The court was hot and stuffy, packed with journalists and lawyers, and Penelope wanted to get out of there. She hadn’t really wanted to go in the first place, would have been happy with simply submitting written evidence, but it had been decided- demanded, even- that she be physically present in order to be subjected to cross-examination. She felt drained, physically and emotionally, as the defence barrister tried again and again to lay waste to what had happened.
Intellectually, Penelope knew that it was an important process. The access to a fair trial had long been held as an important cornerstone of democracy and that everyone- including Grove- deserved a chance of representation and defence. It would do no good to abandon those principles now because Penelope didn’t want to be in court, but the fact remained that she didn’t want to be there. The trial had already dragged on for weeks, the case against Grove being extensive and complex, and Penelope had been kept on tenterhooks whilst she waited to be called forward to give her evidence.
She glanced out across the courtroom, cataloguing the unfamiliar faces to investigate later if needed. Her eyes landed briefly on the dock, but she didn’t linger there, sweeping over the glare that was being levelled at her by Grove, who had managed to swap the black and white stripes of Parkmoor Scrubs for a sharp navy suit and muted tie, looking altogether too similar to the first time Penelope had met him almost a year ago. Finally, her eyes landed on Gordon, kind loving Gordon, who had taken an indefinite leave of absence to be with Penelope until she was no longer required by the judicial process. He smiled encouragingly at her, straightening his own ridiculous tie that he had sneaked into the courtroom especially to cheer her up, and Penelope couldn’t help but smile slightly back.
“Lady Penelope?” prompted the defence barrister, causing Penelope to tear her gaze away from Gordon.
“I’m so sorry, could you repeat the question?”
Penelope was out of the stand as soon as the judge agreed to a recess, fixated on getting outside of the courtroom and recycled air as quickly as possible. She finally made it, running a gauntlet of stressed witnesses, gallery members and lawyers issuing directives down their phones until she made it to a quiet spot at the edge of the building. The London traffic rumbled past her, but Penelope was able to drown it out as she closed her eyes and leant against the rough grey stone, the drizzle welcome after the stuffiness of the courtroom. The cross-examination had her feeling chewed up and spat out, and the excruciating process had not yet been completed; Parker had also been called as a witness for the prosecution and naturally Penelope would stay until the court had finished with him as well.
Something cold bumped her elbow and she opened her eyes to see Gordon standing there, offering her a carton of water. She took it gratefully, moving off the rough patch of wall and tucking herself against Gordon. Gordon pulled her close, dropping a kiss to her temple and taking her hand.
“That was awful,” she finally said, her words almost swallowed up by the bustle of the busy square around them.
“I know,” Gordon murmured, fingers playing with the ring on Penelope’s left finger. “It’s nearly over though. Soon they’ll find Grove guilty and lock him away, and we can go back to our lives.”
“You really think they’re going to find him guilty? That barrister in there was good, even I was doubting myself.”
“Of course they are. Grove’s attorney might be good, but so is ours.”
“Barrister, darling, we’re in England.” Gordon rolled his eyes, but couldn’t keep the relief of seeing Penelope acting her usual self from creeping into his expression.
“C’mon, ‘darling’, we have to go back in now.” Penelope sighed, but allowed herself to be tugged back into the building to sit through further submissions.
Gordon kept Penelope close as they navigated their way from the front of the courthouse to where Parker was waiting for them with FAB1, dodging the flashes of the paparazzi. Penelope clung to Gordon, gripping his hand tightly, and Parker sprang out of FAB1 to open the door for them. Penelope slid into her seat and moments later they were pulling away from the scrum that had formed on the steps.
“Okay?” Gordon asked quietly.
“He got ten years,” Penelope replied, expression inscrutable.
“He was guilty.”
“Ten years seems like such a long time, yet nothing at all.”
“Pen-” Gordon began, frowning, but Penelope cut him off.
“It’s okay, Gordon. I’m just being morbid. He’s where he belongs, and now we can move forward.”
“...if you say so.”
“I do. When do you have to go back to the Island?”
“Not until tomorrow evening, barring any emergencies. Our kind of emergencies, not like, ‘regular’ emergencies or anything. Um. Super emergencies?”
“Excellent. Let’s go out for dinner, then, we have wedding details to discuss.” Penelope settled into her seat, more sure of the future than she had been when the verdict had been read out. Gordon managed to suppress a groan- party planning was not his forte- as Parker silently adjusted course to their regular restaurant.
Grove examined his new cell with displeasure, eyes flicking over the details. There wasn’t much; a bed, sink and toilet seemed to be the entire consistency of his new home. He didn't even have a cellmate, having been deemed too high a risk for general population after instigating fights whilst on remand. Back then, he hadn’t considered the possibility that he would be returning to the prison, that the barrister who had charged exorbitant fees would fail in the simple task of persuading the jury of his innocence or, at the very least, convincing the judge to show leniency. There had been mutterings of appeal when the barrister had visited Grove in the holding cells before he was whisked back to Parkmoor Scrubs, but Grove knew that it would be ultimately futile and a waste of his now limited resources. Grove snarled; the Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward had no need for the compensation that had been awarded to her. If it wasn’t for her, or her insipid fiancé, then Grove wouldn’t even be in this position, stripped of his assets, facing a substantial custodial sentence and on the brink of financial disaster after all the work he had done to build his empire. It wasn’t fair, and Grove hated Penelope Creighton-Ward and Gordon Tracy for orchestrating his downfall.
There was a sudden, metallic tapping sound that rang throughout the cell, tearing Grove from his musings. Grove moved around the cell, trying to locate the source of the noise, before isolating it to an air vent near to the bed.
“Who’s there?” he called, curiosity overriding any potential self-consciousness.
“Jeremy Grove?” came the tinny reply.
“How do you know my name?”
“What do you want?”
“I have a proposition for you, based on a mutual enemy. I understand you are familiar with the Tracy family?”
“Unfortunately,” Grove hissed, bearing his teeth.
“Then I believe we may be of assistance to each other. Let me offer you a partnership, of sorts. You are a businessman, after all.”
“Who are you?” Grove asked again.
“A friend, Mr Grove, but most people call me the Hood.”