Detective Inspector Grier knows his place and sits smoking, which gives him something to do, in the soundproofed room away from the stage of the courtroom. He waits to be called and follows behind the Macer as the next witness in proceedings. He is on nodding terms with those that wear fancy costumes of robes and wigs in the High Court. He knows their routines and the jargon. As a senior officer he believes part of his job is to explain to rookie detectives where to go, what to expect, and most importantly for any cop, what not to say. He doesn’t even need to say it himself. Police officer never admits to having assaulted a prisoner unless under extreme provocation or, more likely, he’s defending himself, or a member of the public and a police officer always supports another police officer’s evidence.
Even in dress uniform his appearance is roughhewn, tall and bulky as a wonky set of double wardrobes. Lentigo spots his forehead, seems to absorb the light in the stuffy courtroom like a third eye of his bald head. Going up the stairs and standing smack in the middle of the dock he promises to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help him god. He fidgets, feeding his cap through his thick fingers. Not given to introspection it’s a puzzle to him why he finds the bear-trap of public scrutiny so painful. Tension and shame that he’ll be found out that he is not what he appears accompanying him to the dock and stand beside him making his face blister red with embarrassment when asked a question, but, largely, he remains deferential to his betters. He becomes nostalgic for simpler times when he was facing a gang of neds armed with razors at Glasgow Cross and he had to stand alone with a bit of wood, a truncheon.
Grier tries not to look up at crowds of strangers all around him. Rows of faces rolling down on him like a wave and gawping eyes raking over his every movement. He keeps his eyes on the stenographer, pale sweater and skirt, with imitation pearls at the throat and long fingers primed and at the ready. The double door to the court opens and there’s some laughter at the back and around the sides as a stiff-legged shadowy presence, stumbling and cursing, frothing at the mouth, aggrieved how unfair it is, for she’s waited for hours and tries to push sideways into the public gallery, only to be led away. All the seats have been long taken by family members of the murder victim, fresh-faced lawyers, government councillors and worthies in bespoke pinstripe suits from the same tailors, so expensive they might well have sewn fifty-pound notes to their back. Tweed coats with leather elbow patches occupy other seats. Shetland sweaters. Charcoal grey wool, three button and waistcoats. A lime-green blouse, frilly at the breast and loose in the midriff and light-blue bellbottoms. Journalists sit in clusters, near the aisles, so that during breaks in proceedings, they don’t knock down civilians in the stampede to get first to the public phones at the entrance and file copy of the evidence so far. The odd barrel shaped Glasgow woman, provides ballast, in her best finery, coat and gloves, who would have won the day at the Battle of Flodden Field and kept going until she got to London, but has taken a day off from the picture halls to view real live entertainment and waits expectantly chewing a Polo mint and with a packet of paper hankies in hand.
Karen’s representative Barclay is the kind of QC the public love because he’s a winner. He talks like a commoner, but with a slight Highland lilt. The robe he wears is often dowdy with falling cigarette ash and the wool wig on his head sits on his head like stray cat with its tail hanging down over his back and liable to shift and go walkabouts at any time. A big nose dominates his face and with flaring nostrils he’s naturally nosey. All over Glasgow and beyond its porous borders his fame has spread so that paperboys dipping a newsagent shop’s takings to the aristocracy of the criminal world sing from the same crime sheet, ‘Get me Barclay!’
‘M’Lord,’ Barclay says and nods at the judge, before he turns and as he begins his cross-examination of the man in the dock. Chairs creak and squeak in the gallery, followed by a rustle of clothing as the crowd leans forward. ‘Detective Inspector Grier, it seems to me like an open and shut case. You have your timeline and you have your killer?’ Barclay’s eyes crinkle into a smile when he pronounces his name and addresses him like an old friend. They have previous in High Courts and low. Barclay knows how to throw the detective a line of words and likes to watch him squirm and draw the truth out of him so that it beats the air and shimmers for a second so the fifteen jurors can recognise it for what it is before disappearing beneath the surface again.
Grier hesitates before opening his mouth. ‘That’s true,’ he says, closing his mouth. Public speaking is like breathing underwater and hoping he’ll not drown.
‘Well, I won’t keep you long.’ Barclay points towards the evidence table. ‘You got some lurid snapshots of the deceased for the jury to examine. Did you take them yourself?’
Titters of laughter come from the back of the court. The judge’s frown is directed towards Barclay.
Grier massages his neck with his big fingers and rubs at the sweat stain at the back of his collar before answering. ‘No.’
‘Then who took them?’
‘Did they take them at the crime scene?’
‘Where were they taken?’
‘You’d need to ask them.’ Grier angles his head and looks at those sitting at the prosecutor’s table for support and steadily back at Barclay.
‘No matter, but I think we can safely say, even though Detective Inspector Grier doesn’t seem to know who took these photographs which have been presented to this court, because it has been documented that they were taken in the mortuary of the Western Infirmary. Is that not correct?’
‘No,’ Grier shakes his head. ‘I mean yes.’
‘So it’s actually the pathologist and the coroner’s office that we should thank for these photographs and solving the case. Can you tell me what purpose they serve?’
‘They serve to show that the murder victim died a painful and awful death.’
‘Yes, but we already know that. We’re not disputing that. So did the coroner’s office instruct you to arrest the deceased’s common-law wife, or did you make that decision on your own?’
A bubble of laughter and the stenographer pauses over the keys.
Grier mops at his forehead and averts his eyes from the defence lawyer. He reaches out and takes a sip of water, eyes the cigarettes and matches laid out for witness and thinks about taking a smoke, but that might make him seem weak. He reaches in his inside pocket and instead pulls out his notebook. The court waits as he flips through page after page. He reads in monotone and stumbles over words. ‘We, I mean, I, was informed of the suspicious death of Mr James Docherty at approximately 6.55 am. I was also told his common-law wife had been in Casualty. A suspected poisoning of the same toxic substance, but was now in Intensive Care. We were not allowed to interview her until the evening of the second day, when she was adjudged well-enough to speak to us. When told that her common-law husband had died, she seemed euphoric and said…’ He held the notes up closer to his eyes. ‘ “Good riddance, to bad rubbish”. ‘Upon further investigation it was decided to take Karen Orr into custody for further questioning, where she was then charged with his murder.’ He stops as abruptly as he’d begun.
‘So let me understand this,’ Barclay says, pleading ignorance. ‘Ms Orr said to you she had killed James Docherty?’
‘Then what led you to conclude that she had.’
Grier spends a few moments looking through his notebook. ‘She admitted that James Docherty had been alive on the night of his killing. That he’d been in a foul mood, picking faults with everything she did and punching her in the stomach and about the face.’
‘Even though she was pregnant,’ interjects Barclay.
Advocate Depute Montrose spring up onto his feet. ‘Hearsay, the deceased is not on trial, neither is he able to defend these absurd allegations.’
‘I believe the jury is mature enough to make their own mind up.’ Judge Brodie momentarily gazes at the jury. Then he focuses on Montrose and his brows crease as he addresses him. ‘But the witness has brought into the public domain matters that it might have been judicious not to mention.’
Barclay waits to speak. ‘So Karen Orr got herself beaten up, poisoned herself and poisoned her partner and went to hospital and pleaded…’ Barclay puts on a booming Glaswegian accent: ‘It wasnae me Guv,’ and laughter cascades down the slopes of the gallery.
Judge Brodie bangs his gavel and threatens to clear the court, but nobody much believes him. ‘Mr Barclay,’ he says, ‘this is not a circus, nor an amusement sideshow, but a murder trial. You are flickering on the thin edge of Contempt and all that entails. Be warned!’
Barclay clutches his hands together and appearing suitably sombre bows to Judge Brodie. ‘My apologies, Your Honour. It won’t happen again.’
‘See that it doesn’t.’