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It’s all for the money $$$- A tale of one Lagos big girl….New beginnings: Part 2 Episode 2

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It couldn’t be Azeez. I blinked, was I dreaming?
“Hey beautiful, are you gonna let me in?”
I pulled myself together and forced a smile. Please come in.
“Azeez darling, I wasn’t expecting you so soon, was just rounding up my evening with the girls”
As Mamus gave her visitor a warm hug, I caught Siki’s eye, that was our cue to leave. I knew Siki would have loved to stay, she generally loved aproko but I couldn’t stand being there a second longer than necessary. Thankfully Zainab and Amaka agreed with me and despite Mamus’s half-hearted protests that we stay a little while longer, we were gone in less than five minutes.

“Didn’t he recognize me?”

I silently pondered about this on the short drive home. Thankfully Barry was working late so I had the house to myself. I poured myself a stiff drink. Barry had banned me from drinking since we were trying for a baby but I needed it. Where had Azeez been all these years? Was it a good thing that he couldn’t remember me? Why did seeing him still have such an effect on me? Was he the beau Mamus had been talking about finally getting serious with? Why would he want an older woman? I hated having so many unanswered questions. I had a brilliant idea and grabbed my iPad. These days, most people had their lives on full display on one social network or the other. I checked Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter and four hours and a full bottle of wine later I had answers to quite a few of my questions.

Azeez was a successful designer with a fashion brand called Azure. He had relocated to Lagos from L.A some months back and he was divorced (already) with a child from his previous marriage. His ex-wife and kid still lived in L.A. He had no pictures of Mamus on his Facebook or Instagram but had some interesting tweets about his new lady love. I scrolled through his older tweets and one dated on the 12th of August 2010 caught my eye.

“I wish I could have this night forever,  I wish time and circumstances would give us a chance…”

I had felt that exact same way that night. I remembered that night so vividly. I had hustled my way into a society owambe hoping to catch myself a generous toaster but had realised it wasn’t your regular party when all around me there were sounds of excited conversations heavily impregnated with deep British and American accents. This was forming on a new level and I had gotten weary of hearing people boast about how much money they had or where they spent their last holiday and had quietly retreated to the balcony. I couldn’t imagine opening my mouth in this kinda gathering and with the number of correct babes in designer clothing at the party, my chances of catching any correct bobo were slim. I stood there hoping Taiwo would hurry up with her work so we could leave, most guests had eaten anyway so I figured her job was almost done. That was when I heard his rich baritone. I have always been a sucker for a sexy voice. The balcony was dark so he hadn’t caught a glimpse of my face but his handsome features would be forever etched in my memory. He had come to the balcony to make a phone call and hadn’t noticed me which gave me ample time to study him.

“Remi this party is dulling oh, all the babes are forming like they never spoke Yoruba in their lives. Abeg come and pick me, I dont know why my mum refuses to let me drive in naija…”

I giggled at what I had eavesdropped and he noticed me for the first time.

“Guy I dey wait oh, let me call you back” “Hello were you laughing at me?”
“Yep, I couldn’t help it, the forming at this party na die”
“As in, omo I no fit shout, Hi my name is Azeez and you are?”

Modinat was what he knew me as and we had gisted for one hour switching from pidgin to Yoruba back to pidgin in obvious defiance of the party behind the glass door. We had tons in common, our ideas about life, favorite songs, childhood games. I had never been so real with anyone in my life. I was really feeling him and I knew it was mutual. When he let on that he had just finished his masters at a university in America and had come home to visit his mum, I felt the insecurity for the first time. Our lives were too different, I was a poor orphan, hustling for a living. He would never want to be with me if he knew who I really was. We bonded unimaginably and I tried to be as truthful with him as possible which meant evading any questions I felt were too personal. He told me that he had never felt this way about anyone in such a short time and that he wanted to be with me and see how far things would go even though he admitted that he had a girl abroad. I knew we could never be together and I told him I was engaged and in love with my fiance. His friend called at that very moment telling him he was parked badly and that Azeez had better hurry down. A tear pricked my eye as he asked for my phone number and I refused, how would I explain to him that I didn’t own a mobile phone? He took it as further rejection and had turned to leave and on a whim, he had grabbed me and kissed me and I swear down, no one had ever kissed me with such passion.

I hadn’t seen him again till tonight at Mamus’s house and he obviously hadn’t recognized me. I reached for my glass of wine and found it and the bottle empty. I groaned. What was wrong with me? I was supposed to be happily married and here I was agonizing about the one that got away. As if on cue, I heard Barry’s key in the door.

“Hi honey, I figured you’d be too tired to cook after hanging with the girls so I stopped by at Mandy’s and got us some dinner. Have you been drinking woah!?!”

Barry rushed to my side and instead of reprimanding me, he fussed over me caressing my hair and cooing into my ears. He had learnt early in the marriage that I didn’t like being questioned and as he silently reassured me of his love and carried me to bed, thoughts of Azeez began to dim in my head. When Barry served me dinner in bed I smiled gratefully at him. I would never know what could have been between Azeez and I but I was grateful about what I had in the present with Barry. Just as I finished dinner the doorbell rang, I wondered who could possibly be at my door at past 9. Barry got up from where he was propped beside me to check who was at the door. He came back in looking grim.

“Honey I think you had better dress up and come with me”

My heart skipped a beat!

……to be continued………

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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- A tale of one Lagos big girl….New beginnings: Part 2 Episode 1

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Hi Chutzpah Fam, due to popular demand, it’s all for the money has been continued…thanks for the feedback readers ♥

People say that when one chapter of your life closes, another begins. I sighed dreamily at the words ‘The End’ that signalled the concluding scene of our wedding video. The guys who did the video were incurable romantics and the priceless scenes captured on film along with the 80s love songs had me squeezing Barry’s hand in a way that clearly showed my emotions were on overdrive. They really don’t sing love songs like they used to…I really wished that was the end it would have been a most perfect ending but unlike real life, the end wouldn’t come till I was 6 feet under and right now I had way too much to live for. I couldn’t believe 6 months had rolled by so quickly. Marriage was beautiful. I had friends who would say otherwise but really life had a way of throwing you lemons and peaches and if I was eating peaches at this stage of my life it didn’t mean I hadn’t sucked my lemons dry.

Most of the women who had become my close friends had lived with a silver spoon all their lives. Amaka’s dad was an ex-governor and she had never worked a day in her life. The husband and the spa which were her two most prized possessions had been handed to her by daddy. She was your cliche fairytale princess. She reminded me of Bree in Desperate housewives, Barry had loads of DVDs and I’d spent a good part of my days catching up on the series I missed in my hustle days. I laughed because watching Friends or 24 now when people had moved on from them reminded me of the fact that even though late, I had definitely arrived. I couldn’t imagine any of the girls I had hustled with sitting down to watch Desperate housewives. The English would have been an issue and as for our mindsets, we would have never been able to identify personally with what we watched. Thank God for Bukky Wright and Yoruba movies jare. Anyway back to my friends. Amaka had a life everyone outside envied, she was regularly featured in magazines and was a style icon. Her yellow skin was pampered and spotless and she had a body that would make you jealous. Her husband was tall, dark and handsome and was the oga in charge of one of her father’s most successful businesses but things weren’t what they seemed. Amaka didn’t talk much but it was obvious to me that something was amiss. They had no kids and Amaka said they weren’t ready which was kinda odd to me cos they had been married for 5 years and then there was the little issue of Amaka’s love for coffee. She drank about 30 cups a day, I kid you not and while I used a teaspoon of decaf coffee downed in milk to make mine, she took hers strong, black and very bitter judging by the way she heaped the coffee grains into her cup like it was sugar sometimes I could swear she was high on caffeine. I had asked her once about it and she laughed in that way she always laughed, a laugh that sounded toosh and gentle like it had been practiced and perfected and told me that she needed the bitterness in her cup to remind her of the realities of life. Well like I said before she was perfect.    

 Then there was Siki, I had bumped into her at a supermarket one day and she had shouted ‘Modinat’ which had me quite embarrassed since I didn’t go by that name again. I had wanted to get rid of her fast and did all I could to form busy but this childhood friend of mine was not going anywhere. Ever the slut, she had used her bottom power to get herself out of the ghettoes and was dating a famous Ondo state politician whom she proudly pointed out was just one of her options. This girl knew me from way back and trust me when you’ve struggled to get a new identity the last thing you need is someone from your past wanting to be chummy. Anyway fate has a way of stirring things up. She’s the biggest drama queen in the universe and true to type, she brought Siki into my life a few months later. She moved into my estate, newly married to Tosin, Barry’s Nigerian boss. She had failed to mention that he was one of the people held spell bound by her powerful toto. I wondered why the yeye thing hadn’t slacked since. Her hubby had opened her a big supermarket around the corner and I had been forced to embrace her or make an enemy of her and trust me nobody wants a loud-mouthed Yoruba girl as an enemy. As a Yoruba girl I should know. Anyway I had to welcome her into the group to keep Barry happy since she was his boss’s wife and Amaka wasn’t too pleased. She was all for pedigree and pedigree was the one thing Siki and her expensive perfumes, bleached body and Brazilian hair did not reek of.   

      Mamus hadnt minded the new addition. We called her the mummy of our little group. She had lost her husband some years ago to cancer and her son lived abroad with his wife. She travelled a lot but when she was around she made us her business. She was nice and very accommodating and people said she was the first person to move into our estate and that she owned some of the other houses in the estate. Mamus knew everybody and everything. People tended to open up to her when left alone with her for a few minutes. She was the one who had warned Zainab that her hubby might be taking a second wife soon and also advised her on what to do and a few weeks later Zainab’s hubby had realized he couldn’t love two women equally and had called off the Nikkah. We loved Mamus and she loved us back. After Zainab’s incident we hid nothing from her and the more she knew the happier she was. She always teased me that I held back, I guessed she must have spoken to Barry at some point and realised he also had parts of my life he had no information about. I always wondered why Mamus needed to know so much, maybe her older age made her feel like it was her right but that secret was my secret and it was bad enough that Siki was in the picture, I wasn’t ready to let on anymore about me than was necessary.   

     Zainab was the last girl in our circle. She was also the only one with a 9-5 job. She left her twins at home with a nanny and drove to her job at Zenith bank every day. She refused to get a driver the same way she had refused to allow her widowed mother-in-law come take care of the kids. She hadn’t forgiven the woman for trying to get a second wife for her husband. When she had tackled her, the woman had said she wanted a wife who knew her place was at home taking care of her husband and kids. Zainab had been so outraged and would have acted rashly if not for Mamus’s timely advice. Now she had her husband eating out of her hand and was polite to her mother-in-law which only made the woman more afraid of her. She even sent the old hag a card and a basket of fruit every two weeks and nobody would have ever suspected that she detested her mother-in-law save for the woman. Zainab was ambitious. She was a goal-getter and a workaholic. Her husband was a business man but with the money she brought in from the other businesses she did outside her 9-5, her hubby was content lounging about and rarely brought home any money. She didn’t mind though, contrary to her mother-in-law’s opinion she was very much dedicated to her man and kids she just didn’t agree that a woman had to take the backseat in life just because she was a wife and mother. I agreed with her jare.     

     I looked around at the four women sitting at Mamus’s dining table drinking cranberry juice and vodka and gisting nonstop and I smiled contentedly. This was my new life. I was a responsible married woman and had friends who loved me. Even Siki had grown on me and sometimes I was actually grateful that there was another ex-hustler in the group. Mamus considered herself single and on nights like this she would regale us with tales of the men she dated. She was quite discreet especially since she had a penchant for younger guys but she always saved all the juicy details for us. Thursday nights were our nights and we took turns hosting the girls. That night as we sat drinking, the door bell rang and since I was sitting closest to it, I got up to open the door.

“Who is it?” I called out laughingly as I unlocked the door
“Mamus darling-”
Our eyes collided and time seemed to stop…

….to be continued…..

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$ – “A tale of one Lagos big girl” Episode 6

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I took a big gulp of champagne and sputtered, glancing around quickly to see if anyone had taken notice. When I observed I was alone in the bar save for one white man reading a newspaper, I relaxed. I certainly didn’t want to draw attention to myself even though I knew nobody around here would be able to figure out my true identity. Things had worked out thankfully. By the time Sammy had woken from his drug induced sleep, I was on a plane to Calabar. I had contacted a guy I knew who was into property and told him to put up my house for rent. I would have loved to sell it but Alhaji had never given me the papers even though the house was mine. I guess it was his own way of staying in control. Anyway the rent would be able to sustain my lifestyle till I decided on a new way to make mad money. The guy had sensed I had to leave in a hurry and had asked me if I had moved out of the house. I told him to get a trusted staff to move all my personal belongings and have them mailed to an address I would send to him later and that I would send someone to get my cars. I pointed out that the house was fully furnished and in a good location and I expected good money for it and then rushed him off the phone before he could probe deeper. I knew he wouldn’t steal from me, I had spoken to him a couple of times and had this gut feeling besides he was a big boy in his own right not one hungry hustler. I smiled…I used to be a hungry hustler!  

There was no doubt that Sammy had fled the country already. I really did hope that would be the last I ever saw of him. Now I just wanted a new start, a new identity if possible and a new job. I wanted to keep being a Lagos big girl but not one of those expensive hos, I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, someone that would inspire others. I decided that Modinat needed to die. Never again would I be referred to by that name. Thankfully my agent addressed me as Miss Ajayi. I would simply go by my other name Toke.  Toke Ajayi I whispered…trying it on for size. No one had ever called me that. It was one of the  numerous names I had been given during my naming ceremony and it had somehow found itself exalted to birth certificate status. I paused and looked around me, I knew that while I was hibernating at Tinapa I needed to make some phonecalls and plan my next move. I wondered who I could call. My phone book consisted of men I had slept with and mostly stolen from. I thought really hard.  

“It’s a beautiful day isn’t it?”   I was broken out of my reverie by the Oyinbo greeting that had become an invitation to sit down and chat in my books. I tried not to sigh.  

“Hello, Yes it is beautiful”   And voila, he took the cue.

Thirty minutes later we were laughing at something he said and I realised there were far worse things in life than sitting down with this almost good looking American. He did take my mind off more pressing matters and in a way I was grateful. Barry was an expatriate for Mobil and had come here by himself for a mini-vacation. He wasn’t married, loved adventure and thought of Nigeria as a second home. He seemed quite attracted to me and suddenly I smiled as it hit me.  

“God works in mysterious ways!” I announced.
“He does, doesn’t He?”  

A month later we were engaged and truthfully despite my scheming to expedite this, I was actually happy and very fond of my soon to be, very quirky husband. During my soul-searching at Tinapa, I had developed a love for social media and social media had loved me right back. I smiled as I saw pictures of my engagement ring displayed on a popular blog. I had also registered my company. I had decided that I would run an image consulting firm where I would give the average girl the polish and class her background denied her. Everyone deserved a shot at marrying a rich guy, rich and successful men weren’t the sole inheritance of butty chicks, it was all about polishing and I was determined to prove this theory again and agin. Already I was a great hit and was quite surprised at how much people even the rich ones, would pay to buy class. I had moved in with Barry after our vacation at Tinapa, the poor dude couldn’t exist without me. There were things to be said about being an ex-ashewo, my bedroom schematics were unrivaled and now that I was a focussed, successful entrepreneur, it was literally icing on the cake.

Barry was a big boy, one of those Lagos expatriates popular on the social scene and anytime I bumped into someone I used to know who pointed out that my face looked familiar, Barry would talk about my increasing popularity until the person was convinced that seeing me on a blog was the reason I looked familiar. Barry sensed I had a past I didn’t want to discuss and he respected my privacy. He would joke about how like fine wine, I had matured and gotten more exquisite with each passing day. The funny thing was, the dude was spot on!  

Then came the wedding day, the most beautiful day of my life. All my new friends were there, Barry’s cousin was walking me down the aisle and I could see a smiling Barry waiting for me at the altar. Everything was perfect. I remembered the days of my hustle and tears sprang to my eyes. God had been too good to me. And as I turned to smile at the faces of my well wishers, I saw a man in dark shades sitting in a corner away from every one else and my heart skipped a beat. He removed the shades and smiled at me, it was Tade one of my business associates, I smiled at him and heaved a sigh of relief. Barry’s cousin squeezed my hand assuming I was nervous. I uttered a silent prayer to God wishing Alhaji’s family and most especially Samsudeen far, far away.  

Later that night as I lay wide-eyed, beside my sleeping, very content husband, I got a strange email.  

“Congrats Modi, I watched you walk down the aisle today and I could see you were truly happy. I never left town, when I awoke after the drug had worn off, I realised my pursuers would expect me to run. I staged my own death along with the help of a good friend and got myself a new identity (it cost far less than relocating would have). I am a good man Modi, I made mistakes as you did and thankfully we both got second chances. Do not mess this up, I will always be watching you…my runaway bride. S”  

…Do you ever feel like someone is watching you? Well this is my reality…….  

The End!

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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- “A tale of one Lagos big girl” Episode 5

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He stifled my scream half way out of my mouth with a dirty palm. I struggled as he pushed me indoors and bolted the door.  
“I am going to release you and you are going to be calm you hear me?” He growled menacingly.  
I nodded absolutely terrified. Why was he here? He was obviously no ghost but really I would have preferred if he was dead and buried. He let me go and I sat down on the chair farthest from him.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were dead, the police-”
“Don’t tell me about the police, trust me I know all about it. Just listen to me, we don’t have much time…”  
He proceeded to tell me about his escape from that building, his partner whom he had maimed but not had the courage to kill because of the loyalty he once had towards him. Alhaji and the role his organization played in his untimely death and then about his constantly being on the run since the envelope was found. Really it was a very great story but how did that have anything to do with me? I needed to know and damped the consequences. I had to know.  
“Sammy why are you here?”
“Damnit I hate it when you call me Sammy! You are the reason I am in this mess. They asked me to kill you and I hesitated that’s why my partner had to turn on me. He had been given instructions. Now because of you I am a fugitive without the protection of the organization I worked for. Because of you Modinat!” “Because of me you are alive!” I retorted angrily.  
He looked at me incredulously.  
“No be me wake you up? You had passed out. If not for me that your partner for kill you finish!”
“You would have been dead too! Anyway we have to leave first thing in the morning. I think we would be safe here tonight. Tomorrow you will gather as much money as you can while I get us new passports. We will cross the border and go and live in Ghana as husband and wife. It’s a new start and that way we will be safe-”
“TUFIAKWA”  
I hissed out with all the pent up anger and frustration within me. Was this man a joker? Did I follow him to kill pessin? This criminal wanted my money and on top of it all wanted me to join him as his wife. Bonny and Clyde ko, Sammy and Modi ini. I needed a plan. I looked at him, wishing he would just vaporize. If looks could kill ehn.  
“Modi it’s for your own safety. I know you would rather marry someone else and live a normal life but you and I are alike, we are tainted and have done things we are ashamed of. Also there is no guarantee either of us will live past this so let’s stick together. You need me Modi, I am doing this for your own good.”   I kept quiet. Really I couldn’t be bothered with all this long story. The koko was I wasn’t going anywhere with this man. Just when I had decided to put my life in order. Lai lai.  
“Can I boil water for you to take a bath and perhaps give you some food to eat?”
“Yes Modinat, I would really like that.”  
I half expected him to follow me into the kitchen but I didn’t hear footsteps behind me, then I realized I had left my two phones on the table. I groaned. No wonder he didn’t follow me. I contemplated using one of my kitchen utensils as a weapon but I couldn’t be sure if he was carrying a gun and everyone knows a gun is faster than a knife. I decided there was only one thing left to do. I had sworn I would never do this again but really this had to be the exception. I prepared his bath water and ushered him into my bathroom.  
“Alhaji left you all of this? You must have been really good in bed.” He murmured.  

I ignored him and focussed on the task at hand. I had warmed some efo riro and was making some eba to go with it. My plan was simple. Drug him through his food and escape while he was asleep. By the time he woke up, so much time would have elapsed that he would have no choice but to go on with his escape plan alone. The only problem was he might probably suspect foul play and demand I eat with him, it wouldn’t be the first time a demand like that would be made, the only problem was I couldn’t find the damn antedote.
Back in those days as a newbie aristo chick I had had to drug a few disgusting clients, those I would rather die a slow, painful death than sleep with. Many of them had insisted we eat together and along with the native sleeping medicine I had gotten from iya Bola at the garage was the antedote. A small black bottle with foul smelling liquid that made one instantly alert and a tad hallucinatory if I may add. Usually when the men awoke with me at their side, they couldn’t remember anything but assumed we had had a night of wild, passionate sex.

The sounds coming from the bathroom ceased and I was jerked out of my reverie, time was running out. Frantically I rechecked the kitchen cabinet and heaved a huge sigh of relief when I spotted it behind a jar of curry. No sooner had I mixed the medicine into the efo that I heard the room door open. Samsudeen had found one of alhaji’s jalabias and had eased himself into it although it was a little short. No respect for the dead. I hissed.  
“Food is ready!” I called out.  

Soon we were eating and like I foresaw, he had asked me to share his food, even joking about me poisoning him. Throughout the meal, I kept stealing glances at him. I wondered if the effect of the drug would be dramatic, I had taken the drug several times and knew I had ten minutes before it’s effect would hit me but for a first timer it was usually faster. The meal was finished and he was still up. I offered him a glass of juice and he obliged. I ran to the kitchen to drop the plates and drink the antedote and out of annoyance I poured all of the remaining medicine into the pack of juice. Thankfully the medicine was tasteless.   “Here’s your juice.”
“Why only one glass? Please get another glass”.  He said quietly and my heart began to pound. I had drank all of the antedote. What would happen if he insisted? I had to think fast.
“I don’t drink juice.”
“Very funny so why do you have it in your house?”
“Haba Samsudeen, you know the line of work I used to be into. Alhaji had a sweet tooth. If I used to drink juice anyhow would I have been able to keep my body in such great shape?”  

As I emphasized the word body, I gave him my sexiest pose and rubbed my body as if unconsciously but in a manner so seductive that I knew I would definitely have his attention. I had decided that rather than he drinking the juice and forcing me to drink it too, I would distract him totally from the juice matter and pray the powder in the efo riro did its magic.  

Samsudeen swallowed hard. His mouth was suddenly dry. Modinat was so beautiful and the thought of spending forever with her was so appealing. He grimaced as he saw her seduction for what it was. He would have preferred her as the good, Muslim girl she had been a long time ago but all hope was not lost. He would lead her back to the faith as soon as they were out of harm’s way. Now he had to resist spending the night in her arms, he really needed full concentration for the next 24 hours at least till they were safe and he could already feel the tiredness taking its toll. It wasn’t easy to be on the run. He needed a few hours of sleep. He tried to say something. She looked wanton, horny and very inviting. No words came out of his mouth. He looked at the glass of juice he had suspended in mid air and downed the whole glass.  
“Modinat I don’t think that is a good idea. I think we had better get some hours of sleep before tomorrow”.  
He rose up from the dining table and staggered. As he clung to the table, a confused look on his face, I smiled a small smile.  
“Are you alright?”  
……..to be continued………

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- “A tale of one Lagos big girl” Episode 4

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I opened my eyes when I heard the thud of my body hitting the hard ground. I had to stifle a loud moan as the pain shot through my back. I had decided landing on my feet was a bad idea since if I couldn’t run I would still get killed. I tried to get up and winced at the pain. I had definitely dislocated something. I looked up and the distance didn’t look as far as it seemed when I was looking down. I steadied myself on my feet grinding my teeth together as jolts of pain shot through my back, left arm and left leg. I dragged myself away from the house as fast as I could silently praying I wouldn’t be caught. I must have walked for 20 minutes, it seemed longer. It had gotten dark and I was still surrounded by bushes. I saw a car parked up ahead and a man leaning on the car and my heart began to pound. Was he a good guy or an evil killer? There was no way I could avoid him seeing me unless I stopped walking and laid flat on my belly in the bush, I glanced at the soldier ants dancing haphazardly on the ground and dismissed the idea. I was injured and I was tired and I wasn’t about to spend the night in the middle of nowhere not far enough from those men. What if Samsudeen decided to tell on me or something or even worse come after me himself if he hadn’t been killed already? This man was my only hope. I prayed he wouldn’t be the death of me.

  “Good evening sir, please help me…I take God beg you”  

I immediately knelt down and cried out in pain as my stiff injured limb was bent out of shape.  The man jumped both startled and alarmed. He could see I was in pain.  

“Who are you? Why are you here? Get in, you need to see a doctor immediately”  

Seeing as I struggled to get off my feet, he helped me and I looked up to heaven thankful for the help…  

His name was Hussein and 24 hours later I was home with a white cast on my leg and a sling on my arm. Hussein was so helpful. He was such a gentleman. I lied to him that I was a corporate affairs manager at a private company and I had taken time off work. I know I had made a lot of promises to God about turning my life around but I couldn’t tell Hussein what I really was. He was nice and seemed straight-laced. It was nothing short of a miracle that he had gone there to inspect some property for a client and had been standing where I had found him at that precise moment. He checked in on me often and soon it became quite obvious that he shared the fondness I had for him. I knew I was taking a big risk, if Alhaji met another man at my apartment there would be blood. I considered ending things with Alhaji but he would have my neck if I tried and would probably find and torture Hussein. Many nights I would dream of Samsudeen. I wondered in my waking moments why he would want to kill me and what sort of scary shit he had gotten himself mixed up with. He was supposed to be a devout Muslim not a hoodlum. It didn’t make sense.  

I was getting used to my idyllic existence with Hussein and being thoroughly spoiled when my life was thrown into yet another turmoil. I was visited by a man in a black suit. He looked like he was trouble and introduced himself as Detective Adeyemi Bello. If I wasn’t so full of secrets I would have taken the time to admire his physique and clean cut looks. I didn’t realize the Nigerian police force had any correct guys, to me they were all a bunch of riff-raffs. Guess those who handled high profile cases had to be the better looking, more learned ones. The problem however was that what he was asking me made absolutely no sense. He was telling me Alhaji was dead and that I was a suspect- was he mad? How could a big man like Alhaji be dead and he’d be asking small me? He said they had found an envelope in a car that had pictures and they couldn’t tie any one of the people in the pictures to Alhaji except me. Even though I was eager to forget the recent occurrences the thought of even being arrested as a suspect had me determined to makesure it never became a reality. Detective Bello thankfully, believed my story but despite that I was still invited to the station and asked to repeat it countless times. They suspected that Samsudeen was a member of a rogue gang probably hired by some top shot Nigerian. They also didn’t believe he was the killer they sought, not after telling them what transpired but he was still listed as a wanted man. That was his bloody business, I didn’t beg him to follow bad people. After a couple of days, the police grew bored with me and stopped pestering me seeing as I had no new info.

The only good thing that came out of it was my not being labelled a murderer, really there was nothing else good about this incidence. Hussein had left me after he had been called in for questioning. They must have really brought him up to speed about everything and I mean everything cos the dude couldn’t even look me in the eye when he mumbled something about needing space and not wanting to get mixed up in police wahala. I tried to hug him and he acted as if he had just found out I had HIV. Thankfully Alhaji did not die of the dreaded disease. Speaking of Alhaji, his death had brought me plenty prayer points. I had bumped into his wife on one occasion accompanied by his unscrupulous son, the one I met at the club. Omo see curses the woman rained on me! As far as she was concerned, I had killed her husband. Trust her son to add pepper, he had been about to greet me with that air of familiarity and perhaps ask why I never picked his calls when his mum started cursing my ancestors, he was dumbstruck and when he finally gathered his wits was sputtering and cursing and asking me over and over whether it was his inheritance I had been wasting up and down. Chei! My fear now was that Alhaji’s family would track me down and strip me of all I had. That scared me shitless. I prayed daily like I never had before.

  Weeks after, the dust seemed to be settling. My fears had thankfully not become a reality. I hadn’t attended Alhaji’s burial because I didn’t want to remind his family about my existence. In my waking moments I imagined that Alhaji would have left me something in his will. He was really fond of me and despite the odds we actually were friends. I missed his quirky laugh and the way he called me yarinya even though we both knew I was one of many. I felt lonely. I had never made friends with the other Lagos big girls and had never been welcomed into their circle despite my obvious flaunting of Alhaji’s wealth. They seemed to be able to see right though me and right now I was tired of forming on the social scene anyway. Every once in a while I would think of Samsudeen wondering if he had been caught and what had become of him. He did save my life, once I even imagined how our lives would have turned out if I had given him a chance. Poor! That was for sure. But better poor than dead or in jail right? I contemplated getting a job, staying at home everyday doing nothing made my loneliness more evident. I could hear it in the empty rooms, in the kitchen, sitting beside me on the sofa, whispering and taunting. The song was always the same;  

“Nobody likes you, everybody hates you, better go eat a cockroach, tear off the head and eat the yamayama cos that’s all you are good for…”  

Once I could have sworn I saw a cockroach run past at precisely that moment. The song Mr Loneliness was singing was one I had heard once or twice as a child but it had been mixed with Yoruba verses then, and now definitely remixed by my mind. I needed friends, I needed a man, I needed change. I was on a mission! If I continued like this I would either lose my mind and commit suicide or die a lonely spinster or something. Every night for the past 3 weeks I had considered going out and experiencing Lagos night life like old times but ask any one who has ever been kidnapped, outside the confines of your home, the world takes on a new foreboding with imagined danger lurking on every corner. Loneliness eventually drove me out of my house. I was a Lagos big girl after all, we were built to fight! I had worked my way up from the bottom. Sleeping with bus drivers and artisans after I ran away from Charles’ house to sleeping with bigger boys and men I met gatecrashing carefully selected owambes. Alhaji had been by far the most generous which was why I had agreed to be his special babe but now I needed to get my A-game back. I had been given a chance at a new life. I was rich well not fabulously wealthy but at least I had managed to enter upper class status and I had 2 cars and a house and money in the bank. It was time to get myself a life and maybe make a name for myself. It was time to think smart, act right and make mama proud. Not many women had the kind of opportunity I had to set things right. I needed a new identity one that would be so far removed from my past. I needed-  

I was broken out of my reverie by an urgent knock on my door. I froze. Could it be the police or that handsome detective with more questions? Could it be Alhaji’s family here to take what was legally theirs or Hussein returning to grovel and beseech me to marry him? The knocking continued with increased fervor. The television was on and quite loud so I couldn’t pretend like I wasn’t home. My heart was pounding as I walked towards the door. As I unlocked the door fearing the worst, I looked into the eyes of my late night visitor and screamed….  

………………To be continued……….

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- “A tale of one Lagos big girl” Episode 3

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The Great Escape

When I finally opened my eyes, I was in a dinghy room and all tied up. I had a splitting headache but that seeemd to be the least of my problems. I looked up and uttered a small scream as I saw Sammy with the dagger in his hand. Was Sammy a ritualist? What had I ever done to deserve this. Girls rejected their toasters every day after all. My thoughts fled as Sammy turned to me suddenly unsteady then I saw his eyes roll back and the next minute there was a loud thud and Sammy was beside me on the floor and he looked like he had passed out. I looked around for an assailant or my hero but it was just Sammy and I. I really began to shake like a leaf. I tried calming myself down and took deep, measured breaths. I heard the door open and closed my eyes, hoping I did a convincing job of playing dead. I heard a man with an igbo accent and it seemed like he was talking to someone on the phone. I didn’t dare open my eyes because there was no way of knowing if he was staring right at me.

“Sargeant mission accomplished”
“Yes sir, will confirm if victim is dead or still unconscious”
“Take no prisoners, I understand you clearly, over and out.”

I was terrified. What did he mean by taking no prisoners? Was he going to kill me? What had Samsudeen gotten me into? What kind of gbese was this? God, I didn’t want to die. I began to pray, it was a silent prayer from my heart because I couldn’t risk moving my lips. I would give my life to God for real if He got me out of this mess alive and unharmed. I wondered which oga at the top was behind this. could it be Alhaja? She was Alhaji’s first wife and had somehow managed to remain his only wife. Something always mysteriously went wrong with Alhaji’s concubines and bethrothed. Was she after me now? Why did she wait till now to strike? She must have known for a while that I was sleeping with her husband. Maybe it wasn’t her. The room was strangely quiet but I still didn’t have the guts to steal a peek especially since I hadn’t heard the door open or shut.

My mind searched for the next possible suspect. I was no saint, I had definitely stepped on toes on my way up, sometimes the person had it coming like Charles. Charles had been my knight in shining armour and not even mama’s disapproval could stop me from falling for the tall, rich and handsome yellow pawpaw when he moved into my neighborhood. He had eyes for I alone and had showered me with expensive gifts. The whole affair had been hush hush because he said he didn’t want to disrespect my mother since she disapproved of him. In his arms I became a woman and he taught me every thing he needed me to know about sex and not getting pregnant. I wasn’t like Siki who gave it out to the highest daily bidder, I was decent and had been promised marriage by my handsome Urhobo man. Some weeks after mama’s death I had moved in with him as his unofficial wife. He had promised to visit my village soon and pay my brideprice. Mama was my only relative in Lagos so there was no one to object. Sammy had objected but really who listens to a maga’s selfish advice anyway? Three months after we moved out of my neighborhood, I was a joyful housewife and pregnant with our first child when my world came crashing down.

Charles had run into the compound one afternoon sweating like a he-goat at Christmas. He had informed me that his wife and three children were back from the States and that I mustn’t say a word to them or he would kick me to the streets that he would find a way to sort things out. My eyes were as big as saucers and flies were dancing around my open mouth in the afternoon heat. He had never once mentioned a wife or kids and I had no say as I was not his legal wife and the terror in his eyes and desperation in his voice made me know he meant business. I was about to say something- anything, when a woman and 3 small girls walked in. My Charles had been reprimanded for leaving them waiting in the car under the hot sun and he had stammered a reply that he wanted to make sure the house help had the house in order before they entered. I had been introduced as the househelp and when she asked for my name in an authoritative manner, I knew I could kiss my old life goodbye and could barely stammer my name.

I had never known such hatred as the one Charles wife Adanma meted out on me. She hated me with a passion as if suspecting that I was more than a help and made my life a living hell. Charles initially would beg me every time her back was turned. He couldn’t even give me money or gifts because madam searched my bag at random. When my pregnancy began to show, my nightmare really began. Madam would beat me every day calling me a whore and asking me who the father was. I was so tempted to tell the truth but I feared for my life. It didn’t help that every day Charles would beg me not to reveal his secret. I despised the man I loved. My love had all but vanished in the face of this weakling of a man. I never responded to his words. I had considered running away so many times but where would I go? I had food to eat and a roof over my head in Charles’ house but there was no guarantee of that anywhere outside the house. One day when Charles’ had travelled, Adanma accused me of stealing her gold bracelet and beat the hell out of me till I began to bleed. She had always been physically stronger than I was and coupled with the fact that she had an array of weaponry for my torture, I never thought to fight back. She had noticed the blood and suddenly dashed out of the house and locked me in. She had been gone for hours and I bled and bled. I wept for my baby knowing that he would not survive this. Adanma came back with drugs and injections and forced me to take the medication. She said she had been a nurse in the States. Soon after I went into intense labour and hours later my premature, stillborn came out of me. I wept when I gazed at his dead form. Adanma laughed an evil laugh, asking me if I actually believed I would give Charles his first son. I had no answers, my spirit was broken.
          
Two days later, I felt the craze deep within. I was alone at home and finally I could take no more. I remembered that before Adanma became a part of our lives, Charles had told me that he didn’t trust banks and always kept his valuables at home and that was why he wanted me to always double check that the doors were locked at all times. His bedroom was always locked and only he and Adanma had the key. That day as the plan began to take shape in my mind shrouded in uncontained rage, I picked up a pestle and broke down his wooden door. I searched his room frantically for any thing of value. In a ghana-must-go, I found plenty documents and a wad of hundred dollar bills. I took the money and poured kerosene over the documents in the bag then broke down the kitchen door and put the bag outside then I went back to the house and carried all Adanma’s clothes, shoes and bags. I found a bag that had certificates with her name printed on them and added the bag to the heap and then I literarily struck gold. I found Adanma’s trinkets and packed every single item of value. When I was done, I brushed my hair, wore my best outfit and a pair of comfortable shoes and walked out the door with only half a gallon of kerosene and my plunder in hand. I tossed the gallon contents on the heap and set it ablaze and walked out the gate without a backward glance.

I was brought back to the present by a moan from Sammy. I opened my eyes cautiously and surveyed the room. Thankfully we were alone. I saw my chance.

“Samuseedeen” I hissed in as low a voice as I could muster. I had to call him four times before he responded.
“What happened?”
“It’s a set-up, your friend must have drugged you too. He was talking to one sargeant on the phone and the man asked him to kill two of us, abeg Sammy please help me and help yourself, please I don’t want to die….”

Sammy looked utterly confused and I prayed he would listen to my plea. He was the only one who could help us as his friend had forgotten to tie him up. Sammy rose up unsteadily and I held my breath. He took some minutes to get himself and regain composure, I kept praying the other guy wouldn’t walk in and end the show. I could see Sammy was still trying to beat the effects of the drug, his movements were still unsteady. He stumbled away from me towards the table and picked up a knife. I was filled with terror and began to beg as he walked towards me.

“Please don’t kill me. I know you hate me but please have mercy on-”
“Quiet woman!!!” He hissed.

He proceeded to cut me loose and I was on my feet in a second ignoring the cramps I was feeling in my arms and legs.

“How will we escape? What if he is outside the door with a gun?”
“I am not leaving, you can jump out the window and make a run for it. I have unfinished business…”

He had a look of determination in his eyes and I turned away and ran to the window. I gasped when I looked down, I had never jumped that distance in my life. There was no time to worry about breaking a leg, a broken leg was a far better option than imminent death. I jumped without a backward glance.

……….To be continued……………..

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- “A tale of one Lagos big girl” Episode 2

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The Alhaji speaks

I hated being called Sammy. As far as I was concerned, making my name more Americana was one of the other things wrong with Nigeria and I intended to fix things one at a time. I glanced at the now unconscious Modinat and seethed. She was another problem that needed fixing. Why she chose to make things so difficult baffled me. This wasn’t the plan. She must have known I hadn’t been joking when I swore that I would be president one day and Modinat would be my first lady. I couldn’t help smiling as I remembered the first time she served me eba and efo at her mother’s mama put. She wasn’t like the others. Her air of superiority went beyond the fact that her mother owned the joint. Afterall the joint wasn’t much to speak of. There was a wooden bench and one table that creaked constantly. They had been made by Baba Risikat and they constituted the entire furnishings of the open, road-side canteen her mother operated. Her mum or Alhaja as she was fondly called, had never been to Mecca but swore to be the most devout Muslim in Mushin and to prove this, she often interrupted her cooking to pray by the side of the road and often times choked her customers with the acrid smoke emitting from her kerosene stove as she insisted on cooking on the only table in the canteen in plain sight so that no one would accuse her of using ‘shan-idi’, a form of ritual performed by women who owned food joints whereby they attracted customers by washing their privates into the pot of soup along with some incantations. Her customers- ten or so, who constituted the local mechanics, agberos and traders swore by her delicious meals and ignored the cracks in customer service and the lung cancer prone atmosphere.

I was one of those customers and Modinat’s shakara was one of the things I loved the most about her. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the neighborhood, Sikirat was but since every man had had his feel of Siki’s secret places, there wasnt any thrill to be sought pursuing the worldly wise beauty. Modinat on the other hand was protected by her mother and it was rumored that no one had seen her pant or even felt her ripe melons. That thought made me wild with desire but she hadn’t given me the time of day. She had laughed at me, scorned me, thrown dirty water at me, called me her mumu, even spent my money indiscriminately but I had loved her even more. When I approached Alhaja for her permission, she had told me without mincing words that her Alfa had seen in a vision that Modi would be married to a rich and influential Alhaji. Well not all of the vision was wrong, the dude must have seen Modi in a man’s bed and interpreted it as a legal union. Thank God her mother wasn’t alive to see her only child become not just an Alhaji’s favourite plaything but a Christian too. I felt a bitter taste in my throat as I said the word Christian out loud. She wasn’t a real Christian jare, she just had a penchant for the more fashionable paths in life. I couldn’t help sighing. I had sold my father’s house after his death much to the chagrin of my younger siblings and ageing mother but I had always been headstrong and I needed to become an Alhaji. I had solemnly promised them to buy them a bigger, better house when I returned from Mecca only leaving them with enough money to sustain them till my return. My trip to Mecca was bittersweet. I had spent my family’s inheritance but was certain that it was a small price to pay to have Modi at my side. Together we would be untouchable. I learnt 3 hard facts in Mecca. 1) The streets of Mecca were not paved with gold and becoming an Alhaji was not the end of poverty. 2) Allah expected me to be a man of honour and honour could be defined in different ways. I learnt more about honor when a nice Muslim brother also on pilgrimage introduced me to the Al Waheel. A secret group of politically-inclined zealots. I bought into their beliefs and was offered many rewards if I prepared a band of devout Muslims and kept them on standby for the day of Allah. 3) Life continues after the pilgrimage.   I returned to Mushin as a more pensive man. Working in Baba Sikirat’s shed was no longer enough. Modi was still unattainable and even more distant. Worst of all, I hated the stench of poverty and the constant look of disappointment my family had in their eyes. They tried hard to mask it but it was there in the barely audible midnight sobs coming from mama’s room. I saw it every time my little sister and brother took their bowls out to beg. As good Muslims we were entitled to alms but I wanted so much more. I grew bitter as the young boys who hailed me with admiration when I first returned from pilgrimage began to have a mocking tone in their voices when they called me Alhaji. I grew so bitter. God seemed so far away. Biting poverty was my reality and when finally Modinat started giving her attention to a big man who had moved to our area despite the rumors that he was a Christian and married with kids, I finally lost hope.

During this time Modinat’s mother passed away after a brief illness and I rushed to give her succor but my plenty words, loud sobs and fifty naira contribution paled in comparison  to the efforts of her love interest who bore all the burial expenses. Even though no bride price had been paid, Modinat moved into his house and a few months after they moved to an undisclosed part of town. That was the last I saw of her for the next 5 years. I contemplated suicide many times. My family saw my grief and tried to be strong for me. My mother even tried to get me a wife but bride-prices were too steep. I didn’t have eyes for any woman anyway. What little money I had, I spent on paraga and ciga and it was on one of those days spent drowning myself in alcohol in a bid to embrace the calming sea of forgetfulness that I met Chukwudi. Everybody knows a Chukwudi, one of those men who never seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere, have no visible means of income but yet too much money to throw around. He was good looking and he was ready to listen and after buying me another bottle, I was ready to talk. Hours later, I had made my first true friend. Chukwudi or Chuks said 3 very important things to me that day. 1)Forget Modinat 2)It is your responsibility to provide for you and your family no matter what it takes 3) No one will think any good about you till you start thinking good things about yourself. I loved Chuks. That day he changed my life and saved me from the path of destruction. He also got me a job in a barber’s shop. The pay was far more than I had ever made and strangely enough my duties were to count money and divide it into 6 parts equally and oh boy, I counted more money in a day at that barber’s shop in Mushin than a bank tellar counts in a week. It took a while for me to realise it didn’t add up. We had 2-3 customers a day and each paid 100 naira for a hair cut but everyday at 5pm I’d be asked to count wads of money and divide them under Ganiyu’s piercing gaze and as I finished, I’d be asked to go home. I usually met Chuks right outside the shop, we would exchange pleasantries and then he and 4 others would enter the shop as I exited. Ganiyu seemed to be the boss at least I knew he owned the barber’s shop and paid my wages. I just assumed he had other businesses. I led a simple life, had attended school at the mosque and learnt to read the Koran and count earlier in life and hence I was an asset to them. I had also learned to barb hair though Ganiyu had never asked me to assist. He wasn’t very friendly but I was content with my solitude.

My life changed the day police men raided Ganiyu’s shop. I had walked a distance from the shop when they drove past me in a frenzy. One of them jumped off the van and arrested me. I was so shocked and even more shocked when in a few minutes they had rounded up everybody and were calling us armed robbery suspects. I tried to explain to them that I was a decent, honest man and could vouch for my friends too but the others were strangely silent. I resigned myself to fate as I chanted prayer after prayer under my breath. Two hours later, we were released and asked to enter 2 jeeps and driven to a house somewhere in Ikeja. That was the day I met Sergeant Deefak. That wasn’t his real name of course but it was what we would be calling him. He said he had heard about the incidence and hated to see the police waste the lives of 6 young men and so he had bailed us out. He offered us expensive wine and I refused but when two men came in with steaming hot pounded yam and egusi soup with the pieces of meat forming stiff peaks in the soup, my stomach growled and I gave in. We were recruited to the Save Nigeria group that day. Our monthly pay was more than I had ever heard someone pronounce as salary and the fact that we would be trained for free and have flexible working hours and sometimes travel out of the country made me burst into song in praise of Allah. We were given 50 thousand naira each and told that we would be summoned in a week’s time. On our way back to Mushin, Chuks and I chatted nonstop. We were so excited. Chuks admitted to me that they really had been armed robbers before, though not by choice. They had done it only to survive and it seemed like God had decided to be merciful towards us. Even Ganiyu seemed more relaxed. My family couldn’t understand my sudden good fortune but were too relieved to ask too many questions. Training started in earnest a week after. We were separated and tutored based on our natural strengths. I was made to study the Koran and the Bible in-depth and taught Arabic and Proper English. I was given advanced classes in mathematics and then taught the ancient arts of war. After 8 months of vigorous training, I was given the code name the Alhaji and could conceal a dagger anywhere on my person without detection, I could also end a man’s life in a second and could turn any sharp object even a simple pen into the most deadly weapon. I had been trained by 3 Syrians, a Filipino and 2 masked men whose accents were decidedly middle Eastern. On the day of my freedom as it was called, I met up with my other brothers and 14 other people. We were 20 in all, 8 females were part of the group. We were made to take a pledge and as we stood at attention, I made a mental note to follow the pledge to the letter afterall this group had saved my life.  

“I, Samsudeen Taiwo today becomes one of the life forces of the Save Nigeria Group.
I solemnly swear to use my skill and the opportunities given to me to rid Nigeria of all that is polluted and corrupt and dirty in the land.
I promise to eradicate without mercy any one who stands in the way of progress and protect with my life those who are the future of this great nation.
I will live as a warrior of the SNG and die as a hero of my beloved country.
I will serve, obey, protect and annihilate.
So help me God”  

We were discharged and given a package. Each package contained a cheque book with already signed cheques that we were to cash in at intervals. New passports and an I.D card that showed we worked for the Lagos state government. We were also given brand new cars and instructed that unmarked cars would be provided for any operation we would undertake. With the money, I relocated my family to Surulere, put my younger ones in school and got my ailing mother some much needed medical attention. I practised every day and every night in the privacy of my room. I could throw a dagger across the room and kill a cockroach with it. I waited and waited for my first assignment. One afternoon, a beggar walked up to my door and began to beg for alms with the usual song as he held out his bowl. I was about to shut the door after giving him ten naira when he started a soft stream of Arabic. I listened and my eyes grew wide like saucers. It was my mission. I listened intently, nodding intermittently. Then he pointed at his bowl and I noticed for the first time that there was an object in the bowl. I picked it up and identified it as a car key and then the beggar was gone. Ten minutes later Chuks was at my place. We had been paired up for this mission. The car for our use was parked across my house as expected and in it was a brown envelope that had names and pictures. One picture in particular gave me mixed feelings. I couldn’t believe I was looking at Modinat. She had grown really beautiful but she looked older than her age and had a very sophisticated look about her. She was listed as my target’s mistress. I hoped my target was the wretched man that had stolen her from me years ago but alas it was another. A man who looked to be in his sixties. He looked vaguely familiar and I remembered I had seen him briefly on television before changing the channel. The man had been talking about corruption in the society but from what I could see in the brown envelope this man was the embodiment of corruption. I felt a deep hatred for this man. One of his many heinous crimes was misappropriating funds the government had set aside to help empower the masses. This fool fed himself fat on the suffering of Nigeria and the Alhaji was going to fix this but first of all I had to fix her. I brought out my daggers and laid them out on the table from the longest to the shortest. I had asked Chuks to give me a minute. I would need even less. As I picked up a short dagger with a beautifully carved handle, I heard a soft cry and the last thing I saw were the cracked grey walls swimming before my eyes…

…………..To be continued………………

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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