Edward Kane and The Letters of Comfort, Chapter 13: The Lion's Den

The judge – Alexander Mills Dick, known to all – with absolutely no affection whatsoever – as ‘Clever Dick’ sat on the bench, drumming his fingers and looking out of the window: ‘I’ve read the papers here. They seem…competent enough.’

Edward Kane and The Letters of Comfort, Chapter 13: The Lion's Den. ILLUSTRATION: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane
Edward Kane and The Letters of Comfort, Chapter 13: The Lion's Den. ILLUSTRATION: Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane

Edward Kane bowed: ‘Thank you, my lord.’

‘But I don’t quite understand what you are asking me today, gentlemen.’

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Kane was standing. His opponent was sitting beside him, head down. Charles Cod had a look of a cat that was just about to be hit on the face.

The young Advocate continued: ‘It’s fair to say that there has been a…development, only this morning, my lord, that may have a bearing on the outcome of the case.’

The judge laughed: ‘What ‘development’? I’ve read the papers. Husband goes off to India. An arsenal blows up in his face. He comes back ‘changed’ – whatever that means. And the wife thinks he’s a different fella because he sometimes uses the wrong fork and likes to pat the odd dog. What am I meant to make of that?’

‘I hope that the evidence, my lord…’

‘The evidence?’ Clever Dick shook his head. ‘The evidence will consist of you getting your client – a pretty young thing, no doubt – to start crying on the stand, and start squeaking ‘Pleeeese, sir’. The plan is to flutter her eyelids at the judge to get what she wants. Well, that stratagem won’t work, Mr Kane. I should know. I invented it.’

‘My lord, I am optimistic that the totality of the evidence…’

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The judge cut across him: ‘And what is this lady so exercised about?’ He lifted up the Summons and waved it at learned Counsel. ’The ‘husband’ who came back seems a good enough sort. By all accounts, better than the blighter who left for India. It’s as if she has sent off a shilling and got back a pound. I fail to see the problem.’

No use fighting with this type of judge. Might as well wish for the judicial mace to fall from the wall and hit him on the head. Kane bowed: ‘My lord has my submissions.’

Clever Dick shook his head: ‘Before you sit down, Mr Kane, how long do you expect the court to wait for the resolution of this ‘development’, as you would have it?’

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‘Well, my client was here this morning, my lord…’. He turned round to his solicitor. No client now. No granny, either. On being called into court, Mr Stevenson, the solicitor had confessed to Kane that he had left the ladies to their own devices for a few minutes and had then lost both of them in the crowded Parliament Hall. This had seemed like a blessing at the time.

In fact, the sheer numbers of the crowd and the tumult in the great Parliament Hall had led to another situation. Whether a blessing or otherwise remained to be seen. Stevenson had stepped away to speak to a solicitor friend that he had seen in the crowd; after a few minutes, granny Fordyce had gone looking for Stevenson; Esme Blakemore (nee Fordyce) had gone to look for granny. And in that whirligig of confusion, Esme Fordyce now stood by one of the great fires in Parliament Hall and standing there before her was the returned man who bore the name of Joseph Blakemore. Her first instinct was to turn walk away, but there was such an imploring and tender look on Blakemore’s face that she found herself unable to do so. He gave a little bow: ‘Esme. Esme – I have the answer. I beg you – please just listen to me. Just for five minutes. I promise. Five minutes. No more.’

So it was that Charles Cod did see his client leave with a beautiful young lady. But the young lady in question happened to be the client’s wife.

*****

‘Before we go on, Esme, I must prepare you for a piece of shocking news.’

To the casual observer, this would have seemed an ordinary couple. A young husband and wife sitting in a coffee shop on the Lawn Market, only minutes from the Court of Session. The casual listener, though, would have heard a tale that was anything but ordinary.

‘Joseph Blakemore is dead.’

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Esme Blakemore bowed her head and nodded, as if confirming the fact to herself. The man continued: ‘You do not seem surprised.’

‘I felt that I lost Joe before he left for India. After the wedding, he soon tired of me. He was like that. I fear that it was all about ‘the chase’ for him. And once he had captured me, I think that I bored him. That’s why he chose to go out to India. For…new…’adventures’, I suppose.’

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There was silence between them for a time, then she looked up and studied the face of the man across from her. ’So what does that make you? What is your real name?’

‘Archibald Greene.’

Another silence, then: ‘How do you do, Mr Greene.’-

He responded: ‘How do you do, Mrs Blakemore.’

She gave a brittle little laugh: ‘And now that we have been formally introduced, Mr Greene, you can perhaps tell me what happened to my husband.’

Tomorrow: Letters of Comfort