CHAPTER THREE ⃝ THE SUBTLE BLACKMAIL

ǁǁǁ Leaving his blasted office, I drove straight home and marched into my studio; changing into my work clothes and smearing colors on prepared canvas unconsciously; all the while in deep thoughts about the man I thought was an excellent retirement prospect. How could I have been stirred so wrong? Who was he really? How did he know so much? Why did he come to me? Surely I was not the only digger in the Capital city. Well, maybe the best……but still.

The outcome after five hours of color smearing was an abstract painting that was questioning me. Looking at it now, there was no message. Another artistic crap. I stopped and went to take a long swim in the pool. That relaxed my nerves and got me feeling better in minutes. I knew I would hear from him again and soon. Until then, worrying was not going to help. Got out of the pool, toweled my impressive figure and headed straight to the pool bar. Drinks and nuts minutes later and I went to take a shower.

Stroking Tessy’s head as she slept peacefully beside me on my large bed; staring and admiring my abs and voluptuous curve in black lace undies in the mirror above my bed; one thing was clear.

Akhmed Danjuma Bricks found me out, I did not.

The continuous rhythmic buzz told me Uche was at the door for the hot gossip; I dragged myself off the bed and went to open the door without peeping. Tessy was already at the door wagging. Only Uche and Tony knew this house and with this buzz, even Tessy knew it was Uche. That brought smiles to my face. She was going to grill me on every detail for sure. So sad I couldn’t tell her anything real. Pushing the thought out of my mind, I opened the door.

“Akhmed???” I was out of breath the moment I opened the door to see him standing on my doorstep in casual jeans and blue polo. Of course he was wearing 212 for men-eyes roaming like MTN. The slamming of the door shook the whole house as I ran back for a robe; Tessy momentarily confused then ran after me. My face was hot. What was he doing here? How did he know my house? Too much questions and I was PISSED!!! Pulling my navy blue robe from the wardrobe, I threw it on and marched back.

Angrily snatching the door open, he spoke before I ordered him gone. Wetin sef!!! See me standing in my lace bikini with uncombed hair. I hate being caught off guard jor. Mtcheeew.

“I came to apologize. Obviously I wasn’t a gentleman” he said holding a finger up and awkwardly keeping a straight face. Sure he found it hilarious but did not make reference to my state of dressing.

“Go on” I said crossing my arms while Tessy was wagging her bushy tail looking from me to the calm stranger. Traitor Tessy.

“I’m sorry for making that statement about your father, offering to pay you to marry my father and coming to your house uninvited” he said bending to pick up Tessy. The heavy bark that came out from the little animal got him taking a step back to take another look. Good one Tessy I thought and beamed.

“Come in” I said picking up Tessy and walking to the kitchen. She needed a drink for a job well done. Dropped her in her room and rushed to my room to put on a long white night shirt with “gŎŎd nIGHt” largely written across my chest and a pair tights-check prints. Finger-combed my hair into a bun and headed to my sitting room a little frazzled.

“Nice paintings” he commented as I walked back to the sitting room totally at ease. He did a quick appraisal. I did not mind.

“Like anyone in particular?” I asked standing by him as we looked at a work I had done some years back. Of course he didn’t know that.

“I like this one, the turmoil in the mind creating chaos all around him and he vents out in a roar” he said after a long study. I was impressed. That was the message.

“You are lucky, it is on sale” I said walking to the bar to pour a Frontera. Something told me the night was just starting. He had come to use the subtle approach. I was on guard.

“Hahaha! I’d love to” he said coming over at my signal for his glass.

“You should have a look at my gallery sometime. I know you are not here for just a drink and say good company?” it was rhetorical.

“You caught me. I’d like to talk to you about my proposal again” he said with a stress before taking a sip.

“What is the problem? Financial trouble and dad wants to disown you?” I asked suspiciously.

The look in his eyes gave him away. I had played around and opened the Pandora’s box.

“Can we seat?” he asked.

“Why not? Please” I said indicating he could sit on the violet single arm cushion. An art piece Uche and I picked out for a make-over. The pure white walls and black glazing marble tiles throughout the house had to contrast all furniture and decors.

“How much do you know about the Bricks?” he asked taking a comfortable position.

“Old money, Kingmakers. Always wondered where the “Bricks” came from though” I said taking another relaxed sip. It was pretense. My back hair was all up.

“My great grandfather dealt in red bricks so he got the name Mai Jan’Laka in his community. My granddad got it translated into English when the Missionaries came. He thought it revelation, like Peter the rock, he was Dan’Ladi Jan’Laka that is Dan’Ladi Bricks. He made it a brand. Sold mostly clothes, distilled local  perfumes and loaned out large sums with interest while his numerous wives and concubines tended to the field. He made good sales to local agents gathering crops for exports. My Dad helped build the brand and established it. I’m sure he will tell you about it someday. It gets people raising their ears” he said with a smile that came from knowing you have an interesting history.

“So what is burning?” I asked all the while nodding and smiling. It was time to get to the crux of the matter. He lost the smile.

“I’m about to be disowned. Meaning lost inheritance, frozen assets, business cancellations, foreclosures…..the list is endless. Should my business competitors get a wind of this? I will lose everything I have worked for” he said sadly looking into his drink as if down at the bottom he would see the solution. He stared long and hard.

“I am listening” I said detached.

“I am not the son of Ali Kyari Bricks” he finally let out in hot breathe.

“Adopted?” I asked totally keeping the shock off my face and voice.

“No. A product of an affair with my father’s sworn enemy; Alhaji Yerima Dotun” he said as if I knew who he was. I didn’t ask. I looked on. He continued.

“It was my mother’s way of getting back at my father for denying her position on the board of trustees and neglecting her. Plus an affair with a “white woman” crowned her unreserved hatred for him. Don’t ask me how they got together” he said with another sip. His glass was almost empty now.

“Rather deep. How did he find out?” I was not about to be judgmental. You all know what I do for a living……oook! I have two jobs. Give me a break.

“My father has recently declared me an “enemy of state”, threatening to freeze my trust fund and all. Having a grave site as a point of contact with the one person who can give me answers and who is responsible for this chaos does not help either. What was she thinking post-dating a confession from the grave on the old man’s 50th birthday? What good was it? The enemy is dead. She is dead! I am guessing she didn’t like me every much” he said squeezing his forehead. I was pretty sure childhood thoughts floated around now.

I should get a private investigator……To-Do-List.

“Have you taken a DNA test?” I tried another angle.

“The moment he got the delivery, it was a matter of a visit to the doctors. Do you know she actually gave her lawyers the mandate to deliver the parcel on his 50th birthday? My God! She had it all figured out. A long letter of destruction. If you ask me, I will say she really wasn’t a mother. She was a power-starved demon” he concluded downing the entire liquid in the glass. His eyes had gone red with the excessive rubbing and squeezing. His mother sure knew how to “scr**w”. Sorry for the choice of word. Guess we all have our sad stories

Tip #5:  Do not fall for sad stories, real heart wrenching ones too. Stay aloof. Take all the emotions in and go “Life is unfair. Deal with it”

“Do you have anything stronger?” he asked looking at me with the reddest of eyes.

“I do” I made to get him a bottle of Vat 69, blended.

“Thanks” he said quietly as I came back and handed him the chilled bottle. I did not bother asking him the results of the test. We won’t be having this discussion if it were negative.

“So you came up with the plan of getting him married? Why marriage?” I asked after a while.

“Knowing my father, when he is hurt and betrayed by family, he trusts the next neutral person with a lot of his assets. Moreover, I overheard a discussion with his close friend Dr. Lanre Onilenla; he seems to be ready for “love” now before it is too late. In his words that is. A new wife to him will validate the fact that he is lovable and not because of his worth” he said rolling his eyes as if the old man had lost it.

“And you don’t believe in love or the possibility that he can be loved without his worth being a motivation” I said noticing his long slender fingers gripping the glass.

“I didn’t say so” he said looking up.

“You certainly think so” I pressed with a quiet smile. He shrugged.

“With his new found “cause”, he will throw himself to grooming her to take over from him. I need that woman in my corner” he said suddenly losing the pity-party posture and sitting up.

I was beginning to see where he was going.

“So you need the wife to be your Queen on the board” I summed.

“Not in actual sense. But yes, I need her on my side and use her new status to fostering my investments. I have worked too hard and too long to see this fail. I can’t and won’t have it”. He declared with new determination.

“Why did you pick me? Assuming of course that I’m the only recruit” I asked with a resolve to ask as many questions as I could without getting attached. It was a gift and since discovered staying unattached helps me stay ahead.

Tip #5B:  Everyone has got a truck load of shit. Don’t be the dump ground.

“You are my first recruit. You fascinate me” he said with a forced smile.

“We know that’s not it. You have my” file” remember?” I said jokingly. He laughed.

“That was necessary. However I have got a good feeling about you. If anyone can pull this off, you can” he looked quite convinced. Motivational prep talk101. Sannu Akhmed mai speaker.

Opening my mouth to a reply, the doorbell interrupted.

I wasn’t sure who was at my door, seeing that I was slow in my detective prowess tonight.

“Excuse me” I said springing up. I used the peep hole this time. It was Uche.

I opened the door.

“Hey you” she said cheerily with a hug.

“Look at you! Where are you headed?” I asked taken back by her appearance. Gosh! Mini gowns ought to be reappraised. She oozed sexual appeal.

“See wetin bankers dey wear for night o….I bin tink say una go still dey wear dat una eva-lasting uniform go dinner na” I teased with a wicked throaty laugh. She shooed me and rolled her eyes.

“Got a date, told him to pick me up from here” she giggled mischievously letting herself in.

“And you gave him my address?!!!” I asked wide eyes with a shout. Now I know why I was suddenly getting “new” visitors. Her quietness told me she had seen Akhmed.

“Hello” she said politely; standing and awaiting introductions. Akhmed was already up.

“Hello, I’m Akhmed” he did the honors with a hand shake.

“Uche” she said with a big smile and returned the handshake enthusiastically.

“My bestie” I added coming to stand with them.

“So you have a man over!” it was Uche’s way of teasing me and helping my “cause”. She need not have.

“You don’t have men over?” Akhmed asked raising an eyebrow at me. That explained opening the door in undies.

“Don’t ask me” I made a face.

“I should take my leave” he said after an awkward silence. We had to continue this another time obviously.

“Don’t leave on my account” Uche said heading to pour herself a glass of champagne-Courvoisier.

“More can’t be said tonight. Dinner tomorrow night?” He asked facing me. Uche looked from the bar. Ofofo!!!

“Sure” I replied easily to which Uche cleared her loud throat. Akhmed laughed, his cute adam’s apple doing a little flip.

“Good night Uche. It was a great honour to meet with you” he said in his usual style. She beamed. I saw him to the door.

“So I pick you up by 6pm? We have a lot to talk about. A lot to do in little time. Sooner will be better” he pressed one last time in low voice. I knew what he meant. He needed to know if I was on board or not.

“I understand”

“Ok. Good Night Didi”

“Night Akhmed”

He walked to gate and I stared after his tall departing self. His walk was striking as was his looks. Sad he wasn’t going to be the Mine. I was drawn to him and deep down I knew I was going to agree to his plans. God help me. Adamu of course had let him in based on some language exchange. I will have a talk with him in the morning.

I closed the door.

“So, So, dish dish” Uche was quick to get down to business.

“Well, he seems to be biting, dinner tomorrow. He is hooked. We are in business” I said in winks and beaming smiles.

“Tell me story jor. Wich one be biting and dinner. How did he get here?” she asked the obvious question to which I did not have an answer.

“He followed me home” was the most reasonable answer I could come up with. I hope that part was true.

“Ehen, so una meeting go well be that na” she grilled eyeing me with wicked laugh forming at the base of her throat.

“More than I hoped for” I smiled.

“Okay o! dis one wey you dey hold gist so, I go dey wait for you after dinner tomorrow night. I go sleep over sef. So just leave your key for me” she said as she picked up her vibrating phone.

“I’m coming out now” her date was out.

“Stop using my house as pick up arena!” I said after her as she laughed her way out of my house.

“Used one stone to kill two birds dear” A peck and she was gone. I shook my head.

Tessy was peacefully sleeping in her cot by the time I found her. She looked so cute.

The night was still young but the thought of going out made me tired. An early night with a bowl of ice cream and a good movie was a good one.

Vibrations told me I had a call. It was Akhmed.

“Yes?”

“I’m at your door” and he was off.

The door opens to him with a bland look.

“Sorry, left my keys” he said sheepishly.

“Of course you did” I said sarcastically.

“Can I pick it?” he asked.

“Sure” stepping aside to let him in.

He found the bunch of keys few seconds later.

“So good night?” he said standing in close proximity.

“Yes” I nodded.

The swift move took me by surprise as he bent to plant an airy kiss on my lips. He tasted of faint toffee sweets with smooth soft lips. Hmmm, I liked it.

“I have always wanted to do that. Before you become Mrs Ali Bricks” he laughed devilishly at the look on my face. I was stunned.

“You devil” I shook my head at his audacity with a lop-sided smile. I was going to marry his father for sure. My mind was made up. I needed a game; I got more than I bargained for.

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The next day had me in the office-meeting with our client in need of an already developed shopping mall for sale-the Sky-Jet. An all glass 9 floor storey building at Jahi district, a fast growing district in the Capital city. There was an encumbrance on the land and an active mortgage on the proposed mall for sale. I hated having insincere clients!

Mr Sahib should have told me all this before giving me the brief to dispose of. Thanks to Tunde’s networks and attention to details, now we know why he was ready to let it go at 500 million naira. A property that was worth over a billion naira!

Who was going to clear up the piled up ground rent, unprocessed fees and mortgage was the buyer’s question. I found it fair that the seller should either clear it up or have it deducted from the sales price. By the time we were done; the seller (his lily-livered representative) was not making a commitment and our buyer wasn’t about to budge either.

It was a stale mate.

We would get back to them. Mr Jackkie with the double K (as he always insisted) mouthed to me that we should get him another property. That was what I hated about the job. It doesn’t take much to get you back to square one. At least, our “Oyinbo” still wanted us to get him another property. I wasn’t out in the cold.

I put the “disapproving” call to Mr Sahib immediately they cleared out of the meeting room minutes later.

“Good afternoon Mr Sahib, how are you today Sir” I greeted with an edge.

“Didi! How are you?” he said lightly. I’m sure he sensed the edge in my voice.

“I am fine Sir, How’s work?” I asked politely waiting for the right moment to launch.

“Work is good, Work is good” in repetition.

“We just finished the meeting. I’m afraid we cannot dispose the sky-jet just yet. We just discovered the loan and ground rent issues. You did not mention this at the hand over. Why was this?” I reported smoothly and asked in quick succession.

I wanted to let him have it but Tunde was wise to stare at me while I made the call. Being my professional “partner” for 5 years, he was quick to learn my shortcomings and we sure worked well.

“Yes, Ben briefed me of the meeting just before your call came in. You see, I was hoping to have sorted it out before now. You know how it works. I will keep you posted on the progress from now on”. I calmed down a bit.

“Well, I hope you clear it soon, we just lost a potential buyer” I said with suppressed anger. I knew how many months we have worked on this.

“Yes, Yes. I will have it sorted out. Sorry for the trouble. Send Tunde to the office. Sorry my dear” he said in his usual cheerful self. I smiled despite myself.

“Yes of course, Sir. Thank you. Have a nice day” ending the call.

“You too dear” he used endearments a lot. I looked at Tunde.

“Check him in the office. He should give something to compensate the office” I said.

“Okay, I will do that today. I wanted asking if we could submit a proposal for the valuation job, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Company” he asked as I stood up from my desk. I wanted to go pick a dress for my dinner. Maybe new shoes too.

“Have fun. I’m done for the day. Let me know when it is ready for submission. I will give Oke a call”. Oke was our valuation network. He knew how to get valuation jobs.

“Alright. We will get to it then” he said meaning the 4 new staffs. I had no relationship with the staff. Oh! Wait…I do. I was the employer and pay their salaries promptly too.

“Thanks. I’m going out now. See you tomorrow?” I asked. He knew what I meant. I was done for the day and asking if my attention was needed. I close at midday most times; having an office at home helps.

“That’s all at the office” he said with a knowing smile. I was gone. It was 12:25pm.

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3pm had me rushing home to eat my take-out lunch of a bowl of Edikaikong soup without the “swallow” with lots of “animal and mami-water action” from Gopro restaurant somewhere in Wuse II. One foremost Calabar Kitchen wey dey siphon my money…choi! Buh dia food sweet die. The smell sef go flood your throat with scented spit. Tessy sef dey lose self-control when she perceive am. We ended up sharing the bowl of soup and took a nap.

 “Pick you up by 6pm”

It was Akhmed. A text. I stood up to get ready.

Throughout the day, I made mental notes of questions for direct clear answers. By God I was going to get them.

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Dressed in a pair of white skin pants and fitted sleeveless gold shimmering blouse with plunging neckline in delicate folds, the “Didi-pair” settled in comfortably and made appearances only when I made a deliberate masterminded move to get eyes re-focused. My new pair of black Christian Louboutin gave the exact carriage I needed to pull off the sophisticated seductive look.

Opening the door at 6pm, he stood there with a practiced smile and looking good. The ever-raised left eyebrow went higher as I stepped down in silence with a red clutch. We walked to his car parked outside the gate. Adamu had been reprimanded and had informed me before letting him in. He was quiet and looked thoughtful tonight. He stood aloof as he held the door opened. The chilly air licked at my exposed arms before I entered his car that was equally freezing. I studied him as he walk over to his side of the car and positioned himself behind the wheel. He looked so in control; one would never guess this man’s business empire was about collapsing.

“Can we have it off for a minute?” I asked pointing at the air conditioner.

“Sure” he said as he studied me for a while and smiled before switching it off.

“Where are we having dinner?” I asked after a minute of silence that was increasing becoming awkward.

“No name” he said simply. He was not in the mood for chatter. Memo received. We both had a lot weighing on our minds.

“How was your day?” he finally asked as we walked into the restaurant and had the car parked.

“Had better days” I curtly replied.

“Good evening Sir, Ma’am” it was the receptionist. He was well known here of course. The secluded building was located in an unknown Close. Of course, my eyes had a map drawn already for personal visit if I was impressed with the service.

“Good evening Mimi” he said with a warm smile. Another well-dressed female ushered us to a secluded corner on the first floor. The beautiful chandeliers gave the room a glow that was breath taking and the serene setting was suitable for the night.

“Thank you Belema” he said again to which she nodded and smiled.

“Have a good evening Ma’am” I nodded too with a bright smile. I had the red Revlon on.

“Nice place” I stated making to move my seat backward. He helped.

“I like the privacy” he said. His intimidating height was alluring as was disturbing. I became aware of his maleness and the feeling of the airy kiss came back in a rush. Boohoo…..

“You quite the gentleman” I said with a wink.

“I believe the word is cultured” he said flashing me the first smile for the evening.

“Hahaha! Cultured is not bad”. He took the opposite seat.

“Thank you” he said. A bottle of Merlot came in without order, then the first course of steaming fish and vegetables. The sizzling fish was exquisite and well prepared. “Excellent fish” I said after the first taste.

“The first bite was all it took for me too” he said studying my face.

“Akhmed?” I called his name indicating I was ready to continue our conversation from where we left off.

“Didi” he called too.

“What is your plan?” I asked with the fish “dissolving” tastefully on my tongue. Sparks went off my brain-the fish scatter my brain jare…….proper English no go tell the feeling as ei do me.

“Get married to my father, gain his trust, he puts you in charge of some offices and you throw business my way. You are in real estate, that will gain his confidence for sure” he said with steady eyes.

“How do you suppose he trusts me enough to do that? He didn’t trust your Mother remember? Moreover, he will get me off the moment he learns of throwing “business” your way” I said taking another chunk. Thank God for the water-proof lipstick, I did not have to worry about swallowing red cosmetics tonight.

“You are good at what you do, real estate to be precise. You have good clientele and you have closed all deals so far. Throwing business to new companies without me in the picture won’t set him off. I will take care of that” he said confidently. He was going to front some companies for sure. Who exactly where we taking on? Yet to look at Ali Bricks’s résumé.

We ate in silence for a while. Finally it was time.

“How did you find me?” I blurted out.

“Chucks Eke” he said with a piercing look. As if daring me to deny.

“Chucks?” I couldn’t believe it. He was the second Mine that I dug. That was like forever! He was quite the lover boy that had me begging for ****clears throat***. Chucks alright could hold a grudge.

“He is my childhood friend. He gave you that house as a birthday gift yes?” he said referring to my apartment. He was right. If anyone was to boast about his conquest and extravagance, it was Chucks. I’m sure he must have told him all he needed to know about me. Hopefully not the intimate details……I “blushed”.

It was sad to use his double-mindedness as an excuse to pick my tools and call the expedition quits but the more I dug, the more I got dirty. The Mine was empty. He was bitter at the time and had followed my every move.

“I see” was all I could say.

“He knows of my pending predicament and suggested I device a way of maintaining the cash flow while Dad gets used to the idea of Mum’s betrayal. Knowing my Dad, it could take years. By then all plans for Green city will be long forgotten. Other competitors will swoop in like vultures the moment they get wind of the inability of the company to finance it. That wouldn’t be so bad if I had not mortgaged the company and stocks on several markets to finance this project. I cannot afford to lose all I have labored for overnight”. He had lost his appetite. He was in a dilemma.

“But some stocks are of Bricks, that would negatively affect your Dad” I said trying to make sense of his father’s readiness to lose a fortune because of some vendetta.

“He is willing to lose everything if it means the ruins of his enemy”

“But you are his son. Guess is more of pride at play!” I reasoned and shrugged.

“I was” he said in an even tone before putting another piece of fish in his mouth.

“And my father?” I asked the question that kept me up for hours last night.

He took a moment to answer me.

“I bought the property” he said simply.

The look that came across my face must have showed him the extent of my surprise. Akhmed Bricks was the invincible buyer?! I remember the sale of my Mother’s uncompleted hotel like yesterday. The secrecy of the “Oyinbo” buyer that didn’t make an appearance till the deal was completed was finally exposed. That was my first sale. The money went to the orphanage. I did not intend to use the money at all. I just couldn’t bear to see my father win one more time.

“So you didn’t consider the rumours of it being cursed?” I asked getting vibes I didn’t like.

“I didn’t. It seemed a good investment at the time. Moreover, the accident was just unfortunate” he said trying to look uninterested.

“That doesn’t answer my question” I took him back.

“After Chucks told me about you and of course your expertise, the name struck a chord. Went back to old documents and got a private eye to have you checked out. The eye was of the opinion that with the animosity established between you and your Dad, it wouldn’t be too much to conclude that you had a hand. He also said you could do the job. You come highly recommended” he said steadily looking at me for a reaction. My heart pounded under my blouse and sweat suddenly pouring out of my pores but I retained a calm expression. Plus the cool air conditioner helped dry the sweat.

“Brilliant private eye I’d say” was all I could mutter again.

“That’s why he is on retainer” he smiled brightly. He was quizzing me.

“Hahaha! You don’t say” I faked a dry laugh and was a little relieved that Segun wasn’t mentioned. Without Segun, I was home free. Where was he anyway? I asked myself inwardly while taking more pieces of the fish absent minded.

“Segun is dead though” he offhandedly continued with a look that gave me chills. I almost shot up. The look on my face leaked a little before I replaced it with my bland look. The sweat pouring overpowered the air conditioner and all of a sudden the fish tasted pepperish. Was he a mind reader? If he was, I was done for. The slow motion as I chewed what would be the last of the fish had me fixed in a tight corner. I took a quick drink to push the remaining un-chewed fish. Still no words.

“So 30 million dollars is a lot of money. Are you willing to consider this or not? I’m afraid I do not have much time” he stated as a matter of urgency with a blackmailing undertone. It didn’t look like he was giving me much of a choice springing Segun’s name like that. This was going to be his last offer. I knew it. Whether I took it or not, he was going to blackmail me and get me caught in the nicely sprung trap. I might not get the 30 million dollars. I am Didi Trap; I make the traps goddammit!!!

He wasn’t going to let me in on Segun as he kept chewing-his-cud and looking at me without blinking. It was almost as if he dared me to ask the question that kept coming to me.

“Who is Segun?” I would ask with a feigned expression. That would just put me in a tight spot. If his “eye” got Segun’s part in the accident, then he must know that I was involved. It was better to ignore the sentence and find out exactly what he knows and how he knew these things. Until then, I was going to keep low. Didi, get your “eye”…….to do list.

Tip #6: Never approach your opponent with little or no information. The man who said “Knowledge is Power” was not having too much spit in his mouth.

Asking about Segun after my shocked silence would implicate me too. Should I ask about how he knew about Segun? Will that prove my guil……my involvement? I decided to keep mum. If he didn’t bring it up, I won’t either. I needed a private eye of my own ASAP. This game was getting technical and arming myself with information about who Akhmed’s real father was and how many dirty pools he has played in would give me a sense of security.

Private investigator was the long term answer. For now, only one option was valid.

After a long paused my eyes came to rest on Akhmed. Funny how games turn out……………..getting married under “duress” for 30 million dollars. It wasn’t a bad deal. He had few years left; the media was all about the news of his recent world tour and charity work. Recently referred to as an eligible old bachelor for the modern woman, he wasn’t a bad catch. What if he had secrets in the closet? Will I be tempted to use a “Segun” again? What if Akhmed was springing me to take his fall? What if he finds out that I betrayed him? Gosh, the longer I stared at Akhmed, the more the questions spiralled without control. I smiled and played with the fish. The white flesh stared back unappealing. I took a deep breath. This was it.

“It is a yes. I will marry your father” the rush of air from both our lungs told me he was hoping he didn’t have to use the last card. We both took a deep drink from our glasses. The hurdle crossed.

“Do I get to sign a pre-nup?” I continued after I dropped my glass.

The laughter that filled the room was one of acute relief and pure joy. His sexy throaty laughter got some hits from the quiet occupied tables. He must have considered other ways of roping me in. Glad he didn’t have to I bet. Cute bastard…..how true was that?!!!LoL.

“You never cease to amaze me” he said still chuckling.

As if on cue, the main course for the evening made its way to our table.

“You interest me too” I said looking at the steaming Irish porridge spiced with what looked like lot of shredded shrimps and greens. My appetite was getting back up.

“I do, don’t I?” he said with interest. Now that the deal was settled, the air was lighter and it seemed natural to talk as if we were old acquaintance.

I foresee lots of mind games.

“So I get the blue prints tomorrow?” I asked him meaning his plans……whatever they are.

“Ummm, yes. I will mail them to you” he said taking a mouthful of his plate.

“So, do we talk about you or my future husband?” I joked thanking the waiter as he left.

“I’d rather we talk about you” he looked a little longer and shook his head as if to clear a thought.

“Oh! There isn’t much you don’t know already alias brilliant eye” I said sarcastically to which he gave another throaty laugh.

“That seems fair. You are an engaging woman. It is shame you are already betrothed” he said with a grin.

“It’s a shame you got me betrothed. I had such good plans for you” I divulged. That got his eyes popping.

“Such as?” he asked taking another mouthful.

“You weren’t the only one doing the staring where you?” I asked mockingly.

That got a laugh. We got two hits from the table at the far end of the room. Obviously he was getting the attention.

“Is that so?” he looked intrigued.

“You don’t want to know” I teased knowing he will ask that he be told.

“I so do!” he said dropping his cutlery.

“You were a good retirement plan. Seems in one way or the other, I got what I wanted” I said with smiles as he smiled even more broadly.

“Seriously? You wanted to marry me for money?” he asked incredulous.

“No, I wanted to dig in your Mine”.

That got the whole room looking at our table. Akhmed was in a laughing frenzy that he coughed out loudly because the food went the wrong direction. I couldn’t help myself either.

The evening took a fun turn. The die was cast. I was on a mission.

Let the game begin ǁǁǁ.

<<<< I dropped the volume at last. It was 8:30pm. I slept off and had woken up by 6:45pm to continue reading. Standing up, the sharp ache I felt in my head left me dizzy. I held the reading desk to steady my shaky legs and pounding head ache.

I needed to go lie down. Maybe eat. I still was not hungry but my body told me otherwise.

“Iya, please send dinner to my room” I said seconds later into the intercom.

“Yes Ma” she said simply. Picking up the next volume, I walked slowly across the hall. The quietness intensified as I headed to my room at the far west wing of the house.

The tray told me Iya was already here. I wondered what was inside those silver wares. Strolling to my bathroom, I had few moments easing my bowels and felt better. A quick shower and I was good to go. Switching on the TV to another bomb blast in Kano #Mute. It was going to make headlines tomorrow; the act would be condemned and trend for a day.

Sitting down to the meal of mouth-watering pasta and peas, the intercom rang. Hmmm! What now?

It was Akin.

“Madam, the Mr Akhmed is here again. What do I tell him?” he asked obviously irritated by the persistent fellow.

I was too but now I knew the man better.

“Let him in”

***************************************************************************

I got dressed and made my way to the visitor’s apartment-an extension to the East of the main building. Didi received her visitors there. He was already there. Backing me, he stood studying a mosaic piece on the wall. I took a deep breath and studied him too. It seemed he felt my presence and turned.

“Good Evening Ma’am, sorry to come back this late” he said approaching me with an ease I found quite unsettling.

I walked to the middle of the huge sitting room cum gallery. The central sitting arrangement in the large room had her works and a couple of her collections from her travels hang on the wall and placed on surfaces.

“It is no problem. Please be comfortable” I said taking his hand that surprisingly softer than mine. Mental note to use more hand lotion.

“Akin ring for coffee” I turned to Akin who had mysteriously appeared during the introductions and stood by the door. The choice came out before I could think.

“Coffee yes?” I turned to ask him.

“Please” he said with another dazzling smile. He was fine. I found myself studying his features. Looking through Didi’s eyes I was.

“So?” I asked taking a seat opposite him in my blue faded jeans and green woolly turtle neck top; a gift from Didi. The hair was packed in a carelessly bun and my eyes were swollen red and I sure looked terrible with lips that was brushed pink under the hot bath I just came out from. The ache was slowing mounting again and of course it showed on my recently washed face devoid of makeup.

“I came to offer my condolence” he said with a sad look. The ache returned.

He already knew. He already knew? How was that possible?

“You know?” was all that escaped from my rapidly closing lips that formed an “O”. He nodded in the affirmative. I swallowed unconsciously. How did he know that? His private eye? Didi kept contact? My mind wandering what Didi must have written about him. I couldn’t wait to get back to the journals. I did not ask him how he knew. I just looked on and dropped my countenance.

“Yes. I’m so sorry for your loss” he said with a sad look, my eyes watered again. I looked away to see Iya chef and her tray.

Dropping it, she disappeared discreetly as she came.

“How are you holding up?” he asked minutes later. No one made attempt to open the coffee pot; the sweet smell escaping in steam.

“Good” I said simply looking at him. I cleared my throat again taking my eyes to the geometric art work behind him for a split second and then back on him

We shared a sad chuckle and then awkward silence.

“I’m Unen Ameji” I said suddenly uncomfortable and at lost for words.

“I know. I believe you know who I am” he said carefully studying me.

“I do not” I denied with a bland expression.

“I’m Akhmed Danjuma Bricks” he said quietly as if the name would make an impression. Still, I looked on and smiled politely.

“Well, nice to meet you Akhmed. You were a friend of Didi’s?” No atom of recognition whatsoever. I did not know him but just what Didi had written.

“No, her husband” he said with a dead-on look.

I sat up.

Was this some joke? What did he mean her husband? I wanted running back to my room to get the journal….flip till I see Didi weds Akhmed. But that would have to wait. For now, he was sitting here and was looking at me.

“Okay?” I replied with a look of disbelief.

“She didn’t mention it?” he asked with a little bit of bitterness that didn’t escape me.

“She did not” I stated calmly. He took a deep breath turning to look at the door that Iya had taken. He looked for long.

“When is the final burial? I need to pay my respect” he said after a long awkward silence. I held my hand together in between my knees. I felt cold.

“Umm, she has been buried” he looked up sharply with anger. I continued.

“She made a written request to be cremated in Indian but I have some of her here for final goodbyes” I said as my eyes watered and I blinked away. The last part of the sentence got caught in my throat.

“And have you fixed a date yet?” he asked.

“No. I guess you can set the date and handle it” I said quickly relinquishing the duty I was too afraid to perform.

“Okay. I will be happy to do that” he said coming to sit beside me. A stubborn tear had escaped and I had my head down to hide it.

“You will be fine. Shhhh” he stroked my hair as I silently cried. My shoulder’s giving me away.

I quickly recovered and cleaned my eyes with the back of my hands. My eyes were red for sure.

“You can sleep anywhere. I will see you tomorrow to plan then?” I said standing up. I rang the bell.  Iya appeared.

“Please get the visitor’s bedroom ready for Mr Akhmed. He will be staying the night”. She nodded.

“Good night” I said turning to him as Iya made haste in the direction of the bedroom.

“Sleep well”. I smiled, nodded and walked back to my room.

I was going to take another shower, heat my food and read as much as I could till morning. I needed information. Moreover, sleep was far from me.

The days that follow should be interesting.

It was 4:55am before I closed my eyes>>>>

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2 thoughts on “CHAPTER THREE ⃝ THE SUBTLE BLACKMAIL

  1. Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

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