The sharp pain in my head throbbed like a heart beating and it stirred me awake. Sight blurry, I noticed the person bent over me, yelling, worsening the pain. She seemed to be crying as she shook me. In my head, I was telling her to stop but my lips could not move. My eyes finally open and the yelling stopped. It was princess. It took a while before I could process where we were and how we got there.
We have to get out of here…
They may come back.
Here? Where? I tried to lift my head and the pain was unbearable. I tried to look round and noticed I was lying on the floor in some sort of swamp. Swamp…. Zino…Princess… it was coming back to me…
Ye…. (my head hurt like crazy)
Sorry. Just try to get up so we can find a way out of here.
She held out her hand to me and I grabbed it as I stood to my feet. I staggered a little and found my footing. I remembered the ride, the voices, the gun shots, Zino. But how did I…..
Zino said I should apologize for the pain.
Lets just get out of here first please
We hobbled through the dimly lit footpath which we hoped lead out of the swamp. I tripped and almost fell a few times but the more I walked the more the pain lessened. I noticed my phone was still in my pocket. My wonderful Nokia 1100 – with torchlight. I pulled it out and put on the torch. It seemed to make so much difference. After what seemed like forever, we made it to the road. It was a rough untared road in the middle of nowhere. We stopped then and wondered which direction to go
Everywhere is so dark. Where do we go, what do we do….. (she sounded like she was about to cry)
I moved close to her and tried not to shine my torch at her face. She still had on her very short dress, which was now torn in some places and had all sorts of leaves and thorns hanging from it. I reached out to hold her hand but she grabbed me into an embrace. She was now crying and I had to ignore the pain it brought to my head as I consoled her. It took almost another five minutes before she stopped crying. It was then she noticed how tightly she was clinging on to me and she eased off a little.
Ha…. Ma sukun mo. Olorun ti gbo adura (Stop crying. God has answered your prayers)
I turned around waving my phone frantically, wondering where the voice had come from. Princess clinged tightly to me again and I noticed an old man walking towards us. He was dressed liked a vigilante. He even had a dane gun with him. I was scared and happy at the same time. My ordeal with the OPC men from Badore was still fresh in my mind.
Baba Ibidun nko? (where is Baba Ibidun) he said as he finally got close to us
Baba Ibidun? (Princess and I looked at each other wondering what he was talking about)
Se kin se odo Baba Ibidun le tin bo ni? (Aren’t you coming from Baba Ibiduns place)
O ti Sir. A sonu ni sir. (No sir, we are lost)
I couldn’t explain how we had gotten to find ourselves there to the old man but he seemed very uninterested. He was very convinced we had come to see a certain Baba Ibidun. When he told us we were somewhere in Epe town I was so relieved. It wasn’t so bad after all. I begged him to lead us to the nearest bus stop and he agreed. The walk to the bus stop was long and slow. We had to walk at the pace of the old man. Princess was still obviously scared and my head was still throbbing with pain. I was still puzzled about what happened but I decided to save my questions for later. We finally made it to the “bus stop” which looked more or less like a clearing by the highway. I checked the time on my phone – 2:30am. As I pondered how we were going to get out of there, a car sped past us and I was glad, more hope. I turned to look at the old man so I could at least thank him but he was gone. Just like that. Princess held on tightly to my hand as she also noticed.
How are we going to get out of here?
I’m sure we will find a taxi. Let us just wait somewhere in the corner. More cars sped past us then but my attempt at waving them down was futile
We waited and waited and waved and waved. Nothing. There was a make shift bench somewhere around the clearing – looked like a roadside mechanics workbench. We made our way there and she eventually sat after initially refusing because she felt I needed it more. Waiting was probably a better option even though I had to keep looking around to make sure we were safe.
Are you ok? (I asked as I noticed her evaluating the state of her dress)
Can you please tell me what happened after we left Lekki.
She took a deep breath…..
I always work alone. This is what happens when you make compromises.
Chief had some other girls at his place. Juves. Probably shipped into town. I had never seen them around before. They looked hungry and desperate. I wanted to leave. Even started dialing your number but he pleaded and pleaded. I backed down. I compromised. And look where it landed me. Landed us.
One of the girls must have stolen drugs from Chief’s room. Chief is generous. Very generous with everything except his drugs. Especially his coke. I’ve seen him do things …..
Yes… cocaine. I’ve seen him do things to people who get between him and his coke. But today was different. That was a lot of coke and they found it in my bag. I was too surprised to say anything. Chief was too furious to even hear me out. Before I knew what was going on, Mark and Zino had tied me up and they were taking me away when you came to the gate. Mark wasn’t comfortable with letting you go so they tricked you in and tied you too.
(I felt the throbbing part of my head) They must have hit me with something really hard.
It was a bat. A baseball bat. (she said as she looked at me apologetically).
They drove us here and Mark’s instructions must have been for them to kill us and dump our bodies in the swamp.
Yes I remember. Zino.
Zino. Thank God you were here. Zino made the other guy wait in the car while he took us to the swamp. Kneeling on the floor, all I waited for was the sound of the gun. I was so scared. (She burst into tears again)
Emezino Nwachukwu. I remembered him from secondary school but he had changed so much. All the muscles. Eme was one of those I considered special back then. He was an Efiko. Always reading but he had nothing to show for it. It was something that puzzled us all. How could someone read so much, answering and solving all the questions minutes before an exam and then end-up failing? It wasn’t until our final exams that I took serious interest in his case. I realized his problem was plain and simple – oversabi. Eme never read instructions. Answer two and he would answer all. Answer none and he would still answer all.
I made sure I sat beside him during our mock exams just so I could guide him and the result was phenomenal. He passed all his exams. I didn’t think much of it but from the way he spoke about me to others, I knew he was more than grateful. How could I have possibly known that little deed would save my life years later.
He hit you across the face. He said he had to do it just to slow us down a bit. Then he fired two shots into the bushes and warned us to get out of the swamp quickly and also not to come anywhere around Chief. He apologized and then left. It took me so long to recompose myself and then I finally woke you.
Not to go anywhere near Chief? My car?
I’m sorry but knowing Chief and his goons it’s probably gone by now.
Ha. Gone ke. What will I tell Uncle Mufu.
We got a taxi a few minutes after 6am. The look in Princess’ eyes when I tried prizing the taxi was enough to know she didn’t care. I felt awkward sitting at the back seat of a taxi while someone else drove. I couldn’t shake the thought of losing my car. I didn’t even know where to start from, even if by some form of miracle Uncle Mufu doesn’t kill me, the hunger from not being able to earn a living would definitely do it. I was tired, bruised and then thoughts of my test came to mind. Oh my God. I exclaimed, as I remembered the test I was supposed to have. I was in no state to think. When we got to the Parkview Estate gate, Princess got down and asked us to wait for her. Minutes later, a young girl who I guess was a help came to the cab and handed me some money. Ten thousand. In a normal state I would have been excited to handle so much money again but with thoughts of Uncle Mufu chasing me around the taxi park in my head, it was impossible.
It was 8:34. I knew Dare would soon call me to ask where I was so I turned off my phone. I just couldn’t deal with all of that. By the time I got to school, it was past 9 and I knew Dare would have gone for the test. I paid the taxi man and still had six thousand with me. I went into the room, cleaned up a bit, changed my shirt and went out before any of my roommates came in. I needed to go somewhere I could think. For some reason, the thought of going to the lagoon front came to my head. I had been there just once before and swore not to go back. As I was trying to makeup my mind I felt my phone in my pocket and for some reason, I decided to turn it back on and almost immediately after I did, a call came in. Unknown number.
Who is speaking please?
Its Princess, are you busy?
Oh Princess, are you ok, is everything ok?
I’m fine. Can you come to Ikoyi
Ikoyi? Are you sure you are ok.
I’m ok. Just come to the Estate gate. When you get there, meet the security guards and tell them to direct you to Amazing Grace House.
Amazing Grace House. Ok.
I wondered what was going on. Why she wanted to see me. Maybe she had gone to report to the police and they wanted me to make a statement. I hoped so. Chief needed to be taught a lesson. I walked out of school, biked to Yaba, bus to Obalende and then biked to Parkview Gate. I was there in less than an hour. I met the guards at the gate and they directed me to Amazing Grace House. As I approached the building, I realized it was some sort of hotel or guesthouse, or so I thought. It was huge and beautiful even from the outside. I walked to the gatehouse and told the guard there I wanted to see Princess. I waited a few minutes while the guard made a phone call. He then ushered me in and asked me to sit just beside the gatehouse. I continued to marvel at the beauty of the hotel or house or whatever it was. There were several cars parked in the compound. Two Range Rovers, a Mercedes S Class, Toyota Prado, and one car I couldn’t identify and a Toyota Corolla, like the Fashola taxis. That’s what they called them at the park. The Fashola taxis that had come to steal all our customers.
Princess cut into my thoughts as she called my name. She had cleaned herself up. And was looking beautiful as always.
Good morning. I hope every….
Good morning. Daddy, this is the person I told you about….
I wondered who she was talking to but as she turned to look up, I noticed a man standing at the terrace overlooking the compound. He was an elderly man. Maybe in his 60s, a little bit of gray hair, dressed in white caftan with huge red beads dangling from his neck and his wrist. I heard Princess whisper ‘greet him’ and I responded…
Good morning sir. (I prostrated)
How are you young man?
I’m fine sir.
So, Princess told me you are going to be her driver. (I turned to look at Princess, still puzzled)
How old are you.
I’m 24 Sir.
That’s good good. Princess is my princess so please drive her like the princess she is.
I will find time to talk to you later.
Thank you daddy (Princess said with a broad smile on her face as we both watched the man turn away and walked into the house)
Before I could ask questions, Princess turned to me, threw a key to me and said. That’s the key to the Corolla. Warm it up and get it ready. I’ll be out soon. With that she ran into the house and left me with the key to the Fashola taxi Corolla in my hands.