The Wolf fraternity trudged through the bush track that Fred had surely ran through in his escape an hour ago.
The young wolves conversed in excited whispers, apparently discussing Udeme’s dance battle with the DPO.
Mask led the match back to the apartment, while Udeme followed solemnly behind. He might have been a worthy adversary against the DPO but he still worried about what was about to go down at the house.
He was honest enough to face his crime, which involved enabling Fred’s escape. And even if Mask refused to pursue that particular line, there was Silvia to worry about; would she believe that he’d done what he’d done to protect her? Additionally, there was his stand off with Mask at the backyard; he knew he was a walking corpse, dance battle or no dance battle.
Udeme couldn’t recall the tract being so short; because, before he could scrounge up a bit of courage and staying power, they had arrived at the apartment. And of course, Silvia was there too, sitting in between two guys, apparently being held against her will and her eyes looked swollen from so much crying.
All he wanted was to rush to her and engulf her in a bear hug and comfort her, but he couldn’t. As though planned, when they got to the clearing in front of the house, the whole gang surrounded Udeme and Mask; there was no warning and the act spooked Udeme, especially, when he heard Silvia gasp in alarm.
“Wha…what’s going on?” he managed to ask through the fear twisting in his throat.
Mask gave him a look that he couldn’t discern.
“This is judgment day, Udeme,” Mask replied ominously.
He nodded as though the reply sounded reasonable to him, meanwhile, in his mind, he was already shitting his pants.
“Do I get a lawyer?” he asked honestly, his voice reflecting his fear with its jittery tone.
Mask guffawed, but the rest of the crew, most of those boys, having remained friendly with him this whole time, just looked on with stoic expressions. Udeme knew then that it was serious, because, if it wasn’t, at least, the crew would have chuckled or at least smiled when Mask guffawed.
“No, you don’t get a lawyer, you speak for yourself.”
“In my defense, I had no idea about this rule…this judgment rule,” Udeme stammered and shifted sideways, but everyway he looked, the crew stared back.
“You did something against the whole frat, Udeme, you let a prisoner go. What’s to stop that boy from bringing down the entire army on us?”
“That’s not possible…” Udeme tried to make light of the matter, but his joke and smile felt off even to him.
“Didn’t you notice he was a rich kid?” Mask sparked, suddenly angry, his laid back attitude had vanished without warning.
Udeme swallowed hard and stepped back from his vehemence, “Seriously, Mask, the kid was innocent and you know it.”
“It doesn’t excuse the fact that you let him go and when I would have caught him, you obstructed me!”
His heart beat like drums in his chest and it echoed in his ears. This was unknown territory but for once in his life, Udeme decided that he wasn’t going to back down. It wasn’t for himself but for Silvia, because, if Mask managed to put him down, he believed it would affect the way Silvia saw him and the frat might just decide that he didn’t deserve her after all.
Udeme looked down, because staring at Mask’s face and angry eyes seemed to be increasing his terror, and he had to try and calm his breathing or else, he would soon hyperventilate like an asthmatic patient.
“I might have easily enabled Fred’s escape because I knew he was innocent of what he was being accused of, in the first place. But on second thought, I also did it because, I over heard the cops wanting him for criminal charges. If they had caught him inside the apartment, we would have all been roped in with whatever crime he’s committed and I can assure you…no dance battle would have mediated the fact that we would have been accomplices.”
Mask stared at Udeme breathe heavily after speaking so passionately. His eyes also caught some of the crew shifting from stoic to agreement.
Bending his head slightly backwards in contemplation, Mask’s shoulders relaxed and his mouth twitched in a slight smile, which curiously looked like admiration.
“So, what do you suggest we do with you now?” he asked in a calmer voice.
Udeme was still breathing heavily, he didn’t think he was out of the wood yet, even though Mask looked a little bit relaxed. One thing he had learnt about Mask’s personality was unexpected fury; he could explode at anytime, so Udeme had always kept him at arms length and enjoyed his tiny doses of niceness as they came.
He turned his gaze to where Silvia stood at the veranda, apparently she had gotten up and probably tried to come to his aid when he was being surrounded by the crew, but one of her guards must have stopped her. So, she stood at the edge of the veranda and watched with a petrified look on her face.
That look gave Udeme hope that she at least still cared for him in some capacity. It was what made him garner the remaining splinters of his courage, to do what he was about to do.
“Let me go,” he said, without taking his gaze from Silvia. He saw her immediate reaction, in fact, he caught the increase in her pulse at the base of her neck, she was afraid for him and what was to come.
In all their conversations when they had shared a room, Silvia had elaborated on much of the frat’s rules, and one of them was how a leader was taken off his post…there always, unfailingly, had to be a fight and the winner becomes the new leader.
Udeme had had this option in his back pocket for the past months, but he had been too scared of the brutality Mask was capable of in a fight. But, now, there was no choice, he was ready to walk away at all and any cost, and the worse he could think of was a broken nose.
“What did you say?” Mask asked in a deceptively quiet tone, his eyes narrowing to slits, the only obvious sign that he was getting mad; Udeme had said an unexpected thing.
“I said,” he began in a tone raised an octave higher, “You have to let me go. I don’t know the official words, but I hereby, humbly, step down from being the alpha wolf,” Udeme announced it and made sure that he gazed at every shocked face around the circle, just so he would not have to gaze at Mask’s face.
“There’s no such rule,” Mask said the bald faced lie without changing his expression.
“Oh yes, Mask, there is,” Udeme countered with a genuine smile. He was still scared but his smile stemmed from his confidence in what he’d said.
“That you refused to tell me of this particular rule doesn’t make it inexistent,” he pointed out and could feel the surge of courage flowing in trickles into his system as he deigned to stand up to Mask for the first time.
“So you know what this rule entails?” Mask asked with a smirk.
Udeme nodded slowly, “I do.”
“And you are still willing to go with it?” now there was a kind of shocked disbelieve on his face.
He nodded, “Yes, I’m willing. I should have done it a long time ago, I don’t belong here, Mask, and you know it.”
There was silence after he’d spoken and everyone turned their collective gaze on Mask and waited for his verdict.
“On the other hand,” Udeme ventured again tentatively, not knowing how the idea would be received, not knowing if it was even part of the damn rules.
“You, Mask, were made for this position. It should have been you all along. You know everyone’s name, you know the rules, you run the whole frat and you have the charisma.”
“You don’t know what you are talking about, and if you are doing this to escape the fight, you’ve failed,” Mask sneered derisively.
“You don’t have to shout to be heard, one mean look does the trick, am I right?” Udeme asked, spreading his arms and encompassing the whole crew in his question.
The crew looked reluctant but there was a murmur of agreement and almost imperceptible nods.
Mask stared at all of them as though promising retribution for betraying him. “If this is what you want, then let’s do it,” he ground out through clenched teeth as he began to peel off his shirt.
Udeme swallowed with difficulty as each sinewy curve of Mask’s muscle came into view. He almost whimpered when the muscle bunched, bulging in the process as he contracted to pull of the tight shirt from his arms, behind him.
“Are there any rules that I should know…”
The punch knocked Udeme’s nervous words out of his mouth, in transit with saliva and hopefully, not a tooth.
He dropped like a sack of potatoes and didn’t move at all.
Senior agent Ette sat back after Fred had recounted the only way he knew Mike Okpo and the insane proposition he had offered him.
The old criminal was planning something big and he needed Fred’s genius to pull it off. Ette suspected that if the old geezer succeeded in his plan, the state would likely be left bankrupt.
Which would mean that both the rich and the poor would be affected, and there was no coming back from such loss. Mike Okpo had to be stopped, and Ette decided he had to do something about it.
“I don’t know if he also sent the cops…”
“Mike Okpo would never work with the DPO. He might have some junior officer under his pay, but the DPO is my friend, and he is as straight and narrow as they come…figuratively and literally,” he added when he recalled that the DPO was actually straight and narrow in form.
“So…so, who sent the cops after me then?” Fred asked in consternation, his eyes widening at the realization that there might be another threat to his well being…an unknown threat.
“That’s what I’m about to find out,” Ette said and put his phone to his ear. “Go to the kitchen and ask Emma to feed you,” he added, waving Fred away.
“Ah, hello, Ralf,” Ette spoke into the phone while he pointedly stared at Fred as he made his way out of the sitting room.
THE HOUSE WASN’T A mansion, but it was big. After making two wrong turns, he finally found the kitchen.
And Emma was there, munching furiously on a stalk of boiled corn with apparent relish. She gave him a baleful look through her long lashes and Fred had the urge to turn around and flee, but he didn’t, he swallowed his awkwardness and the need to be quiet and spoke.
“Hi,” he said, and Emma gave him a preposterous look that loudly said ‘really’.
“Can I have some water, please,” he managed to say without choking on his words. He did not just feel uncomfortable with her gaze, he felt like a child that had disappointed his favorite parent.
“In the fridge,” she replied, nodding towards the tall contraption in the corner.
Fred gulped down the whole bottle of water and tried not to belch loudly, but he lost the battle; the sound was so loud in the silent kitchen, he looked up at Emma instantly with a guilty look.
“Sorry,” he apologized but was surprised to hear her laugh suddenly, so sudden, half mashed grains of corn spewed from her mouth all over the kitchen floor.
Then she was choking and Fred froze in fear first before he galvanized himself into action. He rushed to her, raised his hand and slammed it down, opened palm on her upper back.
Emma’s eyes flew open in shock and with it her mouth, and invariably, the offending piece of corn spewed forth. Even though she was breathing a bit freely but raggedly, she still turned her watered, red eyes to Fred accusingly.
Fred ignored her and got a bottle of water for her, he urged her to drink it and unconsciously, he wiped her mouth, quite tenderly. The act paused them and they stared at each other, hearts thumping, minds wondering what would come next.
Then, Emma looked away, moving from her spot, hurting silently because she was leaving the cocoon of his warmth.
Clearing his throat, Fred said, “Sorry.”
“You hit a pregnant woman, Fred, you’re despicable,” Emma said, flashing Fred another accusing look while she washed her hands at the sink.
It took Fred a little while to realize that she’d been teasing, and in that little while, his expression had already turned to that of dismay that he might have, literally, hurt a pregnant woman…not just any woman, but Emma.
But to cover up his dismay, he commented, “My dad use to do that for us when we choked as kids, which was possibly every meal. We, I and my brother couldn’t stop talking when he fed us, and invariably, one of us would choke and my dad was always on hand to slam the food right out of our throats.”
“The force he used could have emptied our stomachs in the process, so, we learnt to stop talking while eating just to avoid his palm on our backs.”
Emma had been chuckling while he spoke and he wished fervently, that he could keep her happy that way. There were so many things he had to make up for, when it concerned her.
She could hear the love for his brother in his voice; she could see the ever present hurt he’d been hiding in his eyes. Emma realized that Fred wasn’t hiding behind his cool attitude any longer, he was striving to be open and that meant seeing his vulnerability.
Her heart skipped at the thought, could he really be who she hoped he would be…a good person, which would invariably translate to a good dad? Would he have come if he hadn’t stumbled into her house?
Shaking her head, she suppressed the thought and smiled at him, “There’s vegetable soup, would you like that?”
That smile totally melted the whole of his insides, he was sure when he ate, the food would drop straight to the ground because he would have no intestines…
“Yes, please, yes,” he answered enthusiastically and pulled the only seat at the table, while Emma turned to the stove.
Her uncle walked in then, smiling like he knew something the rest of them didn’t know, which was true.
“So, you took your dad’s money and he sent the cops after you.”
Both Emma and Fred exclaimed simultaneously and Ette nodded, staring at Fred fixedly.
“But…but, he promised my step mum that he wouldn’t because of the Kayanmata…”
“Kayanmata?!” Ette asked with widened, knowing eyes and Fred noticed.
“You know Kayanmata…what is it?” Fred pounced immediately, narrowing his eyes at Emma’s uncle.
Ette cleared his expression of the memory of ecstasy he’d had when he’d experienced Kayanmata. It had been a one time experience but it had made its mark.
“Uncle?” Emma called suspiciously.
“You know what this Kayanmata is?”
“It doesn’t matter…why did you take your father’s money?” Ette asked, rounding on Fred in a perfect maneuver of the conversation.
“Well…” and Fred told them about the investment he had made because of his genius in reading the stock market, he was sure the investment would yield a lot. And he had taken his father’s money because he’d wanted to pay for his apartment’s rent and didn’t want to miss it.
Nobody pointed out that it obviously was because he had wanted to have his wicked way with Emma. Which really gave him clarity anyway, in the first place, if he’d wanted to have his wicked way, he would have taken her to a hotel; but he had risked his father’s wrath and paid for an apartment.
While he’d been talking, Emma placed his meal before him. She served him with fine china plates, his garri looked smoothly designed on his plate and he looked up to her and smiled his thanks.
Emma looked away because she’d been caught, she hadn’t meant to do that, but it had just happened…like she’d been trying to impress him.
“Eat, son,” Ette prodded while still pondering how to go about the issue.
Fred felt self conscious; he was the only one sitting and about to eat while the others towered over him. But he washed his hands in the basin provided and dug in and when he did, his head didn’t come up until he cleared the plate.
He realized he’d been starving but then, the food had been exceptionally delicious too.
“You want another?” Emma asked when she saw his cleanly empty plates.
He shook his head, “Thank you,” he said and tried to control his belch again, he won this time around; his head came up in time to catch the fleeting smile on Emma’s face.
“You will spend the night here today and probably tomorrow, until I can figure out what’s going on,” Ette said and walked out, “Emma would show you to your room.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Fred called after him.
“So, this Kayanmata…” Emma begun, as she reached for his plates, intending to take them to the sink, but Fred jumped up and snatched the plates from her reach.
“Seat down, you’ve done enough already,” he said, while piling the plates into the basin.
She still stood there staring at him in shock, so he grabbed both her arms and led her to where he’d been sitting a scant minute ago, he made her sit.
“I’ll do the dishes,” he said and he did, while telling her that he knew nothing about the apparently famous Kayanmata.
“My uncle knows something, and I’ll find out about it,” Emma commented with a contemplative expression.
He nodded and turned away from the look on her face which he regarded as mischievous, and which he loved. He knew she had a mean streak in her, and if she said she’d find out something, she surely would. How was it possible that he loved even her mean streak?
“It would be nice, because my curiosity is killing me,” Fred said, clearing his throat, while he rinsed out the last of the plates.
“Done; anything else to do?” he asked, he eyes shinning with accomplishment.
“Slow down, Jacky, it’s midnight and time for bed,” she replied, teasing him and struggling out of the chair.
“I don’t feel like…”
“Try, for tomorrow is a long day, and I’m sure I can come up with lots of things for you to do,” she said as she was closing his room door. Emma smiled to herself, she was planning on putting her feet up tomorrow; Fred had no idea what he was offering to do; all her chores would be his.
The story continues
LagosConvo family, I greet you all. Its your girl Emem Bassey. So, people have been wanting my stories as a full novel, I have done this and even added hotter scenes to it. Please help my ministry.
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