The coco pinchard boxset.., p.41
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.41

           Robert Bryndza
 

  I know it sounds mad, but suddenly the prospect of finding out where she lived was too enticing. I wanted to have power over her; she seems to hold so much over my life.

  She boarded Central Line to Bank then walked through to the Docklands Light Railway. I followed close behind and boarded a DLR train that said Woolwich Arsenal on the front. By now she was plugged into her iPod and reading a magazine so it was quite easy to stay further down the train carriage as her shadow.

  It was getting dark when we got off at Woolwich Arsenal Station. I hung back as the crowds poured off the train and became bunched together at the ticket barriers. As a practised commuter, she had her Oyster Travel Card inside her wallet, and barely looked up from her iPod as she swiped her way through the barriers. I scrabbled around for mine in the bottom of my bag, hoping I had enough credit. I made it through the barriers and emerged from the station. I noticed her further up the road, passing an area of rundown terraced houses and followed. It must have been rubbish day as I had to pick my way through scores of wheelie bins out on the pavements. Most of the houses had been carved up into flats and bedsits with concreted-over front gardens.

  Up ahead Sabrina suddenly turned and vanished from view. The rest of the street was deserted. I crossed the road and hurried on. It was now almost dark. Most of the streetlights were out and I stood across the road in the fine drizzle, trying to work out which house she’d gone into. After a minute, a light came on in a top floor front window, casting a square of yellow over the wet road in front of me. Sabrina came to the window and I ducked down behind a cluster of wheelie bins as she fiddled with a blind. I got a glimpse of her happy face as a guy with a shaved head came and put his arms round her waist. She smiled up at him then the blind shot down the window and I was in darkness again.

  I crouched there in the cold angrily. Why does she get to come home from her day at work to a warm flat and a partner? Suddenly I was possessed with rage. I stood up to go and bang on her door and confront her, but I had a dead leg and had to grab a wheelie bin for support and wait for the pain to subside.

  As I was wiggling my toes in my shoe, a car approached with dipped headlights and they dazzled me. It was a long Volvo and it pulled to a stop beside me. The window slid down and a face I recognised leaned across the passenger seat. It was Mr Cohen, my next-door neighbour from Marylebone.

  “Mrs Pinchard?” he said.

  “Oh, hello Mr Cohen,” I said.

  “This isn’t your neck of the woods!”

  I didn’t know what to say. I rather fluffed around, saying I had been meeting a friend for tea.

  “Would you like a lift?” he said. “This isn’t the nicest place to be walking around at night. Lots of strange people.”

  I suddenly realised I’d been stopped from doing something stupid. I said “Yes” and got into his warm car. The back seat and the boot were full of books.

  “What are you doing out here?” I asked as he indicated and pulled away.

  “I’ve got a lock-up in Woolwich, for the book shop.”

  “Book shop?”

  “Yes, my book shop. Antiquated books on Marylebone High Street. Woolwich is cheap and safe; no one round there wants to steal books!” he grinned.

  “I didn’t know you had a book shop,” I said.

  “Yes, I’m full of mystery,” he grinned.

  It felt oddly comforting to see my old neighbour. We were speeding towards Central London when I realised.

  “Oh, I’m not living in Marylebone anymore,” I said.

  “You’re not?”

  “No, I had to rent the house out.”

  “Oh,” he waited for me to elaborate, but when I didn’t he said, “Where do you live now?”

  “Lewisham… if you go through Blackheath, it’s on the way.”

  He didn’t ask anymore until we pulled up outside Rosencrantz’s flat.

  “Thank you Mr Cohen,” I said, unclipping my seatbelt. “I owe you one. You’ve really gone out of your way.”

  “A pleasure,” he said. “Oh, you could do something for me.”

  “Yes?” I said.

  Mr Cohen took a deep breath.

  “I really like you Mrs Pinchard, more than you know, and I’ve always wanted you to do something for me, but I’ve always been too embarrassed to ask.”

  He unclipped his seat belt and leaned toward me. I froze in shock. He seemed to be moving in to kiss me. I panicked and came over all British and sort of half puckered my lips. He had, after all, given me a lift… At the last moment, he veered to one side and began feeling around in a box behind my seat.

  “Ah! Here it is,” he said, and pulled out a first edition hardback copy of Chasing Diana Spencer.

  “Would you sign this? I’m building up a library of signed first editions, for the shop.”

  “Yes! Yes, of course,” I grinned, relieved.

  I found a pen in my bag and signed the book.

  “Mrs Pinchard, what did you think I was going to ask you for?” he said, bemused.

  “Oh, um… I should go,” I said. “Thank you.”

  As I closed the car door, I could see the look on his face: she’s a madwoman.

  When I got in, I went straight upstairs and took a long shower, trying to wash away the crazy that clung to me. I came out and I went to Wayne’s room and found Rocco asleep on the bed. He opened his eyes and stretched and I pulled him onto my lap.

  “I’m not mad, am I?” I said, holding Rocco up. He regarded me with his little wise eyes as if to say, you’re not far off.

  Please email me if anything happens, work-wise. If they decide to go ahead and publish Agent Fergie, or if anything else comes up.

  Coco x

  Tuesday 5th April 09.41

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I went to visit Adam yesterday. Horrible, horrible, horrible. The whole process, the whole situation, and I’m not even the one who has to deal with it.

  I took the train to Plumstead Station, and I seemed to be in the prisoners’ wives carriage. To be honest, they scared me; even their children scared me, running riot, full of e-numbers. We all got off at the station in the rain and filed along a grey road to the Prison Visitors Centre.

  The windows were all steamed up inside, and it stunk of industrial floor cleaner. We had to line up and go through a metal detector, then put our belongings in a locker. You need a pound for the lockers, and many of the women didn’t have enough money, so their stuff had to be bagged up and left in an office, which took ages. We were led to a waiting room with a view of a brick wall and lots of leaflets about drug abuse and eating disorders lining the walls.

  Finally, we were called through into what looked like a huge gymnasium, with row after row of plastic chairs and tables. The prisoners were all sat facing us as we entered. They were wearing yellow sashes. I later found out this is so they can’t blend in with the visitors and walk out at the end of visiting.

  I saw Adam at the side by the wall, in his sash, sitting and waiting. I quickened my step across the wooden floor and grabbed him in a bear hug. He felt thin, and had a deep sadness in his eyes, a look of defeat. He was wearing the clothes I had sent for him. We hugged for a long time, and then he pulled me in front of him to look at my face.

  “It's so good to see you,” he whispered.

  “Are you eating?” I said.

  “Yes.”

  “Sleeping?”

  “Yes, and no…”

  His eyes were bloodshot, he had lots of shaving cuts, and his skin was dry and cracked on his hands and face. He told me they only have hand soap to shower with, and they are given the cheapest disposable razors for shaving, which they have to hand back as soon as they’ve finished.

  “Why?”

  “So they can’t be used as weapons,” he said, matter-of-factly.

  I gulped and changed the subject.

  “How is the food?”

  “Disgusting.”

  “And your cellmate?”

&nbs
p; I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation, talking about stuff like this…

  “I’m in a cell of my own, thank God,” he said. “But we’re locked up for twenty-three hours a day.”

  What seemed like a brief exchange had taken up fifteen minutes of our precious hour. There was so much to say.

  “What about my appeal?” he said, his eyes lighting up.

  I told him I’d been to see Natasha, and she’d give me an update in a couple of weeks.

  “Jeez… Coco, time in prison goes so slowly. It feels like months since I came here.”

  He said he’d had had a ton of cards and letters; from Chris, Ethel, Rosencrantz and the boys, friends from his old job — even Daniel and Marika. Meryl and Tony had sent a very kind card with, bizarrely, a Waterstones book token, and they had written:

  Here’s hoping you get into an open prison, we’ve read in The Daily Mail they let the prisoners out to go shopping! Meryl and Tony xxx

  He grinned when he told me this, and for a brief moment, I had my old Adam back. He told me he has been classed as a category D prisoner, which is the lowest category, reserved for prisoners who are trusted to not escape and are eligible for transfer to an open prison.

  “That’s fantastic,” I said.

  “I’m on the waiting list for transfer,” he said. “It could take months.”

  “So you’re stuck with all the rapists and murderers!”

  “Shhhh Coco,” he hissed.

  I looked around but it seemed as if no one was paying us any attention.

  “It’s not fair. Even if you had done what you’re in here for you should be away from…”

  “Let’s talk about something else,” he said. “How are you doing?”

  I told him about the fight with Marika and that I would be looking for a place to live. His face clouded over.

  “Why are you standing by me, Coco?” he said. “I’ve screwed your life up. You should find a decent bloke to take care of you.”

  “You haven’t screwed up my life, and you are a decent bloke. You’re more than decent,” I said, grabbing his hand. “I love you and I’m determined to get you out so we can be together. You are innocent. I will marry you and we are going to be together for the rest of our lives.”

  He took my hand and regarded me for a moment, then he leant across and kissed me. After several seconds, some of the other prisoners started whistling and one of the guards told us to move apart.

  “I bet I’m going to be searched even more thoroughly,” he said. “But it was worth it.”

  “Why would you be searched even more?”

  “Kissing is a good way to smuggle in drugs,” he said.

  Then a bell rang which told us our hour was up.

  “What a thing to end on,” he said. “I love you.”

  “I love you too,” I said.

  I clung onto him tight before I had to wrench myself away. I kept looking back at him, all the way to the door, and then he was gone.

  I discovered I can visit him twice a month for one hour. I can email him twice a week, however he can’t email back. My emails have to be sent to an official address where they will be read by a stranger, then printed off and given to him as if it were a letter. He is issued with a phone card once a week, which will last about twelve minutes. I can write letters to him as many times as I want and he can write back, so long as he has money for stamps.

  In the modern world of instant communication, this seems so alien and unfair. It’s also magnified by the fact Adam is only seven miles away from Rosencrantz’s place in Lewisham. I checked this on the AA Route Planner. He might as well be seven million miles away.

  When I left the Prisoners Visitors Centre, I felt a determination after seeing Adam. I am determined we will survive this and that I will get him out of there. I need to do my maths so I can find a place to live and get to grips with the future.

  Thursday 7th April 12.12

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  I placed an ad last night on Gumtree advertising my car for sale, and within forty minutes I had someone interested. I emailed the guy back and agreed to meet at Chris’ place (where the car is parked) this morning.

  Rosencrantz had offered to come with me and when he came downstairs this morning he was dressed in a black suit with his hair slicked back.

  “You look a bit smart to flog a second hand car,” said Wayne, who was dishing up egg on toast for Oscar and me at the kitchen table.

  “I want to look, you know…”

  “Smart?” I said.

  “Straight,” said Rosencrantz, awkwardly.

  “Oh please,” said Wayne, rounding on him with a fish slice and his frilly apron. “You’re here, you're queer, get on with it. I can’t be doing with all this pretending what you’re not rubbish.”

  “You can be gay and know about cars,” said Oscar. “What do you know about cars?”

  “Um…” said Rosencrantz.

  “‘I’ll be there,” I said.

  “But what do you know about cars, Mrs P?” said Oscar.

  “There was one time I had steam coming out of my bonnet and I knew how to fill up the radiator!” I said proudly.

  “I didn’t know you wore a bonnet, Mrs P!” grinned Wayne. “I bet you look like a right Bo-Peep with that on and a fag hanging out the corner of your mouth!”

  “I’m serious guys, Mum needs this to go well,” said Rosencrantz.

  “Well, maybe you shouldn’t be called Rosencrantz,” said Wayne.

  “How about you call yourself Dean?” suggested Oscar. “Dean is the name of someone not to be messed with. Someone called Dean would know about cars.”

  Rosencrantz’s eyes lit up. He pulled a comb out of his pocket

  “Yeah. I’m Dean, and I’m mean,” he said.

  Rocco barked as Rosencrantz swaggered round the kitchen.

  “I’d get the slow train if I were you, Mrs P,” said Wayne. “Give him time to rehearse.”

  “What?” said Rosencrantz.

  “You’re a bit Dean the Queen right now,” grinned Oscar.

  We arrived at Chris’ place just before eleven. The sun was out and his house on the edge of Regent’s Park looked so idyllic. The thatch roof glowed golden in the sunlight, butterflies floated above the green hedges and the garden was filled with tulips and daffodils. A Rolls Royce was parked a little way down the street and, as we approached, the door opened. A short fat little man in his fifties got out with a terrifyingly tall blonde in her twenties. He was clad in clothes far too young for him and carrying a briefcase. A short sundress barely covered the top of her long legs, and as they walked toward us, we saw his head only came up to her shoulder. The guy was called Nick and his girlfriend was Dahlia.

  I left Rosencrantz chatting with them and walked up the path to Chris’ garage. I used my key to open the roll top door and reversed the Land Cruiser out onto the driveway. I glanced back wistfully at it; white and sleek, its chrome headlights glinting in the sun.

  “It’s only about seven months old, and it only has a few thousand miles on the clock,” I said.

  Nick walked around the car inspecting it. Dahlia followed, peering in the windows. He opened the driver’s side and helped her into the seat. She pouted her big lips and grasped the steering wheel.

  “What do you think, Princess?” said Nick.

  “I wuv it,” she pouted in a baby voice. “Can I have it?”

  “Sure thing, Princess,” he said, as if it were nothing more than a new mascara.

  “You got the papers?” he said.

  I pulled out the little black plastic book housing the paperwork and I handed it over. He flicked through it.

  “You got ID?”

  “ID?”

  “To show me this is you,” he said.

  I rummaged in my bag; luckily, I had my passport. He peered at it and handed it back. Dahlia was still in the driver’s seat turning the wheel and miming driving.

  “So, we
said twenty-two grand?”

  “Twenty-five,” said Rosencrantz.

  Nick looked at us.

  “Well, for twenty-five, shouldn’t we hear it in action? Have you got the key?”

  I said there was an ignition button and Dahlia started the car with a roar. She giggled and clapped her hands in delight. Nick placed the briefcase on the bonnet, and flicked it open. Bundles of fifty-pound notes lined the case. He picked up a thick wodge sealed together with a paper band.

  “You’re giving me cash?” I said.

  “What else?” said Nick.

  I looked at Rosencrantz. Dahlia switched on the radio and Shakira’s Waka Waka song started booming out mixed with her revs of the engine.

  Ten grand was counted out on the bonnet when I heard the front door behind us slam and a stick insect of a woman with a high forehead emerged. Despite the spring weather, she was dressed in a fur coat. She was brandishing a shotgun.

  “Stop whatever it is you're doing, this is private property!” she cried, baring her brown aristocratic teeth.

  I realised this was Chris’s mother, Lady Edwina.

  “Are you drug dealers?” she said, cocking the gun. “Turn that blasted racket orf!”

  She pointed the gun at Dahlia who was still bopping away to Shakira. She noticed the gun and screamed.

  “It’s me, Lady Cheshire,” I shouted, above the music. “You remember? We met at the Edinburgh Festival, Chris directed my play… I’m a friend of his.”

  Dahlia turned down the music and we were all stood with our hands in the air.

  “Yes, there isn’t much money in the theatre these days,” she said. “God knows I’ve tried to dissuade Christopher, but surely you don’t need to deal drugs with lowlifes?”

 
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