Laura Ch. 10byshandal©
Chris and Laura have re found each other, whilst Robert sits in a cell awaiting trial for her murder.
Should she go back and stop the trial?
Or should she and Chris just let him rot?
Parking the battered old van he borrowed from Maidie to drive into the town, he smiled across at Becky sitting next to him. She looked nervous, her face looking down, her hands twisting the strap of her bag in her lap.
"Are you OK babe? I can turn the van around and go back if you want? We don't have to do this if you don't want."
"No it's OK. It's just that I haven't been out of the village for so long, and I guess I'm a little nervous. I feel safe back there, and it's the unknown I'm scared about. It's being lost by myself."
"Baby you don't have to be scared, I'm with you. I'll be right next to you all the time. If you want to leave just tell me and we're outta here and back to the village. I promise to look after you. OK?"
Getting out he walked around the van and opened her door, offering his hand to help her out.
"What do you want to do first? Choose the suit, get my hair cut or buy your stuff?"
"Lets get your hair cut first." and off they went in search of a barber, hand in hand.
The sales girl stood back looking at the woman as she looked at herself in the long mirror in the changing room.
"That dress really suits you, simple but classy."
Becky turned sideways to the mirror, checking out the back of the black dress where it scooped down low on her back. "You don't think it's too low in the back?"
"No you have a lovely long back and it emphasises it and your lovely shape. Your husband is going to find it very sexy."
Becky looked up sharply at her, "My husband?"
"Yes, why don't you go out and show him, He's been very patient sitting out there waiting for you. Most men don't even go shopping with their wives."
Looking back in the mirror, she remembered the times she had been shopping with Robert and he had told her what to buy. Shopping with him had been an ordeal, but today with Chris she had been having fun. He had let her choose his new suit, asking her which tie and shirt he should get to go with it, and she had loved it, fussing over him as he stood in front of her in the shop, patiently trying on different ones until she was happy with her choice.
For the first time in her life she realised that someone really cared what she thought, and her eyes started to tear up.
"Are you going to show him then?"
"No, I think I'll surprise him."
Chris stood in the café, finger pulling at the collar of his shirt trying to ease it away from his neck. Cleanly shaven and suited and booted he felt as nervous as if he was a teenager on his first date. In his other hand he held the single red rose.
Waiting for her to come down from getting ready he stood with Maidie giving him the once over. "Not bad, you clean up OK. Who would have guessed that under all that long shaggy hair and scruff there was hiding a sophisticated man about town."
"Yeah well my mum always told me I should clean up a bit more, but I never bothered to pay much attention to her. Maybe I should have."
The sound of footsteps on the stairs made them both turn towards the sound, and then Becky appeared, a vision before them. Hair swept up in a scoop exposing her long neck, her face devoid of all the make up she had been hiding behind for the last eight months, replaced with just lipstick and mascara, her delicate features enhanced by the black clinging dress hugging her body. A slit neck at the front swept down to the low back, exposing her long slim back, her spine a soft line disappearing under the material, inviting and sensual.
Chris's breath stuck in his throat, unable to move, he took in the beauty before him. She stood there a slight blush across her cheeks, shy and unsure.
"Wow you look a million dollars Becca." Maidie exclaimed, "Doesn't she Chris?"
"Baby you've taken my breath away." he stood rooted to the spot as she moved towards him, looking up into his face.
"I don't think I've ever seen you so tongue tied." She laughed.
"Yes you have, but you never noticed me back then."
Robert sat at the long table, unable to eat the slop on the plastic plate in front of him. The red bruise on his face, was the result of an inmate accusing him of not moving fast enough when he was told to move out of the chair he was sitting in, whilst watching the communal television.
He had lost weight since he was arrested and charged with Laura's murder. He was unable to make anyone believe him that he was innocent, that he had beaten her up, but left her alive when he went to the bar, and found she was gone when he returned.
Looking back over the so called evidence the Police had accused him with, he realised it looked bad for him. He had done everything they said he had, except kill her. Yes he had hit her, broken her wrist that time, but that was an accident. He didn't mean to twist her arm so hard, the bitch had been annoying him, and that time he split her lip, it was when he had hit her and she had moved her head and he misjudged it. She had ruined his best shirt that time.
But he missed the little cow. Missed watching her as she got undressed, shyly pulling those tight little black skirts he liked to see her wear down those long legs of hers. Missed feeling them hooked high over his shoulders as he plunged into her, watching her face as she tried so hard not to cry, unable to move or relieve the pressure as he took what he wanted from her.
Groaning he realised it had been months since he'd had sex, and sharing a cell with another man was inhibiting. He could kill that bitch of a wife of his for putting him in this situation.
Wherever she was.
They sat laughing at the little table, the candle burning between them sending shadows dancing across their faces.
Becky looked at Chris, his mouth still smiling at the silly joke she had told him, his dimples and laugh lines showing on the cleanly shaved cheeks, his hair now a styled and layered glossy black. Looking across at him her heart seemed to melt and she realised with a small shock she had fallen in love with him. He made her feel so safe, so cared for, so loved. For the first time in her life there was someone who was really interested in what she thought and wanted, who cared for her, who didn't judge her, who wanted to please her.
After a while he had loosened his new blue tie, and undone the top button of his crisp white shirt, apologising to her, but she loved seeing his neck and the small little dip at the base where she knew he was sensitive to her tongue as they made love.
Smiling back at him as the glow in her heart grew she realised he had really wanted to impress her, had wanted to look his best for her, even though she loved him in his jeans and tee shirt, his hair thick and unruly, unshaved with the sexy stubble, he had wanted to show her he could be as smart and sophisticated as any man if needed.
Sipping the glass of wine he sighed and leaned forward, his elbows on the table, his face resting on his fist as he looked at her.
"Baby I am going to have to leave to go back next week."
Suddenly she went cold. "Back? Why back? Are you fed up with me?"
"Baby no." and he reached over and held her hand across the table. "Whilst I was getting ready I had a phone call from the Police. I have an interview booked with the Prosecution Barrister on the 16th. They want to go through my testimony with them."
"What are you going to say?"
"What ever you want me to say." Picking up her hand to his mouth he kissed the palm before placing it back down on the table covered by his. "But if I go on the stand and lie, and they find Robert guilty I will have to live with that for the rest of my life." lowering his voice he continued "Baby I love you, and I'll do what you want me to do, but it doesn't feel right to me to put a man away for murder when he didn't do it."
"He hurt me Chris, hurt me so bad."
"I know he did baby," then softly "Do you want to tell me about it? Maybe talking about it will ease the pain."
"No I don't want to talk about it, to remember. I want to enjoy tonight. I don't want to soil tonight with remembering Robert."
"If we don't talk about it sometime, it will always be there in the background, festering. Our relationship is worth more than that. Besides if I am going to lie on the stand, I need to have a reason to do so."
"You don't have to lie on the stand. Just don't tell them that I'm alive and that you know where I am."
"Sweetheart it's not that simple."
"Yes it is."
"No it's not. I love you, I want to marry you, I want children." Taking a deep breath he carried on. "Laura we can live here waiting to be discovered, always looking over our shoulder waiting for someone to recognise you. We can go on the run, maybe settle somewhere else, but it would be the same, never knowing if and when it will happen. Or we can stop this now, tell them you're alive, stop the trial and get on with our lives."
"Chris you don't understand, I committed fraud, I changed my name, opened a bank account using someone else's documents, obtained the lottery money under a name that is not my real one, let everyone think I was dead, long after I had read about Robert being arrested. They are going to put me in jail and throw away the key."
"What lottery money, what bank account?"
Becky sat looking sad and defeated. "Mrs Jackson won some money on the lottery; she gave me the ticket so I could escape Robert. I set up an account using her granddaughters birth certificate and papers, and claimed the money using her name Rebecca Jackson." picking up her napkin she twisted it around her fingers, "that last night, the night you dropped me back home in the taxi Robert beat me up so badly I thought he was going to kill me." A shudder ran though her as she remembered "I banged my head on the kitchen counter and passed out. When I came to I just ran, to the only place I felt safe, Mrs Jackson's." Looking up into Chris' concerned face she explained "I stayed there for five days, and on the fifth day the hospice solicitor turned up with an Estate Agent and I hid in a cupboard until they left." She paused as she struggled to get her story out without crying, biting her lip and frowning. "I changed the colour of my hair with some dye I had bought, and left in the middle of that night, walking across town to the railway station. I dumped my bloodied clothes in a skip on the way. I didn't want Robert to find me. I got on the first train out of town, changing trains twice to cover my tracks."
Chris sat there, so still while he listened to her story, whispering she continued. "People stared at me, I was covered in bruises on my face and one eye was black and blue. I ended up in a town and was mugged by some youths who took my bag with all my money, the bank details and papers. I was crying on the seat by the station when Maidie found me. I didn't know what to do next, I couldn't go to the bank to get at the money, I had nothing except a few clothes I had found at Mrs Jackson's, nowhere to live. I was so scared and alone."
"Oh baby I'm so sorry." and getting up he knelt down next to her and putting his arms around her let her cry on his shoulder.
After a while she lifted her head looking around wiping her nose with her napkin, "People are watching. I'm sorry to make a scene."
"I don't care if they watch, I love you and I wish I could take away your pain, I'm the one that is sorry baby. Sorry I didn't know and wasn't there to help you. I would have taken you in if you had asked me. I would have looked after you, protected you."
"Robert said he would maim you. He said if I ever went to you he would run you over when you where on your bike, make sure you never walked again. I was scared and in pain, and then I lost your phone number and didn't know where you lived after Maidie found me. I was so mixed up and scared and now I can't stop the trial because if I do they will charge me instead."
Scooping her to him, "Shhh baby, don't worry I'll sort it out for you. Let's pay the bill and go home."
Chris lay on his back, Becky sprawled asleep her head on his shoulder, an arm thrown across his chest. Unable to sleep his mind whirled trying to sort out the mess that they had found themselves in.
Once they had arrived back at the café, they had sat in her bedroom, Becky telling him the whole story. How she and Mrs Jackson had been planning for weeks for her to get away from Robert, about the abuse, how he had demanded she give up her job, realising he was isolating her even more so that she would eventually be so dependent on him she would never be free or safe.
She had haltingly recalled everything that had happened that night back in October, how she had woken up and stumbled out into the night, staying at Mrs Jackson's, mourning her, getting her strength back until she had to leave before she was discovered.
Explaining to Chris how she dyed her hair black, then changed her look and name so there wouldn't be a trail for Robert to follow, she told the story of her journey how she got on any train not caring where she ended up, how she planned to use the lottery win to set herself up and start again only to be mugged and no way of getting to the money and the account.
The final despair of sitting in the cold, scared and alone, only to be found by Maidie, scooped up and brought to the village where her body recovered.
Sometime during the night it occurred to him, as he lay staring up at the ceiling, that the Police wouldn't necessarily know about the bank account or the lottery money. They had been looking for Laura Hamilton not Rebecca Jackson.
Unless they were told, there was a real possibility that she wouldn't be charged with fraud. However not coming forward before now to let them know she was alive could be a real problem, and he had become part of the charade as he had not informed them either for the last two weeks.
Chris ran through all the different scenarios he could think of and what the possible outcome would be, and by the time the light had started to creep through the tiny window he had decided a plan of action. The only problem was convincing the woman in his arms that this was the best way forward.
Robert stood in front of the prison officer, unsure what to do or say next. He knew that if he told him how he got the drugs that had been found on him he would be liable for the beating of his life.
If he said nothing he alone would take the fall.
"Look Hamilton, I know you've not got the contacts or the balls to be able to bring in the drugs, so someone was putting you up to running them in here. Tell me who it is and we can transfer you. You have just over a month to your trial; you don't want to do it in punishment do you?"
He looked across the desk at the officer, eyes burning, and a hard ball of frustration in his stomach. How he hated this place where he had no control on what he ate, what he did, and now it looked as if he was going to face punishment for something he hadn't wanted to do in the first place, but had been forced into.
"OK Hamilton, I am moving you to punishment for three days, pending an enquiry, you will be charged with drug offences, and I am hoping that during your time in punishment you will think carefully about your situation and decide to tell me who the supplier is."
Robert spluttered out "But that's unfair, I was coerced into doing it, you can't charge me, I was forced to do it or get beaten up!"
"Then tell me who the supplier is."
"He'll kill me if I do."
"No he wont, he'll be arrested and moved."
"But the rest of them will know I've grassed. I've been here long enough to know what happens to the mouths in this place."
"We'll move you."
"Yeah, and you think that will protect me? Dream on, I would be a walking target in any prison you send me to, you know as well as I do the prison grapevine is more effective than any communication system you have."
"Then I have no choice but to formally charge you with drug offences under The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, with the intent to supply Heroin which is a class A drug and punishable by up to life in prison. Do you have anything to say?"
Robert just stood there, the blood draining from his face, unable to believe what was happening to him. He felt the hands of the officer behind him take hold of his arm, as he was led away, his mind and body numb with shock.
Maidie nodded, her bleached blond hair sticking up where over the past half hour she had been running her hand through it as Chris explained his plan, then looked across at the young woman sitting tucked into his side, his arm holding her to him, looking scared and anxious.
"Becca, I know you are worried but this is the only way," she softly said, "It will cover you both,"
In a small quivering voice she replied, looking down at the red gingham cloth, "I'm so scared, I don't want to go. I feel so safe here."
Chris kissed the top of her head. "We'll come back. I'll sell my flat and we'll come back if you want. I can work anywhere but we have to go back and do this just as I've explained. It's the only way."
"Why is it? If we don't go they might not find me. We could live here and no one would know."
Putting his other arm around her and pulling her in close, her head buried in his chest, he looked across at Maidie, his eyes begging her for help.
"Becca listen to me, Chris found you. It would only take just one person to come here on holiday and recognise your face once your photo hits the papers during the trial and everything would be out of your control. This way you have control. Chris is right, it is the best way, and if we all stick to our story nothing should happen to you. Nothing at all and you can come back here. Settle down and live your lives free of fear, free of waiting to be discovered."
"Baby I'll be with you all the way, I'll never let anything hurt you, I promise. We have to take this risk, for both our sakes. I know you can do it, you're a strong person, you've survived so much so far, just this one more thing and then we can get on with the rest of our lives."
"But what if they don't believe us?"
"But why shouldn't they? It all fits in with the facts. If they check things out it will support our story, and Maidie here is the key. Why shouldn't they believe her?"
Looking up with a tear stained face into his blue eyes, her face no longer covered in the heavy make up, but clear and fresh, Laura Hamilton said "Tell me again what I have to say."
Chris swung his leg over the bike and looked across at Laura as she stood unsure, the borrowed helmet in her hands.
"All you have to do is swing your leg over and wrap your arms around my waist. I promise this first trip we won't go far, just up the road and back."
"Promise you won't go fast."
"Laura I promise I won't go fast, and if you get scared give me a squeeze and I'll stop. Remember you have the power over me, not the other way round. I wouldn't dare make you angry, I would end up paying for it later."
Smiling she hit him playfully on his shoulder, "You're so soppy you big idiot." then stepping up close to him whispered "I love you." before kissing his nose and stepping back to put on the helmet, pleased at the stunned expression on his face.
He swung the bike round the bend, careful not to frighten Laura who was hard up against his back, her arms clutching him around his middle. He felt as if he was on an incredible high, she had said I love you. Just said it to him as if it was the most natural thing, before she had swung up on the bike behind him, leaving him sitting there, his helmet in his hand, stunned.
As he opened up the throttle, speeding up the bike a little, he felt her squeezing him and he slowed down until he felt her relax again. His aim today wasn't to scare her, but to get her used to travelling on the bike so he could take her home and present themselves to the Police. This morning they had gone through their story, working out every aspect they could think of between the three of them, and in the afternoon he had worked in the café, finishing off the walls, so that before he and Laura left to go home, the main part of the work would be finished. Each of them had rehearsed their part of the story they were going to tell the police, a story that was not too dissimilar from the truth, with slight changes here and there to explain why Laura had not come forward to let them know she was alive.