A British Summer

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Chapter Twenty

The door is pulled closed again as fast as it had been opened. Two police officers remove Olivia from the hallway and put her in a separate room. One of them stands outside and the other sits in front of her. She is handcuffed. A clock ticks on the wall. People step by excitedly outside the door. The police officer stares at her, calculating her next move. He is an elderly gentleman with brown eyes and greying hair. He has the look of someone who can break up a fight with one word, maybe even with one look. He speaks first. “If I take these handcuffs off are you going to lash out again?” He asks, sternly. Olivia can’t help but roll her eyes. She looks at him meaningfully as she says, “Sir. I have no intention of lashing out at you, I just wanted to talk to Caroline, and everyone started freaking out.” He smiles and in turn, rolls his eyes, much to Olivia’s surprise. She’s never seen an official do something like that. It makes her smile. “You must think I’m stupid…I did see how the events unfolded; you know? I’m good like that.” She raises her eyebrow.

“Fine. No. I won’t lash out. But you need to know, that the woman you have in that room, is anything but mentally unwell. She’s just a first-class psychopath.” He leans forward.

“You know, if someone is actually a psychopath, then they are in fact, mentally unwell.” Olivia did know that. She just didn’t mean it so literally. “Fine, fine, fine. I’ll behave. These are actually really uncomfortable, and I’d love you forever if you could take them off…unless I’m actually under arrest. I don’t know. No one’s really explained that to me.” He takes out his keys and unlocks the handcuffs, sliding them from her wrists and setting them back on his chunky belt. “No, you’re not under arrest. You’re just in time out.”

“Wonderful.” She says. There is a knock at the door. Another officer comes in, the one from the door. He is quite young, and his green eyes stare at Olivia as he enters. He doesn’t say a word and hands a plastic bag to the officer across from her, then he leaves, closing the door behind him. “He’s not happy with me, is he?”

“Oh, ignore officer Tibbs. It’s his first night shift, he’s acting like a tired baby.” He opens the bag and pulls out a portion of hot chips. Olivia can smell the salt and vinegar from where she sits. “Good thing about night shifts, you’re never too far away from a good takeaway.” He sniffs the box. “I’m starving. Do you want some?” Her stomach growls as if on cue. The officer laughs. “Go on, dig in.” He sets the tray down and Olivia takes a hand full. She didn’t realise how hungry she was. “What do I call you?” She asks the policeman.

“You can call me, Bill.” Olivia is shocked.

“Bill? Not officer Mcnulty or something?” He raises one brow.

“I mean, you can call me that if you want to, but that’s not my name.” He chuckles. “So, Caroline, huh?” Olivia nods.

“Yeah. We…well we had a tiff less than a week back. It came to blows and it’s no coincidence that she’s attacked my mother in my home.” Bill ponders on this information.

“Is that how you got those cuts and bruises?” He points to her face and chews on a chip.

“Yeah.”

“Did you report it?” He asks. She suddenly feels a little interrogated. There is more to the story than the Police know and if she gives away too much then she may get Ian Odis into trouble. She’s still not certain that what he did for her is in the letters of the law. Is it possible that she has just opened up a can of worms that should really have stayed closed? She thinks a moment. “No. I didn’t.” She says carefully. “I thought we’d sorted it out ourselves.” Thierry’s words come to her. “We talked about it, threw a few punches because we felt we had to and then shook hands and moved on.” She says. Bill raises his brow.

“Interesting tactic. How’s that worked out for you?” He asks.

“Evidently not well.” He nods in agreement.

“No. So, next time something like that happens, report it. You always need that legal backing when it comes to violent events, like that. We could have done something then, that meant this whole thing wouldn’t have happened.” Olivia makes a noise to agree with him.

“Yes, Bill.” He smiles. The door, once again, flies open. Ian Odis stands there in a suit and tie, a brief case in his hand. “Don’t say another word.” He orders Olivia. Bill stands up.

“Whoa, calm down. Put your law degree away, we’re just talking. She’s not charged with anything, okay. We just needed to calm her down a bit.” Ian looks at Olivia as if awaiting confirmation that this story is true. “It’s okay. Really. We were just talking.”

“Hmm, that’s what they always say.” He beckons that Olivia follows him. She looks at Bill who winks at her, reassuringly. “You’re free to go, it’s okay.” She stands up and follows Ian out of the door, turning around before she leaves, she says, “Thanks for the chips.” He waves her goodbye.

They step out onto the corridor again and Ian leads Olivia back into Claudia’s room where Nick, Emily, Clive, Claudia and to Olivia’s surprise, Loui sit waiting for her. Ian closes the door behind him and pulls up a chair for Olivia. “Why does this look like an intervention?” She asks.

“Not in the slightest.” Ian assures her. “I just want to make sure everyone has their stories straight.”

“What do you mean?” Claudia asks. Ian stands before them, the way he would stand before a court, his confidence oozing from his pores. “Claudia, now you’ve been brought up to speed on the full story, I need to know if you want to press charges, but I need you to understand that if we go to trial against Caroline, I could be disbarred for abuse of process.”

“Daddy!” Emily gasps.

“Now, I’m prepared for that. All that matters to me right now is that this never happens again. I confess that at the time these events came about, I was out of my mind with anger over what had been done to a young girl I consider a second daughter. I acted unprofessionally and unethically. Did I come out on top for Olivia and was she compensated? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. But if Clive hadn’t been there to save Claudia, I would spend every day for the rest of my life wondering if I could have stopped it, had I behaved in a way my profession demands. So…if you want to take Caroline to court and press charges for GBH with intent and breaking and entering, then I’ll find you a lawyer without a conflict of interest and we’ll take it from there.” He stands, proudly, ready to accept his fate. Olivia looks between Clive and Claudia who are having a silent conversation between their gazes. A moment passes. Claudia climbs out of bed, walks over to Ian and takes his hands in hers. “I will never forget what you did for my daughter. I have no way to thank you that could possibly come close to what you deserve, but I can try. I’ll start by dropping the charges.” Olivia can literally see the air leave his body. He had been holding it in with his anxiety. He nods and closes his eyes, then throws Claudia his winning smile. “You’re a wonderful lady…I just…sometimes I let my position get the better of me.”

“I’d have done the same thing…well…actually, I’d have clocked her one first, then taken her for her money.” Claudia teases. They turn around and look at the group.

“So, our stories then.” Olivia chimes in. “When I was talking to the officer in that room, I explained that me and Caroline had come to blows in the past, but that we had worked it all out…he just advised me to report such occurrences in the future.” Ian nods.

“Then that’s the story we’ll stick to. Right up to the break in.” Olivia stands up and paces a little. “That’s what I don’t understand…How did she know where I lived?” The room falls quiet. Nobody knows. For the first time she lets her eyes fall on Nick and she wonders if her mother had gotten to him yet, judging by the way he looks at Claudia to make sure she isn’t watching their gaze exchange, she’s arguing that yes, yes, she has. In fact, the dynamics of this room are incredibly uncomfortable. Ian, father of Emily, stands in front of Emily and Loui, a secret romance and a meeting orchestrated by Nick for the two to be brought together again. Nick, the little brother of Ian, in a newly found romance with Olivia, a girl eight years his junior. Olivia, whose mother stands before them with her own secret boyfriend, Clive, who has gone from a stranger to Olivia, to a hero in her eyes. Yes. The room has the potential to get very awkward. And then it does. “Well, only time will tell, I suppose…now with all that sorted, Emily…and Mr…err…Loui, is it?” Loui looks up and nods. “Yes…outside please, I’d like a chat.” The three of them exit, Emily looks back to Olivia for help, but she doesn’t know what she could possibly do to remedy this situation. “Nick?” Ian calls at the door. “My dear baby brother…I’d like you to come too.” It’s the first time Olivia has ever seen Nick look afraid. He gulps. “Actually,” Claudia interjects, “I’d like a moment with Nick first, if that’s alright?” Ian nods and closes the door as he leaves. Nick sits back in his seat and Clive towers over him. Olivia doesn’t know if she should be offended by this man acting threatening around Nick. He may have saved her mother, but he doesn’t really know Olivia…or perhaps he does? Maybe Claudia has spoken about her and he feels inclined to protect her on Claudia’s behalf? Nick leans back in his seat as far as he can. Clive getting closer. “Okay, that’ll do.” Claudia jokes. Clive leans back and sits down on the edge of the bed. Claudia walks over and stands beside Olivia, rubbing Clive’s shoulders. “I’m not going to do that. I’m happy that you’ve been there for my daughter when I, clearly, had my head in other places…but it goes without saying, that if you hurt her…I’ll hurt you.”

“Oh my god, Mum.” Olivia’s face burns. Nick looks up at Claudia and with a deadpan expression says, “I wouldn’t doubt it.” Claudia nods.

“Alright then.” She smiles. “When would you like to come over for some tea with us?” Nick snaps his head to look at Olivia. “He doesn’t have to do that, Mum.”

“Yes, he does.” Claudia says. “Because I want to get to know him and I want you to get to know Clive.”

“Eww…mum I’m not going on a double date with you and your boyfriend, that’s weird.” Clive laughs.

“It is weird, you’re right. But get over it, because it’s happening, okay?”

“We’ll set something up.” Nick says. Claudia smiles in approval.

“Fantastic.” Olivia shakes her head. Nick stands.

“Now, I think I’m needed by my big brother. Excuse me.” He bows his head by way of goodbye, the way one excuses himself in a Jane Austin novel, and leaves the room. Olivia stares at her mother in disbelief. “Thanks for that.” She winks in a way that says she is aware that she’s the most embarrassing mother to have ever walked the planet. “When are you allowed home?”

“Whenever I want, now. I was waiting for you to be released from your makeshift jail cell.” Olivia rolls her eyes. “I was only going to bop her on the nose.”

“Sure.” Olivia leaves the room to let her mother dress.

The corridor feels more freeing than it did before. The hospital doesn’t seem quite as intimidating. Olivia takes a few steps out to look for Nick, Ian, Emily and Loui. They’re nowhere to be seen. She wonders, idly, if they’ve gone outside to punch it out. Probably not. Ian is the kind of father that would ruin you with legal fees, not the kind of dad who would break your boyfriends’ nose. Officer Bill approaches her. “Have you put the bulldog away?” He asks. Olivia can’t help but laugh. “He means well…he’s just looking out for me.” Bill nods. “Erm, listen, Caroline has asked to speak to you.”

“Not happening.” Olivia spits. Bill nods again. He rubs at his chin thoughtfully.

“That’s exactly what I said, to be honest with you. Except…she seems quite distressed about the whole thing. She won’t talk to anybody, not the nurses or the police, until she’s spoken to you.” Olivia doesn’t know what to think of that. “I’ll be right there next to you.”

“I’m not afraid of her.” Bill laughs.

“No, not for your benefit. I’ll be standing right next to you to make sure you behave.” Olivia throws her hands up. “Well I can’t promise that.”

“Come on…she’s really not well. Between you and me she’s being moved to a psych ward for seventy-two hours for an evaluation, and I’ve seen these kinds of cases before…they almost always end up being institutionalised. Yours could be the last familiar face she sees for the next three months.”

“We’re not familiar…and she has a son. I’m presuming a husband…”

“No spouse…she’s windowed.” Olivia is surprised to hear that, and she allows herself to feel a little bad for Caroline…but only slightly. She feels sorrier for Jack. “I’m not supposed to be telling you any of this, so please do me a favour and come talk to her. Then the nurses can get in there and do their job and so can we.” She rubs her temples with her finger and thumb.

“Fine.” She says at last. Bill leads the way.

Caroline sits up in her bed. Her eye is so swollen it is closed and her lip is a gigantic mess. She points at Olivia as she approaches and laughs into her closed mouth. Olivia is nauseous. She hasn’t ever seen anybody look this way before. Caroline doesn’t seem like Caroline. She beckons Olivia to come closer. The whole setup feels like she’s in a thriller. Bill is a source of comfort. He is practically her shadow he follows so closely. They stop at the edge of the bed. “What do you want?” Olivia asks. She laughs into her mouth again. “What do you want Caroline?” She shakes her head. This is, perhaps, the first time she has seen Caroline look, legitimately ill. There’s something off about her that Olivia can’t put her finger on. “Aren’t you curious?” She asks. Her voice weak and croaky. Urgh. Olivia is repulsed by her injuries. Mostly because they make her feel bad for her and she doesn’t want to feel bad for the person who had hurt her mum. “Curious about what?” She laughs again. Olivia looks at Bill who has a stern look on his face, one that makes him look uneasy. “See what I mean?” He whispers to her. She nods. She does indeed. Caroline had seemed like she was under the influence when she had attacked Olivia, perhaps a little unstable in her ability to lash out so easily, but this…this is something else. She wonders if it’s possible Caroline was like this during certain stages of her illness, or if the trauma of being beaten to a pulp was to blame for her break in mental wellbeing. Olivia is shocked that Clive hasn’t been questioned further for this kind of defence. Though, Caroline had been caught red handed with a weapon in hand. “What I would have done…if you had been there?” Olivia shakes her head. Caroline’s one good eye looks up at Bill. She looks alarmed, like her mind is confessing but her body doesn’t want to. “I’d have rammed that blade down your throat.” She snarls. Olivia takes an involuntary step back. “It was dark.” She continues. “I made it dark so you wouldn’t see me. I thought it was you, I punched you and it felt amazing. I would have finished you if that brute hadn’t stopped me.” She nods. “I’d have finished you.”

“Well it wasn’t me, was it? It was my mother. What would you have done then?” Caroline shrugs. “The same thing has happened before. My husband. He had an affair…they hid in the dark. I thought it was him. It was her. He was so good to me. So, understanding. He helped, move the body…but the poor man was weak of mind…he couldn’t take what he had done for me…he finished himself before I had the need.” Olivia throws her hand over her mouth and steps back five paces. She isn’t surprised to see that officer Bill had stood back with her. They are about the leave when Caroline starts humming and calls to her. “Wait…Nicole…it was Nicole who told me where I could find you. You never know who you can trust.” A single tear rolls down her cheek. Olivia nearly passes out and runs from the room, stopping at a wall in the distance.

“She’s fucking crazy! She’s fucking crazy!” Olivia gasps. Bill is stood by her, his face white as a sheet. He walks over to the accompanying police officers and calls a doctor over. He relays the conversation and the hallway comes to life again. They tighten some security measures and a call is put through to have her moved to a high security psych ward as soon as possible.

Bill returns a moment later and puts his hand on Olivia’s shoulder. “She could have been lying.” He murmurs. “She’s a seriously ill lady and clearly has delusions of threats that aren’t real, she’s deflecting them onto those who might harm her or her son. It’s a coping mechanism for something…it could be a childhood trauma…but she could definitely be lying. Don’t take that away with you. Don’t carry her words so heavily on your shoulders, okay?” She shakes her head. “What about her husband? Did he really commit suicide? Is that much true?” Bill doesn’t answer, he just looks to her with a sorrowful and stern look, that she is growing used to. Olivia goes to her mother’s room and opens the door. She sees Clive putting his jacket over her shoulders. “Are you ready to go?” She asks.

“We are…honey, are you okay?” Claudia comes over and rests her hand on her daughter’s cheek. “You’re so pale.”

“I’m fine, I just want to go home.” Claudia looks sheepish.

“Honey, the house is a crime scene right now and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I want to go back there tonight.” Clive steps forward.

“Don’t worry, she’s staying with me, I’ll take care of her.” Olivia smiles warmly at him; the room swims a little as reality overcomes panic. She nods.

“I know you will.”

“Are you okay staying at Emily’s?” She asks. Olivia nods. She hugs her mother and Clive goodbye and then heads out of the hospital into the car park, leaving Officer Bill and Caroline the murderer behind.

It’s daylight outside. Time seemed to have stopped in the hospital, but out here the world has been turning as it should. Nick is stood by his car with Poppy. He waves her over. Her feet light on the ground from her revelation. “You okay?” He asks. She crumbles into his chest and takes a moment, as he holds her, to catch her breath. “Liv, are you okay?” She nods and pulls away from him. “Yes…I just…I need to talk to someone. What time is it?”

“It’s seven in the morning.”

“Great. If I give you the address, will you take me there?” Nick looks around as if someone will explain the urgency to him. Then he nods, tentatively.

“Who do you need to talk to?” She jumps in the front seat and closes the door.

“You don’t know them.” She says, slightly evasively. It’s not that she doesn’t want to tell him, it’s that to explain why she needs to talk to this person, would mean she had to relive the whole confession of Caroline. The only thing she wants to do right now, is to go to Nicole’s and demand an explanation.

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