Bruce stepped out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. Droplets of water remained on his body from the hot shower he just had. He walked in the direction of the terrace, running a hand along the curled wet hair on his chest and throwing intermediate glances at the lady on the queen size bed. Her oval head covered with black hair laid propped against the pillow. She turned in her sleep and the large duvet slipped down her shoulder and revealed her perky breasts. They glowed faintly under the morning sunlight that had just crept in. He squinted to get a better view of her dark nipples and felt a slight hardening down there in the towel. He obliged the ‘omen’ and walked to the bed. He laid beside her, took her right breast in his mouth and bit it gently. She moaned in her sleep and he smiled and covered her naked body with the duvet. He rose from the bed and strolled to the kitchen. There was a bulge in his towel already. He’ll deal with that later he thought.
In the kitchen, he turned on the coffee machine and went through the previous day’s paper as he waited. His phone rang and he grunted when he saw the caller ID.
“Hello Charles.” He said into the mouthpiece.
“Hello brother.” A voice he had heard almost all his life said at the other of the line.
“To what do I owe this early morning call?” Bruce asked sternly. He could swear he knew why his brother had called him at eight in the morning. But he wouldn’t jump to conclusions just yet. There was a slight pause before his brother answered.
“To greet you and know how you are faring, plus mama says hi.”
“Send her my greetings too.” His voice was less tough and he wondered if it was guilt he was feeling.
“Will do. You know, if you don’t want to marry her, you could just tell her and save her the heartache.” Charles said unexpectedly.
Bruce sighed. Here we go again; He took a look at his cell phone with disgust and fought the urge to interrupt the call. He knew from the onset that this was why his ‘caring’ brother would call him. Always trying to pry into his private life. Him and mama. The coffee maker made a small beep and he walked up to it while putting the phone back to his ear.
“What do you mean?” He asked feigning ignorance. He heard the contempt in his voice but he didn’t care. They deserved it. Both of them.
“Ah! Thought you had gone off on me there.” Charles laughed. He picked up a mug and poured the black liquid from the coffee maker into it. “I meant if you’re going to play around with Mary’s heart, you could as well heed mama’s advice and dump her.”
Bruce took a tin of milk from the fridge and emptied its contents into the mug. The milk swirled in the cup and the dark colour of the coffee disappeared leaving behind a light brown tint. He thought of a mean response and grinned when one popped up in his head.
“Tell her I don’t take advice from tribalists.”
“Did..did you just call our mother a tribalist?” Charles stuttered.
“I think so, or what did you hear?” He took a sip from the steaming mug and smacked his lips as he anticipated his brother’s rants.
“Why the hell would you call mama a tribalist?” Charles’ voice shook like it always did when he was angry. It always delighted him. “Who do think you are?”
Bruce held the phone away from his face like a soiled baby and grinned as his brother bawled.
“What about you? You are a tribalist yourself, and a stupendous hypocrite too. You left the same girl in Lagos and hid in Abuja while f**king you ex. I mean, its Susan for God’s sake. It’s sad. You’re sad.” There was a pause as Charles waited for a response.
“Oh, you thought nobody knew. Well, we do, we all do”
“Shut up Charles.” Bruce said calmly. “You have no right whatsoever to accuse me.”
“You haven’t denied it, have you?” There was another pause before Charles cleared his throat and spoke in a lighter tone.
“See Bruce, we are just looking out for you. We want the best for you.”
“I know the best for myself.” Bruce said with the same calm tone.
“I’m not sure you do, Bruce. See, I’m thirty and you’re three years older than me. I’m happily married and I have a son that’s four. Cynthia by the way is already pregnant with our second child. The world is moving fast Bruce and you know mama’s scared she might go soon, after papa died last year.”
“That’s her business. I’m not ready for a family, not now, probably not ever. You should tell her that. Good morning Charles and thanks for the call.” He cut the call before Charles could reply and dropped the phone on the white countertop. The coffee was lukewarm already. He put the mug to his lips, hissed and threw the mug in the sink.
Mary took a long glance at the massive red and black KFC logo on the bungalow that was the restaurant. She ran her hand through her hair anxiously and walked towards the main entrance. A young security officer opened the glass door for her and whispered “Good Morning”. She nodded her head blindly and pulled her handbag closer.
In the restaurant, she sighted her uncle at the end of the room. He waved at her and she in turn walked in his direction, evading tables as she did. When she reached his table, he ushered her to the red plastic chair opposite him and she obliged and sat down. On his table was an untouched meat pie and a bottle of water that was already halfway. He asked if she wanted the pie and she shook her head. His forehead creased and he reached out to touch her hand.
“Are you okay?” There was concern in his voice and it made her feel safe.
“I’m fine uncle.” Her voice betrayed her lie and the look in his eyes told her that he had noticed it too.
“No you’re not.” He said calmly. “Tell me what’s wrong. Start from the beginning.”
She had been talking for about quarter of an hour when she coughed and he offered her the bottle of water. She accepted in and gulped down the water like a thirsty hippo. She saw him through the clear bottle staring at her and struggled to maintain her composure. There was a grin threatening to break out at the corner of his mouth and she knew something was coming.
“How’s your boyfriend?” He asked unexpectedly.
She shuddered and dropped the empty bottle on the table before answering.
“He’s fine.” The grin was more pronounced and it made her uneasy.
“When last did you see him?”
She hesitated, looked at the ceiling like she was begging it to bail her out and turned back to his face. The smile had disappeared.
“It has been a while. He travelled to Abuja for a business meeting. He should be back tomorrow.. or today sef.” She added quickly. She turned away from his peering eyes which looked like they could read her thoughts and hoped he bought it.
“Okay, but he has been calling right?”
“Yes. She lied.” There was a pause and she still avoided his eyes.
“Okay.” She heard him say and looked up stunned. The smile was back and his eyes were no longer on her. They were focused on the scenery outside the glass walls of the restaurant.
“Just be careful and tell him to be too.” He got up from his chair, put a sweaty palm on her shoulder and kissed her hair. “Be good, you’ll be fine.”
She turned back to watch him walk out of the restaurant and tried to remind herself why she was here in the first place. She had come to her ‘beloved’ uncle for answers and all she got was more questions. He didn’t even talk about the blackmailer or the letters. She jumped off her seat, tossed the meat pie into her hand bag and scampered out of the restaurant. The security officer frowned as he opened the door and she was sure she heard him hiss as she ran out.
“What is wrong?” Uncle Kunle asked as she reached his car.
“The blackmailer…” her breasts heaved up and down as she struggled to catch her breath. “The person writing the letters and following me, you didn’t say anything about him.”
“Don’t worry.” He won’t be troubling you anymore.
Something moved in the rear of his car and she peeped and saw a hooded figure. She tried to remember if he was in the restaurant earlier and convinced herself he wasn’t. The hood covered his face and she couldn’t make out the features of his face. More so, the hood jacket looked oddly familiar.
“Who is that?” She whispered to Uncle Kunle.
“Nobody you need to know.” He faked a smile and she knew he was hiding something. “I have to go now Mary, your aunt; my wife is waiting for me at home.” He revved the car, entered the access route and sped off.
Mary stood there watching the car until it disappeared around a bend. She tried to remember where she had seen the hooded man and knew her uncle was definitely hiding something. Her ringtone interrupted her thought pattern and she brought out her phone from inside her bag. The caller ID made her yelp and she answered in a heartbeat.
“Hello darling.” She said cautiously.
“Hey babe.” Bruce’s calm voice answered over the line.
“Bruce! Where have you been? I’ve missed you.” She heard him chuckle and blushed.
“I’m at your place. I got back this evening and I wanted to surprise you.”
“Shit.” She cursed. “I’m in Ikeja right now but I’ll be there in about forty minutes. Don’t you dare leave there o!” He laughed.
“Okay babe, I’ll be waiting, hurry.”
“Yes boo.” She cut the call and flagged a cab.
“Surulere. Bode Thomas. How much?” She rambled.
“Five thousand.” The weary driver replied. She considered negotiating the price, but decided against it. Her boo was around, money wasn’t a problem. She hopped into the car and urged him to drive off.
* * *
“It is done.” The man in the hood said.
“What is done?” Kunle asked half interested. The traffic was intense and his handkerchief was soaked with his sweat as usual.
“She is dead.” The cold voice replied.
“Who is she?”
“Are you serious? He had a mistress? I knew something was fishy about that guy. Oloshi!” He yelled at a danfo bus driver. “Ehen, what were you…” he halted in his speech when he turned and saw the rear seats empty.
“Stupid boy!” He said to no one in particular. “You would think he would understand common courtesy like his sist… You’re a bastard!” A danfo had just overtaken him.
* * *
The cab parked in a deserted street in Bode Thomas, Surulere. Mary paid the driver, muttered a few words in gratitude and hurried out of the car. She walked at a brisk pace into her compound as the sun disappeared over the horizon rendering the sky a dull orange. The power generating set for the main building was on and she cursed PHCN for their shortcomings. As she approached her Boys’ Quarters apartment, she caught the shape of a man she immediately recognized as Bruce silhouetted against the wall. She held a yell of delight that threatened to burst out of her and called his name gently instead. He looked up and she saw his tear laden eyes.
“What’s wrong darling?” She hurried to his side and sat on the step beside him.
“I just got a call that my cousin is dead.”
She winced and clasped her hand over her mouth.
“Which of your cousins?” Mary asked.