DISCLAIMER: All characters are not ours, we're simply playing with them. Characters are from the following fandoms: Bad Girls, Judge John Deed, Holby City, Silent Witness and the Kay Scarpetta novels.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Credits to Shed specifically in using dialogue from their episode 7, Series 2 Bad Girls as in the dialogue between Barbara and Nikki when she tells the story of her second husband Peter.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the authors.
BETA: by Hunca Munca and Jen.

Till Death Do Us Part
By Kristine and Richard

Part Ninety-One

"Coming round tonight?" George asked Jo on the phone with that audible smile in her voice." We've worked frightfully hard all week and on a Saturday night, this means that we absolutely must relax and take it easy."

To George's surprise, Jo failed to respond. She could tell it in her voice, which remained totally serious.

"Not for me, George. We've got a long way to go and I need to catch up after my little lapse on Monday night."

Jo's words rang instant alarm bells in George's mind. The carefully turned phrase was a dangerous euphemism, a more realistic description of events being that that Jo had been on an alcoholic bender. The words rang false and all the time she'd known Jo, she had been truthful even to the point of what George once conceived as insufferable priggishness. This time she was lying, to herself as to George.

"You can hardly say that Kay and I will be exactly hard work, especially when you know that you can sit back and let me do the cooking."

'It's very nice of you but I really feel as if I need space to myself. It's nothing personal."

Jo stumbled in reply as words failed to come easily. She was audibly blushing.

"Just as you will. If you want to change your mind, feel free to come round."

George urged her in her most reassuring tones and her voice drifted away into the distance. When it was just that split second too late, Jo regretted her words but she felt she was too late to do anything about it as she had irrevocably committed herself .The other side of her was glad to be in the safety and security of her own home.

In turn, George drummed her fingers on the phone table as her mind was racing. She was sure that Jo wouldn't change her mind, not in the frame of mind she was in. The answer popped into her mind. She would have to speak to John, instead and she grabbed for the phone.

"John darling, I wanted to talk to you."

For some inexplicable reason, John mistook George's eagerness to talk as her being peremptory and sparked off a perverse and mulish desire to resist what she might have to say to him.

"I thought you wanted some time apart from me. You told me as such and a lot more on my computer."

"Will you listen, John?" George said in impatient tones. The man was being infuriatingly obtuse and awkward and she was compelled to add extra emphasis by adopting her 'one syllable' style. "I don't want to talk about you sleeping with Connie as I have said my piece on that subject. I wanted to phone you to check up that you will go round and see Jo exactly as I told you to."

"In the middle of a trial when she is appearing before me? That sounds very reckless."

"John, I don't care if I am sounding contradictory. You should know by now that I am accustomed to having my cake and eating it whenever I feel like it."

"Don't I just know it?"

"Just go round and see Jo and hang the consequences of being caught, because you owe it to her. She has told me that she 'wants space for herself.' This, at a time when she is right in the middle of a trial when she has far too much time to brood."

"Have I the right to stand in the way of Jo's wishes?" John queried, doubtfully.

"John, just forget your lily livered, oh so trendy liberal politics for just one moment. She may want time on her own, she may want to drink far too much than is good for her but what she needs is you right now. She may very easily end up drinking her way through the entire weekend and end up in a frightful mess and it could be worse than that. In case you had overlooked the matter, there's a trial at stake and, dare I say it, Barbara's freedom. Of course I am telling you to stick your oar in. After all, it's what you're best at."

The force of George's scorn and exasperation burnt its way down the telephone wires and into John's ear. She was right, of course.

"All right, George, I'll go right over and I'll do my best."

"Phone me before Monday and let me know how you've gone on." George concluded, put the phone down and sighed in total relief and sank back into her armchair.

As John knotted his tie and stared in the mirror, he was perplexed at what or who he should be. He really wasn't sure if he was supposed to be the lover, friend or nursemaid or all three rolled into one. It wasn't until he went to step out of his front door when he realized that he should react according to what state of mind he found Jo in when he got there. A rush of memories were relentlessly threaded together as he realized the profundity of the hard truths that George had given him, a kind of tough love. While there was an element of risk to this undertaking, to not act with courage would put Jo in far more perilous danger. As he looped his conclusions together, his internal anxiety had given way to a state of heightened awareness and a purposeful readiness to face any possibility by the time he knocked at Jo's front door.

"Well, this is a surprise, John. I would have thought you would have immersed yourself in the trial papers as is your habit."

"Hang the papers, Jo."

"Isn't this a little dangerous, John. Right in the middle of the trial?"

"If you remember, I lived in the digs at the time. That officious busybody must have been brainwashed by reading far too many cheap expose magazines when she took pictures for the LCD to get their grubby hands on. This flat is far more discreet and well off the beaten track. Besides, I have thoroughly immersed myself in the trial and am completely prepared. Therefore my attitude is 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.'"

"Meaning?" Jo interjected, a suspicion of a smile playing on her lips.

"That it's all there in my head and I don't need to do anymore. I came round to see you instead. I wanted to say that I've realized that I'm taking for granted what's right under my very nose and that is both you and George."

Jo caught John's glance tray from her face and flit round to her sideboard. A half full whisky bottle was left out on the side. John asked himself anxiously if it was because it happened to not have been put away or whether it was left out for Jo to carry on her reckless path of life to drink herself to death. As for John, he classed himself as a moderate drinker, confined to pleasant evening company, social events and weekends but only if he felt like it. He was now only too aware that Jo was different. As he stared, his words had dragged up from the depths of his memory, the enormous glass of whisky, which Jo had downed in one gulp when she came round to his digs to berate him over his conduct of the Jason Powell trial. At the time, John put down her reaction to the very emotional way she had reacted to the death of the young man, all the more so as he had felt pretty emotional himself.

"Do you want a drink, John?" Jo asked. Her self-defensiveness could feel a faint feeling of disapproval emanating from John while she was touched by the uncharacteristic way that John wore his heart on his sleeve. The cross cutting emotions made her feel edgy.

"Not for me, Jo"

"For someone who has been a total reprobate when it comes to women," Jo pronounced, her arms crossed across her chest, "You can be remarkably puritanical about smoking, alcohol and keeping fit."

"No, no, it's just that smoking and drinking have never greatly appealed to me. I cannot claim any special virtue for that. I like fencing because it appeals to the competitive spirit in me. I tend to do only what I feel like." John replied in the most detached, self-deprecating fashion possible.

"So when it comes to sex and drugs and rock and roll, only sex appeals to you." Jo threw back at him in a bantering tone of voice.

"I confess that I listen to Black Sabbath with Charlie and, as for the other, well, you know me by now. Right now, there's something that's more important than my personal failings." John evaded in a distracted fashion, trying not to listen too closely to Jo's description of himself, which had unpleasant resonances of his past foolishness with Connie Beauchamp.

"And what might that be, John?"

"A special evening in with you." John's low melodious voice answered. He played his pause to perfection and finally took Jo in his arms, drew her to him and kissed her. Jo luxuriated in the feel of being held by John and momentarily feeling that little bit better about herself before both good fortune and John had just knocked at her front door.

"Mmm, this feels like many years ago when we first started going out together." Jo said in a self-satisfied way as her arms reached round John while John clasped her in his arms.

"Not so long ago." John murmured. "We are as young as we feel."

Jo gave up asking questions of herself, her own far too easy identification with Barbara and the growing intensity of the roller coaster that this trial had created. She was about to surrender to feelings of sensuous pleasure, the parameters of which had been widened more than she had ever known even existed at one point.

Their path to Jo's bed was an erratic trail of scattered blouse, discarded white shirt, decorative bra cast aside until the two of them were naked and along in Jo's bed. How slender and shapely was Jo's body that he caressed and their mouths made contact with more fervency than Jo was used to. Their tongues became intertwined .She ran her fingers throughout his thick graying hair and her eyes took in those familiar chiseled features up above her, highlighted against the gloom by the moonlight shining through her bedroom window. She was lucky, she thought, that he was looking only more distinguished and attractive with age. Nothing was more certain that he was perfectly aware of this infuriating fact but on this night, John felt particularly sensitive and tender in his lovemaking. She could feel his lips move delicately across her skin with all the loving devotion of an artist at work. As such, he had always been comfortable with his facility in that direction but, this time, his feelings were suffused with tenderness for Jo as his tongue flicked over Jo's right nipple. The touch of his lips delicately caressed Jo's hardening nipples, one after the other and he was gratified to feel her body start to move. At least, while she was moaning with pleasure, he knew that she was safe. .

Time took its hands off the bedside clock and slowed down so that there was all the time in the world as John moved down Jo's slender torso, veered off to her hip and entered Jo's moistness with her eager collaboration. With practiced ease, his tongue teased at her clitoris and coaxed her to that state of glorious arousal.

As they lay on that effortless magic carpet of space and time, they moved next to each other and started caressing each other. John was touched to see that smile of satisfaction on Jo's face rather than that worrying expression of despair in her eyes that troubled her so much. He knew every inch of her body as much as her mind and he felt as if he was coming home to himself while he lay with her. Her legs parted eagerly as John's assured and patient hardness entered smoothly into Jo. While it gratified him to feel Jo's body up against hers as their body rhythms meshed together, now as much as any time in their lives. John could feel the lightness and delicacy of Jo's fingertips as they traced a pattern on his back. He knew beyond any reasonable doubt that she expressed her contrary desire for the man who had burst into her world at just the right time when her space needed so desperately to be invaded. It wasn't just his skill in giving exquisite sexual pleasure. He knew that he was expressing his desire to make amends in his life in the way that he was most confident in expressing in deeds rather than words. Taking all the time in the world, he gradually took them both all the way upward and over the top to an explosive orgasm that left them spent and gasping for breath.

"I've realized that I've so much to lose." John said at last while Jo's arms cradled him in their afterglow of sexual passion.

"How do you mean, John?"

"From what happened to Barbara," John replied shortly, as if to chop off the train of thought. Jo was silent for a while. The trial was only half way through. Now was not the time for introspection when they had to be strong and George also. Besides, John was in danger of letting his mind race too quickly, to will away the weekend. This was the wrong time to say it but it felt good to Jo that John had felt something of the same emotions that had scarred her. They were in the same emotional room together.

"You don't usually talk when you make love." Jo said softly, adroitly changing the conversation.

"Does it matter?"

"Nothing matters right now except that you're here."Jo answered with feeling and with a sensation of peace and calm. True, it might not last, she admitted to herself but tomorrow was another day.

John lay his cheek next to her neck and immersed himself in those sensations of comfort which, he had to admit to himself, he might need as much as anyone. Such confessions to himself were easiest at moments like this. He was at peace with himself in the knowledge that he had kept his faith with a distant George that was somewhere out there but whom he visualized as smiling kindly down on both of them.

Part Ninety-Two

"What do you do in this country when it's Sunday, George." Kay asked after a soothing morning cup of coffee, which felt all the better as a biting winter wing whipped round the house outside.

"You're worse than I am, Kay, unable to wind down when you've got the chance to." Came the quizzical reply.

Kay had to admit the justice of George's remark as she had blended in her teaching work with getting ready to testify in the trial. She could have taken it easy and been a tourist like any other American.

" You've got me on that one, George." She gracefully conceded. "In my office in Virginia, I'm always used to wondering what the next day will bring or else I'm deep in the middle of some investigation that just won't let me be till I'm done."

"Well, I have the answer to what to do today. Do you want to come with me to Daddy's?"

Kay pricked up her ears. On one word, this very sophisticated English woman betrayed a total unselfconsciousness and affection for her father. She was lucky, she ruefully reflected as her own father had died when she was twelve and her feelings for her own mother weren't exactly in the same league to say the least.

"Are you sure he won't mind some perfect stranger landing on his doorstep?" Kay queried.

"Not at all. He'll love it. It gives him a chance to bask in female company."

"So tell me more about him."

"He's an Appeal Court judge, a totally old fashioned man with strong opinions but curiously enough has always been fond of John even if he's seen him as a dangerous Bolshevik in judge's robes."

"I'll come with you, George. He sounds kind of interesting."

"One thing about Daddy is that he's never boring." George laughed, showing her shining white teeth and her eyes alight. It struck Kay that George had come alive when she talked and thought of him. She was brighter in her spirits than she had seen George and she realized that this visit would do George good at the very least.

Kay opened her eyes wide when her car crunched its way at the end of the broad gravel drive as it curved its way to the end. A huge building spread its way either side of her, a supreme indulgence in gothic architecture in the buttresses of ancient stone, which thrust its roots deep into the soil. To complete the picture, an elderly square sided Rolls Royce occupied its rightful place. It made no concession to modernity and was spotless and gleaming. Many years ago, she had watched old black and white English films and the view in front of her was that movie comes to life in full colour.

"Hey," She exclaimed. "This is some home."

"I'll lead the way. I grew up here."

They found themselves by stages and through various rooms in the sitting room, a large, high ceilinged room with a large, well padded three piece suite and lesser satellite armchairs and, to one side a wall to ceiling bookcase stuffed with well worn hardback books from down the ages. The whole room had that comfortable, lived in feeling. Fittingly, a large lurcher dog sprawled himself by the fireplace like a contented old man, happy to take life easy. While Kay stood there, taking in the whole ambience, Joe came bustling over.

"George. I'm delighted to see you as always. But perhaps you could introduce me to your friend." Joe beamed, greeting Kay as equally as his daughter. He liked the look of this elegant woman with very styled ash blond hair.

"Let me introduce you to Dr. Kay Scarpetta. She's over here from America as she's helping me out as a trial witness and doing some teaching while she's here. She's been staying at my house."

"A doctor eh?" Joe asked

"Not quite the regular doctor, I'm afraid." Kay clarified. "I'm the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia in the field of pathology. My business is more with the dead than the living and in trying to get them justice."

Joe was charmed by Kay's cultured American accent, which nevertheless had that element of the exotic. The last word intrigued him as it had strong resonances of John but then again, in some perverse fashion in such a conformist age, his ideas was becoming subtly contagious. Nevertheless, a mischievous instinct in him resolved to test her out, to see what made her tick.

"It's not the same as in my day. It used to be a man's job, being a top surgeon."

"And it still is, Joe. It just so happens that the field is open for woman if they've got the drive and determination. What could be fairer than that?"

"Oh and who encouraged me to become a barrister, Daddy?" George chimed in. Her darling daddy was a right one to sound off with Victorian notions of women being

in their rightful place. He had positively encouraged her to seek out her own career with no thought of her possibly compromising her femininity.

"You're different, George." He rumbled. "You're my daughter. You have always had a talent in that direction and I was only doing my duty in doing my best for you."

"Meaning that I've always been argumentative, daddy, so I might as well be encouraged to make a respectable living out of it."

"Something like it."

It was obvious to Kay that the verbal sparring between father and daughter was a fixed feature of their relationship and that there was a real affection between them.

"But I have been forgetting my guest. Kay, do you want a cup of coffee or is it too early for something more warming than that?"

"A cup of coffee would be fine."

"Then in that case, I'll have a glass of port." Joe said with complete aplomb as if daring George to disapprove of him. Kay saw with a little amusement his slight disappointment that, for once, she declined to rise to the bait. As they sipped their drinks, Joe took out a silver cigarette case and offered it to Kay.

"By the way, do you mind if we smoke or are you a smoker yourself?"

"I have spent the last twenty years intermittently giving up smoking…."

"…….and failing, I'll bet. One more time won't hurt." Joe added with a conspiratorial smile. He accepted one of his own and, as he gently puffed at his cigarette, rashly ventured into the most forbidden topic of conversation in George's book.

"Talking about accomplishments, I simply must play you a CD recording of a recording that all of us in the judiciary and friends outside of an amateur orchestral performance of Haydn's "Creation." My daughter George took the part of 'Eve' and she turned in a magnificent performance. You must listen to it."

"Oh, Daddy, not now. Must you embarrass me?" Blurted a hugely embarrassed and blushing George.

"I cannot see why. The performance of all of us, even that wretched weasel, Sir Ian, was superb even though I say it myself." Boomed Joe heartily and proudly. Kay noticed a ring of pride in all of them and noted that, in Joe's world, the word 'amateur' was shorn of modern associations of relative incompetence. It simply meant that professionals in one calling performed in another area for the sheer love of it and not to make money out of it. It didn't devalue that activity as far too many of her fellow countrymen were apt to think.

'I don't see why not? The whole performance was superlative even if I say it myself."

"But now is not the time or place. If we listen to the CD, it would mean that we would have to be silent to listen to it properly .We came here to talk to you, not to sit like Trappist Monks." George reasoned with more fluency and assurance now that she had got into her stride.

Joe thought carefully for a moment before he delivered judgment. There was something in what George was saying but he was determined to secure something of his wishes. He knew full well that there was more than one way of killing a cat and inspiration came to his rescue.

"I'll agree to it on conditions. One is that Kay simply must hear the CD with you when you get home. Is that an agreement?" Joe finished on a determined note.

"All right, Daddy, just as you say," Came George's slightly brusque reply, as she knew only too well how firm her father was in sticking to agreements. It was one thing to cut a deal, it was quite another to be on the receiving end of it.

As Joe's housekeeper served an excellent roast beef dinner, conversation tailed off while they ate heartily and it was only over the cheese and biscuits that Joe's active mind questioned Kay of matters American as it was very rare for Joe to come across anyone of that nationality and it gave an excellent opportunity for that verbally combative side of him to be given full rein. She surely couldn't lock horns with him as tenaciously as John, that bastion of willful obstinacy, couldn't she?

"Does your state have capital punishment, Kay?"

"We do, indeed."

"I am happy to say that that was done away with, many decades ago though there are still some of us who have experience of that era."

"I'm surprised that someone so obviously conservative is such a liberal in that one particular area," Kay questioned.

"Liberalism be damned." Came Joe's perverse reply. "The abolition of capital punishment gives something for the Court of Appeal to get its teeth into. It's no good telling an innocent man who is six feet under that we're sorry, we got it wrong and wish to say we're sorry. Even Enoch Powell, as true blue a politician as you could get, was against capital punishment as he knew full well that there but for the grace of god, he might sign somebody's death warrant."

"I'm against capital punishment myself but I have to work within the system as best as I can. I have to autopsy every person who comes from the electric chair within the state of Virginia so I come up against it, personally."

"Of course, if capital punishment still existed we wouldn't have had an enlightening new face on the staff of Larkhall prison." Ventured Joe in a more apparently conciliatory tone of voice.

"How do you mean?"

"Nikki Wade a wing governor who works for Karen. I met her once at the party after the performance of the creation and had a very enlightening discussion as to the merits of custodial sentence. Some years ago, she received a life sentence for taking the life of that vile policeman who was on the point of seriously molesting her partner before she intervened. Between you and me, that judge who first tried the case was toadying to the Home Office in a most shameless fashion. His judgments were as sound as a typical slipshod second hand car salesman. Whenever a case came up for appeal with his name on it, I always had that sinking feeling inside of me of a screw loose somewhere. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the case was taken to the Court of Appeal where her sentence was knocked down to three years for manslaughter. She appealed against that judgment as it left a mark on her name. The appeal was successful and wiped her record clean. The basic case was that that animal was deliberately provoking her. Her barrister very cleverly added on top a plea of defending another human being against attempted criminal assault as analogous to self defence. In making great play on the fact that the dead man was a policeman, the very person employed to stop crime, not commit it, the cumulative weight persuaded the establishment to cut their losses. It was a landmark case and much talked about by the brethren.' I know that John had strong feelings of sympathy with Nikki but even if he had been a high court judge at the time, I'm sure that her case would have been kept out of his hands for obvious reasons."

"So how and why did she choose to work in the prison service? That sounds very unusual."

"From what I understand, I think she wants to give back some of the good fortune to others that she received. She's an incorrigible left winger like John but I must say that she has real spirit. I met her partner, Helen at the same time and they are definitely well suited and well settled." replied Joe.

He had directed a meaning glance at George and there was a very mischievous twinkle in his eye .Kay was surprised by the matter of fact attitude of this very archetypal elderly upper class very English gentleman. Outward appearances could certainly deceive and she couldn't help but make comparisons with her sister, that selfish unmotherly monument of platitudes. Not only did she actively dislike her personally but also she had no respect for her neglectful attitude to her niece Lucy, that erratic genius whose vulnerabilities she knew far better than her sister did. But then again, she ought to remember what a perceptive investigative mind made Marino a very fine policeman despite his outrageously redneck exterior. Her eyes stared into the distance in contemplation.

When Kay had slipped off to the toilet up the north face of the Eiger that was the main staircase, Joe seized the chance to collar George about a matter that had come to his attention by the ever reliable jungle telegraph.

"I've had word that you've not only been skating on thin ice during the trial you're handling with Jo but daring the ice to crack."

"What do you mean, daddy?" she asked unnecessarily as she put two and two together straightaway.

"Your hounding of the witness for the prosecution, that very attractive female surgeon, or so I hear. You've got away with it before but you must not push your luck. The presence of Monty on the bench makes it doubly difficult if you fall off that high wire. It's a long way down. You must act with more restraint in future."

That worried expression on her father's face and the knowledge that he was right made George own up.

"All right, I admit that I did push her further than I should have done but I won't do it again. I'll be more careful….look here, is this in any way official?" George continued with a questioning look on her face.

"The matter is entirely unofficial and private so far but only you have the power to keep it that way, George."

"I promise not to be rash or foolhardy and I'll behave myself in future. I've visited Larkhall prison and I have absolutely no intention of ending up as an inmate." George reasoned with more forceful conviction than before. Her father took one look at her and believed her.

The day resumed its relaxed course and finally George and Kay made their departure.

"Of course, I won't hold you to the agreement but I would like to hear it." Kay offered

in a conciliatory fashion.

"If you listen to it on her own, that's fine by me."

George had other worries on her mind and the matter of potential public embarrassment wasn't such a monumental event after all.

Part Ninety-Three

On the Monday morning, George and Kay drove to court, both of them knowing that today was going to be a very long day. George was continuously running over the questions she would ask, combined with trying to work out what line Brian would take for the prosecution. She wasn't stupid, and was well aware that at least some of Kay's bad publicity was going to be used. Brian might have made a very bad decision with regards to Sylvia Hollamby, but he certainly wouldn't be making any mistakes with a witness like Kay, whose very suspect press would be his only ally.

"I suspect that the prosecution is going to give you a pretty bad ride," George said as they turned into the car park at the Old Bailey. "And I'll try to object to as much of it as possible, but I can't make any promises."

"Oh, don't worry," Kay told her dismissively. "It won't be the first time I've been hauled over the coals so to speak. I should imagine I can give your prosecuting counsel as rough a ride as he's going to give me." Jo was already there waiting for them, as were Karen and Yvonne.

"I didn't want to miss the performance of your star witness," Karen told George as they approached.

"I'll do my best," Kay said with a smile.

When court reconvened at ten o'clock, Kay took the bible in her right hand and read the oath. As George rose to her feet, Kay's eyes made a sweep of the court, taking in the prosecuting counsel, the judges sat above her, and the couple of faces she knew in the public gallery.

"Dr. Scarpetta," George began. "Please would you explain to the court what your usual occupation is?"

"I am the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia," Kay replied, having answered this particular question a thousand times before. "On a day to day basis, this involves investigating suspicious or unexplained deaths. Forensic pathology is often the only way that answers to a question can be found. When a crime is being committed, the perpetrator will regularly make the mistake of assuming that if the victim can't talk, he or she won't eventually be discovered. My job is to assist the police in apprehending such criminals, with the forensic evidence I can compile from examining a dead body."

"Dr. Scarpetta," John broke in, receiving a roll of George's eyes for his trouble. "Is your position a political appointment?"

"Partly, Your Honour, yes," She answered him. "The Governor of Virginia is my immediate boss, and I also have to abide by the policies that filter down to me via the department for Health and Human Services."

"And how long have you held this post?"

"For the last twenty-three years, Your Honour."

"My Lord, if I might continue?" George asked a little testily.

"My apologies, Ms Channing."

"Dr. Scarpetta, please would you explain to the court what type of technology you will be using to present your evidence?"

"When I perform any autopsy, it is part of the routine procedure to excise various tissue samples, which are then fixed in a chemical preservative such as formalin, and which are then made into histological slides that can be examined under a microscope. When I examined Henry Mills body back in October, I took various tissue samples away with me, so that I could have them made into slides back in my office in Virginia, to enable me to examine the samples in the usual way. What I will be doing at some point this morning, is showing various slides in order to explain what I discovered."

"Before the prosecuting counsel beats me to it," George continued, flashing a smirk over at Brian. "Would you please attempt to explain why the pathologist who originally examined Henry Mills, did not take advantage of such technological procedures."

"I can only hazard a guess on this point," Kay replied carefully. "And that is that the type of investigative technology that is available to me in Virginia, far exceeds what is available to any practicing pathologist in this country. Once or twice a year, I come over here to deliver a lecture programme to the medical students who are taught at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington. I can certainly say that the autopsy facilities they have there, are not what I am used to finding back in Virginia."

"What did you discover on initially examining Henry Mills' body?"

"Henry Mills had been suffering from terminal lung cancer," Kay began. "His lungs and lymphatic system were in considerably bad shape, as were his liver and kidneys. It may assist the court to be made aware, that as the liver and kidneys make up the body's filtration system, if they are not in full working order, various toxins and chemicals cannot be filtered out in the usual manner. This means that various substances can build up in the body, to highly dangerous levels. When I examined Henry Mills' liver and kidneys, I found significant levels of morphine metabolites, showing that the morphine he had been prescribed, had built up in these organs, leaving him susceptible to a morphine overdose at any time."

"Please could you explain to the court, what samples you did take from Henry Mills' body and why?" After asking this, George walked over to the slide projector that stood against the far wall and switched it on, giving it time to warm up.

"After obtaining Barbara Mills' permission, I gathered various samples from her husband's body, in order to transport them back to my office in Virginia. These were samples from his liver, kidneys, spleen, heart and lungs, in order to determine just how static his body was at the time of death, and to look for any underlying conditions that were not immediately as evident as his cancer was. This was also why I took several samples of blood to use for toxicology screens and for examination of the general levels of chemicals in his blood stream. Perhaps the most significant sample I took with me, was the excised skin and surrounding muscle from the injection site on his left thigh."

"Precisely how did you do this?" John yet again broke in on George's questioning.

"How did I excise the injection site, Your Honour, or how did I transport everything back to America?" Kay asked, wanting to be absolutely sure of what he wanted from her.

"Both," John told her with a slight smile.

"I first of all marked out the area that I wanted to excise on his thigh, and then measured it to make sure that I didn't lose any of the muscle tension during the excision. To ensure that the area of skin and muscle remained at its exact measurement, I pinned it on a corkboard, remeasuring it after excision. In this manner, the excised tissue remained exactly as it had been at the time of death. To transport everything I had removed from Henry Mills' body to America, I packed them in dry ice in a sealed box, which I carried with me as hand luggage at all times."

"Did you have any problems walking through customs with something like that?" John asked, now infinitely curious.

"It happens every time I do it, Your Honour," Kay said with a rueful smile. "Some officials are even stupid enough to attempt to unpack whatever I'm carrying."

"I don't doubt," John replied, thinking that this was certainly an extremely resourceful woman. "Oh, please continue, Ms Channing," He added, seeing the fire of irritation burning in George's eyes.

"What did you do with the various samples on your return to Virginia?" George asked, feeling that it was John acting as defence counsel, not her.

"They rested in the refrigerator in my Richmond office until I was ready to begin examining them, at which point I fixed slivers of the organ samples in formalin, which were then made up into histological slides for me." Kay now moved over to the slide projector, and adjusted its focus, the slides having been loaded before hand. "When I examined the tissue sample from Henry Mills' lungs," She said, bringing the image into greater focus. "I obviously found unbreakable evidence of his cancer, both of the primary tumour and the secondary spread of disease. You can see where the spread of secondary cancer had taken over virtually the entire surface of the alveoli, the air sacks, making it increasingly difficult for him to breathe as the end approached." Moving onto the next slide, she continued. "If you look at the sample I took of Henry Mills' right kidney, you can see that the tissue is liberally scarred. His kidneys were also shrunken, meaning that if he hadn't been in the final stages of terminal cancer, he would definitely have been in need of dialysis, the artificial cleaning of the blood. His kidneys were not in any condition to properly filter chemicals and waste products from the body, leaving his blood full of toxins and unfiltered drugs, such as the morphine he had been prescribed." The members of the court were treated to the vastly magnified section of renal tissue, whose surface was unevenly scarred. "If we next look at the histological appearance of Henry Mills' liver, we can see that the surface is grainy, puckered, and in some places slightly nodular. This was undoubtedly caused by the build up of morphine metabolites, meaning that the liver also was unable to work at its usual rate. The decrease in both kidney and liver function, was partly to do with the progress of the cancer itself, and partly due to the increasingly static response that the body would have inevitably lapsed into as he became weaker. If the human body is not moving about, performing the day to day activities that most of us take for granted, various systems will begin to shut down, purely and simply because the body thinks they are no longer required. If Henry Mills hadn't died from the morphine overdose, as I believe he did, he would very soon have died from either the progression of the cancer, or kidney or liver failure. The very last slide that I would like to show you is of the tissue section that I excised from Henry Mills' thigh. This area of skin and muscle was of particular interest to me, as it contained the injection site of the very last dose of morphine that he received. The area that I chose to focus on for obvious reasons was the point at which the hypodermic needle pierced the skin." As she brought this into greater focus, the court was given a view of a hole in the skin that had been magnified to the size of a saucer. "At this magnification," Kay continued. "It is possible to prove, by closely examining the surface of the skin around the edge of the puncture mark, that the needle could only have pierced the skin at a particular angle. Taking this evidence into account, I can categorically state that this injection could not have been given by any hand other than that of Henry Mills himself. If it had been, the needle would have punctured the skin at quite a different angle entirely. Henry Mills gave himself that final injection, not his wife."

There was a stunned, thought-filled silence. Brian was inwardly cursing all the yanks and their abundance of technology, and both Karen and Yvonne were staring in awe at this incredible expert.

"In your considered opinion," George continued quietly, feeling the charge in the air around her, and thinking that Kay hadn't really needed her at all. "How did Henry Mills die?"

"I can say, beyond all reasonable doubt," Kay replied, glancing for the first time over at the jury. "That Henry Mills died as a result of a significantly high overdose of morphine, which he undoubtedly administered to himself."

"Thank you," George said wholeheartedly, but knowing that Brian's cross-examination was yet to come.

After the lunchtime adjournment, Brian rose to his feet, with the nastiest expression Jo thought she had ever seen on him.

"Tell me, Mrs. Scarpetta," He began silkily. "Why were you investigated by a Richmond special grand jury for the crime of murder?" There was a murmuring both from the public gallery and from the jury, as George rose hurriedly to her feet.

"My Lord, is this really relevant?" She demanded, vowing to strangle Brian at the nearest opportunity.

"You tell me, Ms Channing," John said thoughtfully. "I think we should hear the answer to such a question."

"I was set up, by the brother of a serial killer, to take the blame for the death of Deputy Police Chief Diane Bray. The special grand jury investigated me to see if there was enough evidence to have me indicted for her murder. As I am standing here and not in a Richmond penitentiary, you may assume that I was not indicted." John regarded her with curiosity. He would have put money on the fact that she hadn't ever been in trouble for anything, but it seemed he was wrong.

"How long did they take to investigate you?" John asked, now beginning to wonder just how much this woman had put up with over the years.

"Just under two months, Your Honour," Kay told him. "Two months of very bad press, almost having to resign from my job, and having most of my closest friends subpoenaed against me." John winced.

"But did you not, Mrs. Scarpetta," Cantwell broke in quickly before John could ask anything else. "Throw the preservative substance known as formalin, that you have yourself referred to this morning, into the eyes of a man whom you willingly let into your house?"

"He was trying, to kill me," Kay said through slightly gritted teeth. "What did you expect, for me to just stand there and let him?"

"She has a point, Mr. Cantwell," John said reasonably. "And I fail to see what relevance this bears to the case in hand."

"My Lord, I am simply trying to establish for the benefit of the jury, that this woman is not what she claims to be, and that her testimony is at the very least suspect in its intent."

"Don't be ridiculous," George retorted, yet again getting to her feet. "My Lord, you cannot allow this."

"Would you not be doing the same if you were in his position?" John asked her silkily, realising too late that he was only adding to her cauldron of anger. "Please continue Mr. Cantwell, as I am forced to admit that you have for once thoroughly piqued my curiosity."

"Mrs. Scarpetta, could you give the court a satisfactory reason as to why you felt it necessary, to cart a box of body parts half way across the world?"

"Before I answer Mr. Cantwell's question, which I did in fact answer this morning, I would like to inform the jury that I am Dr. Scarpetta, not Mrs. Scarpetta. Perhaps Mr. Cantwell would do me the courtesy of remembering that in future. I am entitled to such nomenclature by the following achievements: I am a medical doctor with a law degree. I have a specialty in pathology, with a subspecialty in forensic pathology. I have held the office of Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia for over twenty years, and I also have held the post of consulting forensic pathologist for the FBI. Therefore, I would appreciate being addressed as Dr. Scarpetta in future. As to Mr. Cantwell's question, I took samples of Henry Mills' body back to Virginia with me, purely and simply because the technology available at St. Mary's hospital was not up to the standard of investigation I required, in order to try and secure Barbara Mills' freedom."

"Are you certain that it wasn't so that you could manufacture the evidence, out of plain sight of the resident pathologist at St. Mary's?"

"My Lord!" Objected Jo and George in unison, both rising to their feet in abject fury. "My Lord, I will not put up with such deformation of my witness's character," Jo insisted vehemently.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you must disregard Mr. Cantwell's last question, as I will not allow it to stand. Mr. Cantwell, unless you have reason and proof to back up your insinuations, do not make them."

"Very well, my lord," Brian said almost cheerfully. "As I have far more crushing occurrences to place before the jury concerning this woman."

"I bet you do, you oily little bastard," George muttered none too quietly, though she hadn't quite intended John to hear her.

"Ms Channing," John said firmly. "You will not use such language in my court. Is that understood?"

"Perfectly, My Lord," George drawled back at him, sounding thoroughly unrepentant.

"Dr. Scarpetta," Cantwell continued almost maliciously. "What are your views on violent crime?"

"I abhor violent crime," Kay told him succinctly. "Why else would I be working for state and federal law enforcement?"

"An odd opinion," Cantwell said meditatively. "Coming from one who was directly responsible for the deaths of three people. Do you deny that you shot both Frank Aimes and Denesa Steiner, and that you pushed Temple Gault under a train?" There came a muttered Jesus from Yvonne in the gallery.

"Mr. Cantwell," Kay replied thoughtfully. "Tell me, have you ever been faced by a serial killer, who is either pointing a gun at you, or holding a scalpel to your niece's throat, quite ready to kill her before your eyes?"

"No, of course not," Stammered Cantwell. "But..."

"...Then forgive me for dismissing your question with the contempt it deserves," Kay replied coldly.

"However, Dr. Scarpetta," Cantwell continued, having regained some of his purpose. "Is it not true that you currently possess the permission to carry a gun in this country?" Jo stared at George. This was something she certainly hadn't been made aware of.

"Yes, that is true," Kay replied clearly, trying to maintain the air of being unruffled.

"Tell me," Brian said silkily, sounding almost gentle in his persuasion. "Do you have your gun on you now? Are you standing in a British courtroom, carrying the gun with which you have killed two people?" Kay didn't answer. She might have known this would get out somehow, though she cursed whoever had let such a sensitive piece of information out to a snivelling little barrister like this one.

"Dr. Scarpetta," John quietly intervened, seeing the combined look of apprehension and resignation on her face. "Please would you come here, and stand before me?" Stepping down from the witness box, Kay approached the bench, standing where John could scrutinize her every inch. He did stare at her, his gaze moving very slowly down her immaculately dressed figure. There it was, the way her blazer wasn't entirely aligned, looking slightly fuller on the left-hand side. "Would you remove your jacket?" He asked her, wanting to prove his suspicion right. As the usher moved to relieve her of her jacket, Kay retrieved Senator Lord's letter from the pocket, knowing that this was something else the Judge would want to see, if she were to get out of this mess unscathed.

Unbuttoning her dark blue blazer, Kay handed it to the usher, standing in front of the bench in the matching skirt and white silk blouse. Fastened around her torso, was a black leather holster, with the gun hidden snugly along her side under her left arm. Removing the gun from the holster, Kay reached up and laid it before the judge, securing her letter of permission underneath it. John picked up the gun and examined it, briefly wondering what the world had come to, that a woman in his court had to carry such a weapon of destruction. Laying the gun back on the bench, he read the letter, his eyebrows rising almost to meet his hairline at its content. Well, one thing was for sure, this woman certainly did have friends in high places. Handing the letter to Monty, he asked,

"Why were you given permission to carry a gun in the UK?"

"That isn't a matter I should discuss in open court, Your Honour," Kay told him simply. "Both for my own safety, and that of others." At the end of the front bench, Jo furiously scribbled something on a scrap of paper and then shoved it under George's nose. It simply said:

"You knew about this, didn't you!!!" Turning the piece of paper over, George wrote on the back:

"Trust me. I would have told you had I thought it would be important. Shout at me all you like later on." Monty also having read the letter, John handed both it and the gun back to Kay.

"This matter is not closed," He told her quietly, so that neither counsel should hear him. Taking her jacket back from the usher, Kay returned to the stand.

"Dr. Scarpetta," Cantwell continued, feeling a little lost for words. "I have only one more question for you. In your professional opinion, why should the jury take your interpretation of the facts, over that of the previous two experts who have appeared for the prosecution?"

"The only answer I can give to your question," Kay said a little wearily. "Is that I have access to far more advanced investigative technology than either of your experts currently do. This has enabled me to conduct far more refined tests on the samples I took from Henry Mills' body. To give both Professor Ryan and Mrs. Beauchamp credit, they have arrived at the answers they were able to arrive at, taking their lack of up to date investigative instruments and procedures into account. I do not apologise for the advantages I have in my Richmond office, but I will acknowledge that I have taken the utmost advantage of the considerable funding that has been accorded by the department of justice, precisely to increase the investigative technology at our disposal."

"Would you like to come back, Ms Channing?" John asked, wanting to press onto the chat he planned to have with Kay Scarpetta after this.

"Yes, My Lord, with your permission," George replied, getting to her feet, and trying to ignore the glare Jo was training on her. "Dr. Scarpetta, when you are presented with a suspicious or an unexplained death, what weight do you give to the possible theories the police may give you?"

"I approach every new investigation with an open mind," Kay said firmly. "Whilst the theories of the police should be taken into account, they should definitely not be considered fact, until such fact can be thoroughly proved."

"And last but not least," George said, her voice taking on a calm, quiet, utterly entranced tone. "How did one of your closest friends once describe you?" Slightly smiling at her, Kay replied.

"Someone whom I have known for many years, once described me as being the doctor who hears the dead, the doctor who sits at the bedside of the dead."

"Thank you," George said, trying to put some apology for what had happened into her voice.

John sat for a moment, just watching this complete enigma before him. Those last words, that sentiment was so pure, so simple, that he could not begin to put that description with the woman who carried a gun, and who had clearly used it to end not one but two lives.

"Court is adjourned until tomorrow morning," He said, sounding utterly preoccupied. But as the court rose and voices began murmuring in response to the day's session, he added a little louder, "Dr. Scarpetta, I would appreciate it if you would join me in chambers, immediately."

"Without a chaperone, My Lord?" George couldn't help but ask.

"Yes, Ms Channing. Any objections?" John replied, always wanting the last word.

"Plenty, My Lord, but I think the court has had quite enough shocks for one day."

Part Ninety-Four

As Jo, George and Kay emerged from court, Jo's anger boiled over.

"You owe me about a hundred explanations," Jo hissed at George. "Right now."

"And I'll give you plenty of explanations when we're somewhere not quite so public," George threw back, talking out of the side of her mouth.

"Jo," Kay put in, trying to calm them both down. "This wasn't George's fault."

"Forgive me if I don't agree with you," Jo replied, still sounding furious. "And while we're on the subject, what on earth possessed you to bring that... that thing into a British courtroom?"

"Do you seriously think I would have worn it needlessly?" Kay asked her, now getting a little angry herself.

"I don't know, you tell me," Jo retorted. Forcefully dragging Jo out of the stream of people on their way out of court, George said,

"Do you want Brian Cantwell to think he's won?"

"No, of course not," Jo replied, not immediately understanding George's point.

"Then shut up, and wait until we're somewhere a little more private before you really unleash your anger. All right?"

"Fine," Jo agreed curtly. "But this is not over, not by any means." Turning back to where Kay was watching them, George said,

"His Lordship wishes to see you in chambers, doesn't he."

"Probably to ask for the same explanations Jo wants from you," Kay told her.

"I'll take you up there then."

As they moved towards the stairs and began to climb them, George added, "Jo and I will almost certainly be arguing in my car, as it's pouring with rain and I definitely need a cigarette before trying to sort this one out."

"George, I'm sorry if this has caused any undue friction," Kay said quietly, not forgetting that Jo and George were very much more than just colleagues.

"It had to happen at some point during this trial," George said philosophically. "I'm just surprised it's taken this long." When they reached the door of John's chambers, George knocked. When he bade them to enter, George opened the door and held it for Kay to pass her. "Dr. Scarpetta, My Lord," George drawled, sounding thoroughly uninterested.

"Are you staying?" John asked her as Kay moved into the room.

"Not unless my presence is required, My Lord, no, though I will take this opportunity to inform My Lord, that if there is any hint of improper conduct towards my witness, My Lord will be for the high jump. Is that understood?"

"Perfectly, Ms Channing," John replied, as George backed out and closed the door.

When George had gone, John asked,

"Would you like a cup of tea?"

"Thank you," Kay replied, sitting down in one of the armchairs. Her eyes briefly strayed to the sofa, where she assumed that George had seen John and Connie together. After handing her the cup, John took a seat opposite her.

"I confess to finding you something of an enigma," He began carefully.

"You aren't the first to say so," Kay told him with a guarded smile.

"What made you want to work for law enforcement?" He asked, thinking this to be the crux of the whole matter.

"I didn't do it to end up killing people," Kay told him firmly. "But as you heard in court, on three occasions it was either my life or theirs."

"That's not something I can easily imagine," John admitted, feeling that even though he had been practicing law for many years, this woman's experience of real life far outweighed his own.

"I'm not sure what it is you want to know," Kay replied, briefly wondering why it was that she always had to provide explanations for actions that had been precipitated by some of the most violent people imaginable.

"Tell me about Temple Gault," John said quietly, wondering if he really did have the right to ask her such a thing.

"Gault was on the FBI's 'Ten Most Wanted' list, for killing several people, possibly more than we ever knew of. He was blonde-haired, blue-eyed, classically beautiful in some respects. His partner in crime, Carrie Grethin, got herself a job at the FBI's Engineering Research Facility, where she seduced my niece, Lucy. A few months later, in early January, we caught up with the pair of them in New York. Carrie was apprehended in the Bowery, and I caught up with Gault in the subway tunnel. When I reached him, he was holding Lucy hostage, with one of my own scalpels that he'd stolen from my office held to her throat." She took a sip of her tea, this story almost making her throat go dry. "Do you mind if I smoke?" She asked him, wanting the cigarette to buy her some time as well as for its calming influence.

"It isn't usually permitted inside this building," John told her, seeing her inner distress. "But do feel free to open the window." As she walked across the room and pushed up the sash, Kay found herself to be relieved at no longer having to look at him. When she'd lit a cigarette and taken a long drag, she continued. "I did a deal with him, because I knew that Lucy wasn't really what he wanted. So, Lucy got away, and I was left with Gault. I can't entirely remember what happened next, except that I ended up with the scalpel, and I stabbed him in the thigh. He was stood there, bleeding to death in front of me, begging me to help him. It was odd, but in that moment, he didn't look like a killer any more, just another human being who didn't want to die. I think I pushed him under an oncoming train, because I quite literally didn't know what else to do. It's probably the one violent act that has haunted me intermittently ever since. Other things that I've seen and done creep into my dreams every so often, but not nearly as much as that does. So, I do my job to the best of my ability, so that others can be given the type of answers that I have never been able to find for myself. I expect that sounds a lot more trite than it's meant to be."

"No, not at all," John replied, his interest in this woman only partly quenched. "How much of this did George know before today?"

"When she first engaged my services back in October, I told her to go and look up as much of my press as she could find, before deciding whether or not she, they, wanted me to testify, which they did. If you want the full story, ask her to show you what she found. It'll keep even you entertained for hours." John laughed.

"Why even me?"

"A slip of the tongue," Kay responded with a completely straight face, blowing more smoke out of the window.

"How much has George told you about me?" He asked.

"Probably too much," Kay said a little coolly.

"I sense a mental if not a verbal rebuke behind those deep blue eyes," John said thoughtfully. After taking the last drag from her cigarette and flicking the end out of the window, Kay walked back over to her chair. Once seated, she said,

"I don't like what you did to her, Judge."

"Ah," Was all John could say. He might have known this would happen. "I do appreciate that it is absolutely none of my business," Kay continued. "But you didn't see how hurt she was. She tried to hide it, but not with very much success."

"I'm not exactly proud of it," John said quietly.

"And none of us are perfect," Kay told him matter-of-factly, thinking of the years she'd spent helping Benton to cheat on his wife, funnily enough also called Connie.

"Do you think she'll talk to me?" He asked, the note George had left on his computer still haunting him.

"I don't know," Kay replied quietly, thinking of just how much George was keeping from him. "But that wasn't why you got me up here, was it," She added, wanting to get back to the matter in hand.

"I'm not used to having any kind of gun in my courtroom," John said firmly. "Whatever the reason."

"Believe me, I wouldn't have brought it with me if I hadn't thought it necessary," Kay told him. "The case I am in the middle of back home is directly aimed at me. Several women have been killed, all of whom look as much like me as possible, and all of whom are killed in places that I have recently left. The last that I know of was killed in the vicinity of JFK Airport, which was where I flew from to come over here. It was deemed prudent for me to be armed over here, as we don't yet know to what lengths this killer will go to in order to perpetrate his crimes. He is clearly aiming to eventually kill me, and is currently making do with any woman of similar appearance. That is why I carry my gun with me in any public setting. Quite how the prosecuting counsel found out about it, is something I would very much like to know."

"Thank you for telling me," John said earnestly. "What you are doing is perfectly understandable, though I wish I had been informed beforehand."

When Jo and George got into George's car, they immediately lit up cigarettes. The wind and rain were buffeting against the windscreen, seeming to illustrate both their moods.

"Go on," Jo began. "I'm listening."

"Kay brought her gun over here, and is carrying it virtually everywhere, because of the case she is involved in back in America," George explained, filling in the details as best she knew how. "I didn't know she'd brought it with her, until I took her a cup of tea on the first morning she was here. There it was, staring up at me from the bedside table. It was quite a shock, I can tell you."

"I'll bet," Jo said ruefully.

"Quite how Brian found out about it is anyone's guess," George said bitterly. "I might see if Daddy can do a bit of digging."

"You should have told me," Jo said a little coldly. "What happened, didn't you trust me or something?"

"Don't be ridiculous," George replied testily. "It had nothing to do with trust. Well, perhaps Kay's trust, I'll give you that. This was her story to tell, Jo, not mine. If I'd thought for one moment that it would come out in court, then of course I would have told you."

"George, just because you are used to routinely suppressing important evidence, all in the name of rich, corrupt clients, does not mean I automatically do the same."

"Shall I take that as a complement?" George goaded her, now really riled. "Because you're really beginning to make me wonder why you accepted my help on this case in the first place."

"I didn't have a lot of choice, if I remember rightly," Jo threw back.

"You know you did," George said bitterly. "If you really hadn't wanted me to be involved, then you could quite easily have said so. But you didn't, did you."

"George, you can't keep important things like the mere presence of a firearm from me, if we're going to work together," Jo insisted, not wanting to look at George's previous statement too closely.

"Jo, do you want me to continue working on this case, or don't you?" George demanded, now wanting nothing more than a straight answer. As she said this, the back doors of the car were unceremoniously opened, and Karen and Yvonne slid into the backseat.

"Have you two stopped bickering yet?" Yvonne asked curtly, receiving a throbbing silence in return. "I'll take that as a no," She continued.

"I was just asking Jo whether or not she still wanted my assistance with this case," George told them unfairly. "And I haven't yet received an answer."

"I'm the one paying the fees here," Yvonne said firmly. "Not Jo. I'm paying both of you to get Barbara found not guilty, and I am not paying you to fight over something quite so bloody stupid!"

"Oh, and carrying a gun into a courtroom isn't stupid?" Demanded Jo.

"Not if it's absolutely necessary, no, it's not," Yvonne told her succinctly. "And someone like Kay isn't going to do that without a bloody good reason."

"And do you have any thoughts on this, Karen?" Jo demanded tartly.

"Oh, leave me out of it," Karen said without a flicker. "It's not my fight."

"It isn't going to be anyone's fight," Yvonne said firmly. "Yes, George should have told Jo about Kay's gun, and Jo, you need to calm down about something that really isn't a problem. So, quieten down, and kiss and make up, the pair of you." There was silence in the car, apart from the patter of rain on the windows. As she was the one who had something to apologise for, George leaned over and planted a gentle kiss on Jo's lips.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," She said quietly.

"I know," Jo said softly, briefly kissing her back.

"That's better," Yvonne said cheerfully. "Now, why don't we all go for a well-deserved drink?"

"I've got to wait for Kay," George said, "but we could join you as soon as she appears."

""Good," Yvonne said as she opened the car door. "We'll be in that bar where we used to go during Lauren's trial."

When Kay had left, John strolled thoughtfully along to Monty's chambers.

"Ah, John, I wondered what had become of you," Monty said when he appeared. "Would a large scotch be somewhat appreciated?"

"Definitely," John said with a mental stretch. "Today has certainly been one of those days, hasn't it?"

"John, I am coming to the conclusion that every day of your trials is like that," Monty said with a rueful smile.

"I've just had a very interesting conversation with Kay Scarpetta," John told him, after taking a grateful sip of the scotch. "And I promise you, she really does have a very good reason for carrying a gun with her at all times, though I am loathed to admit that it is necessary in my own courtroom." As he filled in the details for Monty's benefit, Monty's eyebrows rose.

"It sounds as though she's an extremely capable girl," He said in awe when John had finished.

"I think they have to be in a job like hers," John said thoughtfully. "It's not a life I would want to lead."

"You do lead it in a manner every day of your working life," Monty told him. "We all do. Granted, we aren't usually in the same sort of danger that one of her calibre may be, but we are still fighting the battles that need to be fought, or at least overseeing them."

After a thoughtful silence, Monty said,

"John, there is a matter that I would like to discuss with you, that isn't directly trial related. Well, partly it is, but not entirely."

"You're talking in riddles, Monty," John said with a smile.

"Connie Beauchamp," Monty said simply, watching the blank, shuttered expression on John's face.

"What about her?" John asked guardedly.

"George's voice does carry, John," Monty informed him. "Especially at the time of day when this place is pretty quiet. She was absolutely right, you know. If you and Connie Beauchamp had been discovered by Ian Rochester, you'd have no doubt been packed off to Warwick again."

"Are you going to report me?" John asked, seeing that it would be pointless to deny what he'd done with Connie last Tuesday.

"No, I'm not, but I had hoped that you might have learnt your lesson after last time."

"Vivian Hurst wasn't a patch on Connie Beauchamp," John said thoughtfully. "Though I shouldn't say it."

"Why do you do it, John?"

"That's rich, Monty," John said with a laugh.

"Perhaps," Monty agreed amicably. "But I sometimes think that you are the one who more rightly deserves the name that I am aware is often accorded to me."

"I didn't get a court reporter pregnant," John said quietly.

"Only through sheer luck," Monty threw back disgustedly. "John, not only do you have one beautiful woman who loves you, something for which many men would give their right arm for, but you have two, two women who would give almost anything to keep you happy, to say nothing of their feelings for each other."

"How on earth do you know about that?" John asked, utterly stunned.

"You should see the way you all look at each other sometimes," Monty said almost wistfully. "Something you really ought not to throw away for the likes of the most enticing prosecution witness I've seen in a long time. They don't deserve it, John, and it's about time you realised what you've got."

Part Ninety-Five

When Jo arrived at court on the Tuesday morning, her head was foggy and aching. This was entirely her own fault she knew, but that didn't exactly make her feel any better. Tom Campbell-Gore would be on the stand today, and she luckily couldn't foresee any major problems with his testimony, or the questions that the prosecution might fire back at him. She was standing outside on the steps, having a cigarette to try and clear her head, and to prepare herself for the onslaught to come. When Tom himself walked through the heavy, swing doors behind her, she gave him a slightly wan smile.

"You here already?" She asked, not having thought he would arrive till almost the last minute.

"I wanted to be here in good time," He told her, eyeing her cigarette and following it up to the slightly bloodshot eyes that were squinting at him through the flame. "Are you all right?" He asked, thinking that he'd seen that look far too often on himself over the years.

"It's entirely my own fault," Jo found herself admitting. "So I don't expect any sympathy."

"Try diet coke," Tom told her matter-of-factly. "It's the best hangover cure in the business, and I should know."

"Thank you," Jo replied with a smile. "By the way, I hope you're aware that the time prior to your recovery might be something that the prosecution could choose to focus on."

"Oh, don't you worry," Tom told her confidently. "There isn't anything they can throw at me that I didn't have thrown at me at the time. The surgeon who discovered my predilection to drinking was less than impressed to say the least."

"Just as long as you're ready for it," Jo said, feeling a duty to look after this man while he was on the stand, no matter how ready for it he thought he was.

When the court reconvened, Tom took the bible in his right hand and intoned the oath, wondering just how many people had stood here like this before him.

"Mr. Campbell-Gore," Jo began, sounding a lot more calm and confident than she really felt. "In your experience in cardio thoracics, what treatment might you have attempted, if you had been presented with a patient such as Henry Mills?"

"There is no doubt," Tom replied amicably. "That Henry Mills' cancer was extremely developed, with the possible options for treatment being considerably limited. I may have attempted some form of surgery, in order to relieve his immediate difficulties, though this would not have had any meaningful effect on the time he had left to live."

"What opinion would you give," Continued Jo. "On the surgeon who decided that operating on Henry Mills was not a viable option?"

"To give Mrs. Beauchamp her due," Tom said carefully. "The fact that she decided against surgery as a possible treatment option, does not mean that she was in any way derelict in her duties. One professional opinion is as good as another in this case, and surgery would only have made a slight difference in his general condition."

"What life expectancy would you have given Henry Mills, from the time of his diagnosis?"

"I would never have given either him or his wife a precise idea of how long Henry Mills would live," Tom said firmly. "When giving any such patient an idea of how long they might have to live, it is always safest to be less precise than Mrs. Beauchamp apparently was, for example to say months rather than years, or days rather than weeks. I would have said to Henry Mills that he may live a few weeks, or that he may live a few months, and that I couldn't possibly be more precise than that. This is because all cancers affect their sufferers in different ways, meaning that each patient will cope in a different manner, which can mean the difference between living weeks or months."

"Taking your years of experience into account," George said, rising to her feet as Jo sat down. "What would the increasing amount of pain done to Henry Mills' state of mind?"

"I am not a psychiatrist," Tom said with half a smile. "But I can suggest that the pain, which would have undoubtedly increased as time went by, may possibly have rendered him vulnerable to feelings of depression and a wish for it all to end. No one could possibly blame him for seeking such a way out."

"Do you believe this to be what happened with Henry Mills?" George asked, thinking Tom's description to be a particularly poignant one, all to the good where the jury was concerned.

"I have no particular reason for believing otherwise," Tom said without a flicker. "I did not personally deal with Henry Mills at the point of his diagnosis or palliative care, but having since discussed this case with his wife, I do not believe that she could possibly have killed him, no matter how much he might have wanted to die."

"Mr. Campbell-Gore," Brian said as he rose swiftly to his feet. "Do you ever take risks?"

"Frequently," Tom replied mildly. "But only ever in my patient's best interest."

"Does the name Kate Louis mean anything to you?" Brian asked silkily, immediately putting both Jo and George on the alert.

"Seeing as both Kate and Louis are fairly common names," Tom replied amicably. "No, they don't."

"Kate Louis was a patient of yours, back in January 2004. She was suffering from Marfan's Syndrome. Would you like to explain to the court what Marfan's Syndrome is?"

"Marfan's Syndrome is quite literally a bulging of the aorta, the main blood vessel leading from the heart that supplies the rest of the body. As the patient's blood pressure increases, the stress point in the aorta becomes steadily thinner and more inclined to rupture."

"When you diagnosed Kate Louis as having Marfan's Syndrome," Brian continued. "You decided, in your professional judgment, that you could operate on her to repair her aorta, an operation that would involve putting her into deep hypothermia. Please would you explain to the court what this means for the patient concerned?"

"Putting a patient into deep hypothermia involves draining their heart of blood, and therefore depriving their brain of a blood supply for no longer than forty-five minutes. It is extremely risky, but in this case, I felt that it was Kate Louis's only option if she wanted to live."

"What are the risks involved in performing such a procedure?"

"If the brain is deprived of oxygen for too long, any amount of physical or mental disabilities can occur. The patient was warned of the risks, but she chose to take the chance to live."

"Might I take this opportunity to inform the court," Brian said with a sadistic smile on his face. "That you chose to perform such a dangerous and risky operation, after you had fulfilled the requirements of an entire day's list, and whilst you were involved in a very busy nightshift, therefore meaning that you were possibly not at your best. Do you deny that this may have been a possibility?"

"I do not operate on patients unless I can offer them my absolute best," Tom said firmly and clearly.

"Mr. Campbell-Gore," Brian continued almost conversationally, giving no warning whatsoever that he was about to hopefully topple the witness. "Do you deny that you are a recovering alcoholic?"

"Not in the least," Tom said mildly, having been well and truly prepared for this.

"However, might you seek to deny that you did, on numerous occasions, operate whilst clearly intoxicated?"

"To my utmost displeasure, no, I do not deny such a fact."

"Did your drinking ever cause you to take unnecessary risks in the operating theatre?"

"No, I don't consider that it did."

"But how can you be sure?"

"Mr. Cantwell," Tom replied firmly and with a slight hint of anger in his voice. "I may have found it necessary at one time to take a swig of vodka before entering the operating theatre, but under no circumstances did my addiction put any of my patients at risk."

"Taking your addiction into account, why should the court take one word you say with more than a pinch of salt?"

"Mr. Cantwell," John broke in firmly, demanding his and everyone else's immediate attention. "You will not continue with this line of questioning. I am certain that the court will agree with me, when I say that to overcome such an addiction and to come out the other side of the relevant treatment for it, is an undoubtedly enormous achievement. Such an achievement can only be commended, and will not, in my court, be used as ammunition to attempt to discredit this or any other witness."

"I am much obliged, My Lord," Tom told him, seeing a real depth of understanding in this judge, and wondering just how far Jo Mills' drinking put her at risk from the same traumas as he had been forced to endure.

Part Ninety-Six

When Zubin frantically brought his car to a stop in the car park of the Old Bailey, he knew he was going to be late. What ought to have been a routine operation had been prolonged into something far more serious, making him extremely late in leaving for court. But as he strode purposefully towards the enormous old building, he saw George, stood on the steps outside the front doors, smoking.

"I was wondering when you would turn up," She said as he approached.

"I thought I was going to be late," he said, stopping next to her and sounding a little breathless.

"Don't worry," George told him placatingly. "Court isn't starting for another ten minutes, so you've got plenty of time. Take a deep breath and calm down. We'll look after you." Doing as she'd said, he eyed her thoughtfully.

"Do you know just how bad for your health that is?" He couldn't help asking, as she exhaled a plume of smoke.

"Oh, and isn't sleeping with women who get paid for it also bad for one's health?"

"Thank you for the reminder," Zubin said caustically.

"Oh, well, at least the prosecution doesn't know about that," George said with a smile. "At least I don't think they do. I've had tabs on Brian Cantwell since the word go."

"You start to sound more and more like Connie every time I speak to you," Zubin said darkly. George laughed.

"Did she tell you about the roasting I gave her last week?"

"No," Zubin said looking very interested all of a sudden. "She's actually been very quiet about her time in court."

"I bet she has," George said with some amusement. "Just remember how lucky you are that you're on the right side in this case."

When Zubin finally stood in the witness box, he remembered her words, and thought that yes, he certainly did have the better end of the deal.

"Professor Khan," Jo began. "What does your job mean to you?"

"My job is ultimately about relieving a person's pain," Zubin replied, trying to remember that lecture he'd once given in the company of Ric, where he'd also uttered such sentiments. "From initial diagnosis to either complete cure or time of death, I am responsible for either completely anaesthetising a patient, or doing my utmost to control the pain they feel. Just as much of my work is spent in post-operative pain management as it is in pre-operative anaesthetic. Nothing can quite compare, to the knowledge that I have been able to even slightly assuage the pain a person feels whilst suffering from any disease or injury."

"In your profession as an anaesthetist," Jo continued. "How does it allow you to interact with that of the surgeons around you?"

"We are all part of a team," Zubin told the court confidently. "I anaesthetise the patient, and the surgeons operate on him or her, with the nurses and physicians taking over after we have completed our work, though some say the work of a doctor is never done. If we did not work as a team, no patient would ever survive their encounters with us."

"How much did you actually see of Henry Mills, during the few weeks that preceded his death?"

"I generally saw Henry on a twice weekly basis, where I would assess his deteriorating condition, and prescribe the relevant doses of Morphine. These last few visits were performed at his home, as he was unable to continue making the journey to the hospital. This was by no means uncommon, as I do it with several of my patients who decide to remain at home in the final stages of their illness."

"How well did you get to know his wife?"

"Naturally I got to know Mrs. Barbara Mills extremely well, as she was primarily in charge of administering her husband's Morphine. I found her to be a warm, sympathetic, very caring woman, and a woman in whom I had complete faith to take care of her husband in his final weeks."

"How supportive were you," Jo asked him carefully. "Of her decision to care for Henry at home?"

"Once I met her and assessed her capability for such a task, I was entirely agreeable to her doing this," Zubin replied without any hesitation. "Barbara was taught how to administer the Morphine, plus the other drugs that Henry was taking. She was perfectly competent in performing these tasks, and she did not present me with any cause for concern at her choice to care for her husband at home. As I have said before, many spouses or partners do choose to do this, and it is most commendable when such a choice is taken."

"Finally, Professor Khan," Jo said a little somberly. "Did it surprise you to hear that Henry Mills had killed himself?"

"Yes," Zubin replied with equal weighting to his tone. "Henry had always struck me as a practical, straight-thinking, no-nonsense kind of man, and I would never have expected the thought of suicide to enter his head, but one should never underestimate what severe pain can do to a person's mind. We as professionals can have no real idea what our patients suffer, unless we have been through similar experiences ourselves, which most of us haven't."

"Thank you, Professor Khan," Jo said as she retook her seat, signalling the end of the questioning from the defence.

"Professor Khan," Brian said as he rose to his feet. "Why, if you say that one should never make assumptions as to what one patient can stand, did the issue of possible suicide attempts never cross your mind with regards to Henry Mills?"

"Because, as I have already stated," Zubin said a little testily. "Neither he nor his wife ever gave me reason to consider it as a possibility. As I saw it, they were both dealing with his illness in a practical, wholly pragmatic fashion, something I wish I could see in all my patients. The only point of real concern that Henry ever voiced in my presence, was that having to care for him on an almost constant basis was clearly exhausting his wife. He didn't want her to become ill herself in caring for him. He clearly loved his wife, and didn't want to be a burden to her." There was a slight silence in the court as these words were taken in and digested, because Zubin had far too clearly spelt out to the jury what Barbara's life would have been like. In just those few words, he had fully illustrated the picture of her life with a dying Henry.

"Taking all this into account," Brian continued a little carefully. "What makes you assume that his wife is innocent?"

"You didn't see the way that Barbara cared for her husband, day in day out," Zubin said fervently. "She would no more have killed him, than I would deny my patient the correct dose of anaesthetic during an operation. Barbara devoted every ounce of energy she had to caring for Henry, to administering his pain relief, and to making him feel as loved as she could. I saw evidence of this every single time I visited him. It is extremely rare that I consider a terminally ill cancer patient to be lucky, but in a way, Henry was. He couldn't have asked for better care, or a more loving wife. That is why Barbara is innocent of the crime of which she is accused, because she simply could not have performed such an act, even to help her husband out of the pain-filled hell he was inhabiting." Zubin knew that he had been treading on thin ice with this one, because he was well aware of Barbara's previous imprisonment and why she had been there, but he'd felt it to be the right thing to say.

After listening to Zubin's heartfelt reasoning, John took a moment to survey this man stood before him. He looked like a professor, that was true, and he looked like someone who would mean every word he uttered, if only to insist on his own superiority. But he had been sincere in his pronouncements of Barbara's innocence, John knew that, and when Brian sat down, clearly having no more questions for the Professor, John simply said,

"Court will adjourn till ten tomorrow morning," Before rising from his throne and retreating through the door behind the judge's bench.

Part Ninety-Seven

It was early Tuesday afternoon, and Kay was tidying up after a morning of demonstrating various autopsy techniques. This was a pretty dull part of the job, but a necessary one if the next generation of medical examiners, or pathologists as they called them in this country, were to be brought into being. She knew that Zubin was in court this afternoon, and hoped that that ass-hole of a prosecuting barrister wouldn't give him as rough a ride as he'd given her. Kay in her role of expert witness was used to the likes of him, though it had been something of a shock to have to show her gun like that yesterday. But as she wheeled the autopsy tables back into position after cleaning, the phone in the morgue office began to ring.

When she picked it up, Tom's voice greeted her.

"Kay, it's Tom Campbell-Gore."

"Tom," She replied with a smile. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm in theatre and could do with a spare pair of hands. Are you available?"

"On my way," Kay told him succinctly. "Where are you?"

"Fifth floor, Keller theatre, next door to Darwin." Slamming down the phone, Kay rapidly made her way along the endless corridors and up in the lift to the fifth floor. Following the signs to the Darwin and Keller operating theatres, she pushed her way through the heavy swing doors.

"Kay, good to see you," Tom greeted her. "Will's next door with Connie doing a heart and lung transplant, so I've got no registrar. I thought you wouldn't mind a chance to assist."

"Are you sure I'm up to the job?" Kay asked, hoping that Tom's faith in her skill would be substantiated.

"Of course you are," Tom assured her. "Now, we've got an RTA with chest and abdominal trauma. He's got part of the steering-wheel lodged in his chest, so I need you to hold it still while I cut around it."

"Just let me get scrubbed up," Kay replied, also noticing that they weren't alone. When she returned, gloved, gowned and scrubbed, to stand opposite Tom at the top end of the table, her eyes strayed to the two surgeons at the lower end of the table.

"Ric, Diane, this is Dr. Kay Scarpetta," Tom introduced them. "Ric Griffin, and Diane Lloyd his registrar."

"Good to have you with us," Ric said, glancing over at her. "Zubin's told me a lot about you."

"I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or bad," Kay said ruefully, turning her attention to the twisted piece of metal and plastic sticking out of the man's chest. "I take it he wasn't wearing a seatbelt," She said, the disgust and resignation there for all to hear.

"No," Tom replied exasperatedly. "Stupid fool. I need to do a thoracotomy in order to determine just how far this thing has gone into his chest. I need you to hold this very, very still, so that it doesn't do even more damage while I'm cutting round it." As Kay did his bidding, holding the piece of steering-wheel with one hand, and handing him various instruments with the other, she took a look at what the other two were doing lower down. Ric was standing next to her, with Diane opposite him next to Tom. Feeling her gaze on him, Ric looked up.

"This man also managed to give himself a lot of blunt trauma to the abdomen, rupturing his spleen and tearing the liver."

"I take it General surgery is your specialty," Kay said, just making polite conversation.

"Absolutely right," Ric said as he extracted a piece of spleen with the forceps. "You can be dealing with breast tumours one day and bowel resections the next."

"Variety is the spice of life, isn't that what you're always telling me?" Diane said as she used the suction to remove a lot of freestanding blood from the perritoneal cavity.

"I get quite enough variety in cardio thoracics, thank you very much," Tom said dryly.

"Yeah, and get to play god at the same time," Ric put in much to Diane's and Kay's amusement.

"How do you like working with the living for a change?" Diane asked Kay.

"It's an opportunity I wouldn't have missed," Kay said without a flicker.

"You can come into my theatre anytime," Tom told her with absolute certainty.

"Now that is an offer you can't refuse," Diane teased him.

"Where's Ed Keating today?" Ric asked, wondering at the absence of Tom's usual registrar.

"He called in sick," Tom replied disgustedly. "Probably with a hangover."

"Well, you should know," Ric responded amicably.

"Anyway," Tom continued, ignoring Ric's comment. "I think he spent the night with Sr. Williams last night."

"Chrissie really does get around, doesn't she," Diane said thoughtfully.

As Tom finished cutting around the piece of steering wheel, Kay removed it and handed it to the theatre nurse.

"That might be needed as evidence," Kay said, her usual career slipping easily into place.

"We have a true investigator in our midst," Ric commented with a smile.

"This isn't just your average investigator," Tom informed him. "Kay is the Chief, Medical examiner of Virginia, no less."

"Wow," Diane said, sounding clearly impressed. "Zubin didn't tell us that."

"It's not always all it's cracked up to be," Kay said with a sardonic smile. "But I've never wanted to do anything else."

"Oh, and I thought that spending time in my theatre might have tempted you back into the fold," Tom drawled, trying to sound disappointed.

"Tom," Kay replied with a broad smile. "Spending time in your theatre has been and always will be, if I get the chance to do it again, nothing but a sincere pleasure."

"And with Tom," Ric put in dryly. "Flattery will get you anywhere."

"Now then, Dr. Chief," Tom teased her. "Would you like to stitch that tear in the left lung for me?"

"By all means, Mr. Campbell-Gore," Kay replied, putting extra emphasis on the Mister. Working with her hands inside this living, breathing chest, Kay wondered why she had always been determined to work with the dead and not the living. Anna was right, she was the doctor who sat at the bedside of the dead, but now, here, she was at the bedside of the living.

"What thoughts are going through that brain as we speak?" Ric asked Kay, feeling the mental energy coming off her in a wave. Kay briefly glanced up from her needlework.

"I was just wondering what I've been missing all these years," She told him thoughtfully. "I've worked with the dead for the greater part of my life. Working with the living again, it's quite, something." Kay's response was undeniably guarded, but all three of them could tell that it was really a very enlightening experience for her.

After they'd finished in theatre, Kay put her emerging idea into action. Ever since she'd discovered that Ric Griffin dealt with breast tumours, she had been vaguely planning what she might say to him concerning George. Now that she knew about George's steadily growing problem, she couldn't just ignore it, no matter how much George might want her to do so. She didn't have to give anyone George's name, but nothing would stop her from at least seeking some advice on George's behalf. Leaving Tom to deal with the patient's relatives, Kay walked through to Keller ward, separated from Darwin by nothing more than a nurses' station, and began looking for Ric's office.

"Can I help you?" A nurse enquired of her, whose name badge said Sr. Lisa Fox.

"I'm looking for Mr. Griffin's office," Kay told her.

"Just down there," Lisa said, pointing down the corridor. "He is in there." Walking to where Lisa had gestured, Kay knocked, the deep, gravelly voice bidding her to come in. When Kay pushed open the door, she found a very cluttered room, containing endless filing cabinets, a well-worn desk and a slightly battered sofa.

"Dr. Scarpetta," Ric said, looking up in surprise. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm on the hunt for a little advice," She said, coming straight to the point.

"Take a seat," Ric invited, gesturing to the sofa. "Would you like some coffee?"

"Thank you," Kay replied gratefully. "I suspect we could both do with it after that operation."

"Our plastics expert, Carlos Fishola, once said that this place is getting more like Miami everyday," Ric commented dryly.

"Miami was where I grew up," Kay told him with a wry smile. "So I can definitely see the resemblance." Putting his head out of his office door, Ric called to Donna and asked her to make two cups of coffee.

"What did your last slave die of?" Donna replied with a grin.

"The shock when I gave her a pay rise," Ric told her smartly. Closing the door again, he said, "Donna makes the best coffee round here because she comes to work with hangovers so regularly that she lives on the stuff."

"I'm glad to see that some things haven't changed since I was in med school," Kay said ruefully. "I think the late nights and the hangover remedies are part of the territory."

When Donna had returned with the coffee and left them to it, Ric said,

"So, how can I help?"

"I have a friend," Kay said carefully, thinking that George did now fit into that category. "Who has a lump in her breast, but who hasn't yet sought any treatment."

"Is this an actual friend," Ric replied knowingly. "Or is this the kind of friend whose existence miraculously disappears when you realise you can trust me." Kay smiled.

"No, this is an actual, entirely real friend. If I were the one with the problem, I wouldn't be so stupid as to leave it quite so long. I've far too often had the consequences of such actions on my slab in the morgue to think of doing the same."

"Well then," Ric said with professionalism dripping from every syllable. "You need to persuade your friend to come forward. We can't help her if she doesn't."

"She's terrified," Kay told him. "And entirely fixated on how she may look if she should be forced to have her breast removed."

"Which is entirely natural," Ric said with sympathy. "But the longer she leaves it, the more likely such an outcome is. How old is she?"

"I'm not sure, but late forties I think. She is also a smoker, but then so are too many of us who know better, and she has a nice little line in anorexia. She says that she's had the lump since Christmas, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a little white lie in there somewhere."

"Have you seen it?" Ric asked, making a few notes on this case who didn't yet have a name.

"No, I've had no reason to see it. If I was back home in the States, I'd simply take her to a surgeon myself without any problems, but that's not how you do things over here, is it."

"No," Ric said thoughtfully. "Patients are always referred by the GP's. It tends to cut down on the time wasters who have more money than sense."

"The less people I have to persuade her to talk to about this the better," Kay said succinctly. "Is there any way she could bypass that system?" Steepling his fingers on the pile of papers in front of him, Ric stared up at the ceiling for a moment, trying to unravel this little quandary.

"You're a fully licensed doctor," he began contemplatively. "You'd have to be to be able to operate like you did this afternoon. Tell me, would she be an NHS patient or private."

"Private, without a doubt," Kay said without hesitation. "Someone like her isn't going to be without medical insurance."

"Then that makes things a little easier," Ric said, hitting on the correct course of action. "I'll make her an appointment on my private list, and you can refer her to me."

"Is that permitted over here?"

"In private medicine, anything is possible," Ric told her cynically. "What I would need you to do, to make it as authentic as possible, is to first examine her, make sure she isn't worrying over nothing, and write me a letter to that effect which she can bring with her when she comes to see me." Picking up the phone, he punched in the number for the private hospital where he and most of his colleagues did a stint every week. Having spoken to one of the nurses in the general surgery department, he arranged an appointment for a week on Thursday, Kay having told him that George wouldn't be able to do anything till that week. "Do we have a name?" Ric asked Kay with a raised eyebrow.

"George Channing," Kay told him, feeling that she had finally done something to help, whether or not it would actually be appreciated was a different matter. When Ric had put the phone down and given Kay the appointment time, his door was thrust unceremoniously open to reveal Diane.

"Sorry," Diane said apologetically. "I didn't realise you had company. We've got a bowel perforation in theatre."

"Oh, the day just gets better and better," Ric said dryly, getting up from behind his desk.

"Thank you," Kay said gratefully. "I'll make sure she turns up, even if I have to stay here and drag her there myself."

Part Ninety-Eight

George had slipped so easily into her familiar pattern of doing her section of her preparation for the events for the next day that it only dawned on her that she hadn't seen so much of Jo recently. There were a number of ready explanations that she could use to excuse, to justify herself. She was used to the sheer hard work that a protracted trial demanded but these were civil cases where the difference meant whether or not her client paid out or did not large sums of money. It all seemed terrifically important at the time. For the first time in her life, she was the right side of the fence in deciding on the future of a human being in a criminal court. She could understand how Jo got so emotional about such matters even if she didn't share Jo's sentiments. She dare not let herself go and be sure that she could give of her best. In court, she knew only too well that only stone cold objectivity served her client best.In that way, she squared that circle nicely.

When it came down to it, she admitted to herself, while Kay pottered about upstairs, she felt bone weary and really not up to socializing. That stray thought betrayed her initial mental preamble as a sheer diversion from what she was really feeling. Blowing out a long breath of carcinogenic smoke into the air, she carefully laid down her thoughts for her to see like a sequence of cards, played from off the top of the pack. She knew that Jo was struggling to hold her head up during the trial but she doubted her own ability to give the emotional sustenance that Jo needed. Well, she answered herself defiantly, she was just going to have to jolly well try despite her misgivings.

In that state of heightened nervousness, she rushed round the house to give it a quick tidy up, put on her coat, grabbed her keys and, as an unaccountable afterthought, flipped a CD from her rack and left it carelessly on the coffee table. She called out to Kay and was gone in a rush of cold air behind her.

"George." Jo called out, "It's good to see you. It's better than staring at these four walls."

The other woman put her arms round her, drew her to herself and kissed her. George could not detect any whisky on her breath and reproached herself for the thought. She would not exactly be overwelcoming to any visitor who cast an eye upon her figure and then her fridge only from the point of view of gauging her non-eating habits.

"I'm not disturbing you in the middle of preparing for the trial, Jo?" George asked solicitously.

"I'm as ready as I'll ever be for the next day so I can give way to temptation." Jo replied with a twinkle in her eye.


"That I can have a quiet drink or two with someone who is close to me." Jo replied, stretching herself luxuriously. Immediately, warning bells were set off in George's jangled thoughts.

"You had better leave me out from part of what you've got in mind."

"It's not like you to plead the course of virtuous restraint, George Channing." Jo teased in her bantering tone of voice.

"More like the course of practicality." Came George's terse reply. "I've got to be home tonight so I can be ready for the trial. This means that I am really not prepared to chance myself being hauled up in a local magistrates court, lose my driving licence for two years and pay a fearful fine and all for one night's indulgence. If I indulge my pleasures, I will at least ensure that I have something memorably enjoyable to look back on the next day."

The look that Jo shot at George was one of pure wounded hurt emotion at the judgmental harshness in George's tone of voice. She knew that George knew her urge to that recourse to the one surefire cure easily to hand to instill fuzzy feelings of good feelings inside her. In driving away that overwhelming depression, it worked every time for that evening . George was acting as that pitiless wake up call to reality. What made it worse for George was that , behind her firm exterior, was that she would be a fine one to judge when she was performing her own retreat from reality except that, she was sincerely trying to help Jo.

"Look, Jo." She continued gently with a slight smile on the corners of her lips, "I'm as tired as you but I just wanted a quiet evening in with you on the settee."

George felt hugely relieved, as a light seemed to be turned on in Jo's face as she was faced with an alternative attraction. As Jo clicked off the overhead lights, she allowed George to lead her by the hand and settled down on a two-seater settee. It was made for such intimacy as George nestled her head against Jo's neck. They both knew that it meant nothing heavy, just two friends seeing each other through a mutually draining experience of the trial with just that bit of sexual spicing. They could afford to let the time go for just that blessed period of time.

"We're nearly through the trial."Jo sleepily remarked half an hour later into George slightly ruffled blond hair. "We've made most of the running so far."

"We're not out of the wood yet, darling." Drawled that forward looking other voice against her breasts. "but so far, we're winning. Brian really was very foolish to think that he could get the better of the two of us."

Jo laughed lightly into the intimacy of the dim lighting at George's humour. It had been a long time that there was anything worth laughing about.

Kay recalled feeling that now she had been on the stand and seen the way as to how George could get the overdue medical attention she needed, she could afford to have a nice restful night in. George flitted backwards and forwards in a nervous way in getting ready to see Jo so that Kay tactfully stayed out of the way.

"See you sometime." George called out from the other side of the open front door before it was shut. Kay went to answer but gave it up as somewhat redundant. When Lucy had stayed with her, she had acted in a similar manner. Although she was several decades George's junior, the similarities were more than she would have expected. Kay had supposed that the archetypal aristocratic English accent guarantee perfect confidence and self assurance but now she wasn't that sure.

Kay entered what to her was the most comfortable room in the house as central to it was the open coal fire casting an attractive glow in the room while all was cold and dark outside. The coal embers were dying down and only simmering red glow lined the spaces in between the burnt out charcoal. It came second nature to her to reach out for a chopped up piece of log and to lay it sideways across the fire. In no time, yellow flames crackled up around the wood and the fire sprang to life. She could feel the heat on her face and that glowing feeling of being sheltered from the wind and the rain. It was a primitive ritual that gave her good feelings inside, no matter how modern or computerized the world was that she lived in.

It was a little later that her attention was taken away by the CD left out as if casually on the coffee table. It was the only object on display and she would have thought that George's tidy ways would have put it together with her neatly arranged collection. Immediately, she scratched out that last thought. George really wanted her to hear the CD but couldn't say outright. Smiling to herself, she detached the paper from the CD box and closely examined it. On the front, was a posed photograph of four immaculately dressed men and one woman not dissimilar to a high school group shot. She could instantly recognise John, Monty, and, George in the centre and occupying pride of place with a wide smile on her glowing face. The very proud man standing next to her must be Joe Channing

She turned back to the lengthy credits for the members of the orchestra and the images of the human beings crawled out from their neatly typed names and assumed the human dimensions of the real life players whom she had observed in court. At the bottom of the page was inscribed the following dedication to which the passing time had lent the most supreme irony.

"…….we must give special credits to the unfailing kindness of Reverend Henry Mills and his wife, Barbara, without whose hospitality and the use of Chipping Ongar church for the performance and the church hall for the rehearsals, this performance would not have been possible…."

She tried not to think of that too much as it surely wouldn't help her out right now. She poured herself a glass of white wine, which she sipped from and laid it on the coffee table. She put on the CD with a deliberate motion and sat back in the easy chair next to the roaring fire to compose her spirits for her best attention to the music.

The opening orchestral chord immediately grabbed her attention and served notice on her that here were no bunch of amateurs as were thought of in the worse sense of the word. She was struck in the instrumental prelude of the figure of the endlessly climbing staircase which had always fascinated her and which was executed to precision. She was equally surprised when the monumental blast of orchestral sound measured the instant that the world stepped into the light.

It was when George took her first solo, that the whole performance became personal to her. That utter self-confident precision of tone amazed her, took her into another dimension and made it look misleadingly easy as her voice danced effortlessly up and down the scales. The sheer purity of sound and spirit amazed her as there was nothing about this highly professional barrister to suggest that she had another potential calling. To Kay, you had a profession that you either performed to the utmost of your ability or else you were just a sloppy cheap chiseller, content to take your salary from Virginia State and to hell with the consequences. It had never entered her head that you could pursue your career and also be attractively haunted by the ghost of a second calling, which might have been an alternate reality. She did not claim to be a music professor but surely this performance was played to perfection. The thought gradually dawned on her that had she been drawn into the world of playing an instrument rather than being merely an interested listener, she could have trod this path. Impossible, she answered herself. There simply weren't enough hours in the day for her to include any hobby and do her job. No, she countered herself, but these guys had.

The flourishes of violins were surely led by John, either as the calm river of sound drifted softly along or were at the cutting edges of the crescendos of chorus and lead singers. She could so easily imagine Jo, Karen and Roisin lending their tones to that massed bank of strings but less so to imagine that so did Brian Cantwell. It wasn't until she heard the first recitative that she heard the deep voice of Neil Grayling being backed by the cellos and the sharp tone of the harpsichord played by none other than Barbara, the woman who was now in the dock. That thought brought her up short as something she realized that she would have to face. It was highly likely that when this CD was produced, Barbara was a free woman and able to enjoy the fruits of her hard work. It also drove home the thought how hard it might be for those involved in the present trial to act normally and treat her as just another case.

Kay was enthralled as her senses let the music flow around her. She heard the instruments talking to each other as well as her, the privileged audience and also a mute George who had just let herself silently in and was transfixed by what she had heard. Since the performance, she had refused steadfastly to play the CD, which had been given to her by Grayling. By contrast, the production of this CD had driven her overjoyed father to master the modern technicalities of a CD player and both the memory of the event and its constant electronic replay had given him vim and vigour beyond his years. In George's case, she had been swallowed up by the day-to-day work, which had swept her far away from that moment in time. George couldn't believe what she was hearing, especially to hear her own voice. She had to admit that if she had been to watch such a performance, she would not feel as if she had been shortchanged. Her musical education enabled her to make that considered judgment that the ensemble was performing at the very top of their not inconsiderable talents. But that was her singing, she remembered, and she sounded really happy and in love with life itself, she reflected ruefully.

Kay was swept up in the performance as it unreeled itself into that celebration of love, in the insistent interflowing lines which cut between Adam and Eve. George listened incredulous that the woman she had been had sung with such heartfelt feeling.

"With thee, with thee, is every joy enhanced.

With thee, with thee, is life incessant bliss."

"If only it were" came George's secondary speaking voice speaking dully over the pure pitch of her singing voice.

Kay laid her finger to her lips and that and the warm smile on Kay's face bade her to continue to listen right up until the end. The ensemble of the orchestra, chorus and soloists propelled the performance to the finale to the accompaniment of that authoritative baton and the sheer joy and spirit warmed George to believe once again that, yes, there was another side of her that she could not deny. Exactly what she might actually acknowledge was another matter as that measure of self-belief meant a faith in a future.

"Have you had a good evening out?" Kay asked casually.

"I've been seeing Jo and talking trial tactics," George answered conversationally before her words rang a little hollow."In fact you might say that I've been seeing to Jo as I've been worried about her. I think she'll be right…for now."

Something about the finality of George's tone told Kay not to pursue the matter further. If it helped George to talk, she would but this was not the right time. Instead, she talked about what was most uppermost in her mind.

"That performance was utterly incredible, George. That was a real meal for the senses. You should…."

"Don't tell me, we should go professional, Kay. You do not know what argumentative prima donnas there were amongst the orchestra, well some of us."

Beneath George's self deprecating manner lay feelings of tenderness, which she finally softened up at the end to admit to. There were feeling of positivity and high energy that ran through that period despite the likes of Sir Ian and Lawrence James. She really had done a lot. What got to her was that if she were asked to do a repeat performance, she doubted if she would sustain that energy. From Kay's perspective, George was simply battling with her sense of pride in the performance.

"You're joking, George. If I suggested to some of those I work with, hey why don't we form a band, I'd get some strange looks."

Her mind drifted affectionately across the Atlantic to Marino who, as a devoted Elvis fan, would go as far as running an expedition to visit Graceland but would run a mile away from the idea of playing in a rock and roll band. She grinned when she tried to picture the expression on his face and his choicest scornful expression he would use to disguise his fear.

"You looked so happy in the photograph. You have got a very special talent, George. Don't ever knock it. The same goes to everyone in the orchestra, even that bastard Brian Cantwell."

'That's all very well if I had a future in it." George answered with dread finality.

Despite the warmth thrown out by the supply of logs Kay had thrown on the fire, she suddenly felt chilled to the bone.

Part Ninety-Nine

Nikki was at work bright and early, too early to entirely convince herself that she was calm and relaxed. She would have been happy to settle for feeling keyed up but knew that she felt more than this. She was distinctly nervous. To distract her thoughts, she pulled a sheaf of filed from her in tray onto her desk but her heart wasn't in the job. She felt that she was simply shuffling papers round her desk and getting nowhere fast.

"Might I come in, Nikki and kill a bit of time here before I go into the lion's den?" came Thomas Waugh's voice unexpectedly into her thoughts as he paced into the room without knocking. Nikki ran a quick eyes over him and instantly concluded that his attempt at nonchalance was his front to conceal stage fright as was his uncharacteristically abrupt intrusion.

"Be my guest, Thomas." Came her courteous reply."Cup of coffee?"

"No thanks, Nikki. Tea, definitely tea if you have it."

That meant he wasn't wanting to take anything that might make him more hyper than he was while the English cup of tea was the great pre twenty first century tranquilliser. She went to make two cups of tea to keep her hands occupied and set them down on her desk.

"I'm sure you'll be confident enough going up on the stand from all the conferences you've addressed over the years."

"Don't you believe it, Nikki." Thomas replied as if jokingly to Nikki's warm words of encouragement." I'm good enough to make stirring speeches as you don't get anyone disagreeing with you afterwards. You know that as you've done that once. I testified in court once before and I came a cropper."

"So what went wrong?"

"I got it wrong."

"And this time?"

"I'm right or at least I think I am."

There was a long pause as Nikki sipped her tea. Thomas really wasn't that confident, of himself, of how he was going to get on. She paused before she found the words to say.

"Look here Thomas. I was watching from the gallery that day and your only problem was that you were a little overconfident, the barrister on your side really wasn't very good and you were up against Jo Mills. She's on your side this time. You've just got to stick to the facts and don't let them throw you. I'd like to give you support from the witness gallery but I won't be allowed to as I'm on this afternoon."

"Thanks, Nikki. I needed someone to talk some sense into me. It's funny because that's what I'm paid to. Well, you'll get on better than I will when you get up on the stand."

"You want to bet? I'm beginning to feel that their brief will be out to smear me for all he's worth."

"Now who's talking, Nikki? You're verbally quicker than I am and you're strong. You've had to be to get to where you are. You've mixed with the legal profession and you know what makes them tick."

"You think so?"

"Let's do a deal. If you're strong for Barbara, then so will I."

It looked as if someone had switched on the light of confidence inside Nikki as Thomas reasoned with her. It was funny, both of them reflected in mirror image, that it was far easier to prop up someone else's confidence than your own. The phrase 'physician, heal thyself' floated into Thomas's mind. He extended his hand and shook Nikki's in a firm grip as if to transfer the strength back and forth between them. Then he straightened his his crooked tie and strode forwards to meet his destiny. Nikki was a little envious as at least Thomas had the chance to go into battle rather than sit around stewing.

In his nervousness, Thomas had got there early. He was ushered into a waiting room and mentally ran through the key points to crystallize his thinking. He felt uncomfortably naked without any papers to hold in his hand. Whenever he had performed before at public events a written speech was not only his tool of the trade by a convenient psychological prop. He ruefully reflected on the fact that this insight into himself really wasn't too well timed. The knock on the door from the court usher jolted his nerves but he summoned up his inner resolve and followed her into the courtroom. The whole theatre setting of the courtroom made him blink as he made his way towards the witness box. This time around, he knew how dangerous an arena this could be. He cast a glance at the opposition barrister as the one to watch out for. Jo stood up and smiled kindly at him while George sat back, extending a nonchalant hand over the long bench. To his mind, both of them looked assured, experienced and thoroughly at home in their world while he felt like a fish out of water.

"Could you explain for the benefit of the court, your position, previous experience and your role in relation to the accused?"

"Barbara Mills?" Thomas asked, momentarily finding it hard to hear her described that way while a flicker of amusement ran round the court."I have been senior medical officer at Larkhall Prison for the last four and a half years. Before that, I had been a practicing psychologist with a basic grounding as a general practitioner. It enables me to span the entire spectrum of physical and mental illnesses , something that is essential in a women's prison."

"And your connection with the accused?"

"As requested by you to undertake a psychological profile. It also coincided nicely with concerns expressed by Nikki Wade G wing governor about her state of health. I have learnt from her formal referrals to treat them especially seriously."

Jo smiled broadly at the way Thomas neatly prepared the ground for her next witness and paused a little for maximum effect before continuing.

"What was your initial impression of Barbara Mills?"

"She was a very pleasant courteous woman of the old school who was clearly been carrying the very heavy burden of her bereavement for several months despite her best efforts to minimise it."

Jo was impressed by the clear snapshot mental image which enabled her to pursue the questioning in a leisurely but systematic fashion.

"What did she tell you of her feelings for her husband, both while he was alive, and after his death?"

"It was patently clear how much she loved him and how she would go to the ends of her own physical and mental endurance to will him to live. As his illness progressed, she became more worried and anxious for him, fearing that they were fighting a losing battle. She hadn't the chance to mourn on her own as she was immediately arrested, something she felt to be a cruel trick of fate."

"How did you assess her state of mind when you interviewed her?"

"She has been grateful for the close support from other prisoners and sensitive treatment from prison officers. Nevertheless, it was plain that she was missing him with every day that passed, that she felt incomplete without him. Even when she had friends around her, she felt lonely. At other times, she has hidden herself away, unable to face the world. She felt that it was particularly unfair to be charged with being somehow responsible for the worst tragedy of her life. She has considerable resilience of spirit but she has been continually worried by the run up to the court trial and all this has tried her to the utmost."

"How much emotional support was she receiving during Henry's illness?"

"By force of circumstances, very little. She had no immediate family and Henry's family kept themselves aloof even when he was dying. Her life was very much intertwined with Henry's. She has close friends who she knew had busy lives of their own and she felt it a weakness and an imposition to ask for support from them. All the time, she was doing the caring rather than being cared for."

"How much importance did Barbara place on her religion whilst talking to you?"

"On the surface, she does not talk about her religion and appears to carry it lightly. She is hardly a 'born again evangeliser' but this is because she was born into the church in the first place. It is a source of her strength, something to guide her when she doubts her own ability to decide. More importantly, she sees herself as being required to stand completely and transparently before God and strive to live up to very high standards of thought and deed. She receives sustenance from her religion and seeks to give back in equal measure from the way she lives her life."

It was at that moment that Barbara, who was standing in the dock, permitted a faint smile of appreciation at Thomas's clearly articulated words. He had understood more of her than she had supposed at the time. Monty and John were sitting back impassively in their thrones but the last thing they felt was that they were placed in judgement over her, only immense pity. There but for the Grace of God went John Deed and Monty Everard. A stray thought crossed George's mind of when she was small and that her mother had been unexpectedly taken away from her and no one explained anything to her. She pushed it out of the way.

"During her interview with you, did Barbara express any alteration of her state of mind, during the last few days of Henry's illness?"

"Only that she became more worn out, more dispirited but as firm in her resolve to stick at it in terms of looking after a man who grew weaker every day."

"Did Barbara ever show any sign of guilt whilst in your presence?"

"If you mean, did she betray any sign that she might have been responsible for Henry's death, not a trace whatsoever. If you mean, did she show any feelings of guilt that she could have prevented Henry's death, she showed signs in some considerable measure. If only she hadn't gone downstairs as she did, if only she had left the syringe further away from where she was used to leaving it, she would have ensured that Henry would not have died when he did. The fact that Henry was on his last legs was a thought that she might have tried to reassure herself but she didn't."

"Would you consider Barbara to be capable of ending her husband's life?

"Absolutely not." Thomas declared emphatically."In my four and a half years I have worked at Larkhall, I have dealt with many more killers than the average GP would see in a lifetime and I can state with confidence that Mrs Mills does not fit the profile in any shape whatsoever. Everything about her rings true and hangs together."

George sat back and nodded in approval at the way that the witness had artfully deployed his knowledge in simple terms that any member of a jury would immediately grasp.

'I have no more questions." Jo rounded out, pleased at how the evidence had been depicted with rapid, sure strokes pen for all to see. She sat down and wondered how Brian Cantwell might attack the testimony.

Thomas watched the very self satisfied man slowly draw himself to his feet with a smile on his face while Jo faded away to the role of sympathetic yet helpless onlooker.

"Would it be true to say that your career could be best summed up by the expression 'Jack of all trades and master of none?' or put another way that you have dabbled in various disconnected branches of studies without pushing any of them to any level of expertise?"

Thomas took fire at once and the words flooded into his mind as fast as he could deliver them.

"On the contrary, I work in a crowded prison with more than life's share of physical and mental problems. It means that the demands of a modern women's prison means that you are stretched to the limit. From my medical expertise, physical and mental ill health are more intimately linked than the layman would suppose and I have the positive advantage in this dual training to follow both callings and to investigate the connections."

A sudden hush descended upon the court and hung in the air for what seemed an eternity while Brian Cantwell took the blow without flinching. George admired the style with which Thomas turned the stroke back on Brian Cantwell with a lightning fast parry. Beneath Yvonne's impassive exterior, she had to hand it to the guy that he had more balls than she had thought while Karen and Roisin were equally impressed.

"Do you wish to pursue the matter, Mr Cantwell?" John's flat dry voice probed.

There was a wry half smile on Brian Cantwell's face as he shrugged his shoulders.

"Seeing as any further questions are likely to be unproductive, I have none."

Thomas blinked in surprise as he fully expected to be locked into a battle royal with all guns blazing on both sides. It dawned on him that his testimony was complete and he could escape.

"You may step down, Mr Waugh. Court is adjourned till this afternoon."

"So how did you get on, Thomas." Nikki asked nervously. She knew the basics already judging from the light in his eyes and his expansive demeanour.

"Jo was great and I did my best for Barbara. I don't think I could have done better for her." he added vaguely, his memory rerunning the sequence of events.

"And the opposition?"

"I beat the living daylights out of him. No quarter given." Thomas declaimed in operatic tones."He won't dare to give you a hard time."

Oh great, Thomas, Nikki groaned inwardly. You're supposed to be the psychologist but you can't see that he will be landing all the shit on me in revenge. Typical man. You may feel great but I don't.

"That's fine, Thomas. I'm glad you did well." She said graciously with a wan smile, the implications of which totally escaped him.

"There's Helen and all the others. We'll be up in the gallery and cheering you on in our thoughts. Don't worry, you'll do fine." Thomas said encouragingly.

If only she felt that sure. She could see Helen approaching, arms oustretched ready to give her a big hug. She needed that physical support from her more than ever in her life.

Part One Hundred

Nikki let herself be folded into Helen's arms. She needed that physical presence next to her, willing her to be strong and bold with all the fierce affection in Helen's soul. Karen Roisin, Yvonne, Clare Walker, Grayling and Thomas formed a protective ring round her, while surreptitiously keeping a lookout. When they drew back from each other, one glance told Helen how tense Nikki was.

"Perhaps you ought to come with me to somewhere quiet."

"But I ought to do a last minute preparation before I go on the stand." Protested Nikki till Karen cut her short.

"If Neil doesn't pull rank on you to tell you to do as Helen says, I will." Karen cut in firmly before continuing on a gentler note. "I know you, Nikki. You'll have got everything up there in your mind. You need to relax more than anything else right now. Believe me, I've been there."

"Listen to what the boss says, Nikki." Added Yvonne.

Nikki nodded her head. Blind instinct told her to learn from Karen's past experiences of court percolated into her consciousness. Helen drew Nikki by the hand and they disappeared into a side room, while the others stood around feeling like spare parts, shuffling their feet. It was only five minutes but it seemed an aeon since the door was closed. Karen looked at her watch, as the minutes ticked dangerously close to when court would open. Nikki was in danger of cutting it fine.

Nikki could remember hardly anything of what Helen had actually said to her. All she knew was that her mind had been opened up to the bigger picture. It hadn't seemed that way at the time but she had felt pretty relaxed at the Lauren Atkins trial in comparison with now. True, she had identified fiercely with the fate of Lauren who was trapped and penned up in the dock but that was no more than she should expect of herself. Now she realized that however passionate she felt, she had been distanced by the fact that it wasn't her on trial. This time was different and it explained everything. It was no wonder that feelings of blind panic had been building up in her from first thing in the morning, in a relentless upward spiral, as she drew ever closer to the Old Bailey. It explained why very uncharacteristically, she had been losing her nerve. For all her epoch making trials, she had never been cross-examined on the stand. The first time around, her counsel had deliberately kept her off the stand in case she would mouth off. When she went up for her appeal and got her freedom, she stood mutely in the dock, while the duel was fought all around her. Her record was wiped clean , thanks to Clare Walker fighting her case through the criminal cases review commission and the home office. It almost felt as if she were finally up on trial to make up for the years and circumstances that had kept her out of the witness stand. It was a perfectly natural, logical emotional reaction. That clearly articulated Scottish accent calmed her down and let her think over that internal hubbub.

"You're Nikki Wade, wing governor, with a university degree under your belt and a witness for the defence. With all this going for you, you'll stand up to them. You're not on trial, yourself. You're a professional and just for once in your life, you are permitted to carry that title, that assurance of your self-worth, a little less lightly than you normally do." She remembered Helen finally urging her. Helen had got that spot on. She did exercise her authority at work, in an almost self-deprecating fashion when she thought about it.

At last the door opened and to everyone's intense relief, a markedly more positive Nikki emerged, her eyes looking out for the entrance to the courtroom.

"You're right, Karen. I did need that." Was her cryptic comment.

"You're ready for the trial?"

"As ready as I'll ever be."

"Then go get them." added Yvonne.

Roisin and Clare gave Nikki a quick hug, as pale faced but determined, she made her way to the back entrance to the court.

"Best of luck." Mouthed Grayling to Nikki with an encouraging, almost fatherly grin, while Thomas gave her the thumbs up gesture. They filed up into the visitor's gallery on the front row, and ignored the bad vibrations emanating from Greg and Amanda Hunt who had been haunting the Old Bailey since day one of the trial.

With the utmost display of outward composure, Nikki filed into the dock, and held the Bible in her left hand and the card with her right , and looked up boldly at John in his place up on high, and then her eyes focused in on Jo Mills and the rest of the court blurred at the edges of her vision. Jo wasn't fooled by Nikki's outward show, and articulated her first words in a deliberately slow paced fashion , to gently ease her into her new role.

"Can you explain, for the benefit of the court how you came to know Barbara Mills?"

Nikki paused before she spoke. The question wasn't as simple as it appeared to be. She was by no means sure if the court had been told about Barbara's previous spell in prison, and she really didn't want to accidentally drop her in it. Some instinct selected the right order of the words to be used with great care.

"I first knew her when I was an inmate at Larkhall, and became friends with her." Nikki replied briefly.

"What is your current position in Larkhall prison?"

"I am the wing governor of G Wing, one of the eight wings of Larkhall prison. I have overall responsibility for the welfare of prison officers and prisoners alike."

It struck John that Nikki used the word 'responsibility' instead of power. That thought fascinated him , as it told him a lot about her.

"In your position as wing governor, how have you found Barbara's general behaviour?"

"She has always been very pleasant and cooperative, and particularly receptive to the necessary good order and discipline of an institution, when there is a clear reason for it. She has strong convictions in her quiet way of what is right and wrong and these are immensely respected. The only concerns I have had for her are that she has been depressed following her husband's untimely death, and I am very anxious for her future. More worryingly, she will publicly understate her problems to others in conversation, so that I have asked both prisoners and officers alike to keep an eye on her and be there for her."

George had closely watched Nikki's manner while Jo started the questions, and could see her gaining confidence and her body language becoming less constrained. She had watched the testimony unfold in a very promising fashion and had confirmed the very high opinion she had come to have of Nikki She stood up in a leisurely manner and posed the next questions, fixing Nikki's eyes with hers. George felt safe to take over the questioning.

"How do you usually think of Barbara, as an inmate or as a friend?"

"Quite simply, both."

"During your own period in prison, how much did Barbara's friendship mean to you?"

"When I first entered Larkhall as an inmate, I got to know what friendship was like because of the lack of it. It was riddled from top to bottom by favouritism, the 'old boys network,' of one prisoner who inflicted cruelties on other prisoners and got protection by a corrupt officer by selling her sexual favours. By contrast, I was made to feel the outsider with no rights of my own…….."

"Is all this strictly necessary?" Brian Cantwell enquired in an exaggeratedly bored tone of voice.

"I'm just putting it in context." Shot back Nikki a split second before George could make the very same point.

"It is usual for counsel to make representations for you on points of law." John intervened, his dry tone of voice belied by the twinkle in his eye as he continued to deliver judgment.

"I suppose that neither Mrs. Channing nor Mrs. Mills have anything to add ….. So please continue with your evidence."

"Sorry, sir." Nikki said in a low respectful tone while Jo and George grinned at each other, having given the nod to John that no other words were needed. Brian Cantwell's face tightened and he mentally vowed to himself that he would exact payback when his chance came.

"Round about the same time as the prison regime started to change for the better, Barbara came along. After I'd straightened her out about the lies that a particularly malicious prison officer had spread about my sexuality, we saw the positives in each other, and looked to each other for friendship and intelligent conversation. She had strong principles and I could confide in her with any problems, and the same applied to her. Prisons can be dangerous places you know, and you get to value feeling safe with others more than anyone on the outside could ever imagine."

It fascinated Helen to see the way that Nikki spoke in different voices, firstly as the responsible prison officer and next through the eyes of the inmate. No one but Nikki could have convincingly held this all together.

"What qualities do you possess, that give you a greater depth of insight and understanding into the lives of prisoners, and Barbara Mills in particular?" Jo interposed, her questioning meshing seamlessly with George's.

"I've seen the prison service from right up close, and got to know from it what fair treatment and its opposite mean, as a living breathing thing rather than something to read in a book. I shared a cell with Barbara. You're in each other's pockets twenty-four seven, that is more than prison officers see you. I know also that even the most well meaning policies can be subverted by prison officers on the ground who have the run of the place, who commit their petty injustices behind closed doors and can lie about them afterwards. When I became wing governor I knew what to look out for and I can put a stop to it."

Helen and Karen both nodded grimly to themselves at that profound truth which they had found out the hard way.

"But what of your own particular qualities?"

"In my job, I have to learn to separate out the honest ones from those who try to pull the wool over my eyes. To do that I have to work out what makes people tick. On top of that, I've knocked around in a variety of jobs before I came here and that does help."

Monty nodded approvingly at the contrast of Nikki's self-effacing modesty, and her spirited defence of Barbara.

"Do you find that you ever feel a conflict of loyalties where Barbara is concerned?"

"Good point. I do have to periodically question what I should do, what I should say."

"How do you resolve this?"

"I have tried not to wear my rank on my sleeve, as if any orders that I give come naturally from me, Nikki Wade human being rather than the woman wearing the suit. From day one I have made it plain that I will be absolutely fair with everyone, and everyone gets treated alike. Barbara knows that as much as anyone. I won't be too proud to seek advice from those in authority over me, whose wisdom and experience I trust, and also those close to the situation who I can trust. Somehow I have learned to walk the high wire without falling off it."

"What can you tell the court of Barbara Mills' character, both as a prisoner and as a friend?" Jo slid in the question with effortless ease.

"Barbara is a naturally law abiding citizen whose life was devoted to Henry. You don't see many couples who so obviously belong to each other, whose lives were so wrapped up with each other. I know for a fact that she would not harm a hair of Henry's head, and is utterly incapable of self-deception, that she was somehow 'doing the right thing' in shortening Henry's life, not even if it meant an end to his sufferings. There are no fuzzy edges to Barbara's sense of morals, no compromises. I cannot picture in all my varied experiences of her, deliberately setting out to induce an overdose in Henry to cut short his life. I feel this with both my head and my heart."

Jo paused to let the force of Nikki's passionately, and simply expressed views wash over the jury who were clearly favourably impressed. She had set up the question and Nikki had backed her up a treat. As she marvelled at the clarity of expression, George posed their last question.

" Whilst Henry Mills was in the last stages of his illness, did you have any direct concerns about Barbara, and if so, what were they?"

"I didn't see as much of her as I would have liked. I bitterly regret that. Even from what I saw, I worried about how much weight even Barbara could carry, that she would wear herself into the ground, both physically and mentally. My last concern was that Barbara would end up in a court of law being charged with his murder. That was totally outside my calculations."

There was a brief pause in the proceedings. Nikki had gradually felt more comfortable as the carefully paced questions were put to her, but now she knew she would face the full force of the opposition. Brian Cantwell jumped to his feet as if he couldn't wait to be turned loose on her.

"So Ms Wade, you have not been exactly coy, to say the least about your previous spell at Larkhall….as an inmate."

"In that a question or an interjection?" Nikki immediately shot back at him. He had made the fatal mistake of trying to demean Nikki publicly, and it had had the reverse effect of firing her up. While John concealed a smile behind his hand, Karen nudged Helen in the ribs as she suppressed a burst of laughter that was fighting to get out. Brian Cantwell was less amused and shifted his point of attack.

"Do you not consider that your previous spell as an inmate, detracts from your not very lengthy experience as a wing governor?"

"Not in the least. My spell at Larkhall was as a result of a very unsafe conviction and a trial, which was very prejudiced against me. So much so that I was able to secure my freedom as a result of the first appeal and the second appeal wiped my record as clean as I assume yours will be. Why, as a one time self employed club owner, my tax returns were as scrupulously completed as I am sure yours are, Mr. Cantwell." Nikki said with that expression of bright innocence which made Yvonne suppress a chuckle and Jo and George grin broadly.

"We need not prolong the court's time with your testimonial." Brian Cantwell said hurriedly.

"If I might continue briefly. Being a prisoner meant that I spent a lot of time-sharing a very cramped cell and life in a closed institution, in much the same way that a public school operates. Unless a conscious effort is made, the prison officer or teacher has not that sense of closeness."

"An excellent and thought provoking comparison Miss Wade." Monty interposed, clearly impressed with Nikki's clear comparison. George and Jo mentally congratulated Nikki for her facility and fluency in pursuing a point, just short of the point where she might have been cut short for offering unsolicited observations.

"Let me put it another way, Ms Wade, don't you find it a problem to be a friend of the accused, to be Wing Governor and her jailor, and to be an objective witness as to her character?" Brian Cantwell demanded spitefully.

"There is a difference between friendships an cronyism, Mr. Cantwell. Honest friendships will cross boundaries of conflicting interests, being true to all sides and utterly professional. Cronyism means selling your soul and your integrity on the basis of 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.'

John laughed heartily at the way Nikki so deftly swept aside Brian Cantwell's gambit and turned it against not just him, but the entire forces of the establishment.

'I fail to see how you find this impertinent reply either relevant or fitting, my lord."

"Don't you now? On the contrary, I find Ms Wade's reply highly pertinent to the trial and much more besides."

"Does it not strike you as significant, that both you and your esteemed friend will have been tried for precisely the same crime?" Brian Cantwell pursued with heavy sarcasm.

"I am surprised that you make any comparison, sir. The charge against me was of murder. It was overturned on the grounds of provocation and self-defence against the rapist who was a policeman, paid to track down crime, and not commit a crime himself. Barbara Mills is charged essentially of shortening the very painful and agonizing slow death of the one person who was dearest to her."

"Do you not consider, that having killed a policeman, compromises you as a character witness?

"If that policeman had acted as professionally as I expect my prison officers to behave, I would never have done time. The fact that he didn't, means that I saw another side of society I would never have otherwise experienced. I learned a lot of hard lessons from it which I have turned to my advantage."

Brian Cantwell was needled at Nikki's calm effrontery and ability to face him out. Very rashly, he threw aside any sense of discretion.

"You can hardly be considered normal, when you are a lesbian, and the one-time part owner of a gay club."

There was a hush in the courtroom such that a pin drop could have been heard. Both Jo and George jumped to their feet and were about to lay into Brian Cantwell when John beat them to it. He was positively incandescent with rage. He knew that Cantwell was an utter reactionary but this beat all past records.

"Don't you dare bring your small-minded prejudices into my courtroom, Mr. Cantwell. The question is both foolish and mendacious and shall be stricken from the record. You do your case no favours at all. You will do well not to even think of any such transgressions in a court of law that either Monty or I preside over. Needless to say, the question does not require an answer nor does it deserve one."

"This is shoddy, damned shoddy." Monty exploded in indignation.

"You weasel." George muttered under her breath while Jo kept quiet. She could not have trusted herself to speak and not got into trouble.

In the gallery, the front row was silent, thanks to Grayling taking command.

"Keep quiet everyone." Grayling muttered through gritted teeth."Let the fool bury himself and let's keep out of the way."

An intense feeling of panic ran through him at the thought of reining in five very strong-minded women and a senior medical officer who was not averse to fisticuffs. He turned round to glare at Amanda and Greg Hunt to shut them up. They were grinning from ear to ear and wondering why nobody had said such a self-evident truth before.

Feelings of cold rage ran through Nikki. She hadn't expected that one and she clutched the rail of the witness stand. She could not speak. John looked down at her and saw what was going through her mind.

"Do you want a couple of minutes before court continues, Ms Wade? You can take your time if you want." He urged in his gentlest tones.

It was John's tone of voice that steadied her, the natural man who was so kind, so human inside the forbidding red robes of office. She shook her head.

'I'm fine. Honestly."

Brian Cantwell cursed himself for overstepping the mark. He wasn't going to throw in the towel, but resolved to crowd his opponent in a more circumspect fashion.

"What, in your vast experience of the perpetration of crime, makes you so sure that Barbara Mills is innocent?"

"Because I know her. Because I've seen enough criminals from both sides of the wire. It's down to experience, you know."

"Don't you think that you could be biased in her favour?"

"I'm being paid and trusted by the prison service not to be biased. That is my job and my responsibility."

"Can you give the court any reason why the jury should have confidence in your testimony?"

"I am not a salesman, Mr. Cantwell. I do my best to tell the truth as I see it. I don't want to boast but I feel that I am well placed to give evidence of Barbara's character from my breadth of experience when I come to think of it."

The front row of the visitor's gallery were riveted to their seats by the last final verbal exchanges, of Nikki's whip crack lightning quick responses to the Brian Cantwell's desperate attempts to break through her armour. Grayling was utterly delighted to see how superbly Nikki was performing, and he blessed himself that he'd seen sense and given Nikki her chance. As for the others, it brought back old memories.

At the end of this last exchange, Brian Cantwell finally ran out of steam. He could not for the life of him think of anything to say that wouldn't go over old ground, and instinct told him that it would be the absolute kiss of death. He decided to cut his losses.

"I have no further questions, my lord."

"At this convenient point, court is closed for the day. We shall resume tomorrow for the closing speeches. Nikki Wade, you may step down."

That very same feeling of bewilderment overwhelmed her as at her appeal hearing. She was so psyched up and centred on giving evidence that she could not conceive of anything afterwards. To Jo's and George's smiles of appreciation and Brian Cantwell's poker faced expression, Nikki tottered out of the witness stand and stumbled out of the back of the court. Only then did she notice Barbara's intense look of gratitude on her face. She couldn't believe it was all over.

She was bewildered by the very same rapturous greeting from the gallery that met her out of the courtroom.

"Result."Exclaimed Clare Walker as she hugged her.

Nikki looked at her dark suit and really did wonder exactly what time zone she was in, as both George and Jo shook her by the hand. This time, it was Helen who hugged her so she couldn't be back in the past. Karen beamed at her in admiration. It was the presence of Roisin and Grayling whose physical presence reminded her that she was back in the present and she smiled more freely.

"You really screwed the bastard." Yvonne exclaimed while Thomas nodded in agreement at such a fair description.

"My congratulations on your performance. Of course you do realize that this is just a game. I might easily have been defending you and Jo Mills prosecuting you. At the end of the day, another trial is done and we all get paid a handsome fee." Brian Cantwell's hard tight tones greeted Nikki.

"It's no game, believe me." Nikki replied hoarsely, the nervous reaction sweeping over her and invading her senses. She could barely talk." Depending on which way your 'game' goes, means whether someone goes free or I get another prisoner to look after. Of course, innocence or guilt has nothing to do with it, has it? Take me for example."

Nikki's icy glare froze Brian Cantwell to the spot and made him feel momentarily uncomfortable. She stood there with no clue as to where she was going to go to next.

Part 101

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