Ndifreke plopped up on one elbow and gazed into the inebriated eyes of the naked Elizabeth beside him. If there was anyone most deserving to share a bottle of champagne with following the successful launch of his modelling agency it was Elizabeth.
“Change the name. That’s all I ask.” Elizabeth said groggily. “And just enter me when you are ready for round two. You have my consent in advance. She turned on her side and pushed her bottom out for easy accessibility.
Ndifreke guffawed. She was passionate about the business as much as she was about her sex. She was not too drunk to say exactly what she wanted in each case.
“Slum Beauties is a good name, sugar. It’s catchy. They know what we’re about and we will be able to get away with a lot calling ourselves that.”
“Not tidy. You don’t have to wear your disadvantage like a badge.”
“On the contrary, we want to. It will be our unique selling point. We are from the ghetto and we are beautiful. That’s the message.”
“Still consider calling it something else.”
“Slum Beauties is already registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. There’s no going back.”
“Too bad. And you are sticking with those two boys?”
“Yes, for a start. They are my buddies. Irikefe is General Manager and Castro is Head of Protocol.”
“Oh heavens, I have a headache.”
“I trust them. They get things done. Castro had seen to the cleaning of the office in record time. Irikefe got a table and chairs without asking me for a penny. The job itself isn’t rocket science. We plan a daily audition from 10 am – 2 pm. Once we spot a talent, we give them a contract and then go out and find jobs for them and get a cut from whatever they are paid. I will be the one going out to find gigs. Irikefe will oversee the auditioning most days.”
“I see! How did you get the contract done?”
“Jide, the lawyer that helped with the business registration helped with that as well. It’s tight. 50-50 sharing formula.”
“They accept anything in the beginning. After a while, they find a lawyer of their own.”
“I already have mine.”
“Put a time commitment on the contract. Say five years. Don’t make it easy for them to walk away when their eyes open. Trust me it always happens.”
“And when you are ready to recruit proper staff, come back and let’s talk. You need web-savvy people with proper IT skills. Anyone can clean the office and provide chairs.”
“Maya wanted to work with me.”
Elizabeth’s ears stood at the mention of Maya. She turned and faced him.
“So, I give you a business idea, then your ex comes around and the first thing you do is to discuss it with her.”
“It did not happen like that. She overheard Irikefe and I talking about it. It’s her line of work so she’ll naturally be interested. She told me we can become a team.”
Elizabeth shook her head, sighed and said, “She called to threaten me you know.”
“She found out I was the one that told Jonjo she was at your place.”
“Was it you?”
“Yes. And don’t pretend to be surprised.”
Ndifreke scratched his head and said “So what did you tell her?”
Elizabeth continued to stare at him. Then she said “You still love her. Christ I don’t believe this.”
“No, why?” Ndifreke said and pulled the bedsheet over his nakedness.
“The look on your face at the mere mention of her name. You even covered yourself subconsciously. That is you admitting you are in the wrong place.”
“No, erm, come on!” Ndifreke gathered the bedsheet in a ball and threw it into a corner of the room.
“Know that there is no fairytale ending awaiting you. It will end in tears,” she said and placed her head on a pillow.
“I don’t have any plans to get back with her. I don’t even know what happened after she left here. I have blocked her number for calls and blocked her on all social media platforms.”
“Jonjo has left her. He has also asked her to leave the flat he got her. She is looking for a place to stay now.”
“He told me himself.”
“So you are back to being friends with Jonjo!”
“You talk!” Ndifreke said with a sneer.
“What does that mean?”
“How am I sure it is just talk that you talk?”
“Don’t be ridiculous Ndifreke.”
He stood up from the bed and gathered his clothes.
“I’m sure it was because of you that he has sent her away. It’s what you always wanted. You used us to get back with him!”
Elizabeth sat up in bed and pulled her knee up to her chin.
“You really do care about her. See how affected you are knowing she is in trouble.”
“Well if you expect me to be happy you are wrong. I am not like you!”
“She will be back at any moment. It’s what she always does. Run back to her vomit. I wish you a nice life.”
“Congratulations on getting back with Jonjo. You two deserve each other.”
“Fuck off Ndifreke.”
He finished dressing up and walked out of her flat for the last time.
While Ndifreke was at Elizabeth’s, Irikefe and Castro were receiving clients at the office. Irikefe did not hide his displeasure.”
“Guy, which kind wowo people I just dey see here since morning like this?” he said to Castro.
“I no just know,” Castro said. “But we fit manage them like that. Black models no kuku dey fine.”
“Who told you? See Maya! See Agbani!”
“You no dey see those ones from Kenya wey dey black like charcoal. All of dem dey carry gorimapa. No bress, no nyash. Their neck be like tilapia fish. You go come dey hear oyinbo people dey say: ‘oh! She so beauriful!”
“If na dat kind model una dey find I go resign,” Irikefe said.
“Oga General Manager!”
“I don talk my own. See this one!”
A slender teenage girl walked into the office. She looked around and said “I want to see Ndifreke.”
“You no fit greet?” Irikefe said.
“Excuse me?” the girl said.
“You see your mate here wey you no fit greet?”
“I came to audition with Ndifreke.”
“Audition for what?”
“With your K leg?”
Castro nudged Irikefe in the rib. But Irikefe did not care.
“You no look yourself for mirror before you come here?”
“You are rude! You should not be here!”
“Gerrout! Your type dey sell agbalumo for go-slow. Yenyenyen I want to be a model.”
“I will come back. I will tell Ndifreke.”
“If I see your leg here again I go release dog for you. Abraka grasshopper!”
The girl covered her face with her palms and turned and left in tears.
Castro glared at Irikefe.
“Why you dey look my like that? At least if person no fine e suppose get good character. Ordinary greeting she no fit greet. I no go endure wowo faces come follow endure bad character.”
Irikefe’s phone rang as Ndifreke walked into the office looking like he needed to hurt someone.
“Good afternoon Alhaji,” Irikefe said and listened. Ndifreke and Castro watched as his eyes bulged. Irikefe put the phone on the table and tapped the speaker button.
“…she grew up here and she has been thrown out of where she is living. It is her luck that we have those two vacant rooms.”
Irikefe watched Ndifreke.
Ndifreke shrugged and said: “I’m going inside for a while.”
Irikefe finished the call on private mode when Ndifreke walked out.
Castro said “Guy, wetin dey happen? You and bros Freke dey behave somehow.”
Irikefe shrugged and said, “I suspect the boss’s life is about to change, man.”
When no one saw Iniquity or Wasiu come out of the room for twenty-four hours, number 225 Katakata street became agitated. The men gathered in the frontage in earnest.
“Are you sure they are still alive?” Josiah said.
“Yes they are. We went to the back to peep through the window. We saw their bodies move.” Irikefe said.
“So you mean they have been sleeping since yesterday morning?”
“On such hard cold floor! Piss no catch them? Dem no hungry.”
“Don’t you know that that room is Sheraton compared to where they are coming from? Do they look like people that eat every day? They must be having the best sleep of their lives.”
“While they sleep, the rest of us cannot. Bia, caretaker, what are you doing about them? Surely you are not keeping quiet,” Achike said.
“Alhaji told me he is allowing Alfa to come back but Wasiu does not live here anymore.”
“But he is here!”
“Right now he is Iniquity’s guest. We can’t chase him away.”
“I even forgot! The boy calls himself Iniquity. Chineke nnam!” Achike lamented.
“Let’s go to the police. They are criminals,” Josiah said.
“What crime did they commit? The law set them free already!”
“Calm down everyone,” Mr. Cosmas said. “Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. You have been in prison for a year or so. You just got released. I don’t think you will be looking for trouble again just yet.”
“But they are. Iniquity broke into the room. That is a crime. Yes. That is grounds to go to the police!”
“Let’s not overreact. Let the boys rest. After all, they are not strangers. They are devils we know if you want to put it that way.”
“Just lock your doors and take your pots inside when you finish cooking. They will next be looking for food.”
“And what is wrong with feeding them Josiah?”
“Have I finished feeding my wife and children? Am I the one that sent them to prison?”
“Be your brother’s keeper.”
“They are not my brothers! We all know what Wasiu brings. This Iniquity boy! Haven’t we also seen what he can do? He has looked for everybody’s trouble in this compound and even sold Ndifreke’s Keke. Who knows what he will do now that he has gone to mingle with more rogues! We should find a way to be rid of them!”
“And they came just when we got rid of the ghosts!”
“Evil is never far from number 225 that’s why.”
“We have not done any deliverance or prayers in this compound in recent times. That must be the cause.”
“How can we do deliverance and prayers again when our prayer warrior now fights over a man?”
“Yes that is true. Achike, what has your mother in law said about Sister Esther’s allegation?”
“Why are you asking me? Did they mention my name?”
“I just knew that that woman will bring trouble in this compound. Erm Kingsley, but is it true? You shine am?”
Mr. Kingsley looked up at Josiah and then looked away.
“This once I will say it is not our business,” Mr. Zubi said. “But you men should ensure nobody breaks anybody’s head. Let us enjoy some peace biko.”
“We have not concluded on Iniquity and Wasiu.”
“We will have to deal with what we see. For now, we can’t begrudge them of the sleep they clearly need.”
“You know, they have also released Magu from detention. He came out and said that all the allegations against him are nonsense. He said he was shocked to read them. That they were made to tarnish his image.”
“So that one too is claiming innocence.”
“Buhari suspended twelve directors of EFCC as well. They say it is not unconnected to the counter-accusations Magu has made against the Attorney-general. Some memos detailing the AG’s own corruption has been leaked. You know that it is the AG that is haunting down Magu. Accuses him of insubordination.”
“The truth is that they are all corrupt. When you begin to play the wrong politics they bring out your file. It is Magu’s turn now.”
“The DSS prior to his appointment had said he failed their integrity test. One of the allegations against him now is that he re-looted recovered loot. It doesn’t surprise that they kicked against his appointment in the first place.
“You know, we all thought the senate did not want him because he would go and expose their corruption. They were right about him all along. Buhari must be embarrassed.”
“They are still yet to prove anything. Something tells me that when that man begins to sing, Abuja will shake. You will see. In the end, they will let him go. People like that know too much and are often let off the hook for national peace and security. If they didn’t want him to go, they would not grant him bail after just ten days. Ask Dasuki.”
“Meanwhile the NDDC is burning. Madam Joi said Akpabio wanted to eat her work illegally and she slapped the nonsense out of him.”
“Akpabio sef! Upon all the fresh babes for this country and the ones they import, it is that old mama he went to harass!”
“She said it was his plan b when she would not give in to his demand that she did corrupt practices and take an oath. So Baba thought of the age-long tactics of using prick to reset brain. Unfortunately, he jammed a Port-Harcourt girl. Those people know only how to fight walahi.”
“Governor Wike is a living example. When police went to her house to go and kidnap her so she doesn’t testify at the House of Reps, Wike just showed and whisked her away. Mess with Port-Harcourt people at your own peril.”
“Wike sha! Action governor!”
“You know, the noose is tightening around Akpabio. Make that woman no just step foot for that House of Rep. This is not Akwa Ibom and their ‘yes sir’ mentality.”
“Mbok watch your mouth!” Mkpoilkanna said.
“So what is happening with the coronavirus? Did you hear that fifty-eight doctors were apprehended as they were about to board a chartered flight for the United Kingdom to go and work?”
“They stopped those ones but what of the others warming up to go? The UK medical council has now open doors for doctors around the world to go there and work. Just walk into the British council in your country and take an exam and piam, you are hired!”
“Chai, we go drink agbo tire.”
“Una never see anything yet. Doctors in Lagos just finished a warning strike. And you think they will not all run to London?”
“Infection figures now over 34,000 and 760 deaths. No new big man died this week.”
“May God help us o!”
Eyonyam put the baby to sleep and went about her chores as if nothing had happened. She cleaned the rooms and prepared breakfast for her daughter and her husband and then sat down to her own bread and tea. She saw Evae’s eyes following her and knew her daughter wanted a word, but she did not want to talk. What was there to say?
Sister Esther was not a problem. She was the churchwoman. She was the one people looked up to. Eyonyam knew that anyone that saw them both would understand why her man cheated anyway.
The real problem was Chisco. He somehow worked out who she was. Getting him to the rooftop was now out of the question. Making sure he did not drag her out and have her roasted on a stake was now her only objective.
As she worked and ate she continued to think. Then a flash of light entered her eyes. The thing with overconfident people was that they always made mistakes. It was brave of him to still have sex with her despite what he knew. But that was also stupid. There was never a sexual encounter without consequences. Chisco may know about witches and how to neutralize them, but he still was not one. Eyonyam was.
While she considered how to silence him she heard a rap on the door. Chisco had a unique way of announcing his presence. He drubbed on the door with his fingers and usually pushed it open before he was told to enter. Eyonyam pulled her wrapper up to expose more thighs and twiddled her own nipples till they were instantly bulging out of her blouse.
Chisco heard about Sister Esther’s strife with Eyonyam on the street on his way to the compound. It strengthed his resolve on what he needed to do. He entered the room and saw her first, read her seductive intents and then shouted “Amoosu! Witch! Pack your things comot for his house now!”
Eyonyam gasped and said, “Wetin you dey talk my in law?”
“I say pack ya load! You think say I no know?”
“Wait, bro Chisco, you well so?”
Chisco surged towards her and Eyonyam screeched and collapsed on the floor.
Achike rushed out of the room and met Chisco standing over Eyonyam.
“Pack and go!” Chisco howled.
“What is going on here?” Achike barked.
“Brother na witch. She be witch. She dey leave this house today.”
Eyonyam looked up at Achike and knew at once what she needed to do. She stood up and went behind Achike and held him from the back.
“My inlaw abeg help me. I no do anything. Bro Chisco no well.” As she said that she pressed her breasts against Achike who immediately began to stammer.
“Bia, Chi-chi-sco. What is it?”
“She be witch! She must go.”
“And what gave you the right to come to my house and do this?”
“Na because of wetin I see brother.”
“Ehen! When I thought you have reached the bus stop with my okrika this morning you are here making stupid claims!”
“Don’t brother me! I know what you always wanted with this woman. I am not a fool for keeping quiet. Because she did not let you you have come up with this nonsense.”
‘Brother no be nonsense I don even…”
“Shut up! Ngwa, get out. Dey go. Don’t let me see you here again!”
“Get out! Puo n’ulom!”
Chisco’s shoulders dropped and he looked at Eyonyam whose face was as if it was dipped in pepper, turned and left the room.
Eyonyam then spun around and held Achike in a tight embrace while she continued to cry. She held him long enough to feel his hardness against her belly. Then she slowly pulled away.
“So-sorry ma-my in-law. Ndo. The boy is mad,” Achike stammered.
“Thank you Bro Achike. Thank you.”
They heard a soft cough and both turned and saw Evae watching them.
“Darling, did you see Chisco? Did you see that buffoon?” Achike said and hobbled out of the room, hoping his wife did not look at him closely enough to see what he was trying to hide.
“I saw him,” Evae said with her gaze still firm on her mother.
“Pack your things” Evae said.
TO BE CONTINUED