Shade crossed the street and stood on the other side of the road waiting for a cab. She had to get back to the hotel and retrieve her car. But in her state she wasn’t sure she could drive. A cab stopped. “Take me to the mall.” She wanted to take a hot cup of cappuccino and the mall was the nearest place she knew.
“Thank you ma,” the taxi driver dropped her and zoomed off into the hot afternoon.
As Shade stood by the entrance of the mall, a handsome young man looked at her, as if checking her out. He looked at his phone then looked at her again. She was used to appreciative glances from men but this seemed to linger a bit too long. As she got close to him their eyes met and the young man smiled at her. It was a flirty smile, the kind that said ‘I am available if you are.’ Such effrontery, Shade thought and shook her head.
The man looked at his phone and lifted his head. Shade had to admit that he was handsome.
“Hi,” the young man said. Was this guy trying to pick her up? She looked behind to make sure he wasn’t talking to someone else. There was nobody there. He was talking to her. She was at least ten years older than him. Why on earth would he think that she would be interested in him?
“Hi,” she finally managed to say. “Have we met?”she asked.
“I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you look.”
Shade couldn’t believe it. Looking scruffy the way she did? She was feeling tired after the morning experience at the hotel. How could this guy say that? But men saw only what they wanted to see, she thought.
“Thank you,” she said and entered the mall.
She walked a few paces then turned around to look at the young man. He was on his phone talking excitedly and still looking at her.
The mall was busy. The Sunday crowd was there for lunch. Chuks and Razak stood by their car in the parking lot pretending to have a conversation.
“I don’t think this woman is here,” Razak said his eyes roaming around, searching for Shade.
Chuks brought out his phone again and looked at two women who entered the mall.
“Let’s wait for a few more minutes. We should be getting some reports from the pictures we sent to our boys all around Lagos.”
His phone rang. “Yes?”
“That woman you are looking for, the pretty one? I have found her!” An excited voice said at the other end of the line.
“Where is she?”
“She’s right here. I just saw her enter this mall.”
“Which mall are you at?”
“Ikeja city mall,” the voice said.
Chuks turned to Razak. “The gods must be smiling on us. She’s right here, at this mall.” He spoke into the phone. “I want you to follow her and stay with her. Make sure you don’t lose her.”
“Yes, sir,” the voice said.
Chuks turned to Razak. “Ths is going to be easier than I thought. Stay with the car. We should be out of here in ten minutes.” He looked at the traffic of people entering the mall, took a breath and joined them.
Shade took a sip of the coffee and exhaled.
“May I join you?”
She looked up. It was the handsome young man she saw at the entrance of the mall.
“Are you stalking me?” She didn’t know what else to say.
“Of course not. Why would I do something like that? Would you like some company?”
The truth was that she wanted to be alone to think through all that was happening in he life. From Saturday morning, her life had been thrown into an unbelievable roller coaster of events. She was finding it hard to believe that her husband of five years could be seduced by the maid and get her pregnant. Somewhere in her mind she still thought that it was not true,that someone was playing tricks on her.
Then the incident this morning with her best friend Ngozi really threw her off balance. Why would Ngozi spike her coffee? What was going on in her life? Before she could give the young man an answer, he drew out a chair and sat beside her.
“I didn’t say you could join me,” she said.
The young man smiled, disarming her completely. “This is a table for four. I can sit anywhere I like. I choose to sit right here with you.” He raised his hand and a service attendant walked over. He placed an order. “And bring me the bill for her coffee,” he said.
“I am Michael Oyelade. Engineering student at unilag.”
Shade didn’t answer him. He didn’t look like a student. There was something about him that unnerved her. His handsome face couldn’t hide a the darkness that hung around him. Shade wanted to bet that Michael, if that was his real name, had not been inside a classroom for a long time.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Why were you staring at me earlier on?”
The young thug smiled. “You are beautiful, don’t you know that.”
“Hey Michael! What’s up?” Chuks had found them.
Shade didn’t like the way the man looked at her. She felt uncomfortable as she looked at his unsmiling and mean face. He sat too close to her and suddenly she wanted to leave the mall and go back home or go and see her pastor or any other place but there with the strange men with her.
She stood up. “I need to use the restroom. Will be right back.” She was so nervous she tipped her coffee over.
Michael almost stood up with her but Chuks held his hand.
The men watched her leave.
Chuks turned to Michael. “Follow her. Stay by the entrance of the restroom. I will join you soon.”
He stood up and went in the direction of the restroom.
Shade opened the door to the restroom and took a peek outside. She saw Michael and his friend standing a few metres away from the door. Who were these men and what did thy want from her? Were they trying to kidnap her? Were they trying to use Michael’s good looks to seduce her and later steal from her? From the look on their faces they wanted something from her, whatever it was, she didn’t know. She went back inside. She looked around the restroom to find a way of escape, but there was none. The mall owners had made sure that there were no windows or exit doors in the restrooms. She wiped her sweaty brow with her hand and peeked outside again. The men were still standing there. Now she knew for sure that they were up to no good. Shade felt like an Egyptian Pharaoh locked in the depths of a pyramid.
She was trapped!
To be continued.