JUMAI Episode 1

Mark Ademola looked through the window of the plane as it continued its descent. The atmosphere was clear, it was going to be an uneventful end to an uneventful flight, which was good. He was back to his world, the place where he belonged.

Lagos was home; crazy and sometimes frustrating but home all the same.

He craned his neck to see if he could spot his street or his house. It was a habit he had that was yet to yield any results. Though he saw several roads and several houses, he never saw his own. Leaning back in his seat, he wondered why he kept trying; it was never going to happen.

A few minutes later the plane stopped and the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign went off.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.” The Captain announced. “The time is 9:15am…”

Mark ignored the mumbling Pilot and unfastened his seatbelt. It was crazy that he still needed to go to the office after the strenuous week he just had but that was his life. He stood from his seat and reached for the overhead cabinet. He opened it and removed his luggage.

Chop! Chop! Let’s go.

“Could you help me get my bag, please?” A rather compelling female voice called from behind him.

He looked back to see who the voice belonged to. He stopped at the sight that faced him. She looked at him with the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen.

Standing just a few inches shorter than him, she had light skin and a face that invited you to know the owner. Who is this girl? Why wasn’t he ever lucky to get a seat beside someone like her?

“My bag please?” She said again.

He had been staring. Why on earth did he let himself get caught staring?

“Whi…which of the…” He started to say.

“The green one please.” She said.

She was Hausa. Or was she British? Her accent was the loveliest he had ever heard. She had a veil covering her hair; she had to be Hausa. It was a flight from Kaduna, it made sense. Get the bag! He reached for the green bag and dragged it off the cabinet. He tried his best not to grunt under the weight of the bag, he had to make a strong first impression. He handed the bag to her.

“Thank you.” She said.

He nodded and turned back to face his seat. Oh Lord! He had to see the girl again. He turned around but she was gone. She couldn’t have disappeared into thin air. Maybe she had gone back to her seat. Maybe she is an angel. He looked down the aisle and saw the green bag a few rows behind him. There she was. Of course she wasn’t an angel. She was human just like him, just a higher version of human. He had to talk to her before they left the airport. He had to do it now.

 

***

 

“You were paid what?” Baban looked up from the newspaper and stood from the chair.

“15 million naira sir.” Dongo replied with a smug smile on his face. The two men behind him nodding with approval.

If you wanted things done right, you do it yourself. He believed that but sometimes you could not do the things you wanted done. Sometimes you had to send some of your most trusted men. Sometimes you had to send men like Dongo. But sometimes they made you wish you did not send them.

“15 million naira?” He asked, moving closer to Dongo.

“Yes sir, that’s a lot more than…”

“Naira?”

He did not wait for a response. He swung his right hand and in one swift movement knocked Dongo to the ground. He rubbed his hands together and stepped back. The stunned Dongo scrambled to his feet. Baban rushed back at him and knocked him back to the ground before he could find his feet. He spit on him and returned to his seat. He looked at the two men who stood behind Dongo and he knew they wished they could come to the aid of their friend. But he knew and they knew that they could not dare it.

Dongo struggled to his feet, this time slower than before.

“They paid you in naira and you collected it?” Baban asked, his voice low and deep.

He could see fury written clearly on Dongo’s swelling face; He did not mind his men showing their anger in their expressions, but that was as far as he could let them go.

Anger was good, insubordination wasn’t.

“Dongo, I’m asking you a question. You collected naira from them?”

“I collected 15 million naira from them.”

Ahmad stood and clapped his hands together.

“You wanted an applause for collecting 15 million? There you have it.”

Idiot.

 

***

 

Movement ahead of him caught his attention; passengers were disembarking already. Mark grabbed his luggage and joined the line. He glanced behind, he did not see her. He would have to wait for her at the arrival lounge.

His phone rang, it was his boss. He answered.

“Mark, are you here?”

“Yes sir, we just landed. I will be out of the plane in ten minutes.” He said.

“Okay, good. I was in Ikeja and I decided to stop by the airport to pick you instead of sending the driver. I am waiting for you outside.”

“Okay sir.” He said and ended the call.

No! No! No! This would have been great news some other time but not today. He wanted to talk to this beautiful angel from the north but he knew he dared not keep his boss waiting. What was he supposed to do now?

“Thank you sir for flying with Nigeria Airways.” A flight attendant was saying to him.

He nodded at the attendant and tried his best to smile. His attempt failed woefully and it earned a frown from the attendant. She was the least of his concerns however, he needed a plan.

His phone rang again. He looked at his phone, it was his boss again.

“Hello sir.”

“I thought you said ten minutes.”

“I’m out of the plane already, I’ll be with you very soon sir.”

He ended the call and got out of the plane. He knew he could not stop or wait. His best bet was to walk as slowly as possible and hope the girl would catch up with him.

It took an eternity of moon-walking, but soon he knew there was no point trying to delay anymore. It wasn’t meant to be. Since he was losing the girl, there was no point getting his boss angry too. He walked fast and soon was in the arrival lounge. He looked back one more time but she still wasn’t in sight.

“Sorry boy, no angel for you today.” He whispered to himself.

He headed for the exit. He knew where his boss usually parked and he still had to walk a few metres before he could get there. His boss had no patience for tardiness, it was a surprise he had not called the third time.

Six minutes later, he arrived at the car. He looked inside and his boss was not there.

“Mr Kazim.” He called.

The driver who had dozed off woke up and scrambled to attention.

“Where is oga?”

“One of him friend meet us for here, they go see something for back there.” He said pointing backwards.

“I just came from that direction.”

Una miss each other be that.”

He felt like punching the car. His boss called and made him hurry when he was not ready himself? Maybe it was better to make use of the occasion instead of complaining. He opened the booth of the car and placed his luggage in it.

“Mr Kazim.”

“Yes oga?”

“I will be right back, I need to check someone.”

“Ah, Oga Mark, please…”

He ran away before the driver could complete his protest. He smiled with excitement. This is so meant to be.

He got to the arrival lounge before he stopped running. And there she was. She was with two other girls. If he hadn’t seen her first, he would have called them beautiful. Not anymore though, their beauty paled in comparison to hers. For the first time, he saw her smile. Her face was beautiful without the smile. With it, it was indescribable.

Time wasn’t his friend, he had to make his approach now.

What am I going to say?

He froze. He had not considered that. He had been so excited he’d forgotten how terrible he was at meeting new people. Girls especially. Maybe that was before. He was a more exposed and matured guy now. He was the project manager of a huge Foundation. He was just returning from a meeting with the Wife of the president and three Ministers. How difficult could this be?

He walked towards her and stood in front of the pretty trio. This is going to be easy.

She noticed him standing there and looked at him. Their eyes locked and for a few moments the world froze. He wanted to say something but his mouth failed him woefully. It wasn’t his mouth at fault though, it was his brain. It had stopped working.

“What do you want?” One of the friends asked.

He looked at the friend for a second then back to the Hausa-British Angel; She was staring back at him and he could tell from her eyes that his period of grace was almost over. He had to say something.

“What’s your name?” He asked and immediately wished he could take it back.

‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’, that is good. ‘What’s your name?’ that is not good!

He felt stupid but he had said it already. He decided it was better to wait for her reaction before trying to fix it- if he could.

And for what seemed like an eternity, nothing happened. She stood and stared at him and he could not do anything else even if he wanted to. Finally, one of her friends recovered from whatever spell was causing the muteness.

“Let’s go.” The friend said.

The three of them pulled their bags and turned away from him. He stood there for a few seconds and wished for the world to end. He should have known better. He never should have approached her without a plan.

This is what happens to silly boys who think they can just approach a classy girl in the airport.

He turned around to go but a voice stopped in his tracks. For the second time that morning, he heard the angelic voice, she had stopped a few feet away from him.

“My name is Jumai.” She said walked away.

 

***

Baban walked over to Dongo and stopped a few inches from him. He stood almost a full foot above his henchman. The man put up a very strong front and he respected him for it but he could see the fear in his eyes and the slight tremble of his lips.

“Do you know how much a dollar exchanges for in naira right now?” Baban asked. “I don’t care how much you get in naira. I want my money in dollars.”

“Dollars?” Dongo asked through clenched teeth and broken lips.

“Dollars, yes dollars.”

“But they…” Dongo started to say but he silenced him with a cold stare.

He really wasn’t particular about the dollars. It did not matter to him what currency his money came in. But when you need to transfer a large amount of money and don’t want a large volume of money, currency begins to matter. It also mattered that his men did exactly what they were told. He knew how dangerous his business was.

“15 million naira,” Baban said. “How much did you send to the doctor?”

Dongo hesitated then said. “We sent everything.”

“Everything?”

“You said that was the most important thing right now.”

Baban nodded, he was right. Maybe his lash out at Dongo wasn’t totally called for.

“And when did he say we will get the Kulunix?”

“In two weeks.”

“Two weeks?” Baban grabbed a cup and threw it against the wall. “He told me two weeks a month ago.”

Dongo looked pleased he was no longer the subject of Baban’s anger. “He has delayed too long boss. Do you want me to take of it?”

Baban shook his head. “No, I will do it myself.”

He needed to do the big things himself and dealing with Doctor Coker was big. A lot of money had gone into the project, it was time to see results. Maybe the doctor needed a little motivation.

“Dongo,” Baban called. “On a second thought, do you know where the good doctor’s family live?”

“You want me to hold his wife till he delivers?”

“Hold? No, shoot one his children.”

“Sir?”

Baban looked up at Dongo and smiled. “What? You have suddenly grown a heart?”

“His children? The child didn’t…”

“It’s business Dongo. If you can’t do it, I can ask someone else.”

Dongo frowned, he didn’t seem to like the implication of his statement.

“Okay then, the Doctor loses a child once every week till I get my Kulunix.

 

***

Jumai!

Mark felt deep joy like he had won the lottery. Better still, like she had just agreed to marry him. All he had was a name. It probably won’t do him any good but at least he had something.

“Mark!”

He knew that voice, it was his boss.

“Yes sir.” He looked in the direction the voice came from.

“I thought I told you to meet me.”

“Yes sir, I already got to the car but I was told…”

“Yeah, I had to see somebody.”

Mark looked in the direction Jumai walked in and saw her talking on the phone. If he knew he would have gotten a response maybe he would have asked for her phone number.

“Is your phone with you?” His boss’ voice brought him back from his reverie.

“Yes sir, it is.”

“Do you have the list of benefactors I told you we had to thank for their partnerships?”

“Yes sir.”

“Okay, good. It’s time to start making calls.”

Mark sighed. “I was planning to make the calls from the office sir.”

“Are you busy now?”

Mark wanted to respond but he was not sure what he would say would be smart. He brought out his phone and dialled the first number. His boss didn’t care much for laziness but he didn’t care much for tiredness either.

“Hello Alhaji.” He said, with a huge smile, like his boss had taught him. “This is Mark Ademola from WAAP foundation…”

He knew who he wished he was talking to, he could only hope that would ever happen.

 

***

“Once we have the Kulunix we move it to Yobe immediately. The UNICEF has a group coming in in two weeks. If we are not in Yobe before then, everything we have done will be wasted.”

The men nodded. They had heard this so many times. A lot of money was at stake, they needed to hear it a million times.

A phone rang on his table. He waved his hand and Dongo and his boys left his office.

He reached for the phone.

“Hello.” He said.

“This is Mark Ademola from WAAP foundation. I just want to say I am very glad to make your acquaintance and I look forward to relating with you more.”

“Oh yeah, Mr Ademola, I believe we can do a lot of great things together.”

“Thank you very much sir.”

“Take care, I’ll talk to you very soon.”

He ended the call and dropped the phone on the table.

He rubbed his sore knuckles and smiled. It was great to have gullible people he could use to achieve his goals. Well, until he was done with them. When the time was right, they would all die. Dongo, Doctor Coker, this Mark Ademola, everyone one of them.

 

#Jumai continues on Wednesday, 16 of March, 2016.

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