“Sorry, Matt. I’ve just got one other thing to do. Would you mind hanging around for a few minutes?” a flustered Dennis asked in the lobby of the Four Courts mid-morning on Friday.
“Relax,” Matt returned. “I’m not in any hurry.”
“Thanks. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going,” Dennis groaned, moving quickly away.
He disappeared through a crowd emptying from Court No. 4 into the cavernous domed hall, where the hum grew loud as debate gathered momentum among the emerging horde. In splintered groups throughout the hallway, they paused briefly to discuss the judge’s ruling, before committing the case to memory and the annals of the law.
Matt reached into the pocket of his jacket for the pack of cigarettes. Dennis’s few minutes could turn into half an hour, but if he was truly under pressure and anxious to get back to his office, he might return just as Matt lit up. So he dismissed the idea and cast a casual glance around the area where, already, the crowd had dispersed. Barristers and clerks headed back to the inner chambers, while members of the public moved towards the exit to the street.
Soon, the only one remaining with him in the bleak, echoing hallway was a pretty blond girl of around ten, who sat on one of the bench seats by the wall with her head lowered and her gaze fixed on the floor. A child alone was an unusual sight in the Four Courts and, as he walked in her direction, Matt wondered where within the halls of justice she had become misplaced.
“Hello,” he said cheerily, sitting down on the seat beside her; his eyes rested upon the many shades of blond in long, shining hair that fell forward and almost hid her face. “Are you waiting for someone?”
Almost in slow motion, she turned her head to look up at him, and in that brief moment her large blue eyes penetrated his soul. A sense of despair hovered around her, creating an uneasiness that left him struggling to sustain his smile. Inside the crystal clear orbs there was deep anguish.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
She didn’t answer or show any response. Instead, she continued to stare at him before dropping her head once more.
“What’s wrong?” he asked tenderly. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Again there was no response and, with the sound of approaching footsteps, Matt looked up to see Dennis hurrying towards him. On impulse, he drew out one of his business cards and pushed it into the pocket of the girl’s cotton jacket before standing up. She didn’t move.
“That’s it. I’m done.” Dennis glanced down at the girl. “Who’s your friend?”
“I don’t know,” Matt said with an uneasy frown. “She doesn’t want to talk.”
Dennis opened his briefcase and drew out a file while, from a corridor facing them, a barrister in silks appeared, accompanied by a dark, good-looking man dressed in an expensive business suit. Following a brief handshake, they separated and the man came towards the girl.
“Come on, Nicky. It’s time to go,” he ordered sharply.
Curiously, Matt observed the instruction that fell just short of clicking his fingers, and he watched for the girl’s response. Without meeting the man’s gaze, she stood up. He led the way to the door and she followed with her hands in her pockets and her shoulders hunched. But, before exiting, she paused and looked across to Matt.
“Lovely kid,” Dennis said, following Matt’s gaze.
“Do you know the guy she’s with?” he asked, as he watched her go.
“No, but his counsel is Rory Sheridan so, whoever he is, he’s got money.”