Occasionally, some worthy citizen may ask a lawyer, in tones of bewilderment, horror or moral indignation, how he defends someone he believes to be guilty. The lawyer may bluster about the need for a fair trial and about innocent until proven guilty, but the real answer is money. And when a murderer, rapist or dog-baiter is released to give a repeat performance the newspapers are careful to concentrate public hatred on the jury, not on the man who stood up and told the jury what he knew in his heart to be a pack of lies. Less common is the question of how a lawyer prosecutes someone he believes innocent, but the answer is the same—money. And when wrongful convictions are revealed years after executions the newspapers are equally willing to vilify the jury, not the man who fed it lies.
Matthew Ainsworth was quite satisfied to take on the Ludlow case. Not wildly astonished—he had a good thirty years in criminal law, he was making a name for himself, it was only natural that he should start getting higher-profile cases—but he was still very pleased when his name was suggested. Of course he had time. He was delighted. Of course he was delighted, it was a famous case.
The judge of the case was His Honour Richard Melton, currently in his office on the third floor. Ainsworth knocked.
"Oh, come in. It's the one at the back- oh", as Ainsworth entered, "I thought they'd finally sent someone about that light bulb. Bloody thing's driving me mad. Ludlow case?".
"Ludlow case." Ainsworth settled himself on the chair on the other side of Melton's desk, without asking, and Melton poured two glasses of sherry, without asking.
Melton's study was a large, airy room with views across the river. Apart from the flaky lightbulb—which was indeed maddening—it was tastefully furnished, with wooden chairs just cushioned enough to be comfortable without being anything so unprofessional as armchairs, a nice sea-scape on the wall next to the window and every other inch of wall-space filled with legal tomes. And the tomes in Melton's office were definitely tomes—heavy, leather-bound, looked as if they had lasted a hundred years and would last a hundred more. Melton was a solid, comfortable man in his fifties, pleasantly, genially careerist. With a Hell of a career behind him.
"How was the gymkhana?"
Ainsworth had spent Sunday at seven-year-old Bonney's gymkhana.
"A distinguished third." This was good sherry.
"Congratulations to Miss Bonney Ainsworth."
"You do anything?"
"Won a fiver." Racing was Melton's main recreational activity.
"Thank you. Not often I get one over on the bookie, but it's nice when I do." Melton pulled a file towards him and began to leaf through. "You're up to speed, I suppose?"
Talk became professional. "Only generally, what everybody knows."
"Oh, that's what I meant. Well," Melton gestured at the file. "Between you and me and don't tell the jury," he beamed over his sherry, "it's a dead cert".
"Ainsworth," beamed Melton. "You're going to be the man who hanged the Hampshire Butcher."
And you're going to be the presiding judge. Aren't we both lucky? "Is that what they call him?" He knew it was, of course.
"I thought you knew what everybody knows?"
"I have to go through a show of not reading the gossip press." Ainsworth gulped the last sherry. The glass was automatically re-filled.
"You don't even have to read them, just look at the front page." The Ludlow case had all the ingredients of tabloid success—a pretty girl, a charming defendant with a hitherto blameless life, an equally charming young victim.
"Now, then…" Melton shoved the file towards Ainsworth. "Ludlow and Conniston go courting the same girl. Ludlow thinks Conniston might win, goes to his house, smashes him with a hammer till the handle snaps, then a knife. Won't be difficult to prove intent—not much else you can intend when you leave him in separate pieces."
"A walkover," Ainsworth felt the warm glow of success already. It was success, not the hot white passion of victory which glowed in some lawyers, as if criminal trials were boxing matches. It was notching up the victories under his belt, one at a time. Another note on the resumé. Another step in the ladder. Not that he never felt adrenaline in the courtroom, anyone would feel adrenaline when the verdict hung on a knife edge. But he didn't enjoy challenge for its own sake, like some. He preferred a case famous, but easy. Like the Ludlow case.
"Exactly," Melton swigged his sherry.
"Where is he?"
"Still in hospital. Which is why they took so long bringing it to court. Not much point going through the palaver of bringing a case to court until you're sure the suspect isn't going to die on you."
Michael Ludlow very nearly had died, shot in the lungs while resisting arrest. For once, there was no question of police brutality. He had been resisting arrest, vigorously, with a large shotgun.
"Got a lawyer?"
"I think he's got some local yokel. Not a name I know. Gimble or something."
"In that case I will talk to Mr Gimble."
Ainsworth's secretary, Miss Grant, directed him to the office of Mr Gimble. He was being installed in a small office in the roof-space of the Bailey, because the poor man could hardly be expected to travel every day from his office down in Wallopville or wherever it was to talk to his client—there was no question of Ludlow, on his discharge from hospital, being released on bail. Not after the performance with the shot-gun. He hadn't even applied for bail.
Ainsworth's first impression, on seeing Gimble, was of a sheep in a tweed jacket, surrounded by cardboard boxes.
"Hello!" beamed the sheep, pulling a clock, a desk tidy and a picture of small gap-toothed girl out of a box onto his desk. "Roderick Gimble! How do you do?"
"How do you do? I'm Matthew Ainsworth."
"Splendid!" said Gimble vaguely but cheerfully.
"I'm prosecuting Michael Ludlow."
"Oh, splendid! I'm defending him, you know, and they've very kindly fixed me up here—" he waved his arm around the cupboard-sized office—"for the duration. Very convenient".
"I hope you'll be comfortable."
"Oh, I'm sure I will be." Gimble arranged the photograph on his desk and surrounded it with others, of a plump woman and a very hairy dog. "I can't help but feel sorry for the lad. I know he's a murderer and all that, but it can't be very pleasant being hanged."
"I thought your job was to prevent him being hanged."
"Oh yes, I know that, but it's not as if I really have much of a chance, do I? Everybody knows he's done it, even the Advertiser."
Ainsworth realised that anything printed in the Andover Advertiser was, in Roderick Gimble's eyes, carved onto tablets of stone and pressed into the trembling hands of Moses.
"I think the jury is supposed to form its opinion from the evidence, not the press. And the defence lawyer is supposed to form his opinion from his salary. Which he's drawing as a defence lawyer."
"Well, yes, I suppose you're right. Optimism, that's the spirit!"
"Did you have a pleasant journey down from…?" Ainsworth tried to remember where Gimble called home.
"Over Wallop. Yes, yes, very pleasant, thank you." Gimble looked at his watch. "The pubs'll just be opening. Fancy a drink?"
"Well, yes, that would be very nice." No reason why he shouldn't be drunk by lunch-time, really, he only a few minor sentences due that afternoon. "But I was thinking you might like to go through the evidence."
"Evidence? Oh, splendid, splendid, lead on to the evidence! You know," as they strolled down the corridor, "I'm rather glad you're here. Show me the ropes a bit, you know."
"We are technically on opposing sides."
"Oh, yes, I don't mean anything unsportsmanlike. I just mean, well, like your suggestion just now. Making sure I don't make a fool of myself or anything. Because I don't mind telling you, I'm rather, well, new, to this murder business."
"Why did you take it up?" The accused has a right to counsel, but a lawyer can still recommend to a potential client that a case isn't really in his line and he might be better off taking his custom elsewhere. When losing the fee is a better prospect than going down in courtroom history looking like a fool.
"Well." Gimble seemed surprised by the question. "He asked me to. And," drawing himself up and looking rather like a puffed-out little garden bird, "the Ludlow family and the good people of North Hampshire have relied on the Gimbles for centuries".
Ainsworth's and Gimble's first meeting was with Sergeant Mark Green, the officer in charge of the case. Green was a local Sergeant of the Hampshire County Constabulary—a cat-rescuer, as Ainsworth called the rural police—and looked exactly how Ainsworth thought a cat-rescuer should look. He had a large bushy blond moustache and a neck like a bull.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen, I have here various records of the interrogations." He handed over two large files, one each. "Also witness statements and the forensics report."
"Thank you, Sergeant," said Ainsworth. "Were you present personally when Ludlow was arrested?"
Excellent. It would be useful to get some details on exactly what had occurred.
"He put up quite a fight, I believe?"
"Like a wild-cat, sir."
"Had a gun?"
"Yes, sir. One of these big farmers' shot-guns. And he looked as if he were going to use it. So I used mine first. Ludlow has always been a very good shot, sir. From childhood on. Won a lot of prizes in county shows."
Of course. In these rural places all the coppers would know the suspects' life stories. "Ludlow is currently in hospital?"
"Yes, sir, chained to the bed and under constant guard. You need have no fear of his escape." Sergeant Green pushed himself up with pride.
"Yes, I'm quite sure of that."
Gimble piped up. "It seems a bit silly to send him to a hospital to be patched up and then hang him."
Ainsworth sighed. "It's the way things are done," he said shortly. After a moment's thought, he added. "Remember, we're still pretending he's not guilty." He addressed Sergeant Green again. "When will he be moved into regular custody?"
"Probably tomorrow, sir."
"I believe you interrogated him before arresting him?"
"Yes, sir. These are the transcripts."
"But you haven't interrogated him since?"
"No, sir. He hasn't been well enough and— well, we've asked everything we need to."
"Did he have Gimble present when you interrogated him?"
"When did he ask for a lawyer?"
"He didn't really ask for one, sir. When news of the trial date came through, I asked him if he had a lawyer, and when he said he didn't, I said he ought to have one. I think he said something like, "Oh, all right, I'll have Gimble"."
Ainsworth tried not to scowl. It always fucked up the prosecution case when the accused knew his rights, and for the police to remind him of those rights was downright unsportsmanlike. It also puzzled him. Oh, one occasionally found country bumpkins who didn't know they had a right to counsel, but Michael Ludlow was a reasonably prosperous farmer's son. Surely he knew what a lawyer was? Of course, Ludlow was chained to a hospital bed, perhaps he was too foggy with painkillers to think about his case.
Gimble looked hurt. There was a big gap between his mental image of the people of North Hampshire relying on the Gimbles for centuries and that offhand "All right, I'll have Gimble".
Ainsworth said "That sounds rather…casual".
"It was, sir. I think he just didn't want to cause any trouble."
"The accepted thing, you mean?"
"Well, I suppose so, sir."
"Right, well, thank you, Sergeant. I think that's all for now."
"Let me know if there's anything else I can help you with, gentlemen."
"Perhaps you'd like to talk to your client," Ainsworth suggested to Gimble.
"Yes, that's a good idea. I'll go and see how the poor boy's getting on."
Half an hour later, Ainsworth was installed in his own office, reading through the police reports. There was the transcript of Ludlow's own interrogation, on the day before he was arrested, there were his family's transcripts, there were Conniston's family's transcripts. There was also a coroner's report.
Ainsworth's aim was to get the facts straight in his mind. And the facts, he was sure, would speak for themselves. No need of cleverness here.
Mr Michael Ludlow had lived all his twenty-five years at Swinbeck, a farm buried in rural Hampshire. The Ludlow family had lived within the same two miles since the Domesday Book, gradually working their way up from peasantry to prosperous country farmers. Local shows. Cows with ribbons on. Jam-making prizes, that sort of thing. Salt of the Earth. Backbone of the nation.
The current master of Swinbeck was a Mr Robert Ludlow, Michael's father. His wife had died, but his elderly mother—Mrs Susan Ludlow—and his unmarried sister—Miss Matilda Ludlow—still lived in the house, and had helped him to raise his two children. Michael Ludlow had a sister, two years younger, called Elizabeth.
Michael Ludlow, the accused, had led an unremarkable life before being lured to the hammer. Unremarkable academic career—always seems to have been the healthy outdoor type—then abroad, searching and rescuing people in Canada. All very brave. All very noble. In rural Hampshire he was something of a celebrity. They loved his work. They loved him. He was… nice. Very active in country shows, always had a kind word to say to the Women's Institute, former Boy Scout. Just nice. Nothing to indicate a predilection for hacking people to pieces.
Ludlow's friend from childhood was Jack Conniston. Conniston was also in the saving-Canadians business. The previous year an orphaned cousin from New Zealand, Miss Lucy Conniston, had arrived at Okglin, the family farm.
The incident had occurred nearly three months ago, when both young men were home from Canada for a holiday. The whole population of North Hampshire—or so it seemed—had converged on one of these village fêtes for the day. Conniston and Miss Lucy had slept at Swinbeck. In the early hours of the next morning, Conniston's mangled body was found. Those were the facts that nobody disputed. Although honestly, there wasn't much that anyone disputed, except Michael Ludlow himself. He disputed quite firmly.
The sentencings that afternoon were dull. The evening's paperwork was dull. When Ainsworth got home that evening, Bonney and Edward had gone to bed already. Ainsworth felt a stab of guilt. Why was so much of a lawyer's life dull paperwork…? At least he had got to the gymkhana. The Times lying on the sofa, although feeling duty-bound to cram a few lines of speculation about Baldwin's future as Prime Minister into the corner, had devoted most of the front page to the Ludlow case.
"Nice day, darling?" said Alice over the pork chops.
"Well, er…" He tried to look modest. "I've got quite a big case. The Ludlow case."
"Oh, well done darling." Pride and enthusiasm glowed in Alice's eyes. "Good luck." She kissed him and he wondered as he'd wondered for thirty years at her dimpled cheeks and silky hair and unique Alice smell of orange perfume and bread flour—Alice spent a lot of time helping Gladys, the housekeeper, in the kitchen.
"Thank you, darling." He chucked her under the chin and she giggled.