If Luper hadn’t stayed so long at the mechanic’s shop, if she hadn’t come downstairs for a cup of tea, this moment wouldn’t have been happening. But here she was, granting Udazi audience again.
The backdoor was open and Dugo sat there, stirring her cup of tea. Udazi had made herself comfortable in a plastic chair in the kitchen, long legs crossed. Dugo had to admit that there was something stately about the woman. Her beauty was ageless. Even in her sixties she slayed with her elegance. But maybe it was all part of her foul packaging. Her aesthetic presentation had deceived many along the years, covering the blackness of her heart, and it was still doing so.
Dugo couldn’t comprehend what type of person she was. Udazi carried out her malevolent acts as if she was doing the world a favor by them. Only a short while ago, she had given her a piece of unnecessary news about her mother, news that Dugo knew should have remained buried. After getting over the shock, Dugo had come to her senses and asked herself why she had needed to know that her mother committed suicide, if the story was even true in the first place. But that was Udazi in her natural breathing state.
“She just enjoys being wicked,” Luper had once told Dugo. “She loves to see people sad.”
“In Germany, we call it ‘Schadenfreude’. It’s a feeling sadists get when something bad happens to somebody.”
“Hers is worse. She creates the unhappiness. I’ve never understood it.”
Neither did Dugo. But this wasn’t stopping her from what she had waiting for the woman. Terwe’s disappearance had slowed her plans. She wasn’t waiting anymore. Udazi had pushed her.
“Madam America, I know the man I’m dating.” Dugo’s eyes were on her tea. “I don’t need you to start telling me how wonderful he is. Just tell me why you came and met me here to talk.”
“Maybe a little history would make you understand the type of person you’re dealing with as a boyfriend.”
“You want to say something terrible about him now? Just like that thing you told me about my mother and brother?”
“No, Adaugo. Please, listen to me.”
Udazi picked at the edges of her weave before she began as if she needed to look perfect to speak.
“Luper was barely two months old when I discovered I was pregnant again. I didn’t know how that happened.”
Dugo had her first taste of the tea she prepared.
“Eight months later, I was pushing Terwe into the world. He grew fast, almost catching up with Luper. Both boys competed for my attention, right from when they were babies. Terwe, especially. Luper was sort of certain about my affection. Terwe always needed to be sure. Or rather, he always reminded his father and I that he was there. Luper was the gentle one. The quiet one. The one with the large heart. He was intelligent too. In school, he did exceptionally. Terwe, on the other hand, had his own kind of smartness. He was fast on his feet. He loved playing with the deprived kids on the street, much to his father’s consternation. He also enjoyed getting a rise out of Luper. Luper hardly ever reacted. But whenever he did, Terwe couldn’t fight him back. He would beat him so badly they would both fall ill…”
“I still don’t understand why you are telling me this story.”
“Terwe had never been that son that made a parent proud. It’s painful to admit, but he was a total disgrace as a teenager. He did drugs, got into fights, got arrested for shoplifting a few times, crashed my car and his father’s due to drunk-driving, and also got involved with a cult in school.”
“Adaugo… I know that Luper is aware that Terwe raped Idenyi fifteen years ago. I spoke to her yesterday. She told me she confessed to him, and that you were there.”
Dugo’s patience was waning. “So?”
“So, I know Luper is responsible for Terwe’s disappearance. I know he is capable of doing it. As I said, he’s the type that swallows everything in, but the day he snaps, he does so without looking back.”
“If what you are saying is true, that he knows where Terwe is, do you blame him?” Dugo adjusted herself to face Udazi. “Do you know what it means to be called a rapist? Everybody looked at him like he was shit! Even you! And you knew that Terwe did it! What type of a mother are you? I can understand that you can be wicked to other people’s children, but why do that to your own son?!”
“Terwe had gotten on the list of students to be rusticated from school. If rape had been added to his crimes, knowing his father, he’d have had him locked up too. But Luper could kill a thousand babies and my late husband would look away.”
“And so you allow your good son to bear a bad name.”
“It was either I lost one or kept both sons.”
“You told Idenyi not to tell the truth.”
“Technically, I knew nothing. She told me nothing.”
“You knew Terwe raped her.”
“According to her, yes. I just found out yesterday.”
Dugo shook her head. She stood up. “Fotze! You’re so heartless! When will you ever change?”
Udazi continued, unbothered. “You have Luper’s ear, Adaugo. Please, beg him to release his brother. Catalina, she’s going crazy. I’ve pleaded with her to keep the news off social media and from the ears of her family back in the States. But she’s losing it. She told her mother two days ago and that one has been calling me incessantly, demanding to have her grandkids brought back to her or she would report to the embassy that they have been kidnapped. Adaugo, it’s a serious situation. The police is not helping. The private eye I hired is totally useless. Luper has covered his tracks well. Please, I’m pleading with you, talk to him.”
“Talk to him yourself.”
“I flew all the way here to do that, but you can see how it ended earlier. He’s denying that he’s involved. But I know he is. That’s why you should talk to him. You don’t want to imagine what Catalina and the kids are going through right now. Nenge too. She’s lost so much weight. She won’t eat or sleep. Let’s not forget that I had to postpone my wedding a second time because of this. I’m begging you, Adaugo. Beg your man to forgive his brother before this hurts more people.”
Dugo was done. She dumped the unfinished mug of tea at the sink and hastened out of the kitchen. She stayed in Luper’s bedroom until he returned. She said nothing of her chat with Udazi to him. Soon after, they were on their way to the airport because Udazi had had the nerve to ask them to give her a lift.
When they arrived there, she alighted from the car and went to Dugo’s window. “Please, talk to him.”
Luper didn’t wait one second at the airport. On their way out of the premises, he asked Dugo what Udazi had meant by her words.
“It’s about Terwe.”
“She told you to beg me?”
“She’s not serious.”
“Luper, free your brother.”
Luper tilted his head in Dugo’s direction. “Because Udazi said so?”
“No. Because I don’t want her in my life, telling me what to do. She’s going to keep disturbing me. You know that.”
“Don’t give her an audience, Ada. And I’m sorry that you had to go through the stress of seeing her. It must have been hard.”
“It was going to happen, no? Didn’t we plan that dinner with the whole family so that I’ll meet her? Don’t apologize. It had to happen.”
Luper kept a foul mood for at least an hour. He eased up, eventually. Dugo was the chatty one today. It was a deliberate act to erase the picture Udazi had painted in her head about her mother. She knew that if she thought hard about it, the tears would attack her once more, and she would blame herself for her death all over again.
Somehow Luper sensed something was off. He asked if she was okay and she responded that she was. Unsatisfied, he asked again, after a while.
“I said I’m fine.”
“You’re talking too much. You don’t do that.”
Dugo turned her head towards the window. “Then maybe I should keep quiet.”
“I didn’t mean that.” He rested his hand on her thigh. “I just hope my mom is not responsible for what’s bothering you.”
“Es geht mir gut,” Dugo muttered.
“Okay. You just spoke German. It means I should stop prying. I’m sorry.”
“I simply said ‘I’m fine.’ But, seriously, stop asking. Okay?”
She resumed her chatty mood. Luper upheld the energy as well. It was interesting that they always had something to talk about. Mila told Dugo it was one of the major keys of a healthy relationship. Dugo wasn’t sure it would last long. She wasn’t even sure where they were headed as a couple. But it was the least of her concerns. Screwing Udazi up was foremost. And she needed to do it quickly.
Dugo and Luper’s dogs arrived when Ace was trying to convince himself that a visit to a nearby clinic was smarter than driving almost an hour to his mom’s.
The dog breeder stood outside the front door, holding leashes to both dogs and looking at Ace like they had met before.
“Mr. T. asked me to deliver these dogs here.”
“Well, Mr. T is not around. And he doesn’t live here.”
“But his girlfriend does,” the man stated.
Ace was handed both leashes.
“This is a bulldog and this is a beagle.”
Like I care, Ace thought.
“Both are still puppies, but well-trained.”
The beagle yapped at Ace.
“You have to watch this one well o.” The breeder picked the beagle up. “He likes to run up and down.”
“Wait, are you seriously leaving these dogs here?”
“Yes. Mr. T said he’s coming back today.”
“Why don’t you wait for him to come back?”
“My guy, I can’t. I’m traveling this evening.” He let the pup down, handing both leashes to Ace. “Bulldogs can be lazy, but mischievous. Also put your eye on him.”
Ace showed that he was not interested in what the man was saying.
“I brought his sofa.”
Ace watched him hurry out of the compound and return with a sofa that smelled as badly as the bulldog. His fever doubled. He unlatched the second half of the front door to let the man and the sofa in.
“Where can I keep it?”
Ace pointed in the direction of the guestroom. He already had plans to lock the dogs in there until the lovebirds returned. He saw that there was a pack of dog snacks on the couch.
“It’s complimentary,” the breeder said. He also tendered over a care book. “It has everything you need to know about dogs.”
Ace dumped the book on the couch. The man went out again and came in with other items which included bowls, toiletries, toys and potties. Ace was speechless.
“And that is all.”
Ace walked him to the front door and shut it after he was gone. When he turned around, he found the beagle chewing one of his trainers.
“God punish you.” He snatched the shoe away. The beagle then trotted towards his bedroom. “Hey!”
He went after him and carried him into the guestroom, dragging the bulldog there as well. The beagle began barking.
“Shut the fuck up.”
But the dog wouldn’t stop. He hopped on the couch and picked the snack pack.
“I’m sure you’ve already eaten today.”
The bulldog whined. “You too? Fine. Just don’t tear anything you see inside this room or I’ll find some nice Calabar people and sell you to them.”
He was speaking to the beagle in particular. He dished out rations for them in their bowls. He didn’t spend one more second with them. He left the room. His phones were ringing at the same time. He hurried into his bedroom. Titi was calling on one line and Joana was on the other. Ace stared at both phones curiously, but he didn’t pick any of the calls. They rang out. He continued to stare at them until they started to ring again.
“Okay, what’s going on?”
He dropped the phone Joana was calling and answered Titi’s. She was the one he still shagged regularly. Joana was history, although she kept begging to be let back in.
“Tii, what’s going on?”
“Come and carry this crazy bitch out of my house before I kill her o! Come and carry her, Ace! She just smashed my window now-now! Shey you can hear her screaming?!”
Ace could certainly pick out some noise in the background. “What happened?”
“Just come! My neighbor has gone to call police for her! She’s acting like a mad woman! Me, I’m just holding myself here! If she makes me come out of this house, I will beat that madness out of her body.”
Titi wasn’t bluffing. She didn’t have a refined childhood. She grew up in a ghetto. Scars on certain parts of her body were testament to the type of rough life she once lived. But she had cleaned up, put herself through school and gotten a decent job. It would take some convincing for anyone to believe she hadn’t come from the posh side of life. Her baby face and voice, combined with her unassuming nature, gave her a good cover.
“I’m coming,” Ace assured her. “Just stay inside. I’ll be there now.”
Ace forgot his fever and the dogs as he sped out of the house. Titi’s apartment was quite the distance, especially on days when there was traffic. Luckily for him, it was one of those traffic-free hours. He got there in half the time he usually did. He saw Joana’s car parked outside the gate. He also observed the damage she wrought on Titi’s window. Approaching the apartment, he saw Titi open her door, daring Joana to come for her. Unwisely, Joana did, rushing in to get into fisticuffs with her.
“What is wrong with two of you nau?!” Ace bellowed. It was a good thing that the compound was empty. Titi had moved in not long ago. Two flats were unoccupied. The other had a bachelor living in it. He was probably the person that had gone to call the police.
Ace watched Titi take control of the fight, after receiving a couple of weak slaps from Joana. She threw her fist in her face to daze her, and then dragged her by the hair into her bedroom and locked them both in.
Ace swore at himself for not dashing in-between them so quickly. But he was weak, having run out of energy the moment he entered the compound. He stood outside Titi’s bedroom, head throbbing in a fever, asking her to unlock the door.
“Please, don’t let me break it, Tii. Open up!”
“I told you to come since but you refused! I’ve been holding myself from killing this bitch! I’ll finish her today!”
“Titilope, open the door,” he pleaded in Yoruba. He could hear Joana wailing. “Beat me if you want to beat anybody. It’s all my fault for trying to come between you girls. You’re like sisters. Stop this nonsense. Please, open the door.”
The room suddenly went silent, except for Joana’s sobbing.
“Open the door nau.”
He heard the key turning. He pushed the door himself and walked in. Joana’s head and lips were bleeding. Titi’s top had been shredded, revealing scratches on her chest and neck. By some means, Joana had fought back.
“You’re lucky!” A panting Titi pointed at Joana. “I’d have killed you today!”
She aimed for the door, but Ace stopped her. “Somebody should explain to me what started all this.”
Joana got to her feet. “You caused this!” She grabbed a towel from a chair. Titi snatched it off of her hand. “You started it! You cannot keep your dick one place! So you were fucking me and fucking her at the same time?! My friend, Idowu! My best friend!”
“You still have mouth to talk,” Ace replied. Titi sniggered. “Did I tell you that we were exclusive?”
“Oho!” Titi clapped in Joana’s face. “You dumped him and I swooped in. Shikena!”
“Is that what you’re saying, Ace? We had a deal.”
“We had a deal!”
“Give her something to stop the blood,” Ace told Titi. She eyed Joana before flinging the towel at her.
“Even if you wanted to fuck someone else, not Titi,” Joana continued.
“He fucked me!” Titi stood in front of her. “I fucked him! Go and die!”
“Idowu, why? Was it to get at me? You wanted to punish me? Why?”
“I don’t owe you any explanation. I did what I did. Titi and I are adults.”
“We chose to see each other. It had nothing to do with you.”
“She’s my friend, Ace.”
“No more, Joana! I’m no more your friend! Yes, go and tell the whole world that dick separated us! I don’t care! I’m not doing friendship with you again! I have my man! You have yours! Go and stay with him!”
Speaking of men, Sebastian made an appearance. It was Ace who saw him first. The man, in his usual superior air, gave him a condescending stare and then directed same stare at Joana.
“Titi, you called?” he said, eyes still on Joana.
“Your girl wanted to kill me o! So I decided to call all the men she was fucking to come and save me.”
Sebastian gave Ace a second look, with curiosity this time.
“I don’t understand.”
“Jo and I were chatting, and then somehow, her ex came up. This is her ex, by the way.”
“We’ve met,” Sebastian mentioned.
“Anyways, he came up because, well, she’s still fucking with him.”
“That’s a lie!” Joana countered.
“She said she had stopped because he dumped her, but she was still talking about the dick.”
“Sorry, come again. He dumped her? I thought you said you dumped him, Jo.”
“No! That’s old gist!” Titi laughed in her tiny voice. “She dumped him and then went back and they started bonking again and then he dumped her. Quite honestly, I was tired of her claiming that she was the only one that ever hopped on that dick.” She hissed. “Something that I’ve been on for some time now.”
Ace was embarrassed.
“I just had to tell her ni. Next thing, she’s outside my door, insulting me and my entire family and threatening to beat me. So I called you and Ace to come and take her before I killed her. You came late sha.”
“Jo?” Sebastian called. Joana’s head was bowed. Ace had never seen her so humble.
“And just so you know,” Titi kept on, “she’s telling everyone that you have a micro penis. Me and you know that’s not true.”
“Wait, what?” Joana’s head shot up. Sebastian gave Titi a hostile glance. “What?! Sebastian, you’re fucking my friend?”
“Oh, shut up.”
“This is disturbing,” Ace muttered.
“Before you start tearing your braids out, Aunty, relax!” Titi said to Joana.
“You’re fucking my man?!”
Titi hissed. “Any small thing ‘my man, my man.’ How many you wan claim sef?”
Ace decided he had had enough. He left the room, but remained in the living room, listening to the interesting exchange.
“Was it not me that introduced you and Seb? You think I’d recommend dick to you that I have not tasted first?”
“Ah! Titi! You’re just a dog!”
“With the same feather as you! To hell with your bullshit! You cooked up dirty lies to Ace about Sebastian, because you saw Ace and realized you were still in love with him and couldn’t let go.”
“That’s not true! She’s lying! Why are you lying?!”
“Ah! Jo-ah-na!” Titi laughed. “You told me this! I have the chats! You told me you still loved him and it was him you wanted to have your babies with, not Sebastian! You said Seb was there only for the money, that he’s not half as fine as Ace or even good in bed like him! I agree with the good in bed part sha!”
Ace caught himself smiling.
“But deny everything I’ve said now and let me pull out your remaining braids!”
“She’s lying, Seb. Don’t listen to her. She’s lying…”
Ace heard Sebastian’s footsteps approaching. He also began to make his way out of the house, having heard enough. Sebastian caught up with him.
“You can have her if you want, since you guys are obviously still in love.”
“Help me tell her I’m done,” Sebastian added, not breaking in his steps.
“Are you mad?”
Joana ran past Ace, giving him a pleading glance. She hurried after Sebastian, but he had entered his car and driven off. Ace stepped out of the gate.
“Ace…” she called. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know you anymore, Jo.”
“I’m very sorry for everything. I think I lost my mind when I broke up with you. I just…” She choked and went into tears once more.
“I’ll be blocking you from my life entirely. And this is for your sanity. See a pastor or a therapist or just go home to your mom. Something is broken in you. The Joana I know doesn’t lie like this or fight her best friend over a man. You’re classier than this. So much classier. Or maybe, I just never really knew you.” He looked at Titi who was standing by the gate. “Or you.”
He got into his car, feeling the full onslaught of the fever. His hands shook when he held the wheel. He set the car in motion and drove away from the neighborhood. Out on the street, under a traffic light, his phone began to ring. It was Titi calling. He picked the call, and before she could speak, he said, “B, lose my number.”
He blocked her afterwards, and waited for another traffic stop to block her from his second line. He was going to do the same with Joana, but when he got home.
It had begun to rain, killing his plans to stop at the pharmacy to get some drugs. He managed his way home in a slow pace. The gateman took quite a long time to open the gate. Ace drove in. Someone was standing at the entrance of the house. A female. He didn’t recognize her at first, until he wiped off the mist from his window.
Idenyi. She seemed wet. Clearly beaten by the rain. He wondered why she had come.
“Hey,” he greeted when he stepped out of the car. It took him three painful jumps and he was standing in front of her. Probably too close. His body touched hers and she flinched.
“You’re hot,” she said. “Your body, I mean. I mean, your temperature.”
Ace was amused. “Yeah. Malaria, I think. Hi. You came to see Dugo?”
“No. I…actually came to get my clothes.”
“Yeah, that’s true. You never came back for them.”
“Lucky me, I can change into them since I’m all soaked. My car is bad, so I took public transport.”
Ace gave her body a full gaze. Her wet dress outlined her figure. He also saw that she was wearing a black bra underneath that had pink dots. He turned his attention to the key he had been trying to insert in the lock. The door unlocked and he opened it. The beagle began barking.
“You guys have a dog?” Idenyi asked, walking in.
“Two dogs. They’re Luper’s. They came today.”
“Luper and dogs. He had about three of them when we were teenagers. He made me a dog person. Do you like dogs?”
“I don’t like anything I have to care for asides myself.”
“Aren’t you going to have kids?”
“Only because my mom would drop dead if I don’t. Thank God the child would have a mother to take care of it.”
Idenyi laughed. The beagle’s barking continued. She followed the sound to the guestroom. “Don’t tell me you locked them in here.”
“Guilty.” Ace sat down. Idenyi opened the door. The beagle ran towards her, and when she tried to lift it up, it scurried past her and into the kitchen.
“Your clothes are on that bed sef. Dugo ironed and folded them.”
Idenyi entered the bedroom. “Oh no,” she groaned.
She opened the door wider so Ace could have a full view of the bed. He stretched his neck to see that the buttons of her shirt had been ripped out. But worse was the dog poop resting on it.
“Ha-ahn! Which kind wahala be dis? I thought that guy said these things were trained. Where’s that little bastard? I’m sure he did it.”
“Relax. You’re not feeling well. I’ll clean up.”
The bedroom floor was a mess with dog snacks strewn all over. Lying on its couch, the bulldog seemed disconnected from its environment.
“Can I get a t-shirt to wear?” Idenyi requested. “If that’s not too much to ask.”
Ace made to stand up, but she stopped him. “Just show me where to get it. I’ll iron my dress dry before the rains stops. I won’t take the t-shirt home.”
Ace pointed her to his bedroom. Idenyi went in there and came out with a polo t-shirt, a gift from Dugo. He stretched out on the couch and turned on the television.
“What are your symptoms?” Idenyi asked. He looked at her oddly. “My grandma was a nurse. She had a chemist and I used to help her back then.”
“Normal malaria symptoms, I guess.”
He told her. She nodded after he mentioned each symptom. “Okay. Got it.”
He returned to the television, listening to her move about the house. He guessed she was cleaning the guestroom and ironing her dress as she stated. He soon fell asleep. He was awoken by a gentle tap on his shoulder. He opened his eyes. Idenyi was seated on the center table with a bowl of diced oranges.
“I took an umbrella I saw in the kitchen and went out to get some malaria drugs for you. I also got fruits. You don’t have to eat anything heavy if you feel nauseous. Lots of water and fruits will compensate until you can put something down. But just in case you’re hungry, I’m making noodles for you. You like noodles, right?”
Ace was astonished. He pulled himself up to a sitting position. “What time is it?”
“Past four. It’s stopped raining. Take your oranges.”
Ace picked a slice, put it to his mouth, and then looked at her. “Are you going to sit there, watching me like my mother.”
“No.” She got up. “Here are your drugs.” She placed a white plastic bag of drugs on the spot she had just left.
“Thank you. Let me know how much you spent on these before you go and I’ll…”
“No, it’s fine. Accept it as my way of saying I’m sorry for puking on you twice the other day.”
She smiled. He suddenly realized that she had a beautiful set of dentition. And her eyes. They were beautiful too.
He concentrated on the television screen, watching music videos until he was through with his oranges. He got up to return the dish to the kitchen, but mostly, he was curious. Idenyi was a stranger in his home, making herself comfortable, taking care of him. He didn’t understand that. Or why. She should be on her way home by now.
He caught her with the beagle in her arms, stroking behind his ears while she watched the receding rain from the backdoor.
“Your food is burning.”
“Is it?” She gasped. She put the pup down and ran to the cooker.
“Won’t you wash your hands first?”
She did as he suggested and returned to the food. “Phew! It didn’t burn that much. Thank God. I’ll just scoop out the unburnt part…”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Yeah. As you said, nausea. But thanks.”
“Is it because I burnt it…?”
“No, no, no. I don’t have any appetite.”
But he was starving. He had never rejected meals whenever he was ill. And it wasn’t because she had burnt a bit of the noodles. He just wasn’t comfortable with her being in his space. He didn’t think she had any motives. She seemed like a nice person, but he wasn’t fine with her niceness centered on him.
Just one day, his head argued. Just once and you’re jumping into conclusions.
But wasn’t she the same female that accused her boyfriend of rape? How different was she from Joana and Titi?
“I’ll leave it in a warmer for you then, and start heading home before my grandma would flip. She’s been so irritable since Tabi left the house. I feel like she’ll die any minute. It makes me apprehensive.”
Again, Ace felt like Idenyi was coming on too strongly. Was she lacking of human companionship or what?
“Your grandma be fine.”
“She’s ninety-three. ‘Fine’ is not what I’ll call her exactly.”
To this, Ace laughed.
“Thank you for everything.”
“Is your dress dry?”
“Yes, I ironed it dry, but…” She winced. “I burnt it.”
“Do you burn everything?”
She shook her head, hiding a smile. There was a honk at the gate.
“Luper and Dugo.”
“Em… Let me quickly clear this up…”
“You can leave it. Go and dress up… or not,” he added, recalling she didn’t have a change of clothes.
She made a dash out of the kitchen. It took some time for Luper and Dugo to come in. They entered, bearing food bags.
“Yay! My house husband!” Dugo rushed towards Ace and hugged him tightly. “I’ve missed you, baby!”
Ace avoided Luper’s frown, but was tickled by it.
“You’re so hot!”
“My temperature is high, yes,” Ace stated loudly when Luper’s frown got uglier. “I have malaria.” Dugo caught on. She smiled.
“How are you though?” She asked Ace.
“Sick. And then sick and tired of the women that once used to be in my life.”
“Drama. Plenty drama. But I’ll gist you later. How was your getaway?”
“I had my own drama. Madam America showed up.”
“She did?” Idenyi, stepping out of the guestroom, also asked.
“Hey!” Dugo smiled. “You’re here! And you’re wearing Ace’s t-shirt.” She looked at Ace questioningly.
“I came to get my clothes and then got caught in the rain and Ace let me have his t-shirt because the dog pooped on my very expensive TM Lewin white shirt.”
Idenyi opened wider the door behind her.
“Awww, a bulldog. Who has it?”
“Luper,” Ace answered. “There’s another useless one that can’t stay one place. Where is it sef?”
Idenyi pointed at the beagle. It was presently trying to chew one of many cables connected to an extension box.
“E be like say electricity never shock you before, guy.” Ace shooed it away from the extension box.
“I have to go,” Idenyi announced. Luper came out of the kitchen.
“Hi,” she responded. “I just stopped by to get my clothes.”
“I saw all you bought for Tabi. She was excited about the trip.”
“You went with her to the airport?”
“Yes. Can we talk? Privately?”
They went towards the dining area. Ace reclaimed his couch and medicated himself with a couple of analgesics. Dugo was preoccupied with the dogs. Ace was just realizing how much of a dog person she was.
“Ace, I’m going.” Idenyi came to stand before him. “Thanks for the t-shirt. I’ll return it. Hopefully, on a day it doesn’t rain.”
“You can keep it.”
“No, I wouldn’t…”
“Okay. Thank you.”
She hugged Dugo, picked her handbag and made her exit.
“That was interesting,” Luper commented, settling down beside Ace. Both men had gotten closer since Luper started his bunking time with Dugo.
“She likes you.”
“She came to stand in front of you just to tell you that she’s leaving.”
“Dat one no mean anything nau.”
“Just in case you want to get involved, I’m cool with it.”
“I am. You’ll make a great stepfather to Tabi.”
“Yeah. Too much abeg. Just chill. Idenyi no be my type.”
Dugo joined them in the living room. “Can I keep both dogs?”
“No,” Luper replied. “But you can keep me for life. I’m a faithful dog.”
“We’ll see about that. But seriously, I don’t know which one to pick.”
“The beagle is for you, madam.”
“I like the bulldog.”
“Take the small one. It already looks destructive.”
“Thank you, handsome.” Luper got a kiss for his effort. Dugo sat between both men.
“So, what’s this gist about your women?”
Ace recalled the Joana and Titi incident and began to laugh. He told the story to Dugo and Luper.
“You’re kidding me!”
“I kid you not.”
“I’m sorry, but how you take dey smash those kind babes?”
“My guy, I tire o.”
“I still like Jo,” Dugo said. “And I think…”
“Stop thinking,” Ace interjected. “I’m done with her. So done. Titi too. That one can switch from cute to ghetto in a wink. I’m not doing again.”
“Not even with Idenyi?” Dugo smiled naughtily.
“I can make it happen.”
“Right now, me and women are as far apart as the north is from the south.”
“Thank God you didn’t say east from the west. That means it can still happen. And I think Idenyi is perfect.”
“Why, though? This same chick accused Luper of rape. If I was ever going to think towards her direction, that alone has disqualified her. But I’m not even thinking. Allow me to heal from the shock of today and my malaria.”
“And if I know you, you’ll bring one new girl soon.”
“Exactly.” Ace winked at Dugo. “A new girl. Not Idenyi.”
Luper announced that he needed to tidy up a few things in the school and then buy some dog food. “Is there anything you want, Chums?”
“No. I’m good.”
He gave Dugo a kiss so long that Ace cleared his throat to remind them that they had company. After he was gone, Ace questioned Dugo about Udazi.
“You said she showed up at Benin.”
Dugo told him about Udazi’s annoying visit and the conversations she had with her. Ace was pissed.
“You don’t believe her, do you?”
“I don’t know what to think. I need to call my brother. I got his number from my cousin.”
“I don’t know, Ace. What if she’s telling the truth? What if my mom killed herself? I need to know. I have to see Chigo.”
“If you insist. But will you let me be with you when you want to see him? Or at least, take Luper along?”
Dugo nodded. “But that’s not what is important. Now, I want to do what I’ve been planning for years.”
“Are you ready?”
“Very ready. I’ve wasted too much time.”
“I think so too.”
Dugo went into her room. She came back with her laptop.
“Where do you want to start?” Ace asked as she turned the laptop on. “Pastor Keziah?”
“No. If I start with him, she will lie to him and convince him that somebody is trying to spoil her name. She will turn it against me.”
“So where do we start?”
“The blogs. We’ll start from them. We will not give them everything.”
“But enough to bring hell down on her?”
“Great. You have all those email addresses I gave you?”
“Then let’s do this, baby. Let’s bring this bitch down.”
Dugo connected to the internet.
“But I hope you’re ready for the drama that’ll follow? It will affect Luper and the school.”
“I know. But it’s the only way. It has to be done.”
“I’m leaving, Lu.”
Luper forced his eyes away from the file in front of him and looked up at Shipinen who was standing by the door of his office.
“What time is it?” He glanced at the clock on the wall, but his mind was distracted.
“Past eight.” Shipinen yawned. “I’m tired and sleepy and hungry. You should go home too.”
“Yeah…” He looked around. There was still more work to be done. “We’ll finish up tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow, I have a date.”
Luper leaned back. “A date?”
Shipinen blushed. “Nothing serious.”
“And you’re blushing. Tell me about him.”
“His name is Jesus, lover of my soul.”
“Be serious joor.”
She laughed. “He’s a pilot. I met him at a party last year. I ran into him the other day at an ATM.”
“Interesting.” Luper crossed his arms.
“He asked me out for lunch tomorrow, and then dinner, if lunch goes well.”
“It’s nothing deep abeg.”
“Why do you like him?”
“Yes. You scarred me. Now, I don’t want guys that can be available. It’s safer to date one that is never there, so that I can excuse his absence and cherish his presence whenever he’s around.”
“That sounds…cutely troubling.”
“I know, but he’s a great guy.”
“Just make sure he’s not married or planning to get married to someone else. Also check that he’s not a rapist or girlfriend-beater or drug addict or freeloader.”
“Jeez! Kuku tell me not to go out with anyone at all.”
“I just don’t want you getting heartbroken. You’ll come and blame me for it.”
“The last guy you dated who cheated on you… Remember? You came knocking on my door past midnight…”
“Don’t remind me, please.”
“You are yet to say thank you for that night.”
“I didn’t take advantage of you despite the fact that you literally threw yourself at me after blaming me for your woes.”
“And should I remind you that you stalked me after we divorced and offered yourself to me a million times.”
“I was drunk on each occasion that that happened.”
Shipinen got serious. “We won’t go into a drinking bender again, would we?”
“Adaugo is a good woman. Don’t let alcohol come between you two.”
“Your concern is noted. Go home, madam.”
Shipinen shut the door, laughing. Luper stayed a few minutes further and then drew the curtain on his busy table. He drove to Terry’s. Terry was waiting by his Hummer when Luper arrived.
He took him to Terwe. It was a dilapidated, uninhabited house that belonged to a mutual soldier friend who was out of the country for a course. Terwe was locked up in one of the rooms, barred from sunlight and fresh air. The place reeked. Luper held his breath when he walked in. Terwe, curled up on the floor, crawled away and began whimpering when the door opened.
“Can you give us some privacy?” Luper requested. At the sound of his brother’s voice, Terwe scuttled towards Luper and clung to his feet. The door shut and they were alone. Luper turned on the flashlight on his phone. He couldn’t make out what Terwe was saying, but he knew he was pleading for his life, begging him not to let them kill him. Luper saw that one of his legs was in bad shape. He had specifically instructed them not to disfigure him. He wasn’t pleased with what he saw, yet he felt Terwe deserved it.
“Your mother wants you back home so that she can marry her pastor boy in peace.” He spoke in English, then added in Tiv. “Me, I want you to die here.”
“Nenge can’t eat or sleep. I don’t even want to tell you what shape Catalina is in. Your kids…”
Terwe let out a wretched cry that touched something in Luper. “They wanted to castrate you so that you won’t go raping anyone’s daughter again. But I told them not to. I’m clearly not one for destroying people’s genitals like you.”
Terwe clung tighter to Luper’s legs.
“You’ll go home. And when you do, you will tell everyone what you did to Idenyi. After that, you’ll go on your knees as you’re doing now and beg Idenyi to forgive you. You won’t stop begging until she says she’s forgiven you. Understood?”
“And then when you go back to the States, you’ll make sure you write a long ass letter explaining everything you did. That letter is to Tabitha. She will read it when she is old enough. You’ll also ask her to forgive you.”
“Then, you’ll send money to an account I opened for her every month. Nothing less than a thousand dollars. I’d say you should send in more, but you have two kids to be responsible for. So, I don’t care if you have to take on extra jobs to make the money, but you will.”
“I hope you know that once you make that confession, it would cost you your marriage to Cat. It was you who told me that she divorced her first husband because she found out that he was on the sex offenders list. Now, there’s you again. Tsk. I already feel sorry for her. She would take your kids too.”
“Good. That would make me a lot happier than you going to your grave. I’ll be glad to see you wear the tag I carried for years. The good thing would be that it would fit you perfectly. Won’t it?”
Terwe wept, clinging tighter to his brother. “Just get me out. Get me out of here.”
“I’m curious, though. The two housemaids we had in Makurdi that momsi fired for no reason, did you rape them too?”
Terwe groaned louder. Luper got the answer he needed.
“How many more?”
“I don’t know.”
“An estimate. More than five? Ten?”
“I don’t know!”
Luper shook his head. He turned off the flashlight. “Free my legs abeg.”
Terwe obeyed. “They’ll let me go tomorrow?”
Luper gave no answer. He turned around.
He left the room. Outside, he breathed out. Terry stared down at his pants. He followed his eyes. There were bloodstains on his jeans and sneakers.
“That look in your eyes,” Terry said. “It’s not yet two weeks.”
“Let them dump him at the gate of my house, abeg. I think we’ve communicated and he’s gotten the message.”
“A few more days.”
Luper started out. “My sister will die before then.”