HAZARDS OF THE JOB AND A SECOND DATE
The girl sat cross-legged on the middle bar stool, the hem of her dress pushed precariously to the top of her thighs. Her eyes fell expectantly on the groups of men standing and talking loudly in groups around the bar. Every now and then she pursed her lips tightly and flicked off imaginary dirt on her dress, eyes still perusing the tightly packed bar.
No one seemed to notice her and if they did, they were not in the income category of the people she had taken great pains to dress for. Her forehead creased as she pretended to study her phone. Her pink fingernails moved across the screen of her phone as her eyes scanned pictures she did not really see.
The man was short and balding. His breath reeked of alcohol, and as he came closer, glass of beer in hand, she was assaulted by the overwhelming odour of cheap perfume and stale sweat that seeped from his pores. The girl wrinkled her nose.
“Are you here alone?” the man asked, his smile jovial as he staggered to lean on the bar.
The man drew closer to her.
“Because if you are, I might have something for you.”
The tightness on the girl’s face eased and her eyes narrowed with interest.
The man stared at the full breasts spilling over the neckline of her dress and directed his answer at them.
“Yes my dear.”
They whispered in each other’s ears and soon began to laugh at each other’s jokes. The man called himself Rahman and then rocked back and forth on his heels when she told him her name.
“Ah, Flora. What a sweet name!” He said, making sweeping gestures in the air as he struggled to maintain his balance.
A man sat concealed by the darkness at the back of the bar, watching them. Even in the darkness, his huge frame was difficult to conceal. His muscles bulged out of his clothes – a navy blue T-shirt and black jeans. Patrons had earlier avoided his table when they saw the threatening gleam in his eyes, so he sat alone.
His eyes never left the duo at the bar. He ran his head down his bald head, wondering how long it was before they made it to the house in Agbara. Chief had called a few minutes earlier to ask when they would be back and he had asked for more time. His right leg jiggled as he struggled with his waning patience. If only Rahman could hurry with the girl.
The conversation between the girl and the drunk came to an end. Grabbing the bag sitting on the bar table, Flora, whose name was really Nafwan, giggled as the man sorted through the money in his wallet. Extending it across to the bartender watching them with a bored expression, he helped her off the high stool. His hand at her elbow, he steered her towards the old peeling door of the bar.
The one who had watched them paid his bill hurriedly and walked with brisk steps to join them at the car park. They were standing next to the black Range Rover he had driven to the bar. Rahman introduced them.
“Flora meet Ore. Ore meet Flora”
He was glad the old fool managed to remember his alias for the evening. He nodded curtly at the girl and said nothing.
Nafwan leaned against the car with her left hip.
“So where are we going to?”
Ore watched her, his small wide-set eyes narrowed into reptilian slits.
“Somewhere in Lagos.”
A puzzled frown on her face, Nafwan turned to the man beside her.
“The place does not have a name? I am not going anywhere I don’t know. This is Lagos.”
Rahman broke into spluttering laughter and his belly jiggled beneath his baggy linen shirt from the effort.
“So you are afraid? Fine girl like you?”
Ore broke into their conversation, his tone curt.
Nafwan looked back at Ore, a wary expression crossing her face. A few seconds passed before she spoke.
“Agbara is far.”
Rahman sidled up to Nafwan, coming between her and Ore.
“I told you inside that you don’t have to worry. Abi you think we are ritualists? We are not ritualists.” He staggered a little to the left and then regained his composure. “It is just a small something and you will make plenty money.”
Nafwan gave Rahman’s words some thought before she shrugged and slipped the strap of her bag over her shoulder.
“Okay, let’s go.”
They left the car park of the bar at Akerele, Surulere and drove fast to Agbara. Ore had turned on the radio as soon as he started the car and now music from the car’s speakers thumped with a deep bass, causing the vibrations in the car. Nafwan sat in the backseat with Ore while Rahman drove the car. Something about the man unnerved her. She couldn’t tell if it was his size, his silence or the way he frequently sized her up like a piece of meat on display in a market stall. She wiped her sweaty palms on the sides of her dress and sent a text message to her best friend.
Alero, I am going to Agbara with some guys. Please call me so that they know that people know where I am. I am not very comfortable.
Alero’s call came in the next minute and Nafwan divulged as much as she could to her friend, her voice rising past the music.
“Yes, yes, it’s Agbara. I am with some two men.” She increased the volume of her voice for the benefit of the other occupants of the car. “I have the plate number, I will send it to you. Oh, their names?” she looked sideways at the unmoving figure silently watching her. “Erm…I think it is Ore and Rahman.”
She resumed staring out of the window when the call ended, her apprehension growing with every kilometer they covered. After what seemed like forever, they dropped off the expressway into a semi-tarred road marked with black and white curbstones. Green triangular arches of an estate gate welcomed them after a few minutes and Nafwan squinted at the words on a banner hanging off the green and white metal gate, committing them to memory.
Welcome to Opic estate, Agbara. Courtesy of LAOPIC
Uniformed guards saluted them and waved them through the gates. Nafwan felt some relief at the sight of the normal neighbourhood they navigated through. They were nothing like the derelict huts buried deep in the forests that kidnappers and ritualists were rumoured to use. Rivulets of perspiration trickled from under her wig and dried on the skin of her neck. Her heart slowed down. There was nothing to fear. It was just normal runs and she would leave wherever they were taking her several thousands richer than she was that night.
The car slowed to a halt before the high black gates of a grey and white mansion that rose majestically above her. A two-storey structure with white columns topped by a triangular roof, it was the most elaborate building she had seen since they arrived at the estate. She smiled to herself. She had been worrying for nothing.
They entered the house and Flora was impressed by everything she saw. Gilded furniture covered with plush of cream hue sat around a green center rug. Brown silk curtains with embroidered rose mid-borders hung over the windows. On the wall was the largest television Nafwan had ever seen.
A second living room boasted even grander furniture than the first. She was led further through the house into a shadowed corridor. There her unease returned. Ore whispered something to Rahman and stepped back. She waited, her grip tightening around the strap of her bag.
Rahman drew close. He was still his jocular tipsy self.
“The job is small ehn?” He pointed to the door. The person is waiting inside. When you finish, we will give you your money.”
He grabbed the door handle and pushed it open. The room appeared dark to Nafwan from where she stood. She hesitated, looking from Ore to Rahman.
“There is someone inside?”
Ore pushed her inside the room. “Yes. Just go inside.”
A rank, fetid smell assaulted Nafwan’s nostrils as she stumbled blindly into the room. Immediately, her senses revolted. Bile shot up her throat and she held a hand to her nose. She felt something brush her leg and looked down to find herself surrounded by plastic bags, bottles, disposable paper plates containing rotting food and suspicious-looking brown lumps. The bed stood freshly made, a stark contrast to the chaos around her.
She tried to sidestep the trash at her feet and almost slipped. She felt her toe touch something. Whipping her phone out of her bag, she turned on the flashlight and saw the green slimy glob she stood in. Her skin began to crawl and she inched towards the door.
A loud cackle stopped her and she spun towards the sound, her flashlight probing for its source. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the thin emaciated figure of a man. He was haggard, his hair unkempt and his sunken eyes wild. Clothes browned by age and filth hung off his body. He laughed again and then suddenly grabbed his penis.
Realization soon dawned on Nafwan and she rushed towards the door, screaming for Rahman and his partner. She pushed down the handle but found it locked.
“Open the door! Open the door!”
She began to bang desperately on the door but no one answered. She heard the mad man closing in on her and began to cry.
“Please open this door! Please, I beg you in God’s name. I beg you with my mother.”
Nafwan felt herself yanked from the door by the mad man and she continued to scream, kicking as he dragged her. His smell overpowered her before he threw her on the bed and clambered over her. Nafwan choked on her tears as the mad man tore her flimsy panties. His thin body firmly wedged between her thighs, he drove into her with force.
The horror of it was too much for Nafwan. She closed her eyes tightly and tried to blot out what was happening. The mad man reveled in his pleasure, making deep animal grunts as he heaved his weight into her, again and again. His release did not take long and Nafwan came alive as soon as he rolled off her. She left her panties behind and rushed to the door again.
“He has finished. Please help me. Open the door!”
The door flew open. The big guy Ore stood, looking at her, his face an unreadable mask. He looked her from head to toe and then pushed the door further open to take a peek inside the room. Giving a slight nod, he motioned her forward.
“Fix your dress. Chief wants to talk to you.”
Nafwan rode in silence with the men back to school, involuntary shudders running through her body every now and then. The edge of the fat envelope the chief had given her rested against the zip of her open bag. She pushed it down with shaky hands and zipped her bag.
“We are here,” Rahman announced.
Nafwan saw that they had stopped at Sodiende Hall. She flew for the door and made her way to freedom. She heard Ore’s voice behind her as she rushed towards Makama Hall.
“Make sure you call chief.”
Alero was waiting for her when she arrived her room. Her eyes widened at Nafwan’s near disheveled state. She pulled her into the corner they shared and out of the earshot of her roommates who were preparing for lectures.
“I will tell you later,” Nafwan said, sitting delicately on the lower bunk that was her own. They sat together, silent until the last of their roommates had left the room. Nafwan told her everything and Alero listened shock written all over her face.
“The mad man is his son and he wants a grandchild?”
Nafwan nodded mutely and showed Alero the money. They counted it together. In the end, surprise gave way to awe and Alero stared at her friend.
“One fifty?! For how many rounds?”
Alero’s face scrunched thoughtfully.
“But this is the biggest money you have ever made since you came to this school. What are you going to do?”
Nafwan looked into her friend’s eyes, seeking guidance but instead she saw her own thoughts reflected in them. The experience was revolting but the money was another matter. She would go to Agbara again.
Daniel left the advertising firm where he worked on Ahmadu Bello way to the usual evening rendezvous with his friends at 1662 Café in Ikoyi. It was still mid-day but the traffic was slowly building up on the roads that led out of V.I. He kept the car going at normal speed as his mind processed the events of the day. He had come close to having another spat with Mercy, the attractive but quite overbearing client services manager.
Mercy was a single mother with a flawless skin and a perfect figure that made it easy for the firm to win many pitches with the city’s top performing companies. Things had been hectic in the firm in the last few weeks. They had been neck deep in crafting campaigns for a particular blue chip company, sometimes leaving the office late in the night and resuming very early the next day.
The demands were high and the strain was starting to show on the faces of the employees. He had suggested they pitched the last campaign they had created to the client but Mercy had been quick to shoot down his ideas before the management had time to consider them. That morning, they had a stare down after she berated his writers for not doing enough for the campaign and it had taken everything in him not to be rude to her.
Daniel suspected that her animosity covered a growing attraction to him because he had caught her on more than one occasion giving him looks that were far from cursory. There was also the uncomfortable incidence in the building elevator where she bumped into him two weeks ago. He had seen the half smile on her face just as he stepped away. Daniel scoffed.
“Yes, hurt my chances at the firm so I can start liking you. It’s working. Stupid bitch.”
He arrived at 1662 to find his friends in the middle of one of their many ribald conversations. Maxwell was holding court, telling his friends stories of his latest conquest. The waiter served Daniel his drink and he listened as Shope cut into Maxwell’s story.
“I thought you said you liked girls that talked dirty?”
Maxwell shook his head.
“This one runs a full commentary – talking every second, giving you a rundown of what you are doing. Sometimes she gets religious and does the Jesus, Jesus, God thing.“
The friends broke into laughter.
“And I’m there thinking, are you even enjoying this? Will you just shut up and let me concentrate?”
The crowd turned to Daniel.
“What about that your Unilag babe?”
Daniel told them about her. Maxwell had been at Ebitimi’s party so he had a lot to say about her looks.
“She looks timid though.”
Daniel agreed. “Yeah. We are seeing again tomorrow.”
Shope poked him in the ribs.
“What’s your plan for her?”
Maxwell eyed him. “Especially since you refused to share her with us that day.”
Daniel stroked his beard. Something in him had been touched by her naïve simplicity when they met, but she was new and his hunter’s instincts were raging.
“I hope you are not planning to marry her. She is a Unilag girl. You know what those chicks do.”
Daniel laughed. “I am not planning to marry her.”
“We know what you are going to do. Bad man,” Shope said, giving him a slap on the back. Daniel smiled back, the image of Ejiro on his mind. Their date was tomorrow and he was counting the hours until they met again.