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Authors: Caro Fraser

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A Calculating Heart

BOOK: A Calculating Heart
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A Calculating Heart

CARO FRASER

This work is dedicated with affectionate
thanks to Timothy Young QC,
the Scrutton of his generation.

‘You know what? I reckon you want to go for something more vibrant next time you have your colour done.’

Ann Halliday said nothing, merely glanced at Charmaine’s reflection in the salon mirror. Charmaine stroked Ann’s newly-cut hair reflectively. Then she nodded. ‘Yeah, go for something a bit more blonde.’

It was an effort for Ann to think of any appropriate response. Her hair didn’t interest her a great deal. It had taken her over eighteen months to persuade Charmaine not to blow-dry it into some voluminous style that could not possibly be accommodated under her barrister’s wig. She liked it to be cut neatly and sensibly, in a way that wouldn’t attract any attention at all. When she was younger, when her light brown hair had had a youthful sheen, she’d worn it long and sleek. But age had faded that lustre, and grey was creeping in. Better short and unobtrusive.

She gazed at her own reflection. Then again, maybe Charmaine was right. Perhaps blonde highlights would brighten things up a bit. But she didn’t want to attract comment, and teasing comment, even if kindly meant, she would certainly get from her fellow male barristers, particularly the three she was about to have lunch with. She would hate anyone to think she had gone to trouble over her appearance. Such a thing was suggestive of vanity - and vanity, Ann Halliday thought, was strictly for the young.

Charmaine picked up a square mirror and wagged it back and forth behind Ann’s head, as she always did, showing her a reflection of the cut. Ann could never see the point. It meant she had to smile and nod appreciatively, as though she cared what the back of her head looked like.

Charmaine put down the mirror and unfastened the Velcro on the gown, lifting it from Ann’s shoulders. ‘Off anywhere nice?’

Ann stood up and let Charmaine brush her down. It was a fair enough question, since she normally came in to have her hair cut on Saturday afternoons, never on a weekday such as today. ‘I’m meeting some friends for lunch.’

‘Lovely. Nice way to cheer up a Monday. A girly
get-together
, is it?’

‘No. Some male friends.’ As soon as the words were out, she felt they sounded odd, not what she meant to imply at all. ‘Colleagues,’ she tried to add, but Charmaine was already off.

‘More than one! Now, that’s what I call greedy!’

‘It’s sort of a business lunch. Nothing very exciting.’

She paid the bill and tipped Charmaine, who fetched Ann’s jacket and helped her into it. ‘Well, you enjoy it, anyway.’

Ann left the salon with mild relief, stepping out into the summer air, focusing her thoughts on lunch. It seemed strangely dislocating, meeting up with Marcus, Roger and Maurice in this way. Like a bunch of outlaws. Last week they had been fellow tenants at 3 Wessex Street, a large and prosperous set of barristers’ chambers, but now they were free agents. Well, for the time being. The departure from the chambers where she had worked all her adult life still held an air of unreality for Ann. Looking back over the past few months, it seemed now as though she had been swept along, a victim of forces not of her own creation. A set of barristers’ chambers was not like a company, or even a partnership. It had no animus, but was a collection of individuals, each of them paying rent to occupy space in the same building, each in his own employment, answerable to no one, but all relying on the same group of clerks to organise their professional lives, bringing in work and processing fees. Just as the identity of any set of chambers depended on the personalities of the individual tenants, so it was that the stability and smooth running of chambers depended on the tenants’ mutual dependency. Where personalities clashed, splits and factions were often the result. It had been Maurice who had started the whole thing. Maurice – ambitious, aggressive, piqued at not
having been made head of chambers – had created the split almost as an act of reprisal against those who had opposed him, fomenting little rows and divisions within chambers. He had gradually brought others into his camp – Roger, who had been a protégé of Maurice and who largely tended to take his side no matter what, and then Marcus and herself. She had had her own grievances, of course. She had felt for some time that she wasn’t being clerked properly, not getting work of the quality she deserved, but without Maurice’s persuasion, she wondered if she might not have stuck it out. It had been a great leap, to leave the chambers where she had been a tenant for twenty-five years. Maurice had flattered her, talked her into it one evening in a wine bar.

‘The fact is, Ann,’ he’d said, ‘Five Caper Court want to expand. They’re too small. They need people of your calibre, your expertise.’

She’d known then that his own vanity required that he take people with him when making his departure. But she’d agreed. Should she be grateful to him? Should Marcus and Roger, for that matter? Time would tell. By the end of the week they would be newly installed as tenants at 5 Caper Court-not as large in numbers as 3 Wessex Street, but no less prestigious. The word was that the head of chambers there, Roderick Hayter, was destined for the High Court bench in a few months’ time. Did Maurice have his once-thwarted ambitions focused on that position in a new set of chambers? Very probably.

It was a five-minute walk to the restaurant in Gray’s
Inn Road from Bloomsbury, where Ann lived. Marcus and Roger were already there. Marcus, black, beautiful and twenty-five, was lounging in his chair at a table by the window with an air of magnificent boredom, looking as immaculately turned-out in chinos and an
open-necked
shirt as he ever did in his three-piece suit. Roger, on the other hand, who was sitting studying the menu through his round glasses, was dressed in a Gap T-shirt, scruffy jeans and trainers, and looked as dishevelled as he did in the eternal M&S suit and unironed shirt which he wore for work day in, day out. The attention paid by each to his appearance, Ann always thought, was symptomatic of their peculiarly different, though formidable, intellects. As a lawyer, Marcus Jacobs was fastidious, hard-working and somewhat haughty, fiercely proud of his ability to deliver snap opinions on complex legal problems. Roger Fry was another character altogether. Sweet-natured, kind-faced, with a donnish air which belied his twenty-eight years, Roger conducted his social and his working life in an erratic and eccentric fashion, but seemed somehow to bring both off. His appearance was a matter of general indifference to him, so too his surroundings. Conferences with well-heeled and powerful clients in his room at 3 Wessex Street were generally conducted amid a clutter of books, papers, and cardboard boxes stacked with documents. It was as though Roger was too focused on law, on the case and the facts before him, to pay much attention to his immediate surroundings, unless those surroundings happened to be a pub or a wine bar. But
both Roger and Marcus were successful and well regarded in their profession, and each attracted a different kind of client. Like Ann, however, they had begun to feel that the best cases at 3 Wessex Street were being diverted by certain clerks to other, less deserving members of chambers. So here they sat today, waiting for Maurice Faber, bound together by their new destiny.

‘Hello,’ said Roger, glancing up at Ann. Marcus, with his customary impeccable good manners, half rose from his chair. Ann smiled and sat down, and Marcus subsided.

‘It’s a strange sort of day,’ said Ann, taking off her jacket. ‘I should be used to working from home, but for some reason I couldn’t get down to anything this morning. I went to the hairdresser’s instead.’

‘I know what you mean,’ said Marcus. ‘It’s odd not having chambers there in the background. Briefs to pick up, mail to open, coffee to drink, people to chat to.’

‘Office syndrome,’ said Roger. ‘It’s a security blanket.’

‘You think that’s why Maurice arranged this lunch?’ said Marcus. ‘Give us a sense of security?’

‘Identity, more like. He thinks this is his show, and he’s running it.’

‘I find it rather exciting, joining a new set of chambers,’ said Ann. ‘Like a new school term.’

‘You found those exciting?’ Roger put down the menu, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. ‘It honestly doesn’t make much odds to me, so long as I’ve got a desk and a telephone.’

‘You look very tired,’ said Ann, glancing at Roger with
motherly concern. ‘Have you been working late on that shipbuilding case?’

Roger laughed and replaced his glasses. ‘No, Ann. Kind of you to think so. I went on a pub crawl round South Ken last night with some friends.’ He gave an enormous yawn. ‘Sorry. Only got out of bed an hour ago.’

‘New surroundings are one thing,’ said Marcus. ‘What about the people?’


You
met them all at that chambers tea a month ago,’ remarked Ann.

‘Yes, but I can’t honestly say I know anyone well. Except Anthony Cross.’

‘I’m fairly friendly with David Liphook,’ said Roger, ‘and Will Cooper, Simon Barron. They’re a decent bunch. And Leo Davies, of course – didn’t you have a case against him a couple of months ago?’

Marcus winced inwardly. He didn’t care to remember his one and only courtroom encounter with Leo, in a dispute concerning the personal liability of freight forwarders. He hadn’t exactly come off best. He had to admit to a grudging admiration for Leo Davies’ skills of advocacy – not to mention his taste in clothes. Marcus was always prepared to respect anyone who dressed as well as Leo did.

‘Ah, yes – Leo Davies. Every woman in the Temple is supposed to be madly in love with him – isn’t that right, Ann?’ Marcus glanced at her.

‘Something of an exaggeration,’ said Ann dryly, turning her attention to the menu. She and Leo went back many
years, having been at Bar School together. She didn’t run across him much nowadays, though she heard a good deal about him. Without being flamboyant, Leo had managed to cultivate a reputation which was unusual in the staid world of the Temple. He was renowned for his brilliant mind and acute professionalism as a barrister, and was regarded as witty and amusing company, but there were always darker rumours circulating about him which, everyone assumed, must have some foundation in truth. Ann harboured a certain curiosity as to whether or not he merited his libidinous reputation – it certainly wasn’t the way she remembered him at twenty-one, even though she had always found something both provocative and beguiling about those sharp blue eyes and gently modulated Welsh voice. Not that she would have admitted that to the likes of Marcus and Roger. Besides, she regarded herself as a hardened, professional woman, not given to weaknesses where other members of the Bar were concerned.

Marcus nodded in the direction of the door. ‘Here’s Maurice.’

Maurice Faber was in his early forties, tall, with thick, very dark hair and heavy eyebrows, which gave him an Italianate look. His movements, bodily and facial, were brisk and energetic, his glance and smile quick and keen. Unlike Roger and Marcus, he was dressed in a suit and tie. He held up a folded copy of
The Sun
as he came towards their table, grinning.

‘Any of you seen this?’

Ann, who was strictly a
Guardian
reader, shook her head.

‘There certainly wasn’t anything in
The Times
that got me going,’ said Marcus.

‘I haven’t been up long enough to look at the papers,’ said Roger. ‘What’s the scandal?’

‘Hah! Scandal is just the word.’ Maurice sat down. Ann could tell from his eyes that whatever it was that had him so excited was bound to involve downfall or humiliation for someone else. Such things invariably turned Maurice on. She felt an anticipatory compassion for whoever the unfortunate person might be.

Maurice held up the front page for them to see.
‘MY LOVE HELL MADE ME WANT TO END IT ALL,’
read the headline, and below that,
‘TVs Melissa tells how top QC lover drove her to suicide bid’.
There was a large, glamorous picture of a blonde woman, familiar to those present as Melissa Angelicos, presenter of a Channel 4 arts programme.

Below that was a somewhat smaller photograph of the very man they had just been discussing, Leo Davies.

‘Bloody hell,’ said Roger. He reached out for the paper, and Maurice handed it to him, then sat back, relishing the moment.

‘What on earth is that all about?’ asked Ann incredulously, as Roger and Marcus huddled together, devouring the story.

‘It seems,’ said Maurice, ‘that Leo Davies was having some intense relationship with this television presenter
woman, and it all began to go off the rails. He was knocking her about, having affairs with other women—’

‘Other
men
as well, according to this,’ said Roger, without looking up.

‘—it began to affect her work, she lost her job in television because of it, and in the long run she got so unhappy over him that she wanted to top herself. But before so doing, she decided to tell the world what a shit Davies was by penning a lengthy suicide note, giving intimate insights into their affair and detailing his many failings. Which—’ Maurice indicated the paper ‘—is what you’re reading. She posted it off to
The Sun
, then swallowed a large quantity of pills and vodka. Not quite enough, however, because she woke up in hospital the next day.’

‘And they’ve printed it?’ marvelled Ann.

‘Well, not in its entirety, apparently. But the good bits.’

Marcus shook his head. ‘He’ll have them. This is pretty strong stuff. He has to sue.’

‘If he can. Not much point, really. The damage is done.’

‘Listen to this – 
“But love rat Leo claims he hardly knew Melissa. ‘I have never been romantically involved with Melissa Angelicas,’ said Leo Davies, when our reporter spoke to him on the phone at his chambers in the Temple, from which he conducts his one-and-a-half-million-a-year commercial practice—’”

‘Ha, ha. He wishes.’

‘“She is a neurotic woman who has been pestering me and my family for some months, and her story is a pathetic, delusional fantasy.

He declined to comment further.”

‘They must be mad to publish it,’ said Ann.

BOOK: A Calculating Heart
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