As Good As Dead Page 3


‘Pip –’

‘OK, everyone!’ Hassan stood up. ‘Let’s take this down a notch. We will all get our chance to speak. Remember, we are here to make sure everyone is happy with the outcome. Mr Epps, could you take us through the damages your client is seeking?’

Epps bowed his head, pulling out a sheet of paper from the bottom of the pile. ‘For special damages, considering my client should have been in employment for the last four months, at a monthly salary level we would expect for someone in his position, this would have been at least three thousand sterling. This places the financial loss at twelve thousand pounds.’

Max sucked at his water bottle again, the water sloshing around his throat. Pip would have liked to take that fucking water bottle and smash it into his face. If there was to be blood on her hands, it should be his.

‘Of course no monetary figure can be put on the pain and mental anguish suffered by my client and his family. But we feel a sum of eight thousand pounds should be adequate, bringing the total to twenty thousand pounds sterling.’

‘Ridiculous,’ Roger said, shaking his head. ‘My client is only eighteen years old.’

‘Mr Turner, you should allow me to finish,’ Epps sneered, licking his finger to turn the page. ‘However, in discussion with my client, it is his opinion that his ongoing suffering is caused by the fact that the libellous statement has not been retracted and no apology issued, which would actually be of greater value to him than any monetary damages.’

‘Miss Fitz-Amobi deleted the post weeks ago, when your initial letter of demand was sent,’ said Roger.

‘Mr Turner, please,’ Epps replied. If Pip had to hear him say please like that one more time, she might just smash his face in too. ‘Deleting the tweet after the fact does not mitigate the reputational harm done. So, our proposal is thus: Miss Fitz-Amobi releases a statement on the same public account, in which she retracts her original defamatory statement with an admission of wrongdoing and apologizes for any hurt her words have caused my client. In addition – and this is the most important sticking point, so do pay close attention – in this statement, she must fully admit that she doctored the audio clip in question and that my client never said those words.’

‘Fuck off.’

‘Pip –’

‘Miss Fitz-Amobi,’ Hassan pleaded, struggling with his tie like it was tightening around his neck, chasing its own tail.

‘I will ignore your client’s outburst, Mr Turner,’ said Epps. ‘If those demands are met, we shall apply a discount, as it were, to the monetary damages, halving them to ten thousand pounds.’

‘OK, that’s a good starting point,’ Hassan nodded, trying to regain control. ‘Mr Turner, would you like to respond to the proposal?’

‘Thank you, Mr Bashir,’ Roger said, taking the floor. ‘The proposed damages are still too high. You make great assumptions about your client’s potential employment status. I don’t see him as a particularly spectacular candidate, especially in the current jobs market. My client is just eighteen. Her only income is from ad revenue from her true crime podcast, and she starts university in a few weeks, where she will incur a large student debt. In light of this, the demand is unreasonable.’

‘OK, seven thousand,’ Epps said, narrowing his eyes.

‘Five thousand,’ Roger countered.

Epps glanced quickly at Max who gave an ever-so-slight nod, slouching sideways in his chair. ‘That is agreeable to us,’ Epps said, ‘in conjuncture with the retraction and apology.’

‘OK, we seem to be getting somewhere.’ A cautious smile returned to Hassan’s face. ‘Mr Turner, Miss Fitz-Amobi, could we get your thoughts on those terms?’

‘Well,’ Roger began, ‘I think the –’

‘No deal,’ Pip said, pushing her chair back from the table, the legs screaming against the polished floor.

‘Pip,’ Roger turned to her before she could get to her feet. ‘Why don’t we go discuss this somewhere and –’

‘I will not retract my statement and I will not lie and say the audio file was doctored. I called him a rapist because he is a rapist. I will be dead before I ever apologize to you.’ She bared her teeth at Max, the rage curling her spine, coating her skin.

‘MR TURNER! Control your client, please!’ Epps slapped the table.

Hassan flapped, unsure what to do.

Pip stood up. ‘Here’s the thing about you suing me, Max.’ She spat out his name, unable to bear it on her tongue. ‘I have the ultimate defence: the truth. So, go on then, file the lawsuit, I dare you. I’ll see you in court. And you know how that goes, don’t you? It will have to prove whether my statement was true, which means we get to re-do your rape trial. All the same witnesses, the victim testimonies, the evidence. There won’t be any criminal charges but at least everyone will know what you are, forever. Rapist.’

‘Miss Fitz-Amobi!’

‘Pip –’

She planted her hands and leaned across the table, her eyes ablaze, boring into Max’s. If only they could start a fire in his, burn up his face while she watched. ‘Do you really think you can pull it off a second time? Convince another jury of twelve peers that you’re not a monster?’

His gaze cut back into hers. ‘You’ve lost your mind,’ he sneered.

‘Maybe. So you should be terrified.’

‘Right!’ Hassan stood and clapped his hands. ‘Perhaps we should have a break for some tea and biscuits.’

‘I’m done,’ Pip said, shouldering her rucksack, opening the door so hard it ricocheted into the wall.

‘Miss Fitz-Amobi, please come back.’ Hassan’s desperate voice followed her out into the corridor. Footsteps too. Pip turned. It was only Roger, fumbling his papers into his briefcase.

‘Pip,’ he said breathlessly. ‘I really think we should –’

‘I’m not negotiating with him.’

‘Wait a moment!’ Epps’ bark filled the corridor as he hurried over to join them. ‘Just give me one minute, please,’ he said, re-neatening his grey hair. ‘We won’t file for another month or so, OK? Avoiding a court case is really in everyone’s best interest. So, have a few weeks to think it over, when things aren’t so emotional.’ He looked down at her.

‘I don’t need to think it over,’ Pip said.

‘Please just...’ Epps fumbled in his suit pocket, pulling out two crisp ivory-coloured business cards. ‘My card,’ he said, offering them out to her and Roger. ‘My mobile number is on there too. Have a little think, and if you change your mind, call me any time.’

‘I won’t,’ she said, reluctantly taking his card, stuffing it into the unused pocket of her jacket.

Christopher Epps studied her for a moment, eyebrows lowered in an approximation of concern. Pip held his gaze; to look away was to let him win.

‘And maybe just one word of advice,’ Epps said. ‘Take it or leave it, but I’ve seen people in a self-destructive spiral before. Hell, I’ve represented many of them. In the end, you’ll only end up hurting everyone around you, and yourself. You won’t be able to help it. I urge you to turn back before you lose everything.’

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