Iyke stood before her desk in the impressive-looking office watching her plum well-manicured fingers go through the books, scowling at the pages, scanning, reading nothing. He had his hands in his pockets, keeping his temper suppressed, from boiling over. She shrugged and lifted her highly bleached forty-five years old face at him, her heavily glossed lips shinning.
‘I have looked at the books,’ she said, ‘I am going to stick to what the auditors said. They are professionals.’
Iyke nearly flared but thought it the wrong approach. ‘The auditors are touts, they didn’t do any work. They are crazy to say the book is short of half a million and you know it!’
She shrugged, bored. ‘There are two ways to settle the issue; either you remain with us and we deduct the amount from your salary gradually or you pay at the end of one week!’
‘That isn’t possible! I am tired running your hotels, bars and restaurants; am tired of having all sorts of criminals and prostitutes as clients. I am out, just pay me for September and we say goodbyes.’
The woman shook her mighty coiled head. ‘You are the one who should pay us—the auditors say you owe us and you owe us!’ She rose to her feet and walked round the desk to him; she placed an artificial-soft hand on his shoulder. ‘We can settle this in another way, though.’
The ‘way’ lurked in the corner of his heart. ‘What other way?’
She laughed mirthlessly, ‘C’mon boy.’ She pinched him on his back. ‘We can meet in my hotel room by 7pm and settle the matter like adults.’
Iyke looked at her face pityingly. ‘You are going to settle me here and now or there will be consequences!’
She let her hand off his shoulder as though it was bitten by a scorpion. ‘How dare you threaten me!’
‘It is not a threat, it’s a promise.’
‘Can you look Raymond in the eyes and tell him this trash?’
‘If your husband were alive, can you look me in the eyes and talk about hotel rooms?’ she made to answer but Iyke was still talking. ‘Your husband had his fault but he was a fair businessman, as fair as he can be. But even he cannot stop me from quitting, and even he cannot deny me my salary.’
She swept back to her seat and began to dial numbers on the intercom, then she lifted the phone, ‘Juliana, get me OBJ.’
‘What is your idea?’ Iyke demanded as she dropped the receiver.
‘You wait and see.’
He didn’t wait long. A very huge, well-built man with wild chest and powerful arms shot into the office, too swift for his size, occupying one-third of the space. ‘Yes ma’am?’ he addressed the woman in the most undisciplined voice Iyke had heard in a long time.
She pointed a careless finger at Iyke. ‘This chap owes us some terrific amount of money. He promised to pay back in seven days, but he may forget; I want you to remind him, can you?’
And the gorilla laughed HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. ‘You trust me ma’am!’
‘But the guy is very tough and he fears no one!’
The gorilla’s face crumbled into a mess of terror. ‘Hey chap,’ he said, ‘you go pay that money in four days or I go cut off your left eye. Then I go give you three days and cut off your left hand. Then I go give you another three days and take off your left ear. Then your left ear go go, then your left penis…’ the woman laughed at this stage. ‘…I am a righteous man so I no go touch your right things, but all your left-wings must go!’ and he laughed at his gawky wit.
Iyke nearly spat on his face. He took two valiant steps forward. ‘You want me to look at your size and fear you? But I tell you, Lagos is big enough to contain both of us and your lofty ideas.’ He brushed roughly pass the thug.
‘Hey, stop there!’
‘Let him go,’ the woman said; ‘not now. I gave him seven days actually.’
‘And I give am FOUR days!’
She shrugged. ‘Do you know where he lives?’
‘I don’t care if he live for Aso Rock!’
Iyke was passing a crowded mini-market specialised in phones and phone accessories, sales and repairs, brand new, fairly used, unfairly-used, third-hand, fourth-hand, scrap, stolen, all. He looked at the umbrellas and zinc sheds crowded with sweating and arguing people and grimaced. He was broke and Olivier was with him. He would care for him until the end, the very end. He removed his android from his pocket, squeezed pass the crowd and placed the phone on a fellow’s desk. ‘How much will you pay for this?’
Tony and Humphrey stood a little away from the road studying Olivier’s photograph. Humphrey was a tall, thin fellow, but for what he lacked in weight he made up with a menacing countenance.
‘This girl looks innocent,’ he said.
‘But she is dangerous,’ Tony said.
‘Will you help me take care of her or not.’
He shrugged. ‘She appears too innocent but as she is a danger to you I will make it my duty to treat her fuck up.’
Tony grinned. ‘That’s my buddy!’
‘Yeah. But it will be difficult.’
‘We don’t have her address.’
‘She was last seen with a guy in Dream Nice Boutique. I believe you will find her if you show the receptionist this photo.’
Humphrey sighed. ‘Whatever, I will do my best. Even if she is hiding in Alausa I will find her.’
‘And fix her.’
Iyke had a nylon bag of packed food in his hand when he entered the bedroom. Olivier was seated on the bed, studying her feet. She was wearing a white T-shirt over blue denim trousers. Smart. Beautiful.
She rose to her feet. ‘I am going.’
‘Where are you going to?’
‘To my father’s house.’
He studied her face for a moment and half-smiled. ‘At least eat something before you go.’
‘I will eat nothing!’
He saw through the hostility. If only she knew the weight on his mind, he thought. She began to make for the door.
She turned sharply. ‘What is it?’
‘You have something that belongs to me. Something you don’t need.’ He walked to her, lifted her shirt and removed the pistol she had on her waist. ‘What do you need this for?’
‘What is this doing in your room?’
‘You don’t need this,’ he concluded and turned.
‘And you—you need it! Yes I need it for Tony—for vengeance! But what do you use it for, you armed robber! Hired assassin! Ex-convict! Criminal, you need it, murderer! You kill for a living!’
He sat down and began to unlace his shoe. She hit him on the shoulder. ‘Deny it, you murderer, deny it!’
‘There is no need; you have drawn your conclusions.’
‘Nonsense. Am done staying with you. You have an agenda, I know it! All you want is to gain my trust then you finish me up. I am small but am not foolish. And don’t try to follow me because I am going to shout ‘‘rape’’.’ She opened the door.
‘Wait!’ She stopped. ‘You need transport money. Your home is far.’
‘Keep your stinking bloody money!’ She slammed the door shut.
As she stepped out and the wind smooched her face the magnitude of her decision began to hover around her like the buzz a faint mosquito. But she was adamant, she would leave Iyke. He is a criminal, she kept telling herself as she hurried away. But the more she put distance between her and Iyke the less sure she was about her decision and the weaker her steps, so that by the time she reached the main road she stopped. Her legs could no longer carry her. Her head wanted away but her mind (or heart?) thought otherwise.
She sighed as she fought the tears. What was this, anyway? Love?—it could be, but it was so early, so early! She liked him, for all he had done for her, for his brave humanity, but he was just in the crust of her heart (or so she thought); but now it seemed he had gone pass the mantle straight to the core of her heart. So soon! She had thought that after all she had being through with men, her system would permanently be a non-conductor for love, that her heart would no longer muster the emotional electrons to run the electricity of love. How wrong she was!
But he was a criminal, wasn’t he? And why didn’t he just explain himself! No, she must go away, he should have begged her to stay! No, she would go. But her legs refused to cooperate. She suddenly felt so lonely and alone, Lagos suddenly became as big as Africa, thrust with a giant stony path she must trek.
Her tears were blinding her as she began to walk back to Iyke. She didn’t see him coming towards her, she simple walked into his embrace. As he held her in his arms, she wept.
‘Who are you, Iyke?’
‘I am your friend, till the end,’ he replied.
She noticed the stress in the ‘end’, lifted her head and paired into his face. ‘When is the end of us?’
He placed a hand on her shoulder and returned her to his bosom. Even Iyke couldn’t tell the end.
Have you read ‘Going Down Chinese Road Series’ in this blog? How would you compare the characters of Iyke and Dozie? Really want to hear what you think… Can’t wait.
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