The coco pinchard boxset.., p.39
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.39

           Robert Bryndza

  Monday 7th March 15.06

  TO [email protected]

  Friday was spent cross-examining DCI Thomas, the police officer who headed the investigation at Adam’s former employer, XYZ Events.

  No clear winner emerged between Natasha and Annabel. Much of the case hangs on the fact it was Adam’s bank account used for the money transfers. If he’d realised it was being used fraudulently, and reported it, then there wouldn’t be much of a case against him. But he didn’t.

  We passed the weekend in our room watching films neither of us could remember afterwards.

  Then today Natasha was due to call our first witness, Adam’s boss Serena, from his old job in the civil service. However, her mother was taken ill and she rushed to see her in hospital. The cross examination was expected to last all day, so Judge Haute-Penguin adjourned the case until tomorrow. So after a weekend of waiting, we have to wait some more. Instead of going home, we’ve decided to go to the cinema in Leicester Square.

  Friday 11th March 23.19

  TO: [email protected]

  It has been a week of cross-examining witnesses, and I think we might be winning. Serena eventually appeared in the witness box and made Adam look very good, and a forensic banking expert was called, who seemed to come down on the side of Natasha, criticising the computer network in the offices of XYZ.

  “You’d be a fool to use one of those computers to access anything remotely personal,” he said. “Bank accounts being out of the question. I’m surprised the company is still standing. Its IT systems appear to be hacked almost on a daily basis.”

  We had been expecting Adam to take the stand, but things ran over and there is still a member of staff from XYZ to be called, so he has an agonising wait until next week.

  Sunday 13th March 19.27

  TO: [email protected]

  Marika went away for a mini-break with Greg this weekend, so we had some peace.

  Rosencrantz came over and brought a coffee and walnut cake made by Wayne, and a bottle of sloe gin sent by Oscar. We ordered pizza, drank gin cocktails, and got some DVDs, trying to pretend that everything is normal. There was a succession of phone calls from Ethel, Chris, Meryl and Tony, Adam’s daughter Holly and his ex-wife, all asking how things are going, all sending their love.

  The highlight of the day was watching Adam put Rocco in the pizza box and drag him round the living room floor. It was the only time he smiled.

  Tuesday 15th March 05.06

  TO: [email protected]

  Annabel called a witness from XYZ Events yesterday, an employee called Sabrina Jones. Sabrina is in her mid-twenties, a stick-thin blonde with white teeth and very fine wrists.

  Annabel began by asking her about her position in the company.

  “I manage the staff travel,” she said.

  Annabel then spent an inordinate amount of time questioning Sabrina about the state of the company since the loss was discovered. With great relish, she described the four redundancies. Annabel then asked about staff morale.

  “Objection!” trilled Natasha. “How is the staff morale at XYZ Events relevant?”

  “I want the men and women of the jury to understand how this fraud has adversely affected several innocent parties,” said Annabel.

  “Objection overruled,” said the judge.

  Annabel smiled.

  “Can I ask you, Miss Jones, what your relationship is to Mr Rickard?”

  My ears pricked up. Sabrina licked her lips and sighed.

  “We had an affair,” she said.

  I could see Natasha tense up; this was unexpected. Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much control. I gripped the railing of the visitors’ gallery.

  Annabel went on.

  “Can I ask how long the affair lasted?”

  “About two months,” said Sabrina, leaning into the microphone to ensure we all could hear.

  Adam’s head snapped round to me, and he shook his head.

  “And why did the affair conclude?” said Annabel.

  “What?” said Sabrina.

  “Why did the affair end?” said Annabel.

  “Oh, um, Adam became possessive, so I ended it. Then the day after, I caught him in my office, he was going through my handbag. He then took my phone and wanted to see all my messages…”

  I had sat open-mouthed as I heard this, but I couldn’t take it any longer and I found myself standing.

  “She’s a lying bitch!” I shouted. “She must be lying.”

  Heads in the courtroom turned round with varying looks of shock and horror on their faces. The horror was reserved mainly for Natasha. Judge Haute-Penguin banged her gavel.

  “Mrs Pinchard, I understand this is distressing but…”

  “It’s not distressing, she’s a fucking liar!” I heard myself shout.

  There was a sharp intake of breath from the jury as the judge banged her gavel again.

  “Right, I won’t tolerate this in my court room. Could Mrs Pinchard please be removed.”

  A steward in a blue uniform appeared at my elbow and asked me to come with him. I clamped my lips together. I was in shock, desperate to believe that this was a lie and desperate to take back what had flown out of my mouth.

  I’d been removed from the courtroom. The jury had seen this.

  “I’m afraid I have to take you outside,” said the steward apologetically.

  “Yes, that’s fine,” I said in a small voice.

  We took the lift down and he escorted me out through the x-ray scanners. With a look of sympathy, he left me under the huge low canopy outside the main entrance. I walked down to the edge and lit a cigarette. My legs were shaking uncontrollably and I had to lean on one of the pillars for support.

  A minute later, the doors opened behind me and Natasha came out flanked by Adam and her associates.

  “What’s going on?” I said.

  “We’ve finished for the day,” said Natasha coldly.


  “The witness was too distressed to continue.”

  “The witness! What about me? And what about…?”

  Adam looked pained.

  “You have to understand. What you just did was bad, it could have consequences,” said Natasha. “The case has been adjourned until tomorrow. You won’t be permitted in court when the witness resumes her evidence.”

  “That’s not evidence, it’s…”

  “I have to go,” said Natasha. “I need to work out how to move forward, and you two need to talk.”

  She was whisked away in her car and we were left standing together.

  I set off for the station, finding a gap in the traffic on Tooley Street and dashing across. I pushed through the crowds at London Bridge and boarded a train waiting on the platform. I didn’t check if Adam was behind me, and squeezed into a spot in the crowded carriage. As the train pulled away I saw Adam moving towards me through the irritable commuters in the packed carriage.

  “Coco. It’s not true,” he said.

  “Not here,” I hissed.

  I watched the landscape of London fly past, the flats all jumbled together, the endless construction work; more boxes for more people.

  “Well, where?” he hissed back. “We can’t talk in court, we can’t talk on the train, and we certainly can’t talk at Marika’s!”

  We ended up in the huge sprawling graveyard behind Honor Oak Park Station.

  “I didn’t sleep with her, please believe me,” he said.

  I was perching on a bench next to a mossy gravestone. Adam was pacing up and down.

  “And?” I said.

  “And what?” said Adam.

  “That’s it. I didn’t sleep with her, full stop. What do I say? Okay Adam, let’s go home and iron our clothes for tomorrow…”

  “I don’t know what else to say.”

  “Who is she, this Sabrina?”

  “Someone I worked with.”

  “You never mentioned her.”
br />   “That’s because I barely knew her.”

  “Then why is she called as a character witness?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “Oh come on, don’t be such a thick man, there must be a reason?”

  “I really didn’t sleep with her. She worked at the other end of the office.”

  “Am I stupid?” I said. “I keep making excuses for you, but maybe you did steal the money, maybe you did have the affair. At least tell me where it’s hidden, so all this will be worth it!”

  “It’s Annabel. She called her as a witness to rattle our cages, to smear me and provoke you, which obviously wasn’t hard.”


  “Well, thanks to you dropping the F bomb across the courtroom, Natasha is going to have to work even harder…”

  “Oh poor Natasha, with her tailored size eight suits and her five hundred pounds an hour.”

  “So you’re jealous of Natasha now?”

  “I’m not jealous of her, you idiot!” I shouted. “I’m incredibly upset about everything; this, me, you… My shitty life!”

  I yanked off my engagement ring and hurled it into the row of trees edging the graveyard.

  “Coco!” shouted Adam, as I walked away. “Coco, why did you do that?”

  “Stop asking stupid questions and wake up. Take responsibility!” I shouted over my shoulder.

  It was a rare evening where Marika didn’t have Greg staying over. I walked Rocco, then had a shower, and watched Eastenders with her as she painted her toenails.

  “Where’s Adam?” she said.

  “Had to stay late with our lawyer…”

  “How the case going?”

  “Good,” I said.

  I asked her what colour her nail polish was.

  “Um, Fuchsia Fever,” she said.

  “It’s nice.”


  We passed the rest of Eastenders in silence, and then I excused myself and came to bed. I lay with Rocco, watching the little clock on our cluttered beside table with one mad, teary eye.

  I heard the front door go just before eleven. Adam murmured something to Marika, then came into our room and left the light off. Rocco leapt up and rushed over with licks and wuffles. He gave him a cuddle then I felt the bed lurch when he got in. I shuffled away from him, but he wiggled in to spoon me. He took my left hand and slid the engagement ring back on.

  “You found it?” I said.


  I opened my mouth to say something.

  “Please Coco,” he said. “Please can we just lie here, for one night? I just need you.”

  I pulled his arm around me and I waited for him to fall asleep. When he and Rocco were both snoring lightly, I gently got out of bed, came to the kitchen and fired up the coffee machine. I’m still here, wide awake and it’s five in the morning.

  Wednesday 16th March 22.31

  TO: [email protected]

  Natasha asked that I not be present in court for the remainder of Sabrina Jones’ evidence. I’m not officially barred, but she said the focus could be pulled by my presence. She seemed calmer than the previous day and promised she would “question Sabrina robustly” about the alleged affair with Adam.

  I still came in on the train with Adam. I was unsure of what else I would do if I didn’t.

  It was the first real spring day of the year, warm and sunny, so I bought coffee and came and sat by the river. A forsythia beside the bench had exploded in yellow, and the sun was sparkling off the Thames. I spent a pleasant couple of hours smoking and sunbathing, letting my mind wander. A text came through from Adam around eleven to say they were having a short recess, but he didn’t mention how it was going.

  I suddenly noticed Sabrina Jones. She was a little way down, standing by the railing next to the water. She must have come out for a cigarette. Her mobile rang and she pulled it out of her bag. I don’t know if it was heavenly intervention or the wind was right, but as she began talking on the phone, I could hear her voice quite clearly being carried downwind.

  “Yeah yerite, like it’s a grind,” she said to whoever was on the other end. She was wearing a huge parka jacket and her long, stick-thin legs poked out of the bottom. Outside the courtroom, she looked more in control, scrappy, like she could take care of herself. Then she started talking more earnestly.

  “Just chill, Simon… No one knows, no one has a fucking clue.” She turned her head to check if anyone was around. I quickly ducked down, behind the large forsythia. She went on smugly.

  “It’s me, the nice white girl against the black dude… Simon… I’m just a character witness, I keep telling you.”

  I strained to hear as the wind changed direction.

  “Simon, no one knows who you are… No one can link it back to you. I’ve been watching the jury, they think it’s him. No, keep the bag where it is… We wait, we wait, we don’t rush, and then when the time is right we move it. I’m gonna quit my job in a month or so and then, we’ll slowly start the move… No, chill out! Who’s going to be bugging my phone? It’s a Blackberry. They’re like the hardest phone to bug.”

  She abruptly changed the subject and droned on for another five minutes, asking Simon to get a pizza out of the freezer, and then she hung up.

  I sat there in shock. She must be talking about the money, I thought. Therefore, she has two hundred thousand quid stuffed in some bag!

  I waited until she had gone back toward the courthouse, then I followed. I checked to see she was through security, then I went through and took the lift up to the office Natasha was using. She and Adam were just getting ready to go back in.

  “I know who did it! I know who took the money!” I blurted. “It’s Sabrina!”

  Adam and Natasha looked up.

  “She’s got the money in her house in a bag!”

  Natasha jumped up and closed the door. She asked me to explain further and took out a legal pad to make notes. This was thrilling, I thought, as I relayed everything I had heard. Adam is going to be found not guilty!

  I noticed that Natasha had stopped writing and was tapping her pen on the yellow legal pad.

  “What?” I said.

  “What you’ve told me is a conversation heard downwind with no witnesses but you.”

  “Yes! But she admitted it all!”

  “No, she didn’t,” said Natasha. “She talked about moving a bag.”

  “Of money,” I added.

  “Did she mention money?”

  “Well, no, not exactly, but what else could she be talking about?”

  “That’s the point, anything. You didn’t hear the other side of the conversation, so whoever it was could have changed the subject. They could have been talking about moving house, or a completely unrelated issue. He could be a low level drug dealer…”

  “Well, that’s great, you question her about her boyfriend. If he’s drug dealer her flat can be searched for drugs.”

  “Coco,” said Natasha rubbing her eyes, “I can’t use the witness box to ask any old questions or elicit information about alleged crimes unrelated to our case.”

  “Look, I’ve come to you with information that could blow this case out of the water…” I said. “Well, at least prove that Adam is innocent.”

  “It’s hearsay; you have no witnesses, no proof. You also called the girl an effing liar when the court was in session.”

  “Well, someone needs to do something!” I said. “How much are we paying you?”

  “Coco, calm down,” said Adam, rising from his seat.

  “Five hundred quid an hour, plus all the cash for your paralegals!” I said.

  “Coco I am doing my… I am doing the best,” said Natasha.

  “Well, that’s reassuring, isn’t it!”

  There was a knock at the door and they were told to come back in to the court. I came back out to the river and was once again fuming and shaking. I ordered another coffee, sat back in the bench, and lit up another cigaret

  Suddenly a realisation flooded over me. Adam was innocent. He didn’t take the money, he didn’t have an affair. I replayed the phone conversation in my mind. It may not hold up in a court of law, but I KNOW.

  I met Adam during the lunch break; I was almost skipping with glee.

  “Natasha didn’t make much of a dent in Sabrina. She came off like a wronged waif of a girl,” he said.

  I gave him a giant hug.


  “You didn’t do it, did you? Any of it. I know Natasha rubbished what I told you, but I know what I heard.”

  “The case is going so badly,” he said. “And I have to give evidence tomorrow.”

  I took him to the pub. We sat, and I told him, again, exactly what I had heard.

  Thursday 17th March 19.44

  TO: [email protected]

  I’m sorry I haven’t been in contact over the last few days, but the days have blurred into one. We’ve been up at six every morning and rarely back before eight in the evening.

  Adam performed very well when he gave evidence. He was calm, composed, and open, and Annabel failed to goad him into anything. However, this case is as slippery as an eel. So much is inconclusive. I think the charm factor worked with the jury; about half were charmed in to smiling and a couple of the men who also like men seemed to warm to Adam, so that’s two-thirds of the jury who could be on our side.

  The summing up was completed quite rapidly, and 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 Haute-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.”

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