Gentleman’s guide to Dinner Etiquette “A gentleman is one who puts more into the world
-Four years in lieu
You can catch up with Chapter six here
Four years in Lieu
Benjamin had drifted into a cat nap when he heard the wheels of the airplane kissing the bumpy tarmac leaving intermittent screeching sound in its wake. The plane bounced repeatedly on the tarmac and was accompanied by the hysterical cry of a toddler that was only interrupted by the child’s need to draw breath.
The child cried so hard as if the ferocity of it would stop the plane from bouncing as hard as it finally screeched and wheeled to a stop.
His eyes tired from the glare of his laptop, he watched the airport terminal come into his view amidst the tail fins of the other airplane on the tarmac right from his plane window as the engines hummed lazily. He couldn’t wait to alight. As soon as the doors opened, he packed up his laptop and grabbed his backpack from the overhead locker.
He was glad to replace the waves of nauseating stale smell of human breath and stench that reeked through the cabin with the damp air outside. There was a freshness to the air that invited the feet to run and jump and his craving to take deep breaths was only momentarily replaced by nostalgia as familiar sights welcomed him.
It is time to solve the four year mystery!
He found Pete- his old friend and colleague as soon as he walked through the waiting lounge at the airport. He looked unwashed and unkempt and when they hugged, it was far from reassuring. It was more of a perfunctory gesture mandated by social etiquette not out of excitement at seeing his friend. Ben only released his breath after they had taken in his friend’s obvious loss of weight and lean body.
“Hey Pete, are you okay?”
“You’re the only person I know I can discuss this with” his voice somewhere between a whisper and mumble.
“I am leaving town first thing tomorrow” he continued ignoring Ben’s questioning stare and looks. He looked scared and worried and with every new passenger coming through the arrival lounge his head glanced either side directed at anyone who walked by as though expecting to see someone he was hiding from.
Ben wasn’t finding this comfortable and they started walking towards the restaurant along the busy aisle. Pete wouldn’t stop looking backwards and his steps were just as unsteady. But his arms were locked in with Ben’s right hand as they found a solitary corner in the restaurant.
When Pete spoke again, Ben knew he would have to endure the whiff of bad breath all morning, but it was the least of his problems. His friend’s behavior was erratic and strange enough to start a mini panic deep inside him, but he masked the feeling with calmness. He had to be calm to get information out of Pete.
They had both worked together at the UrbanCity Magazine and were employed within a week of each other. They has both lost traces of boyhood while they cut their teeth in investigative journalism working for Mr George.
They both lived from paycheck to paycheck, but enjoyed competing for the boss’s attention. They chased down stories like their lives depended on it and sometimes worked at cross-purpose in a bid to be crowned the employee of the month.
Twist, turn, fall, stretch, arc, ache and fight, but their rivalry was good enough for the business as they churned out breaking news, strong headliners and feature articles amidst the chaos.
Mr George played the mediator occasionally and would say that when others present arguments based on only emotions and prejudices, reply in such a manner that acknowledges the legitimacy of their emotions and pulls the legs from under their prejudices.
They never stopped learning from Mr George, he meant everything to them and they worked hard for him.
As they listened to the flight schedule and announcement over the public address system, Pete unzips his bag and hands over an envelope to his former colleague. It had Ben’s name written in scrawly hand writing which was unmistakably Mr. George’s.
“The envelope was delivered to me two days ago by some scruffy looking guy who was the picture book stereotype of an old fisherman. His weathered face bore the weight of his long journey from God knows where. He barely said anything. He asked if I was Pete Jerome and when I answered in the affirmative, he thrust the envelope into my hands and left just as fast as he had appeared.”
Pete was speaking so fast, Ben was having difficulties catching up. He looked at the envelope. His stare only broken by a tap from Pete on his shoulders.
“Then I opened the envelope out of curiosity……..” His voice trails into silence as he looks at a strange guy walking past quizzically as though he had seen him before.
“That guy….” He motions with his head.
“What?” Ben looks up looking for signs of something amiss.
“Dude, he is just a passenger. Tell me what is going on Pete. I don’t like where this is going man!”
“I think you need to take some rest, your eyes are puffy and you smell like skunk” Ben couldn’t help himself.
“Don’t open” the stern voice of Pete warned as Ben fiddled with the envelope.
Ben wondered if his old friend was dealing with some mental illness like Psychosis or some sort of crazy illusion causing him to lose his mind. He starts to look at him keenly. The crease on his shirt starts to look obvious and unsettling while his hair hadn’t had the pleasure of a clipper in weeks, maybe even months. If he only just got the envelope a few days ago, it wasn’t responsible for his appearance.
“Is there anything……..” Pete cut him short curtly.
“I know what you are thinking, I am not crazy Ben. This isn’t funny”
He fiddles with his fingers for a moment and then continues.
“The envelope contains document on with Mr George’s initials signed off on it. What puzzles me is how the strange man got a hold of it”
“Listen dude” Pete’s stance is pensive at first and then suddenly with some urgency.
“Although most of the document had the dates scrapped off, the information therein are pretty recent. There is something……. fishy” he chuckles as he mentioned “fishy”
“Have you heard from Mr. George, Pete?” Ben wasn’t going to be caught in the frenzy of some parcel delivered hurriedly without asking this one question that had been on his mind the whole of his flight that morning.
Pete is silent.
“He is dead dude. He had a car crash. You know that. Dead men to come back to life. It’s been four years man. Get a grip”
Ben stares at his friend deeply as though searching for answers in his face.
“I got to go now buddie, I am leaving town for good first thing in the morning”
Pete stands to leave adjusting his bag and then walks away without saying a further word.
Ben sits transfixed for a moment and then he ask above earshot;
“Do you still live off Badmus street in Wuse?
Pete didn’t flinch nor offer a response, he just walked on until he was out of the building disappearing into the sea of heads just arriving from the plane.
You can catch up on Chapter 8 here
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