“Turn up the music louder!”
For the first time, Jerry accommodated shock and fright on his face. He had thought that Emem would exhibit some pity upon seeing what happened to Peter. How wrong he was! He looked at her again. The smirk on her face was too obvious to ignore.
Mimi bit her nails ferociously as the music rose in volume. She could see how the men moved their heads like they were soon going to lose contact with their necks. The thought that another skull would explode sent chills down her spine. She had seen many men die during her time as one of Emem’s lieutenants, but this time it felt so different, and she didn’t know why.
Aidee focused her gaze…..on Wole this time. As his ears vibrated, she wished she could halt the music, but that would mean defying Emem, and she was in no mood to risk that. She could wish that Jerry show some reason and recognise the line between bravery and, in her opinion, stupidity.
The songs began to fluctuate in volume, and even in pace. Julie had become reluctant to control the music player. There was no point snuffing out the life of another male. What was there to gain in the end? Only one person could bring this madness to a halt. She took one long, hard look at Jerry.
Mimi and Aidee stared at Jerry too.
Even Farida began to gaze at Jerry at intervals.
If looks could kill, Jerry would have at that point become a memory. But eyes could only do so much, and Jerry began to think. Maybe Emem was right. Maybe all this was just his king-sized ego in display. There was no honour, only selfishness and a misguided sense of pride. How could he possibly sleep at night, in the event of more cerebral ‘pops’? He had to lay down his defences….
Or perhaps not. How about Walt? Jargo? How about Peter? How about Whiz, Akin and Hannu who lay in need of urgent medical attention? Would they have digested bullets for nothing? If he gave in, all his therapy sessions, tuxedo displays, anti-friend-zone seminars and years of sole focus on career would have gone to waste. He was scared of losing relevance.
He looked up. All eyes were on him, even those of Emem. His facial expression took up the shape of that on a child’s face when he is told to give up his favourite toy. He took a look at his colleagues. Wole’s head had swollen, and it looked like he would be next to die. A solitary tear freed itself from Jerry’s left eye and rolled freely down his cheek.
“Alright, alright, I’ll do it! I’ll sign the document!” He screamed.
I’LL SIGN THE DOCUMENT!
Julie stopped the music player immediately. Mimi heaved a sigh of relief, and Emem, fighting hard to conceal emotion, snapped her fingers to loosen the exhausted men from their shackles.
“So, you are human afterall.”
The tone in Emem’s voice pricked Jerry’s soul. He wore the look of a defeated boxer, but Emem still had more to say.
“In this story playing out in this basement, you were actually the villain, all the while feeling like a hero. We wouldn’t have lost Peter, but for your massive ego. It is the same ego that kills many relationships and even marriages; no one wants to give in, no one wants to admit they are wrong, no one wants to apologise.”
“Save all this for your dating seminars, bring the document already.”
For the first time, Farida smiled at Jerry as she brought the document to him. He read through it, and then realized why it had to be him who did the signing. Parts of the document were written in English, French, German and Ibibio. The girls had researched, and only Jerry had a fair idea of all four.
“Is it too much to draft in simple English?” He inquired, his face housing a huge frown.
“The average woman is never simple, Jerry”, Emem replied. “By the way, the agreement was drafted by Eketi Edima Ette. She couldn’t be here, as she is away on inter-planetary assignment.”
Jerry fought back tears as he signed the dotted lines. Bachelors’ Anonymous had become history! So much for the tuxedos, the heavy drinking, the shag-and-brags. He had let his men down. He had failed the group.
“Guys, there is something great in store.”
Emem opened a door which provided access to a couples’ lounge. Everywhere had various tables for two in place. Aidee took Wole by the hand.
“Come along. Oh, Jerry? It was just a kiss, nothing more. Jerry is too stubborn anyway”, Aidee said, noticing Wole’s scepticism.
Mimi supported a weakened Promise while Julie dragged Soogun along. Jerry was in no mood for coupling. For all he knew, the people on those tables were too scared to be alone, were too insecure, and needed a partner for emotional validation. He spotted Hymar and Cece at one of the tables and scoffed. He was however unprepared for what his eyes met next. At one end of the lounge, chatting up an overly excited damsel, was Walt Shakes. The Chief, alive, and deeply involved in the mushy activities he had always admonished the (now defunct) organisation against? He could not believe it!
“Nice to have you here, Jerry”, Walt called out. “I heard about my double getting shot. He was such a serviceable lad. He will be missed.”
Jerry’s face had surprise stamped all over it. The ‘Walt’ who got shot had been a double, a decoy!