By three o clock in the afternoon I received a call from Nina. I was to come over to her place; there was someone she wanted me to meet. I got dressed in my Sunday best and hired a taxi. It took about an hour for me to get to the address she had described. It was an estate that was built a year ago; highly fenced with barbed wire adorned around the perimeter and security guards at the main gate. The houses still looked like the paint hadn’t dried from the walls. Hers was one of the smaller buildings, daintily placed within a hedge of well cultivated hibiscus plants. There was a Toyota jeep parked in front of the entrance and I didn’t need any supernatural powers to see that whoever owned it was financially well off. There was a driver relaxing on the front seat, his window wound down, playing some highlife music. The windows of the jeep were tinted and so it was difficult to see inside. I hailed the driver who nodded nonchalantly and went back to his relaxing. I walked up to the door, listening for any sign of a conversation and heard none. I knocked and waited a while, finally hearing some shuffling and then the door opened.
“Hello Chukwudi, so nice to see you! Please come in.” Nina seemed to want my visit to be impromptu so I smiled and played along. Her place was decently furnished and seemed to be a room and parlour affair. There was a single yellow 3 seater sofa sited at the edge of the room and directly opposite was a fairly large flat screen television mounted on the wall below which was a DSTV decoder and a DVD player. A portrait of Nina and some guy was on the wall facing the door. The guy in the picture seemed friendly enough; I would admit he even looked handsome. And then I saw him in real life.
He was in a wheelchair, one of the expensive ones, with a kind of joystick attached to the right handle, which powered a small motor for movement. He looked like he would be about my height if he stood up. The body hugging grey T-shirt did little to hide his slim features and his blue jeans matched well polished black shoes. The face was not changed much from the one in the picture, but the demeanor could have belonged to someone else. He looked restless, a little unkempt, and mean. Wrinkle lines below his eyes and cheek betrayed a face that was no stranger to frowning. He didn’t seem sad, just…frustrated. He watched me come in like I was an intruder come to steal meat from his pot of soup.
His father however, was a different character. Seated on the sofa, with two men standing on either side of him, he reminded me of the village chiefs that stared in our popular Nollywood movies. His attire was native regalia adorned with red and gold. On his head was a red cap adorned with feathers and his neck and wrists were covered with gold necklaces and a gold watch. Probably fake I thought to myself. Real gold wouldn’t glitter like that. His bodyguards wore simple native attires of the same colour only theirs was not as expensive looking as his. They didn’t meet y eye once during my entire short visit although the man himself was smiling politely at me. Nina quickly did the introductions.
“Daddy, Obi, this is chukwudi, my colleague at work and a good friend. Chuks, this is Obi and his Father, Mr A****
“Mr.? Isn’t he a Chief?” I asked. Nina looked down shyly and Mr A**** laughed.
“Why do you think I’m a chief?” He asked between his laughs.
“Because of your magnificent outfit sir.” I countered smiling. I was beginning to like this man. It was obvious he was a jovial fellow.
“How do you do.” Obi said simply and without smiling.
“I am fine thanks,” I replied. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Obi. Nina has told me a lot about you.”
“Has she?” He replied with some sarcasm. He looked her way menacingly and she fled from his stare. “She talks too much sometimes.”
“Well, they were nice things. About how kind and friendly you are.” I said with a bit of sarcasm.
Obi sighed and said nothing. I was beginning to feel really sorry for Nina. His father interrupted.
“Chuks, is it?” he said. “Have you known Nina long?”
“About a few months; she’s a nice girl and very hardworking.” I said.
“What about you? Where is your family?” he asked.
“They are in the village. I go to see them at least once a year, work allowing. It’s not as frequent as I would like though.” I said.
“Oh, that’s all right,” he replied. “Obi here never used to come home until after the accident. Said school was too busy. Where he gets the extra time now baffles me.”
“Father, please don’t start again,” Obi replied.
I had to say, I liked the old man instantly. He was friendly and polite while Obi was bitter, angry and withdrawn. I reasoned it was probably because of his condition. Throughout the visit he never smiled once, hardly engaging in conversation except to order Nina around. His father seemed to notice his son’s behavior and chided him occasionally, a gesture I was grateful for since I couldn’t do anything in defense of Nina without betraying my feelings for her. The two bodyguards stood throughout the visit and more or less did not participate. It made for a bit of a formal atmosphere. Once in a while Nina would steal a private glance at me and smile encouragingly, but other than that, we didn’t relate much. She served us all food, rice and stew with chicken, a Sunday classic. Her cooking was delicious and I complimented her. She accepted graciously and her father-in-law to be commended her for a job well done. Obi ate in silence and said nothing.
After about half an hour, I decided it was time to go and announced my departure. Mr A**** seemed genuinely sorry to see me leave and asked where I stayed and I told him. He said he was going to pick up something in the same direction and he would drop me as soon as he collected a note for Nina’s parents. I thanked him and he quickly whispered to one of the guards who escorted me outside to the jeep.
“Wait,” I heard a voice and turned around to see that Obi had followed us. He drove up in his wheelchair and looked at me from head to toe. Then he gave a nasty laugh.
“She’s mine, you know.” He said.
“I know,” I said. “You are a lucky guy.”
“Luck?” he said and laughed again. It was the most irritating laugh I had ever heard. “Luck has nothing to do with it. I just want you to know that whatever you try when I’m not around is not going to work. She will always come back to me. So don’t waste your time.” Then he turned and went back into the house.
Overly confident bast.ard on a wheel chair! I thought.
The bodyguard was already seated at the front so I opened the back door and climbed inside the jeep. After a while Obi’s father came out with a smiling Nina in his arms and Obi grumpily following in his wheelchair. He thanked her again and said he’ll be back later to pick up his son. I couldn’t help but feel that the connection between her father-in-law to be and herself was much stronger than that between her and her fiancé. He entered into the back seat beside me, leaving the other bodyguard with his son. We waved and were off.
It was a bit dark inside the jeep, probably because of the tinted glasses. Mr A**** was quietly reading a newspaper, the air conditioning was on and I was feeling a little bit awkward. Suddenly Mr A**** spoke
“Do I make you feel uncomfortable?”
“No sir,” I replied. “Quite the contrary. You are very kind for offering to drop me at my place.”
“It’s not a problem,” he replied smiling. “You do see uncomfortable though. Or is it my bodyguards?” I was a little uncomfortable now, as I didn’t know where he was heading to with all the questions.
“Well sir, you must be a very important person for them to follow you everywhere.”
He looked at me hard for a while, then nodded congenially and went back to reading his paper. I was about to ask about his son’s health when I received a text message. It was Nina.
“I’m cool,” I replied.
“Did you see anything out of the ordinary?”
“No, your fiancé is clean. nothing on him at all” And considering his demeanor, i found that to be odd, although i didn’t tell her that.
“I’m sorry if he was rude. Has his dad dropped you off?”
“We are still in traffic. He’s a good man. Apart from his native regalia and bodyguards, I think he’s okay too. Who dresses like that these days?”.
There was a pause before I received the next message.
“What are you talking about? My father-in-law wore a suit to my house. He seldom wears native attires. And he didn’t come with any bodyguards!
My hands started to shake. Realization dawned on me as I looked at him sharply. He was still reading his newspaper quietly but what he said next chilled me to the bone.
“So.” Said Mr A**** in a menacing voice. “You can see.”
The last thing I remember was the bodyguard suddenly passing his hand through the seat and making a grab at my throat. Then all went black.