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Tunji leaped from his seat and raced to the faculty notice-board to confirm what Jumoke had just told him. “I’ll be back ASAP” was all he could manage to say to a dumbfounded Amaka before he left her behind at BOOA. He crossed the road without looking, collided with everyone in his way and was completely out of breath by the time he got to the board; he had to pinch himself severally to make sure the sight of his surname at the top of the list was not a dream.
His colleagues were there, smiling and congratulating him on his much-deserved good fortune but he couldn’t say a word. After some minutes of fighting his welling tears of joy, Tunji broke down into tears and laid flat on the floor weeping loudly. There were mixed reactions from other students who were around him; some believed he was overwhelmed with gratitude to God, while others felt he was just being unnecessarily dramatic.
Jumoke arrived then, and quickly helped him up. She dragged him to a nearby platform and made him sit.
“Tunji, what’s with all the theatrics?” She asked.
“You won’t understand, Jummy” he replied amidst soft sobs trying to pull himself back together.
“Don’t be too sure Tunji, why not tell me what it is first…” She persisted gently.
Tunji took a deep breath and paused for what seemed like forever. When most of the students gathered around the notice board had dispersed, he began calmly:
“I have been impatient, foolish and naïve… Now it’s about to cost me much. I’m in deep trouble, and I doubt that I’ll make it through this alive” he stated matter-of-factly.
“Hmmm…” Jumoke quickly sensed they weren’t in a very good place to talk, “let’s leave here.” She suggested, but Tunji wasn’t ready to leave. As Jumoke rose, he pulled her back.
“Jummy, I want you to tell you something very serious, but I need you to promise me that you’ll be discreet about it.”
Jumoke quickly sat back. “What is it?” She loved Tunji and she had never seen him in such state before. Her hands trembled, her voice was a little more than a whisper, she was scared of what she was about to hear; what danger Tunji had gotten himself into?
Ada helped her father sit for the first time in weeks. Mama was sitting opposite the bed, ready to feed him lunch.
Papa’s operation was successful, and he was recuperating nicely. The doctor said he would be discharged in few days and everyone was excited that things were going so well.
“Nne, take it easy” Mama called out, as her husband almost lost balance trying to sit right.
“I’m okay.” Papa muttered under his breath. “Where is Amaka?” He inquired.
Ada jumped to answer before her mother could say a word. “She’s in school, preparing for exams. She was here a few days back to see you. I’ll call to inform her about the latest developments in your health.”
Mama didn’t seem to enjoy Ada’s swiftness, but she let it go with a grunt and a scornful look at her daughter.
Ada however seemed to be having fun. She went on: “Oh, and papa; Amaka brought some money for your treatment. Its with mama, she should give you details.”
“Blah, blah, blah, blah! How much did she bring that you broadcast so loud?” Mama retorted and hissed loudly. “I have used most part of the money to buy food and the required drugs” she added.
Ada wanted to scream and ask Mama how she had used up a hundred thousand in buying food and drugs, but Papa broke into the discourse.
“How were you able to raise my medical fee then?” Papa’s speech was still feeble.
“God sent someone to come to our rescue.” Mama answered, this time quicker than her daughter.
“A taxi driver, who helped us bring you to this hospital, talked to his boss about you and he gave us all the money for your treatment.” Ada added.
The word ‘taxi driver’ struck Papa and he almost choked on the spoon of pap that was in his mouth. “A taxi driver you say?” He asked.
“Yes papa. And he has been frequently visiting you ever since.” Ada responded swiftly.
“I would like to see that man, and the person who paid my bills”
“We have asked the taxi driver to take us to him, but he refused, saying the philanthropist prefers to stay anonymous” Mama answered.
Uche walked in at that moment, carrying a polythene bag full of provisions. “Oh, he’s awake, thank goodness.”
“You came in just at the right time. Papa was just asking to meet you.” Ada said, “here is the taxi driver you asked to meet papa, his name is Uche” she beamed with a smile.
Papa raised his head slowly to take a good look at the face of the good samaritan. Mama and Ada looked on with enthusiasm as they observed the expression on Papa’s face. Instead of the gratitude they had all anticipated, Papa had a piercing look; he seemed to be seeing something different in Uche’s face, and after several minutes, he finally exclaimed.
“I know this face! I know you!”
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“Are you sane at all?” Sunky barked after dragging Tunji to a quiet spot at the back of IGI building. “Do you know what you are saying?” They were both trying to get away from prying eyes. It was 5pm and they didn’t have the cover of night.
“I know what I am saying. I can’t keep up with this anymore. I need my life back.” Tunji spoke confidently.
Sunky laughed hysterically. “You can’t turn back now, you’ll have to finish what you started. That is if you really want your life…”
“I have called J-boy, and I have made my stand known to him. He should be here anytime soon. I’m not joking. You guys can have your deal to yourself, I have barely touched it.”
It became obvious that Tunji wasn’t joking, and fear set in immediately for Sunky as he remembered that J-boy had tied Tunji around his neck.
“Tj! You are getting me mad! Why would you do this all of a sudden? Aren’t you scared of facing J-boy’s wrath?” Sunky made an attempt to scare Tunji.
“We’ll all die one day. There’s nothing to fear. J-boy is only human, just like you and I…”
Sunky cut him short with a painful punch across the face sending Tunji sprawling on the floor.
“You are crazy! Do you know the implication of your actions? If you’re so eager to die, must you orchestrate my end too?”
“How does this affect you?” Tunji asked, still struggling to get to his feet.
“… it affects him because just like you, he’ll also go down.” J-boy appeared, catching both of them unawares. They had been totally carried away, and didn’t notice when he arrived with his car.
“Little boy, I didn’t quite get your message on phone…” J-boy made himself comfortable on a pavement, looking straight at Tunji.
“I’m bailing out!” Tunji was undaunted. The look of terror on J-boy’s face wouldn’t change his mind. He continued, “You can come for your documents and materials later, they’ll be waiting for you. Come after me if you want, I will not run. But one thing you should know is that, you can only kill my flesh, you can’t kill my spirit.”
Sunky’s mouth was left wide open as he watched Tunji walk away. He was seeing Tunji in a different light than he had never seen. He came back quickly into consciousness, and struggled to say something to J-boy, but his voice trembled and he couldn’t produce a meaningful sound. “Err… Err…”
“Hush!” J-boy shot out. He stood up and walked to his car before facing Sunky. “I’m sure you know what to do with that boy. Let me know when you are done.” He got into his car and sped away.
Professor Sagat was taken by surprise. Gbade was looking up for a challenge as he stormed into the temple uninvited.
“How dare you barge into the sacred place like an animal? Have you no respect for the spirits anymore?” Sagat questioned.
“You gave me seven days to find the girl. I still have two more days to go. My life was to be the ransom, not my daughter’s. Why will the spirits take my daughter’s life?” Gbade was enraged.
“Your daughter?” Sagat raised his eyebrow as he calmly walked towards Gbade. “My friend, do not be distracted by the winds. Your life is still hanging in the balance, I know nothing about any daughter of your blood.”
“Yes, you may not know. I never discussed my family with you. But I had two children, a boy and a girl… The spirits have taken the girl…”
“The boy I know of… But the girl… I know nothing about.” Sagat cut in.
“What are you talking about?” Gbade was further irritated at Sagat’s words.
“Time is running against you. If after the completion of seven days, you still haven’t produced the lady for cleansing and redemption, you’ll go for it… You and your son!” Sagat said the last bit with all seriousness. He turned back to return to his squatting position before the graven image of seven spirits, but the sound of a cocked gun made him pause.
“I’m not afraid to die, but if I must die, I’m going with you. And I’ll burn down this temple if you won’t leave my son alone.” Gbade had already cocked his leveled gun; “you took my daughter, I won’t let you take my son”
Sagat smiled, but the smile gradually faded as he spoke, “You put your fiery fingers in my throat, but you can’t handle the truth.”
“What truth?” Gbade moved his gun closer to Sagat’s temple.
“The girl that died wasn’t killed by the spirits, she died of natural causes. But she wasn’t your daughter, there are…”
Gbade laughed out loudly for the first time in days. “You must be terribly deranged. Whose daughter was she if not mine, yours?”
“That’s not a question you should ask me. It’s not even what you should bother yourself about. Save your life and your son’s first. Remember you have just a little less than forty-eight hours.”
Gbade lowered his gun, looking like a fool that had been hypnotized. Feeling very stupid and confused, he quietly walked out of the temple and into his car, driving to nowhere in particular.
Tunji was dizzy as he dragged his feet on the floor, walking towards Faj from department of architecture. He had gone to read, but he’d gone alone. Neither Jumoke who had found her place back into his life, nor Amaka was with him on the return journey.
He’d had a quarrel with Amaka earlier in the evening. She wanted to know what was between him and Sunky, but Tunji was unwilling to let anything out. He relived watching her pack her books in anger and storm out of the architecture studio where they had chosen to read that night. Tunji read alone, and when he couldn’t stay further, he set off for his room to sleep.
His mind went back through the activities of the day as he gradually walked to his hostel around 11:15pm. He had approached Professor Awofisibe and apologised for his misdemeanours. Of course his punishment had been served; but there would be no make up test for him. He got his phone back at least, he’d resolved to worry about his grades in that course when it was time for exams. Then he remembered the episode with his ‘fiends’. He put up a rare show of courage, facing not only Sunky, but J-boy and turning his back on cyber crime. His life was gradually returning to normal. He managed a smile as he continued walking on the lonely side of the road.
Suddenly, a car pulled over by his side, and two hooded men came down. Before he could run, he was overpowered, knocked out of consciousness and taken away.
To Be Continued Next Sunday…..