Authors: Caro Fraser
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary
An hour later Leo left Anthony and Chay, and took a taxi back to his flat in Belgravia. It was a good address, and the place was smart and well appointed, but Leo didn’t regard it as a proper home. It had simply been the first decent place that he had seen after the hasty sale of the Hampstead house in which he, Rachel and Oliver had lived all too briefly. The place had none of the character of the little mews house in
Knightsbridge in which he had lived as a bachelor. He had been happy there. Just over two years ago, but it seemed a lifetime away. True, there was still the safe haven of the house in Oxfordshire, but even the weekends there seemed lonely, in a way which they had never done in the days of his bachelorhood. He didn’t go down there often.
Leo slipped off his jacket, loosened his tie, wandered into the bedroom and lay down on the bed. It was only half past nine, but already his mind and body felt tired. Since the break up with Rachel, a strange lassitude seemed to have settled upon his spirit, like a mild depression. He couldn’t understand it. When she had left him he had thought - apart from the issue of Oliver - that it hardly mattered, that he would simply revert to his former hedonistic, self-indulgent lifestyle. But months had passed and still Leo felt as though he were in some kind of limbo. It was as if the person he had once been now no longer existed. The invitations, the social life of the days before his marriage, had almost dried up. Things had changed and moved on in just a short space of time, leaving him behind. I’m middle aged, thought Leo, rubbing his hands over his face. There wasn’t even the consolation of Anthony. He was too bound up with Camilla now.
Leo lay for a long time gazing at the ceiling, reflecting. Perhaps the
was right. Perhaps his life was cold and lonely. Perhaps it was going to be that way for ever.
Sarah Colman woke and turned to look at the clock by her bed. Twenty past eight. Maybe she should have set the alarm. Today was her first day as David Liphook’s pupil and technically she should show up at 5 Caper Court for nine o’clock. Still … She yawned and stretched like a cat. David wouldn’t mind if she was a little late. A ‘Tim Nice-But-Dim’ sort if ever she had seen one. Maybe not so dim, of course, but probably fairly easy to handle. She smiled to herself. The money wasn’t bad, either. On top of Daddy’s allowance, it made life even more comfortable. She only hoped David wouldn’t work her too hard. That was the trouble with being a pupil at a place like 5 Caper Court. It was such a shit-hot set that everybody supposed you must be brimming with ambition and zeal. Sarah wasn’t sure about any of that.
She swung herself out of bed and slipped on the robe lying on the end of her bed. Pulling back the curtains, she gazed out at the blue sky. It was going to be another warm
day. She picked up a hairbrush from her dressing table and sauntered through to the kitchen, where her flat mate, Lou, was already dressed and making coffee.
She glanced up at Sarah. ‘Morning. Cup of coffee?’
‘If there’s one going,’ said Sarah, and sat down at the kitchen table, yawning again.
Lou poured out the coffee, paused to tie back her dark hair, then brought the mugs over to the table. ‘Aren’t you going to be rather late, if you don’t get going? It
your first day.’
Sarah flicked idly through the pages of the
. ‘Yes, I will be, I suppose. I’m sure nobody’s much going to mind.’
‘I don’t know how you get away with it,’ murmured Lou, and sat down opposite Sarah.
Sarah smiled up at her. ‘Practice. Instinct. Charm. Anyway, you can talk. I thought you had a presentation this morning?’
‘It’s not till ten. I’ve ordered a cab for half nine.’
‘Good. I’ll share it with you.’
‘That means you won’t get to chambers till nearly ten! That’s pushing it a bit, Sarah, even for you.’
‘Lou, the Bar is a more relaxed place than the world of corporate finance. You lot may have to grind away from seven till seven most days, but we barristers don’t. At least, I don’t intend to. I’m starting as I mean to go on.’ Sarah took a sip of her coffee, picked up her hairbrush, then sat back and began brushing her blonde hair with lazy, even strokes, ‘Besides, it’s not as though I’m some trembling novice who hasn’t any idea of what she’s doing. I know half the people there. Some quite intimately, I might add.’ She smiled.
‘Really, what does that mean?’ enquired Lou, avid for any kind of confidence or piece of gossip.
‘Well, let’s see … there’s Anthony, for one. Anthony Cross. He and I had a bit of a thing for a while. But that was when I was living on my own. I don’t think you met him.’ Sarah brushed a fine curtain of hair across her eyes and fingered it. ‘Very much your type, though. Tall, dark, very sexy. A bit buttoned-up. You go for the anally retentive City type, don’t you?’
‘Thanks,’ said Lou.
‘Well, you know - a bit of pinstripe really turns you on, doesn’t it?’ Sarah laughed.
‘Does nothing for me.’
‘Why did you go out with him, then?’
‘Oh, I thought there might be more to him. But he turned out to be just another boring barrister.’
‘So you dumped him?’
Sarah paused in her brushing and her eyes darkened momentarily. She didn’t like to recall the humiliation she had received at Anthony’s hands. Nor the fact that he had then taken up with that drip Camilla shortly thereafter. ‘It was more a mutual thing. We agreed to call it a day.’
Lou sipped her coffee. ‘So – who else?’
‘Well, my pupilmaster, obviously. David Liphook. And there’s a man called William something - I’ve met him a few times socially, and he was on the pupillage committee. Bit of a cold fish. Oh, and there’s a girl there that I was at Oxford with. Camilla Lawrence. Very brainy. Boringly so. She used to be quite pink-faced and eager when she was at LMH, but she seems to have calmed down a bit since then.
And then—’ Sarah parted her lips and gave a little sigh ‘and then there’s Leo Davies.’ She looked away, musing, flicking her hair back over her shoulder with one hand.
‘Leo Davies … I know that name,’ said Lou, frowning. ‘Isn’t he the chap who’s doing the big fraud case at the moment?’
‘Very possibly,’ said Sarah. ‘I don’t pay too much attention to the law unless I really have to.’
‘There was a piece about him in the
last night. And a picture.
attractive, even for forty-something.’ She gazed curiously at Sarah. ‘So, what’s the story there?’
‘Darling, it might not be entirely discreet of me to tell you, not if he’s becoming such a prominent figure.’
‘Oh, come on! Don’t be so tantalising. Tell me. You know I’m—’
‘Yes, the very soul of discretion.’ Sarah laughed and put down her hairbrush. She leant her chin on her hands. ‘We go back a few years, actually. I met him through friends at a party. I’d just come down from Oxford and was stuck for something to do. And somewhere to live. Daddy wasn’t quite as generous in those days, and I didn’t really fancy spending all summer living with my parents. So, when Leo mentioned that he had a job going, I volunteered.’
‘A job? What kind of job?’ asked Lou, intrigued.
Sarah arched her eyebrows. ‘Oh - he had a house in Oxfordshire, and he said he needed a housekeeper. You know, someone to look after the place, cook when he came down at weekends with his friends. Leo had lots of friends …’ There was a silence. Sarah traced the rim of her coffee cup with one finger. ‘And there was one special friend. A young man, staying in the house.’
‘What? A lover, d’you mean?’
‘Mmm. Sort of. Though that implies some sort of sentimental attachment, and there certainly wasn’t any of that. A very dirty little boy indeed was James. Quite pretty, too, before he became a junkie. Anyway, Leo had installed him there and I don’t think he entirely trusted him. So he put me in charge.’
‘So … he paid you to look after the house and keep an eye on his boyfriend?’
Sarah smiled. ‘There were other duties of a rather more personal nature, of course, but I regarded those more as pleasure than business.’ She sipped her coffee. ‘Certain things I would happily have done free - for Leo.’
‘I think’, Lou said slowly, ‘that I get the picture.’
‘It was a wonderful summer,’ said Sarah with a sigh. ‘But all good things come to an end. Leo realised if anyone found out about it that it wouldn’t do his image much good - he was applying for silk at that time - and we parted amicably. So you see, I think of most of the people in chambers as friends already.’
Lou got up and took her mug to the sink. ‘Frankly, I think I’d prefer to be starting somewhere where nobody knew anything about me. Especially not my lurid past. Too much baggage, if you ask me.’
Sarah stretched luxuriantly, letting the loose sleeves of her robe slip down her bare arms. ‘That depends on whether you’re prepared to turn it all to your own advantage, darling. Now, I must go and have my shower, so that I’m ready in time for your taxi.’
While Sarah was making her leisurely way into chambers for her first day as a pupil, work was already well under way at 5 Caper Court.
As Leo came into the clerks’ room to pick up his mail before going over to court, David Liphook accosted him. ‘Leo, you know that award that was handed down last month against those Greek scrap metal merchants?’
‘That Vourlides lot? I know them well.’
‘Well, Bill Tate has just rung to say that they’re contesting the arbitrators’ award on the grounds that the arbitrators misconducted themselves and that Ken Lightman was guilty of bias. Can you believe it?’
Leo grinned. ‘That bunch will try anything. They once tried to have me removed from a case on the grounds that I was in the pay of the Turkish government.’ He glanced at the two sizeable piles of documents and books ranged next to David. ‘Where are you off to with that lot?’
‘I’ve got an arbitration. Which is why I suggested to my new pupil that today might be a good day to start her pupillage. Thought it would be interesting for her to see something through from scratch. And useful to me. Not,’ he added, glancing at his watch, ‘that it’s going to be particularly useful unless she shows up in the next ten minutes. I’m going to be hauling this lot in and out of taxis myself, at this rate.’
‘Ah, yes - your new pupil. Sir Vivian Colman’s daughter, if I’m not much mistaken?’
‘That’s right. Do you know her?’
Leo hesitated. ‘I’ve met her a few times. I think you’ll find most people have.’ He could hardly tell David just
exactly how well he knew Sarah, or just how much havoc her exasperating behaviour had wrought in his life. ‘Yes, Felicity?’ Leo glanced over at Felicity, the junior clerk, who was waggling her hand to attract his attention.
‘Sorry to interrupt, Mr Davies. It’s Fred Fenton for you. Says he needs a quick word.’
‘All right. Put him through to the waiting room. I’ll take it there.’
Felicity came over to where David stood drumming his fingers. ‘You look like a man who’s been stood up, Mr Liphook,’ said Felicity, leaning her elbows on the counter and making even more of her already ample cleavage. She was a pretty, bubbly type, an East Ender with a sharp wit who had been a clerk for only a year. Under Henry’s tutelage, she was developing into a thorough professional, with a naturally maternal care for the interests of the barristers in chambers.
‘I don’t much care for being kept waiting around by my pupil, to be honest. I’d heard that having one can be more trouble than it’s worth. Still, at the time, taking her on seemed like a good idea.’
‘What’s she like, then?’ asked Felicity. ‘Be nice to have a few more women around here.’
David shrugged. ‘Very pleasant.’
Felicity sighed. ‘I thought she might be.’ She nodded towards the window. ‘There’s your cab. What do you want me to do with this Miss Colman when she gets here? Send her on?’
‘No. Yes.’ David glanced at his watch again. ‘Yes. She should be able to find MFB under her own steam - just
give her the address. It’s a bloody nuisance. I was relying on someone to help with all this.’ David began to pick up bundles and stuff them under one arm.
‘Ta-ta,’ said Felicity.
Leo reappeared from the waiting room just as Cameron Renshaw lumbered downstairs.
‘Leo, can you do something for me?’ asked Cameron.
‘Depends what it is,’ said Leo. ‘I’m due in court in ten minutes.’
‘Just a minute of your time. The thing is, I’ve got those people from the Lincoln’s Inn Estates Committee coming over late today about the new chambers we’ve been looking at. The ones in New Square.’
‘Oh. Yes,’ said Leo flatly. He wasn’t exactly keen on this idea of moving out of Caper Court to larger premises.
‘Well, I don’t want to put them off, but I need to see my doctor, and it turns out that the only time he can fit me in is around half four this afternoon. After that he’s off to some golfing holiday in Portugal and won’t be back for three weeks.’ Cameron dropped his voice. ‘Between you and me, I don’t think I can wait three weeks. I’ve been having these stomach pains all summer. I’m frankly not feeling quite the thing. I haven’t been able to keep anything down for two days, and I really think I have to do something about it.’
‘God, I’m sorry to hear that,’ said Leo. Come to think of it, he did think old Cameron had been looking a bit yellow round the gills the past few days. And was it his imagination, or hadn’t he lost a bit of weight? With a fellow of Cameron’s size, it was hard to tell, but he certainly didn’t seem his old Falstaffian self.
‘So I wondered if you’d mind seeing these people for me.’
‘Yes, of course I will. What time are they coming?’
‘Fine. I’ll be back well before then. Anyway, I’d better dash.’
Leo hurried out of the door and collided with Sarah as she was coming up the steps.
‘Morning, Leo,’ said Sarah. ‘Shouldn’t run at your age, you know. Not dignified.’
Leo sighed. Exasperating as he found her, he couldn’t help thinking how pretty and professional she looked in her immaculately cut black suit and white, silk blouse, her blonde hair neatly tied back. The very picture of a demure young barrister. If only the world knew the true Sarah. ‘Thank you for that piece of advice. Now let me give
one. It’s not a good idea to keep your pupilmaster hanging about on your very first day. It creates a bad impression. And in your case, impression is everything. Don’t get the idea that dear David is a soft touch. He may seem that way, but when it comes to business, he’s all business. Goodbye.’
‘See you later.’ Sarah turned, smiling, as Leo hurried down the steps. ‘Isn’t it nice that we’re going to be seeing so much of one another from now on?’
‘Bliss,’ murmured Leo as he strode up Middle Temple Lane.
Felicity looked up from her desk as Sarah came into the reception area. ‘Can I help you?’ she asked.
‘I’m Sarah Colman. Mr Liphook’s pupil. I’m starting today.’
‘Oh, yes! Hello - I’m Felicity. I’m the junior clerk.’ They shook hands, appraising one another. ‘I’m afraid Mr
Liphook’s left. He’s got an arbitration today. I think he was expecting you a bit earlier.’
Sarah did her best to look anxious and contrite. ‘I know. I feel dreadful about being so late. The trains were all over the place.’
‘Oh, well, not to worry. I’m sure you couldn’t help it.’ Sarah’s expression flickered slightly at this. She didn’t much like the mumsy, patronising tone. Nor the implied criticism. A junior clerk was only a jumped-up office girl, after all. One with appalling taste in clothes at that. Low-cut jumpers and short skirts were pretty vulgar, even if you did have the figure for them. Still, since she was playing the part of the anxious-to-please pupil, she’d better keep up the front.
‘No. It would happen on my first day, of all days, though.’
‘Well, he’s only just left. If you set off now, you’ll probably get there before they start. It’s at the arbitration centre at More Fisher Brown, near Spitalfields. You can get a bus on Fleet Street to take you up to Liverpool Street. I’ll write down the address.’ She scribbled it down.