Survival Of the Innocent
When all the fuss had started about Virginia's death, Karen completely forgot about the missive from Helen, which still sat on her desk awaiting her attention. It was almost hard for Karen to believe that it had been anyone apart from Yvonne who would have drowned Virginia O'kane. When she had heard Yvonne accusing Fenner of it she immediately dismissed this as pure and simple loathing. She knew that Yvonne had always hated Fenner, though that wasn't entirely true. There had been a time, a few months ago when Yvonne Atkins hadn't said so much as a "Piss off" to Jim. When she went home at the end of that day, she remembered it had been Nikki Wade's appeal. Karen was pleased that Nikki had been freed. Hadn't she herself once said that she couldn't see Nikki Wade as a murderer. Perhaps that was why Jim had been in such a foul mood when he had returned from the court. She had never understood Jim's almost pathological hate of Nikki. Maybe it was just because of his feelings towards any lesbian. Then her thoughts returned to the one happy part of her day. Jim had asked her to marry him. When she had divorced her children's father some years ago, she had sworn that never again would she be taken in by a man. But she wasn't being taken in by Jim. She knew that he had occasionally been in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially when it came to that evil bitch, Dockley. Karen thought of the time she had helped Shell to come to terms with what her mum had done to her. She had been the one person who had got inside that hard outer shell of a woman, who was clearly very screwed up. But when Dockley had stabbed Jim, She didn't like to remember how Jim had looked. She had thought he would die. It was a miracle he hadn't, really.
When she unlocked the front door she found Jim cooking dinner. She stared at him in disbelief.
"This is a turn up for the books," Jim turned to face her.
"I thought you deserved it." He came over and kissed her and she noticed he tasted of whisky. She spied his glass next to the chopping board.
"Are you going to pour me one of those?"
"For you, anything." His silky, deep voice never failed to turn her on. She smiled ruefully.
"After the day I've had, I need a fair few glasses of anything strong."
"The whole point of coming home, Karen, is that you are supposed to forget about that shit-hole."
"It's the second murder investigation there's been since I became wing governor. I can't help wondering if I'll still be in a job once the new number one arrives.
She took a huge swig of the drink Jim handed her.
"Do you know, I'm actually going to take a piece of Helen Stuart's advice for once." Jim nearly cut himself on the knife he was using to chop the mushrooms.
"Don't look so startled. I just meant that she once said that the only way to forget a day of her job was to get very drunk afterwards."
Jim breathed a sigh of relief. Jesus! He really had to calm down about her. Helen and her little girlfriend Wade were out of his life now. He hoped.
Karen looked at him slightly concerned.
"You know, Jim, you don't have to worry about Helen Stuart any more. She's gone. That's all there is to it." Jim managed to plaster a smile to his sly little face.
"I know. It just takes a little while to forget everything." Karen walked over to him and put her arms around his neck.
"All I want you to think about, for the next few hours at least is me." He grinned wickedly.
"Is that right. But if I'm not careful, this meal will burn."
Much later, when both of them had consumed Jim's surprise creation plus a large amount of alcohol, Karen began to think how lucky she was. She turned over in the bed to face him.
"I don't think I've been this happy in a long time."
"I'm glad I come up to your very high standards," he said with pure satisfaction in his voice. For all his eccentricities, thought Karen, Jim was a sensational lover. She didn't think she'd ever had it so good. When she fell asleep, she didn't think that anything could possibly destroy what she had at this moment. Jim on the other hand, was thinking with evil delight that he would have Karen eating out of the palm of his hand for as long as he needed her.
The next morning when Karen walked in to work, she knew that today she really had to begin to sort out what had happened to Virginia. She was very aware of how much whisky she had drank the night before and a headache was already beginning to insinuate itself in to her thoughts. When she walked in to her office, she looked half surprised at the envelope with her name on sitting on her desk. She recognized Helen's handwriting and without a second thought shoved it in to one of the desk drawers. A murder enquiry was one thing, but a parting shot from Helen Stuart was quite another. The first thing Karen had to do was to speak to Yvonne Atkins.
When Yvonne was firmly escorted in to her office Karen stood up and walked round to the other side of her desk. With immense irritation she noticed that Sylvia was one of the officers propelling Yvonne in to a chair. Then Sylvia stood back and almost smiled at Yvonne.
"Perhaps now you'll get the punishment you deserve." Yvonne opened her mouth to protest.
"Oh I know. "It was Mr. Fenner". We've heard it all before Atkins." Karen felt that she must interrupt.
"Sylvia, will you and Mark wait outside please."
"Sylvia!" Old BodyBag almost managed to shut her mouth for a second.
"I will call you when I have finished." Unsatisfied, Sylvia and Mark retreated to the outer office and Karen closed the door very pointedly behind them.
When she turned to face Yvonne the first thing she noticed was that Yvonne looked terrible. She couldn't have slept at all last night. Instead of returning to her chair, Karen went and stood with her back to the window. For the first time in her life, she wasn't entirely sure how to begin this conversation. Karen knew it was stupid, but she had a sneaking suspicion that the woman sitting before her hadn't murdered Virginia O'kane. She decided to go slightly gently in to what could only become a furious exchange of words.
"Yvonne, I'm sure you know why you're here."
"That's stating the bleeding obvious, Miss."
"I would like to hear your version of events. I am not going to assume anybody's guilt until I can prove it."
"Well, that makes a change. A screw not forming their own misguided opinion."
"Yvonne, get on with it."
"Yesterday, when Virginia told Miss Barker that she was going for a bath, I thought it would give me a good opportunity to give her a little warning."
"A warning about what?" Yvonne shook her head and continued.
"So I followed her in to the bathroom, once I'd told Di where I was going. I gave MISS O'KANE my warning and went to have a bath, like any normal person. I was lying there listening to my Walkman and, naturally, didn't hear a thing. I know I was listening to music, but whoever did it was bloody quiet. When I got out of the bath I noticed that water was coming from the door of the cubicle where her Ladyship was no doubt preening for her next interview with," Yvonne chose her words carefully.
"With who?" Prompted Karen.
"With her temporary manager."
"I obviously assumed there must be something wrong with the old slag and I opened the door." Here Yvonne stopped and suddenly looked like she would throw up.
Karen walked round to the other side of her desk and lit a cigarette and handed it to Yvonne. Yvonne smiled almost gratefully. Karen then lit one for herself and waited patiently for Yvonne to continue.
After a couple of drags Yvonne looked slightly healthier.
"She was just lay there. She wasn't moving at all. You could tell by the way she was lying that she was dead. And that didn't look like no natural death. Someone had clearly got her good and proper."
"And it's that we need to talk about."
"I didn't do it, Miss. I can't prove it but I'd swear on my Lauren's life that I didn't." Karen held up a hand.
"Okay, okay. Now, what was the warning you gave her and who is her temporary manager." Yvonne stayed silent.
"I need to know, Yvonne." Karen took a stab in the half-light. "Does this have anything to do with why you were accusing Mr. Fenner?"
"Look, Miss. You aren't known for your open eyes where he's concerned."
"I'm just telling it like it is, Miss." Karen's face was suddenly suffused with anger.
"So, what's he supposed to have done this time?"
"I'm not sure you really want to know, but I guess I've got nothing to lose. With the help of someone else, I discovered and could prove if absolutely necessary that your Jim Fenner is collecting the takings from all O'kane's brothels." Karen tried to interrupt.
"Let me finish, Miss. The proof exists in pictures. A camera can't lie, now can it?"
"And what does this have to do with the warning you gave Virginia?" Yvonne recognized that Karen was cleverly skirting round the Fenner issue but she didn't acknowledge it.
"I was just telling O'kane that Fenner was taking a bigger cut than she thought. She didn't want to listen. I just wish I hadn't,"
"Hadn't what?" Yvonne took a huge sigh and said,
"I told Fenner I knew what he was up too. I told him that O'kane was singing to all who would listen."
When Yvonne had left, Karen sat down at her desk and lit a cigarette. She had given instructions to Sylvia that Yvonne could go back to the wing. Karen knew that all the evidence, especially the whereabouts of the diary, pointed to Yvonne but everything that had been said about Jim had a ring of truth, which Karen was beginning to dread.
Sylvia had looked at her aghast.
"But Ma'am, she's a dangerous criminal!"
"Just do it, Sylvia." Catching the slight grin of triumph on Yvonne's face, Karen said,
"This isn't the last conversation we will be having by any means."
Karen wondered why she was so certain about Yvonne. She knew that Yvonne Atkins had been the wife of one of the most notorious criminals in London. That, coupled with the fact that Yvonne was doing time for trying to get her husband's rival killed, should have made Karen be very careful about what she believed. But somehow, this was different. Karen had experienced many different criminals in her time but never had she been so certain that one was telling the absolute truth. There was nothing for it but to trust her instincts.
"And if you're wrong," she thought, "Your career's up the spout."
But she wasn't allowed to think about all of this for as long as she liked because a short while later, Jim barged his way in to her office. He demanded,
"Why the bloody hell have you put Atkins back on that wing?"
"Sorry, I wasn't aware I was answerable to you or anyone else on this wing."
Jim leaned over the desk threateningly and gripped Karen's shoulders.
"Don't piss me about, Karen. Why did you do it?"
"First, let go of me. Second, Yvonne Atkins didn't kill Virginia O'kane."
"And while we're on the subject, what makes you so sure it was Yvonne Atkins?" Jim had to think very carefully about this one. He just had to be convincing enough.
"Well, there's the diary. And she was in the bathroom when O'kane snuffed it." Karen grimaced.
"Jim, the word's died. Just because Yvonne was in the bathroom with her doesn't mean a thing. It's all circumstantial." Jim glared at Karen.
"Why are you on Atkins side all of a sudden?"
"I'm not on anyone's side, Jim. It's just that Yvonne is saying a few things which are beginning to make a lot of sense."
"At this stage I really can't tell you. Not until I've made a few enquiries."
"But what about the diary?"
"Oh, come on, Jim. We both know Yvonne Atkins. She wouldn't be as stupid as to leave that diary where any officer could find it."
"Well, a diary's not the kind of thing you can crutch, is it Karen."
"Jim, only a very inexperienced con would leave such a damning piece of evidence in such an obvious place. I'm fairly sure it was planted." At this, Jim stormed out of the office.
He was furious. Framing Atkins had been the perfect answer. But she now knew too much. He was sure that it had been Atkins who had told Helen bloody Stuart about O'kane's brothels. It couldn't have been anyone else. Only Atkins had people on the outside that could find out that kind of thing.
When he got back to the wing, Jim marched straight in to Yvonne's cell. She looked up.
"A pleasure to see you Mr. Fenner. As Always."
"Shut it, Atkins. What've you said to Karen?"
"That all depends on what you're scared of doesn't it Mr. Fenner." Jim grabbed Yvonne by the throat and pushed her up against the wall.
"Now you listen to me, Atkins. You say one word to Karen about this business with O'kane and you'll be in a coffin quicker than I can say nail."
"You tried to threaten me once before, Mr. Fenner and look how that turned out. My Lauren still has those pictures of you receiving money from My Charlie. And have you forgotten what Dockley did to you when she got sick of your threats? Or is that little incident still clear in your mind!"
When Jim had stormed out of her office, Karen started to think. It occurred to her that Jim had arrived home very late the odd night in the past few weeks. If he really was the one collecting the money from Virginia O'kane's brothels, this now made sense. Karen half considered getting Virginia's diary dusted for fingerprints but she knew this was pointless. Anyone from officers to prisoners might have touched it.
Karen pulled open the desk drawer to look for a pen and some paper but staring up at her was the envelope addressed to her from Helen. As she pulled it out she caught a faint aroma of Helen's perfume. Maybe it was about time she read what Helen had felt it so important to leave for her. When she slit open the envelope she found that inside was a smaller envelope with a letter attached to it. Karen withdrew the letter and read it.
You have no idea how much I hate having to tell you this, but seeing as you would never listen to me I have had to write it down. I am so sorry that I have to tell you about this because I really don't want to hurt you. All I ask is that you believe what I am telling you to be the absolute truth. Whether you choose to act on this information or not is up to you. I don't expect you to professionally acknowledge this, but it may make you understand why I was so concerned about your relationship with Jim Fenner."
The letter was simply signed, "Helen." Even though it was only four o'clock in the afternoon, Karen poured herself a large Scotch. She had a feeling she was going to need it. Whatever Helen had enclosed in the other envelope, it wasn't going to make pleasant reading.
At first, as she began to read Helen's report, she couldn't believe the written words on the page. Helen was describing in graphic detail how Jim Fenner, her lover, the man she, Karen was going to marry, had, in a fit of anger, sexually assaulted her. Karen didn't want to believe it. This just couldn't be true. All the feelings of denial came swimming to the surface. He wouldn't, he couldn't! But as she read further on, she began to realise just how true this was. When she got to the part where Helen was describing exactly what Jim had done to her, Karen threw the report down on the desk and cried like she hadn't done in a long time. How could the man she loved have done something so horrible and degrading, she didn't know. She cried for Helen and what Jim had put her threw. She cried for the trust she had given him and which he had so readily abused. Perhaps most of all, she cried for how stupid she had been. Jim had done this under her very nose. Helen had warned and warned her about Jim and she hadn't listened to any of it. Karen looked again at the date of the assault. It was around that time that Helen had seemed so interested in her relationship with Jim. Karen knew why now. Then she remembered the slimy, sinister way in which Jim had told her of every grievance he had against Helen.
As she sat there and thought about all this, Karen got through numerous cigarettes and a large quantity of Whisky. She took no notice of the time slipping away until she looked at the clock, which said it was long after eight. Jim was probably at home by now, wondering where she was. Well, he had no right wondering where she was any more. In fact, the thought of going home to spend an evening and a night with Jim was positively nauseating. What the hell was she going to do. Jim had asked her to marry him yesterday and she had said yes. Not in a million years could she now go through with anything of the kind. Then she realised that the only thing she could and must do, was to talk to Helen.
When Helen began to think back, she didn't think she'd gone through quite so much heartache with anyone else in her life. So many times, she had put her feelings for Nikki on hold because of her career. Well, her career had been forfeited yesterday when she had learnt of what Jim planned to do. She went cold when she thought of what he could have done to her professionally. Then she thought back to the time of the assault. Leaving that report on Karen's desk hadn't been a parting shot, it was Helen's last attempt at making Karen see what he was really like. If Karen wouldn't take any notice of that epistle, then Helen really couldn't do any more for her.
Before Karen put her intention in to action, she lit another cigarette and poured a further glass of Whisky. She was sure that this was going to be the most harrowing thing she had ever done in her life. Karen hated being wrong at the best of times, but this was just enormous. Never before had she been so unutterably stupid and naïve. She slowly picked up the phone and dialed Helen's home number. When it began to ring, she almost wanted Helen to be out so that her first words would be addressed to an answer phone. Helen was in and she picked up after the third ring.
"Helen, its Karen." Helen was so surprised that she nearly dropped the phone.
"Karen. What can I do for you?" Karen reflected that Helen was being very cool and clearly wasn't going to make this easy for her.
"Helen, I've just finished reading your report. I owe you an enormous apology and I have to eat a huge slice of humble pie." Helen smiled.
"I see. As for the apology that isn't necessary. But I still don't see why you want to talk to me, seeing as I don't work there any more."
"Helen, when did you leave yesterday?"
"Around lunchtime. Why?"
"Then you won't know about Virginia O'kane?"
"I still don't see where this is going."
"Yesterday afternoon, Virginia O'kane was found murdered. At first it looked like Yvonne Atkins had done it. Then she started saying a lot of very odd things. She told me that Jim had been collecting the money from Virginia O'kane's brothels." Helen went and stayed very quiet. Then Karen asked,
"Helen, do you know something about this?"
"Karen, I really can't talk about this over the phone. Listen, do you want to come round for a large drink. Although it sounds like you've had a fair amount already."
"Ever the detective I see. Yes that would be good." Then she began to cry.
"I really am so sorry, Helen." Helen was touched to the core to hear Karen in such an uncharacteristic state.
"Karen, I'll come and get you. Be outside the main gates in twenty minutes and don't worry, its okay."
After Karen had put the phone down, she struggled to bring herself back under control. Part of her hated herself for the way she had shown her vulnerable side to anybody, especially someone like Helen. She dried her face and tried to bring some sense of normality back in to her appearance. She collected her things together and went through to the main gate. The guard on duty simply nodded at her because it was quite normal for Karen to be working so late. As Karen waited for Helen she realised how cold it was. It was supposed to be July but the icy wind cutting through her thin blouse made her think it was March. She stood there slightly shivering until she saw the silhouette of Helen's car in the distance.
Helen drew up beside her and leaned over to open the door. Karen gratefully got in and didn't know quite what to say. As Helen drove off the silence continued. Then Karen observed the perfect icebreaker. She spied a packet of cigarettes and a lighter on the passenger side of the dashboard.
"I didn't know you smoked." Helen glanced to where Karen was looking. Then she grinned for the first time since Karen had phoned her.
"I don't. They belong to, to someone else." They were in fact, Nikki's. She had left them there by accident when Helen had given her a lift home earlier in the day.
"Oh, anyone I know?" Karen could have kicked herself for being so inquisitive but Helen just smiled even more.
"Yes it is, actually."
"Oh?" Karen prompted.
"If you can stand to help me get through a bottle or so of wine, I might be persuaded to tell you." Karen was immensely intrigued.
"Not the dashing Doctor?"
"I'm afraid he's history." Helen said this with a tinge of sadness, which soon faded when Karen probed even further.
"I'll tell you when I'm too drunk to regret it." As they drew to a stop in front of Helen's house, Karen realised that she was just going to have to wait for this one.
As Helen and Karen walked in to the sitting room, Helen suddenly remembered that she had a lovely picture of Nikki on the fireplace, which she didn't particularly want Karen to see quite yet. She immediately directed Karen to a chair and went in to the kitchen to get the wine and two glasses. Karen called,
"Do you mind if I smoke?"
"No, go ahead. With the conversation we're about to have I might need one, too."
The talk in the car had been light and chatty because neither of them wanting to discuss anything serious until they arrived at Helen's. Karen was dreading what she finally had to bring out in to the open.
Helen walked in and placed the glasses and the bottle on a coffee table, plus an ashtray for Karen.
"So," Helen began. "Tell me about Virginia O'kane." Karen took a deep swallow from her glass and began, at last, to talk.
"She was found in the bath. She'd clearly been drowned. It was assumed to be Yvonne Atkins because she had been in the bathroom with Virginia. However, when Yvonne was forcibly dragged down the block, she kept protesting that it was Jim and that he had framed her. So, I talked to her in my office this morning. She explained to me how she had found Virginia and then she began telling me about this other business. Apparently, according to Yvonne, Jim has been collecting the takings from Virginia O'kane's brothels while she is, was inside. She also said that she could prove it if necessary."
"So why come to me?"
"Forgive me for being blunt here, Helen. You left the prison service yesterday without any warning whatsoever. Jim also seemed delighted by this. And there are the numerous occasions over the last few months when either you have tried to warn me off him or he has complained about you. It was when Yvonne told me all about him collecting the takings that I started to wonder what the last few months have been about. It was after I talked to Yvonne that I read what you left on my desk." Here she stopped, looking for the right words to continue.
"Helen, I didn't want to believe it at first. I don't expect you to understand that but it was like everything I believed in and trusted had suddenly been turned up side down. And I do know that what I felt doesn't even come close to how you must have felt after it happened." Karen suddenly realised that the only reason she was able to keep on talking was the amount of Whisky she had consumed during the last couple of hours. Then Helen spoke.
"Karen, I don't want to voice this question, on top of everything else but have you considered the fact that it could have been Jim and not Yvonne?" Karen's face drained of all its colour.
"I haven't wanted to think about that, but yes, it is a possibility."
Helen got up and took one of Karen's cigarettes. As she lit it she said,
"Have you seen him since all this happened?"
"No, at least," Karen clapped a hand to her mouth. "Oh Christ. I've just remembered. After I had talked to Yvonne I told Sylvia to put her back on the wing. Not long after, Jim came storming in my office demanding to know why I hadn't kept her in solitary. Do you know, that's the most violent I've ever seen him."
"How did he look?" Helen asked.
"His face was dark red and he gripped my shoulders and leaned over the desk. I didn't let it show but he really scared me. I don't think I've ever seen him like that before." Helen looked ruefully across at Karen.
"Oh yeah. That sounds like the angry Jim Fenner to me. He was just like that the night he, well you know all about that." Helen suddenly looked vulnerable, as if talking about what Jim Fenner had done to her was the last thing in the world she wanted to do. Karen drew her out of her trance.
"Helen, Helen are you okay?"
"Oh, sure. Sorry, the memories are almost the worst part of it."
"You have no idea how stupid I feel. You tried to tell me so many times and I backed him all the way. I just wish I could change what's happened."
"I know. I hated leaving that report on your desk but I just had to tell you before you got too close."
"You don't know the half of it. He asked me to marry him yesterday."
"Good god Karen, please tell me you didn't say yes." Karen blushed slightly.
"Oh, don't worry. He won't be getting near me ever again. Helen what am I going to do about him. Everything so far seems to point to him, doesn't it. Yvonne also said that she'd told Jim that "Virginia was singing to anyone who would listen". Helen, do you know anything about Jim's involvement with Virginia O'kane?"
Helen got up and went to retrieve something from her study at the back of the house. While she was gone Karen began to look around. Then she caught sight of the picture of Nikki. As the realisation dawned on her she couldn't help but grin. She thought riley how she used to be good at assessing people. Well, she must be losing her touch. This thing, whatever it had been, between Helen and Nikki had been under her nose for months at least. Her face changed, however, when Helen came back and Karen saw what she was carrying. Helen handed Karen an envelope containing the photographs of Jim leaving Virginia O'kane's brothel. Karen sat and looked through them. Then it hit her.
"Helen, how can I have been so blind?" There was an anger in her voice, which Helen attributed to the drink.
"Karen, people can be blind in lots of different ways." Without thinking she looked over towards the picture, which didn't go unnoticed by Karen.
"I've been guilty of ignoring the obvious in my time." Karen laughed without any humour.
"Do you know what Yvonne said to me this morning. She said that I wasn't known for my open eyes where Jim Fenner was concerned. How right she was. Well, Jim Fenner will regret the day he was born when I catch up with him."
"Karen, please tell me you're not going to see him tonight?"
"Why not? I'm just about ready to give him the lesson of a lifetime." A sudden fear gripped Helen.
"Karen! Listen to me. For a bloody start, if Jim Fenner is the killer here you are absolutely not going to look for him. Secondly, you're like me with alcohol. You can take a fair load of it but after a while it really fires you up to acting purely on instinct." Karen relented.
"Okay, I suppose you're right but just at this moment I could kill the bastard." Then it struck her just what she'd said. "I don't mean that. I shouldn't mean that." Helen refilled Karen's glass.
"It isn't' wrong to feel like that you know. The trick is not to do anything about it."
"Helen, how can you be so controlled?"
"You didn't know me in the early days. I used to get angry at the stupidest things. It was always the things I would never be able to change. Quite futile, really. And I was never very good at controlling my anger when it came to," Helen hesitated.
"When it came to Nikki," Karen finished for her. Suddenly it was Helen's turn to look uncomfortable.
"That bloody picture. That's whose cigarettes were in the car."
"Its funny but quite a lot makes sense now. First there's why you left. I'm assuming that when you presented Jim with your evidence on him he made it his mission to find some on you." Helen nodded.
"I did always have the odd niggling suspicion about you and Nikki." Helen blushed.
"Do you remember the time when we were investigating Renee Williams' death? I remember finding you in Nikki's cell and there was just this atmosphere between the two of you. I almost felt like I had walked in on something, something a bit different." Helen grinned.
"You're more perceptive than I thought," She teased.
"So, what did Jim have on you?" Helen shook her head.
"Maybe I'll tell you that some other time. I think we've both learnt too many weird things already tonight." Karen recognized this as a diversionary tactic but let it pass. Whatever Jim had found out about Helen and Nikki, she wasn't going to discover it right now.
That night, Helen insisted that Karen stay on her sofa. The last thing she wanted was for Karen to go back home and to have to face Fenner. When Helen at last went to bed, she phoned Nikki. She talked in a rush. It was almost like she had to get everything out, like a tap that she just couldn't turn off. Nikki let her talk herself out.
"Helen, you are safe there aren't you?"
"I think so. I don't think he knows where I live."
"Christ! I hope not."
"Nikki, we'll be fine I just wanted to tell you." Nikki realised that since all the stuff about the Doctor, Helen felt a need to tell her almost everything. Helen thought she had to earn Nikki's trust all over again.
"What is Karen going to do?" Nikki had asked the million-dollar question.
"Now that she knows everything, I really don't know."
The next morning, Karen again had a thumping hangover.
"It bloody serves you right," said Helen.
"And that," Karen retorted, "Is exactly what I don't need."
"Karen, how are you going to go about this?"
"I'm going to do this the only way possible. Think about it, Helen. If I take all the evidence to area, I'll get the old boys network routine. Whereas," Here she hesitated and Helen began to dread what was coming next.
"Whereas what?" She prompted.
"If I tackle him face to face and possibly provoke him in to doing something, I might be able to make it stick." Helen couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"Karen! You can't be serious?"
"Serious as a car accident, Helen." Karen's early morning sense of humour was never something to be laughed at.
"Karen, I know I won't get you to change your mind, but for god's sake be careful!"
"Oh, sure," Karen said dryly. "I'll be as careful as possible." They both knew that where Jim Fenner was involved, being careful was never enough.
Karen got Helen to give her a lift to the prison so that she could pick up her car. Helen couldn't resist a parting quip.
"The amount you drank last night, you'll probably get pulled over for drink driving."
As Karen drove towards the house she had recently been sharing with Jim, she remembered this thought enough to keep a steady speed. However, this totally belied her feelings. Her nerves were jangling like church bells on a Sunday morning. With everything she now knew about Jim Fenner, she half wished she would be walking in to that house with a pistol instead of a handbag.
As she drove up her street, she almost wondered if Jim's car wouldn't be there. But when she turned in to the driveway there was Jim's Audi, looking sleek and sinister like its owner. Karen got out of her car and walked very slowly towards the front door. Her hands trembled as she got out her keys. She almost dropped them but eventually managed to open the front door. As she walked in to her house, all she could smell was cigarette smoke. She walked in to the lounge to find Jim sitting there, clearly waiting for her. He managed to get the first word in.
"Where the hell have you been?"
"Working," was all Karen could come up with.
"What all night?"
"Most of the night. I fell asleep in my office."
"Crap!" The word hit her like a gunshot. "I rang your office at eight thirty and every half hour after that."
"Oh, so you've started checking up on me have you?"
"Why, should I be?" Karen really didn't know what to say to this one.
To avoid answering his question, Karen walked in to the kitchen and started to make some coffee. Jim followed her. She asked, "Do you want some coffee? You look like you need it more than me."
"Sod the coffee. What have you been doing all night? Pleasuring some other poor sucker I expect." The ringing slap caught Jim off his guard. Karen was furious. How dare he suggest anything of the sort after what he'd been up too.
At first, Jim just stood and stared at her. Then Karen really let him have it. All the hurt she had felt not only for herself, but for Helen, came out through words she never thought she'd say to Jim.
"You bastard! I'm not the one who groped a woman just because I was angry and frustrated. I'm not the one who collected the takings from a chain of brothels for a con. I'm not the one who has constantly and methodically cheated my way out of every little difficulty, which has got in the way. And I'm certainly not the one who drowned Virginia O'kane just to keep her quiet!" The pure and utter loathing in Karen's voice was enough to make Fenner speechless but when he took in all the things she was saying to him, his anger began to boil. The colour in his face alternated between white and red, the fear and anger evident in his every expression. He kept opening his mouth to speak and then shutting it again. Karen's next taunt was her undoing.
"What's the matter, Jim? Have you finally reached a point in your evil little life where you haven't got a perfectly plausible explanation for your actions?" It was too late when Karen realised she'd said too much. His fist hit her shoulder with the force of a bulldozer. Karen couldn't believe the pain. But she knew that she had to keep on going.
"Oh, I see," she said. "You're keeping your blows to my body so there isn't a mark on my face." She knew she'd hit the nail on the head when he caught her other shoulder. But she still had two working legs. It was when her knee hit Jim right in the groin that his onslaught slackened. While he was bent double, she gave him a hefty kick in the face, which sent him sprawling. She took the last chance she had and ran out to her car. She knew for certain that he'd broken one of her collarbones and he might have broken both of them. She didn't know how she managed to drive as far as she did. It took immense concentration to keep her hands on the wheel. The pain was almost blinding her. She was just about to reach for her mobile to call the police when she saw a car with blue flashing lights speeding towards her from the opposite direction. Then she realised that it wasn't just one car but several. One of them flagged her down and she stopped, grateful to take some of the pressure off her arms.
When the uniformed police officer opened the door, he said,
"Are you, Miss Karen Betts?"
Much later, once Karen had given statement after statement she left the interview room to find Helen sitting outside waiting for her. When Helen came over to hug her Karen flinched away.
"Please don't. It hurts too much." When the police had stopped her she found out that Helen had not taken her word for it and had in fact phoned the police and area management herself. It was incredibly unorthodox, as Helen had, two days previously, left her job in the prison service. But Karen didn't care. She hated to admit it but Helen had been right, again! Although one police car had stopped to intercept Karen, the rest had gone on to Karen's house to arrest Fenner. She had both her shoulders X-rayed and she had been right. Jim had fractured her left collarbone and badly bruised her right. This was apart from the numerous punches he had given her rib cage. The police had persuaded her to have photographs taken of her bruises which they said would strengthen their case against Jim. It was a bit of a whirlwind for Karen. But she had managed to tell the police about everything to do with Virginia's murder. They had been quite skeptical at first but in the light of Helen's photographs and her report against Jim, they had no choice but to listen to her.
Two weeks later, while Karen was trying to get her life back in to some sense of normality, she received, of all things, a visiting order from Jim Fenner. He had asked her to come and see him. Her first reaction was to send the VO back in its envelope. Then she knew that this might be her last chance to really get her own back on him.
As she pulled up in the prison car park, she reflected how strange it was to be visiting someone in a similar place to where she worked. When she walked in to the visiting room, she saw Jim before he saw her. He looked haggard and gray. She found herself thinking that this was the least he deserved. She slowly walked over and sat down opposite him. She couldn't resist what came next.
"Well, this is a surprise. Bet you never thought you'd end up in a place like this." She could see that this was clearly agitating him.
"Oh by the way," she continued. "I brought this." She handed him the engagement ring he had given her not long after he had killed Virginia. "Who knows, maybe you'll be able to sell it for something in here." Jim leaned towards her and said,
"I'm only on remand. I'll get off, don't you worry."
"Oh, no you won't, Jim. With all the evidence that's stacked up against you, you'll be in here for the next decade, at least."
"And what makes you so bloody sure?" Karen could see he was getting riled by now.
"Oh, I'm so sure because I've got a brilliant lawyer and just about everyone is out to keep you in here for as long as possible. Do you remember the lawyer who got Nikki Wade out on appeal; Helen put me on to her. She'll be prosecuting you in court. I hope you enjoy the ride." At this she got up. Then she gave her parting shot. As she was walking out of the room she turned and addressed all the other inmates facing her.
"You see that evil bastard over there?" She pointed at Jim. "Well, you give him a few hard knocks from me. Just so you all know, he used to be one of her Majesty's prison officers."
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