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“Leela, what the hell is going on? And why do you have a gun and who was that person shooting at us?”
Leela didn’t answer him as she tried to subdue her tears and calm her nerves. Her heart was thumping wildly in her chest as she repeatedly struggled with the image of Gbemiga’s lifeless body appearing before her eyes.
Uzo grabbed her arm violently with one hand and shook her.
“Answer me Leela! What is going on?!”
Leela opened her mouth to speak but the tears wouldn’t let her. Uzo noticed that she was crying and he sighed. He was completely terrified but he needed to figure out what was going on. He made to slow down the car and park by the road side but Leela immediately found her voice.
“Don’t stop Uzo. Otherwise we are both going to get killed.”
“Well, you need to tell me what’s going on because I cannot for the life of me fathom what just happened.”
Leela sniffed and wiped her nose with her sleeve.
“I’ll tell you but we need to get somewhere safe first.”
“I’ll take us to a hotel somewhere on the island.”
Leela shook her head.
“No. Not unless you want to leave a trail of dead bodies behind tonight.”
Uzo laughed mirthlessly.
“Don’t be silly. This isn’t some Hollywood movie Leela. No one is going to walk into a hotel and shoot people randomly in Nigeria.”
It was Leela’s turn to laugh.
“So with what you just witnessed back at your place, tell me Uzo, is it common for people to drop off a dead body rolled up in a rug in front of your house and wait for you to show up then try to kill you?”
Uzo exhaled loudly but didn’t respond.
Leela pulled out her phone then hurriedly turned it off and removed the sim card. She tossed the sim out of the window then retrieved another sim card from somewhere behind her ear and inserted it into the phone before powering the phone up.
Uzo looked at her in surprise and nearly ran into a trailer. He swerved just in time but Leela appeared strangely calm all of a sudden.
“Keep your eyes on the road.”
“If we can’t go to a hotel then where can we go?”
Leela didn’t respond. She scrolled through contacts on her phone and dialed a number. When the person on the other end picked, she looked up.
“Hey, Waheed, you dey house?”
Uzo turned sharply to her again. Her voice sounded different. Plus it was the first time he would ever hear her speak pidgin English.
“I dey come. I need a place to crash tonight abeg.”
She hung up and kept her gaze on the side mirror.
“So?” Uzo asked.
“We’re going to Mushin.”
Uzo blinked a few times but didn’t say anything. He pressed his foot harder on the accelerator and fired the car on.
Waheed led the way into a poorly lit room that smelled of cigarette smoke. He was short, had bad teeth and a few ugly scars on his arm that Uzo was certain had come from serious street fights. Uzo had lots of questions burning on his tongue but he would wait for just the right moment to reel them out.
Waheed turned on a switch and the room was better illuminated.
“You don chop?”
His question was directed at Leela who was taking off her white blazer and laying it on the single bed in the room.
“I’m not hungry.” Leela said. Then she turned to Uzo.
“Do you want anything to eat?”
Uzo shook his head. Waheed nodded and said
“I go dey outside” before turning to leave the room.
The moment the door shut behind Waheed, Uzo turned sharply to Leela.
“I need an explanation right now.”
Leela pulled out facial wipes from her purse and began to wipe her hands clean of the blood that was on them.
“My real name is Yemi. I am an undercover security agent sent by your mother to protect you.”
Uzo’s jaw dropped.
“What do you mean undercover agent? Besides, I do not have a mother. I am an orphan. Remember? My parents are dead.”
Leela sighed and tossed the wipe in a bin close to the bed.
“Your adopted parents Uzo. Your biological mum is alive and she is involved in something dangerous and she hired me and a few other people to look out for you. The man whose body was dropped in front of the house was my partner.”
Uzo scratched his head and rubbed his eyes. None of this was making any sense.
“Leela, this is ridiculous. You’re not making any sense.”
“It’s not supposed to make any sense. I just need you to trust me. It’s a lot to process I know, but I promise you, I’ll have more answers for you when we get to Zaria tomorrow.”
“Zaria? Where is that?”
Leela picked up her phone again and made another call.
Uzo stood there watching her as though he had been hypnotized. When she hung up, she said
“Get some sleep. There’ll be a chopper to pick us up from the naval base at Ikeja at 9am.”
“Leela, I am not going to Zaria tomorrow. I’ve got an important meeting at the office for 9am tomorrow. Whatever this is, I’m sure we can go to the police station and get it sorted out.”
“It’s like you didn’t hear anything I just said. I have an assignment to protect you Uzo. My partner is dead because of you. You’re not going to any stupid meeting. Except you want to wind up dead as well. So please get into this bed and shut your eyes while I try to think.”
Leela walked out and slammed the door shut. Uzo stood there in utter bewilderment. He was certain he was dreaming. There was no other explanation. He had to be dreaming. Or it was some joke. Maybe someone was trying to punk him.
He reached into his pocket for his phone to call Nathan but it wasn’t there. He tried to remember where he had kept it. Probably in the car. He went to the door and tried to open it but discovered it was locked. He turned the knob this way and that, then tugged at it furiously. When it didn’t budge, he began banging his fists on the door and yelling Leela’s name.
Seconds later, there was a click and Leela pushed the door open.
“Why did you lock me in here?!”
“You leave me no choice.”
She made to turn and leave the room but Uzo grabbed her arm. In one swift motion, she turned around to face him and stabbed him in the arm with a syringe.
Uzo felt a tinge of pain but he slowly released his grip on her arm and fell to the ground. Leela caught him before he hit the floor and dragged him to the bed. Waheed walked in and together they lifted him and laid him on the bed.
“I need a drink.”
Waheed nodded and walked out of the room. He returned a few minutes later with a short glass containing some dark liquid. Leela took one long gulp before setting the glass down.
Waheed stood in the corner of the room watching her.
“Do you want to talk?”
She shook her head.
“Whose blood was that?”
Leela didn’t answer. She took another gulp and set the glass down again.
“You na strong woman. You go dey alright.”
Leela shook her head.
Waheed watched her for a few seconds before turning to leave the room.
She opened her mouth to call out to him but she felt the tears welling up in her eyes so she shut her mouth and her eyes and instead cast her mind back to earlier in the day when she met up with Gbemiga for lunch.
Gbemiga was seated at a table in the far end of the restaurant when Leela walked in. She was wearing a wig and dark shades and looked very much different from the person who had left Uzo’s house that morning. The white blazer had been replaced with a pink shawl and her white high shoes had been replaced with black flats.
Gbemiga stood up to hug her as soon as she got to the table.
“Hey. How are you?”
She smiled as she held on to him tightly. Then he slowly eased her away but she kissed him fully on the lips instead.
“I’m tired love. But I’m alright.”
She noticed the slight frown he was wearing as she sat down.
“What’s wrong baby?”
“You tell me. What’s been happening with Uzo?”
Leela sighed as she took off her sun glasses and set them on the table.
“He’s been talking about marriage a lot lately and it’s setting me on edge.”
Gbemiga took a sip of water from the glass before him. He traced circles round the top of the glass staring at it intently.
“So, what do you want to do?”
“What do I want to do as how?”
“He’s talking about wanting to marry you, are you thinking of marrying him too?”
Leela was stunned.
“What is that even supposed to mean?”
Gbemiga pushed the glass away from himself and looked directly into her eyes.
“You’re falling for him, aren’t you?”
“Jesus. Gbemi! How can you say that?”
Gbemiga didn’t take his eyes off her.
“It’s a simple question. Answer it.”
“I am engaged to you Gbemiga. Uzo is an assignment we are working on. Since when did I start catching feelings on the job?”
Leela’s eyes were heating up.
“Since you started sleeping with the assignment.”
Leela’s eyes nearly popped.
“Don’t even do that.”
“Gbemiga. I am not sleeping with him. We share a bed but we do not have sex. I told him in the beginning that I was saving myself for marriage. Nothing has changed. Where is all this coming from?”
Gbemiga’s eyes darkened a little.
“You’re getting emotional about him Yemi. And I can sense it. And you’re being selfish too. I told you from the very beginning that we shouldn’t take this job but you wouldn’t listen. There are so many gray areas that we can’t see clearly but no. Now it’s all about you. You can’t even see how this is affecting us.”
Leela exhaled slowly and clenched both fists then brought her knuckles together underneath her nose and drew in deep breaths as she tried to calm herself.
“I asked to meet here today because I have missed you. It’s been difficult being there-”
“Because you are becoming emotionally invested Yemi. How can you not see that? I thought you were smarter than this. This is not the first time you’re working a job like this. You have always kept it together, I have never had cause to worry. But now? Right now I am worried Yemi. You’re losing your edge. And if you can’t see that, then I’m going to have to question what it is that we share.”
A waiter walked up to the table but Gbemiga waved him off.
“I think you’re just being insecure.”
Gbemiga laughed and shook his head.
“Yep. You’re gone.”
Leela bit her lips and didn’t say anything. She couldn’t understand how a simple lunch had managed to go so awfully wrong. And Gbemiga was wrong. She wasn’t catching feelings. She was just really strained. Unlike Gbemiga, she had a lot of charades to keep up. This was probably the most difficult assignment she had ever had to take up, in terms of the number of personalities she had to take on and she was getting worn out. Because at the end of the day, she was still a human being.
But if Gbemiga was doubting her loyalty and calling their 3 year old relationship into question, then maybe she needed to retreat for a bit. Only she realized that taking retreats was not a luxury she could afford.
“Look, I sense that something is about to go down. You better be careful and not drop your guard.”
Leela looked up and rubbed her eyes.
“Something like what?”
“I’m not sure. I got a phone call today. I’m still investigating stuff. I’ll let you know if I find anything. But be careful.”
Leela nodded absent-mindedly.
Gbemiga signaled to the waiter and they both placed their orders.
Even while they ate, the tension was heavy between them. Leela wanted to apologize and reassure him that she was still committed to their relationship but she didn’t. As soon as they were done with their meal, Gbemiga paid and got up to leave.
“I’ll see you when I see you.”
She stood up hurriedly and held his hand.
“At least give me a hug. Please.”
Gbemiga hugged her stiffly before pulling back and walking out of the restaurant.
Leela picked up her bag and left. She hailed a taxi outside and gave the driver an address on the island then settled into the seat. She had yet another meeting to attend and she needed to maintain her composure.
Leela gripped the glass firmly, shutting her eyes and fighting the tears. She suddenly lifted the glass and flung it at the wall, watching it shatter into tiny splinters then she rushed to the wall and jammed her fist into it repeatedly until Waheed came into the room and pulled her away while she kicked and screamed and cried.
by Ogechi Nwobia
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