Ndifreke woke up the following morning and got ready and went and opened the office before Irikefe and Castro even woke up. He sat in meditation for fifteen minutes before he got a broom and swept the floor and found a rag and cleaned the table and the chairs. He noticed that Irikefe had also put a bench in the frontage. They expected to have people waiting often so it was thoughtful to make the bench a part of their furniture.
Irikefe and Castro sauntered in an hour later.
“Ah bros! You early o!” Irikefe said.
“Bros even sweep, clean everywhere,” Castro said.
“You’re both late,” Ndifreke said.
Irikefe and Castro looked at each other.
“And you are poorly dressed.” Both boys were wearing shorts and tops they wore about in the compound.
“And I bet you haven’t even brushed your teeth, not to talk of having your bath.”
“Erm bros…” Irikefe began.
“I see you don’t get it yet. Now let me tell you. This is a business and jobs for you both and you will take it seriously. Resumption time is nine and we close at four. Castro you will come at 8:30 so that you can clean the office. I want you both dressing better than this. Dress like you are going to work!”
“Yes boss,” they said in unison.
“So I’ll give you thirty minutes to go and get ready and come back.”
By the time they returned, smartly dressed in shirts and trousers and a pair of loafers and sneakers respectively, they met the girl from the previous day seated before Ndifreke.
“If you don’t mind young lady, please wait outside. I’ll call you back in shortly.”
“Okay sir,” she said and stepped out of the office.
“Sit, both of you.”
“So what happened with that girl?”
“Mtcheeew. That one! She no get respect and I put am for her place,” Irikefe said.
“I see,” Ndifreke said.
“Yes boss. We don’t want people thinking we are playing here. I surprise say she even get mind waka come back.”
“Right. Now I know she told the truth. You were wrong in your behaviour and uncouth with your words. You body-shamed her above all. Very wrong.”
“Bros na. Ordinary good morning she no fit talk.”
“She is your customer! We opened this place so that people can come in and work with us. Without them, we are nothing! Who now should greet who first?”
“Are you keeping quiet? It takes nothing! And you don’t call a lady all those names! Do you know how much confidence it takes to consider oneself good enough to be a model and you come and do that to her? You could destroy her self esteem! And worst, I see a beautiful girl. It speaks to your sense of judgment!”
“Bros. Beautiful? Okay. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”
“You will not speak to another customer like that. And be kind to women guys. Be gentlemen.
“Now as a policy, when anyone comes in here we will greet them first. Good morning sir, ma, how may we be of help. Those are the first words I want out of every mouth here when someone comes through that door. Is that understood?”
Irikefe and Castro looked at each other again.
“Do you understand what I said?”
“Yes boss,” they said in unison.
“Good. So now, we will call the lady back in and we will attend to her professionally. Do better by apologizing for yesterday, Irikefe. Young lady! Please come in.”
Irikefe stood, bowed repeatedly and said “Good morning ma. We are happy to see you ma. How may we be of help today ma!”
The girl smiled and the three men smiled too.
Ndifreke waited for Irikefe to apologise.
“You do have a nice smile actually,” Irikefe said. “Sorry about yesterday. I been dey hungry. You are beautiful.”
It was more than everyone expected. The girl beamed. Ndifreke heaved a sigh. Throughout their exchanges, from then on he paid close attention to Irikefe. He did seem to have taken to the girl.
“So I’m Bunmi Sani. I’m eighteen. I’m a student of LAUTECH. All I want in life is to be a model. Maya is my inspiration and I am hoping to work with her someday.”
Bunmi was tall and slender with dimples and smooth dark skin. Rather than the skinny jeans of the day before, she wore a dress and a belt over it which accentuated her tiny waist and narrow hips. Ndifreke did not see any knocked knees.
“Alright everyone. We will be signing Bunmi up. Congratulations Bunmi, you are our first model. We will invite you for the contract signing after which we will contact you if there are any jobs that suit your profile.”
“Oh thank you Ndifreke! This is a dream come true!”
“You’re welcome. Tomorrow we will go to the studio for a photoshoot. We are developing an album for our models. As our first, I want you also to be our poster girl, so your best picture will grace the front of this premises.”
“Oh my god! I’m honoured! I hope I deserve this. I’ll make you proud. I promise I will.”
“Just be good. People will recognize you as our model and you have to carry yourself well. We’re partners now. If you need anything aside from money for now you let us know. If you are going out of town you let us know as well.”
The money part made them all laugh. Then Bunmi said “The money will come in Jesus name.”
“Amen,” they all said in unison.
“Okay take this form and fill it out and bring it along with you tomorrow,” Ndifreke said and handed her a form.
“Thank you sir. Thank you guys. I don’t even know your names!”
“That’s shameful that we all didn’t introduce ourselves. This is Irikefe and this is Castro. We are a team.”
“Nice to meet you both. Bye. See you tomorrow.”
When she left, Irikefe ran after her to collect her phone number.
On his return, Ndifreke said “Well done. We have to develop standard operating procedures to ensure we do things right. Imagine introducing yourselves at the end of a meeting and running after a client for their phone number after they have left!”
“Bros, I don’t think Irikefe was collecting her number for official reasons. Afterall she is coming back tomorrow. I swear I see something inside my guy eye.”
“I’d have objected if you hadn’t been so unkind to her yesterday. Buy her a drink when she comes tomorrow. It will make her feel better. Then stay professional. We don’t want to be distracted.”
“Of course boss,” Irikefe said.
Even as they spoke Irikefe found Bunmi on WhatsApp and texted “ Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.”
Eyonyam straightened up fully, cocked her head to one side and squinted her eyes.
“Say that again,” she said to her daughter.
Evae’s eyes darted about the room as her confidence flagged. But she managed to repeat herself: “I want you to leave Mama.”
Eyonyam went closer to her and put the back of her hand on her forehead and said: “No wonder. You are unwell.”
“I am perfectly fine Mama. I don’t want you here anymore.”
“What did you smoke?”
“Shut up your little wretch! Who do you think you are?”
“Mama see what you are doing!”
“I know what I am doing!”
“No you don’t! We were alright! Everything was fine and all of a sudden you said you wanted a life. What then did you do? You go and sleep with somebody’s husband. Then you go fooling around with Chisco and now he has figured you out. If those are not bad enough Mama, you seduce my husband under my nose!”
“One. Kingsley is not Esther’s husband. He told me he did not care about her. She wants to trap him with a pregnancy he did not want. Two, I was not fooling around with Chisco. He has been after me since I came back from Kpalime following your father’s burial. As for your husband, it was the only way I could ensure he saved me from Chisco!”
“Did you see what it did to him? what do you think will happen now?”
“Nothing will happen. I will never sleep with your husband. You know that.”
“I don’t know anything!”
“Now listen. I may have my faults but it does not take away from the fact that you are a nobody in this country and you cannot live here alone. Yes, you found a Nigerian husband and you have borne him a child. But just like Chisco just attempted, one thing goes wrong and they will throw you away and take your child. Now if you think because things are rosy today and you have nothing to worry about that you can do something as stupid as what you just attempted, you are making a mistake. Things will not always be like this. One day you will find the need to enter somebody’s head and someone will suspect you for what you are and from then on you will understand how far away from home you are. Now go and have your bath and let me show you how to bath your baby so I can have some more time for myself!”
“No one will figure me out! I have a husband and will not be sleeping around! You have been found out because you cannot keep your legs closed!”
“If you did not have a baby, I’d have slapped you.”
“Slap me! Slap me, mama!”
“I know what I have to do.”
“What you have to do is to find your own man if you must! Leave Kingsley alone! Avoid Chisco! And please stay far from my husband!”
“Just don’t forget why we came here. Your father’s footprints are everywhere. You are not only at risk because you are a witch, you are also an alien and you don’t know what might get into these people tomorrow. Don’t try that nonsense next time.”
“My husband will never get you out of his mind now! Can’t you see? You have ruined my life!”
“I will never sleep with your husband. You should worry more that he has such urges whilst sharing a bed with you. Don’t put your life into this thing you silly girl. Men will always be men. Now if you will excuse me.”
Evae went back to her room and fell on the bed and buried her face in a pillow and wept.
Eyonyam went to the corner of the backyard where the masons that had renovated the house left a pile of wood and cement and other materials and extracted a piece of cloth she hid there.
It was a handkerchief with Chisco’s semen mixed with her vaginal secretion.
It was time to show the bastard who was boss.
The men did not gather until evening as the caretaker’s new job meant they would now not be having free mornings. Just as the previous day, the first topic of discussion was Iniquity and Wasiu.
“They woke up and went to the backyard and carried the bucket of water my wife kept for me and my soap-dish and went and washed that rotten body. It was Iniquity that did that. Wasiu begged Willy-willy for a bucket and bar soap which he used. But that Iniquity just grabbed the first thing his hand touched and it was my things!” Josiah lamented.
“Them go beg my wife food for shop,” Mama Cowbell’s husband said. “She give them rice and beans no meat. Iniquity say she must give am meat. She no want problem so she give am one pomo.”
“After that they went back to sleep. Is this what we will be seeing in this compound? Ehn, Irikefe?” Josiah said.
“His parents are moving in today or tomorrow morning. Then at least he will have a bucket to use and he will eat his mother’s food.”
“What of Wasiu?”
“I already told you I don’t know. One of you said he is Wasiu’s guest. Until he enters someone’s room to sleep uninvited then we will know what to do.”
“So Alfa is really coming back?”
“Yes. And someone has rented the rooms opposite theirs.”
“The Inspector’s rooms?”
“Yes. Maya took the rooms.”
“Maya is coming back.”
The thought of Maya returning to the compound only to take the least appealing room – ground floor, close to the backyard, opposite the Alfa’s chaotic family with Iniquity in it filled Ndifreke with dread. He thought of everything she would be exposed to. He remembered how Iniquity gained access to the empty room on his arrival. That was how easily he would gain access to Maya’s. He thought about the time he assaulted Josephine. Not even Chisco with his brute force could contain him. How could he go to sleep in his vantage top floor domain knowing Maya, carrying his baby was sleeping opposite a psychopath!
He would not let that happen to her.
“I’ll be moving to the two rooms downstairs so that Maya can take my upstairs rooms when she comes,” Ndifreke announced.
“Abasi mbok!” Mkpoikanna protested.
“Love nwantinti,” someone in the gathering said.
“I am not with Maya anymore. But I care about her safety. You all know what I mean.”
“Da owo! Safety mmi eh?” Mkpoikanna cried in ibibio.
“We are men. We will be fine,” Ndifreke said.
“That is very kind of you Ndifreke, even though we understand your motive. But why doesn’t she just move in with you? You both will save the rent money,” Mr Zubi said.
“I already said we are not together anymore. She will have her sister living with her and her brother someday who knows. And I have Mkpoikanna-Abasi with me. We lead separate lives.”
“But we must tackle this Iniquity problem. He cannot be bigger than all of us. We do actually have grounds to report him now.”
“Yes we do.”
“What do you say Irikefe?”
“You all know I don’t want him.”
“If his father is coming back today or tomorrow as you said, then we should talk to him. We should tell him to either rein his son in or be prepared for trouble. There’s no person who does not have madness. We are not stupid because we chose to have self-control and respect for others,” Josiah said.
“I agree with Josiah. If we pull together and say enough is enough, we will take care of this Iniquity or whatever he calls himself. He has not even started with us yet as it is. Imagine when he has finished resting and then begins his nefarious activities. He is not paying my rent and so should not have any power over me and my family. We should not live in fear,” Achike said.
“Alright then. As soon as Alfa comes we talk to him. We should even bring the Iniquity here himself. Who is he by the way?” Irikefe said.
There was silence within the group until Ndifreke said “Mr. Cosmas, last week Bishop Oyedepo returned to the tithe issue. He said those that do not pay tithe are under a curse. Just when we thought these Pastors now know that we are not falling for this thing again he comes up with that.”
“I have addressed this issue before but I think I should again for those who do not remember. Without dwelling too much on it, please folks, tithing as a commandment has nothing to do with Christianity. Malachi 3:10 is wrongly interpreted and it is not for us. If Christians have to obey that law, then they must obey all the laws as commanded. But surely they cannot. They will only hang on to that one so that they continue to fleece the ignorant.
“But there is something important I want you to know about this. There are people who pay tithe and it works for them. Some like Oyedepo have experienced this, and for this reason, they are adamant that it is the correct thing and their teachings the truth. But what actually happens is that they are manipulating the laws of nature to satisfy their appetite for money. The law of sowing and reaping is woven into the fabric of the universe. If you give, you will be given in return. It is an inexorable law of the Father. Christ even confirmed this in Luke 6:38…Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. But that does not mean you spend the rest of your life playing the laws like Baba Ijebu. Giving has to be from the kindness of your heart and to a noble cause or to help the needy!
“Many who pay tithe also do not get in return because there are other laws and influences at play their pastors do not even know. Some are still passing through the crucibles such that the money they are paying are going to settling debt they do not even know they owe, such that they may never get to reap anything in this lifetime. Look and observe. The give-give-give prosperity merchants are some of the most wicked people in the society. Because they are always expecting, they are the ones who will go and testify in the church of how money from nowhere entered their account and they used it to solve their problems when they should be returning it! They are the ones who will be giving thanks for blessings they did not work for without realising that they are making someone somewhere suffer for an honest mistake. That is because to them, any money that crosses their path is the reward for the lottery they play in the name of tithing. They have become servants of mammon!
“Their ignorant pastors will then give banal explanations to those ones who do not see wonders when they part with their money. That is because they know nothing about the laws! When Christ told his disciples that there was so much more he could have told them but that they would not understand but that he would send a helper, the spiritually indolent all believe that it was the “Holy Spirit” that came on the day of the Pentecost in Acts 2. My question to them is, what is the new thing that this your holy spirit has taught you? Today Christians who claim to have received the Holy Spirit will blab of how the holy spirit leads them to scriptures and whatnot. But the promise was of him to lead men to ALL TRUTHS! Truths other than what you read in your scriptures! Open the eyes of your heart. You do not know it all!
“It is even more pathetic that these people equate their refusal to examine other teachings as holiness. They think they are being loyal to their God that way. But it is spiritual indolence! They will continue to give and not receive and not know why. They will continue to suffer misfortune and cry why me without knowing why!
“But let he who has an ear, hear. Seek brethren, and ye shall find!”
“So Mr Cosmas, what then is the job of the Holy Spirit which born again Christians receive?” Ndifreke asked.
“Which Holy Spirit? If you think you carry the spirit of God within you you are joking. No one does. Yes, there is a spirit within you. But that is a story for another day.”
Mr Cosmas finished talking and they started talking about politics when Iniquity and Wasiu came out of the compound and joined the gathering. Wasiu was his usual jovial self, he greeted everyone and slapped their backs fondly, but Iniquity looked like he was going to snuff life out of somebody at any moment. His facial features had hardened in prison and he now had a scar on his upper lip. His hair was full and tangled. He was obviously growing dreadlocks.
“I thought they made them shave their heads in prison,” Castro whispered to Irikefe.
“I thought so too. But we have come to see that everything is possible with this guy.”
No one looked at him in the eyes. Josiah even stood up and gave him his seat.
“Welcome, Mr. Iniquity. Ah han. Long time. You must be tired. Oya come and seat.”
“You see this coward?” Castro whispered to Irikefe.
“Just calm down.”
“Ehen! As we were saying. The House of Reps summoned Akpabio over the former NDDC MD’s allegation,” Mr Zubi said.
“Yes. He has already said he did not sexually harass her. He said he is satisfied with his wife.”
“I will like to see his wife’s face when he said that.”
“Did you see Oshiomhole campaigning for Ize-Iyamu in Edo? The same man he called a thief and cultist four years ago!”
“If by now there is anyone here who does not know that politicians are dogs I sorry for that person. What a shame.”
“Obaseki should win. It will be a nail in the coffin of political godfatherism Nigeria needs to see. What should have happened in Lagos with Ambode.”
“Of course he will win. PDP has Wike as campaign chairman. Mess with that guy at your own peril.”
“But you know APC has the courts. I won’t be surprised that after spending billions in the election it is the Supreme court that will eventually give them a governor.”
“Me I don’t care. I just want us to beat Man U this night.” Wasiu said. “Arsenal has given us hope. Abeg Mr Zubi I fit come watch for your house?”
“Erm, I don’t have the required DSTV package.”
Wasiu shrugged and said “Okay na. I go enter viewing center.”
Just then the Alfa, his wife, and each of his nine children all carrying one household item or the other filed into the compound.
“Wait o! Na for head this people wan carry all their load come?” Castro said.
The Alfa had two parts of his dismantled bed. His wife carried one part. Each of the children carried either a chair or pot or stove or water storing drums on their heads. The smallest ones carried pots and pans. His two grandchildren, one of which was Iniquity’s two-year-old son carried a stack of plastic containers.
“Wait o! No be shit bowl those small ones dey carry so?”
“Na him na. Dem get another work?” Irikefe said.
“Where are they coming from?”
“The mosque of course.”
“We are in trouble. And their first son is here watching and not offering to help.”
Iniquity was not interested in anything that was going on. He had his eyes firmly on Jide Falomo. Iniquity waited for him to get up. When he did and started walking he became sure.
Jide noticed the man that had been staring at him all evening. He had heard about him. But in 225 Katakata Street where everyone knew everything about everyone, he wondered why no one mentioned anything about his sexuality. When he entered the corridor and got to his door, Jide waited on instinct. Sure enough, Iniquity sauntered in after him. Jide recognized the movement as well. A giver. A powerful one, he could tell. But Jide was not that man any more.
So he pushed the door and entered before Iniquity came any closer to him. Funbi was there waiting for him. He hurriedly removed his clothes and scooped her from the floor where she was studying and took her to the bedroom.
“You’re all I want,” he breathed as he took off her clothes.
“You’re all I will ever want.”
TO BE CONTINUED.