Mark hurried up the stairs of the WAAP building. He hated being late for meetings, especially because he would get an earful from his boss. He looked at his reflection in the mirrored stairway, he liked what he saw. Lateness wasn’t tolerated at WAAP, neither was raggedness. He straightened his tie and smiled; he looked good. He shook his head; he was admiring himself when his boss was probably typing his termination letter in his office.
He got to conference room door and stopped, took a deep breath and opened the door.
His eyes widened in surprise; the room was empty.
Was the meeting over? He checked his phone; he was just ten minutes late. He saw the ‘new mail’ icon blinking and he clicked on it. The mail was from his boss; the meeting had been postponed by two hours.
He sighed. At least now he could go over his presentation again before the meeting. He turned around and headed for his office. As he approached his office, he saw someone standing in at his door. He could not tell who it was. Was she lost?
“Excuse me?” Mark said.
She turned around.
He looked behind him, he was still inside WAAP. What was she doing here? Was it really her?
“I’m here to see Doctor Aderoju.” She said.
“The receptionist didn’t show you?”
“I didn’t see anybody at the reception.”
He was not sure why the girl had not been fired already. “Well, Doctor Aderoju is my boss.” He said with a smile.
“Okay…” She said. He waited for her to say something else. “He’s your boss?”
“Yeah.” Mark replied, his smile still steady.
“So will you show me to his office?”
Crap! He was staring again
“Oh sure, please come with me.” He said.
He wanted to walk with her, maybe talk with her but she was busy doing something on her phone. What was she doing in his office? Was this fate or what?
“It’s crazy that we meet again, don’t you think?” Mark said.
She looked up from her phone. “What?”
“I said, isn’t it…?”
Doctor Aderoju’s door opened and he stepped out of it. He saw Jumai and beamed his ‘you are special’ smile.
“Doctor Jumai.” Doctor Aderoju said.
Doctor? She was a doctor? Mark smiled; her worth just rose by a thousand points.
“Did you get my mail about the postponement?” Doctor Aderoju asked.
She was here for the meeting he was attending, wonderful!
“Yes sir, I did.” Jumai said. “I hope you don’t mind that I came so early.”
“Are you kidding me? I love people who come early.”
They were ignoring him, he didn’t like it.
“Sir…” Mark started to say.
“Oh, pardon me. Doctor Jumai, meet our Project Manager; Mark Ademola.”
“We already met sir.” Mark said with a smile. If only he could tell his boss the airport story.
“Yes,” Jumai said. “He was actually bringing me to your office. At least now, he knows my name and I know his.”
Mark frowned. He knew her name way before he met her today.
“I really have to do some things before the meeting.” Doctor Aderoju said. Finally!
“It’s no problem.”
“Mark, please show her to the conference room.” Doctor Aderoju said to him. He turned to Jumai and added. “I hope you don’t mind staying alone while we wait for the meeting.”
“Not at all.” Jumai said.
Mark bit back a chuckle. Like he was going to let her be by herself. Some sort of fate had brought him across her again, he was ready to take over and make things happen now.
“Okay.” Doctor Aderoju said and walked away.
“This way please.” Mark said.
He was about to talk when he saw her attention was once again locked on her phone. Damn ‘em phone addicts.
“So Jumai,” He started. “I was saying that it’s kind of crazy that we meet again. Right?”
She looks up at him and smiles. “Again? We’ve met before?”
His heart sank. She didn’t remember him! “You don’t remember?”
“I’m so sorry. This happens a lot. Did we meet in Kaduna?”
“No we met here in Lagos.”
“I’ve only been in Lagos for…”
“We met at the airport. Just two days ago actually.”
“At the airport…”
“You were with two friends… I made a fool of myself…”
“Oh yeah. You’re Joey Tribbiani.” She said with a huge smile.
“I’m sorry, one of my friends said you reminded her of… Never mind.” She said with a wave of her hand. “Mark, right?”
“At least now, I know your real name.” She said and returned to her phone.
Mark could not believe what just happened. He had kept this girl in his mind for about forty eight hours without a break and she did not even remember him? Joey Tribbiani? Wasn’t he the dumb actor guy in ‘Friends’?
So much for fate bringing her to him.
“Here’s the conference room.” He opened the door and she entered. “If you need anything, I will be inside my office.”
“I don’t know where your office is.” He heard her say as he closed the door.
He walked away from the door. She could call Joey Tribbiani if she needed something.
Baban adjusted his tie as Dongo opened the door for him. He loved wearing a three piece suit and a tie. It was strange for people in his line of work to but he wasn’t like most people in his line of work. He was the next generation, he was the future. The future was here though; it was time to make things happen. Making things happen depended a lot on one man – Doctor Coker.
Baban paused in the reception and looked around. The building looked like any other chemical research lab he had ever seen. It wasn’t anything to pay attention to. What would come out of the building on the other hand would get everyone’s attention. All things being equal. But making and keeping all things equal was easier said than done.
“Sir, Doctor Coker has been informed of your arrival. He is waiting in the laboratory.”
“We mustn’t keep the good doctor waiting.” Baban said.
He followed Dongo into the elevator and waited for him to punch the appropriate buttons.
“Did you do what I asked you to?” Baban asked.
“Yes sir. Everything has been arranged.”
The elevator door opened and he stepped into the long corridor. On either side of the corridor, chemists and whoever else Doctor Coker had hired were working. It was good they could not see through the glass on their end. They got to the end of the corridor and Dongo pushed a button by the door. Two seconds later, the door opened. Doctor Coker stood behind it, smiling like he had just seen an old friend.
Baban raised his right hand and Coker stopped. “I’ve told you to call me Baban until this project is over.”
“Sorry Baban. You are welcome. I’m glad to have you here sir.”
“Hmhmm.” Baban said. “Dongo here told me he sent 15 million naira to you.”
“Yes sir, he did,”
“Are you happy with the money Doctor?” Baban asked.
“Yes sir, I am.”
He moved closer to Coker. “So why aren’t you making me happy Doctor?”
“Sir, I promise we are doing our best. You just need to be a little patient sir.”
“Patience…” Baban said and stepped away Coker.
Dongo and his other men knew he hated to hear the word ‘patience’, apparently the doctor didn’t.
“Follow me sir.” Coker said.
Baban turned to face to Dongo and nodded. Dongo turned and left the room.
“Where are you taking me doctor?” Baban asked.
“To my office sir.” Coker said.
“Why Doctor? Do you have the finalised Kulunix in your office?
“No sir.” Coker said. “I just want to show you the last test we did.”
“Really? Tell me about it.”
“We tested on one of our research monkeys. I could show you the video sir.”
“How about we run the test again? What do you say Doctor?”
“I wish we could sir but we don’t have any test monkeys here sir. The previous ones died during the test. The new batch we bought will arrive in three days.”
“Do we need to use a monkey?” Baban asked with a smile.
“No sir. Absolutely not. We just need another mammal. We just figured a monkey will be better because it’s closer to the human.”
“How about we use a human?” Baban asked.
Coker’s eyes widened. “What?”
“A human. You know, like you and me.”
“Sir, I would not recommend…”
“Follow me Doctor.” Baban said.
Baban smiled as the doctor stumbled after him. He wanted to protest but what would he say? Even the doctor knew there was a limit to which you could challenge Baban.
He led the doctor to one of the test facilities. He had been running these experiments with other scientists but none of them had ever come close. It was a wonderful day when he stumbled on Doctor Coker’s thesis. He had offered to sponsor his research and like a true fund-starved researcher he had jumped at the opportunity. One year later, the doctor was close to the ultimate prize. He just needed a little motivation. He would get it today.
“Okay, let’s run another test.” Baban said.
“Sir, how do…”
“Shhh.” Baban said. “I need to see this.”
Baban knocked on one of the test tanks and pulled up a seat.
“Please sit Doctor.” Baban said.
“I’ll stand.” Coker said, his eyes glued on the tank.
A door opened on the other side of the tank and Dongo entered his back to Baban and Coker. He was pulling something in front of him.
“Are you sure you don’t wanna sit?” Baban asked Coker.
Coker remained standing, fear clearly written on his face.
Dongo stepped aside to reveal a young boy sitting on a chair.
“James?” Coker shouted.
“Our test subject today.” Baban announced.
“That is my son!” Coker screamed and ran for the door.
He got to the door and turned the handle, the door did not open. He rammed his body into the door. It was stupid. He more than anybody knew that the door was electronic.
“What are you doing?!” Coker screamed. “That is my son!”
“Will you calm down so I can explain?” Baban said, his voice calm and steady.
Coker ran to the tank and banged on the glass. His son looked asleep or drugged. Or dead.
“Doctor Coker, listen to me.” Coker turned around, his eyes red from anger and grief. “When this drug is done, you will have done something phenomenal. You will be wealthy, popular. You may even get a Nobel prize out of this.”
“You are about to kill my son. The drug is not ready.” Coker said through clenched teeth.
“Finally, we are on the same page.” Baban said and stood. “I’m about to kill your son because the drug is not ready. Wait a minute, I’m not killing your son. You are.”
Baban knocked on the tank. Dongo returned into the tank.
“Don’t do this.” Coker said.
“Was that a plea or a threat?”
“Don’t do this.”
Baban gave Dongo a ‘thumbs up’. Coker looked at Dongo bring out a syringe and he charged at Baban. Baban sidestepped Coker and he crashed into a chair. He brought a small knife out of his pockey and picked Coker off the chair. Baban pinned his hand behind his back and pressed the knife against his neck.
“You are going to watch this.” Baban said into Coker’s ear. “If in four days my Kulunix is not ready, I’ll bring in John. Four days after that, I will bring in Janet. You get the picture?”
Dongo pushed the syringe into the boy’s neck and left the tank. Baban watched to see what would happen and for about ten seconds nothing happened. Then the boy stood to his feet and he ran and crashed into the tank wall. The impact felt like it would bring down the glass wall. He stepped back and tore off his shirt. He flexed his muscles and screamed. He grabbed the chair in the tank and pulled it apart.
“Please.” Coker whispered.
“Shhhh.” Baban said and pressed the knife harder into his neck.
James Coker was doing things his natural strength could not do. It was amazing. He stopped and grabbed his neck. He began to sob and he sank to his knees. He looked up and for the first time saw his father.
He stretched his hand forward. “Daddy?”
Baban let Coker go. There was nothing he could do now.
Baban headed for the door. He got to the door, stopped and looked back.
“Give me my Kulunix or in four days John would be in that tank.”Baban said and walked out.
Doctor Coker was paying him no attention though. His son was dead.
Mark looked across the table at Jumai. She was totally engrossed in the presentation. Even in her official suit she looked great. It was a shame he had lost interest in her. She looked at him and caught his stare. He turned his gaze to the projector screen. Did she smile? He looked back at her; her eyes were back on the presentation. Had he lost interest? No way.
“Mark, your turn.” His boss announced.
Mark picked his files and walked to the front of the room.
“Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Like Doctor Aderoju announced earlier, the UNICEF’s special task force we are working with will be arriving in Nigeria in two weeks. This is the first time we will be working with UNICEF so we have to make this perfect. Please look through the file in front of you. Everybody here except for Doctor Jumai…” He paused and looked at her. She smiled. He caught himself before he returned the smile. “…everybody knows how these things work. There is only one difference this time. And it will make all the difference in the world.”
He clicked the pointer and two pictures came on the screen.
“I’m sure we all know who they are. Professor Tanko and Professor Jibril. They are both on our team for the first time. Here are the roles they will be playing.”
“Wait Mark.” Doctor Aderoju interrupted him. “Isn’t all these information in the files?”
“Yes sir. I was just…”
“This meeting has been on for too long.” He turned to address the room. “Like Mark said, you all know Professors Tanko and Jibril. You can read all about it in your files. Our next meeting is in a few days, we will send you a mail to that effect.”
Like that, Doctor Aderoju ended the meeting. Embarrassed, Mark packed his files and returned to his seat. That was hours of preparation down the drain.
“That was great.”
Mark looked up and saw Jumai standing by his side.
“Great? Do you know the meaning of the word?”
She laughed. “Okay, it wasn’t great. I’m just trying to compensate for not remembering you.”
“Oh, I see. How do you plan to compensate for calling me Joey Tribbiani?”
“Maybe I’ll read your file.”
“Really? I will be so grateful to you.”
She arched her eyebrow. “Sarcasm?”
Mark stood and headed for the door. He opened the door and Jumai stepped out of the room.
“Doctor Aderoju didn’t say why you were in this meeting.”
“I’m representing my father.”
“Your father?” His eyes widened. “Are you the daughter of..?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I should be kissing your feet. Your father is our biggest donor.”
“Did you know my feet have not been kissed in a long time? Maybe I’ll let you kiss it one of these days.”
They got to the front of his office and he stopped.
“Why did you stop?” Jumai asked.
“This is my office.”
“Oh, can I see?”
Mark peeked inside and shook his head. “Sorry, not today.”
“Too rough huh?”
“Rough? What? Nah.” Mark said and swallowed. “There’s a naked girl inside.”
She frowned. “I see.”
Mark looked at her face, she believed him?
“That was a joke. The office is too rough, that’s why… you know?”
They stood and endured a few seconds of awkward silence.
“About the compensation for calling me Joey Tribbiani, you still haven’t named your offer.” Mark said.
“How about I let you walk me to the car?”
“Hmm, it doesn’t quite make up but I’ll take what I can get.”
They made small talk as they walked out of the building. She wasn’t as snobbish as he thought she was but she wasn’t an open book either. It looked like she was genuinely trying to pay back for forgetting him. He walked her to her Mercedes and watched her drive away.
Was it meant to be? He wasn’t so sure anymore but at least he would have another chance to find out in a few days.
He returned into the building and met Doctor Aderoju at the door.
“Where is Jumai?” He asked.
“She just left sir.” Mark replied.
“Aargh. I wanted to wish her a safe flight before she left.”
Mark smiled. “She didn’t fly sir, she drove.”
His boss looked at him and shook his head. “I didn’t mean now. She is flying back to Kaduna today. That’s where she practices.”
Mark spun around and watched Jumai’s car driving off in the far distance.
“Is she coming for the next meeting?” Mark asked.
“No. Why? Did she steal your lunch?” Doctor Aderoju said and walked away laughing at his own lame joke.
Was it meant to be? She had just walked away – driven away from him again. Well, he had his answer.
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