The coco pinchard boxset.., p.50
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.50

           Robert Bryndza
 

  Within minutes the police were on board and Sabrina, myself and Rosencrantz were taken away. It took a few minutes before we realised we were being arrested with her…

  I’m in a police interview room, waiting. Rosencrantz is in another and I don’t know where Sabrina is. I’d better go, someone is coming through the door.

  Saturday 13th August 13.48

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk, chris@christophercheshire.com

  We arrived back in Portsmouth on Friday lunchtime. It was cold and misty and we hadn’t slept for hours. We were lucky to be able to walk down the gangplank by ourselves. Sabrina was taken to a police car in handcuffs by two police officers. Simon hadn’t been so lucky. He had tried to jump off the boat and swim away, only he had jumped off the wrong side, and landed on the concrete jetty. He’s in police custody in a hospital in Jersey with two broken legs and a fractured pelvis.

  We had initially been arrested and questioned by the police. Sabrina had alleged that we were involved with the fraud, citing Adam as our connection. There was a scary few hours when, tired and emotional, I thought they might buy her story. However, the phone call to Natasha had been worthwhile.

  What I didn’t know is that her team at chambers had been working with the Met Police on the information I had sent, and Sabrina’s real name, Sabrina Colter, had flagged her police record, and the record of her boyfriend Simon. They had discovered that between April and August Simon had deposited forty thousand pounds cash into his bank account, at a rate of several hundred pounds a day, despite being unemployed and claiming benefits. The Jersey police managed to recover all the money from the deck of the ferry, which came to one hundred and forty thousand pounds.

  We had just checked into a hotel in Portsmouth when the phone by my bed rang. It was Natasha.

  “Hello Coco,” she said. “I’ve just been to visit Adam.”

  “Is he okay? Is he hurt? How long is his sentence, can we get him off?” I sputtered.

  “Calm down, please,” she said. “I have an appeal hearing booked on Monday at The Royal Courts of Justice, the appeal court on The Strand. I will present our evidence and push for a re-trial.”

  “A re-trial?” I said in dismay. “Did you hear what happened?”

  “I’m being conservative and cautious, Coco. I think we have enough evidence for an appeal. However, we have to tread carefully with a judge. I’ll plead strongly for Adam to be released on bail.”

  “How does he look, Natasha? Was he hurt in the fight?”

  “He punched another prisoner in the prison library. It seems they have a copy of one of your books and this prisoner had written a defamatory comment about you.”

  “Oh,” I said. “What was the comment?”

  I heard Natasha turning pages and consulting her notes.

  “It’s seems he wrote the word slag…”

  It sounded so strange to hear the word “slag” in her upper class accent.

  “That’s what got him fifty-six days added to his sentence?” I said. “The idiot. You wait till I see him.”

  “Coco, he is fine, he’s out of segregation, he’s not hurt, but he still can’t have visitors. Only his legal team can visit.”

  “What should I do?” I said.

  “You should sleep, you sound exhausted. The hotel is taken care of. Rest and drive back to London tomorrow. We need you fresh for Monday.”

  I thanked her and hung up, then climbed into the soft warm bed and closed my eyes.

  I woke up what felt like minutes later, but it was Saturday morning. I showered and met Rosencrantz in the breakfast room and we stuffed ourselves with everything we could from the buffet.

  “I knew it was Sabrina,” I kept saying. “I knew it!”

  We got back to London around mid-afternoon. Wayne and Oscar were waiting excitedly for us, and we sat outside with drinks and told them everything.

  “Ooh, how dramatic!” said Wayne, clutching at his imaginary décolletage.

  “Tell us the bit again where you yanked out her hair extensions!” said Oscar.

  As they were leaving a couple of hours later, I noticed the bookshelf was gone. There was a bright blue strip behind the sofa where it had been, and all the books and ornaments were neatly packed in a cardboard box.

  “What happened to the bookshelf?” I said.

  “We got ever so antsy waiting to hear about your fate on the ferry,” said Wayne. “Oscar had his Allen key on his key ring so we took it to bits…”

  “We snuck it out to a skip over the road during the night,” grinned Oscar.

  “I’ve left an Ikea catalogue out on the counter,” said Wayne. “I thought a Littsjo, or a Liatorp, or maybe even a couple of Billy’s would look nice in its place… You could also get a matching coffee table, maybe a Toffyterd, or a Klubklop…”

  “Enough, let’s leave Mum in peace,” said Rosencrantz.

  I said goodbye to them all, and prepared myself to wait. To wait for Monday morning.

  I realised that the past four months have been all about waiting. Life has stopped. I haven’t made plans, I haven’t written anything new of note. I have plodded along fearfully, struggling to pay the bills, struggling to be good, but being scared. I have never felt so much fear as I have in the past few months.

  At 8.30pm, I sat down and I listened to Adele, hopefully for the last time alone.

  Sunday 14th August 14.56

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Do anyone’s dogs need walking? I’m going mad waiting.

  Monday 15th August 22.00

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  I don’t know how to feel… I hardly slept last night. I woke up to the water pipes clanking upstairs and then a trickling sound inside the walls as it whooshed about the flat. It was a lovely hot day, then I realised that Adam would be transported all the way from Norfolk to court in the hotbox van. The radio said it could be 28 degrees, which was my first worry. The second was when I met Natasha at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. She was tanned from her holiday and immaculate as ever.

  “The same judge is hearing the appeal,” she said, cutting straight to the chase.

  “Judge Haute-Penguin?”

  “Yes.”

  “What does it mean?”

  “Everything, or nothing… I personally like a different judge to hear an appeal. Looks less like we are trying to pick holes in their original judgment.”

  “But it was a jury who decided?” I said.

  “I know. But a judge is a proud creature.” She looked at her watch. “I must dash, need to put my contact lenses in and get ready.”

  “Fingers crossed,” I said, but Natasha had seen a judge she knew, a rather dashing seventy-year-old man in a black suit with a head of cobalt blue hair. His face lit up when she approached him.

  I remember hearing somewhere that when you get old you lose the ability to see the colour blue, hence the many old ladies and gents you see with bright blue hair.

  This old judge had very blue hair. If he ever strayed into South London he would no doubt attract scores of kids who would follow him down the road saying, “Look at that prat with the blue hair!” However, this was The Royal Courts of Justice, his kingdom, and he was being deferred to by many of the lawyers who streamed past.

  I read a chapter of Chicken Soup For The Soul last night about positive thinking, and I scrambled around for a way of spinning my despair. All I could come up with was at least I was still young enough to see the colour blue.

  I had insisted on going to court alone. I find I am better on my own in a crisis; I can quietly panic and not have to keep saying how I feel to the other person.

  I wished you and Chris were here with me though.

  I was the only person in the public gallery at the hearing. A kind steward showed me in, and I made my way along the polished bench and sat. Below me was Adam! It was so wonderful to see him, but all I was getting was the back of his head. He was deep in conversation wi
th Natasha, now in her lawyer’s wig and without her glasses.

  I cleared my throat loudly, but the sound was lost in the vast courtroom. I did it again and still nothing. So, I resorted to,

  “PSSST! PSSSSSSSSSSST! Adam!”

  Natasha, the court stenographer, several stewards, and Adam all turned. His eyes lit up when he saw me. I went to mouth something when we heard the somber, “All rise.”

  We stood and moments later Judge Ruby Haute-Penguin came in looking much the same as she did five months ago. She took her seat, told us to sit, and perched a small pair of half-moon specs on the end of her nose.

  I couldn’t read her face at first. She kept us waiting whilst she checked over several documents. The silence made me shiver. Then she looked up, surveying Adam and Natasha as if they were a pair of bugs squashed on the windscreen of her Range Rover.

  “Proceed,” was all she said.

  Natasha did a brilliant job of presenting the information and outlining the evidence that had come to light about Sabrina. Then she recounted what had happened on the ferry to Jersey.

  “Ah, yes, Mrs Pinchard, our very own Jessica Fletcher…” said the judge, looking up.

  Caught in her gaze, I rose to my feet and grinned.

  “It wasn’t a compliment, Mrs Pinchard, sit down.”

  I sat, chastened. She slid the half-moon glasses back up her nose and looked over the documents again. My hands were clammy with sweat and I was leaving huge wet patches on the polished wood.

  We all waited. Every time she turned a page, the sound echoed in the silence. Even the court stenographer was still, her face motionless, her slim hands held like chicken feet above her little machine, waiting for the judge to speak.

  Then she looked up.

  “Ok,” she said. “What are you angling for, Natasha?”

  “Your Honor, I would like to request a re-trial…”

  “What about asking Adam to be released on bail?” I shouted (inside my head). Bloody Natasha, she had chickened out!

  “I’m calling a recess to consider all of this,” said the judge.

  She banged the gavel, a steward told us to rise, and Adam was handcuffed and carted away.

  I went to the waiting room and I waited. After an hour, Natasha emerged saying she had been called to Judge Haute-Penguin’s personal chambers, and that we would re-convene after lunch.

  “Is there a problem?” I said.

  “I don’t know,” said Natasha. “The judge is very thorough, she has asked for all of the case notes… Go and get something to eat, there’s nothing you can do here.”

  I came out for some air, walked down to the embankment, and sat by the river.

  A pleasure cruiser full of grinning tourists slowly churned past on the water. Scores of enthusiastic Japanese tourists had their video cameras out, the lenses winking back at me in the sunlight. As they swept past chattering like chickens in a coop, I gave them the middle finger. I know it was a horrible thing to do, but I felt so down at heel and defeated. My belly was hanging over my once smart suit. My hair was long and unkempt, I was more tired than I’d ever felt. Overall, I felt I had gone to seed. I didn’t want to be Old Woman #1 in a bunch of Japanese home movies.

  I squinted in the sun and looked over the rooftops to the courthouse. I wondered where Adam was. He could be only a few hundred yards away.

  I came back at 1pm and we went straight into the courtroom. Adam was already sat with Natasha, he turned round to face me, and he just shook his head.

  “What?” I mouthed.

  He mouthed something back but I couldn’t make it out, and then the melodious voice of the steward said, “All rise.”

  Judge Haute-Penguin came back in giving nothing away. She asked us to be seated.

  “After reviewing the evidence I have come to a decision,” she said.

  Then she gave the longest X-Factor judge’s pause…

  “You are innocent, Mr Rickard,” she said. “You should have never been charged with fraud or indeed sent to jail. Your conviction is hereby quashed. You can leave today a free man with no restrictions.”

  She banged the gavel. Adam was visibly shocked, as was Natasha.

  “All rise,” came the voice.

  The judge left and I ran out and down to the public area. My legs were shaking with excitement; there were tears in my eyes. In the space of a minute, the world suddenly seemed golden again.

  Natasha emerged triumphant and she gave me a big hug.

  “Where is he? Where’s Adam?” I said, looking behind her to the door.

  “He has to sign a couple of forms, then he gets his belongings, and he’s a free man.”

  “I can’t believe this,” I said. “What happens now? Is he on some kind of probation?”

  “He’s a free man, no record, no restrictions. I will be in touch to see if he wants to get compensation.”

  “I just want to take him home,” I said.

  “You two go and live your lives together, Coco,” she smiled.

  I thanked her, we hugged again, and she was gone.

  I went to sit down then I noticed a vending machine. I really wanted to get Adam something, I hadn’t thought about a gift. Is it an occasion? No doubt someone will come up with a Getting out of jail card soon, but for now I would just have to get him a Kit Kat and a bottle of water.

  I was fumbling for some change when I felt hands encircle my waist.

  “Hello,” said Adam in my ear.

  I turned to face him. I looked up into his eyes and he kissed me. He too looked a little ragged round the edges and down at heel (although he seemed thinner).

  We held each other for a long, long time; I loved the feeling of him against me. His warm body, feeling his heart beating, being able to rest my head against his shoulder.

  “I can’t believe it,” I said. “You’re free.”

  “Oh man, you smell so good,” he said. “I need to sit down.”

  He staggered over to the bench lining the wall.

  “Aren’t you excited to go outside?” I said.

  “I just need a moment… I went from the thought of facing an appeal and being banged up in Belmarsh again for weeks on end, to suddenly being free.”

  I went and held his hand.

  “I keep thinking someone is going to rush out and say they made a mistake,” he said.

  “No, you’re free,” I said and hugged him again. “What do you want to do?!” I said. “We can go on a boat trip or walk along the river or go and grab some food…?”

  “Would you mind if we went home?” he said. “I am dying to just be at home, with you. I want to have a bath and eat a takeaway and drink a cold beer!”

  I grabbed the giant plastic sack he was holding with HMP emblazoned across the front, and we left the courthouse, emerging on a set of stone steps.

  A journalist from BBC London Tonight was stood outside with a cameraman. I seized the chance, grabbed Adam’s arm, and held it up triumphantly.

  “Are you pleased with the verdict?” said the journalist, thrusting her microphone at us.

  Adam looked between me and her, a little daunted.

  “We’re thrilled that Adam Rickard has been completely cleared of all charges,” I said. “It’s a wonderful Scooby-Doo ending.”

  “And what does Adam Rickard think of all this?” said the journalist, with a smile on her lips.

  “I just want to live my life in peace after this terrible experience,” he said.

  “What’s the first thing you’re going to do?” she asked.

  “I’m going to marry this woman, well, after I’ve had a bath, I’ve really missed baths,” he grinned.

  We thanked the journalist and moved off. A black cab was waiting by the kerb. I asked if it was available and he said it was for us and that it had been paid for by the BMX Literary Agency. (Thank you.)

  I am writing this to you from the garden. Adam is in the bath soaking; he has been in there for nearly two hours. I keep going in to check on h
im. He is fine but says he needs a bit of time to deal with everything. I’m so happy.

  Tuesday 16th August 13.35

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  Did you see the BBC London Tonight report yesterday? Adam being released was the third item on the bulletin. We were sitting inside the flat with the door open on a balmy night, watching on my laptop. They had made a real effort with the piece; they had mobile phone footage of the chaos on the boat when Rosencrantz was throwing the money in the air. Then they had images of Sabrina and Simon being taken in by the police. Then some archive footage; an interview with me on Saturday Kitchen. Then we were stood on the steps outside the court, Adam saying how pleased he is to be free, and then me saying, “our wonderful Scooby-Doo ending…” with mascara running down my face.

  It has been incredible to be able to sit together and do nothing. Every conversation and meeting we have had for the last five months has been a race against the clock. Now we can just be.

  My phone began ringing after the BBC London report with calls from Ethel, Meryl and Tony, Daniel, Adam’s old work colleges, Holly, his ex-wife. I let him talk to everyone, loving the big smile on his face.

  I opened the plastic bag he had with HMP Cambria Sands written on, and unpacked the things he had kept in his cell: a picture of me, a toothbrush, the famous CD/Radio player from the Dairylea Stabber, Adele’s 21, six pairs of underwear, two t-shirts, a pair of trousers, four pairs of socks and a big pot of moisturiser. At the bottom of the bag was a piece of paper. It was the receipt we had signed when we booked our wedding at the church. I saw the date of the wedding: the nineteenth of August, this Friday. We almost did it, I thought. We almost made it …

  I went and took a long shower, shaved my legs and attempted to make myself look as good as I could. When I came out of the bathroom Adam was asleep on the sofa with Rocco laid out beside him. I took my cigarettes and a big glass of wine and I went to sit outside. At ten in the evening, it was still warm. I lit up a cigarette and sat back. It was the first time I felt completely relaxed in months, maybe even a year.

 

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