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The pair walked sedately and keeping a good distance between them so that neither one of them would think the other had expectations. They found a corner table in the nearest pub and Roche asked Amanda what she would have. She said please could she have a blackcurrant and lemonade. He said “have a proper drink, you’re not on duty now!” She said it was choice. She just did not choose to drink, but she was fine with the soft drink and had no problem with him having what he wanted. It was a bit of a sideswipe for Roche. He was not used to people who did not drink. He had known plenty of people at home in Ireland who had ‘signed the pledge’ but he was young then, and he had no real occasion to be in their company. He had certainly not known many non-drinkers since he came over to England, and definitely not many in his city. He tried not to show his fluster.

He carried the drinks over to the table and sat down facing Amanda. “Now, what’s he craic with your ol fella?” Here he was again, embarrassed and falling back into his plastic shamrock persona.

Amanda sipped her drink delicately, but a tear began to form in her eye. She was mortified. She had promised herself she would not cry. It was too shameful. What a wimp she was!

To cover her embarrassment, she started to talk very quickly. “He can be all right sometimes – he just gets very upset when I …. when I ... “

Roche cut in “when you don’t do as you are told, or as he wants you to do? Is that it?”

“Yes, but not all the time. He can be all right, really he can. He’s bad at the moment because of work!”

“Your work, or his work?”

“Well both really! He applied to join the force – he’d been in the army – but they turned him down. He was all right with that at the time, and said that they really wanted younger, greener people, lower ranks. He had military experience, and so would …. well, he would have been too … experienced”.

Roche muttered, but said nothing.

“Then when we moved here, he had wanted me not to work, to stay at home and be a good housewife and mother. But we could not afford it, because he did not get the police job, and he had to take the security job at the university. The rent was high, and we just could not have managed. I had got the promise of a transfer – when we moved up from Dorset – but … I could not take it up, because …. I was ...”

“Because he broke your ribs and your elbow. I know, I enquired up at Gorse End. I have mates up there who remember. He wrote the letter for you, didn’t he? Saying that you had had an accident and couldn’t now take up the post.”

’Yes, well. I guess I was a bit of a miserable bugger in those days – I really missed my family and I did not settle too well up here. Anyway, he said it didn’t matter because he thought it was time we started a family. That would give me something to do. I could perhaps child mind of something – work from home - something, just to bring a little bit in. But it never happened.

“He was really disappointed. He made appointments for us both – at a private clinic, cost a fortune – so that they could do tests. He was embarrassed and really angry when the doctor said – in front of us both - that his sperm count was too low. All the time he had assumed it was me – it was hard for him to accept that he was the one with the problem. To tell you the truth, I was relieved! My life would have been hell – well more hell - if he could hold that over me as well.

“He brooded for a while, then one morning, before he went off to work, he woke me up and said that he now remembered that when he was in the army, he picked up some kind of bug – some kind of mystery illness. He was off in Central America – Belize or somewhere, I think. Anyway, he got really poorly – delirious and everything. He was in hospital for nearly three weeks. They kept him in isolation, and gave him all sorts of tests and treatments. Miraculously it just went, almost overnight. One day he was at death’s door, the next he was back to his old self. But he said it must have been the medication or the illness that made him infertile. He seemed to bounce back – unfortunately – after that. He had been depressed and morose, but not interested enough to get angry, but realising that it was not really his fault, buoyed him up again, and he reverted to his more normal self!

“Then, three weeks later, he just left one day suddenly. To visit one of his army mates, he said, but he wouldn’t say where, or when he would be back. That was when I decided to try to get the job here. I needed money for the rent. When he came back he was even more bitter and angry. He was gone for six weeks. I have no idea how or why the university kept his job open for him. He had not been there all that long, so it seemed really good of them. Then up he turned again. I got home from work, and there he was. As if he had never been gone. He never explained, he never even mentioned it. Just picked up as he had left off – but he was much worse. He’d always had bouts of black moods, and frightening anger but it was usually – apart from the one earlier bad time – just verbal, or he’d shake me, or slap me, but use the flat of his hand. After his time away, he was unable to control his temper at all. He would really punch and lash out ferociously or use his feet. He’d throw things – even carving knives – anything that came to hand. He was very frightening. Before he had only really lost his rag – totally - about twice in the course of about 2 years, the worse time, as you know, was when we moved up and I got the police job. He just could not accept the fact that I got taken on again, and he did not get in. He just lost it when I went home and told him! I was taken unawares because I thought he would be happy for us. I was unsuspecting, so was not quick enough to lock the bathroom door. He managed to boot it in before I had the bolt across.

“After that, it just got more frequent – but he was more clever. He picked leave dates and long weekends – times when I wouldn’t be around and it would be less noticeable. Obviously I didn’t go out – and he made sure I didn’t. The only time recently that he really overstepped the mark – before now that is – was when I ended up with a lot of bruising on my arms and my neck, but, if you remember, I ‘had tonsillitis’ and stayed off work that week. He hates the fact that I work here – he sees it as a slight on him.”

“So how long have you actually been married?”

“Oh, no. We’re not married. Graham was married before – twice – one ex-wife lives in Kent somewhere, the other went abroad – not sure where. They were not happy times for him, he says. He said he wanted children, but neither of them would have made good mothers – they were just not the right sort.”

“I would bet that ‘those times’ weren’t all that happy for the wives either, Amanda! So … let me get this straight! You’re not married. You’ve got no kids. Why on earth do you stay with him? Why do you a nice looking, intelligent, woman with a good job and a sensible head on your shoulders put the fuck up with it!”

“I know it sounds stupid – and it is! I realise that now. But …. I have no money of my own – I don’t even have a bank account – well I do but it a joint account, and he says I don’t need a card or anything – that he will give me what I need. That’s where I went today. I had to try to find a way to persuade the bank to let me have some money. But I got afraid that he would be waiting there for me. I sat in the library for over an hour instead – I knew there was no chance he would be in there.”

“What about your wages, girl. You must earn enough to rent a little flat or a bedsit or something!”

“It all goes directly into the joint account. I don’t really see any of it. Graham gives me an allowance, but I have to have receipts.”

“For Christ’s sake! Right, that’s the first step then. Tomorrow, you go to open a separate account. Go to the same bank, because then all the security checks will be unnecessary. Then when you have an account number – which they can do almost immediately – get in touch with payroll and tell them you have changed your bank details and then the money will go to you, and not him.”

“I will, but he will be ever so angry. You have no idea what he is capable of!”

“I most certainly do know! Did I not only see you with your face reduced to a pulp yesterday! The bollix! You don’t have to worry about him. He’s easy to sort out. Men who beat up women are usually cowardly bullies, and he will run a mile. You wait and see. But, if I were you – which I am not, of course – I would seriously consider taking him to court. You will do every other woman he has beaten, and every woman he would have beaten, a favour. You just have to be brave – which you are – and do what is right! For God’s sake, woman – you are a detective, you are, as we would have said, back in the day, before I saw the light, the polis! If you won’t stand your ground, who the devil will!”

“All Right. You’re right. I must do this! I should have done it long ago.”

Amanda raised the glass to clink with Roche’s, but in truth was not feeling half as brave as she was pretending to be. She did not know how to say to John that he had no idea how strong and vicious Graham could be. Might it sound as though she did not think John was up to it? That Graham would be more able? That John Roche was weak? She certainly did not want to offend him! But Graham was seriously a wild thing when he was vexed!

They ordered food, since once Amanda was returned to the guest house, she would only have the nibbles and snacks that she had squirrelled away – despite the ruling that no food of any kind was allowed in the rooms. John Roche escorted her back to her temporary sanctuary, seeing her into the room – just in case! This was strange territory for Roche. He had ‘been with’ lots of women, but it had always been a purely physical need, he had never allowed himself to get close to anybody. He had never felt confident enough, nor was he willing to trust that easily. He had been let down right through his life by people, so it came with the territory. It was an embarrassed farewell for both of them, neither really knowing just what they were embarking upon, but John reverted to his usual answer for anything uncomfortable, he said “Well, there you go, so! As Scarlett would say, ‘Tomorrow is another day’! … not that I’m into slushy fillems, nor stroppy madams …. Well it’s bye byes for you, and …. I’m off to see auntie!”

As he passed reception, John asked how much the bill was to the end of the week for Amanda’s room, and he paid it. The landlady leered at him, and pointedly said that she hoped he understood that it was a single room, and not really suitable for visitors – if he wanted to visit, they were quite welcome to use the communal lounge, which had a TV and a good few books. John said that he was sure Mrs. Webster would be moving on very soon, but in the meantime he would be grateful if she could be well looked after. He also took a calculated risk and said – flashing his warrant card – that he hoped that she would enforce that rule should anybody else show up asking for her. He knew that this would once again cause the woman’s eyebrows to raise, but he could not be sure that Graham would not locate Amanda. He pointedly looked around in a very obvious demonstration that he was sharing a secret – in order to make the woman feel important – and implied – though did not say – that the guest might be a very important witness in a case, and that should anybody enquire about her, he would be most grateful if she could telephone him immediately. She was suitable flattered, and promised to be vigilant. She would also keep an eye on Mrs. Webster and see that she was comfortable and not bothered. He could rely on her!

John went off to find a pub, and get himself a drink.

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