You don’t get to meet the Local Government Inspector very often. Not outside Omu-Aran, the local government headquarters and definitely not personally. She had been waiting for him outside the town council office. She had been offered a chair and she had politely refused. She was too tensed up to sit. She still could not figure out why the LGI would want to meet with her. And then there was the matter of Nicholas.His house was been watched? By who? What was ….?
“Corper” Her thoughts were interrupted.”Get inside the car, I’m leaving for Omu-Aran. I’ll drive you to your lodge, I need to ask you some questions.”
What questions?She wondered as she walked towards his car.Wait, is he going to ask me out?She had heard rumours.Oh my God! No! Not me!She entered the car and shut the door. His car was very neat.Very neat people always have something to hide.
“Okay Kate, are you friends with Nicholas?”This is about Nicholas? He is not asking me out, thank God!
“Not really sir. We teach in the same school though.” It wasn’t a lie. They were not friends.Why the sudden interest in Nicholas?
“Okay. Does he have friends here? Fellow corps members or the people of the town?” Her heart was beating faster now.Did he know about Kemi?Nicholas did not have friends but she had seen him with Kemi a few times. Other people must have seen them too.
“No sir.” She answered, trying her best to keep a straight face. “He mostly keeps to himself”
“Okay” he grunted. They rode in silence for a while. It looked like he was done with his questions.”Your lodge is down that road, right?” He pointed in the wrong direction but she nodded her agreement.”You can come down here” he said stopping the car. She stepped out of the car and he drove away without saying another word.
Well, that was weird. How could I think he would ask me out?She was still a long way from her lodge.Nicholas’ house is close though.
She walked towards Imoji. It was a part of Arandun she did not visit often. Most of her students did not have parents who could afford properties on that side of town.
Nicholas lived very close to the richest people in the town.Surely they will notice any strange person lurking around.
Nicholas’ house was closer than she thought. She did not see any strange person lurking in any dark corners so she moved closer. Suddenly she stopped. She could not believe what she saw.
Oh my God, who is that?
* * *
“Sir I don’t understand why you would want us to do that. We can take care of the problem once and for all. My men are already….”
“Faruk, listen to me” His voice was always calm. It was one of the reason his men feared him. He never showed his anger. At least not in his voice.”Are you my boss?”
“No sir. Oga, I’m sorry, i just don’t understand sir”He obviously wanted some explanation.
“Okay Faruk, how about i give you a short explanation. 250,000 Naira every month. You see, that makes me boss. You understand that?”
“I understand perfectly sir”
“Good” He threw his phone on the table.He doesn’t understand. Foolish boy.
* * *
Lion King was his favourite cartoon. The story was centered on the Lions; Simba’s Father, Simba then Simba’s son. They were great characters but his favourite character was Timon. He loved the character in a way no adult should. And he was always part of his worst nightmares. He had had many nightmares where he saw a hyena tearing Timon apart. He would wake up from these nightmares scared.
He had no idea what the time was or even if he had seen Timon in his dream but he woke up very scared.
His eyes were still shut as he tried to figure out where he was. He was lying on something soft, probably a mattress. The scent of the place was really familiar. A grinding machine started in the distance, it sounded just like his neighbour’s machine.
He opened his eyes.Am I at home?All windows were closed. But he could still recognise his room even in the dark.How did I get home? Dele? I was going to meet the boss.He opened his windows. Everything looked normal.Who kidnapped me? Why would they return me?Everything was exactly as he left them. He looked outside the window again.Is that… is that Kate? What is she doing here? Oh my God, she is coming here?She already saw him. She was already at his door.
“Hi Kate” he said opening the door. “What are you doing here?” She stopped mid step. It looked like she was going to hug him. “I’m sorry, please come in” She came in without saying a word.
He kept his eyes on her as she sat down on his reading chair. He knew what must be going through her mind and he had thought about it himself. Why did he call her? He still did not know why. He had called her and here she was.
“How did you get back?” That was going to be the first of many questions he assumed.
“I have no idea. I just woke up and found myself back in my room.” She still looked confused. He was too.
“Nicholas, as you can imagine, i have lots of questions to ask you. I’ll ask only one for now. Why would anyone want to kidnap you?” She had a very serious look on. Why did she care what happened to him?
“Of course I’ve had time to think about that. And to be honest I don’t know who will want to kidnap me. My Mom is not rich, I’m obviously not rich. I’m not the only Corper here. By the way the kidnap looked personal” He realised he was talking to himself. “Sorry Kate. I just don’t understand what’s happening.”
“Do you have maybe, an uncle or something? Your Dad? You didn’t mention your Dad. Is he… I don’t know, you didn’t mention him” She had a point. Why had he not considered him.
“My Dad, wow! Why didn’t I think of him? First, I’ve not seen him in years. I’m kind of an illegitimate son. You can imagine the kind of life I had.” He could see pity on her face. He did not like being pitied. “No, it’s not like that. My Mom took care of me. But the thing is my Dad was rich. He was a politician. A big one” She looked surprised.
“Nicholas, you’re saying ‘was’. Why are you talking about him in past tense? Is he… like dead?” She said the last part in a whisper.
“Yeah Kate, he is. He’s dead. Recently actually. Three months ago. But that can’t have anything to do with this. I don’t even use his name. Wait what is that?” He moved towards the window. He heard footsteps. They seemed to be running.
“Nick, is that Kemi’s Father?” She looked at him. “Oh my God!”
Nobody saw me at her place. How did they know? What do I tell them?
“Kate, what do I do?” She looked confused. They were close now; Kemi’s Father, one of the town’s chiefs and two men he did not recognise. “Kemi, they’re close” He was really scared now.
“CORPER COME OUT O. COME OUT”
He had to face them. He had to leave the room, he did not want them to see Kate.
He stepped outside, it was time for Timon to face the Hyenas.
Thanks for reading this episode. What happens to Nicholas?
Kemi’s Family House
5:20 PM 7, July, 2015
Music is art. Fuji music is not. At least that was what Nicholas believed. It was blaring from a small transistor radio sitting on a worn out wooden box. He was sitting in a modest sitting room. The furniture was not expensive but they were neatly arranged. The wall was painted White. It looked freshly painted. Three family portraits hung on the wall. Beside one of the portraits, a golden clock chimed away. A ceiling fan hung far too low from a whitewashed ceiling. And the most notable feature of the room was a plasma Tv which was showing nothing. Nicholas couldn’t care less if the world cup final was showing on the Tv. He had been sitting alone in the room for what looked like 10 hours to him. Nobody had said anything to him. He had been sitting and waiting. Kemi is dead, and now he was sitting in her Parent’s living room, there wasn’t going to be a good ending to all this for him. The curtain that led to what looked like a corridor opened. He stood up. He tried to force a smile as the “jury” walked in. The foreman of the “jury” was Kemi’s father. He was a short man with a slight build. You would not be scared going into a fight with him. Well, except you looked into his eyes. He had one of the meanest stares Nicholas had ever seen. Those eyes were directed at him as he walked in. The forced smile soon disappeared. The “jury” had four other members. They didn’t look too interested in him. One of them sat beside him. He had a week old beard stuck to his sunken cheeks. His eyes were kind though. Nicholas tried to find some comfort in that. “Corper, we don’t mean to trouble you” Kemi’s Father started, quite solemnly too, Nicholas noticed. “But we can not find Kemi”Oh! Thank God! You idiot, thank God? At least they’re not accusing me of killing her.“We thought you had something to do with it, that’s why we came to your place” Sunken cheeks said. “Oh, me? Why would you…?” Nicholas stammered. He had to change the subject. “So, who do you think has her?”Who has her body? That is what I should be asking.“Well, we don’t know. That is why we need your help.” His kind eyes looked like they would pop out of his head. “Look here Corper” Nicholas turned to face the “foreman” “We know you and my daughter spend a lot of time together”Oh my God!“We just want to know if you know anything that will help us. Her sister, Lola, told me she has been keeping to herself lately.” What was he supposed to say? ‘Yes, your daughter is dead’? Or, ‘No, i don’t know what has happened to her’?Who could have killed her? She was a sweet innocent girl.He must have been quiet for long because they were all looking at him. “Sir..” he started. “You don’t have to worry if you know nothing” Kemi’s Father cut him short. “Please, just help us in any way you can.” As he moved down the staircase, he couldn’t help but think how lucky he was. He had thought they were going to accuse him of murder and here they were begging him for help. It was getting dark. The streets were almost empty as Nicholas walked home. Three little girls were dancing, not very far away, around their mother, who was cooking. Nicholas smiled. Everything looked peaceful. He had not experienced the town like he should. Like Kate did. He was not even happy to be there. Kemi was a welcome distraction from his routine boring life. She was pretty, easy to talk to and did not mind that he couldn’t care less for her town. They were different. He was born and brought up in a city. Had attended the best schools and believed the world was a bad place. She called herself a village girl, with pleasure too. She was a first year student at a Teachers Training College. A free Spirit, she did not believe there was anything wrong with the world. ‘Everything happens for a reason’, she would always say. The bark of a dog behind him made him jump. He had already forgotten that he was recently kidnapped himself.A kidnap and a murder with no body in twenty four hours? Something is wrong.
* * *
6:45 PM 7 July 2015
Kate had been waiting for more than three hours. She did not know what to expect. If they had found a connection between Kemi and Nicholas, then he probably wasn’t coming home soon. Nicholas had a nice room. Better than the one she had. It had a few things out of place but it wasn’t untidy. It did not look like he cooked much. His kitchen was far too neat. She looked at her watch for the umpteenth time. She picked a jacket from Nicholas’ closet, wore it and walked out of the house. Like most houses in Arandun, his house had a tree in front of it. She paced under the tree for a while. The night was breezy but she could no longer wait inside. “Kate” she jumped, startled. She had not seen him walk up to her. “I wasn’t expecting to meet you here” “Yeah, i decided to wait. Sorry about your jacket, it was getting cold” “It’s not a problem. Do you want to come back inside or should i walk you home?” She wanted to stay and get more answers but it was getting dark. “I think i should go.” She went inside the house to pick her bag. “I’m ready to go” She started walking and he followed her. “So, what happened? They just let you go?” Of course she was curious. She watched him as he explained everything that happened. He obviously cared for Kemi. She had always wondered how he connected with a girl who did not have much in common with him. He did not seem to interested in any other person.Well he called me when he was in trouble.They walked in silence for a while. Then something occurred to her. “Nicholas, have you told your Mom about your kidnap?” He looked like he was taken aback by the question “No. I’ve not had the time.” He looked lost in thought. She let him be.”I don’t think I’ll tell her” “What?!” She was surprised. She wanted to ask him why but she did not. He did not say why, so they walked on in silence. It was dark now. It always amazed her how beautiful Arandun was at night. The light coming from the houses made a very pretty sight. The town looked at peace. They walked past one of the hot spots of Arandun’s night life. Most of these spots were filled every night. Palm wine was the main attraction of this particular spot. A little distance away from the spot she saw two young men rushing towards a mosque. They had been walking for fifteen minutes when they got her house. It was a lodge for corps members. She lived with three others. She was grateful none of them was outside to see Nicholas. She would have had to explain why he was at her place so late. “Thanks a lot Kate. Sorry i put you through all this trouble.” “No, it’s okay.” She wanted to hug him but his hands were folded across his chest. “Just be careful , okay?” “Alright, I’ll try” he replied with a smile.” Good night” “Good night” She watched him go. “Hey Nicholas.” She called after him. “I think you should tell your Mom. Okay? Take care” He smiled and walked away.
* * *
Funke’s (Nicholas’ Mother) Office.
8:45 PM 8 July 2015
All it takes is a washing machine and a few minutes. She wondered how many of her customers knew that. It was good they didn’t know or didn’t care or she would be out of business. Her laundry was the biggest in town. It was the only one run by a woman too. She had started the business when she got tired of attending interview and hearing the same old statement:”We will get back to you”. She had being on the other side of the interview table now so many times. Being your own boss definitely had its advantages. She was enjoying one at the moment; chatting with your friend at Nine O’clock with your feet on the table. “I don’t understand, Funke. Why would you not attend the funeral?” Being your own boss also had its disadvantages. People ask you silly questions so early in the morning. Something Joy, her friend, was doing now with pleasure. “Why would I? The man died three months ago, i didn’t even shed a tear. What does that tell you?” “You are an emotionless robot?” It was one of Joy’s qualities inappropriate jokes. “He’s the father of my son. That’s all. In fact he was just a sperm donor, he was never a father to Nick” she rolled her eyes. She couldn’t believe she was having this conversation again. “Joy, why are you disturbing me? You were one of those who advised me to stay away from him when he was alive.” And she had stayed away from him. He wasn’t too eager to see her either. She often wondered how they had stayed together long enough to have a baby. They never agreed on anything. So when she discovered she was pregnant, they did not agree on the next course of action either. “Okay, do whatever you want.” Joy said standing up.”His family doesn’t even know you guys exist. You and Nicholas. I’m going to my shop. Take care of yourself” She had tried to stay as far as possible from Nicholas’ father. Nicholas did not even use his name. She had had more conversations about him in the three months after his death than she had in twenty years before that. Some felt like she needed to introduce Nicholas to the family. She did not have the same opinion. Nicholas was seven when he knew who his real father was. He was young but he had taken the information maturedly. She picked up her phone and started scrolling through her pictures. Like any mother would, she had several pictures of her only son. She looked at the last picture of him she took and smiled. He was returning to his primary place of assignment. He wore his uniform after she had begged him to. She was about to put her phone back in her bag when it rang. It was Nicholas. “Hello Nick, I was just thinking about you.” She answered with a smile. “You’re always thinking about me Mom.” It was true. “How are you?” “I’m fine, Joy just left my office. She asked after you. How’s your village? Hope the girls there have not stolen your heart with their food” He always had a ready answer for her when she joked about him and girls but he hesitated this time. “Mom, do you think Dad’s family know about me?”He never talked about his father.“Do you think they know?” “No, honey, i don’t think they know. Why? Any particular reason why you are asking?” “No. So how’s your business? Hope AquaKlean has not stolen any more of your customers?”He is trying to change the subject?“No, they have not” she decided to play along. “I’ve stepped up my game.” They talked for a few more minutes. Something was wrong she could tell. She knew Nicholas too much, she always knew when he was hiding something from her. Her phone rang. She did not feel like talking.It could be business. You need to make money whether you feel like talking or not.“Hello, good morning.” she tried to sound as pleasant as she could. “Good morning, this is Barrister Thomas. Is this Ms Akorede?” “Yes.”A lawyer? Why would a lawyer be calling me? “How can I help you Barrister?” “You and your son are invited to be at the reading of the Last Will and Testament of late Engr. Babatunde. I will forward the time and address to you. Okay? Thank you.” She couldn’t even say “good bye”. She still held her phone to her ears.This is not a coincidence.She had just been invited to the reading of the will of Nicholas’ father.
* * *
“Sir, she has been invited to the reading of the will.” Faruk never beat around the bush with news. “She has? I wasn’t expecting that, but I’m not surprised. Just keep me informed.” “Okay Boss”Well, this is getting interesting.