When we were Young Part 2 – by Abidemi Adebola “Sometimes our best love moments
Chapter Five – “The Wild Goose Chase”
Catch up on Chapter 4 here
Wild Goose chase
It was grey slow morning as twilight melted away fading into a glorious morning sun rise, the perfect recipe for a day that held so much promise.
Ben had spent the whole night writing his fancy love story for his new book and that kept him distracted long enough till the first streak of sunlight bathe his curtains in an orange glow.
But just as the morning was as assured and unstoppable as the tides, the traffic was just as horrendous and unforgiving. It wound its way down the road like an angry curly snake sandwiched between impatient motorcyclist and a throng of pedestrian. All heading to the commercial nerve of the city.
The city lay close clustered, glittering in the clear air with its flat roofs, domes and square towers adorning the morning sky. The calm stillness of intricate concrete skyscrapers was sharply contrasted by the labyrinth of noisy streets, avenues, lanes and alleys. Every conceivable street corner had a dozen street traders jostling for the attention of commuters who looked forlorn into the morning rush. For melody, the incessant honking of the vehicles and the unbelievably loud chatter of street trading rented the air.
Ben had just one goal in mind, he needed to get an explanation for the mystery that had taunted him in the last few days. Allen’s contact at the Telco had requested that they meet up at a café down the road by 10am. The café was only a few meters away from his office. He wanted to be as discreet as possible without drawing attention to themselves.
Ben was running a few minutes late and was left with no choice but to complete the journey on foot. He weaved swiftly between cars that were slowly hopping down the road like hog-tied frogs, clutching his leather waist bag. He always liked the compliment of a pen and notebook, and the waist bag kept his secrets.
He found Allen sitting alone at the café as soon as he opened the door and slid into the seat right opposite him while catching his breath. Ben had rarely seen his friend ruffled, and today was no exception. That’s just the way the man is, born calm, can’t change him and wouldn’t want to.
“Is he here yet?”
“He would be here shortly. I just spoke with him” Allen replied.
As he caught his breath, his heart was hammering hard almost ripping his rib cage apart, but his poise was as casual as they come with no hint of agitation.
His mind flickered back and forth trying to preempt the logical reasons Allen’s friend would offer to his dilemma.
His gaze sauntered to Allen’s coffee on the table. It was dark, hot and bland. A close semblance to the black hole in his head and deep inside his soul that was slowly swallowing up his well laid out plans, hopes and dreams.
Just that moment, Allen’s friend walked in. He is first looking around the café as though checking for spies. Then he moved towards their table as soon as he sites Allen, his big boots making a rhythmical noise against the tiled floor, solid and regular like a soldier. His face stern and anxious as though about to commit an illegal and criminal offence. He says a brief hello to the two friends and start to whisper.
“I really do not have much time to spend here, I have to be back at my desk in 15minutes” He paused as though trying to recollect his lines. His brows collapsing into a wrinkled valley.
“I looked up the mobile number and there has been no activity on that number for over four years. That number really isn’t active”
Ben and Allen held a cold stare. Nothing he had said was startling. At least up to that point.
“But there is something strange though” He continued and now had their full attention.
“Typically when a phone number is inactive for up to a year, the telco re-allocates the line to other users. But this line was not allocated to anyone. I am not sure why. All the numbers within the inactive period are functional. Well except this one.” He pauses again. This time long enough for the implication of his words to sink in.
Ben broke the silence first.
“Do you mean that it was deliberately left out during the reallocation or was it in use by someone else without any record of it?”
“Not quite the case. The number is inactive and not functional. There is no way it can receive or make calls through any of our networks. In fact the number cannot be geo-located. It is just not active” He unfolds a piece of paper in his hands with lots of fine prints and hands it over to Allen.
“There” he says. “It’s a dead end. What do you need the information for by the way?”
“It’s only a lead for one of our stories – investigative journalism. You know how it is. Nothing serious”
With this, he takes his leave, walking briskly away from the table and lost quickly in the teeming sea of heads along the very busy pedestrian walkway.
That was it! Dead end. No trail to follow.
This left a bad taste with Ben, he had seriously hoped that technology held the key to solving the mystery of the phone call.
He suddenly felt dead inside, his tongue dry and his throat felt as though someone thrust a handful of itching powder inside. It was a massive let down for him.
Lost in thoughts his face turned into a deep grimace, contorting into a painful expression as he pondered his next options.
He could as well just let this whole thing go. But the thoughts of chasing the green Toyota salon car some days past flashed through his eyes. So real, so undeniable. Something still isn’t quite right.
He tried to avoid Allen’s stare, but when he looked it was blank and expressionless, but beneath the veneer he could see the questions in his eyes.
“So…what next?” Allen said in between slurps of his hot coffee.
Ben is staring blankly into space, beyond Allen and into a world unknown. His mind lost in thoughts. The situation was pretty much against the run of his expectations. Allen must surely think he is a nut case right about now, he thought.
“I don’t know. I honestly do not know. Let’s get out of here. I need to make a phone call”
He tried the door knob into his apartment and the heavy iron-bound door swung open much too easy. Its creaking noise sounding like some dying animal, crying out its pain and sorrow with its last breath. He instantly noticed a familiar footwear on his welcoming mat. The air was perfumed by the heavy scent of lilies, her exotic perfume, with its sweet, savory aroma wafting through the air-conditioned room.
Linda’s sonorous voice could be heard singing to herself in the kitchen oblivious of his arrival. He walked into the house collapsing into the sofa like a broken man. He starts to knock off his shoes when Linda realized she had company.
“Hello darl’, I can’t believe you forgot my birthday. I got in so early this morning and was surprised to find you had left even earlier.”
She wiped off her wet hands on the kitchen napkin and walked towards Ben’s open embrace as he managed to hurriedly get off the sofa.
“You smell like skunk” She winced. But Ben tightened his grip on her in a feeble attempt to assault her even more with the putrid smell of his sweat stained body.
“No text, no calls, no gift, no messages. Ben what is going on?” she continued while still in his warm embrace.
Ben made faces while apologizing “I am awfully sorry baby, I have been terribly busy lately”
Linda is a strikingly pretty lady, at 21, she was everything a young dashing man like Ben desired. She wore her hair natural and low, dyed into the rich and deep brown of aged mahogany that accentuated the shape of her head. She was the kind of girl that women loved to hate, so young and flawless that she still had the exuberance of youth. Her shape already had the beginnings of womanhood, another year and her curves would fill out just enough to give her a full adult shape.
She had the trappings of womanhood already with small perky breasts, beautiful flawless skin terminating into her calloused hands, and a nose carved into the finest Nubian shape with freckles sprinkled across it. Her eyes were dark brown, open and honest as that of a child, offering warmth and safety yet illuminating the soul.
Her smile shone like the stars in the sky, with no bright city lights to dim them whilst always accentuated by the way her one dimple crinkles. It was like the sun opened its eager light to shine about her, only brightening her perfectly aligned teeth.
But Ben had a lot going and her ravaging beauty was the least of his worries. His restive soul had been stirred by the recent happenings. Until he found a logical explanation for it. He wasn’t really going to do anything else.
He barely looked Linda in the face as he turned away from her.
He reached out for his phone and dialed Mr. George’s phone number again. He was met with the salacious voice of the operator.
“The number you have dialed does not exist”
“Crap” he muttered
“Crap! Crap? Is that all you have to say? Crap. After all we have been together? Crap!”
“What is wrong with you? I can never be good enough for you. That’s just it. You are not happy I am here, you would not show me any care or love. What is this about” She blurted out in one breath.
“ I wasn’t ….” Ben started
“No please! Don’t even start with your lame excuses. I am sick and tired of this situationship. Yes that is what it is. A situationship. I am alone in this one. Loving myself. Just me” Her voice breaking into sobs with tears bursting forth like water from a dam, spilling down her face.
She was a pitiable sight.
One could feel that her walls, the walls that held her up, made her strong, just… collapsed. Moment by moment, they fell with salty drops rolling down her chin leaving smooth edged trails as they drenched her shirt.
Ben walked towards her in an attempt to placate her.
“Linda, please don’t cry. Let’s talk this through” he held her as he spoke. She sobbed into his chest unceasingly, hands clutching at his shirt. He held her in silence, rocking her slowly as her tears soaked his shirt.
When she turned her face to look at him she saw a man whose emotion had been walled off behind a mask of worry. He was distant and aloof.
Amidst the muffled sobs wracking against his chest, she had felt her spirit sink into nothingness and her aura turn monochrome. Linda knew before she spoke next, that the sparkle of love had been well and truly extinguished.
“What did I do wrong?” She asked.
“It’s not about you” Ben started. He had to let go of this baggage he concluded. And now is the time.
“I am off to Abuja tomorrow morning. I have to meet up with an old colleague before he leaves the country. I need to start packing now. We will talk more when I am back. Okay?”
When he left the café at brunch time, dejected and disappointed, he called one of his old colleagues and friend at the Abuja office where Mr. George had worked to share the recent and strange happenings. Perhaps with the hope that he could find some clue or explanation of some sort.
His former colleague, Peter had suggested that there was more to the happenings than he had previously thought.
He suggested he flew down to Abuja as soon as he possibly can as he did not feel safe enough to share the details over the phone.
Linda and her theatrics wasn’t going to deter him. He had a mystery to solve. And now he was going all out!
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