The office is a bare room with no windows. It is located in a block that has no other offices; all the other rooms are stalls. On the right is an MPESA shop. On the left is a hair salon. There are three more salons on the block, a phone repair shop, three clothes shops and a barbershop. Inside the office, twenty-nine year old Felix Maraka is sitting behind his old desk watching a movie on his laptop. Every time he moves, his chair creaks in frustration. The office is a law firm, but the only thing that makes it one is the fact that Felix is an advocate of the High Court, even though a struggling one, and the fact that he wears a suit every day. He has two old suits that he has worn since the fall of Nineveh.
Felix pays three thousand five hundred shillings for this office, but getting that amount monthly is a struggle. He is already three months in arrears. He pays six thousand shillings for the bedsitter he lives in, and he is two months behind with rent. The caretaker of the bedsitter has been threatening to evict him for a week now.
The one bright spot in Felix’s life is that the owner of the block where his office is likes him. Her name is Agnes, and she is an elderly widow who lives in a beautiful mansion about three kilometers from the market centre. Agnes is a tough landlady, and the other tenants have at one point or another faced her wrath. If one has not paid rent by the tenth of the following month, they need not bother go to work on eleventh, because they will find a second padlock on the front door. But Agnes has a soft spot for Felix, and she allows him to pay rent at his own pace.
Every now and then she invites him for dinner at her house. Perhaps the reason she likes him is because Felix is a very patient listener. He can spend hours with her listening to her whine about her children who never visit her and don’t even bother to call.
“They will come on Christmas day and then they will leave the following morning. My grandchildren don’t even know me well, and they are adults like you. Do you visit your parents, my boy?” she asked one day as they took breakfast.
“I don’t have parents, shush,” Felix answered. “I was orphaned at the age of four and grew up being kicked around from one relative to another. It is a miracle that I went to school at all.”
That answer touched her so much that she brought out more pancakes. Food is one of the reasons Felix likes visiting Agnes. She feeds him like a pig, as though she knows that the meals he eats at her place twice or thrice a week are the only certain meals in his life. The other days he survives by the mercies of God. He often prays and fasts on those days when he has nothing to eat.
Although he is watching a movie, Felix cannot help thinking about Agnes’ food. It is 3 pm, and his stomach is rambling because he skipped lunch. He skips lunch almost every day; the problem today is that he did not take breakfast. He has some money in his pocket; this morning he commissioned an affidavit for one of the ladies who run salons on the block, and after a lot of haggling, he accepted one hundred and fifty shillings for his trouble. He used thirty shillings to purchase a movie series that will keep him occupied today and tomorrow. He plans to use the remaining one hundred and twenty shillings to purchase sukuma wiki (thirty shillings), tomatoes (ten shillings) onions (ten shillings), avocado (twenty shillings) and a loaf of bread (fifty shillings). That will cover his supper today, breakfast tomorrow, supper tomorrow and breakfast the day after tomorrow. If he will not have gotten any money by then, the remaining slices of bread will be his supper for the day after tomorrow. Lunch is a luxury he cannot afford.
Felix drafted a sale agreement for a farmer who was buying an old pickup truck earlier in the month and charged five thousand shillings, so he was able to purchase a few things for his house, such as cooking oil, maize flour, rice, sugar, tea bags, soap, tissue paper etc. He was also able to refill his LPG gas, buy electricity tokens and pay the water and garbage bills.
The first thing that Felix notices is the fragrance. The scent is not the kind that is ordinarily found on the block. Felix does not know anything about perfumes, but he can tell that this is an expensive brand. He assumes that she (it has to be a she) has come to get her hair made, although the women who come to the salons on this block are low income women whose monthly hair budget never exceeds three hundred shillings. Felix secretly envies the salonist who will attend to her, because today she will definitely get a fat pay.
But then the woman appears at his door.
“Are you Felix?” she asks. She is a beautiful woman and everything about her screams class. From the linen dress, to the heels, to the gold watch and the branded purse, she is definitely a woman who should not be on this side of the market.
“Yes I am,” Felix says, rising to his feet. He is not sure whether he should offer her a seat. His old wooden chairs might make her uncomfortable, or worse, damage her dress.
“I am told you are a lawyer, is that correct?”
“I am,” Felix says. He feels shabby in her presence, and he has no idea who could have referred her to him. “Please have a seat.”
“Thank you. My name is Camilla and I need your help. I was referred to you by Agnes…Mrs. Wageni.”
Felix is certain that she wants an agreement, or an affidavit. Those are the only things people with money ask from him. The only court cases he has are criminal and land cases, and the people he represents in those cases usually have no money. People with money often go to more prominent lawyers. Felix is already wondering whether he should hike his fees for drafting an agreement because she looks like she can pay without a problem.
“Let’s hear your problem.”
“I want to divorce my husband. I want to get full custody my children and I want to leave with all my wealth. Will you represent me?”
“Definitely,” Felix says without missing a beat.
“Great. How much will you charge me?”
“I will charge you one hundred and fifty thousand shillings, plus expenses.”
The lady hesitates, and for a moment, Felix thinks that he has overdone it. Maybe he should have whipped out the Advocate’s Remuneration Order to get guidance on fee structure, but he has never used it in this office. None of his clients would ever afford the minimum fees set by the Order.
“Are you sure that that will be sufficient for you?” the lady asks.
Felix is stunned. Did she expect him to charge more? He is tempted to raise the figure, but he knows that if he does that his credibility will fly out of the window.
“Yes. As long as my expenses are covered, that should be enough.”
“Great. How much deposit should I pay?”
She takes out a cheque book from her purse and writes a cheque for seventy five thousand shillings and hands it to him.
“Agnes speaks very highly of you. She says that you are a brilliant lawyer and a honest man, although your business is yet to pick up. I have been conned may times by lawyers colluding with my husband, so I hope I can trust you. Here is the thing, my husband will do everything to fight this divorce, or at the very least to take off with my property. So I can bet you he is going to hire bullies for lawyers. I need you to be tough, but you also need to look successful. Get yourself good suits and shoes. If you don’t mind, I can take you to a shop I know in Westlands where they sell male attire. I also want you to move away from this office and get better space.”
“I don’t want to sound ungrateful Camilla, but I cannot change offices because of one case. What will happen when this case ends?”
“Don’t worry, Felix. I am a businesswoman. Right now what I need is a divorce. But I have a lot of other commercial work that you will be doing for me, as long as you remain honest. I have talked to Agnes. She has another more modern building on the other side of the market. I have rented a room for you and even furnished it. I will take you there once we are done here. What you need to do is to hire a secretary.”
As Felix walks home in the evening, he is reeling; everything that happened today still looks like a dream. It is about nine in the evening, and Felix is coming from Agnes’ house. After parting ways with Camilla about two hours ago, he dropped his new clothes at his house and went to Agnes’ house to thank her. Felix now has five new suits, each of which he bought for ten thousand shillings: an insane amount, if you consider the fact that he bought his old suits at three thousand shillings each. He also bought shoes, shirts, vests, belts, ties, socks, a bottle of cologne and an assortment of casual wear. He did not spend a dime of his money because Camilla paid for everything.
He has a new office with large windows and modern furniture. The office has several rooms: the reception, his chambers, a small kitchen and a toilet. The monthly rent is fifteen thousand shillings, and Camilla has paid rent for six months.
Felix still cannot believe it. He is still lost in thought when he is stopped by two men who are walking quickly from behind him. He wants to ignore them, but then one of them pulls out a gun. The small dirt road leading to his bedsitter is deserted; not a single soul is in sight.
“So you are the idiot who is stealing my wife?” the man with a gun asks.
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I mean!”
“I haven’t stolen anybody’s wife.”
The man hits Felix on the head with the butt of the gun.
“What did she entice you with? Is it money or sex? Or is it both? Listen to me Mister. You have messed with the wrong man. Camilla is mine and mine alone. I don’t share.”
He corks the gun, aims it at Felix and shoots twice.
Image from Pexels from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/man-heartache-chest-pain-hurt-pain-1846050/
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