tagNovels and NovellasOf All the Girls in Lagos Ch. 03

Of All the Girls in Lagos Ch. 03

byJerryJonesAfrique©

Johnny, the man Sting murdered was Sting's biggest rival in the local dope trade. It was little wonder why Sting made it to the top of somebody's hit list already. A dope boss was dead, which meant stakes were about to be re-arranged and territories were up for grabs. Sting was the second biggest distributor and taking over from his rival would surely increase demand for his products. The attempt on his life earlier this morning was either for revenge or to tilt the odds in someone else's favor. This was the exact reason someone out there was seriously vexed and out for his blood. However, Sting wasn't one to nap. He'd taxed his pawns to sniff the air and smoke the rat out, Lade included.

Lade had been with Sting's organization six years now and knew most of Sting's ambitions, alliances and enemies. Her only friend Cindy had been with Sting for much longer and had coached her on how Sting's game was played. Sting had found Lade to be clever and more subtle than any of the other girls he kept, and so he let her have a few privileges. He stopped pimping her around for cash and favors like he did the other girls. He'd learned that there was better use for resourceful females and that certain assignments will be far easier accomplished by sexy females than by gun-toting, egoistic males. He paid her commissions in cash and drugs. Some of his other girls were jealous, talking at his back of how 'he had a soft spot for Nicky'.

Lade stepped into the cold night out of the under-populated bar. She was wearing a jacket over her evening dress and flat shoes tonight. She stood at five feet three inches without her heels. There was a light touch of make up on her face, her hair was tied to a ponytail tonight and she rocked silver ear rings which complimented her silver purse. She was beautiful and knew it. A group of drunk guys hanging around a car parked outside the bar whistled at her, but she ignored them. She took in the rest of her surroundings. Rosa's bar was owned by Sting's latest rival, an albino named Mandy. She'd been here once before to pick up some cash for Sting but that had been over six months ago. She doubted anyone here would recognize her or who she worked for. She was just another single girl hanging out around the bar looking to mingle. However, the bar looked depopulated for a Friday night. Either the night was too cold to stay outside and everyone had gone to bed early, or Mandy and the noisy crowd he gathered around himself weren't about to show their faces, meaning something was definitely up with them.

The music playing was irritating - too loud to allow her think. She felt like a cigarette and looked around for a vendor. It was going to be a long, cold night for her. She'd need a packet. Or two... Her cell phone began ringing in her purse. She took it out knowing it had to be Sting checking that she was on point. In fact only Sting called her, as a rule. None of the other girls including Cindy owned a cell phone. Lade had learned to say, such was her life.

***

Banks sat in the rear seat of the taxi as it drove along a dark, bumpy street. He'd bathed and changed. He wore a white stud jacket zipped up to his chest and blue jeans. The taxi's headlamp was all that illuminated the broken asphalt single lane and its numerous pot-holes. There was an occasional trickle of pedestrians as they drove, but no other vehicles were on the road. The radio on the taxi was playing an old Damian Marley reggae track to which the driver was whistling in tune. It was distraction enough, trying to glean whatever meaning from the philosophical lyrics spewing through the cackling speakers. It was distraction enough from the numerous thoughts in his head, which he didn't want to be thinking.

Especially Jennifer. Next to Andy, she was his best friend. Why she wasn't as contented with that as he was beat his imagination. Why she wanted to complicate a good and reliable relationship with dates and romance was something he couldn't understand. If he refused to attempt a relationship with every pretty skirt that came close to him, he'd be titled a fag. If he accepted them as they came like he used to, then he'll be called a Casanova. However, this wasn't about pretty girls coming at him, rather about one who'd been consistent for a couple of years now. She was the hottest in his entire faculty, rich and probably not just after his family's money. She had the best cumulative grade point average among both faculties of Fine and performing arts. All the classiest guys he knew around school had asked her out. Her character was unquestionable too, and she'd set sights on him since day one. Everyone that knew both of them was rooting for her. All that didn't mean anything. Just because their relationship worked on a platonic level wasn't a guarantee that if he shifted gears and switched on some romance, they'd be a successful couple. He'd tire of her soon if he attempted it. He loved her, true. He just wasn't in love with her. He wasn't like most guys who developed imaginary sentiments when they found a desirable mate. They were cool to hang out with but most of such guys would laugh at him and call him a fag.

Banks took off his snapback cap and scratched his sweaty head as he stared out of the window at the neighborhood. There he went thinking about her again. Banks felt for the framed painting in his bag and looked at his wrist watch. He was still on schedule.

The taxi driver interrupted his thoughts. "Oga, e be like say na here I go drop you," He said slowing down to a stop at a junction on the street. There were no houses were they'd stopped. Banks frowned at him. "Have we gotten to where we are going?"

The driver pointed at a dark, adjacent street that disappeared to the right. "Na that one be York street, me I no fit to enter that side abeg." He said.

"Why? Wetin we come bargain for?" Banks asked in his imperfect pidgin. "No be number twenty-two York street I tell you, wey we agree how much I go pay you?"

"Oga no vex, abeg." The driver pleaded. "Them dey snatch people moto for this side by this time, especially if you no dey stay around and them no sabi you. Look around! When the last time we see moto pass?"

Banks scanned the area and sighed. "So wetin we go do now?"

"Just pay me small something, or you carry your money go. If I bin sabi say na that side you dey go, I no for gree carry you."

Banks looks at the dark, adjacent street again, trying to douse his anger. If that was York street, then twenty two would be within walking distance or something. Banks took out his wallet, slipped out a five hundred naira note and handed it to the driver. He alighted from the taxi, taking his framed canvas which was covered with well designed wrapping paper.

"Thank you oga! God bless you!" the driver quipped, reversing to drive away the way he came.

Banks crossed the junction into York street with the framed canvas under his arms. He remembered that his client had mentioned the name of a drinking bar close to his apartment. Rose's bar, he thought. Judging by the eeriness of the street, there'd be at most one drinking parlor; that shouldn't be hard to find. Still, he decided to call his client and alert him on his presence. Banks took out his blackberry and scrolled through his phone book as he walked past a dark junkyard at a corner of the street. There was a sharp bend on the street just ahead of him.

"Sorry, the number you just dialed is not available..." Banks ended the call with a mental sigh interrupting the computer voice giving him the bad news. Call network issues in Lagos was a rare occurrence but happened when you least expected. Stray odours of Indian hemp wafting through the air got him alert and made him take a second look at the junkyard to his left as he walked past it. He noticed a few glows from lit joints and could make out human shadows huddled together and talking in whispers. Banks straightened becoming self-conscious but continued at his pace. Fear was smelled on a prey faster than it was seen and he wasn't about to be an easy target for any night prowlers.

Banks made it around the bend and the lights he saw in the distance was a welcome sight. So was the crazy dance music whose sound drifted towards him. He could see the residential areas now. Small bungalows, most of them unfenced, lined both sides of the street and were lighted by i-pass-my-neighbor generators. He could hear their engines noisily compete with each other. A few houses and kiosks were lit with candles or kerosene lamps. A police patrol cruised past him as he made his way past the first houses searching for the address he had. Soon, he saw a huge lighted signboard ahead which read ROSA'S BAR. Okay, not ROSE'S... that was where the dance music was coming from. His client's house would be somewhere close. There were people hanging around the bar going about whatever they were up to.

That was when he noticed a familiar walk and scanned his memory. Hips out first in a seductive manner like most ladies but the dreads on her hair was what got his heartbeat fluttering. Then she turned and he saw her face, and his heart skipped a beat or two. Lade. What was she doing here? First thing he remembered was the last time he saw her, when she turned down his request to be more than friends with him because she was leaving to accept her admission into the University of Lagos. What was she doing here?

Lade was oblivious of her audience as she walked to one of the kiosks to buy a packet of cigarettes. She unwrapped it as easily as the old hand at it she was and pulled out a stick which she lit with a lighter she took out of her purse.

Banks was taken aback by that. Lade was smoking a cigarette in public dressed to kill near a pub in the middle of the night. He felt he must be reading it all wrong. She'd been his class captain in secondary school for crying out loud - the first female senior prefect in a mixed school for rich kids. He knew her father hadn't been rich and had struggled to send her there. They'd finished college at the same time but she'd gone on into tertiary education while he'd paused to figure out what he wanted to study. They used to be 'just friends' - that female friend you wished was not just a friend who wouldn't see you any other way. She was one of the book-smartest girls he'd ever known; okay except for Jennifer, but not by comparison. Jennifer again. Yet here she was smoking a cigarette, and in public for that matter, looking as at home as she could with this rough, low-caste neighborhood. There was no mistaking her. What was she doing here?

"Lade?" He called.

Lade turned to see a well-dressed guy walking to her. This one smiled easily like he knew her. She felt hot and spooked the next instant because she felt she knew him too. His smile became even more familiar the closer he got... and those eyes... then he took his cap off... Oh shit! It is... the tears came to her eyes. Tears of happiness, but there was no time to explain that. Banks was surprised at the show of emotions.

"Peter, it is really you?" She walks into his embrace and inhaled his cologne. His arms felt strong around her and she felt a strange feeling of being safe. Her hands encircled his neck and pulled him tighter to him. She still held her cigarette stick.

"Are you alright?" Banks asked with a twinge of concern.

"Yes, I'm fine. I'm just surprised and happy to see you again." Lade broke the embrace. "My God! Look at you! You're so big and handsome! What have you been feeding on?"

They hug each other again. "Wow! I've missed you so much Lade. What are you doing here?"

"I am uh... waiting to see someone. Not like a date, just uhm, a little work. And there is nothing special about the place, so I decided to have a smoke. You don't mind, right?"

"No, it's okay!" Banks agreed a bit too quickly that it was obvious he did. "I just never thought you'll be one to indulge in that. You used to be Miss Mary back at college."

They both laughed it off. A white BMW drove past behind Banks.

"So, what about you; what are doing here? I mean I figured you'll still be at Ibadan with your parents." Lade asked.

"We relocated. We live in Lagos now."

"Wow, we've got eight years' worth of catching up to do, Peter. Where are you going dressed like there's a party around I don't know about?"

Banks chuckled. "You're not the only one working tonight you know. I have a delivery to make and I'm actually late." Banks said looking at his wrist-watch. Lade took a half-step backwards. "Well, don't let me slow your grind." She said smiling, but they both hesitated to say their goodbyes. Before she could think of the possible blow-backs, she said, "I'll be at the bar if you won't take long." The next instant she wished she hasn't, but there was no going back now, especially judging by his relieved smile.

"I won't take long. I promise." Banks replied. She nodded in agreement and they went their separate ways. Just like that. Banks moved on towards his delivery with a spring to his step. He could feel his heart slamming in his rib cage. He'd forgotten all about her. Their friendship had gotten to a point where their paths in life diverged - forever he'd thought back then, but here she was again. He'd asked her to be his girl back then. She'd insinuated he watched too many romance movies. She'd preferred being just friends with him because there were too many girls throwing themselves at him then, how was she supposed to believe that they'd be exclusive. Well, here she was again; and chicks were still flocking around him like he was a poultry farmer. Jennifer had even placed a tag on him. Jennifer.

***

Jennifer descended the stairs into the large living room where the invited guests had all gathered. She was wearing a black, knitted sequins dress she'd purchased on ebay a month ago and never worn yet. It came down mid-thigh and was tight at all the right places. Her feet were encased in four-inch heels and legs in striped paint-splatter knee length socks. She looked lovely even when she wasn't trying. She could see Bayo and his fiancée Idara on the couch taking pictures with a SAMSUNG tablet. Theresa loved dancing. She and her boyfriend Tunde had already opened the floor. She hugged them all and made small talk with them before she headed to the kitchen to meet Andy who'd just returned with the birthday cake. There had been a little mix up at the bakery which Andy had to go straighten out.

Jennifer's decoration was the first awe of the occasion. Everyone in the room knew of Jennifer's knack for decorating, but she had surpassed herself tonight.

Okay, it wasn't much for Chika's birthday than it was for her date with Banks. She'd put her heart into it and she knew he'd love it. He always admired her knack for creating beauty. Hadn't he let her paint his studio by herself?

She smiled at the thought as she entered the wide and clean kitchen. Andy stood with a delivery man signing a delivery voucher. The cake was on the kitchen table. It was a Devil's food cake with milk chocolate frosting and blueberries. It had a single candle stick on top, and the number twenty-three which was Chika's age was designed on it. It had definitely set his pockets back some.

"Wow, Andy! It's beautiful! She'll definitely love it!" Jennifer was excited and went closer for a better look.

"Looks yummy enough... Can't wait to eat it..." Andy said chuckling. "Where is she?" he asked referring to Chika.

"She's upstairs dressing up. Every other person is here except Banks. Bayo brought a case of spirits while Tunde thought it wise to bring some palm wine for you guys."

That got Andy amused. "He said he was bringing the beer."

"There is a cooler full of Becks if that is what you mean. The wines and the rest of the refreshments are in the deep freezer."

"Banks should be here working the grill by now. But I'll fire it up if he doesn't get here on time like he said. Has the police called?"

"Yes. They are sending one patrol team." Jennifer got a can of beer for the delivery man on his way out. "Thank you." She said shaking hands with him before he left via the back door.

Andy gave Jennifer his full attention now. She always cleaned up nice. It didn't escape him that she was showing a bit more cleavage tonight than usual. Her four inch white heels made her almost as tall as he was. She wasn't inhibitive but she rarely threw herself out there to impress the men. Not tonight. She was dressed to kill and kill one lucky goof-head who was too blind to recognize and exploit it when the best things in life came knocking freely.

"Andy, you're staring." Jennifer interrupted. Andy smiled at being caught red-handed. "You're suddenly more beautiful than I remember." Jennifer blushed at his answer and smiled as the music switched to one of her favorites.

"Thanks Andy," She said and walked to him. "Banks is my date tonight," she said. "But I'll give you my first dance because of how good you treat my cousin and I love this song."

"I'll keep those lovely feet warm for your date when he arrives." Andy replied, took her hand and led her beaming out of the kitchen to the party slowly heating up in the living room.

***

Banks heard his client lock the gate behind him and was back on the street without his bag and a hundred grand split two ways in his back pockets. He took off his beanie and folded it in his fist. He was even warier now and had cause to. The street outside the bar had filled up some more. A few more cars were parked outside and there were a few more groups of people loitering around. The bar looked like it was about to get busier. He wished he'd brought his car. He could tell getting transport out of here was going to be a miracle.

If you stand still for a minute you get noticed, Vanessa's soldier boyfriend Mike had once told him. Banks knew how the ghetto streets ran. Back when he and his family lived in Ibadan, He'd known all the crooks on his block. Dudes that won't think twice to mug you for far less than Banks had on him tonight. He'd even hung out with them a few times and had even gotten into fights when someone got drunk and started trouble. However, he'd been made for more than that. His art had made him grow up out of that path. He was the man of his house and even though he wasn't the bread winner, he took on all of the weight of his load.

Banks' father had died six years ago. He had been shot by armed robbers who'd mistaken him for a policeman. Banks had cashed in an inheritance left him by a maternal great uncle worth four million which he'd invested in his mother's middle scale trading business. Mrs. Bankole was a wise woman. She had tripled her working capital in thirty six months and had quadrupuled her family worth in three more financial years. And so, Banks was rich investor even though he never bothered for once to go to his office at the company headquarters building in Ikeja.

His paintings sold like ice-cream in dry season due to his mother's business connections and the fact that he was actually good. He was even considering starting up an art gallery and collecting paintings from all over West Africa - a show hall for culture and art. Painting was his first love, and he never forgot a picture he'd seen before. Faces nonetheless. Yet he'd forgotten her. He'd been so preoccupied with the new found family affluence and graduating with a first class in Fine Arts which was quite enough. There had been no more room in his mind for Lade's face - for the face of the one that got away. For the one he'd actually had feelings for

He entered the bar hoping he hadn't wasted much time with his client and that Lade was still in there waiting for him. The bar was a bit dark with strobe lights chasing each other over the walls and and occupied tables. He scanned the place and found Lade sitting on a long stool at the bar. She was drinking a bottle of stout and was flirting with a huge guy who was smiling down at her captivated by whatever she was telling him. It was Mr. Four eyes, who Sting had thought he'd recognized at the supermarket that morning - only he wasn't wearing his second pair. This wasn't the Lade Banks knew. This one had the makings of a minx and Banks wondered if he liked this even better.

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byJerryJonesAfrique© 0 comments/ 2805 views/ 0 favorites

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