The coco pinchard boxset.., p.34
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.34

           Robert Bryndza

  “Sorry, love. I thought Adam might be in here?” I said.

  “We haven’t seen him since we emptied the van,” said Marika, who was sifting through a pile of screws strewn over the carpet.

  “If you see Rosencrantz, can you tell him it’s not a Svelvik, it’s a Leirvik,” said Wayne.


  “Marika’s bed. Rosencrantz is printing off the instructions from the Ikea website,” said Oscar.

  Marika got up from her sifting and came over.

  “Look. I’m sorry, Coco, if I gave Adam a hard time,” she said. “You know I like him a lot, but I just can't see you get hurt. Do you really think he’s innocent?”

  “Yes. I do.”

  “Okay,” she said. “Okay… I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. Look at mine. I just walked out of one of the most stable careers during a recession, and now I’m on your floor with my life and my bed in bits.”

  “Your bed won’t be in bits for long,” said Oscar. “It’ll be quick work with the Allen key.”

  ”If only you could fix everything in life with an Allen key,” said Wayne whimsically.

  I kissed Marika goodnight and told the boys where the blankets were if they wanted to sleep on the sofas downstairs.

  “Thanks Mrs P,” they both trilled.

  I ran into Rosencrantz coming out of my office.

  “I think it’s great you’re taking Adam back,” he said. “You need each other.”

  “I haven’t taken him back,” I said.

  “Course you have,” he grinned. “Just hold off shagging him for one night.”

  “I beg your pardon!”

  “Come on Mum. He’s sex on legs. Everyone in this house has been captivated by him.”

  “Apart from Marika,” I said.

  “She’ll come round… Night, Mum,” he grinned, giving me a hug.

  When I came downstairs all the lights were off, but the door to the terrace was ajar. Adam was sitting outside in one of the huge winter coats from the hall. I pulled one on too, and went and joined him.

  “Rocco’s keeping me warm here,” he grinned.

  A little pink tongue emerged from the opening of his coat, licking Adam's neck. I sat down beside him and lit a cigarette. It was freezing but very clear and the moonlight sparkled on the snow.

  “How come you got a dog?” he said, as Rocco’s little head popped out of the coat.

  “He was a gift from the boys, because I was so…” I held back from saying, “devastated”.

  After weeks of being devastated, I was suddenly happy again. Should I be? Am I just ignoring the last two months?

  “I never thought I'd come back here,” said Adam, breaking the silence. “It was such a terrible feeling.” He put his arm around me. “I can sleep on the sofa, if you're not ready?”

  I looked into his eyes. Willpower, must have willpower… I thought.

  “Both the sofas are occupied,” I said. “Unless you want to sleep with Wayne and Oscar. Who I’m sure would be delighted.”

  “What about the spare room?”

  “Well, that’s now Marika’s room.”

  “The other spare room?”

  “You mean my office? It’s not a bedroom.”

  “So there’s only your bed free?”

  I nodded.

  We came inside, Adam carrying Rocco. I locked the doors and he slung his arm over my shoulder as we came upstairs. He put Rocco down on the bed and the little dog bustled about digging around in the covers until he’d burrowed under. Adam went for a shower and came back wearing just a pair of shorts. He was much thinner but his athletic frame held it well.

  “Maybe we could just cuddle tonight?” I said.

  “Of course,” he said pulling back the covers and climbing in.

  I got in on my side, shuffled over to him and lay my head on his chest. Rocco curled up in the crook between us. I flicked off the light and we all lay there in the dark: warm, cosy and softly breathing together.

  “I could go to prison, Coco,” said Adam, breaking the silence.

  “No, you won’t,” I said. “I'll make sure of it.”

  I really hoped I was right.

  Thursday 6th January 14.52

  TO: [email protected]

  Adam had to report to Marylebone Police Station today, as per his bail conditions, to say he will now be living here. The policewoman on the front desk was very friendly. He had to fill out some forms, and I had to sign that I would inform them if he decides to abscond and leave the country.

  Reading the paperwork and seeing the charges in black and white was horrifying. I cannot imagine what Adam is going through.

  On the upside, his mug shot is very flattering, so much so that Rosencrantz asked Adam if he knew the name of the police photographer because he needs some new acting head shots.

  Friday 7th January 10.12

  TO: [email protected]

  I was outside on the front door step, putting out the green recycling bin for the council, when Mr and Mrs Cohen came out of their front door with their recycling bin. I said “Hello” as Mrs Cohen peered over the low wall. I could see a satisfied look on her face that they had outdone me again.

  “Morning Mrs Pinchard,” said Mr. Cohen.

  “Morning,” I said.

  I went to go back indoors when Mrs Cohen started talking. She’s usually mute with a suspicious expression on her beaky face.

  “Mrs Pinchard, are you planning on getting that guttering fixed?”

  “What guttering?” I said.

  “On the back of your house.”

  “Yes,’” I smiled, and went to go indoors.

  “Could you be a bit more specific? Only we’re worried about the structural damage on the brickwork.”

  “Soon,” I said, and I went to go back in again.

  “It’s just your brickwork is connected to our brickwork and we’d hate for it to lower the value of the terrace.”

  “Are you thinking of moving?” I asked hopefully.

  “Oh no,” said Mr. Cohen. “It’s just one of those things that if it goes unchecked it could lead to bigger problems.”

  I turned back to face them.

  “I’m having it fixed as soon as possible. The value of the terrace will remain intact.”

  We heard a police siren and all turned to look at the end of the road. Six police cars appeared at high speed, fanning out into Steeplejack Mews. The cars had barely halted, when eighteen police officers all jumped out and congregated at the base of the steps.

  “We haven’t mixed any of our glass and plastics,” said Mrs Cohen.

  A tall police officer with steel grey hair said,

  “Mrs Pinchard?”


  “We have a warrant to search your house.”

  The rest of the police officers regarded me from under their helmets. The Cohens looked shocked. In fact, Mrs Cohen looked like a piece of guttering had been shoved somewhere delicate.

  “A warrant?”

  “Yes, as part of our ongoing criminal investigation into Mr Rickard.”

  My heart sank.

  “Do have any choice in the matter?” I enquired.

  “Not with a warrant,” said Mr Cohen.

  The officer turned to look at the Cohens.

  “They’re my neighbours — who were just going,” I said.

  They went back inside goggle-eyed, and I led the police officers indoors.

  Myself, Marika and Adam (both of whom were still in their pyjamas) were herded together and asked to wait in the kitchen under the watchful eyes of two junior police officers, a man and a woman.

  The remaining officers spread out, pulling on latex gloves to comb through the house.

  I have just been told my phone and laptop are being seized, so I’ll have to sign off now. Unless they take it too, you can reach me on the landline…

  Monday 17th January 14.12

  TO: [email protected]
br />   A plain-clothes officer returned my computer and iPhone at six o’clock this morning in a large clear plastic sack. He said that it was “clean”. I detected a tinge of disappointment in his voice, just like the police were disappointed after they searched the house. I think they were hoping to find the £200,000 stuffed in a cupboard. As we were up early, we took Rocco for a walk. We were walking back along Marylebone High Street, when we saw posters for Agent Fergie. Proper posters in bus shelters of the book cover with my name on! Of course, me being the author, I am the last to know. I stood there, unable to contain my excitement.

  “Oh babe, that’s amazing,” said Adam, putting his arm around me and giving me a big kiss.

  I pulled out my phone and made Adam take pictures of me beside it.

  “It’s going to be out on February the twenty-second,” I said, reading the writing on the bottom of the poster.

  “That's the day of my first court hearing,” said Adam. And we came back to earth with a crash.

  I'm thinking we should fire his legal representation. The bloke he’s got looks more like a harassed social worker, and seems a very ineffective and negative man.

  Can I take you up on the offer to meet with your father’s new lawyer? We need some clout.

  Tuesday 18th January 17.10

  TO: [email protected]

  We went to meet a lawyer at Spencer & Spencer today. Chris recommended her to us, or I should say Chris recommended us to her. She recently got a friend of his father off on a huge embezzlement charge.

  Adam was very nervous in the black cab as we nudged along Charing Cross Road in the rain.

  “What if she takes one look at me and says ‘no’?” he said.

  “She won’t,” I said.

  “Does she know about my case?”

  “Yes, and she says she wants a challenge.”

  “Great Coco, great…”

  “I didn’t mean it like that,” I said. “She’s the best of the best.”

  He ran a finger under the collar of his new shirt. I had rushed out and bought it this morning from Marks & Spencer and I’d got him a size too small.

  “Coco! You've left the bloody piece of plastic in this!” he moaned, “and a pin!”

  “Sorry,” I said. I gently removed the pin and eased out the stiff plastic strip. “It's going to be fine…”

  “It’s going be expensive,” said Natasha Hamilton QC, an attractive yet chilly brunette in her late thirties.

  We sat across from her at her huge desk. The overcast day and the dark wood paneling made the large office close in on us. Her eyes had a steely resolve and an eager interest in what we were saying, especially when Adam said how much money he had been accused of stealing. She listened as he outlined what had happened so far, occasionally flicking through the case file that had been sent over by the previous law firm.

  There was a silence when Adam finished. She regarded us for a long X-Factor moment.

  “With the timeframe given,” she said, “I’d have to put a team onto this fast, to go through the forensic evidence.”

  “Forensic?” I said. “This isn't a murder enquiry.”

  “What I mean is we'll have to request information from Mr Rickard’s previous employer, XYZ Event Management: computer records, invoices, data, etc. Comb our way through it, and build a defence.”

  “What happens if we lose?” I said.

  “The minimum sentence would be four years in prison,” she said casually.

  “Four years!” I said. “People do far worse and get far less.”

  “The sentencing guidelines for fraud are primarily based on the amount of money involved,” said Natasha. “Anything under seventeen thousand pounds would more likely result in a fine or community service, but this is a substantial amount. The court will also take into account adverse effect. I understand XYZ Event Management’s exposure to this loss of money has resulted in four redundancies.”

  “Adam was fired too,” I said. “He didn’t get any redundancy money.”

  “Coco, I told you. I'm screwed,” said Adam. “You need to understand this, and stop going on about chicken stew.”

  “Chicken stew?” said Natasha.

  “It’s chicken soup,” I said. “Chicken Soup For The Soul. It’s a positive thinking book. I think a lot can be achieved through positive thinking.”

  Natasha looked alarmed. Positive thinking books seemed be at odds with billable hours.

  “Look,” said Natasha with a confident smile. “You need strong, robust legal representation, which we can provide. In cases such as these, we often find something in the computer records: an error, a data flaw. A high proportion of these cases are thrown out by the judge.”

  “The case is going to court on February the twenty-second,” I said. “Do you think you have enough time?”

  “The first thing I would recommend is filing a motion for an extension. As soon as we receive your retainer I would be able to do this.”

  “How much is your retainer?”

  “Five thousand pounds,” she said, without blinking.

  After the meeting, we found a crowded Starbucks on The Strand, and squeezed onto two chairs in the window with our lattes. The rain was now hammering down and London scurried past; a blur of red buses and black-clad commuters under umbrellas, many of which were turning in on themselves in the wind. Why do the British always invest in crap umbrellas? It rains constantly and not a day goes by where I see a paper thin little umbrella hopelessly broken and dumped in the bin.

  “Five grand just as a retainer!” said Adam. “Let’s keep the cheap lawyer and I’ll risk doing the time. Maybe I can tell him about this forensic evidence thing, maybe he could find a technical error.”

  He looked beaten and defeated. The window was fogging up with his resigned breathing.

  “Your lawyer doesn’t look like he could find his arsehole with both hands,” I said. “And what do you mean, ‘risk doing the time’?!”

  “Four years isn’t long.”

  “Four years isn’t long? What about the rest of your life?” I said. “Where will you work with a record?”

  “I don't have the money for a big lawyer,” he said. “End of.”

  “But she’s brilliant. Chris said his father’s friend was as guilty as hell, and she won him the case.”

  “Oh so you think I’m guilty now?” said Adam.

  “No, but I think we should hire Natasha, who will prove your innocence. I've got some savings, and when Agent Fergie is published I get the rest of my advance.”

  “No!” he said. “No, you are not doing that.”

  “But you’re my…”


  “OK. What about Legal Aid?” I said.

  “I am not scrounging off the state!”

  “So you’re going to be the proudest prisoner on the block, are you?”

  He stared shamefully at the foggy window.

  “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that,” I said.

  “Why don’t you just go, Coco? Don’t get involved in all this.”

  “I’m involved whether you like it or not. Don’t forget I have to tell them if you leave; your bail conditions depend on you living with me.”

  “Fuck! I hate this!” shouted Adam.

  I grabbed his hand.

  “That meeting was incredible. Natasha wants to defend you, can’t you see that? She’s the key to all this. We just need to work out the finances.”

  Adam gave a resigned smile.

  “You have to phone Angie and tell her you're getting involved with all this,” he said.

  “Angie can wait a bit longer,” I said.

  I then suggested going to see a film in Leicester Square to try to cheer us up, but when we got to The Odeon there was only The Lovely Bones or Precious playing. Neither of which I thought would have us rolling in the aisles, so we came home.

  Thursday 20th January 22.13

  TO: [email protected]

e made enquiries about legal aid for Adam’s case, and discovered it could help his eligibility if he were claiming unemployment benefits. So, this afternoon we went to the JobCentre Plus office round the corner.

  Angie phoned as we were waiting to see an advisor.

  “Why haven’t you been returning my calls?” she said impatiently.

  “I can’t talk right now,” I whispered. There was an imposing atmosphere in the huge open plan office and ‘NO MOBILE PHONES’ was plastered all over the walls.

  “I've had the publishing house on the phone three times today. They want to arrange a load of interviews and promotion,” she said.

  “Look, I’ve got to go,” I said.


  “Sorry, I’ll call you back.”

  I hung up as a fierce little Indian lady called Rajdai was looming over us.

  “Why are you just sitting there?” demanded. “Do a job search whilst you’re waiting.”

  She pointed to a touchscreen computer terminal embedded into a steel box screwed to the floor.

  “Hello. We're only here to ask some questions,” I said.

  “Are either of you working right now?” she said.

  We looked at each other.

  “Um no. Not right now,” said Adam. “I need to ask about legal…”

  “Do you want to claim benefits?” she said.

  “I think so,” said Adam.

  “If you want to claim benefits you need to be available to work and that means you need to be doing a job search,” she said.

  “We just want to ask…”

  “Job search,” she snapped, as if I were stupid.

  We trudged over guiltily under her malevolent gaze to the greasy computer screens, which excitedly stated, with pictures of happy smiling job hunters, that we could ‘SEARCH FOR ANY JOB!’

  I grinned at Rajdai, who was still hawking us, and rebelliously typed in Lap dancer, London.

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