The peace and solitude of the chambers, as yet devoid of the everyday activity of a barrister’s trade, welcome her as she makes her way to her corner of the shared room. With head held high and a confident step, she revels in the empowering sensation of being head honcho, the number one, the only authority, in the hallowed offices of Weymouth House Chambers, deserted at this unholy hour of the morning. Even the cleaner has not arrived yet and yesterday’s wastepaper bins are still overflowing with discarded briefing notes, empty envelopes, sandwich cartons and scrunched-up chocolate wrappers.
She pauses to gaze for a moment at the gently swirling dust motes, caught in a beam of watery sunlight that peeps through a gap in the closed window blind, and breathes in the day-old fusty air. The faint leathery essence of the opulently quilted sofa and club chairs overrides the staleness however, and underlines her sense of awe at this physical incarnation of the tough, well-established profession she has entered. She basks in the silence which is broken only by the distant, barely audible rumble of early morning London traffic. She feels watched only by the hundreds of familiar green, red and gold leather-bound legal volumes, all safely ensconced in their ranks of floor-to-ceiling shelves.
As the newest and youngest lawyer in their team of three, she is determined to get ahead and make her mark by putting in these early hours to keep up and excel in her career. She means to assuage the doubts about her work that her colleagues are so poor at disguising and show them she means business in her goal of becoming a successful barrister – she knows she can do the job as well as if not better than them. First things first though, and after switching on her desk lamp and laptop, she lets the latter warm up while she enters the tiny coffee corner, artfully concealed behind a stunning bronze-gilded tri-fold screen. This is tall enough with its scrolled top and attractive enough with its Florentine pastoral design to detract visitors from its real purpose of hiding the everyday clutter of coffee machine, mugs, sugar and milk capsules. Here, lost in thought, she goes through the motions of making the day’s first strong, black, brew – steaming hot and bitter. She is oblivious to the faint click of the office door opening and the subtle alteration in the still air of the chambers. She is shocked when a heavy warm arm grips her upper body in a tight vice-like hold and feels the firm body of her attacker pressed against her back. She struggles to turn, gasping; but, too late, a searing pain crosses her throat and the metallic taste of her own blood rises into her mouth.
‘Sweet dreams, bitch.’
These are the last words she hears along with the gurgling of her lifeblood as it drains out of her body. She senses herself being released and falls forward and down. And the world goes black.