The day of her greatest professional triumph becomes the worst day for the young lawyer Veronique Morgan. She buries herself in her work, but it soon turns out that her work itself holds more dangers than Veronique ever thought it could …
“Ms. Morgan, Dr. Glenn wants to see you. He’s waiting for you in his office.”
Veronique lifted her head from the files on her desk and she looked at Ms. Brown in amazement.
“Dr. Glenn,” she asked in disbelief. “Why Dr. Glenn?”
“I don’t know, but please hurry,” replied the old, loyal secretary of the law firm Ashton, Glenn & Partner in a polite, but stern voice. She then turned around and quietly closed the door, leaving behind in her office a surprised Veronique.
Veronique Morgan had been working for the renowned law firm on Fleet Street in London for three years. The best in her year, she had completed her law studies at the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London four years ago and she successfully passed all her other examinations to become a lawyer. Her excellent grades had helped her to get a job immediately as a young lawyer after graduation. Her duties included meeting clients, listening to and discussing their problems, providing legal advice and preparing everything for a court hearing for the barrister. As a solicitor, she was only allowed to conduct minor cases in lower courts. She was not allowed to legally represent clients in higher courts. Only barristers – lawyers with special admission – were allowed to do this. The firm had an excellent reputation and Veronique knew that this job would pave the way to her future career, a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
After graduating, she had sent several applications to various law firms, including Ashton, Glenn & Partner. She had not dared to dream of a positive feedback. All the greater had her surprise been when she had received the invitation for a personal interview and Dr. Ashton had offered her a job as his assistant. She had hardly been able to hide her joy about it. Dr. Ashton had chuckled, given her a nod and he remarked that he hoped that she would not only enjoy working in the firm, but that she would also be able to gain valuable experience.
This was also Veronique’s intention. She was very conscientious, hard-working and clever. Her analytical thinking and curiosity were of advantage in the profession. She was calm and quiet, she was always a good listener and her arguments were logical and precise. The lawyer’s profession seemed to be made for her.
Veronique was about to leave her office and head for Dr. Glenn’s office, but she returned to her desk to get a notepad and a pen. She wore a well-fitting dark blue blazer, a plain white Marc Cain T-shirt and a narrow skirt. A small colored scarf made the outfit less formal. Her luxuriant dark blonde mane was neatly backcombed and tied at the back of her neck with a clip. She wore almost no make-up, just a little rouge on her cheeks and mascara that accentuated her lavender blue eyes. She was slender and graceful, moving easily and gracefully like a ballerina. She took the notepad, casually she ran her hand over the blazer and left the office.
Dr. Glenn’s offices were on the fourth floor, one floor above Dr. Ashton’s offices, with whom she worked closely. Veronique climbed the elegant Carrara marble staircase and knocked on the door to Ms. Taylor’s room, Dr. Glenn’s secretary. She waved to Veronique with a gesture of her hand, asking her to wait until she had finished her phone call.
“Dr. Glenn is waiting for you,” she said in a friendly voice. She accompanied Veronique to Dr. Glenn’s office. She knocked briefly on the dark wood of the large, elaborately carved
“Come in,” he rang out towards them.
Dr. Glenn has the typical voice of a successful lawyer, Veronique thought. It sounded determined, clear and it had a good tonality, like a perfectly tuned musical instrument. Such a voice, combined with cleverly presented facts, guaranteed a good response and the attention of those present in the courtroom and was thus indirectly part of his success in many hearings.
Veronique entered without hesitation.
“Dr. Glenn. You wanted to speak to me?”
“Take a seat, Ms. Morgan.” He pointed to a large brown leather chair in front of his desk.
Veronique sat down, she placed her notepad on her lap, and she looked at Dr. Glenn intently. He was tall, slender, eloquent and unapproachable, formal; always well dressed, with beginning baldness and beautiful hands. He was excellent in his job and at the age of thirty-eight, a very successful barrister. Veronique had great respect for him.
“You’re familiar with the causa Bailey versus Bailey, aren’t you?” he asked. His look was cold and distant, and he continued to speak without waiting for an answer. “Dr. Ashton will be absent for an indefinite time. You take the case. Read up on it thoroughly, down to the last detail. You need to know everything about the case. We’re a successful law firm and I expect a clear victory in the trial. The court hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday at eight a.m. at the Royal Court, so you still have a whole week to prepare properly. I wish to receive your report immediately after the trial. Any further questions?” Dr. Glenn looked daggers at Veronique. He expected neither questions from her nor would he tolerate a dissent.
Veronique nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, I think I have a pretty good overview of this case. I will prepare well, I promise. Thank you for your confidence.”
She looked at him, waiting. Without looking at her again, he shifted some papers on his desk, then he lifted his head, set his eyes on her and stood up. The audience was over. He politely walked her to the door.
In her office, Veronique sat on the practical, comfortable swivel chair behind her desk, she rested her elbows on the desk, put her head in her hands and stared into space.
What had happened to Dr. Ashton, she wondered, that I am being asked to take over his case? She knew that this was the great chance that she had been waiting for – and she wanted to use it.
She knew quite a bit from the files about Mr. and Mrs. Bailey’s marriage. But having a good overview and being really familiar with the facts were two different things, she was well aware of that. The mutual verbal abuse and the twisted facts that the spouses had revealed were not relevant to the trial. She knew that on such a basis you would not win a trial, rather you would only create space for endless follow-up processes; and she definitely wanted to be successful and earn the appreciation of the firm.
Veronique went over to the secretary’s office. She needed all the files and notes that Dr. Ashton had taken, since she needed to know every single detail.
Ms. Brown had already prepared everything, and she pushed some folders towards her. “I wish you success, Ms. Morgan.”
“Thank you, I’ll need it. What happened to Dr. Ashton that I was asked to take over the Bailey case? Do you know anything? Why is he unavailable?”
Ms. Brown tilted her head to the side, she looked the other way, she breathed deeply and then she said in a low voice that he had had an accident on the cliffs near Plymouth and he was lying in the Peninsula Hospital in Plymouth without having regained consciousness. Veronique nodded that she did not want to inquire further. She briefly noticed Ms. Brown standing pale and sad in front of her. Something was wrong with her, that was for sure. Veronique did not want to be pushy, but she offered Ms. Brown her help. Her void gaze was wandering aimlessly around the room and she shook her head.
“Thank you, Ms. Morgan, everything’s fine. I don’t need any help, but it’s kind of you to ask. I really appreciate that.” She handed Veronique the large cloth bag she kept ready for her, stuffed all the folders involved with the Bailey case inside and managed a small, sad smile.
She then folded her hands in front of her chest as if to pray and she turned towards the window. Veronique gave her a last look. Then she hesitantly left the secretary’s office. She made a mental note to visit Dr. Ashton in the hospital as soon as possible.
Dr. Ashton was her boss and he was a good legal advisor. She had learned a lot from him over the past three years. She thought highly of him as a lawyer and also as a person. He was a small, gray-haired man, with a soft, calm voice in the office – but in the courtroom it was full of strength and assertiveness. At all times he showed intensity and the sound of his voice was under control. From soft tones to louder ones, he mastered them all beautifully. Like an actor, he deliberately accentuated his words and sentences in all his meetings and processes to bring them out in the best possible way. Veronique always listened to him with joy and admiration during negotiations. In contrast to Dr. Glenn, he was a funny man. He always was in a good mood and he also showed interest in the wellbeing of his employees.
Back in her office, she put the contents of the bag onto her desk and she accurately sorted all the folders and papers. She spent the rest of the morning immersed in the files, taking notes on matters that were not immediately clear to her, and making notes of open questions. The Bailey couple’s divorce did not seem to be a problem. Since the spouses had been separated for two years already, after four years of marriage, the conditions for a divorce were fulfilled. But the compensation that Mariella Bailey demanded was enormous, and her husband Chris did not want to pay the sum demanded.
The marriage of the young, rather successful investment banker had lasted only four years and they had no children. Now his Argentinian wife was demanding eight million pounds compensation, a full two million pounds for each year of marriage. That was an unusually large sum and the amount of money was the crux of the negotiation. Chris Bailey was not willing to pay that sum and his wife threatened to expose him. She wanted to go public with invented and unjustified statements about his alleged love affairs in case she did not get
Veronique picked up the phone and she dialed Chris Bailey’s number. She needed more information. After two rings he answered the phone.
“Hello, Mr. Bailey. My name is Veronique Morgan and I am Dr. Ashton’s assistant. We need more information about your process. Could you come over to our office today? The hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday and there are issues that we need to discuss.”
Chris Bailey answered harshly, he demanded to speak Dr. Ashton and he was not cooperating. He did not have the time for another meeting, and he had already said and explained everything. He saw no reason to pay another visit to the law firm. He told Veronique that his customers were important to him and that he still had a lot of work to do for them today.
“And the eight million pounds that you have to pay is not important to you?” Veronique asked.
In a firm, but pleasant voice, she told him that Dr. Ashton was absent and that it was she who was now going to represent him in court. She would therefore like to talk to him in person before the trial, since he was her new client and she still needed to settle a few open questions.
“Excuse me, Ms. Morgan, but are you kidding? I want to win the trial, I need Ashton! Where is he?” Bailey asked in a loud, impatient and upset voice.
Veronique did not answer this question and she insisted that he would have to come back to the law firm to ensure a successful outcome of the trial. The time left was limited.
“Please, come whenever it suits you, Mr. Bailey, but still today. I’ll be waiting for you,” she finished her explanation.
He mumbled something and he promised to see her in her office in an hour.
Veronique picked up one of the big folders again. She absolutely needed to find out why Mariella’s claims were so high. On what grounds did she expect such an enormous compensation? What had he done?
The couple had met in Paris and they were married five months later. They moved to London into his apartment in Pinehurst Court, one of London’s best addresses. Veronique had begun to scribble notes on a block lying on her desk. She wanted to know how much his income and his assets had been before the wedding and how much they were now. What had Mariella contributed to the marriage? What kind of family did she come from? Was there possibly an extramarital relationship going on, on one side or both sides? Was his job clean? Was there anything that she did not know?
The phone buzzed. “Mr. Bailey’s here, Ms. Morgan. Would you like to see him in your office?” Ms. Brown asked.
“Yes, thank you, Ms. Brown. I’ll come to meet him. I will be right with you.”
She tidied up her desk and she went to the secretary’s office to welcome Mr. Bailey. She found him sitting cross-legged in an armchair in the outer office. As she entered the room, he immediately looked up at her and, with narrowed eyes, he scrutinized her for a moment. Then he stood up. He was a tall, broad-shouldered American, with dark blond, wavy hair and a piercing look. Veronique stretched out her hand to him as a welcome and with a smile she asked him to follow her. In her office she offered him a comfortable chair, and with his permission, she recorded the conversation on tape.
Two hours later she knew that Mariella had come from a wealthy family in Buenos Aires. Her father traded in gemstones, mainly in Brazil, and in real estate in Argentina and he played the stock market, mostly at high risk. The financial and the real estate crisis in 2008 had hit him hard, causing him to lose almost all of his assets. Spoiled Mariella had then come to Europe in 2012 to try her luck and it was there that had met Chris Bailey. He was a successful investment banker in London. He had profound knowledge of the business world and so he had reduced his risky investments in time so that the financial crisis did not hit him too hard and he had opted for less attractive areas that were safer, and thus he had survived the rough times well and without significant losses. It soon became very clear that, thanks to this strategy, he had enough reserve assets to buy some deeply indebted but interesting properties in the United States and in Europe. He had not cared about the comments of his colleagues before the crisis, who had laughed at him for being a coward and a procrastinator and later they denounced him as a merciless profiteer. But he had cut his own path. And this had been the right one for him.
He had met twenty-four-year-old Mariella at a special event at the Musée d’Orsay in May 2012. A pretty, lively, dark-haired little Argentinian, who was always laughing and who was a really good dancer. He had been fascinated. He had admired her from the very first minute and soon he had fallen under her spell.
In the months that followed they had spent almost every free hour together and they were married in October of the same year in Buenos Aires. Chris had covered the entire cost of the wedding. Far more than a hundred guests had been invited and they almost all came from the bride’s side. Only Chris’ brother Stan, his wife and his children, as well as two of his colleagues from Stanford were present.
His father had stayed away from the celebration. An acute eye problem prevented his trip to the wedding. Chris himself had not wanted a big wedding, but Mariella had insisted on an elegant wedding and that was not all. She had also insisted on an exorbitantly luxurious honeymoon in the Caribbean, although Chris would have preferred to take her to his home state, Wyoming.
She loved the feeling of being able to demonstrate that she could lead a special life. As a child and a young woman, she had been spoiled and pampered at home, which was why she did not want to accept her father’s later financial losses. However, as soon as these were clearly noticeable and could no longer be denied, she had immediately started to look for a suitable husband, who would enable her to live a carefree life. Feelings played only a minor role for her.
That thirty-three-year-old Chris had fallen in love with her had flattered her, but, according to Chris, she had felt nothing similar for him. She enjoyed the sunny, carefree side of life that was open to her again when she married him. She loved parties and events of all kinds, where she could meet interesting people. She always wanted to occupy center stage. She liked to show off and she did everything that she could to get all the attention on social occasions. And she flirted uninhibitedly.
This did not always go down well with the circles that she moved in, nor with Chris. Often, she sought amusement at parties without Chris. He had worked a lot and an intensive social life was not necessarily the focus of his concerns; but for Mariella such a life was important, and Chris had tried to accompany her as often as he could. He had been proud of his beautiful young wife. He had enjoyed being seen with her. He had loved dancing with her, buying her presents and he had wanted children with her.
After two years of marriage spent in London, Mariella had travelled alone to Argentina for a few months. She wanted to spend the winter there. When Chris had come over for Christmas, she had given him the cold shoulder and she treated him with indifference. She had been mentally absent most of the time that she spent with him and she had constantly gone on dates with girlfriends. He had not been invited to come along. When she had not even come home at night several times and her explanations had been dubious, he had wanted to know what was going on. Mariella had only shrugged her shoulders and she had tried fobbing him off with some transparent lies. Chris had not wanted to argue. He had felt bad and alone. Her cold, reserved behavior and the obvious lies had hurt him.
He had thought about flying back to London before Christmas. But when Mariella had heard about his plans, she had made a Hollywood-style scene in front of him, accusing him of indifference, coldness and a lack of interest in her life and respect for her family. She had talked about a marriage crisis and she had accused him of not having the slightest will to solve their marriage problems. He had never been aware of a crisis in London but he had to admit that in Buenos Aires there had been a wide gulf between himself and Mariella. That had been the reason why he had finally decided not to fly to London.
Nevertheless, Christmas day had been filled with tension, Mariella had patted her eyes dry several times, while her father had been looking at her. She had played the pitiful wife and she presented Chris as a callous husband. Her mother had kept her distance from her son-in-law and the rest of the family had ignored him. Mariella had put the ring with a large yellow diamond that Chris had given to her as a Christmas present, carelessly on the mantelpiece of the fireplace, without trying it on or wearing it. Chris had been deeply hurt. When he had shown this, Mariella had gone into a huff and she had used the situation and had gone out. Chris had booked his return flight for the next day and he hired a private detective.
The information that the detective had sent him in London had been distressing and shocking. He had been ashamed of Mariella and he knew that he could not tolerate such behavior. He would never be able to forget it and he realized that any trust in her was a thing of the past. He had rented a small apartment for her in London, he had all her belongings taken there and he had arranged for the keys to his apartment to be changed. He had not wanted her to enter his apartment again. He had sent her an e-mail with her new address.
Since then, a war had been going on between him and her. She threatened to ruin him financially, looked for ways to get to his customers and she spoke ill of him everywhere she went. The past two years had been plain hell for him. He avoided almost all social occasions in order not to meet her. He worked tremendously hard and he had earned a lot of money. He had always generously supported Mariella financially, but all the money had still not been enough for her. After two years of marriage and two years of separation, he had finally filed for divorce.