My Short Stories

Fiction

Story by Lee Su Min

I prefer lemonade to bread and butter

Say Goodbye to Marcus

Chapter 1

If you got the impression that someone didn’t like you, chances were that you were right. And being nice to a person did not mean that she would be nice to you in return. Yes, Marcus knew all along that I didn’t like him.

Marcus was a small looking man, a bit mousy looking. You could say that his complexion was slightly too dark in color. His small beady eyes always looking sideways whenever he spoke, and he wore an oversized shirt that was crumpled and unbuttoned at the top. But that was not the reason why I didn’t like him.

I had no choice but to deal with him as he was my client. He came to see me because his wife had walked out on him.

The first thing Marcus said to me was, “I heard you are the best divorce lawyer in town.”

That put me on guard straight away. I usually didn’t take compliments easily. If you said that I looked good, chances were that I didn’t believe you. I was just your girl next door and I couldn’t be plainer than plain Jane.

Chapter 2

“If you are still after your enemy even when you have taken revenge, chances are that you still haven’t let go, and that meant that she or he has an emotional hold over you.” This is what I always told my client. The enemy of course I was referring to the spouse, either the wife or the husband.

Chapter 3

On the second consultation, Marcus went straight to the point.

“I hit her,”

“My God! Was there any injury?” “I mean marks or blood stains … I assumed that you used your fists,”

“I didn’t see, I was too shocked by my own behavior,”

“What did she do after that?”

“She went downstairs, and I think she called her lover,”

“So, there is no way in which you could run away with this?”

“That’s why I am here for,” “I need your advice,”

I opened my drawer to take out my pen and note book. And then I looked at the clock in front of me. The second hand was starting to tick now. I pretended that I was doing something but actually I wished my client hadn’t confessed that he had hit his wife. It made my job more difficult. If the confession came as an allegation from the other side I would deny it straight away.

After about fifteen seconds, I looked up. Marcus was looking at me with pleading eyes, I think he wanted me to conceal the information for him.

“Fine,” I said, without him saying more.

“We just wait for the papers,” I said.

“You mean Mei would file for divorce?” the mousy man in front of me said.

“Obviously! Unless she has come back after that evening,” I assumed that he had hit her after one or two drinks. Men didn’t’ hit their wives when they were sober. No, not in this country.

Chapter 4

This morning even before Evelyn had served the coffee, I asked my client who was sitting in front of me,

“Where is she now?” I thought my client might have some idea. This would make my job easier. I would then know where I could send the divorce papers to, if the other party did not file papers.

“I don’t know, when I went down she had already gone,” Marcus looked distressed.

“Which means that she is not with you now?” I reiterated what I already knew.

“No, I have been living alone since,” Marcus said.

And then he added, “... and the clothes in the wardrobe seemed to be missing ...”

“Ah, she had been back to collect her belongings,” I remarked, and then I added,

“Which means that she had decided to leave, which is good news.”

“Or is it, bad news?” just to be sure that divorce is what this man wanted.

“No, on the contrary, it is good news for me,” Marcus reaffirmed his sincerity.

I looked at the mousy man. He had come to file for divorce. Of course, if he had wanted his wife back, he would have gone to a counsellor not a lawyer.

“Do you remember why you hit her?” I looked Marcus straight in the eye.

“I assumed no one saw it,” he avoided my question. And then he said,

“Oh yes, the family pet … Kobe saw it ….”

“That means no one saw you hitting her?” I corrected Marcus.

“Err, yes, you are right … No, I did not hit Mei,” Marcus finally got it right.

I began to probe further, “And may I ask you a pertinent question?”

“What?” Marcus was by now beginning to trust me.

“When was the last time you slept with your wife?” I put it forward very plainly.

“No, I can’t remember, must have been a long time ago …”

“Would you say more than three months ago?” I asked.

“Oh yes, certainly, …. I remember that we fought on the eve of Christmas, today is …. fifth of May,”

“Ok, that’s good. I don’t want her to come back and claim half of everything you own, and maintenance for her unborn child, then we would have to order a DNA,”

“Oh, ok. But there was no evidence that she left on New Year’s Day?”

“That is why you need me to draft the affidavit for you,” I said. I was a lawyer.

Chapter 5

Having to conceal something was difficult but not particularly stressful. I have managed to hide five adulterous affairs and three family violence, so this was just small feat. To exonerate myself I visited the chapel every week, said fifteen decades of the Rosary, which was three rounds of the beads, and then I would leave for dinner at the Marriott Court.

I knew that God would pardon me. I was not a habitual liar, but for the purposes of my bread and butter I needed to keep my clients’ secret for them. Like if you were a priest you would have to carry the confessions of the sinners to your grave.

Chapter 6

I always wondered how Mei looked like. My impression of her was that she was tall and attractive, and also well educated. After all Marcus was a professional, and a rich man. If he divorced Mei, she would stand to gain at least three million dollars as a lump sum pay out. She probably looked like Mona Lisa, or one of those models who advertised beauty products in a commercial. For some strange reason, I imagined her to be having flawless porcelain skin.

Chapter 7

Waiting for someone to fire a shot was daunting and required a lot of patience. Marcus and I had nothing in common except waiting for Mei to serve us the papers. It was like waiting for it to rain. You knew that it had to rain but you didn’t know when.

“If someone quarrels with you and refuses to make up, chances are that he has got some other plans,” I told Marcus.

“I am almost hundred percent sure that Mei is otherwise engaged,” I probed further.

“You mean she has found someone else?” Marcus was starting to look desperate.

I saw that he didn’t want a divorce. Marcus just needed someone to talk to. So, it was my job now to persuade him to come around to the inevitable separation and eventual divorce. After all divorce was my bread and butter.

Chapter 8

The worst thing that could happen in any case was when your client worked against you. He did just exactly what you told him not to do. It was not only frustrating but downright dangerous as well. He could suddenly make up with your opponent’s client and support their case. You ended up with a bad reputation because your client cheated on you.

I specifically advised Marcus not to contact Mei. If Mei hadn’t filed for divorce that meant that there was still hope. But if Marcus moved then he might agitate Mei to do something else. I didn’t want Mei to go to the police.

“Let’s confine this within the Family Court,” I put it to Marcus.

Chapter 9

DPP Laurence rang me today. Laurence was one of the guys who worked at the attorney general’s office. He was the public prosecutor who argued that you should be fined or put to jail. He was also my ex colleague in law school and I could say that we were on pretty good terms.

“Listen, I want you to act for a lady,” he began.

“What is the charge?” I went straight to the point.

“Assault and battery,” he made it sound simple.

“Who was the attacker, in a public place?” I asked.

“No, it’s her husband,” Laurence did not mince his words.

“Oh, family violence,” I added.

“Can you do a pro bono?” Laurence requested.

“Certainly, just let me know when I can visit the woman.” I said, then further on,

“I presume she is no longer living at home,”

“Of course not, I will send you the file and then you would know where to find her.” Laurence did not waste too much time in talking to me.

I put the phone down and then I asked Evelyn to bring me a cup of coffee. I needed it to set my thinking straight before I picked up one of my files and started to work again.

And then I remembered that I had forgotten to ask Laurence for the name of my new client.

Chapter 10

It rained and then it stopped raining. The sun was on the horizon but unable to make a full, bright presentation. I took Rover out for a walk then quickly came back in case it suddenly started to rain again.

My client from DPP came to see me this morning. I wasted no time in talking to her.

“He tried to kill me,” the first things she said.

“Oh yeah, did he recently buy an insurance cover in your name?” I enquired.

“Insurance?” woman looked blankly in my direction. I saw that and knew that she hasn’t woken up from her relationship with her husband.

I looked at the file, and I found his name: DPP vs. Kevin Fong Li Choon. The police have taken over the matter and prosecuting the woman’s husband for abuse following a personal protection order against him.

The couple stayed in a landed property in an expensive district, no signs that they were in financial difficulty. So that I could rule out the insurance bit. Then why did Kevin hit Nicole? Was he really intending to kill her?

“Did he use any weapon?” I asked the woman sitting in front of me.

“No, I said something that made him angry, and he just suddenly jumped up … used his hands to strangle me …” woman said.

“So it is not premeditated,” I pinned the parameters.

Chapter 11  

Evelyn came to work in a bright red dress this morning. I let her make my usual coffee for me but I wondered what the occasion was.

“What’s up?” I asked, casually.

“I am having a reunion dinner with my ex-classmate tonight,” she replied, nonchalantly.

I assumed that the ex-classmate was a woman.

Evelyn was my right hand, she greeted me with a cheerful smile every morning when I came in, she prepared my coffee, as well as ordered lunch from the nearby Fishermen’s Court so that I could relax a little in midday. I depended on her for files, as only she knew where they were being kept. My appointments were also scheduled by her, as she kept my diary. I spent all my time and energy at my work, with no time for social life, yes, you were right, I was single.

Chapter 12

I have no weaknesses for men, but I have a special weakness for jewelry - rings especially, as it was something that I could see when I was wearing it, unlike a pendant. So, whenever I was free, I would pop in at Crown 1983. They have a small collection of fine jewelry. I browsed around, and I always came to an emerald ring. It was square and large, set within 2 medium-sized diamonds. The band was also set in diamonds. I told myself to hold on as it was somewhat expensive.

But today I have decided to make a purchase, I have been thinking too much of the emerald ring. And since I have taken on these two new cases, it should bring me at least thirty thousand dollars. I wanted to be able to enjoy the emerald ring at my own leisure and kept it in my own safe at the office, rather than having to come in to Crown 1983. I might not wear it though, as it looked very expensive. Michael the salesman I was sure was also tired of seeing me every week without any fruitful purpose. I have not been asking to see any other pieces.

Chapter 13

To tell you the truth, as I told you before, for one reason or another, I did not like Marcus. The fact that he had hit his wife did not make me like him more. As I said, men didn’t usually hit a woman – they were of a weaker sex. I wanted to know exactly why. What precipitated the argument, and why Marcus would hit a lovely wife like Mei - unless she has committed adultery. So that I have decided to do a PI report on Mei. For this I needed to get Marcus’s permission, the PI would need some form of interest. You couldn’t just walk into Spider’s Bureau and ask for a report.

Chapter 14

I made my own coffee today. My Nespresso was bright red in color and was placed at the corner together with two pots of small money plants. They said that money plants bring in good luck, so I’d rather err on the side of caution. The plants were also easy to maintain and didn’t need a lot of sunlight.

Shits! I forgot to wash the froth maker for the milk!

I unplugged the jug, brought it to the sink, then I remembered the emerald ring that I bought yesterday. I suddenly had a strong urge to look at it. It was still in my bag. I decided to take out the little parcel and unwrapped it to admire the piece.

Ooh la la! It was gone!

The parcel was gone! Not inside my bag! Shocked, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I was sure that Michael passed me the parcel yesterday. My habit whenever I arrived at the office was to go to the Nespresso to make a cup of coffee and that day I was too busy answering an incoming call at the same time.

My first reaction was to pick up my iPhone to ring Crown 1983 immediately but hey, for loss of personal property, the proper channel to report to should be the police, not the jeweler who sold you the gem. But fact was that I didn’t see the emerald ring being packed inside.

There were two possibilities: either Michael cheated me, or that someone stole it from me subsequently. Both of which were not a prospect I looked forward to. I sat down on the carpeted floor and stared blankly at my bag, a Louis Vuitton, my mind stopped working suddenly.

Chapter 15

Someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around straight away. It was Marcus.

“Why are you here?” I asked, not too friendly.

“You looking for something?” he seemed to know that I have lost my precious emerald.

Zeep! I zipped up my LV straight away. I didn’t want more people to know of my misfortune.

“Mei has filed for divorce,” the mousy looking man announced, speaking over my shoulder as I was still sitting on the floor.

“Oh that’s good news,” I tried to make myself sound cheerful although it was difficult at this point in time.

“To get rid of your wife, you really need some skill,” the man continued. I could see that he was considerably cheerful, not to mention relief.

“Huh? You were hoping for a divorce?” I said.

“Yes, I want her to do the filing, so that on record I did not initiate it,”

“Why is that so?” I pursued.

“We were married in church, the community is very small … if I am known to have divorced my wife … they would not like me very much,” Marcus elaborated.

A devil pretending to be a saint! I thought to myself, I told you that I didn’t like Marcus. This gave me another ground for my not liking him. I got up from the floor, went to the desk, and pulled the chair out for Marcus.

“Sit down,” I said.

“Yes of course,” the man sat down obediently.

“Now, we need to know exactly how much money you have,” I told my client.

“The house was bought in joint names,” he lamented, as I detected a note of regret.

“So she has half,” I put it to him.

“The bank accounts are also in joint names,” client said.

“Do you have anything that you own without her?” I quizzed.

Now I have forgotten entirely about my emerald ring.

I gave Marcus a piece of paper, “write your assets down, try not to miss anything, you would be surprised that she knows more about your money than you yourself.” I warned my client.

Then I got up and went to the Nespresso, and gave myself more caffeine.

Chapter 16

No one knew where my emerald ring was, neither did Michael. When I went back to see him, he was prepared to swear on the Bible that he packed it faithfully.

“We have a reputation to protect?!” “How could we do such a thing?! – to pretend to sell?! – I thought I packed it right in front of you?!” Michael was adamant. I was afraid to offend him, so I quickly apologised – “Must have been my mistake,” I confirmed.

My Christian friends always told me that whenever you lost something, the best person to pray to for its retrieval was Saint Anthony. The Saint is known to be working for the “lost and found department”.

I had no other solution but to resort to divine intervention. After all, the circumstances upon which the gem was lost was really quite inexplicable. It had to be one of the two possibilities.

Chapter 17

Thinking of Marcus’s case I couldn’t fall asleep, so I took the Grab and arrived at the office just after midnight. I opened the wooden door as usual, the door was slightly jammed, and then I was surprised to find that the lights in my room was on. Did I forget to switch it off when I left earlier in the evening?

I lay the suspicion aside, and proceeded to go to my desk. I took out my note book from the drawer, and I opened the file marked “Soon Yee Mei vs. Marcus Wong Kai Fong”. I wanted to put myself in the shoes of Marcus, and argued on his behalf. But fact was that Mei was a woman, so I could sympathise with her. Men were not supposed to hit women, no matter how provoked they were. Although I represented Marcus, I could not play judge. I knew that my prejudice was not helping me.

Marcus’s file was always on the top as it was my latest case. I opened my Mac, got the document from Desktop, and then I started typing from where I left off:

A violent man is not always violent … the defendant was a family man who provided for his wife adequately, at no time did he entertain the thought of using force on his wife. The incident arouse purely out of anger and disappointment, that despite everything that he did, his wife went ahead and entered into an extra-marital affair …”

Having satisfied with my opening lines, I printed it out and looked for the file to keep the hard copy. The file was on top as this was the most current case at the moment. But … hey! … my file was not there!!

There was no one in the office. Evelyn has left for the day, and I remembered that I locked the door earlier on in the day. No one could have come in. Evelyn didn’t have to surrender the keys before she left the office for the day. So she could still come in. But why would she want the file? There was no motive.

There was a thief loitering in the office! My suspicion was confirmed. And again the culprit had to be Evelyn. But I didn’t want to alert Evelyn yet. I was going to install CCTV, and caught her red handed.

This would be better than reporting loss to the police. After all, it was just my statement. No one could confirm, apart from myself, that I had some stolen files, and an emerald ring. I have to be very careful.

Chapter 18

I didn’t know who Mei’s lover was. I had to get more evidence in order to help Marcus. I was certain that Marcus knew the information but that he chose not to reveal it to me. Maybe he was ashamed of it, maybe he thought that giving the name of his wife’s lover to me wouldn’t help his case. I decided to wait.

To end a relationship there must be mutual agreement on both sides. Now only one party to the marriage wanted to leave. And to exhibit this intention, Mei had actually left the matrimonial home. The door was open for both sides to file for divorce. If nothing happened the marriage could be dissolved in three years’ time under “irreconcilable differences” that the parties were no longer living in the same household. Marcus didn’t want a divorce for sure. It was I, the divorce lawyer who wanted it. If the parties got back together I would have no case to work on. I was not hard up for money, neither was I the other woman waiting to marry Marcus once he was divorced.

But since it was my bread and butter I had to work at it.

Chapter 19

Life was in passing, we have memories, we have photographs. The photographs, we used it as hard copy when our memories failed us. I decided to ask Marcus for a photograph of Mei, and then once I obtained this, I would persuade him to allow me to hire a PI to look into Mei’s affairs. I was hundred per cent sure that she was having a lover outside, for otherwise she would not have the means and courage to stay away for so long. It had been at least five months by now.

Spider’s Bureau had managed to produce a photograph of Mei with a man. But that was all. A woman and a man standing together, side by side, with nothing to prove that they slept together, either immediately before or immediately afterwards.

Chapter 20

Marcus was getting impatient. I could see that he wanted some certainty. To wait three years was a long time. But certainty was finality. I saw that, and I said, “Unless you have evidence of her adulterous behavior, you cannot divorce her.”

“Did you confront her?” I asked him point blank without even having established the fact of an adultery.

“No, I dare not,” Marcus gave a helpless look.

“When she lost her temper, I got into a frenzy,” he attempted to explain.

“Why do you bother, you are the bread winner,” I tried to tell him to be brave. I haven’t been told then that Mei brought in more money to the marriage.

“No, I have to deal with it, as otherwise I would carry it to the next day,” “I can’t afford to lose concentration at work.” Marcus’s reason.

Chapter 21

I couldn’t sleep again tonight. As usual I found myself back in the office.

Then I walked passed the Nespresso table, heading straight towards my room. At the other end I saw the lights on and the door ajar.

Don’t tell me I forgot to switch off the lights! …

… And then I heard some noises. The sound was not loud enough for me to identify the speakers. Nevertheless, it warranted some investigation. I followed the trail of the voices and found myself standing right in front of the conference room.

“Don’t go yet, I haven’t eaten,”

“We need to leave soon, in case she comes back,”

“Don’t worry, she never does, I know her pattern,” the female voice.

“I go first, don’t forget to lock the front door … and leave the file back on her desk …”

The voices quietened, and I quickly walked back into my own room.

I looked at my iPhone, the time was 2:20 a.m., too late to go home to sleep and too early for work. All the restaurants and hawker centers were closed by now. I stayed in my own room, preferring to let the uninvited guests to decide for themselves what they wanted to do. My office is a law office, other than a few series of law books and an antique wall clock, I have nothing for them to take, assuming that they were thieves. But from the conversation I heard earlier, it seemed that money was not what they were after. They were just here for a good time.

I inclined my chair and tried to relax a little. Marcus’ case was difficult to handle. I have no idea what my client really wanted. Was it a divorce? Or was he merely trying to save money on the alimony? But now I was quite certain that it was a divorce he wanted. He seemed happy when we received the affidavit from Mei.

My mind drifted to Evelyn as I knew that she had found a boyfriend. Otherwise she won’t be dressing so well these days. Maybe I should make her do overtime and see how she responded. I thought I was a little jealous of Evelyn.

By the time I decided to leave the office, it was time for breakfast. I went out of my room, checked that the conference room was empty, before I locked myself out of the office. No one was inside the conference room at the time.

Chapter 22

If you found that you were doing something incriminating and you tried to conceal it, that meant that you were sound.

I found my missing file on top of the coffee table, where I would usually get my coffee from, as sometimes I would help myself. I told myself I could have left it there by mistake, but actually on the other hand I was pretty sure that it was missing since the night I came back. However no harm was done as nothing was missing from the file. At most the thief just saw my draft affidavit. I couldn’t even call him a thief, since he didn’t take anything.

I let the file sit at the coffee table, and I asked Evelyn to bring me the “Marcus File”. She merely said,

“I saw it just now, you brought it out,” and without another word from her, the file came to my table.

I wanted to confront her but then I realised that I had no proof of her taking it from my desk. I might just incur her wrath, for after all I wasn’t paying Evelyn a very high salary.

So then I was happy to continue with my affidavit:

…. We mustn’t always assume that the one who used force was at fault. The victim could well be the indicter, you have to look behind the circumstances that induced the scene. Mei was undoubtedly an attractive woman, and had committed adultery in the eyes of my client. He confronted her and she refused to address his concerns. If she wasn’t unfaithful she could easily have said no. Instead she abused my client by calling him a bastard. These are not kind words you tell your provider. Although she has brought in a certain amount of funds when she married my client, but due to her spending habits, the funds are now depleted ….

Chapter 23

To gain a person’s trust, you have to do it slowly and over a long period of time. Evelyn was my right hand man, and I trusted her completely. I saw no reason why she would want to betray me. Although her salary was not very high, the job was cushy. She came in past nine every day, and left the moment she felt that she has finished her job. Me, on the contrary, made my own coffee if she were late, and was usually the one who locked up the office. I never once reprimanded Evelyn for anything that she did, rightly or wrongly.

So that even if I was a little unhappy about the file incident, I let it be. I’d rather prefer to think that it was simply misplaced.

But I decided to go back to the office this morning at 1:00 a.m. I wanted to know if the uninvited guests whom I heard the voices from came back to my office again. If they made my conference room their regular venue for rendezvous, I thought I have a right to charge them a fee. For after all if you checked into a hotel, a decent room would cost you at least three to four hundred dollars.

True enough, the room was occupied. The door was shut tight, and I remembered that I left it wide open before I logged out from the office. I could hear traces of laughter as I went nearer. I almost wanted to open the door when I heard one of them saying,

“Be careful, she might find out that you took it,”

“She went into her room straight away, and there is no CCTV here, so she can’t possibly accuse me of it,”

“But I am surprised you knew that there was a parcel inside,” “She wrote it down in her diary – Guan 1983 – and I just tried my luck,”

“Clever job! You never spoke to her in Chinese?”

“God no! This is a law office, not the Chinese Chamber of Commerce,” the lady said.

“ ….. ”

And then they were quiet again. I assumed that the man is on top of the woman by now. I quickly walked to my room to hide inside for I didn’t want either of them to know that I was privy. Immediately I thought of installing CCTV to monitor the moments in my office. But of course by then it was too late.

I knew that if I went to the Police the first thing the officer would ask me is where I got the item from in the first place. I could prove possession by just getting Michael to support my report. But how could I prove that Evelyn had taken it?

My purpose was to get the emerald ring back, not to prosecute Evelyn. I was a lawyer, I knew the law of evidence. I had to have hard evidence to show that my second man has taken the liberty of stealing my property. And also that I must prove that I have sufficient funds to make the purchase. I knew where I kept my income tax file, it was in the safe. Immediately I walked into my room to the safe to see if I could retrieve the document.

And then my mind clicked, I suddenly remembered where I left my parcel with the emerald ring. I had gone for coffee after I came out of Michael’s shop. I ordered an Expresso Macchiato and was sitting at the table with two chairs, the waiter asked me to make myself comfortable taking the parcel out of my hand, putting it on the seat beside me. And then after coffee I was in a hurry to get back to the office … OMG! I left the parcel at Happy Café!

I knew that I could not go back to retrieve the parcel now, it has been a week. The answer was clear now, I have lost the gem. No one would return it to me even if he had found it. Although I couldn’t possibly say that the waiter was a culprit, he certainly was keen on taking the parcel off my hands. Again, this called for the law of evidence. I have no hard evidence that someone stole my parcel, it would have been impossible to demand Happy Café to show me their CCTV recordings for the entire week. Why should they? What right have I got? I was a lawyer, so I knew straight away that I had no case.

Chapter 24

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.

Chapter 25

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.

Chapter 26

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.

Chapter 27

The next morning when I woke up the first thought that came to my mind was to visit Nicole. She had been taken ill and she would require some form of help, most probably a listening ear. Her husband had hit her. But of course she was ill so her testimony might be doubtful. I told myself I had to get her well.

I had no problem gaining access into the hospital grounds when I showed my name card. I also brought along papers that showed that I was the patient’s caregiver.

Nicole was happy to see me. She had already been changed into her hospital clothes and she looked refreshed, probably because she has taken the first dose of her medication. I was surprised that she could recognise me.

“Hello Ms Daphne, nice to meet you,” she said.

“Yes, nice to meet you too,” I said, followed by,

“How was breakfast?” not a silly question.

“Noooo,” she replied, “I couldn’t eat the bread because it was not toasted,”

Huh? What did she mean?

“I only eat toast,” she added. So I asked her if she slept well, but she didn’t seem to remember how many hours she slept. But fact was that she looked rested. I knew that she would recover, and then I would be able to get the alimony for her. I have a reputation to protect. I have managed to secure a seven thousand dollar monthly maintenance together with a three million dollar pay out.

I adjusted my blouse and then I told Nicole that I will be coming in to see her again the next day. She looked at me, a little blankly, and then she smiled shyly. I walked out of the hospital with confidence knowing that Nicole would soon be able to see me in my office soon. This was one hospital where there was no mortuary as no one actually died inside. Unless of course it was suicide. But the patients were all sedated and the windows were grilled so that there was no chance of any successful attempts.

Chapter 28

I might as well confess to you now that I do have a problem with sleeping. Often I turn and toss in bed without being able to fall asleep immediately. Tonight was the same. And this time I really didn’t want to go back to the office. The two uninvited guests I was sure must have been in the office again.

I wanted to charge them for using my office premises to conduct their affair, but I was too afraid to confront them directly. If I were to change the front door lock, Evelyn would have to know as I would need to give her a duplicate since sometimes she reported to the office earlier than I.

I was in a dilemma.

I was going to lose a client and a secretary.

Chapter 29

But first and foremost I continued with my letter of discharge:

Dear Mr Marcus Yap, In the light of the recent circumstances and after much consideration, I am unable to continue to act as your attorney, and would therefore like to discharge myself with immediate effect. I wish you all the best in your pursuit.”

I wanted to add the words “of happiness”, after the words “in your pursuit”, and “the recent circumstances” I did not elaborate. Marcus must know what I was referring to. His display of affections in his house the other night was most unwelcomed and out of character. I doubted if it was genuine. If it were, then Marcus must have been mad!

I waited for his response. But nothing came. I even forwarded all my incoming calls from my office line to my iPhone. Eventually when I couldn’t contain the suspense any longer, I made Evelyn draft out a bill and send it to Marcus’s address at Park Avenue. If he could afford to buy me an engagement ring, surely he could afford to pay for my consultation fees!

But fact was that I somewhat regretted having rejected his offer. I should have let him show me the engagement ring first, and then decided based on how expensive the gift was. After all the price could be used to ascertain his sincerity. I was nearing late thirties, if I did not marry now, the chances of it happening was almost nil. Besides, I was working every day, and the people whom I met was either a prospective criminal, an intending divorcee, or simply an angry man who had a vendetta against someone. I was not about to enter into any relationship with them.

Chapter 30

Marcus was gone from my life. So were the two uninvited guests. I never saw nor heard from them again. My letter to Park Avenue was sent by registered mail and I checked that it was properly delivered. The bill Evelyn had sent via email, so there was no chance of it being lost, unless Marcus did not access his account. But that was only two thousand and twenty dollars so that I could write it off as bad debt in the event that he refused to pay. I still have other clients and oh yes, Nicole!

Nicole was most pathetic. The consultant psychiatrist reported that she suffered a heart attack and died within the hospital grounds. And that Kevin came to pick up her body and promptly buried her. It seemed that he too, like Mei, was having an extra-marital affair.

Yes, Mei! What has happened to Marcus?

No one knew, and I think even if they knew they won’t want to tell me. I went into Spider’s Bureau again, but this time to check out on my client. What was my interest in this matter?

None.

I was merely a jealous ex-solicitor. When Evelyn came to tender me her resignation this evening, her right hand had a large emerald ring glaring at my face. Square and large, set within two medium-sized diamonds, the band was also set in diamonds.

“From my fiancée,” she merely said.

“And who is the lucky guy?” I asked, when I already knew the answer.

“Oh you won’t remember him, Marcus.” Evelyn replied, her smile not showing any of her teeth.

Damn! So that was the ring that Marcus tried to give me the other night!!

“Oh yeah, what happened to the bill?” I suddenly remembered.

“He didn’t respond, so after two months, I took the initiative to go to his house to look for him, that was the time he proposed to me.” Evelyn knew I wanted the story.

By now I thought you must have guessed who the two uninvited guests in my conference room was. Evelyn was lying under her teeth. It was her and Marcus. But that also meant that she was sound. For if she confessed to the theft I would have reported the matter to the Police right away.

But then I never got the impression that Evelyn didn’t like me. If you didn’t get the impression that someone didn’t like you, chances were that you might have been wrong.

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