This almost didn’t make it up today because I am doing several things at the same time.

But then, I found out it’s the birthday of someone special to this blog and then I had to post so I can shout Happy Birthday from the rooftops.

Happy Birthday Ibukun Ajeigbe (@hibukkun). You’ve been an ardent reader of everything I write and I appreciate that.

Have a blast today. Much love.

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She usually made her coffee from the house, drank it while she scanned through the fresh morning news on The Hollywood Reporter, True Nollywood Stories and CNN via her Tab, grabbed her designer bag and made her way out of the house in her red bottoms.

It was either that, or she got to work and instructed her assistant to make her a cup of cofee while she made her way to her office.

But there was nothing usual about today.

First, it had rained heavily – so heavy her bathroom began to leak and PHCN cut off the power supply.

Then, her Inverter had suddenly developed a fault and when she had ordered her security guy to turn on the Generator, he had informed her of the lack of fuel.

She had been cranky.

Then she’d slipped into her white bandage dress, found her way to her car and had been informed by her security guard when she was about to hop into her car, that her dress was stained.

Actually, he had said, “Madam, e be like say you don sit on top Ketchup o.”

She had hissed and snapped at him, saying, “They sit on Ketchup in your village? Retard.” then she’d dashed into the house, made her way to the bathroom where she wore sanitary towel.

Then to her open closet and pulled the first thing she saw, a short yellow kaftan that Ayo had gifted her after he returned from Ghana some six months before.

She did not care that it was midweek and she had meetings, she kicked off her Louboutins, slipped her feet into flat gold sandals and left the house.

Then she had ended up at the Cafe that sat close to the Office.

She rarely visited the place, she had no need to.

But again, today was not the day when normal things happened.

She grabbed a seat and ordered for a cup of coffee while she browsed a newsletter one of the leading online fashion stores in Nigeria had dropped in her Email.

It was one of those Emails nobody subscribed for but got anyway.

She drank the coffee absentmindedly when it arrived, her attention glued to a clingy maxi dress one of the models in the newsletter was wearing.

“Hello,  young lady.”
He took the seat in front of her without waiting for a response.

He looked vaguely familiar to her but she could not quite place his face or where she had seen him before.

But because she had not invited him to come drink or dine with her, she ignored him and returned to looking at the fashion accessories on her digital tab.

“I know you don’t remember me, my name is Gbenro. Gbenro Braimoh”

She ignored him still, her manicured finger slowly trailing the side of her mug and her eyes feeding on a red shoe she wanted to place an order for.

“I am Ayo Balogun’s friend.”

She swigged the cup of coffee, retrieved a crisp naira note from her wallet and motioned to the Waiter that had served her.

When he offered to give her change, she gestured for him not to worry, placed the order on the red shoe on her tab and grabbed her bag.

Gbenro followed her closely as she made her way out of the Cafe into the warm weather outside.

The heavy rain had done nothing for the weather, it only seemed to increase the already warm temparature.

“I know you do not talk to men like me but Ayo Balogun cheated my late brother and I some years ago and then killed my brother. I need you to please tell him that if he does not give me what I asked for, I will go to the press with this information.”

Detoun was trying to open her car now and Gbenro knew she would not respond, just as she had ignored him in the last few minutes, she would act like he was not there, get into the car and drive off.

So he did something desperate, he called out his number for her and told her to call him or tell Ayo to call him and meet him at the their usual spot by 7pm sharp.

Detoun slammed the door and drove off.

“Are you seriously going to sit there and act like I don’t know what I am saying? Ayo did you really kill a man years back? What were you doing dealing with that type of person anyway? And don’t you lie because I remember this man very well! You do know him for sure!”

Ayo shrugged, he grabbed the bottle of water in front of him and took a long sip.

A lot of things were on his mind presently, they included Ife’s mother’s sudden disappearance, how to ensure her career went in the direction he wanted it and his sudden attraction to her.

The latter sounded shallow but he was not the type of man that fell easily, so when a woman’s body lingered on his mind for so long, it was something worth losing sleep over.
“Ayo?”

“I will see him at 7.” He replied halfheartedly.

“Did you really kill someone? Because others might not know how dangerous you can be but I know you.”

Detoun knew him for sure but she was crossing the line on this one.

“Go and work, Detoun. It is too early in the day to discuss crime.”

She glared at him, then stormed out of his office.

His phone rang when she left, it was a call from Abiola. “Abbey”

“I don get PI for your girlfriend mama o” The sarcasm in his voice was unmistakable but Ayo ignored it.

“Thanks Abbey.”

“He is a former Police Officer so he operates like someone from the force. I’m sure he would have this sorted in a short time, he’s very good.”

“Alright, thanks. I appreciate it.”

“You coming for Industry night?”

“I’ll try.”

Then he hung up, dialed Anita’s number.

“Hey Anita, please style Ife up for tonight. She is coming to Industry night with me.”

“Okay, boss.”

“And Anita?”

“Yeah?”

“She would be meeting a lot of big names in the Industry, so work crazy magic.”

“I got you.”

He ended the call, leaned back on his chair and thought of the pest that was Gbenro Braimoh.

Three years before he had been notified by Abbey and one of his late father’s close friend that there was a new business he could be a part of.

It was easy, the Government had suddenly developed interest in an area and was buying it, creating an estate and selling it to expatriates, foreign investors and top notch Nigerian guys.

Abbey and Alhaji had convinced him to be a part of the business, buy a few lands, double the price and sell it back to the government, that simple.

Ayo had been sold in on the idea.

So he had consulted his business partners and his lawyers and they had informed him that it was a good financial move, it was going to shoot him up the ladder on Forbes list and strengthen his already solid financial empire.

He went for it and tried to purchase as many acres as possible.

He had bought everything he liked and wanted but a stumbling block had appeared in the way somehow.

Part of the land he wanted belonged to someone else and that person was not willing to part with his land.

Ayo wanted it and because he was not one to be daunted, he had ignored Abiola and Alhaji’s plea to leave that one piece, and then proceeded to meet with the owners.

And that was when he met Debo Braimoh, a self willed, stubborn and egoisitc man who wanted to have nothing to do with him.

He had been introduced to Debo by one of the people that sold the other acres to him and the day he met him, he remembered the man wouldn’t even accept his handshake.

“I am not selling my land.” He had begun to say before Ayo uttered any words.

“This whole place was willed to me by my late father and it was only recently that I got the land. I have been fighting for it for decades.”

He then looked around the large area of land and beamed to himself with pride, “I cannot fight for something for decades and now sell it off now.” He’d added.

Ayo had then pointed out to him that he could not build anything on it now because he did not have the resources and Debo had retorted, “You these stupid rich people think you’re the only one that God can do a miracle for?”

Not that he did not believe in miracles, but he was aware that Debo was pulling that card because he wanted to stubbornly hold on to the land.

Ayo had pleaded, begged, sent people he met around to talk to Debo but it had all met a brick wall.

Then he had eventually gotten over it and moved on.

Until one day, when he got a call from a certain Gbenro Braimoh, who wanted to see him and discuss the land if he still wanted it.

Gbenro had convinced him all over again when he expressed his reluctance to go back to Debo and he had promised him it was all clear now.

Gbenro said he knew about the price Ayo was willing to part with and even though it was a lot of money, he wanted more.

Ayo had been unwilling, especially since the interest he earlier had in the land had waned drastically but Gbenro had been persuasive.

Then he had handed him the papers of the land.

Ayo had insisted on seeing Debo but Gbenro had pulled every trick in the book whenever Ayo made an effort to see his brother.

That got him suspicious and because of that he had held on to his money.

Then one morning, while he had come to where he always met Gbenro, he met him arguing with Debo.

Ayo remembered it had been heated and the two brothers had been going at it like enemies.

Because he was one to stay away from confrontation and fights like that, he had turned back to his car.

“By the way, Mr rich man that can buy anything he wants, my brother here was offering you fake papers for the land! He stole the first and when I got them back, he got fake for you!” Debo spat.

Then Gbenro had been quick to say his brother was lying.

Like a flash of a lightning, the two brothers had somehow pulled out guns, each pointing the metal at the other as if they were big enemies.

Ayo had jumped into his car tried to leave by making a U – turn when he heard the first gunshot.

Debo had fired it and missed.

He was going to fire another when Gbenro screamed and ducked.

Ayo had heard another gunshot and then silence.

When he got down from his car, Debo had been lying lifeless, his head severely crushed by Ayo’s tyres.

Gbenro had looked accusingly at Ayo and then said, “You killed my brother.”

As if he had not been trying to do same when the unfortunate occurred.

….

He had invited the Private Investigator to Asiri an hour earlier than he was supposed to meet Gbenro and had a short discussion with him.

He had been direct and very straight to the point, “Find that woman in the shortest time possible, her daughter just got signed to the Label and this can distract her and I don’t want that. So find her.”

The Private Investigator had left immediately, ready to work after he had collected the little details from Ayo.

Ayo did not want Ife to know about the arrangement.

He wanted to continue to play savior.

He just wanted her mother back in her life, wanted her to worship him and then feel like she owed him everything.

The day she learnt his tyres had crushed her father’s head to pieces, he did not want her to feel it was okay to be mad at him.

He knew it was an insensitive thing to do but he could not help himself.

It was why he carried the picture of her in that newspaper cut for years – so he could right a wrong.

Gbenro waltzed in 7pm sharp, and after ordering a cold glass of beer and fish pepper soup, he balanced himself in a seat opposite Ayo and smirked, “I see you got my message.”

Ayo did not return the smile, he waited for the waiter to leave and then said, “What do you want?”

“What you owe me.”

Ayo scoffed, Gbenro was a snake and a lethal one at that but right now, he was reaching too far he could trip any minute.

And one thing he could guarantee was that fall would be bad, very bad.

“When your brother was killed, I offered you money. You took it.”

“It was not enough.”

“It was a million naira.”

Gbenro shrugged, his expression indifferent, his arms folded as if he was not ready to back down.

“Gbenro, I am trying to be a good man here why are you pushing me? I went in search of your brother’s family even when you disappeared, I took his daughter and gave her a brand new life. I am a good person, don’t let this end badly.”

He was trying hard not to surrender to the anger that was threatening to engulf him.

It was an almost impossible task with the man in front of him but he tried all he could.

“You are giving her a good life how?”

“She can sing, I am signing her to the label. After your brother died and you disappeared, I couldn’t sleep a single night without feeling guilty. So I researched everything I could, luckily I got a newspaper that had covered the news of a man who was found dead by the roadside, apparently a victim of hit and run. I saw the name and the picture of his first daughter who apparently had the best result in her SSCE the year she finished school”

Gbenro leaned on the seat opposite him, pulled out a pack of cheap cigarette from his pocket and lit it.

“So you went and started playing Jesus Christ.”

He drew in the smoke and then slowly let it out.

The smoke drifted in the air towards Ayo, Gbenro watched him, a sly smile on his face.

“Interesting. You rich people would do anything to make poor folks see you as God”

“Don’t be stupid, Gbenro. You know this is not about me playing God, this is me being sorry for the hurt I unknowingly caused her two years ago.”

“Then go ahead and confess na. If you really want to be sorry, confess to her that you crushed her father’s head then took the land papers and disappeared.”

The reason Gbenro was being obnoxious was not lost on him, the man wanted him to feel guilty and soften up so he could find a way to blackmail him, again.

“You told me it was okay to hold those papers. I have not even touched the land since then.”

“But you want it now. Especially now that the place is now very developed…”
He lowered the burning cigarette into the ashtray and continued, “See just give me my money and you can own Ife for as long as you want but if you do not…” he paused, lifted the cigarette to his lips and added, “I will tell her everything, without leaving a single detail out of what a monster you are.”

Ayo did not like blackmails but instead of threatening Gbenro, he attended to his phone which rang that very moment.

It was the Private Investigator.

“We found her and the boys that have her.”

Ayo stood, eyed Gbenro and strode out of Asiri.

“I must say, this is the easiest job I have done since I became a Private Investigator.” the Private Investigator said when Ayo met up with him in a bar not too far from Gidi Music.
“Some guy who I think has a close relationship with the woman’s daughter has her held hostage.”

Ayo’s brows creased in curiosity, “What guy?”

“I think they might be dating. The information I gathered says so.”

“Hmmm…” Was all he said as he continued to listen to the man in front of him.

“She is safe. Very safe in fact and you can have the Police invade them and get the woman as soon as possible.”

Ayo shook hands with the Private Investigator, “Abbey said you were good, he did not lie about that.”

He had underestimated her reaction to the news of her mother’s freedom.

She had been ecstatic, had hugged him tight, placed several kisses on his face and then clung to him for so long he began to feel comfortable being held in her arms.

“I owe everything to you.” She whispered into his ears before disengaging and hurrying off to sit with her mother on the couch.

Amanda had emerged with a glass of cold water and some biscuits and placed it on a stool near Ife’s mother.

Ayo watched her run her hands through her mother’s body, checking if everything was fine with her.

The Older woman who had thanked and praised Ayo profusely when she walked into her daughter’s new apartment earlier held her daughter close.

And for the first time in Ayo’s existence, he actually felt emotions rising up in him at the picture before him.

It reminded him of him and his mother, the love Ronke felt for him was immeasurable and it was always reflected in her eyes exactly the way Ife’s mother was at the moment.

His phone buzzed, it was an SMS from Anita, she had been trying to reach Ife and had not been successful.

She was coming over to get her “dolled up” for the night.

Ayo had almost forgotten about the Industry night, he notified Ife of it, said his goodbyes and went home to get ready.

Transforming her into a beauty had been easier this time, Anita had brought with her a hair stylist – a fresh faced pretty guy who was too cute to be straight, and who had worked wonders on her hair in less than an hour.

When he was done fixing the huge bohemian ‘fro on her head, he had then placed a hand on his hip and smiled at her reflection in the mirror.

Then he had raised a hand and said, “A high five if you like it and a kiss on the cheek if you adore it.”

Ife had given him a kiss on the cheek and then, a high five. “Thanks Nnamdi” she’d added.

Anita had chosen a gold sequined playsuit for her and a pair of comfortable heels.

When she stared at herself an hour later, she did not recognize who she saw.

She looked like a goddess and she looked the prettiest she had ever seen herself.

When Ayo came over to pick her, he gasped at what he saw and as he led her to his car, he told himself it was going to  be very hard seeing her as just another artiste signed on to his huge label.

They got their VVIP seats at the Industry Night and Ife flinched when Abiola and Detoun arrived, sitting close to them.

The duo made her uncomfortable and she could not even hide it.

So when the only friend she had in the Industry so far, Jamal Bello mounted the stage and beckoned for her to come perform one of his duets with a popular female artiste, she had jumped on the stage and performed with him.

The performance left the crowd super charged and over the moon, causing Ayo to smile.

However, what made the smile freeze on his face was Jamal’s next action, he drew Ife close to himself and kissed her for a long time.

Then he added to the glee of the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, my new girlfriend.”

Ayo watched with mild irritation as he raised her hand and the crowd cheered.

“E be like say your girlfriend don get boyfriend.” Abiola whispered with a chuckle.

Ayo ignored him.

-Tomilola Coco Adeyemo

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