The harmattan semester exam was very near; about a week away. The atmosphere was tense because of the looming exams. Almost every student busied the library and lectures halls to read up their notes, photocopies, hand-outs, manuals and other information resources at their disposal. Some were as usual cruising around the school with exotic cars, picking up ladies who ardour money than their lives.
The sun was up that afternoon, radiating ultraviolet rays upon the earth with great intensity like a beam from a torchlight shone onto darkness. Majority of the students were either seeking a shed away from the sun rays or using an umbrella. I was amongst the few students who dared to walk through the sun without any form of shade; we all probably had some important issues to sort out, so getting a shade was secondary in our minds.
Minutes ago, Dr Adegbite, one of the senior lecturers in my department, P/A chemistry, called me on my Techno Phantom phone. He was one of the few lecturers who had my phone number, and he was the only one I couldn’t decline his call, at least not that time.
I reached his office, one of the offices in the new chemistry department staff extension. The door was the normal brown painted office door, with the name – Adegbite PhD, carved in a brown plastic and placed on the door.
I knocked at the door, taking little breaks of few seconds in between the knocks.
“Who is that?” A voice shouted from the office. It was Dr Adegbite’s. I recognised the voice well, in fact all chemistry student did: A raspy voice that sent chills down our spine regardless whether we are guilty or innocent like a child.
“It’s me, Evhoma,” I replied.
I pushed the door open, and I entered. Even though I had entered the office very well in the past, it still felt different and kinda new. The cream painted wall was the same; the brown painted worktable overcrowded with books looked the same; the bookshelf to the left filled with journals and textbooks leaving no space as usual; and Dr Adegbite with his rectangular shaped face, and bald head sat customary behind the leather chair. I guessed what was different this time in the office was the air conditioner that was switched off. It made fear influenced sweats flow briskly from my skin pores; fear of what Dr Adegbite would say.
“Ha, Evhoma, how lucky you are; I was preparing to go out.”
“I have always been lucky all my life sir. The only time I was unlucky was the CHM 231 exam day.” I said regretfully, sitting down on the visitor’s chair.
“You call cheating unlucky?”
“Sir, I swear, I didn’t cheat. It wasn’t me who kept the paper there,” I defended quickly.
“Then why the hell were you caught? Your case is pending in the senate now, and it is a matter of time before you will be called to answer your case. And I bet with you, you can’t win, not with me being the plaintiff,” Dr Adegbite shouted. His face had turned red all of a sudden.
“Sir, I can swear on my life, I didn’t do it, it was a setup?”
Dr Adegbite banged his hands on the table. “Tell that to the senate when you are called to defend yourself.”
Tears began to overflow the banks of my eyes, “Sir, please just help me… please.” I shifted the chair I was sitting on backwards, and I knelt down. The tears flowed down my cheeks and it began to fall to the ground dropwisely when it reached my jaw.
He watched me silently for a while. The tears kept gushing from my face like an open tap, while I kept pleading.
“I can only help you if you would help Me.” he finally said.
The sound of the word ‘help’ prompted the tears to stop. I used my hands to wipe the tears off my eyes and cheeks.
“I would do anything sir, anything,”
“I hear you are a good writer,”
“Yes sir, I run a short story series in the ‘Beam magazine’ sir.”
“That’s good. It means you are the one for the job,” he relaxed with a sigh before he continued, “You see, I’m part of the university’s disciplinary committee, and recently we are having the problem of Yahoo guys and money rituals. They are really giving the school a bad name. In the light of that, I was put in charge of expunging them from the university through any legal means. I was really ready for the task until they tied my hands.”
“Who tied your hands?” I asked
“There is this cult called Machismo. You will recognise them with a star shaped tattoo on their neck. The members are mainly yahoo guys and spoilt children with wealthy backgrounds. When they learnt I was going to act against them, they kidnapped my only daughter. It took me three days to get her back. They didn’t collect any ransom, they just told me to back out of the assignment I was given.”
“Sir, why didn’t you report to the police?”
“The Police, I don’t trust them. My early research showed that the Machismo depends on influential Godfathers. There was nothing I could do, but I am still bent on denting the Machismo. That’s where you come in.”
“Sir, how do I come in,” I asked. My voice shivered with fear.
“I want you to write an in-depth article on Machismo, Yahoo guys and money rituals. Then you will publish it in your magazine. I promise to rescind your case from the senate, because to tell you the truth, you will be expelled if I don’t.”
I sighed. Dr Adegbite was giving me a tough escape. If I decided to accept his assignment, I would not face the senate, but I would have to face the aftermath of the whole scene after the magazine is published. The Machismo would be after me. But then, it was worth trying. The success of the article would make me famous, and I could request for shield from the police after all, nobody wants a hero dead.
“Sir, I will do it. But I suggest you invite the editor and tell him about it, because he has final say on all articles to be published, and he had refused to publish several articles on Yahoo guys in the past. I don’t know what would make him accept this.”
“Good decision and observation about your editor. You don’t worry; I would take care of him. At the end of the day, you will be glad you took this decision. Just come around if you need anything: money, gadget, anything. I would provide.” Dr Adegbite promised. His red face had disappeared, and the horizontally elongated letter ‘u’ from his smile could be seen glaring on his face.
With that, I stood up and left his office. I spent the evening thinking about it all; the way I was caught during CHM 231 exam the previous semester. I didn’t know how a paper containing formulas got near my worktable. Dr Adegbite filled a cheat form for me immediately. He was now offering me a dangerous escape from expulsion. The Machismo on the other hand was something I didn’t know anything about. I had never seen them nor heard about them. Even the so called Yahoo guys were in the same box with the Machismo cult. I was really in for a big research.
As I lay my head to sleep that night, I had decided to do the assignment well; after all, there was nothing else I could do to save myself from the senate. Mama mustn’t even hear I was expelled, she would kill herself. She had spent her life saving on me hoping I would graduate and get a well-paid job. I better give this a try, I thought. My eyelids closed gently, and sleep finally took over.
To be continued