Sisters 63

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The cross-examination by the defence was a farce. I couldn’t see where it was going, but Delyth seemed to dismiss it out of hand. It didn’t involve Scripture, therefore it was beneath contempt. I was caught squarely between enjoying seeing her slapped down and at the same time stitching up Carwyn. My head span.

She was an obnoxious cow, with a seriously shit viewpoint, but at the same time a rape victim. It was hard, to put it mildly, but I dragged out my memories of Omar, Chris and the other victims. Too many folk would happily have seen them as ‘deserving’ of the violence that had struck them, so why should I allow myself to use the same sophistry with Delyth Ebrill Siencyn? Obnoxious, unpleasant bigot, but still, still, a victim. Work head on and balance in place, Lainey.

Eventually, the defence withered under Delyth’s contempt, and we were on to other witnesses, and that was a shock, for I had only really been expecting Angharad, er, recorded-delivery victim and Carwyn, along with whatever official and expert testimony that would have trailed along as usual. We got those, which included medical reports, police officers with interview and custody records and so forth, but there were three other women in the box to tell similar tales of Holy Writ and Holy Whip. Siân was scribbling on a scrap of paper— ‘Mam’s been busy’.

The evidence was the same or similar in each case, and I had a flash of memory of Carwyn playing second fiddle in Capel Curig as Angharad’s tongue had flayed us. Had he wound her up and pointed her like some odd self-guiding weapon, or had it been her one little indulgence granted by the Lord and Master as he sat smugly considering what to make his next flogger out of? Either way, I felt like an idiot for not spotting who had actually been in the driving seat that day. Two of his victims, in fact, were allowed to give evidence from behind screens so as not to destroy their good standing in ‘their faith community’, and I felt my wife rubbing my forearms as they corded up with the hate I was feeling.

I had had to pull myself back from dismissing Delyth Siencyn’s pain out of hand, but there it was in the open: the families of these women, their friends, neighbours, co-religionists, would see them as whores, as being to blame for their own suffering. I turned my hand over and took my beloved’s in it.

Fuck you, Carwyn Roberts.

I didn’t sleep well that night, a meal in a local Italian place (memories…) not sitting too well in my stomach, and I was awake at 0400 searching the news on the hotel’s wi-fi. I took nothing in, could make no sense of it, but it occupied my hands and my eyes for the hour or so it took Siân to rouse. The breakfast would have been a good one if I had managed to taste any of it, but I forced it down as fuel, and we were back to the court early.

“Hiya, Lainey, Siân!”

“Vicky? What the… what are you doing here?”

“Kev’s on sprog watch, but we both thought you two should have some company”

“How’d you know?”

She sighed. “Haven’t you two looked at ANY of the local papers? Like a rash, this story: all over them. Me and ‘im indoors thought you might need some company”


That voice I knew as well, and it was Chris, and with him Blake, offering the same excuse as Vicky had for Diane’s absence, and we had to buy a round of crap coffees in the horrible little place inside the court, where a table had been kept by sodding Dad and Uncle Arwel. Chris did the honours while I did the introductions.

“That boy there. He’s a nancy-boy, isn’t he?”

Predictable as ever.

“Don’t start, you old bastard”

“Not my point, girl. He’s the one with that work you did over to Caerdydd, aye?”

The Nancy-boy in question was just returning with a tray of drinks, and being Chris, of course, a selection of muffins, Danish pastries and biscuits. How in hell he kept so slim, god only knew.

“Boy, my name is Arwel Powell, this girl’s uncle. You be the lad that she put out as bait?”

“Er, yeah”

“Here’s my hand, then. That was well done”

He switched straight back to Welsh. “I know a lot more about that little hob than you think I do, girl. You haven’t told Sarah, have you? About the little shit I spoke to? Or those two arseholes that used to be policemen?”

“No, Uncle. And I should tell you that this other lad, his wife, well, she met the same family a few years ago, in the same way the skinny boy here did, in the same way as my sister”

“Ah. Now, you know your Dad told me about your mother-in-law, so we are here as family should be, aye?”

Dad nodded. “As my brother says. We said, your Mam and me, we said that Siân here has us as family. We will do as family should, do it for her, for you, for these lives to come. Now, your uncle hasn’t told me everything, and I do not wish to know more than I need, otherwise I might let it slip to my other pretty daughter. Now, this boy?”

Back into English. “Chris O’Connor, as my Uncle said, he’s my Dad’s brother, and this is my Dad, Twm Powell. Chris, as you seem to be aware, put himself forward to draw out some violent rapists for us, and took some bruises himself”

“I’m not usually into such rough trade, my loves”

“Not now, you sod! And this is Blake, who worked with me on that case and others involving some of the same family, and, everyone, this is Vicky, our cousin”

She looked up at that, and smiled. “Got my own history of being used, so what else could I do but make sure my family gets some strength on a day like this? Got any blueberry ones there, Chris?”

“Here you are, my love!”

The tannoy went off just then, announcing ‘all parties in…’, and we trooped off to the public gallery again, my wife and I flanked by our two big men, the others behind, and to my surprise the first witness called was Ambrose. He too the book, and read from the card.

“Jeremy Michaels, Ynys Enlli retreat. I am in monastic orders, and I would humbly ask that my vows be respected and that I be addressed as Ambrose”

The judge looked down at him, and asked in a much gentler voice than I had heard from him so far, “Brother Ambrose?”

“No. your honour. Merely Ambrose, if that would be allowed”

The judge looked over the court. “As you wish, Ambrose”

Prosecution bounced up. “How do you know the accused, Ambrose?”

“I do not, sir. I know his wife, Angharad Roberts, who is a resident at our retreat. I also functioned as what might be called in other sects a confessor”

“She confessed her sins to you?”

“No, sir. She confided in me. We are a contemplative order, and we offer space to others to examine themselves and their lives, as well as their relationship with our Lord and Saviour. We do not judge, and we, man, cannot absolve any sin, for that is purely between the individual person and their Lord above. Besides which, what is sin?”

The barrister coughed. “Perhaps not a question for this particular trial, despite the weight of Scripture already produced”

He led Ambrose down a clearly well-prepared path of evidence depicting Angharad’s arrival and slow acceptance of her fate, and then surprised at least me.

“She was filled with regret about her family life, and said to me…”

The defence was halfway to his feet, obviously about to shout out an objection, but Ambrose just smiled at him.

“I believe that for me to recount her description of events may be regarded as hearsay, so I will confine myself to what I did. In response to her clearly expressed regrets about her experiences as a mother, I made approaches to her daughter Siân and her wife Elaine, whom I can see sitting in the public gallery. Angharad wished a rapprochement of sorts, if not a reconciliation, and that is when she began to speak to me of her own married life. Of her husband’s, um, special interests”

Once more, defence bounced halfway up, to be met by another smile.

“All I did in that matter was to persuade Angharad that she should speak to the North Wales police, and when I spoke to them, they surprised me by, well, not being surprised”

Siân shot me a look, and I shrugged, trying not to blush. It seemed my little hints up North hadn’t gone unheard after all. I always had been a fan of the long game. That was it, for the other evidence. The scene had been set, and after lunch, it would be Angharad, and possibly Carwyn. My appetite was still crap.

Arwel, naturally, found us a pub that did food, and the weather was fine enough to sit outside, so three big men and one twink wrestled some picnic tables together as the rest of us gathered menus and put in orders. I noticed Chris had turned the gay young thing down a bit, but I was still waiting for Arwel to say something in his usual way. It simply never came. It was Blake who broke the mood.

“You two are waddling well!”

Vicky grinned. “Fat and happy, eh, girls. Twm?”

“Aye indeed! Sioned is already knitting bootees and blankets”

My uncle rumbled a laugh. “Aye, the old trout’s been at it for months. Can’t move in the spare room for baby things. I asked her how she knew whether to do blue or pink, and she just said, ‘I’ll do green and lavender and any extras we can hold for the cousins or the young trout, if she and the boy decide, aye?’”

He looked over at Chris once more, and for once is voice was quiet, soft.

“So what happened then, boy?”

Chris shrugged. “Simple, really. We had a whole string of violent attacks, and they were getting worse, more extreme, every time. Nobody seemed to care, but then over comes our heroine here, Lainey, and it seems her bosses sat up and took notice. Oh, I don’t do that sort of thing, I work with the DVLC. I just issue driving licences.

“Anyway, she’s a mover and shaker is Lainey, and so she does the team thing, and gets some proper coppers in, coppers who bloody well care, like this big boy here, and it’s worse than we thought, deeper in corruption and collusion… And I saw that, and I thought, this is going to be just like it always is, a few poofters getting a slap, not real people. The authorities will make a bit of noise, say the right things, tick a few boxes, right up until someone ends up on a slab

“That was her strength. She took her team, and she let them see that we are real people, not just mincers and benders to stare at down the Gay Village. I mean, we got a sort of lift, in a nasty way, when one of the victims turned out to be one of theirs, once removed, sort of”

Blake nodded. “Aye. One of the victims had a close relative in the Force, and that shook a few people up. Brought it home, like. But it was Lainey here, who made her girls and boys see what it was really about. Brought me my own rewards, too. Wife, kid, all that I owe to Lainey here”

I couldn’t let that one go. “Blake, lad, you got them yourself by being the sort of person our team needed, aye? Anyway, thanks to all of you for coming today. Dad…”

I had to let him know.

“Dad, there was a lot of what went on I haven’t let Sarah know, and I know you said you didn’t want to know, but, well, I think you should”

He stared at me for a few seconds. “I know that two of the people involved were the so-called policemen that abused my daughter in hospital after that little bastard beat her up”

Blake nodded. “Same two who did a similar job on my wife before we met, after she was raped aby another relative, another member of that sodding family. We made sure he went down for a long stretch as well”

Sod it. In for a penny. “And that little bastard, Dad. He was one of the ones we nicked when Chris was abducted”

Chris was grinning. “I wasn’t up to much just then, but I still heard her. ‘Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met, but I think you know my sister’ or some such”

Blake was grinning in an even nastier way. "Aye, and when she gets him to the Custody desk, and he really understands who she is, whoops, mop and bucket for the puddle of piss!”

Arwel was laughing heartily at that, while Dad chuckled. The old monster leant forward to shake Chris’ hand, then Blake’s.

“He did seem to have a bladder control problem, then”

Oh. I remembered his comment—told him he was coming back for the other nut.

Dad reached out his own hand. “That is the one thing that has been a constant in our daughters’ lives—they have found true friends, people I am proud to meet. Thank you, from both of us. Now, I do think we should get back to the court. There are things I want to hear”

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