“That’s the problem with the younger generation,” said Tony Smeg, putting on his coat. “No discipline.”
Rhys-Morgan nodded noncommittally. “Yes, I...”
“Never would have turned up late for work when I was lad,” Smeg fussed, checking his right coat pocket for something. “Not that he has turned up,” he added under his breath.
“But young Anthony – that’s my son – he’s forever gallivanting around with some young lady or another.” Smeg looked up for a moment. “There was even a rumour that he was having an affair with my secretary. Did you know that?”
“No, I didn’t...” Rhys-Morgan did not know that and, frankly, did not care.
Smeg patted the other pocket. “Not that I ever really believed the rumour before,” he added. “But it is a bit of a coincidence, is it not? The two them not turning up to work on the same day.” He shook his head. “Today of all days.”
Rhys-Morgan waved vaguely in the direction of reception. His impatience was beginning to get some confusion for company. “But, your secretary’s...”
“Oh, no!” Smeg retorted. “Not the one out the front at the moment. Though he’s probably doing her too,” he sighed.
“Really? Has...” Rhys-Morgan started.
“No, I’m talking about my other secretary, Wendy.” Smeg shook his head. “And she’s old enough to be his mother! I know he’s my son and all, but that is just not right.”
“I mean,” Smeg continued. “If anyone should be having an affair with her, it should be me! I am the one that pays her salary, after all. Well, me and Mr Butterworth, of course, but he’s a haemophilic annelid.”
There was moment of quiet as Rhys-Morgan stood bewildered and Mr Smeg started rifling through the papers on his desk.
After a second, Rhys-Morgan’s brain caught up. “Do you suspect foul play?”
“Your son and secretary have not turned up to work. Do you suspect foul play?”
Smeg glanced up from his search. “Heavens, no! Anthony’s just upset because I asked him to shave off that ridiculous beard of his. Probably seduced Wendy just to piss me off.”
Smeg resumed his hunt. “But facial hair like that, it’s simply not appropriate for a lawyer. We have a meeting with an important client this afternoon, and he will not want to think that his divorce settlement is being handled by some kind of New Age weirdo.” (Actually, Smeg & Butterworth’s client would probably prefer to be represented by a New Age weirdo. The cause of the divorce was his desire to become One with everything - including his Personal Assistant and next-door’s housekeeper.)
“That’s fascinating, Mr Smeg,” Rhys-Morgan told him. “But I really must...” This time, it was one of Rhys-Morgan’s own thoughts that cut him off mid-stream.
“Wait a second. Did you say beard?” he asked the lawyer.
“Yes,” Smeg replied, not hiding his disgust. “Almost reaches his waist. No other law firm would put up with it. But, he is my son. More importantly, he’s a damned good lawyer.”
Rhys-Morgan frowned. A good lawyer. Now there was an oxymoron, if ever there was one. He probably was damned, though. “I think that bastard got my ex-wife the house when she filed for divorce, a couple of years back.”
“That’s my boy!” smiled Smeg.
“He was probably doing her too,” he thought. Wisely, he kept that one to himself.
“Ah ha!” Smeg finally found what he was looking for: the keys to his Jaguar. (They had been hidden under his signed copy of the international best seller, ‘Who needs a conscience at £200 an hour?’)
“Now”, he said, giving the policeman his full attention at last with a smile that said that he charged by the minute. “What was it you wanted? I am in a bit of a hurry.”