‘Call him again.’
‘I have, twice.’ Tara responded, clutching her cell phone. ‘The first time it rang but he didn’t pick up, and his phone was switched off the last time I tried, like twenty minutes ago. He was supposed to come to pick me up as scheduled by 5 pm for our outing, and it is 6 o’clock already. Now I don’t know where he is. You know he’s not like that. Kayode is never late for anything. I’m worried, especially with the spate of kidnappings in town now.’
‘I know you are, but calm down,’ soothed Chinyere. ‘Maybe you should go look for him.’
‘You think I should? I actually thought about it earlier but decided to chill because I don’t want any nasty surprises, and I also don’t want it to look like I’m smothering him. You know men and their pranks. Before somebody will now go to his place and run into unpleasant scenes, or he will think I’m being unnecessarily clingy.’
‘Haba, Tara. Yes, I know men are scum, but Kayode is not like that. Not at all. That’s why I think you should go check on him. God forbid, but something may have happened. This is Nigeria after all, and I don’t believe he will think you as nosy. In fact, I’m sure he will appreciate your genuinely caring about his welfare.’
Tara’s heart skipped a couple of beats as a few unsavory thoughts of what could have delayed her fiancé ran through her mind.
‘Okay, Chi. I’ll go over to his place right now.’
‘Cool. Keep me posted girl.’
‘Sit down Mister Kayode.’
The last thing Kayode wanted to do was sit down in the wretched office. He glanced around, noting the walls (initially painted blue) that had turned brown with grime accumulated over the years and were extensively pockmarked as if someone had gone to town on them with a hammer. There were gaping holes in the ceiling where panels had gone missing and he could see thick cobwebs gently swaying as they hung from the exposed creosoted beams. The furniture in the room, a medium sized table, two single seats and a sofa, had definitely seen better days. The tabletop was terribly scratched and its paint was severely peeled, while the chair he’d been offered had a cinder block in place of one of its legs, apart from having been stripped of its large visible splotches all over.
‘Bedbug heaven,’ he thought, his skin crawling.
Madam Inspector was already seated behind the table, so he reluctantly dropped into the offered seat, ready to jump up at any sign of the improvised leg giving way.
‘Welcome to my office Mister Kayode. I brought you here so we can talk in peace away from the prying eyes of the boys.’
Kayode could hear the noise and movement of men from the main station building they had passed by on their way here. Her office was at the back of the compound, close to the barbed wire-topped fence and a generator shed where a dusty Lister that was probably dead sat in isolation. That she had a separate office was a sure sign that she was the most senior ranking officer and in charge here, which made him wonder why she had followed her boys out on patrol in the first place. Maybe it was so that they wouldn’t cheat her from the takings, he mused. Then he remembered his ordeal and dragged his mind back to the task at hand.
‘Madam, please, what can you do for me?
Her red face was slightly sweaty as the room was hot, and when she tried to smile at him it looked a bit grotesque.
‘You’re not a learner Mister Kayode, why are you asking this jamb question? I asked for your papers and you couldn’t provide them. Okay, what of ID card, same thing. We have come to the station and you’re still forming ignorance. For your information, it’s either you provide your papers or you find me something really good for the weekend. If not, your car sleeps here in the station until Monday morning or whenever you can produce the documents. In case you’re not aware, driving a suspected stolen vehicle is an offense under the criminal code.’
Kayode knew when he was trapped.
‘I go off duty soon by the way, so whatever you’re doing, make it fast,’ she added, then picked up her intercom, jammed the handset against her left ear and furiously punched a number in.
‘Hello, yes, sergeant. We will book that car, but I will tell you when it’s time. Yes, suspected stolen vehicle. Make sure you’re on standby for my signal. Thank you.’
Dropping the set casually, she looked at him and cocked an eyebrow. Kayode quickly started going through his pockets one after the other. From one he extracted two one thousand naira notes, another had a single five hundred naira, and from the back pocket of his jeans, he brought a couple of two hundred naira notes and three fifties all crumpled together. Everything went on the table.
‘Ehn, what’s this?’ she asked disdainfully, gesturing with her upturned nose at the beggarly collection of notes.
‘I’m sorry ma,’ he pleaded. ‘I don’t have anything on me again. I just went out to buy fuel.’
‘For that clean Lexus? No o, make it up to ten thousand, at least. There’s an ATM at the plaza across the street.’
‘Please Madam, I don’t even have an ATM card. We can go and check my car together. Please.’
‘Check your car for what? No problem, leave the car here until Monday. Maybe you can do better then.’
‘Madam, please. I’m begging you with the name of God. Help me.’
Suddenly she got up from her seat.
‘See, Mister Kayode. You can see that it’s almost night right? I need to go home now, my beat is over. Take your coins and go home, then come back on Monday with either the documents or proper settlement. Mind you, when you’re coming then the payment would have increased because you will pay for demurrage. That’s one thousand naira per night. To inflate the tires will cost you one thousand for each, while bail for the car itself will be twenty-five thousand naira only, no more, no less.
‘Jesus,’ Kayode yelled. ‘Let me drop my phone to make it up ma. It’s an android and almost new. I can get it from the car.’
Her whole body shook as she laughed.
‘Really? Are you serious? You will give me your phone so that you can come back here later with reporters and accuse me of forcibly taking over your property? You must be joking. Monday is not that far. Or, wait first o, Monday is the twenty-fifth of March right?’
‘Yes ma,’ he answered.
She started laughing again and then stopped as abruptly as she started.
‘Such good luck you have Mister Kayode. I have a short service course starting on Monday and it will be for a week. Nobody will release your vehicle until I return.
The announcement felt like a sucker punch to Kayode’s gut. There was no way in heaven or hell that he was going to leave his precious car in that place for a whole week.
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