Authors: Caro Fraser
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective
Anthony Cross woke suddenly in the grey half-light of morning and knew that he had been dreaming of Leo. He closed his eyes again quickly, trying to summon back the feeling of safe happiness, of intimacy recaptured, but already his mind was breaking the surface of his dream like a stone left by the tide. He lay nursing his sense of loss for a moment or two, then turned his head upon the pillow to look at the girl sleeping next to him, at her blonde, anonymous head, her hand upon his shoulder. He moved the hand gently away and rose, pulling on his robe, and went through to the bathroom.
There he stared briefly at himself in the mirror, at his own handsome features, slack with sleep, and wondered why he had these dreams. He passed a hand through his dark hair, yawned, and began to run his shaving water. The dreams occurred every few months, like strange, tender echoes. Although each dream left in him a small, hollow pain which he could not fathom, he welcomed them. They took him back in time as though to some forgotten country.
Anthony began to lather his face, remembering the closeness
of the hours he and Leo had once spent together, working, talking, sometimes just dawdling time away. He dipped his razor into the water and watched the scum of lather and tiny black bristles float away from the blade. He wondered if Leo ever dreamt of him – and then pushed the thought away as absurd. What might have happened if the affair had not ended before it had even begun? Anthony often wondered this, often wondered what depths there might have been to their unexplored relationship. But now they worked together, side by side, barristers in the same chambers, and there was no hint that such intimacy had ever existed. They met only in the company of others now, and every encounter was hedged with a casual remoteness.
Perhaps, thought Anthony, as he rubbed his face with the towel, the dreams were a kind of compensation. Compensation for loss, the loss of Leo’s company, smiles, attention, conversation. Perhaps the pain of losing such a close friendship had not died away in his heart after all; perhaps it was merely buried, so that the recollection of that which he had lost floated to the surface of his subconscious as he slept. Perhaps.
He went through to the kitchen where his flatmate, Adam, was already dressed and gulping down coffee.
‘Hi,’ he said. ‘Want some? I’m off in a sec.’
‘Yes, thanks,’ said Anthony, and put a slice of bread in the toaster.
‘I taped the cricket for you,’ said Adam, then added, ‘since you and Lizzie seemed to have gone to bed early.’ He grinned at Anthony and handed him his coffee.
‘Oh, thanks. Yes,’ replied Anthony abstractedly, thinking with guilt and boredom of the girl still sleeping in his bed.
Adam studied his face, able to gather what was in Anthony’s mind. Another one for the chop, he thought. Adam, with his sandy hair and pale, thin face, thought that if he was tall and good-looking like Anthony, and apparently able to have any
girl he wanted, he’d manage to look a bit happier about it. He turned and rinsed his mug out under the tap. ‘You in tonight?’
‘I think so.’ Anthony took his toast from the toaster, and rummaged in the fridge for the butter. ‘Then again, I don’t know. I never know.’
‘OK. See you later then.’
‘Bye,’ said Anthony.
He drank his coffee and ate his toast, then went back into his bedroom to dress. He moved about quietly, closing drawers and cupboards gently so as not to wake the girl. He was tying his tie when she woke; she simply opened her eyes and lay gazing at him sleepily. He looked wonderful, she thought, in the dim light, the raised collar of his white shirt framing his lean face, his dark eyes expressionless. He glanced at her, turned down his collar, and bent to fasten his shoelaces. His demeanour had a telling remoteness about it; each movement was made with a brisk finality. But she was not sufficiently awake to read any of the signals.
As he came to the side of the bed to pick up his watch, she stretched out lazy arms to him. ‘Do you have to go just yet?’ she murmured, and kissed him gently.
‘Lizzie,’ said Anthony, a note that was almost one of pain in his voice, ‘I’m going to be late.’
She merely smiled and drew him towards her again, but there was a stiffness about him, an impatient reserve, that made her drop her arms. She lay back and looked at him as he straightened up and took his jacket from its coat hanger. Something in the atmosphere made her feel suddenly like an intruder.
‘Will I see you tonight?’ she asked. She knew the answer but still she had to ask.
Anthony hesitated in the doorway. What should he say? ‘Lizzie—’ he began, then stopped. Say something final, he thought. Tell her. No, then there might be tears and awfulness,
and he’d be late. He glanced at his watch. ‘Lizzie, look – I’m really busy for the next week or so. I don’t know. I’ll ring you, OK?’
She said nothing, merely lay there, feeling the space between them widen into infinity. Anthony added, ‘There’s some coffee left in the pot. Help yourself to breakfast.’ And he went.
He clattered downstairs and out into the early September sunshine, hating himself. What did you do when the whole thing had become stale and lifeless, when there was no point in going on? Nothing, except let it peter out. Anything was better than tears and scenes. But every relationship seemed to end in this way. Perhaps it all came too easily. Perhaps it was just as well; he didn’t want to become serious about anyone again, not after Julia.
On the train he took some papers from his briefcase and tried to concentrate on them, but the dream of Leo hung about him like a scent that clung to the air, imparting itself to everything, distracting him. He could not recall any detail of it, except that Leo had been there and things had been happy. The happiness of dreams, he mused, elusive and wonderful. The best kind of happiness. Am I happy now? wondered Anthony. He supposed he must be. He should be. At twenty-four, he had a new and flourishing barrister’s practice in one of the best sets of commercial chambers in the Temple, he shared a decent flat in South Ken with his friend, Adam (which was a bit of an improvement on life in a tiny semi in East Dulwich with his mother and his brother), and he had a good social life, money to spend, girlfriends … I must be happy, he thought, and stared sightlessly at the window opposite, wondering why, in that case, he ever stopped to think about it.
The dream was still so present in his mind as he strode swiftly from the Tube station through Temple Place that it came as a real shock when he bumped into Leo Davies hurrying up from the Embankment.
‘Good God!’ said Leo, steadying himself from the slight collision. ‘Hello.’
‘Hello,’ stammered Anthony. ‘Sorry. I’m in a bit of a hurry. Got a con at nine and a summons at half ten.’
‘My bloody car broke down halfway along the Embankment,’ said Leo and sighed, passing a hand over his hair. ‘I had to leave it there. Must ring the AA from chambers.’ Although he was only forty-four, his hair was silver, lending his gaunt good looks a maturity they would not otherwise possess, for his smile was brilliant, boyish, and his blue eyes candid and restless. He was of Anthony’s height, but more squarely built, and was expensively dressed, almost to the point of dandyism.
They fell into step together as they made their way to chambers. There was an uneasy silence between them. They were not accustomed to being alone in one another’s company, these days.
Anthony muttered something inconsequential about a recent House of Lords judgment and Leo uttered some words in reply. He glanced at Anthony, feeling in his heart the faint pleasure he always felt when looking at the young man. Then he made some remark about his car and Anthony laughed. Leo loved to see him laugh. It’s absurd, he thought, that we hardly ever speak to one another these days. Ridiculous. That business was all finished a long time ago. None of it mattered any more.
‘Look,’ said Leo, stopping at the foot of the steps to 5 Caper Court, ‘what about a game of squash this evening? Ring up the club and see if they have a court free. Yes?’
Anthony was startled. Leo had not invited Anthony to spend time with him since the day he had got his tenancy.
‘Yes,’ he replied hesitantly. ‘All right.’ They went upstairs together. Anthony’s room was on the first landing, Leo’s on the second. Anthony paused at his door. ‘I’ll see you later, then.’ And he smiled at Leo, his happiness so evident that the older man
was touched, first with pleasure, then with a slight misgiving.
‘Six-thirty,’ said Leo. ‘Try to get a court around then.’ And he passed on up the stairs to his room.
At six-fifteen Leo was sitting at his desk contemplating the document which lay in front of him. The desk itself was of pale ash, its surface devoid of any other object save the document. All the furniture was of the same pale wood, quite unlike the old, dark, comfortable furniture favoured by most other barristers. No cosy Dickensian shades hung around Leo’s room. All was austere, clinical. There was no friendly muddle of papers and briefs lining the shelves and windowsills; everything was neatly tidied away behind the doors of expensive functionalist cupboards. Even the pictures that hung upon the wall were anodyne modern abstracts, and not the usual charcoal sketches of the law courts, framed watercolours of ships or landscapes, that hung in the rooms of other members of chambers. It all seemed of a piece with the man himself – one of them, yet set apart from them in unusual ways.
Leo was one of the most exceptional advocates in the Temple, with a mercurial personality and a ready wit, and was popular in chambers. Life always seemed to lighten up when Leo was around. He was charming, amusing, and although he moved within the well-defined codes of the Bar with deference and circumspection, there was a certain unconventionality about him; he was an elusive man, and few knew anything of his life outside work.
As he sat studying the document, all his customary energy and restless habit of movement seemed concentrated and contained. The evening light that fell through the window glinted on his hair, and the angular shadows beneath his brow and cheekbones lent his face a brooding, hawklike quality.
The document was headed ‘Lord Chancellor’s Department.
Application for Appointment as Queen’s Counsel.’ Beneath the word ‘Title’ were five little boxes, marked ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Miss’, ‘Ms’ and, slightly larger than the rest, ‘Other’. Leo sighed and passed his hand over his head. ‘Other’. That about sums me up, he thought.
He rubbed his hands over his eyes. At forty-four, he supposed it was about time that he did this. It was part of the plan, the next step up the golden ladder. There was almost an inevitability about taking silk which bored him. He would achieve this just as he had achieved everything else – his successful practice, his cars, his clubs, his houses in Mayfair and Oxfordshire, his polished circle of social acquaintance. All a long way from the Welsh mining village of his childhood, where he had struggled to free himself from his beginnings and to create a new identity. This would be part of that identity, part of the image which he had cultivated as assiduously as his own charm and urbanity. Leo Davies, QC. Another stitch in that tapestry of his life, the one behind which he could conceal himself from the rest of the world.
He sat flipping through the pages of the form, wondering how long it would take for his income to climb above the half million mark, once he had taken silk, when there was a knock at his door and Anthony came in.
‘Hello,’ said Leo, glancing up.
‘Hi. Squash courts are all booked up, I’m afraid. They’ve got some competition ladder or something. I don’t know.’
‘Pity,’ said Leo. ‘I could have done with a game. I’m right out of condition.’ His voice still held an attractive Welsh cadence. He leant back and flexed his arms above his head, studying Anthony. The young man’s face was leaner now, and without any of the softness which had caused Leo to fall in love with him some eighteen months before. Nearly two years. It seemed like a lifetime ago. Well, thought Leo, that had all ended as soon
as it had begun. They were friends now, colleagues, no need to let the slightest shadow of it hang between them. They never alluded now to anything in the past, and Leo had hidden away any lingering traces of his former love as easily and effectively as he hid so much from himself and others.
‘What’s this?’ asked Anthony, coming over to the desk and squinting down at the paper. Leo was about to pull the document away and fold it up, but stopped. Why shouldn’t Anthony know?
‘Application to take silk,’ he replied, and leant back again. ‘Have a look, if you like,’ he added, and Anthony picked the paper up and flipped through it curiously.
‘Listen to this,’ said Anthony, smiling; he read aloud: ‘“Have you ever had an action brought against you in respect of another matter involving you personally, or under your supervision, for professional negligence? Have you ever been subject to the disciplinary process of the Bar without the matter having been dismissed? Have you ever been adjudged bankrupt, made a composition with your creditors, or been sued to judgment for any debt?”’ He looked up at Leo and laughed.
‘Well, quite,’ replied Leo, dryly. ‘Instead of “yes” and “no” boxes, they should put one marked “no” and the other marked “forget your application, in that case”.’ He took the document from Anthony, folded it up and put it into his breast pocket. ‘Well, if we can’t have a game of squash, a vigorous drink seems like the next best thing.’
They made their way downstairs and out into Caper Court, where a light drizzle had begun to fall; the flush of golden light at the end of the September day was beginning to be eclipsed by banks of grey cloud. They ran through the cloisters and over King’s Bench Walk, out into the back alleys of Fleet Street. Leo paused in the doorway of the pub before going in and tapped his breast pocket lightly.
‘I’d rather you didn’t mention this to anyone. The silk thing, I mean.’
Anthony gazed at him and raised a hand to brush away the surface drops of rain from his dark hair. He nodded. ‘Of course. But why did you let