Serial Analysis: Four Lives

My recent serial Four Lives concluded yesterday with the 30th episode. As usual, I like to look at how it was received, and the stats it generated on my blog.

This serial was written mainly from the point of view of four very different women, not that easy for a 70 year-old man. It was inspired in part by those women who are badly served by the justice system, and others who befriend and marry prisoners, denying their crimes and background.

Although it contained themes of domestic violence, controlling behaviour, and sexual assault, I tried to make sure it was not graphic enough to upset readers. As usual, I had the ending in notes first, and worked back some years in the story timeline to get to that ending.

So far, it has achieved daily views averaging 50. So not one of the favourite serials with readers. Views for the later parts are still coming in, but if I take 50 views as the benchmark, then the story generated a total of 1,500 views.

Reader interaction and engagement was good; with regular comments, some involvement with the characters, and also guessing of the outcome. That is the most satisfying thing for me as the writer.

I would like to thank everyone who followed it all, and shared parts on social media.

The complete story is now available for those who like to wait to read the whole thing at once.

Four Lives: Part Thirty

This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 867 words.

After serving five years and one month of his nine-year sentence, Lee Fowler was given parole. There were the usual restrictions. He had to report to the local police station, and attend meetings with his probation officer. If he failed to do that, or got into any trouble, he would be returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.

He no longer had his small flat, as he had been unable to pay the rent in prison. His car had also been impounded, as it had not been taxed or insured. Naturally, he had no money to get the car back, and had to accept accommodation at a probation hostel until he could find somewhere to live. He had to leave prison with the clothes he had arrived in, the few pounds on him when he was arrested, and a small prisoner discharge grant to get him started.

The future was potentially bleak. Now having to disclose he was on the Sex Offender’s Register meant there were many jobs he could not apply for. Finding a place of his own with no job would not be easy, and being away for those years meant much had changed out in the real world.

But Lee was remarkably upbeat, and smiling as he walked through the gates to freedom.


Marriage to Michael had been better than Marian had expected. They had both experienced failed marriages in the past, and had learned lessons about compromise, and living with someone else. The honeymoon in Tuscany had been memorable, and her new job was everything she had hoped it would be. Being in charge of her own department allowed her to implement new ideas and changes, and all were well-received by a team of staff who seemed to be delighted to work for her. On their first wedding anniversary, Michael had surpised her with a long weekend in New York, and it had been a thrilling experience.

Ros had to admit that her sister had changed. She liked Michael too, he was really good for Marian. She seemed younger, eager to try new things, and their relationship had blossomed into what Ros had always hoped it could have been. And she had a new man too, the man in charge of all the property at the shopping centre. He oversaw the maintenance of the building, the cleaning, the escalators, and everything to do with the smooth running of a large shopping mall. Nick was a go-getter, and not yet forty. After nine months together, he was talking children in the future, and a nice house in Hatfeld once they had saved the deposit.

The legal advice centre had been such a success, Lyndsey had opened two more offices; one in Manchester, the other in Birmingham. Council grants, donations from concerned individuals, and charitable appeals had made it all possible. There had been no shortage of lawyers wanting to work in them either. So many were disillusioned with the current legal process, she had more applications than vacancies. And volunteers ran the ancillary roles, answering helplines, arranging interviews, anything that was needed. She finally felt that she had discovered her purpose in life.


Amanda had a car now. Nothing fancy, just a little Smart Car. But it was brand new, and she used it to run around to the shops, or anywhere she neded to go locally. The past year had changed her outlook on life completely. Although she still had the cameras, she no longer set the alarms at night, and used just one lock on her door. The fear had not gone completely, but she felt sure it would soon.

No more spending all day in her pyjamas either. Her new short bobbed hairstyle suited her, she thought. The outfits she had bought after losing weight at the gym set off her figure, and she felt whole again, an attractive woman in her prime.

Using the built-in Satnav, she found the prison easily and waited by the gate, staying in the car. She had got up early to get ready, wanting to look her best. When he walked through the gates he looked heavier. Prison food, probably, and lack of exercise. She had known about the scarred face of course, but it was a shock to see the twisted skin on the left side. He smiled as he saw the car, and quickened his pace.

Sending the letters had been cathartic for her. She had washed away the guilt, then rediscovered the love she had felt for him before that fateful night. Looking back, what had been that terrible? Yes, he had pushed her over in the garage, but he had been upset about the watch. Yes, he had hit her head in the car door, but only because he had been drunk. Why not give him a second chance? She had never lost those intiial feelings for him, even during the years when she lived as a shut-in.

As she drove off with him by her side where he belonged, she was already chatting happily.

“I know where they are, all three of them. I will help you make them pay for what they did to you”.

The End.

Four Lives: Part Twenty-Nine

This is the twenty-ninth part of a fiction serial, in 917 words.

As Lee aproached the end of his fourth year of imprisonment, Marian was preparing for her wedding. Once her and Michael had bought an attractive two-bedroom cottage in Arkley, not far from where Michael had been living, he didn’t wait that long before proposing. His son was at university now, and they had been getting on so well that Marian accepted without hesitation.

They were of an age where children would not feature, so once they had settled into married life they could travel, and just enjoy the companionship.

Things with Ros had remained shaky for a year after the trial, but she had eventually come round. Once the wedding was in the planning stage, she was keen to be a bridesmaid and to trek around with her sister choosing a wedding dress. It was going to be a small affair, held at the Country Club north of Barnet. Marian had gone so far as to issue invitations to both Lyndsey and Amanda, but neither had replied. Their loss then.

Although they still worked together, Michael had suggested a move for Marian. He had recommended her for a better job at the company of one of his university friends. She was excited to be starting in her new post following the honeymoon in Italy.

Ros was still managing the same shop. Most of her team were still there, sales were good, and she was well thought-of. There had been some talk of her moving to head office to train as a buyer, but she was happy where she was, and still enjoyed living in her flat. She didn’t want to contemplate a move to Northampton.

Still living behind closed doors and rarely venturing out, Lee’s imprisonment had not provided the closure that Amanda had hoped for. Feeling ever-growing guilt about her involvement in framing him, she was conflicted. How had lying about a crime that never happened been fair? Whatever Lee had done in the past could not justify that in her mind. Even though she knew he was in a prison a long way from where she lived, she was unable to relax. What if he escaped? What would happen once he was let out on parole? So she stuck to her old routine, checking her cameras and not answering the phone.

Lyndsey was running a legal advice centre for abused women in West London. She was often featured on the TV news, and made it her priority to speak out for battered wives and girlfriends whenever possible. Her public profile was large, very active, and well-known. As for the Lee Fowler case, and Marian and Ros, she barely remembered that period in her life.

Denise Fowler was in prison in Ireland for fraud. She had taken work as a carer, befriended an old man she looked after, and used his bank card to steal over eight thousand euros from his bank account. There was some implication in the court that she had given him sexual favours to avoid suspicion, and she received two years.

She had not been intelligent enough to realise that bank cash machines had cameras in them, and that evidence had convicted her easily. Her defence that he had willingly given her the money because he was in love with her had not been accepted by the jury. Daisy had been taken into care, and was living in a children’s home just outside Dublin.


Lee had a new cellmate. Duncan was originally from Scotland, but had committed his crimes around North London. He was a woman-hater, and a serial rapist. On their first night in a cell together, he planted a seed in Lee’s mind that grew and grew. He had not raped that woman Marian. She had suggested sex in the car, and he had only changed his plea to guilty to avoid a much longer sentence because of the forensic evidence.

Up to then, he had put that from his mind. He knew he had got away with similar crimes, and worse, so had accepted he could do nothing when faced with Marian’s determination to put him away. But why she did that had remained a mystery for four years.

As the weeks went on, Lee became obsessed. He wanted to know why. Why had that woman ruined his life? But then something happened on the prison wing that caused disruption. Duncan killed someone after an argument about using the pool table, so Lee was moved. The prison he was moved to had no suitable segregation place, and suddenly he was plunged into the horror of the general population.

He soon realised that everyone knew his story, and seemed to be out to get him.

Despite doing his best to claim he had been framed, and avoiding the various tough guys in the new prison, he was finally ‘kettled’ one afternoon. A kettle full of boiling water, mixed with a large amount of sugar, was thrown over his face by John Murphy, the top con on the wing. Lucky not to lose his sight, Lee spent two weeks under guard in hospital, followed by various trips to the Regional Burns Unit. When it was all over, he was badly scarred, and full of hatred for the woman that had put him in there.

The authorities quickly transferred him to a segregation unit, and on his second week there, he received a letter. It was a personal letter, hand-written on nice paper.

After reading it, he smiled. Then he read it again.

Four Lives: Part Twenty-Eight

This is the twenty-eighth part of a fiction serial, in 762 words.

Lee fowler considered himself to be a tough guy, but he soon found out that life in prison was tougher than he had ever imagined. For one thing, the other inmates were not women, and Lee had only ever brutalised and intimidated women. For another, he was a sex offender, a convicted rapist guilty by his own admission. Neither the guards nor the other prisoners cared what happened to him, and he would have no friends inside, not one.

His only option was to apply for Rule 45. That would mean he would be confined in segregation with other sex offenders. Those even worse than him. The paedophiles, those who had committed incest with their own children, the baby rapists, and assorted other nut-jobs and crazies. If he didn’t do that his food would be spat in, or worse, and he could be attacked at will, or raped, with the guards turning a blind eye. If he wanted to get out unscathed, and alive, he had to apply.

He was told that he had to show good behaviour. Being involved in any trouble in prison would say goodbye to being paroled, and he would have to serve the full nine. As well as that, he could be charged for additional offences committed in prison, and get more time added on.

So he set about being a model prisoner.

A surprising benefit of being in segregation was that he quickly learned a great deal. The Stalkers told him how to stalk someone. Other more accomplished serial rapists told him how to find good targets once he was on the outside. Those who had been out before and were back in for repeat offences told him how to behave on the outside, and how to avoid attracting the attention of the police once he was released.

It was a veritable college for perverts.

And despite not being allowed Internet access or mobile phones, the prison was full of them, hidden in the most ingenious places. Lee received lessons in how to track people from their Facebook posts, or photos publshed on Twitter and Instagram. He discovered how to do basic hacking to find mobile phone numbers that had been changed, even names that had been changed. You could find out when a house or flat had been sold, and how much it had sold for.

Social media was a marvellous tool, because people were so careless.

Online Friends and contacts were like skeleton keys into a life. Find the friends, look at the lists of contacts, and sooner or later you would find the person. Photos of parties at work, photos of weekend breaks and holidays. They put it all out there, seemingly oblivious to the potential dangers. Lee was like a greedy child in a sweet shop, eager to take it all in, and learning fast.

There were more lessons to learn. How to avoid leaving behind any DNA evidence. What kind of clothing did not shed fibres easily, get your hair cropped or shave your head so there would be less chance of hair samples. Use plastic shoe-covers that left no footprints. Not only was Lee becoming a trouble-free, model prisoner, he was also one of the best students. He studied at the feet of the masters, conveniently overlooking the fact that those self-styled experts had all been caught and convicted.


Marian’s boss Michael had been good to his word. She settled back into work slowly, eventually finding her old self in a mind jumbled by trauma. After almost a year, he told her to call him Michael, and then invited her out for dinner. She knew he was divorced, and had never thought of him that way, but she accepted graciously.

Away from work, Michael was a revelation. He was funny, great company, well-travelled, and generous to a fault.

The dinner date led to a few more dates, and six months later, a weekend away in Dublin. He had been to the city many times, and showed her the sights like a native. In the office, they had maintained the working relationship, but everyone knew they had become an item.

Biding his time, Michael left it another year before suggesting they move in together. They could pool their resources and buy a nice flat, maybe even a small house. Despite paying for the upkeep of his sixteen year-old son, that wouldn’t last forever, and dividing time between her Hackney flat and his place in Barnet seemed pointless.

When she agreed to discuss that plan, he told her he was in love with her.

Four Lives: Part Twenty-Seven

This is the twenty-seventh part of a fiction serial, in 805 words.

As soon as she arrived at court the following Monday, Marian was met by the solicitor, who was waiting outside.

“It’s good news. Fowler has changed his plea to guilty. As well as the defence being sure that you would be a convincing witness, the forensic evidence was overwhelming. If they had continued with a not guilty plea and lost, the sentencing would have been far more severe”.

Marian did not feel she should be pleased to hear that Lee might get a lighter sentence. “So I don’t get to say what happened? Take the jury inside the car, and all that other stuff? Why did the court accept the change of plea? Pettifer should have pressed for the trial to continue”. The man seemed a little peeved by her attitude.

“Take it from me, you have been spared something of an ordeal in the witness box. Besides, it is the law of the land to be allowed to change your plea to guilty. It saves court time, and also a great deal of money. Mister Pettifer is in court now, asking for the maximum sentence for Fowler. There will be reports to be considered before sentencing, which will be two weeks from today. You can go home now, and try to put this all behind you”.

Her first call was to Lyndsey, who confirmed what the solicitor had told her. “He has no previous convictions for sexual offences or rape, so don’t expect too much. If he stayed not guilty and was convicted, he might have got fifteen years, even more. This way, it will definitely be less than that. But he will go away for a long time, be on the sexual offender’s register, and you can all go back to your normal lives. As for me, I have had enough. I am going to open an advice centre for victims of domestic violence. I have applied for funding from a charity to get started, then there are grants that I can explore”.

With no interest in Lyndsey’s future career, Marian had already tuned out of the conversation. So she finished the call and rang the chauffeur to collect her. Waiting until she was home, she called Amanda. As soon as she heard the voice on her machine, Amanda picked up.

“Okay, so he changed to guilty, and will be going to prison. That’s good. I will come to the court by taxi on that Monday, and watch him get sentenced. That way I will know he won’t be around. Hopefully I can relax after that. Don’t approach me around the court though, nobody must be aware that we know each other”.

By late afternoon, Marian decided to call her boss and update him. He was so nice to her, it made her tearful.

“Take the two weeks. Go in for the sentencing and see it through. Then you can come back to work and have a fresh start. No need to come back full-time to start with, ease back into your routine gently. Please ring me if there is anything else I can do, you have my home number, and my mobile too. The driver will collect you on the Monday, and wait to bring you back”.

The hire car was no longer going to be needed. She didn’t have to go back to see Amanda or Lyndsey, and as far as Ros was concerned, she was on her own from now on. After arranging to send it back, and a time for collection, she realised just how much she had been spending on it. What with that, and using up an entire year of holiday, pursuing this plan had cost her a lot.

It had also cost her much more, psychologically.

The pressure was off though. No more coutroom drama, or worries about being caught out by cross-examination. She stopped drinking every night, got back into cooking, and even telephoned some of her old friends. The case had made the local TV news in Hertfordshire, but luckily had not warranted national coverage, as far as the media was concerned. Once life got back to something resembling normal, she would tell her friends what had happened.

On the day of sentencing, she had to sit in the public gallery. Amanda was already there when she arrived, and despite wearing sunglasses inside, it was so obviously her. Marian sat at the other end of the row, and didn’t glance at her. There was some legal stuff at first, but she wasn’t really listening to that. She was staring at Lee, as he stood in the dock with his head bowed. Presumably trying to look repentant.

Raising her voice, the judge made some remarks about a ‘heinous attack’, ‘abuse of an innocent woman’, and having to ‘set an example’.

Then she gave him nine years.

Four Lives: Part Twenty-Six

This is the twenty-sixth part of a fiction serial, in 752 words.

By Thursday afternoon, Marian was on edge. Nerves mixed with boredom, four days spent sitting around in court and wondering what was happening. Both the solicitor and the barrister were occupied in the courtroom, and one or other of them would appear during the lunch break to reassure her. But they could not really explain what was happening, other than to placate her with phrases like, “It’s going well”.

All week she had avoided drinking any alcohol. Not good to have to give evidence with a hangover, no matter how much she felt she needed a drink to relax her in the evenings.And she had heard nothing from Ros or Amanda. Nor from Lyndsey, but that was to be expected as she was keeping a low profile.

Friday started off much the same, then just before lunch, the solicitor appeared. “Be ready for the call after lunch. The preliminaries are over it seems, and you will be called this afternoon”.

Marian headed straight for the toilets, and stood by the sinks with butterflies filling her stomach. She could not face eating anything, sure it would make her feel sick. She settled for a strong coffee, and stood outside the court in the fresh air for a while to gather her thoughts.

When the clerk of the court shouted her name over an hour later, it made her jump.

Inside, the courtroom was more modern than she had expected. It felt nothing like the old films she had watched as a child, and was strangely quiet as she went into the witness box to take the oath in front of a curved microphone. Lee was sitting in the dock dressed in a suit and tie, flanked by two prison officers or court officers, she wasn’t sure which.

And he was staring straight at her, with a wide grin on his face. She looked across at the jury, quickly counting seven women and five men. They seemed distracted, making notes on paper pads, or looking across at the judge in her robes as she invited Mister Pettifer to begin questioning. So it was a female judge, and more women than men in the jury. That seemed positive to Marian, and she stood up straight, ready for the first question.

The question did not come. No sooner had the barrister stood up, when the other barrister, the one defending Lee, also stood up. Pettifer sat down as the younger man asked the judge for time to discuss some legal mumbo-jumbo. Both barristers walked over to the judge’s chair and spoke very quietly. She eventually nodded her head, and delcared an adjournment until Monday morning.

Outside in the lobby area, the solicitor came and took Marian to one side. He was smiling. “I cannot say for sure, but it appears we might have a change of plea. Come back on Monday, and we will know for sure”. Feeling dazed and confused by it all, she went outside and phoned the chauffeur.

With no court for two days, Marian allowed herself a bottle of wine to accompany a delivered pizza. There was no way she could concentrate enough to cook a meal. The wine made her bold, and she telephoned Ros, spoiling for an argument. When she got her sister’s answerphone, she left a scathing message.

“Please don’t worry about me. Don’t bother to contact me to see how I am. After all, I am only doing all this for you, because of what happened. To be honest, I don’t know why I bothered, I really don’t”.

Just after eleven that night, the ringing of her phone woke her up from a hazy sleep on the sofa. It was Ros, who seemed to be in an equally shitty mood. She also sounded drunk.

“I didn’t ask you to do anything. I just came to see you because I was upset and injured, but you took over, took over like you always did. The wonderful older sister, the clever one, the one in charge. You made the plans, you contacted the others, I was happy to leave it as it was, but you had to make the big sacrifice. What were you trying to prove? I already knew that you thought you were better than me, thought I was an embarrassment. Now I wish I hadn’t bothered, because you are exactly the same as you have always been, the big I Am”.

Not wanting to listen to more of the same, and too tired to argue, Marian hung up.

Four Lives: Part Twenty-Five

This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 743 words.

Marian was up early to drive to Lyndsey’s house on the other side of London. A nagging headache reminded her she had drunk two bottles of wine the night before, so she took two paracetamol along with three cups of espresso.

Typical London traffic did not improve her mood, and it took her a ridiculously long time to traverse the twelve miles across the city.

Lyndsey was still wearing a dressing gown when she answered the door, but other than not bothering about her appearance, she was well-prepared for the business in hand.

“Come in, I have a pot of coffee going, and there are some croissants from yesterday. I will warm them up, they will be fine, I promise”.

What followed was three solid hours of interrogation. It was so intense, there were times when Marian actually forgot Lyndsey was on her side. At times, the questioning was so personal, so rude, she had to reach into her bag for tissues when she felt tears forming. Lyndsey was relentless. “If you think I’m bad, wait until you get into the witness box. You may not realise it now, but you will thank me once the defence barrister starts grilling you”.

There was a break for lunch, paninis served with bacon and brie that were very welcome.

After that, Lyndsey went through procedure in court. “Don’t expect to be called for a few days. I am presuming he is pleading not guilty, so that will involve a lot of legal arguments. The jury will be removed for that, and no witnesses -that’s you- will be called. Then there will be the police officers, the technicians talking about forensics, the evidence from the swabs, DNA and such, You could be there for days before being called. But your solicitor and barrister will be around to hold your hand between arguments”.

By four in the afternoon, Lyndsey concluded that she had no more to say. Marian declined her offer of more coffee, and promised to ring her if there were any questions during the trial. She was back in her car and on her way back to Hackney before five, feeling totally drained.

On the day of the trial, her boss came good. The chauffeur collected her early, and gave her his mobile number. “I will have to find somewhere to park, get lunch and that. So whenever you are ready to be picked up, just let me know”. On the way to St Albans he made no comment about the trial, keeping his occasional conversation to traffic issues, and what had been on TV the previous night.

Somewhat overwhelmed by the busy court building, Marian was relieved to see the solicitor in the lobby. He took her to a small room where she met the barrister again. What he said then made her question why she even needed to be there.

“I doubt much will happen today. We have jury selection, some small legal arguments, and he has pled not guilty, as expected. From what I can gather from mutual disclosure, he is going with a standard defence of consensual sex, followed by regret. The DNA is not contested, as he admits to having sex with you. As for the rest, he is claiming you asked him for rough sex, and he went along with that. Don’t worry, we have overwhelming evidence, including CCTV from the pub. Just stay strong, my dear”.

It went more or less as expected. Marian sat around in different parts of the courtroom until it was suggested she go for lunch, then shortly after the solicitor appeared to tell her to come back tomorrow. He was strangely upbeat.

“This could be a short trial after all. The other witnesses are called to appear tomorrow, so you could well be on in a couple of days”.

If that was supposed to make her feel better, it had the opposite effect.

Back at her flat that night, she microwaved a lasagna, and drunk a bottle of Prosecco in twenty-five minutes. Her mind was whirring with possibilites. What if the jury believed Lee? What would his legal team ask her? Would she stand up to the questions in a packed courtroom? It could now be reported by the press. How would they deal with that? Would it go national, or only be relevant to Hertfordshire?

Sleep was not easy to come by, and she was grateful for the oblivion provided by the wine.

Four Lives: Part Twenty-Four

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.

Four Lives: Part Twenty-Three

This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 795 words.

Inspector Banerjee contacted Marian a couple of weeks later. She wanted her to meet with a police appointed solicitor who was to instruct a prosecution barrister, but only once they had a trial date. To make life convenient, the meeting would be held in a London office, so she wouldn’t have to travel to Hertfordshire. She warned Marian that a trial date could take months to be arranged, but would be in the Crown Court at St Alban’s. Accommodation would be arranged if she wanted it, as the trial was expected to last at least a week, if not longer.

“You will have to pay for it yourself, I’m afraid, but it has to be better than travelling up from London every day. But if you prefer to do that, it is your choice. Of course, he might plead guilty, in which case you will not have to appear at all. But given his history, I think you should expect a not guilty plea, and a defence of consensual sex”.

Marian realised that life had to return to normal, in as much as it could. It was unacceptable not to go into work for months, and Ros had already started to carry on as if not much had happened. That included very little contact with her sister, who started to feel rather resentful that she had done all this to try to get justice for Ros, who had quickly slipped back into her normal routine of life before Lee attacked her.

That resentment came with doubts. Had it really been that bad for Ros? She had hit her face in the car because she removed her seat belt. Then the cuts on her head because she jumped out of the car in a dangerous location. Was her anger really directed at the police? After all, it was the original policewoman who had written off any chance of Lee being charged that night.

But when she was thinking straight, she was resolute. Men like Lee could not continue to treat women like that, and she felt a responsibility to protect her younger sister, even if she hadn’t seemed to be very grateful since. Then there was Amanda. Her life ruined by contact with Lee, a man she foolishly believed she was in love with. Lyndsey had tried her best for years to get justice for victims, only to be foiled by the fear of the victims themselves, or the inadequacies of the investigating police officers.

She would make a difference. She would be the one to put Lee behind bars, and hopefully send out a message to other victims. Be strong. Make them pay.

The next Monday, she went back to work. Her boss called her in and asked if she needed anything, before thanking her for coming back. She warned him that once there was a trial date she might need to be absent again, for up to three weeks. He waved that away.

“Whatever we can do to help. That man needs to be in prison. How about we arrange a car to take you to and from St Albans? I am sure the company can spare one of the chauffeurs”. That solved the issue of staying in a hotel, or using trains. Marian accepted gracefully, and assured him she would work hard up to the trial, and even harder after it was all over.

For the next month, she lived in a strange kind of limbo. Other than her boss, nobody at work mentioned anything about the rape. But she saw the faces, and heard the soft tones in their voices. They all knew, and she was certain of that. Ros rarely phoned her, Amanda was completely silent, and there was no point contacting Lyndsey until she had a definite date. As for her friends outside of work, none of them were aware what had happened. When they got in touch, invited her over, or out for drinks, she pleaded being too busy at work, and too tired.

She didn’t want anyone knowing until it was actually happening. She could make her apologies later, tell them that the police had forbidden her to speak to anyone about the case.

Evenings in the flat settled into a routine. Drinking a little too much wine, eating easy ready-meals instead of cooking, and watching mindless crap on TV, to stop her thinking about standing in a witness box. Seven weeks after that night in her hire car, her phone rang one evening on her way home from work. It was Inspector Banerjee.

“Eight weeks from today, Monday the fourth. We were lucky, getting an early trial date. I will arrange the meeting with the solictor for next week.”

Hanging up, she swallowed hard. Now it was real.