MONDAY – TRIAL DAY 1
Mike Coopland was cursing under his breath as he strode
forcefully through Nottingham’s Crown Court building towards
the large robing room in which he and his colleagues changed into
their barrister’s garb.
He was ten minutes behind schedule. That had never happened
before. Trials began at 10.30am and he always arrived at 9am.
Today his pre-trial routine was going to hell and back. Today he
was not, as Joanne would have said, keeping it real. Because, apart
from telling the best stories, real meant doing those things you
always do, it meant sticking to the tried and tested.
The tried and tested.
Usually that phrase brought a smile to his lips. Not now, though.
Now he didn’t have time to enjoy any clever wordplay. He was ten
minutes behind schedule. That meant everything from now until
the trial began was out of sync. That was enough to make any man
‘I’ve always fucking hated Hilary!’ He breathed. ‘The worst
fucking term of the lot – and the coldest!’
Hilary was the name given to the legal time period running
from January to April. Mike had suffered his only two legal defeats
during Hilary. One had been a fifty-fifty pick ‘em type of fight. In
the other he’d been the clear favourite. Until a police cock-up had
taken his feet from under him.
‘I’m not having a hat-trick of losses!’ He reminded himself. ‘And
definitely not with this one.’
Mike stormed into the robing room. Without hesitation
he opened the travel case he’d been carrying and took out his
barrister’s robes. He took off the soft collar from the pure white
shirt he was wearing and replaced it with a starched, winged
version. Next he put on the bands, two white oblong pieces of
cloth tied at the neck, the formal neckwear of his profession. The
traditional long sleeved waistcoat followed and then the silk gown.
Only then did he pause. The room was unexpectedly empty so he
allowed himself a breath before opening the purpose-built wig tin.
His wig was his pride and joy.
‘You battle-scarred beauty,’ he whispered as he put it on. ‘Here
we go again.’
Mike checked himself in one of the full-length mirrors. He was
dressed for battle.
‘Ready, Hilary or not!’
He nodded and straightened automatically. The wig did it
every time. It changed him, brought out the fighter, the hero, the
protector. He didn’t need a mask and a cape. Once the wig went
on, even Superman would have been stupid to face him.
Five minutes after entering the robing room Mike Coopland
was on his way to the barrister’s canteen. He was no longer rushing.
He was occupying the centre of the corridor. He let those walking
towards him separate on either side of his twenty stone bulk. He
kept his eyes fixed straight ahead. He left behind all the thoughts
that had kept him awake throughout the night.
There were a dozen other barristers in the canteen when Mike
entered; all engaged in the pre-trial mind games that were such an
essential part of their work. Some feigned confidence, sitting back,
sipping their coffee as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Others
were making carefully planned points to their opposite number.
Two were talking loudly with their Junior, the barrister they had
chosen to be their right-hand, about the cast-iron certainty of
Usually Mike would have been joining in, doing whatever he
could to gain the first psychological advantage.
Not today though.
Today, for the first time ever, he was about to begin prosecuting
a case with no equally qualified professional present to defend
His mind tried to remind him that his pre-trial routine was
missing another link. He willed the intrusion back into the robing
room with all his other misgivings and doubts. Then he poured
himself a black coffee and took a drink. It was hot. Thank God.
‘One final caffeine kick and then into the arena we go.’
Mike spun round. Brian Kaffee was standing behind him. Grey
haired, short and lean, five years older than Mike, he peered up
over his round, gold rimmed glasses.
‘Caesar, those about to die salute you,’ he said, tapping his chest
with his left palm.
Mike scowled. ‘I’m not about to be thrown to the lions thank
you very much. I’m at the top of the food chain as you know full
well, and as you’re my Junior for this one that means you are, too.
And, for the sake of historical accuracy, gladiators almost certainly
didn’t say that before the fighting started. It’s an example of what
Trump has taught us all to call fake news.’
‘OK. I’ll accept the history lesson.’ Brian nodded. ‘But the point
still remains, if you can get enough people using your words – ’
‘ – You’ve told the winning story.’
‘Exactly. And we know what the winning story earns us.’
‘In this case, a guilty verdict.’ It was Mike’s turn to nod. ‘Followed
by a very long time in prison for Mr Ethan Hall.’
Brian considered briefly. ‘I still can’t get my head around it.’
‘Neither could Ethan’s first victims.’
‘I’m just warming up.’
‘Good to know. There’d be cause for serious concern if that’s you
at your best.’
Mike raised an eyebrow.
Brian went on quickly. ‘I can’t get my head around the fact
that he is actually going to defend himself. At first I thought he
was bluffing. When it became clear he wasn’t I thought that at
some point he’d realise it was suicidal and seek professional help.
Amateurs lose to professionals. And the best professionals crush
first-timers. That’s the rule in everything. How stupid do you have
to be to throw away your only chance of saving your freedom?’
‘It’s arrogance, not stupidity. He thinks he’ll be able to get inside
the jury’s minds, trance them out and get them to think and do
whatever he wants. At least, that’s what Peter believes.’
‘If that was true it would mean that any decent hypnotherapist
with no experience in trial law and courtroom strategy could give
a silk a run for their money. And that’s obviously bollocks.’
‘Obviously.’ Mike swallowed. ‘Ever been to a hypnotherapist?’
‘Not personally. Helen took James once in the run-up to his
‘A’ levels. He was getting anxious, couldn’t revise, couldn’t sleep,
started saying that he wasn’t even going to sit the damn things. I
knew it was going to be a waste of time and money, but Helen said
we had to try everything and she’d got this recommendation so off
‘Of course not. James said the guy tried to hypnotise him, kept
telling him he was sinking into a deep sleep. James wasn’t having
any of it. He told me he just closed his eyes and played along until
the time was up.’
‘So what happened with his exams?’
‘It was all fine in the end. A storm in a teacup. I think James was
so embarrassed at having to go to the hypnotherapist it made him
get his act into gear. That same night he started revising and then
slept like a baby. In the end he got better grades than predicted.
Shows you what schools know.’
‘Mmm.’ Mike swallowed again. ‘Let’s just remember that,
even though Ethan’s a beginner, we’re bringing our ‘A’ game. We
have a responsibility to win this and I don’t want anyone in that
courtroom – judge, jury, audience or media – to have any doubts
about his guilt. Clear?
‘Are we clear?’
‘And you can handle the truth, right?’
The two men smiled.
Brian said, ‘That’s still the worst impersonation of Jack
Nicholson I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t matter how many times you
do it, you don’t get any better.’
‘And you look less like Tom Cruise with every day that passes –
and you didn’t look like him to start with.’
‘Can’t argue with that. This is what the real Kaffee looks like I’m
‘An amazing brain behind a tragic face.’ Mike patted Brian’s
shoulder with his large left hand. ‘Trust me when I say I’d rather
have you and your amazing brain with me right now than
Tom Cruise and his.’ He paused. ‘Although at least the fictional
Lieutenant Kaffee was able to call Colonel Jessop as a witness.’
‘True. The film wouldn’t have been the same without those two
going at it.’ Brian frowned. ‘In our case, though, the fact that Ethan
is defending himself does mean you can’t call him as a witness.
The law really is crystal on this one. So no matter how much you
want to, we’re not going to get our Cruise-Nicholson moment.
Which is a real shame.’
‘I’m not so sure. You see, I’ve been thinking about it, too.’
‘I think if a man is arrogant enough to defend himself, he’s
arrogant enough to believe he’ll cope well in the witness box. I
think such a man might not even need too much encouragement.’
‘You think he’ll choose to offer himself as a witness?’
‘I think he might be desperate to. And if he isn’t now, he might
be persuaded to feel that way.’
‘Sounds like you have a plan.’
‘I have several.’
‘So you might actually get round to the code red question?’
‘You’re god damn right I might! That’s why I’m leading this
prosecution, why I’m society’s protector. You see Kaffee in places
you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall! You need
me on that wall!’
This time they broke into laughter. They both knew it was more
of a protective measure than anything else.
Sometimes, Mike considered, the most important mind games
you played in the moments before you went into court were with