Prisoner of Fate
From the Duke of Small Talks
Prisoner of Fate – One meets his destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it.
Benjamin’s life takes a dramatic twist as he struggles to find answers to unlock the mystery that has turned him into a prisoner of his own mind. The story starts strong with shocking and unbelievable scenes laying the pedestal for a fast-paced and suspense-filled journey into the unknown, where at every turn the story deepens and crystallizes into revealing truths about life.
Will Benjamin find the closure he so desires or is there more to it than meets the eye?
The story plays gingerly on the blurry lines of the supernatural and mind boggling truths nestled within the fears created deep in our minds.
This gripping story of Benjamin’s journey to uncover the mystery of the undead will keep you glued from chapter 1 till the end.
How does Benjamin untangle himself from the date with fate?
Sit tight and grab something!
The rain stopped.
After eight grueling and long hours of downpour as heavy as Benjamin had ever seen in a long time, his home was now more of a refuge than a companion.
Electricity supply had been turned off the moment spiraling winds announced the arrival of the rain.
The wind blew through the window of his two bedroom apartment with a powerful passion, ruffling his well-mannered curtain, scattering his manuscript as if they were leaves of fall and with the rain, came the doors that banged and the contrasting freshness of clean air amidst the rouse.
He loves everything about the rain; the whispering hum as sheets of precipitation plummeted to the water-forsaken ground, the often unanticipated flashes of lightning and the rolls of ominous thunder. It liberated his work-beaten body, affording him a well-deserved rest.
The continued rain drops struck the roof of his house, pitting the surface relentlessly like bullets from the sky. The noise almost deafening, making Benjamin long for nothing more than the comfort of his bed.
Now awake, he scowled into the dark of almost a perfect mirror of the clouds above.
He had been in bed mostly during the rainstorm, drifting into short naps and snapping out enough times to break the sleep into un-refreshing chunks. His mind, a hurricane of thoughts as he sat up on his king-sized bed slowly gazing over his once perfect magazine cover room, now littered with papers and his clothes.
His rasping throat was as parched as a dead lizard in the desert sun and his stomach growled loudly as he squirmed on the bed trying to silence the rumbling.
A quick glance at his wall clock; it was only a few minutes past two o’clock. He had missed breakfast and lunch and was already getting set to take a flight. At that moment, hunger was his only obsession.
His Saturdays are typically an orderly routine, but today, he craved for nothing more than to lazy about, lost in his thoughts. He had struggled last night with the manuscript of the new novel he was working on. It was a lifelong passion of his to write a story on love and betrayal. He had dilly dallied on it for many years. Now, torn between midlife crisis and a lull in his career, he opted to complete the book.
He printed the pages of the first few chapters he had written out, so he could spend time proofreading them again in bed. But he would have to pick up all the pages from the cold tiled floor of his bedroom.
From nowhere came the sound of his cell phone, so authentic and loud, piercing through the quiet room in a shrill combination of electronic techno beats and rumba. Irritated, he scanned through the room in momentary stupor, before finally rummaging through his ruffled bed covers for the noisy object, hoping it was either his girlfriend, Linda or his close buddie, Allen calling.
It turned out to be Allen, his friend and colleague at work, requesting for log-in and access details to a story he had written and published months ago.
Allen is an Investigative Journalist just like Ben, but with amazing IT skills to die for. He is also an unrepentant workaholic. His life is devoted to nothing but writing as many stories as he could mentally muster while hoping for his big break in the industry. It was this fixation that spurred his juices.
The call was barely 15secs and he tossed the phone away, like a worthless piece of junk, into the duvet.
He reached out for the half full bottle of water by his bedside stool and took a huge gulp, feeling the chill of the water run down his esophagus with a numbness that made his body stiffen and his eyes roll into his skull.
That was the moment he noticed the notification lights of his phone blinking amidst the rumpled white sheets on the bed.
He reached for the phone again and then opened his SMS inbox to see a “call me back text” from his former boss. First he looked at the date, then he checked the phone number again for correctness. But it was the same one he remembered. The problem is that the number used to belong to his former boss, now deceased. He died four years ago!
“This has to be some joke” he muttered to himself.
By instinct, he dialled the number and alas, it rang! Pulling the phone away from his ears, he looked at the screen in horror, watching as the phone was being answered on the third ring.
Slowly, like in slow motion, he placed the phone back to his ears and waited with baited breath as he heard the unmistaken voice of his dead boss;
“Hello, Hello……Hello” the raspy voice of late Mr. George bellowed through the canals of his ears, hitting ominous notes of dread directly into his brain.
Scared stiff and shocked, he suddenly felt dread creeping down his spine like a careful spider leaving a trail of silk. He sprang to his feet instantly with the phone now away from his ears and smack in his hands.
He stared in complete disbelief at his phone as though it was a strange object he had no business with. His body started a series of instantaneous responses. With quivering fingers, his heart started beating hard and fast like it was about to explode.
With the rising of his adrenaline levels, he started to hyperventilate.
Goose pimples formed on his skin in a coordinated reaction and sweat broke out all over his body. It felt like his skin had another hot skin on the outside and his small eyes are now wide open in utter shock!
His brain started to fire out negative thoughts like a machine gun.
“This is impossible! This man has been dead four years! His phone should not be ringing, let alone hearing his voice”.
And more thoughts crept in;
“He is dead! Dead men don’t receive phone calls”.
“And if by chance this is a prank, it is a silly one. Whoever this is, must be a bloody joker”, he thought.
He started pacing his room irrationally as he disengaged the call. His cellphone still in his right hand while he contemplated the situation.
With sleep, well and truly murdered now, he was just as stunned as though he saw a ghost.
“What the hell is going on? Oh my God!”
He is now panicky as he walked towards the window facing the street, he opened the aluminum glass panel to let fresh gush of air into his room with one fierce push.
Then he looked out of the window, first tilting his head towards the sun, feeling the gentle warmth and noticing the sky was darker blue the higher his eyes wandered.
Then he took a quick peek at the street, noticing the receding flood on his street, which was now filled with brown water, rising and twisting with raw power and without conscience. The street had gorged itself on the floods, and its skin had swelled and burst in many places. The makeshift tables and stalls of the street market littered the asphalt-bare road, torn and broken, as if there was a bar fight.
Though the rain had stopped, the air still felt just as damp and the clouds that brought the rain was yet to depart.
Benjamin watched the receding flood carry away an upturned umbrella, swirling in the eddies, moving haphazardly over the surface down the street. It didn’t do much to distract his thoughts though. His fright, still palpable, hung like the sword of Damocles over his head.
Suddenly, the public power supply was restored and the unmistaken hum of his refrigerator and fluorescent lights jolted him back to the moment.
The void, momentarily filled with the blinking fluorescent lights around his apartment, fizzled away just as fast as the lights turned on. His 5 year old 32inch television sitting on the wooden console in his room, flickered to life in a barrage of noisy montage of adverts and voice overs, startling him.
He looked at the TV in disgust, reaching out for the remote control and promptly silencing the voices and images with the tap of the power button, saving space in his head for just the voice of Mr. George that he had just heard a few minutes earlier.
The big moment.
In 2010, when Benjamin started out his career in journalism, fresh from school and eager to secure a good paying job at his favourite and most popular celebrity magazine Glitterati, in Abuja -the Nigerian seat of power, he had thronged the streets of Asokoro, Wuse and Garki for many weeks on end hoping to work as a freelance journalist at the least, if he couldn’t secure a good paying job.
He had a life long dream of publishing a thrilling story about love and betrayal, a theme he was convinced would be a bestseller. And he was hoping to learn the ropes from a well-established publishing outfit as soon as he could secure one.
Benjamin grew up in Lagos, a city bursting at the seams with a population of over 20million residents. The Lagos cityscape is unapologetically urban. Unlike the new capital in Abuja, Lagos is a city initially well-planned to serve as the cynosure of West Africa, with skyscrapers attesting to the strength of its trade and bustling economy.
Monoliths of concrete, justling out into the skies competing for heights in patterns similar to the west, adorn the Lagos skyscape lending credence to its urbanization and political valor.
Having shed the vestiges of imperialism five decades ago, the city had completely lost its direction and its growth, stunted, with roads looping and weaving with less organisation than a natural river. Every year housing estates sprout out like young plants without a plan amidst inadequate infrastructure to support its integration into the larger city. So was the chaotic growth of this sprawling city.
In razor sharp contrast and amidst the grandeur of the city, lay swaths of squalor settlements in every other conceivable space. Growing up in the city could easily mean watching the neon lights from the fringes of Lagos where filth competed with clean air.
Here in the suburbs, everyone is scared of having nothing.
The rich hoard their money to preserve not only themselves but their descendants. The middle classes aspire to be rich, either hoarding or spending money they don’t have in order to maintain the appearance of wealth. While the poor live for each day hustling and bustling to tie the two ends of the survival rope under the chronic stress of never having enough.
Benjamin really didn’t grow up in the nest of opulence, his father was a factory worker in the industrial district of Oregun, whose pastime was changing jobs every other month as his temperament was legendary.
His temper was a slowly filling glass. There was no problem, no outward sign of fury until the liquid reached the top, then all bets were off. He changed jobs like diapers of a week-old baby. He had a reputation for doing a fine job, but his albatross was his short fuse and lack of respect for constituted authorities.
This meant that the family relied most time on his mother, Agnes, who was an astute trader. She was a true business woman who travelled around the country trading in farm produce. Agnes had the gracefulness of a model, tall and lanky with a beautiful shape to die for.
Agnes wasn’t beautiful in the orthodox way, no fluttering eyelids or sexy lips, no sonorous voice or long fingernails, but in her ordinariness she was stunning. Burnt melanin never looked so beautiful and flawless on a woman. She was truly African and like many of her kin, her features oozed of the richness of a full lips, brown eyes, dark hair and high cheekbones.
She led a retinue of traders who banded together to keep the market of staple foods in Oyingbo flooded with fresh produce from the green farms upcountry. Perhaps it was her height or her husky voice, without doing much she commanded respect from every trader in the market.
She was also a great mother and housekeeper. She had boundless energy and desired nothing more than giving her three boys the same opportunities available to the middle class children in the adjoining neighborhood. It was a struggle to raise money for school tuition for the kids, especially with their father spending half the year on the threadbare couch in their two-room boys’ quarters.
She had to join groups of monthly collaborators to raise lump sums of money for her children. Many times, the money arrived later than the school resumption dates and the kids would have to spend school days helping her at the market during this time.
Ben was her favorite child, always willing to lend a helping hand and was a great companion in the market. He was a good negotiator and much better than his siblings with the figures. Not once did he miscount sales money or shortchanged the customers.
She called him Ben, as Benjamin was a mouthful, especially when she finds herself screaming his name through the throng of bodies in the market to get his attention. He was sometimes a handful, prefering to hang around kids Agnes feared would toughen him up in the ways of the street.
Lagos was a mean place to raise a child if you lived in the suburbs. Each child would have to fend for his destiny she always thought.
There was something about Ben that drew people to him. Ofcourse, it didn’t hurt that he was a good looking boy with a half moon smile; but it was more than that. He was quiet and naturally calm, but not out of painful shyness. It was a reservedness, like a conscious choice to observe situations before he got involved. This would later become an incredible skill in his chosen career.
Yet he wasn’t stand-offish, he remained friendly faced and welcoming in body posture and was one child with a hearty laugh. Ben missed two years of school and therefore finished secondary school older than his classmates. Those two years he spent working as an apprentice with a fashion designer, shoe maker and a curtain trader at the Yaba market. This didn’t deter him as he secured admission into the university almost immediately for his first degree.
His journey through the university was laced with multilateral learning. He survived armed with the vocational skills he had learnt while out of school years earlier. He made and sold leather sandals, sold draperies, helped other students paint their rooms for a fee and made bespoke shirts in his spare time and sold scores of his most popular design during his four year stint at the university. His personality played a big role in his initial success in business through the sale of his merchandise coupled with the natural business acumen he had inadvertently inherited from his mother.
The moment he waltzed through the school emblem off the busy highway, he never looked back. Aside occasional phone calls to his mother and his siblings, he was nothing but a native of the campus.
He stayed behind during the holidays running errands for his Professors and helping with tutorials for freshmen who paid a token to stay ahead of the class. At other times, he worked at a piggery outside the campus cleaning dirty pens and earning a fair wage while at it.
It was an incredibly hard life. He had no time for leisure activities and barely even had a girlfriend. But he made it through school on his own and he wanted more than anything to work in a respectable firm to practise his new academic skills. He was curious to see how with less effort he could earn a decent pay and perhaps much more money than he did using the dexterity of his vocational skills.
He had suffered too much, enduring all sorts of insults and name calling, all in a bid to break free from the circumstances of his birth. He had watched too often the glam of middle and upper class living in Lagos and convinced himself that it was only a matter of time before he joined the elite club.
He had moved to Abuja after his one year compulsory National Youth Service, in the neighbouring state of Kogi – a couple of hours away. When he heard of opportunities that lay awash for youngsters like him in the city and he was convinced his future lay somewhere in the new city and there was no harm trying out his luck.
With a few thousand naira to his name he took the long ride to Abuja accompanied by his friend, Deen-whom he had grown fond of during the service year.
Deen had an uncle who was willing to accommodate both of them in his 3-bedroom apartment on the outskirt of Abuja, on the condition that they helped him with his sugar business during the weekend. Deen would handle the account books and Ben would manage the customers sales and delivery while his barely-literate uncle traveled to Kano to replenish his stock.
It sounded like a fair deal and their journey to Abuja was more purposeful than they had imagined.
His search for a job in Abuja was fruitless for the first couple of months and he resigned to the weekend arrangement with Deen’s uncle for many months. They practically worked for free, afterall, they were not paying rent whilst sleeping in the living room with cockroaches and rats playing “hide and seek” on the tiled floor of the house.
When Ben finally got the chance for an interview at a rival publishing firm, it was undeniable that he had the sterling qualities that Mr. George, the publisher and Owner of the UrbanCity Magazine, always wanted in his writers. They were also the ones he admired and prided himself in; intelligence, courage, discretion and common sense.
The interview was quite intense and the conversation was curt and yet engaging. His questions fired in quick succession in an attempt to see what’s under the veneer of Ben’s persona. Silence settled like a blanket in between Ben’s answers and the relentless scribbling of notes in his pad, until it was punctuated by yet another question.
Ben observed the well manicured fingers of his interviewer as he wrote and couldn’t help but notice his attention to detail. His mildly starched shirt clung to his body like it would on a mannequin, almost glazed and undisturbed, while his well-polished black oxford lace-up shoe peeked out of his desk like a rat waiting for an all clear to dash through the tiled floor of his office.
Here was a man who cared a lot about his looks.
Ben also had enough time to look keenly at the interview room. It was tasteful in a corporate way – nothing interesting enough to cause offence no matter what a person’s preferences might be. It was Mr. George’s office, it had a dozen award plaques neatly arranged on mahogany shelves at one corner of the office and large prints of several front pages of the UrbanCity Magazine adorning the wall opposite his desk.
As though a constant reminder of the insane drive to fight off competition and to remain amongst the best in the industry.
32inch television hung on the wall to his left, completing a kaleidoscope of views whichever way you turn.
You could sense the finesse and personality of the occupant of the office from a cursory glance at the office. Despite the well decorated walls, there was nothing cluttered about the arrangement. Everything just in its rightful place.
Mr. George’s voice jolted him back to reality with a frown suggesting that the wandering of his eyes didn’t meet his approval. With a flush of embarrassment, Ben sat upright with his back straight and braced up for the next question.
It had been almost 25minutes since the interview session started and it looked like the session was nowhere near its end.
“How soon can you start work?”
That was it! The big moment. He couldn’t hide the excitement as he just landed his first job in paid employment. He flashed a smile when he replied that he was ready to start immediately.
Something in Mr. George’s expressionless face assured him that they were going to be really good friends.
Friends that transcends the toughest times.
Fear has taken over.
Benjamin felt the panic begin like a cluster of spark plugs in his abdomen the more his mind replayed the strange phone call. The tension grew in his face and limbs and there was nothing more he wanted than to talk to someone that very moment.
At some point it appeared as though the room was spinning and he was left without much choice than to squat on the floor, hoping by so doing it would make everything slow down into something his brain and body could cope with. He suddenly felt so sick.
In his mind he couldn’t shake the feeling that something just wasn’t right. The silence that enveloped him at this time was the kind that falls right before you get knifed in the back. It sent a shiver down his spine as he felt his blood chill in his veins. Instinctively, he looked around the room as though there was someone else there.
Spooky didn’t quite cover it and eerie was indeed an understatement. In the shadow, cast by his window blinds, he sat lost and stunned, one thing was certain, he knew he had to get out of the house that moment.
He jumped into his jeans and hurried out through the doorway grabbing his mobile phone and wallet along as he buttoned his shirt with his other hand. That house was the last place he wanted to be.
The fresh cool air welcomed him as he jumped right into the untarred street with both feet, watching the newly released spheres of muddy water fly as he hurried through the miniature canyon carved by the rains on the road.
Everything seemed the same and yet different. The trees stood naked as they had before, but their twigs curled in a distorted way, as if the tree itself screamed in pain.The sky was a mass of grey cloud with the brilliance of a new page upon a sky canvas of such consistent hue, but instead of letting small shafts of light through they emitted an ethereal glow.
It was eerie. The street should be thronged with commuters by this time of day, but it stood as empty as the sahara desert. With the sort of rain that kept everyone indoors for hours, it was unlikely that anyone was in a hurry to get anywhere.
Benjamin hurried into the adjoining street and quickly hailed a yellow cab. He was grateful that he found one as soon as he arrived at the bus stop and did not suffer the indignation of waiting in his thoughts. He was off to see Allen, his workmate and close friend, he dialed his number and on first ring his friend answered the call with his voice babbling happily like a mountain river.
“Dude, tell me!”
“Are you home?” he asked without recourse to their usual pleasantries. He didn’t wait for a response either before he followed it up with;
“I am on my way to you. Just stay where you are”
Allen sensed that something wasn’t quite right. His friend was usually the calm and calculated one, and not one to speak with a cracked voice stained from panic and fear.
“Dude are you okay?” and the phone call ended with the insolence of a disengaged tone.
The journey to Allen’s house was typically about 25mins, but it felt like forever, as the movement of the car wheels over the potholes on the Lagos road jerked him back to reality sooner than he would have liked.
As the cab followed the curves of the stretch of road, meandering through junctions and roundabouts, Benjamin tried very hard not to fiddle with his phone lest it rang again. It was a necessary evil he had to carry about.
By the time the cab driver killed the engine right at the entrance gate of Allen’s self-contained apartment, Benjamin had tossed a handful of cash over the drivers shoulders and was out of the back seat in seconds. He barely heard the driver thank him as he approached the steel entrance gate of the property.
He walked briskly towards the rear of the property where Allen’s apartment was shielded by a dwarf fence and hurriedly opened the entrance door, shutting it behind him along with the indistinct chatter and a jabber of voices from Allen’s neighbours.
He leaned on the door as he shut it, catching his breath as though being chased and for the first time since he woke up that morning, it felt like he had found rest in a safe haven, while a gale raged outside. That moment time itself became more calm.
Allen’s face was buried in worry lines,and he was even more concerned when he saw his friend looking like he had seen a ghost. Seemingly lifeless as he leaned on the door.
“What’s this about Ben? Come sit down” he ushered his friend to his small and familiar parlour that was now strewn with dirty laundry and smack in the middle of the room sat a clothes horse, almost buckling under the weight of wet laundry.
Embarrassed by the sorry sight of his unkempt apartment, Allen offers an unsolicited apology.
“Sorry was doing a quick laundry”
Benjamin blurted out the sequence of events that had transpired earlier at his house the moment he hit the only couch in the room. Sitting at the edge of the couch, he tried to explain to Allen that not only was he certain that Mr. George had passed four years ago, there was no way his phone could be functional and active.
Allen listened intently and then suggested that perhaps a family member was still using the phone or someone else was already assigned the SIM card number and this new owner coincidentally had a voice match with Mr. George. There had to be an explanation.
At first it sounded plausible as Benjamin considered the possibility. But he had thought this over several times and this explanation was too weak to shake him off.
“Listen Allen, that voice is the same one I have heard for many years, I know that voice even if I was deep in sleep”
Allen thought about it and lamely suggested that it was possible that voice and sounds may be distorted over mobile phone networks.
“Don’t take this too seriously. It could be nothing”
Looking at his friend’s unconvinced stance, he asked that he handed his phone to him. Allen confirmed the phone number in dispute and instinctively dialed the number using his mobile phone.
They both waited with bated breath as they watched the dialed number on Allen’s phone.
“The number you have dialed does not exist” the automatic voiceover responded.
“Dude, are you sure about this phone number?” Allen asked derisively.
Benjamin began to sense that his friend may be considering him a nut case.
“Allen please check the call records to see the call duration and you will notice that something is amiss here” He snapped back.
Allen rummaged through Benjamin’s phone confirming that the call logged a 10seconds duration.
“Strange!” he muttered thoughtfully.
“I’ve got a friend at the network provider, perhaps he can clear this confusion, so you can put your mind at rest. You look so worried, I was beginning to think you could be suicidal.” Allen reassured his friend.
Benjamin sighed and then offered to help his friend with the laundry to distract himself from the quagmire he seemed to be slipping fast into.
The next morning, Benjamin headed over to his house, now convinced that as soon as Allen’s friend at the network provider’s head office reverts with a position on the status of the SIM number, he would put this confusion to bed.
When he left Allen’s house, his friend was shirtless sleeping deeply with serenity plastered across his face as he slept. That moment, he wished he could find such peace. His lower eyelid bore the weight of his insomnia like the amateur makeup on a crying child.
He shut the door behind him and headed into the street. He had to take a short walk before he could hail a cab. In his haste the day before, he had forgotten his phone charger and he was now well and truly out of battery.
Turning the corner into the bus stop, he inadvertently noticed a green Toyota corolla drive past with a lone occupant. He caught a glimpse of the side view of the driver as the car picked speed past the bus stop, and he could not believe his eyes.
Incredible!! It was Mr George behind the steering wheel or so he thought.
“This is impossible” His heart began to pound as adrenaline rushed through his every vein.
But he is now spurred on by anger and determination rather than fear.
“Whatever this is , I am going to get to the bottom of this” he determined.
He tried to catch a glimpse of the car registration plates, but his view was obscured by the passing trucks and pedestrians as the Lagos road came alive with the usual hustle and bustle of traffic.
He quickly hailed a motorcycle that was thankfully available. As he sat astride the motorcycle, he pointed at the green toyota salon car that was cruising steadily just six cars ahead and charged the rider to catch up with the car. He didn’t care to negotiate the fare with the rider who was starting to protest.
“Move quickly” he labored to scream amidst his anxiety.
From his vantage position, he could still see the back view of the car driver. Distance was all that was stopping him from getting a clear glimpse of the driver and perhaps halting the vehicle.
As though on cue, the motorcycle rider ducked in between cars and cleverly maneuvered to within two cars to the green car. Benjamin was now getting really anxious as he still couldn’t make out the registration plate number.
Then the driver in the green car made a sharp turn banking the car to the right , almost as though he suspected that he was being followed and then picked up some speed leaving the motorcycle in a hail of dust.
Undeterred, Benjamin urged the rider to move faster, just as the traffic on this road was a bit lighter. The engine purred as the rider stepped hard on the throttle while both their knees skimmed the road as the motorcycle took the road bend. Still the green car edged farther away.
Benjamin was getting agitated as it was becoming obvious that this chase had ended before it even began!
The green Toyota corolla cruised down the road, driving south and all that Benjamin could see was the brief instances of the car shuffling between traffic and then finally getting lost in the sea of vehicles.
His motorcycle rider laboured on in futility until he advised him to take him home.
Now he was determined to solve this mystery; first the strange phone call and now mysterious sighting.
When he thought about it deeply, he was convinced even more than ever that it was Mr George he saw driving that green Toyota car.
This was certainly more than a coincidence!
Could his mind be playing tricks on him?
When he fetched his phone from his pocket to call Allen about the latest sighting and road chase, it welcomed him to a blank and lifeless unforgiving stare.
The mind’s unrest
The time was 4am and Benjamin had been in front of his desktop computer since midnight. Sleep had eluded him and he found solace in front of the crystal screen as it reflected back his now unshaven face with sunken and glum eyes. There was no better time to channel his energy into his collection of romantic short stories than now.
With his back hunched over his computer, his fingers did the rest.
“Grace had enough time to select a dress for her date night with Mike. She had 3hours to kill and she was yet to figure out how much of her skin to show. The last time the two met, Mike’s eyes were practically dancing about her low neck dress all evening. She imagined him drooling and could sense lust written all over his face.
There was something about Mike that made her feel so young inside, but not in a childish way. He had awakened the pure side and best side of her personality. Every moment spent with him felt like a never-ending evening.
The energy between them both vibrates in such a unique way, each the perfect compliment of the other or so it seemed. They met only a month ago and she was content with just being around him, close enough to smell his cologne and sinking into serenity while in his warm company. His smile alone burnished her soul into a beauty it could never have achieved on its own. Mike could do no wrong. She had to admit that she wasn’t simply “in love”, she was “ well and truly smitten.”
Grace was determined to make this budding relationship work although she was yet to consent to Mike’s torrent of sexual advances. He made ‘sexual’ comments, jokes, gestures so often during their dates and she intercepted signals that were subtly sultry directed at her. He made no pretence about his desires. His eyes would turn into a cold stare while he would ‘accidentally’ brush up against her, or linger his hand longer than it was usual when they shook hands.The sexual tension was now very palpable and she could sense that her defence was ebbing away faster than she had hoped.
Grace was a huge romantic, and her intense sexual nature ensured that she was vulnerable, noticing every move, never missing a hint. She hadn’t been with a man in months and Mike came the closest to her ideal sexual partner.
At the last date, he had hugged her, not a perfunctory gesture mandated by social etiquette, and it lingered enough time for his hands to travel the distance from her shoulders to her buttocks, glazing over her butt cheeks in a gesture mixed with sexual innuendos. There was no way she could miss that. She thought it was inappropriate, but then she liked it. In her head, she imagined herself saying “Stop it, I like it”
She had only started dating again a couple of weeks after her marriage of six years crashed following her husband’s arrest, subsequent trial and public disgrace for alleged corporate fraud.
The pressure of his fraudulent activities was telling on their already tense and loveless marriage where the centre could no longer hold. She had stayed faithful and invested her energy in her career hoping that he would sort out his finances with the banks and get their relationship back on track. But it wasn’t long before the fault lines in their marriage turned into gaping holes they could no longer suture. Holes large enough to consume them both.
Grace was an On Air Personality at the local radio station in the city. She had a degree in communications and hosted her own radio talk show every week. Her strong voice, excellent public speaking ability, and positive attitude endeared her to many, making her quite popular in the entertainment circle. The news of her broken marriage was therefore in the media and gossip columns for a few weeks before the wind of the Intercontinental world cup overshadowed the scandal offering her some respite.
Occasionally, updates on the trial featured in small columns on daily newspapers, but other than that, her husband was now confined to her past. He was somewhere languishing in prison.
That was a difficult period for her and she struggled everyday to stay sane amidst the pressure of work and life. She longed for company and her body in particular yearned for love.
Mike offered a different kind of friendship. He had a listening ear and barely interrupted her during their conversations. This feature made him handsome from the depth of his eyes to the gentle expressions of his voice. With him, she could voice her fears, concerns, frustration and hopes and his eyes told her that he was not judging.
For Grace, It took courage to walk into the light after a marriage of semi-shadows and in Mike she could see the chance for that kind of love they say didn’t exist anymore. The type that spans far longer than one’s lifetime.
She found the dress, it was a black, lacey and clingy short gown and was all shades of sexy. It could easily pass as deliciously indecent as it left very little to imagination. She was absolutely certain that if Mike was on the fence about their situationship, this sexy gown was about to turn the pressure up a notch. He was going to get crossed-eyed no doubt!
She looked herself up in the mirror and she liked what she saw. Her soft, ivory shoulders were exposed and her hair, black, long and fluid, layed gently over her shoulder bones, kissing her soft skin till it reached down her back. Her lips were carefully tinted red and her skin looked flawlessly ebony.
As though on cue, her phone rang, Mike was outside the street waiting for her. She pleaded for a few minutes and would join him in a bit. In reality, she was done and ready to go, but prefered to linger a bit, rather than give a hint of how eager she was to see him.
When she stepped out of her gate and approached his car, Mike’s overwhelming smile, revealing a perfect set of dentition welcomed her to an evening she would never forget. His eyes lit up like the sun the moment he saw her in that dress, he simply couldn’t hide his excitement. He wasn’t sure what to look forward to when he was driving over to her place, but seeing her in now, there was no doubt in his mind how the night would end.
They shared an intimate hug the moment she sank into the passenger seat of his SUV while he made a comment about how beautiful she looked and how irresistable her perky lips were.
Grace was content that her message was well received and hoped that the evening would go as planned.
She looked Mike over as he maneuvered the SUV into the street, they were driving across the town to a nice lebannesse restaurant that he had talked about the whole week. She admired his well shaven and almost symmetrical face. He had a slim, muscular body to die for and a warm and loving personality. Wherever he went, everyone loved him, they were simply drawn to him just as she was.
If he wanted to, he could have more friends than hours in the day, it wouldn’t be a challenge at all. His personality was so magnetic that anyone in his company would feel truly honoured and privileged that he chose to be with them. He could have had almost anyone, he could have had someone with a bigger bust, a smaller waist, prettier face and with more self-confidence, but he chose her.
When her eyes wandered to his thinly shaped lips, she snapped out of her lustful stare into the empty street down the road.
But in one swift move, Mike turned the car into the sharp bend, navigating into a quiet and dark street with houses gated on either side. A ray of panic flashed across her face as she turned to look at Mike”
Benjamin got off his chair in one swift move. He had been sitting down hunched over the computer for hours. His eyes was sore from lack of sleep and inundated constantly by the brightness of his computer screen. He had to take a short break. He looked up at the wall clock, it was 6am already. He had been up the whole night, but he wasn’t done yet. He had a story to finish and he wouldn’t want to leave this one half-done.
His mind raced quickly through the events of the previous day and he wondered what next he had to do. He had decided to call Allen in the morning to find out what his friend at the telco could find on the SIM number of his former Boss. If the result turned out to be positive and that the number indeed exist, then he would be 100% convinced that Mr. George was not dead as had been erroneously touted in the last four years.
And then, he would be keen to find out why this is so. His mind was now made up to uncover this mystery, no matter how long it took. But first that phone call from Allen was all he needed to get into overdrive.
He grabbed a cup of water from the dispenser and walked back to his computer. For now, he had a story to finish.
“Grace’s fears were drowned just as quickly as they appeared the moment Mike turned to her, leaned over and planted a kiss on her lips. One touch and it was over, it was always that way with Grace. That singular lip locking act sent Grace into a sensual state of intoxication. She couldn’t hide her smile. How nice, she thought. He couldn’t even wait!
They closed their eyes with both their breaths shaking while the still air in the car offered no respite. It started first as a casual non-invasive kiss, Grace then gently leaned in and kissed Mike’s warm lips allowing her tongue explore the depth of his thirst.
They pull apart taking shaky, shallow breaths and with hearts skipping dozens of beats she said “Thank you,” in barely more than a whisper.
“For what?” He replied in a low and husky voice”
“For being you.” Her voice wavered, exhilarated from the tension between them.
Unable to contain themselves anymore, Mike held Grace’s head in his hands and pulled her into a fiery, more intense and passionate kiss. It was a full, open-mouthed, almost sexual kiss. And caution was soon thrown out of the car.
That moment, it felt as though their lips fit like two puzzle pieces. No spoken word could break the intimacy at this time and Mike’s roving hands were beginning to explore the skin around her neck and bustline. Grace’s hands weren’t idle either, they worked their way around his shirt, feeling each crevasse, each line along his perfect physique.
When they managed to break away after what seemed like ages, she looked at him with eyes full of pure lust and dizzy from the intensity of the kiss. They stared at each other in an odd way, as if it were a silent argument while their glances battled each other. That kiss held promise of realness and a primal desire that looked to cut their evening short.
Mike turned the car back on the road and drove slowly until they approached an abandoned field within the quiet neighbourhood and it looked like a perfect spot for their spontaneous moonlight tryst.
Grace’s silent protest- if she could muster one, was drowned by the sound of her own heart beat and she loved how the evening had turned. Driving off to a motel or back to her house could easily kill the raw, uncouth and passionate moment they just shared, she had to trust Mike on this.
The moment he killed the car engine, they were up in each other’s arms. In that split second before his touch, every nerve in Grace’s body and brain was electrified.
She felt electricity in her skin and hormones shutting down her higher brain and the rise of her animal self. From there on, it was all intense and intoxicating passion. It was her release, her escape, her drug… not that she was easy, she knew well enough to avoid letting a man lay his hands on her. Yet with chemistry, with real love, too many of her switches were flicked for a reverse gear to be possible. All she could do now was to go along for the ride and pray her instincts were right.
Out of nowhere, multiple flash lights peered into the car revealing their naked bodies. It was accompanied by voices of men dressed in black. Their voice thick and brash muffled across both sides of the door jolted them both to mother earth. It looked like they may have been busted.
“Hold it there! Don’t move!”
If you move, Open the door!
Grace scanned both sides of the car in frenzied panic and was convinced there were at least 6 policemen around the car, knocking and hitting the car, all of them speaking at the same time as though in a military drill.
“Oh dear, what have we done!” Grace muttered
“Don’t worry I will handle this. I got this” Mike assured her.
Mike calmly buttoned his shirt, while Grace pulled her dress closer to her bust to cover her shame.
The moment Mike opened the door, the police officers pounced on him as though he was a criminal. One grabbed his pants while the other started taking pictures with a mobile phone.
“Stop it” Grace yelped as they opened the door on her side of the SUV.
“What’s this about?” she heard Mike clinging to the last string of ego he had left.
The police officers immediately started off with questions in quick succession. Questions that Mike opted not to answer. But they asked nonetheless.
Grace had heard some people say there are good cops and bad. But the scenario playing out suggests that that is oversimplification. True, the police can be honest, courageous, corrupt, devious, malicious, altruistic, cunning or stupid. But these ones here, looked to have passed judgement even before they could offer any form of defence.
“We are going to the police station” Declared one police officer.
Mike did not object.
“ It’s okay, let’s go to the station and don’t manhandle the lady” his voice had an edge to it, even the police officer next to Grace winced.
“No, she goes in our van over there and you will drive after us, we don’t want either of you playing smart.” The police officer calling the shot wasn’t mincing words either.
Mike beckoned to Grace and asks that she joined the police officers.
“It’s okay, I will be filing a report myself of this nonsense” His voice now with a hint of anger.
Grace was disappointed with the way the evening was playing out. Her plans for the night had no police disturbances and certainly no random make-out in an open field. For once in her life she gave in to her moment of weakness and now this was going to be a public shame by the time news hit the stands in the morning.
She could see the headlines.
“Popular OAP caught pants down” or even worse “Popular OAP caught having sex in the Rayfield”
“Oh dear” There was no telling how bad this could get.
Quickly she scanned her head for a quick solution to this messy quagmire, but none readily came to mind.
She walked gingerly to the police van just parked a few meters away.
“How didn’t they notice the van?” It was cleverly parked in the dark so it would appear unnoticeable.
She shook her head more in disgust than disappointment.
She could hear their sultry and unguarded remarks as they were just a breath away from calling her a prostitute. She opened the door and sat in the van smelling like urine and sweat and waited until another police officer joined her in the front seat, sandwiching her between the driver.
“Lets go, lets go” yelled one police officer.
Lets, Go, Lets Go, Lets Go.
Ben had to use the bathroom, he was loving the turn of the story. His wrist ached and he needed a break.
As he opened the toilet door, his mind wandered to his girlfriend. He hadn’t spoken to her since the day it rained. Linda had travelled back to the university and was too serious a student to call Benjamin every other day. Somehow they had both got used to not speaking as often and he wondered if they weren’t already drifting apart.
The few times she sent a message, it was a request for some cash. He was getting frustrated at her nonchalant attitude and he could tell that their relationship was hitting the rocks in a few months. Perhaps she had found herself a school boyfriend, he could care less.
He needed to find a lady as passionate and smart as his fictitious Grace.
He takes his seat at the computer, rubs and twists his palms together excitedly.
“It’s time to finish this story” he mouths loudly.
Mike was joined by three police officers. The one in front asked him to follow the police van ahead.
The officer in front started a small talk, but Mike was not having it. He kept his face grim while his mind raced to his next line of action. He picked up his handset and dialled an old friend of his, James.
James was an excellent and highly respected senior police officer with an impeccable track record in the criminal justice system of the country. Just as the phone rang, Mike placed the phone on his ear to speak with his friend. The police officer in front slapped the phone off his cheek in a well calculated move that barely avoided hitting him physically.
A brief tussle ensued as he and the police officer went into a fisticuff in between swear and curse words. The two police officers at the back intervened holding Mike’s hand and restricting the officer in front.
“You are in trouble, now you have assaulted a federal police officer, no oga-at-the-top will save you today” ranted the police officer in the passenger seat just as Mike got a grip of the steering wheel and edged closer to the police Van where Grace was being conveyed. His lips bore the sting of the tussle as he licked them to ease the pain.
They had only driven a distance of 500meters on the main boulevard when the police van suddenly pulled up to the curb in a gestapo style with all its four doors opening at the same time.
Mike’s eyes opened wide wondering what was going on. He watched as two police officers hurriedly carried Grace out of the police van. They seemed to easily pull her out of the door,lifting her into the arms of one of the other police officers, who walked briskly to the sidewalk, roughly dumping her down.
One other police officer walked briskly to his SUV and quickly beckoned to the other to get out of the car.
“Lets go, lets go, lets go. Quickly”
Bewildered, Mike watched as the officers hurried out of his SUV and chased after their van as it made its way back to the boulevard getting away from the scene.
“What’s going on?” Mike muttered as he wheeled the SUV to the sidewalk before getting out of the car to find Grace lying on her back with her eyes half shut, wriggling on the floor as though in epileptic fit.
He had never dealt with an epileptic person before and he was clueless about what to do. He looked around to find the police van far off and disappearing into the night traffic with no one else in sight.
As though on cue, Grace’s eyes opened up as she suddenly sat upright, looking to both sides of the road and then settling in on his face.
“Have they gone?”
When Benjamin checked the time, it was 9am. time to call Allen.
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!