Sheena removed her dark aviator glasses and stared hard at the complex. As the rays of the early morning sun began to tease her middle-aged eyes, picturing a good image of what she was looking at, she concluded it was worth it.
‘Lets go inside, madam’, Cletus effused, almost pulling her soft hand, but that desire had no authority behind it, and he regretted that it hadn’t. He would have done it if he had the power, for images were beginning to form in his head of what tonight at Feelings was going to be like. This deal must pull through. That lap dance….
‘The complex boasts of every state-of-the-art facility you would possibly need, or even want’, he explained, walking a little further towards the voice-coded door to communicate his impatience. ‘Excellent toilet facilities, spacious parking lot, power supply round the clock courtesy of Dynamo, our monstrous generator, fully air conditioned offices-well furnished to taste-all you have to do is move your merchandise. I bet you this will be a good deal for your money.’ She was still standing and staring, up to ten feet away, as if inspecting some intricate detail or flaw with which she would leverage on to cancel the deal. After what seemed like forever, she took the first step to follow him.
Sheena started using the mirror of the door from more than thirty metres, and it deserved a back pat for helping her straighten her skirt, smoothen her oily face, and re-arrange her slightly dishevelled hair. She felt pretty satisfied at what she saw as the close-range image of herself. She was not looking badly at all, after a failed marriage that had nearly cost her life. Her husband whom she had trusted and loved with all that she was, had been involved in an illicit affair, and when she had caught them in the act one fateful morning, the heartbreak and attack had bedridden her for more than three months. In that period, her face and looks had deteriorated a great deal, and meanly added five imaginary years to her thirty. Thankfully, she had recovered, and quickly too, but a little below much was to be said about the improvement in her looks.
‘See what I was saying’, Cletus’ voice sliced through her reminisce. The interior of Valdez shopping mall did the rest of the communication to her, telling her in plain terms that she had not made the wrong choice in agreeing to make this place the headquarters of her burgeoning business venture. Completely wowed by what met her eyes, she removed her glasses again for effect, her large eyes bare and glistening, and her mouth opened a crack. Marvelously tiled floors, exquisite facilities in each room, just suitable for her purpose. She needed no more plodding from Cletus, who was going on and on about why she should not miss this platter-of-gold opportunity. In between a carefully progressing sugar-coated remark he was trying nicely to deliver, Sheena cut him short, smoothly but deeply.
‘I hope you will not chase me away with your price’.
‘Haba ma, we can’t do that now, otherwise why are we in business? Definitely not to chase customers, but woo them. You know now’, he said, winking playfully at her, with a charming smile. That was the only unprofessional thing about Cletus’ marketing skill, for its application only reminded Shena of the lady banker she had met some hours previously, and what she offered as a smile only armed her instead of the contrary.
‘How much are we looking at?’
Ten million naira ma.’ Sheena put on her glasses, and turned towards the exit, without a word.
Cletus ran after her sharply. Madam, this is not how to do business’, it’s a bargaining thing. I utter a word and you suddenly turn tail, just like that?’
‘What did I tell you before we began talking?’
The next thirty minutes met them still haggling, each trying to get a better advantage over the other. But as if on the command of some unseen force, they suddenly came to a compromise, both of them releasing grip of the positions they clung to like leeches. Satisfied he was going to have a swell weekend courtesy of this sweet deal, Cletus rubbed his hands gaily together as talks progressed bordering on the payment arrangements. As he took her fair, soft palms for a sealing handshake, staring at his fairly beautiful ticket to at least a million naira in less than twenty four hours, he thanked the high heavens.
As Sheena’s high-heeled shoes dictated her style of movement out of the mall, Satan axed down the last defence Cletus’ mind could boast of, and made a heavy and breezy entry. He could do nothing about it.
Sheena’s purple-painted fingers held the pen like it was custom-made for her, as she calligraphed her details and signature on the withdrawal slip, right in front of her banker friend Shai, who was a cashier with Galaxy Savings. She simply looked on and couldn’t help admiring her cursive style, which was a far cry from her own. She then received it from her, and punched what she saw on the slip into the computer system facing her like they were on a tete-a-tete. When it showed her what she wanted to see, she called out for a cash reinforcement and handed over the requested sum to her friend, who was about to tip her generously. Before it exchanged hands, Shai broke the momentous silence which cause she did not know.
‘Na wao, such a massive withdrawal. You wan buy another car?’
Sheena answered her, and gave the real reason she was going to part with seven million naira, in a cheerful but low tone, but it was not low enough not to cause a tingle in the brain of a young man who was making some enquiries from the customer service personnel a few feet away. An oval face sharpened by Gucci biker sunshades turned slowly Sheena’s way, and as if by some divine command, their eyes met, recognition dawning slowly but surely on both faces and minds.
‘’Ken! What are you doing here? When did you get back into the country?
Ken’s mind had already hugged Sheena, but his body laid embargo, as he realized where he was. ‘Not quite long, what are you doing here?’
Outside, the pleasantries ánd lively banters were approaching dimminendo as Sheena trotted backwards to her Toyota Matrix. Ken waited till he heard the zoom of her engine before putting a Samsung Corby to his ear. Ókay, till then’, he said and hung up after exactly thirty seconds.
Cletus, from the first floor of the dome-shaped complex, marvelled at the panoramic view he was having of the town, and really liked what he saw. He fantasized owning the whole town…and as he admired the greenery that dotted its edges, he basked in the utopia for like forever.
With a soft landing into reality, his eyes opened only to spot the Toyota Matrix he knew only too well, as it sought entry into the complex some ten floors below. He ran into the building, and faced his secretary.
‘Tell anyone who comes to look for me that I stepped out, and will be returning in a jiffy’’.
Clutching a Fendi tigerskin duffel bag, Sheena looked stunning even to the female secretary as she materialized at the door some minutes later. The jealousy building up steadily within her, she motioned her to a nearby seat only because courtesy, and her job made it an aggressive necessity, and she immediately sauntered back to her computer to continue her game of Solitaire. Five repeated questions concerning Cletus’ whereabouts were hounded by short curt replies, though passing the correct message. Sheena got the message and fished out her BlackBerry Tour, and thankfully noticed the characteristic red blinking. She had got updates from all of Twitter, Facebook, and BlackBerry Messenger, plus a text message from one persistent admirer, and replying to all these and posting updates and more kept her busy and occupied for the better part of two hours.
Oh! I am so sorry madam, I went somewhere, and I didn’t know I would take so much time’, Cletus enthused as he came in at exactly six in the evening, more than three hours later. Sheena didn’t miss the effusive undertone which today lost some ounces of sincerity.
‘And you switched off your phone as well? I have been calling you’.
‘My phone was totally flat, I am so sorry’.
‘I have the money now, so can I have my receipt?’
‘I am so sorry, Miss Sheena. I cannot handle that amount of money all alone. You will have to return tomorrow with it, since the banks have closed for the day. Again accept my apologies’, he said, seeing the frustrated lady to the door. He offered to go all the way to the gate with her.
The first bang she heard at the door that night brought a shudder she used to know a long time ago, and her blood pressure shot up several bars. Tightening the towel round her chest and tearing her eyes of the full length mirror in front of her, she bundled herself into her bedroom, and was glad to have slipped on a pair of tight slacks and blouse before any mishap. When she opened the closet and found her money still intact, she removed a sizeable chunk of it and stashed it into her queen-size vanity box. The numerous voices in front of her apartment were competing with the banging of the door in loudness, as they argued which was the correct apartment. She went to the keyhole and peeped. There were more than ten, bloody-eyed, towering and hefty men arguing in front of her door. She also thought she perceived some reek of marijuana, and just when her olfactory senses were beginning to assure her she was correct, the first man spoke.
‘Will you open this door before I break it? Open this door! Now!’
Like someone with a chronic Parkinson’s disease, she feverishly turned the lock to let more than twelve large men in to the room. Lie flat on the floor!’ came the barked order, and she jumped to it.
Out of the corner of her eye, she sighted two men lifting her aquarium away. One slipped her decoder under his arm as the other was fumbling with the fittings of the Sony Bravia on the wall.
‘We are sorry for barging into your fine little privacy, but we need that money,’ King Kong cooed into her ear, in a surprisingly gentle female-like voice. It was followed by a rough shove, and she went for the closet immediately, and fished out the wad of cash, which was snatched greedily, and perused.
‘Seven million?’ he asked, as his eyes left her face, and started a southward journey.
The police special which sneaked to Ango’s head stopped Sheena’s nod. The hand which held it had a head, and it motioned both of them to move to the living room. Just as she was leaving the bedroom, her eyes fell on the shiny Toyota logo on the bedside table. She picked the keys, with heavy supplication, and it disappeared into her chest.
In the living room, there were totally new faces, and even though they were less frightening, they all had small shiny pistols. Sheena wondered what had happened to the eleven men. She noticed that the television, aquarium and decoder were neatly back in place. Presently, the paper bag dropped from Ango’s hands, at his captor’s request.
‘Now get out of here.’ Ango hesitated, surprised and angry. But when his shin and arms became shattered and stained, courtesy of the silenced shot, his loud scream as he limp-felled his way out of the room aptly communicated his surrender.
The next morning, the pen either appeared too big for her hand or the paper too rough, but she managed to scribble her statement and narrate coherently what had transpired the night before. She was just rounding off her report to the sergeant who watched her knowingly, when a protesting man was dragged to the counter. Like a subdued dog, he melted down as their eyes met. This is the man I suspect!’ she cried and jumped at him. He is the only one who knew I took money home!’
All allegations said and done, the next two weeks found Cletus at the showroom of Saleh Motors Incorporated, and he tearfully handed over the keys to his Range Rover HSE Sport to the gleeful Alhaji. He immediately called for his mechanic, who also transferred another message to his orderly, to come along with the Haji’s cheque-book, where he made out a cheque of five million naira in favour of Cletus Nnaji.