Jimmy paused as he left the Crown Court building. He lit a cigarette and drew heavily on it. He could see Beth standing at the bottom of the steps talking to her solicitor, so he swaggered down the steps right past her and laughed in her face. Her solicitor stepped in front of her to block him from her view, but she had seen him. Fear had flashed in her eyes, just like that night, six months ago, when he’d relieved her of her wages. Fancy getting paid in cash these days. Apparently she didn’t trust bank accounts. ‘I wonder if she does now,’ thought Jimmy. He walked on. He hadn’t a care in the world. Today had been his fifth time in court but there had only been one conviction in the last six years. His solicitor was ace. She always managed to find some weakness in the prosecution witnesses. She’d managed to make Beth seem unreliable and unsure of herself and no jury was going to convict him on that kind of evidence.
The case shouldn’t have been brought to court as far as he was concerned. Basically it was his word against Beth’s. They hadn’t found her money on him. Luckily he’d handed it over to the drug supplier almost as soon as he’d taken it off her. The police had found the knife with his fingerprints on, but as his solicitor pointed out there was no real evidence that he’d used the knife to threaten Beth. She’d got so nervous in the witness box that her evidence had been virtually discounted. Tonight he’d celebrate. In fact he’d go to The Peacock right now and have a pint.
Police Constable Gerald Thomson was disgusted. It seemed that whenever Jimmy Marley came to court he managed to get off. What did the jury think he’d used the knife for? Peeling potatoes? He’d been caught in the middle of town with a long sharp blade. The victim of the mugging was a person of unblemished character and had had the courage to stand up in court and give her evidence. That should have been enough for any jury, but no, not with super lawyer Sheila Clark defending. She didn’t just test the witness’s evidence; she annihilated them, belittled them and humiliated them. What was the point of policing if the criminals didn’t get convicted? Everyone knew that Jimmy was a drug dealer, had no morals and no scruples about being violent. He always picked on innocent people. It just wasn’t right. He would pop round to see the victim, tomorrow. He would make sure that she had access to victim support and he would let her know that the police believed her evidence. Perhaps that was beyond the call of duty, but sometimes it was important to show a bit of support. You never knew if it would pay off later.
Beth was crushed. It’d taken a lot of courage to stand up in court in front of everyone and give her evidence. Jimmy Marley lived near her and he had threatened her on three occasions since that evening when he’d held a knife to her throat and taken her money. Some of her friends had advised her not to proceed with the prosecution, but the police had thought there was a good chance of conviction. As she’d been telling the truth, she’d assumed she would be believed. She certainly hadn’t expected the vicious questioning from the defence counsel. It had been as though she was the criminal. If only she had enough money to get away from this town; to start again somewhere else. Her work at the stables was very poorly paid and just gave her enough money to live on. She hadn’t managed to save anything and was only now getting straight after losing a month’s wages to Jimmy. Life just wasn’t fair.
It was two months later when Beth saw Jimmy again. She was on the top deck of the bus which had broken down by the side of a dilapidated house. As soon she spotted him she slid down in her seat hoping that he wouldn’t see her. It was the evening of October 14 and the church bells chimed eight. She watched as he did a drugs deal with a skinny young man wearing a pale grey sweatshirt. Her heart began to pound and she realised her palms were sweating. What if he looked up? What if he saw her? There was no point in reporting this to the police. She was sure they’d believe her but if it went to court there would be another six months wait and then she wouldn’t be believed. Worse, people would think she had a vendetta against Jimmy. She shrank further into the seat and was relieved when he walked off down the road.
Two days later there was a loud pounding on her door. Police Constable Thomson was standing there with a colleague. There was no friendly smile or greeting.
‘Miss Beth Farthing, I don’t know whether you remember me, but I interviewed you in connection with Jimmy Marley threatening you with a knife.’
‘Yes I do remember you. You were very kind.’
‘Mr Marley has been charged with the burglary at Easthorps’s Bank two days ago, where a guard was seriously injured. A knife was dropped at the scene, with Mr Marley’s fingerprints on it. He however says he was chatting with a friend on October 14, outside Marshlands, the empty house on Charles Street. On that date, at the time of the robbery, the number seventy-one bus had broken down there and the driver thinks that you were on the top deck. This would mean that you might be able to give Mr Marley an alibi and prove his innocence of the burglary.’
Beth watched P.C.Thomson’s dark brown eyes darting round the room, unable to meet her own. She thought quickly. There was no way that she wanted to help Jimmy Marley, but someone may have seen her on the bus.
‘Well I was on the bus and I was on the top deck, but it had been a very long day and when the bus broke down I closed my eyes and had a little nap. Was the bus driver able to confirm Jimmy’s whereabouts?’
P.C. Thomson looked visibly relieved.
‘No,’ he replied. ‘Only someone from the top deck would’ve been able to see into the garden. Thank you for your help. ’
The two officers set off down the stairs. Beth ran after PC Thomson.
‘I don’t understand. How would his knife with his fingerprints on be at the bank if he knew about the bus being broken down?’
‘I expect one of his friends told him about it,’ shrugged the other police officer.
‘I expect the evidence from my case has gone walkabout,’ thought Beth, remembering what P.C. Thomson had said the day after the court appearance: ‘One day that Jimmy Marley would get the justice he deserved’.