This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 825 words.
Once her guests were seated around the table drinking coffee, Lyndsey got to work. Using a large notepad, she wrote down as much detail as Ros could remember, going right back to the time she had first encountered Lee on a bus. She also noted everything Marian could remember about the night when her sister showed up, soaked to the skin and in a panic. Then she got Marian to send her the photos of Rosalind’s injuries from her phone. Once she was satisfied she knew all the details, she addressed the sisters in what sounded very much like a prepared speech.
“First things first, you haven’t met me. You haven’t been to my house or spoken to me about this case. You rang my chambers and left a message, which I did not return. Is that clear to both of you?” They nodded in agreement, and Lyndsey continued.
“As you know, I prosecuted Fowler after he was charged with assaulting his wife. I am aware of at least three other cases where he was prosecuted by other barristers and got off scot-free. Police contacts also made me aware of many women who had made statements alleging he had attacked them, and later withdrew them. This man is undoubtedly a serial offender since his youth, and you probably know from online research about his only conviction for beating up a woman in Germany?” Marian nodded again.
“Well I am going to suggest some things that are far from conventional. To start with, I think you should go and talk to his ex-wife, Denise. She may well be a mine of information about the man. Between us, I have no confidence in her police statements in the past, but I reckon she will be very happy to gossip. You have to assure her that she will not have to make a statement, or appear in court. And it wouldn’t hurt to bribe her, I suggest you be ready to give her two hundred for any useful information, as that is enough to get her attention. I can supply you with her address, and it might be best to doorstep her, catch her unawares. But you did not get that address from me, is that clear?. I also have the details of another woman you can go and see, but as she is now a shut-in, that might be harder”.
Marian finished her coffee, and put down the cup.
“How does any of that help us press charges against Lee though? Denise will do nothing, and presumably this other woman didn’t proceed with her charges either. We were hoping that you could tell us a way to get Lee to court for attacking Ros. Maybe a private prosecution, something like that?”
Lyndsey reached into her bag and produced a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. After not smoking for over ten years, recent events had got her back into that bad habit. She lit one, turning her head to blow the smoke away from the women.
“Far be it from me to burst your balloon, but that is unlikely to happen. Even if you got it to court, it could cost you both every penny you have. Then if he counter-sued for defamation and won, you would be facing a huge amount in damages. For one thing, the police evidence would not be helpful. It seems to me that the policewoman just didn’t believe a word of what happened to Rosalind. I suspect she gave the county police the nod too. Told them how to ask the questions, if you get my drift. And unfortunately they were on the right track. If it came to both versions of the events, his story is just as believable as yours, as far as Joe Public juror is concerned. If only he had forced you into the car, and that was on CCTV, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, ladies”.
Ros hadn’t said a word since the lawyer had started talking. Now she had her say.
“As I see it, women who have been attacked like me have no recourse in law. Not unless they have completely independent witnesses, or the whole thing has been recorded on a CCTV camera somewhere. Lee can literally do something like this every week, and just walk away laughing. If I thought I could get away with it, I would just kill him. Stab him, or something. Then plead trauma, or diminished responsibility”.
Shaking her head, Lyndsey smiled.
“If you did that, you would either serve long prison time, or find yourself detained in a mental hospital, believe me. Besides, it would all be over for him in moments, and that’s not really punishment. Keep listening to me, and I can arrange something much more satisfying”. She took a long drag on the cigarette, and the sisters could hear the paper burning as the red tip got longer.
“We can completely ruin his life”.