ILORIN

6 PM

3, AUGUST 2015

Funke did not sleep a lot when she travelled but she wished she could have slept on this one. This journey was not supposed to be happening, it could have stopped months ago. She had wanted Nicholas to serve in Kwara State. He did not have an opinion one way or the other, so she had gone ahead to make the ‘arrangements’. He had been posted to Kwara State for his youth service as planned. What she did not count on was his posting to Arandun. She had met with a few NYSC officials who had assured her he would be posted to Ilorin. “Getting him posted to Kwara State is all you should take care of” they had told her. Well they did not take care of the posting because now he was serving in Arandun and he was in trouble, trouble he would have avoided if he was serving in Ilorin.

The car was not going fast, it makes no sense to drive very fast when you are disturbed. And she could see Nicholas was disturbed. Her mind went back to their conversation that afternoon.

He had gone to see Barrister Thomas. When he came back, she had seen confusion on his face, he was obviously disturbed. She had expected resistance to her questions but he had told her everything. She could not believe what was happening. There is enough trouble with CyberCorp as it is. CyberCorp could wait, if Nicholas was roped into an investigation or if he was a suspect, and it sounded like he was one, the chances of him going back to run CyberCorp was minimal.

She stared out of the window, they were driving up to Oro. The sun was setting, and it was the perfect time to be travelling. Her Silver Honda CRV travelled well on the rough road. The government had patched up the road, the patches were uneven though, giving the road some imbalance. Close to the road, village women displayed their wares. If she was feeling better she would have been tempted by the banana bunches. It would probably have cost her a lot less than she would have to pay in Ilorin too. A stone throw away from the bananas, a boy held up a dead animal. She could not figure out what it was. It was bigger than a squirrel and it was smaller than an antelope. Maybe it was a baby antelope. An antelope in Oro? I don’t think so. Antelope boy was going to make a lot of money on whatever he was holding, he probably hunted for weeks before killing anything worth selling. It is the New Age, the animals are smarter too.

“Mom, what do you suggest I buy for my friend? I don’t see anyone selling Bread here.” Nicholas asked her looking at the small road side market. It was strange, everybody and their mother sold bread.

“Plantain, that should be okay, right?”

“Yeah, that’s okay. Oh, look here is a woman who has some.” He pulled over to the side of the road. She bought the plantain and they continued their journey.

They had gone without talking for most of the journey. It was not a problem, they both had a lot to think about. She thought about the little piece of information Nicholas had hidden from the police. It was not little at all, it changed the investigation totally. He had woken up that morning to find out his friend was dead. But he had not told the Police that, so they were investigating a kidnap. They had good reason to too, if they really found what he said they found on the scene. How was he sure the Kemi girl was dead anyway? He had not examined her or anything, he just woke up and was probably drowsy and probably scared out of his wits too. She hoped she was right. A kidnap is better than a murder, one held hope, the other did not.

“Nick, you are sure your friend Kemi is dead?”

“Mom, I told you already. When I left the house, she was dead.” His voice broke as he said the last part. She did not know what the relationship was between her son and the dead girl but it was obvious he cared about her.

“I’m not saying you are not right, if you are, it means the person who killed her probably took her body and also staged the kidnap, right?”

“Right.” He looked at her as if to ask ‘where are you going with this?’

“Okay, have you considered this angle? What if this same person staged the death for you and he actually kidnapped her? Maybe you were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe that is why he has not set you up to take the fall. Maybe that’s why the police don’t have any concrete reason to detain you.”

“Mom, I very much wish to believe that Kemi is alive, but that is a whole lot of ‘What ifs’ and ‘Maybes’. What are the chances that actually happened? Who knows what this guy has planned, he might be talking to the cops as we speak.”

She did not know how to reply that.

They were coming close to Arandun. They had passed Omido, the last village before Arandun. She looked over the metal railings as they crossed a small bridge. A small sign post welcomed them to Arandun. She had been there once, when Nicholas was coming for the first time. He slowed down as they approached the town. The community college was at the entrance of the town, it was one of the first things you noticed as you entered. The grass on the school field looked unkempt, the school was not in session so no one paid attention to it. A few houses stood opposite the school, she wished Nicholas stayed in one of those houses, that way he could get out as fast as possible from the town. They were in the town now. A few people stared at them as they drove by. A large building stood to their left; ‘St Peter’s Anglican Church’ the sign post in front of the church announced. She had never stayed in a small town but she could understand why some preferred it to staying in the big cities.

They were getting close to Nicholas’ house. He had insisted he was not going to allow her to sleep in his house, so she was staying in one of the town’s two hotels.

“Mom, how about I just drive you to the hotel, I can walk home. I have to see Kate anyway.”

He had driven her to the hotel and walked away. The hotel was half decent. It was not Kwara Hotels or Royal Shekina but it was going to do. She dropped her small carry-on bag on the table by the bed, she was hoping she did not have to stay for more than a night. Nicholas did not think her coming would make a difference but she thought she had a better chance of convincing the Police man to let him come back to Ilorin until the Transition going on in CyberCorp was completed. That was another problem, she was not sure telling them about CyberCorp was a good idea. She did not know why but it did not feel right. Well, she had the next twelve hours to figure out the right thing to do.

ARANDUN

7:15 PM

3, AUGUST 2015

It was late and he was tired, but he had promised to see Kate that night so he had to go to her house. Nicholas was not a night person, he had a self-imposed curfew of seven pm. The curfew was not a rule, it was more like a guideline, something he had embraced over time. He had broken the curfew a few times, actually he had broken it more than a few times since he came to Arandun. He had broken the curfew mostly because of Kemi, a girl he had forgotten because now he had bigger things to think about. ‘Absolute power corrupts and it corrupts absolutely’, somebody said that, or said something that sounded like that. He was not sure he had power yet, he still had battles to fight before he could wield any of the power CyberCorp gave him, but then he was not sure if he wanted such powers. Kemi was a good friend, how could I forget her. He had forgotten her and it was wrong but he had another person to deal with at the moment; Kate. They had become good friends after his kidnap, talked every day, and he had broken his curfew for her a few times too. But he had gone to Ilorin, CyberCorp had been given to him and he had forgotten about her completely. He was sorry and he planned to apologise but he was not sure it was wise to tell her the reason he had not called. He was not going to lie, my mama taught me better, but telling her the truth did not sound… he was confused. He would have loved to tell her, Hey, guess what Kate, I’m a bigshot CEO now. Well not really, there are lots of battles I might have to fight to run CyberCorp. I’m sure you know what that is, right? Yeah, I know, you can’t believe you know the CEO of CyberCorp, right? He shook the thought off his head, he sounded really silly. His mother had told him to keep the information to himself; “You are a suspect in a kidnap, remember?” she had reminded him.

Kate did not live alone, she lived with other Corpers in a lodge. Going to Kate’s house meant seeing and talking to her lodgemates. Lodgemates? Something he was not willing to do.

When I get older, I will be stronger, they call me freedom, just like a waving flag… His phone rang. Kemi had told him to change the song several times. “It’s a song from 2010! You have five years’ worth of songs to pick from.” She had told him. He did not care, he liked the song.

It was Kate calling.

“Hello Kate, I was just going to call you.”

“You were? Are you in Arandun yet? It’s kinda late.”

“Yeah, I am. I’m not far from your house actually, but I don’t want to come to your place. Can you please meet me at that Mama’s store; the Igbo woman not far from your house?” He had always wondered why an Igbo woman would settle in a Yoruba village. There had to be a story there and he was sure Kate would know.

Fifteen minutes later, Nicholas was watching Kate walk towards him. He did not know what to think. “What is your relationship with this Kate?” His Mom had asked him. He had mumbled something about being just friends, him not knowing what she felt, it was obvious he could not categorically define their relationship. Just keep it simple. That was his conclusion.

She looked beautiful in her pink turtleneck sweater. He did not understand the colour pink. It looked lame on men, he realized that was probably just his opinion, but he could not help himself, pink just did not work for him. It did for Kate though, she looked splendid. Her hands were buried in the sweater’s pockets. He was so happy she was not wearing her hairnet like she did most nights, he hated the thing. Her hair was brushed back, probably in a hurry. He could not see if she wore make up but she looked like she put an effort into the way she looked. She’s trying to look good for me, thank goodness I don’t look bad myself. 

“Nicholas!”

They hugged like long lost lovers. Long lost lovers don’t hug, they kiss. The hug was going to do.

“How are you doing Kate? It’s been a while. Looks like the break is treating you well, you look great.” She looked okay in the moon light, she probably would look great in the morning, the sun is generally more generous than the moon.

“You don’t look bad yourself.” She said with a smile. “Ms Akorede has been taking good care of you.”

They sat down on Mystery Igbo madam’s bench. She eyed them suspiciously. The bench was reserved for people who bought cigarettes or drinks from her and could not be bothered to take their purchases home.

“You know what Kate, since we are sitting here already, I think I’ll just take my dinner here.” She looked lost for a moment. “I’ll just get a bottle of coke and some biscuits. You want anything?”

“No, thanks, I already ate.”

Madam Igbo woman gave him the bottle and the biscuits, glad they were not using her bench without paying anything. He sat down and looked at Kate, she looked distracted.

“Hey, so what’s up Kate, you look… is something wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. So I told you about the cop coming back right?” he nodded. “He kept asking where you were and why you were not at your PPA. You know I said the LGI came with him, anyway what happened? You said something held you back.”

This is the time you say the half-truth. Wait, I don’t have any half-truths, think, think, think…

“Nicholas?” he had been quiet for too long.

Don’t tell her the truth!

“My dead father just made me CEO of his company, CyberCorp.” You big fool, don’t tell her the truth! She did not look surprised. “You don’t look surprised.”

“I knew it had to be something that big, you could have told me this on the phone.”

He spent thirty minutes explaining it all to her. He tried to keep as much information to himself as possible. He did not succeed, she extracted every tiny information from him.

“Have you told your Mom about your own kidnap?”

The question took him by surprise. He had completely forgotten about it. Between the kidnap of Kemi and CyberCorp, he had a lot more to deal with.

“I haven’t. Does it really matter? I was returned without any harm, no harm no foul, right?” it sounded silly even to him.

“Nicholas, I don’t understand why you don’t seem to care about this. Don’t you think it’s possible the same person did it? Kemi was killed the same day you were kidnapped, doesn’t that look like more than a coincidence?”

“Right now, I’m not even sure she’s dead. I’m seriously hoping and praying the police is right and she was just kidnapped.”

“I thought you said you saw her dead. You don’t think she is?”

Now he was confused, kidnapped or murdered, he was still a suspect.

He talked with her for ten more minutes before he decided he had broken his curfew enough. He had said a quick good bye with a promise to see her the next day. Fifteen minutes later and he was on his bed, he needed all the rest he could get, he had a tough day of questioning ahead.

POLICE STATION

ARANDUN

10 AM

4, AUGUST 2015

Adam was happy he had been able to shake off the NYSC man. He was a tad annoying and thought too highly of himself. Adam felt convenient interrogating Nicholas on his own turf, a wooden bench placed outside the police station. He had an office, but he shared it. He was not going to allow any of the pinhead morons get a sniff of what was going on. It was not their fault that they were pinheads, it was their fault that they were morons though, a fact he was not going to ignore. Enough of the details of his investigation had spread to people who had no business knowing because some moron could not keep quiet at the palm wine bar.

He had the meeting set for 10 AM, he wanted to get it out of the way. His gut told him the CyberCorp guy was the lead to pursue but his boss had insisted he interrogate Nicholas again. The pressure from the man from the NYSC was not helping either.

Nicholas came late, but he came which was good enough.

“Where did you disappear to, young man?” Adam asked, after Nicholas had taken his position on the bench opposite him.

“Well, I went home, to Ilorin.”

“Are you not supposed to be at your PPA always? I thought that was a rule.”

“Yeah, it is but my father died.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I did not know that.” That was a great start, now I have to be sensitive. “So, about the kidnap, you know I definitely have more questions.”

“Yes, although I have told you all I know.” He still had a feeling Nicholas was lying, but he did not really care, his mind was sold on the other lead. His boss would burst if he heard the next thing he was about to say.

“Nicholas, how about I level with you. I have another suspect I’m looking into.” Nicholas looked surprised, he did not blame him, it was not smart what he was doing. “Did Kemi ever mention any man, a boyfriend maybe, from school?”

“No she did not have a boyfriend in school.” He seemed to have said it more emphatically than the question warranted. “I thought she was hiding something though.” He squeezed his face, trying to remember something. “There was somebody who kept calling her, she never took this particular call in my presence. I asked her about it of course but she said it was a guy from school who had a crush on her. She’d cut the call and continue our conversation like nothing had happened. I think it happened about three times.”

“Okay, did you happen to get the guy’s name?” he had to find out if this guy was the same person he had. “Do you by any chance know his name?”

“Hmm…I’m not very sure. It was a Muslim name, Mohammed, Usman… something like that.”

“Abdul?” he was at the edge of the bench now.

“Yes, Abdul.”

“Great!” he said before he could catch himself. Nicholas looked at him surprised. “That’s the other lead I said I have. I don’t have much on him right now though, but I have a lead.”

Nicholas looked up, he was obviously happy he was not the main suspect. He was still a suspect though, the Abdul link might turn cold, he needed a plan B; Nicholas.

“So, what’s the lead you have? You know where he lives?” Nicholas was asking.

“No, not his house, I know where he works. You ever heard of CyberCorp?” Nicholas looked alarmed. He did not understand why he would be alarmed. “You know CyberCorp, right?”

“Well, I’ve heard about it.” He whispered.

No Nicholas, I think you have more than heard about Cybercorp. 

Thanks for reading another episode of NICHOLAS. Would you please like the facebook page for automatic updates. I would also appreciate if you shared the blog with your Facebook and Bbm Friends.Thanks a lot. Cheers.

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