“The Closing Argument” Excerpt

“What the hell am I paying you?”

Daniel Willis watched Harriet Peterson QC put the tray down on the table. He glared at the contents. Two plastic cups of coffee, two plastic spoons, small tubs of milk and sachets of sugar.

“This is not the time to brood.” Miss Peterson said.

Willis persisted. “Fifteen hundred pounds a day.”

The barrister sat down opposite him, picked up a tub of milk and tugged at the top of it.

“Worth every penny if you leave here without a stain on your character.”

Willis leaned across the table and stared into the nearest coffee cup with some displeasure.

“I only ask, because at that price I feel I’ve every reason to expect real coffee.”

“You are fortunate to get this. The machine in the corridor is working today.”

Willis sulked. “There’s a Starbucks around the corner.”

“And that can be your first port of call when you leave here. Assuming, of course, that you do.”

Willis transferred his attention to his lawyers face. Stared into the lady’s green eyes. She didn’t blink. He opened his mouth to say something then closed it again.

The trial was now in its eighth day. The jury had been deliberating for a day and a half. The word out in the corridor was that the twelve good persons and true were close to a decision. The Police Court Officers – men and women of experience in these matters – had been reading the runes and noting the signs. A verdict was expected sometime during the next hour or so.

Willis sipped his coffee, swallowed and grimaced.

“Christ…” He put the cup back on the table. Spoke to the QC again.

“I mean… This morning routine. Why do we do it? I doesn’t serve any purpose.”

Miss Peterson looked at him with as much indulgence as she could muster.

“This is old ground Daniel. You’re out of jail. In return, the court needs to be re-assured you’re still in town. You have a yacht, a Lear Jet , you could be anywhere in the world… Besides, being in here, keeps us up to date with what is going on.”

“And that is?…”

“The man outside the door, the Security guard, he’s a veteran. Jury Rooms give out unmistakable vibes he says. Closed doors notwithstanding.”

Willis reached for a tub of milk

“The Security Guard…”

Miss Peterson nodded. “No one closer to the Jury than he.”

Willis began struggling with his tub of milk. “I won’t hold my breath.”

“Would you like to know the odds?”

The tub of milk exploded in her clients’ hands. “Shit…” Willis threw it across the office. Miss Peterson barely managed to disguise her amusement.

“Perhaps not,” she said. She watched him wiping his expensive shirt front. “Milk stains on the Thomas Pink. There goes any chance of leniency.”

Willis looked up at her. “Alright. Why not?”

The barrister looked at her client as if they had all day. Willis shifted in his seat.

“Okay,” she said. “Guilty of murder 5 to 4. Manslaughter 4 to 1. 20 to 1 an acquittal. Not the greatest odds I admit. Unless you are a betting man of course. One of your spare millions on at 20 to 1. A ‘not guilty’ verdict and bingo… The easiest 20 million you’ll ever make… And if you’re sent down, what the hell? By the time you get out the interest on that – ”

Willis found his voice. “For fuck’s sake Harriet!… What is this?.”

She looked at him long and hard. Dead centre. Willis tried to respond. He waivered, began to blink.

“Payback Daniel,”, Miss Peterson said. “For your resolutely despicable life.”