The foyer of Frances & Reeves Solicitors was busy, as always. A nexus of dispute. With everyone in a suit, on the phone and striding purposefully across the atrium, one man stood out. He wore what could once have been called a suit, if it was some time back in the Great Depression. Now it was tattered, threadbare and full of patches. His hair was no better; thick, wild, and grey. The pools of his eyes betrayed his anxiety.
“I’m looking for Robert Frances. My name is Maxwell Heit” he told reception. His voice was hoarse, and he was asked to repeat himself. He shifted his weight self-consciously. “I said, I’m looking for Robert-”
“Mr Frances is not available today, sir” said the receptionist. He looked barely twenty. Almost certainly fresh from university; ambitious, naive. “You really need to book-”
“Yes, thank you, I know, but this is not a usual request. Can you call him for me?”
“Listen, if you’re in some kind of trouble, this isn’t the right method-”
“Please. Surely he can spare a couple of minutes?”
As the receptionist began again to offer kind words of rejection, Maxwell looked to the heavens for strength. A chime sounded nearby, and the lift which served this towering structure of legal commerce emptied into the atrium. There was no mistaking Robert Frances. Close-cropped black hair, steely-grey eyes, a confident stance, and a bespoke suit probably worth a year of Maxwell’s rent.
“Mr Frances, Mr Frances!” Maxwell called, tired, weak legs propelling him towards the lawyer.
Robert stopped at the sound of his name. A name he had built an empire around.
“Yes?” he said, curtly.
“My name is Maxwell. Could I please have a moment of your time?”
“I think my current rate for a ‘moment’ is about five hundred dollars” Robert laughed. “Do you have that kind of money?”
Maxwell stared at the floor, ashamed, filled with unbearable sadness. “Please…”
“Homeless people can get free legal advice down the road at the Community Centre” Robert said. He grimaced. “I think they have showers there, too”.
This was Maxwell’s moment of defeat. He knew it with a terrifying certainty. Fighting tears, he nodded his head. Maxwell watched his son turn from him and walk away.