(This episode is dedicated to Ife Unique whose birthday is today. The entire Hard Voices crew are crazy about you, most especially Kingsley who wants to marry Kogi; enjoy yourself, dear.)
Iyke got to the road. Deserted. No trace of Olivier. He stood on the centre of the road not knowing whether she turned left or not. The road stretched straight for few kilometres in either side, if Olivier took the road, he would have seen her back. Which way this she go, turn? He was angry, frustrated and clueless. The insensitive rain continued to pour. Perhaps, angels were playing with the tap, he thought ruefully.
WHERE IS OLIVIER? Iyke’s eyes began a 360 degree scan. It stopped at Okoro’s half-shut door and his instinct flashed. Okoro was a greedy trader, or how on earth could he expect to sell in this flood? He was sure Okoro’s shop was opened for business during Noah’s flood.
He crossed the gushing gutter, stopped in Okoro’s door and knocked at the door. Okoro brought out his head from the door, angry and shifty. ‘What do you want?’
‘Did you see Olivier?’
‘Who is Oliver?’
‘I didn’t see Olivier.’ He couldn’t meet Iyke’s eyes. He turned to go. Iyke made to enter the shop but Okoro stopped him with his bulk. ‘What is it?’
‘Give me Power Horse.’
‘My Power Horse don finish…’
But Iyke wasn’t listening. He had seen Olivier’s pair of shoes. ‘What is she doing here?’ he asked as he pushed Okoro out of his way.
‘I can explain,’ Okoro said.
Iyke saw Olivier lying on the ancient six-spring mattress in the centre of Okoro’s shop. She was fully dressed and awake except that she was visibly weak, so weak she could barely keep her eyes on him.
‘What have you done to her?’ Iyke turned to Okoro. His leg knocked down a can of malt. ‘You drugged her!’
‘I can explain! I saw her walking on the rain and I called her to give her umbrella. She…’
Iyke fell on his knees, his face thrust into Olivier’s. ‘Did he do anything to you?’
Olivier shook her head. ‘Are you sure?’ She managed a nod.
‘Sorry Iyke…’ Okoro began but Iyke had swept him of his feet, crushed through the door and crashed him on the gutter. He held Okoro’s head inside the water, bent on drowning him on the evil water. Okoro fought to free his head but Iyke, mad and stronger kept his face sub-marine. ‘How dare you?’ But Iyke was so angry he decided to add some blows. This meant that he loosened his grip and Okoro heaved his face out of water. As he made to rise up, Iyke shot his kneecap on his nose. Okoro fell back on the water. Iyke jumped out of the gutter and grabbed one of the logs of wood that served as bridge. Okoro, holding his bleeding nose ran for dear life.
‘Bastard.’ Iyke dropped the wood and entered the shop. He bent down and made to lift Olivier on his arms but his trousers were slipping down. He set her down, profusely tightened his belt, then gathered her on his arms and carried her home.
Tony had known his sister for over a quarter of a century now but he was still nervous whenever he happened to be in her presence. He was washing the car when she came and stood behind him. He was sure she would find fault with what he was doing. But she didn’t come for such criticism. ‘I met Olivier yesterday,’ she said.
Tony’s heart skipped multiple beats; his hand trembled so that he dropped the brush on the bucket of foamy water.
His sister watched him with disapproval. Coward, she thought. Aloud she said, ‘That sounds like a death sentence to you, doesn’t it?’
‘Is she coming here?’
‘I don’t think so. But I think she is no longer pregnant. I bluffed her and I am sure it worked.’
Tony’s breathing was normalised but his heart throbs remained out of proportion. ‘If she aborted the pregnancy then she can’t show her face here.’
The sister shrugged. ‘She won’t come, but even if she comes, it is a dead case.’
‘Hurry up with the car. I want to send you to the market.’ She turned to go.
She stopped. ‘Yes?’
‘Which part of the city did you see her?’
There was something sinister about his face. His eyes too, she didn’t like the two small blank sparks in them. ‘Why do you ask?’
‘Please tell me, where did you see her?’
‘We have to take the girl back to her parents,’ Lucy told Iyke. They were standing on her door step, this morning.
‘She doesn’t want to see her family for now,’ Iyke responded.
‘But she has to see them all the same.’
Iyke agreed. ‘Not now. We must cure her of her obsession with vengeance.’
Lucy sighed. ‘What if her family finds her and you are arrested as her kidnapper?’
‘Is that possible?’
‘Yes now. This is Nigeria.’
‘I will take her home after sometime, but now all she needs is total care.’
‘I am doing my best.’
Iyke nodded. ‘You are a darling. But I am going to take her to my apartment.’
‘I want to keep a closer eye on her. And I don’t trust her in this neighbourhood with Okoro. That man is a snake.’
‘What will Mercy say if she sees Olivier in your place? Iyke, Olivier is quite pretty and sexy even. Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed that.’
‘She was born in 1996.’
‘Mercy may not think it that way.’
‘I will try to stall Mercy from my place for now. Gosh, my guys too have to stop coming over.’ Iyke ran his hand on his hair. ‘This is crazy.’
Lucy agreed. ‘You are a good man. Do your best for the girl.’
‘Iyke, I saw the things you bought her. It is too much and you know I haven’t paid for my excursion.’
‘When is the deadline?’
Iyke sighed. ‘I can make it,’ he said bravely
Lucy gave him a hug. ‘You are such a darling.’
When Olivier was ready to leave for Iyke’s place, Lucy drew her aside to give her counsel. ‘Iyke is a very kind guy, please don’t upset him. He can suffer in silence, just make his work easy for him.’
‘You have been through a lot but you are so young and have your life ahead of you. You have the right to hate Tony; but hatred is a full time work, it will sap so much of your energy, it will stop you from breaking new grounds and growing. Do you understand?’
‘Have you forgiven Tony?’
She shook her head.
‘Will you forgive him?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Please try to.’
Olivier turned to go. ‘One more thing Olivier… You know that Iyke is a good man and also handsome.’
Olivier smiled with coyness.
‘If you can, stop pursuing vengeance and follow love.’ And Lucy left her biting her fingernails.
After thirty minutes of searching his things Tony found the phone number he was looking for. Humphrey’s phone number. He kissed the paper with relief and began to re-shelve his books. When Humphrey gave him the number after he helped Humphrey with a difficult test he didn’t know he would ever have use of it. But Humphrey had insisted he have.
‘People may bother you,’ Humphrey insisted. ‘Just keep the number. If anyone do, call me. Or flash me.’
There was no school now due to the strike and it was his luck that Humphrey was Lagos based. He copied the number carefully on his phone and dialled. His heart began beating violently as he heard the burr-burr-burr of the ring.
‘HELLO,’ came the undisciplined voice of Humphrey.
‘This is Tony,’ Tony said in a stranger’s voice.
‘Tony baba, how you dey?’
‘I am fine. Humphy, are you in Lagos?’
‘I need your help.’
Olivier dropped dead on Iyke’s mattress as soon as she arrived. ‘Hey, girl, arrange your bags.’
Olivier ignored him. He lifted the bags and put them out of the way. ‘I am going out now. I have to attend for some urgent business. Do you hear me?’
Olivier opened her eyes. ‘When are you coming back?’
‘In thirty minutes to one hour’s time. Be a good girl. And don’t run away!’
Olivier rose to her feet. ‘You are a true friend,’ she said.
He turned to go.
‘Wait, are there still men like you on earth?’
‘Why not? I must rush now.’
‘Wait… Hug me.
‘Why not. Didn’t you hug Lucy?’
He shrugged, came forward and gave her an obligatory hug. But for a second or two he looked at her in the eyes. Olivier brought her face closer, making to place a kiss on his lips but he had taken a smart step backward and she kissed the air.
‘Take care of yourself, dear.’ And he was gone.
Olivier sat down on the bed, emotionally deflected. But it was too early for this, not after what Tony and the thugs did to her. No, it was too early. But Lucy had said ‘stop pursuing vengeance and follow love’. If you can, that was. Could she? This early? Was Iyke the Prince Charming? He must have a girlfriend somewhere; girls could kill for this kind of man. What about the age difference, he was at least eight years older…
She sighed. To divert her mind from these unnecessary irrational thoughts, she decided to keep her mind busy. She walked into the parlour and made for his DVD plates; but all the plates were musical videos of Akon and all those black American musicians that rap so much. She didn’t care for them; she searched further, and found Lucky Dube and Bob Marley and Asa. She gave up and decided to turn to his books. But the books were even more disappointing, engineering text books and a few psychology books. No novels. She hissed and was about to turn when she saw a small white pack among the books.
‘Uh la la,’ she exclaimed as she brought out a cigarette packet. She opened it, it was half-full. ‘Ha ha, so my Forgiveness preacher is a smoker. Hmmmm, I see. Hmmmm.’
A pang of anger suddenly stabbed her belly and she shook with rage, as though she had just discovered her husband had seven sons from another woman. She felt let down, cheated. She cursed as she hurled the odious packet on the wall and began to ransack the parlour, then the bedroom, looking for something she didn’t know, but was sure would prove Iyke a ‘badder’ boy. She was determined. A smoker is capable of anything, she reasoned. She had lifted the mattress and dismantled the wood-work of the bed when she found it. She held her breath as it hit her eyes and chilled her heart.
At the bottom of the bed was a shiny black automatic pistol.
Olivier bent down and with a trembling hand, picked the gun up.
Tweets to @oke4chukwu