Friday, May 29, 2015

Short Story: Finding Love

Happy ‪#‎DemocracyDay‬ Nigeria. Enjoy my new ‪#‎ShortStory‬ as you rest in your homes :). ‪#‎FindingLove‬ ‪#‎Romance‬ ‪#‎Suspense‬

I wrote this short story on a sleepless night in May 2015, although I already had the plot in 2014, and when I started writing it, I couldn't stop until I finished it. I was trying to explore the romance/suspense genre, then throw in some detective feature, all happening in Nigeria. I hope you enjoy it.

You can read the story below.

Description:

Finding love wasn't easy for Samantha, but when love finally came to her, it suddenly vanished... so she teamed up with a Private Investigator and went to find it back.
***

Samantha resented her life, although she had everything that would make any young girl content. At twenty-five, she already had a good and well-paying job as a celebrity fashion stylist, and a lovely three bedroom apartment in the heart of Ikoyi, in Lagos. She shared the apartment with Ada, a recent graduate she had met at a fashion show. It was after the show that she allowed Ada to share her apartment, at least until Ada also got a good-paying job and a place of her own to stay.

All the things Samantha once loved — life in general and her job, were now gradually fading away. She actually didn’t have to work, because she was from a very wealthy family, and as an only child, her parents could afford to give her anything she ever wanted; all she had to do was to ask. However, she never asked because the only thing she wanted money couldn’t buy; she wanted love, she craved romance, she wanted a boyfriend. She wanted to get out of her single status and get into a relationship that Cupid would approve of. She had never been lucky finding an honest boyfriend, as it always seemed that the guys were more interested in the combination of her money and beauty, than in her brain and personality.

It was the morning of June seventeenth 2014 that Samantha made the decision. It felt like she had woken up on the wrong side of the bed, because she didn’t feel like her usual lively self. She squinted her eyes as the sunray cut through her bedroom window and rested on her face. She rolled to the other side of her bed and checked her phone. It was 9.25am.

She was supposed to be at work by 9.00am. Her alarm must have gone off, but she didn’t hear it. It was one of the reasons why she felt that day wasn’t her day. She stared at her phone for a few seconds, there were about seven missed calls, but no voice or text messages. She unlocked the phone and checked who had called her. When she saw who it was, she gave the person an instant call back.

“You are late,” the person at the other end said.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Jean, I had a little trouble this morning.” Samantha stifled a yawn.

“I don’t care. I run a business and that’s what matters to me, not your morning trouble or whatever. I expect that…”

Samantha listened to her boss-from-hell lament. Mrs. Jean had never been a bad boss. She always looked out for all her employees, and her way of showing it was always amusing. Samantha could have laughed about Mrs. Jean’s lamenting as usual, but of recent, everyone seemed to be sent from hell to her. She was fed up. She listened as Mrs. Jean continued to ramble her complaint, then interrupted her mid-sentence.

“I quit!”

“What?” For the first time, Mrs. Jean didn’t mind that she had been interrupted.

“I said I quit. I’m done. Don’t expect me at work today or forever.” Samantha hung up before Mrs. Jean could say any other thing.

She heaved a prolonged sigh, placed her phone back on her side table and lay on her back, both arms and leg spread open. She closed her eyes and was trying to process what she had just done and obviously, the repercussions, when her room door swung open.

“Wakey-wakey.” It was Ada, her flatmate. Samantha took a pillow and put it over her head.

“Go away,” she said. Her voice was muffled. She almost added ‘flatmate-from-hell,’ but restrained herself. At that moment, she wondered when Ada was going to move out or if she ever would. “Don’t you ever knock?”

Ada smirked. She never knocked. “Aren’t you going to work today?”

“I quit.”

“You did what?”

“I quit.”

Ada bit her lower lip, wondering what in the world had made Samantha quit her job, at a time when jobs were difficult to come by in Lagos. Ada had been searching for a job for a while, and didn’t have the luxury or family connections that Samantha had.

“Why did you quit? Are you just going to stay all day or all week, or maybe even all month on your bed sulking?”

“I need a boyfriend. I need love. I need romance, and so far, my so-called precious and good paying job isn’t cutting it for me.”

“I see.”

“Yeah.” Samantha sighed again. “Jobs come easy for me, so I need to find a man first, then I’ll refocus on getting another job later.”

“Of course.” Ada rolled her eyes. “So what are you doing today?”

Samantha stood up and walked towards her window. She was in an apartment building of about fifteen floors and she was on the tenth floor, so she had a beautiful view of the area. One tall office building with ‘R.Rich Industries’ written on it was a few meters away from her building to the right side. On the left side, there was another building, a small one when compared to the R.Rich Industries building with just three floors. The ground floor had ‘Cake & Coffee’ written on it, the middle floor was a lingerie and accessories store, and the upper floor had ‘Chrissie’s Events’ on it. Even though the three shops had nothing in common, Samantha took in the lovely view, smiled, then turned to look at Ada.

“I think I would try out the cake and coffee place. I have been passing by it for the past two years and never stopped to know what’s inside,” Samantha said.

“It beats sitting at home and doing nothing, believe me,” Ada said, making Samantha laugh. “What time are you going?”

“Probably by 12.00 noon. I’ll just sit there for a couple of hours and read a book or play on my laptop, then come back home. Or maybe I’ll wander into R.Rich Industries and check if love awaits me there.”

Ada snorted. “Sounds like a good plan. But I have to go, because I have a meeting in a few hours and I don’t want to miss it. Hopefully, this one would bring the breakthrough that I need.”

Samantha smiled. “Good luck.”

“Good luck to you too,” Ada said. She pulled out her phone from her pants pocket and was dialling a number as she left Samantha’s room.

***

Samantha sat at a round high table in the cake and coffee shop, situated strategically by a window that overlooked the door. She fired up her laptop, a saucer of cheesecake by one side of it and a large cup of cappuccino on the other side. The shop was just about empty with only three people in it. Other people had come in, but they ordered take-outs and left almost immediately. Whenever she heard the door open, she looked up to check who it was, then looked back down if the person wasn’t male, young, handsome and wealthy-looking.

She went on the Internet and started researching intently on the R.Rich Industries, not paying any more attention to the door and the visitors. She was so engrossed in what she was reading that she didn’t notice someone walk up to her and greet her.

“Someone seems engrossed in their research.”

Samantha looked up when she realised that she was being addressed. “Sorry, what?” She did a double take, then readjusted herself. “I’m sorry, hi. Did you need to sit?”

The dashing young man in a dark blue suit threw her a half smile. He pulled the chair right in front of her and sat in it. “This is my favourite spot. I hope you don’t mind.”

Samantha shook her head. She was flabbergasted and was short of words. She looked around her, checking if someone had read her mind and was playing a practical joke on her, but there was no one there. While she sat staring, a waiter walked up to the table to take his order. She checked him out as he made his order, ‘cheese croissant and espresso.’ He spoke clear English in a nice accent and was articulate. When he was done, he looked at Samantha and extended a hand to her.

“I’m Ramsey.” He smiled, and she shook his hand. “Ramsey Richmond.”

“Samantha is my name.” She wasn’t sure if she should add her last name, so she didn’t, afraid that she would sound too serious.

Ramsey nodded towards her laptop. “What are you working on?”

She laughed, then closed it. “Actually, I’m researching the company next door.”

“You mean R.Rich Industries?”

She nodded, shy, even though there was nothing to be shy about.

“You can ask me anything you want to know about the company.”

She raised an eyebrow, wondering why he would say that, then it suddenly made sense to her ‘Ramsey Richmond’ and ‘R.Rich.’ “You are not...?”

Ramsey smiled and nodded. “I guess, I am. I actually love the cheese croissant in here. I hardly miss it in the mornings at this corner, and I love having it with an espresso.”

***

It had been over a month since Samantha met the young, extremely rich business man and billionaire, Ramsey Richmond. He had fallen in love with her from the first time he set his eyes on her in the cake and coffee shop, and it was obvious that she had also fallen in love with him. But despite his many advances and constant wooing, she refused to give him a chance.

She played hard to get, although it wasn’t her intention. She had talked about Ramsey with Ada, and Ada had advised her to play hard to get so that he would work hard for her. She reasoned that if he really wanted her, he had to work hard. So the wooing continued each day until Samantha felt that Ramsey had worked hard enough and decided to give him a chance, and also give him her body — on a passionate night together in her apartment that neither of them was going to forget in a long time.

*
The day after the passionate night, Samantha woke up in her fluffy bed, all smiles, but Ramsey wasn’t there. He had already left, but it didn’t kill her smile. She stretched slowly, as she still smiled, and when she turned her head to the left side of her bed, she saw a bouquet of mixed flowers in a vase with clean water. There was also a box beside the vase and a note by it. She rolled over to the other side of the bed and read the note:

Morning, Angel. I had to go to work and didn’t want to wake you up. I love you and I loved yesterday. See you later and enjoy your breakfast.”

*
Samantha smiled again and opened up the box — a portion of cheesecake and a large cup of cappuccino, just the way she liked it. She closed the box, then laid back on the bed and closed her eyes. Memories of the night before flooded her mind, sweet memories that put her to sleep soon afterwards.  Samantha woke up suddenly when her phone rang. She immediately sat up in her bed and looked around briefly, wondering what had happened. Her curtains were open, and it was very dark outside, which meant that it was already evening and she hadn’t taken a shower yet or even left her bed. Her phone rang again, startling her. She turned to her bedside table and picked up the phone. It was her mother calling.

“Good...” Samantha paused and looked at the time on her phone — it was 7.17pm. “...Evening. I mean, good evening, Mum.”

Her mother sniffled. “Hello, darling.”

“Is everything okay?”

“No.” Her mother sniffled again. “It’s your father.”

Samantha cleared her throat. “What about him?”

“He has a condition, darling. Something happened concerning his empire and it took a heavy toll on him.”

Samantha didn’t understand what her mother meant. Her parents were wealthy, but if anything happened that would send her father to the hospital, then it was serious. “Where is he now? Is he at the hospital? Are you with him?” she asked.

“We are at home. His doctor just came and is looking at him now. I’m afraid. I don’t know if you—”

“I’ll be there, Mum,” Samantha interrupted. “See you soon, and please take it easy.”

Samantha hung up immediately, and before she went into the shower, she checked her phone to see if Ramsey had called or sent her a text message... there was nothing. That was odd. So she tried to call him to tell him what was going on, where she was going and ask him why he hadn’t called her since, but there was no answer. The phone rang out, and when she called the line back, it was switched off. She didn’t want to read meaning to it, so she just put the phone down, went to shower and get ready, then left for her parents’ house.

***

Samantha drove quickly to Lekki Phase 1, where her parents lived, and it didn’t take her that much time. Luckily for her, there hadn’t been that much traffic on the road. She had tried calling Ramsey a few more times while she was in the car and he still didn’t pick up. She was starting to get worried. She didn’t want to panic, but the idea that Ramsey had gotten what he wanted and bailed on her hadn’t hit her yet. Ramsey had money, so maybe the idea of getting women who played hard to get was his own thrill. Before she entered her parents’ house, she called him one more time and there was still no answer.

Samantha’s mother was crying in the lobby of her father’s bedroom when she got in.

“Mum, are you okay?” Samantha ran to hold her.

“He’s in there.” Her mother put her face in her hand and shook her head. “I don’t want to see him that way. He is with the doctor now.”

“I’m going to see him.” Samantha walked towards the door, knocked and entered even without being invited in. Whatever it was that was wrong with her father, she knew it wasn’t that serious. Her mother had always been money conscious, so every little loss was always so dramatic and traumatic to her.

She entered quietly and saw her father on the bed quietly checking his blood pressure. The doctor was there and also quiet, paying close attention to what he was doing. Her father saw her, smiled at her and waited for the doctor to remove the strap from around his arm, then waved her over.

“My darling,” he said. “What a pleasant surprise to see you.”

Samantha smiled and sat close to him on his bed. “I was scared. I thought something awful had happened.”

Her father laughed. “Something awful did happen, and to be honest, I almost had a heart attack, but it’s surprising how I bounced back to health in little time.” He looked at the doctor who was still arranging his things to leave. “Your mother must have scared you.”

Samantha nodded. “She did.” Her father laughed. “She’ll calm down when she knows I’m doing well.”

“I’ll be off now,” the doctor interrupted. “Remember to take your medication, and do not stress yourself too much for now. If you feel uneasy at any point, call my direct line, if not I’ll see you tomorrow for the three routine checks.”

Samantha’s father nodded at the doctor, and the doctor left. They could both hear him at the door being interrogated by her mother and asking what was going on. Her father turned to look at her.

“I heard you quit your job.”

“You always hear everything, and it was about a month ago.”

“I heard on the same day that you did, but I didn’t want to interfere. Is everything okay with you?”

Everything wasn’t okay.

“Everything is fine,” she lied. “But don’t worry about it, when I’m ready, I’ll take care of that. So what happened with your empire?”

“A tremendous amount of money disappeared from our accounts, and even a lot more from the empire accounts. We have already investigated in-house but haven’t found the thief yet. Someone is definitely behind it. Someone that has access to me, to your mother or to our home, and that could be about one thousand people. The person must have had access to a lot of codes and a lot of information. The theft has caused a serious domino effect in the empire.”

Samantha could understand that. After taking a few seconds to reflect, she asked, “So what are you going to do about it?” she hoped all the money wasn’t lost.

“We’ll have to keep our eyes open and watch carefully. The thing with thieves is that they never get satisfied. They keep coming for more until they are caught; if not by me, then by their next victim.”

As her father spoke, she looked at her phone again... still nothing from Ramsey. A text came in at that instant from Ada, asking her if she wanted to hang out that evening. She didn’t reply because she wasn’t in the mood to hang out. Her new love hadn’t spoken to her in a whole day, conveniently after they had spent the night together, and her father was having a rather difficult time.

“So would you take up the offer to work with your father, ever?”

Her father’s voice woke her out of her thoughts. “No, Dad. Oil and gas doesn’t cut it for me.” She stood up, kissed her father on his cheeks, then headed towards the door. “I’ll check on you tomorrow.”

Before Samantha left, she talked a little bit with her mother, then sent a reply to Ada that she didn’t want to hang out, then called Ramsey again; his phone was switched off again.

***

Samantha woke up quite early the next day with thoughts of Ramsey in her head. He still hadn’t contacted her, and when she called him this time, his phone was disconnected. The number didn’t just exist anymore. It was the same thing that happened for the entire week before she finally concluded to herself that he had vanished. He had definitely found someone else, had left her and had moved on. She got out of bed and staggered to the kitchen to get a drink of water when she ran into Ada.

“Where are you going to all dressed this morning?” Samantha asked, surprised. “What time is it even?”

“6.45am.” Ada smiled. “I’m going for a job interview and I want to beat the traffic.”

“Dressed like that?” Samantha asked, with one raised eyebrow. “What kind of job is it anyway?”

Ada examined herself. Her dress wasn’t that bad, it was beautiful. It was a wrap round designer dress she had just bought. It was peach-colour and a perfect fit on her body. She also had high-heels on and a matching handbag to complete the look. Ada smiled. “It’s a bank job, plus I might be meeting up with a hunk later today after the interview.”

Samantha smiled, then remembered that she was yet to find her own runaway hunk. “I don’t know where Ramsey is.”

Ada blinked twice. “What do you mean by that?”

“He just vanished into thin air.” Samantha paused, not sure if to continue, but did. “I haven’t heard from him since the last night we spent together in my room.”

“Really? Typical man. He had probably gotten what he wanted and ran off.”

Samantha bit her lower lip. “I hope not. And I don’t know what to do.”

Ada looked at her wristwatch real quick. She still had a few minutes to spare. “Don’t do anything for now, so that you don’t look desperate. Give him some time to call you, and if he doesn’t then you can call him.”

“His phone is now disconnected, so I can’t reach him. And I have a feeling he has lost my number now. So if he wants to reach me, he wouldn’t be able to.”

Ada rolled her eyes. “Just don’t do anything... I have to go now, I’ll see you later.”

Ada made for the front door and Samantha followed to see her off when she noticed that Ada had packed a bag.

“Hmm, traveling?” Samantha asked. “The bag looks big enough for a whole weekend getaway, or even a whole week.”

Ada laughed. “Like I said before, love, I might be meeting up with a hunk today, and I think he has a lot planned for us.”

***

Samantha got dressed, and even against Ada’s advice, she went to R.Rich Industries to look for Ramsey. She had gone from suspicious, to angry, to worried and now to concerned, as she really wanted to know what was going on and if he was okay. She wore a tight light-grey dress suit and wore high-heels — even though she was just walking to the next building. She didn’t bother carrying her handbag with her, she took only her phone and keys.

When she walked into the huge building that looked state-of-the-art, the receptionist smiled at her. Samantha also smiled, then walked up to the young woman.

“Hello, I’m here to see Ramsey Richmond,” Samantha said in a pleasant tone.

“Excuse me?” The receptionist sounded confused or maybe just shocked that someone could walk up to her out of the blue to ask to see the owner of a very big company.

“I want to see the owner of this company, Ramsey. You can call his office and tell him that it’s Samantha from next door. He would know who I am.”

“Okay, but I don’t know any Ramsey, and no Ramsey owns this company.”

“I don’t understand.” Samantha looked perplexed. “His name is Ramsey Richmond, as in R.Rich, and I met him more than a month ago.”

The receptionist laughed. “Sorry, but the ‘R’ in R.Rich stands for ‘Resource.’ We do have a CEO though, but his name is neither Ramsey nor Richmond.” She paused for a bit and started to type into her computer. After a few seconds, she looked up. “His name is Alex Ibro. In fact, there’s no one by the name Ramsey and/or Richmond working in the building.”

Samantha was disappointed. She didn’t want to believe what she was hearing and felt that Ramsey had told the receptionist to say that to her. Without thanking the receptionist, she walked out of the building. At the entrance of the building, she ran into a random young man, whom she believed worked in the building, and asked him for the name of the CEO.

The random young man said, “Alex Ibro,” and Samantha walked away, defeated.

***

“You did what?” Ada asked. “I told you not to call and you go as far as visiting him at the office?”

“Well good thing I did, because he doesn’t own the company and doesn’t even work there. I did further research when I got home and found out that it was true. The CEO is truly a man named Alex Ibro and ‘R.Rich’ means ‘Resource Rich.’”

Ada suppressed a laugh. “Really? That’s crazy. What if he has really bailed on you? I think you should just take a step back and let him go.”

“And what if he is in trouble?”

“Samantha, you only did it with this guy once. Is that enough to stalk him and worry for him like you are his daughter, or wife or mother?”

“No, but I love him. I fell in love with him even before that night, so I can’t rest until I find him and he tells me by himself that he has moved on.”

“You are one persistent young woman, so what are you going to do to find your man, your mysterious man?”

“I need some time to think about it.”

***

When Samantha entered the Ikoyi Divisional police station, everyone stared at her. She didn’t know who exactly to talk to, as they all looked fixatedly at her. She looked around and before she could make a choice, a deliciously looking, dashing young man in mufti hurried out of an office and approached her.

“I’m Inspector Ike. How can I help you?”

Samantha didn’t want to get carried away, so she tried not to look into his eyes. “Hi, I’m Samantha. I think my friend is missing and I need to find him.”

Ike pulled out a jotter that looked more like a notebook, and a pen that he had to force scratch to write with, then looked up at her. “Tell me about him, the last time you saw him and why you think he is missing.”

After she had given Ike the information, she let him know that Ramsey’s phone number was disconnected, so it definitely meant that he was missing. She also added that he might have been kidnapped and maybe someone would call her to ask for a ransom soon. Ike didn’t react to what she had told him.

When Ike was done taking notes, he asked Samantha to describe Ramsey, and with the little she gave, an artist was able to get a rough sketch of him, which she approved. With that, they went to do some research and after about an hour, Ike returned to Samantha.

“We now know who this man is, but his name isn’t Ramsey Richmond, and he doesn’t own any company. His name is Peter Emeh.”

“What?” Samantha didn’t want to believe it. “So where is he? What does he do?”

“I don’t know.” Ike shrugged. “Probably at his house or going about his business. He’s a contractor.”

“What if he is really missing?” Samantha was still not satisfied. “I want to find him.”

“On what grounds? We can’t just use public funds to go after a man that hasn’t been reported missing by his family or next-of-kin. If anything, he is a criminal for impersonating someone else. Did he steal anything from you?”

Ramsey had actually spent a lot on her. She only wondered where he had gotten all the money, and the thought of him being a scam artist crossed her mind. “He didn’t steal anything from me. But is there a way we can find him without using public funds?”

Ike saw the desperation in Samantha’s eyes. “Let me talk to my people in-house. I’m a private investigator. I usually come to give a hand to this Police Division on difficult cases, so I may be able to help you find Peter Emeh, since I don’t have any case at the moment. But you would have to hire me privately.”

“Anything works for me, and I’ll pay whatever it takes to find him.”

***

Technically, Samantha was still jobless, so she asked Ike if she could join in on the search and investigation. She wanted to look for Ramsey or Peter by herself, and look in his eyes when he confessed the truth to her. Ike didn’t object. Samantha was paying him a lot of money, so whatever she wanted was fine by him as long as she wasn’t asking or willing to go into any type of danger or dangerous situation.

She called Ada to give her an update on the situation and Ada thought she was taking it too far by hiring a private investigator to look for a man that had lied to her, deceived her, gotten her into bed and left her. Samantha didn’t really care. She had never thought of hiring a private investigator in her life, so the whole adventure seemed thrilling. In fact, she didn’t even know that private investigators existed in Nigeria, so she was ready for the experience.

Once she had paid Ike his money, fifty percent of the agreed amount and the balance to be paid after the case had been concluded, he got to work immediately. He worked out of his office at the police station. It was just an office with a desk, a chair, an air conditioning system, and a fan, just in case. He brought his own laptop and the Internet modem he used for his research and documentation. He also had databases that he created and maintained for the police station, which they paid him for. Otherwise, he worked out of his room in his one bedroom apartment in Lekki.

Ike started his investigation by researching on Peter Emeh — his background and his current situation, his family members, his friends and his acquaintances. He went to ask them questions about Peter and they all said the same thing: that Peter was the nicest and most loyal person they had ever known. When they were asked about Peter’s whereabouts, they all wore confused looks. They had no idea that Peter was missing. It was when they each tried to call him that they realised that his phone line had been disconnected. It was also at that moment that they heard about Samantha and her theory that Peter was missing. However, she didn’t want to let them know the story about ‘Ramsey Richmond.’

***

Ike and Samantha had sort of gone on a road trip following information he had gotten off people who had last seen Peter. Ike started by asking around Samantha’s building, since that was the last place he had been when she last saw him. Ike asked the security guards, some shop owners around the building, then some taxi drivers who stayed in a taxi park not too far from the building. From the information he had gotten, Ike was able to piece together Peter’s movement, then they set off on their journey.

In the last couple of days, they had driven out of Lagos and camped for two days in Ogun State. In those two days, Ike looked around and asked questions. With the help of Samantha, who appeared to be very active in the search, they were able to determine that Peter had travelled further east and was possibly already in Ondo State. They left Ogun the next day and before nightfall, they got to Ondo and booked a room in the hotel.

The whole of Ondo was not really that large, so Ike and Samantha were able to cover the most important areas, where Peter could have been. A man had seen Peter and said that Peter had asked for the nearest airport either in Ekiti State or Edo State, where he could meet someone coming from Lagos, so that they could travel together. The man didn’t know which was the nearest airport or if there was even an airport in either of those States, so Peter left.

Instead of travelling to both States, Ike decided to search for telephone numbers of the airports and gave them a call directly. No flight from Lagos had gone into Ekiti in the last two weeks, and no flight out of Ekiti was due any time soon. So it definitely had to be Edo, but then again, it could have been an entirely different State. Ike called Edo airport and asked if any Peter Emeh had travelled out of the State in the last two days and if he had been seen with anyone. They obviously didn’t tell him as it was against airport safety and security policy.

Ike didn’t give up. He called the police station in Benin City, Edo, to ask for help, and while he was waiting for feedback, Samantha also called Ada to update her. When they were both done with their calls, they sat down together in Ike’s hotel room to talk.

“Who were you on the phone with?” Ike asked, as he pulled out his laptop and fired it up.

“It was just my flatmate.” Samantha shrugged. “I was updating her on the situation, so that she would know what’s going on and where I am.”

“Why?”

“Just in case.”

“Just in case what happens?” Ike was looking into her eyes and it was making her a bit uncomfortable.

She looked down at her toes and didn’t say anything. When she looked at Ike, he was smiling at her. His smile was tempting and the way he parted his lips was inviting, but she had to stay focused. She was there, with him, for a reason, and she didn’t want to lose track.

Ike smiled. He knew what she was thinking and also knew that she was shy. “Just in case I’m dangerous?” he asked.

She looked at him again, then looked down again and eventually shook her head.

Ike decided to change topics. “So do you tell her everything?”

Samantha looked at him, an eyebrow raised.

“Your friend or flatmate, I mean. Do you tell her everything?”

Samantha thought the question was inappropriate. “I tell her about everything because we live together. But my personal life is my personal life.”

“I meant do you tell her everything about this case?”

“Oh.” Samantha was slightly embarrassed. “Yes, I do. She asked to be updated.”

“What’s her name?”

“Ada.”

“Her surname?” Samantha hesitated for a few seconds, then said, “Enyim.”

“Ada Enyim,” Ike repeated. His eyes were glued to his laptop. He typed into it. “What does she look like?”

Samantha threw her head back and bit her lower lip, wondering why Ike was asking her such questions. She admitted that he was an investigator, but then again, he didn’t have to interrogate her. When she looked at him, he was looking at her, waiting. So she described exactly how Ada looked. At the same time, he typed into his laptop, and sometimes, he asked specific questions about Ada’s looks.

“What are you doing?” Samantha asked and went to stand behind him.

He turned the laptop, so that she could see the screen. There was a program running on the screen and a lot of faces were changing on one part of it. On the other part, she saw a data box, where Ike had typed in all the key information she had given to him, including the words ‘Ada’ and ‘Enyim.’

“The future of Nigeria’s security,” Ike said. “FaceTrackNg. A facial recognition software built by one young techie I know and yet to be introduced to the metropolis. Only a few Nigerian police officers have access to it and I’m one of the investigators that have been filling in the contents.”

Samantha didn’t say anything. She was amazed at what she was seeing. She glanced at Ike and he was looking at her, in her eyes, then at her lips. She turned her head completely towards him and felt goose bumps all over her body. They were so close to each other that if Ike stretched his neck, their noses would touch. The last few days they had spent together working, eating, talking and resting had obviously brought them closer to an extent.

Ike looked at her lips again and she looked at his. They brought their heads together to kiss when Ike’s cell phone rang. He looked at the screen and it had ‘P.I. Jackson’ calling. Ike excused himself and went to take the call. When he stepped away, Samantha sat on the chair looking at the laptop screen and smiling. It wasn’t because she was still astonished at the new software, but because she had almost kissed Ike. Her smile was cut short when he returned. She got up from the chair and he sat in it.

“Peter is in Abuja,” Ike said.

“Was that what P.I. Jackson said?” Samantha asked.

Ike looked at her immediately, surprised she had said that, since he didn’t know that she had seen his phone screen. She smiled at him, and he smiled back at her, then nodded. He looked at her lips again and moved to kiss her, and this time, it was successful. They shared a long kiss that was interrupted by a beeping sound that came from the laptop. They took their time to withdraw from each other, smiling mischievously, then looked at the screen together.

“What?” Samantha exclaimed, with her eyes glued to the screen.

The facial recognition program had finished running and it had found Ada’s face with the description she had given, but all the information didn’t match. Firstly, her name wasn’t Ada Enyim. It was Lola James. Secondly, she was almost ten years older than she claimed, and not a recent graduate. And finally, a whole lot of other information didn’t add up — her background history, her personal details and so on.

Ike looked at Samantha, then predicted her next move. “Don’t say anything to her.”

It was too late. Samantha had already gone to the bed, picked up her handbag and was searching fervently for her cell phone. Ike walked up to her and tried to calm her down, but she pushed him away. She took out her phone and started to dial with shaky hands. She didn’t know when the tears rolled out of her eyes and before she could control it, Ada picked up the call at the other end, and said, “Hello Samantha.”

***

Samantha was sitting right next to Ike on a plane in Benin City and they were flying to Cross River State. She had taken the window seat, so she was looking out of the window, lost in thoughts. Ike held her hand and brought her back to reality. She turned and looked at him, then smiled briefly before turning back to look out of the window. She wanted to think about what she was getting herself into.

She had called Ada after she found out that her real name was Lola James and that her profile said she had been involved in a lot of fraud, money laundering and theft, targeting rich young girls and posing as their friends, then stealing from them and their families. She didn’t want to believe any of it at first, but then, she remembered her father and how he had lost a lot of money, and almost had a heart attack.

After she had called Lola and before she could speak, Ike snatched the phone out of her hand, ended the call and asked her to calm down. He felt that calling Lola wasn’t the way to go about it, as Lola could easily get scared and run away. He also said it wasn’t the time to deal with Lola. They were already on one case and he wanted to finish it first before moving to another case. Samantha refused. She didn’t call Lola back, but she was prepared to put the mission at hand on hold and take care of Lola’s case immediately. She was also willing to pay any extra amount if Ike wanted.

Ike wanted to argue with her, but he knew that it was a lost battle, so he tracked down Lola’s location with her cell phone to Cross River. They then packed up their things and drove down to Benin City that same day. They got to Benin City quite late and got a room there, which they shared because he wanted to keep an eye on her. So the next morning, they parked their car at the airport, then boarded the first flight to Calabar, in Cross River.

About three hours later, they landed at Margaret Ekpo International Airport, making a stop in Abuja. The flights were not direct and the only other option was a stop in Lagos, so they opted for Abuja just to have a different itinerary. They hired a car at the airport and went straight to the hotel where Lola was staying. Ike had suggested they get a room first, rest and eat, but Samantha didn’t want that. She wanted to confront Lola immediately, then threaten her and get her arrested if necessary, and with Ike’s help of course. The only problem was that Ike wasn’t aware of her plan.

Before they got to the hotel, Samantha stopped by at the ATM and withdrew one hundred and fifty thousand naira. She figured that if she was going to enter Lola’s room unannounced, she should be prepared to pay a lot of money for it. She got to the reception and slammed all the money she had withdrawn on the table and the attendant’s eyes popped open. She told him what she wanted in exchange for the money and he obliged. All the while, Ike stood in the background and didn’t say anything. He allowed her to run the show.

With the access key in hand, Samantha ran up the stairs to the first floor of the hotel, wondering what Lola was doing in Calabar. Lola had spoken about an interview and she wondered if it was to find another potential rich young girl to steal from. She got in front of the door, took a deep breath, then put the key card in the slot. Once she saw the green light, she pushed the door open and walked in with Ike following behind, then saw Lola on the bed with a man. She froze, as Lola scrambled off the bed, then stood still and stared at Ramsey, or Peter, as he too scrambled off the bed, trying to put on his trousers very fast.

“Samantha, oh my god,” Lola said.

“What are you doing here?” Peter added.

Samantha was speechless. She shook her head and held her hand over her mouth as she started to cry. All the guts she had in her just a few moments ago had vanished, then she ran out of the room, and when Peter tried to run after her, Ike held his hand across the doorway and blocked it.

“You stay away from her.” Ike’s voice was menacing, so Peter stopped and looked at him. Ike then threw both Peter and Lola a disgusted look, then walked out of the room.

Samantha was standing by the car when Ike got outside. He unlocked the door with the remote control and she jumped in immediately. He entered the other side and drove back to the airport, then bought them tickets back to Lagos. Before they took off, he called the police station in Benin City and arranged with them to have his car brought back to Lagos.

***

They arrived in Lagos almost two hours later. Samantha didn’t say that much during the flight, only that she wanted Lola nailed. She wanted Ike to investigate Lola and find a link between Lola and her father’s missing money. Ike agreed to start working on the case from the next day, after he had reported back to the police station in Ikoyi.

Samantha didn’t go back to her apartment because she didn’t want to be alone that day, and the fact that Lola still shared the place with her disgusted her. She wanted to stay with Ike for a short while, then after she had gotten someone to change the lock of her door, she would go back. Ike was okay with the idea and allowed Samantha rest in his apartment. He ordered them something to eat and they ate together, but quietly.

Samantha had only planned to stay a couple of hours, but after eating, she fell asleep and overslept. Ike didn’t wake her up because he didn’t want to disturb her. While she was sleeping, he went to report to the police station, then went to her place and had her locks changed for her. When he was going back home, he stopped at a shop and bought groceries, then bought a bottle of white wine and a box of chocolate.

By the time he got home, Samantha was awake watching the news. She said she had wanted to go home, but didn’t want to leave his place open and also couldn’t find her keys. He explained to her where he had been and what he had done, and it made her smile. She then helped him with the groceries he had bought and he asked her to stay for dinner because he wanted to cook. She agreed.

He cooked pasta with shredded beef and green pepper sauce, and it was heavenly. She liked it. After dinner, Ike opened the bottle of wine and they had a few glasses with chocolate. They sat and talked about everything and didn’t notice time go by. It was much later in the night that Ike expressed his love to her and asked her to date him. Samantha was shocked at the sudden request and her mind immediately went to Peter. She thought about it briefly. Peter was a jerk and at least she found out that he wasn’t in any kind of trouble.

She then agreed to be with Ike and they shared a kiss, the same type of tantalising kiss they had shared in Ondo State and a much longer one. The long kiss led them to the bedroom, where they explored each other’s body and made passionate love. Samantha slept off almost immediately, so decidedly, she spent the night there.

***

Samantha woke up suddenly when she heard voices coming from outside. She sat up on the bed, disoriented for a few seconds, before she remembered where she was. She reached for her phone and checked the time. It was 1.30am. She touched the bed and Ike wasn’t there.

She stood up to go and verify whose voices they were and where they were coming from. Ike wasn’t in the living room or in the kitchen. He was outside by the door, and he was arguing with someone. She couldn’t understand what the argument was about, as she couldn’t make out the words, and when she tried to peep, she couldn’t see the face of the other person — Ike was blocking the person. She went back to the room and waited for Ike to come back to bed before she asked him about it. Ike said it was work stuff. He had blown off an evening job because he wanted to be with her and it had caused a problem at the police station. But it was nothing that couldn’t be handled.

***

Samantha found herself back in Ike’s apartment the next day, but towards the evening. She had gone back to her apartment in the morning with her new keys, showered, changed her clothes and gone to visit her parents. Her father was doing so much better, which meant that her mother was also doing well. He told her that he had been contacted by the police, and that they had found the person responsible for the loss of his money. The person had been arrested and all the funds were going to be returned to him.

Samantha smiled. She was genuinely happy for him and also glad that, as promised, Ike had followed up on the case. She didn’t know if to tell her parents that the girl they knew to be Ada, who was really Lola, had been behind it. She didn’t know if to tell them about the journey she had embarked upon with the private investigator. She knew that they were going to find out one way or another, so she told them everything. They were highly disappointed, but also glad that everything had worked out well eventually. So it was after the visit that she went back to Ike’s apartment to see him.

They had just finished making love, and Ike had gotten another work phone call and gone to the living room to speak freely. Samantha, on the other hand, laid on his bed, watching the evening news and waiting for him to come back. It was then that the story on Lola came on. Samantha sat up smiling, happy that she had been a part of the investigation.

She rolled over to the other side of the bed to get the remote control, where Ike had kept it. The volume of the TV was low, so she could barely hear anything. She increased it immediately, then listened and watched attentively.

...Goes by different aliases, has been arrested for her latest crime. Lola James duped her flatmate’s parents of almost fifty billion naira, by using information she had gotten while living with her flatmate. Her several bank accounts have been discovered and all stolen funds are being returned to victims. She was working in a network, which has also been brought down, thanks to the Nigerian Police Force, and undercover private investigator and police contractor, Princewill Jackson...

Samantha dropped the remote control at the instant, because the man she was looking at on the screen, whose name was Princewill Jackson, was also known as Ramsey Richmond and Peter Emeh. She was shocked, and at that instant, one thing crossed her mind — the phone call Ike had received in Ondo State from a certain ‘P.I. Jackson.’

Samantha ran out of the room immediately and went to talk to Ike. She was confused and her veins felt like they were heating up in her body. Ike wasn’t in the living room or in the kitchen, and there were the voices again coming from outside. Ike was probably arguing with someone from work again. She didn’t want to interrupt, but what she had to say couldn’t wait.

She barged outside and almost lost her breath when she saw Ike arguing with Ramsey or Peter or Princewill. She wasn’t sure what name to call him anymore. They were arguing as if they knew each other very well, and from the few words she had heard, it was obvious that they were arguing about her. She demanded an explanation.

After a brief silence, Princewill broke the ice. He looked at Ike and asked, “Are you going to tell her or should I?”

*
Ike didn’t have the guts to give Samantha the explanation, so Princewill did, and the story took Samantha back to the beginning... to the day she quit her job. Lola had orchestrated the whole thing.

Lola always used the same routine. She would find a prey, spend time with them and get to know them better, and depending on their likes or “sin,” she would arrange her attack plan. If the new friend liked to drink, it was an easy and quick job, if they liked to study, it could also be easily handled, if they were people that liked to party and fool around, it would have also been easy, but Samantha was a different case. She was rich, but also hardworking and too serious. Lola had been looking for Samantha’s weakness until the day Samantha said she had quit her job because she wanted love... romance... a relationship.

Lola immediately called an acquaintance in her criminal network and asked him for a contact that was young, clean and a sweet talker, and a phone number was given to her shortly afterwards. Samantha had told Lola that she was going to the cake and coffee shop in two hours and that was how long it took Lola to put the plan in motion. She called Princewill, not knowing that he was an undercover investigator, and explained the basics to him. He was meant to distract Samantha and make her fall in love with him, while she had told Samantha to play hard to get. Then when Samantha finally fell for him, he would make love to her and when she was asleep, he would hack into everything she had — phone, laptop, bank accounts, connections, links, information — and send all the details to her. After that, he was to dump Samantha and break her heart. She would then spend the time crying, and when she finally moved on, it would be too late.

The only problem with the plan was that Princewill had genuinely fallen for Samantha during the time he wooed her and she played hard to get. Pretence became reality for him, but he couldn’t just end the mission, as there was a lot at stake. So instead of breaking her heart by dumping her, he decided to vanish, without a trace. He felt that it would make things easier for her. He hadn’t expected her to look for him, so he was shocked when he saw her walk into the police station on the day she did. He didn’t want to be discovered, so he asked his friend and partner, Ike to talk to her, after he had briefed him on the situation, and ask her what she wanted. Ike’s role was to distract her and keep her away until the end of the case, but he did the total opposite for his own selfish reasons. He knew that Princewill really liked Samantha so he decided to take advantage of the situation, as if it was a contest.

Ike and Princewill communicated all the time during the case. Princewill gave Ike real time updates, while Ike gave false reports. In fact, Ike hadn’t really done any investigation or tracking. He had used information given to him by Princewill. He knew the plan all along that Princewill was going to be in Calabar with Lola, and also knew in what hotel they were going to be lodged, so if he had acted surprised and concerned at any time, he had been pretending. He wanted Samantha to catch Princewill in the act, so that she would finally forget about him.

While working undercover, Princewill said he had to do whatever was necessary to get the information he wanted from Lola. He normally observed his characters carefully, so he knew that Lola liked him, and that was her weakness. So he used sex as a tool to get what he wanted, which meant that he initiated it, and not Lola. Ike almost blew up the case when he showed up with Samantha, but Princewill managed to salvage it, swearing to Lola that he had no idea how Samantha had found them.

His life had been put in danger at that point, and Lola threatened to kill him. She then went ahead to contact one of her acquaintances to help her verify if Princewill was genuine or not. It was verified that he was. And to make her calm down again, he used sex as a tool a few more times until he wore her out and she fell asleep. Then he was able to hack into her phone and networks to get the information of everyone involved. He sent out details to the Police Force immediately and they started working even as Lola was asleep. By the time she woke up the next day, her criminal network had already collapsed and she was arrested...

*
Samantha got upset after the revelation and about the fact that she had been used by both men. And without saying anything, she went back into Ike’s room, refusing to allow any of them touch her or talk to her. She grabbed her handbag and stormed out of the apartment.

***

Samantha had spent the weeks that followed the sudden explosive events that occurred in her life, thinking. She had received multiple unanswered phone calls from both Princewill and Ike, each still declaring love to her and at the same time telling her why the other person wasn’t good for her. They left her messages, left her gifts at her doorstep, even stopped by a few times and knocked until they got tired, but she refused to consider them.

The problem was that she loved them both. She had once loved Princewill then hated him, and she had also once loved Ike and now hated him too. So both men were on equal footing when it came to the love and hate mélange. They were also dashingly handsome, very seductive, well built and everything that a girl would want. There was a tie.

Samantha still wanted love, but she didn’t want painful love, and she also didn’t want to start afresh and start looking for another person to love and to love her. There had to be one thing that distinguished Ike from Princewill and it was going to be the key to making a choice. So she decided to think deeply about it, then the next day, she would pick the right one.

***

A few days later, Samantha went into her favourite cake and coffee shop and sat at a round table, but it wasn’t the table close to the window. She had made her decision a few days back and invited the person for coffee, but she didn’t want to see him as he walked into the shop. She wanted to be surprised by him.

She had taken a bit of her cheesecake when she heard the door open. A dashing young man walked up to her and grinned. She smiled back and her eyes betrayed forgiveness. She had forgiven him because she loved him and because she had found the one difference in him.

He pulled a chair and sat down opposite her. “I want us to start all over again,” he said.

“I want that too.” Samantha smiled.

Just then the waiter came to take his order, and as he placed it, he kept his steady gaze on Samantha, not wanting to take his eyes off her ever again.

“Cheese croissant and espresso,” he said.

“As always,” the waiter replied, then scuttled off.

In the end, making a decision had been quite easy for her. Princewill did everything he had done for her, while Ike did everything he had done for himself and to spite Princewill. She went over to Princewill, sat on his lap and they shared a delicious long kiss. It was at that moment Samantha knew she had found love.

*****
Copyright © 2015 C. M. Okonkwo

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Thank you :),

CMO.