The big wig

They were at The Travellers' Club to have a bite of lunch, as London-based spooks are prone to do. The Mole and Number Two had not seen much of one another since the big reshuffle in September and, although The Mole would never admit it, he had missed his deputy and even his smelly old pipe. Life in the Historical Interpretation Unit at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office had not hurt Number Two, indeed The Mole noted that he seemed rather more chubby than previously.

"That is what happens to all old spooks," said Number Two, "We get sent to the FCO and they park us in a dusty department full of filing cabinets and all we do is wait for lunch. Too many good lunches adds up to extra inches."

"It could be worse," said The Mole. "Anyway, it's a nice easy walk over here for lunch. Through the park?"

Number Two grunted.

"It's an amusing enough job," he said. "All very hush-hush."

"Tell me and then kill me," said The Mole.

There was a pause.

Number Two changed the subject, as spooks are prone to do at such moments.

"I was out walking the other day, down by the river and I bumped into an old school chum," he said. "The oddest thing. I haven't seen old Carnwath in 40 years. He's a High Court judge these days. Nice fellow. Anyway out of the blue he said "I've had some interesting cases of late" as though I was supposed to understand. He had a twinkle in his eye. I think he thought I was still something to do with motor racing."

The Mole smiled.

"Carnwath?" he said. "Would that be Sir Robert Carnwath. Privy Counsellor and Lord Justice at the High Court?"

"Yes," said Number Two. "That's old Carny. He did well for himself."

"After leaving Eton he studied classics and law at Cambridge," recited The Mole. "London School of Economics as a research assistant. Called to the Bar at 24, QC by 40, a judge at 49. Knighted. The whole nine yards."

"He always was a bit of a swot," said Number Two. "Actually, I have to say that there was a really remarkable group of us that year. Old "Purple" Parr never had another group like. There were three government ministers: Jonathan Aitken, Sir George Young and Douglas Hogg; two serious judges: Carnwath and Sir John Nutting. There was the adventurer Sir Ranulf Twistleton-Whyckam-Fiennes. We had Alby Bowes-Lyon, who had something to do with the royal family and the Gore-Booth twins: one of them joined the FCO and became HM Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the other went to work as a croupier in a casino."

"The jobs have a lot in common," said The Mole.

"Anyway," said Number Two. "What was he on about?"

"The Formula One Holdings appeal," said The Mole. "He was one of the Lord Justices who heard Bernie's appeal to try to stop his case with the banks being heard in Britain. And from what I hear he was none too impressed by the case put forward and, in the finest judge language, made it clear to Bernie's silk that he was not amused. When a judge says that it would serve no purpose but "to increase delay and expense" if the case were to be held in Switzerland, what he means is that he recognizes the appeal as having been a delaying tactic and should not have come to court. I hear that the impression he gave was that he did not want to see any more irrelevant paperwork."

"Well, I don't know about that," said Number Two, "but I cannot imagine that Bernie is going to lose the case."

The Mole shrugged.

"Well then," he said. "Answer me this: if Mr E has a strong case why would he need to get involved in delaying tactics?"

"Blimey!" said Number Two.

Silence fell between the two of them.

"Interesting times," said Number Two.

"Indeed so," said The Mole.

"Could it be that the Bernard has finally gone a deal too far?"

The Mole shrugged.

"Do you think the judges get together in the changing rooms at the High Court and discuss their cases?" said Number Two. "You know when they are putting on their wigs? You know: Hey, I had that Such and Such in my court the other day. He's a wide boy, isn't he?" That sort of thing."

"I have no idea," said The Mole.

"Oh well," said Number Two. "I guess we will find out soon enough."

"Next week, I believe," said The Mole. "Forget Jaguar Racing, Red Bull, Cosworth and the lot of them. That is the big story at the moment."

"Absolutely," said Number Two. "Shall we have some pudding?"

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