‘You were in the wrong waiting room.’ The lawyer shook my hand, introduced himself as John Cameron, Charlie’s advocate.
‘I’m sorry,’ Myra apologised for both of us. Stood supporting me, tight at my shoulder.
Didn’t ask him, although I should have, how he knew who we were or how he'd found us. Didn’t admit to him I’d broke the law as a kid and plonked off school to watch Crime Court. How I'd worn out my youth and my Y-fronts sitting smoking in the chair in front of the one-bar electric fire waiting for someone to ask my views on injustice. Waiting for my chance to hit the bar. Always knew the guilty fuckers. Everybody addressed each other as M’Lord or Your Honour and wore a woolly headdress and robes. Knew the script. We were in with the big boys. Might look like mutton dressed as lamb, but hiring his sort for a day cost more than a fortnight’s holiday in the Costa del Sol. Hazarded he was paid to know who we were.
He droned on, voice like a crow. How Judge Lord Morrie was a stickler for something or other. The corridor swarmed with the hum of people hurrying, bumping past us, fluttering paper, laughing and guffawing with each other. Some of them dressed sheepishly in the garb of the law, black gowns and dark blue uniforms. Others in the shirt and tie of the accused. I fingered the tie at my neck. Smug that he spoke to us as a couple and he addressed his comments to me.
We dutifully followed him to Court Number 1, where he deposited us on a long plastic bench wrapped like the zip of modern-art project around the wall. Good for everything but comfort. Young blonde haired guy sat delicately balanced staring at the ground as if he was deciding to spit. Touch or go.
‘A court factotum will come and get you and show you where to go when you are called as a witness.’ He looked at a watch with a modern black face. I guessed it was more expensive than a Ferrari. ‘But we’ll be breaking for lunch soon.’ He gawped at Myra for a moment and his brow tightened. ‘You can claim expenses.’ He nodded in an encouraging way that also indicated our interview was over.
‘Hing on,’ I said. ‘If you’re his lawyer. How come you’re not in there?’
His smile had some of the Charlie boy certainty about it. ‘Oh, we’ve also got a very good solicitor advocate working for us. Don’t worry about that. You’re presence here is simply to establish that Mr Dean had a normal childhood. He’s not the Svengali, Charles Manson figure, the popular press depict him as.’
He guffawed at that in a way that encouraged us to join in. He was getting more and more like Charlie by the second. I shrugged. Myra buttoned her lips, shook her head and looked through him.
‘Perhaps the best thing, is to take a look, get a feel for the lie of the land.’ He took a few steps sideways and swished open one of the double doors to the trial. ‘I don’t mean this court of course. Just make sure you’re back here when the court factotum is looking for you. No harm done.’ I was sure he winked, but it might have been his left eye twitching. Then he turned with a click of heels and was lost in the labyrinth of the law.
Most of the seats in the court were taken. We squeezed into two near the door. You could see who the press in the front rows were by the way they knitted their heads together and whispered, hungry for talk. The judge sat back in his chair and glanced in our direction. But I only had eyes for Charlie boy.
I’d attended enough civil events organised by the municipal brethren in District Courts, and watched enough telly to know, Charlie was hanging himself by not wearing a tie. His shirt wing-collared, eggshell-blue, and his neck naked and bare as a baby’s bum. Clothes shrink wrapped for the wrong body. Periodically, he clawed at himself. A nylon sawing sound, his arm got it, his leg got it and he dived deeper than I dared look. The jury were sprawled out in padded and raised benches to the side of him. Perspex screen protecting a bored looking congerie of middle-aged men and women and one Asian gentlemen from the worst of such assaults. Fat and bald, a florid face and forehead that ran with sweat, Charlie’s bumpy ride into old age filled me with a wicked sense of delight. My elbow poked out, but I stopped from digging Myra in the ribs. She slumped sideways in the chair, her eyes innocent as a cow’s, as she watched the young girl in the witness box.
A blue polo neck gave her a flattering long line in the witness box, but she didn’t need flattering. Gorgeous. Gold hair. China-blue eyes and cheek bones so high the message for her full lips to smile would take longer that it would take a normal bloke to spell aardvark backwards. She was being coached through her story by a bearded and bearish man, whom I took to be the prosecutor, who stalked in front of the dais asking questions.
‘I hadn’t expected it,’ she said in a fluting voice. ‘I’d been in Ashton Lane with my boyfriend. He’s a very well-known football player.’ Her eyelids fluttered and she glanced round the court room as if she expected those watching to applaud her revelation.
‘Go on Miss Lyons,’ said the prosecutor.
‘We were having a meal. This fat old guy appeared. He was wearing a grubby white t-shirt.’ Her nose did a little dance of distaste. ‘I though he was a waiter or pot-boy.’
‘You mean Mr Dean,’ said the prosecutor. He turned and looked at Charlie boy.
‘Yeh, I thought Mark would have got rid of him.’ She held her hand over her mouth as she thought back. ‘But he didn’t. He seemed to know him. They chatted for a minute or two. Mark patted him on the back. Then he came over and got his bottle of beer. “Julie,” he said, “this guy helped me big time that time I was injured. Didn’t think I was goin’ to make it back. I owe him. He just wants to speak to you, honey, for a second”. She took a deep breath. ‘I didn’t know what to think.’ A sob escaped from the back of her throat. The judge leaned forward peering owl-like through rimless glasses at her.
‘Miss Lyons,’ the prosecutor said in a soft encouraging tone.
She held her hand up, fluttered her white fingers. ‘I’m ok.’ Gave him the bounty of a bright red smile. ‘Then I thought he must be a physio or something. Mark had been out injured for about four weeks and had been going to training, but not training with the team. He was jumpy and hard to live with.’
‘Miss Lyons,’ said the judge in a rumbling voice. ‘Your boyfriend is not on trial. His peccadilloes is of no interest to this court.’
The prosecutor nodded in her direction, encouraging her to continue with a look.
‘The old guy, I mean Charlie, took a seat beside me.’ She turned her head and briefly looked in his direction.' “I can help you with your confidence,” he said, straight out.’ She arched her neck. ‘I’d never told anybody I was shy.’ A startled look travelled across her face. ‘That was it really. He gave me his card, with a phone number.’
The prosecutor paused before glancing across at the jury. ‘So to recap you found Mr Dean, old, ugly and, dare I say it, a bit smelly.’ The watching audience laughed on cue. ‘Yet,’ he said, ‘you has sex with him. You gave him all the money that was set aside in your joint account to get married to Mark. You gave him a new BMW, Mark had bought for you, with the log book. You gave him everything you had, including your virtue and self-respect. Miss Lyons how do you explain it.’
Miss Lyons stood very still. Her mouth opened and shut. Her hands came up and covered her face and her shoulders shook. She made a squeaking noise as she cried. Rustling and whisper of voices in the court room were swallowed up in the silence. Miss Lyons raised her head, her eyes aglitter. ‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘He just did something to me so that I’d no control over myself. I think he must have hypnotised me or something.’
‘No further questions,’ said the prosecutor.
John Cameron stepped up to the witness stand. I hadn’t noticed him slipping into court. He wore the regulation advocates wig on top of his dark hair which made him look younger.
‘Miss Lyons,’ he said. ‘My client has intimated to me and this court that you and he were in love. You planned to run away together. At no time did he hypnotise you, or in any way try and coerce you. The whole idea is ludicrous rubbish dreamed up by the worst kind of tabloid. Some might even suggest she had been coached to say such a thing.’
‘Is there a question hiding in there somewhere?’ asked the judge.
She studied the defence advocate. Her eyes shifted sideways to her right taking in Charlie’s bulky frame. Then the prosecutor who had returned to his seat.
‘Yes, that’s it,’ she said. ‘We were in love. We’re still in love. I’d have done anything for Charlie. When he gets out of here I hope we can still get married. We’ll be really happy, if you people would just leave us alone.’