The bank manager shook hands with Otunba. Close by, the driver held the door open. Otunba’s account officer waited by the manager, one step behind him. She unfolded her hands from her back but Otunba did not shake hands with her. He sank into the back of his Mercedes and let out the remainder of the fart he’d been letting out in sips.
‘We are going to the club.’
The driver took one hand off the steering to wave back at the manager who was still outside the bank with Otunba’s account manager, seeing the car off. Behind them, a black Toyota Camry with tinted windows started to pull out.
‘Hurry. I need to use the toilet.’
Prince returned the wine because the waiter had opened it before bringing it. He asked for new glasses too, because the ones set before him were for white wine, not red. He looked up and saw Otunba unravelling his agbada to throw it over his shoulders again; the usual way he announced his arrival. Otunba nodded back and walked round the bar to the toilets.
‘Sir, what about this one?’
The waiter had brought a bottle of wine that he presented like a fishmonger showing a prize catch.
‘It’s alright. Don’t open it. Wait. Don’t go away.’
Otunba emerged from the restrooms, grappling with his agbada over his head. He twirled it round his hand as he walked, and handed it to the nearest waiter who had but to take it.
‘I see you have ordered,’ he said. ‘Ah, Carlo Rossi. Good.’
When the waiter had left, Prince began his rehearsed lines.
‘Otunba, I spoke to the party members today…’
‘And what are they saying? Do they still want me to run?’
‘It is not that straightforward. I spoke to them today and…’
‘They want me to step down for Alhaji Abiodun?’
‘It’s not that simple…I spoke to them…’
‘I have told them, ‘refund my expenses to date and then we can talk’.’
‘Otunba, let me try and explain it. I spoke…’
‘There is nothing to explain. Nothing more to discuss, in fact. I have done my accounts. If they want to talk to me, I will talk to them, but only after they refund my expenses.’
‘Prince, forget them. Let us eat first.’
‘Otunba, they won’t let you run.’
‘How can they stop me? Ehn? How?’
The driver decided to run across the road to buy roasted corn. They had been out since seven; he had been up since five. They had been to Mushin, to visit Otunba’s spiritual adviser, then to Apongban, to see his Imam, then Tantalizers in VI, then the bank. They got to the club at eleven; it was four pm now.
‘Anyway,’ Otunba said as he washed egusi soup off his hands into a bowl held before him by a waiter, ‘Kike’s illness has assured me victory. When they sent cancer to my house, they thought it would kill me, they didn’t know they were shooting themselves in their legs.’
‘Madam’s illness started in London.’
‘Is that what you believe? Is that what they are saying?’
‘Otunba, you asked me to talk to them and I have. They don’t want you to run. My advice is for you to step down.’
‘Prince, what are you saying? I should step down? After all the money I have spent? After they have tried to kill me? See my Kike? That cancer she has was meant for me, you know? Step down? After all that money?’
‘If they can do that to your wife, what will they do to you?’
‘They can’t do anything. They have done their worst and my head has rejected it. It is just sad that Kike is still following her born again people. That’s why the protection I did for her did not work. But she will survive this, and I will collect my money back.’
‘My father taught me something. He said, whenever I want to leave to use the toilet, I must finish my drink before getting up.’
‘You cannot be too careful. Be vigilant. You don’t know what these people can do.’
‘Don’t worry, Prince. I know this game better than them.’
The driver saw Otunba and his friend in the mirror. He hid the rest of his roasted corn in the glove compartment and licked his teeth clean.
Suzy watched from the window. She hissed and made a call when the Mercedes drove into her compound.
‘Uncle, he is here o.’
‘Ok. Thanks. Keep him there till tomorrow.’
‘Ah. Tomorrow ke? Me, I want to go out o. They said the man has AIDS, how can he stay till tomorrow and he will not touch me?’
‘Use a condom.’
‘I should use condom? Ehn? I should use condom? If I am your sister, is that what you would say? I should use condom?’
‘Suzy, we don’t know that he has HIV or not. It is just a rumour started by his opponents.’
‘They say his wife has almost died finish.’
‘She has cancer.’
‘They say it is AIDS.’
‘It is not.’
‘How do you know? Are you a doctor?’
‘Just keep him there. I will settle you tomorrow.’
‘Prince, me I am tired of all this oh.’
‘Keep him till tomorrow.’
Police officers disembarked from a station wagon before it had come to a stop. Their arrival frightened the workmen across the quiet road in Magodo. Behind them, a bullet proof Range Rover also stopped. Another convoy sped down the road from the other end. The darkened windows of the adjacent SUVs slid down and the men in the backseats had a conversation.
Otunba told the driver to go and get himself something to eat and be back in twenty minutes. The driver watched him enter the house then made a phone call.
‘Sir, we are at Aunty Suzy’s house.’
‘Good. Let me know when you leave.’
It was too late to get amala at the Buka on the adjacent street. The other place the driver knew in the area was Mr Biggs, so he stayed in the car. He also needed to pee. He searched the car park in the rear view mirror. There was only one other car in the compound; a black Camry.
‘Sir, it is me, Mutiu. Alhaji Abiodun’s driver. You gave me your number sir.’
‘Oh, yes. How are you? I promised to add to the thing I gave you the other day.’
‘Yes sir. Sir, I am not calling to remind you sir.’
‘Ok. But I have not forgotten you. Where is your boss?’
‘We just left Magodo, sir. You said I should call you when we see the party chairman.’
‘Are they meeting now?’
‘Sir, they have already met.’
‘Really? Did they mention my friend?’
‘Yes sir. Should I come to your house to tell you what they discussed?’
‘That’s not necessary. Do you have a bank account?’
‘Send me the details and I will send you something.’
‘Thank you sir.’
Otunba emerged from Suzy’s block of flats. The driver checked the time; he could have walked to Adeniji Adele and be back in the two hours Otunba had been inside.
Traffic from the Island had subsided. He drove as quickly as he could without having to use the horn to move slower vehicles out of the way. If Otunba did not complain, they would be back in VGC by ten thirty and he would get to his own home before midnight.
‘I will need you at five o’clock sharp tomorrow morning,’ Otunba said. He left the door open for the driver to close.
The driver started his walk out of the estate. None of Otunba’s friends had given him any dash. He would have to pay his bus fare to Maryland from the N200 he had started the day with. He remembered the roasted corn. He checked his pockets for he couldn’t remember collecting his change. He cursed and stopped in the middle of the road. Hands on hips, he considered his options. He would have to return and sleep in the night guard’s post.
The black Camry drove past Otunba’s house and stopped down the road. The doors remained shut.
At one am, a patrol van drove past the Camry, past Otunba’s house, and continued round the bend.
A man stepped out of the Camry and walked to the house. The night guard’s snore stopped at its top. The man continued to the front door, four bullets left in his revolver.
Otunba woke. He listened to his wife’s faint breathing and rose quietly out of bed. He went to the next room, turned the handle, and looked back at his door. He switched on the light to wake the nurse, in case she had fallen asleep.
In the dark foyer, the gunman held out his gun hand and his spare hand to remember which side was left. He found the housemaid’s door and tested the lock.
He climbed the stairs, three bullets left.
He stopped on the landing when he saw light under a door. He held out his hand and went to the other door.
The room was dark but he made out a shape under sheets. It was too small to be him. He backed up to the wall and waited next to the door.
The nurse clenched her fists on the duvet and pretended to sleep. Otunba peeled the duvet up from her legs and climbed onto the bed. He placed his hands on her thighs and tried to push her legs apart. She stiffened. He pinched her and she kicked and turned, her eyes squinting to the light. He put a finger to his lips.
‘I’m on my period,’ she said, trying to sound drowsy.
‘I will use a condom.’ He pulled his night pants down and stroked himself.
‘Where is it?’
‘I will go and get it.’
‘Go and get it.’
He rubbed her legs, his hands moving upwards. She squeezed her thighs tighter. He kneaded her butt and rolled off the bed.
‘Go and wash up. I’ll be back shortly.’
Otunba opened his door and walked to his side of the bed. He listened to his wife then pushed his hand under the mattress. He took a condom out of his wallet and put the wallet back under the mattress. He turned and saw the man pointing a gun at him.
Otunba jumped onto the bed and dragged his wife’s frail body onto himself. She woke up groaning.
The gunman switched on the light and she saw him too. She gasped.
Otunba peeped and felt the gun’s aim on him. ‘Please, don’t shoot. I beg you, don’t shoot.’
The gunman tried to aim.
‘Please, I beg you in the name of God, please, don’t shoot.’
The wife watched, stretched into a shield by her husband. The gunman backed to the open door, stepped out, his gun still on them. He knocked on the opposite door.
‘Don’t come out,’ Otunba shouted, but the nurse opened her door and the gunman took aim.
Otunba remained behind his wife, denying the assassin a clean shot. He begged for his life, and cried, and begged some more, but the gun kept seeking his head. He took a deep breath, filling himself with his fate, and pushed his wife away.
‘Wait. Not yet.’
The man lowered his gun.
‘I know who sent you. I know I cannot pay you not to do what you have come to do. You see that picture there? There is a safe behind it. Take the money inside. I am hiring you to kill the person who sent you.’
The gun raised and a bullet puffed through its silencer. The gun panned to the wife.
‘You bastard,’ she said. ‘You were meant to kill him outside the house.’
Photo by Todd