(Continued from Not Man Enough II)
It is morning, and Maxwell is very nervous. The whole night he couldn’t sleep, mostly because of his daughter. Maxwell has brought up his daughter Yvonne single handedly since she was about three years old, and now she is thirteen. If he is jailed, she might as well be an orphan. Worse: an orphan without an extended family. Maxwell is divorced, and Yvonne’s mother Agatha is in jail. During the whole time Maxwell and Agatha lived together she never mentioned her family, and Maxwell suspects she is an orphan herself. Since his own family disowned him, Maxwell knows that if he is jailed his daughter will be left alone to fend for herself at the age of thirteen.
Maxwell talked to Dorothy immediately he got to the police station, and she assured him that she was on her way. But hours later, she still had not arrived. The celebrity lawyer offered his services over and over again, but Maxwell was confident that Dorothy would show up. It is simply not in her character to let anyone down. Maybe she has been caught up in traffic, he told himself. Nairobi’s traffic jams can be a real pain. But when darkness came, police officers grew impatient and told him that he had to record his statement, even without his lawyer. He fleetingly considered hiring the ‘executive ambulance chaser’ but he decided against that idea. He wrote the statement on his own.
It is now morning, and Dorothy has not shown up still. Her phone is still off.
The police Land Cruiser backs up and Maxwell and other guests of the state are loaded in the back. Maxwell and Richard, the KRTB CEO, are handcuffed together, while other suspects are also handcuffed in pairs. The cruiser weaves its way from Central Police-Maxwell had thought they would take him to Gigiri-and drops him and Richard at Milimani Law Courts, before taking the other suspects to Kibera Law Courts. Maxwell and Richard will be going to the Anti-Corruption Court at Milimani, while the other suspects in the van will be facing other criminal charges in Kibera.
Immediately they step out of the vehicle, cameras start flashing. Maxwell immediately realises that his photos that will appear in today’s news will not be very flattering. Thanks to his lawyer, Richard is wearing a crisp new suit, a clean shirt and a fresh tie. His shoes are gleaming in the sun. Somehow, he even managed to take a shower this morning and he is smelling fresh. Maxwell, on the other hand, is still in the same suit he wore yesterday, which is now crumpled and dirty. His shirt has a brown line at the collar. Mercifully, the cops gave his tie back to him, so the dirt on the collar is not very visible.
Still, millions of people across the country will see him on their television sets looking dirty and haggard, and they will most likely be pleased because that will be proof that the country’s justice system is working. In their eyes he is a criminal, and criminals should be made to suffer. Maxwell feels so alone as he is ushered into the courtroom. Everybody thinks he is a criminal, even his own mother. The only person he thought believes in him is Dorothy, but she too is missing in action.
Years ago, after he dillydallied and Dorothy got into a relationship with Calistus, Maxwell found himself in a situationship with a campus socialite called Agatha. She was a beautiful, light-skinned babe who thought she was God’s gift to mankind. She had been flirting with him for a while, but he had managed to keep her at bay, because he still had hopes of dating and marrying Dorothy. But when Dorothy started dating Calistus in their last semester in campus, Agatha took advantage of the situation and stepped up her flirting.
Maxwell did not really understand her. He had just retired from the position SONU Chairperson, and he was still broke. She was definitely a high maintenance girl, and he had absolutely nothing to offer her. So why was she after him? But it would be a lie to say that he was not flattered. To have such a beautiful girl desiring him boosted his ego. Before long, he found himself kissing her, and soon he was making out with her. Sex followed soon afterwards. After campus they moved in together to an apartment in Kileleshwa. She was already pregnant by then. A year later they moved to a bungalow in Lavington. She took out a mortgage for the bungalow. Agatha planned for a small but beautiful invites-only wedding at a high end hotel, and footed the bill. Maxwell invited his parents and siblings, but none of them attended. There was no one from Agatha’s family either.
Agatha was paying the rent (and later the mortgage), and she even got two small cars, one for each of them. She got a red Toyota Vitz for herself, and a silver Nissan Note for Maxwell. She upgraded Maxwell’s wardrobe and they joined a middle class church. Maxwell soon understood why she wanted him: status and respectability. She was obviously a rich woman, even though the source of her wealth was unascertained, but she felt she needed a respectable man to marry her. Maxwell was a bright and very handsome young man, right about her age, a lawyer in the making and one who was relatively popular for his role as SONU Chairman. His looks also meant that they looked good in couple photos. His brains and drive meant that he had very real chances of becoming a successful lawyer in the future. All those characteristics meant that he fit the bill perfectly. Agatha was using him to cement her status as a happily married celebrity woman, even though she was not a celebrity yet. Whether she loved him was another question altogether.
Being married to Agatha came at a cost. Maxwell suspected that she had a sugar daddy who was bankrolling her, or that she was involved in something illegal, even though he had no proof. She was not running any business that he was aware of, she was not employed, but she was rolling in cash. That could only mean that either she had a stinking rich sugar daddy, or she was engaged in something very illegal. Still, Maxwell played along for close to two years. He got an internship at a leading law firm, but his pay was still not enough to even pay their house rent in Kileleshwa. When time to go to the Kenya School of Law came, she offered to pay his school fees, but he declined; he already owed her as it was, and he did not want to owe her more. He approached his bosses and cut a deal with them. They agreed to pay his KSL fees provided he would work for them for at least two years.
The disrespect started when he became an advocate and started asserting his independence in the relationship. He was earning more now, and wanted to share the responsibility of running their home. Agatha, however, was still making much more than he was and wanted to remain in control. Whenever they disagreed about anything, she always found ways of reminding him that she was the one who carried the moneybag in the relationship. Due to the nature of whatever job she did, came and went as she pleased, and did not bother to tell Maxwell where she was going. Sometimes she would be gone for a week. Then she started drinking heavily; whenever he discouraged her, she would insult him. Maxwell persevered, but drew the line when she started abusing their daughter.
One day he came from work and found her giving their toddler alcohol. That is when he knew that he could no longer put up with her. He took their daughter, moved out of the house and rented a cheaper one in Roysambu. He left everything behind: the Nissan Note, the expensive suits and shoes…everything she had bought for him, he left behind. He wanted a fresh start. But he carried his daughter’s clothes and toys. He filed for divorce and custody of the child, and one of the partners in the law firm where he was working agreed to represent him. The lady offered to cut her legal fee by half so that Maxwell could afford it, and the other partners approved the deal. Agatha hired very fine lawyers and fought the divorce and custody petitions vigorously, but Maxwell had recorded evidence of her behavior. He won both the divorce and custody cases. He should have felt liberated after getting divorced from Agatha, but it only reinforced his sense of failure.
As his father commented later, a man who cannot even keep a woman is not a man.
Agatha appealed the custody decision, claiming that Maxwell is not even the biological father of the girl, and demanded a DNA test. Maxwell’s lawyer argued that the claims could not be argued on appeal, because she had not raised them in the trial court. Besides, Maxwell’s lawyer continued, Maxwell had been registered as the father of the girl, had accepted parental responsibility and was therefore presumed in law to be the father of the girl. Before the case was decided, however, Agatha was arrested at JKIA with cocaine worth millions of shillings. It turned out she was a member of an international drug cartel. The arrest was highly publicized, but whether that swayed the judges or not is not clear. The judges threw out her appeal and allowed Maxwell to keep his daughter.
Much later, Maxwell wondered why Agatha had gone to court instead of sending her thugs to kill him and take Yvonne. Maybe, for all her faults, she genuinely loved him. Or more likely, she subconsciously knew that between the two of them, he was the best bet for their daughter.
He really doesn’t care whether Yvonne is his biological daughter or not. He has always loved her as his own, because she is his own. Agatha is still in prison, serving a thirty year sentence for drug trafficking. Last year, when Yvonne turned thirteen, he sat her down and told her the whole truth. He did not want her to her to hear rumors that would make her distraught.
“Does it bother you that I am probably not your biological child?” she asked after thinking for a minute. Sometimes she acts so maturely.
“Not at all; I fought so hard to keep you because you are and will always be my child.”
“And I will always be your daughter dad,” she said pecking him on the cheek.
“Listen hun, I am telling you all this because one day people might bring this up to try and make you feel bad. I wanted you to know the truth, so that you can be prepared. Whatever people say, I want you to know that you always have a dad who loves you so much.”
A week later he visited Agatha in prison and asked her if she wanted to see their daughter. Agatha refused, and warned him never to go looking for her ever again.
Maxwell is glad, however, that he and Yvonne already had that talk, because ever since the whole corruption scandal started, his personal life has been sucked in. Just two days ago, a guest at some TV show remarked that “he must be a criminal because he sired a child with a convicted drug dealer. Birds of a feather flock together.” The host interjected by saying “he is probably not the father, but fact is, he was sleeping with the drug dealer.” Then they burst out laughing. The two men are still going about their business as if nothing happened, even though it was so inappropriate to drag Yvonne into the matter like that. Only a few people called them out on social media. It seems that in the eyes of the public, Yvonne stands condemned because of her parents.
Maxwell is hoping Yvonne will survive this whole drama without too much emotional damage. For now she is okay because she is in boarding school, and hopefully by the time she and the other kids get access to radio, television and social media all this will have passed. But he worries about her future in case he is jailed. She will be ridiculed and ostracized…at the age of thirteen.
Maxwell called his father yesterday, but the old man Aphaxard did not pick his calls. Maxwell then called his brothers and both of them told him to carry his own cross. He did not call his mother or sisters, because he knew he would be heartbroken if they also verbally slammed their doors on him, as he knew they would. He wants to hold on to the fantasy that they probably care. He wants to believe that his mother would probably have come to be by his side if she had the resources, and that the reason she is not here is because she is a housewife who lives in perpetual fear of her husband. Maxwell knows that none of his brothers will help him. They are all hypocrites. They trooped to his side when he became a senior government official, but ever since he refused to broker corrupt deals with them they have been avoiding him like the plague. Now they must be laughing gleefully.
His sisters used to care when they were all little, but they also isolated him in adulthood. Two of them invited him to their weddings, and he has seen them all at a couple of funerals of relatives, but beyond that he has had no interaction with them as an adult. At first he used to reach out to them, but when he realised that they were deliberately ignoring him, he kept his distance. To their credit, they did not try to befriend him when he became PS.
Maxwell knows too well that none of his relatives will lift a finger to help his daughter in case he is jailed.
Maxwell is hardly concentrating as the proceedings are going on. He is worried about Dorothy, because he is now sure that something has happened to her, and he is worried about Yvonne’s future in case he is imprisoned. He is attentive enough to say “not guilty” when he is asked how he intends to plead. But everything else passes as a blur. Richard’s lawyer makes a spirited fight for bail, and Maxwell is acutely aware that he should probably be doing the same, now that he doesn’t have a lawyer. After all, he is a trained lawyer himself. But he is too numb to say anything.
The judge sets cash bail at five hundred thousand shillings, or in the alternative a bond of two million shillings. Maxwell sighs with relief because he can afford it. His savings can get to half a million; and even if they don’t, he can easily get a loan from his SACCO because his shares are way above that amount, meaning he wouldn’t even need guarantors. Besides, he has a couple of properties, including his home in Juja, that are worth over two million shillings. He can use those title deeds as the bond.
But then the judge says something else that hits Maxwell like a thunderbolt: all his bank accounts and assets are frozen because EACC suspects his wealth was accumulated from proceeds of crime. He cannot even use them to post bail and avoid remand. Without access to his accounts and assets, and without a family to support him, he is definitely going to remand. Dorothy has disappeared, and he cannot afford to hire another lawyer, which means he might probably be jailed at the end of the trial process.
But as he is led away to the cells, he is not thinking about his freedom. He is thinking about his daughter Yvonne. Her future is now in serious jeopardy, and that makes his shed tears for the first time since this saga started.
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