A lawyer named Phineas C. Gooch specialized in handling divorce cases. One day, a confident and well-dressed man visited Gooch's office, seeking advice on a hypothetical case involving a woman who had left her husband for another man.
The man claimed that the woman's husband, Thomas R. Billings, was incompatible with her, and that the other man, Henry K. Jessup, was a better match. The visitor offered to pay Gooch $500 to secure a divorce for the woman.
Shortly after, a woman entered Gooch's office, presenting a similar hypothetical case. She revealed herself to be Mrs. Billings and asked Gooch to help her obtain a divorce. Gooch then met with a third client, who claimed to be Thomas R. Billings.
This man begged Gooch to convince his wife to return home and offered to pay $1,000 for his services.
‘A divorce!’ exclaimed the client, feelingly—almost tearfully. ‘No, no—not that. I have read, Mr. Gooch, of many instances where your sympathy and kindly interest led you to act as a mediator between estranged husband and wife, and brought them together again. Let us drop the hypothetical case—I need conceal no longer that it is I who am the sufferer in this sad affair—the names you shall have—Thomas R. Billings and wife—and Henry K. Jessup, the man with whom she is infatuated.’
Gooch realized that all three clients were connected and attempted to bring them together to resolve the situation. However, the third client panicked upon learning that his wife was in the building and fled, leaving behind a satchel containing items belonging to Henry K. Jessup. Gooch discovered that the third client was actually Jessup in disguise, and decided not to take on the case.