Till Death Do Us Part
By Kristine and Richard
When everyone in court had regained their seats, John began to speak, instantly commanding attention from every corner of the courtroom.
"I would like to say a few words about the conduct of this trial before we begin. As you will all observe, there are two judges presiding over this trial, where there would usually be one. Mr. Justice Everard, will be sitting as a winger, and is at liberty to ask any questions he wishes, as am I. Yet one more way in which this trial is a little different to many you have no doubt participated in, is that Mr. Justice Everard and myself, plus the three barristers sitting before me, have had a prior acquaintance with the defendant. If I observe any hint, of a personal vendetta from the prosecution, I will hold said counsel in contempt. Please take this as a very serious warning. I also do not expect any sparring between counsels that isn't directly related to the trial." He shot a very significant look in George's direction. "I would finally like to add, that if I hear so much as a whisper from the public gallery, I will ban the culprit for the rest of the trial. Now, Mr. Cantwell, perhaps you would like to begin."
As Brian rose to his feet, George rolled her eyes at Jo. She knew that John's warning had been as much for her as for Brian.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Brian began, turning to face the jury. "This case will make each and every one of you wonder what has become of basic human decency. Barbara Mills, the defendant you see before you, took the law into her own hands, whilst caring for her terminally ill husband. Henry Mills was a vicar, a loving husband, and a pillar of the local community. Barbara Mills, his second wife, killed him, because she couldn't cope with having a seriously ill man to care for. How callous you may think her, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, and how right you would be. Oh, she may believe that she ended his suffering, by injecting him with a lethal dose of Morphine, but whatever she may believe, and however she and her team may try to convince you, she ended her husband's life. I have no doubt that Mrs. Mills and Mrs. Channing will do their utmost to convince you that either Henry Mills killed himself, or that he died from natural causes, but the facts I shall lay before you will speak for themselves. First to take the stand, will be Professor Sam Ryan, who performed the initial postmortem on Henry Mills. Her evidence alone will tell you that it was Barbara Mills who injected her husband with Morphine. My second witness, Connie Beauchamp, is the cardio thoracic surgeon who attended to Henry Mills, and who decided, in her professional opinion, that the cancer was too far advanced for either surgery or chemotherapy to be considered viable options for success. She will take the stand, in order to explain to you that although Henry Mills' cancer was in the terminal stages of its progression, he could not have died from natural causes at that particular point in time. My third and final witness, is Sylvia Hollamby, a prison officer who has worked with Barbara Mills, and who will attempt to dispel any descriptions of law-abiding behaviour that the defence would have you believe. I beseech you, members of the jury, to listen to every fact that I and my witnesses will put before you, and to keep the thought in your minds that Barbara Mills is a killer, no more, no less."
When he finally sat down, both Yvonne and Roisin had to fight the urge to shout Brian Cantwell out of court. The way he'd portrayed Barbara, he'd made her sound so different, so cold, so calculating.
Jo had just the amount of self-control to scrawl phrases that her agile mind seized out of Brian Cantwell's opening address so that she could turn the tables on him. Her biro scrawled agitated, jagged shapes in the notepaper that she could just about read.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury."Jo commenced in a slightly husky tone.
She jumped to her feet only seconds after Brian Cantwell had sat down with a self-satisfied smile on his face. As she started, she was conscious that the tensions of her emotions had the door forced half open to the world of Jo Mills, the barrister making her forensic opening gambit.
"This case will turn to a large degree on what medical evidence will determine what is or what is not possible but it will also turn on the evidence from Barbara Mills and you, the jury, will have the opportunity to judge for yourself if she was capable of taking her husband's life in the circumstances described. It has been said that Henry Mills was a vicar, a loving husband, and a pillar of the local community. The point is that Barbara Mills, his loving wife is also a pillar of the community as you very well know." Jo forcefully remonstrated in a shaking voice, turning to glare at Brian Cantwell.
"Mrs. Mills, you know very well that your task is to address the court in general and not personalize the trial on the prosecuting council however emotive the issue is." John's clear voice promptly cut across Jo's address.
"Emotive. I'll show you what is emotive." Hissed Jo under her breath, turning her glare ninety degrees at John's stony, expressionless face. Tension whipped like electricity around the court and connected with far more of those in the court than was normal in court proceedings. Only Greg and Amanda Hunt were unmoved and scoffed under their breath while opposite extremes in sympathies such as Roisin on the one hand and Sir Ian on the other were conflicted while John and Monty felt uncomfortable being caught in the middle.
"Take it easy, Jo. You'll do Barbara no good if you don't back off." Whispered George.
"Excuse me. My Lords, while I drink a glass of water." Jo uttered words in choked tones. Her throat was dry and this gave her breathing space.
"Take your time, Jo." John replied in easy tones while Monty looked on with respect at John's strict impartiality and what it cost emotionally to maintain it.
" I apologise, My Lords. To continue, I shall ask Dr Kay Scarpetta, chief medical examiner for the State of Virginia to give detailed testimony to show that Barbara could not have been the one to give her husband the final injection. I shall call Tom Campbell-Gore, cardio thoracic consultant, who will testify that death by natural causes still remains a possible explanation. Professor Khan, consultant anesthetist, will testify as to Henry Mills pain relief management during the course of his illness. This cuts to the core of the trial as the prosecution's case is that this prescribed diamorphine was the cause of Henry Mill's death and that an overdose was not only administered by his wife but done so deliberately. In this context, I shall call Dr Thomas Waugh, psychiatrist attached to HMP Larkhall who will give evidence as to psychological makeup, which is, after all, a critical feature of this case. Finally, I shall ask the wing governor of Larkhall, Nikki Wade, to testify as to the defendant's abundant good character.
In general, I shall attempt to show that Barbara Mills's character means that she would not have taken the life of her husband Henry Mills and medical evidence that she could not have taken his life either. In so doing, I am not excluding the possibility that the seriously ill man simply died of natural causes. Either explanation will serve to exonerate my client. I am also highly conscious that the jury will be faced by a large volume of medical evidence as the trial proceeds but it will be demonstrated that matters will be simplified, not complicated, as superficially attractive explanations of events can be eliminated. Finally, you will find that all the witnesses that I shall call will present the entire picture, of the case and of Barbara Mills herself and not what merely appears to be the most significant aspects of it."
Jo's last subtle jibe at Brian Cantwell's expense rounded out with a flourish her very low-key address and she resumed her place. It crossed her mind that she had made no public reference to George in her opening address but, if for no other reason, she was long accustomed to working solo. She realized that they would both be feeling their way and would have to trust to fortune. George was impressed by Jo's very rapid resumption of her grip on the proceedings and her workmanlike opening address. Now that she was not in the opposing bench, she could study Jo's manner and delivery in a more leisurely fashion.
"This seems to be a convenient time in the proceedings to adjourn for lunch. Court is closed till this afternoon." John intoned crisply and briefly and there was a rustling sound as people who had been in fixed positions were able to stretch their legs.
After taking case to ignore Barbara's stepchildren, Roisin's and Yvonne's feet took themselves automatically towards the pub that it only seemed yesterday that they went to during Lauren's trial. Jo and George left by the door to retire to a convenient chamber while Sir Ian and Lawrence James slid off like silent black shadows.
It was left to John and Monty to leave the chamber last and close the door behind them and head towards the temporary serenity of the chambers.
"I say, John. We are going to have a lot of each other's company during this trial and it promises to be rather testing. I was wondering if either you or I want the privacy of our own rooms in contemplation, we should feel free to say so. Otherwise, you are welcome to the hospitality of my chambers or yours if you prefer."
"An excellent idea, Monty. Your chambers would be extremely welcoming."
They paced silently to Monty's chambers and Monty asked John the question that had been nagging at him throughout the trial.
"Have Ian and Lawrence James just chanced to sit in on this hearing of all ones to choose or do they come here often?"
John laughed heartily. He needed that.
"A surprisingly high proportion of my trials are favoured by their public concern for my welfare, whether welcome or not. They even go so far as to tell me what verdict I should arrive at."
"Good Lord, I didn't really appreciate this. That is an intolerable intrusion."
"I suspect that they will keep their distance while you are on the bench with me. I can live with that. The real problem is the trial itself. I have the feeling that we shall need both of us to see the case through to a satisfactory conclusion."
Monty knew straightaway why John spoke of the trial in such a detached emotionless fashion. He needed this in order to cope. The room fell quiet in reflective silence as both of them contemplated nervously what the next two weeks had in store for them.
At the end of the lunchtime adjournment, Yvonne caught up with Jo and George as they grabbed a last minute cigarette on the front steps.
"I see you've managed to stay quiet so far," George commented dryly, giving Yvonne a smile.
"There's still time," Yvonne promised her lightly. "But it isn't me that you're likely to have a problem with," She added seriously.
"What's happened?" Jo asked, thinking that they already had quite enough to get through without further complications.
"You both know that Barbara was married to someone called Peter." This was a statement not a question, because Yvonne knew they were both aware of Barbara's previous marriages, both real and fictitious. "Well, the two little bastards sitting on the other side of the aisle to me and Roisin, are her two step-kids, Peter's children. Their names are Greg and Amanda Hunt, and they made Barbara's life hell when she was married to their father, as well as trying to get at her while she was inside. Barbara won't be able to see them from the dock, but I don't know how quiet they're planning to be."
"John's warning was for everyone," Jo pointed out. "Not just a familiar select few."
"And how much notice have I ever taken of it?" Yvonne said a little exasperatedly.
"Absolutely none," George confirmed with a grin.
"Exactly," Replied Yvonne. "Look, they hated Barbara, and they aren't likely to waste any opportunity to make things even more difficult for her. That other guy, the one who's acting for the prosecution..."
"Brian Cantwell," Jo filled in for her.
"...Yeah, does he know that this isn't Barbara's first time in the dock?"
"Good question," George said approvingly. "But we've no way of knowing. Even if he does, he certainly can't reveal it. The jury aren't allowed to know things like that. They must judge the facts of this trial purely on their own merit, not with the added bonus of further information."
"No, but he could get someone else to do it," Yvonne said with the weight of a falling bombshell. "That's what I'd do if I was in his position, get either her bastard step-children, or some witless cow like Sylvia Hollamby to let it out. The jury might be asked to disregard it, but that won't make them forget."
"Yvonne, just how long have you been working for the legal profession?" George asked with a fond smile.
"Too long for my own bleedin' good," Yvonne said ruefully.
"Thank you for letting us know," Jo told her. "We wondered who they were."
As the court reconvened after the lunchtime adjournment, George took a good look at the two people sitting across from Yvonne and Roisin in the public gallery. All their attention was focused on the trial, their faces pinched with an enormous amount of unresolved anger. They ought to keep an eye on those two, as they could pose a very serious risk to Barbara's eventual verdict.
As Sam Ryan took the book in her right hand and proclaimed the oath, Brian Cantwell stepped forward.
"Professor Ryan," He began in his most forthright of tones. "You were the pathologist to initially examine the Reverend Henry Mills. Correct?"
"Yes," She answered him, her pretty, Irish lilt making John recognise her instantly as the woman who had testified at the Lauren Atkins trial.
"And what were your initial findings as to his cause of death?"
"As I explained in my report, I examined Henry Mills' body on the day after his death. He had been suffering from terminal lung cancer, and had been cared for at home by his wife, Barbara Mills. When I examined Henry Mills' body, I discovered the cancer to be extremely advanced. The metastases had built up on his lungs in such a way that he had clearly been finding it difficult to breathe in the last days if not weeks of his life. He had been prescribed the commonly used painkiller Diamorphine to combat the pain, and this had been administered also by his wife, who I assume had been taught to give an injection. The cancer had noticeably invaded other parts of Henry Mills' body, including his liver and his pancreas. As a result of how invasive and particularly brutal lung cancer can be, all of his major organs were in a serious state of either disease or partial shut down."
"Now, Professor Ryan, perhaps you would explain to the court in what state you found Henry Mills' liver?"
"When a person is taking Morphine in significant amounts over a prolonged period of time," Sam explained. "It has a tendency to build up in the body's major organs, such as the kidneys and the liver. This is almost certain to take place if the person in question is leading a sedentary lifestyle, such as lying in bed for long stretches of time as would be expected of a terminally ill patient. The metabolites of Morphine, that is what is left of the drug once it has been processed by the body, had built up significantly in Henry Mill's liver, to a point that would have severely impaired his liver function. Henry Mills' organs were slowing down every day, meaning that the body was unable to process chemicals at the normal rate."
"Taking all this into consideration," John suddenly broke in. "Might this have meant that a recommended dose of Morphine could have been too high a dose for a man in his condition?" George was furious. Not even one day in and he was at it already.
"My Lord," She said, swiftly rising to her feet.
"Do you have an objection for me already, Ms Channing?" He asked her mildly.
"Simply that if you would allow the defence to cross-examine Professor Ryan in the usual manner, you would be given the answers to your no doubt numerous questions in due course."
"You are of course correct, Ms Channing," John replied, gesturing for her to regain her seat. "I am allowing my natural curiosity for the facts to outweigh the correct procedure. I'm sure the court will forgive me. Might I also take this opportunity, Professor Ryan, to say that I am delighted to see you in my court once again. Please continue."
"Do you wish me to answer the question, My Lord?" Sam enquired sweetly.
"If you wouldn't mind," John replied in his most cordial manner, making George's hackles rise with the warning of an approaching indiscretion.
"You are correct, My Lord, in that the recommended and prescribed dose of Morphine that would have been given to Henry Mills, could easily have been too high for his liver to cope with, as a result of the build up of Morphine metabolites. This does not however mean that his death was caused by an accidental overdose."
"And just how was his death caused?" Brian moved in on her again, wanting to regain the reins from this most irritating of judges.
"There is no doubt that Henry Mills died from an overdose of Diamorphine," Sam replied without hesitation. "Though my findings indicate that this was definitely not as a result of an accident."
"And precisely what do your findings indicate?" Brian asked her silkily, glancing smugly over at George who was taking almost as many notes as the court stenographer.
"Henry Mills' usual doses of Morphine, were given via an intravenous canula and a syringe driver. When I examined his body, I discovered what was unmistakably an intra-muscular injection site on his right thigh. On further examination by a toxicologist, the muscle surrounding the injection site was found to contain a significant amount of Diamorphine. This indicated a separately given injection, one very different from the usual dose given via the syringe driver."
"Given Henry Mills' general ill health," Brian continued. "Could he himself have injected the Morphine?"
"No," Sam again said without any hint of hesitation. "He would not have had the strength required to obtain the syringe, fill it with Morphine, and inject himself, all without his wife being made aware of what he was doing."
"We can therefore only assume, ladies and gentlemen," Brian said smugly, looking over at the members of the jury. "That it was Barbara Mills, his loving and caring wife, who administered this fatal dose of such a lethal drug."
"Is that all, Mr. Cantwell?" John asked in slight surprise.
"Succinct and to the point, My Lord," He replied with a sardonic smile. "I thought that was how you liked your barristers." John laughed.
"Only when they adequately do their job, Mr. Cantwell, only then I assure you. Now, as I suspect the defence will go on at length with their cross-examination, as they quite rightly should," He added at a stony-faced look from George. "We will adjourn until tomorrow morning." As he rose and left through the door behind the judge's bench, Brian openly turned and smirked at Jo and George.
"Oh, you may think it's one nil to you at the moment," George assured him sweetly. "But I can promise you that it'll be two one to us by the end of tomorrow."
"We all need some form of false security, Mrs. Channing," Brian replied as he swept towards the door.
"Yes, the difference being that you already think you've got it," George called smartly after him.
When everyone had left, including the occupants of the public gallery, George turned and looked at Jo. Her face was closed, shuttered, as though she couldn't bear to share the thoughts that were going on inside her head.
"Are you all right?" George asked her, gently touching her hand. Trying to rouse herself, seeming to come back to full awareness, Jo looked softly back at her.
"I'm fine," She said, though it didn't sound remotely convincing.
"And I'm still nineteen," George replied drolly. "Start talking to me."
"Do you really think she's innocent?" Jo asked, astonishing George entirely.
"Barbara? Yes, of course I do," George insisted vehemently. "Jo, this really isn't the time to start having doubts."
"I know," Jo said regretfully. "And I don't want to have them, believe me. But when Professor Ryan sounded so certain, I couldn't help wondering. She did it once, remember, and it wouldn't be such a stretch of the imagination to think she might have done it again, because I can assure you, I know just what she would have been going through."
"This isn't really about Barbara, is it?" George asked in realisation. "This is about you, and you wondering if you could have done what Barbara is accused of doing."
"Well, the thought is somewhat unavoidable," Jo said dryly.
"I knew you would do this," George said exasperatedly. "I knew this would happen. Jo, this is precisely why I wanted you to have absolutely nothing to do with this case, because I didn't want you to reopen old wounds at a time when they need to remain closed."
"Don't you dare say I told you so," Jo said quietly but with a hint of anger.
"Why?" George retorted immediately. "Because knowing that I was right about something would be just too much to bear, wouldn't it."
"That isn't fair," Jo replied, her anger rising.
"Jo, if you're questioning the validity of your own client's testimony at this early stage, then my concern is entirely justified," George replied tartly. "So, please go home, try to relax, and make your mind up as to whether or not you can continue to support your client."
They'd been so completely submerged in their argument, that they had both utterly failed to notice John's stealthy entrance through the door they normally used.
"Are you two arguing already, and the case only one day in?" They both looked over at him in guilty surprise. But when they both remained silent, neither of them willing to share the reason for their fraught words, he said, "Oh, dear, like that, is it?"
"This slight disagreement is not for your consumption, My Lord," George replied firmly, giving him his title to further hammer home her assertion.
"Oh, come on, it can't be that bad," He said, walking over and laying a hand on each of their shoulders. Taking Jo's hand in his left and George's in his right, he pulled them to their feet. "Now," He said, putting an arm around each of them. "Whatever it is, it ends, now, for your client's sake if nothing else."
During the journey home in the car, Barbara was sandwiched between Dominic and Gina in the back seat. She was pale and withdrawn and Dominic and Gina respected her silence, as they didn't feel over talkative themselves. They knew Barbara of old and knew that she was utterly incapable of hurting a fly, far less her husband. That she had eased her second husband, Peter, out of the extremity of his painful illness only made them more certain of Barbara's innocence as they knew that Barbara would never want to lose her freedom. The charges seemed so totally absurd that anyone could tell that a mile away but the cross examination had given them that cold feeling inside. What they knew to be the facts pointed one way but the proof in the opposite direction.
The two prison officers walked gently either side of Barbara and led her through the prison gates. Nikki was already there and, impulsively, she hugged Barbara and took her by the arm towards the scowling face, cold blue eyes and very so made up Natalie Buxton who couldn't resist making a crack as they came up level to her.
"I suppose I'd get tucked up into bed if I were up on trial, Miss Wade."
"You'd get what you'd deserve, that I do promise you." cut back Nikki tersely. She was gratified to see the other woman's face slightly redden and to hear the Julies laugh at one of Nikki's immortal one liners. Natalie Buxton tossed her head in the air and slid off. Nikki smiled to herself that she had the luxury of choosing whether or not to verbally cut Natalie down to size or have her up before her on a Rule 43 charge. She was a nuisance at the most as her sources of information and the evidence of her own senses stopped the manipulative little madam from being the real menace to the good running of the wing. The time would come, she foresaw, that she would throw the book at her.
All this passed like a flash in her mind as she escorted Barbara to the Julies' tender care.
"Hey Babs, how did you get on? Oh, it was like that, was it?" Julie Johnson added at the end, spotting the pained expression on Barbara's face.
"I'll get you a nice cup of tea, Babs." Added Julie Johnson."Be back straightaway."
"I'm not sure what to do right now, Barbara. I'd love to stay and talk but you might not be in the mood."
"It's all right, Nikki, we'll look after her." Julie Saunders added with a reassuring smile at Nikki's genuine concern and her uncharacteristic nervousness.
"I'll be around later on and tomorrow first thing. Gotta go."
It was curious that she had adopted that parting expression that Helen used so often when she was a prisoner and Helen was the wing governor. She always felt a pang of regret and sorrow, which she couldn't put into words. Now she was doing the job, she understood that restlessness that, whatever she was doing, there were a thousand other jobs she needed to do. She would have liked to have gone off with the Julies to their cell like in the old days but she knew that it wasn't to be. In any case, she had to periodically remind herself that she could and should delegate jobs as it wasn't the case that there weren't willing volunteers to help her out.
In the evening, the Julies went to Barbara's cell and it wasn't until the cell door was shut that she poured out her heart. It was like a dam breaking.
"The worst part of today is that I know I'm innocent. I keep thinking again and again back to when Henry was at his worst, as he became weaker and weaker and I spent all day and into the night looking after him. It was horrible to see him gradually going downhill and that there was nothing I could do about it. I'd been through this before with Peter and I was so determined that this time my will and faith would somehow keep him alive. Well, I was in the dock and this afternoon, I heard that clever barrister of theirs question their pathologist and argue so cleverly that poor Henry could have died in no other way than that I had helped him on his way. What can I say against it, I had no witnesses. You don't think that way when you're on your own, you're desperate and run off your feet. I would never have done that to Henry."
Barbara broke off as she dabbed her handkerchief to her eyes and tears coursed down her cheek.
The Julies hugged her. It was the natural thing to do. They gave her time till she had cried out her fears and recovered herself a little that, with practiced timing, Julie Johnson spoke in a casual tone of voice.
"What was that pathologist like?"
"That made it worse. She wasn't some hard faced hatchet woman out to get me. She was nice, Irish, a little like Roisin in her manner. She believed in what she said."
"That don't mean she was right."
"It's one thing to know it, it's quite another to prove it. Right now, it's looking good for them."
"Has Jo asked her questions and tried all the legal stuff on her?"
"That's not till tomorrow."
"There you are. Problem solved. They ain't heard the other side of the story. You'll be all right." Julie Saunders answered her with all the warmth and powers of reassurance she could summon up.
"You think so?" Barbara answered, her face brightening a little.
"Course I do. I bet you, even as we speak, Jo is planning and scheming away at how to pull the rug out of her feet and prove she was wrong. Don't forget, we've seen her and she's one of the good ones and she cares."
Jo's feet just about carried her back to her flat and she collapsed on her settee, her briefcase dropping heavily on the floor. Her mind was awhirl with thoughts and she felt exhausted. Normally she would settle down to a meal and, in her precise way, start organizing for the next day but she couldn't face it at that minute.
Tonight, she poured herself a generous measure of scotch straight from the bottle and knocked it back. After all, she'd had a hard day and she deserved it. The idea was also that the drink would cheer herself up, make her view of the world look slightly more optimistic about things in general but it didn't have that much reaction. She really didn't feel like making any major decisions and took it easy for half an hour, as she desperately wanted to watch some mindless soap and to hell with the consequences. Time ticked on as the TV screen flickered and life's responsibilities freely assumed by her, began to intrude on her mind for admission and ran counter to her uncharacteristic lack of application and so get by with the minimum possible work. It began to make her vaguely resent that she had to buckle down to work. She didn't want to examine the facts of the matter and deduce beyond all reasonable doubt that this strange mood just wasn't like her. Her only part resolution of this dilemma was to take a leaf out of John's book and order a takeaway meal so that she didn't have to waste much physical effort. After consulting the yellow pages, she impulsively ordered a Chinese meal from the first choice read over to her by the heavily accented voice on the other end of the phone. It would be ready in half an hour and that sounded fine.
It was really not a practical idea to settle down to her case when she would be interrupted and so she carried on watching the programme. Time seemed to pass incredibly and tediously slowly while she waited and so Jo leafed her way through a carelessly discarded magazine and topped up her glass yet again as she tried to interest herself in some fashion or lifestyle advice. The trouble was that her own spirits couldn't be inspired by these trivial pathetic articles. Everything around her felt flat and drab, as much as the soap had been. She was on her own when the potential freedom of two sons who were going their own ways in life ought to have been the answers to her dreams when she was overworked, harassed and stretching her habit of multi tasking to elastic band snapping point. This was the payoff after all those years of solid drudge. So why was she vaguely discontented and unhappy with her lot? Even the alcohol wasn't cheering her up, the way she had expected. She squinted at the level in the bottle as she realized that it had gone down more than she had thought and she supposed that she ought to call at the off licence soon and replenish it.
At last there was the ring on the bell and the packaged meal appeared before her and it surprised her. She fumbled at her purse and paid the man. When she opened the paper bags, the smell of the sweet and sour sauce made her feel distinctly queasy. It was not as she had imagined it to be and, so far from conveying images of exotic China, was just another anonymous concoction from the takeaway food industry. It surprised her that John, an unashamed snob in certain areas, could indulge in something as unappetizing and aesthetically drab and uninspiring and she popped it down on the kitchen work surface and sat back in her chair and meditated awhile.
While she was immersed in a morose and negative mood, the memories of the day suddenly came back to haunt her and the trusting expression on Barbara's eyes that she had seen so often on her visits to Larkhall came back to haunt her. Why must she be expected to be Superwoman, the one who produces miracles every time? She never felt less miraculous in her life, just a middle aged woman on whom the cracks were beginning to show in any idea of physical perfection in just the same way that surge of emotion and sheer hatred overwhelmed her in court and caused her to lash out at him. She felt humiliated that John had had to rein her in and even George's anxious voice, pulling at her sleeve, reminded her how she fell short of that self image in her mind. A pretty show she must have displayed to all and sundry, she reproached herself, her vision becoming blurred. That temper at herself suddenly wavered, poised in hesitation and drove her to cast that disgusting meal aside and tip it into the waste bin and to scramble for her papers. She really wondered if she needed reading glasses but, desperately, she tried to drive herself in a sudden burst of energy to get her preparation done in ways that occasionally, she had had to pull out her case from sheer inspiration. The only problem was that her reasoning processes were sluggish, dragging her will back and the room started to slowly spin round. One fleeting moment of clarity told her that it was late and she had let time slip unaccountably through her hands. It felt as if she had let down her own late husband in failing to care for him as she had once been in Barbara's position in looking after a terminally ill husband. The only difference was that it was beyond doubt that he had died from natural causes and that she had started her affair with John after years of being instructed by him from afar as her tutor and contemplating that magnetic righteous personality. She swore under her breath, as she reached for her bottle again at her world, which had slid, out of her control ..
By contrast, Connie was just finishing working on a long shift at St Mary's Hospital and the last of the steely hard adrenaline control enabled her nimble fingers to wield her very sharp scalpel and precisely slice out the tumour of the patient she was operating on. Will was assisting her and, at moments like this, she could ignore the pervasive feelings of resentment that radiated from him as he was compelled to don his chilly official demeanour along with his gown. This was on a different level than her relationships with Zubin and Tom. They had come to a silent agreement that, while they were to be placed on the opposite sides in the forthcoming trial, it need not cause any tensions. They would disappear from St Mary's at different times, give their evidence and that would be that.
"OK, that about finishes everything. Good team effort." Connie called out, bestowing praise impartially on all concerned. She ripped her mask off and headed to get scrubbed up and change into something more comfortable which, for Connie, meant a sleeveless top and a short skirt.
As she sat in her office, her computer screen flickering in front of her, her thoughts were drawn to the trial for the first time as a meaningful experience in which she was to play her part. Up till now, it had been confined to the paperwork of post mortems and medical reference books. She had talked to Brian Cantwell who had combed through her evidence in a somewhat lumbering pedestrian fashion that had slightly irritated her at the time. On more recent reflection, she realized that she ought to have been more understanding. With the best will in the world and their facility to trade in logic, non medicals were simply struggling with that extensive professional training that she had spent years in acquiring.
When the patient was before her displaying a collection of particular symptoms, she could and did reel off the answers off the top of her head. It was beginning to dawn on her that she might need to make a real effort to translate her diagnosis into laymen terms.
It was not in her nature to indulge in prolonged worrying about some new situation. She had acquired that measure of confidence that she could swiftly orientate herself as she saw the situation and her verbal fluency and quick wittedness would carry the day. She has refreshed her memory of her case and she remained not in the slightest doubt that Mrs. Mills had eased her husband out of a painful illness not only because of the judgment that she had made but because any alternative explanation was absurd or impossible or both. This was something that she was quite certain of.
All she needed to do now was to work out the logistics of her appearance in court. She clicked on her computer to search out the whereabouts of the Old Bailey, a building which belonged more to the territory of myth and old black and white films and it was easy to locate. After that, it was down to her to present herself in the foyer at the right place and time and take it from there. With a sigh of satisfaction, she laid that aside and clicked off her computer, ready to face a brand new day.
When George arrived at court on the Tuesday morning, after giving Kay a lift to work at St. Mary's, she went into the ladies' to touch up her make up. Already in there and standing at the sink, was Jo, holding a paper cup of something that fizzed.
"Good morning," George said, giving Jo a smile and kissing her cheek, wanting to make up for the previous day's argument.
"Is it?" Jo responded dully. Glancing into the cup, George asked,
"Is that Alka-Seltzer?"
"Yes," Jo told her simply. Looking deep into Jo's eyes, George saw nothing but tiredness and strain.
"You look hung over," She finally acknowledged.
"Would it be worth the effort to try and convince you otherwise?"
"No," George assured her. "It wouldn't. Jo, getting drunk in the middle of a trial, that just isn't like you." Jo laughed mirthlessly.
"That's all you know," She said, after which she took a swig of the dissolved Alka-Seltzer, making a face at the taste.
"Are you fit to cross-examine Professor Ryan, and make her regret the day she did in fact become a professor?"
"I will be," Jo half-heartedly assured her, not sounding at all convinced.
However, when everyone gathered in court just before ten o'clock, Jo didn't look any healthier than before. Simply hoping that Jo would be up to the job, George didn't comment any further on Jo's appearance. When Sam again took the stand, Jo rose slowly to her feet, cleared her throat, and seemed to muster every scrap of energy she had left after the night before.
"Professor Ryan," She began carefully, trying to lull her into a false sense of security. "Precisely how certain are you, that Henry Mills couldn't have injected himself with the Diamorphine?" Sam looked at her quizzically.
"Given his assumed general state of incapacity, he was terminally ill don't forget, I very much doubt that he would have had the strength necessary to acquire the syringe full of Morphine."
"Ah," Jo said with a sly smile, reminding both John and George of a vixen who had lured a rabbit into its lair. "But can you actually prove, that it wasn't Henry Mills who administered the injection?"
"In my professional opinion..." Sam insisted, but George interrupted.
"We didn't ask for your professional opinion, which I've no doubt is considerable," She pointed out acidly. "We asked for indisputable, irreversible proof." There was a long, awkward silence.
"No," Sam said regretfully. "I can't prove with absolute certainty that Henry Mills didn't administer his own injection." Brian glared, George smirked, and Jo sat down, looking more ill than George had ever seen her. Realising that she would now have to take over, George rose hurriedly to her feet, picked up Jo's notes, though she barely glanced at them as she moved to cross-examine Sam.
"Professor Ryan," George began silkily. "Allow me for one moment, to place a situation before you. Here we have Henry Mills, who was, as you pointed out, in the final stages of terminal lung cancer. He was naturally bedridden, and incapable of caring for himself, requiring the almost constant attention of his wife, Barbara. My client being the organised and practical person that she undoubtedly is, had obtained the knowledge necessary in order to operate her husband's syringe driver, so that she would be in a position to administer his medication at home. Also as a result of my client's wanting to be prepared for every eventuality, she had filled a new syringe in advance, ready to replace the used up Morphine in the syringe driver at the correct time. This, pre-filled syringe, was placed, just like every other before it, on the bedside table, next to the syringe driver, and therefore well within reach of Henry Mills' hand. Taking all these facts into consideration, what would you say is now your professional opinion?" The air positively hummed, every eye and ear awaiting Sam's response.
"Taking all that into consideration," She said bleakly, realising that the prosecution clearly hadn't known as much as they'd thought they had. "Then yes, it might just have been possible for Henry Mills to inject himself, if the syringe was well within his reach."
"So, I will ask you again," George continued mercilessly. "Can you prove that Henry Mills didn't kill himself?"
"No, I can't," Sam replied dismally, seeing the case slipping away from the prosecution as though on skis.
"Now, I would like you to enlighten the court, as to your opinion on quite a different possibility." George had begun to pace along the length of the silk's bench, lightly flicking the sheaf of Jo's notes against her thigh. "Considering that Henry Mills' cancer was so far advanced, could the cancer itself have been the actual cause of his death, and not the overdose of Morphine?"
"I don't think so," Sam replied a little hesitantly.
"Professor Ryan, are you absolutely, one hundred percent sure that this wasn't possible, or do you have even the slightest of doubts?"
"With cancer as advanced as in the case of Henry Mills," Sam was forced to admit. "Anything is possible."
"Please allow me to clarify this," George continued. "Are you in fact saying, that Henry Mills' cancer, could have been what killed him?"
"As I said a moment ago, anything is possible."
"Ms Channing," John interrupted when Sam had finished speaking. "Do you have to pace back and forth in front of me like a stalking cat?"
"Just keeping myself slim and beautiful, My Lord," George quipped back, her continual movement allowing her mind free rein to thoroughly take this woman out. A chorus of laughter came from the public gallery, as well as a slightly pained smile from Jo.
"Professor Ryan," George began again, moving gradually closer to the kill. "When your fingerprints expert examined the hypodermic syringe, presumed to have contained the Morphine with which Henry Mills was injected, what did he find?"
"I believe he found only one set of fingerprints on the syringe, those of Henry Mills," Sam answered, knowing precisely what was coming.
"And why did neither you, nor the prosecuting counsel for that matter, once allude to this during your original evidence?"
"Would that not be a question more appropriate for prosecuting counsel to answer, Ms Channing?" John asked thoughtfully.
"I don't especially care which one of them gives me an answer, My Lord," George told him sweetly. "As long as somebody does."
"Would you care to enlighten us, Mr. Cantwell?" John asked him smoothly, knowing he wouldn't.
"I think I shall leave that to the witness, My Lord," Brian answered evasively.
"Very well," John replied a little exasperatedly. "Please continue, Professor Ryan."
"I didn't allude to the issue of the fingerprints, because I was not invited to during yesterday afternoon's session," Sam told George, with just as much underlying bitterness covered by the sweet icing of professional etiquette.
"And why, do you suppose, you were not invited to give an opinion on this during your examination yesterday?" George continued ruthlessly, not remotely willing to let this one go.
"I suspect the result wouldn't have done the prosecution's case any favours," Sam said with a slight smile, realising that George had if not her, definitely Brian Cantwell over a barrel on this one.
"Professor Ryan, please could you explain for the benefit of the jury, precisely what a syringe driver is and how it works?"
"A syringe driver is an electric pump, roughly half the size of a lap top computer. It is connected to the patient via an intravenous canula, usually situated in a vein in either the hand or the elbow. The pump is programmed to administer a dose at specific intervals, as is the case with a drug such as Morphine, or it can drip other medications such as Heparin on a continuous flow."
"Therefore, would it have been remotely possible for Henry Mills to administer the Morphine to himself via the syringe driver?"
"Unless he had been specifically taught to use the syringe driver, as I am assuming Barbara Mills was, no, he would not have been able to do this."
"Professor Ryan, if you had been in Henry Mills' position, needing to take that desperate step of overdosing on Diamorphine, precisely where would you have chosen to inject yourself with such a lethal drug?"
"Given that Henry Mills would not have had the knowledge of how to disconnect the syringe driver from the intravenous canula, an intra-muscular injection in his thigh would have been the obvious choice."
"Thank you for your time, Professor Ryan, I have no further questions for you."
"Do you wish to come back, Mr. Cantwell?" John asked, thinking that George had managed to make her case already.
"No, My Lord," Brian said dismally, fervently praying that Connie Beauchamp would have better luck that afternoon.
"My Lord," George put in before John could continue. "I have a matter to discuss with you that should not be gone into before the jury."
"Yes, I think I know what's coming, Ms Channing," John said resignedly. "Members of the jury, if you wouldn't mind." As they filed out, George glanced over at Jo. She was sitting with her chin resting on her hand, watching George with a mixture of relief, pride and slight astonishment. When she saw George looking over at her, she smiled.
When the door had closed behind the retreating jury, George raised her point.
"My Lord, I believe that there is no case to answer."
"Don't be ridiculous," Brian commented none too quietly.
"My Lord," George continued. "The evidence that Professor Ryan has given this morning was without doubt in favour of my client, no matter how much the prosecution wishes to deny it."
"She has a point, Mr. Cantwell," John informed him. "Though I am loathed at this early stage to abandon the case, purely on the evidence of one witness."
"But my Lord," George persisted.
"Ms Channing, we will continue, this afternoon, and see what else the prosecution has to offer. Find as many holes in the evidence of the second witness as you have done this morning, and I may reconsider. Court is adjourned." Before either Brian or Jo could rise respectfully to their feet, he had left through the door behind the Judge's bench.
"I think you lost that one, don't you, Brian?" George asked him sweetly.
"You just wait till I get Connie Beauchamp on the stand," he promised her. "Then your client won't know what's hit her."
"Oh, we know all about Connie Beauchamp," George said silkily. "She's got more skeletons in her cupboard than you could ever dream of."
When everyone had left, George began gathering their papers together.
"Well done," Jo said to her gratefully.
"Oh, the pleasure was all mine, believe me," George replied with a broad smile. "You know, John once asked me why I'd gone into law, and gave me one of his holier than thou speeches about fighting for justice to be the finest of human aspirations. But I think this morning proves precisely why I followed in Daddy's footsteps. It's the fight I aspire to, the intellectual battle where everything can either be won or lost in a matter of words. That cut and thrust of wily human intellect, that's what gets me fired up, making me feel as though I can achieve anything if I try hard enough."
"I'm sorry," Jo said regretfully, feeling as though she had betrayed the effort George had put into this case all along.
"Darling," George told her gently. "I wish you'd talked to me, rather than drinking too much. If I'm honest, I didn't want you to take on this case in the first place, but that doesn't mean I won't be there to listen if you want me to be."
"I know," Jo replied flatly, feeling as though all her mental energy had somehow seeped away.
"What I suggest you do for today," George went on a little more firmly. "Is to go home, go to sleep, and come back tomorrow. Your current state isn't going to do this case any favours if any more attention is drawn to it, and it's not as if I can do any damage without you this afternoon. It's only Brian questioning Connie Beauchamp, and if there's anything to object to, believe me I'll be up on my feet before they know what's hit them."
"I know you will," Jo said with a small smile, thinking that whilst she might previously have doubted George's ability to be part of this case, now she really couldn't do without her.
When Jo had driven gratefully away in her car, George stood outside smoking a cigarette. When Yvonne and Roisin appeared, George briefly wondered what excuse she could give them for Jo's absence.
"Was that Jo I saw driving away?" Yvonne asked, digging for her own nicotine fix.
"Yes," George said after taking a drag. "She came into court with one of those twenty-four hour bugs this morning, so I've sent her home." Yvonne scrutinized her closely.
"Yeah?" She said disbelievingly. "And I'm the Lord Chief Justice. What's really wrong with her?" Slightly astounded at how quickly Yvonne had managed to see through her, George hesitated.
"Yvonne, I'm sure Jo would be here if she could be," Roisin said understandingly, seeing a clear conflict of interest in George's eyes.
"Go and see her after court," George told Yvonne quietly. "And she might just tell you."
"Okay," Yvonne agreed mildly. "And hey, you did brilliantly this morning."
"Well, let's hope I can come up with the goods this afternoon."
When John had been informed by Coope that George had sent Jo home, he asked to see her.
"Without prosecuting counsel present?" Coope queried.
"Yes," John said firmly, and when George was summoned immediately to his presence, she stood before him wondering what to tell him.
"I suppose you're wondering why Jo isn't here," She said, wanting to get in first before he started asking awkward questions.
"Yes," John replied mildly, seeing a look of worried concern in George's face. "Don't forget, I had Jo right in my line of vision for the entirety of this morning," He told her. "And if I didn't know better, I would say she looked hung over."
"She was," George replied, slightly relieved that she didn't have to try and hide it from him.
"Any special reason?" John enquired a little guardedly, remembering that other time when Jo had become incredibly drunk whilst at the digs.
"I think this case is getting to her a little more than usual," George said evasively.
"Already?" John said in slight alarm. "There's almost a fortnight to go yet."
"I know," George said worriedly. "Which means that both of us are going to have to support her through every minute of it."
When court reconvened that afternoon, and consultant cardio thoracic surgeon Connie Beauchamp moved to take the stand, both John and Monty suppressed a broad smirk of appreciation. From her short, black, curly hair, down her gloriously proportioned figure, to her endlessly long legs, she was perfect. Her eyes were the most intriguing shade of violet, not something either man had often seen. She was wearing a charcoal grey suit with a white silk blouse and the skirt midway between hip and knee. The clerk of the court was heard to stammer slightly as he invited her to take the oath. George scrutinized her from head to foot, and immediately took in the inner strength of this woman, telling her that Connie Beauchamp wasn't going to be something of a push over as Sam Ryan had been. Connie Beauchamp wouldn't go down without a fight, making sure along the way to take someone else down with her.
"Mrs. Beauchamp," Brian began with extreme politeness ladening his tone. "Please would you explain to the court, precisely what medical condition you found Henry Mills to be in when you first examined him?" When Connie spoke, her deep, clear, highly cultured voice made every ear stand to full attention.
"I first examined Henry Mills on the seventh of June last year, as he had been referred to me by his GP. Henry Mills presented with a severe cough, extreme lethargy and significant breathing difficulties after any form of mild exercise. I listened to his chest, and obtained x-rays and a CT scan."
"Copies of which are in your bundle, My Lord," Brian interrupted.
"Henry Mills had a malignant tumour on his right lung, which had rapidly spread to his lymph nodes and the chest wall. I performed a minor exploratory operation, to ascertain if there was any possibility of removing either the tumour or its secondary growths, but I found this to be a simple matter of open and close. The cancer had progressed to the ribs surrounding his pleural cavity, meaning that it was in the terminal stages of progression."
"What were the treatment options that you considered were open to him?"
"As I had ascertained during the exploratory operation, surgery wasn't a viable option for him. Also, as the cancer had already developed secondary tumours and attached itself to the skeleton and the lymph nodes, both chemotherapy and radiotherapy would not have reduced the tumours enough to make either of them worthwhile options. I am sorry to say that the only option left open to us, was to provide Henry Mills with palliative care and increasing levels of pain relief as time went by."
"In your professional estimation, how long did Henry Mills have to live?"
"With invasive forms of cancer, and especially lung cancer, there is no designated timeline for the individual concerned. If Henry Mills remained relatively inactive, his breathing was not yet impaired, and he was also not yet in any real pain. He didn't smoke and neither did his wife, and he didn't have any other major health problems to complicate things. I would have given Henry Mills roughly six months from the time of diagnosis."
"Mrs. Beauchamp, in your dealings with Henry Mills, what did you perceive to be his general demeanour?"
"He was quiet, polite, and somewhat philosophical with regards to his illness. He was clearly devoted to his wife," Connie said a little less clinically, the thought obviously coming straight from the heart. "He was more concerned about the difficulty she might have with caring for him at home, than he was about his own discomfort." Glancing over at the dock, John saw that there were tears running freely down Barbara's cheeks at Connie's words.
"Mrs. Mills," John said to Barbara. "Would you like a moment to recover yourself? I appreciate that this is very painful for you."
"No, thank you, My Lord," Barbara replied gratefully.
"Mrs. Beauchamp," John said turning his gaze back on Connie. "Did Henry Mills express any opinion to you at the realisation that he was going to die?"
"He said that it was God's will, My Lord," Connie told him a little bleakly. "And he pointed out to his wife that they still had some considerable time left together."
"Mrs. Beauchamp," Brian once again took over. "How did Henry Mills act around his wife?"
"As I have previously said, he clearly loved her, and I don't think there was anything he wouldn't have done for his wife. He was always polite to her, and she to him. If I hadn't known better, I suspect I would have regarded them as a couple who had been married for thirty years or more, not merely the two that they were together."
"Did Henry Mills ever give you reason to consider that he might be about to take his own life?"
"Certainly not," Connie replied firmly. "Whenever I talked to Henry Mills about his illness and what we could or more often could not do for him, his attitude was calm and practical, both accompanied by a philosophical acceptance that I wish I could see in all my patients."
"Why so certain?" John put in without hesitation.
"My Lord, at the start or at least the diagnosis of his illness, Henry Mills accepted that he was going to die, and all he appeared to want was to spend as much time with his wife as possible. I am not a fool," She stated firmly. "I know that the news that he was about to leave his wife prematurely shocked and upset him greatly, but he plainly accepted that his life was no longer in his own hands. Given how much he thought of his wife, and how he longed to spend every precious minute with her, I find it impossible to believe that Henry Mills would even have considered killing himself." Her violet eyes flashed at this assertion, briefly showing her inner anger that someone had forcefully taken this man's life.
"Mrs. Beauchamp, what was your general impression of Barbara Mills?"
"Reserved, polite, eager to do anything to help her husband," Connie replied thoughtfully, glancing over at where Barbara sat in between two prison officers.
"Was she a loving wife?" Brian asked, also glancing over at the woman who had played the harpsichord only eight months ago.
"Yes, I think so," Connie said a little uncertainly. "Though one can't always put an estimation on such things. One observation I can make is that they appeared to be a perfectly matched couple, entirely devoted to the continued care and happiness of the other, something I suppose we all aspire to." There was a short, emotionally charged silence after this softer response from Connie, making everyone who was there for Barbara, wonder why life had to be taken so prematurely.
"Is it common, Mrs. Beauchamp, for husbands or wives to care for their terminally ill spouses at home?"
"It isn't uncommon," Connie clarified for him. "It can depend on a number of factors: how easy or difficult the patient's pain management is; how capable and competent the caring spouse may be; and what other commitments such as children that the caring spouse may have to deal with. In a case such as Barbara and Henry Mills, it isn't unusual for a terminally ill patient to want to spend their last days or weeks at home, and for their spouse to be educated in the administering of pain relief and other types of medication."
"Last of all, Mrs. Beauchamp, in your considered professional opinion, would you have expected Henry Mills to die when he did?"
"No," Connie replied firmly, staring at the court stenographer until she'd written it down. "Henry Mills was lighter of spirit than many of my extremely healthy patients. He had roughly six months to live, and he knew what he wanted to do with that time. He had his wife, Barbara, to care for him, and his pain and other difficulties were being successfully managed at home, with regular visits to the hospital whilst he was able to make them, and visits from Professor Khan to his home when he couldn't. As far as his medical condition was concerned, Henry Mills was made as comfortable as was humanly possible. I do not accept the view that he killed himself, because in spite of his having terminal lung cancer, Henry Mills saw that he still had everything in the world to live for."
Before going to see Barbara prior to Gina and Dominic taking her back to prison, George went into the ladies to run a brush through her hair, and generally tidy herself up. It had been quite a long day and she was pretty tired. The thought of having to talk to a bewildered and highly-strung Barbara didn't fill her with any enthusiasm. She stood in front of the mirror, and looked at her tired and strained face. It wasn't just the trial that was getting her down, she knew that, it was the continued awareness of the lump under her skin. It was six weeks on and she still hadn't done anything about it. It was getting bigger every time she examined it, and the fear of what that must mean was almost crippling her. Every opportunity she got she was touching it, seeing if by chance it had grown at all since the last time her fingers had come in contact with it. As she stood in front of the mirror, she slipped her right hand inside the cream blazer she was wearing, and felt yet again for the alien collection of cells under the skin of her left breast. She could feel the lump easily enough, even through the material of her blouse and bra, and it terrified her.
As Connie walked out of the courtroom, she felt mentally exhausted. She had an evening theatre list ahead of her and a gruelling afternoon on the stand behind her. Brian Cantwell had asked her question after bloody question, showing her that his whole case pretty much depended on her evidence. The only cheerful point of this fairly dismal afternoon had been the Judge. His eyes had been on her throughout her testimony, and it hadn't gone unnoticed by her that they had mainly been centred on her long, shapely legs.
When John had returned to his chambers, he had immediately said to Coope,
"Please would you ask Mrs. Beauchamp to come up to see me?"
"You want to see a prosecution witness, alone, in your chambers?" Coope asked disbelievingly.
"Yes, I do. Is there a problem with that?"
"Only that you know better than to do anything of the sort," Coope told him.
"Coope, please just do it," John asked her quietly. "Let me worry about the consequences for a change."
"That'll be the day," Coope commented dryly.
"Then you can go home," John told her.
"Too right I am if you're about to break one of the oldest rules in the book."
Going downstairs with a rueful look on her face, Coope caught up with Connie as she walked towards the outside.
"Mrs. Beauchamp," She called after her. When Connie turned round, she said, "Mr. Justice Deed would like to see you in chambers."
"Would he now," Connie replied mildly. "Thank you for letting me know." When Coope had gone, Connie thought that the judge could certainly wait ten minutes while she redid her make up. Connie smirked as she walked towards the ladies', because she'd known that wearing a short skirt had definitely been a good idea. But the self-satisfied smile was wiped off her face when she pushed open the door, and beheld the counsel for the defence, standing in front of the mirror, clearly examining something under her clothing that quite evidently didn't please her. As Connie stealthily approached on quiet feet, she observed that what Ms Channing was touching was very likely a lump in her left breast.
Suddenly sensing someone approaching her, George whipped her hand from inside her jacket, and turned a guilty face on her interruption.
"Ms Channing," Connie said, fixing George with her penetrating gaze.
"Mrs. Beauchamp," George replied, not knowing what else to say.
"Forgive me," Connie said, knowing that she had to tread very carefully here. "But you looked to me, as though you were examining something you might have found, something that terrifies you." George's mouth opened and closed, as she struggled to find any remotely plausible response. Her eyes darted everywhere, as though looking for some kind of escape. "You've found a lump in your breast," Connie added, it being a statement not a question.
"Yes," George said hesitantly.
"May I?" Connie said, gesturing to George's open blazer.
"Why not," George replied with a tight little smile. "I might entirely disagree with your testimony, but you are a surgeon after all." Connie smiled, seeing this as George's supreme effort to keep a brave face on things. Stepping forward with the caution she might adopt if approaching a horse that might be about to bolt, Connie slipped her hand inside the other woman's jacket. As her delicate, nimble fingers came into contact with the left side of George's breast, Connie immediately found what had George so frightened.
"How long have you had this?" She asked, examining it as briefly as possible through the thin covering of blouse and bra.
"I found it at Christmas," George told her, feeling a sort of surreal relief that someone finally knew, even if that person was part of the current opposition.
"And has it grown in that time?"
"Yes," George replied, feeling even more stupid than ever.
"Have you sought medical attention for this?"
"No, not yet."
"Ms Channing, I doubt you need me to tell you how foolish such a lack of response is," Connie told her firmly, removing her hand from inside George's jacket. "The longer you allow it to grow, the more devastating the effects will be, I can assure you. I suspect you have found excuse after excuse to avoid getting this seen to, but you can't go on doing that for much longer."
"I know," George replied, sounding utterly defeated.
"Then please, at the earliest opportunity, take that lump of yours to someone who can do something about it."
After redoing her make up, Connie walked up the stairs and down the long corridor. When she reached the door with John's name on it, she knocked. The voice that bade her to enter was deep, cultured and powerful. Walking into the room, Connie was pleasantly surprised at its decor. The comfortable sofa and armchairs, the numerous tomes of legal precedents, and the spacious mahogany desk gave an impression of a man who spent a considerable amount of time within these four walls.
"Mrs. Beauchamp," John said, walking over to her. "Thank you for joining me."
"Please call me Connie, My Lord," She said, seeing his politeness as the precursor to more intimate words.
"John will suffice," He said, holding out his hand to shake hers. Connie's fingers were warm, light and long, the fingers of any surgeon or pianist. As their hands touched, they both could feel the crackle of sexual tension in the air, the rising up of something that had been forcefully buried in public all afternoon.
"It isn't often," John said silkily. "That I am blessed with such an attractive witness in front of me all afternoon."
"And it isn't often," Connie responded in the same vein. "That I am summoned to a judge's presence, as though I have committed an indiscretion which I must explain away. Tell me, is it your custom to allow your eyes to linger on the witness's legs for the entire time that she is speaking?"
"It isn't as regular an occurrence as I would like it to be," He replied, his eyes caressing hers, their hands lingering far too long in each other's grasp.
"So," Connie continued, moving ever so slightly closer to him. "Would My Lord be about to commit, what I believe in the legal profession would be a pretty severe breach of the rules?"
"Would you have any objection if I were?" John countered back, his deep, silky tones sliding over her senses and raising her pulse in anticipation.
"None whatsoever," She assured him, her voice reminding him of a purring cat about to get its cream.
"Oh, that's good," John replied with a slightly predatory smirk.
"However," Connie put in, her face now very close to his. "What makes My Lord so sure that he can live up to my more than exacting standards? Because I can assure you, several registrars and even the odd Professor have had significant difficulty in not reducing me to utter boredom inside thirty seconds."
"Ah, well, I suspect I have had far greater practice at competing with such a rigorously maintained ability than your collection of registrars." As their lips finally met, Connie lightly fingered his braces.
"Well, how quaint," She said between kisses.
"Whereas that skirt is positively outrageous," John commented in return. They began feverishly removing each other's clothes as they moved haphazardly over towards the sofa, all the time exchanging the flirtatious banter that both of them had come to rely on over the years.
As George talked to Barbara in the small holding cell, her thoughts kept drifting back to what Connie had said. She knew she ought to do something about her lump, because the longer she left it the more catastrophic its consequences would be. But the thought of what they might have to do to get rid of it truly terrified her.
"George, are you all right?" Barbara asked in concern, seeing that something wholly unconnected with her case was weighing heavily on George's mind.
"I'm sorry," George said, feeling utterly contrite. "I'm being extremely unprofessional, aren't I?"
"George, this is me you're talking to," Barbara told her gently. "You're not just my barrister, you're a friend." George stared at her, seeing the kindly concern emanating from Barbara's deep, brown eyes.
"I'm fine," George said quietly, though Barbara could see that she wasn't.
As they lay afterwards, both breathing hard and lightly perspiring, John knew that he shouldn't have done this, not under any circumstances.
"Did I live up to expectation?" he asked her, wanting to know out of sheer curiosity.
"I should say so," Connie replied huskily, her head pillowed for the moment on his bare shoulder.
"And you're absolutely right," John said thoughtfully. "I really shouldn't have done this. Sleeping with a witness is about as big a breech of the rules as you can get."
"There's no point feeling guilty after the crime, My Lord," Connie purred, reaching up to kiss him. "Because unfounded remorse won't get you anywhere."
"That a policy of yours is it?" John asked with a smile.
"Quite so," Connie told him silkily.
"Gathered from previous experience?"
"In a manner of speaking." But before John could comment further, they both became aware of the approaching click-clack of a pair of high heels, which were to John, instantly recognisable. At the look of horror on his face, Connie only now began to wonder if either of them had locked the door before they began their acquaintance with each other's bodies.
Knowing that most people had left for the day, George gave only a perfunctory knock before opening the door of John's chambers. She hadn't expected anyone to be with him. But when she strolled casually into the room, looking for nothing more complicated than a simple hug, what she saw made her mouth go dry and her brain to temporarily stop functioning. Lying on the sofa, clearly in post-orgasmic afterglow, were John, and Connie Beauchamp. Their clothes were littered all over the floor, as though instant gratification had been their only concern. Quietly closing the door behind her, she stood and regarded them with a certain level of detachment. She knew that the anger would come all too quickly, but for now, she simply wanted to observe the mental struggle that John was clearly experiencing.
"George," Was all he could say, knowing that this was the most compromising position he had ever been caught in. Connie looked between them, at first only seeing the man she had just slept with, and the defence counsel who had a lump in her breast. But as her gaze lingered for a moment on George's face, she began to see an awful lot more. George Channing was this man's lover, plain and simple.
"Well, well," She said, still lying in John's arms. "I do believe I've trodden on a few toes." This seemed to bring George out of her introspection. She laughed mirthlessly.
"Oh, don't worry, Mrs. Beauchamp, he's been doing this to me for more years than I care to remember. You're not the first, and you certainly won't be the last, so get used to the fact that he won't want to know anything about you in a day or two." Taking this as her cue to depart, Connie rose from the sofa and began putting on her clothes. But as John did the same, George's gaze lingered on Connie, taking in every inch of the woman with whom John had just had sex.
"See something you like, Ms Channing?" Connie asked, taking note of George's detailed observation.
"You never know, Mrs. Beauchamp, you never know," George responded tartly, her building rage making her voice sound almost cheerful. John winced. George surely didn't need to do that, did she?
When Connie had gone and John had regained his clothes, they simply stood and stared at each other. When John opened his mouth to at the very least apologise, George got there before him.
"Don't you dare even think of apologising, because I don't want to hear it." Her tone was icy and bitter, just like the wind that was howling outside the windows. "Do you have any idea just how stupid that was? If that had been Ian Rochester instead of me, you'd be off this trial and out of this court before I could say impeachment. Barbara needs you on this trial, precisely because you can't be leaned on. Just because Monty is currently playing to your tune, does not give you the right to jeopardise Barbara's one real hope of justice. Further to our conversation at lunchtime, Jo also doesn't need for you to be risking being sent away from her, just because of a quick fuck in chambers. She is about as unstable as quick sand at the moment, and she needs you to be one hundred percent there for her, not screwing some long-legged surgeon who may as well have been a high class call girl." John didn't argue with any of her assessments of him, because he was forced to admit that she was right, on virtually every count. But when her tirade seemed to have ended for the moment, he asked,
"Have you quite finished?"
"I haven't even started," She hissed back at him. "But I am not currently in a frame of mind to give you what you really deserve." As he moved towards her, wanting to try and calm her down with a touch rather than words, she said, "Don't you come anywhere near me, because I can promise you, the way I feel at the moment, there wouldn't be anything left for even your doting clerk to mop up in the morning."
Yvonne had sat impassively throughout the trial and her eyes had taken in every nuance
of the behaviour of the chief players in the courtroom below her, while doing her best to ignore the solid wall of puritan disapproval from Barbara's one time stepchildren. She had gone into the witness gallery in something like the same mixture of keyed up anticipation and nervousness as to how the cards may fall. By now, she had had enough experience of trials to realize that the whole thing was an up and down experience, where intense excitement from a moment when a trial is going her way could so easily be followed by the feeling of a bucket of water thrown in her face from a sudden reversal. Nothing was so certain as unpredictability and she was as emotionally well prepared for what might befall her, her daughter or more precisely, her mate Babs. It was all the one and the same for her.
The opening exchanges had started according to a predictable pattern as Brian Cantwell had played the role of bastard to perfection. Yvonne had raised her eyebrows that fraction to see that Jo had hit back with such charged emotion but she had to hand it to her to see how deftly she had recovered her balance. It hadn't been until that pathologist had given her evidence for the prosecution that vague alarm bells had started to ring in her mind. Of course, it had been a shock to Yvonne to hear the apparently unbreakable chain of medical evidence had fastened the noose round Babs' neck but it was George, not Jo, who had jumped to her feet to protest. The next day Yvonne saw that, while George had slid into the cross-examination and had expertly demolished the evidence of the pathologist, Jo had remained seated and had exhibited all the telltale signs of being visibly hungover.
She had come to that resolution even before her exchange of words with George and drove away in a purposeful way. She did not bother to work out what she might say as she had no inhibitions in how she would handle the situation and that the words would form themselves.
"What a pleasant surprise," Jo had exclaimed as she opened the door, eyes blinking. Her smile was a little strained but Yvonne deduced that was because she was still recovering from the night before.
"Mind if I come in, Jo?"
Yvonne noted that the curtains were drawn and the room was in darkness apart from a dim sidelight. Jo had clearly lain down on the sofa as a quilt had been carelessly discarded.
"Certainly. I'm in the mood for some company and I've no work to catch up on for tomorrow."
"Want a drink?"
"Better make it coffee. I'm driving and there's too many copper sniffing around these days. Don't want to chance my arm."
Jo's smile widened in relief as she gestured Yvonne to a seat and popped into her kitchen to bring the very drink that she needed on her own account.
"As you can see, I've not been very well today and I considered that the best course of action was to go home, take it easy and get myself better so I'll be back on top tomorrow." Jo said crisply, to reassure herself as much as Yvonne that she was back to normal and so she would be, given a few hours.
"What was the matter if you don't mind me asking."
'Oh, some wretched flu bug. I've found that the run up to a long trial can take it out of me. I get over it soon enough."
"Funnily enough, that's exactly what George told me." Yvonne said in her most innocently beguiling tones.
"The only thing is that I didn't believe her either."
Jo's face flushed as she felt the full force of Yvonne's scrutiny but said nothing as shame sealed her lips.
"Believe me, I can spot the signs of the morning after the night before quicker than I can spot a bent screw, Jo. I knew that George was covering for you for all the best reasons. I'm glad you're feeling better but I'm asking you what went down as I was dead worried about you."
"Let's just say that perhaps I care too much about the case. It just got to me emotionally."
"So that's why you went after Cantwell's scalp. And there I was with Roisin being as good as gold while you were really pushing it with Cantwell and the judge on the very first day. That was really bad."
Jo could not help but grin at Yvonne's droll and very gentle description of the scene and the way she shook her head in mock disapproval. It made her start to feel better.
"Babs's case comes too close to home, doesn't it?"
Jo nodded without speaking. She felt unable to elaborate. Very tactfully, Yvonne didn't pursue the matter as she knew enough to be going on with.
"I ain't telling you to care less about Babs, Jo. I've lived too much of my life around some right bastards, Charlie and his mates to be exact. I owe you so much for looking after Lauren but there's ways of caring so you don't do yourself in over it."
"I've got to be on top of this trial, Yvonne. That's my duty."
"Jo, you've got George to do half the work. That's what I've paid you both for." Yvonne explained patiently. "I know you've got pride in what you do and you feel that you must hold up the universe by yourself but you must know that there are others there to help you. Don't block everything and everyone out. Believe me, it doesn't work."
It was a revelation to Jo how incredibly tender Yvonne could be and, at that moment, she got to understand how strong for others she was and how well deserved her reputation was from Larkhall. Some of Jo's mental barriers began to come down and the world started to look less black and despairing.
"If you don't mind, Monty, I wouldn't mind spending time in my chambers catching up on some private business."
Monty raised his eyebrows in surprise as they paced the corridor behind the courtroom. He had thought that they ought to confer about the trial, which, from his perspective, was veering dangerously out of control. He could not help but accede to John's polite request but only with the very greatest reluctance.
"Just as you say, John." He replied a little stiffly.
"I am aware that the conduct of some of my trials tend towards the unconventional. I do intend to talk to you about the conduct of the trial but not quite yet."
Monty nodded and slipped into his chamber.
Back in his room, John sat in an armchair, a curious half smile on his face, which could denote anything. The events of the day had been a very confusing and disturbing tangle, which it was extraordinarily difficult to make sense of and put in some kind of perspective.
It had all started innocently enough, he considered judiciously. He had seen Connie take the stand and both he and Monty in their considered opinion and as admirers of the female form decided that Connie's physical attractions were way in excess of what normally appeared before them. The exact process by which the trial had developed was not altogether clear but something seduced him into playing the art at which he was far too skilled of his smooth and silken voice coaxing a woman, equally skilled in the arts, into a sexual encounter in his chambers. Instantly, a tripwire in his mind pulled him up short. The words 'sexual encounter' was not the words he would have liked to describe God's most splendid free experiences that there is for the taking. The glowing promise of a Renoir portrait made flesh did not exactly fit the experience of being unclothed in a cheap undignified posture in front of George who had burst in and confronted him with anger and hurt. To be shouted at was not a new experience but to be caught in flagrente was unpleasantly new and was pulling on his trousers did not help his dignity.
What had taken him aback this time was that his normal mental processes by which he had put this unpleasantness behind him were simply not working. His memory worked by itself and out popped the voice of George who had scorched Connie with her fury of denunciation. Her words had echoed down the ages of his life and, curiously enough, he could hear Jo's voice take on the bottom harmony.
'You're not the first, and you certainly won't be the last, so get used to the fact that he won't want to know anything about you in a day or two.'
He had to admit that there was justice in this remark as he suddenly stood up to pace round the chamber and find himself looking out of the window so that no one could see him. That was the way it had happened in the past but should it always happen in the future? Did he want it to be this way? Did he have any control over himself?
As he questioned himself, his excellent memory pulled out for his attention his own self description and he knew that a very different tone of voice was about to take up the questioning, a woman's voice, a Scottish accent and two large bright piercing eyes and a very alert mind behind it, to probe his secrets.
'I am aware that some of my actions where women are concerned are thoroughly reprehensible.' Yes, he had said those very words to Helen and when asked to explain further, he had put it this way. .
'I have hurt Jo, and George, far more times than I could ever count. George to some extent managed to get used to it, but Jo never did. Every time I do it, it hurts her almost as much as if it were the first time it had happened. When I was married to George, she got into the habit of completely ignoring the fact that I was picking up other women on a regular basis. She knew I was doing it, but chose to act as though she didn't.'
There it was, at that very minute when his best intentions were to reform himself, he had relapsed quickly into his old ways. The evidence was plain to see.
'You'd become hooked, just like any other addict. Guilt feeds on itself, Judge, so that the longer you feel it, the more deep-seated it becomes.'
So what on earth was he to do about himself, he asked the heavens, casting his eyes heavenwards. Supposing for the sake of argument that he was addicted to sex, did that mean that no matter how hard he tried, he was doomed to failure?
'Do you have any idea just how stupid that was? If that had been Ian Rochester instead of me, you'd be off this trial and out of this court before I could say impeachment. Barbara needs you on this trial, precisely because you can't be leaned on.'
That brought him up short. He was used to there being disorder in his private life but he had always supposed that his public role would remain sacrosanct, that the ideals, which he sincerely and passionately believed him, would sustain his self belief and that certainty that he was doing the right thing. Other judges had fudged, compromised and sold themselves out for self-advancement. By some quirk of fate, he had managed to have it both ways, elevation to the position of high court judge and acting morally.It really brought it home to him that his private life could so easily have compromised his public actions.
He began to tentatively enquire by what process he had arrived at the illogical conclusion to invite Connie to his chamber. He knew very well that the very idea was injudicious as a generality but that he had bent that rule out of his whimsical idea to be different, not out of corrupt motives. The very fact that he had done so on this occasion was certainly foolish in the extreme but he could not work out why. As Helen's stare into his eyes prompted him, he began to examine his feelings more critically and could only conclude that an irresistible temptation had driven him onwards which Coope's silent disapproval had only intensified. Why this should be so, he could not understand any more than the foolish way that his door could so easily have been opened. He surely could not have wanted to have been discovered as that was totally illogical, self-destructive and the most sensible construction he could place on her actions was that he was so carried away by sexual arousal that every consideration of prudence was simply forgotten.
'Don't forget, I had Jo right in my line of vision for the entirety of this morning, and if I didn't know better, I would say she looked hung over.'
John suddenly heard his very words replayed in his mind a very short period of time before he had so fatally given way to temptation. It took him only a very short stretch of reasoning to deduce why Jo would react so emotionally to this trial and why she would have reached for the bottle. He knew that certain trials affected Jo emotionally more so than was good for her. That quality was very double edged. It gave her that power of conviction in her words that enabled her to be such a compellingly articulate barrister but it threatened to draw her in too deep, to threaten her objectivity. John knew very well that Jo identified so closely with Barbara, another woman who had tended a dying husband and there but for the Grace of God, she had not assisted her own dying husband out of this world. He felt this intense wave of sympathy for Jo at this moment at what she would be going through and George's reply was so apt.
'Which means that both of us are going to have to support her through every minute of it.'
It was then that the full weight of his guilt hit him as all became so pitilessly clear. It hurt him as much as any emotional pain felt for the first time in life that he could not frame it in words. He rubbed his hand against his eyes and sat in the chair he had found himself in and didn't move. The only crumb of comfort he could cling onto was that he would do his utmost to ensure that Jo was protected from the incredible stupidity and, yes, immorality of his actions.
As George drove towards St. Mary's to pick Kay up after her day teaching medical students how to cut up bodies, she didn't know whether to cry or be angry. It had stunned her into temporary speechlessness to see Connie lying on that sofa in John's arms, and she was still reeling from the shock of it. John had looked horror-struck, as though he really regretted hurting her in this way, though this was far more likely to be a regret at being caught. Thank god, she thought suddenly, thank god that it hadn't been Jo to walk in on John, because that would have knocked Jo completely over the edge. George was worried about Jo, because as she'd said, it really wasn't in Jo's nature to get drunk in the middle of a very important trial. Her thoughts strayed back to that weekend last year, that weekend when Jo had first kissed her. When they'd talked the next day, Jo had confessed to an occasional leaning towards alcoholism. She hadn't used that highly emotive word, but the meaning had been there. Was she about to go through something similar now because of the stress of Barbara's trial? George badly hoped not, but she was forced to admit that it was a possibility.
As she sat in the rush hour traffic jam, she pressed play on the CD player, and the words of the song that greeted her, seemed almost too appropriate for her current situation.
"If I had just one tear rolling down your cheek, maybe I could cope maybe I'd get some sleep.
If I had just one moment at your expense, maybe all my misery would be well spent."
Why couldn't John feel her suffering at what he'd done? Why couldn't he experience just a little of her hurt and her anger?
"If your love could be caged, honey I would hold the key, and conceal it underneath the pot of lies you've handed me..."
It wasn't his love she needed to cage, but his lust, his lust and instant arousal for beautiful women. Weren't she and Jo enough for him? Didn't he get all the love and passion from the two of them that he could possibly need? But then she hadn't exactly been very forthcoming with his favourite pastime lately, had she? George knew this was partly due to her distinct lack of sexual interest, and her fear that he would find her lump and confront her about its origin. She could feel the tears prickling behind her eyelids as this thought struck her. Connie Beauchamp had been so nice, so understanding, so practical. But now all of that concern had been shattered into a thousand pieces. What could she, George, possibly do about any of it? Her lump, John and his infidelity, Jo and her drinking?
When she cruised to a stop in the hospital car park, round the back by the entrance to the morgue, she kept the engine on and the windscreen wipers furiously trying to keep the pouring rain at bay. She had been so angry with John, but now she simply felt tired and hurt. She fervently tried to stem her tears, not wanting Kay to see her in such a state, but the effort was futile. When she saw Kay dashing across the car park, a medical bag in one hand and a briefcase in the other, George rummaged in her handbag for a tissue, trying to scrub the evidence of her crying from her face. Opening the car door, Kay dropped her belongings on the backseat, and slid into the passenger seat beside George.
"Are you all right?" She asked in greeting, seeing the visible tear tracks on George's cheeks.
"Fine," George replied dully, fixing her eyes on the moving windscreen wipers in front of her.
"Would you like me to drive?" Kay asked, thinking that they might be safer if she did. George looked at her in slight surprise.
"Yes, perhaps that would be better," She said, a watery smile just touching her face. Hurriedly swapping places in the still pouring rain, Kay got behind the wheel and George backtracked the CD to play that song again, the song that put all her feelings into one simmering cauldron.
"Could you cry a little, and lie just a little? Pretend that you're feeling a little more pain?
I gave, now I'm wanting something in return.
So cry just a little for me."
George laughed bitterly.
"Men don't ever feel pain when they deserve it, do they."
"No, not often," Kay agreed regretfully, remembering how Benton had sometimes been towards her before his supposed death. Kay moved carefully through the rain filled streets, making sure that she kept on the correct side of the road. London was virtually gridlocked at this time of day, reminding Kay fleetingly of New York City. The atmosphere in the car was thick with the pain that Kay could feel coming off George in waves. Something had obviously happened, something that had cut George to her core. But Kay didn't probe. She hadn't had the best of days today, having been forced by circumstance to revisit one of her most terrifying nightmares.
When they reached home, George went upstairs for a long, hot shower, hoping that the comforting spray would wash away some of her feelings of utter despair. But all the hot shower did for her, was to encourage her tears to start up again, and steadily come faster and faster, making her gasp for breath at their intensity. Realising that they had both had something of a difficult day, Kay poured herself a scotch, and George a glass of Martini. Ice clinking as she walked up the stairs, Kay could hear the shower running in George's en suite. As she moved on silent feet into George's bedroom, and put the glass down on the dressing table, she heard the sharp, slightly suppressed sobs that made her own eyes prickle in sympathy. Kay had no idea what had happened with George today, but perhaps she might try and find out later.
When George had calmed down somewhat and emerged from her shower, she found the glass of Martini on the dressing table, and smiled at Kay's thoughtfulness. When she went downstairs, Kay had changed into jeans and a thick blue jumper and had stoked up the fire. She was sitting in the armchair smoking a cigarette.
"Thank you for the drink," George said, joining her.
"I figured we both could do with it," Kay replied kindly.
"Has your day been as rough as that as well?" George asked, reaching for her own nicotine fix.
"Part of my job, whenever I come over here," Kay explained. "Is to teach young medical students how to process a crime scene, and how to preserve every shred of evidence that a dead body may hold. As well as giving them the usual lectures and demo autopsies, it sometimes involves me taking a group of them to a scene, and getting them used to the realities of a working life spent at the bedside of the dead rather than the living. Today was one of those days. I introduced them to a train death, something they will have to get used to if they decide to work in this particular city. A man in his early twenties had jumped in front of a Circle line train, one of the most desperate ways out I think I've ever heard of. There's very little left for any relative to identify after something like that, and every student who saw it today will probably have nightmares for the next week or so. But if they want to go into forensic pathology, then that's what life is all about." Kay became quiet, as though realising that her diatribe had gone on a little too long.
"Gault was killed by a train, wasn't he," George said quietly, being careful to say when Gault was killed, rather than when you killed Gault. Kay's eyes widened in surprise.
"Yes, he was," She replied flatly. "Or at least partly." After taking a long drag of her cigarette, she said, "It took me quite a long time to go anywhere near a train death after Gault was killed. I used to drop any that appeared on my desk on my Deputy Chief's. Gault was very beautiful in his own way, with almost white blonde hair, and the sort of piercing blue eyes that seem to see right through you. I remember once when I saw him in a shopping mall. Gault had seen me looking at him, and as I ran to my car and drove like the devil back down the interstate, it was his eyes that haunted me. That man today had blonde hair, well, what you could see of it."
"Do you ever dream about Gault?"
"More times than I care to count," Kay said bitterly. "I dream about all three of them from time to time, but Gault most of all."
As she watched the multitude of expressions playing across George's face, Kay realised that George had fairly successfully managed to make her forget about George's earlier distress.
"George, what happened today?" Kay asked after a relaxed, contented silence.
"That would involve an explanation of possibly the weirdest relationship on the planet," George said dryly. "Are you sure you're ready for it?"
"Try me," Kay challenged her, thinking of the years she'd spent thinking that Benton was dead and gone.
"Jo, John and I, are involved in a sort of three-way relationship. It does usually work fabulously, and it took us years to realise that this was what we ought to be doing."
"If it works, why worry?" Kay said simply.
"We originally began something akin to this relationship," George explained. "Because John has a tendency to pick up random flings. He has hurt both Jo and I more times than I care to remember. You see, Jo was his lover on and off for years after John and I divorced. Anyway, the original agreement, before Jo and I discovered how we felt about each other, was that John would restrict himself to us and only us, and that he would stop helping himself to every passing bit of skirt who just happened to catch his eye. He's always loved Jo, ever since he met her, but part of him hasn't really stopped loving me. John has had the occasional lapse, one of which last year gave both Jo and I Chlamydia."
"Oh dear," Kay said in sympathy.
"Yes," George replied bitterly. "I don't think I've ever been quite as angry as I was then. However, I should say that what happened today made me come pretty close. After catching up with Barbara before they took her back to prison after court, I went upstairs to John's chambers, just to get a hug after a hard day, something that is totally forbidden between Judge and appearing barrister, but at five o'clock in the evening I was prepared to take the risk. When I walked in barely without knocking, I found John, lying in post-coital afterglow, with one of the prosecution witnesses."
"Which one?" Kay asked, her eyes widening.
"Connie Beauchamp," George said venomously.
"Oh," Kay replied, the identity of the woman not remotely surprising her.
"You don't sound at all surprised," George observed.
"I've been forced to listen to Zubin going on about either her hospital politics or her lack of virtue for two days now," Kay told her. "So no, I'm not all that surprised. She's apparently slept with half the registrars in the hospital. It seems to be part of her policy of making them progress to a higher level."
"I suppose that even after all these years, I didn't expect John to be cajoled into a quickie in chambers quite so easily."
As Connie worked her way through her evening theatre list, two heart bypasses and a bone marrow transplant, her thoughts kept returning to her assignation that afternoon. God, but he had been good, certainly making it an afternoon she wouldn't forget in a hurry. But the look on George's face couldn't help but haunt her as she worked, the look of combined hurt, anger and resignation making her wonder if she really had done the right thing in sleeping with that Judge. Connie hadn't known that there was anything remotely sexual between the defence barrister and the judge, she couldn't have known, because their act in court was without doubt perfectly manufactured. But this wasn't the only thing to distract Connie's mind from its tasks. Did John know about George's lump? Did he have any idea that his lover was incubating breast cancer? Connie simply didn't know.
Later that evening, as Kay and George ate some defrosted homemade soup in front of the fire, neither of them feeling much like eating, the phone rang. Putting her bowl down on the coffee table, George went to answer it. When she returned, she handed the cordless phone to Kay.
"Captain Pete Marino for you," She said, smiling at the look of fondness on Kay's face. Switching the phone onto hands free so that she could continue eating her soup, Kay said,
"Yo," Came the big, gruff voice over the wire. "It's me. How are you?"
"Sick and tired of medical students who can't stomach the realities of a very difficult postmortem," Kay told him bluntly.
"Hey, go easy on them, Doc," He told her calmly. "You were like that once."
"I wasn't that bad," She insisted. "Anyway, what's been happening with you? Lucy told me about the woman in New York."
"Yeah, I just got back from there. I sure hope we catch this squirrel soon, because I'm sick to the back teeth of hopping from one major city to another. Talking of which, did you get through customs all right with your piece?"
"Fine," Kay told him with a smile. "Only then I managed to frighten George stupid by not telling her that I'd brought it with me."
"She the posh chick who answered the phone just now?" Marino asked, making George laugh quietly.
"Yes, Marino, that was her," Kay replied, giving George a lopsided grin.
"George," Marino ruminated thoughtfully. "What kinda name's that for a woman? She another doctor lawyer Indian chief like you?"
"No, I'm not," George told him with a smile, finally breaking in on the conversation. "I'm a plain and simple barrister."
"Doc, you didn't tell me this conversation was being overheard," Marino said in disgust.
"Well, I'm trying to eat, so I put you on hands free," She told him, thinking this a perfectly reasonable explanation.
"I forgot to ask," Marino said, neatly changing the subject. "Did you find the CD I left in your briefcase?"
"Yes, I did," Kay said sternly. "Marino, how on earth did you work out the combination lock to my briefcase?"
"Hey, Doc, no offence," Marino began with the weight of an approaching bombshell. "But anyone who uses their DOB as their burglar alarm code, is probably gonna be dumb enough to also use it on their briefcase." George laughed at Kay's fiery blush.
"Point taken," Kay replied dismally, seeing her reputation going up in smoke quicker than the logs on the open fire.
A good while later when they were both heading up to bed, George suddenly asked,
"How busy are you tomorrow?"
"I don't have to give a lecture until the afternoon," Kay told her. "Why?"
"Fancy coming to court with me and watching me make mincemeat of Mrs. Beauchamp?" Kay's eyes widened.
"You really are going to do a hatchet job on her, aren't you?"
"I should say she deserves it," George said dismissively.
"I didn't think witnesses who hadn't yet been on the stand were permitted in the public gallery."
"Oh, they're not," George said airily. "But I suspect I can smuggle you in somehow."
"Then yes, I would be interested to see your idea of revenge being put into practice."
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