This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 728 words.
The meeting at an office in London was not only with the solicitor, but also the prosecuting barrister. Both men were upbeat about the chances of a conviction, but after the usual pleasantries, they were also adamant that it all depended on Marian staying strong in the witness box. The barrister was an elderly man named Pettifer, and he didn’t mince his words.
“We have one prosecution witness who matters, and that is you, Marian. The others are police officers and forensic experts, and juries tend to gloss over what they say, as it is usually too technical. You have to take those jurors inside that car with you, make them feel the fear, let them know that you could not fight off a stronger man, and that there was no point screaming for help in a remote location. Don’t be afraid to look at them as you give your evidence, and if the defence ask you anything unacceptable, don’t answer it. Leave it to me to object”.
The solicitor added a few tips.
“You do not have to explain why you went for a drink with a stranger. It is perfectly acceptable to do that, if the man appeared to have been agreeable, and you felt you owed him some company for helping you start the car. It was also perfectly okay for you to give him a lift home, as he had said he would show you a quick route onto the motorway. You were not intoxicated, had given him no encouragement, and had he not forced you to drive to the spot behind the abandoned garage, you could fully have expected the evening to have ended on a friendly farewell”.
There was a lot of other legal stuff of course, most of which went over Marian’s head. She had never appeared in a court, never been convicted of any crime, not even a motoring offence. Even her uncontested divorce had not required going to court, as everything had been done by a family solicitor, and she had just had to sign a lot of paperwork. If she had hoped the meeting would reassure her, she had been wrong. Everything was on her to be convincing. Or Lee Fowler would get off, and it would have all have been for nothing.
After what seemed an eternity, the men appeared to be happy that she would be strong in court, and said they would see her on the day. There were handshakes, then a belated mention that she should dress appropriately, and then she was on the street, her mind a blur. After a large gin and tonic in a nearby pub, she travelled back to Hackney and telephoned Lyndsey.
“That’s good. They have picked an older man to prosecute, not a woman. That will get the jury onside. He will have some gravitas, and they will not presume he is fighting a cause, as they so often did with me. Don’t worry about the legal stuff, that will all be done in your absence. But you can expect at least two days in the witness box, possibly three. Come and see me this week, and I will talk you through it, act like the defence, and see how well you answer my questions. Don’t tell anyone you are coming to see me, and keep phone calls to a minimum”.
Marian agreed to visit Lyndsey the next day, while it was all fresh in her mind.
Back at her flat, she rang Ros to tell her what had happened.
“You will be fine, sis. I have complete confidence that you will put that animal away where he belongs”.
That wasn’t really the answer Marian had hoped for.
Her next call was to Amanda, leaving a message on her answerphone. To her surprise, Amanda picked up before the recording kicked in.
“Hello. I don’t know how to thank you. I could not possibly go to the trial, but I am determined to go to the sentencing once he is convicted. If he is”. That was not the answer Marian had been hoping for.
That night, a bottle of Chablis slipped down too easily. After a very small dinner of cheese and crackers, she went looking for more wine and only found some Soave left over from last Christmas.
But she drank all of that, and went to bed early.