Lady Charlotte Treharne had not reached the top of her profession to be an apologist for the criminal antics of every Tom, Dick and terrorist Harry. As far as she was concerned the Human Rights Act could go and sing, albeit that some of her more liberal (and in her view misguided), legal brethren believed otherwise.
She was a maverick.
Always had been, always would be.
She was the Home Secretary’s friend, a champion of the popular press and the peoples’ guardian of common sense law.
She sat at the top table of legal deliverance, one of only two women who had ever been afforded such an honour: The Supreme Court. The journey had been tough and demanding, but she had got there. Some judges who sat with her, hated the new TV world of open justice but Lady Charlotte Treharne, or Lottie as she was called by family and friends, loved it. Performing was her style.
Age had been kind to her. Her skin had managed to delay the inevitable wear and tear of years gone by without the need for lashings of make-up or a cosmetic surgeon’s knife – not that she would ever deign to use either, hopeless vanity was for television screens and foolish, air brushed magazines, both of which she tended to treat with an avid contempt. Her wild auburn curls and mature beauty also brought a learned, if not compelling glamour to a world that had always been so out of reach for the average man in the street.
A bundle of papers sat on her desk willing her to take another look. It was late evening and she was tired. This time they could wait. Whether or not the indefinite holding of fingerprints and DNA evidence of convicted IRA terrorists was an interference of their human rights was not going to spoil her weekend; God knows, over the years the law had spoilt far too many of them already.
She put her Mont Blanc fountain pen down on the bundles and headed for a cupboard in the corner of her office. Her petite frame moved with the grace that her position demanded and even at this hour, a hidden energy that could almost be touched.
She poured herself a large vodka and tonic and lit a cigarette. Two habits that even the Supreme Court hadn’t been able to make her give up. This first sip of vodka and the sleazy grip of her tonsils by tobacco always made her feel so wonderfully rebellious. She smiled to herself as she stuck one firm middle finger in the air; extremely childish for a woman of her age and status she knew, but God it made her feel good!
Maverick time again.
Knowledge of the law was power and by God did Charlotte Treharne know her law. She looked at the rows of All England Law Reports that stretched across her office walls. Unlike the tomes of case reporting past and present, the law never stood still. It was always changing, always adjusting.
She knew only too well, how one stroke of her pen could make or break the lives of the people she served. And she was their servant, of this she had no doubt. Formidable and uncompromising, from her earliest days as a passionate law student she had resolved to serve and fight for those unable to fend for themselves. She was no easy touch and would never make excuses for indolent weakness but she did feel, she was compassionate and she always recognised that some people just couldn’t help themselves.
For her, weakness had to be tested and analysed. If there was reason, good reason for it, she would bend and accommodate.
Charlotte had never forgotten who she was or where she had come from. Her mother had been a refugee from Denmark during the Second World War. Having suffered terrible violence at the hands of her own people, Lise Traharne had arrived in Wales penniless and broken. But she had fought back and eventually fallen in love with a self-made industrialist, Charlotte’s father. The two had loved each other to the grave and beyond, their love never flinching, never failing.
Her beginnings had been humble and fraught with tragedy, both had taught her to use the law as a force for good, not tyranny. She held the government to account without fear or favour, she tamed corporate greed with a determined ruthlessness and she ruined criminal intent regardless of who got in the way.
Half an hour later and having enjoyed her early evening smoke and drink, Charlotte was standing in the foyer of her City of Westminster, London office. It had all the usual trappings of a modern obscenity: open space with nothing but the odd deadpan plant to liven up the boredom, not to mention a couple of receptionists looking bored out of their wits and waiting for that simple Facebook message that would bring some fantastic excitement to their uneventful lives.
‘Hello darling.’ Joel smiled as he arrived bang on time. Short-cropped grey haired and tall, he was never a minute late or a minute early. Her husband had been out of the military for some years now but he still wore a uniform of sorts. He was wearing a brown felt hat, wide brim, handmade polished brogues and a long brown and green tweed coat. Underneath the coat, a bespoke three piece suit cut from the finest Scottish tweeds, gripped a body that could react with the speed of a much younger man.
A quintessential country squire with hands that had killed, his dress rarely changed. The clothes like Joel himself, were practical and hard wearing.
As always Charlotte went to him and kissed his cheek. Ten years of marriage and still she wanted to kiss no holds barred.
An hour later they were driving along a country road on their way to some peace and quiet. The house they had bought five years ago was their retreat. It was a battered old Georgian property in West Sussex, still in need of some renovation but loved by them both.
There were no other vehicles on the road apart from a motorcyclist following them at a distance.
Charlotte dozed. She hated this surrender to age but couldn’t help it.
Suddenly, the car’s windows exploded and all she could hear was, ‘Get down! Get down!’
There was a brief exchange of small arms fire and then silence.
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