Rumpole Rests His Case

Rumpole Rests His Case by John Mortimer Read Free Book Online

Book: Rumpole Rests His Case by John Mortimer Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Mortimer
unaware.
    â€˜All over the place. Uni dances, working men’s clubs, Saturday night pubs, old people’s homes, till the old people went on strike.’
    â€˜Are you telling me that Soapy Sam played some instrument?’
    â€˜Slapped away at a guitar. You know the sort of thing. And sang - not badly.’
    â€˜Sang?’ I couldn’t believe my luck. ‘Are there no recordings available? Perhaps an old ’78?‘
    â€˜I don’t think they were ever let into a recording studio. But I’ve got a photograph.’
    â€˜A photograph - featuring Ballard?’
    â€˜A photograph starring Bonzo. He had hair down to his shoulders at the time.’
    â€˜You keep it as some sort of memento?’
    â€˜I keep it because I was a member of the Pithead Stompers. On drums.’
    I looked at the man as a mountaineer clinging to the edge of a cliff might greet the guide come to haul him to safety. ‘I’m not a rich man,’ I confessed to Oswald. ‘I do Legal Aid crime and we only get paid now and then. But I’m prepared to spend good money on a copy of this photograph.’
    â€˜I’ll send you one.’ The rescuing Welshman had his arm round my shoulder. ‘You can buy me a drink next time we meet.’
    â€˜I think I’m on a winner,’ I told Bernard, after I’d given my saviour the Chambers address.
    â€˜You mean with Twineham?’ He was incredulous.
    â€˜No. I mean with Ballard.’ But I had earned my solicitor’s look of disapproval. I had forgotten a young woman with flowers in her hair, dead and buried under a living-room floor. And all because I was engaged in a fight, with no holds barred, to stop having to smoke small cigars in the rain.
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    â€˜You’ve taken on his case, Rumpole?’ My wife, Hilda, known to me only as She Who Must Be Obeyed, cross-examined me over the breakfast table.
    â€˜He’s taken on me.’
    â€˜How could you? A man like that!’
    â€˜I’m not sure I can manage it,’ I confessed to Hilda. ‘Apart from quoting the Book of Revelations, he hasn’t given me the slightest hint of a defence.’
    â€˜I always knew you’d stoop to anything, Rumpole ... but I never dreamed you’d side with men who bury their wives under the floor!’
    What did she think? That I approved in any way of such conduct? That I could ever, in a million years, become such a husband? For a nightmare moment, I pictured myself trying to inter Hilda somehow below the well-worn Axminster, and rejected the idea as a physical impossibility. Then I heard a heavy sigh on the other side of the toast and marmalade. Hilda’s mood had swung from the usual brisk attack on Rumpole’s conduct to a note of sadness and regret as she looked down at the letter in her hand.
    â€˜I can’t possibly go now. It would be too embarrassing.’
    â€˜You can’t go where, Hilda?’
    â€˜The Old Saint Elfreda’s dinner.’
    â€˜But you always go.’ It was a reunion Hilda never missed, a party at which her innumerable old schoolfriends relived their gymslip years and which I welcomed as an opportunity for a quietly convivial evening in Pommeroy’s Wine Bar.
    â€˜Not now. Look at this.’ She handed me the embossed invitation as though it were the announcement of a death. ‘President of the OEs this year, Lady Shiplake, Chrissie Snelling as was. It’s so not fair! She never came to OE reunions, but as she married this Labour Lord, they’ve made her President. Neither Dodo Mackintosh nor I will be able to go now!’
    â€˜Why ever not?’
    There was a long and solemn pause, and then Hilda uttered a word which I didn’t know existed in her vocabulary.
    â€˜Guilt.’
    â€˜You mean this Chrissie has a criminal record?’
    â€˜No. Dodo and I.’
    â€˜Hilda.’ The breath had been knocked out of me. ‘You’re

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