The lazy swipes of the ceiling fan blades, rotating in a circular motion, reflected on the floor of the dimly lit room. Its squeaky sound was the only disturbance in the room. The curtains were pulled together, but the reflection of the morning sun could be seen through it. It was another beautiful day. But for Ajiri, it was a sad one.
Ajiri lay face-up under the blanket with her eyes closed. Tears streamed down the corners and dropped on the pillow. She had been crying since the early hours of the morning. After what happened at the dinner party, she didn’t think she would be ok or feel safe for a long time. If it wasn’t for Ohis, she would have been kidnapped too.
The night before, after Eze left with his brother, the police arrived. As usual, they were late. They simply took away the dead in body bags. Those who were injured were taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Ohis tried persuading Ajiri to visit the hospital too but she refused, vehemently. She was too shaken to think of anything else, not even her own well being.
Knowing that her state of mind was not in order, Ohis couldn’t leave her side. Since she refused to see a doctor, he simply got her into the car and drove her home. By the time the car parked in front of the bungalow, Ajiri’s situation had worsened.
She was looking like someone who had been petrified. She couldn’t move and she wouldn’t speak. She just stared, unflinchingly into space. She was detached from reality, thereby losing touch with her surroundings.
Ohis perfectly understood her situation. He had been in such a situation in the past and he knew that leaving Ajiri all by herself was a wrong move.
Quickly, he did a u-turn and drove to his house. In the sitting room, he used cotton wool and spirit to clean out the injuries in her hand. When he finished, he applied balm to sooth the pain.
Definitely, he couldn’t help her take her bath so, he took her to the visitor’s room instead. There, he tried to talk to her, to bring her back to reality. But it was useless at that moment. She refused to talk to him or answer any of his questions. Seeing that there was nothing he could do, Ohis laid her on the bed and left her to sleep.
Morning came and still, Ajiri had said nothing but, she had gotten herself back. She cried bitterly as the memories of the previous night came flooding back.
Oluchi. She thought, squeezing at the bed sheet. “Oluchi where are you? Where are you?” She repeated.
Her sobs shook her body violently. She wasn’t sure what had happened to Oluchi. Different, scary images ran through her head and caused her to cry harder.
The room door chose that moment to quietly opened. Ohis stepped in. He was casually dressed in a brown t-shirt and shorts that reached his knees. His expression was that of sadness, sympathy, and understanding. He felt Ajiri’s pain in his heart and he couldn’t bear it. Although she was a constant pain in his neck, he never wanted to see her suffer, not after all she had done for him. He walked up to the bed, sat by her side and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“Ajiri.” He whispered her name. His voice was almost soothing to her ear. But knowing who it belonged to, she slapped his hand off and pushed him away.
“Get out of my room! Go away. I don’t like strangers in my bedroom. Go, leave me alone.” She turned and faced the other way. There, she continued crying.
“I understand your pain.” Ohis continued, gently. He refused to leave the room, especially because she had become his responsibility.
“Ohis go away!” Ajiri screamed at him again. “Don’t you understand anything? Go away! Get out!”
“Ok, I will go!” Ohis resigned, getting to his feet. “But I will only go away as soon as you get up, clean up and eat something.”
“Just get out!” She repeated. This time she was even angrier. She turned around to strike him but Ohis caught both her hands in mid-air. He then pulled her closer, so that their nose almost touched.
“I understand perfectly well, what you are going through. I have been in a worse situation. Now you have all the right to grieve for your friend but you have no time to waste. Her life is in danger. The earlier you pull yourself together and come with me to the police station, the faster we can find your friend.”
“She’s not just a friend.” Ajiri corrected, “she is like my own sister. We grew up together in an orphanage home. We were only able to go to school through some government scholarship scheme for the less privileged. We have nobody, Ohis, nobody but ourselves. She is all the family I have. Do you understand that?” Ajiri asked, with more tears flowing down her cheeks. Her eyes were red and swollen.
“I do,” Ohis replied, calmly. He let go of her and used one hand to wipe the tears off her cheeks before speaking again. “She is your family. It’s more reason why we should go to the station and get the police to find her fast. Even if we have to pay some money, it will be paid. We have to act in time before those crazy bastards do something terrible to her. Those men seem to know you and you know them. You are the only one who can give the police a headway in this case. Your sister’s life, Ajiri, is in your hands.”
Within the next one hour, Ajiri got out of bed, freshened up and ate breakfast. It was during this period she realized she was not in her own home. The house she was in was a five-bedroom duplex. The interior designs and furniture were expensive and of high taste. She wondered who owned the duplex but she did not ask.
Being away from home came with its challenges. She had nothing to wear, except a simple night robe she found in the bedroom. After breakfast, Ohis took her to another room in the house. There, he gave her a simple, knee level, brown gown and shoes to wear.
“Who own the clothes?” Ajiri asked, scratching her head. “Your girlfriends?”
“No.” He replied. He knew what she was thinking so he quickly cleared the air. “All the clothes here once belonged to my elder sister.”
“Good!” Ajiri said. “I don’t want to find myself wearing clothes that belong to any of your girlfriends. But, won’t your sister mind that a total stranger is wearing her old clothes?”
“No, she wouldn’t,” Ohis answered. He felt uneasy because of the new direction the discussion was going.
“Are you sure? I don’t want her to see me on the way and yell at me.”
“I just told you she wouldn’t mind.”
“That’s not enough assurance for me. I don’t want her feeling bad and I don’t want to be …”
“She’s dead!” Ohis almost yelled at her.
“Oh no,” Ajiri whispered as she covered her mouth. She knew at that moment that she had struck a wrong chord.
“I lost my sister and mother on the same day. She was only twenty years old then. I was fifteen. They died in an accident. I only have my father now but he is on bed rest at the hospital. The only other things I have are my businesses and this big, lonely house.”
“I’m sorry.” Ajiri apologized. “I didn’t mean to remind you of your loss.”
“I know,” Ohis said, calming down. “So now that you know the story of my life, can you get dressed? I’ll wait for you outside.” That said, he left the room and closed the door behind him, almost with a bang.
“Oh, Christ! What have I done? First I need to apologize to him.” She whispered as she got dressed. “Then I need to find out why a wealthy guy will leave his businesses and comfort just to be my driver. I just hope he is not into something illegal.”
The next 30 minutes met them on the way to the police station. Ohis sat behind the wheels of his Jeep, while Ajiri sat on the passenger’s seat, beside him. On their way, they passed through Akpakpava, where Global Connect stood tall against the eastern skies.
“I need to make a brief stop at the office,” Ajiri said.
“No need.” Ohis countered.
“Why not?” Ajiri asked. “I need to let them know what happened yesterday and I need to take permission for leave.”
“I already called the office earlier,” Ohis explained. “I told them you are still shaken by yesterday’s incident and won’t be coming to the office any time soon.”
“And they agreed, just like that?”
“What did you expect? You have privileges because you are now a senior marketer who gave the company millions in one day. They can’t afford to lose you so they have to comply.”
“I’m touched. Really. You’ve only known me for two days and you are already sticking out your neck for me. First, you helped me with marketing the company’s product. Then yesterday, at the dinner party, you saved me from those crazy men. Now you’ve put in a word for me at the office. You allowed me to stay in your home. You gave me food and you gave me clothes to wear. Now you’re taking me to the station. I really appreciate everything you’ve done. Really I do.”
“Well, what can I say?” Ohis said. “I’m only showing appreciation in my own way, for everything you’ve done for me. I owe you a lot so I’m paying the debt.”
“What are you talking about? What debt?” Ajiri asked. She really looked confused.
However, Ohis did not answer that last question. He simply concentrated on the road and smiled inwardly. He was happy that Ajiri was starting to appreciate his efforts.
When they got to the police station, Ohis parked the jeep outside and went in with Ajiri. At the counter, he demanded to speak with the DPO.
“Mr. Ohis!” The DPO greeted as soon as the new arrivals stepped into his office.
“Its been a very long time. I didn’t know you were in town.” The DPO was a huge man in his mid-fifties. He had patches of gray hairs on his head. He wore a clean shave and was well dressed in his uniform.
“I am, Mr. DPO,” Ohis replied as they exchanged a handshake. “I have been around for five days now. News reached me that my father was ill. I just had to come over.”
“Good afternoon sir.” Ajiri greeted, cutting into their discussion.
“Afternoon my dear.” He replied, before turning back to Ohis. “So how is he now?”
“Getting much better. He is being taken care of at a friend’s hospital.”
“Good, good. Please sit down.” The DPO offered them the two empty seats in front of his desk.. “Is she your wife?” He asked, referring to Ajiri.
“Nooooo!” The duo chorused at the same time. “She is my very good friend.” Ohis concluded.
“Ok. So what brings you to my office? Hope everything is alright?”
“Well, I came in respect of a kidnapping that happened last night, at Fred’s Garments,” Ohis said.
“Oh! For that case, a file has been opened, but… we are still investigating. We need to know what really happened, why the girl was abducted and who her abductors are. From what her employer told us, the lady is not rich, she’s just a middle-class lady. So money is ruled out. Whoever took her is not looking for money.”
“I know who took her. And I think they are related to her employer.” Ajiri spoke up.
“She knows the lady in question, personally.” Ohis supported. “They are sisters.”
“This is good. If you have useful information then you must tell us everything. We need all the information we can get.” The DPO urged her.
“Tell him.” Ohis encouraged her.
“Oluchi is my best friend.” Ajiri started.
“In fact, she is like a sister to me. Her full name is Oluchi Ubase and her association with those men started on singles.com, an online dating site.”
Birds chirped from their nests. Their chirping was the only sound in the entire bushy region. Up in the sky, the sun rose higher and its rays filtered through the small window of the cell room.
Oluchi sat with her back up against the wall. Her earrings dangled and her gown glittered in the ray of sunlight. Her hair was rough and her face void of make-up.
At the opposite end of the room, David also sat with his back up against the wall. But his head was bent against his chest. A sign that he was fast asleep. Oluchi’s eyes rested on him as he slept. Throughout the night she had very little sleep. When she was not sleeping, she was demanding an explanation from David about what was really going on. But he refused to say much. The only revelation he made was that he had been kept a prisoner in the small room by his own brothers, since on Sunday night. He insisted that if he said more, she would be killed by morning.
Oluchi didn’t believe him. She suspected him of planning the whole kidnap show so as to get her to sympathize with him.
Why would one’s brother hold him captive? And in a miserable cell too? Oluchi thought. What’s really happening? What does Eze want? Oh! I forgot his real name is Dennis. She hissed.
David had told her the night before that the person she called Eze was actually Dennis. Eze was the name he used just to hide his identity whenever he was committing a crime.
For a brief moment, Oluchi took her eyes off David and rested them on the open window. Her mind then went to Ajiri. She wondered what her best friend was doing.
Maybe she’s crying. Or maybe she’s looking for me. Oluchi thought. “Oh, Ajiri I miss you. I wish I could see you and hug you now. You are all I have ever had.” Her mind went to the happy moments she shared with the only sister she had ever known. Oluchi smiled as she recalled fond memories. Her smile revealed just how much love she had for Ajiri. Ajiri was her heaven and earth. Both girls loved each other very much.
Unfortunately, her reminiscing was cut short by the loud clanging of keys and a turning sound in the keyhole. Within seconds, the door flew open and Daniel stepped in, accompanied by Eze. David’s eyes flew open and he quickly sat upright. Oluchi on the other hand moved backward out of fear.
“So, have you told your girlfriend the story of your life?” Eze asked; a smirk on his face. “Please tell me she knows about us already.”
“No, she doesn’t,” David replied in a nonchalant way.
“Oh Come on little bro! Save us some time.” He demanded.
“Just let her go,” David begged. “You can do whatever you want with me.”
“Oh shut up!” Daniel ordered. “If not because you are my own flesh and blood, no privileges will be given you.”
“I know,” David admitted.
“You have until sundown to explain to her what’s really going on,” Daniel warned. “If you haven’t told her by then, consider both of you paralyzed. Cos I will beat the living crap out of you.”
“He doesn’t have to tell me anything.”
Oluchi said. “Please, just let me go home. I will not tell anyone what happened. I won’t mention your names.”
“Oh shut up you witch!” That was Eze.
“You shouldn’t even be talking cos in the first place, you caused this.”
“I didn’t cause anything. You people are the ones who kidnapped me.” Oluchi defended.
“Oh really? So we are the sole cause of this?” Eze said before moving forward to grab her hair.
Oluchi screamed. “Ez… Dennis.. please.”
She begged as she struggled to get free.
“Oh, I see he has told you my real name.”
Eze said, pulling her hair even harder. “But if you ever call that name again, you’re so dead. That name is sacred to me. My name, to you, remains Eze. Is that clear?”
“Yes, yes!” Oluchi screamed.
Eze pushed her away from him with so much force, causing her to hit her head against the wall. Oluchi cried even more.
She used both hands to cover her forehead as trickles of blood made it’s way out.
“You have until sundown.” Daniel reminded David.
“What’s the use? You will kill her anyway.” David protested.
“Yes! But it will be fast and painless. And while you’re at it, you can screw each other all you want.” Eze chuckled, “because she is the last woman you will ever taste or go near again. After this I’m going to make sure I castrate you.”
“If you do you, wouldn’t enjoy me either,” David warned.
“We don’t need your tinny winky, Dave.”
Daniel laughed at him. “We will be the ones using ours on you. All we need from you after now is your backside.” The men laughed wickedly as they walked out and locked the door behind them.
Oluchi and David heard their footsteps retreating into the distance.
“Are you ok?” David asked as he pulled closer to Oluchi. “Let me see.” He looked at her bleeding forehead with pain in his eyes. He then removed the suit jacket he was wearing, as well as the blue, inner long sleeve shirt. He tied the shirt around her head to ease the pain and stop the blood flow. “Does it feel better?” He asked when he was done.
“Yes. Thank you.” Oluchi said. “How about you? How do you feel?”
“Miserable,” David replied as he sat heavily, beside her. His expression was sad and full of worry. “I don’t want to tell you my story, Oluchi. If I tell you they will kill you. Unfortunately, if I don’t tell you, they will torture you. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Oluchi placed a comforting hand on his thighs. Her action surprised him but he said nothing. He just looked at her. “Either way, David.” Oluchi said. “Your brothers are still going to kill me. The least you can do for me is tell me why they want me dead.” She begged. “What did I do wrong?
Please tell me.”
David sighed and placed his hand on top hers, in a comforting manner. “You did nothing wrong, my dear. See, it’s like this. I am the youngest of us with 30 minutes.”
David started. “We are triplets. Dennis is the first, Daniel is the second and me, the third.”
“No wonder you look so much like each other,” Oluchi said, as realization dawned on her. “What about Fred? My employer.”
“Fred is our elder brother.”
“Oh! I see.”
“We lost our father at an early age. Our mum struggled to keep us healthy and educated. She struggled to put a roof over our heads, to put food on our table and to put clothes on our bodies. We knew it wasn’t easy for her. After Fred finished his university education he went in search for white collar jobs but he found none. So he resorted to doing menial jobs and getting paid for them. It was through that he supported our mum to send us to the university.”
“It must have been a very tough life for you guys.”
“It was. Hhhmmm…” He sighed, then continued. “At the university, things were not so rosy. Although we were able to pay our school fees and other levies, buying course materials and handouts was not easy. We couldn’t even feed. So one day, seeing the poverty we were in, Dennis…I mean Eze. You know him as Eze so, I’ll stick to that name. Eze decided to meet a friend of his who promised to help him get connected to rich men. Two days passed and we did not see our brother.
Daniel and I got worried. We searched everywhere for him. Only to get home late at night very surprised. We were also confused when we entered our room and saw Den… Eze, sleeping on the bed with so much money on top of him. There were over ten, fat bundles of 1000 naira notes each. We thought he had gotten himself involved in a robbery. We woke him up that night and after much probing, he confessed that he had sex with some very wealthy gay men.
The cash was payment for services well rendered.”
“You guys must have been very shocked,” Oluchi said. Her face squeezed into a thoughtful frown as she wondered why Eze stooped so low.
“Shock is an understatement. But all the same, he managed to convince me and Daniel that it wasn’t as awful as people made it look. Since we wanted to make money too, we started practicing with each other.”
“Christ Jesus!” Oluchi exclaimed as she pulled her hand away from under his. The new revelation was just too much for her to bear. “That’s gay practice mixed with incest.”
“Yes. I know. But we didn’t see it that way.” David said with guilt written all over his face. “We enjoyed what we were doing.
From the money we made, we set up mum and Fred. They lacked nothing. When they asked how we got the money, we lied about getting big contracts from government offices. Years passed and we continued in the act. But since De… I’m sorry. But since Eze was in charge, he made the rules. He didn’t want to share us with other customers so he made a rule that he will be the only one going to meet the rich men, so as to make money. The two of us, however, were the real boyfriends.
Another law was that we were not to be with any woman. We canceled every thought of being with a woman or making babies with her, out of our minds. Well one day, we were in the bush doing it when an elderly man caught us.” David continued.
“The man tried to correct us in a fatherly way but Eze jumped on him and beat him up. We had to pull him away from the elderly man. Eze warned him never to tell anyone what he saw in the bush or else he would be killed. After we left, I felt guilty.
Two days later I went back to the same area. After looking around I found a small hut. The elderly man turned out to be a hunter and he uses the hut as a resting place after the day’s work. He was not nice to me. In fact, he walked me out until I explained that I am not the one who beat him up. I told him I only came to apologize on behalf of my brother. He let me stay and we talked at length. He advised me Oluchi, as no one has ever done. He said things that touched my heart. Things I didn’t know before. It was then I decided to stop being gay.”
“You made a good decision.” Oluchi, said, encouraging him.
“Yes, I know. But my brothers didn’t take my repentance well. They said if they can’t have me, then no one else will. I wanted to prove to them that I had really changed so I got a girlfriend. Two days later she was murdered in her hostel. I later discovered that my brothers had a hand in it. I warned them to leave me to live my life but they refused. My second girlfriend was also killed two days later. So I stopped. I couldn’t have more deaths on my conscience.
After school, I went far away to Abuja, unknown to me that my brothers followed. They kidnapped my new girl there and killed her in front of me. I was chained. There was no way I could stop them. After that, I decided to forget about having a woman but I also refused to go back to my old ways. A year later, I was introduced to online dating. The one and only site I registered with was singles.com.”
“And that’s how you met me.” Oluchi finished for him.
“Yes,” David said. This time he looked her straight in the eyes. “I thought my brothers will never find out about you. I never wanted them to hurt you.”