“A leopard truly cannot change it’s spots.” Isabel who had been watching from her office television remarked.
Then her receptionist knocked on her door. Isabel muted her television to hear what she had to say.
“Excuse me Attorney, the LA secretary general has sent a message requesting a meeting for all LA reps at 4.00.” She said.
“Ok. Thank you.” She replied and wondered why there would be an urgent meeting of the lawyers that evening. It was not a meeting she would miss so she rescheduled her other activities for that.
When she arrived at the meeting, it had already started. The sec gen was speaking with unusual enthusiasm.
“…and if anyone decides to represent Evangeline Mali then we don’t have to tell you that you will be on your own. That criminal killed one of our own! And to make the matters worse, our learned friend was carrying a child! We have to be united on this! I urge all of you here, because she will come to you, please, do not be deceived by her money! Are we together learned friends?”
“Yes we are!” All the lawyers roared in unison and clapped.
“Do we all agree that none of us will provide legal assistance to her?” He asked in heightened zeal.
“Not even for a million dollars!”
“Let her rot in jail!”
“She killed one of us!”
Lawyers responded passionately. Isabel grinned. Inwardly, she was glad that she would see Evangeline suffer. That girl had made her heart bleed several times. Many years ago, Evangeline had embarassed her, laughed, mocked and made her feel like the tiniest living thing on earth.
“I have never liked that Mali girl anyway. ” Attorney Mercy Frankie whispered to Isabel as the other lawyers conversed amongst themselves.
“That’s an understatement to me. Personally, I detest her. I knew those acts of charity were only to blind people but the real Evangeline is a puffed up hubristic woman!” Isabel said with the widest frown on her face, her accent now improved.
“Mm…you seem to know her well!” Mercy Frankie whispered back.
“I do. A story for another day. I just feel for the father, Mr Mali. This is just too bad especially for his political ambition.” Isabel said as they stood to leave the meeting hall with the rest of their colleagues.
After an exchange of chitchat here and there, the two planned to meet some time to catch up then parted ways. Isabel drove home with her car radio in full blast. That night was a happy one for her.
But the next day brought to her the biggest dilemma in her life. As she walked to her office , at the reception was the woman who had made her secondary and campus life hell. She looked desperate and dejected like a pet dog that had been chased away by its master.
“What is she doing here?” Isabel asked her receptionist.
“I tried telling her not to come in, she wouldn’t listen.” The secretary, afraid of losing her job, responded on the brink of bursting into tears.
“Isabel, please. I really need to talk to you! Please!” Evangeline pleaded. She too was on the verge of tears. Never in a million years would Isabel have thought that Evangeline knew that a word like ‘please’ existed.
“Harriet, call security!” Isabel said as she walked into her office. The receptionist nodded her head vigorously as she picked the telephone but another desperate plea from Evangeline stopped her.
“Pleaaase don’t. Isabel, I just need one minute to talk to you. I have a message from my father to you.” She pleaded. That worked. Isabel paused and faced Evangeline.
Mr Mali had a special place in Isabel’s heart. The man had seen her through all her secondary school life. She never lacked a thing thanks to him. He continued to be her financial pillar all through campus and he only stopped when she received her first salary. If it were not for Mr Mali, Isabel, her parents and her six siblings would have had it rough.
She beckoned Evangeline in and the two took their seats.
“Talk.” Isabel demanded.
“First of all, Isabel,I am so sorry for the way I treated you….”
“Pshhhh!…get to the point!” Isabel rebuffed the belated sorry.
“..Um…um..no lawyer wants to take my case… I am begging you to put your personal feelings aside….I will give you a blank cheque, you will write the amount yourself for I know you shall help me win this. They say you never lose a case.”
“What makes you think I will defend you in court?” Isabel asked raising her eyebrows.
Evangeline paused and licked her dry lips then said, “Because my father asked you to. He said you owe him big time.”
It was like a bombshell dropped on her desk. She remembered the previous day’s meeting with the Lawyers Association. If they find out Evangeline was her client, she might as well not be a lawyer after the case was over. She would be termed as traitorous, greedy and disloyal to the Law Community. They would treat her like an outcast.
Then there was the public. Defending Evangeline would make her look very bad in the public eye. Protesters, women rights activists and the press would lambast her for making that choice.
But this was Mr Mali requesting her to do him a favour. How could she say No to the man who had literally given her the key to education? Would her parents still not be in the slums were it not for Mr Mali? She was highly indebted to him. He was right. Screw you Mr Mali! She thought angrily. Truly, nothing is for free, she muttered between her teeth.
“When are we starting?” Evangeline who had keenly watched the different facial expressions that Isabel showed as thoughts raced in her mind, asked, a bit more confidently.
“Get out. My secretary will call you.” Isabel ordered.
Evangeline tried to utter some words to show her gratitude but Isabel pointed at the door. The former quickly walked out and left Isabel feeling like a brick had knocked her face.
This would be a difficult case. The accused had been caught on camera entering and leaving the homicide victim’s compound. She would have to craft a very unique defense strategy for her client. She agreed with Evangeline on that one thing, she never lost a case. Yet she knew that the success of this one, would give her the least joy.
Two days later, her friend and colleague, Mercy Frankie was in her office.
“Is is true, are you really defending Evangeline? After she killed one of our own?”
“Mercy, it’s a long sto…” Isabel tried to explain but was cut short.
“Isabel, I have known you to be honest, loyal and modest but to think that you can be this deceitful and gluttonous makes me lose all the respect I had for you. You have made your bed, prepare to lie on it.” She said, disgust written all over her face and then strutted out of the office bumping onto Mr Mali who was on his way inside to the shock of Attorney Isabel.
She stood up erect, straightened her navy blue skirt suit. Suddenly the room had an aura of power that took Isabel back to her high school days where she like many others in school adored the ground that Mr Mali trod on. He extended his hand to her and Isabel realised that her own hands were sweating. She rubbed them through her skirt and shook his hand.
All the tough-cookie attitude and confidence she possessed had blown off with the presence of Mr Mali. It was like she was in high school all over again.
“Ha…ha…have a seat Sir.” She stuttered. He looked older than he appeared on TV. His grey hair sat on the sides of his head although the frontal region carried just a few countable strands. His middle-sized body was fitted in an expensive looking black suit covering underneath a white striped shirt. The tie matched the suit.
“Thank you my daughter.” Isabel was surrpised at the respectful tone the prominent man addressed her with.
“My daughter,I will not waste any of each other’s time. Let me be brief. Well it’s about my daughter.” He said.
“Sir, when Evangeline said you had asked me to represent her, I did not hesitate, even though much is at stake for me now. I agreed to it because like you said, I owed you.” She said and was confused by the shock on Mr Mali’s face.
“There she goes again. Did Eva say that? My daughter, that girl has pushed me to the edge now. Ever since she was a young girl, Eva was disrespectful, insulting, sticky-fingered and deceitful but we really tried to help her to change using all forms of discipline but she gets worse. Now she is a murderer.”
“You probably provide her with everything she demands for and this makes her think she deserves all she needs, even what is not hers.” Isabel, now more relaxed, commented.
“No. Many people do not know this but I grew up poor. I was employed as a shamba boy at 13 after primary school where I worked for years. My employer got really sick and I was the only one who took care of him. His children were abroad and his wife had other things to do like cheat on him.
He later died but after re-writing his will leaving all his property to me. I have taught Eva virtues of hard work, honesty and love for others no matter their status. I thought I had succeeded when she joined politics but it seems she was just perfecting her deceitful skills.”
Isabel listened to the old man’s life story and understood why he strived to help the needy.
“Anyway, I came here to ask you not to feel compelled to defend Eva because she is my daughter. After what she did with those thugs, I told her that she is on her own now. Taking someone’s life is wrong!
She has been begging us to bribe the press to let the story ‘die’ or call the judge in her case, a friend of mine to dismiss the case, her mother and I refused. Now, I was told by her close ally that she is planning to kill us, her own parents.” He said and shed a tear while saying the last statement.
Isabel handed Mr Mali a serviette but he quickly wiped the tear with the back of his hand and stood with his concluding statement, “Defend her because you want to, not because you have to. Good bye.”
Isabel felt as if ten Y10 steel bars had been lifted off her shoulders. She called her secretary and asked her to draft a letter to Evangeline and the court citing withdrawal from Evangeline’s case because of her client’s continued criminal and morally repugnant activities.
To add salt to injury, Mr Mali froze all her accounts. She couldn’t afford even the cheapest lawyer.
It was a case whose end many already predicted. Bars and restaurants were full on the day of sentencing as all eyes were glued on the live court proceedings. All channels displayed just one thing, Evangeline’s court case. When the sentencing came, the screams were loud, triumphatic like football fans whose team had won a league. It was fair justice for the pregnant woman. The judge ruled 85 years in jail for each life lost.
But Isabel did one naughty thing. She wrote an anonymous letter to the press, informing them that Mr Mali did not support what his daughter did and in fact was utterly disgusted by her. It redeemed him enormously profiting him even more supporters.
“I know it’s you who did it.” He called her office. She giggled guiltily. “For that you will pay.”
“Pay?” She asked puzzled.
“Yes, if I become president, you will head my advisory team. No negotiations.”
Isabel giggled again and hang up. She liked the idea but for now, she will focus on winning cases that will make her happy.