“I’m all ears, babe” Zach said. Instinctively, he activated his call recorder app. Something told him this was important. “Just trust me, Z” he thought.
“Yes, Daddy?” he heard her over the line, then “I’ll call you back” to him, and she was gone.
He lay back on the recliner and waited.
Zaneta sat still on her bed, phone in hand. Her Uncle hadn’t called her. She had simply chickened out on her decision to tell Zach whose daughter she was.
“Shit! Shit!! Shit!!! Zaneta, don’t jinx this” she murmured. “What if he finds out some other way? Social Media, Newspapers, Magazine? Oh, Lord!”
“I think it’s best he hears it from me. But what if he changes?” She wondered. A thought passed through her mind – “maybe he even already knows and I’m just here stressing” she chuckled at that but dismissed it. “If he knew, he’d have mentioned it” she declared.
“I will tell him face to face” she decided, put the phone away and headed for the bath.
Zach rose from the recliner, he was done waiting for her call back. His instincts told him she didn’t want to call back, because she really didn’t want to tell him whatever it was she had wanted to him anymore. He knew it could only be one thing – her relationship to Dr. Moloku the VP Candidate.
“She’s playing you” he said to himself as he walked into the apartment.
He wondered why she would not just open up to him. But then it was also funny because if she really knew who he was and worked for, she’d not come within a thousand miles of him.
She was street-smart, ‘open-eyed’, he needed to quit worrying about her and focus on what he had to do.
He lay in bed and thought about the stuff on his plate. His mind rested on Dorah. He picked up his phone and called Idris.
“Hello, Sir” Idris picked up
“How’s the lady?”
“Fine. Things are quiet”
“Where is she?”
“At home, I have someone outside her house”
“Ok” Zach said and hung up.
Then he dialled Dorah
“Hello” she said
“This is Zach” he introduced himself.
“Ah! I have been trying to reach you. Sent several mails to that address but got a mailer daemon response”
“Yes, that would happen if I wasn’t expecting an email from you. What’s up? You have something for me?”
“Yes. Some documents I found”
“I’ll have the mail activated. You may send in another half hour. Cash will be transferred in a bit too. Thank you”
“Thank you” She replied and rung off.
“She’s quite eager” he thought.
He called Malik and asked him to expect an email and also prepare payment for Dorah. They would send her the same amount as the last time.
Malik immediately approved.
Zach picked up his phone, about to reply Zaneta’s IM when it rang.
It was a number he wasn’t familiar with so he let it ring out twice. Almost immediately after the second call he refused to take, it rang again, this time it was a number he knew.
He picked up, “Hello”
“Boss, good evening, Sir” it was Max-Tee
“Were you the one calling me just now?” Zach asked.
“Yes, I was the one” Max-Tee replied.
“Ok” Zach simply said.
“I was wondering what you were doing this Friday night, Chief”
“I’m having a little something at OutRave, boss. Thought I could get the pleasure of your presence”
“Day after tomorrow?” Zach asked eyeing a calendar on his desk.
“Yes. Day after tomorrow. Do I send you a ticket?”
“Let me call you back” he said and hung up.
He typed a response to Zaneta’s message then typed:
“Max-Tee. OutRave. This Friday. Are you game?“
Her response was almost immediate:
“Make that two tickets” Zach said when he called Max-Tee back.
Zach had called her the next morning after her aborted phone call stunt asking what had happened and why she hadn’t called back. She had lied that her dad had called her and she had to go help him with stuff and didn’t finish till late. So far he seemed to be taking it well. She’d never met anyone that understanding.
“This your door, though. So damn heavy!” Zaneta complained as she tried to climb out of Zach’s XC60.
“I told you to let me get it for you” Zach said, getting out of the vehicle.
They had VIP access and hence VIP parking on the other side of the club grounds.
Zach had picked up Zaneta from work and they had driven to the event she had heard so much about on social media. A few regular tickets had been given away by Max-Tee’s Social Media/PR people to those who had answered some trivia about the artiste or had the highest number of retweets of quotes they made up for the event.
“What exactly is he doing? It’s not his birthday, is it?” Zaneta said as they approached the entrance
“Since when is an excuse needed to throw a party?” Zach said smiling at her.
He flashed their invites once again at the door and they were ushered to their table. As they got settled in, a bottle of complementary champagne arrived in an ice bucket.
“Courtesy of your host” the waitress said as she placed it on their table with much fanfare.
“Oh! Thank you” Zaneta said.
“May I?” the waitress asked to un-cock and pour their drink.
“By all means, darling” Zaneta gave her the go ahead.
Zach was looking sufficiently bored and uninterested through the ladies’ exchange and Zaneta didn’t fail to notice.
“Would you have come if I wasn’t with you?” she asked him when the waitress had left.
“No. I’d be with you wherever you chose to be” was his reply
“Hmmm” she said, then “assume I was not in town. Would you be here?”
“Alone or otherwise”
“No, I would not be here”
“I knew it”
“You do?” he mocked.
“But you don’t have to show it so much, dear”
“Show that you’d rather be elsewhere?”
“Why?” he asked. He knew how big a deal this was for her, but the fact was that if it weren’t for her he’d not be here. Max-Tee knew better than to waste his time.
“Be nice, Zach!” Zaneta said, lifted her glass to her lips and sipped
“Yes, ma’am!” he said, picked up his glass of bubbly, clinked it with hers and drank too.
The fine taste of the champagne was lost on him as he noticed someone from across the room, in regular, watching them. Instincts told him it was someone from Zaneta’s security detail. They were becoming a thorn in his side. How was he supposed to go on this trip with her with these guys in tow?
He called the attention of a waiter and spoke in her ear, “Get me Shedrach” he said to her.
In two minutes a huge guy in a football jersey and dreadlocks showed up. He was in charge of OutRave’s security.
“Boss” he said, bowing his head in greetings to Zach. Zaneta almost choked on her drink.
“How’s it going?” Zach asked signalling the guy to come in closer for some talk.
Shedrach squatted beside Zach and Zack spoke in his ear for a bit. The big guy nodded a few times and left.
“How do you know that guy?” Zaneta asked.
“Here” Zach said to her with a smile as a slight commotion started across from them in the regular section.
Zach smiled as the security dude was being physically removed from the venue. He was smart, he wasn’t protesting, he just kept insisting no one touched him. Zach had half a mind to go outside and have him knocked senseless, but he decided against it. It wasn’t personal after all, dude was just trying to catch a paycheque like everyone else. He had asked Shadrach to find out how the guy had gotten a ticket. He was curious about that since it was by invitation only.
A few minutes later, he got up, told Zaneta he needed to take a leak then went to the back of the club to meet Shadrach and a few other guys.
“How did he get in?”
“Must have bought or stolen a ticket off someone at the entrance” Shadrach replied.
“He didn’t say?”
“No, he kept mum. Just kept insisting we don’t touch him” Shadrach said with a shrug.
“Who he be sef? All that grammar he dey speak just dey vex my soul” one of Shadrach’s guys said.
Zach looked the guy over but said nothing. Then he turned back to Shadrach and said “Stay woke” and with a pat of his shoulder, he returned inside.
It was almost 1am when Zach pulled up at Zaneta’s residence.
“I hope you had fun” he asked. They had had to leave, though the event was still ragging when they did.
“Wait, Zach. How do you know these people?” Zaneta asked. She had seen lots of guys come say “hello” to Zach. People she had heard or read about. Many champagne bottles had been sent their way courtesy of the same folks. She had taken 2 bottles with her and snapped numerous photos with Max-Tee and other celebrities in attendance – the VIP privilege.
He laughed and shrugged. “In the line of duty” he said.
“Explain joooor” she pressed. She was quite tipsy.
“When you manage property in certain places, you are bound to meet certain people and they can often be down to earth and friendly. Many times they become nice to you or in your debt” he said smiling.
“Ok. Now I understand how that can be. But what did Max-Tee mean when he thanked you for his new jam?”
Zach thought about that for a minute. The song had been about loyalty, love and lies. He knew exactly what Max-Tee was singing about – the last issue he had had with Rashidat and her lawyer boyfriend.
“Who knows what Max is smoking?” He said with a short laugh, then added “He’s like a kid bro to me, he’s friends with my CEO’s kid and all that. Sometimes we all get to sit together and talk and we speak freely” he said, keeping as close to the truth as he could without giving much away.
“Ose, Big Brother Lagos” Zaneta teased.
They kissed, then he got out to get the door for her.
“There you go, before you complain again about the weight of the door”
“You too, you know its heavy. Like uncharacteristically heavy for a car door”
“It’s a Volvo SUV, ma. It’s built like a tank”
“I know. I love the ride” she said smiling up at him.
“I’ll will it to you. Now, please, go inside before I kiss you out here and someone shoots me dead”
She laughed, shook her head and walked away. The gate opened before she knocked.
Zach drove away windows down. He smiled at the security vehicle that had followed them from the club back here as he drove past it. He knew they were really pissed at him for orchestrating the exit of the dude who had made it into OutRave tonight. Hopefully, they’d make a bad mistake soon enough.
Zaneta rapped slightly on the door
“Come in!” Febi said looking up.
She was really impressed with Zach. Impressed enough to be here now to work out the modalities of her absence for the weekend trip.
“I’ll be needing a few days off” she said as she approached Febi’s super-organised desk.
Zaneta sat and pointed at her dates on the calendar that sat on the desk “Starting Friday” she added.
“You wanna say what for?”
“I need a retreat. Recalibrate my faculties”
“So, I take it you are going out of town?”
“Yes. Somewhere I can be alone to think and read”
Febi had a mischievous glint in her eyes.
“Shaaaattap, my friend!”
“Save your stories for the forms. Me and you both know it’s Mr. Z’s you are going to”
“Sha co-habit well. And let me know which you want first – Honeymoon or Mat leave”
“How naa? Are those even interchangeable?”
“For you, I could make an exception”
“Na so” Zaneta said, rose and left Febi’s office. She needed to get back to refreshing her IG page. It had not been the same since she posted the pictures she had from Max-Tee’s event at OutRave.
By the time she got back to her phone which was charging at her desk, she had an IG DM from Edith:
“He seems to bring u more 4n than u can handle. Again, have u prayed about him?“
She didn’t waste any time in replying:
“Thank you, Edith. Did you pray about me before u & I started dating, though?“
“So, you know you are my alibi?” Zaneta said as she folded a scarf into her bag.
It was the Thursday before her departure and they were in Zaneta’s room. The plan was to pack and go stay at Alice’s till the morning when they’d both head for the airport.
“Better pay me well” Alice said admiring one of Zaneta’s watches, “Never seen this on you”.
“I never find an occasion to rock it”
Alice strapped it on.
“Consider yourself paid” Zaneta said.
“Thank you kindly” Alice said glad to have gotten the watch.
“Help me grab those, please” Zaneta said pointing at some clothes on the bed.
“Madam, it’s just a weekend” Alice said, yet doing as she was told.
“Kuku send me naked naa” Zaneta shot back.
“That would be even nicer” Alice replied.
“Shaking my head for you. You need a chilled glass of bleach”
“For someone who was seriously dragging feet before, you are really rearing to go”
“Well….” she left off.
About half an hour later, both ladies were in a cab riding to Alice’s. They didn’t notice a dark sedan that tailed them discretely,
Zach sat at a bar, a few houses down the road from Alice’s place. He saw the ladies arrive in a cab, saw Zaneta get her stuff from the trunk and saw as well, the tail that drove past, made a U-Turn and found a spot to park across from the bar he was at.
The two guys alighted after the ladies had disappeared behind the gates. One lit a cigarette as they crossed the road to the bar. Zach recognised the smoker from his early days with Zaneta. The guy from the club wasn’t here.
He watched from a corner as they ordered two bowls of pepper soup and bottles of big stout. When they had become engrossed in savouring and surviving the hot broth, Zach slipped out, walked to his car which was further down the road, got in and drove off. Tomorrow was going to be a long day.
When he got home, he called Zaneta. She picked on the first ring.
“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” he asked.
“Like I have been asleep at this hour since you have known me, Sir”
“You know we are leaving early, yeah?”
“Where are going, Zach? Stop being such a mystery man. I at least need to tell my friend where I am going” Zaneta protested.
“Don’t jinx it. Once we arrive, you can send her your location. You just be at the airport for 6. Our flight is 7:10am”
Zaneta sighed “I’m tired of you. Local or international?”
Zach laughed, “Local” he said, then added “now, get some sleep. See you in the morning”
“Aii” she said and hung up.
By 6am the next morning Zaneta and Alice were at the airport. The cab was to drop Zaneta off then take Alice to work.
“Have a blast, Hon” Alice said giving Zaneta a big hug as the cabbie got her stuff out of the trunk.
“I will. Don’t miss me too much” Zaneta said.
As she walked into the departure hall, bags slung over her shoulders, she placed a call to Tunji.
“Good morning, Sir”
“Good morning, Zaneta. Leaving already?” he asked.
“When is your flight?” he asked
“7:40am” she lied. She had looked up a departure time to Calabar. The cover story had morphed into just she and Alice going to the Obudu Mountain Resort in Cross River State.
“Call once you arrive in Calabar” he said
“I will, Sir” she replied rolling her eyes.
“You are sure you don’t want me to call ahead for you?”
“No, Sir, that won’t be necessary, thank you”
“Try and watch the debate, your father would love to know you are watching”
“I won’t miss it for the world” she said, rolling her eyes some more.
Zach watched her from one of stores as she walked into the departure hall. He looked around and before long he spotted her tail. It was the smoker from the night before, the one he had named ‘Smokey’.
The moment he was sure she had gotten off the phone, he called her.
“Hey” he said when she picked up.
“Oga, where are you?” she asked.
“Upstairs, getting a few things. I can see you, sending someone now to come get you. Stay put”
“Okay” she said looking upstairs as she hung up.
Zach noticed the security dude immediately head for the escalator, he must have noticed Zaneta’s upward glance and clearly wanted to be in position by the time Zaneta made the ascent, but Zach had banked on that.
“Shitty move, bro” Zach said as he made his own move.
Zaneta was still standing where she had been when she had taken the call from Zach when an airport staff approached her. The lady smiled then said “You must be Zaneta”
“Yes, I am. Good morning” she replied with a smile.
“Good morning. I have your ticket, come with me” she said, then reaching out for one of Zaneta’s bags, added “Let me help you with that”
“Thank you” Zaneta said as she followed the lady who led her into a service elevator and pushed a button for a floor upstairs.
Zach watched the guy who seemed confused. He was getting out his phone; likely to call in some more legs and eyes.
He knew why they were here. They needed to know what flight Zaneta would get on. But he had a surprise for them all.
“This way, ma” the lady said, leading Zaneta towards an overhead walkway.
“Excuse me” Zaneta said after a minute, “Shouldn’t we be heading in the other direction?” she asked pointing back towards the terminal. It seemed they were heading in the direction of the garage.
“No, ma. He asked me to bring you here” she said pointing at a blue 2010 Volvo XC60.
“This is Zach’s car” Zaneta said, pulling out her phone and stepping away from the lady.
Zach picked up on the first ring.
“What’s going on? Didn’t you say-” she was saying, quite confused and irritated, when he cut in
“I know. Just trust me, Z. Take the keys from her, I’ll meet you at the exit”
“Take the keys now, get in the car. I will call you when I’m at the exit” Zach said firmly leaving no room for argument.
“Ok” she said, “this your style of planning, though” she added and hung up.
She took the keys from the lady, thanked her and got in the driver’s seat of his car for the first time.
Now, Zach had to make it to the garage without being spotted or followed.
He exited the shop he was in and walked briskly in the opposite direction from Smokey. As he made a bend heading for a flight of stairs he saw the one from OutRave, he’d named him ‘Skodo’ because of his bald head, downstairs looking up.
Skodo spotted him and immediately headed for the same flight of stairs from the bottom.
On the next landing on his descent, Zach docked into the gents went to the sink and began to wash his hands. Almost immediately, he heard the door open. He turned around to find Skodo standing there.
“Hello” Zach said with a friendly smile, rolled off some paper towel and got drying off his hands. “I remember you from OutRave. What a night that was!” he teased.
“Where is she?” Skodo spoke, blocking Zach’s path as Zach made to leave.
“Who?” Zach asked
“The girl, stupid” Skodo barked.
“What girl?” Zach said, doing all he could to appear defenceless.
“Don’t act dumb with me” Skodo barked, letting a B sound go at the end of his sentence.
“It’s dumb, bro. The B is silent” Zach said still smiling.
Zach threw the wad of paper towel he held at Skodo’s face who knocked it away but didn’t see Zach’s left feet come up.
The toe of Zach’s left shoe caught Skodo in the crotch with a sickening sound, Skodo immediately bent over catching a solid blow to the ear from Zach’s right hand. He fell to the floor as Zach followed with a kick to the side of the head with his right leg. Skodo passed out.
Zach quickly dragged him into one of the toilet stalls and sat him on the bowl. Done, he exited the toilet before anyone else could come in.
As he walked down the rest of the stairs, he called Zaneta.
“Meet me at the exit now” he said when she picked up.
He exited the terminal building and briskly he crossed the road towards the garage. At the vehicle exit, he stepped in to stay out of sight from the terminal building.
Zaneta rolled down the ramp towards the exit, she was about to hit the accelerator when he spotted Zach walking up the ramp. She stopped and let him in.
“Good morning, beautiful” he said with a grin.
“Zach!” she shot back.
“Yes, darling?” he said still ginning.
“What’s this now? Where are we going?” she asked frustrated.
“I’ll tell you, just step on it, please, we are running late” he said.
“Which way?” she asked as she exited onto the main road.
“Left” he said, “we are going out of town”
“Is this a road trip?” she asked looking down at the fuel gauge that showed ‘Full’.
“Yup!” he replied, reclining his seat.
“And you are making me drive?”
“Let me know when you are tired, I’ll take over”
“I hate you so much right now, Zach” she wailed.
He chuckled, said “No you don’t”, then typed an SMS on his phone.
“We are off“
The recipient caught her eye as he hit ‘Send’.
“Who is Malik?” she asked.