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By Peter Lovesey
Copyright © 2002 Peter Lovesey.
All rights reserved.
The prisoner stared at the jury as they filed in. Every one of them avoided eye contact.
The foreman was asked for the verdict and gave it.
A few stifled cries were heard.
Peter Diamond of Bath CID, watching from the back of the court, displayed no emotion, though he felt plenty. Unseen by anyone, his fists tightened, his pulses quickened and his throat warmed as if he'd taken a sip of brandy. This was a moment to savour.
'And is that the verdict of you all?'
'But I'm innocent!' the man guilty of murder shouted, his hands outstretched in appeal. 'I didn't do it. I was stitched up.'
Yes, stitched up well and truly, Diamond thought, in a Pink Brothers shirt and a fine Italian suit that didn't fool the jury, thank God. Any minute now the lowlife inside those clothes will say something nakedly uncouth.
'Stitch-up!' a woman supporter screamed from the public gallery, and more voices took up the cry. The people up there began chanting and stamping their feet as if this was a wrestling match.
The judge slammed down his gavel and ordered the court to be cleared.
Almost an hour after, the prisoner was back for sentencing, a short, swarthy man with eyes like burn holes in a bed-sheet.
'Jacob Barry Carpenter, you have been found guilty of murder, a murder as callous as any it has been my misfortune to come across. If there was the slightest uncertainty in the minds of the jury, it will have been removed upon hearing your criminal record. You are a man of habitual violence, and you have acted in character once again, and this time you will not escape with a light sentence.'
'You got the wrong man, for Jesus' sake.'
'Be quiet. As you well know, the mandatory sentence for murder is life imprisonment, and that is the sentence of this court. As you are also aware, a life sentence has a discretionary element. It need not mean life in the literal sense. In your case are you listening? I recommend that it should. You are such a danger to the public that I cannot foresee a time when it will be safe to release you.'
The man reverted to basics. 'Arsehole! I was fitted up!'
'Take him down.'
Shouting more abuse, Carpenter was bundled from view by the prison guards.
The judge thanked the jury and discharged them. The court rose.
Peter Diamond turned to leave. His pudgy face revealed no joy in the verdict, nor concern at the prisoner's outburst. A mature detective learns to conceal his feelings when a verdict is announced. But when his deputy, DI Keith Halliwell, said, 'Are we going for a bevvy?' the suspicion of a smile appeared at the edge of his mouth.
The pub was just across the street from the Bristol Crown Court and some of the team would already be there, celebrating.
Daniel Houldsworth, the QC who had led for the Crown, put a hand on Diamond's shoulder. 'Pleased with the outcome, Superintendent?'
'It's the right one.'
The lawyer made it clear he wanted to say more, so Diamond told Halliwell to go ahead. He would join the team shortly.
'I expected the abuse at the end and so did the judge,' Houldsworth commented, as if he felt some of the gloss had been taken off the triumph. 'They're a cancer, the Carpenters. They've run Bristol for too long.' He went on in this vein for some time, until it became obvious he was fishing for larger compliments.
'Top result, anyway,' Diamond said, and that seemed to do the trick. He shook hands with Houldsworth and a couple of junior lawyers and left the court. Funny how everyone wanted credit: barristers, solicitor, jury, and, no doubt, judge when it was obvious the murder squad had done the job. With a shake of the head unseen by anyone else he made for the exit across the flagstoned corridor where the principals in another case waited nervously. He'd missed one round of drinks, and maybe another.
Thinking only how much he would savour that first cool gulp of bitter, he came down the Court steps into Small Street on a beeline for the Bar Oz. Stared up at the sallow February sun, the promise of brighter times ahead. Didn't glance at the small group in conversation on the pavement. Didn't even react when a woman's voice shrilled, 'There he is, the shitbag.' Simply reached the bottom step and started forward.
His sleeve was tugged from behind. He swung around and got a gob of spit full between the eyes. There was a blur of blond hair, a shout of 'Sodding pig!' and the woman clawed her fingernails down the right side of his face from eye to neck. The nails ripped the skin, a searing, sudden pain. She was screaming, 'Stinking filth. He done nothing. My Jake done nothing, and you know it.'
The next strike would have got his eye if he hadn't grabbed the woman's wrist and swung her out of range. In this frenzied state she was a match for any middle-aged man and she lunged at him again, aiming a kick at his crotch. He jackknifed to save himself, caught his heel against the steps and tripped, falling heavily. He lay there trying to protect his groin, and instead got a vicious kicking in the kidneys.
No one stopped it. People outside the Guildhall stared across Small Street with glazed expressions and pretended they hadn't noticed. What do you do when a woman is assaulting a man twice her size?
What do you do if you're that man? Diamond struggled upright and tried to hobble away. Where were the police? Someone should have seen this coming after the rumpus inside the court.
Still she vented her hate on him, pummelling his back and screaming abuse. If he turned and swung a punch at her it was sod's law someone would get a photo and sell it to the papers. So he moved on stoically. Then, thank God, spotted a taxi and waved to the driver.
The cabbie stared at this man with a bleeding face and a screaming woman raining punches on his back and, not unreasonably, didn't want them in his vehicle. He shook his head and drove off.
Further up the street, a second taxi had been hailed by one of the junior barristers on the case.
Diamond charged towards it and shoved the lawyer aside. 'Emergency,' he said with as much authority as he had left.
His attacker had come after him and still had a hold on his coat. He elbowed her off and slammed the door. 'Police. Foot down,' he told the driver.
'Out of here.'
The woman and her friends were running beside the cab beating the windows.
The cabbie drove off fast towards Colston Avenue. 'Friends of yours?'
'Leave it.' He ran a finger over his smarting face and looked at the blood.
'Top cop, are you?'
'Got to be Jake Carpenter's bird, hasn't she, the blonde? Wasn't he on trial?'
He confirmed it with a murmur.
'She's marked you. You could do her for assault.'
'No chance.' He'd been onto a loser the moment she attacked. Really, he had only himself to blame, leaving the court unaccompanied like that. If he nicked her, she'd use it as a publicity stunt, a chance to go over the trial again. And her counsel would plead extenuating circumstances and she'd get off with a caution.
'So where shall I put you down?'
They were heading south, towards the river. He was in no shape now to join the celebration in the pub.
'Bath. I'm going home.'
'You'll tell me if it hurts, won't you?' Stephanie Diamond was dabbing her husband's scratched face with TCP. 'Is that painful?'
Without thinking, he started to shake his head, and felt the full pressure of the swab. 'Jee-eez!'
She drew it away. 'Sorry, love.'
'My fault.' Mortified for being such a wimp, he said, 'Iodine's the stuff that hurts. They always used that when I was a kid. Wicked. Why, I couldn't tell you.'
Steph waited, swab in hand. She was still in her work clothes, a white jumper with a magnolia design on the front and a close-fitting black skirt. She moved closer again and rested her free hand on his shoulder. 'These are deep. She must be a vicious woman.'
'She's marked you with all four fingernails. Do you think I should take a photo?'
He grinned. 'Like when someone runs into the car, you mean?' Patiently, he explained that he wouldn't be charging the woman, and why.
Steph, with her strong sense of right and wrong, didn't appreciate the explanation. 'She shouldn't get away with it.'
He was basking in her concern, even though it had to...
Excerpted from Diamond Dust by Peter Lovesey. Copyright © 2002 by Peter Lovesey. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.