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  1. #41
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    Blazing Egos

    BLAZING EGOS

    The decision was made. Judge Embert Wimple would retire. He had a little court business outstanding, but would take on no more. Even his iron constitution was being taxed by a combination of age and, increasingly, weather. He was tired of rising early, especially in winter, to do battle with his contemporaries’ aberrant behaviour. There were more important things in life. Specifically, the judge was concerned that he might be leaving it too late to grapple with cosmic matters. It was the technical aspect that troubled him – and for a particular reason.

    He had recently read an article concerning the lives of artists and scientists, in which it had been pointed out that the former frequently seemed to be virtually ageless, going from strength to strength, while the latter often burned out early. Admittedly, the article said, there were exceptions, Archimedes being cited as an example. However, it was contended that the boffins usually do their best work before reaching middle age. Einstein had erupted incandescently from about 1905 to 1916, but what he done afterwards? The article did not say, but Judge Wimple had drawn his conclusions. He had also thought of an eminent man in his own line of work, the American Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, who once said: “Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum.” Well, Esmeralda Wimple was going well on that basis, a fact not lost upon his honour.

    It was late March and the weather was striking a wild note, with a high wind and driving rain, a combination the judge found a match for his mood. However, it was time to get going. What was on the menu today? Goodall versus Short. Embert Wimple was not clear about what awaited him, but wasn’t greatly concerned, that situation being familiar. What of the advocates? Appearing for the prosecution was young Cedric Thistle, who was rapidly gaining a reputation as a two-fisted courtroom scrapper. Defending counsel was Daniel Pettigrew, now surely close to retirement and probably no more interested than strictly necessary. The plaintiff, Colin Goodall, was a slim fellow of about six foot two. The defendant, Victor Short, was a little over average height and heavily-built. Both men were in their thirties. Goodall was casually but tidily dressed, while Short wore a smart pinstriped blue suit. Judge Wimple nodded at Cedric Thistle. “Let us proceed, Mr Gristle.”

    A fair effort, that. Prosecuting counsel inflated his chest and drew himself up to his full five foot seven. “Thank you, Your Honour. The incident that brought us here occurred on the twenty-eighth of November last year, at about two-forty in the afternoon. Before describing it, I must comment on my client’s unusual predicament.”

    Fearing wordiness, the judge peered at Thistle. “Please be brief,” he said.

    “I will try. Mr Goodall is unemployed. He does not own either a car or a bicycle and he cannot afford to travel by public transport.”

    “Yes, yes,” said the judge. “That is unfortunate, but not unusual. Please make your point.”

    “My apologies, Your Honour. My client assuages what he perceives as his social disadvantages by taking long walks at high speed. He is so accomplished in this way that he finds it difficult to accept that anyone else might exceed his fleetness of foot. He –”


    The judge broke in: “You may be surprised to learn that the syndrome is not uncommon. You mean that your client cannot grasp that there may be those who can outpace him. I was once a member of a road harriers’ club, so I know the feeling. One senses oneself to be in competition, even when one is not. You may continue.”

    “Thank you. At the time in question, Mr Goodall had been walking in the woods north of here. He emerged from a stand of trees and was heading towards a stile, when he noted the defendant and his family approaching the same spot from the opposite direction. Seeing that he and the Shorts were equidistant from the stile, my client obeyed his instinct and quickened his pace. Unaccountably to him, Mr Short did the same, surging ahead of his companions. In fact, Mr Goodall was convinced that the defendant actually ran a few paces.”

    “Cheated, did he?” said the judge.

    “One might say that. The two men converged upon the spot, the defendant being a stride ahead. Mr Short sat on the stile, beckoning his party to hurry along. Obviously insisting upon what he saw as his rights, he made no concession to Mr Goodall, but retained possession of the stile until the rest of his party – wife, three children, pushchair and two Labrador dogs – reached the place. My client took issue with this small-minded attitude and words were exchanged. The outcome was that the defendant struck my client on the head with a stick, causing lacerations which required medical attention. Mr Goodall was told that, should he retaliate, the dogs would be set upon him.”

    The judge held up a hand to interrupt Thistle’s flow. “It seems to have been an unequal contest. A hefty man armed with a stick and supported by his family and two dogs, against a man with no companions and apparently no weapons. What did your client do?”

    “While the defendant’s party nonchalantly passed by, he staunched the bleeding from his wound. Then he followed the Shorts at a discreet distance, noting that the family entered a car some distance away from the stile. By coincidence, my client recognised the car as one he had often seen in the drive of a house in the estate where he lives. From the electoral register, he established the details which enabled him to bring this action. He is entitled to recompense for Mr Short’s brutal assault.”

    “Thank you,” said the judge. “Now, you mentioned your client’s psychological condition. I appreciate that may have no bearing upon the incident, but as a matter of interest, has he sought professional attention?”

    “Yes, Your Honour. He has undergone aromatherapy and homeopathic treatment.”

    “What about the more conventional methods? Not that I am in any way denigrating the ones you mention. In fact I favour them myself.”

    “Mr Goodall has no faith in what might be called mainstream practices.”

    “I understand. Now, I think it is time for us to hear from the defence. What contribution have you to offer, Mr Peterman?”

    Pettigrew was not too pleased that the judge was thinking of a safe-breaker when addressing him, but sailed over the point. “Thank you, Your Honour. There is no question that my client struck the plaintiff as described by the prosecution. He happened to be carrying a stick he had picked up earlier, but used it only to defend himself when the plaintiff threatened him with raised fists. However, that is not the only point we have to make. My client, Mr –”

    “Jewels of the baroque,” the judge interjected. He hadn’t meant to speak, but boredom had caused his mind to regress to a tour of Austria he had undertaken decades earlier, after passing his final law examinations. He had been enchanted by the architectural work of Fischer von Erlach, Prandtauer and von Hildebrandt.

    “Beg pardon, Your Honour. Baroque?”

    The judge needed to think quickly. “Yes. I was thinking of a case similar to this one, tried in Vienna in the nineteen-twenties. If I remember rightly, the courtroom was in one of the city’s many great structures built in that style. Amazing how swiftly the human mind works. However, I note that your client decided to get his retaliation in first. Now, what was your other point?”

    It was an adroit recovery, fully appreciated by Pettigrew. “Your Honour’s erudition is as astounding as ever. I was about to say that my client wishes to draw attention to the matter of right of way. His contention is that he reached the stile ahead of the plaintiff and was therefore entitled to, as it were, plant his flag.”

    “My goodness,” said the judge. “It would seem that he saw the incident as a replay of the race to the South Pole.”

    “Perhaps not quite so dramatic, Your Honour, but there was a principle involved. Mr Short, perceiving himself as head of his party, intended to shepherd his flock over the stile.”

    “Victor by name and by nature, apparently.”

    “Possibly. However, there can be no doubt that my client was in the right. He was first on the spot and simply thought of his retinue. Furthermore, he did not initiate the hostilities, but merely reacted to the plaintiff’s argumentative attitude.”

    “I see,” said the judge. “But what about the dogs? They might have intimidated the plaintiff.”

    “They are the most placid of creatures. Had they been ordered to attack – and Mr Short gave no serious thought to such impropriety – they would not have understood the command.”

    “But the plaintiff could hardly have known that, could he?”

    “Perhaps not. However, the nub of this affair is that in the first place there would have been no trouble if the plaintiff had not behaved aggressively, and in the second place, my client was in situ before Mr Goodall and therefore entitled to exercise his right as he thought fit.”

    The judge nodded. “Very well. Your client sees the crux as the plaintiff’s disputatious attitude and Mr Goodall sees it as the defendant’s territorial claim. Have you finished?”

    “Yes.”

    “Thank you, Mr Petrus,” said the judge, who had recently read an article on French wines. “I believe I grasp your point and that of the prosecution. If there is nothing else, I will give a verdict without retiring.” Neither counsel wished to complicate the matter, so the judge brushed aside the blank sheets provided for his notes, pulled forward his glasses, rubbed his jaws with both hands and summed up: “There are times when I fear that we are adopting the litigious mindset of our cousins across the Atlantic, which seems to hold that there are no accidental or incidental occurrences and that everything that happens is someone’s fault. One wonders where this is leading. Only last year I slipped on an icy pavement and bruised a hip. Should I have taken action against the local authority, on account of negligence? I think not. We are speaking of material greed, and once people have embarked on the course of achieving gratification in that way, there is no end to their ambitions.”

    That didn’t ring well with the prosecution, but his honour had more to say. “It seems to me that we are dealing here not quite so much with right and wrong as with a battle of egos, and I must say that this depresses me. A little common sense would have sufficed in the circumstances described. An active man should surely be able to climb over an average stile in five or ten seconds. By contrast, a party of one man, plus a considerably lagging group of one woman, three young children, a pushchair and two dogs would require possibly two or three minutes to do the same. Now, as to rights, I am reminded of a friend of mine, who was taking driving lessons and tried to beat another driver to a roundabout. His instructor admonished him with the quatrain: ‘Here lies the body of Mr Day, who died maintaining his right of way. He was right, dead right, all along, but he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong’. We seem to be on similar ground.”

    Seeing signs of restlessness in his audience, the judge thought it time to close. “What we have here is a case of a man – Mr Short – who took possession of a place from which he intended to repel Mr Goodall, notwithstanding the fact that a responsible social outlook would have led him to conclude that he should have relinquished his position, to reduce the total time, including waiting, required for both parties to negotiate the stile. One of our philospohers said many years ago that the greatest good to the greatest number is the measure of social success – or words to that effect. In this case, the optimum solution would have been for Mr Short to give way, regardless of his having been first on the spot. He then compounded his intransigence with violence, no doubt wishing to demonstrate his virility to his family. Nobody was going to get the better of him.”

    Bad news for Short, but the judge had not quite finished. “As for Mr Goodall, his condition is, as I have already intimated, not as strange as some might think. It is no more than an aspect of the spirit of competition, transposed from the athletics arena to everyday life. He is young and will get over it – quite quickly if he keeps meeting people like Mr Short. Just as the proverbial hard man will eventually encounter an even harder one, so Mr Goodall will probably come across someone who can outpace him. Be that as it may, I find in his favour on this occasion. I hope Mr Short’s family is proud of his show of assertiveness, as it now leaves him with a court record and a fine of fifty pounds. Perhaps that will induce him to restrain what he clearly sees as his masculinity. Proceedings concluded.”
    Last edited by Courtjester; February 18th, 2019 at 02:25 PM.
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  2. #42
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    Thinking Thin

    THINKING THIN

    The elements had relented. Having for several days done its best to confound the lion and lamb adage, March had given in and was ending placidly, with a high light-grey sky, no wind, no rain, no ice, no snow, and a moderate temperature. Judge Embert Wimple wondered why it couldn’t always be like this – days without any noticeable weather.

    His honour was about to deal with his penultimate case. And high time too, was the thought uppermost in his mind. There were other engrossing things to do. Esmeralda, having in short order become not only an accomplished painter, but a teacher in her chosen field, was now often surrounded by acolytes. To her husband’s profound satisfaction, she had expressed relief at having finally consigned to the scrapheap all other artistic ideas. The judge had got the message. Mrs Wimple’s adoption of a new passion late in life – she had never before had any consuming interest – was just what the doctor would have ordered, had she consulted one, which she had not done for at least twenty years. Good for the goose, good for the gander, was his honour’s conclusion.

    Wrapped in a comforting cloak of thought about a fresh start after six decades of wallowing in the morass of jurisprudence, Judge Wimple had only the vaguest notion of what awaited him in court. As ever, he was unruffled by this, as he had always been an adept improviser, never failing to astound learned counsels by recovering from a reverie or nap to demonstrate that somehow his subconscious had grasped all that had occurred during his apparent mental absence. Not once in over thirty years on the bench had he been obliged to admit to having lost track of proceedings.

    Today’s treat was unusual, in that the litigants were both women and his honour had to think hard to recall his last such case. In his experience, the ladies were generally inclined to avoid the blunt instrument of legal proceedings as a means of resolving their differences. Of course, there had been the recent case involving Mesdames Duckworth and Thompson, so perhaps things were changing. The plaintiff, Susan Chapman, was a middle-aged woman, a little under five feet tall and of average build, with shoulder-length black hair. She wore a black jacket and skirt, a white blouse and black flat-heeled shoes. The defendant, Sharon Hill appeared to be in her early twenties. She had close-cropped blond hair and was about five foot seven and extraordinarily slim, a feature emphasised by a skin-tight red jumper and blue jeans which seemed to have been sprayed onto her slender form. White trainers completed her ensemble. Representing the plaintiff was the almost intimidatingly competent Arabella Bray, appearing for the second time opposite the urbane Rodney Melliflewes. If there were to be any fireworks here, they would, the judge thought, be one-sided. He nodded at Bray. “Very well, Ms Froy. You may turn the ignition key.”

    Not having seen ‘The Lady Vanishes’, prosecuting counsel failed to understand the judge’s train of thought, but was not dismayed. “Thank you, Your Honour. There is not much to detain us here. The incident we are addressing occurred at about noon on the fifteenth of December last. The defendant walked into my client’s shop, clearly in a truculent frame of mind. She demanded a beef sandwich. My client said that she had none. Ms Hill expressed some annoyance, then said that she would accept a chicken breast and chips. Again, Mrs Chapman was unable to help. This seemed to raise Ms Hill’s ire. She went on to ask for two further snack items, neither of which Mrs Chapman had available. Finally, Ms Hill said that failing all else, she would accept a slice of pizza. She was again disappointed and flew into a rage, using language which it would inappropriate to repeat here.”

    The judge broke in. “Perhaps she was unusually hungry, or possibly trying to get her lunch in limited time? Such circumstances have been known to try the patience of some people. Also, she seems to have requested fairly common things.”

    “Superficially a reasonable assessment, Your Honour. However, if the young lady was affected by hunger or time pressure, we submit that she should not have called on my client, who is a florist.”

    The judge, who had been known to lay verbal traps for counsels, had walked into that one. His already high estimate of Bray’s skills increased by several notches. “Oh, that certainly puts a different slant on the matter. Mrs Chapman does not sell food at all?”

    “No. Only flowers.”

    “Extraordinary. No wonder the two found themselves at cross-purposes. Still, such requests as Ms Hill’s are not viewed as strange in some parts of the world. I once spent a little time in the West of Ireland, where an order like the defendant’s would not have raised an eyebrow. Indeed, on one occasion I was speaking to a shopkeeper in a village in County Clare, when a local farmer interrupted us with an order for two pounds of tomatoes, a pair of slippers and a garden gate. The proprietor was not in the least incommoded and supplied the items without showing any surprise.” The judge was about to plough another furrow in the same field, but noticed that Bray, who was not a great fan of his anecdotes, was demonstrating the body language of impatience. “Sorry I distracted you. Please carry on.”

    “Thank you. I was about to say that Ms Hill’s behaviour progressed from aggressive language to physical action. She brandished a fist at my client, using her other hand to slap the counter quite violently, causing a pen used by Mrs Chapman to roll from a pad on which it was resting. Ms Hill’s conduct then became even more extraordinary. Evidently noticing that the fountain pen was a high-class item, she seized it and rushed from the shop – or rather to the door, where she tripped over the threshold, falling face-down across the pavement. The pen flew from her grasp into the road, where it was run over and mangled by a passing bus.”

    “A number nine, I suppose?” said the judge.

    “Your Honour?”

    “I was merely thinking that in such tales as this, any bus involved is usually a number nine, although I seem to remember one occasion on which it was a number seventy-three.”

    As always, Bray had done her homework. “It happens that the number nine does pass my client’s shop, but only on the half-hour. Several other bus routes run along the same street and the one that caused the damage may have been a number twenty-four, although we cannot be sure. Anyway, it was almost certainly not a number nine.”

    The judge smiled. “Ah, foiled again. I had hopes of confirming my preconception, but we must accept what we can get. However, you mustn’t take us along these byways. What happened next.”

    “Mrs Chapman hurried outside and summoned the help of two passing pedestrians, who subdued the defendant until her name and address were established. My client, having noted the wreckage of the pen, had begun to think in terms of taking action.”

    “Legal proceedings over a fountain pen? Was there something special about the item?”

    “Yes. It had great sentimental value to my client. Having belonged to her mother, it was much treasured.”

    “I see. But what about the intrinsic value?”

    “Nothing identical is made today. The only guide we have is that a short time after the incident, Mrs Chapman noticed something vaguely similar in a flea market. These objects are increasingly sought and the one she saw was priced at fifteen pounds. This cannot begin to compensate my client. In addition, she suffered severe shock from the defendant’s behaviour.”

    “Very well, Ms Graves. Now, as that seems to be all from your side,” – the judge had no intention of listening to any more – “we will hear what the defence has to offer. Mr Milestone?”

    Fair to middling was Melliflewes’ assessment of that one. “May it please Your Honour, the incident was as described by my learned colleague.” He gave a genial nod to the prosecution, the twinkle in his eyes not being lost upon either the judge or Arabella Bray. “However, as is often the case, we are dealing with extenuating circumstances. Anyone lacking knowledge of the background to this affair would indeed regard my client’s conduct as reprehensible. Therefore, an explanation is appropriate. The position was that, shortly before the occurrence, Ms Hill had lost her job and was in search of further employment.”

    The judge had one of his frequent flashes of what he considered precognition, much derided by some of his colleagues who, lacking the required mental equipment, averred that they had no time for ‘such nonsense’. “What work did she do?”

    “She was a hairdresser.”

    “I see. And how did she come to lose her job?”

    “Er . . . she was dismissed, Your Honour.”

    The judge nodded. “I don’t wish to pry unnecessarily, but you raised the matter of the background here. Why was she dismissed? If you do not have the details to hand, we could adjourn and make enquiries.”

    Had the old fox homed in on the Achilles’ heel? Melliflewes was not sure, but had been impaled more than once on the horns of his honour’s mild questioning and knew that honesty was the best policy. This surely would be the case now, as the judge, having been wrong-footed by Bray, would be even more alert than usual. “She had the misfortune to fall foul of a customer.”

    “In what way?”

    The game was up. “It seems that my client and the customer had earlier been rivals for the affections of a young man and that the customer’s charms had prevailed. The two ladies were having something of an altercation concerning that affair, when Ms Hill quite inadvertently cut off a large hank of the customer’s hair, causing the lady to have an . . . ah . . . unusual appearance for a time. It was as a result of the customer’s complaint about this that Ms Hill’s employment was terminated.”

    “Thank you,” said the judge. “I assume that is not the only point you wish to make?”

    “No. I was seeking to indicate my client’s state of mind. The loss of employment was a precursor to Ms Hill’s subsequent actions. During her quest for a new position, she concluded that she was overweight and decided upon an extremely severe slimming regimen. Your Honour will perhaps appreciate that some people taking such courses are at times over-assiduous in following guidelines. When Ms Hill entered the plaintiff’s premises, she had not eaten anything for over two days and was in what can only be called a delirious state. To put it plainly, she did not know what she was doing or saying. She admits to having behaved as described by the prosecution, but submits that she would never have even dreamed of acting in that way, had it not been for the recommendations of the dietary adviser whose ideas she followed. She is most contrite and can only throw herself upon what she hopes will be the understanding of the court. In doing so, she realises that she can offer no restitution commensurate with the loss to the plaintiff.”

    The judge had been straying more than somewhat during defending counsel’s remarks, but felt that he had reeled in the thread. “Thank you, Mr Malady. I think that both parties have said enough” – they had said more than enough for his honour’s liking – “and if there is nothing to add, I will make an order.”

    There was nothing more from either party, so the judge went on: “I have heard many excuses for unconstitutional conduct, but starvation is new to me. The defendant admits to being at fault, but there are some points of interest. I am much in sympathy with Mrs Chapman, as I once lost two sets of cigarette cards featuring ships and steam trains, both series being irreplaceable. Therefore, I understand the plaintiff’s feelings. However, we cannot fairly assess sentimental value. All we know is that a similar object to that which was lost to Mrs Chapman was recently offered for sale at fifteen pounds. I accept that as the nearest figure we can get. There is also the question of the distress caused to Mrs Chapman by the defendant’s odd behaviour. Notwithstanding the sympathy I have already expressed, I must say that this was hardly a life-blighting matter, causing as it did only a few minutes of harassment, followed by sorrow over the connotations of the loss. It is not as though Mrs Chapman had been crippled or deprived of any of her senses by the incident. In my view, she is quite right, but seeks to make too much of the matter.”

    Leaving both sides with something to hope for, the judge paused, glanced at his notes – mainly concerning causality and the speed of light – and continued: “As to the defendant, here again I have some understanding. She was obviously overwrought as a result of her sudden change of lifestyle, self-imposed though it was. My decision is that she should compensate Mrs Chapman in the sum of fifteen pounds and that she should pay a fine of thirty pounds for her transgression. I would also recommend that she should henceforth try to introduce a little food into her diet. Proceedings concluded.”
    Last edited by Courtjester; February 19th, 2019 at 03:32 PM.
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  3. #43
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    Out Of Pocket

    OUT OF POCKET

    It was a nostalgic occasion. Judge Embert Wimple was about to appear in court for the last time. A man might be excused for reminiscing during the event, though no such idea was entertained by his honour as he prepared for his final day as a dispenser of justice – or as near to that as the law allowed. He would, as always, do his duty. The timing was appropriate, as this was April and a new cricket season was imminent. Imbued as he now was with the need to grasp the meaning of life, Judge Wimple was hoping that his long stint would end with a whimper rather than a bang. Furthermore, his recent proposal to Esmeralda that the two might take one of their rare holidays together had been received with enthusiasm. They were now committed to a week in Torquay. Who knew what aspects of a long union might be refreshed?

    Now, what was afoot today? Newman versus Ball. Proceeding on the assumption that everything would come out in the wash, the judge did not cloud his mind with any great preparation. However, he did note that he was once more confronted with the two ends of the advocates’ age scale. The prosecution was in the hands of Lorna Perceval, making only her second appearance before Embert Wimple. The defence was represented by the now doddering Simon Fortescue. The judge intended to have a dig at him, having overheard his recent observation that the presence of fogies on the bench conveyed a negative impression to the public and that it was time for ‘Old Wimps’ to be put out to grass. Still, his honour expected Fortescue to appear at the small celebration planned for that evening. Embert Wimple had been promised a tasting of an exceptionally fine manzanilla, his partiality to sherry being well known.

    Fiddling with his papers, the judge cast his eyes over the litigants. The plaintiff, Jonathan Newman, appeared to be about sixty years of age. He was dressed in a black suit, black tie, white shirt and gleaming black shoes and had both hands clasped on the brim of a black Homburg hat. The defendant, Dean Ball, was clearly well under half the age of his opponent and was, it seemed to the judge, no respecter of occasions. He wore a scruffy dark-blue windcheater, opened to reveal a stained white tee shirt, plus lavishly frayed grey denim trousers and tan shoes which the judge silently nominated as the dirtiest ever to appear before him. Still, Embert Wimple reminded himself for the umpteenth time, one must not judge books by their covers. He addressed Perceval. “Very well, let us proceed, Ms Lancelot.” As on prosecuting counsel’s first appearance before him, his honour’s train of thought had got him to the Round Table, albeit this time at the wrong seat, let alone the gender.

    Being a product of both Oxbridge and the Ivy League, Lorna Perceval not only grasped all the nuances involved, but was also gratified by a fly-past of such proximity. “Thank you, Your Honour. We are dealing with an incident which took place at about one o’clock in the afternoon of the fifth of January this year, less than two hundred yards from here. My client, Mr Newman, has an office in the properties surrounding the public park which lies just across the main road from the court building. Your Honour is perhaps aware that the four short streets surrounding the square concerned are usually lined with cars, many of them deposited there for the day.”

    Having spent some time at the spot in question – that of his many recent daydreams – the judge nodded. He also once more noted Ms Perceval’s distinctly horsey appearance. “Yes, I know the place. By the way, are you interested in equestrian matters?”

    Again, the breeding showed. Without batting an eyelid, Perceval replied: “Only on Grand National day. I have been known to wager a pound each way on that occasion.”

    “Really? I would have thought that a dashing young barrister might risk all on a straight win.”

    “Caution runs in my family, Your Honour.”

    Embert Wimple was delighted to note Perceval’s adroit avoidance of any pitfalls she might have fallen into by enquiring whether his comment had any relevance. Many barristers had been skewered that way, though on this occasion no trap was intended. Obviously, here was an advocate to be reckoned with. “I see. Well, we can’t chat about these things all day. You were saying . . . ?”

    “My client had stepped out to buy sandwiches for his lunch. On the way back to his office, he walked between parked cars, intending to cross the street. At the very moment he emerged into the clear area, a Bentley limousine came along, causing him to leap backwards. He caught a foot on the pavement edge and fell against the park railings. At the same time, the defendant arrived on the scene. He got Mr Newman seated on the pavement and asked him about his condition. My client replied that, considering the economic downturn, he was doing as well as could be expected. At this point, the defendant realised that he was kneeling on Mr Newman’s wallet, which had dropped from an inside coat pocket when my client fell. No doubt motivated by opportunism, Mr Ball picked up the wallet and rushed off. In doing so, he almost collided with a large gentleman who was passing by. In an avoiding action, Mr Ball swerved and ran head-first into a lamp-post, the impact knocking him unconscious.”

    “Instant karma,” said the judge, whose recent conversion to belief in reincarnation was now never far from the surface.

    “Perhaps. However, by then two ladies returning from their lunch break had stopped to ask my client what was amiss. Now, while the defendant was incapacitated, the large gentleman I mentioned had obviously seen enough to grasp that the wallet, which had fallen from Mr Ball’s hand when he struck the lamp-post, belonged to my client. He returned it to its rightful owner. Before doing so, he exhibited great presence of mind, in that he noted that some items had almost slipped from the defendant’s hip pocket, He was about to push them back, when he saw that one of them was an envelope bearing what he assumed to be Mr Ball’s name and address. He wrote the details on the back of his business card, replaced the envelope and the other things in Mr Ball’s pocket, then went to offer assistance to my client. He helped Mr Newman to his feet, by which time the defendant had recovered and run off.”

    “I see,” said the judge. “This left your client, the large gentleman and the two ladies on the scene, did it?”

    “Yes, but not for long. The gentleman left as soon as he had provided my client with the information he needed to trace the defendant. Mr Newman seeks recompense.”

    “A seemingly reasonable attitude,” said the judge, “considering that he sees himself as the victim of an intended theft.”

    Ms Perceval clasped her hands. “It is not the attempted robbery that troubles my client, Your Honour, but rather the ancillary effect. Mr Newman is a stockbroker. He had several deals planned for that afternoon, none of which took place, as his affairs were disorganised by the incident. He cannot quantify the smaller transactions, but on three larger ones, he lost commission of seven hundred and twenty-three pounds. He wishes to be reimbursed.”

    The judge raised his eyebrows. “Seven hundred and twenty-three pounds, plus an unquantified amount, for an afternoon’s work,” he said. “Your client seems to be a high-powered operator. Is that all?”

    “I believe so, Your Honour.”

    “Thank you, Ms Persil. I’m sure you have omitted nothing.” The little jab was unwarranted, as prosecuting counsel had not been excessively verbose. However, the judge felt himself entitled to a little liberty here and there, though he had no doubt that outside the confines of the court, Perceval would have been capable of turning on a blast of hauteur powerful enough to wither anyone in its path. Her crust was, his honour suspected, as upper as they came. “I think we should now hear from the defence.” He turned to Simon Fortescue, whom he had many years ago considered a lion of litigation. Now he noted the drooping shoulders, the pinched look and, above all, the long, narrow nasal beak. Lion of litigation indeed. More like an aardvark of advocacy. The judge’s tittering at that thought caused some puzzlement to his audience. “Mr Fortinbras?”

    Shakespearian allusions did not normally loom large in Judge Wimple’s repertoire, but defending counsel was coasting on experience and took the misnomer in his stride. “May it please Your Honour, what we have so far heard is a misrepresentation. The prosecution is correct in saying that my client sprang to the assistance of the plaintiff. Beyond that, there is a divergence of views. It is true that Mr Ball ran from the scene, bearing the plaintiff’s wallet. He did so because he wished to summon the relevant emergency service. It seemed to him that he should be in possession of as many facts as possible and with that in mind, he hoped not only to call for an ambulance, but to give the identity of the victim, which he expected to learn from Mr Newman’s wallet. We suggest that this was a remarkable example of quick thinking. In his anxiety to be of help, he ran into a lamp-post as stated by my learned friend. When he recovered his senses, he saw that the matter seemed to be well in hand, the two ladies mentioned by the prosecution being still on the scene at that moment.”

    Realising that this might be the only opportunity to take a cattle prod to old Fortie, the judge leapt in. “Were they nurses?”

    “Beg pardon, Your Honour. Nurses?”

    “Yes, nurses. I take it that you know what nurses are?”

    “Er, yes. I was merely thinking … “

    “I’m pleased to hear that. The query arose from my past observations, which have led me to the conclusion that people who hover around accident scenes are often unhelpful and sometimes ghoulish. I was merely trying to establish whether these two ladies were medical people. However, I suspect you cannot enlighten us?”

    “No, Your Honour. May I proceed?”

    “Of course.” Having hurled his harpoon – and noted the little show of spirit from Fortescue – the judge had switched back to full bonhomie

    “I was about to say that, being of a retiring nature, Mr Ball departed. He is not what one might call a gregarious man, in addition to which he could hardly have been expected to appreciate the ramifications of the matter. As far as he was concerned, he had done his best and did not want any further involvement.”

    “I understand,” said the judge. “Mr Ball’s actions may have arisen from genuine altruism, blind opportunism, or inherent nefariousness, and we are asked to accept that the first interpretation is the true one?”

    “A most perspicacious assessment, Your Honour,” wheedled Fortescue.

    Embert Wimple wondered why he was thinking of Uriah Heep. “Is that all from your side?”

    “Yes.”

    “Thank you.” His honour’s eyes switched to prosecuting counsel. “Now, have you anything to add, Ms Perseus?”

    Lorna Perceval knew when enough had been said. “I think not, Your Honour.”

    “Very well. I believe I have noted everything of relevance and I don’t need to retire. If both parties are agreeable, I will give a verdict.”

    Noting that there was no dissent, the judge treated both advocates to a penetrating stare before summing up: “This matter is unusual, in that I am accustomed to having one reprobate in a case, but to have two is abnormal. Lady Bracknell would have had an apposite comment. Let me first appraise the defendant’s argument. I have never considered myself as particularly swift on the uptake, having always tried to be attuned to profundity rather than velocity. Had I been in Mr Ball’s position in this incident, I would have hastened to call an ambulance and would, I imagine, have had no other thought in mind. My credulity is stretched by the effort to accept that Mr Ball’s mental processes were so swift that he considered Mr Newman’s wallet as being potentially helpful in the circumstances described. Still, perhaps the defendant really does think so quickly – we cannot put ourselves in the shoes of others. As the American native proverb puts it, one should never criticise a man until one has walked a mile in his moccasins.”

    With counsels and litigants hanging on his every word, the judge cleared his throat and continued: “With regard to the plaintiff, I am equally unhappy about what he has to offer, but in a different way. I sympathise with him insofar as he had an accident, although he should not have walked into the open road without checking the traffic position. To a large extent, his misfortune was of his own making. As to his financial losses, I must say that as he seems to be a businessman of some standing, it defies my imagination that the incident so disturbed him that he lost the profit from an afternoon’s work. After all, it seems that he emerged virtually unscathed and with his wallet returned intact. In my limited experience” – the judge had none – “a man in Mr Newman’s position would normally write off such matter as a small misfortune and get on with his affairs.

    “Now, just as we have to choose from the possible motives of the defendant, so we must decide what caused the plaintiff to initiate these proceedings. Is he seeking the fairness we all crave, or is he being vindictive, or perhaps greedy? Ms Parakeet would have me believe the first interpretation, in the same way as Mr Forsyte wishes me to accept that his client’s attempted flight with the wallet was born of humanitarian considerations and that Mr Ball did not have theft in mind.”

    The judge’s audience remained spellbound as he proceeded: “We are confronted with a situation in which the defendant’s protestations just might reflect his behaviour at the time, however tenuous the reasoning. If we had jury here, the members would be asked to decide beyond any reasonable doubt. I am in the same position, and have lingering reservations. All things considered, I have no choice but to dismiss the charge. Proceedings concluded, thank goodness.”

    The above item ends the Judge Wimple stories.
    Last edited by Courtjester; April 25th, 2012 at 06:24 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

  4. #44
    Honoured/Sadly Missed Courtjester's Avatar
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    Note

    NOTE

    If you have enjoyed the Judge Wimple series, perhaps you would like to try my latest offering, Pondhopper, starting with Footwear, the first of twenty adventures of a Briton working as a private eye in the USA. If that sounds good to you, please follow the link below:

    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

  5. #45
    Honoured/Sadly Missed Courtjester's Avatar
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    If you have enjoyed the Solomon tales, you might care to know that the first item of another aspect of my work has just appeared on a different forum. This is a story entitled ‘Banking On It’ and is the first of what I hope will be a series called ‘Sunset Stories’. If you like the sound of this, please click on the link below:

    Last edited by Courtjester; July 23rd, 2012 at 02:14 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

  6. #46
    Honoured/Sadly Missed Courtjester's Avatar
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    It has occurred to me that some of those who have read all or parts of ‘Solomon Had It Easier’ might like to know that I have started a new series of short Western tales in the Crime Forum. If you think this sounds interesting, you may wish to follow the link below, which leads to the first story:

    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

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