Angel (90) Retrial
After a few months a guard took Angel to see Mr Howard, her Queen’s Counsel, in one of the holding pens near the church. Pippa and the rest of the girls were gloomy. They put on a face, said Angel would get off, but she could tell they didn’t really mean it. He gets up from the chair to meet her. ‘Angela,’ he said. His handshake was firm and he was relaxed, jocular even. ‘Green eyes, like the heather,’ he’d said when they’d first met. He was one of the Reverend’s friends, old school. Leather briefcase for documents, scratchy tweed jacket, shirt and tie and shiny black shoes, smelled of Imperial Leather soap and John Player’s cigarettes. He’d offered her one, but warned her she shouldn’t smoke it because she was pregnant. Gave her a Polo mint instead. Cigarette smoke curling around his face as he pondered her case. She’d enough experience from her mother’s side to recognise a hardened drinker. He made a show of smiling and being friendly, handing her the papers that came from the prosecutor’s office. His hand shook and hers shook too.
Angel stood at the window and scanned them. Dense formal legal language swam in front of her eyes. ‘Whit does this mean she asked, “The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh had agreed a preliminary date… to look at her conviction?” Does that mean they think I’m guilty or innocent?’
‘It means,’ he said, picking his words carefully, ‘That they don’t know. They’ll look at it again. I’d suggest you have a word with your QC and then he laughed and hugged her shoulder.’
Angel didn’t know whether to whoop with joy or what to do. She wasn’t sure what it all meant. He was more fatherly than lawyerly. He’d been patient with her, but forensic in going again and again over every detail. Time and place and how long it took. He seemed to have been obsessed with the case as Angel and she wondered if it was all just an act. It wasn’t as if he was getting paid.
Often she couldn’t concentrate and he’d assured her that was fine. The only thing that wasn’t fine was unaccountable facts. He asks her again to describe what happened when Kimmie gave evidence, the things she said and the things she missed out. He’d transcripts of the court documents annotated like a script. Angel finds herself sweating and she’s back there naked with the ashtray in her hand and him lying their unconscious covered in blood, her mind refusing to believe he could be dead. She cried, her throat constricting and the QC flicking through the page and waiting, always waiting, patiently, with further questions about when and why.
But she rises up within herself, tamps down her emotions, and recovered her composure. She too became rehearsed to the nuances of each meeting.
‘Will, I have to meet him?’
He had prepared her for possible prosecution lawyer’s attacks on her integrity, on her morals. His case was she’d maligned, escorted to a party she didn’t want to go to, duped and attacked and had simply defended herself.
Two years have passed and she saw her rapist in a wheel chair, shielded by his legal team. He looked the same, but dressed in a black suit. The kind men wore to funerals. Broad forehead shiny under the lights of the court. He didn’t notice her at first, but then he smiled as the case was laid out in front of him to cherry-pick the parts he wanted to chew over.
He’d been wheeled onto the witness stand, first witness for the prosecution. A momentary pause, court silent, her mum watching as the prosecution asked,
‘Can you please identify the defendant?’
Her rapist impassive as he fingered her once again.
She tried to focus on the judge, raised above her and slightly in front of her, but mumbled and fumbled through her testimony, the only witness for defence. Took the oath, to tell the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Angel didn’t ever want to go back to court. The judge intervened several times to tell her to speak up, not mumble, speak clearly. Thanked her rapist for his assistance before sentencing Angel and thanked the jury for doing their duty.
She forgot everything, but it was all there inside her, waiting like a suitcase in locker waiting for the right numbers to tumble open. The case finished at lunchtime on the second day and it was sunny outside the court as they took her down. The judge deserved a good lunch.
‘I got Kimmie on board,’ Mr Howard said, a month into their meetings. ‘I mean I’ve been to see her and she is willing to,’ and he paused, ‘reframe her testimony, testify on your behalf – she said she wanted to come and see you and explain, but I told her that wouldn’t be a good idea at all. Would make the case seem like collusion.’
‘Cow,’ Angel shook her head. ‘She colluded with my rapist to get me locked up, but now she can’t collude wae me, because whit, she’s a fuckin’ liar!’
‘That’s about it,’ he explained. ‘But we don’t use the term liar. We use terms like mistaken or misunderstood testimony. Lying under oath is perjury. She might want to help, but she doesn’t want to sway your place with hers…And she’s got a little baby girl to think of.’
That threw Angel a bit. She imagined the world outside prison to be exactly the same. Her attitude to her former friend softened. ‘When you see her, tell her…’ Then she couldn’t think how to put it.
‘I won’t be seeing her again,’ he told Angel and that had sorted that for better or worse.
‘And if this appeal fails,’ he patted her shoulder. ‘Don’t worry, we can take it the whole way to the Supreme Court in London.’
‘I can’t wait that long.’ Angel glanced down at her swollen belly. ‘They’ll take my wee girl off me and I need to get Adam back. Every day without him is hell.’
He took a deep breath. ‘I know, but it’s not as if we have a choice.’