Just one word – in caps and with exclamation marks.
That was the content of the SMS that got delivered to my phone on Monday afternoon although I didn’t see it until late in the evening when I was preparing to go home. The number that sent it was not one I recognized and when I dialed, the line was switched off. I deleted the message and promptly forgot about it on the assumption that it had been sent erroneously.
On Wednesday morning, I got the same message again.
Again, all attempts to reach the sender proved futile.
Work was pretty routine for most of the week until Thursday. We were in a special departmental performance review meeting when Karishika came in unannounced. It was our first eye to eye after the little episode at her house but she didn’t pay me any special heed or act like anything was amiss. Madam unit head immediately called for a pause in proceedings so that we could listen to Karishika’s address.
“Hello people. I’m really sorry to barge in on you like this without prior notice but it is imperative that you guys should be aware of some the changes that will be happening around this place soon. I’m sure you’re in the know about the recent crisis in the forex market which has caused dollar rates to spiral out of control. Well, if the situation persists for much longer we might be forced to take drastic actions in this firm. By drastic actions I’m talking about shedding manpower to reduce our operating cost. As it is, the IT department which is a cost center is the one place where HR thinks we are slightly bloated and that means if we need to let people go, IT is the ideal place to start. This is not meant to be taken as a threat, but as an incentive to spur you on and make sure that whatever you do for this firm, you put in one hundred and ten percent. Make yourself relevant and indispensable so that even if we have to send people home which I pray doesn’t happen, you won’t be one of the affected. As long as you’re passionate and dedicated about what you do and you’re ready to make the necessary sacrifices then you shouldn’t have any problems.” At this point her eyes were resting squarely on me.
“Is that clear people?”
We chorused an affirmative reply.
Then she bade us a good day and made her exit.
When the door shut behind her, my unit head took over the baton.
“You all heard what madam said so there’s no further need to continue with the meeting. At this junction, the importance of going the extra mile cannot be over emphasized. This is not the time for business as usual and just doing your job alone. The only thing that will stand you out and put you on a pedestal above your peers is that extra weight you can pull while still delivering outstandingly on your KPIs. If you can manage to do that, then your future is secured. I wish every one of you the best of luck.”
With that charge she dismissed us.
I went back to my table with a feeling that Karishika’s address had somehow been a sub directed at me. Abi, all the talk about extra miles and stuff sounded like thinly veiled references to that our little time out. Was she indirectly threatening to fire me? Since when did IT become over bloated? This same IT that normally struggles under the weight of work especially when we had special contracts? Those thoughts were still running round my head when my phone vibrated. I pulled it out of my pocket and removed it from meeting mode before opening the SMS that had just been delivered.
Different number, same message – BUSTED!!!
Luckily the number rang on this occasion. That was all though; it rang and rang and rang. I called the line eight times consecutively but nobody picked it up. Trucaller did not bring up any name when I ran a search so I wasn’t any closer to knowing who was at the other end. Finally I had to shove it out of my mind so I could concentrate on the more pressing matter of (God forbid) a possible job loss.
I got another one of those messages on Friday morning but I didn’t even bother calling the number again, sure that whosoever was playing that prank would soon tire of it.
Madam Ayiri called on Friday afternoon to inform me that she would be out of town over the weekend as she had to travel with a family friend to Ekiti for a burial ceremony and would only return to Lagos late on Sunday evening. That got me thinking since from the look of things, the weekend was going to be boring and lonely. Toyin was on a week’s compassionate leave to get over the shock of her near robbery experience and had travelled to see her folks in Ilorin. I needed to find something to fill my Saturday.
My mind stumbled upon Susan. Sharply I picked up the phone and sent her an SMS, since I didn’t want any tongues wagging or have to answer any awkward questions that may probably come up from my colleagues if I called her to my table for discussions. The chick didn’t have a blackberry yet.
Hi there, TGIF. What are you doing tomorrow?
The reply came after a few minutes.
TGIF to you too sir. Nothin really for the most part, why sir?
I smiled as I typed the next message.
Nothing much Susan, I see we are still on this sir matter.
Yes sir, sorry sir.
LOL. Anyways, what plans do you have for tomorrow?
No firm plans sir. Can I come to your table? I dnt av crdt to txt with again.
No, don’t. Gimme a sec, let me send you some.
I went online and bought one thousand naira’s worth of Airtel airtime off Quickteller which I sent to her. She texted back instantly.
Thank you sir. What’s on your mind?
Well, I was thinking we could hang out tomorrow.
Okay sir, no problem. What time and where?
Now I was grinning.
Say around 2 p.m., I’ll let you know where later.
Okay sir. I’ll be expecting your call/message.
Text didn’t allow me get as expressive as I would have liked but I was pretty sure she got the message clearly. The rest of the day passed in a blur of activity but I didn’t mind the madness, new pussy to sample was on the way.
I got home quite early that evening. The security light was on in my neighbor’s compound although the place was quiet. It suddenly occurred to me that the only times she’s greeted me lately were when days Mrs Ayiri showed up. Maybe it was time to start taking evasive action sef, at least to avoid any stories that touch.
Dinner was soaked cassava flakes inundated with roasted peanuts and accompanied by peppered barbequed chicken or in laymen’s language Garri, groundnuts and chicken suya. Afterwards I stayed up late to watch some episodes of Game of Thrones on my laptop before I went to bed around midnight.
The next morning I called up Susan around 9 a.m. to reconfirm our date and we agreed to meet for some Ice Cream at the Ikeja City Mall. The rest of the morning was spent on chores and a short nap, before I left home around 1 p.m.
The mall was crowded as was usual for a Saturday afternoon which made parking annoyingly difficult. I was finally able to park after driving around the lot for ten minutes but since I arrived ahead of time, it wasn’t really a problem. Window shopping sounded like a good way to pass the time while waiting for Susan to show up so I headed towards the Samsung store to check out their new curved TV which was being advertised all over town . The plan was to buy Susan a tub of ice cream and some other munchies before taking her to one of the numerous hotels in Ikeja to give her some good dick. I couldn’t afford to take her to my place as that might have repercussions later when one got tired of the pussy. The way she’d been acting lately, I was pretty confident she was game for some bedmatics.
My phone rang at exactly 2.45 p.m., when I was already getting tetchy with waiting.
“Hi Miss Latecomer, about time you showed up too. I thought I’d been stood up. Where are you?”
“I’m right in front of the Coldstone shop sir. You?”
“I’m at Samsung but I’ll meet you in a second.”
I quickly left the shop to meet my consignment.
Susan was standing with three other girls. I didn’t want to believe she had brought tag alongs to what was supposed to be a fuck date as I hurried over.
“Good afternoon sir. So sorry I came late, traffic was particularly bad at Oshodi.”
“That’s okay Susan, you’re here now. That’s what’s important.”
“Thank you sir. Meet my friends Mimi, Hannah and Sarah.”
Turning to them she introduced me, “girls meet my boss.”
They greeted me one by one.
“Is it okay if they join us?”
“Of course it is, absolutely. This way please.”
I was seething behind the smiling mask on my face as I ushered them to a table. Which kain craze be this, how can it be okay? How can somebody be invited on a fuck date and you bring your friends along. What nonsense???
One of the attendants came over and took our orders and soon everyone except me was merrily getting their sugar fix, I barely touched mine. All my good plans for the day looked to be heading for the rocks and I was pissed.
While they ate, I studied them one by one. Mimi was quite outspoken, beautiful even, although she was dressed like one of the late night Muri Okunola sisterhood. Hannah was obviously a ‘chop and quench’ judging by her rate of consumption and how she kept asking for more. No wonder she looked like a baby hippo and her jeans were literally bursting at the seams. Sarah however was conservatively dressed; spoke little although she sounded the most intelligent of the three whenever she did and didn’t seem to be too comfortable with my presence. Susan was acting in a very different manner from the Susan I knew from the office.
We were there till 4 p.m. when she announced that they had to leave, as they were still going to attend a special program taking place at Sarah’s church by 5.30 p.m. and didn’t want to be late.
“Thank you for having us sir”, cooed Mimi, batting her fake lashes. “We’ll hopefully see you again soon.”
“Thanks for coming girls.”
I drove back home in anger and frustration, after a bit of shopping for groceries. Shebi if pussy no drop as planned, person go sha return home go chop.
Sunday was another Exco meeting and because the weekend had been so disappointing, I wasn’t in the mood to attend so an SMS went off to the Chairman explaining that I was indisposed. Dinner was boiled rice and stew made from the stuff I’d picked up at Shoprite the day before and then I turned in for the night not too long afterwards.
Three men stood beside my bed. All dressed in black tee shirts and jeans, the first had a crowbar, the second a baseball bat and the third what looked suspiciously like a pistol. They all wore ski masks with small eyelets and leather gloves, in black too. How they got into my room wasn’t immediately clear but the three of them were standing right there and their body language wasn’t looking as if they’d come to play midnight ten ten with me. The one closest to the bed raised the crowbar in his hand menacingly and hissed at me through the mask material.
“Get up oga, shey na you?”
Sleep had cleared from my eyes like magic.
I could have been a frog the way my voice sounded. He repeated his question, this time swinging the bar menacingly close to my head.
“Oga a-swear, if you no talk true now I go make smoothie with ya brain. Shey na you? Shey na you dey thief another man kpekus? Shey na you dey wack another man ponmo? Shey na you dey drill another man oil well? Talk make I hear!”
My adam’s apple bobbed frantically as I struggled to respond.
“Yes sir, I mean, no sir.”
That only served to infuriate him further. Signaling to one of his guys he growled, “Dogo abeg come help me hol am for leg.”
The one with the baseball bat rushed forward and dropped his weight on my chest to keep me immobile while Mr gravel voice did a mock swing, the trajectory of the bar ending up on my blokos.
“Hold on Orubebe, calm down. Give me a minute; let him ask him a few questions.”
The somewhat familiar voice of the third man stopped Mr gravel voice from following through his mock swing.
“Okay boss. Oya Dogo, leave am make he talk to boss.”
Dogo stood up, allowing me to draw breath into my starved lungs again. Both of them moved clear of the bed.
The third one designated as boss moved closer and grabbed me by the front of my pyjamas, drew me into a sitting position and yanked off his mask.
It was Daddy…