Excerpt: Prima Facie
The fan blades rotated slowly, circulating air around the room and offering a steady, low hum of background noise.
The venetian blinds offered a slatted view of the hallway outside of the office. From there, Con could see the approach of a young woman. She looked likely to be in her early-twenties, with brown hair worn in loose curls and a red jacket coming down to her knee.
“Hello.” The woman’s lipstick was the same red as her coat. “Is this the Sullivan and Williams law firm?”
“Yes.” Con strode forward. “My name is Con Sullivan. This is my business partner, Kristopher Williams.” His blond hair appeared a couple of shades darker when done up in its elegant coif. He was five foot six inches, and if he gave himself an extra inch or so in height in the shoes he wore, he covered it easily in the perfectly tailored black or navy blue suits he’d taken to wearing almost exclusively ever since he and Kristopher, Kit, opened their firm fresh out of law school. For two 24 year olds, Sullivan and Williams was an empire to be proud of. Okay, so they were still establishing themselves, not that most people would know it from the money Con’s parents spent on the office.
Her handshake was firm but not too strong. This woman had delicate fingers with clean, rounded nails painted to a rose hue. Con could appreciate that kind of attention to grooming.
He took a step back from her, respectful of personal space. “How can we help you, Miss…?”
“Maggie, please. I had a friend who came here. Alyson Chambers. You helped her out with the division of assets after she and her husband separated.”
Con nodded. His parents were friends with Mr. and Mrs. Chambers. Alyson had been one of their first clients. It had worked out well because she was also a renowned gossip. News of their firm had spread more quickly on her word than any online ad would have supplied in the same time.
Case in point.
“I’m going to need similar assistance,” the woman said.
Kit offered her a freshly made coffee from the machine in the kitchen that Con’s mother had insisted was a must. “I think you’d better tell it from the start,” he said, moving to take the seat beside Con and opposite Maggie.
“I’m the youngest of three girls,” she started. “Growing up, my sisters and I always knew there was a real possibility of boys courting us for the Huntingdale fortune. After high school, when I went to university, I enrolled using the name Maggie Stinson, my mother’s maiden name. I thought that that would separate me from the family, from the money, and it would give me a chance to have a normal university experience.
“In second year, I met Mark at a party. He was friendly and witty, and it turned out we had a couple of classes together.” Maggie smiled sadly at the carpet. “We had drinks, went to a couple more parties together. He asked me to meet his family.” Raising her gaze back to Con and Kit, she finished, “We got married just after we graduated and signed a pre-nuptial agreement at my father’s insistence.”
“When did you find out he knew about the family money?” Kit’s pen was poised above the paper where he’d previously been solely focused on the history of her story.
Maggie’s eyes flashed with surprise. Again she lowered her gaze again and gave a breathy, self-deprecating laugh. “I suppose it’s completely obvious to anyone who isn’t me,” she said softly. “I didn’t find out. A friend found out and told me.”
“And the name of this friend?” Con asked gently.
“Amelia Rothford,” Maggie answered and then she sighed as Kit wrote the name down. “She found out through her husband. Apparently they were friends in university. There was a drunken conversation about the two of them finding wives for whom they could be ‘trophy husbands’.”