DISCLAIMER: Bad Girls and all its characters are property of Shed Productions, a division of Shed Media Group, plc. The author implies no ownership of these characters, and they are used in the stories without permission solely for entertainment and not for profit. Similarly this applies to any copyrighted fictional characters either from literature, broadcast media or film.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was originally started the day after Episode 13 of Series two was aired in the UK and is my take on what happened afterwards. It was originally posted chapter by chapter on my old website, ZanWeb back in 2000-2001. This is intrinsically the same story, minus most of the original grammatical errors and cringeworthy cliches ... I hope!!!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To filbertfox.redux[at]gmail.com
Secrets & Lies (Redux)
Barbara Hunt's prayers were interrupted when she heard whispers outside her cell door. Then she heard a key turning in the lock and closed her eyes, waiting for all hell to break loose.
'You've got fifteen minutes.'
Barbara kept her eyes closed, unsure of whether she was dreaming or whether she had actually heard the words that Dominic McAllister had whispered.
The cell door closed and Barbara resumed her prayers.
A whispered voice and a hand shaking her shoulder, she dared not to hope that
'Barbara, are you awake?'
Barbara opened one eye and then two, feeling relief crashing over her in waves when she saw Nikki standing beside the bunk.
'Nikki? Thank God!'
'Yeah, well next time you do that, tell the bastard that if I ever get to heaven I'm going to give him a bloody good kicking!'
'Why? What happened?'
'I'll tell you later. I've got to get out of this stuff and into bed before they start letting us out.'
Barbara closed her eyes, feeling her body growing heavier as adrenaline gave way to exhaustion. Just as she surrendered to sleep, she heard Nikki climb into her bunk and begin to sob.
'Ere, Sir, you cut yourself shaving or what?'
Jim Fenner raised a hand to the cut just above his right eyebrow. He touched it gently and trembled slightly, flashing back to the moment the night before when Shell Dockley had come at him with a broken bottle. With an effort, he forced himself to smile at Julie Saunders. 'Something like that,' he replied. 'Come on now you two. I'm not in the mood for any messing about this morning.'
Julie S shared a shrug with her cellmate, Julie Johnston, as they filed out of their cell.
Fenner followed the Julies down to the servery where Shell Dockley pulled him to one side.
'Enjoy yourself last night did you, Mr Fenner?'
'Look, darling, by rights you should be on your way to Broadmoor after that little trick you pulled,' Fenner whispered forcefully.
'Yeah, well we wouldn't want Miss Betts to find out how you managed to cut yourself, do we?' Shell said with a smug smile.
Fenner looked around to make sure the Julies were occupied and then pushed Shell into the kitchen. 'Any more from you, Dockley and you'll be sorry you were ever born, got me?'
Shell smiled as she watched Fenner walk away. He might have been able to fight her off last night, but this morning she had him by the balls.
The Julies looked up when Shell swaggered out of the kitchen.
'It's gonna be bleedin' murder today,' Julie S said.
'What you on about, nutter?'
'The screws are all gonna have 'angovers, ain't they?'
Julie J nodded in agreement. 'Ere Jue, what sorta state d'you reckon Bodybag was in this morning?'
Julie S laughed as she pictured a drugged-up Sylvia Hollamby, abandoned by her husband in the middle of the dance floor. 'I want my Bobby!'
'Blinding idea of Yvonne's to spike 'er with that E, eh Shell?'
'Pity it din't kill the dried up old cow,' Shell replied, reaching for a ladle to stir the porridge. 'By rights we should be the ones with frigging hangovers.'
'Talking about 'aving a bad night, 'ave you seen the state of Nikki and Babs?' Julie J commented. She nodded towards Nikki and Barbara, both of whom were pale and hollow eyed with exhaustion.
Julie S looked up and gasped. 'Bleedin' 'ell! It's the dawn of the living dead!'
Shell smiled sweetly at Nikki when she reached the counter. 'Someone looks like she din't get much sleep last night. Up shagging the 'ooray were ya?'
'Piss off, Dockley!' Nikki snapped in reply.
Shell laughed and turned to Barbara who was next in the queue. 'Looks like you're in need of an extra helping this morning, Babs. Wade wear you out did she?'
Deciding that she wasn't going to give Shell the satisfaction of a reply, Barbara wandered over to join Nikki. Her cellmate had seated herself at the furthest table and was now staring into space.
'Are you going to tell me what happened last night?' Barbara asked, losing patience.
Helen Stewart walked into the PO's office, quickly looked around to check that the coast was clear and then closed the door behind her.
Dominic was asleep in an armchair. He woke with a start when Helen gently shook his shoulder. 'Helen?'
'It's okay.' Dominic stood up and rubbed his eyes, conscious of Helen staring at him expectantly. 'Don't worry, everything went to plan. Luckily for you and Nikki, most of the night shift were asleep or hung-over.'
'And you managed to swap the security tapes?'
Dominic nodded. His expression darkened slightly when Helen let out a ragged sigh of relief. 'Don't ever take advantage of my friendship like that again, Helen. It's not fair.'
'I know, and I'm sorry.'
'Yeah, well next time she decides to sneak out because you've had an argument, you're on your own.'
'How is she?'
Dominic didn't get a change to answer Helen's question. Karen Betts walked into the room and stared over at Helen quizzically.
'What are you doing here on a Saturday?' she asked.
Helen exchanged a guilty look with Dominic. 'I er '
Seeing this, Karen immediately jumped to the wrong confusion. 'Oh, I hope I didn't just interrupt something,' she said with a sly smile.
Dominic shook his head, now blushing furiously. 'Of course not,' he said. 'Helen was just telling me that she needs an urgent word with Nikki Wade.'
'It's about her appeal,' Helen added, thankful for Dominic's quick thinking.
'Oh I see.' Karen raised an eyebrow. 'Bad news?' she asked Helen.
'Very,' Helen replied solemnly. 'I was going to ask Dominic to take her to my office so that I could give her the news in private. Is that okay?'
'Why wouldn't it be?' Karen said with a good-natured shrug before turning to Dominic. 'Has Sylvia turned in yet? I'm actually only here today because Simon called me in. I couldn't resist popping down here to see what sort of state she's in after last night.'
Dominic smiled despite himself. 'She phoned in sick this morning.'
'I can't say I'm surprised.' Karen rolled her eyes and then retraced her steps to the door. 'Looks like I'll be having a few words with Officer Hollamby on Monday morning.'
'So I was in the bedroom getting dressed when I heard voices in the hall ' Nikki was forced to bring her account of last night's events to a premature end when she spotted Yvonne was on her way over from the servery.
'Morning, ladies,' Yvonne said brightly. 'Mind if I join you?'
'Help yourself,' Nikki said with a yawn. 'How did Bodybag's party go last night?'
Yvonne looked around shiftily as she sat down in the chair next to Barbara. 'Let's just say that you missed an eventful night.'
Barbara studied Yvonne for a second. 'Well, whatever happened it certainly seems to have agreed with you. You're very chirpy this morning.'
Yvonne smiled cryptically. 'Well, Babs, let's just say I came to a few decisions about my future last night.'
'You're not the only one, Yvonne.' Nikki looked up sharply when she spotted Dominic approaching. 'What do you want?' she snapped, provoking surprised looks from Barbara and Yvonne.
'Morning, Nikki,' Dominic said, choosing to ignore Nikki's hostility. 'Ms Stewart wants to see you.'
Nikki's eyes flickered towards Barbara. 'What does she want to see me for?' she asked.
'She didn't say,' Dominic replied. 'Come on, you don't want to keep her waiting.'
Simon Stubberfield rose from his armchair and smiled when Karen walked into his office. 'Thanks for coming in so promptly,' he said jovially. 'Sorry I had to drag you away from home on a Saturday,' he added as he motioned Karen towards the sofa where a man was sitting. 'Karen, I'd like you to meet Detective Inspector Chris Deakin.'
'Police?' Karen raised an eyebrow as she took her seat.
'Maybe you should explain, Chris,' Simon said to Deakin as he returned to his armchair.
'What I'm going to say to you now is to stay in this room,' Deakin said gravely. Leaning forward, he picked up a file from the coffee table, opened it and took out a photograph. 'Recognise this man?' he asked, handing the image to Karen.
Karen studied the photograph carefully. 'That's Charlie Atkins,' she said, turning to Deakin questioningly. 'We've got his wife Yvonne here, as I'm sure you're aware.'
'So you'll know that he's up for trial next month?'
'Yes, but I don't understand what that's got to do with me.'
'I was just coming to that.'
Nikki stopped Dominic before he knocked on the office door. 'What sort of mood is she in?' she asked.
Dominic shrugged. 'None of my business,' he replied curtly. He knocked on the door and then reached for the door handle. 'I just hope you realise how lucky you are,' he said to Nikki before opening it.
Helen was standing by the window. She didn't look around when the door opened. 'Thanks Dominic,' she said. 'I'll call down to the wing when we're finished.'
Nikki waited for Dominic to close the door before walking over to join Helen at the window.
'Don't, Nikki,' Helen said sharply.
Nikki stopped, halfway between the door and the window. 'Helen?'
Slowly, Helen turned around. 'Do you have any idea what you put me through last night?'
'I'm having the strangest sense of déjà vu,' Nikki said, rolling her eyes. 'I thought we'd already talked about this. In fact, I seem to remember both you and Dominic spending most of the night trying to convince me of what I'd put you through.'
'Yes, and that's another thing. You not only nearly lost me my job but Dominic's too,' Helen continued. 'Do you have any idea how much of a risk he took to get you back in here this morning?'
'I didn't ask him to,' Nikki replied petulantly. 'Anyway, what about what you've put me through? I could be halfway across the Atlantic by now.'
'I didn't bring you here to argue about it.'
'So what did you bring me here for?' Nikki sighed angrily, fighting a losing battle against her temper. 'Let me guess, I get a bollocking and then a goodbye, is that it? Well, what more should I expect from someone who shags me and then betrays me.'
'Oh just shut up!' Helen snapped. 'I didn't betray you, Nikki, you betrayed yourself! And if that's what you really think of me then goodbye is probably the only thing I should be saying right now.'
'Then why don't you?'
'Do you honestly think that last night meant nothing to me?'
'So why did you call Dominic?'
Helen chose to forget the fact that before calling Dominic she had dialled 999, only to lose her nerve at the last minute. 'Because I couldn't risk you going on the run,' she said at length. She held up a hand when Nikki opened her mouth to speak. 'Look, we went through all of this about a hundred times last night, and I'm too tired to go through it all again.'
'So what happens now?'
'We've still got your appeal.'
'My appeal?' Nikki laughed bitterly. 'There is no appeal.'
'So what do you want to do?' Helen asked. 'Forget everything? Forget us?'
Nikki raised an eyebrow. 'Is there still an us?'
'Nikki, that's up to you. Like I said, I'm just too tired to argue any longer.' Helen turned back to the window and let out a long sigh. 'So,' she said. 'What's your decision?'
Karen left Simon's office with a million thoughts flying around her head. By the time she returned to G-Wing, she felt like she was going to explode.
Dominic and Fenner were in the PO's office catching up with paperwork. Over in the corner, Barbara was running a duster over a filing cabinet. All three looked up when Karen walked into the room.
Karen glanced over at Barbara 'Barbara, would you mind leaving us for a moment?' After Barbara had closed the door behind her, Karen looked over at Fenner. She frowned when she noticed the cut above his eye. 'What happened to you?'
'I was a bit worse for wear when I got home last night,' Fenner replied. 'Ended up walking into the door.' He reached into his shirt pocket for his cigarettes, frowning up at Karen as he did so. 'Rare to see you in on a Saturday,' he commented, offering her the packet.
'Simon called me in for an urgent meeting,' Karen explained. Refusing the cigarette that Fenner offered, she turned to Dominic. 'You're Barbara Hunt's personal officer aren't you?'
Dominic looked up from his paperwork. 'Yes I am,' he replied. 'Why? Is there a problem?'
'We'll have a spare cell up on G3 when Rhonda Cooper is released on Monday. Do you have any objections to the idea of moving Barbara into it?'
'No, not at all,' Dominic replied, shaking his head.
'Can you see to it then please?'
'No problem, leave it with me.'
Karen nodded her thanks to Dominic and then turned to leave the room. She was halfway to the wing gate when she felt a hand on her elbow.
'Hold on a minute,' Fenner said, eyes narrowing slightly when Karen pulled her arm away. 'I just wanted to know if you got home okay last night.'
'It looks like it,' Karen replied coldly. She made a point of glancing down at her watch. 'Can we do this another time please, Jim? I'd like to get home and get on with my weekend.'
Dominic opened the door of Helen's office and found her and Nikki standing on opposite sides of the room. He quickly averted his eyes when he saw that both women were frantically wiping away tears. 'I'll be outside,' he said, closing the door softly behind him.
Helen watched the door close and then looked over at Nikki. 'Are you going to be okay?' she asked.
'I will be after I grab some sleep,' Nikki replied, smiling slightly. 'Barbara too. I don't think she got a wink last night for worrying about me.'
'Well that makes two of us.' Helen walked over to Nikki and reached for her hand. 'This is going to be so much harder for both of us now, you know that, don't you?'
Nikki nodded and looked down at the floor. 'I'd better go. Don't want to embarrass the boy wonder out there any more than we have already.'
'I love you, Nikki,' Helen said tearfully.
'I know.' Crossing the room, Nikki reached out to wipe a tear from Helen's face with her thumb. 'I'll see you on Monday, I suppose.'
'Yes,' Helen said firmly. 'Yes you will.'
Nikki watched the light filtering through the bars. She was awake at sunrise for the third morning in a row, standing by the window and smoking yet another cigarette. It was strange. She was tired more tired than she had ever been in her life, but sleep still proved elusive. Every time she closed her eyes she saw Helen felt Helen's skin against her own heard Helen's breath quickening against her ear. Nikki shook her head violently, trying to stop the thoughts that threatened to rip away every last shred of sanity and leave her standing there, an empty shell.
It wasn't just the thoughts though. There was also a physical craving. The simple fact was that Nikki needed to see Helen needed now to be near her in order to exist. This wasn't right. It wasn't rational, and it was something that scared Nikki to death. No one, not even Trisha, had ever elicited this amount of emotional dependence before.
At least there was the lifers' meeting later that morning an hour in which Nikki could feast on the sight of Helen and gain the fix she needed.
Nikki flicked her cigarette end out of the window and sat down at the table. There was only one thing she could do now. Only one way out of the lie she'd lived for so long. Reaching for Barbara's notepaper, Nikki started to write a letter to Trisha.
Barbara woke just as Nikki was writing Trisha's address on the envelope. 'Is that for Helen?' she asked, nodding towards the letter.
'It's for Trish,' Nikki replied. 'I'm sending her a VO.'
Barbara frowned as she climbed down from her bunk. 'Trisha?' she said with a frown. 'Is that wise?'
Nikki shrugged and reached for her cigarettes. 'We've got some business to discuss. Don't worry. It's nothing particularly earth-shattering. Shit!' Nikki crumpled the empty cigarette packet and threw it across the room. 'I'm bloody skint too.'
'You smoke too much,' Barbara observed primly.
'Yeah, and you nag too much.' Nikki smiled as she sealed the envelope. 'You know, I'm going to miss you when you bugger off upstairs to the Hilton.'
'Well I promise to think about you when I'm lying on my sun-bed.' Barbara leaned over the table to take Nikki's hand. 'I'd like to say it's been a pleasure but '
'Nothing's ever a pleasure in this shit-hole, yeah, I know,' Nikki said with a sigh.
'At least you'll be on your own again.'
'So tell me something I don't already know.' Nikki squeezed Barbara's hand briefly and then got up to look out of the window. 'Looks like it's going to piss it down later.'
Di Barker frowned down at the clipboard she was holding and then looked up to study the two women sitting in reception. One was blonde, attractive and possessed an aura of quiet self-assurance. The other was also attractive, but dark-haired and surveying her surroundings with silent contempt. Di returned her attention to the clipboard. One of the women, Polly Mitchell, was in for murder. The other, Kerry Harrison, was in for credit card fraud.
Di made a wager with herself and then looked up from the clipboard. 'Which one of you is Kerry Harrison?' she asked.
Di congratulated herself when the blonde woman raised her hand and then turned to look at the dark-haired woman. She was now studying her fingernails and sighing with boredom. 'So you must be Polly Mitchell,' she deduced.
'Well done, Sherlock,' Polly scoffed in a husky voice with a heavy Manchester accent. Rolling her eyes, she shook her head. 'It's pretty obvious they don't employ you lot for your intelligence, innit?'
'That's enough from you, Mitchell.' Sylvia Hollamby, already in a foul mood after a dressing-down by Karen, regarded Polly with distaste. 'Right, let's be having you.'
'Chuffin' Nora!' Polly exclaimed as she looked Hollamby up and down. 'I coulda done with you on the outside. You're scarier than my Rottweilers.'
'Oh, so we've got a comic here have we?' Hollamby exchanged a disapproving look with Di. 'Somehow, I don't think Bob Monkhouse has got anything to worry about.'
'If you fink Bob Monkhouse is funny, then you're a couple of knives short of a cutlery set!'
Hollamby gestured to the bag Polly was holding. 'Alright, Mitchell, less of the wise cracks. Let's have your belongings.'
Polly dropped the bag on top of Di's clipboard. 'You're the strong silent type are you? Or is it that you can't get a word in edgeways working with motormouth 'ere?'
It seemed to Di that Hollamby inflated with every single flip remark and insult from Polly's mouth. By the time she shoved Polly into the other room, Di was sure she was on the verge of exploding.
Di looked over at Kerry who had witnessed the exchange without cracking so much as a smile. 'Okay, Kerry, let's get you sorted out,' she said. 'With any luck, we'll be able to get you down to G-Wing for lunch.'
At the lifers' meeting, Helen was trying very hard to concentrate on what Shell Dockley was saying.
'It's all bleedin' bollocks innit? They treat us like shit and no one '
Shell's words began blurring into each other.
To Helen, the only thing that mattered was the woman sitting immediately to her left. The gorgeous woman who was staring at her in such a way, that she felt as if she was only a second away from spontaneously combusting. Surreptitiously, she darted a glance at Nikki, feeling her stomach flip painfully as their eyes met.
The bell rang, cutting Shell off in mid-flow.
'Okay, that's it for today,' Helen said, trying to make her voice as business-like as possible. 'See you all tomorrow.'
All of the women, bar one, filed out of the room. Helen could almost hear her pulse racing as she turned to look at the woman who had stayed behind. 'I really wish you wouldn't do that,' she said.
'Do what?' Nikki raised her eyebrows in a display of mock innocence. 'I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.'
'No, of course you don't.' Helen smiled ruefully and shook her head. 'You look terrible.'
'You don't look so good yourself,' Nikki commented, her brow furrowing with concern as she scrutinised the dark circles under Helen's bloodshot eyes. 'Having a hard time sleeping?' she asked.
Helen nodded and looked down at the floor. 'Every time I close my eyes I '
'Yeah, me too,' Nikki interjected. Finding that her eyes were filling with tears, she blinked. 'Well, I really know what I'm missing now,' she said, letting out a ragged breath.
Up until this moment Helen had resisted making any physical contact, scared that she might lose control and completely break down. But as she reached out and laid a hand on Nikki's arm, it suddenly felt like coming home. Time stood still and the rest of the world disappeared the only thing that seemed to matter was the woman standing before her.
Helen's voice was almost a whisper and it cut Nikki through to the bone. 'Please don't.' Nikki covered Helen's hand with her bandaged one. 'Just God! This is so shit!'
Nikki forced herself to break contact. 'I need to talk to you, Helen I look, there's no easy way of saying this so I'm just going to come out with it.' Nikki paused and took a deep breath. 'I've sent Trish a visiting order.'
'Why should that be a problem?' Helen asked, nonplussed. 'You still run a business together, don't you?' Her eyes widened slightly in comprehension and she smiled. 'Oh, Nikki. You thought I was gonna be jealous.'
Nikki shrugged. Suddenly embarrassed, she looked down at the floor. 'Anyway, she asked me to send her a VO last time I called her,' she said. 'Said she's got some papers she needs me to sign.'
Helen had her mouth open to comment when Karen stepped into the room.
'Nikki, shouldn't you be back on the wing by now?' the Wing Governor said, frowning over at Nikki suspiciously.
Helen forced herself to smile at Karen convincingly. 'Sorry, Karen, it's my fault. We were just discussing Nikki's appeal.'
Karen studied Helen closely for a moment. From the sounds of it, Nikki's appeal was going to prove to be the most meticulously prepared in legal history. Once again, as she observed Helen and Nikki together, Karen got the distinct impression that something was going on she wasn't party to. So far, she'd be unable to work out what it was. 'Helen, can I have a word?' she asked.
'Yes of course.'
Nikki took this as her cue to leave the room. 'See you tomorrow, Miss Stewart.'
'See you, Nikki.'
Yvonne watched Nikki walk straight into her cell after being let onto the wing, missing lunch for the third day in a row.
If her instincts were right, and it was rare that they were ever wrong, Nikki's loss of appetite had something to do with Helen Stewart. Yvonne had been sharp enough to pick up on the way the two women looked at each other on her very first day in Larkhall and had kept this information filed away in the 'might prove to be useful one day' section of her head.
Yvonne looked round to see the Julies looking down at her expectantly.
'We was just saying,' Julie S said. 'D'ya reckon Nikki's okay?'
'Yeah, she don't look that well at all,' Julie J added.
Yvonne shrugged. 'She's probably stressed out 'cause of her appeal.'
The Julies sighed and nodded in tandem. 'Yeah, you're right.'
Yvonne waited until the Julies were busy gossiping at another table before heading over to Nikki's cell.
Nikki was lying on her bunk and staring into space, she looked up with irritation when Yvonne knocked on her cell door.
'All right, Yvonne?' Nikki frowned suspiciously and sat up. 'Anything I can do you for?'
'Just passing the time of day.' Yvonne smiled reassuringly and reached into her pocket for her cigarettes. 'Smoke?'
Nikki considered for a moment and then nodded, smiling guardedly. 'Thanks.' She was surprised; Yvonne had never actively sought out her company before. Although Nikki respected the older woman, a respect she had come to realise was mutual, she had never really had cause to get to know her. But then Yvonne had never needed her as an ally, or as a stepping-stone to achieve her objectives.
Yvonne lit Nikki's cigarette for her and then sat down beside her on the bunk. 'Scuse me for saying, but you look bleedin' awful, Nikki.'
Nikki laughed and shook her head. 'You really do call a spade a spade, don't you?'
'I ain't never had time for bullshit,' Yvonne replied, dragging deeply on her cigarette. 'Seriously though, are you okay?'
'Forgive me for being suspicious, but why the sudden concern?'
Yvonne shrugged. 'Would you be surprised if I told you I fancied a bit of intelligent conversation for a change?'
Nikki sighed and regarded the end of her cigarette intently. 'Would you be offended if I told you that I wonder about your motives?'
'I don't suppose I can really blame you for being cautious,' Yvonne said with a wry smile. 'It ain't as if I've ever really gone out of my way to speak to you before.'
'So why seek out my company now?'
'For some strange reason, there's more than a few people out there who are worried about you,' Yvonne replied. 'Like I said, you look like shit.'
'Just having trouble sleeping, that's all.'
'Babs a snorer is she?' Yvonne stood up and looked at the now bare bunk. 'Not that it matters now she's upstairs. You gonna be okay on your own?'
'I've always managed in the past. I prefer it actually.'
Yvonne nodded. 'You get on well with yourself, don't ya?'
'Meaning I'm a miserable bastard?'
'No, meaning you're self-contained.'
'Is there anything wrong with that?'
'Not at all.'
Just then, Denny popped her head around the cell door. 'Yvonne man, you up for a game of pool?'
'Yeah, rack 'em up, Denny love. I'll be there in a second.' Yvonne waited until Denny gone before turning to smile at Nikki apologetically. 'Maybe another time?'
Yvonne nodded and made as if to leave the cell. Almost as an afterthought, she reached into her pocket for her cigarettes and tossed the packet to Nikki. 'Here.'
Nikki caught the packet deftly. 'I'm not into doing favours for anyone, Yvonne,' she said coolly. 'So if there's any sort of catch involved here, then I'd rather go cold turkey until pay day.'
'No catch, Nikki,' Yvonne replied with a smile. 'See you later.'
DC Kerry Holmes looked into Di Barker's earnest face and wondered if the woman really was too nice to be true, or whether she herself had fallen victim to that common police ailment, terminal cynicism.
'Miss Betts, the Wing Governor, has decided to put you in with Nikki Wade,' Di announced as they made their way down the corridor to G-Wing. 'She thought what with you being a first-timer, it might be best for you to be in with someone who can keep an eye out for you.'
Kerry frowned. The name Nikki Wade seemed familiar for some reason. 'What's she in for?'
'I think that's something you should ask her yourself,' Di replied, smiling reassuringly. Reaching for her keys, she unlocked the wing gate. 'You'll be okay with Nikki,' she continued as she motioned Kerry through. 'She can be a bit of a firebrand at times, but she gets a lot of respect from the rest of the women. She'll look after you.'
Kerry was aware of the scrutiny from the other inmates as Di led her onto the wing. Some of the stares were hostile, some curious, and some appreciative. Just as she had learnt to do during a previous undercover operation in a prison, Kerry cleared her face of any expression and was careful not to look anyone in the eye.
Di stopped outside one of the ground floor cells. 'Here we are.'
A dark-haired woman was lying on the bottom bunk of the bed, reading what looked like a very weighty novel. She looked up warily when Di cleared her throat.
'Nikki, meet your new cellmate '
Kerry had to stop herself from taking a step back when the woman suddenly erupted off her bunk. She confronted Di furiously, eyes narrowed in anger.
'What the bloody hell?' she snapped. 'I'm a lifer. I'm not supposed to be doubling up.'
Di smiled apologetically. 'There's nothing I can do, Nikki. This comes straight from Miss Betts.'
'Look, I can understand why they put Barbara in here but ' Nikki tried to protest.
'She's put Kerry in with you for a similar reason,' Di explained quickly before Nikki could get into her flow. 'She's got a bad case of asthma you see '
'Fine! Bloody marvellous!' Nikki exclaimed, throwing her arms up. 'What am I? The district bloody nurse?'
Di shrugged and stood back, allowing Kerry to walk into the cell. 'Right, I'll leave you two to get to know each other.'
Kerry was aware of Nikki glaring at her as she walked into the cell. She turned to look at her and nodded, still with the feeling that she'd come across the woman before.
Nikki had noticed Kerry's eyes narrow in recognition and frowned. 'Have we met before?'
'I don't think so.' Kerry replied, still furiously racking her brain. 'I'm Kerry Harrison by the way.'
'Nikki Wade, and before you ask, I'm in this shit-hole for life, I was convicted of murder and I'm a dyke. So, if you've got a problem with any of that then I'd run along and get them to move you now.' Nikki picked up her discarded book and settled back into her bunk. She pointed to the mattress above her head. 'The top one's yours.'
Karen looked up from the file she was reading when there was a knock on her office door. Placing the file to one side, Karen called for her visitor to enter.
Sylvia Hollamby opened the door and regarded Karen with distaste. 'Harrison for you, Ma'am.'
Karen forced herself to smile at the woman she felt like strangling on disturbingly regular occasions. 'Thank you, Sylvia. I'll call down for someone to collect her when I'm finished.'
Kerry walked into the office and waited for Hollamby to close the door before rounding on Karen furiously. 'Is this your idea of a sick joke? The only woman in the country serving life for the murder of a police officer and I end up sharing a cell with her? I mean, come on! The DI said you weren't too keen on the operation but this is ridiculous!'
'DC Holmes, would you please take a seat and I'll '
'Take a seat?' Kerry howled. 'Right at this precise moment I feel like hitting you with one! By rights I should be on the phone right now and '
'I said, sit down!'
Karen's voice was crisp and authoritative. Kerry found herself complying almost immediately.
Leaning back in her seat, Karen studied Kerry intently. 'The reason I put you in with Nikki is because whatever I think about her personally, she's probably the best person you could have on your side.'
'A convicted cop killer? Yeah, great choice.'
'I've been told about your last undercover operation in a prison. My understanding is that you were very lucky to get out alive. Now, I appreciate your concerns but Nikki gets a lot of respect from the other inmates. She's someone they don't mess with.'
'And because I'm her cell-mate she'll be duty bound to protect me?' Kerry sighed and shook her head. 'I don't think so somehow. I've been in with her for two hours now and all I've had is dirty looks and attitude. Oh, and while I think about it, what's all this rubbish about me having asthma?'
'Lifers don't usually double up. I had to think of a reason for you to be in there with her.' Karen replied. She let out a long, weary sigh. 'Give it a couple of days. If you still feel this way then I'll move you to a single cell, okay?'
Kerry thought for a moment and then nodded. 'Okay, but if I'm stuck with sharing a cell with the woman then I want to know all there is to know about her.'
Nikki was trying to concentrate on Great Expectations when she felt a presence in the cell. She looked up and saw Yvonne smiling down at her.
'All work and no play ' Yvonne began.
'Yeah, yeah, I know.' Nikki sighed and put the book down. From her calculations she'd read the same page four times and a distraction, even if it did come in the form of Yvonne Atkins, was very welcome. 'How are you, Yvonne?'
'About to kill Bonnie and Clyde out there but I'm okay.'
Nikki smiled and raised her eyebrows. 'Denny and Shaz perchance?'
'Got it in one.' Yvonne walked over to the table and picked up the discarded book. 'I don't know how you can read this crap, give me a Jackie Collins any day.'
'What can I do for you, Yvonne?'
'I need a doubles partner for pool and you're elected.'
'Well, it's you or Babs and somehow, I don't fancy her much as a Paul Newman.'
Nikki laughed and considered for a second. 'Okay, you're on. Who are we up against?'
'Denny and Shaz.'
Nikki stood up and flicked the cigarette she was smoking out of the window. 'Okay, but I'm warning you right now, you might have to restrain me from strangling them both at some point.'
'Why do you think I asked you to play?'
Shell Dockley sat on a table and watched the pool match that was in progress, her face expressionless as she worked her way down a cigarette. Shell was studying the game intently, not particularly because she was enjoying it, but because she hated three of the women involved in it.
Firstly, there was that lesbo bitch Nikki Wade. Shell had spent a long time engaged in a battle of wills with Nikki, relishing every opportunity to let fly with a well-timed dig calculated to make the psycho lose her temper and earn another trip down the block. Then that bitch Stewart had turned up and Nikki had started to behave herself. At first, Shell had been confused about Nikki's sudden change in behaviour, but then had come to suspect that she was shagging the ex-Governor. Shell was now just biding her time until she got some concrete proof.
Then there was Yvonne Atkins, a woman Shell hated with every breath in her body. Not just because Yvonne had belittled her and had taken over as 'top-dog', but because the older woman also scared the living shit out of her. In the past, Nikki had been the only woman ever to unsettle Shell well, unless you counted that psycho, 'Mad' Tessa Spall but Nikki was all temper and Shell had learned to use that to her advantage. Yvonne was different though she was dangerous, and whenever Shell experienced the full force of that cold, calculating stare she felt her will drain away and her bowels turn to water.
Shell's gaze shifted to Shaz Wylie, the ugly gnome who had stolen Denny from her.
At the height of Shell's powers, Denny had provided the muscle behind her threats. In those days, Shell had been secure in Denny's adoration, to such an extent that she knew she only had to say 'jump' and Denny would automatically ask 'how high'. Shell had lost a degree of her control over Denny when Yvonne had started taking an interest in her, but knew that when the chips were down, she could rely on her chief henchwoman to step in. Ever since the arrival of Shaz though, Denny was too busy behaving like a lovesick adolescent to remember who she really belonged to.
Shell was well aware that since her 'problems', she'd lost a lot, if not all, of her power on G-Wing. Her main problem now was how she was going to get it back, without the muscle to back it up.
Brain still ticking over, Shell extinguished her cigarette in the mug of tea belonging to the woman sitting at the neighbouring table. Ignoring the protests that followed, she strolled over to the wing steps. She was just about to return to her cell when she spotted a new face walking into the four-bed dorm.
The woman was of medium height with dark hair and bright green eyes. She wore a skin-tight, low-cut top and a mini-skirt that showed off a pair of tanned and extremely shapely legs. It wasn't her obvious good looks that attracted Shell, but rather the fact that she was literally dripping in gold jewellery and possessed a hugely annoying, cocky swagger.
With the lack of anything else to do, Shell decided that a spot of bullying might just lift her spirits.
Nikki exchanged a significant look with Yvonne when she noticed Shell disappear into the dorm and then slowly close the door behind her.
'None of your business,' Yvonne said, seemingly reading Nikki's thoughts. 'Anyway, from the looks of her, I think Shell might find out that she's bitten off more than she can chew.' Yvonne's attention was caught by another new face. 'Hey, Nik, ain't that your new cellmate?'
Nikki nodded curtly, not sure whether it was Yvonne's over-friendly abbreviation of her name or the approach of her new cellmate that irritated her the most.
After her initial anger had subsided, Nikki had been most pissed off to find out that Kerry Harrison was not only intelligent and good-looking but also exactly her type. Before Kerry had been called up to Karen's office, Nikki had spent a couple of hours studying her over the top of her book. She quickly found that Charles Dickens was no competition for an appealing package of dark eyes, golden hair and a feminine but athletic-looking figure.
Yvonne and Kerry studied each other warily and Nikki was slightly intrigued when she sensed something unspoken pass between the two women.
Yvonne nudged Nikki impatiently. 'Ain't you gonna introduce us, Nikki?'
'Yeah, of course. Yvonne Atkins, meet Kerry Harrison.' Nikki then turned and gestured towards Shaz and Denny, both of whom were smiling at Kerry appreciatively. 'Shaz, Denny, this is my new cellmate, Kerry.'
Shaz and Denny practically tripped over each other in their eagerness to shake Kerry's hand.
Yvonne, who had been watching this with amusement, looked up and frowned when she saw Hollamby lumbering towards them. 'Stand by your beds, girls, its Ginger Rogers!'
Hollamby regarded Yvonne with disdain. 'Anymore from you, Atkins and you'll be on report!'
Yvonne gasped, the picture of injured innocence. 'I was just paying tribute to your dancing skills, Miss. With a shimmy like that, you should be playing up front for the Hammers.'
'I'll hammer you if you're not careful!' Hollamby glared at Yvonne for a moment and then turned to Shaz who was barely able to conceal her laughter. 'Come on Wylie, Miss Stewart wants to see you.'
Shaz groaned. 'What does that stupid cow want to see me for? I've had enough of her and her bloody do-gooding!'
Yvonne saw Nikki's fists clenching and put a restraining hand on her arm. 'Down Fido!' She hissed out of the side of her mouth, winking when Nikki goggled at her in astonishment. 'Run along now, Shaz. I'm sure Kerry'll keep your cue warm for you, won't you, Kerry?'
'Course I will.' Kerry held her hand out to Shaz and favoured her with a smile that caused the teenager to blush to the roots of her spiky hair.
Nikki was distracted for the remainder of the game, wondering just how much Yvonne knew and, more importantly, how in the hell she was going to find out without making her too suspicious.
Polly was reclining on her bunk and reading Cosmopolitan. She looked up with irritation when Shell stalked into the cell and then closed the door behind her.
Shell nodded briskly. 'Who are you?'
'I'm Polly.' Polly climbed off her bunk and stood up, appraising Shell from head to toe. 'Who the chuff are you?'
Shell decided not to waste any time on introductions and grabbed Polly by the throat. 'All you need to know is that I'm in charge round 'ere. Now, got any gear?'
A multitude of possibilities flashed through Polly's mind as she repressed the urge to paste Shell around the walls. 'I ain't got no gear.'
'Yeah? Well I might 'ave to find that out for myself,' Shell said menacingly. 'Check you ain't got anything hidden.'
'You touch me, Barbie and I'll suck yer eyeballs out through your nose!'
Shell felt herself wavering when she looked into a pair of cold green eyes. A split second later, she found herself face down on the table with her right arm twisted up behind her back.
'Right,' Polly hissed in Shell's ear. 'You got five seconds to give me a reason not to rip this arm off and beat you to death with the soggy end.'
'Look,' Shell stammered as she struggled to free herself. 'I can help you in here.'
'I don't need your help,' Polly said firmly. 'I can look after meself!'
'Yeah but ' Shell yelped with pain as Polly pushed her arm up towards her shoulder. 'If we work together we can take over this shit-hole!'
Polly released her grip on Shell's arm. 'Okay, so you got me interested. Now,' she said, reaching out to pinch Shell's cheek. 'Convince me.'
Nikki grimaced as Shell dropped a dollop of lumpy mashed potato onto her plate.
'Never mind, Wade.' Shell said. 'At least you got a new girlfriend to pass the time with now.' Shell grinned and then turned her attention to Kerry. 'You wanna watch you don't turn your back on 'er,' she warned, flicking her ladle in Nikki's direction.
Kerry regarded Shell innocently. 'Why's that then?'
'She's a bleedin' rug muncher, innit? Give 'er half a chance and she'll 'ave your knickers off so quick your head'll spin.'
'Really?' Kerry raised an eyebrow and smiled at a stunned Shell. 'Looks like I might have a good time in here after all then.'
Yvonne cackled. 'Sounds like you need some new material, Shell.'
Shell scowled and slapped a spoonful of potatoes on Yvonne's plate. 'You'll get yours one day, Atkins.'
Yvonne infuriated Shell further by laughing in her face. Turning, she wandered over to join Nikki and Kerry at the table they were sharing with Barbara.
Nikki, predictably, spent more time pushing her food around her plate than she did eating it.
Yvonne noticed this and frowned. 'You carry on the way you are and you'll disappear down the plug 'ole next time you take a shower.'
Nikki responded by pushing her plate away. 'I'm sick of this bloody place!'
Barbara looked up from her own plate, concerned by Nikki's defeated sigh. 'You've got to eat something, Nikki. You'll make yourself ill.'
'Good.' Nikki leaned back in her chair and lit a cigarette, conscious of someone's attention. She looked around and noticed that the new woman, Polly, was joining Shell in a staring duet. 'Anyone heard anything about her yet?'
Yvonne followed Nikki's gaze and nodded. 'Name's Polly Mitchell drug dealer according to Denny. In for getting rid of one of her rivals by setting her Rottweilers on him. By the time the police found his body, there weren't that much left to identify him, apparently.'
'Very nice,' Barbara said disapprovingly. Turning, she darted a quick glance in the direction of the servery. 'From the looks of it she's lining Shell up as her new four-legged friend.'
Nikki smiled grimly. 'Well, I suppose Dockley does have certain canine qualities.'
'Looks like you've attracted her eye too, Nikki.' Kerry, who was facing the servery, tapped Nikki on the arm. 'She's not stopped looking at you since you've sat down.'
'I should imagine that Dockley's giving her a long list of my good points.' Nikki stood up and collected up her plate. 'I'm off back to my cell. This place gets more like a zoo every day.'
A while later, Nikki had forsaken Charles Dickens for Kerry's copy of Heat and soon became engrossed in an interview with Davina MacCall. She looked up sharply when someone cleared their throat.
'Well that's nice,' Helen said. 'I've been standing here for the past five minutes.'
Nikki smiled and threw the magazine to one side. 'Just on your way home are you?'
Helen nodded. 'I wanted to pop down and see you before I went.' She closed the cell door behind her and sat down on the edge of Nikki's bunk. 'Karen tells me you've got a new cellmate.'
'Yeah, she's okay actually but '
'You were a bit pissed off when you found out you were sharing again.'
'Well you know me.' Nikki grinned mischievously. 'I must admit though, she's a lot better to look at than Barbara.'
'Just as long as looking is all you do,' Helen said, letting her hand stray briefly over Nikki's. 'Anyway, listen, I've just spoken with Claire. She wants to set up a meeting with you for Wednesday morning and ' Helen frowned when Nikki let out a long, defeated sigh. 'What? What's the matter?'
'I dunno,' Nikki replied with a shrug. 'I just get the feeling that we'll still be having this same conversation in ten years' time.'
'Well I don't!' Helen leaned forward and took Nikki's hands. 'I'm going to get you out of here. I told you to trust me didn't I?'
'Yeah.' Nikki pulled one of her hands away and used it to wipe away sudden tears. 'I'm sorry, I I don't know how much longer I can take this.'
'Do you honestly think it's any different for me?' Helen said urgently.
'I'm sorry.' Nikki made an effort to smile and gently squeezed Helen's hand. 'It's me. I'm having a moody Monday, I think. They've been calling me a miserable bastard all day. Even Yvonne's feeling sorry for me.'
Helen smiled and reached forward to wipe a tear from Nikki's face. 'Just be careful of her, okay?'
'She's okay,' Nikki said dismissively. Shaking herself, she looked up at Helen. 'At the moment, I need all the distractions I can get. Otherwise I'd just lie here all day and think about making love to you.'
Nikki's words had the desired effect. Helen blushed and caught her breath. 'Stop it, Nikki! You carry on saying things like that and I'm not going to be responsible for my actions.'
'Yeah? Well maybe that's why I said it.'
Helen leaned forward, her face suddenly serious. 'I love you, Nikki.'
The words were said with such feeling that Nikki felt her heart stop beating. 'I love you too, Helen.'
Out on the wing, Yvonne saw Helen leaving Nikki's cell. Her sharp eyes were able to distinguish the stricken expression through the ex-Wing Governor's cool and professional façade.
Kerry also noticed Helen's departure. She stood up, intending to return to her cell. 'I'll just go and ' She started slightly when she felt a restraining hand on her arm. 'What?'
Yvonne nodded towards Nikki's cell. 'Just leave it for a few minutes, okay?'
Kerry frowned with bewilderment but returned to her seat. 'You want to tell me what that's all about?'
Yvonne shook her head as she lit a cigarette. 'Not part of the deal, love.'
Kerry woke suddenly. It took her a few minutes to focus on Nikki who was pacing the cell and smoking a cigarette furiously. 'Nikki? What's up?'
Nikki mumbled something under her breath and then fixed Kerry with a stony glare. 'I'm bloody fine,' she snapped. 'Why shouldn't I be?'
Kerry sighed as she glanced down at her watch. 'Because it's four o'clock in the morning, and you're pacing up and down like an expectant father.'
'Oh and here's me all out of cigars!' Nikki stopped when she reached the window and let out a long breath. 'I'm sorry, ignore me. I'm just in a pisser of a mood, that's all.'
'You look more nervous than anything,' Kerry commented as she pulled herself into a sitting position and then rubbed her eyes. 'Is this because of your visit later?'
'Yeah.' Nikki ran an agitated hand through her hair and turned to lean against the wall. 'My ex is coming in. The last time I saw her, she dumped me for someone else.'
'How long were you together?'
'Nothing for you to feel sorry about.' Nikki looked up and smiled resentfully. 'I just hope for your sake that whoever you've got waiting for you on the outside has a bit more willpower.'
'I don't have that problem.' Kerry considered Nikki for several long moments and then jumped down from her bunk. 'Well, I'm awake now. So how about we do something to take your mind off things before you start driving me round the twist?'
Nikki smiled despite herself. 'Like what?' she asked.
Kerry crouched by her locker and began digging around, emerging eventually with a pack of playing cards. 'Not very original I know,' she said, seating herself at the table. She looked up at Nikki and raised a questioning eyebrow. 'Gin, Blackjack, Poker what?'
'Nah, they're all crap with two people.' Nikki thought for a moment.
Kerry watched Nikki walk over to her own locker. 'What are you doing?'
Nikki took out another pack of cards and returned to the table. 'You know how to play Canasta?'
'Yeah, Barbara taught me to play.'
'You'll have to teach me then.' Kerry sat and watched Nikki shuffle both decks together. 'You got on with her, didn't you?'
'Who Barbara?' Nikki nodded. 'We had a few problems at first but eventually we managed to get on okay. She was good to talk to.'
'Must be a pain having to break in a new cellmate.'
'I'm sorry for being an arse when you moved in,' Nikki said apologetically. 'I'd just got used to the idea of having this place to myself again.'
'I thought that was the case.'
Nikki shrugged and started to deal the cards. 'I suppose in a way I'm glad for the company. I'm just sorry you got stuck with a miserable bastard like me.'
'Oh you're not that bad,' Kerry said, thinking about Shell Dockley and Polly Mitchell. 'I can think of worse people to share a cell with.'
Nikki nodded. She glanced up at Kerry, and then quickly looked down at the table. 'Look,' she said gruffly. 'I'm not that good at this sort of thing but thanks for doing this.'
'No problem.' Kerry glanced up from her cards and smiled. 'I'll make sure you repay the favour one day.'
At breakfast, Yvonne noticed Shell hanging around in the background while Polly made a phone call. She nudged Nikki, nodding towards the two women. 'What do you reckon's going on there then?'
Nikki shrugged. 'As long as they both stay out of my way, I don't give a shit what they get up to.'
Yvonne nodded sagely and then motioned Nikki closer. 'I had a very interesting conversation with the Julies this morning.'
Nikki regarded Yvonne suspiciously. 'Oh yeah? And what did they have to say that was so interesting?'
'Two little words, Chateau Larkhall.'
Nikki smiled and shook her head. 'Well I've got three little words for you, Yvonne, no fucking chance!'
'You din't get caught last time did ya?'
'No but we had a couple of close bloody calls though ' Nikki stopped talking when Di walked past. 'Listen, Yvonne, I just can't risk anything like that at the moment.'
Yvonne thought for a moment and then nodded. 'Yeah, you're right, but,' she looked around shiftily and then motioned Nikki closer, 'if I can think of another way of doing it that doesn't involve you, are you in for donating some of the ingredients?'
'I suppose so but '
Yvonne looked up when Nikki's words trailed off and then noticed the cause walking through the wing gate. Just as she expected, Helen's eyes flickered over towards Nikki before she disappeared into the PO's office. 'That's another thing,' Yvonne said speculatively. 'I don't suppose your Miss Stewart would approve of you using the potting shed as a distillery, would she?'
Nikki found herself swallowing to lubricate a mouth that was suddenly dry. 'What are you getting at, Yvonne?'
'I ain't getting at nothing.' Yvonne picked up her breakfast plates. She rose a few inches from her chair, and then changed her mind. She looked over at Nikki studying her closely. 'Just be careful, yeah? I ain't the only one who notices things round here.'
Polly put the phone down and smiled at Shell triumphantly. 'Sorted.'
Shell looked around shiftily and moved closer to Polly. 'So what happens next?'
'He starts next week and we're in business.'
Shell nodded. 'So what ?' She realised she'd lost her audience when she noticed that Polly was suddenly staring off into the distance. 'What?'
'Pity she's straight.'
Shell groaned when she saw that Polly was looking over at Nikki. 'Don't know what you find so bleedin' fascinating about that psycho bitch,' she grumbled. 'Anyway, she ain't straight.'
'I meant straight in that she don't get involved in owt dodgy,' Polly said, rolling her eyes as she continued to study Nikki.
'Well how was I supposed to know?' Shell snapped defensively. 'I ain't no friggin' mind reader! Anyway, like I said, what you so interested in Wade for?'
Polly dragged her attention away from Nikki. Turning to Shell, she shook her head. 'Don't matter,' she said sharply. 'Now that we've got our supply sorted, we've got to start thinking about the competition.'
Shell nodded. 'Not 'ere though. Let's go back to my place.'
Nikki found that she was shaking with nerves as the door of the visiting room opened. Nervousness turned to sheer terror when she spotted a familiar face and a head of sleek blonde hair.
'Hi, Nik.' Trisha smiled as she settled into the chair opposite Nikki.
Nikki found that she was staring at the table, hands clutched together so tightly that her knuckles were white. 'Hi, Trish,' she said, not looking up. 'How are you?'
'Apart from the fact that I'm wondering why you wanted to see me, I'm fine,' Trisha replied. 'How are you?'
Nikki forced herself to look up. She prayed to God that she would look into Trish's face and feel nothing. Knowing that if she experienced any fragment of her former emotions then there was no way she could carry this thing through to the end.
'Are you okay, Nik?' Trisha asked. She leaned forward, concerned. 'You look like you're about to throw up.'
Nikki let out a ragged sigh and attempted a reassuring smile. 'I'm okay. It's just a bit strange seeing you after all this time.'
'Tell me about it.' Trisha frowned and studied Nikki intently. 'You've grown your hair out. It suits you.'
'You haven't changed at all.'
'So what did you want to talk to me about?' Trisha asked. 'Your letter was vague to say the least.'
Nikki took a deep breath and stared down at her hands. 'You know I'm appealing against my sentence? Well, there's a reason for that, I '
'You've met someone, haven't you?'
'Yes.' Nikki nodded. She forced herself to look up at Trisha. 'Look, there's no easy way of saying this, so '
'You want out, don't you?' Trisha said, suddenly angry. She stared over the table at Nikki, shaking her head in horrified disbelief. 'You've asked me here to tell me that you've decided to tell the truth, haven't you? Well fuck you Nikki!'
Nikki reached out and grabbed Trish's arm before she could stand. 'Listen to me!' she hissed, aware of the curious looks they were attracting. 'You're not the one stuck in this shit-hole, I am!'
'Oh and my life's so much better on the outside isn't it,' Trisha said sardonically. 'I live with it too you know!'
Well given the choice, I'd gladly swap.'
'Never in a million years did I ever think you'd end up hating me this much. I know I've hurt you, but this? We're talking about my life here, Nikki!'
'Yes and I'm talking about mine, or lack of one.' Nikki sighed, relenting slightly. 'I'm not doing this out of spite, you know. Look, chances are we won't have anything to worry about. Not after all this time.'
'But you're willing to take the chance?'
'Do you honestly think I'd be thinking about doing this if there wasn't another way? I have to get out of here, Trish!'
Trisha finally managed to pull away from Nikki's grip. She stood up, looking shaky. 'I don't even know why you asked me to come here. You're obviously going to go through with it, no matter what I say.'
'Trish, please '
Helen walked into the visiting room and was almost knocked flying by a blonde-haired woman, she vaguely recognised as Trisha.
It had been hard to resist the urge to see Nikki and her ex together. Now, as Helen looked over at an obviously devastated Nikki she felt her heart leap into her mouth. Then Nikki glanced up and their eyes met for the briefest of moments before Helen backed out of the room. Jealousy was an emotion she rarely experienced, but at that particular moment, the green-eyed monster held her well and truly in its grip.
Nikki was surprised when a few minutes later a very reluctant Sylvia Hollamby offered to escort her back to her cell. The reason for this became obvious when she walked through the open door and saw Helen standing by the window.
Helen forced a weak smile. 'Thank you, Sylvia,' she said to the PO.
Hollamby muttered something as she backed out of the cell.
Nikki waited until Hollamby had gone, before walking over to join Helen by the window. 'Look, I don't know what you thought was going on between Trish and me, but it's not what you're thinking.'
Helen resisted asking any of the million questions that were flying around her head and settled instead for taking Nikki's hand. 'Are you okay?
'Yeah, it was just ' Nikki hesitated. 'I don't know. I didn't really expect to react the way I did to seeing her again.'
'And how did you react?' Helen asked, unable to keep the sharpness from her tone.
'I just felt strange. I can't explain it.' Nikki shrugged and then turned to lean against the wall. 'We argued, as you probably noticed.'
'Oh just something and nothing I suppose.'
Helen turned to look at Nikki, her annoyance with the situation fading immediately when she that she was suddenly shaking uncontrollably. 'Nikki?'
Nikki surprised both of them by running for the toilet where she proceeded to throw up so violently, that Helen was forced to call for the doctor.
Kerry left Yvonne's cell and headed straight for the nearest phone. After checking to make sure that no one was in earshot, she inserted her phonecard in to the slot and dialled the number for Sun Hill.
After a few moments, DI Deakin picked up his phone. 'Deakin.'
'It's me, Guv,' Kerry said. 'Just thought you'd want to know that she's ready to talk.'
Nikki found herself staring up at Yvonne open-mouthed.
Yvonne laughed. 'Bleedin' 'ell, Nik! You've got a face like a smacked arse!'
'Are you surprised?' Nikki replied, shaking her head incredulously.
'What's up with you? You were only complaining the other day about how bored you are.'
Nikki glanced over at Kerry who was shaking with silent laughter. 'You think this is a good idea do you?'
Kerry shrugged, forcing herself to look serious. 'Like Yvonne said, it'll help to relieve the boredom.'
Nikki sighed and crossed her arms, leaning back in her chair with a petulant expression on her face. 'I don't know why you're even bothering, Yvonne. Betts will never go for it.'
'It's good PR. She'll go for it.' Yvonne smiled confidently as she shifted her gaze to Kerry. 'Although it probably would sound better coming from someone else.'
This time it was Kerry's turn to stare up at Yvonne open-mouthed. 'No way, Yvonne.'
'Well she ain't gonna listen to me, is she?' Yvonne persisted. 'She wouldn't trust me as far as she could throw me. And she ain't never liked Nikki, has she Nik?'
'Too much of a personality clash I suppose.' Nikki reached across the table for her cigarettes, offering the packet to Yvonne who shook her head. 'Right, so, let's just hypothesise for a moment that she goes for it. Which one are we going to do?'
Yvonne nodded towards the book that was lying face down on the table.
Kerry and Nikki looked at the book, frowned at each other and then stared up at Yvonne.
'You are joking,' Kerry said, aghast.
Nikki raised an eyebrow at Kerry who shrugged. 'Something tells me we're going to end up going along with this whatever we say.'
'I think you're right.'
Yvonne smiled triumphantly and slapped Nikki on the back. 'You know it makes sense.'
Annette Williams, G-Wing's most prolific dealer, looked up from the sink with irritation when the door to the bathroom swung open. 'I fort I told you lot ' Annette's words trailed off as she spotted Shell and Polly standing there instead of one of her trio of cronies. 'What the fuck do you two want?'
'We wanna talk to you, Williams.' Polly replied, nodding towards Shell. 'Don't we, darlin'?'
Shell, still unhappy about the fact that Polly wanted them to front up Annette on her own, grabbed Polly's arm. 'Just watch it all right?' she whispered. 'She's handy.'
Polly grinned, seemingly looking forward to the challenge. 'I promised you I'd sort out all your problems for you, didn't I?'
Annette returned her attention to the sink. She knew about Polly's reputation on the outside but in here she had no backup. 'I ain't in the mood for socialising, Mitchell,' she snapped. 'So why don't you piss off? All I have to do is call out and my mates'll be in 'ere. If you're not careful, you'll end up collecting your teef from the floor.'
'Now that wasn't very polite.' Polly strode over to the sink and kicked the back of Annette's right knee, hard enough for the other woman to crumple to the floor. 'You wanna learn some manners.'
A few seconds later, Annette found herself swallowing one of her own teeth after her head had been cannoned off the side of the sink. 'You're gonna pay for that, Mitchell!' she spat through a mouthful of blood.
Polly responded by kicking Annette in the stomach, smiling when the other inmate writhed in pain. 'Pity you didn't pick your mates better. Amazing what you can buy with an eighth of weed and twenty fags, innit?' Polly crouched down by Annette's side and grabbed her face. 'You're gonna help me, Williams.'
'If you fink I'm gonna work for you you're crazier than everyone says you are!'
'Do you 'onestly fink me and Shell want an amateur like you working for us?' Polly stood up and signalled to Shell. 'Ask the ladies to join us will ya, darlin'?'
Annette forced herself to her knees and spat another tooth out at Polly's feet. 'I ain't stupid enough to be carrying my own gear so whatever you got planned ain't gonna work.'
'Oh don't you worry about that.' Polly smiled at the two women who walked into the bathroom. 'Grab 'er.'
Annette found herself being held against the sink by two of her so-called 'mates', and suddenly realised that Polly had more in mind for her than just a simple beating. 'Listen, Polly,' she said with desperation. 'We can work out a deal. I'll give you whatever I've got and '
'Shut the fuck up!' Polly hissed. 'You're giving me a chuffin' migraine!' She wandered over to where Shell was standing and draped an arm over her shoulder. 'You see, Williams. Shell's been telling me that you haven't been treating her with enough respect.' She turned to look at Shell. 'It's your call, darlin'. What shall we do with her?'
Shell glared at Annette who was struggling to get free. 'I reckon we should make an example of 'er.'
Polly squeezed Shell's shoulder and then walked over to stand face to face with Annette. 'You see, people round 'ere gotta know that me and Shell are in charge now. They gotta know what happens to people that cross us.'
Annette found herself trembling. 'Polly, please, come on,' she stammered. 'We can sort somefing out.'
Polly laughed suddenly, a response that inspired more terror in Annette. 'You don't get it, do you? This ain't just business.' Polly nodded at the women who were holding Annette. 'Fill yer boots, girls.'
After a few minutes, Shell became bored. Although she was glad that Annette was getting a good kicking, she subscribed to the theory that if you've seen one vicious beating, you've seen them all. Then she glanced over at Polly, and immediately felt her blood freeze. Shell not only saw extreme enjoyment in Polly's eyes, she also saw arousal. Shell shivered. For the first time in her life, she got the definite feeling that she was in over her head.
The last thing Helen expected when she walked into Nikki's cell was to be greeted by the site of Yvonne poring over a book.
Nikki, who was sitting at the table and doing the Guardian crossword with Kerry, looked up and smiled. 'Come to see how the other half lives?'
Helen noticed that Nikki and Kerry were sitting so closely together that their shoulders were touching. Feeling slightly perturbed by this, she had to force herself to smile. 'You've got an appointment with your solicitor,' she said to Nikki. 'Or had you forgotten?'
Nikki handed the pen she was using to Kerry and stood up. 'Sorry, I lost track of the time.'
Yvonne looked up from her book, frowning at Helen's irate tone. 'She's not late is she?'
'So what's your problem then?'
Helen glared at Yvonne and then turned to smile thinly at Nikki. 'Come on, otherwise you will be late.'
Nikki rolled her eyes at Yvonne and then followed Helen out of the cell. 'Helen? You okay?'
'I'm fine,' Helen replied. 'Why shouldn't I be?'
Nikki waited until they were clear of the wing before questioning Helen any further. 'Come on, tell me. It's obvious that I've done something wrong.'
'Nothing's wrong.' Helen regretted her harsh tone when she saw the hurt look on Nikki's face. 'I'm sorry. I've just had one of those days.'
'Let me guess, Polly Mitchell.' Nikki smiled at Helen's look of astonishment. 'I heard her regaling Dockley with tales about giving you the run-around during your meeting with her this morning. Don't worry, I didn't say anything, no matter how much I was tempted to wipe the smug smile off her gob.'
'She's impossible,' Helen said with a defeated sigh. 'It's people like her who make me think that I'm in the wrong job.'
'Yeah, well think about all your successes.' Nikki smiled and looked around before squeezing Helen's hand briefly. 'I'd probably still be stewing down the block if it wasn't for you.'
'You just needed someone to keep you in line.'
'I needed you.'
Helen frowned. 'Needed?'
'Need,' Nikki corrected herself quickly. 'Definitely present tense.'
They reached the door of the visiting room. Helen put out her hand to stop Nikki from turning the handle. 'Are you sure about that?'
'Well I wouldn't be putting myself through this crap if I wasn't, would I?' Nikki raised her eyebrow when she saw that Helen was looking down at the floor. 'Look, I know that something else is wrong. Tell me, Helen.'
'I'm fine, honestly.' Helen forced herself to smile reassuringly. 'Go on.' She nodded to the door. Claire will be waiting. I'll be back in an hour, okay?'
Nikki watched Helen walk away and then took a deep breath as she opened the door.
Claire stood up and greeted her warmly. 'Nikki, how are you?'
'Oh you know, surviving.' Nikki smiled at Claire and then sat down in the chair opposite. 'How's it going?'
'Slowly, but we'll get there.' Claire took her notepad out of her briefcase and uncapped her pen. 'Now, I've been speaking to '
'Hold on,' Nikki interjected, holding up her hand. 'Before we start, there's something I need to tell you. Thing is though, it's something I don't want you to discuss with Helen,' she said, staring directly into Claire's eyes as if to challenge her. 'Do you have a problem with that?'
Claire's surprise showed on her face, but she was careful to maintain eye contact. 'Nikki, anything you tell me remains in the strictest confidence.'
Nikki took a deep breath that culminated in a ragged sigh. 'I suppose Helen told you that I had a visit from Trish a couple of days ago.'
'Yes she did.'
'Okay, so here goes.' Nikki paused and reached for her cigarettes. 'Other than Trish, you're the only person I've spoken to about this '
Karen stared across her desk at Kerry in disbelief. 'You've got to be kidding me!'
'Actually, it was something Yvonne and I came up with between us,' Kerry explained. 'People have started to notice that I'm spending a lot of time alone with her and '
'You thought this would provide a good excuse?' Karen raised a disapproving eyebrow. 'Bit extreme isn't it?'
'Good opportunity for you to pick up brownie points from the Home Office.'
Karen thought for a moment. 'I'm going to have to speak to the Number One about it but I suppose I can give you my go-ahead, in principle.'
'Thanks, I'm sure Yvonne will be pleased.'
'How are things going with Yvonne by the way?'
'Slowly,' Kerry replied with a shrug. 'She keeps beginning to tell me things but always backs out at the last minute. I think she's finding it hard to turn grass.'
'I must admit, I was very surprised when I was told about it,' Karen commented. 'I always thought her sort lived by a strict code of honour.'
'We've talked about that. She told me that once she found out that Charlie had been having an affair, as far as she was concerned all bets were off.'
Karen smiled. 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.'
'Something like that,' Kerry replied. 'But whatever her reasons, she's going to have to start coming up with the goods soon. Charlie's trial is in four weeks' time.'
Just then, there was a knock on the door and Fenner stepped into the office.
Karen only had to look at the expression on his face to know that something was very wrong. 'What is it, Jim?' she asked.
'I think it's something you'd rather hear in private,' Fenner replied. He flicked a glance towards Kerry. 'I've got Sylvia outside waiting to take Harrison back onto the wing.'
Once Kerry had left the office, Karen turned to Fenner. 'What's happened?'
'We just found Annette Williams unconscious in the shower room,' Fenner explained. 'She's been badly beaten up by the looks of it.'
'Beaten up?' Karen exclaimed. 'Has she been able to say who did it?'
Fenner shook his head. 'Hardly, Karen,' he replied. 'We had to cart her off straight to the infirmary.'
'Jesus Christ! This is all I need!' Karen slumped in her chair and reached for her cigarettes. 'Okay, I'll call up there and get them to ask Malcolm to ring me when she's fit to speak.' She pulled a face. 'Not that it'll do any good. We've both got enough experience of situations like these to know that you never find out what really happened.'
'Well, she's not going to be able to use the old slipped in the shower excuse,' Fenner commented. 'Not unless she's usually in the habit of taking her showers fully clothed.'
Shell almost hugged herself with glee when Nikki returned to the wing. She knew her fellow lifer's body language well enough by now to know that she was in one hell of a temper.
'Ere, Pol,' she whispered, nodding towards Nikki. 'Look at Wade.'
Polly, who had been leaning over the counter to inspect the lasagne, looked up. 'What's that, Shell?'
'I've seen 'er like that before,' Shell explained. 'One prod in the right direction and I promise you, she'll go up like a rocket.'
Polly looked round and noticed that Nikki was sitting at an unoccupied table, which was unusual enough on its own. She shifted her gaze and saw that Nikki's usual dinner companions Kerry, Yvonne and Barbara were sitting at another table, all regarding her with worried expressions. It was obvious why. Anger was emanating from Nikki in white-hot waves.
Polly turned back to Shell. 'What you got planned?'
A few minutes later, Polly, accidentally on purpose, bumped into Shell as she carried two jugs of tea past Nikki's table.
'You brainless twat!' Shell screamed at Polly as lukewarm tea cascaded into Nikki's lap. 'Look what you made me do!'
Nikki shot out of her seat and confronted Shell furiously. 'You're gonna get it, Dockley!'
Yvonne was on her feet almost immediately. 'Leave it, Nikki!' she shouted.
Shell smiled at Nikki, leaning closer as if about to kiss her. 'Never mind, Wade,' she said sweetly. 'You can always get that slag, Stewart, to kiss it better for you!'
The officers present on the wing already sensing trouble were on their way. Yvonne and Kerry were also running over from their table. However no one was quick enough to stop Nikki from leaping on Shell, the momentum sending them both sliding across the floor.
Helen tried to concentrate on the report she was reading, but found that she was fighting a losing battle. With a sigh, she pushed the report to one side and then leaned back in her chair. Something was seriously wrong with Nikki.
The lifer had come out of her meeting with Claire in a terribly dark mood. Her answers to Helen's increasingly frantic questions had been monosyllabic and distracted. Helen had phoned Claire later that afternoon, further disturbed when her friend had cited client confidentiality, and refused to answer her questions.
Something definitely wasn't right.
Helen looked up with irritation when Karen walked into her office.
'Oh dear,' Karen said, undaunted by Helen's frown. 'Looks like someone else is experiencing the day from hell.'
Karen nodded. 'Listen, I was just passing and noticed that your light was on and,' Karen produced a bottle of wine and two glasses from behind her back, 'thought you might want to help me drown my sorrows.'
'Go on then, you've twisted my arm.' Helen smiled as Karen poured the wine. 'So come on then, what's bad enough to drive you to drink?'
'Firstly, I had a request from a couple of inmates to allow them to put on a production of Romeo and Juliet, and '
Helen nearly choked on her first swallow of wine. 'Romeo and Juliet!'
Karen smiled and nodded. 'I just can't wait to find out who's going to be given the part of Romeo.'
Helen laughed. 'Don't tell me you've given them the go-ahead.'
'Not quite yet, I've got to ask Simon about it. I shouldn't think it will be a problem though. You know how he likes an opportunity to show off in front of the Home Office.' Karen took a swallow of her wine, her face suddenly serious. 'He's going to need it too, I've just had an inmate found beaten half to death in the showers.'
'Annette Williams, which means that it's definitely something to do with drugs.' Karen reached into her pocket for her cigarettes. 'Do you mind?'
'No, of course not.'
'Actually.' Karen said as she lit her cigarette. 'There is another reason I came to see you.'
Helen frowned suspiciously. 'Go ahead.'
'We've had to put Nikki Wade down the block for attacking Shell Dockley.'
Helen sighed, suddenly experiencing a definite sense of déjà vu.
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