A mile or so away from the restaurant where Anthea and Lola were lunching, wedged between the clamour of Fleet street and the grey meander of the Thames, another oasis of tranquillity basked in the heat of late August - the Temple. This venerable sprawl of ancient buildings, sombre alleyways, shadowed courtyards, echoing staircases and sunlit gardens, has for centuries been home to those who toil in the service of the law. Theirs is a task of dedication, for the machinery of English justice is complex and ponderous, and constant vigilance is required to ensure that it does not buckle or break beneath the weight of its own responsibility. Its little cogs and flywheels are oiled daily, and its component parts kept running smoothly by the clerks who make and take phone calls, scurry between courts and chambers, and negotiate business on behalf of the barristers; the barristers in turn see to it that the pistons pump healthily and the valves open and close with polished regularity by perusing briefs, consulting authorities, delivering learned opinions and appearing in court; Her Majesty’s judges of The Supreme Court of England and Wales preside with admirable sedulity over the machine's churning output of judgments, awards and practice directions, and voluminous by-products of hot air and ashy waste are generated by City solicitors over-feeding the furnace with mounds of files, letters and papers.
The very names appended to the buildings, courtyards and alleyways - Serjeant's Inn, King's Bench Walk, Crown Office Row, Dr Johnson's Buildings - are evocative of its ancient history, and through its dappled courtyards, stone-flagged lanes and dreaming gardens the shadows of long-dead inhabitants seem still to flit - those eminent jurists, Coke, Halsbury and Littleton, and the great men of letters, Thackeray, Lamb and Goldsmith. Yet the barristers' chambers situated in the Temple are not mired in ancient practices; they operate in the present day with the stream-lined, globalised efficiency of any multi-national organisation, and though clad for their work within the courts in horsehair wigs and flowing gowns, the barristers themselves are generally sophisticated, worldly metropolitan beings.
One such being was Leo Davies, a forty-six year-old commercial barrister who, besides being possessed of all the personal attractions adverted to by Anthea Grieves-Brown over lunch, held a high reputation amongst his fellow lawyers for his forensic skills and powers of rhetoric, not to mention his charm, wit and charismatic personality. Leo had only a year ago been made head of chambers at number 5 Caper Court, and now presided over some thirty tenants, ranging from eminent QCs at the top end, ambitious senior juniors in the middle, and junior barristers and raw recruits, known as pupils, at the bottom.
Caper Court itself, originally laid out by Sir Christopher Wren in the years following the Great Fire of London, was a quaint courtyard with archways leading to Middle Temple Lane at one end and Pump Court at the other, and its buildings housed five different sets of chambers. On the top floor of number 9 Caper Court, which stood on the other side of the courtyard facing number 5, a beautiful old sundial was set in the brickwork, inscribed with the melancholy sentiment, 'Shadows we are and like shadows depart,' and on this summer day Leo was standing at his window and gazing across at the inscription, familiar to him for over twenty five years, with particular pensiveness.