Oh God...This was turning into the worst nightmare ever...The situation was getting uglier by every spoken word...Every gesture...
Dear God, I said I was sorry...you promised me you'd forgiven me...I turned a new leaf, I did everything ...I ...Why is this happening..? Chinedu had to think hard and fast.
Gbenro, assimilating the situation and fully understanding the gravity of what had just transpired, was clearly at a loss as to what to do or where to attack the matter from. He was reduced to babbling.
"Kai...You know say I no fit go meet Dabaru...I no fit...him no go wan know....Sinedu, if him hear kperem say you know the girl, the girl own do pari o! Ogbeni, you dey think of your mama so?"
Chinedu sat up, a plan forming in his head. Living in the dredges a long time ago made him an authority at thinking on his feet...he knew what he had to do. The time had come.
The thug in him…the thug that Alhaji hadn’t succeeded in taming had been set loose. The thought of losing Iphey to Dabaru. He shivered. He wouldn’t go without a fight.
He looked at his wristwatch...9pm. He was supposed to pick Iphey in half an hour. That wouldn't b possible anymore.
“Where Dabaru dey?” Chinedu said.
“Hein?? Wetin you dey talk?” Gbenro asked.
“Where im dey? I wan see am.”
“This madness has to end.” Chinedu said out loud. He couldn’t continue to run from his shadow. Or Dabaru as the case was. What better time to face the music than now.
A very discombobulated Gbenro was saying “No be me go carry you go where dem go kill you o!"
By now Gbenro was looking left and right as if Dabaru would materialize if just by calling his name. He had learnt quite early that the fear of Dabaru was the beginning of wisdom.
“Gbenro????” Chinedu called.
Gbenro guessed Chinedu’s badgering wasn’t going to stop. Ah, how he wished that Chinedu wouldn’t do this, however he knew his friend. It would stop only when Chinedu had gotten the information he needed.
“Ha, Sinedu…Ok, I no go follow you go meet am o! I go show you where im go dey…No call my name o! I dey beg you…”
“Gbenro, I be small pikin? You go go show me the place now but I gat to make some calls first...” Chinedu said while scrolling through his phone…He dialed.
The call was to his very handy cabby...Supo had run many an errand for him in the past.
“Supo, Hello…Can you hear me? Where you dey? The place is very noisy….Abeg, Abeg, Comot for there then flash me.“
One minute later, Supo flashed Chinedu’s phone and Chinedu called back.
“Oga mi! I been dey watch Nigeria friendly match o… those boys just dey…” Supo had a knack for giving unsolicited information.
“Supo, where you dey? “ said Chinedu said cutting him off.
“Oga mi. I dey one place like that near city mall…”
“Great! You get reach 10k?”
“Ok. Ermmm…Come for shoprite com meet me now now...I dey wait o!!”
He turned to Gbenro. “Ogbeni, pade mi ni No 2. (Meet me at No 2.) Make I reach shoprite. I wan sharply buy somethings.”
No 2 was a code for one of their meeting places. All because the gang must not get wind of their association. Chinedu sighed audibly but his resolve was strengthened.
The next call he made was to Iphey. Thank God for GSM…What would he have done?? He thought.
“Sweetheart, are you still at home? Has James called you? Not yet...OK. See I won't be able to come take you to Galleria. No..no. Just stay there…Yes, I'll send Supo. I love you.” he hung up after her muttered "love you too."
“Dude, Listen to me na…I need a favour…” He had just left Shoprite and was driving to his assignation with Gbenro at No 2.
“Do I need to leave where I am?” Habib asked quietly, "I'm embedded somewhere already..."
“Yes...No. Ok, you don’t need to move. I would have wanted you too involved but I can manage with back up…and protection.” Chinedu said.
“Chinedu, what are you getting into? These guys have proofing. I think they may have some insider backers. We aren't sure who you’re up against, I suggest you stay out of it my friend.”
“Habib, one thing I know is that Dabaru is part of this project and Iphey will be kidnapped. If it ever gets to the point where he finds out that Iphey is connected to me...HE WON’T THINK. She’ll die. Because of me. I wont let it happen.”
“Chinedu…if you let us do our jobs it may not get to that point.” Habib started, a hint of irritation in his voice...
“Look, I'm not prepared to take that chance." Chinedu cut him off. He tried to breathe. "Habib, I figured since you’re in on this whole mission, you’re the best person to ask for help. Will you help me or not?”
“Send me the co-ordinates when you get them from your source…and Chinedu? Keep me posted, OK?
“No wahala…” Chinedu said, what he actually meant was, “Not a chance.”
The caller waiting tone was beeping while he was on the call to Habib. So immediately he got off the phone, he checked his missed calls.
Supo had probably gotten her to Galleria by now and handed over their shopping. He called back.
“Chinedu, Err...Supo just gave me a few things.”
“He gave me a bag of some kind of....paraphernalia...”
“Iphey, clothes, a hand bag and a...blonde wig hardly qualify as paraphernalia…” Chinedu said trying to make light the situation.
“Chinedu!” Iphey said in her “Cut the crap” voice.
“Look Babe, some people are watching you. Some very bad people…I thought I wouldn‘t have to tell you but…there." He listened for a while.
"You said you have to meet James but they mustn't know it‘s you, that's what the different clothes are for...Is James there, yes? OK...make sure you stay in the restaurant. Don't go home and don't follow him anywhere. Discharge him soon...tell him clients or something. You must change before you leave. Go out through the side door…Iphey, trust me, ok?"
"Go to double Four….Stay there. Supo will come to pick you again. Do as he says..Go with him to wherever he takes you. You‘ll be safe there.”
The phone line went silent for a while. Chinedu could almost hear her thinking.
“Iphey…are you there?”
“Yes..” Iphey said in a voice that even he did not recognize. He could tell she was not happy with the whole cloak and dagger affair.
“Sweetheart…This too shall pass…We’ll get through this…Be strong for me. Please go and change. Call me when you’re safe with Supo.”
She remained silent. “Iphey. I love you…” He had a terrible feling that she would not see him in a long while.
“I love you too honey. Promise you'll tell me what this is about later." Her vice faded.
"I promise, and please act normal…not like anything's up. Call me if you have any hiccups…”
The night seemed to be on never-ending mode. Chinedu sat at a darkened corner in the bar nursing a drink. Gbenro should be crouched outside somewhere, phone in hand and ready to squeal to the number Habib had provided if need be. He’d relayed all the necessary information to Chinedu earlier before they parted. Now Chinedu waited for Dabaru and his top shot to come in.
Opposite him, Dabaru’s boys sat drinking and making merry. He wondered which one of them told Dabaru that Iphey was James’s girlfriend so he could deal with him. He called his mind to order. He was here to see Dabaru. He was here to bury the hatchet. At whatever cost…He hadn’t seen any cars by the way…Dabaru was still not in sight…Oh there he was. He’d aged some since Chinedu last saw him. He even had a limp now. The years he's spent in Kirikiri wouldn't have helped and maybe he'd got shot in the line of “DUTY”.
Chinedu sighed. What was he doing here? Oh yeah. He knew. To die. Oh Lord, what have I gotten my self into. What was I thinking? What…
He heard a voice…a very familiar voice. He heard the voice long before he saw the face. The voice that was now greeting Dabaru in the most familiar tone. This voice that he’d grown to know so well. The face he’d grown to look up to.The voice that now faded as it followed Dabaru into what seemed to be the VIP Lounge of the bar.
It was Alhaji Galadima.