The Quest For Silk, by M.H. Green

The Quest For Silk, by M.H. Green (Fiction)

Immediate Download

Download this title immediately after purchase, and start reading straight away!

View Our Latest Ebooks

Explore our latest ebooks, catering to a wide range of reading tastes.

Fresh from her success in her first murder trial at the Old Bailey, Penelope Lloyd-Hargreaves is persuaded to represent a senior Queen’s Council who is in grave danger of being disbarred. Having accepted the case, she must call upon every ounce of expertise to achieve a satisfactory result. But is it enough? Will she prevail? And what of the request to take on a pupil? How will this fit in with her ambition to take silk?  
With a victory or two under her belt, leaders of the judiciary and the legal profession take note. Penny is subsequently given a task which is not quite the opportunity it appears to be, and she finds that her career may be at stake. In The Quest for Silk, Penny is tested to the limits of her professional endurance. 
Her friends and colleagues provide support, but they face travails of their own. Can Penny’s mentor, Morton, and retired DCS Markham succeed in averting a miscarriage of justice? What begins as a seemingly cut-and-dried case soon becomes complicated as a web of treachery is uncovered. 
The Quest for Silk is a worthy sequel to Henry Morton’s Pupil, with just as many twists and turns, and lavish portions of romance and legal drama. Set against the background of London in the sixties, this novel presents an engaging tale in which justice is served, wounds are healed, slights are forgiven, wrongs are righted, and new friendships are forged.

From: The Quest for Silk, by M.H. Green

Chapter 1

Penelope Lloyd-Hargreaves entered the Temple Gardens from Fleet Street. Although the wind was cold, the sky held the promise of being brighter than the previous day, Sunday, had been. A hint of blue showed through the clouds. Even the possibility of sunshine later in the day was evident.

Penny smiled to herself as she strolled leisurely towards the entrance to Forsythe Chambers. February already. A lot had happened since her return to chambers after the Christmas holidays. It had mostly been of a personal nature. Her father had made a good start with the financial restructuring of her fiancé James’s business. They had discussed it at some length over the Christmas break and now it was nearly complete. One of the junior partners at Hollis, Webb and Associates, her father’s accountancy firm, had spent nearly a week with James, setting up new systems and radically altering others. When he had finished, he arranged to return once a month to see that everything was running smoothly. Penny’s father, Gerald – Binkie to all his friends and acquaintances – was good to his word; there had been no charge for the job.

Penny’s mother, Carolyn, had also been busy. She had obtained a site plan for the land that James was negotiating for and had spent half a day with him, discussing the proposed alterations and expansion to his building. The two of them had sat in James’s office developing options and making brief sketches. Carolyn had then disappeared, returning a couple of days later with a full set of concept drawings.

___

James was amazed. ‘It looks so big,’ he said, perusing the technical drawings.

‘It is so big.’ Carolyn smiled at the stunned look on James’s face. ‘It’s about fifteen hundred square feet bigger than what we were talking about earlier in the week. It’s nearly twice the size of this building we’re in now.’

‘But the cost.’ James spoke nervously. ‘I can’t possibly afford all this.’

‘Nonsense.’ Carolyn smiled. ‘A large portion of any buildings costs are the fees – council taxes, building fees, inspection fees and finally, legal fees.’ Carolyn paused, gazing fondly at James. ‘You will not incur any cost regarding the architecture. I will personally arrange all the plans, drawings and specifications. I’ve got a bright young lad in the office who would just love to do all that.’ She grinned. ‘He will also undertake the role of project manager.’

‘But surely he will want to be paid?’

‘Not if he doesn’t want to be designing bespoke dog kennels for the next six months.’ She sensed James’s lack of understanding. ‘Look, every year we take in two or three interns, um … apprentices, in their final year. We train them and teach them all they need to know until they are ready for their final exams. Just consider your job as part of their training. There will be no bill.’

‘I must say, that’s very kind of you, it really is.’

‘Nonsense, it will be good training for whomever we give the job to. As for the council taxes and building permits and stuff like that, I will organise all of that myself. I know all the officials involved, personally. Most of them I’ve had dealing with for years. I’ll just call in a few favours and that side of it will be sorted.’

James stared at his future mother-in-law in amazement. ‘You would do all that for me?’ He wasn’t used to people being so generous.

‘Of course I would, and ten times more.’ Carolyn smiled, placing her hand on his shoulder. She changed the subject. ‘About the financial side of all this. Binkie tells me that all your systems and procedures have been sorted out now.’

‘Yes, Warren Burke spent some considerable time here arranging it all for me.’ James smiled at the thought. ‘He also said that we would probably need to employ a full-time accountant as the business expands. He said he had a promising graduate in mind.’

‘Ah yes, Warren. Nice chap, good accountant.’

‘He certainly knows his stuff.’

‘Well, what we were thinking, Binkie and I, that is, was to set you up as a proper registered company – chairman, board of directors, company secretary, the whole shooting box. How does that sound?’

James was speechless. He sat with his mouth open for a moment. Finally he spoke: ‘It sounds absolutely marvellous but I couldn’t possibly afford to do it. By the time I’ve bought the land next door and made a start on a modest building, I’ll be nearly broke. I’m just hoping the bank will help me.’

‘No, we won’t be doing that,’ said Carolyn firmly. ‘If we set this up right, you won’t have to use any of your own money at all, not a penny.’

James looked dumbfounded. ‘But how …?’ His voice trailed off.

‘At the moment you’re running a one-man business, right? You are dependent on the bank to keep you in that business. Any time you want to expand, you’ve got to ask the bank for all the finance, don’t you?’

James nodded.

‘What we’re proposing is to set you up as a proper company, and then we can raise some real capital in the City. Binkie knows a few useful people, and they’ll sort you out with all the finance in no time.’

This was all getting a bit beyond James; he sat half-stunned as Carolyn continued, ‘At the moment, you own this property and you have enough left to make a start on the building next door. You still owe the bank two thousand pounds on a loan you took out last year to replace some old machinery, correct?’

Again, James nodded.

Presumably, you will need to go back to the bank for the remainder of the finance you will need to finish off. The size of the project and the amount of new machinery you can have will be determined by the amount of money the bank will lend you. That is why you look at these’ – Carolyn tapped the concept drawings – ‘and think that you can’t afford them. Isn’t that so?’

‘Something like that. It just seems to be too fantastic to be true. Do you really think that could happen, I mean, really?’

Carolyn smiled benevolently. ‘Of course it could,’ she said. ‘Most of it is about knowing the right people. A small company, well managed, can borrow considerably more money than any individual and with a lot less red tape. If we set this up properly, we should be able to get your extension, get all the new machinery you need, pay off your existing loan, and possibly do some alterations to your existing building to make it more efficient.’

James stared at Carolyn; he was absolutely flabbergasted. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever think this could be possible. ‘Companies cost money,’ he said. ‘Directors and secretaries and stuff. I just don’t understand how I could do it.’

‘It’ll probably cost you about twenty quid.’ Carolyn seemed amused at James’s disbelief. ‘Mind you, that might be a struggle. Binkie tells me he’s got you on a tight budget. No more lavish dinners at the Ritz with your relatives and no more shopping sprees in Bond Street for the ladies in your life. Incidentally, I haven’t thanked you for that yet. Penelope said you refused to tell her how much our gift of Christmas shopping cost you. I’m very grateful, I really am. But you can’t afford to continue to spend your money on me like that.’

‘Oh yes, I can.’ James grinned. ‘Warren Burke showed me how to do it and make it tax deductible.’

‘I’d better have a few words with young Warren. He’s leading you astray. Honestly, James, you really shouldn’t.’

‘There is a markup of at least a hundred percent on most of the garments we make. That goes for the other manufacturers I deal with as well, and the retail stores. All I do is pass the savings on.’

‘You are really too kind.’

‘Not a bit of it. Look at what you and Binkie are doing for me. All the plans and permits and all the financial advice. And now you are going to set up a company for me and arrange all the finance for it in the City, and you’re refusing to charge me for any of it. I’m the one who should be grateful and thank you for your generosity. I really should, and I do, most sincerely.’

Carolyn smiled broadly. ‘I wouldn’t be too grateful if I were you. What Binkie and I have done is only a drop in the bucket. You wait till you get your lawyers bill for making all this happen.’

They both laughed.

By the end of the following week, things had started to happen. P. J. Manufacturing Limited had been registered with a paid-up share capital of one hundred pounds. The plans had been finalised; the necessary consents had been lodged and approved. Contractors had been engaged and contracts signed. Binkie had taken the Morgenstein brothers, Hymie and Solly, out to lunch, and the finance was secured. James had yet to receive a bill from his lawyer. All was good.

___

Penny had scarcely noticed her journey through the Temple Gardens, she had been so lost in her thoughts. The sound of her boot heels on the polished wooden floor inside the entrance had brought her back into the present.

‘Good morning, Miss Penny.’ Charlie always greeted her first thing in the morning. ‘I ’ope you ’ad a good weekend.’

‘Yes, thank you, Charlie. How about you?’

‘Orl good, miss. Thank you for askin’.’ Charlie smiled and added, ‘I’ve ’ad a call from Mr Basil. ’E wants to ’ave a chambers meeting at eleven o’clock.’

‘Basil?’ Penny was puzzled. Their Head of Chambers, Basil Forsythe, had not returned to chambers after the Christmas break. No one had seen or heard from him.

‘Yes, Miss Penny. ’E phoned me at ’ome last night an’ said ’ow ’e wants to ’ave a chambers meeting an’ would I tell everybody as they came in.’

‘Did he say what it was about?’

‘No, miss, not a dickie bird. Just that I woz to tell everyone as they got ’ere.’

‘Thank you, Charlie. We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?’

‘Yes, Miss Penny.’

‘Has our Mr Morton arrived yet?’

‘No, miss. Orl the others, but not ’im.’

‘I’ll tell him if you like.’

‘Thank you, Miss Penny, much obliged.’

Penny walked down the corridor to the room she shared with Morton. As she opened the door, she felt the warmth. Charlie had put the heater on half an hour before and the room was nice and toasty. By the time she had taken off her coat and sat at her desk, Charlie arrived with a cup of tea and the morning mail.

‘You’re a real treasure, Charlie,’ Penny said as she took off her gloves. ‘You really are.’

Charlie blushed with embarrassment. ‘Not a bit of it, Miss Penny. But thank you for sayin’ so.’ He left.

Penny examined the pile of letters that Charlie had brought in. Half of them were for Morton, but the one she was interested in was right on the top. It was from Harkness and Fitch, a small legal firm with offices in Camberwell. When Archie moved in with Livvie, he had given her his flat’s lease documents to see if there was any way she could break the lease for him without it costing a lot of money. Penny looked at the documents and was delighted to find that the property was being managed by Harkness and Fitch on behalf of the owners, who had gone abroad on an extended holiday.

On the previous Thursday, she had phoned and made an appointment with one of the legal partners at the firm, and at ten o’clock on the Friday morning, she was sitting in Thomas Harkness’s room, explaining the situation to him. He was genuinely pleased when Penny told him that she and James were engaged. He had adopted an almost fatherly interest in Penny, having been amazed at the result of the brief, her first, that he had given her a few months ago. She had turned around an almost impossible case. His client, James Ogilvie, Penny’s fiancé, had been given a suspended sentence and was free to lead his life. The result had been a triumph and it was all down to Penny.

One of the typists had arrived with tea and Penny and Thomas Harkness had chatted for another ten minutes or so. They discussed the recent murder trial Penny had been involved in. Apparently, the final speech delivered by the judge, Mr Justice Haversham, had practically become legal folklore. Penny was rather embarrassed about it. Finally, she had looked at her watch and stood up. With a watery smile on his cadaverous face, Thomas Harkness had extended a bony hand and promised to look into the matter of Archie’s lease.

Penny was quite surprised when she opened the letter from the law firm. It contained a cheque for nine hundred and eighty pounds, fourteen and sixpence. An accompanying note explained that this was the residue of the amount of rent Archie had paid in advance, plus a refund of the rent paid while Archie was in Brixton and the flat unoccupied, and half of Archie’s original bond. Penny stared at the note; she had not expected this. She phoned Thomas Harkness and thanked him most sincerely. He explained that his clients had allowed him full discretion in their absence and he had used it. Penny thanked him again and rung off. She phoned James, but Julie, his secretary, said that he was out and that Archie was away for the week.

As she hung up the phone, Penny remembered that this was the last week of Archie’s course at the Police Driver Training School. His fiancé, Livvie, and her uncle, George Markham, had arranged for Archie to buy a fully refurbished ex-Police Force motorbike at a good price, and as an extra bonus, he was given a two-week course of expert rider tuition. All of this was given to Archie as a reward for his help in breaking up a major drug smuggling organisation. A good many arrests had been made on the strength of the information he had supplied.

Penny smiled to herself, enjoying a warm feeling of satisfaction. She had become very fond of Archie over the course of his case. He had started out as a very shy young man, terrified of the situation in which he had found himself. Penny had helped him regain his confidence. He had been through tragedy and had emerged a better man for it. His strength of character had helped him through. Livvie had been through tragedy too. She had turned to her work for solace, for the help she needed to deal with her grief, and like Archie, she had also been very lonely. Penny was delighted when she realised that they had found comfort in the relationship that developed between them. They were happy. Just like James and I, she mused.

Her reverie was interrupted by the door opening and Morton coming into their shared room.

‘Morning, sunshine,’ he said brightly. ‘Have a good weekend?’

‘Great,’ replied Penny. As far as she was concerned, any time spent with James was great.

‘We’ve got a chambers meeting at eleven,’ Morton said while he put his briefcase on his desk and hung his hat and coat on the hook.

‘Did Charlie tell you?’

‘No, I had a call from Basil last night,’ Morton replied.

‘Did he say what it was about?’

‘Yes, but he asked me not to say anything to anyone. He wants to tell everyone himself.’

‘Can’t you at least give me a clue?’ Penny’s curiosity was piqued.

‘No. Basil asked me not to tell anybody.’ Morton smiled. ‘“Especially not your blabbermouth ex-pupil,” he said. “It’ll be all over the Southern Counties by lunchtime if you do.”’ He looked Penny’s indignant expression then burst out laughing. Penny saw the funny side too, and they both laughed.

She and Morton had only worked together for a few months, Penny thought, but they had developed a strong bond between them in that short time. They were content in each other’s company and had reached the point where they could share a joke of this sort.

‘You beast,’ she said, still grinning broadly. ‘Just you wait until I take silk, then I’ll be leading you.’

Their laughter was interrupted by Penny’s phone ringing; it was James.

‘Hello, darling. Julie told me you rang.’

‘Well, actually, it was Archie I wanted to speak to. I’ve got some good news for him, but Julie told me he was away, and then I remembered that it was the last week of his course.’

‘Yes, it’s hard to believe he’s been away a week already. The place is just not the same without him.’

‘I know what you mean. When I think back to when I first met him, when he was on remand in Brixton, what a poor, shy, scared individual he was then, and now you wouldn’t believe the change.’

‘It only needed someone to realise his potential.’

‘And that someone was you, wasn’t it, darling?’

‘Well, I saw what faith you had in him and I respected your judgement.’

‘You respected my judgement?’

‘Well, you chose me, didn’t you?’

They both laughed.

‘I might leave it till Archie gets back on Friday.’ Penny was still smiling. ‘I did think of phoning Livvie, but I’ve a feeling she planned to spend a couple of days with Angelique in Paris.’

‘Yes, I think Archie mentioned that. Though I’m not sure when she was going.’

‘No,’ Penny said, having decided. ‘I’ll leave it till Friday.’

‘Probably for the best.’

‘I have a chambers meeting at eleven. Not too sure what that’s all about.’

‘You’ll know in an hour or so. It’s nearly ten now.’

‘I’d better let you go and get on with things, seeing as you haven’t got Archie there to do it all for you.’

‘You cheeky wench.’ James sounded indignant. ‘I’ll have you know that I do some work around here.’

‘If you say so.’ Penny giggled. ‘I’ll see you at four-thirty.’

‘I might make you walk.’

‘You wouldn’t dare.’ Another giggle.

‘Bye.’

‘Love you.’

Morton smiled to himself. He used to have similar conversations with Sam’s mother when they were first married, before things got all serious and their marriage began to unwind. Oh, to be young and in love again.

There was a knock at the door and Basil appeared. ‘Good morning, all,’ he said cheerfully.

‘Good morning, Basil,’ Penny and Morton replied in unison. Penny added, ‘Happy New Year.’

‘And Happy New Year to you.’ Basil smiled, but then his face became more serious. ‘Penny, I’d like a few words before the chambers meeting.’

‘Yes, surely. When?’

‘Now would be good. I would have phoned you last night, but I don’t have your current phone number.’

‘No,’ Penny replied. ‘You wouldn’t have. Just after Christmas I moved in with James.’

‘Well good for you.’ Basil sounded genuinely pleased. ‘He’s a very lucky man.’

Penny followed Basil out of the room. She returned a bit later, her expression sober. ‘Looks like we’re in for a few changes, doesn’t it?’

Morton nodded. ‘I think we’ll survive,’ he said firmly. ‘In fact, I’m sure we will.’

At eleven o’clock they all gathered in the conference room, even Charlie. Basil had included Charlie because of the great respect he had for him. Charlie was the mainstay of the whole place. Basil could still remember his father, Barrington Forsythe, introducing him to Charlie when he first came into Forsythe Chambers as a fresh-faced barrister. Many barristers had come and gone since then, but Charlie had remained steadfast and loyal, always ready to help, always there with a kind word or a nice ’ot cuppa. Basil looked across the conference room table at Charlie and smiled to himself. As long as Charlie was the chambers head clerk, all was well with the world.

Basil stood. ‘Good morning,’ he said, rather formally. ‘I’ve been putting this meeting off for the past couple of weeks because I wasn’t sure what I would say or how I was going to tell you. As you know, I am the third generation of Forsythes to be head of these chambers. It is by fate, and to my infinite sorrow, that I shall be the last. I won’t go into all the medical details, but suffice to say that the quacks in Harley Street have given me about eighteen months, maybe a bit more if I have a change of climate away from the fogs and smog of London. To this end, I have booked into a private sanatorium in Zurich for a month, where I will undergo a complete assessment to determine the extent of my condition and the possibility of reducing its outcome.’

‘Have you had a second opinion?’ Wilfred Bowers asked, although he knew the answer before he spoke.

‘And a third,’ Basil replied evenly. ‘It was the third doctor who suggested the clinic in Switzerland. He sent a copy of my notes and X-rays to the director of the clinic and I received a reply ten days ago. Madge and I are due to fly out on Saturday. Initially, we will be away for just a bit more than a month. After that we will have to wait and see.’ Basil paused while he gathered his thoughts. A rather gloomy atmosphere pervaded the room. Basil continued, ‘This will, of course, create disruption to chambers. I have spoken to you all individually about the best way to minimise the effects caused by my absence, and you have all been very frank and forthcoming with both your opinions and advice. I have reached a decision as to the immediate future of Forsythe Chambers and, hopefully, its long-term future. Before I made up my mind, and indeed, before I spoke to any of you, I spoke to the one member of these chambers who has been here longer than any of us and whose wise counsel I have come to respect and rely on over all the years I have known him.’ He looked directly at Charlie who blushed profusely.

‘Much obliged for you sayin’ so, Mr Basil. Much obliged, I’m sure, but I only told you wot I fink was going to be the best way art of the situation. I was very ’umble as to why you arsked me at all, very ’umble.’

Penny, who had recently been the grateful recipient of Charlie’s advice, smiled kindly. ‘Don’t be so modest, Charlie. I’ve only known you for a short time, but one thing I have learnt is that you don’t say much, but what you do say is worth listening to.’

Charlie blushed again. ‘Thank you, Miss Penny, so kind of you to say so.’

Basil sensed they were getting away from the subject a little. He resumed his announcement. ‘Like I said, I have canvassed all your opinions, and I have asked our friend Morton here to be temporary Head of Chambers until I return from Switzerland.’ He paused briefly, composing himself. ‘Regardless of the outcome in Zurich, I intend to be away for some time. It is some years since Madge and I had a decent holiday, so I don’t expect you will see me back in chambers for three or four months. We might come back after my initial treatment or we may start our holiday in Europe. We haven’t made our decision yet. Either way, I won’t be back here for a while. In the meantime, I hope you will get in behind Morton and keep these chambers prospering.’ He shook Morton firmly by the hand and one by one the others came and shook Basil’s hand and assured him that things would go smoothly. They congratulated Morton on his appointment, after which they returned to their rooms. Charlie shook the Morton and Basil’s hands firmly and left. Penny gave the two men each a kiss on the cheek and murmured a few words, her voice cracking with emotion and her eyes tearful. She turned and left the conference room.

As she reached the door to her room, it opened, and Charlie emerged carrying an empty cup. Penny felt guilty; she should have returned the cup herself. ‘Oh Charlie,’ she said, ‘I’m sorry. I should have brought the cup back myself.’

‘That’s orl right, miss. It ain’t no trouble.’

‘Have you got a minute? I’d like to talk to you.’

‘Yes, Miss Penny.’ Charlie sat in a seat in front of Penny’s desk.

‘That was a bit of a shock, wasn’t it?’

‘Yes, miss.’ Charlie felt a bit uncomfortable discussing chambers’ matters, even with Penny, who could be very disarming.

‘Did you see it coming?’

‘Maybe a little bit. ’E sometimes left early an’ there woz sometimes ’e’d come in late. I never said nothin’ ’cause it wasn’t my place, if you know wot I mean.’

‘Yes, I do. I didn’t notice much either because Morton and I were dealing with that case at the Old Bailey.’

‘Of course you were. An’ I never thought much abaht it. I didn’t want to speak art of turn like, but now we orl know official like, don’t we?’

‘Yes, Charlie we do. I’m sure we’ll be alright, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, Miss Penny. Mr Morton knows wot ’e’s doin’, don’t ’e?’

‘Yes, he does. He’ll be able to fill in for Basil. Anyway, it won’t be for long, Basil will be back in a couple of months and everything will be back to normal.’ Penny spoke in a reassuring voice, although she felt, deep down, that things would never return to normal, not in that sense anyway. Basil was reaching retirement age. If his illness was that serious, Penny felt sure that he would not be wanting to return to chambers for the time he had left. What had he said? Eighteen months? No. He would be wanting to spend his time with his family, enjoying himself.

‘Yes, that’s right, Miss Penny. ’E’ll be back ’ere in a couple of shakes, you mark my words.’ Penny could tell by the tone of Charlie’s voice that he wasn’t convinced about Basil’s return either.

The door opened and Morton entered, followed by Basil.

‘Ah, Charlie, the very man I wanted to see.’ Basil’s voice was warm and genial, showing no sign of the strain of the past half hour. Having made his announcement, he looked more relaxed and felt much happier. The stress had gone.

‘Yes, Mr Basil. Wot can I do for you?’

‘Morton is going to move into my room while I’m away. Could you get young Billy to come and move some files and things for me, please?’

‘Certainly, Mr Basil, right away.’ He picked up Penny’s cup and disappeared.

Morton turned to Basil. ‘I’ll get Phyllis onto that letter.’ He looked at Penny. ‘I’ll be taking over some of Basil’s current clients. We’re going to send them a letter to bring them up to date.’ He turned and left.

Basil sat in one of Penny’s client chairs. ‘How do you think that went?’ he asked.

‘Very well. I think you made an excellent choice with Morton. He will do a first-class job until you get back.’

Basil looked at Penny with a firm gaze. ‘I know and I think, deep down, you understand, that I won’t be coming back. Let’s be realistic. Even if they come up with some miracle cure in Zurich and they give me a few more years, I’m certainly not going to waste them working on wills and torts and estates and stuff. I want to enjoy what time I’ve got left.’

‘Quite rightly so.’ Penny smiled. ‘It’s the sensible thing to do. You’ve got plenty of time before you need to make any final decisions.’

‘It’s high time I treated Madge to a decent holiday. We haven’t been abroad for many years. About time we did.’

‘That’s the spirit. I was just saying to Charlie that chambers are in good hands. Morton’s pretty steady.’

‘That’s why I asked him. He’s got one of the best legal minds in the City, and he can get on with people. That’s his best feature, and’ – Basil looked squarely at Penny; he had a smile on his face – ‘that’s who Charlie suggested. Pretty fair judge is our Charlie. I respect his opinion.’

‘So do I. Ever since I got here, he’s fussed around me like a mother hen.’

‘That’s our Charlie, alright.’ Basil stood up. ‘Well, that’s enough for now,’ he said. ‘I’ll be here for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we might have another chambers meeting just to tie up any loose ends.’

‘Sounds like a good idea to me,’ said Penny. Basil stood and left the room. Penny sat and stared into space until her thoughts were interrupted by her phone ringing.

___

BOAC Flight 601 left London Airport punctually at nine o’clock on Monday morning bound for Orly Airport in Paris. It was a regular flight, timed not so much for the tourists, but for the businessmen to be able to get across to Paris, attend to their business and return by five o’clock on the same day.

Olivia Wallace sat comfortably in a window seat, looking out over the English Channel. The plane was not very full, so she could sit in one seat and have her briefcase on the seat beside her without inconveniencing anyone. She could even stretch her legs out a bit.

She sat immersed in her thoughts. This was the second week of Archie’s course. She could still remember the delight on his face when she gave him the course registration form that Uncle George had got for him. He had been ecstatic.

Early on the Monday morning, Archie had been collected from the flat by a police van, along with the others who were on the same course. They were driven to a disused RAF aerodrome situated just south of Biggin Hill, which had gained much fame during the Battle of Britain.

Hatleigh Magna had been bought by a small group of far-sighted individuals when it was decommissioned by the RAF just after the war. It had been a bit run-down but that didn’t matter; they had extensive plans for it. All the existing buildings had gone and had been replaced by new ones. The facilities included barrack-style accommodation for forty people, canteen meals, a lecture room, a fully equipped workshop, a schoolroom where the trainees could do their written work, a small gymnasium, and a leisure room with a billiard table and dartboards.

Outside, the old runway had been totally redesigned and now featured skidpans, sections of gravel and dirt, designer potholes, sharp turns, speed bumps and all the other hazards that a driver might face.

The courses were designed to produce first-class drivers who could handle any situation they might face, with both skill and confidence. The staff consisted of six highly professional tutors who could guide the trainees through every aspect of the course. At three hundred and fifty pounds a week, the courses weren’t cheap. Archie was booked in for the motorbike course, whereas some of the others were booked for the car and light van courses.

Although police trainees made up most of the candidates, there were a few businesses who sent their specially selected staff members to be fully qualified as expert drivers. Friday afternoon all the trainees went home for the weekend, returning to Hatleigh Magna early on the next Monday morning for their final week and graduation.

Livvie hadn’t been at all surprised when Archie arrived back at their flat totally exhausted. After all, she had done the course herself and knew how intense it was. They spent a quiet weekend together, not venturing out much.

On the Monday morning, Archie had been picked up early for the second week of his course, while Livvie had called a taxi to take her to London Airport. The previous week Livvie had had a call from Angelique Ferrier, inviting her to come to Paris for a couple of days for a short holiday.

Livvie had approached her commanding officer, Chief Superintendent Johnny Reagan, requesting three days’ leave, and he had suggested another option. There were some reports to go to Commissaire Brossard in Paris. If Livvie would take them, her trip would be classed as official business and therefore her expenses, travel and accommodation would come out of the Scotland Yard budget and, more importantly, she wouldn’t have to use any annual leave. Livvie was over the moon. It really was a favourable outcome all round. Johnny Reagan saw it as an acceptable way of rewarding Livvie for her part in the arrests of the people involved in the international drug syndicate, just as he taken the opportunity of rewarding Archie with the training course. He realised that without their help, there would have been quite a few criminals who would have gone undetected in the recent raids. It was a good result.

Livvie’s thoughts were interrupted by the pilot announcing that they would be landing at Orly in a few minutes.

___

Penny picked up the phone. ‘Good morning.’

‘Is that Miss Lloyd-Hargreaves?’ The voice was crisp and well elocuted.

‘Yes.’

‘Good morning. This is Toby Frobisher. I was wondering if you could spare me a few minutes?’

‘Yes, certainly. How can I help you?’ Penny’s mind was racing. Why on earth would Toby Frobisher want to speak to her? She was totally mystified. He had only spoken a few words to her after Archie’s trial several weeks ago. Not even a proper conversation.

There was a pause. ‘I’ve got a bit of a problem … a legal problem, and I think you might be able to help me.’

‘Me?’ Penny’s voice rose; she was totally incredulous. How could she possibly help one of the most celebrated Queen’s Counsels in London. ‘What sort of legal problem?’ she asked tentatively.

‘Well, it’s a bit difficult to discuss over the phone.’ Toby paused for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. ‘Are you free for lunch?’ He sounded quite anxious.

‘Yes, I think so,’ Penny said, her voice hesitant, cautious.

‘Good. That’s settled then. I’ll pick you up from your chambers at about twelve-thirty, if that’s alright with you?’

‘That would be nice.’ Penny’s voice sounded more confident now, although she was burning with curiosity.

‘Fine. I’ll see you then. Bye.’

‘Goodbye.’ Penny hung up. She was still staring into space with a bemused look on her face when Morton returned.

‘What’s up?’ He noted the expression on Penny’s face. ‘Anything wrong?’

‘I’ve just been invited out to lunch.’

‘Anyone I know?’

‘Toby Frobisher.’

Write a review

Note: HTML is not translated!
    Bad           Good

  • $50.00
  • $16.00

Available Options

Tags: Fiction

icon

1