Hell hath no fury like a lawyer scorned, especially when you take away his sauna, whirlpool and exercise machine.

Such was the reaction last week when attorneys from the Justice Department, Covington & Burling, the IRS and a number of other downtown lawyer shops showed up at their favorite health club only to find the doors locked and a surprise notice that the business had closed.

The unannounced closing of the Capital Nautilus Club at 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW had many attorneys hyperventilating, especially those who had signed up for extended memberships and suddenly found themselves out several hundred dollars in fees.

"Everybody in our office is talking about it," said Mark Dombroff, a director of the Justice Department's tort branch. "Even the ones who didn't belong."

Meg Athey, an associate at Covington, said she had only recently begun aerobics classes when the notice was posted. "They were selling memberships last week," she said.

John J. Farley, another director of torts for Justice, said he was on his way to the club last Monday when he learned of its demise. "I really love the exercise because I don't get that much," Farley said. "The whirlpool was great because I have a heelspur and it keeps the swelling down."

All said they were especially disappointed because the club, located in the basement of the building where Convington has its offices, was just right for lunch-hour exercise sessions.

"It doesn't mesh well with my schedule to have to go elsewhere," said Michael Baxter, a Covington attorney who also was taking aerobics there.

The lawyers say they won't take this lying down.

"Essentially, I think the management over there took the wrong group of people on," said Dombroff. "They really did pick the wrong group of people to do this to."