BLEAK SPOUSE: Chapter 2 – In Defamation

AT THE OFFICES of Messrs. Venal & Grabbit, Solicitors. Edgar Venal is instructing his trainee D’Arcy Downtrodden to draft defamation proceedings against Matt O'Gridley.

"I want him ground into the dust." Says Edgar.

"U-Understood, M-M-Mr Venal." Stammers D'Arcy in reply.

"One million pounds in damages should make him ponder before he opens his nasty little mouth again, don't you think?" Asks Edgar.

"W-Well, quite, Mr Venal." Replies D'Arcy, wondering where on Earth O'Gridley might find such a sum.

Edgar's telephone rings. It is his secretary Brunhilde. "Sir Basildon and Lady Wedlock are here, Mr Venal." She says.

Edgar puts the phone down and, with a dismissive wave of his hand, sends D'Arcy away. D'Arcy collects up his papers, drops them, collects them up again, and scurries from the room.

Sir Basildon Wedlock is Venal & Grabbit's richest, and therefore most important, client. He is a hedge fund manager in the City, said to have earned a cool £3 billion last year, although he claims it was far less. Edgar does not wish to keep him waiting, and instructs Brunhilde to show him in immediately.

"Sir Basildon and Lady Virginia Wedlock." Announces Brunhilde, as they enter Edgar's room.

"Do take a seat", smiles Edgar, noticing that Lady Virginia is even better looking in the flesh than in her many pictures in the media. Not bad for a woman in her forties, he thinks. Lady Virginia, however, looks totally disinterested in the proceedings. She has accompanied her husband to London from their country estate merely so that they can spend the rest of the day shopping in Harrods. Lady Virginia enjoys the good life.

"I have come to see you about a most serious matter." Proclaims Sir Basildon, his furrowed brow emphasising just how serious.

"Oh?" Replies Edgar, trying to sound suitably grave.

"Yes," says Sir Basildon, "I am being defamed by someone on Twitter."

Edgar raises an eyebrow. He notices that Lady Virginia is staring absently out of the window.

"Yes," continues Sir Basildon, "an anonymous err... 'tweeter' - I think that's the word - keeps accusing me of doing him out of his fortune. He says that he used to work in the City and that I was responsible for him losing all his money when the crash came, by giving him bad investment advice. Complete nonsense, of course, but it is damaging my good reputation."

"Do you have any idea who it is?" Enquires Edgar.

"No. I've given investment advice to so many people over the years, I couldn't possibly remember them all."

"I see. Then what is this man's Twitter name?" Edgar asks.

"'BigWad123'." Replies Sir Basildon.

At that moment Lady Virginia turns sharply to stare at her husband, her face suddenly pale and worried. "Did you say 'BigWad123'?" She asks.

"Yes, my darling," replies Sir Basildon. "What of it?"

Lady Virginia slumps forward in a faint, her hand catching Edgar's desk, stopping her from falling to the floor. She has clearly been taken unwell. Edgar calls Brunhilde, and asks her to escort Her Ladyship to the ladies' room.

Edgar notes events with interest.

*            *              *

As Sir Basildon and a recovered Lady Virginia leave the office, they bump into William Piranha, a young private investigator who has arrived to receive instructions from Edgar in connection with the matter of Lucrative v Lucrative. With a lurid smile, Piranha acknowledges Lady Virginia's good looks.