Chapter 3: Reflections in an evening wind

3 Sep

Audio version

The late lunch with Helen had been enjoyable.  Carver had met her at Brinkley’s a couple of weeks before and when she told him that she was doing an LPC at The College of Law, they started talking about law, inevitably, and  Carver had offered to have a chat about City practice over a coffee and asked her to call him.

Carver sat at his desk in his study.  He had a clear view over The Thames to Chelsea opposite.  Pouring a glass of a cheap Claret into the tumbler to his left, he lit a Marlboro and sat back in the high backed wooden chair.  Carver did not like office style chairs to work on and even in his office at the firm his chair was carved from wood, late Victorian.   He glanced at his twitter stream on the large  iMac screen, scrolled down to catch up on the thoughts and events of those he followed and drank some of the wine.

@xxxxxxxx
OMG!! The new director here is a wanker. One aspires to be a pâtissier, but today I shall demand a pay rise.

The sharp, surreal, tweets by @xxxxxxxx always amused Carver.  Some of the tweets were seriously surreal.

“My real life friends… how many of them do I see now? Three are dead; two in car crashes and one from cancer.  Most of my other friends from twenty years ago, the days of amusing dinner parties and holidays together, have gone on to raise families and settle into family life.”

Carver drank from his tumbler and lit another Marlboro.  “I went to a few of their dinners in Chiswick and Notting Hill and found that I had absolutely no interest in the local primary schools, or their plans to send Johnny boy or Camilla off to Westminster, Eton or St Paul’s.  I had even less interest in tales of bravery in the field and golf shots and scores.”

Carver laughed as he recalled when he was in Zambia, back in Lusaka briefly in 1971 for three days R&R, being asked to leave the Lusaka Golf Club course by the Club Secretary.  He and another of the patrol team, a Kiwi in his late twenties, late of the NZ Army, who commanded the small unit, had bought some local marijuana, sieved it and disposing of the tobacco in a pack of 20 Peter Stuyvesant, had filled the empty filtered cigarettes with the local ‘laughing grass’ – Malawi Black, Carver remembered.  They had then smoked several of the newly made ‘cigarettes’ and came up with the plan to have a quick round of Golf.  Membership came as part of the recruitment package compensation and was paid for by the Government of Zambia.  Finding that his golf was seriously impaired, Carver had picked up his golf ball and threw it down the fairway towards the flag.  The two men then played three holes using this unusual method of getting ball from tee to the flag, substituting for putting by rolling the ball into the hole on the greens, before being spotted by the Club Secretary. Three weeks after that, Dave was dead, shot dead while on a routine river patrol in the North. It was a long time in the past.  Forty years in the past.

Carver sat back, raised his glass and said, quietly “To Dave.”

Carver refilled his tumbler, laughed sardonically and sang…

I am the very model of a modern City lawyer,
I work with vegetables, animals, and minerals,
I know the Laws of England, and I quote the reports historical
From Equity  to Land Law, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand fee bills, both the simple and quadratical,
About bimonthly billing I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
With many cheerful facts about the squares and the legal obtuse

“Ah well… the law has, at least, paid the wine bills and provided a decent living.  I used to enjoy the law, but it is now about social media, commodisation, billing billing and billing, the opportunities from the Legal Services Act and “Legal Big Fucking Bang” next year. Some lawyers are tweeting away about their practices and obsessing about their Klout scores. The humanity and enjoyment had long disappeared.  The hours have become longer and the firm now operates a 24/7 service on demand. Madness. It was a profession when I joined Pitcairn Hogg from the part-time teaching at King’s twenty-five years ago.  Now it’s a racket. A multi-billion pound racket which brings in good tax revenues for H.M Treasury and leaves some City lawyers in a very different world, a private and discreet world, almost detached from the legal profession which most general practitioners and even lawyers at large regional firms work within.  Still… at least the bankers got the blame and not the lawyers who drafted the legal documentation.  We, after all, were only following orders.  I should have gone to the Bar…..”

An email pinged into Carver’s in-box. Carver read it:  “Hi Mungo.  “I need your advice.  I’m working as a director for a small company running their HR and central administration. I now want to set up my own operation and leave.  The problem is that my contract states that I have to give three months notice and that I may not work for a competitor or set up a competitive business for five years within 150 miles of London.  I’ve  done a bit of research on Google about restrictive covenants, but I need a professional opinion.  I have attached a pdf of the contract.  Would you mind having a quick look and give me a call when you can?”

Carver downloaded the contract, read through the general provisions quickly,  and  read the restrictive covenants.

Carver sat back in the chair and dialled Linda Ortega’s number. Carver chatted with Linda for a few minutes, catching up on news and then turned to the contract.

“The good news is that this contract is very badly drafted and has several inconsistent provisions.  The good news is that there is no chance that the restraint covenants will be upheld.  In the context of your company’s business, they are far to wide in geographical scope and almost certainly in terms of time.  In any event, from what you told me, your new business is not in the same field, so another piece of good news.  They can’t restrict you from setting up a business in a field they are not operating in.”

“But they plan to move into that field in the future, or so they told me when I discussed my plan  to leave and told them, foolishly it seems, about the area I wanted to go into.”

“Linda….They can huff and puff as much as they like.  They are trying to bully you, scare you off.  They cannot restrict you from working in a field which they are not active in even if they may have plans to go into that field at a later date.  They are not in that field at present.”

“They said they will sue me.”

“Excellent.  Let them. I’ll happily take their money off them in costs.  They will lose.”

“If they win?”

Carver laughed.  “They won’t.  Their lawyers won’t go anywhere near litigation with this nonsense.  If you are free for dinner tomorrow, I can go through the reasons in more detail, if we really must, and we can get drunk.”

Carver ended the call and put the dinner arrangement in his iCal on the iMac.  Pouring another tumbler of Claret and lighting a Marlboro, Carver sat back on the hard chair, double clicked on Puccini’s La bohème on iTunes then leaned forward.  Reaching into the right cupboard of his old ‘Partner’ desk he out took a reconditioned Toshiba laptop, one of five he had purchased second hand and which he had never used and  switched it on.  Logging into Hidemyass.com, Carver accessed one of 20 email accounts he had set up some time back, selected an account he had never used and composed a short email.

Subject:  Three Blind Mice
From:     Carvingknife13 <carvingknife13@xxxx.com>
Date:      10 September 2010 20:10:31 GMT+01:00
To:          Dambo196<dambo196@xxxx.com>

Can you source Glock 18 ported selective fire 31/33 round capacity, folding stock  + 200 rounds?  Needless to say it  needs to be virgin.

Carver plugged a brand new pay-as-you-go dongle he had purchased earlier in the day into the laptop and three minutes later clicked ‘Send’.

Carver sat back in the chair to wait. He received a reply five minutes later.

From:     Dambo196<dambo196@xxxx.com>
Subject:  RE: Three Blind Mice
Date:       10 September 2010 20:15:18 GMT+01:00
To:           Carvingknife13 <carvingknife13@xxxx.com>

Confirm – Virgin.  Drop 08.30 11/9 – text address – number to follow.  £885 incl via Paypal

Carver wired the money through to the Paypal account dambo196@xxxx.com, waited for the follow up email with a mobile number, switched off the laptop, removed the dongle and smashed the dongle beyond use on the carpet with a hammer which he kept in one of the desk drawers. Carver then texted his address to his friend from the old days, a friend he had not seen for a few years.  They had kept in touch, though.  Friends from the old days often did.

Carver, slipped on a pair of latex gloves purchased from Boots that afternoon, removed the hard drive from the laptop, and slipped it into a jiffy bag for disposal by his friend when they met at 08.30 hrs the next morning.

Sitting back in his chair, Carver lit a Marlboro and said softly “Three blind mice…. see how they run…. A Glock 18 with selective fire, allowing automatic  and semi-automatic mode fire, will be rather more forceful than a fucking carving knife if any turkeys decide they want to visit me.”

Carver picked up his tumbler of wine, drained it, refilled the tumbler and laughed…”Well… that was a varied day… a bit of advice dispensed to a young lawyer, a bit of legal advice pro bono to a close friend and  now I have the kit if I need it. The Glock  gives voice to silence…as George Burns once said….’Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair’…. no truer a word spoken in jest with the PR  clown and his Bullingdon cronies in charge of the asylum.”

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