Under the blazing sun whose gaze no one seemed to escape, Fegor walked casually along the busy sidewalks at ring road. Bag over her shoulders, earpiece in her ears. Her squeezed brows were enough sign she was worried and also in deep thoughts. All wasn’t well. It was the first time a person she spied on died and she couldn’t help but wonder what went wrong.
The evening before, she had trailed the diseased lady from her office, Heritage bank, all the way home, and then to a nightclub. She was healthy and full of life, dancing and drinking.
Fegor and her friends sat at a distance, stylishly taking photos and video recordings. They had lots of evidence for the DPO. However, on their way out of the club, Fegor noticed the intimacy between the diseased and a random man. She knew what would follow.
“Stay on her,” she instructed Chigozie and Zino. Capture every implicating activity.
“Where are you going?” Zino asked.
I need to print out what we have so far. First thing tomorrow, I’ll get them to the DPO. We really need that money.
Before accepting the job, she had gone through the details the DPO gave to her earlier. The late lady’s name was Maureen Idehen. She worked as a cashier are Heritage bank. That was all Fegor knew about her. However, with the new development, she had to know more. She had to find out more.
At Airport road junction, Fegor hired a taxi straight to Ihama. Within 45 minutes, they arrived; hold up and all other unforeseen circumstances being responsible. She paid off the taxi driver and headed into Royalty Hotel.
“Good afternoon,” she greeted the receptionist.
“Afternoon,” the grumpy looking lady responded. “What can I do for you?”
“Please, I need help. A lady came to your club last night. She left with a male friend… “
“A lady and a man? Hear yourself. Countless men and women visit our club every night. How I’m I supposed to know who you are looking for?”
“Madam, we’re not quarrelling. I only want some information.”
“We don’t give out information about our customers. You’ll need to find another way.”
“What other way is there?”
“You know na. Do wetin you know say you suppose do,” she egged her on.
Fegor dipped one hand into her pocket and squeezed out some five hundred naira notes. She handed everything over without counting.
“Follow me,” the receptionist said, after counting the money and looking satisfied with the amount. Fegor followed her.
The duo arrived in a small room. A young man, about 25 years old; dark, lanky, sat at one end, monitoring the screens.
“Yes?” He asked, temporarily distracted as the ladies came in.
“She wants to see some clips from last night’s activities at the club,” Ogechi explained, holding out a few five hundred naira notes to him.
“Sure,” he took the money and headed for the door, leaving them to do as they pleased. “Only thirty minutes o! Before oga come and catch me perambulating,”
“Ok,” the nurse said and turned to Fegor. “Your time is counting already.”
Ogechi left and Fegor settled in. She spent an hour going through CCTV footages from the club, one after the other. In some footages, the diseased was seen walking into the club with different men. In the last footage, she arrived alone but left with the man who had caught her fancy for the night.
“Great! What were you? A call girl? Prostitute? Runs girl? What were you doing with these men?” Fegor asked no one in particular.
Going through the footages one last time, she used her phone to take snapshots of all the men that had accompanied the diseased to the club. As soon as she finished and stepped out of the room, she met the receptionist at the door.
“I was just about to tell you it’s time up,” she said.
“I paid. You’re not supposed to bother me,” Fegor protested.
“Everybody has time. Besides, our boss is around. I don’t want to lose my job.”
“Good. So please, be on your way.”
“What’s your name?” Fegor asked instead.
“Ogechi. OG for short. Why?”
“Can we meet later today?”
With shot up brows, the receptionist asked, “are you asking me out? On a date?”
“No,” Fegor smiled wearily. “You’re not that attractive and I’m no lesbo.”
“Good. I don’t do women either. I’ll be off at 6 o’clock. Where do you want to meet?”
“Mr Bigs. Sapele road.”
“Will you pay for my fare and for whatever info I give?”
Fegor observed her briefly, her brows coming together. “How do you know I want information?”
“People like you come here almost every day. You all operate the same way,” she smirked.
“I guess we do,” Fegor agreed. “6:30 pm then. Mr Bigs. Don’t be late. I hate late comers,” She turned and marched off without looking back.
“Arrogant!” Ogechi hissed. Composing herself, she walked back to her seat at the counter
Fegor heard her statement. But there was no need reacting. She knew reacting would cost her vital information. She would wait. 6:30 was only a few hours away. Then, the receptionist would learn manners.
She was still thinking about what punishment would suit the receptionist when her eyes caught something. No. Someone. She quickly took out her phone and scrolled through the images she snapped from the CCTV footage. It was one of the late lady’s escort, relaxing with a group of friends and bottles of beer. They seemed happy, and even laughed as one of them made jokes.
As she watched them, two hotel workers, males, who had just served the men drinks walked by. She heard them say something about telling their boss that the men wanted women for entertainment.
Fegor kept the phone in her pocket, composed herself, smoothened out her clothes and walked up to them. Ignoring the disapproving eyes of his friends, she stood close to her person of interest.
“Hi,” she greeted, trying to sound friendly.
The man sat back, raised his glasses up and assessed her from head to toe. She was a tall, dark-skinned tomboy who happened to be a rare beauty. Gradually, his lips curved into a smile.
“This is amazing,” he turned to his friends, “I asked for a sexy lady, that damn manager sent me a tomboy.”
They all laughed, passed rude remarks before agreeing that she was still ok for the show.
“I’m Terry,” the man said, after fully recovering from the laughter. Fegor didn’t respond. “Don’t I get to know your name?” He demanded.
“I didn’t come here to exchange names,” she was blunt. “Can we go straight to business?”
“Hahahahaha… This is cool. I love girls who want to go straight to business. Terry said, still assessing her. “From the mould of your upper part, I already know you have breasts. I only hope that when you take off your clothes, I’ll see a smooth body, not packs,” he laughed.
“Well, until then,” Fegor replied. “For now, please feel free to let your imaginations run wild. It is a free world.”
“Hahaha…” Terry burst into another round of laughter. “I like you, but I don’t want to imagine what’s beneath your t-shirt and jeans. So, shall we?” He gestured toward the direction of his room
“Sure. Lead the way.”
“I thought we were doing this as a group?” One of Terry’s friends, Bruno, asked.
“Yeah,” Teddy replied, “but you guys don’t seem interested in this one.”
“I don’t do more than one man at a time,” Fegor spoke up.
“I’m not interested in doing a tomboy,” the other friend said. “You go on Teddy, we’ll get someone else.”
“Ok,” he laughed as he led Fegor to his room.
“Help me!” a distressed male voice emanated from the loudspeakers in the Kada cinema hall. “Somebody please help me,” he called again. Already bleeding from his legs and hands, he pulled himself from the tiled floor and looked for an exit. A masked man wielding a chainsaw advanced toward the crying man.
“I hate horror movies.” Chigozie protested from where she sat in the large cinema hall. “I thought we were supposed to go straight to business?”
“We will,” Emeka Odile, her boyfriend of five years, said. “This is just a little-by-the-way fun.”
“I don’t need fun. Business is supposed to be business. We’re not trying to make up, are we?”
“It depends on your definition of makeup,” Emeka smiled at her.
Chigozie observed him briefly and shook her head. He always had answers for every question. That aside he loved to turn tables, to put one in the spotlight. “When you feel like doing business, meet me at the restaurant. I’m out.”
She stood up to leave but Emeka quickly caught her by the hand. “Ok,” he said. “Let’s go.”
The next five minutes found them out of the cinema and at the Kada fries section of the building. A plate containing two deep fried chicken, a bottle of malt and a bottle of Guinness stout decorated their table. While Chigozie ate, Emeka observed her. In the past, he had loved her like his life depended on it. He met Chigozie five years back. They were both final year students at the Delta State University, Abraka. Final exams were on. In fact, it was the last day of exams. He was driving to school, although a little behind schedule when he saw her stranded by the roadside. She was drenched in the heavy downpour, but she didn’t seem to care. She stood there, waving at vehicles. But none stopped for her.
One couldn’t blame them. For all they cared, she could be one of those girls who stood by the roadside to set up car owners. Ignoring the thought, Emeka stopped and picked her up.
“Where are you headed?” He asked, as soon as she was in.
“Campus two. Faculty of arts.”
“Ok. I’m heading there too.”
She said her thanks and he drove off.
Minutes later, they were at the faculty. She got out of the car, thanked him again and ran to her class.
“You’re welcome, ” he muttered as he watched her run off. His thoughts went to his friends at that moment. He knew they would laugh at him when he tells them he picked up a girl but didn’t woo her. Well, to hell with them. He got out of the car and headed for his department, theatre arts, to write his own paper.
A week later, after he had long forgotten her, they ran into each other at the main market. She was shopping for some foodstuff to take home to her parents. He was shopping for foodstuff to cook. He wasn’t ready to go home.
“Hi!” She was the one who greeted him first. “I remember you.”
He turned to look at her and his breath caught. “Hello.”
It took him time to realise she was the same girl he picked up. That day, drenched in the rain, she didn’t deserve a second look. But at that moment, in the marketplace, he was sure he was going to woo her.
Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. And they became an item. After they had long returned to their various states, Emeka visited her parents and also took her to visit his family. Marriage was certainly in view. But then, things happened. Emeka lost his dad, Mr Theophilus Odile, two months to the wedding. All resources were directed at giving him a proper burial. The wedding was postponed.
A week after the burial, a business associate of Emeka’s late father appeared. He demanded payment of all the money the late Mr Odile owed him. At first, the family saw it as a trap. How could their father and husband die and be buried before they ever got a debt complaint?
After investigations, hidden documents in the late Mr Odile’s personal study revealed that his business associate owned everything they had. He lost his home and business through gambling. To keep his wealth, he had to do several dirty jobs. The jobs were not over and Mr Efeke only showed up to ensure that the jobs were completed.
At first, the family refused. But after untold hardship due to everything being taken from them, Emeka gave in. He just couldn’t bear to see his mother and siblings suffer so much. Chigozie advised him against it, but he had made up his mind.
“I won’t let you go into a criminal organisation alone,” she told him. “If you go, I’ll go with you.”
All that was five years ago. The debt had been paid. But Emeka, seeing his criminal jobs as quick means to earn cash, refused to stop. While his siblings ran his late father’s company, he signed up as a full-time worker with Efeke and dragged Chigozie into it, threatening to maim and kill her if she refused to remain with him.
She had tried once to run away and start afresh. She packed up and moved to Benin City. Unfortunately, he caught up with her and killed her new boyfriend. He knew that wasn’t enough warning. Chigozie was a smart girl with a strong heart. She would up and run away again; going very far this time. So he threatened her family. Her aged mother would be killed if she didn’t cooperate. Her brother would be maimed and her sisters would be dragged to a brothel to work.
Scared out of her wits, she complied with Emeka’s instructions. But she couldn’t tell anyone. She was trapped in a world she didn’t want to be. Now there she was, constantly carrying out dirty jobs for her so-called boyfriend.
“Are you going to eat? Or are you going to spend the afternoon observing me? The chicken is almost finished.” She blurted after she noticed he wasn’t eating.
“You know I love watching you.”
“Quit it, Emmy. We both know this meeting is really about something else. It was never about us having fun or trying to get our lives back. We’re both past that.”
“Ok,” Emeka relaxed, arms folded across his chest. “I wanted us to try and rekindle our love. But since you’re not up to it, let’s get down to business. How did last night go?”
Chigozie dipped her hand in her handbag and brought out a brown envelope. She slid it across the table. Emeka picked it up, opened it and poured out its content. Indeed, they were pictures of the deceased lady and the entire crime scene.
“Nice job,” Emeka said as he went through them one at a time.
“Thanks. Are we done?”
“No. Not yet sweetheart.”
“I’m not your sweet anything,” she protested.
“Ok. I’m sorry,” Emeka raised his hands in apology. “I have two more jobs for you. You do them well, then you’re free.”
Chigozie observed him as he picked up his bottle of Guinness stout and drank from it.
“What about us? What exactly happened to what we had?” Chigozie couldn’t help but ask.
“Nothing dear. We only have bigger fishes to fry.”
“Everything you just said is total crap,” Chigozie flared up. “Ever since we started this work, we’ve drifted apart. And you don’t seem to care. You’re no longer the man I used to know. And you won’t let me move on with my life. It’s always one stupid job after the other.”
“Actually, I do care. We can move on together. You’re the one always pulling away from me.”
“That’s because you changed and you changed me too. Unfortunately, for worse,” she shook her head and turned back to her chicken meal, refusing to be disturbed.
To be continued…
This is a Pelleura story.
Idea and write-up by Karo Oforofuo. Read the previous chapters here
Please don’t forget to like, share with your friends, and remember to drop a comment.