charlie makes the drop and I pick it up, same routine and we're all happy.'
'Not the same price though, Mr Fenner,' Yvonne answered. 'Charlie won't be happy.'
'Well, you won't be if these visits stop, will you, love?' Fenner reasoned. 'All I'm trying to do is make your marriage that bit more secure.'
Realising she had gleaned enough from this conversation Nikki quickly stole back down to her own cell before she was spotted.
So it seemed she had misjudged Yvonne when she'd decided the gangster's moll would have nothing to do with Fenner. Nikki had stupidly accepted that she was too smart to get involved with a slimy snake like him but, obviously, she had banked on playing him at his own game. As much as she knew Yvonne could handle herself she still grimly thought that she had bitten off more than she could chew. This was Fenner and Jo was right- he got away with everything. She'd been going to Yvonne to see if she had any dirt on the screw, now Nikki found she had gleaned enough dirt herself. Time to keep her end of the bargain and inform Jo. Her teeth gritted at the thought but it was for Helen and their future. It was all for Helen, that's how she could justify grassing in a mate.
The inmates were mostly in their cells or in the showers Sam noted with a touch of surprise. It was the first time the wing had been this quiet during association and it puzzled her but she supposed these things rose and fell depending on the overall mood of the women. And who knew what triviality could affect entire moods in prison?
So Sam swung her keys round and proceeded back to the office where she could see Fenner alone. For a moment she thought twice then she spotted Helen Stewart out of the corner of her eye talking to another officer on the periphery of the wing; she hadn't noticed her.
Walking purposefully into the office Sam smiled at Jim. 'It's been a rough day.'
He put down the paper he had been perusing. 'That's the way this job is, love. Any particular cons giving you trouble?'
'You'd like me to say Nikki Wade I suppose?' she asked, her tone losing all semblance of niceness.
His smile faded. 'I don't know what you mean.'
She stepped forward an inch. 'I'll tell you what I mean, Jim. I'm sick of your advances and you constantly trying to get me on your side. I know your type, I've seen it before, and I'm not about to let you mess up people's lives.'
Perhaps she had gone too far, she thought, as he also lost his gentle features and stood, advancing her backwards into the desk. 'Listen, you've been talking to Betts, right? Or Helen bloody Stewart. Well, take my advice, leave them well alone, if you wanna be in the job you stay on the right side of me, you hear?'
As Sam had anticipated Helen Stewart made a timely appearance, her gaze shooting back and forth between the pair as Fenner moved away quickly. 'What's going on here?'
'I was just explaining to Samantha where the chocie biscuits go,' Jim replied coolly, sitting down again. 'You know what Sylv's like if she can't find 'em.'
That lame excuse raised an eyebrow from Helen Stewart. Sam took the opportunity to just move out of the way and allow the fireworks to continue. Sure enough, the Liason Officer finally replied, 'Mmm, Sylv and her chocolate fingers, it's a travesty. Long as you're keeping your hands to yourself, Jim, that's all I care about.'
'Always have, Ma'am,' he said with a smirk then amended. 'Oh, sorry, that's right, you're not my Wing Governor anymore are you? That means you've got no right to accuse me of anything.'
'No,' the Scot conceded. 'I'll just leave that to Karen, shall I?'
'Sorry, Helen, you don't know how close me and Karen really are.'
Sam looked up in interest at this as Helen lost her train of thought. Bizarrely, the two women exchanged a look of pure horror, despite Helen obviously knowing nothing of Sam's true self and so not knowing why she'd be interested. Fenner took the opportunity to excuse himself leaving them both quiet.
Sensing she was completely out of her depth in relation to Helen's Stewart's thoughts and feelings Sam also made a quick exit, thankful for Jo's beckoning look when she approached the wing. Trailing the brunette into her empty cell Sam closed the door and sat down on the bed. Jo followed suit. 'Everything alright? I saw a bit of that.'
Sam shook her head. 'What do you think the chances are of Betts being a deranged ex? We see it enough.'
Jo frowned. 'No, I mean, Karen's straight down the line. Jack wouldn't have put us in if he'd thought she had her own agenda.'
'Well, maybe Jack's blinded by their friendship. Fenner's alluding to a physical relationship with Karen. I don't know what to think.'
'I really don't think we're here on some kind of revenge mission. Besides, what happened to Rachel Hicks was before Karen's time and I've done a bit of digging on Yvonne Atkins.' Jo pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket and pressed it into Sam's palm, leaving their hands together for a fraction longer than needed. 'I've written it down, if you can get it to Jack for me.'
'What is it?' Sam questioned, willing away the tingling in her hand.
'Fenner's got something going with Atkins, from what I can gather it involves Charlie Atkins giving him money. If Jack sticks surveillance on him we might get something.'
'Right, I'll get onto it. Everything alright?'
'Yeah, fine,' answered Jo, quite unconvincingly. 'What are you gonna do about Betts?'
'Have a word, I suppose. I want all the facts before I risk my neck.'
When she stood to leave Jo put a hand on her arm. 'I thought I'd got the short straw but you're working right beside Fenner. Sure you're alright?'
She smiled at the concern. 'Worry about yourself, Jo. I'll be fine.'
Having done her 'duty' and spilled the beans she had at her disposal Nikki had taken refuge in the surprisingly quiet library, not wanting to get caught up any further in whatever plottings were taking place on the wing. She was irritated then when she heard the door open and close behind her but that promptly disappeared after a familiar cough. 'Helen! What are you doing here?' Noting her girlfriend's paleness she beckoned her into a seat. 'What's wrong?'
'What else?' Helen answered.
With all that was going on it could only be 'Fenner. Look, don't let him get to you, he's not your problem anymore.'
'You know, that's what he said. I'm trying to leave it but He just gets to me. I can't stand what he might be doing. He's harassing one of the new officers, you know.'
'Not Samantha York by any chance?' Nikki queried tightly, reminded of DS Gossard and his lies to get him where he wanted to be.
Helen looked at her. 'How did you know that?'
How could she do this without giving Jo's game away? Not that she herself was particularly bothered about keeping the true identities secret but she had a feeling it would easier for her- and Helen- if she did. 'She's the only new officer on the wing, I took a guess. But don't bother about her, I'm sure she can look after herself.'
'That's the mentality that's killing the Prison Service!' Helen said, frustratedly looking away. Nikki knew why- she had ridiculed that many of Helen's ideas and beliefs in the not-so-distant past that her girlfriend probably thought she found them all idealistic. While it might have been true to an extent Nikki was hardly going to tell her that.
'Helen,' she said softly, squeezing her hand. 'I just don't think she's worth it, that's all. You hardly know her, you don't have a clue what her motives are. I mean, she might actually fancy him.'
The Scot shook her head. 'I've spoken with her. She's not that stupid.'
Nikki smiled briefly. 'I'm not saying I don't trust your judgement. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't make her another cause. There's more people out there, people who deserve it.'
Helen didn't smile. 'You expect me to just leave him to it? Let him carry on doing what he does?'
'Let others handle it!'
'Like the two coppers the MET have got undercover!' she replied heatedly. On Helen's baffled look she added, a little more softly, 'Samantha York's one of them. Betts put them in, Fenner and Stubberfield know nothing.'
'Samantha York's a police officer?'
Nikki nodded. 'Yeah. Jo as well. They're after Fenner apparently, they want my help.'
Helen was silent for a long minute then stood, Nikki recognising the anger in her poise. 'I don't appreciate being left out of the loop.'
'Hey, where are you going?' questioned Nikki, getting to her feet and pulling Helen as close as she dare. 'Just calm down.'
'You're telling me to calm down?'
Well, even Nikki had to admit it was a first. 'Look, please, stay out of it. I've given them what they want, maybe they'll actually get him.'
'No, it doesn't excuse Samantha's blatant lying. She had no intention of doing anything for the service '
'Okay, that as may be but you can't go steaming in there.'
'Give me a good reason why I shouldn't complain about this,' Helen said.
Nikki sighed. 'Helen, the only reason I'm working with Jo is because she's got something on me. She knows about us.'
Watching Helen's fury fade from her eyes, Nikki kept herself from further elaboration, knowing it wouldn't help her case. Finally, her girlfriend muttered, 'Well, that explains something.'
'I had a drink with Samantha last night, she mentioned you. I thought it was odd at the time but apparently she was playing me.'
'It's what they do best,' said Nikki bitterly.
'Nikki,' said Helen softly. 'Don't.'
Conceding her bias with a shrug she lifted a hand to clear the silky hair from the piercing eyes. 'Alright, I'm sorry.'
It was Helen who initiated the kiss, surprising her girlfriend. 'I can't promise not to have a word. At the very least, I want to know what they've got on him.'
'Okay, just not at the extent of your own career.'
'I didn't think you cared about my career,' said Helen, quite seriously.
'I care about you,' replied Nikki determinedly. 'I'm expecting you to be able to support me when I get out.'
Helen smiled. 'I'll bear that in mind. Well, I've gotta go attack a Wing Governor, I'll see you tomorrow.'
Nikki shook her head. 'I always thought I was the hot-headed one.'
Knocking once on the Wing Governor's door (and having checked Betts was in there alone) Sam barged in without waiting for an answer. Karen, behind her desk, looked up at the interruption, 'Sorry, I wasn't aware I'd invited you in.'
Sam got straight to the point. 'Are you sleeping with Jim Fenner?'
The spark her entrance had incurred disappeared. Moving out from behind her desk, Karen quickly closed the door. 'Why are you asking that?'
'Well, something cropped up and I started to wonder if you maybe had a grudge against him. I'd just like to be in full possession of the facts.'
Karen's lip thinned as she presumably considered her options. Eventually, she said, 'I have got a history with Fenner. We met at a conference, one thing led to another Believe me, it's not something I'm proud of.'
'I should think not. Were you planning on telling us this at all?'
'I know how it looks! But surely you've seen enough of him to realise this isn't some crazy revenge.'
Sam had to concede that but it didn't excuse it. 'I'd have thought you'd want this investigation to work, especially considering the effort we're going to here.'
'I'm aware of that, thank you,' said Karen curtly, indicating for them both to sit down. 'Have you got anything yet?'
She nodded. 'Yeah, we've got a possible lead. I'm going to pass it onto Jack tonight. To be honest, I doubt it'll be enough to nail him but it's a crack in the armour.'
'Right. Can I ask what it is or is it best I don't?'
'I don't think it's wise.'
'Fine,' Karen answered, more than a pinch of distaste evident in her voice. 'Now, if there's nothing else '
The Wing Governor didn't get a chance to finish her sentence as the door burst open again and an irate Helen Stewart entered. 'I want to talk to you.' She spotted Sam. 'And you.'
'Does anybody in this bloody place knock?' Karen asked angrily as Sam examined the look on Helen's face and considered the argument ahead. Obviously, she knew the truth about her identity; it was the only real explanation.
'I suppose you like keeping me out don't you, Karen? I thought you were different.'
'Do I know what you're talking about or am I to take a wild guess?'
Helen crossed her arms. 'How about we start with the part where you and Jim Fenner are having a sexual relationship?'
Sam felt Karen's glaring eyes on her and defended herself. 'She was there, he was bragging.' Looking to Helen she added, 'It was a long time ago. It doesn't affect the ' At that she hesitated.
The Scottish officer wasn't slow on the uptake. 'The case? Well, as long as the case is safe. Were you planning on filling me in at any time?'
Karen intervened. 'It was my decision who to inform, Helen. I thought your personal feelings might get in the way, from this performance I think I was right.'
The situation was fast becoming too heated for Samantha's liking. Fenner could walk past at any moment, hear what was going on and the whole operation would go out of the window. Standing up, she shut the door. 'Alright, let's all calm down.' Both women looked irritated at taking orders from a mere copper but they grudgingly quietened. 'I know this isn't ideal but I'm just trying to do a job here. The sooner it's done the happier I'll be so I suggest we all just get on with it.'
'How did you find out?' Karen asked Helen, something Sam was keen to know herself.
The Liason officer shrugged. 'Jo slipped up, is she one of your better officers?'
'Jo Masters is a credit to the service, she wouldn't have been put on this if she wasn't.'
Helen snorted slightly but didn't say anything. Karen, however, did. 'Can we get back to our duties now please? We don't want to arouse suspicion.'
Knowing how true that was Sam instantly moved to exit the office. 'I'll speak to you when I know something.' Heading gratefully down the corridor she had rounded the second corner when Helen clattered up behind her. Tired, she turned, but barely. 'What?'
The Scot wore a mask of fury, if possible greater than the one she had greeted Karen with. 'Keeping an investigation under wraps is one thing, I can understand that. But I warn you, Detective, if I get the slightest whiff of anymore blackmail I guarantee that you'll regret it.'
'Anymore blackmail?' repeated Sam dubiously. 'I don't know what you mean.'
'Oh, I think you do. Now my relationship with Nikki Wade may not be strictly above board but I assure you it is a much smaller offence than Fenner's catalogue. If you even think about jeopardising Nikki's appeal for this I'll make certain you pay for it.'
Her mind racing Sam physically backed off a little. 'I honestly have no idea what you're talking about. I haven't had any contact with Nikki.'
'No, but your friend has. And you wouldn't want her placed in a compromising position would you?'
'Of course I wouldn't.'
'Good. And, for the record, I don't appreciate being used as a pawn in anyone's games. I'll help if I can, I want to get Fenner out of this place more than you know. But I will not be used. Understand?'
Nikki gazed up out of her small cell window and watched the rain dropping steadily against the pane. Her enclosed-tiger feeling was returning; it had been circling ever since Helen had left her in the library and it was showing no sign of wanting to disappear. It left her drained of all energy and more nervous than she could ever remember being in prison. Usually the routine of the place subdued her but meeting and falling in love with Helen had prompted her to experience things she hadn't allowed herself to in earlier years. It was a mixture of pure concern, anger, resentment and love. Even defining it like that left her feeling like an emotional cripple. She supposed it was something she'd have to get used to- Helen wasn't going away and presumably neither were these emotions but while she was in Larkhall it was frustrating to say the least.
Where had Helen gone when she had left her? Nikki took a guess at Betts' office, perhaps via a stern word with Samantha, ready to unleash her anger at being kept in the dark. While Nikki could easily understand the irritation she was worried how Samantha and Jo would react to Helen knowing the truth. Of course, she was concerned her appeal would be affected by getting caught up in this mess but there was more than that to occupy her mind. Helen needed her career. Nikki wasn't certain why; she hadn't been able to get close enough to find out yet but she was in no doubt she would in time. The question was, though she knew deep down it was probably irrational, whether Helen would cope if she lost her career due to Nikki herself and had to make do with just a relationship and some menial nine till five. It would be tough mentally on the former Wing Governor and Nikki wasn't overly certain she'd know how to deal with anything like that. It wasn't something she'd had to try with Trisha- she'd been on remand when her ex had been overcoming her attempted rape. It had been down to friends to do the consoling and supporting which Nikki had felt bad about but not to the extent she probably should have.
It was times like this, though, that she hated the confines of prison. The bars were never her favourite thing, obviously, but when she wanted to be with Helen, checking she was alright, calming her down if necessary: it was the relationship she yearned for and she detested not being able to do anything. She couldn't save Helen if Jo decided to blow the whistle.
No, that was wrong. There was something she could do. Why not give them what they wanted? She could do better than overhearing a conversation between Fenner and Yvonne; she could do what she did best- go straight to the source and tell her a few home truths.
Helen was amazed with herself. No other time in her life had she put her career on the line as she already had with Nikki but she'd gone one step further. Of course she'd gratefully sacrifice her job for the woman she loved if necessary, she was only worried this turn of events might mean Nikki could lose her appeal. Helen couldn't bear that to happen which is why she'd gone against what she'd said to her girlfriend and confronted Samantha about it. All she was concerned about was Nikki being released. The rest they could cope with, when they were together on the outside.
Yet she was surprised at how low she had threatened to stoop without recognising it at the time. Would she really place Jo in danger in order to retaliate for action against Nikki? Well, no, it went against all her principles but the fact she'd even suggested it to Samantha meant a change in her personality, or at least her priorities. In her early days in the Prison Service she'd believed honesty was vital for anything to work. Perhaps she had become possessed by what she was trying to destroy. Or maybe this situation had just merited it. Either way, she had gone against her values, if only in speech. There was no real return from that change, nor was she particularly sure she wanted to return to where she was before she met Nikki. Now she felt secure in her relationship, despite the constraints surrounding them. She wasn't subconsciously looking around for something better and when she was alone she didn't brood on Nikki- she worked on getting the appeal through. It would be worth it, she knew it would be. Which was why she hadn't been able to risk it all being lost.
Jo had been wondering where Nikki had got to so when the cell door swung open and slammed back with ferocity she was sure it was her cellmate. Turning to greet her, she said, 'Where have you ' then trailed off at the sight of the angry blonde officer. 'Sam, what's wrong?'
'What the hell have you been doing?' the Sergeant hissed. 'Blackmail? And how does Helen Stewart know who I am?'
Closing her eyes briefly, Jo tried to formulate an answer which would satisfy this woman who was still, in all logic, her superior. 'Look, Nikki picked up on something I said, she must've passed it onto Helen. I'm sorry you got caught like that.'
That hadn't pacified Sam an inch. 'And the blackmail?'
'She was threatening to smash my face in, what was I supposed to do? Let it happen and come round in the hospital wing a week later to find out she wrecked the investigation? I took action, that's all.'
'We don't indulge in blackmail, Jo! If this comes out there won't be an investigation, we'll be totally undermined.'
'Well, it won't will it? Nikki's scared stiff Helen'll lose her job, she'll behave now.'
'You're trusting a prisoner?' questioned Sam scornfully.
'I've got faith in someone who follows their heart. As long as there's a risk she isn't going to drop anyone in it. She'll be a vital asset.'
'You really think she trusts you?'
'No, she fears what I could do,' Jo replied. 'There's a difference.'
Sam didn't seem able to argue on that point. She leaned heavily against the door. 'Why didn't you tell me this earlier, presumably you knew?'
Jo approached her tentatively. 'Yeah. Nikki got the information on Charlie Atkins for me.'
That raised another eyebrow. 'Oh, Jo! How's that going to stand up in court?'
She was tired of this. 'I hope it won't have to. Sam, I've said I'm sorry. What more do you want?'
Probably noting the fatigue in the voice the blonde Sergeant relented. 'Alright, I know you're trying to make this work as much as I am. We've just got different ways of doing things.'
'That's why we usually work well together,' Jo answered, smiling apprehensively. 'Are you alright? Did Helen Stewart give you a pasting?'
'Something like that. I think between the three of us we could've done with a referee.'
Sam shrugged. 'I was having a word with Karen when Helen found us. Let's just say it wasn't the pleasantest conversation I've ever had.'
'What, including the ones with the DI?'
'Yeah, including those,' she smiled.
Jo watched the face flicker then fade. 'What is it?'
'I just It's nothing.'
'Sam, come on. Put it this way, I'm stuck in here all night with Nikki Wade, you could at least give me something to think about.'
Pondering that for a moment Sam finally showed signs of movement, closing the distance between their bodies. As Jo's throat constricted her counterpart lost her bottle, promptly turned and fled the scene. Left alone looking onto the rowdy wing Jo considered whether there was room to misinterpret the situation. Well, there was always room but had she this time? No, she didn't think so.
Having been admitted to Yvonne's third floor boudoir Nikki was perched on the end of the bed wondering how best to broach her subject. Knowing the bluntness of the woman sat beside her she supposed she should just be herself. She wasn't one for rank and authority anyway. 'You're doing deals with Fenner now, Yvonne?'
Her elder looked up though her face remained impassive. 'What?'
'You needn't keep it a secret anymore, I know all about it. Fixing up conjugal visits is he? Playing Santa?'
'I've got no idea what you're talking about, Nikki.'
'Oh, for God's sake, Yvonne!' she burst out angrily. 'You've got to know what he's capable of.'
'I can look after myself perfectly well. Been doing it since I was a kid.'
The kid reference brought up a fresh point. 'Yeah, and he knows that. But Fenner has never targeted anyone who can stand up to him. You heard of Rachel Hicks?'
Yvonne shrugged. 'Course I have. And it was down to Shell bloody Dockley last I heard from you. Have you got a fresh villain for everyday of the week or is this special?'
'Rachel was sleeping with Fenner,' Nikki said. 'And you know that because it's common knowledge.'
She nodded. 'Alright. But what evidence have you got, Nikki?'
'He double-crossed Shell, why won't he do the same to you?'
'Look, if I did have something going on you think I'd be stupid enough to give someone else the upper hand?'
'Get real, Yvonne! Where you are gives him the upper hand. You're desperate, everyone in here is, he knows that and he picks 'em off one by one.' A thought suddenly struck her. 'You know he tried to set Denny up for the whole Rachel case don't you?'
Something flickered across the face of Mrs Atkins. It seemed Nikki's hunch about her developing a soft spot for the young prisoner had been spot on. The mask returned. 'It was a long time ago.'
'Yeah,' she agreed. 'About time for him to screw her over again, wouldn't you say? Or maybe it's my turn, or Barbara's, or Crystal's. Could even be yours couldn't it?'
Leaving that as her final word Nikki left the cell, hopefully triumphant that her words had made a difference. At least she felt like she was doing something to save Helen's skin, being proactive in her future. That was a thought that had never occurred to her until she'd met Helen and now it dominated her. Why should she be left behind?
Shivering slightly in the cool evening Sam stepped out of the prison gates and ground to a halt. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do. After calling Jack, they'd arranged to meet in a local car park at ten o'clock to discuss things but she still had a good two hours to kill. Of course, she could go back to her bedsit- her cover for this investigation- but the thought didn't exactly thrill her; it was too quiet, there was too much room for contemplation. Moving aside into the shadows as the door behind her opened again she managed to stay out of sight of Helen Stewart stamping towards her car. She wasn't so fortunate a few seconds later, however, when Jim Fenner emerged. Perhaps his eyes were so accustomed to the shadows he worked from that they didn't affect him one bit.
'Waiting for someone?' he sneered, all his earlier pretence of friendliness going out of the window. 'Your friend Stewart?'
'It's none of your business what I'm doing,' she answered dismissively, making to move towards the bus stop.
His hand on her arm soon prevented that. 'I can make it my business, love. You picked the wrong bloke to mess around.'
'You think you scare me, Jim?'
'I'm just telling it like it is. Be warned.'
He might have been moving anyway but the screech of car brakes right beside them forced him to back away a few inches. The window of the red Peugeot rolled down and Helen Stewart said, 'I was giving you a lift home wasn't I?'
Grateful, she nodded and quickly got in the passenger side, moving the files from the seat onto her lap. Fenner watched them out of sight- she kept her eyes trained in the wing mirror- but when his figure had faded she was forced to turn to Helen in the driver's seat. 'Thanks.'
Helen kept her eyes firmly trained on the road. 'I know what he's capable of, leaving you wasn't an option.'
'Right.' After a moment, she sighed. 'Look, Helen, what happened was a misunderstanding. We haven't got any intention of reporting your relationship with Nikki, it was a case of crossed-wires.'
'You mean threats?' Helen replied steadily. 'I stand by what I said earlier- you jeopardise Nikki and I'll jeopardise your case and the safety of your officer.'
Sam examined the steely face with interest. 'I've heard a lot about you. Bright-spark, fast-tracker, do-gooder; are you telling me you'd sacrifice everything you stand for as a revenge?'
'Don't act like you understand me.'
'Oh, don't worry. I'm not under the illusion I understand anybody these days,' she answered, quite bitterly. In response to Helen's questioning glance, she continued, 'The lines get blurred don't they? Someone can appear one thing and be completely opposite.' In her head she admitted she was referring to Jo as well here. 'Thoughts and feelings change in the blink of an eye.'
'That's very philosophical for a copper,' said Helen with a very small smile which was probably in spite of herself. 'It's usually black and white. That's what makes the MET so much like the Prison Service.'
'Quoting the handbook there are we? The one you didn't read.'
'Hmm. I'm fairly certain chapter eleven covered closeness to inmates but I must have missed that. In fact, a lot of it was crap anyway.'
'I noticed that when I was trying to become a passable officer.'
'I think you accomplished that, don't you?' Helen said, glancing at her again. 'Where do you want dropping off?'
She didn't answer straight away, she was thinking of Larkhall and a particular prisoner locked up there at that very moment. When she eventually did look back at Helen Stewart it was with a touch of cluelessness. 'Sorry?'
'You look miles away.'
'Oh, not that far really.' Sam drummed her fingers on the files on her knee. 'Helen, you have every right to say no, but could we go for a drink? I'd like to ask you something.'
Checking sideways, most likely for any malicious intent, Helen eventually shrugged. 'If you want. I know a quiet place not far away.'
'Thanks, I Well, I really appreciate it.'
Lucky for Nikki Jo was on her side facing the cell wall when she returned soon after her conversation with Yvonne. She didn't want questions about what she was doing or queries about why she was doing it. All she wanted was to get the next few months out of the way, get out of Larkhall and begin her life with Helen. In the meantime, she wanted as quiet a life as possible.
Still She had to keep herself informed didn't she? 'You okay?'
The voice floated back, soft and flat. 'Yeah, fine.'
'Has someone had a go?' she questioned. It was a perfectly viable scenario even if you weren't a copper masquerading as a con- that was one sad thing she had learned from her time in prison.
Jo turned around slowly. 'No, it's nothing like that.'
'Well, what then?'
'Forget it, Nikki,' she answered then added, 'I'm trying to.'
Helen was being careful with Samantha. She was both intrigued by what the police officer had to ask her and wary of what her true motives might be. It was very possible that she was being lured into a false sense of security- considering the lengths she, or at least Jo, had gone to in order to keep them onside- but she wanted to believe it was something else, perhaps something true.
On her return from the bar Samantha placed the pint glasses down on the table and took a seat. 'I know what you think about me so thanks for not shooting me down.'
'I've already told you, it's not your aim I've got a problem with, just your methods.'
'You really don't like Fenner do you?' Sam questioned.
'You've spent time with him, I don't think you can blame me.'
'No, but you seem to despise him. That's because you know him, I suppose.'
'Oh, I wish I knew him,' Helen answered with a shake of her head. 'Then perhaps I'd know exactly what he's done. At the moment I've only got guesses and they don't hold much weight with the people who count.'
'What precisely do you think he's done?'
Helen smiled slightly. 'And here was me thinking you had something else to talk about.'
Samantha shrugged. 'I do. I was just interested, that's all. Can't switch off the copper in me.'
'That's not necessarily a bad thing.'
'No, but it's got me into trouble a fair few times.' On the questioning look, the blonde added, 'My daughter believes, rightly so, that I become too involved with my cases. I only recently accepted she had a point.'
'You've got a daughter?'
'And a grandson actually,' Sam said, smiling. 'Abigail and Thomas.'
Helen bit back her response to this woman having a grandchild and said, 'Well, in answer to your question, I think Fenner's guilty of sexual relations with several inmates, not limited to Shell Dockley and Rachel Hicks. You know about..?'
'Yes, Karen filled me in.'
'Right. I also think he's covered up some situations, I'm not quite certain what. Probably something surrounding Rachel's suicide which, I'm ashamed to say, we never really got to the bottom of. Aside from that, I firmly believe he beat Shell Dockley and perhaps aided her drug use in the months prior to that. That's only what I gleaned from a few months on the sidelines and, of course, he was never going to be too chatty about it.'
'I suppose Nikki's been a help,' Sam commented.
Eyeing her for any malice she finally replied, 'She's got conflicting interests, it's difficult. But, yes, she gave me information on Rachel Hicks and I truly believe everything she says.'
'I wasn't suggesting she lied at all,' answered the copper sincerely. 'I wouldn't say I entirely trust her myself but you obviously know enough to.'
'Well, I'm assuming you know her story?'
'Yeah, pretty much. Stopped her ex-girlfriend being raped by a copper, pleaded guilty and got life for it.'
'That's the jist of it, yes,' Helen said, sipping her drink and looking pointedly at the officer in front of her. 'So, you had something to ask me.'
'Yes.' Samantha took a long drink then placed her glass back down on the table and leaned forward. 'Of course, I know Nikki's Well, her previous relationships. But I presume you were What I mean is Sorry, this is coming out all wrong.'
'Mmm, it is,' observed Helen. 'You're trying to ask if Nikki was my first relationship with a woman?' Samantha nodded. 'Yes, she was, though I don't see how that can be of any value to you.'
'I'm not talking about the case, Helen. I'm talking about '
As Sam's eyes fell downwards she recognised there could only be one person on Sam's mind. 'Jo,' she realised with a start.
She wasn't entirely sure how to respond to that. Using the cover of her drink she let the silence drag on for minutes whilst she absorbed the situation. Eventually, she asked, 'Is this some kind of ploy to get me talking?'
Samantha shook her head. 'I'm many things but I don't manipulate people like that.'
'Right. Well, it was worth a try I suppose. So, does she ' Helen smiled at her own inability to ask this question. 'What are her thoughts?' Now she felt like she was talking to a child.
The blonde shrugged. 'We haven't always got on. It probably doesn't matter anyway. I mean, I can't follow up this little thing.'
'If it were that little I doubt you'd be talking to a perfect stranger about it.' She paused before continuing. 'I was hardly receptive to Nikki's feelings for me, it took a lot of soul-searching before I accepted them. My advice is, don't rush it. And don't mess up your case. I can see Jo getting damaged if you do that.'
'I thought you were going to make sure she was damaged,' answered Samantha pointedly.
Caught, Helen smiled. 'Let's just see how it goes, shall we?'
'Thanks.' Samantha raised and inclined her glass slightly. 'Cheers.'
'You talked to Yvonne Atkins?' Jo repeated dubiously, looking up from the washbasin and meeting Nikki's eyes in the mirror. 'Was that the right thing to do?'
The lifer glanced at her out of the corner of her eye. 'I thought so.'
'Okay. Well, what did she have to say for herself?'
'Nothing much. But I left her with things to think about.'
'Do I need to know what?'
'I wouldn't think so.' Closing that bit of the conversation Nikki took over Jo's place at the sink then asked, 'You've cheered up from last night then. What was it, PMT?'
'Very funny. No, it was nothing.'
'Didn't look like it. Man trouble?'
Jo shifted uncomfortably. 'Leave it, Nikki.'
Shrugging, her cellmate went about washing her own face while Jo took a seat on her bunk under the pretence of putting on her shoes.
Tuning back in to the sound of Karen's friendly drone Sam shook all other thoughts from her head. The Wing Governor was talking about new arrivals. 'We've got the pleasure of Renee Williams joining us on G-Wing this morning.'
From the corner chair Dominic McAllister snorted. 'Great. I had the pleasure of booking her in last night.'
'Yeah, don't turn your back.'
There was a general titter of laughter around the room but Sam wasn't smiling. The name had cropped up in her discussion with Jack Meadows the previous night when he'd explained about the surveillance already on Charlie Atkins. Apparently she was no stranger to a once rival. 'Am I right in thinking she's got a connection to Yvonne Atkins?'
Karen nodded, not outwardly questioning her knowledge. 'It was her husband that Yvonne took a contract out on.'
'Oh, marvellous!' Sylvia Hollamby said scathingly. 'That's right, send her here so we can referee. I'll get the bucket to mop up afterwards shall I?'
'Sylvia, enough,' Karen said. 'We might not like it but that's the way it is. Alright, everybody, get to work.'
Slowly the POs filtered out of the office, Sam being one of the first in order to avoid Jim Fenner's eyes. It was inevitable she'd have to talk to Jo at some point and since she now had a viable reason it might as well be the present.
Making to follow Nikki out of the cell Jo was surprised when, as her cellmate left, she was forced back in by the figure of Samantha Nixon. Backing away before their bodies could touch in any way, she took a seat on the bed. 'Morning.'
Sam was looking everywhere but at her. 'I talked to Jack last night. Apparently there's already some surveillance on Charlie Atkins, they're going have a look through the photos to try and spot Fenner. But, whatever's there, it's not enough to lock him up.'
'So what do we need? Yvonne to point the finger.'
'Yeah, among other things. Look, you've got Nikki onside, that's good. Just get what you can. Oh, there's something else.'
Jo looked up questioningly. 'Really?'
The blonde glanced quickly away again. 'There's a new inmate on the wing this morning, Renee Williams. She's Yvonne's nemesis- it was her husband that Yvonne hired a hitman to kill. I don't know if that affects what you're working on but ' Sam shook her head, as if angry with herself. 'Be careful.'
Though the sentiment was nice Jo smiled it away. 'I'll be alright. Besides, you've got my back.'
'Yeah,' answered her friend looking up. 'Do you need an escort to breakfast?'
'It's a dangerous world out there.' Jo stood, reached out a hand and touched her arm. 'Come on.'
It was out of habit more than anything that Nikki looked up as the gates swung open to herald the arrival of a new prisoner. Long ago she had realised she had little taste for the mundane things like this that made life bearable for other inmates but it was a routine she hadn't managed to break herself out of. She hated her own flicker of interest at the sound but what could she do?
The new arrival was a middle-aged woman, mean-mouthed, obviously cruel. Nikki had seen so many of them come and go in her time, this one was as unremarkable as the last. Plunging her fork back into the centre of her egg she was about to tune out completely when a crash from the next table attracted her attention. Yvonne had dropped her full cup of tea on the floor and was staring intently at the new arrival.
Suddenly intrigued, Nikki questioned, 'Alright, Yvonne?'
Her friend waited until the woman had been escorted through to the wing. 'Not really, Nikki, no.'
'You know her then?'
'Yeah, you could say that,' she answered and was about to continue when Bodybag stormed over.
'Oi, Atkins! Get this mess cleared up.'
Ever sharp, Yvonne glanced over to the dumpy screw. 'You wanna get me a cloth then?'
Huffing, Sylvia then directed her attention at the servers behind the counter. 'Saunders, get over here!'
Looking back to Nikki, Yvonne said, 'That's Renee Williams. Her husband's the one I took a contract out on.'
Nikki raised an eyebrow. 'Right.'
'Karen, can I have a word?'
The Wing Governor glanced over the files she had stacked in her arms and, to Helen's relief, nodded. 'Come to my office.'
When they were settled in the familiar room Helen bit her lip. 'I wanted to apologise for what happened the other day. I had no right to question your judgment. If I had been in your position I'm sure I would've done the same.'
Karen smiled slightly. 'You don't have to apologise to me, Helen. I realise where the anger came from. It's Fenner, it's something he inspires.'
'I won't argue with you there. I just wanted to ask, what prompted you to bring the police in? I mean, I had plenty of cause but no evidence. I can't see a force taking it up.'
'Well, Jim Fenner's not the only one with friends in high places. Mine just aren't corrupt.' When Helen raised a questioning eyebrow, she went on, 'My ex was friends with a DCI from Sun Hill, Jack Meadows. He's my son's godfather actually. When I suggested there might be a problem he offered to look into it, as a favour. I hope to God I'm right, he'll be in the shit if I'm not.'
'Oh, you're right, Karen. Trust me. Is there anything I can do to help?'
The blonde shrugged. 'I honestly have no idea. You're still close to some of the inmates here, aren't you? Some of them look up to you.'
'I'd like to think so. What are you suggesting?'
'Perhaps you could talk to a few of them- Crystal, the Julies, Nikki Wade even.'
Helen smiled uncomfortably. 'I'll do my best.'
After watching from her own table in the corner Jo stood up when Yvonne had moved away. Nikki was watching the retreating figure with a troubled look. Sitting down, Jo said, 'I take it you know who that is.'
The lifer nodded. 'I think Yvonne's rattled.'
'I'm not surprised. You don't wanna bump into someone you've crossed, especially not in a confined space like this.'
'I'm sure she can handle herself,' said Nikki looking back to her breakfast which Jo assumed was now cold. 'I doubt she'll be ratting on Fenner anytime soon though. She's got other things to worry about.'
'Yeah, it had crossed my mind. You don't reckon she can be persuaded?'
'Look, I had enough of a job on trying it when she wasn't shacked up with her worst enemy.'
'Alright, alright.' Jo frowned then looked up. 'So we tell her the truth.'
Nikki raised a cynical eyebrow. 'I thought you wanted a result.'
Jo glanced over to where Sam was chatting to Di Barker at the gates. 'I just want out of here.'
'Welcome to prison.' After a moment Nikki followed her gaze. 'What is it, she not coping? It's bound to be worse as a screw.'
'It's nothing like that.'
'Then what? Come on, Jo, you got me involved in this.'
Suddenly Sam glanced up, her eyes resting immediately on Jo herself. It was obvious she had long since clocked where she was sitting and had probably been looking up on a regular basis. The thought made Jo shiver. She didn't want Sam Nixon's eyes over her body, not when everything was so badly confused. Samantha was nervous, she understood that. And Jo was too. She felt caged. While she wasn't entirely sure what she'd be doing on the outside she knew it wouldn't involve being forced to watch a seemingly straight woman struggle with her emotions. It was something Jo hated; she liked simplicity. But here she was thinking she would gladly let everything get complicated if Sam would just talk to her. She wanted to hear the words. No, forget the words, she just wanted to know the truth in whatever way Sam wanted to express it.
Nikki cleared her throat loudly. 'I didn't know you were that way inclined.'
Caught, Jo looked up. 'She isn't.'
'Neither was Helen.' Picking up her plate, Nikki stood. 'If you really wanna talk to Yvonne, now's the time.'
'Mmm. Just, er, don't tell Sam. She won't want it going arse up.'
'Sam, hold the gate.'
Turning at Helen Stewart's voice, she complied, waiting until they were level before she locked it and answered, 'Morning, you're in early.'
'Well, I had a few visits to make.' Helen began walking down the corridor. 'How's the investigation going, if you don't mind my asking?'
'Of course not. Not too well, if I'm truthful. We've got photos of Fenner colluding with a known criminal but it's not enough. What we really need is a direct statement from someone who he's harmed.'
'That's always the trouble. I take it Jo is having no success from her side of the bars?'
'I haven't really discussed it with her,' Sam said shortly then sighed. 'Sorry, I didn't mean to be sharp.'
'No, it's understandable,' replied Helen letting her open the next gate and lock it behind them before she continued. 'Anymore thoughts on that?'
'I'm taking your advice,' she replied evenly. 'The case is the important thing. I just wish we were getting somewhere.'
'I might have an idea actually.'
Sam looked over questioningly. 'Really?'
'Mmm, what are you doing at lunchtime?'
'Good. How about joining me in a home visit?'
'Are you sure she was going to the showers?'
'Look, Barbara saw her go,' Nikki answered with annoyance. 'And she saw Williams go after her.'
'Then maybe we should get a screw.' The thought sounded ridiculous even to Jo's ears.
'What, Samantha maybe? Put her in the centre of this? Why not Helen as well? Be realistic will you?'
Conceding, Jo continued along the corridor behind her cellmate. The showers seemed quiet from the outside and she made to go in but Nikki held up her hand to halt her. Sure enough, a voice floated through the door a few seconds later. 'Your Charlie's a real charmer ain't he? Great in certain departments if you know what I mean.'
Well, that could only mean one thing. Jo closed her eyes as she tried to imagine the scene in there. Williams sounded pretty close to the door, probably blocking it, though since Yvonne hadn't yet spoken she couldn't be certain. Her first instinct in such a situation would be to call for backup and try negotiating from where she was. But she wasn't usually in a volatile prison environment. She wasn't even totally sure what was going on. This could be a perfectly reasonable conversation. Then again, judging from the history and what Williams had just revealed it could probably be assumed otherwise. Which begged the question of why Yvonne was staying in there. Jo knew that if a girlfriend's affair had been revealed in that manner she would've been out of there like a shot. So perhaps there was something else involved. A weapon perhaps. What had Dominic McAllister said? 'Don't turn your back'. She wanted to remain in one piece at this moment in time. She had someone to consider now.
'Who do you think you're kidding, Williams?' Yvonne finally answered allowing Jo to place her at the far end of the room. 'My Charlie wouldn't touch you with a barge pole.'
There was a chuckle. 'Nah. It wasn't a barge pole he used. Kind of funny-looking isn't it? That little scar he's got just above it. A bit lower and he wouldn't have had one to shag me with.'
Nikki visibly clenched her teeth. Jo pressed her ear close to the door in order to get a better grasp of proceedings.
'You're lying out of your arse, Williams,' said Yvonne though Jo was sure she detected a slight shake in the voice.
'You've got your head stuck up yours, darling.'
'I don't have to listen to this.' There were scrambling noises, maybe Yvonne moving towards the door then a minor yelp from Atkins as something happened. Despite her involuntary fear Jo nodded at Nikki and then kicked the door open.
Yvonne was lying on her front covered in blood trying to restrain Renee Williams who was knelt over her, a blade in her hand.
'Shit,' yelped Nikki, rushing over and dragging Williams off by her hair.
'Get off me you bitch!'
'Friendly,' Jo commented, forgetting herself and aiming a kick at the prisoner's abdomen. When Williams keeled over, she dragged Yvonne up by her shoulders. 'You alright?'
'Yeah.' Atkins then aimed her own kick at her rival before the woman fled.
Nikki brushed herself down and picked up the blade. 'Lucky we were passing.'
'Passing, were you?' Yvonne replied sceptically as Jo took the blade from Nikki. 'Suppose I should thank you.'
'Yeah, it wouldn't go amiss,' Jo remarked, examining the cuts on the woman's neck and arms. 'You ought to get those looked at.'
'Nah,' Yvonne dismissed her. 'I've had worse.'
'Yeah, I bet you have.'
'Look, I didn't ask for your help, alright?'
'No,' Jo admitted. 'But we gave it didn't we? I'd say that means you owe us something.'
'I don't owe you anything, love,' answered Atkins distastefully pulling away and steadying herself against the wall.
Nikki sighed. 'Come on, Yvonne, don't piss us about.'
'I don't know what you want, Nikki.'
'You to drop Fenner in it. It's that simple.'
Yvonne cocked her head slightly. 'Why does it matter so much to you, eh? You weren't bothered before.'
Nikki glanced sideways at Jo. 'Fenner's under police investigation. I was going to say that Charlie could easily be dragged under but I reckon you could be as well.'
The sharp eyes narrowed. 'How do you know this? Your pal, Stewart?'
Jo stepped up. 'From me. I'm an undercover police officer, assigned to bring Fenner down. I don't want there to be casualties.'
She swallowed as Yvonne approached her, breathing more easily as Atkins brushed past her and left the room. Nikki shook her head. 'You were nearly a casualty. Watch your back will you?'
'I thought she'd ' Jo slammed her fist against the wall drawing blood from her knuckles. 'Damn it!'
'Oi! Calm down. Give Yvonne some time. I'm not promising anything but we did just save her neck.'
'What, you think that means something?'
'Just because she's a con doesn't mean she's a cold-hearted bitch, alright?' snapped Nikki. 'You'd be best off keeping quiet if all you're coming out with are those crap assumptions.'
As Nikki also left Jo contemplated slamming her hand against the wall again but restrained herself. It wasn't as though it was going to do any good and she'd already have to explain some bruised knuckles.
'Marilyn Fenner?' Helen questioned when a middle-aged blonde opened the door to her and Sam. The woman nodded, silently. 'We're colleagues of your husband from Larkhall, can we have a word?'
Any slight panic she might have expected from a woman in that situation didn't come. She shrugged and let them follow her into the living room, Sam closing the front door behind them.
There was a general odour about the place, Helen realised with a wrinkle of her nose. It was sweat, male sweat. The reason became apparent when Marilyn Fenner hastily stowed a duvet away under the sofa before indicating the guests should sit down. That was interesting. 'Mrs Fenner, I'm Helen Stewart. You might have heard about me.'
The thin mouth curled. 'Yeah, you could say that. What do you want?'
'Sorry,' Sam said quickly. 'I'm Samantha York, your husband tried it on with me yesterday.'
'You're only a bit of skirt, love, I wouldn't get too excited.'
'Huh,' said Sam, causing Helen to look at her wonderingly. 'No, it's nothing. I just could've sworn that you said in your official statement to the police when he was accused of assault that you trusted your husband completely and he had never so much as looked at another woman. In the last few months you've changed your mind?'
'I don't have to discuss this with you. I know what you're trying to do, pin something on Jim.'
'No,' Helen argued. 'We're trying to get something to stick. You must know what he's like, what he's done. It doesn't stop at affairs, Mrs Fenner, I'm certain he's abused women, perhaps sexually.'
'No! Jim's many things but he's not a '
'Rapist?' Sam supplied. 'Violent bully?'
'Stop it, the pair of you!' Marilyn stood, going over to the window. 'You're talking about the father of my children.'
Helen lowered her eyes. 'I know. Did Jim ever mention a young inmate, Rachel Hicks?'
'He talked about a lot of people,' she answered, turning with her arms crossed over her chest.
'No, but Rachel killed herself. It was alleged afterwards by several inmates that she had a physical relationship with your husband and that he and Dockley caused her death.'
Mrs Fenner had balked at the familiar name. 'Dockley.'
Sam was observing the woman intently, Helen noticed. Perhaps best to leave the professional to it then. 'Mrs Fenner,' she said eventually. 'You ought to know I've acquired an eyewitness account from a gateman. He says that on the day your husband was suspended you turned up and threw his suitcase at him. It seems a huge coincidence if you weren't doing that because Shell Dockley had done as she claimed and phoned Jim's infidelity in to you.'
After a long moment the blonde sat heavily in an armchair, her head resting in her hands. 'What am I supposed to do? I've got the kids to consider. I don't want them knowing what their father did.'
'My daughter was kidnapped recently,' said Sam, much to Helen's surprise. 'I say 'recently', it was more like a year ago now. And it wasn't a true kidnapping, she'd been brainwashed by a man I trusted, an old friend. Anyway, he confused her into a sexual relationship and she had his baby. He's a few months old now. Abi, that's my daughter, she's got to decide what to tell him when he grows up. Does she say that his father raped her as part of a revenge game on her mother? Or does she lie? I don't know what she'll do but whatever it's better than explaining to him in eighteen years why his mother stayed with his father when he was obviously a criminal who used her for a sick game. Personally, I think the kids'd be better off without him at all. It can't be healthy for children to be exposed to that badness in a person, even if they can't see it.'
Marilyn shook her head. 'It's so easy for you to say. Have you tried raising kids alone?'
'Abi's father was a lot like your husband,' said Sam shortly. 'But worse.'
Helen, sensing a complete shift in mood, cleared her throat. 'If you change your mind, Mrs Fenner, please call me.' She scribbled down her number on a piece of scrap paper and handed it over. 'I urge you to think carefully.'
She didn't say anything. Leaving with civilities Helen and Sam made their way out to the car, Helen unsure of what to say or if anything was indeed appropriate. It wasn't until she had started the engine and was reversing out of the parking space that Sam finally spoke. 'Do you think she'll consider it?'
'I think you might have convinced her. Better than I could've anyway.' She glanced across to the passenger seat. 'Was that '
'True?' interrupted Sam knowingly. 'Yeah.'
'And the part about Abi's father?'
There was a long pause, giving Helen enough chance to drive to the end of the suburban street and turn the corner. 'He was a child killer, you might have heard the name Stuart McCarthy. Well, I had a baby by him when he changed his identity. It's not something I'm proud of. I tried to hide it from Abi but she found out eventually, of course she did. So perhaps I did get through to Marilyn Fenner. Via experience.'
Raising an eyebrow but shutting her mouth Helen concentrated on the tarmac ahead. It seemed the safest option.
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