There is a Wasp in the Parlor
#1
It was a cold day and the clouds were dark. Akal felt in his bones that the rain was coming soon. It was why he was so startled when he heard a knock  at the door. He hadn't expected anyone to come calling on such a day. The servant was quick to answer though. As he opened the door, his large brown eyes came upon the strange woman. She stood with such importance and a sense of  impatience. Her time was valuable and she would make others pay for it, if she could was the sense the quiet man could get from her. It made him cower more as he opened the door and bowed, keeping his head low. 

"A-are you here to..." he didn't get to finish as the woman immediately asked if this was where she could see the lawyer. He knew she was there for his master. Her cutting him off didn't seem to be against him, but a matter of impatience, and quickness to the point. He nodded and let her in and lead her to the parlor as he hurried to get his master. 

He was up the stairs, two at a time and took a second to catch his breath before his eyes fell upon his employer and lover. "S-sir.. there is a woman downstairs to see  you. I.. don't know who she is.. but she seems important.. and.. impatient.." His voice lowered as he spoke until it was a whisper. The way his eyes darted to the stairs showed his worry at this new guest. He didn't like her one bit, but he knew it was important his master received all the clients he could get.
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#2
Lawrence looked up, a smile on his face, and in his heart, that, unfortunately was not present in his mind, as he tore his ruminations away from the accounts book he was reviewing. Things were…dire…to put it bluntly. His predecessor had run the practice straight into the ground, and then let it die a long, slow, lingering death from neglect. It was far worse than he had suspected when they had first moved in. If he did not somehow increase the business of the practice – and soon – they might well all be out in the street by the turn of the new year. And that would put him in a very compromised financial situation indeed.

But the presence of his love truly warmed his heart, for here was a man who would stick by him through thick and thin, as he had done these past years. Lawrence smiled at Akal and listened to his announcement of an unlooked for visitor. His eyebrows rose as Akal described a woman of importance – at least as far as the impression she had made on his rather timid partner – and Lawrence rose with alacrity. ”Well then, let’s not try her patience and I shall go down to her immediately.”

He moved to Akal’s side, placing a tender kiss to that darker brow, and said, ”She must be impatient indeed, if she had not time to even give her name. Perhaps she wishes to remain…anonymous.” It was a joke. But there had been times that his…discretion…had been specifically requested by a client who had secrets which they did not care to share with the world.
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#3
In the parlor, the woman had not bothered to sit just yet. She wanted to see the lawyer before saying anything. If he looked like he was incompetent, she would walk away. The lady had heard good things, but she knew how easy it was to take credit for another or to get by on luck . Besides, it had been a few years it seemed since he'd worked in the country, anything could have changed.

Her head turned to see him enter with his exotic house servant. She didn't see the quick kiss they'd shared before coming into the room, just the man come swiftly and politely. A point in his favor, she would certainly admit.

She swept across the room as elegantly as she could muster and offered her hand to his with a charming smile. Her eyes moved over him, analyzing every thing about him, from the wrinkles in his clothing to how well swept his hair was. He was not expecting her and that was how she preferred it. She wanted him to have no time to prepare, it would give her a better idea how quick and adaptable he was.

"Ah, Monsieur Bayliss, it is good to see you face to face. I am Colette Madswitte, of the Madswitte house. I was hoping we could do business. I am in no legal trouble, I simply was hoping you could assist me with a will. But I would like to speak to you first and get to know you. I like to have a lawyer that I can trust and that I believe truly has the best interest at heart. Someone I know I can insure my assets and my children's livelihood with."
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#4
Lawrence’s eyes were filled by the sight of their visitor, as he entered the front parlor, which doubled as an office of sorts, in which to meet with his clients. It was not her beauty, which was, admittedly, a bit faded, nor any notable show of female grace or allure which caught his eye. No, it was the cut and style of her clothing, and her bearing, that screamed out to him – of wealth, and power. Here was a fashionable woman who had the means to dress well, and an air of one used to being catered to. Here was a woman who was just the sort of client he needed – she and perhaps twenty more like her. But one would do for a start.

He crossed to her, mentally drawing on his own garments of poise, charm, courtesy and a cerebral air of legal know-how. People like this lady wanted their advocates to be polished, mildly unctuous – towards them – and possessed of a mind like a steel trap – and the teeth to go with it when dealing with “the enemy.” He knew her type. He knew it well, and he was long practiced in catering to it, if not shamelessly, then at least with the practical realization that client’s like this kept a legal practice afloat. Here was, perhaps, next month’s mortgage payment, on the well shod hoof.

Taking the proffered – gloved – hand, he bent over it just far enough, laid his lips to it with barely grazing the material, for just the right length of milliseconds, his eyes remaining on her face, allowing her to make a close study of him, which she did. She had a keen, bold eye, yet her face was not etched with those hard lines of unpleasantness which one oft encountered in middle aged woman of her class. Lawrence too was making his own appraisal, as she did likewise, and he hoped he was holding up well to scrutiny, for he liked what he saw on the other side of that glove.

He had already made an educated guess as to who she might be – for he had found to his dismay there were very few families of wealth here on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. When she introduced herself, then, it came as no surprise, and he smiled easily, pleasantly, but with just that right touch of attentiveness to, hopefully, assure her of her status in regards to his own. When she went on without pause to explain succinctly the reason for her unscheduled visit, he hoped that his expression gave away nothing of the way his heart leapt up in his chest. Ah, if Lady Madswitte had sung the sweetest aria from the most popular opera, it could not have been any sweeter music to his ears than her reference to engaging him to do a bit of work for her.

Gathering his words – which was an easy thing for a lawyer – his smile purposefully lessened just that one iota to show that he understood – this was business, to be combined with a quasi-social call, and he was equally as ready to get serious about her affairs as to make small talk. Whatever the lady wanted, that’s what he would provide. ”Lady Madswitte, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He had some thought that her lack of giving herself a title upon introduction might have been a small test, to determine his knowledge of the intricacies of British peerage.  Though a Marchioness by marriage, that awkward and uncomfortable word was not used when addressing such a woman in person, thank goodness. He hoped he had passed the test. Lawrence so obviously thought like an attorney, analyzing and dissecting even the simplest issue with keen and thorough precision.

”Of course – please, let’s have a seat and we can get to know one another, as we’re neighbors after a fashion.” He turned to look at Akal, who lingered by the door, ready as always to help lend an air of both respectability and minimal affluence to the household. ”Akal, would you have Mrs. Settle make us some tea? Thank you.” That last might have something not all “employers” said when asking a “servant” to do something. But there was literally nothing that would have dissuaded Lawrence from being as polite to his lover as he was to anyone else – even the prospect of patronage.

He led Lady Madwitte to two armchairs cozily pushed together, with a small, low, round table before them upon which was a diminutive but tasteful bronze statuette of blind liberty, holding aloft her scales. It had been a present from his mother upon his passing the bar and being admitted to an inn. He waited for her to sit, and then took the other chair, tossing out an ice breaker of, ”I was sorry to have missed the opportunity to make your acquaintance when….Lady Murzuran…offered an invitation to her dress up fete. I had hoped to meet the Marquess and yourself but I understand he was in London at the time.”

He knew the relationship, technically, between Lady Madswitte and the three young women who were residing at the castle. But it wasn’t one that could easily be expressed, as Violetta was the cousin of the Marquess’ late wife. Lawrence, having no idea what sort of relationship the two women had in person, and having formed some impression of the eldest Murzuran sister’s temperament that night, felt it best to steer clear of making assumptions that these two were chummy.
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#5
Lawrence Bayliss was a professional. Colette had to give him that. She smiled in almost true delight the way he acted with perfect choreography and communication. Her eyes had already ran over the room carefully to take note of what was there, though she knew it couldn't have been all of his. Some of it had the feel of being a part of the very foundation. The books upon the wall had a mixture of newer legal volumes and some that were so well pressed together and seemed so warm that she was certain that they would fall apart upon being taken from the home they knew for so long.

She gave a slight nod when he kissed the back of her hand and did not waste a moment to sit, being careful to keep her skirts smoothed out and her posture stiff. Not because she wanted to appear uncomfortable, but she did want to make it clear this wasn't a meeting to make friends. She did want to get to know him though and have a feel of his character.

Her attention on him did not deflect the fact she knew the servant was still there in the room. The silent sentry keeping watch, perhaps to wait on his master hand and food or perhaps it was a common practice between them that he didn't let his master be alone when speaking to clients. She figured it must have been the former, especially as he was ordered out to get tea, though in an odd fashion as the man posed it as a question. It had to be seen as more compassionate towards the help than anything, as if the man would have refused was preposterous.

As the exotic individual left to get them some tea, she smiled more as she listened upon his words. He was a gentleman through and through with a deep but smooth voice. She wondered briefly why he had no wife though some men were truly married to their careers. He certainly was not her type, but then she was certainly not one to create a scandal when she knew she had things going so well for her right now, though the hints of it being on the verge of unraveling apart did prick at the corners of her brain, hence the reason for her visit.

"Do not apologize, it was a busy affair. Though things weren't as simple as it may have seemed. I apologize I did not get a chance to meet you as well, it would have been a good chance. But we will not linger upon our past, now shall we? I do prefer to keep my views going forward to the future. It helps one from stumble along the way as little as we can possibly avoid, wouldn't you agree?"

She shot him a small but bright smile, attempting to gain a reaction to his words. She did not wait long for an answer as it wasn't required for such a rhetorical question. Her eyes glanced down momentarily as she feigned struggling for the words to say next. She liked to be intimidating but she also knew the importance in being underestimated.

"I have asked about you, since I did require a new lawyer. I have heard some interesting things, mostly that you had spent quite a long time outside of England. I would love to hear tales of your travels and your time in India. " She glanced at the door as the man that was obviously in her thoughts arrived to place down the silver platter with a carefully picked set of tea cups. Ceramic with white roses upon them that matched the tall and slender tea pot. The man silently poured their tea but made sure to leave enough space so they could add whatever they may wish, though the man silently wondered if this woman was so used to being catered to that she'd order him to add it for her.

His thoughts were answered when she simply nodded to the servant, not so much in thanks as in accepting his service. She was more interested in her conversation with the lawyer before her.

"I am certain you've gained secrets in your travels, as men are wont to do. Our mansion is full of secrets as are the people inside. Nothing of interest though to your lawyer skills I am certain. At least, for the moment."
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#6
Her quick, though polished, dismissal of the fete and her lack of offering any explanation for her own absence said almost as much as if she had taken the time to tell him why she had skipped Lady Murzuran’s do. It was obviously something she did not wish to talk about, and Lawrence, of course, wouldn’t think of pressing the matter. But he tucked the ‘non-explanation’ away carefully, in a new pigeonhole of his well ordered mind, marked ‘Lady Madswitte’ to be taken back out and examined further, in his leisure and once the lady had left his presence.. For the moment, he let the drawer close and had his full attention on the woman, without distraction. As for her rather philosophical assertion about pastd and future, he murmured only a discrete, ”Of course,” as clearly she was not expecting a metaphysical debate. He kept his intelligent gaze upon her equally clever looking features, finding her ladyship more and more intriguing with every passing utterance.

Having made her reference to already being in the know about his time spent out of country, he had replied only, ”Indeed, I took advantage of my youth to satisfy my wanderlust and came to see much of that part of the Empire, we well as a good deal of Europe and the Levant.” He got only that broad reply in before Akal reappeared, almost like a silent genie, bearing their tea in the best tea service they owned. He smiled at his lover, who approached and set the tray down, and then proceeded to pour out as Lawrence nodded to him. ”Thank you, Akal,” he said, in a moderate tone, his eyes leaving the dark curls and coffee colored hands to return to the lady’s pleasant but sharp features.

Her next statement added an additional layer of inquisitiveness to his internal reflections towards his guest, and, hopefully, client. Secrets, indeed! He had no doubt, having seen but only a small slice of that demesne, that walls and corporeal forms alike held any number of unrevealed and deeply harbored skeletons in dark closets, both literal and figurative. But, he glossed over her sentiment with a generic, ”That is certainly the art and duty of a lawyer, my lady – to hear what can not be voiced outside of the confessional, to hold it close and carry it to the grave, if needs be. In almost two decades of representing those who wish to keep their secrets safe, I have, of course, been ever a man of discretion.”

This was true, even unto his own personal habits and relationships, although that would not bear on this immediate conversation. At least he hoped to God it wouldn’t.

He gave her a candid look, one meant to relay reassurance that whatever she had to say would travel no further than his ears, unless and until she gave direction otherwise. Looking at her, he’d say she did have a secret or two of her own. But he’d let her lead the conversation. He was merely the receptacle of her expressed needs and from thence the machine that would see to the production of the results which she desired.
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#7
"Of course.. You are truly a man of experience and wisdom. Just what I need.." Colette smiled in appreciation as she stared at him a moment more, seeking answers in his features that his words did not convey. She turned to the small purse she had and produced her own checkbook that she started to write in with a pen that had a dark stone appearance and gold tip. "Let us see. I think this is more than a fair amount.. "

She reached forward to give the man the check,but immediately held it back, just out of his reach. "This is technically for the Will that I wish you to write and notarize for me. But in accepting this money I expect more. Nothing illegal.. I think.." Her charming smile returned as she spoke. "But then, you are the lawyer, you are to know what is legal and illegal. And, when applicable.. You try to help brush the illegal under the rug or put a merry spin on it so that it appears perfectly logical and forgivable. Correct?"

Her hand slowly held out the check again this time to let him see. It was far too much for a regular will. It was as if he was doing wills every day for a solid month. Certainly enough to help with the payments for a few required things needed around the house or to lighten his bills for a while.

"I promise that I will explain myself, as long as you do your job at hand and nothing said here gets out." Her eyes shifted to Akal then back to him. She slowly placed the check before him on the table and her hands returned to the tea cup as she sipped it slowly. "This is very delicious."
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