by Tomi Adesina
“I am not cocky. I am just repulsed by people who can’t compete with me and this happens to me every time. Again, I am not cocky. They are not just good enough; and who are these ‘they’? The agglomeration of lawyers who come up against me. I must say I find my learned colleagues quite fascinating…especially the ones who start their pitch voraciously as though they could stage an upset only to water down when I rise. I enjoy seeing people squirm at my presence in court or during settlement simply because they know I won’t lose. They give me…what’s it called again? Satisfaction. Hmmm…needless to say…I get that a lot.”
Fola King stopped the self-idolatry going on in his head for a moment and waited for the Judge’s verdict. Recess was almost over and he believed the ruling could only go in his favour. This was one of those cases where his guts and instincts told him his client was guilty. His client had the eyes of a killer. Fola thought he looked dangerous but then looks could be very deceptive. The man was said to have killed his wife for having an affair with his friend. All the reasons did point to his client but Fola knew there were loopholes in that case and he did exploit them carefully. He enjoyed being a defence counsel, even though it left him largely controversial. Heck! Fola lived for the controversies. Now, he had the herculean task of proving his client not-guilty and so far, he had done an excellent job. The money coming to his firm was good, and the publicity was great. Two of his favourite things – Money and Fame. Fola King liked to think that they came hand-in-hand. He graced style magazines week-in-week-out and was living the life that could only be accrued to a famous sport star in some European elite league. Flashy cars. Posh apartment. Good bank account…and then, ladies. He was blessed with the good looks and athletic physique needed to get any lady. But then his charm did him a whole lot of good. He waited for the Judge’s verdict but not anxiously. He just wanted to get out of his wig and robe which he really didn’t like being seen in. He was one of the lawyers who felt his suit trimmings went to waste once he had the robe on. The robe covered the beauty of any of his many three-piece suits which he constantly adorned on his work days. The only thing that could conveniently surface in the court room in his dressing were his shoes; hence he spared no penny on buying the best. Again he was sure he wasn’t vain or cocky like others liked to think…he just loved to look good. It had not killed anyone. Had it?
A bang on the door signalled the return of the Judge to the court room and Fola King, as well as the rest of the court, rose on to their feet and waited for the Judge until he took his seat. Fola shot a smug smile at the prosecuting counsel before taking his seat. She eyeballed him coldly before drumming her fingers on the table. Fola smiled at this and then focused on the Judge who was about to proclaim the verdict.
The Judge cleared his throat and then looked into the court. “In the case of the State versus Mr Umar Abubakar. Having considered the arguments of the prosecution, the testimonies of the witnesses and the exhibits tendered before this honourable court, the court does not find substantial reasons to convict the defendant in the murder of his late wife, Hajjai Fatima Abubakar…The prosecution has not been able to prove the guilt of the accused person. The law is trite that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused. Having failed to discharge this burden upon them, I have no choice than to return a finding ‘not guilty’ for the accused. Hence, Mr Umar Abubakar is hereby discharged and acquitted. This is my judgement.”
Fola King flashed a smirk at Mr Umar as he joined him. “Thank you so much, Fola King. You are really something else.”
“I don’t lose, Sir.” Fola replied.
Mr Umar nodded. “You should stop by the house this evening.”
“I can’t make it. The office?” Fola asked, checking his wristwatch.
Mr Umar was fine with that. He wasn’t sure he wanted too many people visiting after such a tiring trial anyway. “See me at the office on Monday.” He replied and walked away to his group of friends.
“You do know he killed her, right?”
Fola turned around to his opposing counsel and took a deep breath. “I actually think you are stalking me.”
She scoffed. “I am upset. No. I am livid. Outraged. Angry. Mad at you!”
Fola stared around to be sure all eyes were not on them…at least not yet. “Yemi, it was just one night…why are you taking this thing so serious?”
She swallowed. “I agree I was shameless enough to jump into bed with you on a first date.” She started, through clenched teeth, trying not to be heard. “And maybe I let my guard down and was foolish-”
“-It was good sex, Yemi. Stop making light of your feelings.” He replied, cutting her off. He understood women and their logic. Give them one minute and they would start guilt tripping you. They were experts at reverse psychology. He was not about to fall for it.
She shook her head. “I believe your client killed that woman.”
“He did not.” He replied, sternly.
She stared at him. “Look at him! Umar Abubakar is all shades of evil. I must have missed something but there is no way he did not kill his wife.”
“You cannot approach the law on sentiments.” Fola replied, grabbing his briefcase. “Besides, he has just been acquitted by the Judge. If you feel violated by that ruling, feel free to appeal and I need not remind you how Judge Osaro feels about people challenging him. For that night’s sake.” He said. “You have yourself a good day.” He added and walked away from her, approaching the exit.
He stopped on seeing Sarah. She had her arms akimbo and cast a stern gaze at him. He exhaled and rolled his eyes. She must have seen him talking to Yemi. He smiled at her and mouthed. “I won.”
Sarah stared coldly at him before stepping out of the court. He exhaled and looked around him before heading out of the court.
“You told me there was nothing between you and that Yemi chic, right?”
Fola stared at Sarah who was standing by his door and walked over to her. “You know I like the door shut.” He said, closing the door.
Sarah followed him into the room, taking her seat opposite him.”You swore to me that there was nothing.”
“Sarah, there is nothing. She was an opposing counsel in this case and that is all there is to it.” He replied, taking his seat. “Don’t you have anything to do?” he asked.
She stared at him. “Is that a way of getting rid of me?”
“I think you spend too much time in my office for an intern. Don’t you care what the other interns or your fellow corps members think of you?” he asked.
She shrugged. “Why should I? You don’t care about anyone or what they think or feel and I am your understudy. Am I not meant to be that way?”
That was dicey for Fola. He stroked his beards proudly. “You learn well.”
“And fast too.” She replied with a smile. “I can’t wait to get my permanent appointment in this Firm.”
Fola smiled. “It’s not that simple.”
“I am serving here and more importantly, I am sleeping with you. That has to count for something.” She replied.
Fola chuckled. “So it’s just about the sex?”
“And I live in your house too.” She added. “That is a big deal for me.”
He blinked. “I hope you haven’t whispered this to any of your Corps member pals?”
“No. Your secret is safe with me.”
Fola laughed. “My secret?”
“Our secret.” She replied.
He stared at her with a smile. “I thought I did well in court today.”
She shook her head. “I thought you were too confident. That lady didn’t grind you well.”
“Do you actually think anyone could own me in a court room?” he asked, staring at her.
She adjusted her blouse. “I know why you are staring so hard. Trust me, I believe Yemi went too easy on you”. She said, sitting up. “I have heard a lot about her from the Legal Aid unit but she disappointed me all through this trial. She gave you a very easy sail. Don’t you think? Do you have anything on her? Maybe she used to be a hooker in her former life…although Yemi particularly strikes me as the prim and proper lady. So, tell me…why did she lose that case? Umar looks like a killer.”
Fola bit his lip. “That doesn’t make him a killer and if you have understudied me so well…you should have learned not to be sentimental.”
“Work in progress, Fola.” She replied. “Work in progress.” She affirmed. “Besides, we all know that this firm goes for the murky cases with a lot of money attached to them, hence, I do not expect you to go to court with your heart…not saying you have any.” She concluded and smiled.
Fola took a deep breath. “I think I have created a monster in you.”
“I need to impress my teacher every now and then.” She said, undoing her top button. “Are you impressed?”
He smiled. “I would be having drinks with the guys after work. Want to come?”
“No. I’ll go home and wait for you.” She replied, picking up a file from his desk. “I’ll study this.”
He nodded. “See you later.”
She winked and walked out.
Fola released his necktie and walked over to the giant window in his office, and stared into the city. He liked it here. It did provide him some tranquillity and a moment to think about the things that might be true. Things like Umar actually being involved in his wife’s death. But the man had an alibi and the case was already done and dusted…well, almost. He still had a fat cheque to receive from him and then it would have been dusted.
Umar wiped his eyes and stared into the mirror. “Fatima.” He called, quietly. He then burst into tears. “Fatima. Why, Fatima?” he cried.
“What are you doing, Umar?”
He turned to see his friend. “Why are you here, Yusuf?”
“Dry your tears. The transfer just came through.” He replied.
Umar took a deep breath, but the tears would not stop flowing. “Is the transfer supposed to make me feel better?”
“I guess.” Yusuf replied.
Umar walked over to the bed and took his seat. “I would have to change these sheets.”
“I thought you already did that.”
Umar nodded. “They still remind me of her.”
“It will pass.” Yusuf replied, gathering some documents by the bedside.
Umar shook his head. “No, it won’t.”
“Well, you are about to be in charge of a hefty conglomerate. This was a good sacrifice, Umar.”
Umar stared coldly at him. “I still hate you for sleeping with my wife.”
“Well, you needed a reason to kill her…and I gave you one. Move on.” Yusuf replied and handed him the files. “I don’t know how you managed to be Fatima’s next of kin, but you are a very wealthy man now, Umar. Very wealthy.”
Umar managed a smile. “How is Aaima?”
Umar nodded. “I don’t like surprises.”
“Yet you still managed to act surprised when you saw me on top of your wife.” Yusuf replied with a smile. “Pass me a cigarette.”
Umar swallowed. “Don’t make me feel worse than I already do.” He replied and tossed a pack of cigarette to his friend who had now taken his seat beside him.
“You are lucky Fola King is a very good lawyer. I reckon he is the best in town. If I was the judge, I’d have convicted you based on my instincts.” He replied, fetching a beer from the bedside fridge. “Want one? It goes well with a smoke.”
Umar hated Yusuf’s guts. “You do know we are both going down for this, right?”
“I don’t remember being the one who killed her.” He replied, puffing out some smoke into Umar’s face. “Besides, did the Judge not acquit you?”
Umar nodded. “But what if anything goes wrong? I don’t like how confident you look.” He retorted.
“Aaima is the only thing that can go wrong and she is already out of here, she saw everything and she is the key witness no one knows. Be calm.” Yusuf replied and rose to his feet. “I should check on Aaima later this evening.”
“Don’t hurt her. I can’t be responsible for the death of two sisters.” Umar replied.
Yusuf laughed so loud that he accidentally hit his head on the door. With the impact of the pain, he stopped and stared at Umar. “What difference does it make?” he asked, and walked out.
Umar took a deep breath.
Fola dropped his glass and drummed on the table. “Another round!”
“Dude, you should slow down.” Obi cautioned as he watched Fola take his sixth shot of the night.
Fola turned to Obi. “Why are you always so careful? It hasn’t earned you anything, you know?”
“Your recklessness will kill you…or kill someone.” Obi replied. “By the way, I could really get used to you spoiling me every time you win a case.” He added, sipping his wine.
Fola laughed and turned to his right. “Where is that idiot?”
“He went to puke in the bathroom. His tolerance level for alcohol is not like yours.” Obi replied and tapped on his phone screen. “I can’t believe I have another shift in a couple of hours. God! I hate my job!”
Fola smiled. “You know I find it pretty awkward that you chose nursing of all professions.”
“What is so awkward about it? I love my job.” Obi replied.
Fola’s phone buzzed. He turned the screen to his face and sighed seeing ‘MOM’ on the Caller ID. He turned the phone face down and sipped some of Obi’s wine.
“Who was that?” Obi asked.
Fola shrugged. “My mom.”
“Oh…Mrs King. Dude, when last did you answer her call?”
Fola relaxed in his seat. “See…I don’t have time for her and her cliché talk of marriage. I am really exhausted.”
“Bro, but you are seeing Sarah, right?” Obi asked.
Greg clattered into an empty seat beside them. “He is just sleeping with her.” He said, joining in the conversation.
“How do you feel?” Obi asked.
Greg shook his head. “Like rubbish. And to think I have to see a client early tomorrow morning. Fola, you are the devil. Always getting me drunk.”
“I do not remember forcing the bottle down your throat.” Fola replied, staring at his wristwatch. “What case is that?”
“Femi Johnson. That land issue.”
Fola hissed. “I hate cases that drag forever.”
“How do you feel when you get the bad guys out?” Obi asked.
Fola rolled his eyes. “You are always so emotional, Obi. This is my job.”
“I think you are a good lawyer, but I just feel really sore about what you do.” Obi continued. “I mean, Umar doesn’t have good records in this society, yet he is walking away.”
“Because it can’t be proved that he killed his wife. It’s the law. You are a nurse, I don’t expect you to understand that.” Fola replied.
Greg belched. “Guys, I feel really nauseated and I want to go home.”
“I’ll call you a cab.” Obi offered, dialling on his phone.
Greg blinked. “Why don’t I just go with you?”
“Nah…heading to the hospital.” Obi replied and turned away from the other guys as he gave directions to a cab driver on the phone.
Fola stared at Greg. “You should really stop drinking.”
“You should really stop winning cases so we have nothing to celebrate about.” He retorted as he yawned.
Obi turned to them. “The driver will be here soon. And you Fola, can you drive?”
“Since when has alcohol ever owned your boy?” he asked, laughing.
Obi managed a smile. He saw Fola and Greg as two reckless boy-men that he had the responsibility of watching over. He admired Fola. Fola was everything the other two weren’t. Decisive with his career…not women. Brilliant. Smart. A smooth talker and very successful. Greg struggled with his career that he often did doubt his authenticity as a lawyer. Obi had a good time at the hospital. His patients loved him but he wished he had Fola’s carriage, determination and will that saw him rise faster than his peers in the society and very importantly, financially.
“Fola, I think you should decide what you want to do with Sarah.” Obi said. “She lives with you-”
“-And so did every lady he had good sex with.” Greg replied, cutting in. “Remember our President’s quote?” he asked, already laughing.
Fola laughed. “I am for everybody and I am for nobody.”
The trio burst into a laugh.
Aaima’s head ached. She tried to open her eyes but it ached more. She groaned in pain as she forced the eyes open, panting heavily in the process. She scanned through the empty room she was kept in and took a deep breath. It was empty. Her clothes stunk. She had been wearing them for as far back as she could remember when she was abducted from her sister’s house. She tried to stand but her legs failed her as she crashed back to the floor. She was injured. The men had constantly hit her legs for a moment like this…she presumed. She had never been left alone, she didn’t know why she was in the room alone. Something didn’t feel right. Or had the police come raiding? It didn’t make any sense. They would have freed her if they came around. She had to get out of here now that she was alone. She forced herself up again and made for the exit in pains. It was dark and the coast looked clear for her. There was no one in sight. She knew the men were not foolish enough to leave her alone, but she had to take her chances. With this hope in mind, she took the first step to her freedom out of the room.
She used the walls as a support as she leaned against it and dragged herself slowly through the wall of the building. She froze in her tracks as she heard voices in a distance. She looked ahead and saw lights beaming afar. This place had to lead to the roads. If she could just run as fast as her legs could take her, she would get to the road and scream for help. That was a good idea. She took a deep breath and prayed that Allah would make it possible. She poked her head to the right side of the building and saw two men having a smoke. She blinked. Maybe that would distract them a little while she ran. There was a bush ahead of her leading to the road. She would make sounds and the men would notice. She swallowed as her fears welled up in her mind. Maybe it would be foolish to try to get away after all. Her legs were not in the best condition, but she had quite a distance from the men. She would take her chance. She ran.
The men turned as they heard quick movement and panting across the bush. “Snake?” One asked.
The other stepped back and shone his torch into the distance. “It’s the girl!” he screamed and raced through the bush. “Stop!”
Aaima looked back and saw the good distance she had left between them. She looked ahead, she was seconds away from the main road. She kept running. She heard gunshots.
Fola struggled to keep his eyes on the road. He knew he should have called a cab. The alcohol made him leery. He knew he had to make it home in time, else he’d face Sarah’s rants. He stepped on the gas pedal and then he froze as a body dropped down his bonnet to the floor. “Oh my God!” he said as he panted.
He stepped out of the car into the empty road and hurried out to the body that lay on the floor in blood. He bent and touched her neck to feel for a pulse. It was still there. He gasped. “Hospital.”
As he tried to lift her, she groaned in pain and grabbed his collar. “Help me…Help me.” She struggled to say. She was bleeding from her leg profusely.
Fola looked around him. There was no one in sight. He couldn’t stay one more second there. He would be in trouble with the law. He knew the drill and how everything worked there. He put her back to the floor and shook his head. “I am sorry.” He said, stepping back slowly. Her eyes pleaded for him to stay and help. She probably couldn’t talk any more. She was in pain. He blinked in fear, ran into his car and drove off.