This is the twenty-first part of a fiction serial, in 744 words.
At no time did Marian feel she was not being believed, but the questioning was no less intrusive.
“Why did you go to the pub with a stranger?
“Why did you give him a lift home?”
“What were you doing outside his house in the first place?”
“Why did you get dressed up and drive all the way to Hertfordshire to visit a friend at an address you were not sure she still lived at?”
There were many more, but she was prepared with plausible answers, and stood her ground. The best thing was that there was no mention of Ros, Lyndsey, or Amanda. Retaining her married name had been useful on this occasion. It seemed that not one of the police officers had made any connection with her sister, or the barrister. When the same questions were repeated, she gave the same answers, unflinchingly.
“He seemed like a nice guy, and I felt bad about blocking his drive. I also felt stupid for forgetting the hire car would not start in Drive”.
“It seemed only right to give him a lift home when he had been so helpful”.
“I was outside his house because I took a wrong turning after filling up the car. I stopped to look at my phone, and then the car wouldn’t start”.
“I wanted to connect with my old friend again because I missed her, and the phone number I had for her wasn’t working. I had the hire car, some time off work, and that was how I decided to spend it”.
Inspector Banerjee tried to be kind.
“If I don’t ask you these questions now, the defence barrister is going to spring them on you, be aware of that, Marian. So why did you drive past his house and park behind the old shop?” Marian gave the same reply.
“Because he suddenly grabbed my throat, and said ‘Keep going, take the next right’. I could have tried stopping the car, but there was nobody around and I had never been in that situation before”. The police detective continued.
“So why did you get into the back with him”. Marian was firm.
“As I told you, I didn’t. He got into the back still holding my neck, and then dragged me over the seat. I guessed I was going to be raped, but that was better than being murdered. Have you ever been in that situation, Inspector? No? Then tell me what you would do. I tried to get his hands off my neck as he was doing it. I’m sure you will find scratches on him, if you bother to look”.
Marian kept her responses just the right side of outright anger at the questions.
That went on for almost another hour, then Banerjee turned off the voice recorder, and Sergeant Scott switched off the video camera.
“Okay, Marian. I have asked the CPS to charge Fowler with forced abduction and rape. The evidence is overwhelming, but is only as good as your statement holding up in court under cross-examination. Please don’t let me down, this could take weeks to come to trial. Can I count on you?” Marian nodded.
“Absolutely, one hundred percent”.
The women sat back, apparently convinced, and Sergeant Scott took over the conversation.
“Your hire car has been impounded for forensics. I will let them know, so you won’t be charged for the hire after tonight. I will get someone to drive you home soon. You can have your handbag and phone back, but the clothes and shoes will have to stay with us pending a trial and any subsequent appeal. It is called ‘Chain of evidence’, and is crucial. You must not speak to anyone about this case, especially any reporters or casual friends. Once Fowler appears to be remanded in custody, your name will be witheld until the trial. If you need more time off work, you can explain what happened to your doctor, and get a certificate. But you must not mention Fowler’s name, or any details that we might rely on in court”.
Amanda O’Neill had bolted the door as soon as it was dark. If the woman couldn’t be bothered to let her know if she was staying over, then she could bloody well sit in her car all night. Despite telling her she didn’t want to know what was going on, she really did want to know.
Perhaps more than she had ever wanted to know anything.