Coco pinchards big fat t.., p.16
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       Coco Pinchard's Big Fat Tipsy Wedding: A Funny Feel-Good Romantic Comedy, p.16
 

           Robert Bryndza
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  The summing up was completed quite rapidly, both Annabel and Natasha gave it their all. Annabel pointed the jury toward the fact that the only person who could have taken the money is Adam. Natasha took the line that anybody could have taken it. (They both spent half a day each saying this)

  Judge Haut-Penguin was fair in her summing up, but warned the jury to concentrate on the evidence before them and not the charms of the dashing Mr. Rickard.

  'Beauty comes in many forms,' she said, ‘beauty can be both good and bad, and you need to look past this to find the truth, for without the truth we are nothing.'

  She informed the jury she would only accept a majority verdict and at four this afternoon, she sent he jury out to consider their verdict.

  We hung around in the highly unlikely event they would come to an agreement within the hour, and when that passed, we took the train home. It was still early and I said I wanted to go back to the little church and sit in the quiet for a bit. I’ve never been so tense and on edge.

  'All right, but I’m only coming to avoid Marika and Greg snogging on the sofa,' said Adam.

  We took a seat in a pew near the front and soaked up the silence. I noticed the days were getting longer, it was after five and the sun was glinting off the huge cross above the altar, casting a gold hue over the church. A few minutes later, the Vicar entered quietly and began to light candles for the evening service. He had a very gentle, calming presence. I suddenly had an idea.

  'Excuse me,' I said, breaking the silence. 'Do you do weddings?'

  He turned and took a minute to find us with his eyes,

  ‘Ah, hello, of course my dear,' he said.

  'Can I book a wedding?'

  'Why yes,' he smiled. 'I’ll go and get the diary.' He disappeared into the nave, the long hem of his cassock following a moment later.

  'What are you doing?' hissed Adam.

  'Do you want to marry me?' I whispered.

  'Yes,' he said.

  'Then let’s have faith in the future and book a wedding.'

  'But what if I…'

  'No. No what ifs or buts,’ I said. 'You’re going to be found innocent, I believe it. So, we’re booking our wedding. Okay?’

  Adam gulped and nodded. The Vicar came back holding a big dusty old diary and rested it on the end of our pew.

  ‘Right, when were you looking to get hitched?' he grinned.

  'As soon as possible,' I said.

  ‘Ooh, as soon as possible…’ he winked.

  ‘I’m not up the duff or anything,’ I said.

  ‘I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort!’ he said, with a smile on his lips. He flicked through pages and pages filled in with a neat handwriting, and eventually came to August.

  ‘Ah. Here we are, Saturday the nineteenth of August is available. Would that suit you?'

  'Yes,' I said.

  Adam nodded. The Vicar took down our details.

  'I will need a small deposit of fifty pounds,' he said. Adam rummaged in his pockets and pulled out his wallet.

  'Here,' he said handing over the last of his money. The Vicar wrote out a receipt and tore it off.

  We’re getting married on the nineteenth of August!

  Friday 18th March 11.34

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  I’m glad to hear that my publishing house is taking an interest in the verdict. I will let you know as soon as we hear anything. We’ve been sitting here all morning. I’ve had so much coffee I am buzzing. No news is good news…

  Friday 18th March 17.44

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  Jury not close to verdict, so they have been sent to a hotel for the weekend.

  Monday 21st March 15.46

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  We are just about to go in. The jury has their verdict.

  Monday 21st March 18.05

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  It was a guilty verdict. The jury returned a guilty verdict. Adam has nothing. He’s been taken away from me with nothing. I’m just in a little shop at the train station, trying to buy some toiletries for him. Rosencrantz is trying to find a clothes shop which is open. Adam has nothing to wear in bed. His pyjamas are still under the pillow. I don’t know what happens next.

  Saturday 26th March 03.01

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I am still in shock, but my head is a bit clearer. I’d had in my mind a triumphant image of emerging from Southwark Crown Court with Adam. Us stopping at the steps, and holding his arm up in victory.

  Right up until a member of the jury stood and read out the verdict I thought Adam would be cleared.

  They ruled 10-2 in favour of a guilty verdict.

  Adam was sentenced to eight years in prison. Providing he adheres to good behaviour, he will only serve four of his eight years and will be released on licence in March 2014.

  The look on his face will stay with me forever, a look of fear and disbelief. He was taken from the courtroom so quickly, and he had nothing; he was alone in just the clothes he was standing up in. I wasn’t even allowed to send him a message. Everyone evaporated after the verdict; Annabel, Natasha, the Judge, the jury, everyone. Then it was just me and Rosencrantz in the visitors gallery, staring down at the empty courtroom.

  We then went shopping for things for Adam, and dropped them at the courthouse to be taken to him. I don’t know if they were. Then Rosencrantz took me in a cab back to Marika and Greg’s. I can’t recall what anyone said, I just remember us standing in a circle in the tiny kitchen. I do remember telling them that Adam had been taken to Belmarsh Prison, and Greg sucked his teeth in, as if to say how bad it was there.

  Since then, I have been phoning the main switchboard at Belmarsh Prison every day to try to find out what’s going on. Today I was informed by a pleasant sounding chap that Adam was going through the system, and they will know what he is in a few days.

  'What do you mean, you’ll know what he is in a few days?’ I said.

  ‘He’s being sorted into what category he’ll be as a prisoner. A, B, C, or D, it shouldn’t be much longer and he’ll join the other prisoners in his Category.'

  In his chirpy voice he made it sound like Adam just arrived at Hogwarts, and he was waiting to have a talking hat plonked on his head by Maggie Smith.

  'Could you give him a message from me?' I said.

  'I’m sorry that’s not permitted, but you can write him a letter.’ He gave me an address, which I scribbled down.

  I was bundling a letter into an envelope when Marika returned from a dog walking expedition. She now walks about thirty dogs throughout the week and is making double what she did as a teacher. I haven’t seen her much in the last few days, and this troubled me. Rocco came bundling up for a cuddle. He loves going with her and meeting all the other local dogs.

  'He’s very bossy,' said Marika, kneeling down and giving him a treat. 'There’s an Alsatian and a Dalmatian who are terrified of him.'

  Rocco barked loudly.

  'Shush, Greg’s asleep,' she told him. I stood there waiting for her to ask about Adam but she didn’t say anything and filled up the kettle.

  'I’ve just written to Adam,’ I said.

  ‘Must be odd, writing letters. Do you want a coffee?' she said.

  'No.'

  Marika opened the cupboard above the sink and pulled down a mug.

  'Do you have any stamps I could use?'

  'Sure,' she said. She pulled open a drawer and passed over a book of stamps. I looked at them, they were second-class.

  'Have you got any first class?'

  'Um, hang on,' she said. She rummaged around and chucked a book of first class stamps on the table.

  I stuffed the letter into an envelope and started making out the address to;

  Prisoner 48723

  HMP Belmarsh

  London

  SE28 0EB

  'Can I say something?' I said. Marika
looked up as she was spooning instant coffee into her mug.

  'What?'

  ‘This tension is horrible… Just say it. You think Adam was guilty, don’t you?' Marika didn’t say anything.

  'Oh come on. You’re acting like nothing has happened. He’s all alone. He hasn’t heard from me, and you’re giving me second-class stamps! Why do you think I’d want my letter to reach him later?'

  'What if Adam did do it?' said Marika turning round to face me.

  'What?'

  'You know, I always say it like it is… Coco you need to face up to things.’

  'What do you mean?'

  'He never took the lie detector test, remember? You don’t know the truth.’

  All of a sudden, my hand shot out and I slapped her round the face. Hard. We both stood in shock.

  Marika looked at me clutching her face, then walked calmly into her bedroom and slammed the door. I took a few deep breaths and then dashed to my room. I quickly packed up everything from my room. Then I stalked round the rest of the flat grabbing bits and bobs I’d left and stuffing them into bags. I then called a taxi.

  'Where you going to love?' said the driver. I had to think for a moment. I only had twenty pounds cash - I had stupidly given Marika a months rent yesterday, thinking I might stay there after all.

  'Lewisham,' I said, 'just off the high street… Oh and can I bring my dog in the taxi? He’s a good boy.’

  'Well, if he’s a good boy that’s fine,' said the driver kindly.

  I lugged all of the bags downstairs, l and I left my set of keys on the hall table. As I was clipping on Rocco’s lead the taxi pulled up.

  We pulled up at Rosencrantz’s house half an hour later and rang the doorbell. Wayne answered wearing his housecoat and a character turban.

  'Oh Mrs. P, come in,’ he said. ‘Boys! Mrs. P is on the doorstep with six suitcases!’ Rocco looked up at him and barked. ‘And her little dog too!’

  Oscar emerged from the living room in just a pair of boxer shorts and Rosencrantz in his pyjamas with a bowl of cereal.

  'Shit! Mum,' he said putting the bowl down and grabbing me in a hug.

  ‘Where’s a porter when you need one?’ said Wayne looking at my pile of luggage. He and Oscar started to bring the cases inside. Rosencrantz led me through to the living room as the boys lugged my stuff upstairs, Rocco sniffing about and watching them.

  The boys came back downstairs just as Rosencrantz had made tea. They told me how sorry they were about everything, and Wayne said I could stay in his bedroom.

  ‘The sofa is fine, thank you,’ I said.

  ‘I won’t hear of it Mrs. P,’ said Wayne. ‘Besides, I have terrible insomnia, I barely sleep in my bed.’

  His room is cramped but cosy. On one wall is a huge sideboard filled with commemorative mugs. There is one from The Queen’s wedding to Prince Phillip, and another for her Coronation in 1953. There’s Charles and Diana’s wedding, Andrew and Fergie plus many of the minor royals. At the foot of the bed is a giant clothes rail filled with what look like pantomime costumes, and beside it, a small table with a sewing machine and scores of cotton reels in different colours.

  The boys say I can stay as long as I like, but I need to get a grip. I’m lying here at three in the morning, clueless what to do next.

  April

  Friday 1st April 16.33

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  When I opened my eyes this morning there were blurred figures milling about. Then I heard Ethel’s voice saying,

  ‘Ere, I’ve found what it is… old Chinese.’

  The room swam into view and Ethel was fishing leftover crispy chilli beef out of the little fireplace near the bed. She handed it to Rosencrantz and Oscar, then shooed them out of the door.

  ‘Afternoon,’ she said pulling the curtains open. ‘The neighbours must wonder what yer up to, with the curtains drawn.’ There was a sticky sound as the seal on the window parted then cold air sank down over me. I pulled the covers up to my chin as she eased herself onto the end of the single bed.

  'Where’s Rocco?' I said sleepily.

  'E’s gorn out with that Wayne for a run in the park — although I can’t see ‘im running, unless the bakery is about to close.’

  'Ethel, he’s nice, he’s been looking after me,' I said. 'They’ve all been looking after me,'

  She picked up the mug of the Queen’s Coronation.

  ‘I suppose ‘iss not worth asking if e’s got a girlfriend,’ she said. Then she spied a little silver bell on the bedside table.

  'Woss this?'

  ‘The boys said I should ring it if I needed anything.’

  'Christ! What are you the Dowager Countess of Lewisham?’

  ‘Ethel. If you’ve just come here to gloat…'

  ‘Oh I’m not ere to gloat love… I’m ere to tell you to get off yer arse and up and about.’

  'I’m happy being down and nowhere,' I said turning over to face the wall.

  ‘You need to listen to me. I bet that Judy Garland would ‘ave snapped out of it if she’d ad me in ‘er ear and not all those poofs telling ‘er she was a tragic ‘eroine.’

  ‘Wayne and Oscar don’t see me as a tragic heroine.’

  ‘Don’t they? They’re making things very cushy for yer. Is this what yer gonna do fer four years? Loll about in a back bedroom and ave three poofs ferry food up on a tray?’

  I pulled the pillow over my head. ‘It’s only four years if he gets early release.’

  'Now you listen ere,' said Ethel grabbing the pillow. 'It’s not you stuck in Belmarsh doin’ bird. It’s that poor innocent man of yours. You need to be the strong one!'

  My eyes began to water.

  'Now no tears!’ she said. ‘Yer gonna get up, ‘ave a wash, an do something with that hair so when Adam sees you ‘e ‘as something to look forward to when he gets out. Right now one look at you and e’ll be knocking on the Governors door asking for ‘is sentence to be extended.'

  'I don’t know when I’m going to see him,' I said.

  'Woss this then?' she said holding up a visiting order. I grabbed it. It said that I could visit Adam in Belmarsh on Monday!

  ‘Oh Ethel! How did you manage to get this?' I said hugging her for the first time I think, ever.

  'It was on the mat when I came in,' she said shrugging me off her. 'Now, you need to go see that Lawyer, get an appeal going, then you need a place of yer own. You can’t make fatty sleep on the settee for ever.’

  'You think Adam’s innocent?' I said sitting up.

  'Course e’s innocent!' she said. 'You ‘eard that Sabrina girl by the Thames, mouthing off about the cash. You just need to prove it was er.'

  'How do I prove it?'

  'Well, you won’t find out anything lolling in bed.’ I was shocked Ethel was on my side. It gave me hope.

  'Yer family Coco, whether we like it or not. An’ family looks out fer family,' she said. 'Now where’s yer sponge bag?' I pointed to a pile of clothes and Ethel fished it out.

  ‘Get across that landing and ‘ave a wash, I thought it was that old takeaway that stunk but iss you!'

  When I came out of the shower, Ethel had gone, but she’d left the visiting order on my pillow with a first class stamp. I filled it in carefully, and then sealed the envelope. I found something clean to wear, did my hair and makeup and caught a train over to Charing Cross. I dropped the visiting order into a postbox outside the train station, then walked up to the offices of Spencer & Spencer on The Strand.

  I was shown through to Natasha’s office straight away, and even offered coffee. I realised why when she slid her bill across the table. I peeked inside the envelope and saw how much it was. Forty-six thousand pounds. I stuffed it into my bag and hoped she didn’t see how pale I went.

  ‘I was very disappointed it wasn’t the verdict we so desired,’ she said in typical Lawyer speak.

  ‘Well, you did lose,’ I said. Natasha gave me a chilly smile.

  ‘How do you feel about lau
nching an appeal?’ she said.

  ‘Launch it as soon as you can,’ I said. ‘When do you think we could be back in court?’

  Then she dropped a bombshell.

  ‘Coco I can’t just file an appeal willy-nilly,' she said. 'I would need to find new evidence, solid evidence, something overlooked by the police to justify an appeal. Trials cost thousands of pounds.’

  Yes, they do. I thought, feeling the imaginary weight of her bill in my bag. The buzzer on her desk rang and her secretary said she has another client waiting.

  ‘So you’d like to retain me as Adam’s Lawyer?’ she said.

  ‘Yes. I think the first thing you should look into is this Sabrina girl, the witness,’ I said. ‘Sabrina Jones.’

  ‘Yes, Coco, of course,’ she said already at her computer and on to the next meeting. ‘I’ll be in touch in a fortnight with what we’ve dug up.’

  ‘Just so I have an idea of cost, how many of your associates will be digging?’ I said.

  ‘Just one. We won’t be billing too heavily in the early stages…’

  I came out of her office and went straight over the road to the Wetherspoons. I am sat amongst the winos with a quid bottle of lager trying to make plans. I need to sell my car, sharpish. I think I need to get a loan too. The bill is due in twenty-eight days.

  Has Marika been in touch? I thought she might call. Have you spoken to her? If so what did she say?

 
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