The jury weren’t back until the following afternoon, and we lost a lot of our supporters as they had to head off for such things as paid employment or courses of study. Bevan and Wyn stayed, and of course Chris, but it was Blake who surprised me. I cornered Diane in the ladies’.
“Anything I need to know?”
She blushed. “About three months now, seeing how it goes”
“It doesn’t go anywhere till after the verdict. Got me?”
She grinned happily. “Well, it goes to Tunisia in a couple of months, anyway!”
I gave her the obligatory hug, and Blake the eyebrow when we came out, and the kid blushed, for god’s sake. We regrouped the next day, and it was no real surprise that there was now a verdict. I suspected that some of the jurors may have wanted to get the Crown’s money out of the event, with a night in a decent hotel seen as the least they could expect for their inconvenience.
“And have you elected a foreman?”
A skinny man with a dreadful combover replied that they had indeed, found a foreman, and I had to stifle a smirk as I imagined him in some builder’s yard or factory in a scruffy overall.
“And on the charge of rape, how do you find the accused?”
“Guilty, eleven to one”
Meredith coughed. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your service in this matter. You are dismissed. Ashley Aaron Evans, stand. I have given considerable thought to the sentence appropriate in this case, and it will be fifteen years. Fifteen years in which you may consider the damage that you inflicted on the life of an innocent girl, who has shown remarkable fortitude in her recovery from your crime. She serves to counterpoint in her dedication to serving her community the sheer depth of depravity that has been demonstrated by you and your relatives and accomplices. Take him down”
I was ready to rise for his departure, but instead he looked directly at me as Evans was removed.
“Inspector Powell, DC Owens please approach the Bench”
An odd instruction, but he was smiling, and not in a predatory way. He nodded over the usher as we came onto the floor of the Court from the public gallery.
“Norman, be so good as to show these good officers to my chambers. I will attend directly”
Up the stairs, and out through a door I had never, ever passed before, and ten minutes later our judge was with us, wig and robes gone and a tray of tea and biscuits before him.
“Thank you, ladies. I apologise for keeping you here, but I am a curious old man and while I do my best to remain abreast of all events surrounding those I am called upon to try, I feel there is rather a larger picture here than I am yet aware of. This other young lady?”
I couldn’t avoid it. “My sister, your honour”
“Ah. A transsexual if I recall correctly. I remember the newspaper reports. These police officers: they would be involved in the recent series of rapes of young men in the Cardiff area?”
I nodded. “Absolutely, your honour. My team did a superb job, but I had to take a back seat when, well, one of the culprits was another member of the family, and, simply put, my sister had met him”
“Ah. Rather compromising. Tell me, why was there only the one crime laid before Mr Evans senior’s jury? I would rather have expected a perverting the course to have accompanied it”
Diane smiled. “Oh, I can answer that one, your honour. We’re still awaiting HMRC’s trawl through his finances to come to a conclusion, but we rather felt that it would be nice to get the lovely man banged away while they took their time. My boss has got someone on the perverting case already, but we also want to get the other two men tied into it. Get them for Lainey’s sister, too, get them nice and tight and stitched up and key thrown away. Er, your honour”
He laughed warmly. “So further enquiries are in progress? Excellent! Now, shall I be Mother? Milk?”
We left there an hour later in a slightly shocked state. I had never been spoken to by a judge that way, never seen one as clearly involved in a case. Diane was sensible enough to see that it was something we didn’t really need to share, and I even hesitated before telling my sweet red-haired woman. We lay in bed that night, and one thing led to another as I mentioned the Blake-Diane thing and Siân filled me in on the latest Vicky gossip, which of course led us on to the elephant in the room.
I held her to me as her tears dried, and she murmured how well she knew that she wasn’t alone in her need. Vicky, little Jim, drip by drip it was wearing away her soul, and mine with it. She moved herself round to a more comfortable position, her head on my shoulder and right arm across me.
“There is a way, Lainey. I mean, not like Kev, aye? Not into men, are we? Or letting men into us”
I always knew when she was getting serious, for the crap jokes would come out, anything she could use to avoid the point. She got there, though.
“We could ask for a donation”
“Ah. Kev would do that?”
“No, cariad. Wouldn’t be fair, aye? Vicky and him, joined at the hip, and I know she loves us both, but it would still be a kid, or kids… It would still be a kid that could have been hers, theirs together”
“You’re thinking about Tony, aren’t you?”
A very, very soft “Yes”
She lifted her head up to look me in the eyes, arguments marshalling in her own, and I put a finger to her lips.
“I understand, cariad. Sarah can’t, aye? He’s got Jim, and, well, we will have to work out the basics, all that shit. What if he wants access? Or custody? What do we tell the little ones?”
She smiled. “We talk to our sister, and we talk to the man who has shown how big his heart is, aye? We let them choose. And if we do… if we do get what we need, then how could we not be proud to tell any child who their father was, and show them Tony, and say ‘That is what a man can be, should be’. But we speak to them as a couple. This is about family”
“Not long to the wedding”
“We ask when we go over there, then”
She giggled. “Catch them with their guard down, aye? Elaine Powell, have I said that I love you recently?”
I kissed her, which seemed appropriate, and, well, I put the laundry on before I went off to work the next day.
I got a cryptic text from Sar a few days later, which I managed to puzzle out as there being no worries about Steph-the-former-Steve in respect of Hywel, which removed one worry, but when the day finally came for our trip to Dover I was a bag of nerves. We sent a few days helping Mam and Dad to get Sar’s marital-to-be home in some sort of order, but I couldn’t relax, and Sar noticed.
She caught the two of us while Dad was out and Mam in the kitchen, and it was the new Sar that spoke, the hard-edged and almost aggressive one
“What is up with you two? I am the one who is supposed to be nervous, but you two are twitching every time I get anywhere near you! Talk, or I cut off the chocolate supply”
I looked at my wife, and she was almost in tears. I took her hand and gave it a squeeze: partners now, partners always.
“It is not the easiest subject in the world, chwaer fychan. You do know, I mean you joked about it years ago, that neither of us is really in line to give them grandkids. Yes, I know they have taken Jim to their hearts, but… shit, we’ve been talking, the two of us, and well, we might be dykes, but we are still women. We don’t go all bloke just because we prefer someone a bit less hairy.”
“I think you’ve sort of guessed….”
“You want a kid. I can’t see why you are so nervous, it’s a great idea”
“Actually, we were sort of hoping for a matched pair”
She gave us a delightfully warm smile, the whole of her face lighting up. “You will make two old people very happy if you do, girls. What are you going to do? Sperm donor?”
“Sort of…. the turkey baster route and a friend suits us better. We get to pick the genes, sort of thing”
Just a moment, and then the entire Royal Mint clearly dropped for her.
“You are fucking joking!”
“No, Sar, we aren’t. I can’t think of a better man, in so many ways. Obviously, there would be no financial cost to him, and any child would be a Powell”
She sat, stunned, for a minute or two, obviously working out all the angles. This was a woman transformed from the wreckage we had pulled from a two-bedroomed flat. She set her face, stared hard at me, then gave a sharp nod.
“Girls, I’ll run it past him, but, really, I don’t know what the answer will be. I find it odd enough, and it’s not my precious bodily fluids you are after”
She went off to help Mam, and I disengaged Siân’s hand from mine in the interests of maintaining the circulation. Watch and wait, love, watch and pray.
The rest of the family arrived next day, Uncle Arwel having secured a bloody bus for the purpose, and we then met up with more of Sar’s own friends, including a brunette called Bev who was apparently seeing that lad Andy we had met in Canterbury. That of course meant a hen night, and it was in Folkestone, just along the coast. I had to cover my wife’s eyes again when Ellie appeared, as I could see absolutely no reason that she was able to keep her chest inside her top. I caught a look from Arris just then, and it was clear she remembered that day we had brought my sister back from the darkness. I reached out to her for a squeeze of her hand, and she simply nodded and said “Circles, Lainey. Cycles. We live for the highs, and we keep each other sane for the lows. You getting pissed tonight?”
Our uncle dropped us off in Folkestone, and Sar led the way to the obvious starting point, a Wetherspoon’s that had probably been an old bank, and the drinking began. I could see the plan unfolding, with an all-you-can-eat buffet place just down the road, and blessed my, er, years of professional experience. We were only one drink in when Sar screamed and leapt from her seat, which brought a rather more professional reaction from me, but she was pushing her way over to a tall and bony redhead in a green dress over cropped leggings.
“Steph! Sut wyt ti?”
Ah. Hywel’s old opponent, no doubt. Sar was bubbling away.
“Everyone, this is Steph, colleague of Tone’s, from down West by Treffgarne, aye? Steph, my big sis Lainey and her wife Siân, my best friend in the world apart from Tone Arris, and the rest can introduce themselves if they can be arsed. Pint?”
“Wrth gwrs. How much for the whip?”
One of Sar’s friends jerked at that, and Sar gave her the most innocent of smiles. “Whip round, Anne. Kitty for the beer. Tenner for now, Steph. Anyone else?”
The rest is a sort of blur for some reason. My sister, the clever girl, had allowed two days for the hangover to clear. I needed both of them. Never, ever again, Lainey: do NOT try to keep up with Customs Officers in a drinking session.
Mam still did bacon sandwiches.
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