Uche was fixed to a spot wondering what Papa was talking about. He was however not alone in the confusion as Mama and Ada also looked lost at the ensuing piece of drama before them.
“Papa, I don’t think you heard me well the first time.” Ada spoke to bail the situation. “This is Uche, the taxi driver who helped us find a way to pay your bills”
Papa’s remained silent but kept his eyes fixated upon the hapless Uche standing before him. Mama rose up and helped Uche with the polythene bag he was carrying and asked him to sit.
“He says he knows you, do you know him?” Mama inquired from Uche. The latter just managed a weak smile and threw his hands up in the air, probably to say “how can I know him?”
Ada moved to Uche after Mama had left him, and spoke softly. “I’m sorry for the embarrassment, he’s still recovering.”
“Its nothing. He might be right, your dad is full of days, he has met a lot of people in his life. I probably look familiar.” Uche said to douse the tension.
Mama slowly continued to feed Papa who won’t just stop scanning Uche’s face. It felt awkward for the young man and after a while, he rose to announce his leave, “I only dropped by to check on you sir. I’ll have to return to duty now. I wish you speedy and full recovery.”
Ada rose with him in a bid to see him out of the ward, but as they turned to leave, Papa spoke loudly and strongly for the first time, “Paschal!”
Uche and Ada turned back in surprise.
“Paschal Ilegbinjie!… my memory won’t fail me for so long. This is Paschal.”
Mama and Ada returned to their state of confusion, as Uche slowly turned back towards Papa.
“How and when did you become a taxi driver? Where is your father?” Papa asked.
Uche was still trying to speak when Ada interrupted, “Uche, is he right? He knows you for real.”
“This is not Uche, this is Paschal. The son of my boss at Nicks&Hampton, where I used to work.” Papa announced. “What amazes me however, is how he has become a taxi driver within five years I left Nicks&Hampton. You were still in the UK when I was sacked. What happened to you?”
Uche knew he had been caught. There was no point denying any longer, he had to open up. He looked at Ada and beckoned on her to come closer and have a seat.
“It’s a long story, but it won’t have a meaning until it is all over. I’m quite sad that this is happening just at the nick of time when I should be taking the most important step…” Uche went on.
“You still have not answered Ada’s question, are you truly who my husband recognises you to be?” Mama asked, impatient to confirm the validity of the story.
“Yes it is true.” Uche responded. One glance at Ada’s face made him realize how disappointed she was.
“Why then did you lie to us? Why did you do all these? What are your motives?” The questions were pouring so fast from Ada’s lips that it took Mama’s intervention to stop her.
“I’ll explain, but not now. You may not understand.” Uche responded.
“What do you mean by that? Mr Paschal or whatever your name is, why have you deceived us all the while? Answer the question or leave!” Ada was enraged.
Uche was shocked at Ada’s last words. He fought hard to say something but the words won’t come out. His legs became weak to move as well. He remained on a spot, looking blankly at Ada.
“Oh…you won’t leave? I’ll leave for you instead.” Ada walked out of the ward, leaving everyone dumbfounded.
“Where is the boy, where are my papers?” That was the first statement J-boy made to Sunky as soon as he appeared at their usual meeting place on campus.
“You won’t believe how much I have searched for him all around school since yesterday. He was last seen going to class to read, but I searched virtually every reading room on campus and couldn’t find him. He hasn’t returned to his room up till now. I wonder what’s happening. I can’t explain his mysterious disappearance.” Sunky explained with jitters all over him.
J-boy puffed up smoke from his lips and nostrils and spoke. “You mean to tell me that you can’t find that boy within this premises? you let him get away?”
“Not exactly boss. I think he’s scared, he probably realized his mistakes and decided to go into hiding. But I know for sure he won’t be hiding for too long, he’ll appear soon. Just give me some time. I’ll deliver.”
J-boy was visibly unhappy. He wondered what stunt Tunji could be up to. He felt like seeing him at that moment and strangling him to death, but what seemed more important to him was to retrieve the deal documents that was with Tunji. The money at stake wasn’t huge compared to deals he had carried out successfully in the past, but $2million was still a lot of money to let go. The money had to come first, punishing Tunji for his folly could happen at any other time.
“That boy truly lacks spine. If not, he won’t go into hiding. Wherever he may choose to hide, you need to dig him out and get my papers from him. I’ll fashion a way to deal with him, just retrieve those documents.” J-boy doled out instructions to Sunky.
“Yes boss, I’ll do just that.” The hapless Sunky responded. “Can I go back into campus now? I need to go to his department. He hardly misses classes, if there’s any hope of catching him, it’s in the lecture rooms.”
“Wait a minute, you know one or two people who are his friends, and who’ll probably know his whereabouts, don’t you?” J-boy asked.
“True.” Sunky’s eyes seemed to have suddenly opened. “There’s only one person who’ll definitely know where Tunji is hiding, and can lead us to him.”
“Go quickly! Go get me the person. Now!!!”
IRS 305 class had just finished and students trooped out of SSLT1 and to their various destinations. It was the last class of the day. Amaka scanned through the trooping students but could not find Tunji. Neither did she find Jumoke whom she hoped would know where Tunji can be found.
Amaka badly wanted to apologise for her rash behaviour towards Tunji the night before. She had spent the night regretting why she picked up an unnecessary quarrel with her heartthrob. She was concerned about Tunji’s dealings with Sunky, and she only thought pressurising him was the only key to know what was between them. She knew they both were up to no good, but Tunji wouldn’t just open up.
After waiting for long ten minutes, she decided to go back to her hostel. She tried his number again, but it was switched off. She silently hoped Tunji wasn’t avoiding her. She was startled by a voice behind her.
“Amaka, how are you” it was Ngozi. She seemed excited about something.
“I’m fine” Amaka responded, trying hard to hide her worries from Ngozi who would do nothing else but mock her.
“You don’t look fine o. Something seems wrong. Talk to me.” Ngozi was an expert in figuring Amaka out and she had a way of making her talk.
“I’m fine Ngozi. I’m only looking for Tunji.” Amaka responded.
“Oh that boy? He should not be far away, you’ll definitely find him later at night. He will come to your room as usual.” Ngozi tried to lift her friend’s spirit. “Anyways, I have better news o.”
“What is it?” Amaka raised her eyebrows, wondering what news Ngozi had to share.
“There are some white men who need company of some ladies. The pay is bumper, and I gathered that they just want to have fun for a few hours. No overnight parole.” Ngozi announced.
The disappointed Amaka couldn’t say a word, she only managed a hiss and continued walking.
“What’s that? Aren’t you interested in this too? This is not Chief Deji ooo, these white men are sure people.” Ngozi continued, trying to cajole her friend.
Amaka was fighting hard not to embarrass Ngozi in the middle of campus and in broad daylight. She was however bailed by the sight of Jumoke around whitehouse and she hastened her steps to catch up with her.
“Ngozi, I have heard you. I’ll think about it, but I need to catch up with someone ahead now” she said and sped away.
“Hello Jummy” she managed to speak as she tapped Jumoke’s shoulders, trying to catch her breath.
“Please I have been searching for Tunji all day, do you know where he is?”
“I have not seen him today also. His number is not available as well. I was hoping you would know too.” Jumoke responded.
“This is serious. I was with him around 8pm yesternight, but we didn’t read together.” Amaka explained.
“Where then could he be? He didn’t show up for class too.” Jumoke was worried too. She tried his number but got no response. “Let’s chill for a while, he will reach out to either of us when his phone is available.”
“Thanks” Amaka was unhappy and she turned to walk away.
A dark guy in shades appeared behind her, and tapped her on the shoulders. He handed over a note to her and walked away briskly.
“What’s that?” The confused Jumoke asked.
“I don’t know… It’s a note.” Amaka opened the note and lifted up her eyes to look at Jumoke. “It’s from Tunji.” She announced.
Jumoke quickly joined Amaka in reading the content of the letter, and by the time they finished reading, they exchanged quick glances.
“This is weird, coming from Tunji.” Jumoke spoke. “And why did he have to send a stranger to deliver a note?” Jumoke was queasy about the whole development.
“I wonder what he’s up to. I just hope he hasn’t gotten himself into trouble.” Amaka responded. “I’ll however go and meet him where he’s asked me to. Please give me your phone number so I can call you to inform you of what happened.”
They exchanged contacts and Amaka walked away. Jumoke looked on hoping she made the right decision.
Professor Sagat’s words kept ringing in Gbade’s ears as he drove. Too many things were happening at the same time, and they were too fast for him to comprehend.
His life and his son’s would end in the next 36hrs, unless Amaka was found. He had just lost his daughter…or his supposed daughter as Sagat seemed to be implying that Jessica wasn’t his daughter after all.
Juliet would have questions to answer. Gbade’s first instinct was to drive back home to his wife and inquire from her if truly, Jessica wasn’t his daughter, but he thought against doing that as there was no proof to his allegations other than Sagat’s words. And even if he was to use that, Juliet shouldn’t know about his dealings with Sagat. It became apparent that he and Juliet had secrets in their cupboard which they had both carefully hidden from each other. But the question was; who will open up first.
Juliet’s case, though terrible as it, was far less significant to the impending doom awaiting him and his ‘bonafide’ son. The logical thing to do was to go after Amaka.
He took a u-turn immediately and turned towards Osogbo. He sped with the consciousness that every passing minute was valuable. He narrowly avoided accidents countless times, and after an hour and forty-five minutes, he was at the Grace Hotels in Osogbo, where Deji was lodged.
“Right on time. How was the trip? And how’s your daughter’s health?” Deji asked him after settling down.
“I lost Jessica.” Gbade announced.
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry about that. How’s Juliet, hope she’s not taking it too hard on herself” Deji continued.
“She’ll be fine. I just have a lot of questions to ask her”
“How do you mean?”
“Jessica may not have been my daughter afterall…” Gbade announced after a brief pause.
“Where’s all these coming from?” Deji was petrified.
“I stormed to Sagat’s temple as soon as Jessica died. I was bitter that the spirits took my daughter even before seven days was complete. But Sagat made me understand that she died of natural causes and the spirits wouldn’t have taken her because she wasn’t of my blood. He told me Dominic is my only son and child!… To make matters worse, Dominic might die after me if I don’t find Amaka before tomorrow.” Gbade explained.
“This is serious” Deji was just as concerned. He went to his friend and patted him on the shoulders. “Not to worry, we’ll pull through this ordeal, we can investigate Sagat’s claims once this is over. We are in this together.” Deji encouraged him.
“Stand up… I have a surprise for you” Deji continued.
Gbade didn’t seem interested in any surprises.
“Come with me” Deji pulled him up and took him to a dark room. He switched on a dim light and a figure was tied to a chair, blindfolded and facing the wall.
“Who is this?” Gbade asked.
Deji raised the blindfold on the figure and revealed the face. Gbade moved round to behold the face and what he saw left his mouth wide open.
To Be Continued Next Week….