“Where is it?” Kalu asked himself and wiped the sweat off his tired face. He stood in the middle of the room, his hands on his hips, looking around at what he had done. The Maid’s room looked like a hurricane had just blown through it. The mattress and pillows, the drawers of the dressing table and their contents were scattered on the floor. Yemi’s shoes were strewn all over the room. The wardrobe had been thoroughly ransacked. Yemi’s designer bags were turned inside out. He climbed the wooden frame of the bed and carefully examined the four corners of the frame. There were no hidden compartments.
“Woman, where are you hiding your stash?” he asked as he carried the mattress off the floor and leaned it against a wall. He entered the toilet, lifted up the top of the water closet and looked inside. He was met with disappointment. There was no cash stash.
“Somebody help me!”
He stopped for a moment and listened to Yemi’s desperate cries for help coming from the main house. “That’s none of my business,” He said, his heart firmly set on finding the money the maid hid in her room.
He came out of the bathroom and looked around the room. His eyes settled on the mattress. He knelt down and began to examine it. He brought out a knife from his pocket and tore at the fabric sown around the mattress like a butcher flaying a goat. He made a hole in the mattress with the knife, stuck his right hand inside it and began to feel around. His hand touched something and he stopped. He inserted both hands and brought out a black nylon bag.
“You may be smart, but I am smarter than you,” he congratulated himself and opened the bag. Naira notes tied in two bundles welcomed his greedy eyes. “Yes!” He took out the money from the bag, put the notes in his pocket and stood up. He picked up Yemi’s picture in a glass frame off the floor. He had the expressionless look of a man who had nothing to lose. “You think you are better than me because you work for this people? You are not!” he threw the frame against the wall with all the strength he could muster. The frame cracked and the glass shattered. A piece of glass grazed his cheek and drew blood. He brought out a white handkerchief, dabbed the spot and looked at it. He threw the blood stained handkerchief on the rubble he had created, stepped on the bed and walked out of Yemi’s room.
Segun grabbed Gbenga and threw him off the bed.
‘Thud!’ Gbenga landed hard on his buttocks. He scrambled to his feet and tried to get back on the bed. There was a desperate look on his face. His eyes were wild as he grabbed Yemi’s leg on the bed. Segun held Yemi and kicked at Gbenga until he let go.
“This girl will not destroy my life,” Gbenga shouted as he struggled back on his feet. His eyes were covered in a demented haze.
Segun struggled with his friend and kept him from touching the maid who was sobbing on the bed.
“You will not touch this girl again.” Segun warned Gbenga. “If you try it, I will break your arm.” he threatened.
Gbenga was breathing hard. He knew his friend would carry out the threat if he attempted to touch the maid.
“Get her out of my house!” Gbenga shouted.
“This girl is not going anywhere. She will remain in this house until we resolve this issue.” Segun said.
“Aahh” Yemi moaned in exaggerated pain. Segun sat on the bed and cradled her head in his hands. He gave Gbenga an angry look. “If anything happens to this girl, you will pay for it!”
“Does it look like I care?” he asked and walked out of the room, cursing loudly.
Segun opened the door to the balcony. “Sadique!” He called for the gateman but silence greeted his cry. Kalu came out from the boys quarters behind the house, heading for the gate.
“Young man, please come upstairs and help me,” Segun called out to him.
Kalu kept on walking, ignoring Segun.
“Hey! I am talking to you.” Segun shouted again.
All Kalu wanted to do was escape with the money in his pocket. He quickened his steps. The gate opened and Sadique came in with the dog on a leash. Kalu hesitated while he assessed his situation. If he made a wrong move, Sadique could set the dog on him. Sadique looked at him with a frown on his face.
“I am late for mass,” Kalu looked up at Segun on the balcony.
“Please come upstairs and help me with something. It won’t take much of your time,” Segun said.
Kalu looked back at Sadique standing at the gate with the vicious dog. If he tried running past him and the dog, he could be torn into shreds by the beast. He had only one option left to him.
He entered the house. Moments later both men carried Yemi downstairs and put her on the bed in the visitor’s room.
“Can I have a word with you in the living room?” Segun asked Kalu. They both left the room.
As soon as the men left the room Yemi opened her eyes slightly and looked around. When she was sure there was no one around, she opened her eyes fully and laughed.
Ngozi stood by the curtains, peered outside and looked at her watch. Shade was still curled up on the bed and crying. She sat at the dining table and poured some hot coffee into a cup. She opened her bag, brought out a bottle of blue tablets, took out one tablet and dropped it inside the cup. She stirred it with a teaspoon, watched the tablet dissolve slowly in the dark liquid then she stood up and tapped Shade gently on the shoulder.
“Shade, I ordered some coffee for you. It will make you feel better.”
Shade got out of bed sluggishly and sat at the dinning table with Ngozi sitting opposite her. Ngozi pushed the cup of coffee towards Shade, who regarded it with disinterest.
“You should have some coffee, it will make you feel better,” Ngozi said.
Shade held the cup to her lips, then put it down on the table.
“Do you know something strange though?”
Ngozi’s eyes were on the cup of coffee.
“I think I have heard that voice before,” she held the cup with both hands.
“The man who called me. The one who told me that a woman was in the house with my husband last night. He said I was being set up by someone close to me, someone I know, someone I trust. He said things were not as they appeared to be. He said I was being deceived. That man has an Ibo accent. I never forget a voice. I have heard that voice before, but exactly where I cannot remember,” Shade said.
Ngozi was growing impatient. “You should drink your coffee before it gets cold,” Ngozi said.
Shade lifted the cup to her lips for the second time.
“Drinking it hot is the point,” Ngozi watched as Shade slowly parted her lips to drink the spiked liquid.
Suddenly Shade’s eyes lit up. She put down the cup of coffee gently on the table and gave Ngozi a curious look. “Ngozi, I have been meaning to ask you this but it keeps skipping my mind,” she paused for a few seconds. “When I left home yesterday, I left you behind with Gbenga. Where were you last night?” Shade looked at her friend in the eye.
Silence was thick in the room, a dark cloud pregnant with meaning. Ngozi had a surprised look on her face like a mischievous boy caught red handed, stealing meat from his mother’s pot of freshly cooked egusi soup.
To be continued.