I almost tripped when I tried to answer the call. It was Marcus. Usually after a few consultations, I would give my clients my mobile line so that they could contact me after office hours, and for this service I charged them at twice the billable hourly rate.
I was not expensive, just efficient.
“Hello Marcus, what can I do for you? ” I have keyed in my client’s name as one of the contacts.
“She took Kobe … can you get him back for me?”
“Wait! You mean you lost your pet?”
“No … she took him ….err, yes, Kobe is not in the house.”
“Ok, I come right now?” I dropped everything and ordered a Grab to Park Avenue.
“What number?” driver asked.
“I will tell you when we arrive at the road,” I wasn’t sure if my client was waiting for me inside his house.
The road was dark and I thought that the street lamps were too few and far in between. One of the lamps has also fused. Nevertheless I found the poor man standing outside his house on the main road. I dropped off immediately.
“How can you be so sure that she took your pet?” first thing I asked.
“Kobe is not in the house,”
“Have you thought that he might have ran away, or that someone else took your pet?”
“The maid said she came back … and then when I came home he was gone …”
“Calm down,” I said.
I let the man settle down, and then I took him by the side, gently nudging him back to his own home.
The house was empty.
I took the seat in the middle of the living room by the side of the coffee table.
My client was more composed now, he looked slightly better under the chandelier. Chandeliers were bright and exquisite. I wanted to ask for a glass of water.
“Want some tea?” client asked.
“No, actually all I need is a glass of water,” in my mind I was wondering how to turn this meeting into a consultation so that I could charge the man.
If I took the offer of a drink that meant that we were having a social gathering.
Marcus walked away, I assumed he went to take me the glass of water.
Almost immediately the man came back, a crystal glass in his hand. I took the glass, and Marcus took over the conversation. The man suddenly dished out something from his trouser pocket, went down on his knees, and he said, almost in a whisper,
“Would you marry me?”
I heard him, but I couldn’t believe my ears, what was this man saying? Was he insane?
“Since I first met you, I have set my eyes on you, you are a beautiful woman, and you helped me to forget about Mei,” he said.
I saw his face, his beady eyes looking straight at me, I could see that he wasn’t joking, but in order to avoid his proposal, I had to say,
“Sorry Marcus, what are you doing? I am not Mei,”
I pretended that I did not know what he was doing. Waiting for him to get up on his knees, I took the glass which he just gave me earlier on, and sipped at it.
The man sensed that his enthusiasm wasn’t met. He got up from his knees, slowly and quietly kept his box, and as slowly and quietly he turned and sat himself on the sofa. Once he was seated I went back to the main topic, which was why I came here for in the first place,
“Does Kobe have a collar?” I asked.
“No, he has no dog collar, so even if someone found him, they won’t know that he belonged to me,” my client pulled a long face.
He does recover quite fast!
Marcus was remarkable. He sounded so desperate just now. I made sure that I gave him a piece of advice before I called it a day. This was to ensure that I could bill him for my trip here tonight.
“The dog is one of the matrimonial properties, if you have genuinely lost it she cannot claim for it. Go and make a police report tomorrow morning.” And in case my client was still worried, I added,
“No worries, Kobe is a dog, he won’t talk.” She I was of course referring to his wife Mei. By now we need not mention our opponent by name.
With this, I walked out of Park Avenue and into the darkened street. For once, I couldn’t find my own shadow. The street lamps were fused. I wanted to go back to the office, but decided to deviate to Happy Café to have a hot drink, I needed to digest what Marcus did tonight. It was certainly out of character.
At Happy Café after two camomile teas, I decided that Marcus was just teasing me. He couldn’t have fallen for me. As I said, I was plainer than plain Jane. But if he did, he was certainly very quick about it. Imagine, marrying the lawyer who did the divorce for him. The story could go into the front page news. Come to think of it, I haven’t had time to read the evening paper yet.
I went home, unable to know what to do. Marcus had changed the perimeters. If I had accepted his proposal just now, he would have become my fiancée straight away, which made me the wrong person to act for him, since there would be a conflict of interest. Should I discharge myself?
I couldn’t sleep, but I didn’t go back to the office this time.
I let the sound of the author from one of the books in Audible lulled me to sleep. In the morning I woke up having finished the entire book without knowing it’s content. I must admit that I do have a sleeping problem.
I was very surprised by Marcus’ behavior. What game was he trying to play? Whose heart was he after?
By now I have made up my mind not to handle Marcus’s case anymore. He was flippant, slippery and mousy. My impression of him remained unchanged. I decided to draft a letter to him to discharge myself,
“Dear Mr. Yap, ….” I began.
And then my iPhone rang. A voice on the other side, “Your client is now warded in the Black Forest Institute, we require you to present yourself at the reception to check her in,” it was urgent and loud, unmistakably from a police officer.
But which client? Whose client? I lost my mind for a moment. I had been working on Marcus’s case day and night, I was still at the part where Kobe disappeared. Automatically I said,
“Hello, this is Daphne Chong, who is this?”
“You must come down straight away, you have to sign the papers for admission and discharge,” the police officer said.
I dropped my phone, went to put on my jacket as the weather has just turned chilly. And then after a distance away I realized that I had forgotten to lock my office. Being absent minded was one of my habits nowadays, not character flaw but just bad organization.
At least five people were waiting for me when I arrived. I went straight up to Nicole,
“He hit you again?”
The woman looked at me, raging,
“Why did you hit me?” she asked.
I looked at her firmly, “Pardon, I didn’t hit you,” I said. Of course, I didn’t hit her.
There were two police officers around, I knew I had to defend myself, so immediately I said again,
“No, I didn’t touch you, this is only the second time I am seeing you, Madam,”
One of the officers looked at me with a queer expression on his face,
“You a legal counsel?” he asked.
“Yes?” I saw no harm in admitting that.
“This lady has lost touch with reality, so that if you can be her guardian, we will be in touch with you from time to time, until she is off the hospital grounds,” officer said.
Of course I consented. This was my bread and butter.