On Trial – Episode 11
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
‘I want you to be completely honest with me,’ Kaira told Koje on Tuesday afternoon.
He gave her a look which said, ‘Here we go again.’
They had agreed on her fees – N5, 000,000 (Five Million Naira) and he was to pay 50% of the sum as interim fees and the balance after the case was concluded. And then N10, 000 as appearance fee for every day she or either of her lawyers was in court.
‘What makes you think I haven’t been completely honest with you?’ he asked.
‘I have read through your statement to the police, remember? It was the statement of a man who didn’t want to write anything likely to implicate him. In your words, “I spoke to her but I didn’t rape her.” What was that? You didn’t say why you were in her place in the first place, and I’m going to forget the part where you lied about changing your mind at her doorstep and leaving without talking to her while forgetting that your statement to the police was in the case file. Secondly, you didn’t state what happened between the time you talked to her and when you left her apartment. There’s only one word that can be used to describe your statement to the police, and that’s ‘vague’’
She pushed the file in his direction, pointing to the I.P.O’s statement that his finger prints had been found in Laide’s living room, on an empty wine of glass on the centre table to be precise. The sample had been admitted by the court as an exhibit.
‘What do you have to say for yourself?’ she asked him
He shrugged. And had her younger brother, she would have slapped the back of his head.
‘If I said that I was framed, would that suffice?’
‘Were you?’ she returned, holding his dark brown gaze.
‘I don’t have to tell you that there are three people you should never lie to because the consequences might be very dangerous: God, your lawyer and your doctor. I shall not allow you to keep information from me unless you cherish the thought of spending the rest of your life in prison.’
‘Is that a threat?’
‘A warning. A lawyer can only do so much. So far the prosecution has shown that you have a case to answer and so I cannot make a no case submission when the prosecution closes its case. Although it is not compulsory that you go into the witness box, it will be in your best interest to do so. The prosecution will literally harass you with evidence that I may not be in a position to prepare you for because you didn’t trust me enough to bare it all. I am not interested in how many woman you have had sex with or still have sex with. What I am interested in is anything remotely related to this case. For instance, did Tari catch you with Laide in a corner in your office?’
‘Not in a corner. Laide and I were seated on a couch in my office going through some of the documents for one of the trips she had helped me schedule. We had shared a kiss – no, it wasn’t one sided – and at that point the door opened. It was a reflex action to tug at her hair as though I was taking something out of it. She was my personal assistant and so it was natural for her to have access to my office and my home. Tari made up the story of catching Laide and I in a corner. I would never be that careless and certainly not with Laide.’
‘Were you in love with her?’
‘Love is a strong word. I was into her. She was beautiful and she was always around. That’s like keeping a goat in front of a yam and expecting it never to give in to the temptation of eating the yam. I couldn’t let her go because she was great at her job but I also couldn’t control the tightening in my groin every time she was close by. I kissed her a few times because I couldn’t help it but I NEVER forced myself on her. Yes I wanted her in my bed but I am not so without discipline that I would bed my employee. She didn’t resign from the job because she wanted to, I asked her to put in her resignation and promised that I would recommend her for any job of her choice.
‘Now, about Tari. I relieved her of her duties because she was always using one excuse or the other to get close to me. I love women but I have learned in life that desperate women would use every opportunity to rope you in. I wasn’t going to end up marrying a woman just because she got me to have sex with her and that was Tari. She began to get desperate. She would come to my house at late hours with one excuse or the other and then expecting me to invite her to spend the night and leave in the morning. I wasn’t stupid! I let her go with three months’ salary in lieu of notice. I didn’t like her relationship with Laide. It wasn’t healthy. After I let Tari go, Laide approached me to ask why I had relieved Tari of her duties. She pleaded with me to give Tari back her job and she looked like she was under a lot of pressure. Laide resigned a few months later.
‘I’m not saying this because Tari testified against me. She’s entitled to her opinion but I do not for one second regret asking her to leave. There was nothing subtle about her seduction tactic. She was beautiful and probably thought that would be more than enough to get my attention, and it probably would have if I wasn’t already interested in Laide and if she wasn’t coming on too strongly for my comfort, taking liberties no one had given her, like standing in front of my table, beside my desk, almost sitting on the desk with her tight blouse with the top buttons off so that one could not help but notice her heavy cleavage, and her short skirts revealing fair laps on the guise of presenting a report. I had to warn her severally to desist from it. She was a big temptation but not to me.
‘Now, Laide on the other hand has proved irreplaceable. My current assistant pales in comparison. He tries his best but Laide was exceptional. Her efficiency was totally out of this world. I regret that things went this way between us but the truth is I miss her being my Personal Assistant. I wish I had kept my desires in check. But no, I never raped her. It’s not in my DNA to force a woman to be with me. My mother didn’t raise me that way.
‘On the night in question, I had driven to Igwuruta but not with the intention of seeing Laide,’ he continued. ‘And if indeed it was with the intention of seeing her, then it was not a conscious decision. I had stumbled into her at the supermarket. She hadn’t seen me and I guess I should have called out to her. Instead I did the stupid thing of following her outside and noticed that she hadn’t driven down which meant that she lived within the vicinity. I left my car at the carpark of the supermarket and followed Laide who was dressed in a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, her long feet tucked into bathroom slippers. I was right, she lived in an apartment two buildings away. Locating her apartment was not difficult as she occupied one of the ground floor apartments in the building. I stood there trying to decide whether or not to walk away, knowing that she would never know I was there. That was actually what common sense expected of me but I didn’t have any at the time. And so instead of respecting my stupid self and walking back to the supermarket, I knocked on her door. She was surprised to see me but let me into the apartment. We talked about stuff.’
‘May I remind you that right now, nothing about your life is personal?’
‘Do I really have to do this?’
‘How badly do you want your freedom?’ she returned.
‘You already know the answer to that.’
‘Not from where I’m seated.’
He sighed exasperatedly.
‘She was an obsession I was trying to recover from. I told her I hadn’t been able to get her out of my mind, and that was the truth. I told her I wanted her in my life. I was single and so was she and since she no longer worked for me so we wouldn’t be breaking any rules. However, she told me I was a year too late; that she had moved on with her life. I didn’t think she was being truthful because she wouldn’t meet my eyes. I could tell she wasn’t completely immune with me, that she was tempted by the idea of going out with me, and no it didn’t have anything to do with not being used to rejection.’
‘Perhaps you misread her expression.’
‘There was no way I could have done that. It was as clear as the glass in which she had poured out wine for me right there in her living room. All she needed was a little push and I acted like most men would in the situation. I guess I deserve a smack on the back of the head for my stupidity but I reached out and kissed her. She didn’t fight me. And her response wasn’t feigned. We shared a kiss so intense that we could easily have ended up making love right there in her living room. But she told me after a few minutes that she couldn’t go ahead with it, that there was someone else. She looked like she wanted to tell me more but thought better of it. I was upset but I didn’t hit her or force myself on her. Everything inside me wanted me to take advantage of the fact that she had fully responded to my kiss by kissing her once more, knowing that she might not be able to resist the second time, but I left before I found myself doing something we would both regret.’
‘And so the baby she was carrying wasn’t yours.’
‘No, it wasn’t. I didn’t have sex with her, not that night or any other time. We never went beyond kisses and heavy petting, I can assure you. That’s the only reason why there was no semen found in her. If I’d had sex with her, there would have been an ejaculation. A man who is far gone is far gone and not in full control of his body once he starts. The only thing likely to make him pull out before his release is if he’s caught or there’s a distraction. I won’t say that she was or wasn’t raped. But if she was then it wasn’t by men and the man in question most likely used a condom. The tests results from all those so called samples taken from swabs they claimed which linked me to the perpetration of such a foul act had to have been doctored. I was asked to come in for samples to be extracted and I gladly did so because I knew I was innocent. I wasn’t drunk or under the influence of a hard substance. When I left Laide’s apartment, she saw me off to the door and she was fully dressed. I told her I would call her in the morning and so I was surprised when the police invaded my home in the early hours of the morning as though I had killed someone.’
Her phone rang.
‘Excuse me,’ she told Quadri before taking her twin sister’s call.
‘Girlie, I’m in a meeting. I’ll call you once I’m done,’ she told Chibuogu.
‘So you can’t spare two minutes to give me gossip, eh?’
‘About your new client. The story is all over Facebook.’
Didn’t Chibuogu mean Asili.com ? Kaira thought, rolling her eyes dramatically.
‘You need to read the comments,’ Chibuogu continued. ‘You’re trending. Over 1500 comments already. Some persons are wondering whether it was his good looks that made you move from prosecutor to defender…’
Kaira drew her palm over her face. That was to be expected. It didn’t mean that she liked it.
‘Thanks for the heads up. I’ll call you later…I’ll check my Facebook page.’
She ended the call and looked at the man in front of her.
‘Let me guess. We are trending on Facebook.’
And he had the temerity to smile.
‘You find this amusing?’ she enquired, an eyebrow arched.
‘No, but I’m sure you were expecting it. You’re a very smart woman. I have no doubt that a lot of people would be trying to reach me and that’s why my phone’s on silent until I get home.’
‘I don’t like this one bit.’
‘I wish I could apologise for coming to you and thereby dragging you into my mess, but I won’t insult your intelligence. There’s a reason I prefer Whatsapp to Facebook. There’s less drama there.’
To be continued