The cigarette smoke wafted in the air around us, thick and sour, almost provoking me to involuntary tears. The smell of different strengths of beer added to the assault on my nostrils. The din from the restaurant was heavy, as pot-bellied men and girls in skimpy dresses jived and chattered away.
Sandy sat there, elated and obviously enjoying herself. She tore at the chicken and licked her fingers.
“You won’t eat? I don’t know what you are worried about. I told you already. I didn’t abort your baby. I just saw my period. That’s all.”
I didn’t know whether to believe her or not. I sighed.
“You are such a kill-joy. I could be enjoying some cool beer now.” She sulked.
“You are a bad influence on me. You are ruining my life.” I said, looking away.
She dropped the chicken and looked at me, mouth ajar. She put her head on the table and started to sob.
She lifted her head and shook it. She said nothing. Tears were streaming down her face. Passers-by looked at us, with various degrees of puzzled expressions on their faces. I was embarrassed, but I could care less. It was already bad enough that I, Samson, was sitting at table, in such a place.
I paid the bills and rose to leave. She followed at a distance, still in tears.
Sandy continued to cry when we got home. She lay on the bed and faced the wall. I almost felt sorry for her.
The following morning, she sat quietly, facing the window. I could not imagine what was going through her mind.
Maybe she wasn’t really pregnant afterall. If that was the case, then I had to do something fast to outsmart the game she was playing on me. It wouldn’t be long before she started pulling on my belt all over again.
I went to the bathroom and prayed in tongues, for the first time in four months. A prayer of repentance, a cry for help. I was sweating profusely when I came out. An immense power inside of me opened my mouth.
“Sandy, I can’t do this anymore. It is over”. I said, my voice husky.
“Shit happens”, She said.
She dressed up, putting on a tight-fitting red top that exposed at least a fourth part of her breasts. She packed her things into her Aristo bag, and stomped out of the room, out of my life.
After they had finished telling her the story, Chidera rubbed her brow thoughtfully.
“Guys, I think I know who it is,” she said.
Then turning to Remi, she said: “Remi, do you remember that guy that Ruth told us about? The creep that kept chasing her?”
Remi pursed her lips in concentration then shook her head while Tomiwa said: “A creep was chasing her?”
Chidera gave Remi a playful punch. “I’m surprised you don’t remember. It was in our first year. This dude Dare or something asked Ruth out but she said no. She said she didn’t like him that he looked like a cultist or something. But he kept calling her and chasing after her. After a while, it seemed he gave up.”
Remi’s eyes lit up as she remembered. “Yeah, I remember that was why Ruth had to keep switching off her phone a lot when we were in 100 level.”
“Did you guys ever meet him?” Peter asked.
“I saw him once when he came to our dormitory. She refused to go out to meet him but pointed him out to me from the window,” Chidera said.
“Well, that’s some information. At least, we have an idea who the guy might be. We should go to the police with this,” Fola said.
“Fat chance the police are going to help us. We need to work on our own. And if he’s a cultist…” Tomiwa’s voice trailed off.
“Does anyone know which department he’s in?” Peter asked.
“He’s in her faculty,” Remi said with some uncertainty.
“I think so too,” Chidera concurred. “I think that was how she met him.”
“But Social Sciences is a very big faculty,” Fola said.
“Let’s go there now!” Tomiwa said.
“Guys, guys,” Chidera held up her hands. “I was reminded of something on my way here. It looks as if we have been doing too much talking but not enough asking.”
“Huh?” Remi asked puzzled.
“We need to pray for Ruth. Ask God to keep her safe till we get there and ask Him to help us figure this out. He’s faster than any policeman.”
Tomiwa sighed. “Fola, would you do us the honour?”
Fola bowed his head and the others followed suit.
Ize was shivering. She knew it was the withdrawal symptoms. Despite the fact that she was on a low dose of methadone, there didn’t seem to be anything strong enough to stop the shivering and the hallucinations. She needed a fix bad.
She shook her head as she paced round her room restless. She had gotten accommodation outside school because she wanted to be fully on her own but sometimes like now, she craved company. She remembered that Peter had told her to call him first anytime she felt like a fix. She reached for her phone and dialed his number. The line was busy. She got up and paced for another hour. But the shivering didn’t stop, it got worse and she couldn’t even pace anymore. Curling up into a fetal position, she reached for her phone again and dialed another number, a different number this time.
They finally stopped. It was still early evening and the sun was just setting. Ruth tried to peer out of the tinted windows. She had tried to pray but her mind kept throwing up horrifying images. She still could not figure out who had taken her and why. One of her captors dragged her out of the car and she could see a cream bungalow. She could not recognize the area though. It must be far from town. There were no buildings around the bungalow. A sense of dread filled her. Was this the slaughterhouse?
Her father and sisters would be so worried about her. How could she get to them?
They took her into the bungalow and she found herself in a small square room. It looked like a living room with furniture and a rug with a home theatre system. There, sitting right in the centre of the room, reclining on the sofa, she saw a familiar face, the first she had seen since her abduction.
Chief Kosoro poured himself some red wine and watched the melting ice cubes as they sank to the bottom of the goblet. He took a sip and licked the corner of his mouth.
“When do the goods arrive?” He asked Tiri Kolajo.
“Matthew placed an order last week.We have ten thousand bags of cement on the way, all of appropriate quality. The first batch arrives this weekend”.
Tiri simpered, pulling on his tie. He sat cross-legged on the red sofa facing the window in Chief Kosoro’s spacious office. He looked at the pictures on the wall. There was one of Chief Kosoro and his late wife and their only son. The sickly woman had died six years previous, and poor Chief Kosoro had withdrawn from public life for almost four years. There were pictures of all the previous chairmen of Ifemekunu Local Government too, all of them men of timber and calibre, means and commanding presence. None of them worth comparing to the ragtag urchin the ignorant people elected.
Alex Akiwaju had begun a massive water storage project on the hills above oremeji village. That had put the Chief Kosoro camp into a veritable trepidation. Obviously, the boy was getting some good advice. And that was not good. The storage tanks would have the capacity to hold several years worth of water when completed. That would enable all-year irrigation farming, and also supply pipe-borne water to the villages.
“What an elder can see while lying down on his bed, a young man cannot see it even if he climbs up a mountain”. Chief Kosoro said.
Tiri Shrugged. He recognised a snag there. Alex Akiwaju had surrounded himself with a mix of elders and young men. For the moment, it seemed that he had a wider view of the horizon than everybody else.