THE PATH THE LITTLE ONES LED (Part 2)

The traffic on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way in Ikeja was moving at a crawl. The night was pressing in fast and the road was flooded with people calling it a day. The road was choked in both directions with all manner of vehicles and the din of insistent horns and angry car engines. Solomon wasn’t in a hurry to get to his destination, but he responded instinctively when he saw an opening ahead of him and swerved into it, cutting short the advent of a commercial bus beside him. The driver shot him a glare and spat some Yoruba cusswords at him.

But Solomon didn’t notice him.

You have to let me go.

The whispered words coasted against his ears, startling him with their audibility. But no one was in the car with him. His distraught mind was just calling up the poignant words Margaret said to him when he went to visit her at the hospital earlier.

“You have to let me go.”

“No,” he said through clenched teeth. “I can’t. I won’t. Stop saying that.”

“Sol, it’s alright.” She stared up at him from a face that had emaciated to the point of gauntness. With eyes that had sunken into deep sockets on her pallid face. Tufts of her hair lay lank and lifeless on the pillow beneath her head. She lifted a frail hand on top of his, which held her other one. “You have done everything you can –”

“Not everything, Meg. Not everything. There’s still much left to do.”

“How did it go with Mrs. Salman?”

He hesitated. The look she gave him told him she knew. He sighed, “It didn’t go as I hoped.”

“You see, Sol…there’s really no need to keep fighting this…”

“Why can’t I? Do you have any idea how over my life will be if I lose you? Don’t ask me to give up hope, Meg. As long as I’m living, as long as you’re still breathing, I have to do everything I can to make you better.”

“That’s just it. Nothing so far is working.” Her lips curved in a wan smile. “You have to let me go –”

“Stop please,” Solomon cut in forcefully. “You have to stop saying that.” He swallowed hard a couple of times, as if choking on emotion and struggling to maintain control of himself. It alarmed him that Margaret, the most sanguine woman he’d ever known, was now sounding so defeated. He looked at her, into her eyes, and it seemed as though something in there – a light, a flicker – had dimmed. “Please, stay with me.” He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it fervently. “Stay with me. Fight this. Don’t give up on me.”

Her throat jerked as she swallowed and her eyes fluttered shut. She went to sleep, her response to his plea unexpressed.

And that was when Solomon finally made up his mind. That was the reason he was in his car now, headed back to the building he left this morning. One way or the other, he had to get what Funsho Salman had refused to give him.

When he pulled up before the building, it was some minutes to 10pm. He shifted the gear level to ‘neutral’ and left the engine ticking over idly as he took in his immediate surroundings. The neighbourhood, he’d realized earlier, was both a residential and commercial district, heavy on the former. There were no streetlights, but there was enough illumination from some of the other houses. There was the occasional bark of a dog and a shouting match was resonating from the window of a duplex on his right. The street was deserted, its emptiness broken by the occasional car passing by, its headlights cutting a bright swath through the darkness.

Solomon turned off the ignition and climbed out of the car with a small bag. He opened the back door and pulled out a small ladder. Hefting it in his hand, he shut the door and marched across the road to the wall fencing in Mrs. Salman’s establishment. A mango tree rose stoutly close to the section of the wall he intended to breach. The tree’s sprawling branches and wide trunk would provide him with cover from any passerby. He steadied the ladder against the wall and began to climb. When he got to the top, the gnarly projections of the wiring atop the fence snagged at his clothing and pricked his exposed skin. He winced as he navigated his way from one side of the wall to the other. His breathing came fast from the exertion, and the thought that he could slip and drop to the ground fleeted through his mind.

This is ridiculous. I’m not a thief, the self-righteous side of him stormed.

Yes, but I’m a desperate man looking to help his dying wife, the other side argued.

He jumped and landed on the macadam inside. He skulked in the shadows and swept a look over the compound. There was no one in sight. A babble of voices came from one wing of the building.

The residence of Mrs. Salman’s wards, he supposed.

Lights blazed from that section, but the administrative wing was cloaked in darkness.

Good. That was where he needed to get in. He glanced at the security house affixed to the wall beside the gate, wondering if there was anyone on duty at night. There was no movement from there. That meant nothing; he still had to be careful. He walked stealthily out from his hideout, keeping to the shadows and close to the wall of the building, until he got to the main entrance. The door was locked; that was expected. He’d come prepared. The small bag with him contained the tools he’d need for a break-in – a bunch of master keys, a rubber flashlight, a bolt cutter, a wrecking bar, screwdrivers. He worked for a construction company. He knew the drill.

He got to work, nipping and maneuvering his way through any obstruction. Fifteen minutes later, he was standing inside Funsho Salman’s office. The very same room he’d walked out of this morning. Under the thin beam of his flashlight, he took in the moderate furnishings. The big desk with a black leather swivel chair facing the door. The large settee backed up against a wall. The steel filing cabinet next to it. There was also a desktop computer set up on the desk.

It’s been twelve years, he thought. Where will she keep records from twelve years ago? Most likely in the filing cabinet.

He moved to it. There were a lot of drawers, and when he pulled one open, it made a grating noise that made him flinch. He picked out a folder, opened it and scanned the papers inside with the flashlight. The dating was 1998. He wanted information from 2001. The next file was dated 1998 as well. He began working his way down the row, opening drawer after drawer. 1998. 1999. 2000. 2001. He slowed down and started paying more attention to the names listed inside each file.

Margaret Okere. The Igbokwes. Margaret Okere. The Igbokwes. His mind reiterated the names as he scoured through the files. Finally, he hit pay dirt. He stiffened when he saw the print. He recognized the fancy scrawl of Margaret’s signature. Next to it was the signature of the other party. A Benedict Igbokwe. He looked for an address. It was in Port Harcourt. He dug out his phone and typed in the address and phone numbers, saving the information as a message in his ‘Drafts’. Feeling buoyed with pleasure, he tucked the file back in, closed the drawer, scanned the office one more time and let himself out. He hurried downstairs and was walking through the main door when a voice barked, “Hey! Who be that?”

He froze. There was a rush of feet. He slowly turned and saw the security man from this morning almost upon him. He lifted his hand placatingly, “Listen –”

“Wetin you dey do here?” the man spat furiously. “Who you be?”

He began in a low voice, “Oga, relax –”

“Relax?! You dey craze! Oloriburuku ni é!” And he rushed at Solomon, launching two jabs straight at his face.

Solomon blocked them with his hands and ducked under a big hook from the man that would have knocked him off his feet if it had connected. He feinted to his right and bobbed back to his left as the man threw two hard right jabs. The first one he dodged and the second hit him in the left shoulder. The blow was solid, and Solomon stumbled to his right from the force. His opponent took the advantage and charged in, his left hand trying to push Solomon’s hands out of the way so he could deliver a knockout blow with his right.

As the man began swinging his fist, Solomon sprang forward with a swiftness that belied his bulk. He grabbed the other man’s left wrist with his right hand and threw up his left arm to block the coming punch. Solomon launched himself at him, his head arching back and then whipping forward. His hard forehead slammed into the soft cartilage of the security man’s nose, making a sickening crushing sound. Before the man could counter, Solomon wrapped his hands around the back of his neck, and pulled him down and in. he delivered two knee strikes to the man’s sternum before releasing him. The security man staggered back, blood pouring from his nose, gasping for air.

He was livid. He snarled a swearword in Yoruba, wheezing blood.

“Oga, we don’t have to do this,” Solomon said.

The man screamed and charged again. Solomon expected the bull rush. He feinted to his right and then back to his left, and as his opponent lumbered by, he hit him with a punch to the kidney. The man’s breath whooshed out, and he lashed out with his left. The punch was wild. Solomon weaved easily out of the way and moved in again. The man reared his head back and was prepared to deliver a head butt of his own, but before he could strike, Solomon swept an uppercut to his jaw. The blow connected, the man’s teeth gnashed together, and his breath whistled harshly out of his mouth. Solomon connected a hard right to the side of his face, a blow that wiped the man out. He tottered on his feet and fell heavily to the ground.

Solomon took a moment to steady his breath and see if any other person was going to come and accost him. No one was around. The security man lay motionless on the ground.

“I’m sorry,” Solomon said, “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Then he started for the fence. Just then, he remembered that his ladder was on the other side of the wall. He muttered a curse and retraced his steps to the fallen man. He rifled through his pockets and found a bunch of keys.

One of them had to be the one to unlock the gate with, he thought as he darted toward the gate. He was in luck; a few moments later, he let himself out of the compound, retrieved his ladder and dashed back across the road to his car. He turned on the ignition, engaged the gear and pulled away from where he was parked. As he mingled with the night Ikeja traffic, he was already thinking about his impending trip to Port Harcourt.torch-light

Advertisements
Leave a comment

7 Comments

  1. williams

     /  May 27, 2013

    I am enthralled!

    Reply
  2. storm

     /  May 28, 2013

    Awesome!!! Always awesome with u!!!

    Reply
  3. Annie Walter

     /  November 25, 2013

    Why didn’t u finish this series after keeping me mesmerized,it’s so unlike u,pls do finish it up! More grace bro!

    Reply
  4. Annie Walter

     /  November 25, 2013

    I’m new to ur blog so I’m just catching up,pls do finish this story

    Reply
  5. pua.

     /  December 9, 2013

    where is the concluding part please?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: