NIMI PETERS BY GRACE OCHIGBO
Ojima Peters paced restlessly round the sitting room. She grabbed the edge of her wrapper that was attempting to fall off her waist and retied it well. She thought something was itching the back of her hand. Was she sweating? Well, tones and tones of sweat were dripping all the way from the back of her head to lodge on her dress, soaking it and making the thin chiffon milk dress clamour onto her body like cemented rock.
“You really have to calm down, wifey.”
“Calm down?” she retorted as though expecting her husband to repeat that statement all the while. “It’s more than 24 hours and his phone is still switched off? You know that’s unlike my son.”
“Well, our son, you may like to say.” Achile Peters said and Ojima eyeballed him cynically. While Ojima didn’t know why the man was not as worried as she was, Achile couldn’t explain why his wife wasn’t as calm as he was. Nimi for as long as he knew had always been a very brave man.
“You really have to calm down, alright? You have to stay strong to find Nimi and not to end up getting stuck in a hospital bed with drips all over your body all because you got hypertensive and collapsed.”
Ojima broke down in tears and he rushed over to grab her immediately. How a woman as old as she was have tears laden at the brim of her eyeballs beats his imagination. He led her to the couch and made sure she sat down before squatting in front of her.
“Old woman…” he smiled, touching her smooth cheeks with his hands. “See it this way, Nimi is a young man. He is a very handsome looking young man at that. He may have chosen to go out on a vacation without telling anyone of us. Ojonugwa just told us about a miss…”
“Miss Joelyn!” Ojima helped him.
“You see, you have even saved the name in your head already. They must be very intimate for her to come over to the house to cook for him, right? You know how our son is around women?”
Ojima smiled in spite of herself. She was beginning to see the situation from a better light.
“So Nimi must have gone on a vacation with Miss Joelyn? Aww!” The woman that was crying a while ago covered her face with her hands as she blushed away on God-knows whose behalf.
“So you see…” Achile started but was interrupted by the rapid speed Ojonugwa came down the stairs and to the sitting room with.
“Mum… dad… mum…” he struggled to catch his breath.
His mother got up and headed towards him immediately.
“I just called Bro Eddy now, Nimi’s best friend. They work at the same place.”
“C’mon, we all know Edward. Any news about Nimi?” Achile was sounding nervous for the first time today. Though he was trying very hard to mask it, being the master of the house.
“No. Same thing. His number is switched off and he hasn’t been on seat as his secretary had told us earlier.”
Ojima walked back to where her husband was standing with frustration written all over her eyes. She just couldn’t explain why the young boy jerked all her emotions up only to dash them again. She just realised that she truly needed to be careful now so her blood pressure doesn’t rise more than this as she could already feel its effect.
“The thing is Miss Joelyn is also nowhere to be found…” Ojonugwa announced but paused when his parents returned knowing look of excitement at each other. The ‘I told you so’ kind of look. He didn’t understand why his mother’s face suddenly lit up on the news that Joelyn was missing alongside Nimi too. Shouldn’t it be more worrisome that they have two people to pray for and possibly pay kidnappers for now?
Anyway, he gave them a little time to finish up with their fun before finishing his statement, hoping they would be available to hear him.
“She disappeared from the ICU where she’s been admitted some days ago after attempting suicide!”
The weight of the words Ojonugwa just let loose seemed to hit his both parents at different times. His father understood what he just said first and it was as though he waited for his wife to understand. Immediately after which they both screamed, “Attempted suicide? For what?” as though they planned it.
Ojonugwa looked at them with disbelief, shrugged and headed back upstairs.
The blind went off Tolu’s face and it felt as though he suddenly got blind. His eyeballs tried so hard to adjust to the looming darkness in this seemingly empty room.
He felt a little ray of light and he quickly tried to move in that direction before realising that ropes were tying him firmly to the chair he was sitting on. Suddenly light came on and he thought to take a deep sigh of relief but then, he saw the man. The man that pursued him earlier; the huge and hefty man. He turned his eyes from the bandage on his knee and gazed at the imposing figure towering in front of him. Before him stood the man, his tousled coffee-black beards reaching barely past the lower part of his neck. His red eyes glared from under dark brows, and his rectangular face revealed little expression. Suddenly he took another step forward and Tolu flinched. His incredible height loomed over him forebodingly as he raised a gleaning knife. Tolu’s eyes honed on it as he wearily watched him approach. With a deft hand, he slid the point under Tolu’s gag and cut it free.
“Why have you not done it?”
Blinking, Tolu stared at him.
“It. Our deal. Do not play stupid with me. You were supposed to have fulfilled your own part of the deal, so why haven’t you?”
“Deal? My own part? What are you talking about?” Tolu suddenly felt like his brain and memory has been completely wiped out in the last few hours.
The hefty man grabbed his shoulders and shook him, confusion brewing in his eyes.
“I am very mindful of time. I don’t have forever, so do you.” He said.
Tolu blinked again, fear and anxiety doubled in his expression.
“How long more does your freaking master say I have?” He laughed
Irritation crept into the scary man’s eyes and his nose crinkled as he scowled.
“I don’t know what game you are playing but I’m quickly getting tired. There are things to get and your sluggishness in accomplishing your side of the deal is hindering me. I demand to know why you haven’t done it yet.”
“What are the things to get?”
The man eyeballed him coldly and he readjusted in his seat.
“Have you not heard of the proposed transaction? How many years have you been on this?”
Tolu squinted at him with uncertainty
“Five? What does it matter?”
“Lies, you cannot be less than nine years on this. Speak the truth or I will cut it out of your mouth.”
“It’s true. I never considered rushing it even for a second.”
“That changes tomorrow then. You have to hasten your footsteps for the master. In your best interest.”
“What?” Tolu exclaimed, “I don’t care about you or your power-drunk, self-seeking and greedy master…”
With a flash he saw stars moving in his eyes. The slap swept through the right side of his cheeks to the left. He felt coals burning his face as he managed to open his eyes to a knife. His heart pounded in his chest and he shrieked shrilly. A hand clamped on his mouth. He leaned down and hot breath washed over Tolu’s ear delicately.
“If you dare speak about the master disrespectfully, I will not hesitate killing you.”
Pulling a little away, he untied the rope around Tolu’s chest only to bind his wrists in front of his body. He slipped the knife into his boot and walked to the door. He suddenly turned back like he remembered something. He opened his mouth to talk, but went quiet again as Tolu concentrated full percentage gaze on him. He gave out the most wicked look Tolu has ever received in his lifetime before stepping out of the room and hanging the door gently without bolting it.
Fiyin was serving the whole evening with eyes looking out through the door. She wanted to see him so much so that her eyes kind of formed everyone into his image. Every man that walked into their Buka, from the streets, looked like Nimi, until they finally come to stand before her, of course. She was even more tired and worried sick because Deji wasn’t around tonight. She switched on the rickety television hanging at one point of the room. She was shocked it responded to remote control from the distance she was standing. It seems Deji, who stayed here the whole afternoon, had probably repaired it. Else, one would almost need to enter into the television set itself before it would respond to the remote control.
Earlier, a plate had fallen off her hands, thankfully it was a plastic one. She wouldn’t have forgiven herself for shortening the already limited ceramic plates they have in this Buka. Yet, she had no one to blame.
Her mind was unsettled.
Her mind was far away.
It’s been like that the whole day.
Anxiety was eating through the outer of her dress and piecing every ligament attaching her bones. She wished she had Nimi’s phone number. Well, that wouldn’t be necessary as she overhead the ladies at the company’s cafeteria saying no one has been able to get through to him.
Worry has become her food.
“Eba and efo please!” a customer startled her from her thoughts.
“Uhmmm? Alright! Sit down, and… and I’ll bring it in a moment… sir” She stammered as she quickly reached for the coolers. She felt the man smiling while walking to a seat and perspiration covered her face. Whatever was making him smile, she didn’t understand.
Then she heard her phone ring. She knew Nimi doesn’t have her phone number, how then was she wishing it should just be him?
“What!” she screamed out before she could stop herself. She ran her eyes quickly at the three men who had stopped eating and are staring at her in confusion. “OK! Be in charge, I’ll join you soon.” She dropped the call with trembling hands. She glanced at their customers again and suddenly felt like her brain got blocked.
What to do?
Maybe she would tell them to either stop eating or hurry up, that she needed to lock up the shop and run to take care of an emergency. Or she would just slid out of the room? Leaving them to eat and hope she would come back here in the shortest possible time. Better still, should she just stay back and trust Deji to handle the situation?
She picked the tray of food she just dished and suddenly felt extremely weak at the knees. Her hands trembled greatly and she returned the tray to the table. Grabbing the wooden chair behind her, she collapsed into it as hot searing tears blurred her vision.
Nimi felt the door of the room he had been kept in all day open suddenly and was shocked by who his eyes met. Many things were still pretty unclear to him, most important being how his captor got into his kitchen. Whatever happened after whoever it was that grabbed his ankles did, he couldn’t recall. It was as though he passed out the whole of the period and the next time he opened his eyes, which was some seven hours ago, different delicacies were placed on the table beside the large bed he laid on. He had scanned the room with his eyes and found nothing familiar in or on it. It was as normal as one of those presidential suites he usually uses during his trips. The only difference was that there was no intercom in this room and the whole place looked like an island in the middle of nowhere. He had screamed, perhaps he would catch the attention of someone somehow. After going to the bathroom, checking every single drawer and wardrobe in the room, he gave up searching, knowing fully well that they were all empty and bore no such thing as the slightest identity he could connect with. He saw a little paper attached to the tray carrying the mouth-watering foods. ‘For you’ were the only words written on it. He glanced at the paper one more time and threw it away in provocation. He had to use the greatest sense of self control he could afford to push the food aside as well.
Untimely death would be avoided when people start knowing poison when they see one.
He kept his eyes on the men till they came over to take their seats on the two chairs already set before him.
“I hope you weren’t injured or harmed?”
Nimi eyeballed him coldly. “Where am I, sir?”
“Sir?” The second man laughed wickedly. His face rang a strong bell but due to some weird reasons, Nimi didn’t seem to be able to place him.
“You still have the effrontery to mock Mr Johnson after impregnating his daughter and shying away from it? You even pushed her to the point of attempting suicide…”
“I didn’t impregnate Joelyn.” Nimi screamed out uncontrollably, getting up his feet. He had since realised that no harm was actually done to him. “I don’t mean to be rude sir, but I think your daughter most probably needs to see a psychiatrist.”
The other man raised his hand towards Nimi’s face and the latter held it.
“Leave him, Ike!” Mr Johnson said, sounding somewhere between meting out an order and giving a suggestion.
Nimi yanked off the older man’s hand and walked to the opposite side of the bed, stamping his foot angrily against the tiled floor. He needed to get a grip on himself. He didn’t know where he was, didn’t know if there were more of the kind of guy that captured him from his house last night around, he got to tread with caution if his anger would not send him to untimely grave yet, as his mother would always warn.
Mr Johnson stood up and gently walked over to him. The former’s recent show of gentleness and calmness worried Nimi instead.
“This is my best friend, Chief Ikechukwu Ogbonna… the silent partner and member of Crestac’s board of directors.” Mr Johnson said this, placing a hand on Nimi’s shoulders and he shrugged. Thanks to the introduction! He could now remember where he knew the face from – it was at his boss’ office one afternoon. He cursed his memory for taking this long to supply such a vital info.
“I know you didn’t impregnate Joelyn…”
“What! What are you saying Johnson?” Chief Ogbonna was fuming from his side of the room. Nimi placed a little relieved eyes on his boss, ignoring the pot-bellied dark man that was just ranting nonsense, because that was how his words came across as to Nimi – arrant nonsense.
“I didn’t do it, sir. I didn’t even sle…” Nimi wanted explaining all these before Mr Johnson cut in.
“I know, come and take a seat, Mr Nimi Peters.” The older man led the way, Nimi took in a deep breath and followed.
“Whoever impregnated Chiamaka must be that riff-raff she is following up and down…”
Chief Ogbonna’s face suddenly turned sore at that statement but he quickly readjusted when Johnson turned in his direction.
“I told you Nimi was innocent.”
Nimi felt the impulse to smile. How did he earn his boss’ trust this much? Well, he would think about that later, the man didn’t seem like he was done with all on his mind yet.
“All I need you to do for me now is to impregnate her!” Mr Johnson said dryly, showing no expression whatsoever in his voice nor on his face
“What are you talking about, sir.” Nimi wasn’t sure if his ears heard the right things anymore.
He glanced at Mr Johnson who sat comfortably, then at Chief Ogbonna who appeared as though a child stripped of his pants. He returned his eyes back to Mr Johnson.
“Impregnate Joelyn for me and what I told you initially would be yours. Faster than it was even estimated.”
Nimi smiled. “Sir, we both know I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” Chief Ogbonna finally spoke. Nimi was beginning to think he suddenly turned dumb.
“Yes. Answer. Why not?” Mr Johnson reiterated the question.
“I just can’t do that. I mean… I can’t,” he chuckled lightly. “Because…”
The ringing on Mr Johnson’s phone cut him off.
“Excuse me…” Mr Johnson said, wiping at the screen of his phone. “Hello.”
He waited as the person on the other side of the phone seemed to be narrating some things. Nimi watched his boss’ countenance change gradually till his face flattened out.
“My daughter escaped from the hospital!” He announced, not caring whether the call was still ongoing or not. Chief Ogbonna hurriedly sat up.
“That’s not possible. You have to calm down, Johnson.” He said, drawing closer to his friend.
Mr Johnson couldn’t speak any longer as he grabbed the left part of his chest, gripping firmly onto it through the chest pocket of his caftan.
“Johnson! Johnson!” Chief Ogbonna screamed out as Mr Johnson dropped lifelessly into his arms.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT MONDAY.