The first fifteen minutes, I recounted the incident and events surrounding it, glossing over parts I didn’t think mattered and keeping away parts that breached confidentiality. He would need as much information as was possible if he was going to defend me. Soon more details were bound to emerge. Litigation always had ways of unearthing stinking skeletons in ages-old cupboards.
Anthony Carew took only a minute to study the document. For lack of something to do, I surveyed the afternoon clientele hanging out at LuckPot; it wasn’t much different from evening patrons. When he was done, he sputtered a single word.
“Exactly what I thought,” I said, switching my attention to Anthony. “I can’t believe it. I’ve gone years without any ethical incident and now I’m getting sued for harassment and assault—with the adjective sexual attached.”
“It’s just not you—at least, not the Stanley Mala I went to school with.” Anthony’s tone was both serious and comic at the same time. “I mean, you wouldn’t even go near anything in skirt. For a long time, I doubted you had a working pipe down there.” He slid his gaze to my lower body as he said that. “When I heard you were going out with Jemima, a real flesh-and-blood woman, I planned to book a thanksgiving on your behalf.” He had the nerve to chuckle.
“Anthony, please!” I groaned. “You’re not making this any easy.”
He suppressed his chuckle with a shake of his head. “I’m sorry. It’s simply hilarious watching you squirm over something sexual. This is really going to dent your image. And that’s why it’s preposterous. You are squirming over nothing.”
“What do you mean?”
He appeared serious for once, waving the paper between us. “This is all hot air, because this Israel person doesn’t have locus standi.”
“In English, if you don’t mind.”
“In English, Israel can’t sue you. He is not the offended party, not even a party in any way related to this case, as far as I can see. You have nothing to fear.”
The slight relief for which I longed was swiftly replaced by scepticism. “How can you say that? You have the court notice in your hand.”
“It only makes me wonder how he managed to get this notice. Even the dumbest registrar or lawyer should have informed him he lacked locus standi. It only goes to show how people abuse the legal system.”
“I don’t whether to be relieved or worried,” I said. I honestly didn’t.
“Relieved would be closer. Now if this notice came courtesy of the girl herself, we’d be dealing with an entirely different issue. It can’t be so straightforward when a woman says her counsellor took advantage of her sexually.”
I saw red at the conclusion. “I didn’t take advantage of anyone sexually, Anthony. I didn’t harass or assault anyone. You know me better than that. There are some things I don’t compromise on.”
“I heard you before when you said you didn’t do it. So, I’m just saying. If you are going to be crucified for something you say you didn’t do, you might as well do it and be damned.” He dropped the hint carelessly before adding quietly, “And I mean that in the nicest possible way.”
“Nothing is nice about this. My credibility will be shot to pieces.”
“No, it won’t. No court is going to entertain a case from a complainant without locus standi. Even if by some remote chance it gets beyond this, you get roped in and manage to prove nothing happened with a monk like you, you can sue in return.”
“Damages?” Things were sounding better.
“No, not damages. A beautiful little thing called malicious prosecution.”
“You aren’t just saying that to make me feel better?”
Anthony had the grace to grin. “Stan, I’m a lawyer. It’s not my job to make you feel better. So, here’s my advice. Forget this piece of paper,” he said, laying the notice flat on the table and shifting it to one side. “I’d be more worried if this Prisca girl was the one who lodged a complaint of sexual harassment or assault. She didn’t. And until she does, you have nothing to worry about, no case there. What you should be worried about are the counselling guild people, and what tangling with them over a sexual harassment that never was would do to your standing.”
“You make it sound as though I actually did something,” I accused, detesting the notion.
“I’m neither a judge giving a ruling nor a panel sitting on your malpractice case. My job is to present the evidence, enough of it to show beyond reasonable doubt that your hands were in your pockets all through or to cast reasonable doubt when the other side insists you took your counselling sessions further than required.”
I had no reason to doubt Anthony Carew. He knew his onions and if he said not to worry, then I wouldn’t be. But something held off the relief I should have felt.
He caught the worry in my face and asked, “You don’t believe me? Okay, give me some time so I can say you have officially retained me. That way you can abide by my legal counsel. That should make you feel better.”
With everything since Friday, I was far from feeling better. I was still feeling stupid when Anthony remembered he was to have lunch. I’d been too engrossed to remember why I’d left my office in the first place.