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Gentlemen of the Bar – 8

By Umari Ayim
18 January 2016   |   12:24 pm
Martin’s statement wasn’t a lie. He had been spent nights going through the file of their case in Kano and figuring ways to win the case without soiling his hard earned reputation. The case was a sensitive one, no thanks the civil rights organizations determined to milk the fanfare generated by the case for all it was worth.

Gentlemen-of-the-bar-pix

THE OYELOWO MANSION

MARTIN OYELOWO’S STUDY

The young doctor left Martin Oyelowo’s study, steps brisk as he closed the door with a firm click. He left his patient looking at the newly delivered containers of diabetes medicine on his desk. He picked up one and read the words on the label.

“Glucovance.”

Martin set the container back on the table. The result of his last test had excited the doctor so that he spent most of the meeting oppressing Martin with his optimism.

This is quite remarkable sir. I don’t know why but things seem to be improving real fast. The hemoglobin test shows your blood sugar is now at seven percent. This is a very positive sign sir…very very positive.

Martin Oyelowo had mixed feelings. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or annoyed by the news that his diabetes was almost cured. He thought about all the plans that he had made and wondered what the future held now that his health was almost restored. Spine ramrod straight and fingers drumming on his table, he closed his eyes for some minutes.

What now?

His eyes flew open. There was also the matter of his divorce and the lawyer that had been the arrowhead of everything.

Tunde Braithwaite.

Law school classmate, former friend and suspected love rival.

He picked his phone and dialed a number. His eyes were narrowed and thoughtful as he waited for the call to be picked.

“Good afternoon sir.”

In his usual manner, Martin Oyelowo ignored the greeting.

“What do you have?”

“He has a retainership with OandO and PPMC.”

The left side of Martin Oyelowo’s face lifted with a small smile….

“Good.”

He ended the call and pulled out a lion head embossed leather bound journal with a gold buckle and the initials MO at the bottom. He leaned back into the soft leather of his high back swivel chair and went through the contents of the journal. He soon found what he was looking for. He reached for his phone again. The latest call was longer than the first and Martin Oyelowo even managed a laugh at the end of the call.

“Thank you Gabriel and tell madam I have not forgotten my promise.”

Reclining back in his chair, Martin allowed himself to feel a small sense of victory. Tunde Braithwaite had been dealt a financial blow, and that was just the beginning. Martin was not in a hurry. He would wait and see what the man would do next. If Barrister Braithwaite continued to chase his wife, he was going for his jugular – his law practice. Martin Oyelowo hated competition, especially competition from former friends who wanted his wife.

Martin watched Channels News afterwards. The news presenter was a young man with a shadow of jet black hair cut close to his scalp, his red stripped tie was tight against his throat as he talked about the just concluded Centenary celebration in Abuja. A photograph of the president smiling broadly as he sat on a cream sofa, hand resting on the top of the sofa and resting on the upper arm of a man dressed in white flowing robes was in the background and captioned with the words,

President Jonathan and Gambian president Yahya Jammeh.

A call from Yinusa Ali distracted Martin from the news. He lifted the phone off his desk and leaned away from the desk to speak to his friend.

“I did not see you at the club yesterday,” Yinusa said, his tone uncharacteristically serious. “What happened?”

Martin recalled the previous evening and his lack of enthusiasm for the usual boat club meetings with his friend. Somehow, he had found himself content to sit back in his study and count the hours until the next visit to his wife’s room. These days, he was beginning to prefer the soft mattress of his wife’s bed. Martin forgot about the phone call and spent seconds worrying about his recently acquired taste for sleeping in his wife’s room.

Maybe it was her bed.

Maybe he would order for one as soft as hers for himself.

Maybe

“Martin, are you there?”

“Yes.”

“So why are you scarce at the club these days?”

“I had some work to do.”

Martin’s statement wasn’t a lie. He had been spent nights going through the file of their case in Kano and figuring ways to win the case without soiling his hard earned reputation. The case was a sensitive one, no thanks the civil rights organizations determined to milk the fanfare generated by the case for all it was worth.

“Have you spoken to your people in Kano?”

“No. I will do that this afternoon.”

Yinusa Ali sighed loudly, generating static in the earpiece of his friend’s phone.

“We are already behind schedule Martin.”

It was Martin Oyelowo’s turn to sigh.

“Well, we are not exactly sleeping here.”

The Inspector General of police paused for some seconds before continuing,

“The president called me yesterday and asked questions about the case. He said he is under pressure…you know with the school killings in Yobe and the attacks in Adamawa, and all that. So he does not like the negativity this case is generating.”

Martin Oyelowo remembered reading something in the papers about the controversy the rape case was causing on Twitter. He felt vaguely annoyed by the fact that a few people with too much time on their hands could cause so much trouble just by writing whatever caught their fancy on a social network.

“I will see what I can do Yinusa. Leave everything to me.”

“Okay.”

Martins Oyelowo called Naden tare George next. As he listened to the phone ring, he looked sideways to check the table clock sitting on his desk. Eight o’clock. They still had one hour until the court sat at Nasarawa.

“Good morning sir.”

“I guess you are ready for the case today.”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. Is there anything you would like to discuss?”

“Yes sir.”

“What?”

“I want to handle the case myself.”

Martin Oyelowo frowned. “Why?”

Naden Tare George, current senior partner of Oyelowo and Co did not answer the question immediately, leaving his boss with a frown that grew darker by the minute.

“I am waiting.”

“We are having difficulties working together.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes sir.”

“I see.”

Martin Oyelowo cleared his throat and the frown on his face. He leaned to his desk and laid his hand flat on a white flat file, a speculative gleam in his eyes.

“Who do you work for?”

There was another pause at the other end of the phone. Martin Oyelowo smiled. And waited.

“You sir.”

“Good,” Martin said with a nod, one hand lifting the cover of the file to expose the papers inside. “As your boss, I have given the directive that you and Angela work on this case. I don’t care about your squabbles. All I want is results. Is that clear?”

“Yes sir.”

Martin made to end the call but Naden’s throat clearing stopped him.

“Anything else?”

“Yes sir,” Naden said, his tone low and measured.

Martin’s smile grew wide.

Naden was unrelenting in a way that reminded him of himself. It was what had drawn him to the young man the first day he had met him at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi. Naden had faced him from the opposite side of the court room, tall, uncompromising and brimming with brilliance as he argued in defence of the man Martin was prosecuting…. In him, Martin had seen the son he never had. As soon as he left the court that day, he had begun investigations into Naden’s background. He was determined to have Naden work for him. The young man had steel in him. He was different from that spineless Reuben. Martin Oyelowo had fantasies of a third generation successor. A grandson who would inherit his wealth.

He went back to the conversation with Naden.

“What?”

“We might have to move out of this place.”

“The Prince Hotel?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because we have been…sharing a room and it is not quite convenient.”

Martin’s brows dipped.

“That is your excuse?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, it is not enough,” Martin said with a shrug. “Find a way to make it convenient.”

Martin Oyelowo did not wait for an answer. He ended the call and dropped the phone back to his desk. He began to read the papers in front of him. The papers contained interesting information on the man he had just spoken to.

Naden Tare George had an interesting family.

                               ************************

NADEN

The court is full and the air condensed with different odours. At the other end of the room, several faces are turned towards the voice of the lead lawyer representing the Plaintiff. I watch the lawyer adjust his slipping bi-focals as he bends to pick some papers from the table before him.

“My Lord….according to section two eight two, subsection one of the Penal Code which defines rape…” the sound of papers shuffling fills the air as the lawyer consults the papers in his hand. “A man is said to commit rape who save in the case referred to in subsection two has sexua –”

“Barrister Shuaibu,” the judge interrupts, looking bored and unimpressed. “I can assure you that we know the provisions of that section. Kindly proceed with your submission please.”

There is loud snickering somewhere at the back of the court where a group of lawyers who are waiting for their cases to be called up have gathered to amuse themselves at the expense of fumbling lawyers. Barrister Shuaibu blinks at the judge as if unable to believe his ears. I almost feel sorry for the man. The last twenty minutes had been difficult for him as the judge had found reasons to interrupt his argument as a result of wrongly used precedents.

“Sir?”

The snickering becomes full blown laughter this time. The judge, balding and missing two incisors gives Barrister Shuaibu a pitying look.

“Are you sure you are ready for this case?”

Barrister Shuaibu runs his left hand across his forehead and nods.

“Yes sir, I am.”

“I am not sure,” Judge Abdullahi says, adjusting his wig. “You have been wasting our time since we started. That is not the sign of a prepared lawyer.”

“I am sorry sir.”

The court is silent as the judge flicks a lazy hand in the direction of the flustered lawyer.

“Go on.”

Giving a low bow so that his head almost touches the table, Barrister resumes his argument, his delivery careful and eyes following every emotion on the judge’s face. I listen and take notes. Soon it is time for witness examination. The police officers are led from the back of the Court and led to the witness box. Barrister Shuaibu leads the examination, peppering his questions with several I-put-it-to-you.

In your statement on Oath, you said on the night of the twelfth day of December two thousand and thirteen, you picked Miss Hussaina up because you wanted to take her home. I put it you that you are lying and that your motive for picking her that night was to rape her.

You said she consented to the attack. I put it to you that this is false.

I put it to you….

…..I put it to you.

I get tired of the bullying and rise to my feet to challenge Barrister’s Shuaibu’s mode of examination.

“Objection.”

I turn to the judge.

“The questions are argumentative and do not seek to elicit any new facts my Lord. Counsel to the Plaintiff is wearying the Court by making the witness repeat facts already known to the Court.”

“My…my Lord…” Barrister Shuaibu stutters, looking baffled. “I don’t understand Counsel to the Defendants’ position. I am only trying to establish the truthfulness of the witness’s story. Most of the facts mentioned in their statements are questionable.”

The judge stops looks up from what he had been writing to shake his head at Barrister Shuaibu.

“He is right. Objection sustained.”

Shoulders drooping, Barrister Shuaibu announces the end of his Cross-examination. The judge asks if I have more questions for the policemen. I shake my head.

“No sir.”

The judge motions the Court Clerk forward and asks him to set a date for the next hearing. There is sudden movement as the next case is called. I gather my files into the open attaché case at my feet. I am closing it when Angela grabs her journal from the table and twists around the chairs to walk past me. When I straighten away from the case and rise to my feet, there is no sign of her anywhere.

                                                      *******************

ANGELA

Ahmed is dozing in the car, head thrown back on the headrest of his seat and right hand resting on the wheel when I reach the car park. I contemplate leaving my robe and wig in the backseat and continuing my journey to the gate but I change my mind after minutes of trying to come up with a way to open the door without waking Ahmed. I wrap the wig in the robe, roll it into a tight ball and stuff it inside my bag.

Outside the court complex, the taxi is still waiting. I apologize to the man who calls himself Sylvanus and hand him the paper containing the address. Sylvanus looks nothing like the Igbo man he claims to be. Face almost oval and nose aquiline, he looks to me like the typical Hausa man. His accented English compounds my confusion over his ethnicity.

“I have just one hour. Can we make it to erm…”

Sylvanus nods. “Ungogo. Yes, we can make it there on time.”

“Great. Let’s go.”

Sylvanus puts his car into gear, reverses and roars off in the opposite direction. As we pass the open gates of the court, I see Naden standing with Ahmed, face turned in the direction of the gate. I smile as we join the honking line of motorists at an intersection.

Let him try to stop me now.

                        ***********************

NADEN

I see her approaching the bend leading to room and lean away from the wall. Her strides are short and lazy. Her face inclined to the side and fixed on the window of the room, she appears to be looking out for something.

For me.

She is just inches away from me when I make my move.

“Where did you go?”

A startled cry escapes her lips and she tries to shake the hand I have clamped to her upper arm. She stops moving when she recognizes me.

“What was that for?” she says tightly, wrenching her arm free and straightening her blouse. “You hide in the dark and play games now?”

I step into the light, the distance between us shortening. In response, she falls back and crosses her arms across her chest, eyes darker than the night surrounding us.

“Answer me.”

“Answer you and tell you what?”

“Where you went after leaving the court.”

“How is that your business?”

I am angry. First at myself for worrying needlessly over her safety in the five hours that she was gone and then at her, for being so stubborn and defiant. I grab her arm and yank her towards the door. Her gasp of surprise and indignation is loud.

“How dare you? Get your hands off me right now.”

I ignore her. I push the door open and drag her inside. As soon as I turn from locking the door, I meet a flying palm. It connects with my face before I have the chance to react.

                            ***********************

ANGELA

I am surprised, just as he is, at the loud thwack that sounds across the room. I stare at him horrified as his face contorts into a dark frown.

What have I done?

I back away from him as he takes threatening steps towards me.

Angela apologize, I tell myself as I bump into the wall behind me. Just apologize.

My tongue refuses to move. I hold out a hand to ward him off but only succeed in pressing against his chest. He is close now. So close, I can see the white hot anger in his eyes.

“For. Your. Own. Safety,” he says, his words an ominous staccato… “Never. Ever. Try. That. Again.”

The urge to apologize dies a premature death. I drop my hands from his chest and hold my chin up.

“Okay, please step away from me.”

“Apologize.”

I find myself scoffing at his quiet command.

“Or what will happen?”

“Don’t push me Angela.”

I roll my eyes. “Plea –”

The words hang unfinished on my tongue as hands suddenly grab my arms and pin me to the wall. I fight back. Kicking and shoving with all my might. When nothing happens, I threaten to scream.

“Let me go or I will scream.”

I don’t wait. I open my mouth. I barely manage a squeak when his hand closes over my mouth. Without wasting another thought, I bite hard into the flesh of his palm.

“Shit!”

His hand drops away from my mouth. I make another attempt to scream.

“Stop it!”

Something in his tone forces the scream back into my throat.

I realize that my arms have been freed. I also realize that I am moulded against his body, my breasts flattened against his chest and hips locked to his own. I begin to feel something, but it is not anger. It is something else, something dark and forbidding. My nipples tighten before I can identify the weird feeling. A line joining his brows together in a frown, Naden looks down at my chest and then back at my face.

Exhaling quietly, he pulls away from me and walks to the door. The door slams after him, leaving me alone with my confusion.

What just happened?

                              *********************

NADEN

My hand still stinging in the spot where Angela’s teeth had sunk, I lean on the wall and throw my head back. The sky is dark but tiny stars wink cheerfully at me. I drag a hand down my face.

This is getting worse.

I had gone from losing my temper to laying my hands on Angela. Remorse fills me.

I should have controlled myself.

Done with berating myself, I remember her reaction after I released my hold on her arms.

She had been aroused just as much as I had been.

I shake my head to get rid of the disturbing thoughts that follow this realization. I think about the fact that she disappeared from the court this afternoon.

Where had she gone?

                                    ******************

THE OYELOWO MANSION

Damilola Oyelowo slept still, her heart threatening to burst free from her rib cage. She felt her husband’s hand move up her thigh and settle on her waist. She tried to control her breathing, to appear normal before he suspected that she was awake but she could not. Then, she hoped he would move away, but her hopes were dashed when his hand resumed its upward journey.

What is he doing?

Damilola stopped pretending to be asleep.

“Martin what are you doing?”

The hand on her arm stilled in its movement.

“Please I am trying to sleep.”

Damilola dared to face her husband. She sank back into her pillows when she saw how close he was. His eyes were thoughtful, his lips twisted as he watched her.

“I want to sleep,” Damilola repeated, adjusting the strap of her Satin nightdress.

Her husband looked down at her chest and she found herself reaching to pull the sheets to cover herself.

“Okay,” he said at last, moving away from her and lowering himself to the bed.

Damilola turned back to the wall and watched it for one hour, and then she turned and watched him sleep.

                                *************************

While Damilola Oyelowo watched the wall, Martin Oyelowo slept with his hands under his head, elbows pointing outward as he tried to understand the changes that had come over him. Suddenly, he was noticing the smoothness of his wife’s skin and the breasts that still retained the fullness of her youth. He was noticing things he hadn’t noticed in ten years and he did not understand why.

Nothing annoyed Martin Oyelowo like puzzles.

Martin began to plan his move back to his room, away from disturbing thoughts, like how much he wanted to sleep with his wife.

Bio: Umari Ayim is a lawyer, writer and a poet. Her books ‘Twilight at Terracotta Indigo’ and ‘Inside My Head’ won the ANA women prize for fiction and ANA poetry prize respectively. Her works have been featured on new and traditional media platforms. She shares weekly series on her blog www.umariayim.com