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)
By Filbertfox


Chapter Six

Yvonne walked down the stairs and wandered over to stand with Kerry and the Julies. 'Any idea what this wing meeting is about?'

Julie J nodded. 'We 'eard a couple of the screws talking about it, d'int we?'

'Yeah.' Julie S looked around shiftily and motioned Yvonne and Kerry closer. 'Annette Williams was found beaten to a pulp yesterday. They 'ad to transfer her to St Luke's last night.'

Yvonne let out a low whistle. 'I thought she had protection.'

'Yeah, well word is 'er protection's 'opped it.' Julie S nodded towards Shell and Polly who were sitting on the pool table. 'Make a nice pair, don't they?'

Julie J sighed and shook her head. 'And there's poor Nikki down the block.'

'It's bleedin' obvious that Shell did that on purpose,' Julie S said. 'Poor Nikki,' she added with a sigh. 'We managed to get that goody bag to 'er, Yvonne.'

Yvonne smiled approvingly. 'Nice one, Julies.' She glanced over at Polly and Shell again, eyes narrowed. 'That Mitchell definitely needs taking down a peg or two.'

'So what made Nikki blow up like that?' Kerry asked. 'She usually ignores Shell's comments.'

Yvonne shrugged. 'One of Shell's favourite pastimes is trying to wind Nikki up. Occasionally she hits the right button and what you saw yesterday is the result … Shell getting a kicking, and Nikki being dragged down the block.'

'Nikki's always 'ad a temper on 'er,' Julie S added.

'Yeah, bleedin' awful temper.' Julie J nudged her friend. 'Ere, remember that time after Rachel topped 'erself?'

'Oh yeah.' Julie S nodded. 'Shell made some stupid comment and Nikki flew over the servery at 'er, just like Superman.'

'Blindin' wannit?'

'Yeah, Christ, Yvonne! You should've seen it.'

Yvonne laughed and then looked up. 'Looks like the fun's about to start.'

Karen Betts walked onto the wing and surveyed the faces of the women gathered there. 'I've just returned from the hospital …' she began sternly.

'Congratulations, Miss!' Polly shouted out. 'When's it due?'

Yvonne turned to glare at Polly. 'Shut yer bleedin' 'ole, Mitchell before I come over there and shut it for ya!'

'Yeah, you and who's army?' Polly shot back.

'Shut up both of you!' Karen's voice rebounded around the wing like the crack of a whip, silencing the sniggers almost immediately. 'Now, as I was saying, I've just returned from the hospital, where Annette Williams is currently in a critical condition in Intensive Care.'

A rumble of conversation travelled around the wing, Karen allowed it to continue for a few seconds and then nodded at Fenner.

'Come on now you lot, shut it!' she bellowed.

Karen waited for quiet before continuing. 'I'd just like the people who caused Annette's injuries to know just how close they came to a murder investigation.' Karen paused to allow the full force of her words to take effect. 'Annette received such a severe blow to the back of her head she spent five hours in surgery last night while a clot on her brain was removed. Now, there's not much I can do until she regains consciousness, so, I'm going to give the women involved a chance to come forward before she wakes up.'

Predictably, the wing was suddenly silent.

Karen endured the silence for a full minute before turning to Fenner. 'Lock them up.'

Polly nudged Shell who was staring over at Yvonne with contempt. 'Don't worry,' she said. 'She'll get hers soon enough.'

'Yeah, well the sooner the bleedin' better as far as I'm concerned.'

'What was it you were saying yesterday about stewing down the block?' Helen snapped.

Nikki shrugged. 'Good job I'm in for life already then isn't it? I should've killed Dockley yesterday.'

'Nice to see you've got the same constructive attitude, Nikki.'

'Oh do me a favour, Helen!' Nikki turned back to the window and sighed. 'Look, I'm sorry, alright? I was in a shit mood. Dockley wound me up and I lashed out. Now, give me the bollocking you came here to give me and then leave me alone.'

'You never change, do you, Nikki?'

'What amazes me is that after all this time you still expect me to.'

'I didn't come here to argue.' Helen walked over to the window only for Nikki to return to the bunk. 'Have I done something to upset you?'

Nikki sighed and leaned back against the wall. 'It's just this place getting me down. I'm bloody sick of it!'

'Is this about your meeting with Claire yesterday? It was pretty obvious that things didn't go that well.'

'Understatement of the century.'

Helen frowned and sat down next to Nikki. 'What happened?'

'Things are just moving too slowly.' Nikki reached out to take Helen's hand only for it to be pulled away. 'Jesus! I said I was sorry!'

'It's not that, it's just …' Helen surprised both of them by bursting into tears.

Helen found herself being enveloped by a pair of arms, the warmth and strength emanating from the body she was pulled against only serving to upset her further. She felt soft lips pressed against her own, kissing away her tears, whispering that everything was going to be okay. It would've been so easy to believe it, to give into the heat that began to suffuse her entire body.

Nikki groaned when Helen pulled away. 'What?'

'I don't think I can do this anymore.' Helen wiped her eyes and stood up. 'Seeing you is starting to hurt too much.'

Nikki smiled resentfully. 'Yeah, well if you wanted easy, maybe you should've got married when you had the chance … shit! I'm sorry.' Nikki thumped the wall when Helen left the cell, slamming the door behind her.

Karen ran into Helen, literally, on her way down to the block. 'Whoa!' Karen noticed the stricken expression on Helen's face and frowned. 'Helen? Are you okay?'

Helen nodded and forced a smile. 'I'm fine.'

'You on your way back from visiting Miss Personality.'


'Nikki Wade,' Karen explained with a wry grin. 'I was just on my way down there to pay her a visit myself. Give you a bit of a mauling did she?'

Helen tried to kick-start a brain that had long since dissolved into jelly. 'What do you mean?'

Karen's eyes widened in concern. 'Helen, are you sure you're okay? You look decidedly off colour.'

Helen took a deep breath and willed her brain back into action. 'What are you going to see her about?' she asked once the immediate crisis had passed.

'I've had a plea for clemency on her behalf,' Karen replied. 'It seems that Nikki was the subject of a well-timed stunt that was calculated to provoke her.'

'And you believe that?'

'I'm not exactly Nikki's greatest fan but I have no reason to doubt the person who provided me with the information.'

'An officer?'

Karen shook her head. 'I'm not going to reveal my sources.'

'So you're going to let her back on the wing then?'

Karen nodded. 'After I've given her the bollocking of a lifetime, yes.'

Shell stared, open-mouthed, when Nikki was allowed back onto the wing.

Nikki grinned as she walked past. 'Missed me, Dockley?'

Shell stared at Nikki for a moment longer and then marched over to confront Karen. 'Miss, you can't do this! She's a friggin' psycho! She tried to kill me yesterday!'

Karen raised an unimpressed eyebrow. 'Don't provoke her in future then.'

Nikki returned to her cell, frowning when she encountered Kerry and Yvonne who were seemingly involved in a deep conversation. 'People will start talking if you two carry on spending so much time together.'

'Kiss my arse, Nikki!' Yvonne retorted. 'Anyway, how come you're back so soon?'

'Nice to know I've been missed.' Nikki groaned as she rolled onto her bunk. 'My back's in bloody pieces.'

'Well you will try to kill people and get sent down the block.'

'I stopped considering Dockley as a person a long time ago.' Nikki grimaced and rolled over onto her stomach. 'I'm getting too old for this.'

Kerry stood up and then sat down on the edge of Nikki's bunk. 'Want a massage?'

'Do bears shit in the woods?'

Yvonne cackled around the cigarette she was lighting. 'And you reckon people are gonna start talking about me do you, Nik?'

Nikki ignored Yvonne and instead, moaned into her pillow. 'Will you marry me, Kerry?'

Kerry laughed. 'You're very easily pleased, aren't you?'

'Give me a massage like that and I'm anyone's.'


Nikki looked up at Yvonne and raised an eyebrow. 'It looks like someone's been increasing their word-power. Better ease up on the Shakespeare, Yvonne or you'll be getting a reputation.'

'Oh Christ! We didn't get chance to tell you,' Kerry said. 'We've been given the go-ahead.'

'You're joking … ouch!' Nikki grimaced when Kerry increased the pressure of her fingers. 'So, when do you start casting? Got anyone in particular in mind?'

Yvonne nodded. 'A few names spring to mind yeah.'

'Well as long as you're not considering Dockley for Juliet,' Nikki commented. 'Otherwise you'll have a bloody hard job trying to find a Romeo.'

Yvonne's smile disappeared suddenly. 'Have you heard about Annette Williams?'

Nikki looked up, disturbed by the tone of Yvonne's voice. 'What about her?'

'Had seven shades of shit kicked out of her in the showers yesterday,' Yvonne explained. 'The smart money's going on Dockley and her new sidekick, Mitchell.'

'Yeah, well if that lot want to kill each over drugs then it's up to them,' Nikki said dismissively. 'It's nothing to do with me.'

'And it doesn't bother you that they got you sent down the block yesterday?'

'Yvonne, the last thing I need is to get involved in some stupid turf war. As long as they leave me alone I couldn't give a shit.' Nikki frowned at Yvonne for a few seconds and then returned her head to the pillow. 'I don't know why you're so bothered anyway,' she said, voice muffled by the pillow. 'You were never Annette's biggest fan.'

'I've been hearing things I don't like about Polly Mitchell,' Yvonne snapped, expression darkening. 'She needs teaching a lesson.'

Kerry got the impression that Yvonne had forgotten that she was present in the cell. She cleared her throat, signalling that she was uncomfortable with the topic of conversation.

Yvonne nodded, comprehending almost immediately. 'Come on, Nikki,' she said. 'Don't you think it's about time you gave Kerry a rest before her fingers drop off?'

The following day at the lifers' meeting, Helen found that she was within a whisper of strangling Polly Mitchell.

'I don't know why we have to sit through this chuffin' bollocks,' Polly said, exchanging a sly grin with Shell who was sitting next to her. 'It's bobbins, innit, Shell?'

Shell nodded in agreement. 'Too right.'

Polly leaned towards Helen, warming to her subject. 'Look, darlin' I'm in here for life and after what the twat in the wig said before he sent me down, I fink the only way I'm gonna get out of this place is in a friggin' coffin. As far as I can see, that makes you as about as relevant as tits on a bull.'

'You tell 'er, Pol!'

Out of the corner of her eye, Helen could see that Nikki was biting her lip, desperately trying to fight her natural urge to protect. Quickly, she decided to try to defuse situation before things got out of hand.

'Michelle, Polly, leave the room please,' Helen said sharply.

Polly sighed and stood up. 'Suits me. Come on, Shell.'

Helen watched Shell and Polly leave the room and then turned back to the rest of the group, blushing slightly when she saw that Nikki was smiling approvingly at her. 'Right, now … where was I?'

Just as she expected, Nikki lingered after the other inmates had gone.

'I just wanted to say sorry for what I said yesterday,' Nikki said softly.

'Let's just forget about it, okay?'

'Fine by me.'

'I suppose I should thank you for not saying anything when Polly was sounding off before,' Helen said. 'No matter how sorely you were tempted.'

'That's okay,' Nikki replied, waving away Helen's thanks. 'I got the impression that you were just as tempted as I was to throttle her.' Nikki smiled and sat down on the edge of Helen's desk. 'Her and Shell are becoming the anti-Julies, have you noticed?'

'I tell you what I have noticed, just how lucky you were yesterday when Karen decided to be lenient.'

Nikki surprised Helen by nodding in agreement. 'Yeah I know. I nearly fainted with bloody shock myself.' She paused and reconsidered. 'Well I was,' she added sheepishly. 'Until I found myself on the receiving end of a right royal bollocking.'

'Serves you right,' Helen said sharply. 'Nikki, I know it's easier said than done but you're going to have to make more of an effort to control your temper.'

'Dockley just managed to catch me in a bad mood.'

'Oh, that reminds me, Claire phoned me earlier this morning. She wants you to give her a call, said you'd know what it was about.'

Nikki nodded. 'I'd better go before Betts walks in on us again,' she said, backing away to the door. 'I love you, Helen. Never forget that.'

Helen watched Nikki leave the room, wondering why her parting words had disturbed her so much.

Kerry leaned back in her chair, trying to control her excitement. After a week of backing out at the last minute, Yvonne finally seemed ready to provide her with something concrete.

'Charlie had this copper on the payroll,' Yvonne said. 'But it turned out that the evil snake was feeding him the wrong information.'

'So what did Charlie do?' Kerry asked.

'What do you bleedin' think he did?' Yvonne glared at Kerry for a second and then took a deep drag off her cigarette. 'I've got a couple of security tapes stashed. One shows Radio doing the guy in and …'

'Radio?' Kerry interjected.

'Otherwise known as Tony Lane,' Yvonne explained. 'He was one of Charlie's enforcers. We always used to call him 'Radio Rental', 'cause he was …'


Yvonne nodded. 'Scary bloke,' she said. 'I've seen him reduce grown men to tears by just looking at them. Anyway, as I was saying, one of the videos shows the guy being dealt with by Radio. The other video shows Charlie waiting outside.'

'And there's enough there to implicate him?'

Yvonne nodded. 'I've always been a great believer in taking out insurance. You never know when it's gonna come in useful.'


Chapter Seven

As far as Nikki was concerned, there was something inconceivably awful about Sundays spent in prison. Sundays were meant for reading the newspapers in bed, a walk around the park and maybe a few pints in the local pub … not for languishing in a cold cell and forcing down the crap they tried to pass off as food in Larkhall.

For some reason, this Sunday seemed worse than usual, not least because Kerry's frantic tossing and turning had kept Nikki awake for most of the night.

There had been something strange about Kerry for a couple of days now. The normally affable inmate had become tense and distracted and it worried Nikki, especially because Kerry's frame of mind seemed to be rubbing off on Yvonne.

Nikki looked over at Yvonne who was lounging in a chair with her nose buried in Romeo and Juliet, the whiteness of her knuckles as they gripped the book in direct contrast to the air of relaxation she tried to portray.

'Bleedin' pile of arse'oles!'

Nikki's eyes followed Romeo and Juliet as it flew across the wing and landed on the pool table, startling Denny who was in the process of lining up a shot.

Denny stood up straight, her diminutive frame giving off sudden menace. 'Who threw that?'

'I did!' Yvonne barked, glaring at Denny, almost daring her to make an issue of it.

'Oh right.' Denny shifted awkwardly from foot to foot as she retrieved the book. 'You okay, man?'

'No I bleedin' ain't!' Yvonne snapped.

''Ere, Atkins!' Polly yelled from across the landing. 'D'int fink dried up old slags like you got PMT!'

Yvonne stood abruptly, her threatening posture silencing the rest of the wing almost immediately. 'You wanna come over 'ere, Mitchell, I'll show you who's got friggin' PMT!'

'With pleasure,' Polly countered.

Disturbed by the lazy smile of anticipation that crossed Polly's features as she sauntered across the landing with Shell in tow, Nikki started to rise from her own seat. She shrugged off the restraining hand that Barbara laid on her shoulder.

'Leave it, Nikki.' Barbara whispered urgently. 'This is nothing to do with you.'

Nikki pondered this for a second. A quick glance over at the gate told her that the screws were gearing up for trouble. One look at the expectant leer on Fenner's face made her decision for her. She stepped out in front of Yvonne before Polly could get there.

Polly's smile disappeared as she looked up into Nikki's face. 'This ain't nothing to do with you, darlin'. I'd 'ate to mess that gorgeous face of yours up so why don't you toddle off back to your cell?'

'Get the frig outta my way, Nikki!' Yvonne snapped, already breathing heavily from the effort of trying to push the taller inmate out of the way.

'You tell 'er, Atkins!' Shell piped up. Her delight at the way the situation was developing obvious. 'Don't let that psycho bitch spoil your fun!'

Nikki stood her ground, knowing that she only had to keep control of the situation for a few seconds longer before the screws intervened. However, there was something in Polly's arrogant stance that got to her.

'Well?' Polly said, raising her eyebrows at Nikki.

Nikki replied by taking a step closer to Polly. 'Why don't you take Sooty there,' she nodded over at Shell, 'and piss off back to the play-pen?'

Polly grinned, now so close to Nikki that she could feel the taller inmate's breath on her face. 'You know, gorgeous, if you weren't so sexy when you're angry, I'd be pasting you all over the walls right now.'

'Yeah?' Nikki smiled, showing Polly that she wasn't about to be intimidated. 'I'd like to see you bloody try!'

'Atkins, Mitchell, Wade! What's going on here?' Fenner barked.

Nikki stepped back and turned to Fenner. 'Nothing's going on here.'

Fenner surveyed the closed faces of the three women and realised that getting an explanation from any of them would be nigh-on impossible. Mindful of the mug of tea cooling in the PO's office he decided not to make an issue of it. 'Any more shit from any of you and you'll all be on report!'

After a final warning glare at the three women, Fenner returned to the PO's office. Just as he settled into an armchair, a thought occurred to him … why would Wade step in to defend Atkins like that? As he reached for the News of the World, he resolved to keep a close eye on the pair of them in the future.

Yvonne waited until Fenner and Polly had departed before grabbing Nikki's arm. 'What the fuck did you think you were doing?' she snapped, eyes flashing furiously. 'I fight my own battles!'

Nikki wrenched her arm away from Yvonne and returned her stare. 'And you really want to spend the next week down the block for fighting with that stupid tart do you?'

'Like I said, I fight my own friggin' battles!' Yvonne stared at Nikki for a few seconds longer before turning and nodding curtly at Kerry. The two of them disappeared into the cell the blonde inmate shared with Nikki.

'Hey, gorgeous!' Polly shouted after witnessing this exchange. 'If your girlfriend's dumped you, there's always space in my bed!'

'I'd rather suck Fenner's dick!' Nikki shouted back before following Kerry and Yvonne.

Polly turned a glare onto Shaz and Denny, both of whom were in fits of laughter over Nikki's reply. 'What the chuff are you two losers laughing at?'

'You,' Shaz replied, dismissing Polly by turning back to the pool table.

'I'm gonna fuckin' …' Polly stopped in her tracks when she felt a restraining hand on her arm.

'Not 'ere.' Shell whispered, nodding towards a passing Di Barker. 'I fink I might've come up wiv a way to get rid of that friggin' midget.'

Polly considered this for a second and then nodded. 'Sorted.' She smiled and draped her arm around Shell's shoulders. 'I'm really starting to like the way your mind works, darlin'.'

As had become the norm, Kerry and Yvonne were deep in whispered conversation when Nikki entered the cell. Ignoring them, she collapsed on the bed with Great Expectations.

Yvonne looked up with irritation. 'Do you bleedin' mind? This is a private conversation!' She stood when Nikki didn't respond. 'I said …'

'Yeah, I heard you the first time,' Nikki replied, her relaxed demeanour betrayed when she turned a page so forcefully that she tore it. 'You two going to let me in on your secret?' she asked, glaring up at Yvonne. 'I'm getting a bit sick of having to ask permission to come into my own bloody cell!'

Yvonne sat down with a heavy sigh. 'Nikki, I like you, you're a good mate, but don't start using that as an excuse to start taking liberties.'

Nikki threw her book down and shot off her bunk. 'Yvonne, I'm not Denny, so don't think you can pull that hard as nails act with me.'

Yvonne looked up at Nikki, the sheer force behind her gaze would've made a lesser woman tremble, but Nikki's mind was set now, she was determined to find out what was going on.

'Come on, Yvonne.' Nikki said, her tone conciliatory. 'If you weren't so wound up about something, there is no way you would've let Mitchell get to you like that.'

'So you can read minds now can you, Nik?' Yvonne stood, her posture menacing. 'You've been listening to too much of that head-shrinker crap that your Miss Stewart comes out with!'

Nikki took a step closer to Yvonne. 'And what's that supposed to mean?'

'It means, you keep your nose out of my business and I'll keep mine out of yours,' Yvonne countered, hostility now oozing out of every pore.

'You threatening me, Yvonne?'

'Shut up!' Kerry snapped.

Yvonne and Nikki looked around, both silenced by Kerry's authoritative voice.

'Back off both of you, right now!'

Nikki and Yvonne were so surprised by the air of determination emanating from the usually amiable inmate that they silently complied.

Kerry waited until Yvonne had returned to her chair before continuing. 'Nikki, close the door,' she said. 'I think it's about time that Yvonne and I filled you in on what's been going on.'

Shaz whistled to herself as she opened the door to the toilets. She was so engrossed in her latest plan to get one over on Bodybag that she failed to notice one of Polly's henchwomen standing just outside the door.

'Get 'er!' someone shouted.

Before Shaz had time to react, something was stuffed into her mouth and she was dragged into one of the toilet cubicles. Struggling against the strong arms that pinned her down, Shaz finally focussed on a grinning Polly and a very expectant looking Shell.

'You've taken the rip outta me for the last time, Wylie!' Polly said ominously.

'Yeah!' Shell added, aiming a well-timed kick to Shaz's ribs. 'It's about time you learnt when to keep that gob of yours shut!'

Polly nodded towards Shell. 'Hold 'er down, darlin'. It's medicine time!'

Shaz redoubled her squirming efforts when Polly produced a hypodermic needle from the pocket of her skirt.

Shell, who was struggling to hold Shaz down, gasped when she saw the syringe. 'I fort we was gonna spike 'er wiv an 'E' or somefing!'

'I fink we can do better than that, darlin'.' Polly grinned as she made a show of flicking the needle and then ejecting a thin stream of the brownish liquid. 'You know, Wylie, I never clocked you as a smackhead.'

Nikki closed the door to the cell as instructed and then sat down on her bunk. She looked up at Kerry expectantly. 'Well?'

Kerry glanced over at Yvonne who exhaled heavily and then nodded before leaning forward to study Nikki intently. 'You ever come across the name Tony Lane?' she asked.

Nikki considered for a moment and then shook her head. 'No I haven't.'

'What about Radio Rental?'

Nikki was glad that she was already seated, otherwise she felt sure that her legs would've given way and spilled her to the floor. Just the mention of that name turned her blood to ice and suddenly she was back in the club.

It was long after closing time. Following a quick count of the night's takings, Nikki reached for a nearby bottle of Jack Daniels and poured herself a much-needed drink. She looked up, hearing raised voices in the bar outside. Still with the bottle in her hand, Nikki wandered over to the door, thinking that maybe a couple of the bar staff were mucking around.

She wasn't prepared for the sight that greeted her.

A man had Trisha pushed up against the bar and he was laughing as she tried to push him away. Nikki recognised him as DS Gossard, a detective on the local organised crime squad. He seemed to spend all of his spare time leering at Trish across the bar. He was persistent too. Every rebuttal on her behalf only served to make him more determined to try and chat her up.

Gossard spotted Nikki and grinned. 'About time she had a real man, don't you think?'

Nikki was breathing heavily with the effort of trying to control a sudden flash of anger. 'You touch her and I'll …'

'Do what? Call the police?' he sneered.

The smug look on Gossard's face, combined with the fear on Trisha's only served to shred every single fibre of self-control Nikki had left. As she took a step forwards, she became aware of the bottle in her hand, using it seemed like the next logical step.

The bottle smashed on the back of Gossard's head and he fell to the floor.

'I did warn you,' Nikki said coldly as she kicked him in the ribs. 'But just like all blokes, you just don't bloody listen do you?'

'I'm gonna fucking kill you!' Gossard snapped. He took his hand away from his head, his anger magnified when he saw that it was covered in blood. 'You're gonna wish you'd …'

'Nikki, stop it!' Trish screamed, grabbing Nikki around the waist to prevent her from kicking Gossard again. 'You're in deep enough trouble as it is.'

The main door to the club crashed open and three men walked into the room. Two of them were huge, with shaved heads and bulging muscles. The other was smaller and slighter and wearing a pin-striped suit.

'What the fuck do you want?' Nikki snapped. She assumed that the men were cronies of Gossard's. She realised that she was still holding the jagged end of the bottle and glad for it as she advanced towards them.

The smaller man didn't move a muscle, he just stared at Nikki with a pair of the iciest blue eyes she had ever seen and then smiled. Nikki stopped in her tracks, feeling her blood run cold.

'Thank God you're here,' Gossard said as he pulled himself to his feet. 'That mad bitch just tried to brain me.'

The smaller man considered Gossard for a second and then nodded towards Nikki and Trisha. Before either of them knew what was happening, one of the larger men had Trish's arms pinned behind her back, and the other had Nikki in a headlock. He disarmed her quickly and handed the broken bottle over to the smaller man.

Gossard laughed, cocky now that Nikki was being taken care of. 'Took your time didn't you, Radio?' he said.

'Oh, I think we got here just in time.' The smaller man, 'Radio', smiled and moved the jagged bottle from one gloved hand to the other. 'The boss sent us down to have a chat with you. Word is you're being a naughty boy.'

All of the muscles in Gossard's face suddenly slackened, his mouth dropped open and his face drained of all colour. 'Come on,' he gasped. 'I haven't …'

They were the last words out of Gossard's mouth.

Radio moved quickly, like a cobra striking at its prey. The jagged end of the bottle was now firmly lodged in Gossard's throat. He clawed at it, blood spurting everywhere and then fell to the floor.

'Sorry about that, ladies.' Radio smiled apologetically at Nikki and then crouched down to observe Gossard's plight. 'I always said that you could never trust a bent copper.'

The only movement from Gossard now was the steadily expanding pool of blood that flowed from the wound in his neck. Nikki couldn't recall seeing that much blood in her entire life and she felt her heart leap into her mouth as she began to comprehend the situation she and Trisha were now in. They had just witnessed the murder of a police officer! She glanced over at Trish and saw the same gut-wrenching fear reflected in her eyes.

Nikki took a deep breath, and tried to force herself to remain calm. 'L … look …' She stammered, feeling herself tremble as Radio turned that unsettling smile on her. 'I don't know what this is all about but …'

Ignoring Nikki, Radio stood up and walked over to Trisha. He reached out to touch her face and frowned when she flinched away. 'Now that's not very nice,' he admonished with a frown before turning to Nikki. 'She's gorgeous,' he said. 'I can see why you'd kill to protect her.'

Realisation hit Nikki like a bucket of cold water. The fingerprints on the bottle were hers … the only witness to what had really happened was her girlfriend … her antagonism towards Gossard was well known in the club. Anger suddenly made her bold.

'If you honestly think I'm going to take the blame for this you're crazier than you look!'

'Oh I'm not thinking anything,' Radio replied, he reached into his pocket and Nikki saw something flash silver. 'You see … I've got insurance.'

Nikki saw that he was holding was a flick-knife. He depressed the catch and the blade shot out, stopping only millimetres from Trisha's face. She saw the terrified panic in her lover's eyes and understood that to get them both through this, she had to battle against her natural reaction and try to act rationally.

'Look, we haven't seen anything,' she said, slowly. 'We were in the office the whole time.'

Radio responded by grabbing hold of Trisha and pulling her over to where Nikki was being held. He held the knife to her throat and positioned her so that her face was only inches from Nikki's.

'Listen to me,' he said softly. 'My employer has a pet copper in the local murder squad. If I hear so much as a squeak about what really happened here tonight,' He paused and Nikki could see a spot of blood appearing under the knife as he pressed it into Trisha's neck, 'you'll come home to find her head on the kitchen table and her tits in the microwave.'


Nikki felt a hand on her arm and jumped back into the present. Her heart was almost beating out of her chest as she focused on Kerry.

'Nikki, why didn't you tell the truth?' Kerry asked gently.

'Because he scared the shit out of me,' Nikki replied, lighting a cigarette with shaky hands. 'He made it clear that if I did tell the truth he'd kill Trisha. I believed him.' She shook her head and took a deep drag on the cigarette. 'They took the security tapes before they went, and without them, there was no chance of us being able to convince the police that someone else had killed Gossard.' She looked up at Kerry, smiling humourlessly. 'How about this for irony? Before the goon squad turned up I was probably on the verge of killing him anyway.'

'So you confessed?'

Nikki nodded. 'Our solicitor was convinced that I'd be charged with manslaughter. I figured that I'd be able to cope with a couple of years in prison if it meant Trish was going to be okay. By the time I was charged with murder it was too late.' She saw Kerry glance over at Yvonne and the defensive look on the older woman's face made her suspicious. 'What's going on, Yvonne?'

Yvonne exhaled heavily and stood up. 'Nik, what would you say if I told you I had access to those videos you were talking about?'

Nikki frowned. The initial burst of elation she'd felt upon hearing this news gave way to a horrible realisation as piece of the jigsaw began falling into place. 'Why would you have access to the videos?' she asked in a low voice.

'My Charlie ordered the hit on that snake, Gossard, that's why.'


Chapter Eight

Kerry still had no idea what had possessed her to force this situation. Part of it was impatience at how slow drawing relevant information from Yvonne was proving to be. There was also the realisation of just how much she hated being undercover inside again. She had friends on the outside … a home, and a career … things she was desperate to get back to. There was also the gut-wrenching terror she experienced every time a new batch of inmates was processed onto the wing, just in case she was recognised by a face from the past.

If she was completely honest with herself, it was her growing friendship with Nikki that was proving to be the hardest thing to live with. It went against everything she'd ever believed in. How could she, a Police Officer, actually find herself enjoying the company of someone who'd been convicted of killing a colleague? It was something that kept her awake at nights … something she despised herself for. Finding out the truth about Nikki had eased her mind momentarily, but the newfound knowledge her friend was in fact innocent began eating away at her. The lifer was owed the truth … even if it meant Kerry risking her cover in the process.

In the moments that followed the revelation, Nikki stared silently at Yvonne, an unreadable expression on her face. Kerry found that she was cursing herself for opening her mouth, knowing that she'd risked the whole operation, simply because she couldn't live with her own conscience.

Yvonne was the first to break the deadlock.

'Nik, I just want you to know that this was nothing personal,' she said, holding out her hands. 'You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's all.'

Nikki made no acknowledgement that she'd even heard Yvonne. She just continued to stare at her in silence.

'Nikki, did you hear me?' Yvonne persisted. 'It was nothing personal.'

'Nothing personal.' Nikki repeated the words without a trace of emotion. 'How could you do it, Yvonne? How could you look me in the eye knowing what you knew?'

Nikki was calm, her voice cool and precise and because of this, her words were more effective. Kerry saw Yvonne flinch slightly, but her gaze never wavered.

'What did you expect me to do, Nik? You know the score, just as well as I do.'

'So what …?' Nikki paused as realisation hit her. 'I get it,' she said with a bitter smile. 'Charlie's done the dirty and you're gonna get your own back by turning grass.'

Yvonne reached into her pocket for her cigarettes and lit one slowly. She regarded Nikki through the smoke for a moment and then turned to Kerry. 'I need to talk to Nikki alone.'

Kerry considered this, looking from one inmate to the other. Reluctantly, she nodded. 'I'll be outside,' she said before leaving the cell.

Once Kerry had gone, Yvonne sat down at the table and gestured for Nikki to join her.

Nikki shook her head. 'Whatever your excuse is, I don't want to hear it, Yvonne.'

'Well you're gonna hear it whether you like it or not, so sit your friggin' arse down!' Yvonne waited until Nikki had sat down, albeit reluctantly, before continuing. 'Now, let's get one thing straight … I ain't a grass.'

'They sent Kerry in for you to tell her fairy tales did they?' Nikki smiled slightly when Yvonne raised a surprised eyebrow. 'Something always bothered me about her. I know what it is now. She's a copper isn't she?'

Yvonne nodded, dragging deeply on her cigarette. 'They sent her in to get information from me.'

'But Charlie's trial's in a few weeks,' Nikki protested. 'It's too late for them to charge him with Gossard's murder.'

'You think I don't know that?' Yvonne snapped. 'No, Gossard is my price. You get out, I give evidence against Charlie.'

'Sounds like grassing to me.'

Yvonne leaned back into her chair and favoured Nikki with a grim smile. 'There's an old saying … "revenge is a dish best eaten cold". Believe me, Nik, Charlie's gonna get a gob full.'

Jim Fenner was in a bad mood. Karen had completely blanked him in the corridor that morning, he'd just had a row with his estranged wife, Marilyn, on the phone, and to top it all off, he'd just spent the last fifteen minutes listening to Di Barker and Sylvia Hollamby rattling on about food combining.

Only a few months ago, he'd had an adoring wife and Shell Dockley's services on tap whenever he wanted them. Now it seemed that every single woman in his life was on a mission to make him miserable.

He lit a cigarette and let his eyes drift around the wing.

There was Dockley, leaning in the doorway of the four-bed dorm and in deep conversation with her new sidekick Polly Mitchell. Dockley didn't interest him anymore … well, that wasn't strictly true … but she was too bloody unpredictable these days. Fenner liked his bits and pieces in their proper place, thank you very much, and that bitch was liable to cut them off given half a chance.

Fenner turned his attention to Mitchell, taking in the long legs and the generous curves, barely concealed by her skin-tight T-shirt and mini-skirt. She was seriously hot stuff. However, Fenner had enough experience of cons to know that Mitchell was more trouble than a barrel full of monkeys. Trouble, no matter how attractively it was packaged, was the last thing he needed right now.

Out of the corner of his eye, Fenner caught sight of Kerry Harrison.

Now Harrison was a completely different prospect – good-looking and classy with it. If it weren't for the fact that she was so close to Atkins and Wade he would've had fun with her. Fenner frowned at that thought. Again, he was letting bloody women spoil his fun.

Fenner watched Kerry walk up the stairs towards the toilets and after a moment's consideration set off in pursuit.

Nikki listened to Yvonne recounting her plans. The older woman's heartbreak over Charlie's rejection of her was obvious, and there was a big part of Nikki that actually felt sorry for her. Then she thought about Trish sobbing in her arms as they waited for the police to arrive, and felt resolve begin to harden once again.

'Yvonne, why are you telling me all this?'

'Because I owe you the truth.'

'And this is what? Four years after the fact?' Nikki shook her head slowly. 'When I think of all those years your husband took away from me. I lost Trish, I …' She stood up and walked over to the window. 'When I think about what I could be doing on the outside … what I'm missing out on.' Slowly, she turned around to face Yvonne. 'You honestly expect me to say thank you because you've finally decided to do the decent thing?'

Yvonne thought about this for a second and then walked over to join Nikki by the window. 'I like you, Nik, I always have,' she said softly. 'But could you really see me grassing up my husband just because my conscience was bothering me?' She paused to let her words take effect. 'Put yourself in my position, would you do it? If it was Helen?'

This struck home and Nikki let out a long sigh. She was no longer able to maintain eye contact because she knew Yvonne was right and so turned to look out of the window, tears stinging her eyes.

'When you love someone, you'll do anything for them,' Yvonne continued. 'You live for them, breathe for them and …'

Nikki looked around when Yvonne's words trailed off, she was shocked to see tears in the older woman's eyes.

Yvonne smiled, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. 'Bet you never had me down as a soppy bleeder, did ya?'

'But if you love him, Yvonne, surely …'

'He let me down, Nikki,' Yvonne said coldly. 'I ain't gonna let him get away with that.'

Nikki shivered when she looked into Yvonne's eyes … cold, hard and totally ruthless. She was surprised to find that she almost felt sorry for Charlie Atkins.

Kerry walked into the toilets and immediately tripped over a foot that was sticking out of one of the cubicles. Knocking on the door produced no response from its owner. She was kneeling on the floor, trying to see under the door when Fenner came across her.

'Sharing a cell with a raving dyke is obviously starting to get to you, Harrison,' he said. 'Funny though, I never clocked you as one of her lot.' He crouched down beside Kerry. 'What's up? Wade's bits and pieces starting to bore you or something?'

'Something's wrong,' Kerry replied, ignoring Fenner's comments.

'What you on about?'

'Shaz Wylie.' Kerry pulled herself to her feet and gestured towards the toilet door. 'It looks like she's collapsed in there. Give me a leg up,' she sighed irritably when Fenner hesitated, 'I said …'

'Yes, I heard you the first time!'

As Kerry clambered over the door, she was acutely aware of Fenner's hand on her backside. She ignored it, especially when she spotted the syringe on the floor next to an unconscious Shaz. Quickly, she hoisted herself over the top of the door and then slid down the other side.

'Call the medics!' Kerry he shouted through the door.

Fenner responded by banging on the door. 'What's going on in there?'

Kerry reached out to open the door with one hand while she gently felt for Shaz's pulse with the other.

'Shit!' Fenner exclaimed as he fumbled for his radio. 'Is she okay?'

'Just call for a bloody doctor!' Kerry snapped. 'Or there's a fair chance she won't be!'

Nikki flicked her cigarette out of the window and returned to the table … anything to avoid seeing that shark-like look on Yvonne's face. 'What about this Radio bloke?' she asked. 'He's not going to be very happy about this tape of yours, is he?'

'I wouldn't worry about him,' Yvonne said reassuringly. 'Last I heard he was propping up the foundations of a bridge down the M6.' She smiled when Nikki looked up, horrified. 'Got a bit big for his boots did our Radio. Charlie never did like people who try to rise above their station.'

'And what do you think Charlie's going to do to me … not to mention Trish when he finds out about the videos?'

'That's something you're gonna have to talk to Kerry about.'

'Does she know what you're planning to do?'

'For someone who'd supposed to be intelligent you don't half talk shite sometimes!'

'So why tell me?'

'Like I said, you deserve the truth,' Yvonne replied matter-of-factly. She leaned across the table towards Nikki. 'You're not the only one,' she said. 'What are you going to tell Stewart?'

Nikki shifted uncomfortably. That particular question had been keeping her awake ever since Trish's visit. 'I don't know,' she said with a shrug.

'You'd better think about that, Nikki,' Yvonne advised. 'An "I don't know" probably isn't going to count for much when she sees that video at your appeal.'

Nikki opened her mouth to reply but was distracted by the sound of raised voices out on the wing.

Within minutes of Kerry and Fenner's discovery, the POs swung into action and started to lock the frantically protesting inmates in their cells.

'What the bloody hell is going on?' Nikki howled as Hollamby pushed her back into her cell.

'None of your business, Wade.' Hollamby replied, slamming the door in the furious inmate's face.

A while later, the door was opened again and Kerry was allowed in.

Nikki immediately jumped off her bunk. 'Kerry, what's …?'

Kerry signalled at Nikki to be quiet and stood behind the door, waiting for the sound of the key turning. When she was sure that they were alone, she turned back to Nikki. 'I found Shaz collapsed in the toilets,' she explained. 'Heroin overdose, I think.'

Nikki gasped, staring at Kerry in disbelief. 'Smack?'

Kerry nodded. 'I know what you're thinking. I've met enough junkies in my time to know that Shaz wasn't one.'

'Is she going to be okay?'

'I think so,' Kerry replied. 'I saw the crash team arriving when they brought me back down here.'

Nikki sat down on her bunk and lit a cigarette, completely stunned by the news. After a moment, Kerry joined her and they sat in silence for a while, both lost in their own thoughts.

'I take it Yvonne's told you about me,' Kerry said eventually. 'If it's going to cause a problem then I'll see Karen about being moved to another cell.'

'The only cop I've ever had a problem with is Gossard,' Nikki replied, turning to Kerry, she placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it gratefully. 'I do appreciate you putting yourself on the line like that. I promise you, whatever Yvonne and I talked about stays in this cell.'

'I'm putting a lot of trust in you, Nikki,' Kerry said gravely. 'I don't even want to think about what would happen if this got out.'

'You start thinking about things like that and before long you're going to be jumping at your own shadow,' Nikki said, smiling reassuringly. 'Surely the fact that I've spent the last God knows how many years in this shit-hole just to protect someone, is proof enough that I know when to keep my gob shut.'

Kerry thought about this for a moment and then nodded. 'I can imagine you're really pissed off with Yvonne right now,' she commented.

Nikki shrugged. 'Not as much as I was,' she said. Looking away, she took a long drag on her cigarette. 'Between you and me, I'd already told my solicitor about what really happened. I wanted her to use it as a basis for a new appeal, but she told me that there was no point. No proof you see.'

'But you have that now.'

'Yeah, but the point I was trying to make was that I'd already decided to sell Trish down the river to be with …' Helen's name was very nearly out of her mouth before she stopped herself. Nikki paused for a moment to gather her thoughts before continuing. 'I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm more pissed off with myself for even thinking about putting Trish in that position.'

'I honestly don't think either of you will have to worry,' Kerry said reassuringly. 'According to our information, Tony Lane … Radio … disappeared without a trace in 1998. Charlie's in no position to interfere either. His soldiers are either banged up with him or deserting him for other outfits.' She bumped her shoulder against Nikki's in a gesture of reassurance. 'Anyway, once Charlie finds out that Yvonne's going to be testifying against him, you and Trisha are going to be the least of his worries.' She looked around at Nikki, studying her closely for a brief moment. 'Have you told Helen Stewart about any of this?' she asked hesitantly.

Nikki tried not to react and schooled her expression into one of puzzlement. 'Why on earth would I want to confide in her of all people?'

Kerry rolled her eyes. She shook her head, amused. 'I do have eyes in my head you know,' she said. 'I've lost count the number of times I've nearly tripped over your tongue whenever she walks through the wing.' Kerry relented. 'Don't worry,' she said, seriously. 'I know when to keep my mouth shut too.'

Nikki nodded her thanks and then looked down at the floor. 'In answer to your question, no, she knows nothing about this. To be completely honest, I don't think she'll be jumping through hoops when I come clean.'

'Nikki, it's not as if you've been lying to her,' Kerry insisted. 'You just haven't told her everything.'

'I know Helen well enough to know that she isn't going to see it like that,' Nikki said with a shrug.

Polly sighed irritably and looked up from her copy of Heat. Ever since the inmates had been locked down, Denny had been pacing up and down the dorm, chain-smoking furiously. She was obviously frantic for news about Shaz and most women would've curbed their own irritation in respect of that. However, Polly wasn't most women.

'For chuff's sake!' Polly snapped. 'Either you sit down and stop pacing up and down, or I'll superglue your arse to a bloody chair!'

Denny ignored this and continued to pace. 'Shaz ain't no smackhead,' she said to Polly, pausing only to light another cigarette. 'When I find out who dosed her up, I'm gonna …'

'That's it!' Polly howled, throwing her magazine across the cell in anger. 'I just read the same article three times! Either you sit down and zip it or you'll be joining your girlfriend down on the hospital wing! I'm pig sick of sharing a cell with you pair of muppets!'

It wasn't very often that Denny was hit by inspiration, but this was one of those occasions. 'It were you, wannit?' she said, face contorting with rage. 'I'm gonna bleedin' kill you!' She threw the cigarette she was holding across the room and sprinted towards Polly's bunk.

With blindingly fast reactions, Polly jumped off her bunk and drove her head into Denny's stomach. Within moments, she had pinned a frantically struggling Denny down. Denny stopped squirming immediately when she caught sight of something silver and wickedly sharp out of the corner of her eye.

'You listen to me you twat and listen good,' Polly whispered as she carefully drew the razor blade down over the bridge of Denny's nose, applying just enough pressure so that the other woman could feel it without it breaking the skin. 'I could use this blade to slice your face off inch by inch. Only thing is, I don't reckon Shaz would appreciate having a girlfriend who looked like Freddy Kruger.' Polly smiled, revelling in the terrified expression on Denny's face. 'That's if Shaz is fit for anything anymore.'

This galvanised Denny and she began to struggle again, no longer caring about the blade. 'You wait 'til I tell Yvonne! She'll fuckin' rip you to pieces!'

'I don't fink so,' Polly said as she drove her elbow into Denny's ribs. 'You ain't gonna be telling anyone about anything. You see, you've been recruited, Den. You're my property now … all mine.'

Denny had heard something crack when Polly's elbow collided with her ribs, the pain was unimaginable, but still, she wasn't about to give in. 'I ain't doin' nuffing for you! Fuck off!'

'Lemme tell you something, Den. Even stuck in this shit-hole, I can get stuff done. All I need to do is slip someone a few phonecards, and your little girlfriend is dead.' Polly smiled slowly. 'Only I'll make sure I send someone who'll make 'er squeal first, got me?'

Denny nodded, feeling tears of pain and frustration beginning to roll down her face.

'Now, the only problem is, how are people gonna know that you're my property now?' Polly paused for a second, and trailed her finger over Denny's cheekbone. 'I know. I'm gonna have to put my name on you, ain't I?'

Denny felt cold air hit her stomach as her T-Shirt was yanked above her chest, and then a burning sensation just above her navel as Polly began to write.


Chapter Nine

Helen was eating muesli and flicking through the Guardian, when the telephone rang. With a sigh, she put down her spoon and then ran through to the hall to answer it. It was Claire.

'Hiya, Claire,' Helen said. 'Bit early for you, isn't it?' she commented as she retraced her steps to the kitchen with the cordless handset.

'I've just had some news about Nikki,' Claire replied. 'I thought you'd want to know about it right away.'

Helen fell into the nearest chair, feeling her heart flutter with sudden hope. 'Please tell me it's good news.'

'It's very good news. The Home Office have granted her request for an appeal.'

'So the CCRC have decided that she has a case then?' Helen asked, not sure if she quite believed what Claire had just said.

'No, actually,' Claire replied. 'Some new evidence has just come to light.'

'New evidence?' Helen sat up straight, wondering why neither Nikki nor Claire had mentioned this to her before now. 'What new evidence?'

'Helen, that's something you're going to have to talk about with Nikki.'

'What's wrong with you telling me?'

'She's asked me not to and I have to respect her right to confidentiality. Like I said, you're really going to have to speak to her about it.'

Despite this, Helen found that she was holding her breath as she asked the next question. 'Claire, what are her chances?' She frowned when she heard her friend sigh heavily. 'Claire?'

'Helen, this new evidence makes the appeal itself a formality. Nikki should be out within the next few months.'

Helen just couldn't take this in, she supposed she should be jumping around the room with joy, but she couldn't help feeling that something rather untoward was going on behind her back. 'That soon?'

'That soon,' Claire replied with a laugh. 'Listen Helen, I'm going to have to go. I've got a client conference in half an hour. I'll tell you what though … I'm bringing in a barrister to meet with Nikki tomorrow morning. Why don't we go for some lunch afterwards?'

'Yes, okay,' Helen said, finally giving into a huge smile. 'Thanks, Claire. I really appreciate everything you've done.'

'Great. You can pick up the tab for lunch, then.'

Wandering out into the exercise yard, a preoccupied Nikki bumped straight into Polly Mitchell.

'Watch it, Wade!' Polly growled threateningly. 'Touch me like that again and I might have to charge you.'

'Get real, Mitchell.' Nikki sneered in reply. 'They'd have to pay me to touch you with somebody else's!'

The two women glared at each other before resuming their respective journeys.

Nikki walked over to Yvonne who was leaning against a nearby wall, smoking a cigarette.

'All right, Nik?' Yvonne nodded in greeting, before motioning Nikki closer. 'You remember that little agreement I used to have with Josh?'

'Smuggling stuff in you mean?'

Yvonne nodded. I've been trying to scope out this new maintenance guy to see if he'd be up for earning a little extra sweetie money. Only thing is, I think some bleeder's beaten me to it.'

'Yvonne, what are you talking about?' Nikki asked in bewilderment.

'Polly friggin' Mitchell, that's what!' Yvonne hissed in reply. 'I've been watching the two of 'em for a couple of days now and unless my eyes are playing tricks on me, he's bringing stuff in for her.'

Nikki turned around to look at the maintenance man, a blonde-haired Neanderthal who answered to the name of Billy. She didn't think she'd seen anyone who looked so unlike a 'Billy' in her life. 'Yvonne, why are you telling me all this?'

'You know we … no sorry … I was wondering how Mitchell got 'er gear brought in? Well I reckon it's him.'

'Taking a bit of a risk isn't he? The DST do random searches on staff don't they?' Nikki shuddered as she thought about her own experience of Larkhall's Dedicated Search Team. 'If he is up to something, it's only a matter of time before they catch him.'

'Yeah, but Josh would never touch drugs,' Yvonne continued. 'Neither would most blokes with a brain in their head, come to think of it. It's obvious that whoever she's still got working for her on the outside has set this up for her.'

'So what are you going to do about it?'

Yvonne grinned. 'Thought I might accidentally on purpose mention it in passing to Kerry.'

Nikki smiled and shook her head. 'You've really got it in for Mitchell, haven't you?'

'She's a psycho,' Yvonne replied, her face suddenly serious. 'Gets her kicks from hurting people. I don't like that.' She gestured with her cigarette to where Polly was standing with Shell and Denny. 'She's got Denny roped into something now. Look at her. Poor kid looks terrified.'

Nikki followed Yvonne's stare and understood her concern the moment she saw Denny's blank-eyed stare. 'Maybe she's just worried about Shaz,' she mused.

'That's another thing.' Yvonne said in an urgent whisper. 'I reckon it was Polly who put Shaz in hospital, and I reckon Denny knows that too.'

'So why don't you have a word with her about it?'

Yvonne shrugged and ground her cigarette out on the floor with her foot. 'She won't talk to me, that's why.'

Nikki watched Yvonne walk away and realised that this whole situation with Denny was upsetting the older woman a lot more than cared to admit.

Karen looked up from the report she was preparing on Shaz Wylie for Simon, when she heard a knock on her office door.

'Come in.'

Helen walked into the office and Karen could see that she was trying hard, but not quite managing, to control a huge grin.

'Someone's full of the joys of spring,' Karen observed, raising an eyebrow. 'Dare I ask what's put you in such a good mood?'

'I received some really good news about Nikki Wade's appeal this morning,' Helen replied, making a concerted effort to control her excitement. 'Do you mind if I tell her myself this afternoon?'

Karen frowned. There was something that had always bothered her about Helen's interest in Nikki Wade, suspicions fed by the odd snide comment by Fenner. However, the more Karen thought about it, the more she became convinced that Jim was wrong. Helen was concerned about all of the lifers in her care … you only had to look at everything she'd done for Shaz over the past few months. With that thought in her head, Karen mentally stepped on whatever doubts she had and smiled over the desk at Helen.

'No problem,' she said. 'Call down for an officer to escort her up to your office when you're ready.' Karen leaned back in her chair and regarded Helen in silence for a moment, thanks to Kerry, she already knew about the new evidence that had prompted the Home Office to grant Nikki's appeal, and wondered if Helen did too. In the end, she decided to err on the side of caution. 'Last I heard Nikki's appeal was dead in the water. Have there been some new developments?'

'New evidence apparently.' Helen noticed the paperwork on Karen's desk and leaned forward to study it, her attention caught by Shaz's name. 'Your report for the number one?'

Karen nodded and reached for her cigarettes. 'Do you mind?'

Helen shook her head distractedly, absorbed by Karen's report. 'Self-inflicted overdose?' She looked up and raised an eyebrow.

'I know,' Karen said with a sigh of frustration. 'I don't think it's that simple either, but unless she decides to tell us the truth there's not much I can do about it.' She took a deep drag on her cigarette, a reflective look on her face. 'Maybe I can hold off on the report for a while, I might pick something up on the grapevine.'

'I can't see how,' Helen said. 'When something like this happens the inmates clam up tighter than a snare drum. Unless of course…' She looked up at Karen, suddenly realising. 'You've got a source down on the wing haven't you? The same person who put a good word in for Nikki that time.'

Karen shrugged noncommittally. 'Whatever did happen, I'm determined to get to the bottom of it.'

Down on the wing, Polly pretended to listen to Shell moaning about Fenner, while she surreptitiously watched Nikki playing pool with Yvonne.

There was something about Nikki that irritated her … something she couldn't quite put her finger on. On the outside she wouldn't have even looked twice at Nikki – why bother with someone obviously incorruptible when there were so many people who were tripping over themselves to make easy money? But on the inside, people like her were at a premium. Polly only had to look at Shell, Denny and the other goons under her thumb, muppets she wouldn't even pass the time of day with on the outside, to know that.

Nikki was tough … she had respect, and even more importantly, was totally unafraid of anyone or anything … including Polly.

A few weeks ago, Shell had relayed her suspicions about just how close Nikki was to that do-gooding bitch Helen Stewart. As far as Polly was concerned, Stewart was completely full of shit, but she had to admit that winding her up during the lifers' meetings certainly made life more interesting. During these meetings, Polly would prime Shell with a few choice words and then sit back to watch Nikki's reactions, taking in the way the inmate's fists would clench until her knuckles turned white as she glared poisonously at Helen's tormentor.

It quickly became obvious to Polly that Nikki was head over heels in love with Helen Stewart. And, from the way that Stewart kept glancing over at Nikki when she thought no one else was looking, it was plain to see that the feeling was mutual.

As far as Polly was concerned, this was a great shame. She'd wanted Nikki for a long time now. However, she was also a great believer in biding her time until the right opportunity presented itself. Nikki's infatuation with Stewart was her Achilles heel, and when presented with a weakness, Polly became as tenacious as a cheetah stalking a herd of impala. All she had to do was watch and wait and before long she'd have the means to make Nikki hers.

Across the wing, Yvonne wasn't the only one to have noticed that Polly kept looking over at Nikki.

'Three o'clock, Nikki,' Kerry said from her seat on top of a nearby table. Looking up from the orange she was peeling, she nodded towards Polly. 'Looks like you've got yourself an admirer.'

Nikki was in the process of lining up a shot. She looked up at Polly with irritation. 'What the bloody hell does she keep staring at me for?' she asked Yvonne.

Yvonne grinned and turned to wink at Kerry. 'I always reckoned she was crazy. Never thought she was certifiable though.'

'Ha ha bloody ha!' Nikki said witheringly. She darted another glance at Polly and then shivered. 'Christ! She's starting to give me the creeps.'

With a grim smile, Yvonne turned to confront Polly. 'Oi, Mitchell! What the frig are you staring at?'

'I dunno, the label's fallen off!' Came the predictable reply.

Yvonne opened her mouth to respond but became distracted when she spotted Hollamby making her way over. Quickly, she grabbed the orange out of Kerry's hand.

'Come on Wade, let's be having you.' Hollamby said, looking up at the tall inmate with distaste. 'Miss Stewart wants to see you.'

'Oh, Miss,' Yvonne said. 'Me and the girls got you a present.' Keeping her face completely dead-pan, she held the half-peeled orange out for Hollamby's inspection. 'It's a jaffa.'

'Yes, I can see that.' Hollamby frowned down at the orange, and then turned her attention to the woman who held it. 'What are you up to, Atkins?' she asked suspiciously.

'Nothing, Miss,' Yvonne said innocently, although she allowed herself the luxury of a slight smile. 'I just thought you'd enjoy it, that's all … with you having so much in common.'

'Me and an orange?'

'Well you are both pipless, ain't you, Miss?'

Yvonne, Kerry and Nikki all dissolved into hysterical laughter.

'Just watch it you lot!' Hollamby snapped, suddenly red-faced. Desperate to take her humiliation out on someone, she grabbed Nikki's arm. 'Come on, you. Move it!'

Nikki sobered immediately. She exchanged a significant glance with Yvonne as she handed her pool cue over to Kerry. 'Wish me luck both of you.'

'Good luck,' Kerry replied.

'Yeah,' Yvonne added, reaching out to squeeze Nikki's shoulder. 'You'll be alright.'

'Come on, we haven't got all day,' Hollamby said sharply.

Yvonne rolled her eyes at Nikki who smiled weakly. 'Now now, Sylvia, anyone would think that you Basic Grade prison officers had better things to do.'

'I'll give you Basic Grade if you don't watch it,' Hollamby snapped, pointing a finger at Yvonne. 'You'll be down here on basic with the rest of the animals so quick your head'll spin.' Hollamby pulled on Nikki's arm. 'Wade! Get a move on, now!'

Nikki followed Hollamby across the wing, stopping in her tracks when Shell Dockley suddenly stepped out in front of her and brandished an apple in her face.

'Don't forget to take an apple for teacher,' Shell said sweetly. 'She might not give you a shag else.'

'Thanks, Dockley, I didn't know you cared.' Nikki grabbed the apple and took a large bite before handing it back to Shell. 'Your roots need doing.'

Helen paced up and down her office as she waited for Nikki to arrive. Part of her was relishing the look on Nikki's face when she told her about the good news she'd received from Claire. However, another part of her couldn't stop obsessing about this mystery piece of 'new' evidence that had prompted the Home Office to grant the appeal. For some reason, Helen found that she was full of foreboding as the door opened, and Hollamby ushered Nikki into the room.

'Thank you, Sylvia,' Helen said, smiling as warmly as her dislike of the officer would allow. 'I'll let you know when I'm finished.'

Hollamby looked from Helen to Nikki, glowering with disapproval. 'Yes, ma'am.'

Helen waited until the door was safely closed before practically flying into Nikki's arms.

'What's all this in aid of?' Nikki asked, puzzled by Helen's uncharacteristic display of affection. 'Not that I'm complaining or anything.'

'Oh Nikki, its good news,' Helen said, voice muffled by Nikki's shoulder. 'Claire rang me this morning. You've been given the go ahead for your appeal.'

Nikki surprised Helen by immediately pulling away from her. Crossing the room, she slumped into a chair with a serious expression on her face.

Helen crouched down in front of Nikki, placing her hands on her knees. 'What's wrong?' she asked, concerned. 'Anyone would think I'd just told you your best friend had just died.'

Nikki leaned back in the chair, raising her hands to her face before exhaling heavily. 'Helen, there's something I've got to tell you.'


Chapter Ten

Helen could see by the look on Nikki's face that she wasn't going to like whatever was coming next. The tall lifer was shifting uncomfortably in her seat and seemed quite unable to meet Helen's questioning stare. To put it plainly, she looked cornered.

Helen reached for Nikki's hands. 'Nikki, what is it?' she asked.

'The new piece of evidence,' Nikki said, not looking up. 'It's a video that shows exactly what happened in the club that night.'

Helen's initial reaction was relief. She didn't quite know what she'd been expecting … but this? Excitement and hope began to rise within her as she tightened her grip on Nikki's hands. 'Nikki, that's fantastic news! If the video shows Gossard attacking Trisha, then you can finally prove provocation.'

'Helen.' Nikki said softly, finally looked up. 'The video shows what really happened.'

Helen pulled away from Nikki, feeling that sense of foreboding return. 'What do you mean?'

Nikki replied by standing up and walking over to the window.


Nikki stared out of the window for a moment, and Helen could see that she was struggling to compose herself.

'Nikki, whatever it is, just tell me!' she snapped, losing patience.

Nikki took a deep breath and began. 'The video was recorded by the security camera at the club. It shows Gossard attacking Trish and me smashing him over the back of the head with the bottle.' She turned away from the window, looking directly at Helen. 'It also shows who really stuck the broken bottle into his neck.'

Helen gasped, not quite believing what she was hearing. 'What … Nikki, what are you saying?'

'What I'm saying is that someone else killed Gossard,' Nikki continued. 'He was bent, Helen. Doing deals with all sorts of people … well, until he got greedy and they decided to teach him a lesson. Trish and I were just unfortunate enough to be there when it happened.'

'I don't understand Nikki,' Helen said, clutching her head. 'If someone else killed him, why did you end up taking the blame?'

'Because they threatened to kill Trish and I believed them.' Nikki shivered as she remembered the terrified look on Trish's face. 'They also took the surveillance videos with them. My fingerprints were on the bottle and it was a well-known fact that I hated Gossard's guts. Why on earth would the pigs believe that I hadn't done it? Especially when all of the evidence pointed towards the fact that I had.'

'But your statement to the police …' Helen continued to protest. 'You confessed, Nikki. Why did you do that? All you had to do was give a description of the people who did it. The police would have had to follow it up.'

'I was told in no uncertain terms that if I told the police what really happened, then Trish would be paid a visit. They were going to kill her Helen!' Nikki said forcefully. 'I loved her, for God's sake. What else was I supposed to do?'

Helen stood in silence for a moment, the relief she felt after hearing that Nikki was actually innocent was giving way to anger, hurt and betrayal. 'So you've been lying to me all of this time?' she said icily.

'I've never lied to you,' Nikki protested, shocked by the coldness in Helen's voice. 'I just didn't tell you what really happened. A sin of omission … that's all it was.'

'So basically, what you're saying is that you didn't trust me enough to tell me what really happened,' Helen persisted.

'No Helen, I'm not saying that at all.' Nikki walked over from the window and reached for Helen's hand, frowning when she flinched away.

'Don't,' Helen said as she backed away. 'I just … I just can't get my head round this.' She paused for a moment, trying to make sense of the whirlwind of thoughts rushing around her head. 'Why now, Nikki? I mean, if this is such a matter of life and death, why are you even considering using this video?'

Nikki explained about Gossard's involvement with Charlie and the events of that night, Yvonne's deal with the police and Kerry's role in it. Helen remained silent as she struggled with her emotions. She could see that Nikki was visibly distressed during her account of Gossard's murder … could understand the terror that forced the inmate to take the blame for it. However, there was nothing she could about the dawning realisation that the woman she loved … the woman she'd drastically changed her life for, didn't trust her enough to tell her the truth. Shakily, Helen sank into a nearby chair and placed her head in her hands.

Finally, Nikki sat down on the chair opposite Helen. She made another abortive attempt to reach for her hands, and sighed, defeated, when she pulled away. 'Helen … please.' She leaned forward again, and this time Helen almost knocked her chair over in her need to get away. 'Look, I'm sorry. But you have to understand why I couldn't tell you.'

Nikki rose out of her own chair, and for a second they stared at each other.

'I looked into your eyes and asked you if you were a cold-blooded killer. Do you remember?' Helen said softly.

Nikki nodded, suddenly unable to maintain eye contact.

'How do you think that made me feel, Nikki?' Helen continued, finally giving in to fury. 'You couldn't even begin to imagine what that was like for me. How guilty I felt even thinking that about you.'

Nikki almost took a step back as she was confronted with the white heat of Helen's anger. The fact that it was completely justified only served to increase her guilt, and consequently, spark her own temper. 'What about me, Helen?' she snapped. 'How do you think it made me feel?'

'Oh of course, I forgot, it's always about you isn't it?' Helen said, rolling her eyes dramatically. 'Nikki Wade, always so hard done by … always the martyr! You never once stop for a moment to consider my feelings do you?'

'Of course I do, Helen. I love you.'

'But you don't trust me do you? If you trusted me you would've told me about this a long time ago.' Helen paused and stepped away, turning her back to Nikki. 'But I trusted you, Nikki. Enough to give up my job for you, to change my entire lifestyle, and I just … I just feel like you've betrayed that.'

Nikki's immediate reaction was to throw the escape incident back into Helen's face, but she forced back the words, knowing that this was one time she couldn't afford to let her mouth run away with her. 'Helen, that night … I …' She paused as the memories of that night in the club threatened to overwhelm her. This was one time she needed to embrace that fear, to try to express it so that Helen would understand. 'I dream about his eyes … the smile on his face when he held that knife to Trish's neck,' Nikki explained. 'I just couldn't move, couldn't do anything. I watched him kill a man right in front of me and laugh about it … I was just so scared, Helen.'

Helen turned around, Nikki was shaking and deathly white, the terror in her eyes as she relived the moment was clearly too much for her to bear, but still, she couldn't let go of her own feelings. 'Nikki, why?' she asked softly. 'Why didn't you tell me?'

Nikki exhaled heavily, reaching up to brush at the tears that appeared in her eyes. 'I made a promise, Helen.' She stepped forward, placing her hands on Helen's shoulders. 'When Trish came in to visit that time, it was because I needed to tell her that I'd decided to tell Claire the truth. I did that for you, Helen. I broke that promise because nothing is more important than the fact that I want to be with you.'

Helen allowed Nikki to pull her into her arms and for a moment, she lost herself in that familiar feeling of rightness, the strength and the warmth in the body pressed against hers.

'I can't.'

Nikki felt Helen pulling away and sighed, resigning herself to the inevitable.

'I need some time,' Helen said. 'This isn't sinking in right now.' She walked over to her desk and picked up the telephone, her eyes unable to meet Nikki's as she dialled the number for the PO's Office.

Karen walked out into the garden, her eyes scanning over the working inmates until she spotted Kerry weeding a border. She paused for a moment and then casually walked over to join her.

'Something tells me you're going to need a manicure when you get out of here.'

Kerry looked up and smiled. 'All this practice might finally mean that I can get my act together as far as my own garden is concerned.' She stood up and brushed the soil from her hands. 'You got my note then?'

Karen nodded. It had been her idea that in an emergency, Kerry would leave a note for her inside the dusty copy of The Illiad in the library. Karen checked the book every morning but until today, the detective hadn't felt the need to contact her. She glanced around to make sure they weren't being observed before motioning Kerry away from the border with a slight incline of her head.

As if it were the most natural thing in the world, Kerry picked up the wheelbarrow and began to wheel it towards the potting shed.

'So how are you settling in?' Karen asked loudly for the benefit of anyone who might be watching.

'Your new maintenance man,' Kerry whispered. 'I'd check him out if I were you.'

'He's bringing stuff in you mean?'

Kerry nodded. 'I don't know who for though.'

'Did you …?' Karen paused as they walked past another inmate. 'Did you manage to get that other information for me?'

'I'm only finding out what certain people want you to hear,' Kerry replied, smiling ruefully. 'But if I do pick anything up I'll let you know.'

They'd reached the potting shed. Kerry disappeared inside and Karen wandered back towards the prison.

Casting for Romeo and Juliet was proving to be a harder job than Yvonne had expected. She'd spent most of the afternoon trying to persuade Barbara to take the role of the nurse.

'I honestly don't know why you're bothering,' Barbara said as she flicked through Yvonne's copy of the play. 'I remember having to read this at school.' She smiled slightly and handed the book back to Yvonne. 'You do realise that none of this lot are going to understand a word of it, don't you?'

'There's ways around that.' Yvonne replied. 'Nikki and me had a shufty on the Internet the other day and found out that you can get these books that translate the whole thing into how we talk.'

'And where are you going to get hold of a copy of one of these books?' Barbara shook her head and sighed when Yvonne grinned in reply. 'You really are persistent aren't you?'

'So are you gonna do it or what?'

'I have a feeling I'm going to regret this, but okay.'

'Nice one, Babs.'

'Dare I ask who else you've managed to rope in?'

'Well, I was planning on asking Denny and Shaz to play Mercutio and Benvolio, but I don't reckon …' Yvonne smiled as she noticed the Julies walking towards their table. 'Babs, meet Lady Montague and Lady Capulet.'

Barbara responded by laughing incredulously.

''Ere, what's up wiv 'er?' Julie S asked, frowning down at Barbara suspiciously.

Yvonne glared at Barbara who was struggling to compose herself and then looked up at the Julies. 'Good news you two. Babs 'ere has agreed to be in the play.'

'Good on ya, Babs.' Julie J said.

'Yeah, good on ya.' Julie S agreed before turning to Yvonne. 'Listen, Yvonne, me and Jue's been talking. Why do we 'ave to do this Shakespeare crap?'

''Ere, Jue.' Julie J said, nudging her friend. 'Remember that time we watched that Mel Gibson film? That were one of them Shakespeare plays. What was it called? Castella?'

'Nah, it were Hamlet, wannit?'

'I knew it were somefing to do with cigars,' Julie J said, shaking her head. 'Anyway this Shakespeare bloke, he don't talk proper like what we do, does he Jue?'

Julie S shook her head, looking over at Yvonne beseechingly. 'Can't we do somefing like Grease instead?'

'Yeah, just picture it.' Julie J sighed, a faraway look on her face. 'Dominic as John Travolta in his leathers!'

Yvonne rolled her eyes at Barbara. 'Well we ain't doing Grease, are we?'

The Julies exchanged a disappointed glance and then sat down on the edge of the table.

''Ere Yvonne, 'ave you decided who's gonna be playing Romeo and Juliet yet?' Julie S asked.

'Yeah, we 'eard that Shell wanted to …' Julie J's words trailed off as she spotted Nikki being allowed through the wing gate. 'Bleedin' 'ell! What's up wiv Nikki?'

'Christ Almighty!' Julie S exclaimed. 'She's got a face like a forty shilling piss-pot! You don't reckon it's bad news about her appeal do ya?'

Barbara shook her head. 'As far as I know it's going really well at the moment.'

Nikki walked past the table on her way back to her cell, too preoccupied to notice the four women. After a moment, Yvonne ran over, catching up with Nikki as she reached her cell door.

'Nik, you alright? How did it go?'

'In a word, shit.'

'She didn't take it too well then?'

Nikki shook her head. 'You can't blame her really. I mean, she has just found out that I didn't trust her enough to tell her the truth.'

'Nikki, we both know why you couldn't tell her.'

'Yeah, well she doesn't quite see it like that.'

'She'll come round.'

'I hope so, Yvonne because there doesn't seem that much point in getting out of here if she doesn't,' Nikki said miserably. 'Look, don't take this the wrong way, but I'd rather be on my own for a while if you don't mind.'

Alone in her cell, Nikki lay down on her bunk and curled into a tight ball. A few seconds later, the tears began to fall.

It was late and Claire had been deep in the transcripts of Nikki's trial when the doorbell rang. For a moment, she ignored it, but the ringing just grew more persistent until she was forced to answer it. The last person she was expecting to see standing on her doorstep was Helen. She was clearly upset about something and Claire could see that she'd been crying recently.

'Helen? What on earth is the matter?'

'Nikki told me about that new evidence today.' Helen replied, staring at Claire accusingly.

'You'd better come in,' Claire said, standing back to allow Helen into the hall. 'You look like you need a drink.'

Helen followed Claire through to the living room. She nodded her head when her friend gestured towards the bottle of red wine that stood open on the table.

'Helen, you know every well that if a client asks me not to divulge certain information, I have no option but to follow their wishes,' Claire said as she walked through to the kitchen. Opening a cupboard, she retrieved a glass. 'I know this probably doesn't help, but having seen that video I can understand why she did it,' she added.

'It was bad?'

Claire nodded. Walking back through to the living room, she handed Helen the glass. 'Extremely,' she replied, reaching for the wine bottle. 'She still has nightmares about it you know.'

'So I believe.' Helen nodded her thanks when Claire poured her a drink. 'Believe me, Claire, I can understand why she felt she had to lie to the police. What I can't get my head around is why she didn't tell me the truth?'

'For the same reasons she didn't tell the police when she was arrested I should imagine,' Claire said as she sat down on the sofa. She gestured for Helen to join her before reaching forward for her wine glass. 'She was trying to protect Trisha.'

'Yes, but why did she feel she couldn't tell me the truth?'

'Helen, if she had, can you honestly say you wouldn't have tried to persuade her to use it?'

Helen thought for a moment and then shook her head. 'I see your point.'

'I know you're feeling betrayed right now but don't let that force you into doing something rash,' Claire said, reaching over to place a hand on Helen's knee. 'Whatever she told you or didn't tell you, it doesn't change the way she feels about you.'

'But maybe it changes the way I feel about her,' Helen said, pausing to take a long swallow of wine. 'This … what happened with Dominic … all it proves is that she doesn't completely trust me.' Helen sighed and pulled away from Claire. 'How can I trust her now? What else is she keeping from me?'

'So what are you saying? It's over between you two?'

Helen shrugged, staring down into her wine glass. 'It just seems like my life has been spiralling out of my control ever since I met her. I keep thinking … if this is what it's like now, what's it going to be like when she's out of prison? I really don't think I'm ready for that.'

Claire regarded Helen in silence for a moment. 'But surely you've considered that already?'

'I knew it was going to be hard for both of us to adjust, but I was ready for that. Getting Nikki out of there was the most important thing. Once we achieved that, I felt sure that we'd be able to handle anything.'

'Do you know what I think? I think that subconsciously, you've been having these doubts for a while now. What happened today was just a catalyst.' Claire reached over to refill Helen's glass. 'You need to take time to let this all sink in.'

'I know, but my gut reaction is that I can't maintain any sort of relationship with someone I don't trust.'

'So what are you going to do?'

Helen shrugged. 'I don't know,' she said softly 'I really don't know.'

Later that night, Helen returned home to find that a message waiting on her answer phone. She knew immediately that it was from Nikki and for a moment, her finger hovered over the delete button. Then, the urge to hear Nikki's voice got the better of her and she pressed play instead.

'Helen, I love you and I want you to know that I'm sorry that I didn't tell you about all of this before. I know you think it's because I didn't trust you, but it's not. I always trusted you. I just couldn't break a promise. I … I know you said you wanted time to think about this and I'm going to respect that. I'll give you all the time you need.' Nikki's voice began to break and Helen felt tears beginning to appear in her own eyes. 'I'm not going to give up on us. I love you, Helen and I always will do.'

Part 11

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