Story: My Name Is A-ZED Season 1

    Episode 1

    Eight o clock and I still haven’t made one kobo today. Perhaps I should have just settled for that 1k to Festac. Oh Lord, please let something come up, I can’t possibly survive one more week without buying Dr. Okeke’s textbook. I’m sure he wont even let me into his class. Maybe I can come up with a good excuse – ha, I must have used them all. Mama’s health can’t possibly get worse than it already is. Maybe I’ll just tell him she had a heart attack, a near-death one that also lead to a stroke and …
    Heysssssss – TAXI! TAXI!
    Good Evening..
    Yes, Badore.
    For which side Ma?
    You don’t know Badore, after Ajah?
    Em… I don’t.
    Never mind then….
    No, no, I can go ma, just direct me …
    How much?
    After Ajah, at 8pm, from Yaba, that’s almost three hours on the road and I still have to make it back in time to finish my EEG201 assignment and get fuel….
    Are you not going?
    Two thousand Ma.
    Two thousand?
    Yes ma.
    With that the twenty something looking, slightly plum and very light-skinned lady turned around and gestured at a similarly young girl but much slimmer and much more attractive who I hadn’t noticed. She had with her a small leather travel bag which she gracefully carried as she made her way to the car.
    From the moment they both got in, they buried their heads into their phones –those blackberries I see a lot of people going around with on campus. Occasionally, each one would look up, giggle and turn to look at the other – and they say this isn’t partial insanity. Sabo, Alagomeji and even Third mainland were free – thank God. As I approached Lekki phase one, the big one burst out into wild laughter that got me wondering what kind of joke she must have read off that thing.
    The skinny one: Kasandra wish one na. This one wey you just dey laff like say you chop winsh.
    The big one (still laughing, she hands her phone to the skinny one): You sef take read am.
    A few seconds later the skinny one also bursts into wild laughter. As much as I try to stay out of my passengers business, I was curious about this. I wanted to hear this ridiculously funny joke.
    The skinny one: This stupid man think say you no dey watch news. How many months now dem don reverse him election wey he still dey behave like say him dey state house.
    The big one: See me see trouble oh.
    The Skinny one: See, make I just tell you my own, wetha he dey or he no dey the price na still the same
    The fat one: wish kain same. Mscheeeew. When him successor don raise stakes. Ik per girl or nothing.
    They both laugh and almost simultaneously return to typing on their phones. “1k per girl” I didn’t even want to imagine what that meant. It could mean all sorts of bad or even good things. That was the least of my problems, it was now past nine and we had just gotten past Lekki phase two. The traffic was there but was moving. I watched several hawkers walk past us in traffic displaying various snacks, and my stomach grumbled but I turned my mind to my assignment – every dime I had now had to go into savings for Dr. Okeke’s textbook. A few minutes later, the big one beckoned to one of the Gala hawkers. The boy came running.
    The big one: Debby you go chop?
    The skinny one: Kassy stop all this thing na, I don tell you say Chris talk say make I dey watch my weight. Na you dey always tempt me with all this nonsense food.
    The big one: (laughing) No be only watch weight, lepa like you. Biko, no vex, so na bad thing say I offer you food now, God go deliver you. Abeg bring four gala.
    FOUR! I couldn’t help taking a look at her through my rearview mirror. And it seemed my stomach was also interested in the conversation as it grumbled once again, louder this time. So loud, I think the big one heard. She turned to look at me at that point and said:
    The big one: Abi you sef no mind?
    Me: Err… I’m ok ma.
    The big one: Ah, you sef dey watch your weight abi na over fine boys dey worry you. Better collect and eat. Give him two and call that malt boy for me.
    She proceeded to buy two cans of Malta Guiness for both of us and I thanked her over and over again. She didn’t know she had just saved my life. At about 10:30pm, we got to the turning into Badore with the help of directions provided by the big one. Minutes later, we got to the front of an unpainted building in a somewhat scarcely populated area. I wondered if I could even find my way out of there but I saved the thought for later. Both ladies made their way out of the car and instead of proceeding to pay me, the big one turned around and said:
    Ehen, just wait for us, we’ll be out soon. You’ll take us to V.I.
    EHN! V what? Before I could even speak up in protest, they had disappeared into the compound. V.I? At almost 11pm. I have died today. I still have my assignment and I have to get enough rest before my 8am lecture tomorrow. This is why I never take these Island trips. Always one drama after the other. I only pray they just want to change and come back out.
    I can’t take this anymore. I need to get out of here. I proceeded to knock on the gate but just then, I noticed a couple of vigilante patrolmen coming my way. I went back into my car and started the engine. When they got to me, I noticed they had on all black attires with red headbands – OPC. One of them peered into the car.
    OPC man1: Ekaale o (Good Evening)
    Me: Ekaale Sir
    OPC man1: Se iwo nikan lo wa ni abi awon iyoku e nko? (Did you come alone or are there more of you?)
    Me: Ehn. Sir, I’m just a taxi driver, I’m waiting for some ladies I brought here.
    OPC man1 started to laugh and turned to look at the other man. They both laughed for a while and then the second man looked at me and asked me to come out of the car. In fear, I came out wondering what was going to happen.
    OPC man2: Na people like you dey spoil this our country. See young boy like you, you go pretend say you be taxi driver come dey look for house wey you fit sneak inside go thief for night.
    Me: Err… Me? Sneak? Thief? Nooo oh sir there ….
    OPC man1: Will you sharrap there. You think say we no see you when you wan jack that gate. Na God catch you today.
    In one swift move, OPC man2 swept me off my feet and held both of my hands behind my back.
    Me: Sir, ejo ejo… mi o se nkan kan. Passenger ni mo gbe wa. (sir, please, please, I’ve done nothing wrong, I only brought passengers here)
    OPC man1: O ri ole ara e, o ti e gbo Yoruba o wa n so oyinbo. (look at this thief, he can even speak yoruba and he was speaking English)
    OPC man2: You go talk all that one for cell. Oya, lets go.
    OPC man2 began dragging me away and just then, the black gate opened and out came four young ladies, among them, the big and the skinny one.
    The big one: Baba Paro wetin be all this one now. Una don come this night again. Wetin this man do una now ehn, wetin.
    One of the other ladies: No mind them. Na only small boys dem fit they use show power. Una go talk say una no know say na taxi man.
    OPC Man1: ehn ehn ehn… sharrap there. Everyone here fit talk but you this dirty one with that your kpekpeye mouth just shutup.
    Kpekpeye girl: Ehn, na who be kpekpeye girl. See this old shameless man.
    She moved forward towards OPC man1 and it was then I saw what she was wearing, which was pretty much nothing. Underwear? Swim wear? I don’t even know how to describe it. She had on these ridiculously high heels, which made it hard for her to walk and she also held something that looked like a jacket in the other hand. Before she could get to us, the skinny one held her back and told her to calm down. She then came towards us and spoke in hushed tones to OPC man2 who then let go of me. The girls then made their way into the car where I already sat as I had moved swiftly immediately I was released. In a matter of seconds I started the car and began to drive off even as I noticed OPC man1 hurling curses at kpekpeye girl.
    The big one sat in front with me while the other three sat behind. All the bottled up anger in me had vanished and as I checked the clock on my dashboard, which read 12:13am, all I wanted to do was just get back to my room in school. Just then, I felt a hand on my face. I flinched a bit and then noticed it was the big one; her left hand was rubbing the back of my neck and then she spoke.
    The big one: Eh yah, fine boy, shey dey no too rough you sha.
    Me: I’m ok ma.
    The big one: (laughing) Ma ke? Na who be ma. (she turned to look at the others who were also laughing). Abeg oh, my name is Kasandra, Kassy for short.
    Me: Thank you …. Kassy. I said, even as I eased her hand off my neck.
    It was at this point that I first took a glance at my rear view mirror to take a proper look at my passengers. The skinny one sat directly behind me. She had on something that looked like a sleeveless short black dress; the ones they call boob tubes, simple but nice. The other two girls that sat beside her were clearly the opposite. The girl who sat in the middle was of average size, light skinned and heavily made-up.
    She had on some sort of see-through/netty red material. Beneath which she had on black underwear. Kpekpeye girl sat behind the fat one and even though she now had on her jacket, I still couldn’t bring myself to understand why anyone would dress like that to a club. Yes, I figured they were one of those party clubbers I’ve heard about. What’s my own, as long as they pay me for my trouble and I get back to school in one piece.
    12:40am I went past the Mobil building and then through Adetokunbo Ademola back into V.I and I asked the big one, Kassy where we were heading. Adeyemo Alakija, she replied turning to look at the others for confirmation. The netty one replied yes. In a few minutes I turned off Ozumba and Kassy asked me to go in through Idowu Taylor. As I turned back into Adeyemo Alakija, I noticed it was about 12:50am, I also noticed a handful or girls of the night sprinkled alongside the road. Waaoow. I had never been on the Island this late since I came to Lagos two years ago. For a second I was happy I had obeyed Mama’s instructions with regards to staying out late – well, up until now that is.
    The big one: You can park here.
    She pointed to a dimly lit spot opposite a brightly lit building with a signage that simply read “YNot”. I noticed a lot of activity at the entrance of the building – hefty looking men, probably bouncers, guys and a handful of girls walking into the building. Hmm… This must be one of the happening clubs, I thought to myself as I parked. The girls got out and this time, I made sure I also got out and stood by my door. The big one walked towards me even as the others walked towards the YNot building.
    The big one: Fine Boy, sorry again about those men. Wetin be your name sef?
    Me: My name? My name is Azeez.
    The big one: Azeez? No o… I will call you A-Zed. Don’t you like that? Fine boy like you should have fine name. Ok, we are going to be inside for a while. Shey you’ll wait for us so when we’re done you’ll take us back.
    Me: Ha.. err.. Kassy, I have another appointment, I really have to…
    As I tried to find the right words, she produced a purse from only God knows where and brought out some notes from it which she stuffed into my hands. I looked down and noticed they were all one thousand Naira notes. My estimation? About 8 of them. Yekpa.
    The big one: Look, you are a fine boy, you should be taken care of even while you’re working. Take that and go and find something to eat somewhere. We will soon be out.
    With that she walked swiftly into the YNot building. On closer examination, I realized she had given me ten thousand naira.

    Episode 2

    I quickly folded the money and put it into the smaller inner pocket of my jeans. I didn’t even know I could get that much in it. I took another good look at my surroundings and I still couldn’t believe I was out that late in Victoria Island. Before I could bask further in the euphoria that was slowly taking over me, the soundtrack supplied by my grumbling stomach reminded me that I still hadn’t had a full meal all day. I thought twice about looking for food, it would be wise to save all the money Kassy gave me but then again, what if I hadn’t made it, I thought to myself. One meal won’t kill, especially as I have more than enough for Dr. Okeke’s textbook and still enough to send to Mama and yet still enough to fuel my cab and also survive on through the coming week.
    Na wah oh. Ten thousand naira. I wondered what owning a million would feel like even as I locked my car and began to sojourn the street corners of Adeyemo Alakija late into the night, abi early morning, looking for something to eat. As I walked forward I saw more girls lined up along the road, some alone, some in groups of two, three, four, some tall, dark, others, not so tall, light skinned. At first glance they all looked the same… in their very high heels and very exposing outfits – transparent tops, very very short skirts and I even saw a girl in just her underwear but I think she was changing though. Cars drove by, some pressed their horns and drove off, others stopped, chatted with the girls for a while and then drove off, while some stopped and the girls just almost instinctively got into the car. This is a crazy crazy world. I thought to myself …
    Ahn Ahn. You no dey look where you dey go?
    Ha. Please I’m sorry, please don’t be annoyed.
    Caught up in my thoughts, I hadn’t been paying attention to where I was going and I had barged into one of the girls who stood displaying her wares for prospective customers. She was one of the artificially light skinned ones. Medium height, plus sized, heavily made-up, especially with the red lipstick and very loosely dressed. As I tried to apologize, a similarly dressed but fatter girl came out of nowhere laughing.
    The fatter one: Why you just dey shout like that na?
    Red lips: Why I no go shout, see as he just hit me carry body touch all my goody goody (she said, as she adjusted her very transparent bra wiggling her large sized b-----s in the process)
    The fatter one: But no be so dem dey do (she moved closer to me). You know wether na first time customer? Fine boy, you wan f--k? You want us to show you a good time? (She said with the most ridiculous forced American accent I’d ever heard)
    I stood there almost too surprised to talk. Before I could force words out of my mouth, the fat one pulled out her b-----s from her top and hauled them right before my face. Yes I said pulled. They were huge and the stretch marks, which ran all the way from her neck continued almost to the top of each n----e.
    The fatter one: I’m gonna give you a gooooooooood time (she said, as she jiggled and wiggled her b-----s at my face)
    I snapped out of my self-imposed trance, turned a corner around them and briskly walked away, half running and not looking back. A few buildings ahead, I came across a couple of Mallam’s with what looked like mobile food stands setup in wheelbarrows. I quickly walked towards them expecting to see things like biscuits and maybe even gala. To my surprise the first Mallam had various brands of condoms displayed on his wheelbarrow. My God! I never knew they made so many of those things. I quickly turned to look at the second Mallam and he also had packs of condoms displayed along with some funny looking packs with images of naked men and women on them. They weren’t condoms, they looked more like drugs. Most of them with funny names: Energy 2000, Adam’s Desire, Nackam etc.
    I couldn’t hide the disappointment on my face, neither could I hide my hunger any longer but before I could turn away, one of the Mallam’s asked:
    Mallam1: Oga, which one I wan buy
    Me: Aboki, abeg, na food I dey find
    Mallam2: Kai, oga, that one go hard por this time walahi. Why I no go por that flace go buy (he said, pointing in the YNot direction)
    Me: I no fit get like gala and coke?
    Mallam1: Why I no talk that one before…. Which kain coke I want.
    Me: Just give me two gala and one coke or if plastic dey bring plastic coke.
    The Mallam disappeared almost immediately and I was too hungry to check which direction he went. I looked up to see a few girls casually strolling on the other side of the road. I recognized one of them – Kpekpeye girl from earlier that night. Her jacket was off again and security lights from the nearby building showed her in her “not-so-glory.” Just then, a car pulled up beside them and I watched as Kpekpeye girl more or less ran ahead of the other girls towards the car.
    My attention was then drawn back to the other Mallam. A man had just run to him. Breathing heavily, he waved a N500 note at the Mallam and more or less yelled: give me one fantasy. It was at that point I noticed the man was a security guard. His uniform had the logo of a large and popular insurance firm embroidered on it and he kept looking back towards a building, which I later realized was the head office of the insurance firm.
    Security man: Aboki, I say give me 1 Fantasy.
    Mallam2: (reaching to pick one of the packs of condoms on his stand but then stops) Who send you come buy Pantasy?
    Security Man: I say I wan buy something, you dey ask who send me
    Mallam2: Abeg, oga, no vex but I know why I dey ask
    Security Man: Ehn hen… (he said as he turned to look behind him again) ok, na Princess. Shey you don hear now. Oya bring wetin I ask for.
    Mallam2: Kai shege, you see why I ask. Frincess I no dey use Pantasy. (He reached for one of the packs) Na Roup Rider Frincess dey use, take am.
    Security man: Aboki I hope say you sure. If I need waka come back here and my tenant go start another round wey I no count, na die oh.
    Just then, the other Mallam returned with a pet bottle of Fanta and two galas.
    Mallam1: Oga, wahlahi na only this coke remain, shey I go manage am.
    I couldn’t bring myself to argue. I collected it just as the security man ran back towards his building. I paid the Mallam, crossed over to the other side of the road and more or less jogged all the way back to my car. I closed the door of the car, wound down a bit and settled to my breakfast lunch and dinner, all wrapped in two delicious packs of beef sausages. I hadn’t taken the second bite from my first gala when I heard a noise towards the back of the passenger side of the car. Before I could turn around to see what was happening, two people were lying on the backseat of my car. Man and woman. The woman who was on top, I quickly recognized as Kassy but this time, her top was almost off.
    The man was of Arab origin but I couldn’t really make out his face as her plum body covered him. She unzipped his trouser and then looked up at me. I made to leave the car but she used her right hand to hold me down by my shoulder while she somehow managed to use her left hand to dig into the man’s trouser and produce his private. She then smiled at me, while still holding my shoulder and then bent her head towards the man’s private area. I immediately turned my head forward towards my dashboard and managed to swallow the bit of gala I had been chewing.
    The man made all kinds of noises for the next thirty seconds or there about and the noises climaxed into one final loud one. This was followed by sounds of someone spitting. I couldn’t take it, I turned around and saw Kassy spitting on the floor of the back seat area. Chei, I didn’t even want to imagine what cleaning that would take. While trying to control my anger, I flung the half eaten gala on my dashboard and heard as they both exited the car. They both leaned on the car and got talking. All I could hear were giggles and bad English. And then:
    Arab man: But how much
    Kassy: (giggles) same price, just one
    Arab man: Ahn Ahn, me customer, Kassy
    Kassy: That’s why its still one, others wont get it that cheap.
    Arab man: Kassy Kassy. Kassy Kasandra. Na because say na you o.
    I listened on in absolute shock even as I heard the Arab man speaking more pidgin English. He then pulled out his wallet and produced some crisp notes – US Dollars. He handed them to Kassy and said:
    I add sometin extra for you to take care of my baby (he said as he tapped her b----t)
    Kassy giggled yet again as the Arab man walked away. She then got into the front passenger seat, looked at me with a broad smile on her face and said: A to the Zee. Fine boy toh bad. Lets go home
    I checked the clock on my dashboard. 3:35am. I turned to her and asked: how about the others?
    They will meet us later. (she said smiling even as she proceeded to rub the back of my head with her left hand)
    Kassy: A Zed, A Zed – fiiiiinnnnee boy.

    Episode 3

    I have dropped a copy of the practice questions with Jelilee at the photocopying centre. See him for your copy and answer the first ten questions, which must be submitted unfailingly by Tuesday morning.
    Dr. Okeke’s announcement was met with a huge roar of displeasure from the crowd of students that filled up lecture room 106. Moments later, a very unperturbed Dr. Okeke calmly strolled out of the room with his very famous bouncy strut. Dare and I joined the other students on the mass exodus out of the poorly ventilated and body-odour filled lecture room. Still tired from the activities of the day and night before, I barely heard Dare as he rambled on about how unfair Dr. Okeke’s assignment was. All I wanted to do was get to my room and jump on my bed.
    I slept all through Saturday and most parts of Sunday. I slept so much I even missed the Arsenal game on Sunday. Thank God we won though, I couldn’t bear another bout of embarrassing comments from those guys at the taxi park. I wasn’t even in the mood for work. I had more than enough money to last me for two weeks even as I remembered I needed to send some money to Mama as well as change some foreign currency. I decided to rest through Sunday and resume work on Monday.
    Work was smooth on Monday. I picked up the car after my lectures as usual. Uncle Mufu wasn’t around so I had to see him later to give him the money for Mama. I changed the $100 with me at Sabo – FOURTEEN K. Yekpa. All this money! It’s even good I didn’t see Uncle Mufu, I’ll have to send more money to Mama. I went round the mainland and took a few trips with some passengers then I drove down to the island. It’s funny how one night can change so much. It was a little over 8pm and even though I had no passenger, I took my time to familiarize myself with names of the streets on Victoria Island. Just as I decided to head back home, I took the round about on Ajose, headed towards Ahmadu Bello and then, I was flagged down by a young man. He was wearing a suit and had his tie slightly loosened – banker, I thought. He had a laptop bag with him and was heading to Akoka in Yaba. Perfect. We settled on one thousand five hundred naira and despite the traffic I was more than glad to make some money on my trip home.
    We chatted briefly and he confirmed my guess; young banker, well spoken and good-looking. I dropped him off and he took my phone number after asking if I could take him to work early in the mornings. He leaves home at 6am so that works for me. I could drop him and be back in time for my first lecture. I agreed to the deal and promised to see him the next day. By the time I got to the park Uncle Mufu had left, I parked the car and returned to school. I didn’t see Uncle Mufu till Wednesday evening. A lecturer had fixed a test for Thursday morning so I decided to close early so I could get some reading done. I parked in my usual spot at the park around 5pm and I walked into the park office. I hailed some of the drivers and went in to see my Uncle.
    He was alone which was very strange but then I noticed he had some money on his table; that explained it. He quickly put away the money and responded to my greeting. Uncle Mufutao can sometimes be very nice but most times, he’s too stern and disciplined for me. Not my biological uncle, my dads best friend who vowed to see me through my university education after my father died. He taught me how to drive and gave me one of his taxis to use in making a living. Unlike all the other cabmen, I only had to deliver ten thousand every week. Any other thing I made was mine. Most weeks I managed to make just about 13k after taking out the cost of fuel and little car repairs. But this week, I had managed to almost triple that figure thanks to my Friday night ordeal. I gave Uncle Mufu my money for the week with an additional 10k for him to send to Mama.
    TEN THOUSAND? Ibo lo ti ri owo (where did you get this from)
    I’ve been saving ni Sir. I just want to do all I can to get Mama up and running again.
    Uncle Mufu never talked much, he gave me a questioning look and that was all. I told him to send my regards to his wives and kids and with that, I dropped the key and made the short walk back to my hostel. I bought some apples just before I entered the hostel and munched on one as I walked into my room. Dare, my closest friend and one of my seven roommates was in the room already studying for the test. He’s the dictionary definition of a geek. Always reading. He didn’t even notice me come into the room – busy differentiating and integrating. I hit him on the head with the nylon bag of apples and he almost fell off the chair he sat on.
    Ha, Azeez, bawo. Ma binu, I was deep into the world of dee y and dee x
    Daaaarrreee. Life doesn’t start and end with book o. I’m sure you’ve not eaten all day. Sha take apple and relax your brain.
    Its not kuku my fault. You know some of us are not blessed like you. You only need a few minutes to run through all these things and you will understand, he said as he helped himself to an apple.
    But wait oh, you have been buying apples on your way back since Monday. Are you fasting or has business been that good?
    Hmmm…. Dare. It’s God oh. That is all I can say. Na papa God send me good samaritan. Imagine a passenger paying me in foreign currency. Dollars.
    DOLLARS? Did you take her to the moon?
    In fact where we went was farther than the moon…..
    Just then, my phone rang and it was a number I didn’t recognize. I wondered who it could be even as it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard from Kassy since I dropped her off that Saturday morning. It was probably better that way. I picked up the phone, said hello and a cautious voice responded on the other end.
    Hello. Is this AZed?
    Yes, this is AZed.
    My name is Princess, I got your number from Kassy. I need a ride for later tonight. Will you be available to work?
    Erm…. Later tonight. Where is that ma.
    Will you be available?
    I checked the time – 5:48pm. I saw the puzzled look on Dare’s face from the corner of my eyes.
    Yes ma. I will be available.
    Ok. I will call you later to tell you where to meet me.
    Even before I cut the call, Dare asked
    What are you going to be available for? Aren’t we supposed to go to the library together this night? And who is AZed?
    It’s one of those customers I can’t say no to. I’m sure I will be back in time to meet up with you at the library.
    Before Dare could respond, I dashed out of the room and quickly walked back to the Taxi park. Uncle Mufu was out by the time I got there. As I got into my car, my phone rang and it was Princess again.
    AZed. Do you know Parkview Estate in Ikoyi?
    Yes I do ma.
    Ok. Meet me at the estate gate at exactly 7pm. If you get there earlier, you’d have to find somewhere to pass time but please make sure you’re at the gate by 7pm. And please stop calling me “Ma”.
    Yes Ma. I mean… Yes Princess.
    It was just about 6pm, I quickly cleaned my car and hit the road. I was lucky traffic was light. I got there about 5 minutes early so I took the long drive round Bourdillon and turned around at the end. By the time I got back to the Parkview Estate gate, it was exactly 7pm and almost as if she had rehearsed it, a young lady casually dressed in jeans, tee shirt and heeled slippers walked out of the estate gate carrying nothing but a simple hand bag. She noticed the cab almost immediately and she walked to the car and sat in front beside me. I tried not to stare but as simple as she dressed, she looked remarkably beautiful.
    As she put on her seat belt, she mentioned Kassy didn’t tell her I drove a painted cab. I asked which way we were heading and she told me to drive towards Lekki phase 1. As I drove, I noticed she kept on stealing glances at me, as if she was sizing me up. She kept to herself all through the ride. She only spoke when she directed me. A little over 7:30pm, I parked in front of a massive house somewhere deep inside Lekki Phase 1. High fenced with electric wires running round the top. Princess asked if I could give her a moment outside the car. She moved to the back seat as I exited the car.
    Moments later, she came out looking totally transformed. She now had on a very very short dress that showed off her figure. She had let down her hair and all of this made her look even more beautiful. While I was still caught up with her ‘new look’, she snapped her finger to get my attention and I noticed she had on a smile.
    It’s almost 8, please meet me back here at exactly 11pm. Once you get here, just press the bell and tell whoever attends to you that you’re my driver and you’re here to get me. But please don’t be late.
    She didn’t even wait for my response. In a matter of seconds she had pressed on the little knob by the gate, the smaller door on the gate opened up and she vanished into the huge fortress. I stood there for a few minutes wondering what I would do till 11pm. If only I had brought along my Engineering Mathematics textbook. I got into the car. I listened to the radio. I drove down the road. I bought a drink from a roadside Mallam. I drove back to the building and it was still only 9:44pm. I didn’t want to risk going on another trip while I waited. She was very specific about me not being late.
    I reclined my seat and rested my back even as I replayed the events which opened me up to this new world. I remembered picking up Kassy and Debby, the trip to Badore, the wait outside YNot, Kassy giving me 10k, the long drive back to Badore and ….. Kassy. Yes, Kassy. When we got back to their place at Badore, she invited me in but I declined and told her I had to rush somewhere as I had my assignment on my mind. She tried to rub the back of my head but I held her hand away and pleaded for her to let me leave. That was when she looked at me and said:
    AZed. AZed. Me I like you oh and if you come inside, you will enjoy all of this. (She said this as she used her right hand to point out her b----t)
    She then caught me unawares as she rubbed my chest down to my g---n area. I almost jumped off my seat. She laughed and laughed and said:
    Are you a ‘firgin”? Come on. AZed, don’t disappoint me oh. Anyway…. Let me not keep you, just think about what I said… (she said as she put her hand into her purse to produce $100 which she handed to me)
    I hesitated initially but she more or less stuffed it in my hands and told me it was my payment for the night.
    What a night that was, I shook my head as I snapped back to reality. 10:54pm. I got out of the car and stretched. Lingered a bit and at exactly 11pm I went to the gate. I pressed the little bell button and waited. Instead of a face, I heard a voice asking who I was and who I was there to see.
    I’m Miss Princess’ driver. She said I should come and pick her here.
    I heard nothing for a while.
    Did you hear me.
    Miss Princess says you can leave. She will be in touch.
    Leave? After waiting this long? Just like that? I shook my head and walked towards the car even as I silently murmured my protest. Before I got to my car, I heard the gate open. I looked back and I saw a hefty looking man walk out of the gate. He was about 6 feet tall and very well built. He looked like one of the bouncers I spotted at YNot the previous Friday. He gestured at me to come. I cautiously approached him and noticing my caution, he looked at me and said, “Please come inside to wait for Miss Princess”.
    I walked past him, through the gate and began to marvel at what I saw. Lush green lawn with beautiful flowers everywhere. I looked up and noticed a small bungalow far off in the middle of the compound. I turned to ask……..
    My eyes fluttered open as I felt a sharp pain in my head. Arrggghh… Everywhere was dark and I heard voices around me.
    Shut her up
    It was at this point I realized Princess was beside me. I moved around and tried to make sense of where I was. We were in the backseat of a car, blindfolded. The voices around me kept talking…
    Go with Zino. Make it fast. I want you guys back here before Chief leaves.
    With that, I heard the sound of two doors slamming shut. The car started and then zoomed off.

    Episode 4

    Wake up…
    Get up…
    The sharp pain in my head throbbed
    like a heart beating and it stirred me
    awake. Sight blurry, I noticed the
    person bent over me, yelling,
    worsening the pain. She seemed to be
    crying as she shook me. In my head, I
    was telling her to stop but my lips
    could not move. My eyes finally open
    and the yelling stopped. It was
    princess. It took a while before I could
    process where we were and how we
    got there.
    We have to get out of here…
    They may come back.
    Here? Where? I tried to lift my head
    and the pain was unbearable. I tried
    to look round and noticed I was lying
    on the floor in some sort of swamp.
    Swamp…. Zino…Princess… it was
    coming back to me…
    Ye…. (my head hurt like crazy)
    Sorry. Just try to get up so we can find
    a way out of here.
    She held out her hand to me and I
    grabbed it as I stood to my feet. I
    staggered a little and found my
    footing. I remembered the ride, the
    voices, the gun shots, Zino. But how
    did I…..
    Zino said I should apologize for the
    Lets just get out of here first please
    We hobbled through the dimly lit
    footpath which we hoped lead out of
    the swamp. I tripped and almost fell a
    few times but the more I walked the
    more the pain lessened. I noticed my
    phone was still in my pocket. My
    wonderful Nokia 1100 – with
    torchlight. I pulled it out and put on
    the torch. It seemed to make so much
    difference. After what seemed like
    forever, we made it to the road. It was
    a rough untared road in the middle of
    nowhere. We stopped then and
    wondered which direction to go
    Everywhere is so dark. Where do we
    go, what do we do….. (she sounded like
    she was about to cry)
    I moved close to her and tried not to
    shine my torch at her face. She still
    had on her very short dress, which
    was now torn in some places and had
    all sorts of leaves and thorns hanging
    from it. I reached out to hold her hand
    but she grabbed me into an embrace.
    She was now crying and I had to
    ignore the pain it brought to my head
    as I consoled her. It took almost
    another five minutes before she
    stopped crying. It was then she noticed
    how tightly she was clinging on to me
    and she eased off a little.
    Ha…. Ma sukun mo. Olorun ti gbo
    adura (Stop crying. God has answered
    your prayers)
    I turned around waving my phone
    frantically, wondering where the voice
    had come from. Princess clinged
    tightly to me again and I noticed an
    old man walking towards us. He was
    dressed liked a vigilante. He even had
    a dane gun with him. I was scared and
    happy at the same time. My ordeal
    with the OPC men from Badore was
    still fresh in my mind.
    Baba Ibidun nko? (where is Baba
    Ibidun) he said as he finally got close to
    Baba Ibidun? (Princess and I looked at
    each other wondering what he was
    talking about)
    Se kin se odo Baba Ibidun le tin bo ni?
    (Aren’t you coming from Baba Ibiduns
    O ti Sir. A sonu ni sir. (No sir, we are
    I couldn’t explain how we had gotten
    to find ourselves there to the old man
    but he seemed very uninterested. He
    was very convinced we had come to
    see a certain Baba Ibidun. When he
    told us we were somewhere in Epe
    town I was so relieved. It wasn’t so
    bad after all. I begged him to lead us to
    the nearest bus stop and he agreed.
    The walk to the bus stop was long and
    slow. We had to walk at the pace of
    the old man. Princess was still
    obviously scared and my head was still
    throbbing with pain. I was still
    puzzled about what happened but I
    decided to save my questions for later.
    We finally made it to the “bus stop”
    which looked more or less like a
    clearing by the highway. I checked the
    time on my phone – 2:30am. As I
    pondered how we were going to get
    out of there, a car sped past us and I
    was glad, more hope. I turned to look
    at the old man so I could at least thank
    him but he was gone. Just like that.
    Princess held on tightly to my hand as
    she also noticed.
    How are we going to get out of here?
    I’m sure we will find a taxi. Let us just
    wait somewhere in the corner. More
    cars sped past us then but my attempt
    at waving them down was futile
    We waited and waited and waved and
    waved. Nothing. There was a make
    shift bench somewhere around the
    clearing – looked like a roadside
    mechanics workbench. We made our
    way there and she eventually sat after
    initially refusing because she felt I
    needed it more. Waiting was probably
    a better option even though I had to
    keep looking around to make sure we
    were safe.
    Are you ok? (I asked as I noticed her
    evaluating the state of her dress)
    I’m fine.
    Can you please tell me what happened
    after we left Lekki.
    She took a deep breath…..
    I always work alone. This is what
    happens when you make compromises.
    Chief had some other girls at his place.
    Juves. Probably shipped into town. I
    had never seen them around before.
    They looked hungry and desperate. I
    wanted to leave. Even started dialing
    your number but he pleaded and
    pleaded. I backed down. I compromised.
    And look where it landed me. Landed
    One of the girls must have stolen drugs
    from Chief’s room. Chief is generous.
    Very generous with everything except
    his drugs. Especially his coke. I’ve seen
    him do things …..
    Yes… cocaine. I’ve seen him do things
    to people who get between him and his
    coke. But today was different. That was
    a lot of coke and they found it in my
    bag. I was too surprised to say
    anything. Chief was too furious to even
    hear me out. Before I knew what was
    going on, Mark and Zino had tied me up
    and they were taking me away when
    you came to the gate. Mark wasn’t
    comfortable with letting you go so they
    tricked you in and tied you too.
    (I felt the throbbing part of my head)
    They must have hit me with something
    really hard.
    It was a bat. A baseball bat. (she said
    as she looked at me apologetically).
    They drove us here and Mark’s
    instructions must have been for them
    to kill us and dump our bodies in the
    Yes I remember. Zino.
    Zino. Thank God you were here. Zino
    made the other guy wait in the car
    while he took us to the swamp.
    Kneeling on the floor, all I waited for
    was the sound of the gun. I was so
    scared. (She burst into tears again)
    Emezino Nwachukwu. I remembered
    him from secondary school but he had
    changed so much. All the muscles. Eme
    was one of those I considered special
    back then. He was an Efiko. Always
    reading but he had nothing to show
    for it. It was something that puzzled us
    all. How could someone read so much,
    answering and solving all the
    questions minutes before an exam and
    then end-up failing? It wasn’t until our
    final exams that I took serious interest
    in his case. I realized his problem was
    plain and simple – oversabi. Eme
    never read instructions. Answer two
    and he would answer all. Answer none
    and he would still answer all.
    I made sure I sat beside him during
    our mock exams just so I could guide
    him and the result was phenomenal.
    He passed all his exams. I didn’t think
    much of it but from the way he spoke
    about me to others, I knew he was
    more than grateful. How could I have
    possibly known that little deed would
    save my life years later.
    He hit you across the face. He said he
    had to do it just to slow us down a bit.
    Then he fired two shots into the bushes
    and warned us to get out of the swamp
    quickly and also not to come anywhere
    around Chief. He apologized and then
    left. It took me so long to recompose
    myself and then I finally woke you.
    Not to go anywhere near Chief? My
    I’m sorry but knowing Chief and his
    goons it’s probably gone by now.
    Ha. Gone ke. What will I tell Uncle
    I’m sorry.
    We got a taxi a few minutes after 6am.
    The look in Princess’ eyes when I tried
    prizing the taxi was enough to know
    she didn’t care. I felt awkward sitting
    at the back seat of a taxi while
    someone else drove. I couldn’t shake
    the thought of losing my car. I didn’t
    even know where to start from, even if
    by some form of miracle Uncle Mufu
    doesn’t kill me, the hunger from not
    being able to earn a living would
    definitely do it. I was tired, bruised
    and then thoughts of my test came to
    mind. Oh my God. I exclaimed, as I
    remembered the test I was supposed to
    have. I was in no state to think. When
    we got to the Parkview Estate gate,
    Princess got down and asked us to wait
    for her. Minutes later, a young girl
    who I guess was a help came to the cab
    and handed me some money. Ten
    thousand. In a normal state I would
    have been excited to handle so much
    money again but with thoughts of
    Uncle Mufu chasing me around the
    taxi park in my head, it was
    It was 8:34. I knew Dare would soon
    call me to ask where I was so I turned
    off my phone. I just couldn’t deal with
    all of that. By the time I got to school,
    it was past 9 and I knew Dare would
    have gone for the test. I paid the taxi
    man and still had six thousand with
    me. I went into the room, cleaned up a
    bit, changed my shirt and went out
    before any of my roommates came in.
    I needed to go somewhere I could
    think. For some reason, the thought of
    going to the lagoon front came to my
    head. I had been there just once before
    and swore not to go back. As I was
    trying to makeup my mind I felt my
    phone in my pocket and for some
    reason, I decided to turn it back on
    and almost immediately after I did, a
    call came in. Unknown number.
    Who is speaking please?
    Its Princess, are you busy?
    Oh Princess, are you ok, is everything
    I’m fine. Can you come to Ikoyi
    Ikoyi? Are you sure you are ok.
    I’m ok. Just come to the Estate gate.
    When you get there, meet the security
    guards and tell them to direct you to
    Amazing Grace House.
    Amazing Grace House. Ok.
    I wondered what was going on. Why
    she wanted to see me. Maybe she had
    gone to report to the police and they
    wanted me to make a statement. I
    hoped so. Chief needed to be taught a
    lesson. I walked out of school, biked to
    Yaba, bus to Obalende and then biked
    to Parkview Gate. I was there in less
    than an hour. I met the guards at the
    gate and they directed me to Amazing
    Grace House. As I approached the
    building, I realized it was some sort of
    hotel or guesthouse, or so I thought. It
    was huge and beautiful even from the
    outside. I walked to the gatehouse and
    told the guard there I wanted to see
    Princess. I waited a few minutes while
    the guard made a phone call. He then
    ushered me in and asked me to sit just
    beside the gatehouse. I continued to
    marvel at the beauty of the hotel or
    house or whatever it was. There were
    several cars parked in the compound.
    Two Range Rovers, a Mercedes S Class,
    Toyota Prado, and one car I couldn’t
    identify and a Toyota Corolla, like the
    Fashola taxis. That’s what they called
    them at the park. The Fashola taxis
    that had come to steal all our
    Princess cut into my thoughts as she
    called my name. She had cleaned
    herself up. And was looking beautiful
    as always.
    Good morning. I hope every….
    Good morning. Daddy, this is the
    person I told you about….
    I wondered who she was talking to but
    as she turned to look up, I noticed a
    man standing at the terrace
    overlooking the compound. He was an
    elderly man. Maybe in his 60s, a little
    bit of gray hair, dressed in white
    caftan with huge red beads dangling
    from his neck and his wrist. I heard
    Princess whisper ‘greet him’ and I
    Good morning sir. (I prostrated)
    How are you young man?
    I’m fine sir.
    So, Princess told me you are going to be
    her driver. (I turned to look at Princess,
    still puzzled)
    How old are you.
    I’m 24 Sir.
    That’s good good. Princess is my
    princess so please drive her like the
    princess she is.
    I will find time to talk to you later.
    Thank you daddy (Princess said with a
    broad smile on her face as we both
    watched the man turn away and
    walked into the house)
    Before I could ask questions, Princess
    turned to me, threw a key to me and
    said. That’s the key to the Corolla.
    Warm it up and get it ready. I’ll be out
    soon. With that she ran into the house
    and left me with the key to the Fashola
    taxi Corolla in my hands.

    Episode 5

    I walked and walked for a long time, my mind was blank. It was as if I had just woken up from some long sleep. As I walked, thoughts of recent events started coming back to me. I was so confused. More scared than confused but even in my confusion, I knew I had done the right thing with Princess. It was an irresistible offer; one I could have never imagined but I had bigger problems. No matter how fantastic Princess’ offer sounded, it still did not wipe out the thought of facing Uncle Mufu from my mind. What will I say, where will I begin… I’m probably one of the worst liars alive so every time I tried to come up with a lie… there’s just no point…
    Beep Beep Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The blaring sound of the car horn brought me back to reality and it was then I noticed I was almost at Osbourne. My God! I had walked all the way from Princess’ estate and didn’t realize it.
    Ring Ring Ring!!!!!!!!!
    All of a sudden there seemed to be so much noise around me. Traffic was building up, my phone was ringing and I just felt like evaporating. I checked my phone. It was Dare, probably wanted to find out where I was and why I didn’t show up for the test.
    I ignored but he kept calling and it got me wondering if something else was wrong. I eventually answered the call.
    Azeez, bawo lo se miss test. Ibo lo gba lo? (Why did you miss the test, where did you go?)
    Classic Dare, he just had to nag. I wasn’t even remotely in the mood.
    It’s a long story Dare. How many marks was it or was the test so easy?
    Wait, forget that one. Uncle Mufu just called me. He said he has been trying to reach you. He said it had to do with your mother. Call him quickly please.
    Mama? What is the matter? What did he say…did…
    Won o so anything. Sha call won ki … (he didn’t say anything, just call him…….)
    I cut the phone before he could even say bye but before I dialed Uncle Mufu’s number, my phone rang again and it was the devil himself. I picked up immediately and even though the thoughts of the car immediately filled my mind, I was still more bothered about Mama. What if he asks me to come around? What if… I thought to myself…
    You think you can just off your phone anyhow?
    He spoke in English – that’s never good.
    All you children of now. How do you want plenty customer when your phone is off.
    I was in…
    Ibo?…Where?…Iro wo lo fe pa (What lie do you want to tell?)…. Anyway, Iyabo is in the hospital.
    Ha. Maami. Kilode?
    Keep calm.
    What happened aga—
    I say keep calm. Is not a big something. She is ok. I just want to tell you to phone her so she can hear your voice. Sho ti gbo (Have you heard me)
    Yes sir. Ma call won. Ese gan sir…. (I will call her, thank you sir)…
    I cut the phone and stood on the road more confused than I was before I spoke to him. The doctors had found a tumour in Mama’s head a few years back. My father was still alive then. Even though they had been separated for long, he came to her rescue and funded the surgery that saved her life. She barely made it and members of my dad’s family still say that it was the fear of losing my mother (the only woman he ever truly loved) that killed him – I say that is rubbish. If he loved her, why did he leave her for another women – other women?
    For some reason I felt angry… I didn’t know what about but this wasn’t time for anger. I needed to make a decision and I needed to make one fast…
    In 15minutes I was on a bus heading to Ibadan. I love my mother too much. She’s all I have and I also needed time to think. I had no car meaning I had no job and no means of survival once all the money on me was gone. Even if by some miracle, Uncle Mufu decides to forgive me and let the car go, will he be able to trust me enough to give me another one? Questions. Decisions. I might be brilliant but this is something I shy away from. God please let Mama be okay like Uncle Mufu said.
    The bus was taking so long to fill up. People kept getting on and off. The sun was harsh but still, the many activities that made the park what it is, continued. Hawkers, Agberos (Touts), policemen, Lastma men, bus conductors, drivers – I paid little or no attention to all of these, I just wished I could sleep and wakeup somewhere peaceful and sane. The bus eventually took off an hour after I got there – 11:15am. If all went well, I could be back in Lagos today. Most of the passengers in the bus were market women who must have come to stock-up on goods for the holiday season. It was the first week in December already and I hadn’t event noticed. It seemed like so much had been happening lately. I drowned myself in my thoughts and they weighed down heavily on me, I fell sleep, something I had probably only done just one other time in my adult life while travelling.
    I woke up just as we went past the old Ibadan. It was 12:28, not bad. I got off at Challenge bus stop and took a bus heading to Dugbe. As the bus moved, I looked out the window and realized I hadn’t missed Ibadan. It seemed to get rougher every time I visit. I got off at the bus stop and walked to the hospital. Mount Cenai Hospital. The Nurse at the reception recognized me and welcomed me with a smile. Good. I asked to see Mama and she told me I had to see the doctor first.
    Is everything ok.
    Yes Sir, Mama is fine, she’s just sleeping right now and Doctor said you should see him whenever you come.
    My discussion with the doctor was short and painful. He went straight to the point. Mama had another tumour and she needed another surgery – fast. The tumour was causing her to slip into short spans of amnesia and break out in all sorts of spasms. It was painful to hear but the doctor told me I had time. If we were lucky, 3 months. He took me to see her then. She was on the bed – pale and aged. The doctor told me Uncle Mufu sent in some money but they would soon need more. I gave him all I could from what I had on me and promised to send some more. I stayed with her for a while but seeing her that way only made me want to cry. I thanked the doctor again and I left.
    The trip back to the bus park at Challenge was a blur. Seeing Mama in that condition made me realize only one thing, I needed to find a way to get the money she needed to have her surgery. With my car gone and no other likely means of getting money, it didn’t look very promising but I made-up my mind to save Mamas life and I would do whatever I had to, even if it meant putting school on hold for a while.
    My bus left the park just before 4pm and I just couldn’t wait to get back to Lagos so I could put my plans into action. Halfway into the journey, I left my thoughts and I noticed everyone in the bus had slept off; everyone except the lady who sat beside me. I turned slightly to further examine her and it was then I noticed she was quite young. 20/22 maybe? She was deeply engrossed in the photocopied document she was reading. I later noticed it was a lecture note, something on lung diseases in children. I tried to get a closer look to see if I could spot the name of the school but just then she turned to look at in my direction and our eyes met briefly. I looked away and then she reached into her bag and to my surprised produced a copy of Complete Sports.
    I took more interest in her. Its hard enough finding a girl who cares about football and sports not to talk of one who follows it enough to buy Complete Sports. I was impressed and if she was a guy, I could have easily just asked for the middle fold so I could read to get my mind off Mama but I just peeped instead. She must have noticed me trying to read over her shoulder as she suddenly took out the centerfold and handed it to me. Surprised and a little embarrassed, I took it and said thanks. I breezed through the pages and when I handed it back to her, she asked if I wanted the other fold.
    Let me guess, Arsenal fan?
    She smiled.
    Why would you say that?
    I can’t imagine a ManU fan or even a Chelsea fan being this nice.
    She laughed.
    Well, yes. I’m an Arsenal fan.
    Wait, fan or supporter.
    There is a difference?
    I was about to go into a speech I had given over and over again about how being a fan of a football club was deeper than been an ordinary supporter when I felt the bus swerve to one side. I looked up and pretty much all the other passengers were still asleep and as the bus swerved again. I took a look at the bus driver and noticed he was struggling to steady the vehicle. Immediately, I knew there was something wrong with the brakes. The firm grip on my right arm reminded me of the girl seating beside me…
    What is wrong…wha…what is going on… DRIV….(she was about to yell)
    SHHHHHHH!!!! I held her back…. Don’t scream. Don’t wake up everyone…
    But what’s going …
    It’s the brakes, I think they’ve failed…grab on to the seat… Blood of Jesus (I murmured)
    Driver…. (I was going to try to talk to the driver as calmly as I could but before I could get a word out…)
    The front left corner of the bus rammed into the backside of a Toyota Prado jeep just as the driver tried to swerve into the bushes off the road.
    What followed was pandemonium. Passengers woke up and some had suffered minor injuries as a result of the positions they had been in before the impact. The women in the bus started yelling at the driver who had only realized just how much trouble he had gotten into when a fully dressed military officer came down from the prado. I pleaded with the passengers who seemed to be taking forever to get off the bus to move faster even as I realized the cold hands of the girl beside me were still firmly holding on to me.
    We finally made it out of the bus and even as the passengers yelled and cursed the driver, he seemed to pay little or no attention to them. The Military man was making all sorts of threats and it was all chaos. I couldn’t deal with it. I needed to get out of there. I began to walk forward and the girl who had been holding on to my hand followed.
    Where are you going?
    I don’t know but somewhere far away from this madness
    We had only walked for a few minutes when a car pulled up beside us. The driver asked if we wanted a lift. I looked into the old, beat up Mercedes 230 and seeing it was an elderly man driving with a teenage boy seated on the passengers seat beside him, I thought to myself, it seems ok. I turned to the girl and beckoned to her to get in but she stood behind me and asked me to go in first.
    The rest of the journey to Lagos was long and awkward. I don’t recall anyone in the car saying a word. The car was old and not in very good working condition and I just kept praying in my head for it to see us safely to Lagos. The few times I turned to look at the girl who sat beside me, I noticed she was scared stiff. She sat up straight and watched the old man closely as he drove. I noticed how pretty she was. Very pretty actually but I was too pre-occupied thinking about getting to Lagos. We got to Berger bus stop in Lagos a few minutes before 6pm and I could feel the relief in the air as we both got out of the car and thanked the old man. The car drove off and I turned to look at my co-passenger:
    So, which way are you heading?
    Erm… I didn’t even get your name …
    (she smiled then, and revealed beautiful pearly white dentition like no other)
    My name is A…Ze….. I mean, Azeez.
    Azeez? A muslim that prays in the name of Jesus?
    Now that’s a long story. I’d have to get your number so I can tell you later.
    She smiled then again, this time I could see in her smile that she was more relieved.
    Thank you.
    No.. small thing for a fellow Arsenal…… fan?
    Yes. Fan.
    She then took out a piece of paper from her bag, scribbled on it and handed it to me.
    My number.
    I was so relieved I didn’t have to bring out my trusty 1100. That would have been… interesting.
    Ok then. Take care of yourself.
    I snapped back to reality. The distraction of the journey was nice. Now I had to face my problems. First stop was Uncle Mufu. I figured I should just tell him and get it over and done with. I took a bus to Yaba and hopped on a bike heading to Unilag first gate. The bike man went through the one-way route past Abule Oja and just as we made it past the junction, I noticed a little traffic building up ahead. I looked up and realized it was caused by an accident. A danfo and a Toyota ….. A Toyota Corolla… That’s when I saw her. She just stood there looking confused, helpless, almost in tears. I asked the bike man to stop. Literally jumped off and went towards her.
    Princess, what happened?
    Oh, A-Zed. I….I… must have….
    Danfo Driver: Madam, na so so grammar you don dey blow since… do quick shake body. That full light wey commot for there na fifteen thousand.. panel beater go collect …..
    Me: Ahn ahn.. oga.. kilode… a ko ye je jo.. se orun le ti ra Faragon yin ni (what’s that… did you buy your bus from heaven?)
    My comments enraged the bus conductor who had been arguing with the passengers in the bus. The passengers had been begging the driver to forgive Princess and get them moving again but he paid no attention to them and they turned on the conductor. Hearing what I said to his driver, the conductor ran towards us and yelled…….
    Ahhhhhhhh…….. abi o fe kin ya were sibi yi..
    (Ah.. do you want me to go mad here)
    Ahhhhh… talo ma ba mi mu agbon kin fo mo ori mi…..
    (who will get me a coconut let me hit it on my head)
    He then hit his head on the body of the bus repeatedly… Princess swiftly hid herself behind me even as the driver moved to calm down the conductor. I asked Princess how much she had on her… she said about ten thousand in cash but she could go to the ATM. I asked her to give me six thousand. I took the money and pulled the driver aside. I squeezed the money in his hands and told him that was all she had. He counted it and from the smile on his face, I knew he was more than satisfied.
    Ni to ri yin ni o egbon… Malouda, je ka lo… (It’s just because of you oh… Malouda, lets go)
    With that, they got in to the danfo and drove away. Princess handed me the keys to the car and I couldn’t even bring myself to argue. She looked like she was about to cry.
    Where are you going?
    Yes, Unilag.
    Yes, that’s my school.
    Oh, I’m errr…, I didn’t know.
    As I drove past the park, I noticed it was past seven. Uncle Mufu would have probably left. I drove into school and asked Princess which hostel we were heading to. She told me to drive towards High Rise. Well, I wasn’t surprised. Anything less would have surprised me. She directed me to her building. I parked and we both got out. I walked towards her and handed her the key.
    How will you get to the gate.
    Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.
    A-Zed. This is the second time you’ve come to my rescue, I’m beyond grateful.
    It’s ok…
    No it’s not. Let me try to help out. I hardly use my car. I just need to get out of school once in a while. You can have it. Do your rounds and make some money.
    (I took a deep breath) Princess, that cab wasn’t mine. I still have a lot of explaining to do to my uncle – he owns the cab.
    Then start with this. Just take the keys and think about it tonight. I don’t need to go anywhere till tomorrow.
    But you don’t even know me.
    (She smiled)… Do you know me? That’s life A-Zed….. see you tomorrow morning.
    She walked into the building and I just stood there. I then went and looked at the damage done to the car – it wasn’t so bad. Scratches really. I didn’t know where to go, what to do with the car. What if I park it somewhere and it gets vandalized. What if…. as I contemplated my next line of action, my phone rang.
    Yes, Kassy.
    Please I need you to come and pick me now now now…. this is very urgent
    Erm… but…
    I’m at home … in Badore.. I’m waiting…
    She hung up without listening to my explanation. Part of me just wanted to park the car and go to my room but another part thought of the extra money I could make. Mama was still on my mind. I jumped into the car and drove out of school. Driving to Badore was no longer daunting. I had mastered the route expertly. A little over 10pm, I was outside Kassy’s house. She came out almost immediately. She had t-shirt and jeans – that was quite unusual. It was none of my business really. I just wanted to drop her off and go back to school.
    A-Zed A-Zed…. ahn ahn.. see as this car come fit you… she said as she brushed my cheeks with her fingers… I started the car and asked:
    Where are we going?
    Yes. Epe Town. I’m going to see Baba Ibidun.
    Baba Ibidun?
    Oh, so you’re going to act like you don’t know….
    I don’t know any Baba Ibidun.
    Ok, ok…just drive…
    I headed back to the expressway and drove towards Epe. The road was absolutely free and I was tempted to see what the car could do but I resisted. I drove at a steady pace and got directions from Kassy. As we got closer to our destination, I noticed how familiar the area was.. then it hit me – this was where Princess and I had met that vigilante man. Could that be who Kassy was referring to as Baba Ibidun? But the man also asked us about Baba Ibidun that day…
    Stop here.
    Kassy asked me to park somewhere along the untarred road.
    Wait for me here.. I’ll be back soon
    Yes. Nothing will happen to you and I wont be long.
    She hurried out of the car and vanished into some bushes. I wondered then just how Kassy managed to get me to agree to some of these things. It was late in the night and I was in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone I had no idea where she went and when she was going to get back. Incredible.
    True to her word, in just about 30 minutes, Kassy appeared from the bushes clutching tightly unto her bag. She got into the car and asked me to drive back home. For a while I noticed she had an irritated look on her face. Perhaps she was disappointed she couldn’t locate Baba Ibidun. But I noticed her mood change later on. She was back to her smiley, chirpy self.
    A-Zed, A-Zed….. fine boy…. she said as she ran her fingers through my head. I made a mental note to talk to her about that. I needed to concentrate on getting her back home and returning to school. It was past 1am and there was no other car in sight. I gave into temptation and increased my speed. It took less an hour for me to get to the Badore junction. As I made the turn, I noticed Kassy reaching for her bag. Her hands vanished into it for a while and then she closed the bag, rubbed her palms together and then on her face. I wondered what sort of lotion she needed at almost 2am. Except…. maybe we still had another destination. But I guess I was wrong. We got to her gate and instead of asking me to wait she asked me to please come in to get my money as she was the only one home and didn’t want to walk all the way out again.
    I hesitated but I thought to myself, what could possibly go wrong? I parked the car properly and went in with Kassy. The compound was quite big. There was only a little bungalow built at the end of the compound. We made our way to the door and as she unlocked the metal door she asked me to come in. I stepped in and I noticed she had a broad smile on her face. We got into the living room area and Kassy almost immediately sat on the couch while I stood.
    I’m so tired A-Zed…… Oh, your money. You know what, please go into that room, through that door on the right and wait for me there, I’ll come give it to you.

    Episode 6

    A to the Zee…… fine boy….
    She said as she rubbed her hands against my thighs…. She slightly raised her back, which she had rested on me as she reached for some grapes from the bowl placed beside the bed. She had on nothing but her very transparent nightdress. After picking a handful of grapes, she turned around and knelt in-between my legs. My head was directly facing her b-----s; her firm n-----s staring back at me even as she fed me a grape and then another. Then she slid one in her mouth and slid it in and out. I saw a smile grow on her face even as she bit slightly into the grape and then closed in on my lips as if to kiss me.
    I woke up. I looked around me and it took a few seconds before I could process where I was. I was wearing nothing but my boxers and I was on a bed – Kassy’s bed. I turned to my left and saw her then, wearing a transparent nightdress sleeping. I carefully eased myself out of the bed and as I slipped out, I saw my car keys, phone and wallet on the bedside table. I saw my clothes well spread out on the chair for the dresser. I picked up my things, tiptoed to the chair, grabbed my clothes and quietly left the room.
    I stepped out and began to wear my jeans. Just then, two girls walked in from another room. I recognized one of them – Debby. She seemed to startle as she saw me. She quickly turned around and went back into the room they had come out of. The other girl stopped to look at me and then continued past me into the living room. I noticed then, just how bright it was outside and I hurriedly wore my jeans and while still wearing my shirt, I walked out of the house mumbling a quick “good morning” to the girl who was then sitting on one of the living room sofas as I got out of the flat. I wore my shirt before I got into the car. I started the engine and checked the time. 6:30am. I made to put my wallet in the back pocket of my jeans and for some reason I decided to check it. The money I had in it was intact but I noticed some extra notes. I pulled them out and counted – 5 pieces of $20 ……$100. I tried not to think much seeing that I was somewhat late. I shoved the wallet into my pocket and drove off.
    I made it to my room just before 9am. I walked in and met some of my many roommates. My room was one of the few rooms that still operated like the Unilag of pre-2000 we often-heard stories about. Four bed spaces but I had eleven roommates. Squatters, floaters, hangers whatever you want to call “us”. Yes, Dare was actually squatting me. He was sprawled out on a mattress somewhere on the floor. I was sure he had only just got into the room from the library. I said my greeting to the other roommates, I grabbed a bucket and went to take my bath. In another 30 minutes, I was parked outside Princess’ building. I brought out my phone to call her and as I tried running through my contact list, I saw Fadeke’s number. I made a mental note to call her later. As I was about pressing the call button, my phone rang. It was Princess.
    Good Morning. I’m outside…
    I know… I can see you…
    Impulsively, I turned around and looked up to see if I could see her. She was standing on one of the balconies high up in the building…
    Do you have a suit?
    Erm… like a full suit or a jacket?
    Never mind. I’m coming down.
    Some minutes later, she was in the car. She sat at the passenger’s side beside me – like she always did. I started the car and asked where we were off to.
    Faculty of Law.
    As I approached the faculty car park, she reached into her bag and produced a card. She asked me to stop even before we got to the park. She handed me the card and made to leave the car.
    It’s going to be a busy night, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before now. Go to the address written on that card and ask for James, he’ll attend to you and then meet me back at High Rise by 4pm.
    I watched as she walked away in her black skirt and white shirt. She looked so professional and yet graceful. I took another look at the card she gave me; on one side it had a logo – an “A” with angel wings and the word “Angeli” written beneath it. On the other side was a name, address and phone number. Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, not so far. I didn’t have any lecture that morning so I decided to quickly make the trip. As I got outside the gate, the thought of Uncle Mufu came to my mind and I knew I couldn’t go straight. I couldn’t run forever but it wasn’t the time. I turned right and decided to go the long way around through Fola Agoro to burst out at Abule Oja. There was a beat up cab moving very slowly in front of me, I recognized it immediately. It was Emeka, one of the drivers from the park – lousy was an understatement when defining Emeka. I cut out from behind him and overtook him.
    I soon got to Ikoyi, the address turned out to be a boutique – a male boutique. I wondered for a second what I was picking up but then again, it wasn’t any of my business. I got in and asked for James, he was a young man, well spoken and very happy to see me. Before I could ask what I came to pick up, he zipped to the display rack and pulled down a blazer…
    Here you go – try this on (He handed me the blazer)
    Err… yes. It should fit perfectly.
    I put on the blazer and even before I looked in the mirror, I could tell it looked good on me. James adjusted the collar and fit the blazer properly.
    Do you like it?
    Erm..well (I laughed)…
    Yes, I’m sure you do. Ok, let me pack it for you.
    For me? I’m sorry but I don’t understand, Princess asked me to come and pick up something for her.
    And that something is what I’m packing up.
    I stood there looking bewildered but that wasn’t the end. Before I left the store, James brought me a perfectly fitting shirt, chinos trousers (he kept referring to them as slacks) and a wonderful pair of shoes. He handed it all to me and told me to tell Princess he’d expect her call. I left the store still trying to figure out what had happened but knowing Princess, I thought maybe she used me to fit the things for someone with a similar stature.
    I got back to school and not wanting to be seen with the car, I parked it at High Rise. I went back to my room, Dare had left, probably gone to the library again. I went through some of my notes and did some reading before I went for my only class of the day. 1:30pm – 3:30pm. I made sure I left before the end of the class, I couldn’t risk running into anyone that could waste my time. I took the shortcut through Hellfire and headed towards the Faculty of Science but just then I got a text message. It was Princess.
    Please change into the clothes you got from James before coming to get me. Thanks.
    I stopped in my tracks as I read the message again. I shrugged and walked even faster. I made it to the car and I drove into a corner where I found a way to change. I looked at myself in the side mirror when I was done and I knew I looked good. I spent some more minutes admiring myself and I eventually snapped out of my moment and drove back to Princess’ house. I called her to inform her I was around and she said she would come down soon. 15 minutes later and she wasn’t out, that was unlike Princess but I found out why moments later.
    Princess walked out of the front door flanked by two other girls. Kassy was on one side and the girl I saw earlier in the day at Kassy’s house was on the other side. All of them had on short black dresses in different designs. They all looked attractive and appealing. Princess and Kassy got into the back seat while the other girl sat in front with me. From the rearview mirror I noticed a smirk on Kassy’s face even as she complimented my blazer. I expected her to say more but surprisingly, she didn’t. The smirk on her face, however lingered much longer than usual. I started the car and began to drive out. Before I could ask where we were heading, Princess told me we were going to Abeokuta. She asked if I knew my way there. Traveling between Lagos and Ibadan, I often had to go through Abeokuta – especially when the churches had one event or the other.
    For a moment, I wondered where we were heading in Abeokuta and why we had to leave so late but as always, I reminded myself that my job was just to drive and that was what I did. The journey was smooth, driving a new car makes driving enjoyable. The girls hardly spoke through the journey. They were all busy typing away on their ‘blackberry’ phones. Once we got to Abeokuta, Princess asked Tomi (the girl who sat in front with me) to give me directions to the destination. It all felt like dejavu. Like I had been in that exact situation before. What was different? I had Kassy and another girl with me this time.
    We made it to our destination just as it began to get dark. It was a guesthouse that looked more like a hotel to me. It was hidden somewhere far away on a lonely street like some sort of treasure. From the moment I drove in, I could imagine the kind of clientele the guesthouse had. Perfectly done landscape complete with fountains and lights. I had only read about things like these in novels. I drove to the entrance and parked for the girls to get out. Someone already stood beside my door to escort the girls.
    A-Zed please come with us.
    With you?
    Yes please.
    I sat in the car still trying to process what I had just heard. It was when the man by my door opened it and ushered me out I realized it was really happening. I got out of the car and handed the key to the man. Kassy and Tomi were already ahead at the reception, Princess had waited for me to catch up. I walked up to her and she whispered to me…
    It’s just a party…. try to relax and have fun… I just want you here, close by… that’s all…
    Ok Princess…
    I said ok, like I almost always did to Princess. By the time Princess and I got to the reception, a guide was already waiting to lead us in. He walked ahead and we all followed behind. As we walked, Tomi whispered to Kassy…
    Mama Kas… see this place… na my luck shine wey Debby Papa call am oh. Na so her Papa go dey summon her from now on in Jesus name – amen.
    They both giggled and almost immediately went back to looking serious. The guide ushered us to the poolside. As we walked in, I noticed the party had already started. The poolside was beautiful and the lighting effects were exceptional. I noticed three girls in the pool, it wasn’t until I looked closer that I realized two of the girls were completely nude. Yes, nude. The third had a bikini on but it was transparent. There was music playing in the background and I heard voices laughing and talking on different tables around the pool. The poolside area wasn’t well lit so I couldn’t make out faces but I didn’t need anyone to tell me just how exclusive the party was, all together; there were probably just thirty of us, five of which were bodyguards. There were about twenty girls spread out among the tables. When we got to a certain point, the guide asked me to go with him to a particular table and Princess nodded in agreement. The girls walked on and they all sat on different tables.
    I was lead to a table where three other men were seated. There were all sorts of drinks on the table. From alcoholic to non-alcoholic, juice, wine, champagne, those whose names I could pronounce and those I couldn’t. The guide pulled back a seat for me and asked what I would like to eat and drink. I told him I was fine. He walked away then and one of the men at the table began to laugh.
    Your first time abi? (He said, looking at me)
    I answered ‘yes’ in a very unsure tone. I looked round my table and realized the other men were in a world of their own. One of them had a cigar on one hand and a glass in the other. The other was busy examining the powder-like content of a little transparent bag.
    It’s always like that on your first visit. It’s a world you might have heard of but never really believe existed.
    A world? What is this place?
    He burst out laughing….
    Don’t worry, in time you will understand. They call me Senior.
    He stretched his hands towards me. I shook him and introduced myself as A-Zed. He didn’t ask about the name.
    That’s Balogun and Usman (he said as he pointed at the other two men) It might be a long night so if you haven’t eaten, I’d advice you to get something to eat. You can have anything and I mean aaaaanything.
    He stretched the word and then gestured to the waiter who seemed to have positioned himself close to us permanently. The waiter hurried towards us and Senior asked him to bring us two bowls of fish peppersoup. I looked around again just then and I wondered where I really was. I occasionally heard loud raised voices laughing or making one remark or the other about political issues. Our fish pepper soup arrived and the moment I took in a whiff of it, my stomach reminded me that I was hungry. I examined the peppersoup and discovered that the fish in it was larger than usual. I didn’t know where to begin but watching Senior, I soon began to eat and it was the most delicious peppersoup I had ever had in my entire life. I reached for a pack of juice on the table and one of the other men, Usman, chuckled out loud.
    You don’t drink
    Erm..well, I’m working tonight
    All three men burst into laughter and then Senior spoke:
    It’s part of the job Azed. Here, try this he said as he handed me a glass of something. I hesitated a bit but then I took the glass from him. I was in a place I didn’t know, I needed as many friends as possible. At that point I noticed some activity. It seemed some guests were ready to move their party elsewhere. I watched as Princess, Kassy, Tomi and few other girls walked away with four men. All of them were dressed in white traditional attires and I could have sworn that one of them looked like the governor of the state and another, like the man widely tipped to take over from him in the coming elections. Maybe it was the alcohol. I decided to take more of the peppersoup and less of the alcohol that I couldn’t even identify.
    As time passed, more guests left the poolside and went into the main building. At some point, Usman took off his shirt and trouser and jumped into the pool where he played around with the girls. Senior tried to engage me in conversation but all he did was go on and on about himself. I reckoned he was drunk as well. Time seemed to have flown by. I realized it was just past midnight and as I stood to stretch a bit, it happened.
    A gun shot…
    Then another.

    Episode 7

    My reaction to the gunshots was instant… I stood up almost immediately and tried to figure out which direction the sounds came from. As I looked around I noticed just how calm every other person was. It felt surreal, almost like some sort of joke was going on and I was the only one who wasn’t in on it. The music didn’t stop; the girls were still in the pool with Usman who was now almost completely naked. I made to leave the table but Senior grabbed my hand.
    Where are you going?
    What kind of question is that? Didn’t you hear those gunshots?
    And so?
    And so? What if someone is hurt?
    Still holding my hand he burst into wild laughter and even Balogun who seemed to be totally knocked out joined in.
    A-Zed, wa, come, sit down (he said as he gently pulled me towards my seat. Reluctantly, I sat down)
    It’s your first night here so I understand… maybe I should start by asking how many girls you have here?
    Oh, you brought Princess and her girls.
    A-zed, A-zed (he laughed)…This is my seventh year in this business and the first rule here is very much like one the bankers call “know your customer”…. Did you look around you when you walked in? Or maybe that isn’t the question. Are you even conversant with happenings in the upper chambers of our country?
    I sat there speechless wondering how any of this had anything to do with the fact that someone could be dying from gunshot wounds somewhere around us… He then moved his seat closer to mine and more or less whispered to me…
    We hear and read about meetings, party primaries and conventions. Do you really think decisions are made during those things? Our leaders are old and very rich – therefore they are allergic to boredom. Those things are dead boring but here, here… just look around you… isn’t this a perfect atmosphere for making decisions? Whether they are the right or wrong decisions; well, that’s none of our business.
    Before I could comment, he burst out into another episode of wild laughter. He then let go of my hand and said…
    Any gunshot you hear here is not an accident. Think of it as a decision. It’s been made.
    And what if this … decision affects me…. or one of the … my girls?
    Well then you count your losses and move on just like any other business man.
    Losses… the realization of his statement hit me and I thought to myself – what am I doing here. What am I doing in this place where people – human beings are seen as mere products…
    Here, take this. (Senior said as he handed me a glass of drink)
    Still stunned, I took the glass from him as my mind spiraled deeper and deeper into thoughts. Was this what I had to endure so I could see mama through her surgery? Was there a better way? I seem to be dragging myself deeper and deeper into this life I couldn’t explain – this life I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a part of.
    I downed the drink. It was harsh. Something very strong and it provided the right amount of distraction I needed from my thoughts. I felt a wet hand on my shoulder and I turned around to see Usman behind me. He was being held by two of the ladies that had been in the pool. They were both completely naked but had towels hanging from their necks.
    Fine Yaro… we’re going in… you should come in and join us. You sound like you need to relax.
    I tried to smile even as I replied… No thanks, I’m fine.
    Kai… so you don’t want a taste of our deeeeelicious specimens (he said as he looked enticingly at one of the girls and then at his lower body)
    Senior: It’s his first night. He will come around… go and enjoy yourself Usman.
    They turned and began to walk away but shortly after that, Balogun stumbled off his chair and called after them to wait for him even as he half walked and took off his clothes.
    My focus shifted back to the table and I noticed Senior staring at me. I brought out my phone and began to scroll through my contact list as a way of avoiding his prying eyes.
    I’m here with five girls tonight. Two of them, I’ve known for five years and I must say that they’ve made me who am I today.
    I looked up briefly and then continued scrolling through my phone. I got to Fadeke and I remembered how I had made a mental note to call her but I didn’t. It was almost 1am, definitely too late to call.
    Are you gay?
    Seniors question caught me off guard so much that my phone fell from my hands.
    (He laughed… ) I said, are you gay? Are you into men or do you swing both ways? Why so surprised. Am I the first person ever to ask you that question?
    I regained composure after a while and I replied him
    No, I’m not gay, neither do I swing both ways.
    Hey, innocent question. I just wanted to know if you’d be interested in making some err… extra money on the side.
    Extra money?
    How much more naïve can you be? Have you looked in the mirror lately? You’re a young good-looking boy with aspirations and a conscience too, you’d make a perfect addition to my team and I can source you some of the best clients around. Clients that can leave ones entire generation transformed just after one encounter.
    Hello… Hello…
    I sat there clutching my phone tightly even as I tried to digest what I had just heard…
    The distant voice quickly brought me back to the moment. I looked at my phone and realized I had mistakenly called Fadeke. I put the phone to my ear but didn’t know what to say. I cut the call and hoped she wouldn’t call back. A few seconds passed and as I looked up at Senior trying to put together a response to his offer or whatever it was, my phone rang again.
    It was Fadeke. I let it ring; at first I didn’t want to pick up but I thought about it and did just before the call cut off.
    We might be trophy-less but I don’t think we’re so broke that our supporters now flash each other.
    That was one opening line that was so hard to recover from.
    I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call you like that. My phone sort of fell and mistakenly dialed your…….
    I paused even as I realized my explanation wasn’t helping.
    Ok, please let me call you back. I didn’t wait for her response, I cut the call and was about dialing her number when Senior tapped me and said:
    The room beside the reception; there’s a phone you can use there. For as long as you want.
    He added the other part of the statement as if he knew who I had just spoken with and what we discussed. I thanked him and walked towards the reception. I noticed the other guests at the party as I walked towards the reception. Some had passed out on their seats while others were heatedly wrapped up in corners kissing or doing things I had never seen before. I ignored all of it as hard as it was. I finally made it to the reception and I was given the phone. Oblivious of what to say, I dialed Fadeke’s number and she picked up after the second ring.
    I really didn’t flash you. My phone was just err… thinking a step ahead of me…
    And this is the part where I’m supposed to oooohhhh and awwwwhhhh?
    Erm… ok, I’m sure I deserved that – someway, somehow…
    (she laughed).. So, do you always stay up this late or you’re going to tell me you stayed up cause you were thinking of calling me?
    I’m not going to hear the last of that am I?
    I could easily ask you the same question you know…
    And my reply would be that I’m awake studying. Cause that’s what I’m doing…
    Studying? Really? School?
    Yes Sir. 300 level Pharmacy University of Lagos.
    Are you serious?
    Why wouldn’t I be?
    Well, it’s just funny because I’m also in Unilag.
    Just like that, our conversation went on and on and on. We talked about everything – well, almost everything. I couldn’t just bring myself to tell her I was a cab driver. Time went by so fast and it wasn’t until she checked that we realized it was past 4 in the morning. I had to get off the phone so I made up some excuse about getting some sleep because I had so much to do in the morning. I cut the call and sat on the sofa for a while thinking to myself just how pleasant it was talking to Fadeke. She seemed so real and full of life. All the thoughts on my mind prior to calling her had moved to the background.
    I returned to the reception where the man there told me about a room I had prepared for me. He ushered me to the room and from the interior décor I could imagine just what it would cost to get a room there on a regular day. I took my time to explore the room when I was left alone. It was indeed spectacular. Before then, I had only seen the interior of two other hotels in Ibadan so it was a new experience for me. I finally jumped on the bed a few minutes before five and thoughts of my conversation with Fadeke fluttered back to my mind. I just couldn’t sleep. I stayed in bed awake thinking till the phone in my room rang a little over 7am. It was Princess…
    We are leaving. Meet us outside in 5 minutes.
    I got out of the bed and started to lay it when I realized what I was doing and laughed at myself. I walked out of my room and went back to the reception. I had only been there for a couple of minutes when Princess and Kassy walked into the lobby. There was no sign of Tomi. As we all walked towards the exit, I asked Princess
    How about Tomi
    Princes barely turned to look at me when she responded:
    Tomi won’t be joining us.
    That was all she said. No more. And I couldn’t bring myself to ask more questions. They brought the car to the entrance and I took the key from the hotel guide while Princess and Kassy got into the back seat. I tried to look for some kind of expression on their faces even as I adjusted the rearview mirror but nothing. They both had straight faces, which they buried in their phones as I began to drive out.
    The journey back to Lagos was cold. Not a beep. Not a word from anyone in the car. As we approached Yaba, Kassy asked to get off so she could get a cab. We dropped her off and continued to Unilag. I went straight to High Rise where I dropped off Princess. She got down and only managed a ‘thank you’ and ‘I’ll call you later’ before she vanished into the building. I didn’t even want to imagine what she had on her mind. I just wanted to get back to my room, clean up and get some rest. I parked the car and made the long walk to the cab park. I took a cab to gate and then walked into my hostel greeting all the security men. As I walked down my corridor, I noticed some guys from the other rooms lingering around but none of my roommates. I opened the door and as I walked in I saw him. Uncle Mufu and behind him, Debby.

    Episode 8

    I didn’t know what to think. I thought I was almost prepared for this moment, I had put together the words, the explanation and everything but as Uncle Mufu’s eyes pierced through my skin (that’s what it seemed like), my thoughts swayed to Mama and then I just didn’t know what else to think… Azeez… Is Mama ok? Azeez…. Is that how they do. Is she ok? Your mother is fine but is that how they do. You just leave. No phone. No call. Oti o.. I…err…ema..ema binu sir What happen that you just leave like that. Even if they steal your motor. You suppose to come and tell me so we can find a solution. Uncle I didn’t know how….. Still yet! Ahn Ahn Azeez… Still yet, you suppose to come and tell me; Ahn ahn… that is how family do. (He said, slightly raising his voice) By then, some on-lookers had gathered outside my room and I noticed Debby getting more and more uncomfortable. It wasn’t till then that I wondered just what she was doing there and then Uncle Mufu said.. Close your door, let us be private. I moved to close the door even as our spectators unwillingly began to leave. I closed the door and turned to resume the baptism I was sure to get.
    Opelope aburo e. (thank God for your sister), I don’t even know she always see you. The both of you, you don’t know how important family is ni ehn Debola. He turned to look at Debby. So, if I did not talk about it with your mother, you will not have remember to tell me you see your broda in school. Debby looked away from Uncle Mufu and twisted her hair as if praying for this drama to end even as I gradually began to recollect images of the young Debola I sometimes saw at my Uncles place back then. She was schooling outside the country at some point and looking at Debby then, I noticed the semblance even though the transformation was astounding. That is matter for another day. It is very late to find the motor but we will try. I will talk to my friend D.P.O and see what can happen. For now, life must go on, so have this He dropped a bunch of keys in my hand… That is the key to KJ492 in the park. Pick it from the park and use it for now… I was surprised beyond words and even though it was clear my uncle was not going to hear a word of my protest, I managed to get in a word… But no uncle, I can’t accept this… My excuse for a protest fell on deaf ears. Uncle Mufu gave me one of those stern fatherly looks, he then turned to Debby and back to me… He dipped his hands into his pocket, produced some money, which he more or less squeezed into my hands even as he said… Use that to get anything you need. I have a lot of work to do. With that, he hurried out of my room and Debby hobbled after him giving me that sort of look that said…
    “I’m sorry” as she walked out. I checked the money Uncle Mufu stuffed in my hands – 5k. Something must not be right. How did Debby or Debola know enough about me or my car to tell Uncle Mufu and what exactly did she tell him and why was he being so generous. I know it wasn’t like a new car but that golf was still very functional and even I would not take it so lightly if one of my drivers got it stolen, family or not. And we’re not even family. It all didn’t make sense to me. Well, except that I now knew why Debby always seemed to run from me whenever I saw her at Kassy’s place. I needed to think. I got out my bucket and went to have my bath. I got back to the room and Dare was around. It felt like I hadn’t seen him for weeks. He even had a new haircut I hadn’t seen. He was his usual efiko self. He bombarded me with questions upon questions and before I could answer them he drifted off into the world of engineering. It was just about a week to Christmas so things were pretty much rounding up in school so I hadn’t missed much but exams had been scheduled for late January barely giving me enough time to breathe once we resume from the break. I chatted with Dare for a while, I needed the distraction. During our conversation, Fadeke sent me a text message. She just wanted to check up on me. Maybe that was what I needed. I called Fadeke and after talking for a while, I asked if we could see later in the day. She hesitated but later agreed. We planned to meet up at an eatery close to Medilag; 4pm. Nothing major.
    I slept for a while after talking to Dare then I woke up about an hour before my date. I freshened up and took a cab to Moremi park. I dressed very casual, just a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. After serious consideration, I decided to go with the car but upon getting there, if I wasn’t confident enough, then I would park somewhere far off and just walk or take a bike. I didn’t want to start off by giving the wrong impression. Maybe I already did by not telling her I was a taxi driver/driver? I didn’t even know how to define my current status. By the time I got to the car at High Rise, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to drive anymore. I noticed the car had been re-parked. Princess definitely had a spare key. I decided to drop off some of the things I had on me in the car. Actually, the only thing I needed to drop was the car key Uncle Mufu had given me. I opened the car, dropped the key and some other documents I found in my wallet in the pigeonhole. Few minutes later I was in a bus to Ojuelegba. The events of the morning and the night before went through my mind again and I was still somewhat confused. I tried to focus my thoughts on Fadeke even as I got closer to the eatery. I was surprised to meet her there even though she said she had only just gotten there. She wore a simple dress with casual slippers. She packed her hair backwards and it only made her look more beautiful. I teased her about her hair and she laughed. It seemed so easy to talk to her and in no time we were deep in conversation just about anything and everything. We talked about football, Arsenal, her hostel, mine, religion and family – her family. She had two siblings; elder brothers and both were out of the country.
    There was a little bit of awkwardness when I told her about my mother. She seemed so sad and concerned. I had to get our order so I could change the subject. As I walked to our table carrying my tray, I looked up and noticed Kassy walking into the eatery. I picked up pace and rushed to the table hoping Kassy did not spot me. I wasn’t prepared for any weird explanation. Kassy seemed decently dressed enough from where I sat but knowing her, I could not risk it. I tried to look away whenever I noticed Kassy looking in our direction but a part of me was very sure she saw me. Kassy picked up her order and left. I had been so worried about Kassy spotting me I didn’t think about Fadeke until she asked… Old friend? Huh? (Fadeke caught me unawares) … well, more like employer. Employer? It’s quite a long story – not for today… We went back to our meal after that and then I asked when her birthday was. Surprisingly, she said, next week Sunday – Boxing day. We spoke about that for a while. She was going to turn twenty-two and she really had no plans for the day. I was considering traveling to Ibadan for the holidays but hearing Fadeke say she didn’t have plans seemed like an opportunity was being presented to me. I enjoyed her company so much and I knew I could do with a lot more of it especially if it helped get my mind off every other thing.
    Just then my phone rang. It was Princess. I thought about not picking but then I was in one way or the other working for her still so I had to… Hello. A-Zed. Where are you? I’m out of school but not far. Please can you come and get me now. It’s urgent please. She cut the call. Quite unusual. I looked at Fadeke then and before I could speak she asked if I had to go. I answered yes, reluctantly. I so didn’t want to leave. I was having so much fun with Fadeke it only seemed logical for me to cook up some sort of excuse for Princess and stay. But she did say it was urgent. Probably one of her many ridiculous trips to some party or some customer’s house. I wondered then why Princess put herself through all that madness. She seemed like a well brought up girl who was comfortable and brilliant too; what else could she possibly want. What did she get from this life… this ridiculously dangerous and stupid lifestyle. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be my business but after experiencing the previous night and returning without Tomi, reality hit home. Maybe Uncle Mufu had given me a way out. I could take the new car and thank her for all she had for me and return to my old controlled lifestyle and hope for the best with Mama. Maybe, just maybe. I broke out of my thoughts as Fadeke hugged me. I promised to call her later so we could pick up our conversation. I made it back to High Rise and by then I had made up my mind to give Princess just one more chance. If this trip involved any form of Nollywood drama, it would be my last.
    I had barely gotten into the car when I saw Princess walking through the door. Wherever we were going, she really wanted to get there fast. She looked extra exposed too. Her dress was backless and very revealing. She made an effort to cover her body with the scarf she held but it did very little. She got into the car, the back seat this time. Without a word of greeting she asked me to head towards Lekki Phase 1. As I drove, I looked back at her and my level of irritation began to rise. I just couldn’t take it anymore – why was she doing this to herself. I held my thoughts and drove on. As I drove into Lekki, Princess directed me and as she did, I realized the streets looked very familiar. But of course, I thought to myself, we were heading towards Chief’s house. Chief’s house! Ridiculous. I tried not to say anything until I was sure. Lo and behold, Princess asked me to park just outside the compound. As she got out of the car she told me to come back for her by 11pm but I had had it with her. I got out of the car and stopped her. Why. Princess why? Why do you do this to yourself? She held back her words and listened on… It’s not bad enough you’re ruining your life with all these people and unnecessary places you visit. Now you’re back here, to him. He almost got us killed, just because of what? How much did he offer you to get you to forget so soon? How much? WHAM!!!! It was faster than my eyes could see.
    It was a strong slap on the right side of my cheek. How dare you. How dare you Azeez….You know nothing about me or my life… You’re right. I know nothing. Nothing except what I’ve experienced in the past few weeks and you know what? It stinks Princess. Can you not smell trouble? And you being the expert at trouble detection, I’m sure you predicted everything that happened on every single one of our trips. I’m not a child. This is my life and how I chose to live it is up to me. It’s either you can fit in it or not. Forget about coming back to pick me. I will find my way home. She shoved me aside and walked towards the gate. Seconds later, she disappeared into the compound. I just wanted to leave the car and head back home but that wasn’t me. I was so angry. I got into the car, slammed the door and drove off. I would drop off the car with a note telling her I wasn’t coming back. As I sped down Kingsway road, my phone rang and I hesitated in picking it as I thought it was Princess calling to apologize or something. I answered the call… Hello Goodday, am I on to Mr. A-Zed? Yes, who’s speaking. They call me Senior. Senior? Oh, Senior… How did you get…. Forget that… I have a message for Princess. I can’t seem to get across to her. Please let her know that I’ve gotten her a +2 for the event on the 26th but she has to confirm latest by tomorrow. I guess I’ll see you then. He cut the call and I was so angry and confused I couldn’t make sense of what he told me. I was sick and tired of this world and all I wanted to do was get out. I drove faster and soon after, I was back at High Rise.
    I parked the car and as I stepped out to lock the doors, I remembered the keys I had in the pigeonhole. I went back in and took out the key along with the documents. I needed a piece of paper to write my resignation note. I looked through the pieces of paper I had with me and realized I had picked some additional ones from the pigeonhole. I flipped open one of the pieces and noticed it was a medical test result sheet. It was addressed to Adejuwon P. George. I scanned through the ticked boxes and noticed only the HIV box was checked. I looked to the bottom of the page and the result read positive.

    Episode 9

    The drive back to Lekki was surreal. A lot of thoughts kept popping in and out of my mind. It all seemed to make sense now but it was just so sad. I’d read about this and I’d even seen commercials on TV but I have never known anyone infected with the disease but now it seems I’m working for one. Its was just so sad for me to take in at once, Princess seemed too good a person to be the one; why her and not someone else. It just goes to show how unfair the world can be at times. I joined all the lose ends together even as I drove. But if this was why she was doing this, it wasn’t just right. I was going to talk to her and try to get her to stop but maybe not just tonight. I felt so bad thinking about the things I had said to her when I dropped her off. She was right, I really didn’t know anything about her. This alone changes so much – it changes everything.
    I made it back to Lekki long before 11pm. She wasn’t going to be expecting me so I had to wait. I parked the car, took a stroll around, got credit and a drink and then went back to the car. I tried to think through the past weeks and just how much drama I seemed to have gotten myself into. So much seemed to have changed since that day I picked up Kassy and Debola. Hmmm.. Debola. My thoughts briefly swayed to Uncle Mufu, I still had the keys to the new taxi he gave me. Few hours ago, I had more or less made up my mind to take him up in his offer but with this new development, maybe this was my own way of helping Princess; I couldn’t possible leave her to herself after this. And if I hoped to convince her to change, I needed to stay close enough to her. I needed to see Uncle Mufu. His level of generosity was still strange to me but I needed to try to make him understand why I can’t accept his offer. It was obvious I couldn’t head back to Ibadan for Christmas. With Mama in the hospital, I really had no business there. I had to check on Mama with the Doctor later on. I decided to stay back in school and catch up on my courses all through the holiday. However, I decided to visit Uncle Mufu sometime during the coming week so we could talk.
    I looked at the time just then, it was a few minutes to 11. I got out of the car and walked to the gate. I pressed the little button by the pedestrian gate and that familiar voice answered asking who I was and what I wanted. I simply answered, “A-Zed here to pick Miss Princess”. With that, I stepped back, keeping a good distance between the gate and I. I had made up my mind not to go inside – no matter what. I wasn’t ready for surprises. While I stood there reminiscing the terrible events of the night Princess and I were captured, the gate opened and Princess walked out with Zino closely following behind. I felt some relief when I saw Zino, I didn’t get to thank him for helping us escape the other time but as I looked at him I knew this wasn’t the place or time. The look on his face was blank and expressionless. With no questions asked, Princess looked at me and said:
    Let’s go.
    We walked to the car even as Zino stood by the gate watching us. I started the car and drove off half thanking God nothing dramatic happened. As I drove, I tried looking for some sort of expression on Princesses’ face but there was nothing. She sat in the back seat again and every time I thought I saw her smiling when I looked through the rearview mirror, I realized I was wrong. All my attempts at making little conversation failed. I then decided to let it go. I made it back to High Rise before midnight and even as I parked I knew I couldn’t just end the night like that. I had to ease the tension somehow. But before I could think of what next to say, she spoke..
    I’ll be moving out of school for the holiday tomorrow. Are you going to be in Lagos for Christmas?
    I turned a bit to look at her and then answered – Yes. I will be in Lagos…. but ( I knew I needed to study … how would I explain this to her?) …
    What is it?
    I’ll be around Princess.
    Fine, then you can keep the car with you. I’ll call ahead whenever I need you. Don’t bother about coming for me tomorrow.
    She then reached into her purse and brought out a little piece of paper, which she handed to me. I took it from her and noticed it was a cheque. It had no name written on it but the amount was written in – hundred thousand naira.
    What is this?
    Your Salary. I didn’t know what name to write in. You do have something to identify yourself with do you?
    I sat there quiet … One hundred thousand Naira. Me. Salary.
    Do you?
    I came back to reality and answered ….Yes. Still shocked, I didn’t immediately notice Princess getting out of the car, not until she was almost at the door. I called out to her then…
    Princess…. she turned to look at me..
    I am … I am very sorry and Thank you.
    Without a word, she turned around and walked away.
    I held the cheque for a long time thinking to myself. One hundred thousand Naira. Azeez. Never in my life. I’ve only heard of these kinds of figures – even when I was much younger and my father was still with us, I never came across this kind of money in cash or cheque. I must have sat there for about half an hour… thinking…just thinking about how I’d gotten to that spot, what I’d done to earn this much. I just didn’t seem to be able to justify it and the only way I could accept it was if I believed it was a miracle from God, for Mama. I was still a long way off what was needed for her surgery but it was a significant start. I still had more than enough saved away from my trips with Kassy and the other girls so I was more than comfortable. I folded the cheque neatly into my pocket, took out all I needed from the car and left for my room. It was definitely too late to get a cab so I took the long walk through access road to my hostel.
    I got to my room and I met Dare packing his things. The room looked pretty empty. I knew most, if not all my other roommates would have left school. I was surprised to see Dare packing though. I could have bet he was going to stick around in school till Christmas eve.
    Mr. A-Zed.
    Shebi that’s your new name. Big boy A-Zed.
    I ignored Dare and walked to my locker.
    E ki wa now (Greet us now). Abi because we don’t drive Corollas like you, we can no longer talk to you?
    I turned around in surprise – what corolla.
    You think I don’t know? Correction, we don’t know?
    Know what Dare? What do you know.
    Hmm… Azeez ( He stopped packing and walked towards me). So this is what you’ve been up to all this while. This is what has been keeping you away from lectures, from school, from your friends…… I am still your friend am I?
    I stood there not knowing what to say…
    It has gotten that bad. I don’t even think I know you anymore. If not for all the gossip around here, I probably wouldn’t have known anything was going on. But has it really gotten this bad Azeez… Ko i ti baje to yen now (it hasn’t gotten this bad). ….. Everyone in school knows…
    Knows what! Knows what exactly Dare… What do you all know… ( I said, half-yelling and Dare flinched)
    We all know that… that spoilt and snobbish daughter of Chief Adetokunbo George has cast some sort of spell on you. She literarily has you driving her up and down campus, running errands for her and God knows what else…..
    I stood there not knowing how to react…..
    You leave her house at odd hours and…. is that where you’re even coming from?
    I looked away from Dare, I wanted to ignore him. I was angry. No – irritated. Even if every other person in the world was quick to jump into conclusions, I expected more from him. Not after knowing me almost all my life. Least he could have done was come to ask me. I was irritated because he had ruined the pleasant thoughts I had about saving up the hundred thousand for Mama’s surgery. I wished I hadn’t come to the room. I was so irritated I missed the fact that he had just told me Princess was the daughter of Chief Tokunbo George, the renounced political godfather of most politicians in this part of the country.
    So you’re not going to answer me. Azeez. Azeez oo ni dami loun. (Azeez you wont answer me)
    And so what. So what , if its you Dare. You’ve completely disappointed me. How could you just conclude like that. No single benefit of doubt…
    No. None. Azeez. You’ve left me no choice. Do you even remember the last time we had a serious conversation. All we do when we meet nowadays is say hi and bye… I come back to the room and see new clothes in your locker.. and then I hear all these stories.. ki lo fe kin ro (what do you expect me to think)
    He was right. Dare could pass as my exact opposite in that we had almost completely different lifestyles but he was the one person I was so comfortable talking to. He always seemed to help set me right but lately I’d been so far away from him. I just felt he would never be able to understand any of the things that had been happening let alone be able to advice on what or what not to do. And I knew I was too harsh with my response. This was Dares way of asking; this was him giving me benefit of doubt.
    Hmm… ( I sighed heavily) Dare. Oro po. Oro po gaaan. (Dare, there’s a lot to say. A lot)
    Dare, walked to my bunk and sat … Mo ‘n gbo e (I’m listening to you)…
    I sat on the lower bunk opposite mine and thought about where to begin. Picking up Kassy and Debby that faithful day or meeting Princess.. Getting thrown into the crazy world of high class prostitutes… Almost getting killed….losing my taxi …
    Dare and I spoke till almost 4am. He felt like he was watching a movie. The expressions on his face as I told him some of my experiences were classic. I wish I had a camera to capture them. He did surprise me though. For a geek, he seemed to know a lot about YNot and the seemingly symbiotic relationship between taxi drivers and prostitutes. Dare disliked Kassy instantly. He begged me to try as much as I could to stay away from her as she had trouble written all over her. He was very drawn to Princess – very sad when I told him about the test result I found. He also felt I had to help her realize she was better than what she was doing. Dare advised me to continue working for Princess as long as it would help raise the Money Mama needed faster but he also said I should try not to get drawn into “their world”.
    It was definitely fun talking to Dare again. I felt so much relief when I finally went to bed. He woke me early in the morning. He had taken his bath and was dressed. He was heading home to his family in Dugbe, Ibadan for the holiday. He reminded me to make sure I saw Uncle Mufu before the end of the holiday and then he left.
    I went back to bed and slept so pleasantly. I think I even dreamt about Fadeke. I must have because I woke up thinking about her. It was almost as if she was haunting me in my sleep about going to church. I hadn’t been to church in a while and I had alot to be thankful for and also alot of repenting to do. It was just about 10am, I was almost late for service. I jumped off my bed, took a quick bath, got dressed and ran out of my room to church.
    The service was interesting. The sermon was about divine surprises. It made me feel as if I was living in the future as I was already experiencing a testimony from the sermon. I left church before noon and on my way back to my room I got a call from Fadeke.
    So, is it a yes or a no.
    Are you proposing to me?
    Who? What? Please don’t flatter yourself. Did you go to church or not.
    This is a tough question seeing as you marrying me is hinged on my answer.
    (she laughed) Who is marrying you?
    I’m just heading back to my room. I went to church.
    Ehn hen, we thank God.
    We chatted for a while about how she still had nothing planned for her birthday. She was so unexcited about it; it got me thinking. Maybe the right gift would do the trick. Maybe. I had never given a girl a birthday gift. I didn’t have a clue. I got off the phone and went to get food. I returned to my room and began sorting out my notes. Dare had filled me in on all I’d missed and surprisingly enough, it wasn’t so much.
    I went out later in the evening. I needed to move the car somewhere closer just to be safe. I parked outside my hostel and drew a few comments from people who knew me. I got enough food to last me through the night and the next morning. I didn’t plan on going out till I was done with all my reading. At about 11pm, I had covered quite a lot and I decided to get some rest. I hadn’t gotten a call from Princess all day and it seemed strange. I’d call her in the morning just to check on her. I was still concerned about her and that test result I saw, I just didn’t know how exactly to go about bringing up the topic. As I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, my phone rang. This late? I wondered who it was… I checked my phone and Kassy’s name flashed on the screen. I wondered just what she could want at this time of the night on a Sunday.
    A-Zed (she was whispering).. can you hear me
    … Yes I can
    Please I need you to come and get me. Please
    Kassy…I ….I..
    I’m stranded, it’s an emergency please.. I’m in Obalende.. I will text you the address now. Please hurry .. thank you..
    I couldn’t understand how she managed to do it to me over and over again but as I got into my car and drove out of school, I promised myself it would be the last time especially since Dare had begged me to stay away. I received Kassy’s text. She was in a hotel somewhere in Obalende. Her directions seemed straight forward enough. I wondered why she was whispering though. I just wanted to get done with her and get back to studying.
    I was parked outside the hotel in about 20 minutes. I tried to call Kassy but she kept cutting my call. She finally sent me a text message begging me to come up to help her carry some of her luggage. I couldn’t believe her. Even though I was working for my money, it was going to be the last time. I went into the hotel. It was more like a motel. It looked shabby and nothing remotely comparable to the guesthouse we went to in Ogun State. The man or boy at the counter was half asleep and it took him three attempts before he could finally point me in the right direction to the room Kassy was. I made my way up and as I was about knocking on the door, Kassy opened it and pulled me in. She put her hand across my mouth and asked me to speak in hushed tones. It felt wrong as if something was wrong but I wasn’t in the mood to ask questions. Kassy pointed to a ghana-must-go bag in the corner of the room and asked that I help her carry it down.
    The bag was medium sized and looked very heavy but surprisingly, it wasn’t as heavy as I thought it was. It seemed like it was stuffed with paper. I carried the bag and went down ahead of Kassy, she soon joined me in the car, in the front passenger seat after she asked me to put the bag in the boot and as I drove away she said we were going to a place called Obawole somewhere close to Akute. That was far and totally in the opposite direction of where she stayed in Badore. It was hard but I put my frustration aside and I didn’t complain. I drove as far as I knew and then Kassy described the rest of the journey.
    For some strange reason, we met just one police checkpoint on the way – even on the mainland. At that stop, the policemen simply looked into the car and then asked us to go on. We made it to our destination before 1am. The street was quiet and remote, the house was also a bungalow, unpainted just like Kassy’s house in Badore but much smaller. I parked outside and I had to help her carry the bag inside. I hesitated initially but this was unlike the last time, she had a genuine reason for me to go inside with her. She opened the gate and then the door even as I carried the bag behind her. We walked into the house and I noticed it was poorly furnished. Two chairs were arranged in the living room. There was no television or any other form of electronic. I dropped the bag and waited for her to pay me before leaving. I had already made up my mind to leave if she asked me to go get it from a room or anywhere else. Kassy sat on one of the chairs and pulled the bag towards her. She had a smile on her face and kept staring at me even as she opened the bag. Curious about the content, I watched as she unzipped it and I couldn’t help but gasp in surprise.
    The bag was full of money. Fresh bundles of 500 Naira notes. Kassy laughed, as she must have seen the expression on my face.
    A-Zed A-Zed… she said as she stood and walked towards me….
    In that bag, I have 9 million Naira. Yes, 9 million. A gift from one of my customers and that gift can be for you and I. You see, I like you. Yes, I like you a lot (she said as she touched my face) and I want you to be my man. Legally.
    I stood there speechless.
    I plan on leaving this your damned country and going back home. Me I be Cameroonian. Yes. With this money, we will live like king and Queen in Yaoundé. We can leave first thing in the morning through Calabar if you want. So what do you say?
    I stood there still speechless thinking, wondering how she’d really come about all this money and how she trusted me enough to think I couldn’t steal the money from her.
    A-Zed. Look at me. We don’t have time. Look me in the eye and give me an answer.

    Episode 10

    The feeling of sitting at the back seat of a cab while another person drove was very strange. I could barely look away from the road as it felt like I was the one driving. It took mild distractions, well, not so mild, from Kassy to get me to look her way. She moved in closer to me and laid her head on my thighs. She looked up smiling at me and I looked down at her with the thought of a new life ahead of us floating in my mind. Kassy tried to seize the moment like she always did, she moved up and closed in to kiss me. As our lips met, I thought to myself, something here isn’t right. Everything really. Kassy and I cozy in the backseat of a cab with 9 million Naira stashed in a box in the boot of the car – No.
    I shook my head and woke up from my thoughts. Kassy was standing right next to me. So close I could feel her breathing – heavily.
    I’m sorry Kassy, I can’t.
    As I said those words, I noticed the shock that took over Kassy. It was almost as if she was absolutely sure I was going to say yes. She didn’t say a word in response. She walked back to seat on one of the chairs, almost falling in the process. I stood where I was and waited… for what, I wasn’t sure. I really wouldn’t have been bothered if she decided not to pay me. Being around her was enough trouble; I really just needed to leave. I took one more look at her and as I turned to leave, she called out to me – A-Zed…
    I turned back and then she threw about eight bundles of the one thousand Naira notes at me. Both bundles didn’t make it to me. Kassy just seemed so weak and disappointed; she could barely look at me when she said…
    That’s your money. Please take it and leave.
    I looked at the scattered packets on the floor and before I could think, Mama’s image came to my mind and I instantly picked up the money. Without taking another look at Kassy, I turned around and left. I stashed the money in the pigeonhole of the car, I couldn’t help but take another look at Princess’ test result. It was just then I noticed the name of the hospital. It was one of the best, if not the best in the country. I knew this because the doctors at Mama’s clinic had recommended it as a possible location for Mama’s surgery. It made sense for someone like Princess to only use that kind of hospital. I replaced the result and got on my way, it was still only about 2am. I figured I could make it back to school by 3 and see if I could still get some reading done before morning.
    I went through Agege and as I approached Ikeja, I saw a police check point ahead. There was a car ahead of me. They didn’t stop it. Good. I was glad they weren’t stopping all cars. As I got closer, I noticed one of the policemen waving me down. How unlucky I thought, maybe I should just give them what they want before they ask – I thought to myself. I got to the checkpoint, cleared to the side and parked.
    Officers, well done o
    Yes, where are you coming from at this time?
    Officer, I just go drop my sister for her house oh I say make I quick run back go school
    Sister? At this time?
    I tried to laugh and make a joke out of it) Ehn.. na one small emergency dey…
    The policeman looked away and spoke to the one on the other side, I knew he was calling him to come over. Two to one, I was out numbered. I had to give up something. I immediately took out my key and dropped it at the side of my seat and then got out some money from my pocket. When the other officer turned to look at me, he asked me to come out of the car:
    Officer, abeg, all this one no necessary. Just take this one use manage this night. ( I held out the money I had taken out to him – it was a N500 note)
    The police officer looked at me and I felt as his countenance changed.
    Are you trying to bribe a police officer of the federal republic of Nigeria?
    Err… Officer…
    Will you get out of that car, you this bloody thief (he said yelling even as he reached for the handle of my door)
    By then, the other officer had gotten there. They were both armed and I couldn’t risk putting back my key in the ignition and driving off. I opened my door and the moment I got out, the second officer dragged me aside while the first officer began to search the car. He looked everywhere, almost as if he was looking for something in particular. He then tried to open the pigeonhole and he noticed it was locked.
    Where is the key? (He shouted)
    I don’t have the key.. it’s my madam
    WHAM!!!! I felt a heavy slap on my face from the second police officer.
    I say where is the key to that place. (this time, he yelled louder despite the fact that he stood inches away from me and almost bathed me in saliva.
    It was then I perceived the heavy smell of alcohol in his breath) Fear took hold of me instantly. I had heard several stories of how people got shot and even got killed by drunk policemen and now I was standing face to face with two of them. What was I going to do. Tell them where the key was and risk losing Mamas money as well as getting killed or stick to my decision.
    Growing up, I had my stubborn moments, but largely, I was never one of those ridiculously stubborn children who always frustrated their parents. Infact, Mama often said I needed to be manlier about certain things. Was this one of those things? The odds certainly didn’t favour me but for some reason I still can’t explain, I decided to stick with my initial position.
    Oga, I don’t know where the key is. I left the key in the car before I got out.
    I felt the cold rush of water dripping on my face.
    Arrggggghhhh.. cough…cough…
    It hurt. Everything everywhere was hurting. I tried hard to open my eyes and I could only manage to open one. My vision was blurry but I could make out two towering figures standing on either side of me. Just then, I felt the cold harsh pain of my bare back on concrete. I tried to move again but I couldn’t. The cold water began poring on my face again…
    I heard laughter in the background even as my vision finally stabilized. I looked up to see two men standing beside me, one on each side. The one on my left side was remarkably dark. He was about five feet six inches tall and very dark. His brown teeth, which glared down at me from his grin were the brightest things on him. And he was stark naked. His member standing erect pointed at the man on my right side who was almost like a complete opposite of the first man. Tall, light-skinned but also not fully closed. He had on a pair or trousers made out of guinea material. The waist rope was long and untied, dangling just above me. I noticed a sachet of pure water in the hands of the taller man.
    He squeezed the pure water sachet again, more water on my face. I still couldn’t open my right eye. I tried to get up again and this time, I was able to turn my body sideways. Excruciating spasms of pain ran through my body even as I tried to take in the pain.
    Omo ghetto …. ounje ti set…
    Sere, abo ri nkan. B’olorun oba ma se ‘n pese fun awon ti e niyen o.. jeje la kuku jo sibi, tati ro pe, a ma gbe gbogbo wahala yen wo new year
    (Sere, can’t you see, we only just sat here peacefully thinking we’ll take all our troubles into the new year, see how God provides for his own)
    Ghetto, bawo lose ma ro be. Wo freeeeesh fish ti Olorun pese fun wa… ko nipe jina
    (Ghetto, how will you think like that. Look at the fresh fish God has provided for us. It’s almost ready to eat)
    Minutes later, I felt hands pulling me up. It was then I looked down and realized I was only wearing my boxers. I couldn’t make out where I was but it was poorly lit and hollow with a strong smell of something like urine. With my single eye, I looked at the walls and saw several inscriptions…
    Ajala waz ere ’07………
    Fashola, obo tinubu……
    To God be tha glory……
    There was one section that had so many writings, it almost looked like a mural. The thoughts began to come back, the policemen, the checkpoint, my car, the money. I managed to open my right eye then and it was then I saw the metal bars. We were in what looked like the courtyard of a cell. There were doors all around that led to this open space. Two gutters ran across the yard stinking seriously. I turned my attention back to the hands that were moving me. They belonged to the tall light man. The other man lingered behind, still beaming heavily.
    I was in so much pain, I just couldn’t move any more and even my Samaritan noticed and proceeded to heave me onto his shoulder. As he walked towards one of the seemingly dark rooms, I heard a voice call out:
    Mathew kilode… kilode now.
    Sere’s voice was a huge contrast to his figure. If anything at all, he sounded like a mouse and somewhere in my thoughts, I managed a laugh.
    Mathew, we don warn you make you no dey chook your mouth for our business oh, the other man said. His voice sounded like that of a veteran Agbero.
    I heard locks being opened and as Sere dropped me, I realized Mathew was a police officer and he had come into the courtyard with two other officers.
    Eyin boys, ema binu, eleyi ti lo. Oga ni kin gbe wa. (Boys, don’t be angry, this one has gone. Oga said I should bring him)
    Amidst shouts and murmurs of displeasure, the other two policemen dragged me out of the coutyard with Mathew trailing behind.
    We moved into an office area. It was also poorly lit, the walls looked like they had been painted by the inmates – green glossy paint over unevenly plastered walls. On the wall were portraits of the president, state governor and current I.G of police. I didn’t recognize his voice immediately but it didn’t take long for me to. Standing by the counter was Senior. He was having a word with one other police officer was looked well dressed in the blue and black ceremonial uniform. They shook hands and then Mathew dropped some clothes in front of me. They were mine. I felt some strength return to me out of nowhere. Maybe it was the thought of almost being free. I managed to wear my clothes with help from Mathew and a few minutes later, I, Senior and Mathew were in a car with one other police man.
    It was bright outside, I checked Senior’s watch and noticed it was almost 1pm. I had been knocked out and in this mess for over 6 hours I thought to myself. Incredible. The policeman drove us to the checkpoint I had stopped at earlier. I and Senior got off and then he drove off.
    Where is the key, Senior asked?
    I hobbled to the car, opened the door and stretched my hand to the side of the drivers seat. I felt the key almost immediately. I pulled it out and Senior came to me and took it.
    Go and sit.
    I went round to the passenger’s side in front and got into the car. Without a word, Senior started the engine and began to drive. I wanted to ask where we were heading, how he knew where I was and a lot of questions but I was too weak to talk. My eyes fluttered and then shut again. I woke up to sounds of my name.
    It was Senior – how did he know my name? How… I was drowsy. I looked round and noticed we were in front of my hostel. How did he……… I couldn’t think.
    I’ll drop the car off at Princess’ house. You can get the key from her help.
    I got out of the car and Senior zoomed off. I dragged myself into my room and all I wanted to do was take something for the ragging pain in my head. I got into my room and as I shut the door, I caught a reflection of my face in the mirror behind it. WOW. I noticed a huge black patch on the right side of my face. That explained the pain. I took off my clothes then and looked round my body for other cuts or bruises, I didn’t see any. I needed rest. I looked through my locker looking for a painkiller. I noticed my watch then and I saw it read the day as TUE instead of MON… I was hallucinating. I needed sleep. I found some panadol extra, got pure water, took it and somehow found my way to the bed.
    I woke up the next morning to sounds coming from my stomach – hunger. I managed to get out of bed. The pain had subsided in some parts of my body and I could open both of my eyes even though it still hurt a lot. I had barely began wondering where to start my haunt for food when I saw a nylon bag right beside my bed. It was from an eatery. I opened it and found a pack of food, fruits, a phone and some drugs. The sane part of me would have questioned this but I was too hungry to think. I assumed Senior had come back to drop it and so I began eating the food. I finished it all in a matter of minutes and proceeded to take the drugs in the bag.
    I knew I had to get out of my room and move around if I wanted to heal quickly enough. I managed to fetch a bucket of water. The hostel was almost completely empty. Few days to Christmas, everyone had left school except some serious efikos. I brought my bucket to the room and heated it with Dares boiling ring. I then went and took my bath. I returned to the room feeling much better. I tried to move around and though I felt pain, I was able to.
    I got dressed then and it wasn’t until I wore my clothes that I thought about the phone. I picked it up realized my old sim card was placed in it. I had all my numbers stored in it and I had a couple of messages from Fadeke. She was just checking up on me and wondering what I had been up to except reading. I had a missed call from Uncle Mufu and that was it. I had too many questions on my mind but even thinking hurt at that point. I thought about Uncle Mufu and how I had promised to spend time with him and his family during the break. I decided to go there. Uncle Mufus house wasn’t far. He lived in Abule Oja even though he had several other houses in highbrow areas of Lagos. I walked out of my room after checking to make sure I had a decent enough lie to cover for the ring around my eye. I got out of school and bought shades for my eyes before stopping a bike. I got to Uncle Mufus house in minutes and met him outside getting ready to leave.
    Ekaro Sir…
    Ahh… Azeez… Ibo lo ma n so phone e si now … mo de call call call
    (where do you always throw your phone. I’ve been calling you)
    E ma binu Sir, mo ni accident die ni
    (Don’t be angry Sir, I had a little accident)
    I took off my shades and showed him my eye… He moved closer and tilted my face with his hand. He gave me a look that said “accident indeed” and then he said…
    Pele, sha ma rora (Sorry, just take it easy)
    Ese sir (Thank you Sir).
    Oya wole sinu motor, mo fe ka jo de ibi kan
    (get into the car, I want you to come somewhere with me)
    I was surprised. He acted as if he was expecting me. I had no choice, I got into the passenger side in front and thought about offering to drive but I knew I was not exactly in the right condition. That aside, Uncle Mufu hardly allowed any other person drive him. I hope we weren’t going far because I didn’t even know what to say to my uncle. Luckily, the journey was short. We drove into LUTH a few minutes after and I imagined he was stopping by to visit a friend.
    Uncle Mufu said little, he just asked about school and that was it. We went into the hospital and after talking to a few people, he came back to get me from where I sat. A nurse walked ahead of us and we followed. I wondered what we had come to do, who we had come to see and my mind was still wondering when the nurse opened the door to one of the admission rooms and there she was – Mama.
    Mama, I almost shouted.
    I looked at Uncle Mufu and then the nurse and back to Mama. Was she ok? What was she doing here? How did she get here? Why?
    Easy. Easy. Don’t wake her oh. Don’t worry, everything is well. Iyabo is better treated here. I know you need her close so I moved her.
    I couldn’t explain how happy I was. I was ecstatic. This was indeed a Christmas miracle. I held onto Uncle Mufus hands and thanked him profusely.
    No no no… no need to thank me, he said as he held my shoulder. Azeez, you know you are like son to me. I want you to be happy all the time.
    I didn’t know what to say or how to respond to him, I looked at Mama then and out of nowhere, a smile appeared on her face.

    Episode 11

    The Doctors just couldn’t explain the change in Mama. It was as if the Lagos weather had some positive effect on her system. She would still require her surgery but there was a huge difference when compared with how she looked in Ibadan. Uncle Mufu had given me the best Christmas gift I didn’t even wish for just because I didn’t think it was possible. The man had surprised me too much during the year. His niceness to Mama and I was not explainable. Not killing me for losing my cab, I thought that was the height of it but bringing Mama to Lagos, I was beyond grateful.
    Uncle Mufu asked a doctor at the hospital to check out my “accident wounds” and he still didn’t ask any questions. I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday with Uncle Mufu; He was leaving for Abuja on Boxing Day and he wanted to ensure his family had enough supplies to last them while he was away. He was a strong member of the ruling political party; a lot of the drivers at the park talk about how he controls most of the happenings in the rough parts of Lagos and they have countless stories of how he amassed so much wealth from the last elections but he was also a strong family man. Despite tales and mentions of countless girlfriends and concubines outside his home, he always ensured he took good care of his family.
    I spoke to Fadeke – a lot too. I had made up my mind to get her a gift but I wasn’t exactly sure what to get. I thought about asking Princess for help but I decided against it. There was really no other person to ask, well, so I thought till I got talking with Debola one of the days I was at Uncle Mufus house and out of nowhere, I asked her, more out of confusion than nothing else. Her reaction was surprising. She seemed so eager to help. She advised on budgets, locations where I could shop and places we could go on dates. She even offered to help get cards. She seemed like a natural and I was beyond grateful. I had never ever done this before. Closest I had been to liking anyone this much was after I left secondary school, back in Ibadan. There wasn’t this much pressure then. Not like Fadeke was demanding or anything but this was more or less like an opportunity to present my case. A show of interest and I wasn’t going to let it slip.
    Debola did everything. It was like a little project for her and I didn’t get in the way. On Christmas day, I was in Uncle Mufus house. He threw what was supposed to be a little party for close friends and his “boys” as he fondly referred to some of the older drivers in the park. The little party turned out to be a big deal. By the end of the day, two cows and another huge ram had gone down. Guests kept trooping in. it seemed some people had heard about Uncle Mufu’s trip to Abuja, which I later found out was for his party’s convention and primaries that was holding the following week. That explained all the uninvited guests that came for the party.
    As we cleaned up in the evening, Debola handed me the bracelet she got for Fadeke. It was beautiful and too much of a bargain. I wondered if it was real, I knew nothing about these things and even though Debola took her time to try to explain what kind of jewelry it was and why and how she had managed to get it for such a reasonable price, I still didn’t understand. I was just happy I finally had a gift for Fadeke. I slept over at Uncle Mufus house because I stayed back to help with the cleaning and he had asked me to take him to the airport the next morning.
    The next morning, Uncle Mufu woke me early, it always amazed me how disciplined the man was even at his age. I made sure I called Fadeke to wish her a happy birthday and also to set up our meeting before I got ready to leave. As we drove out, he asked me to stop by at the hospital to check on Mama. She seemed even better than the day before. She was up in bed and though she couldn’t talk much, she acknowledged our presence and I couldn’t hide my emotions when she held out her hand to hold mine. I loved the woman so much and I vowed to make sure she would get better. I promised to come see her the next day since I’d be with Fadeke that evening. I drove to the airport, a short peaceful drive – Lagos is always so bearable during Christmas. Uncle Mufu packed just one bag so I didn’t have to wait with him, before he got out of the car, he told me to make sure I visit Mama as often as possible and to also take care of my “aburos” (younger ones) by that I assumed he meant Debola.
    I dropped off his car and went back to my room carrying Fadeke’s cake and gifts. I had made arrangements for her to come over to my room and then we could go out from there. All Debola’s idea. The sparkle in her eyes as she gave me the cake and wished me luck made me wonder why she didn’t exert all her energy into doing this instead if running around with older men but everyone had reasons for making their choices. I promised myself that I would talk to her about it later on. After all, she was family.
    I got to my room and cleaned it up. I took a bath and as I dressed, I looked at myself in the mirror. My face had healed well but you could still see signs of the injury. I also had some other scars on my body but I wasn’t really bothered about those. I told Fadeke to come around by 4pm so I still had enough time. I decided to get some reading done and I almost got carried away with it. Fadeke’s call a few minutes before 4 brought me back to earth. She was already on campus and was walking towards my hostel.
    I hopped off the bed and cleared my books away; I had to go bring her in. The things one could do once school was empty – I didn’t even know I could bring her into my room till Debola told me what I had to do. A little holiday generosity to the porters and that was it. Minutes later we both walked in to sounds of cheer and greetings from both of the Porters. They made me a bit shy but Fadeke seemed very comfortable with it. We got to the room and we both sat on the bed. It felt very strange. I doubt if any of my other roommates had ever had a girl over but then again, I was probably wrong. I tried to end the deafening silence; I wished her a happy birthday again and then gave her the cake and her cards.
    She was very surprised; she hugged me and then opened her cards – both of them. She read out my short message and looked at me with a very shy look on her face. I was pleased – very pleased and I had Debola to thank. I still had her bracelet to go but I was going to save that for later. We talked after that, I always enjoyed talking to Fadeke, she made it very easy and even though we were alone in my room, it wasn’t different. She told me how her day had been and the gifts she got from her parents. The idea was to stay in and chat for a while and then head out for a meal later but we seemed to be having so much fun. The awkward silence came again and this time I knew what I had to do. I liked Fadeke so much and I could tell she did too. I looked into her eyes and she looked away smiling – blushing. I moved closer to her and guided her face to look at mine. She closed her eyes and I moved closer. This was really happening, I thought to myself as I closed in to kiss her …
    *Ring *Ring *Ring
    The loud noise of my new phone ringing and vibrating on the bed was not enough to destroy the moment. Fadeke and I kissed. It was short but absolutely amazing. I didn’t want it to end but the sound coming from my phone kept getting to me and I was so annoyed I didn’t even want to check who was calling. I eventually did and was I surprised? No. It was Princess, I didn’t want to pick but it was all too awkward in the room, I needed a break. I stood up from the bed and picked Princess’ call.
    Where are you Azeez? It’s almost 7.
    Ehn.. but Princess, we didn’t have any discussion about…
    So Senior didn’t tell.. Nevermind, please, this is very very urgent. I’m in Ikoyi and we are very late. Please come.
    Princess, I’m sorry… (I turned to look at Fadeke)… I can’t…
    She was quiet for a while and then…
    If I could do this without you I would. Please I need you Azeez. I’ll be waiting. Thank you.
    With that, she dropped the phone leaving me disoriented and not really knowing what to do. I had never heard Princess beg anyone for anything and she did use the word please. Maybe it was genuinely important this time, but Fadeke was also important. I debated with myself forgetting Fadeke was still there. She punched me gently to get my attention…
    Is everything ok?
    Erm.. well..
    You have to go don’t you?
    I noticed as the look on her face changed. Did I really have to go? Just this time, I thought to myself…
    If it wasn’t very important, I wont…
    (She shook her head) And that was so not expected, was it?
    Mr. Azeez, you have some explaining to do and I’d suggest you do it fast if this… thing we have going on here really does mean anything to you.
    She was right; I had hidden too much from her. Where would I begin and when?
    Look, Fadeke, you’re right and I promise I’ll explain everything to you once I get back. But please let me drop you off.
    Drop me? You now have a car too?
    No, I mean, yes…
    No, it’s fine, I’ll walk.
    She began walking towards the door and I walked behind her not knowing what to say or do. I realized she didn’t take her cake – how could she, if only, she’d let me drop her off…
    It’s fine, you don’t have to walk me, I found my way here didn’t I? Please go and do what you have to do… I’ll wait for your … erm… EXPLANATION… (she said with some sarcasm in her voice)… but just know that I won’t wait for ever.
    I couldn’t come back from that, I watched as she stormed away after that and I knew it was now up to me. I walked back to the room and packed up the cake. I had to get back in good time. Whatever happened, I was going to be waiting to see Fadeke the next morning.
    I got to Ikoyi in a matter of minutes. I was angry but not at Princess, this was all my fault. Yes, she was paying me well enough and yes, I needed the money, especially for Mama but was it worth losing something that seemed so special for? Princess got into the car and I turned to look at her. Short black dress – again. Was it some kind of uniform. She seemed very ok. What was so urgent then? I felt like handing her the keys and going to look for Fadeke but that was too late now.
    Where to?
    Lekki. Three.
    I got on the road and from the way I drove, I’m sure Princess knew something wasn’t right. I nearly ran into a car just after Lekki phase 1 and she turned to look at me but instead of asking what was wrong, she told me we had to pick up someone at the next junction. I had sped past the junction before Princess managed to stop me. It was just about 8pm and I noticed a figure walking towards the car through my rearview mirror. As she got closer, I realized who it was but I didn’t believe it.
    Kassy opened the door and got into the back seat. Also dressed in black. I tried not to give away any reaction. I focused on the road and continued driving. Princess directed me to a house hidden deep somewhere around Lekki phase 3. Like most of the others, it was spectacular from outside and inside. I paid little attention to the details; I just wanted to get the night over and done with. I had already made up my mind I wasn’t leaving the car. I didn’t want any part of their world. I just wanted to do what I was paid to do – drive.
    I parked the car and they got out. Princess turned to ask me to come in with them but I told her I’d be ok in the car. She looked surprised; she paused for a while as if waiting to say something and then began walking away with Kassy. I leaned back in my seat trying to make myself comfortable. If I knew Princess, they were probably going to be in there for a while. It was a few minutes past eight, Princess didn’t say anything about how long she would be but I figured we’d probably be leaving the next morning since she wanted me to come in. I tried to think; my thoughts couldn’t make it past Fadeke. I thought about the moments we spent together before Princess’ call. I really liked her and maybe I should have told her about Princess and everything. Maybe.
    I fell asleep and had a dream – more like, a nightmare. I was struggling to wake up when I heard someone call out my name. A-Zed! It was Princess; she was standing by the door about to come into the car. My eyes came back to focus as I adjusted my seat. I didn’t believe I had slept for that long. I checked the time. 10:30pm. That was fast – very fast. Princess and Kassy got into the car and I drove out. After only going past a few buildings, I noticed a car with it’s headlights flashing ahead of us. Princess asked me to park along side the road. I did and they both got out.
    Princess handed me two brown envelopes. The first one, she told me to please keep for her, while the second was mine. Then she said she’d be in touch. They crossed to the other side of the road and got into the other car. The car drove towards me and as the driver made a u-turn, I noticed it was Senior driving. He even smiled as he drove past me. I felt my envelope and knew it contained money. I didn’t bother to check. I wondered what had just happened. Did Princess and Kassy cut their visit short so they could join Senior for another job or was I just over-thinking?
    It was really none of my business. I was still very angry about leaving Fadeke and heading back so soon even got me angrier. I went past the second roundabout and I realized just how empty the road was. It was not yet 11pm and everywhere was deserted. Then out of nowhere literally, I saw the bright headlights from another car come on behind me. It was an SUV, a big one. I felt a little bit of respite knowing I wasn’t alone on the road. The jeep raced very fast towards me and I tried to keep up so I could at least stick with it till I got back to V.I. but it was moving so fast – too fast and it seemed like it was heading straight for me. I swerved to the other lane so it could go past, but it moved behind me with its full headlights on.
    Something was not right. I tried to move faster, I was almost driving at 120 and the jeep seemed stuck behind me. I wanted to maneuver and maybe force it to stop but I was scared of damaging the car so I did the one thing I could do. I swerved several times and eventually pulled over to the side of the road. The jeep double-crossed me immediately, two hefty men got out of the back seat – both heavily armed. They were robbers; I thought to myself, they wanted the car. I opened the door, raised my hands and bowed my head.
    You can take it – please take the car.
    Shut up! Where is she?
    Where is she?
    I…I…I don’t know… I don’t know…
    One of the men pulled me and then shoved me to the other man. He began searching the car. He came out with both envelopes Princess had given me and then spoke to the one holding me:
    He’s coming with us. Lets go.

    Episode 12

    It sounded distant at first. The now familiar sounds of footsteps moving closer and closer. This time though, it was louder. Probably more people. Maybe they’ve finally come to take me away, maybe they’ve found the right ritual to use me for or the right slave camp to sell me to. Slave? What was I thinking, I was finally losing it and for good reason too. For what seemed like endless days I had been moved up, down, pushed around from one vehicle to another till I finally got to my current position with absolutely no idea of where I was. I had been blindfolded from the moment they threw me into the back seat of that jeep. It must have been days since then.
    My kidnappers – no, I doubt that I have been kidnapped, for what? what? who could possibly pay any ransom placed on me. I sat on the floor in the darkness, eyes still blindfolded thinking, wondering, asking questions I had no answers to. I initially tried yelling, screaming out for help with the hope that someone, somewhere around could come to my aid. But it seemed my abductors couldn’t careless; once the door to the room I was being held was shut, that was it. They kept me well fed though. For kidnappers or whatever they were, the quality of food they fed me was impressive. Almost as if this was a twisted kind of fattening room. As if I was being buttered up for a special event, a special day.
    A special day like this one perhaps. When I heard those footsteps coming towards me, my heart began beating faster. I thought the time had come for me to meet my fate. As I said yet another silent prayer underneath my breath, thoughts of people – loved ones – Mama, Fadeke, Uncle Mufu and even Princess flashed through my mind. I had replayed the events of that night over and over again and I was so sure the kidnappers were out to get Princess. I prayed they didn’t get her. Just then the door opened and I heard the sounds of feet shuffling. The kidnappers never said much, if anything at all – probably some kind of training. And then, it flickered – lights? Through my blindfold, I could tell that they had turned on the lights. It instantly made me more conscious of what was going on around me. As I was trying to adjust to this new condition, I heard a scream and a loud thud. It sounded as if someone was being shoved against a wall – someone female.
    Moments later, I heard the sound of my abductor’s footsteps fading away and they were replaced by the silent sobs of my new co-occupant. I tried to listen, hoping the sounds weren’t familiar, hoping it wasn’t Princess and then…
    Who is that… who are you…
    But I knew who it was. Oh no. If they got Kassy then chances are, they got Princess too…
    Where is Princess? How did they get you?
    Her sobs began to reduce and I heard her move closer to me. I could almost make out Kassy’s figure as she stood before me and began untying my blindfold. The blindfold came off and as my eyes fluttered trying to get used to the light, I felt Kassy checking my bound hands trying to see if she could untie them too but as I knew I had handcuffs on, there was certainly no hope. The men had put them in hours before they brought in Kassy. My eyes cleared up and I looked at Kassy, she looked ok, safe for her slightly ripped top; trust her to put up a fight. She looked sad and defeated – like a prisoner who had been sentenced to death. Maybe that was what we were. Sitting cows waiting to be slaughtered. But I didn’t want to think about that. I still had too many questions floating uncontrollably around my head; maybe Kassy could answer some of them.
    Before I said anything, Kassy walked to my side and more or less slumped to the floor sitting right beside me. I had never seen her so downcast – not even when I said no to her offer of running away with her.
    Kassy what is going on? Did they get Princess too? Is she ok?
    Kassy’s response was a mixture of wild laughter and loud tears, which vanished almost as immediately as it started. Is she ok? Have they injected her with something or what is wrong with her, I thought to myself.
    Isn’t life just a funny b---h? She said as I turned to look at her.
    If only you had said yes. If only…
    What are you talking about Kassy…
    I’M TALKING ABOUT OUR F-----G ESCAPE – our escape from all of this. And why do you keep asking me about Princess – Why? She said, yelling.
    What are you talking about, both of you got into Senior’s car – that was….
    So it’s always been her – not your little girlfriend. It’s her isn’t it? She said as she looked me straight in the eyes.
    What are you … are you ok Kassy?
    Kassy then broke out into another bout of sobs – it lasted longer this time and the sobs slowly became tears and crying. She was a mess. Nothing I said got her attention. I sat there beside her, watching tear drops fall from her wide eyes and concluded that she must have been drugged or something. This wasn’t the Kassy I knew.
    I told her…. I told her it would go wrong… Kassy started saying, then she looked at me, shook her head and said:
    I’m so sorry Azeez. Princess isn’t who you think she is…she’s not…..
    What? Who is she….
    Kassy took a deep breath and….
    It started months ago. Princess was just like the rest of us – we weren’t prostitutes or call girls like some prefer to be called. We merely had Aristos – wealthy older men who took good care of us. Despite being the daughter of the famous Chief George, Princess wasn’t directly a beneficiary of his wealth. She lived with her mother who was a simple woman but Princess longed to be identified with her father’s wealth. When I and some girls moved into her room in Moremi as part of our plans to act as students, it was as if that was all she had been waiting for. Her curiosity got the better part of her. She wanted the clothes, the jewelry, the cars… We became friends and in no time, she became a member of the crew. All the other girls hated her. It was more like jealousy – Princess used all her assets to get what she wanted and in no time, she was far better off than some of the other girls that had been in the crew for years.
    I straightened my body as I continued listening to Kassy…
    Then sometime early last year, a friend got us a gig as escort girls for politicians during a huge party meeting somewhere in Gombe. Princess was reluctant but I made her go. We were drafted to rooms and someway somehow, when Princesses’ mark walked into her room, it turned out to be … her father.
    Kassy paused and turned to look at me … maybe she expected some kind of reaction.
    That was when everything changed. Princess disappeared for a while, only for her to return as a true Princess. She had moved in with her father, had a brand new car to herself and moved to a room in High Rise. We all thought her Daddy had finally decided to be a part of her life and she would no longer roll with us. We were wrong. Princess selected a handful of us and formed a new crew. She got invites and passes to high-end parties and events. The prices were higher per girl and some even came in foreign currencies. When I asked, she simply told me she was thriving on her Dad’s connections. That was until the incident at Otunba’s house.
    Otunba Adebayo…. His guards almost killed you and Princess in that swamp…
    Oh… Chief?
    I was supposed to work with Princess that day but I had to travel to Cameroun – my mother died the night before………. I recommended some girls for her. Princess didn’t give me details – not until it all went wrong….
    Princesses’ Dad and Otunba belong to the same political party but it’s no secret where their allegiances lie. While Otunba is a strong supporter of the present government, Chief George supports the opposition within the party and is hell bent on ensuring Mallam Abubakar wins the party’s presidential primaries. When Princess walked into his hotel room in Gombe that day, instead of dirt, he saw opportunity.
    What do you mean? His own daughter?
    What was the best way to infiltrate the enemies’ camp? A traitor. Princess was already selling her body, Chief thought she could as well sell it for the right price and in the process, help her father gain some dirt to use against his political enemies. Chief could get Princess everywhere and anywhere – especially his party events as long as she posed as an escort girl. But for that, she needed an agent – that’s where you came in.
    I sat up again. What? Is this all true or is Kassy reacting to whatever drug it is they must have given her and making all of this up? My thoughts were everywhere but I continued listening…..
    Once she could get to Otunba and get something incriminating enough to use against him, they could make him sway his delegates at the convention to vote for Mallam Abubakar. Princess had been seeing Otunba for a while before he eventually invited her over to his house. The girls I sent to her were to pose as distraction while Princess got whatever it was she needed but one of the inexperienced girls was way too greedy and ended up stealing some money and even some drugs from Otunba. Princess lost all the trust she had built up with Otunba and he ordered his boys to have both of you killed.
    Yes. That near-death experience shook Princess but she still did not wake up from her foolishness to realize just how much her father had been using her. He told us to both fake HIV test results and he introduced us to Senior who got us into the party at Abeokuta and consequently gave us another opportunity at nailing Otunba.
    Wait… wait what?…. Fake HIV test results? It’s fake?
    Yes, a former customer of mine who works at Wellington Hospital got them done for us. We needed something credible….
    But for what? What were you going to do with…
    It didn’t matter. After the incident at Otunba’s house, Princess thought it was all over as there was no way Otunba could find out she was still alive but Chief pushed us, using Senior, to go to the Abeokuta party. He needed Otunba to trust Princess again and his plan was simple. Princess was to save his life from an assassination attack – a planned assassination attack.
    Debola almost ruined our plans when she cancelled on us hours before the party and Princess was skeptical about using inexperienced girls. But she had no option but to change her mind when her father wouldn’t budge. Tomi was young, impressionable and eager to please. It wasn’t hard to set her up to look like she wanted to poison Otunba and who was there to save the day? Princess. Otunba made her fire the shots herself. The sick b-----d …
    I watched as Kassy’s face tensed up and I tried to imagine the party at Abeokuta. While I was with Senior and Balogun, Princess was firing shots at Tomi – and that could have been Debola. I prayed secretly in my heart then that Kassy was making all this up. It was all too much to take in at once.
    It was at that point Junior came into the picture….
    Otunba’s son.
    But he’s also against his father’s political position isn’t he?
    Yes he is. Still a member of the same party but he and his father are estranged because Otunba would not support his ambition to run in his states governorship elections. Princess met Junior on one of her numerous visit to Otunba’s house and he offered her a way out. A way to pay back her father for all the wrongs he had gotten her involved in and also help him get to his father. It was suicidal but if we could pull it off – it would mean vengeance for Princess and a lot of money for me.
    And what was this way out?
    Junior wanted us to leave out Chief and Otunba and strike at the top.

    Episode 13 (Final)

    The footsteps coming towards the door brought me back to the room. I couldn’t process all the things Kassy had just told me. It all sounded too surreal. Like she was making it up. But she couldn’t have thought all of that up just then. Princess was nothing like she had described. I strongly doubted she killed Tomi. Princess was too kind. I couldn’t understand any of it. Especially how I had anything to do with this mess. I just wanted to leave, I wanted to get back to my life as it was before …. before I met Kassy and as the door to our holding room opened, I hoped in my heart that our abductors had realized their mistake and had come to set me free.
    Two men walked into the room and without saying a word, they pulled us up and marched us out of the room. As we walked, Kassy looked at me and whispered, “I’m sorry Azeez.” She was barely audible and sounded very defeated. I didn’t acknowledge her even though a part of me felt she was really trying to reach out to me. I drew my attention to where we were. I was blindfolded when they brought me here so I couldn’t make out much but now I saw we were walking down a long lobby. Initially I thought it was a hotel but as we walked past a couple of portraits hanging on the wall, I realized it was probably a private residence. I didn’t recognize the people in the pictures. One was that of an elderly woman – late sixties and the other, a pretty young lady – probably in her thirties. I couldn’t make out the faces even though they somehow looked familiar and the fact that I was even thinking about them when I was being marched off to God-knows-where amused me.
    We got out of the lobby and walked down a short flight of stairs. We went past more pictures and even a mantle, which had awards and more pictures and then we finally stopped outside a huge arch door, which had two hefty men standing on either side of it. Both men standing by the door had absolutely no expression on their faces. They were both obviously armed and even had one of those CIA-type earpieces on. Naturally, anyone who got to experience this kind of thing would feel some form of fear, excitement or adrenalin rush, as this was only the kind of thing we got to watch in movies. I felt neither. I guess I was too tired to feel anything. I took another look at Kassy and seeing her head bowed told her story. She was resigned to whatever fate awaiting us behind the door.
    After what seemed like hours, one of the hefty guards pushed open one side of the door and we were walked into a huge living room area. It looked like something out of the pages of a magazine. I didn’t need to look up before flashes of gold fittings caught my eyes. The floor we walked on felt so soft and relaxed – that was because we were walking on a rug piece I can’t even begin to describe. Grand piano, chandelier, in-door fountain… all in one room. We were definitely in some kind of palace – it had to be.
    And who are they?
    The words brought me back to reality. I hadn’t even bothered to look ahead of us to where we were being taken. I looked up then and for the first time since my abduction, I felt a huge wave of fear run through my body. In front of us were eight men, two other hefty guards and one young lady. I identified most of them instantly and so did Kassy. I could tell by the way she reacted. Some of the men also knew who we were and even though they didn’t voice this immediately, you could tell from their reaction as well.
    The man who had spoken earlier looked round the room and then focused on a middle aged man – probably in his early forties, dressed in a perfect while linen traditional attire, standing not so far away from him.
    Junior? Talk to me.
    I looked at her just then. She was the only female amongst them and she was standing beside the man in the white attire. A smile grew on her face as “Junior” began to speak.
    Your Excellency. It’s just as I’ve told you. It’s sad but the traitors in our midst are people you’ve considered allies for a long time. But it’s even more disturbing knowing that MY FATHER is one of them.
    He seemed to stress the words “MY FATHER” and as he did so, Chief (Otunba has Kassy had referred to him) jumped off from his seat and began to rain abuses in Yoruba on Junior. Senior, who had also been standing behind them, walked up to him, with one hand on a pistol, which was tucked into his trousers and merely gestured to Otunba to sit down – he did.
    I noticed Chief George, who was seated right beside Otunba, shifting inconveniently in his seat. Junior continued speaking:
    Their plan was simple. Chief here, offered his daughter to my father who was in charge of providing girls for entertainment during one of our gatherings. She and her partner there, together with their fake contractor (he said this pointing to where I stood with Kassy), were instructed to take pictures of you with them in indiscreet positions using hidden cameras at the Lekki three house.
    The man who had been seated asking the questions snapped and moved forward whilst still seated. It was then I saw him clearly. The man was the President himself. Yes. I was in the same room with Mr. President. I could not bring myself to process what was going on. I tried not to think too much. I couldn’t even think, as I didn’t know where to begin. It wasn’t just me. I noticed the change in Princess’ countenance as she processed what Junior had just said. She took a couple of steps away from where she had been standing beside him and the look on her face was that of a person who was unimaginably shocked and confused.
    That isn’t all your Excellency. Both women have been confirmed to be HIV positive.
    HA! Exclaimed the president. Otunba! Chief! But what have I done to deserve this. So this is how you would have killed me just like that.
    Chief George remained quiet in his seat while Otunba sprang up once again to defend himself but he almost instantly sat again when he noticed Senior reaching for his gun.
    And just then, he spoke for the first time. All this while, even after we walked into the room, he had just sat there staring, listening. He had not even moved or made to talk once but now he spoke. Uncle Mufu simply gestured towards the president and said:
    Johnny, calm down. Let us take it easy.
    I will not take it easy Mufutao. I WILL NOT. Can you imagine these… these traitors. Acting like they are enemies in public meanwhile all they’ve been trying to do is … is…is spoil what we have spent so much and so long building. Just imagine what would have gone wrong if these .. these riff raffs had succeeded.
    At that point in time, I felt an anger I had never felt before. I still didn’t understand how I had come to be involved in this mess and here I stood listening to a man I had so much respect for calling me what I wasn’t. I couldn’t understand a lot of things and I had a million questions but I just wanted this to end. I wanted to get out of the room and maybe then I could harass Uncle Mufu for some answers.
    Just then, Junior produced a brown envelop out of nowhere and pulled out some pictures and some documents from it.
    Here, your excellency. The pictures and the HIV Test results.
    He said as he handed the documents to the president. Even before he examined the contents, the look on his face showed the story he was telling in his mind. He was disgusted.
    Seconds later, he rose to his feet, took a good look at Chief and Otunba and then turned to Junior. He walked up to Junior, patted him on the shoulder and said: Good job. He then turned towards Uncle Mufu and said.
    Mufutao, I need this mess cleared up immediately. You know what to do to those two and please dispose of them and the evidence. He said as he stormed out of the room.
    By ‘them’, he was referring to I, Princess and Kassy and as he walked away, I watched to see what would happen. I didn’t have to wait too long. It happened too fast. The moment the door shut behind the president. Otunba grabbed Senior’s gun and shot at his son…
    It’s all your fault he yelled as he fired the gun… and then, he turned to Princess with contempt written all over his face.
    I watched him closely and I really can’t explain what happened next. It came out of nowhere. I found my legs moving faster than my mind. Senior moved to stop Otunba, I moved to push Princess and in the corner, I could also see Uncle Mufu moving towards Otunba.
    I felt cold all over. I held the side of my stomach as the blood gushed out uncontrollably. Senior had tackled Otunba to the floor but only after he had pulled the trigger. Uncle Mufu was slowly walking towards me even as the room began to blur out. The last thing I heard was from Uncle Mufu:
    Ha! Otunba, o ti pa mi lomo. Omo okunrin kan soso ti mo bi laye yi.
    (Ha, Otunba, you have killed my child. The only male child I have in this world).

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