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Zach pulled up at Max’s Magodo residence. He’d only been here once previously, in much calmer times. Tonight, he was almost beside himself with rage, but he knew he had to keep a calm veneer and a tight leash on his anger.
He locked the car and walked to the gate. A dog barked incessantly a few houses away, it was a quiet neighbourhood, the noise carried. He knocked on the gate and waited.
“Who’s there?” he heard the guard ask.
“Zach. I’m here to see Maxwell” he said.
The guard peeped at him through a slider on the gate before he opened.
“Good evening, Oga” the guard said.
“Is Maxwell here?” Zach asked.
“Yes, Sir” he replied.
Zach marched past the guard and into the house living room first. He knew his way around.
Quickly he looked round the living room and in the kitchen before running up the stairs. He checked in Max’s bedroom, there was a girl sleeping in the bed. “Rashidat?” he wondered. He shut the door and headed for the two other rooms. One was where Max’s cronies slept whenever they were around, and someone always was, the other had been converted into a studio.
Zack opened the door and stepped in. There were four guys in the room discussing soccer, they all looked up at him. They stopped. Acknowledging his presence. He nodded at them and stepped back out.
There was one more place to check. He pushed against the heavy studio door. Its frame had been changed to make it sound proof. The resistance was more than normal for even a remodelled door. In fact someone seemed to be leaning on the door on the inside. He shoved the door hard, then stood back a step. The door opened slightly and someone peeped at him through the crack.
“Yes?” the guy said, irritated.
“Maxwell” Zach simply said.
The guy rolled his eyes at Zach, pointed at the “In Session” sign, then said “Oga, you blind?”
Zack stepped forward, with his shoulder he shoved the door, widening the crack enough to reach through then grabbed the guy by the front of his shirt, he squeezed hard enough to make the guy release his grip on the door. With his free hand, Zach pushed the door open while keeping steady pressure on the guy’s shirt front, he walked into the studio.
There were two other guys in the studio apart from Max who stood in the booth. Everyone looked at Zach. He shoved the guy whom he held across the room sending him toppling over a side stool, crashing to the ground amid breaking bottles, glasses and an ashtray.
“What the fuck!” One of them yelled.
Max, who’d hurriedly exited the booth, shouted “Hey! Hey!! Stop!” but it was too late.
The guy had engaged Zach. He threw a punch, aiming for Zach’s cheek, he was too slow for Zach who easily deflected the punch over his left shoulder then landed two quick blows – right fist to the sternum, left fist to the jaw. The guy crashed to the floor at Zach’s feet.
Zach turned facing the sound engineer at the console, he quickly put his hands up signifying he didn’t want a part in this fight. The first guy, who Zach had sent over the stool had curled up in a corner, a defensive ball.
“Boss, abeg calm down. Wetin happen?” Max said in a shaky voice.
“Tell your guys to get lost” Zach replied.
“You heard the man, leave!” Max barked at them.
The guy who’d taken Zach’s punches needed help from the sound engineer as they all scuttled out of the studio.
“Tell me again about Rashidat” Zach said, the moment the door was shut.
“Shit!” Max said feeling hopeless.
“Yes, Shit, that’s exactly what you fed me, boy” Zach said. “Everything you told me was a lie” he added. He unbuttoned his jacket, took his pistol out, took a seat and placed it beside him.
“I told you what she told me, boss!” Max said eyeing the pistol.
“She lied to you!” he yelled
“I didn’t know that, baba”
“Did you confirm?” Zach asked, almost inaudible.
Max stood there looking from the floor between his shoes and the pistol, unable to make eye contact with Zach.
“What you told me, Maxwell, was that she was your girl and some ex of hers was hounding her and had beaten her up, tried to strangle her, blah, blah, fucking blah!” Zach said slowly as if explaining something to a dim-witted child.
When Max made no response, he asked “I lie?”
“No, boss” Max managed.
“Guess who’s looking like a fool now, Maxwell?”
“Me, Maxwell! Me!” Zach shouted, exploding out of the seat, pistol in a raised hand.
Max placed his hands over his head expecting the first pistol-whipping of his life, but Zach abruptly stopped.
“I’m sorry” Max whimpered.
“I went out there on nothing but misinformation! For you! ‘Cos I thought you, maybe, had some sense and were sure about your sources. You damn well recall I didn’t want to do it” Zach said, voice low once again.
“I do. I’m sorry, boss” Max said, managing to look up at Zach, who’s hand was now down beside him.
“When you first got back, I thought your work was great, I thought you had promise. But now…” Zach left off put the pistol back in his jacket, buttoned it up and walked to the door. Before opening the door, he turned and said “Get your shit together, Maxwell”.
Zach walked out and shut the door behind him. He went downstairs to the kitchen where he poured himself a glass of juice and downed it at once. He refilled the glass and was sipping on it this time when he heard the commotion.
He listened for a minute before ignoring it.
Max was yelling that a “whore” got the hell out of his house, his boys were asking what had happened while the girl was pleading and asking Max to calm down.
“Rashidat, I have said all I have to say, just get out. Here’s your shit. Go!” Max’s voice came now from the living room downstairs.
Zach maintained his perch on a kitchen stool and sipped his juice, listening. No one, but the security man knew he was still in the house. He hadn’t met anyone on his way down.
“Ok, I’ll leave. Please, let me have some money for cab” he heard Rashidat say.
“Thunder faya you!” he heard Max say before the front door slammed shut.
Zach stood up and walked to the window. He saw the girl putting her stuff properly into her bag. There were tears in her eyes.
Suddenly the front door burst open and Max appeared yelling at the gateman – “Aliu! If you open gate for this girl again for this house, just pack your own load follow am” then he rushed back into the house.
Zach watched the girl being comforted and escorted out of the gate by two of Max’s friends. He turned around just in time to see Max walk into the kitchen. The look of surprise on Max’s face was more than genuine.
“B-Boss, you still dey around?” he asked.
“Was just leaving” Zach said, placed his now empty glass on the counter, patted Max on the shoulder and left.
Zaneta laid on the couch scrolling through her Instagram page. The picture with Max-Tee had gotten over 600 likes. Her mind went to Zach who had made it possible. It had been hours since his call saying he was “coming in” that evening. She had secretly hoped he’d ask to come see her, but then he had hurried off the phone and not called or texted since.
She was contemplating texting him when she heard her uncle’s voice “Don’t you have work in the morning?” he asked looking up from some speeches he’d been working on.
“I’m keeping you company” she said smiling.
“No, you’ve been on your phone since you got back”, Dr. Moloku chided her.
“Didn’t want to disturb you with gist, Dad”. Zaneta said defensively, locking her phone and putting it away.
“Help me go through this speech, it’s for my appearance at the Chamber of Commerce in Abuja on Tuesday” he said, holding out a sheaf of papers.
Zaneta rose and took them from him. “Why do you still write your own speeches though? There are people who are professionals at it, why not hire one?” Zaneta said, settling back in her seat.
“Originality” he said rising from his seat. “About your car, have you decided?” He asked.
“Not exactly, didn’t know you’d be back this early”, she said.
“Ok. Whatever you want is fine. Just let me or Tunji know when you have your mind made up” he said
“Ok, Daddy. Thanks”
“There’s one small catch though”
“Nooooooooooo!” she said mock-crying, melting to the floor.
“Would you even hear me out first, Ogechi?”
“Ok, what is it, Dad?” she asked, pouting.
“Can’t be brand new. That’s all. I have my reasons” he said with a grave demeanour.
“Ok. Thank you” she said, knowing when not to argue with him.
Zach had just put Raiden in his cage after their morning run and was heading upstairs by the stairs when his phone rang. He pulled it out of his jogger’s pocket and looked at it, it was Zaneta.
“Hi” he said, without breaking pace.
“Good morning” he replied.
“Are you ok? You sound breathless”.
“Exercising” he replied.
“Nice. I’m at my desk” she said.
“You should join me sometime”
“I wish” she said laughing.
“You won’t die, you know. And if you do, I’ll be right there to take your last words, give you your last kiss” he said, stopping on a landing.
“Ya madt!” she said, laughing. “And I will surprise you one day”, she added.
“OK” he simply said.
“I need your take on something, is this a good time though?”
“Go right ahead”.
“I’m getting a car”.
“You definitely should” he said.
“Yeah. Long overdue. I’m thinking an Accord Coupe”.
“Hmmmm. New, yeah?” he asked.
“No, jooor. But I want the cleanest one I can find of the latest model available for used” she said.
“Tokunboh or Naija used?”
“Anyone. It has to -“
“Be clean enough to pass as new” he cut in.
“Ezaitly!” she said.
“Smart. I think it’s a good car. You hardly can go wrong with a Honda around these parts. Service and spares are readily available” he said resuming his ascent.
“So, it’s a ‘Yes’ from you?” she asked
“Yup. Why don’t you let me research some more and then we can conclude over lunch?”
“Yes. My office” he said. He needed to know if she had become wary of him, if she had noticed something was added to her drink the last time she visited.
“I can’t promise, but I’ll try real hard, it’s a Monday, you know?” she said, “why did my heart just skip a beat?” She thought.
“I could have someone pick you up”, he suggested.
“I’ll have you know I’ll send the person back. If you want me picked up, do it yourself, Sir.” she said. She knew she had to put her foot down where how she was treated and valued were concerned.
He laughed, then said, “Yes, your majesty”.
“Have a good day, Daddy Raiden” she said, “Kiss Raiden for me” she added
“You already know my response to that one” he said and rung off amidst her laughter.
Zaneta sat back in her seat, it was almost lunch time. She was done what she had planned to achieve before lunch. She missed Alice around the office, no one to gist with. Alice was in The Gambia enjoying her honeymoon. Zaneta could not believe Alice could go this long without one phone call to her. It made her jealous.
She rose and walked down the hall to Febi’s office, Febi wasn’t there. As she turned around to head back to hers her phone rang, it was Zach.
“This guy“, she thought then picked up.
“Hi. Thought to ask what to order for you for lunch”, Zach said.
“I’ll order my own lunch when I arrive” she said. She had just agreed to show up at his.
“Ok. Do I come get you?” He pressed.
“No, Sir. I’ll take a cab”, she said rolling her eyes.
“Alright”, he said and rung off.
“What’s doing this one? He has spent weekend with someone else, he’s now here harassing me for lunch”, she murmured as she made it back to her office.
She touched up her make-up, picked up her purse, changed into heels and left. She told Gladys she was going to the pharmacy down the road, practicing the lie she would tell to her driver, whom she had figured was more than a driver. She couldn’t wait to get her car.
The moment she stepped out, her driver appeared, pulling on his jacket. “Where to, Ma?” he asked.
“Just getting something from the pharmacy down the road” she said, without breaking stride.
“Why don’t you let me help you, Ma?” He asked, catching up with her.
“Mr- Sorry I didn’t get your name” she said stopping in her tracks.
“Mr. Joel, you are my Dad’s driver, not my errand boy. If I wanted someone to get me my stuff at the pharmacy, we have office assistants here” she said pointing back at the office building, “but somethings are private and I’d rather do them myself” she finished staring him right in the eyes through her sunglasses.
She could see him struggling with his instructions and the merit of her argument in the light of what she’d been told. After a few seconds, he said “Ok, ma” slipped a hand into one of his jacket pockets and handed her a card, “Please, call me if you need me”, he said.
She took the card and smiled brightly at him, “Thank you” she said. On the card was his name and number only.
At the pharmacy, while gisting with the pharmacists on duty, she requested a ride using her Uber app. She bought a pack of Vitamin C and left when her ride arrived.
The meal was good. It had a home-made taste to it. They had Yam and fried eggs with bottle of water ordered from the canteen in the office building. His office itself was nice and well furnished. It looked like some serious business was being done in it. Now, they were seating on a couch away from his desk, a lovely view of the area was to heir left through the window. Zaneta liked it.
“So this is where the magic happens” she teased, recalling what he had said about her office.
“You know this” he said smiling that smile of his.
“Do you enjoy your job here?”
“Being a facility manager has its moments, to be honest, but for me, since it pays the bills, gives me freedom to move around, its fine”
“And you have been here 3 years”
“3 years next month”
“Is there going to be a party?”
“Yes. You and I, some food and wine. I’ll take some time off. We could go someplace”
“Did you just come up with that or….” she left off.
“Been thinking about it. What do you think?”
“I don’t know, this is sudden”
“Ok. I understand”, he smiled.
“Are you in the habit of springing stuff on people that way?” She asked keeping her eyes on him
“I’m in the habit of speaking my mind”, he countered.
“Smart ass. What did you do before this job?”
“I was in the Army” he said without any pump or emotion.
“You were what?” she asked laughing. “Get serious”
“I was. Served here and in Sudan – UN Peace Keeping”
“It’s a lie!” she said, sitting up.
He laughed, “You should start getting back to work, babe, lunch break is over.” he said.
She stole a glance at her watch, he was right. “What the heck? He’s ex-military?” she thought. “How come you never mentioned this before now?” she asked, rising to her feet.
He stood too, “Because, it’s a chunk of my life I’d rather not talk about”, he said.
“Why? It was terrible?” she asked, already assuming it was.
“No. Actually, I could deal with the job itself. You keep reminding yourself that it’s for a just cause, for humanity, that you are making a difference. You do what and take what you have to, to defend the people and protect your brothers. The circumstances of my exit was the hard part”, he said.
“Wow! What happened?” she asked.
“Can we, please, not ruin such a fine meal with that?” He asked, pulling her to himself.
“Please?” He implored.
“Ok. But you promise to tell me all later?” she said stressing the “all” and leaning into him.
“On my honour. When I get back” he said, a palm in the air, the other on her waist.
She chuckled. “Then, you are travelling?” She asked.
“Tomorrow or next”, he said.
“Where to?” she asked, placing her hands on his chest. She could feel the steady rhythm of this heart.
“A couple of eastern states. Some business concerns. For a few days.”
“Yours or work stuff?” she asked.
“Work related. Asset acquisitions.”
“Ok” she said, looking up at his smiling face.
“That’s all?” he queried.
“What else? Like ‘Don’t go, I’ll miss you?’ or “Can I come with you?” she said.
“Well, those would be nice. I was actually expecting you’d ask me to say you well to her?” he said laughing.
She tried to push away but he held unto her. “Leave me joor” she said. She was falling for him and she knew he knew it. She sighed.
“About the car. I asked a few people, checked online. It seems ok.”
“Yeah? I want red”, she said with a wide grin.
“That would look good. Throw in some red hair like Captain Kate.”
“Yes, from Terrahawks” he said, he met a blank look on her face.
“What? You didn’t watch Terrahawks? Lord!” he said laughing.
“What’s funny? You are old and this is child abuse!” she said, arms akimbo.
“Seven years doesn’t constitute ‘child abuse’, try seventeen”
“Na so” she said, replacing her hands on his chest, fiddling with his shirt collar.
“So, when are you getting the car?”
“My dad is getting it. Belated birthday present. I am to get back to him with my choice.”
“Good for you” Zach said, knowing that having Dr. Moloku as her “dad” was anything but good for her in the scheme of things to come. Once he was officially declared as the VP candidate for the opposition, shit would hit the fan, the machinery was already in motion. And he was the point man.
“I need to run” she said, but his mind was elsewhere. Her lips on his brought him back to the room and he kissed her back. They rode the elevator downstairs together and he walked her to a Metro cab he had ordered.
By the time Zach got back to his office, he had a message from her:
“Can you not think of something else while you kiss me next time, please?“