Angel 55 (advocate)
Angel’s mum had come to visit, but it hadn’t ended well. Stacey asked her to leave because Karen was blitzed and shouting abuse at anybody that came within earshot. Angel had got upset. She told her mum not to bother coming back, but quickly realised that her mum would probably even forget she’d visited and if she did remember, she’d be patting herself on the back and playing the martyr of being a good parent. Sometimes Angel really hated her.
She’d phoned Tony to let him know her news, but once again he wasn’t in and she got the feeling he was avoiding her. It made her feel empty, but Bruno cheered her up and promised to visit soon.
When he did turn up Angel was glad, because the twins were sleeping, and there was nothing on the telly. They were even showing repeats of Dad’s Army. But she also was surprised because there was a gale blowing, most of the other girls had taken to huddling in their room, and it was so wet birds were wiped from the sky as if by a grey dishrag. It took Angel a few second to get over the disappointment that Bruno’s travelling companion wasn’t Tony. She bit her lip, ambivalent about asking about him, but something in her face, must have given it away. They both loved Tony.
Bruno was always a large enough presence to fill an average-sized living room. He squealed when he saw her and declared, ‘you’re nothing but a bag of bones. Why is it all I have to do is sniff a packet of crisps and I put on a stone?’ He flung his arms around her and hugged her tightly, lifting her off her feet and nibbled at her ear and whispered, ‘he’s got the flu, a really bad dose of man flu,’ before putting her down. He looked over her shoulder at the twins. ‘They’re getting bigger,’ he declared, grinning, as if he was responsible.
The man with Bruno stood near the door and looked around the room with an acquisitive, impersonal, air like a magpie. He had been wearing a Russian type fur cap, with earmuffs and but had taken it off and held it loosely in his gloved hand. He was bald and tall with a thin moustache and very narrow shoulders on which hung a dark three-quarter length Crombie and black suit.
‘This is my friend, Harold Cole,’ Bruno seemed a little bashful, introducing him, but his friend smiled, politely, enough. ‘I told you about him, he’s a lawyer.’
Harold blinked rapidly, as if the room had just come into focus, and everyone in it. He strode across and shook Angel’s hand. ‘A QC, actually.’ Every syllable and word that emerged from his mouth was money. ‘That’s Queen’s Counsel, for the uninitiated. A bit better than a lawyer and a bit worse than a judge.’ He was expert in leaving gaps and waiting for a reply.
‘You want a cup of tea?’ asked Angel, flustered. ‘Please, sit down.’ She swept a hand toward the couch, apologetic.
‘I’ll get it,’ Bruno guffawed. ‘And there’s no need for you to be like that.’
Harold perched on the edge of the couch and blinked at the telly.
‘Like what?’ she asked.
‘Like a wally,’ replied Bruno. ‘Muggins there likes to be soundly spanked and to be led around on all fours with a dog collar. Just remember that when he comes away wae all his public school, superior, shite. Looking doon their noses at us. Now where’s your kettle, cups and T-bags?’
Angel smirked. ‘I’ve no got a kettle. All the stuffs in the kitchen...I’ll get it.’ She looked at Harold anew. ‘Whit dae you take in your tea?’ she asked.
‘Just black, please.’
‘And you know whit I take,’ added Bruno.
‘Aye, I know whit you take,’ chirped Angel, making her way towards the door. ‘Keep an eye on the twins.’ She turned her head. ‘And don’t do anything I wouldnae dae.’
‘Pleasssse,’ groaned Bruno, rolling his eyes and shaking his head in derision.
Angel was soon hustling back into the room with a tray loaded with ginger biscuits and mugs of tea. She served them before slipping into the seat beside the twins and sipping her tea.
‘Right,’ Bruno yawned, half eaten biscuit spraying from his mouth. ‘That arsehole that raped you and his mate have been kiddy-fiddlying and noo they’ve been caught oot. That should work in your favour, eh?’ He glanced at Harold, for confirmation, but his friend looked resolutely into his black tea. ‘Ironically,’ added Bruno. ‘If it happened a few months earlier you’d have been classified as a kid too.’
‘I’m just wondering where that leaves me.’ There was a note of excitement in her voice. ‘I mean, could I get oot early. Could I get a re-trial?’ She looked through her long lashes at Harold.
Harold cleared his throat and smiled to himself.
‘Be nice,’ warned Bruno. ‘And I’ll be nice.’
‘Well, the wheels of justice work exceedingly slowly,’ Harold let his statement hang, before continuing, ‘but I’m sure there will be ways and means of finding out things. Backdoor ways and means.’
‘Oh, you’d know a lot about that,’ shrieked Bruno.
‘And I’m sure our friend Bruno knows far more of the peccadillos of the members of the Scottish bar than I could ever claim. Not that it would come to such a thing. But I think we could stick with the more civilised term, socialising.’
‘Sounds like blackmail to me,’ Bruno suggested with a leer and a glint in his eyes. ‘My speciality, as you know.’ His mug slanted sideways, almost overflowing, before he righted it.
Harold took a deep breath. Angel noticed he’d a prominent Adam’s apple, which was rather hairy and bobbled up and down and spoke flatly as if to an eavesdropper. ‘If and indeed when, the poor victim’s names come into the public domain. It might be in their best interest if some said party leaked little titbits to the redtop press. And then the wheels of justice would gain some traction and work rather more quickly in bringing the perpetrators to face their accusers.’
‘You mean me,’ Bruno squinted at Harold.
Harold held up a hand and shook his head. ‘I didn’t say that.’
‘Your sort never do Harold,’ Bruno shrugged. ‘I could make it a rather uncomfortable night for you.’
Harold seemed amused. ‘Just the way I like it,’ and there was a dropping down into a slight lisp and it was gone, to be replaced by a more pedantic tone. He turned his grey eyes on Angel. ‘I’m making no promises. And I won’t be able to work directly for you, but I can make sure you have good counsel.’
‘The best,’ Bruno cut in. ‘And I should know, I’ve tasted a lot of Scottish justice.’
Harold ducked his head in acknowledgement, before continuing. ‘Let’s go over the small matter when our local constabulary came to visit you. I want you to tell me exactly what they said and how they said it. I may stop and ask you to clarify a few matters, is that understood?’
Angel gawped at Bruno for guidance, his eyes sliding away, before replying. ‘Aye, that’s fine. But whit’s it aw for?’
‘The game, the great game,’ Harold seemed animated, excited, even.