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Tuesday, 15 January 2013
There are Lawyers in every Conscience: a Fairy Tale
I wrote this story many years ago. So I have dug it out from my dusty archives to share here with you guys. Here goes:
Richard kept blinking at the figures before him and shaking his head to dislodge the fuzzy feeling. Tears sprang to his eyes and blurred his vision. The digits tilted and wavered, then steadied again. Three Million Naira!
He would have screamed, but his throat had gone dry. He could only swallow hard. Gradually, very gradually, he regained a bit of his composure. Fortunately, the dainty Customer Care lady did not appear to notice his hormonal calisthenics and had already turned to the next person on the queue. Murmuring his thanks, Richard stepped past the door and fled the bank.
Back at his shanty, he tore out the booklet again. Apart from the slight blot created by his perspiring palms, the figures remained constant. Three Million Naira! The world started spinning and he gave his head a more vigorous shake.
Minutes earlier, he had stepped into the bank to evacuate the remaining funds from his Savings Account; about four thousand odd Naira. He had stopped to confirm his balance and presented his booklet. It was handed bank to him stating that his account balance was Three Million Naira! He asked the curt desk Personnel to confirm, and she handed the booklet back nodding absently while muttering “It is correct, Three Million Naira”.
What could have yielded this jackpot for this unemployed law graduate still living on rapidly dwindling goodwill of his remaining friends? His head scanned possibilities: an anonymous rich relative? No, his pedigree contrasted sharply with such testamentary largesse. Could it be those Internet pop-ups at shady sites announcing one to be the lucky winner of fantastic sums?
There must be a mistake, mistake…the word struggled to the fore of his subconscious but was smothered by a more frantic whisper: I’m rich, I’m rich!
He grew light-headed again and there was a ringing in his ears. The world spun faster and swiveled him on to a lethargic haze.
In this dim state of half-sleep; two apparitions tumbled out into his room in a puff of smoke and stood before him. Too bemused to scream, he stared wildly.
The apparitions were miniature men, about three feet in height, and they both bore an uncanny likeness to him in both countenance and mannerism. They were similarly clad in the robes and wigs of lawyers, but the resemblance ended there.
One was good-looking. A reflection of what Richard always wished he looked like: open-faced and fresh coloured. The other apparition however possessed all the gnarled and wizened features of Richard’s nightmares of neglected old age. It also had wise eyes glittering with cunning.
This apparition addressed him first: “Quick boy, what are you waiting for? The cash is all yours. Well, all yours less the tiny ten-percent you should hand me as legal fee” The other apparition cut in- “Pay him no heed son, that sum is not yours legally. It was occasioned by the perfunctory errors of an overworked Teller. Return it, please”
“Ha! Listen to that!” Gnarled Face piped. “Overworked! You walk the streets everyday under a belligerent sun searching for jobs, while she sits pretty under the air-conditioner…and she complains of overwork! Be smart boy, to the bank!”
“Just a minute” Open-Faced apparition pleaded. “Yes, she loused up, no doubts, but you can still cure the defect. Picture what she stands to face at the cold hands of the Capitalists she serves. She may be jailed. Do you wish that to sit on your conscience?”
“Conscience is an over-rated concept” Gnarled Face hissed.
Open-Faced apparition wagged a finger “son, for every minute the truth is put off, the wounds of the conscience fester”
“What wound cuts deeper than the life of deprivation you presently endure? The servitude, the ridicule, the maddening frustration?” Gnarled Face contorted further with the fury of his words.
“The after-life son, of course you believe in it” Open-faced apparition gently warned.
“Wrong!” shrieked Gnarled Face. “There has to be a life first before an after-life. This is your chance to go get a life. Now, not a minute more to waste, to the bank!”
“Not so fast” Open-Face held out a hand. “Do you need to sacrifice another life to get your own life then?”
“But of course!” Gnarled Face cooed. “For life to be fair on one being, it must darken its glow on another. It is a world of eat or be eaten. Her loss, your gain...”
“What gains...?” Open-Face began, but Gnarled Face swept in: “Did you not always wish to set up your own Practice? You can afford that now. For another ten percent fee, I can work on reserving a few good names for your Firm and scouting ideal office spaces. Life is brief; and you’ve earned the right to enjoy it!”
Open-Face shook his head. “You wish to build your Practice on blood? Stand by and watch a poor lady pay with pints of hers? Do the honest thing, give the money back!”
“Honesty is the excuse of the weak heart. And who is the ultimate winner if you return the money? Does the Bank even notice the loss? Its eyes are on the mega billion deals. Oh, do not fret over the poor lady. She had a duty; she broke the duty; so she naturally suffers the consequent damage”. Our Laws on negligence are clear on that.” Gnarled Face finished off with a smug smile.
“But the Law will turn on you as well” Open Face studiously ignored Gnarled Face. “You are currently innocent, but if you alter your position by spending the cash, guilt accrues”.
“You are calling an innocent finder a thief now?” Gnarled Face turned on Open Face with an expression of utter scorn. “Your aptitude for the Law is suspect! The young man did not set out to steal! He merely stumbled on a lost item which the Teller had misplaced in the maze of electronic transfers!” In a softer voice he continued, “My boy, heed him not. Yes, the Law may investigate, but we can tarry the process a little. Lose your SIM Card, relocate...”
“The arms of the Law are very long, remember?” Open-Face chipped.
“Who is scared of the Law?” Gnarled Face fumed. “What we have here is merely a detached and incidental beneficiary of a mistake. Boy, when the Law comes snooping, we can acknowledge mere indebtedness as opposed to active theft. For just another ten percent of the sum, I can work out a convenient repayment plan and your Practice booms meanwhile.”
“The hasty change of address and phone numbers, are they not suggestive of a guilty mind?” Open-Face reminded.
“A matter for the courts to establish, beyond reasonable doubt.” Gnarled Face sang. “For another ten percent, I will place a myriad doubts before them.”
Now, you must hurry before the error is discovered and your account restricted. You have little time, the banks close by four. And remember; separate withdrawals from separate branches across town.”
There was a loud pop and the apparitions disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
The fuzzy haze cleared and Richard sprang awake. Clutching the Withdrawal Booklet, he stepped out the door, a resolute look on his face.
Whither he was headed; to point out the error, or to claim the cash; we may never know.