The Secretary by Renee Knight

The Secretary by Renee Knight

Author:Renee Knight [Knight, Rene]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2018-12-17T00:00:00+00:00


Magistrates’ courts have a particular smell – tobacco and alcohol – rather like a pub before the smoking ban. There is, however, no exemption for the accused. No special dispensation that allows us a drink or a cigarette to alleviate stress. Yet the smell of it is there – coming from the bodies sitting on plastic seats or lounging against the walls. Oozing from darkened livers, seeping out through pores, sticking to yellowed fingers and furred tongues. It mingles with the scent of cheap washing powder that clings to hooded tops and tracksuit bottoms. Fetid bodies, clean clothes. I felt, and no doubt looked, out of place. Much thought had been given to my appearance – Mina offering me advice. Photographs from the time show Sandra Tisdale and me walking into the court building together, and you’d be hard-pressed to know which of us was the solicitor and which the accused, if there wasn’t a caption to tell you.

‘Won’t be long,’ Sandra Tisdale said, and marched off with her files clasped to her bosom. She behaved as if she were at a cocktail party, chatting and smiling to officials, but I suppose she was doing her job, oiling the wheels. I remember feeling utterly abandoned as I watched her walk away, and relieved when Dave walked in. I would have waved and beckoned him over, but then I saw his wife, Sam, and I realized they were holding hands, and pretended not to have seen them. A short while later, Mina and Andy walked in, and were whisked off into a private room, a privilege I didn’t begrudge them.

Mina Appleton. Christine Butcher. David Santini. We were to be top of the bill – our names called first. Dave and I flanked Mina, the three of us in the dock behind glass. When I spoke to confirm my name and address, my mouth was dry, each word accompanied by a clicking sound – my fear audible to everyone. The charges were read out, one apiece for me, the secretary, and Dave, the driver. Two for our employer. When the magistrate pronounced our bail conditions, I was stunned. There was to be no communication, directly or indirectly, between us. I had been cut off from Mina, from my work, and I left the court feeling even more alone than when I had arrived.

A week later, Stella Parker telephoned me. Mina’s nutritionist, healer, masseuse – her lifeline, during the first trial. Now, she was to be mine. Stella was Mina’s way of keeping me close, and the resentment I’d felt when I’d first met her melted away. Stella became our go-between.

It had been a long time since I’d taken off my clothes in front of anyone, and the first few appointments were excruciating. But it didn’t take long for me to learn to appreciate the feel of her hands on my skin, and I came to look forward to her visits, to depend on them, even. I would lay myself out on the padded table she brought with her, close my eyes and surrender to her touch.


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