Edward Kane and the Parlour Maid Murderer, part four: The gallows beckons for Kane’s first client

In the final of four extracts from Ross Macfarlane’s new novel set in Victorian Edinburgh, Edward Kane, Advocate, and his man Mr Horse must prevent another hanging in the Capital

Saturday, 8th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 13th May 2021, 11:35 am
QC and author Ross Macfarlane
QC and author Ross Macfarlane

Edward, he called me Edward. Kane should not have been surprised at this. It was a long-standing convention in the Faculty of Advocates that each member called the other by their Christian name. This underlined the collegiate nature of belonging to the Faculty of Advocates.‘Now, Edward, I’m hearing good reports of your work.’‘Thank you, Dean.’‘Good attention to detail, I understand.’‘Yes, Dean.’

‘But a good Advocate is not a good Advocate if he exists merely on paper.’

‘No, Dean.’‘A good Advocate is a master of the facts, a master of the law, a master of procedure.’‘Yes, Dean.’‘But more than that. A good Advocate is a master of persuasion.’‘Yes, Dean of Faculty.’‘However, you have virtually no experience of appearing in court. Is that correct?’Kane sighed: ‘Unfortunately, Dean of Faculty...’Lennox held up his hand to stop the reply: ‘It is my considered view, young fellow, that your obvious assiduity should be rewarded in the form of a set of instructions.’The Dean held out the small bundle of papers. Work. Work! And passed on from the Dean of Faculty himself. The corners of Kane’s mouth twitched towards the ceiling.‘Of course,’ said the Dean, ‘there will be no fee paid for any work undertaken in this particular case...’

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QC and author Ross Macfarlane

The sides of Kane’s mouth pointed to the floor.The Dean continued, ‘You are aware, for example, of the operation of the Poor Roll.’Kane took the papers: ‘Certainly, Dean of Faculty. The Orphan, the Sick or the Lunatic, I understand to be the vernacular summation of those eligible for the provision of such services.’‘Indeed,’ smiled the Dean. ‘And I am inviting you, Edward, to participate similarly in a more gratuitous form of representation than would be usual. Fiat Justicia, Edward, Fiat Justicia. Let justice be done. The Faculty has a long tradition of assisting those who are without the means to do so themselves. This is a comparable species of case. Pro bono publicae, Edward.’Kane had a depressing thought: the Dean may clothe the situation in as much Latin as he wished, but the inevitable translation was that he was expecting a great deal of work to be done for no pay.‘And, pray, Dean of Faculty, to which category does the party belong?’‘To which category, Edward?’‘The Orphan, the Sick or the Lunatic, sir?’‘Why, to none of these categories, my friend. ‘Comparable’, I said. You will undertake this enterprise as a service to me.’‘To you, Dean of Faculty?’‘These instructions have come for my attention, but since I am connected, by bonds of friendship, to certain parties within the matter, namely Sir Charles Irving, I am unable to accept the instructions here. Thus, I happily transfer them into your care.’Sir Charles Irving? Kane had never met the gentleman, but it was well known that Sir Charles was responsible for a great deal of employment in the city through his ownership of various businesses and factories. His name was also synonymous with various acts of philanthropy. Sir Charles would be, perhaps, one of the richest men in Edinburgh. Then, why no fee here?The Dean placed the papers into Kane’s hands.‘Edward, while not actively involved in proceedings, I will seek to exercise a measure of control here. From a discreet distance, of course. I hope that that arrangement meets with your approval?’What else could Kane say? ‘Of course, Dean of Faculty.’The Dean stood up to indicate that the meeting was at an end.‘Well, my friend, I am delighted that we have reached an accommodation on this difficult matter.’Kane stood up.‘Thank you, Dean of Faculty. I perhaps ought to have asked: what is the nature of the case? Land? Trusts? Or an Interdict matter perhaps?’‘Oh no. When you have perused the papers, Edward, you will discover that you are representing the accused in The Law Criminal.’‘But, Dean of Faculty, I confess that I know little or nothing of that branch...’

‘Yes. Did I neglect to mention, my friend, that the charge is that of Murder?’

‘Murder, Mr K? Murder? And you, sir, you?’

Horse was frozen in the middle of brushing Kane’s footwear, a shoe in one hand and a brush in the other.‘I’m bound to say, Mr Horse, that it would be of more encouragement to me if your incredulity could be more sensitively expressed.’Horse resumed with the brush for a moment. And then: ‘But did he do it, sir?’‘Sorry?’‘The gentleman in question, Mr K. Did he do the deed?’Kane removed the bundle of papers from his bag.‘That, Mr Horse, should become apparent once I have studied this surprisingly thin brief.’Horse continued to brush. Silently.‘Your silence is eloquent. If I had a penny to spare, Mr Horse, I might tender it for your thoughts on the matter.’‘Just minding my thoughts, Mr K. And - begging your pardon - but with you being this poor creature’s only hope against the noose, sir, I hope, for his sake, that he’s guilty.’

To continue reading Edward Kane and the Parlour Maid Murderer, Ross Macfarlane’s debut novel is available in paperback, published by Scotland Street Press, available from Amazon, Kindle and all good bookshops

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