Nathan walked into Uzo’s office for the third time that day but still the office was empty. It was way past noon and he was beginning to worry. Uzo never missed work. It was unlike him. And then for his phone to be switched off at this time of the day? That was completely odd. Something was wrong and Nathan was very, very uncomfortable.
As he walked back to his own office, Nathan observed two young men walk into the CEO’s office. Not long after that, the intercom on his desk buzzed. It was the boss’ secretary and his presence was required in the office. Nathan sighed. He guessed the CEO had noticed Uzo’s absence and wanted to quiz him about it.
When Nathan walked into the office, he noticed the two men from earlier on, comfortably seated across the room. Mr. Taiwo, the CEO looked somewhat troubled. He motioned Nathan to a chair.
“Please sit down.”
Nathan did as he was told. Pointing to the two men, Mr. Taiwo continued
“These men are from the state Criminal Investigation Department.”
Nathan’s eyes darkened.
“Gentlemen, this is Nathan. He is Uzo’s closest friend here. Please tell him what you told me.”
Nathan’s heart began to race. Criminal Investigation Department? What were they doing here? And why was his friendship with Uzo relevant?
One of the men looked pointedly at Nathan and asked
“Where is Uzo?”
Nathan blinked a few times.
“Uh?? I don’t know. He hasn’t shown up here today and I haven’t been able to reach him all morning. His phone is off.”
The man maintained his stare and it made Nathan uncomfortable.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure.”
Then he turned to Mr. Taiwo.
“Sir, please what is going on here?”
The second man cleared his throat and spoke
“Your friend Uzo is wanted for the murder of a certain Mr. Gbemiga Lottu.”
Nathan’s jaw dropped and his eyes popped.
The two men regarded him carefully as though trying to gauge if his surprise was genuine.
“That’s impossible! Uzo would never hurt anyone!”
Nathan turned to his boss
“Sir, tell them.”
“Nathan, if you know where Uzo is, please let them know.” Mr. Taiwo said quietly.
“This is incredulous! You don’t believe them sir, do you?”
“Young man, Gbemiga’s body was found outside Nathan’s house early this morning. He was shot dead. We have a witness who says he saw the two men arguing late last night and there was an exchange of fire between them. Uzo killed Gbemiga and fled with a woman who we believe to be his girlfriend.”
Nathan cupped his hands over his mouth looking like he had just walked into the set of a horror movie as he struggled to overcome his shock.
“Look, that’s impossible.”
The two men got up.
“Clearly you know nothing about this as much as you know nothing about this friend of yours. But if he reaches out to you, please get in touch with us. Accessory to murder is a crime you know.”
The man who spoke dropped a card on Mr. Taiwo’s table and the two men walked out, shutting the door carefully behind them.
Nathan remained standing where he was, looking like he had just been punched in the face.
“Nathan, just between us, what do you know about this?”
Mr. Taiwo’s expression was grave but his eyes were imploring.
“Nothing sir. I swear. I haven’t heard from Uzo since he left the office last night. He told me he was taking his girlfriend to see a movie and then this morning, he didn’t show up here. I tried to call him a few times and I was worried when his number didn’t go through. I have no idea what’s going on.”
Mr. Taiwo sighed.
“Take that card. If he contacts you at all, please give them a call let them handle this.”
Nathan shook his head.
“I’m sorry sir, but I will do no such thing. I can’t believe you’re buying this story. You can’t even give Uzo the benefit of doubt in his absence.”
“Nathan, this is a murder investigation they’re talking about. Uzo is your friend, I know, but you need to put a hold on the emotions running a riot in your head and think logically. Why is Uzo not here? He missed an important meeting this morning. Why can’t you reach him on phone? And why is he not calmly seated at home? Clearly he’s on the run. And I can tell you one thing for sure. Only guilty men run.”
Mr. Taiwo pointed to his head for emphasis.
“Think Nathan, think.”
Nathan said nothing. Rather, he turned and walked out of the office.
When he got back to his office, he picked his phone from his desk and dialed Uzo’s number one more time. It was still switched off. He scrolled through his contacts in search of Leela’s number and when he found it, he dialed it but it was also switched off. He went to Uzo’s social media accounts but there were no recent updates. He checked through Leela’s as well but there was nothing. No Facebook updates, no tweets, no Instagram updates.
At this point, Nathan was convinced that something was gravely wrong. Leela was a model and an upcoming actress and she nearly always had something to tweet about. Her last tweet had been from the previous evening and was something about keeping your head up when faced with disappointments because something better would come up.
He opened the mail box on his phone and quickly composed a short email to Uzo.
Hey man, some really weird shit is going down here. A couple of guys from state CID were here and they accused you of murdering someone and fleeing with Leela. I don’t believe them but I just need to know you’re okay man. Can’t reach you anywhere. Please contact me as soon as you get this, let me know what’s going on and how I can help. Cheers
Once the email was sent, he sat back in his chair and buried his face in his palms. This was beginning to look like some terrible scary movie and he was hoping someone would wake him up soon. Or better still, yell the word “punked!” while the whole office erupted in laughter.
It was way past 6pm when Leela finally woke up to the sound of persistent knocking on her door. She was alert in seconds and instinctively reached for her gun which was under her pillow. She walked stealthily to the door before calling out
“Who is it?”
She heard Uzo’s muffled voice through the door and she mentally nudged herself. Of course it would only be Uzo. She was at her father’s house in Zaria and she was safe.
“Hold on a minute.”
She walked back to her bed and tucked the gun under a shirt at the end of the bed before going back to unlock the door and let him in. She shut the door after him and went to sit on the bed, shielding her mouth with her hand as she yawned.
“I don’t know how to live like this- without access to my devices or the rest of the world. I need to speak with Nathan, check my emails, see what is going on in the real world. I need my phone.”
“How well do you know Nathan?”
Uzo scoffed. “A lot better than I know you obviously.”
Leela rolled her eyes.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Uzo looked like he was about to deliver a sharp retort but he seemed to think better of it and he bit his lower lip instead.
“We’ve been friends for 4 years. We were hired at the same time.”
“Okay. I know this might be hard, but I want you to think really hard. Has there ever been a time where you felt like something was off about the friendship? Did he ever come across as too inquisitive or too nice? Or generally too much of anything?”
Uzo did not think for more than a few seconds before responding in the negative.
“I just need to be sure. We did run a background check and nothing seemed amiss but I can’t be too certain anymore. Somehow, someone linked you back to your birth mother and you have to assume that everyone around you is a prime suspect.”
“That includes you I guess.”
“Uzo, give it a rest. If it weren’t for me, you’d be dead right now.”
“Of course. I owe you my life. Thank you for saving it. Oh and for all the lies and deceit. I’m equally thankful for those as well. Where would I be without the fallacious bubbles right now?”
“Would you quit being emotional for ten seconds Uzo?!” Leela snapped.
“I’ve just about had enough of your pettiness!”
Uzo laughed some more.
“I should stop being emotional?! How about we find you some emotion ice princess? How about you show just a tiny bit of heart and treat me like someone you actually care about rather than some random stranger? Huh?”
“I can’t! Because the last time I did, someone I really cared about wound up dead. So how about you shove those teenage girl flailing emotions into some remote corner while we try to figure out how to keep you alive?”
Uzo was taken aback by her outburst. Her eyes were blazing and her breathing was intense. But more than the outburst, he was stung by her words.
“Someone you cared about more than me?”
The fire in her eyes did not dim one bit.
“Yes, Uzo. Someone I cared about more than you. Get it into your head. You are a bloody project! The only reason I was with you was because the money was good. I did not feel a thing! Now quit being a whiny baby before I toss you out of my house!”
Uzo nodded slowly and swung his hands to lock with each other. He smiled politely, tipped his head in a slight bow then turned around and left the room.
Leela let out a frustrated sigh as he shut the door behind him. She groped around the bed for her phone and was startled to see that she had so many notifications on her social media accounts. Before she could open any of them, her phone rang and she immediately recognized her boss’ number.
“Yemi. We have a problem”
Leela sighed. What could possibly be worse than her current situation?
“What is it sir?”
“Uzo’s mother is in the wind. We can’t reach her and all our contacts are having difficulties tracking her. She has simply disappeared.”
Leela sighed again.
“Boss. This is a mess.”
“It gets worse Yemi. Have you checked your social media?”
Leela shut her eyes and massaged her temples.
“Well, I think you should. But I need you to be strong and stay completely off grid. Whoever these people are, they’re really good. And I mean that in a bad sense. Check out what’s going on on your social media but we’ll be deactivating all your accounts within the hour. I’ll call you back if we find anything.”
Leela’s heart was thudding swiftly in her chest.
The line went dead and Leela hurriedly opened the Twitter app on her phone. She scrolled through a few tweets and what she saw nearly made her pass out.
“Oh my God!”
She found a link to an article and clicked on it. She gasped as she read through what was certainly the biggest news on all the major gossip blogs.
In summary, the article read that she was at the center of a love triangle involving Gbemiga and Uzo. A picture of Gbemiga’s private proposal to her was at the top of the article, side by side with another picture she and Uzo had taken looking all cozy on a beach. The article read that she had been two-timing and there was a clash at Uzo’s house that ended with Uzo murdering Gbemiga and the two of them fleeing the scene. They were both wanted for murder.
The story was disjointed and obviously lacking a lot of truth but clearly, the entire social media had bought it and she was being called all sorts of names. She scanned through the comments. A few people questioning the facts and asking her to come clear her name, some praying for her and the majority of the others condemning her to hell. Whoever these people were, they had done a really good job.
She covered her face in both palms and sighed. For the first time since taking this job, she wished she had listened to Gbemiga and ignored the offer when it came. As it stood, she was caught up in a big mess and she was practically on her own.
Uzo walked into the cyber café, thankful that Leela had not noticed him slip out of the house and even more so, that he had seen some random kid who gave him directions to the café. He bought an hour worth of browsing time and sat comfortably behind a computer, willing himself to not think of all that Leela had said to him.
The first thing he did was to log into his Gmail account and he was greeted by a ton of emails. Certain that Nathan’s would be somewhere in there, he scrolled down the list, curious as to the amount of mails yet staying focused till he found Nathan’s mail. The most recent mail contained a link to some gossip site with some additional text that read “Talk to me man, I’m really worried about you.”
Uzo clicked on the link to open another tab and as he waited for it to load, he checked Nathan’s previous messages and his eyes nearly came off completely. He hurried back to the page with the link and sure enough, there was a story of some love triangle with him being labeled as murderer at the end.
Uzo looked around him nervously, thankful that no one seemed to have noticed what he was doing. He quickly logged out and walked out of the café.