Ike’s life was transformed at 31.
Suddenly, courtesy of a job he just landed, Ike found himself rich beyond his wildest dreams. He lived in a fully furnished six-room duplex, alone with his wife and two-year-old son courtesy of his construction company. He drove the latest model Camry and Range Rover while his wife drove a BMW X5.
Ike earned enough money on a monthly basis to set up and pay a staff of 20 or more in a small scale enterprise. At 34, he had come to a point where every dream he ever dreamt had come true.
He had built a modest country house in the village next to his father’s and was almost through with the one he was building in Lagos. True, he didn’t have a tonne of money in savings but that would change as soon as his house was done. He would begin to save up for the rainy day. His dream was to retire at 40, set up a small consulting firm and watch his children grow into adults.
But in the midst of all that Ike had only one regret: he was married. The kind of money he was making and the good fortune he had just come into was one that drew women to him like moth to flame but like lawyers would say, he was encumbered. His wife was a constant reminder that he could never be footloose and fancy free.
And he did not begrudge his wife her presence in his life. Their story had been one of trust and persistence. She had trusted in his ability to make it in life, telling him from the very first week they started dating that she could tell he would be a success in life. And though she was not the prettiest of women, he had persisted in his love for her and one year after marriage she had given him his son and just as they were celebrating his arrival, Ike landed the job that changed his life.
And with his new found status came a hunger for new things. He wanted the best clothes, the best cars, the best neighbourhood, the best wine and the best restaurants. But while all those were now a part of the new life he shared with his wife, the one that kept him awake at night was his hunger for pretty women.
Suddenly aware of his means, Ike no longer shied away from women. With money in his pocket and more in his bank account, Ike was suddenly aware of the truth in the Igbo proverb: a man’s beauty is in his pocket.
But women was a habit he had never cultivated even as a young man. The moment Eugenia, his wife came into his life in his second year at the university, Ike had shut his door and focused on making that 2.1 and becoming the successful man she had prophesied he would be.
“How you go get this kind money you no get girlfriend,” Ebuka asked him. Ike was in Enugu for a conference and was spending the evening with his cousin.
“Ebuka, we can’t all be dogs like you,” Ike told him and laughed.
“Dog? Hmm, if I had the kind of good job and money you have, I would hammer so many girls I would have a spare pingolo in my boxers.”
“Ebu-wonder!!!” Ike hailed.
“Na me. Na me,” Ebuka responded.
The police appear without warning.
Ike is sitting in his office and working on the company’s budget. Two days overdue, he had been held back by two tardy departments. He is so engrossed in the task that he does not hear the knock.
“Good evening sir,” someone he recalls vaguely is from Admin says to him. His door is ajar and outside he can see two policemen standing there. Something heavy gives way in the pit of his stomach.
“Yes,” he asks and the Admin staff and the two policemen step into his office. The air is fouled immediately with the smell of sweat and unwashed clothes.
“Is there a problem?” Ike asks, his throat dry, his heart hammering. He is surprised to hear his voice firm. He had expected to hear a rasp of fear.
“The officers want to see you. It is in connection with the missing typist, sorry, secretary.”
Ike looks up, realising with a jolt that it has been five weeks now since the girl disappeared. He had lived in dread for the first two or three weeks, then as time passed and no one came by to make enquiries, he relaxed.
“Please sit down officers. Can I offer you guys drinks, soft drinks of course. I see you are on duty?”
His attempt at chatty affability is met with stiff looks.
“Are you Ike Iroche?” the shorter of the two policemen, who are still standing and on whose breath wafts the fishy stink of his lunch asks.
“Yes,” Ike answers, springing to his feet as if he had been stung.
“Please sit down, sir” the policeman tells him as if the office is his and Ike has strayed into his space.
Ike sits, his palms sweaty as he nods in answer.
“Do you know Miss Flora Obodo?”
“Yes,” Ike answers with another nod.
“You are aware she has been missing for weeks now?”
“Yes,” Ike nodded.
“When did you see her last?” the other officer asks without warning and Ike’s heart begins to hammer in his chest.
“Em…” Ike begins then clears his throat. “That would be the last day she was at work. She usually brings me my morning coffee.”
“What else did she bring you apart from coffee?” the taller policeman asks.
“I don’t understand the question officer,” Ike asks, looking up at the guy from Admin who averts his gaze. Ike wishes the guy is not there, that it is just him and the belligerent policemen. He is scared not just of what they could know but of the rumours in the office and the scandal this could cause. Ike curses Ebuka in his mind.
“Well, we want to know what kind of relationship you had with Miss Obodo?” the taller policeman asks.
“We were colleagues here,” Ike offers
“And nothing else?”
“And nothing else,” Ike says realising that they may not really know much. Maybe they were just fishing, looking for leads. He remembers what Ebuka had said. Maybe there was gossip in the pool and the police had picked up on it. Pushing Ebuka out of his thoughts, Ike looks up at the officers.
“Officers, is there more to this?” he asks trying to take charge and change the course of the interrogation but the policeman’s next question leave him blindsided.
“Where did you take Miss Obodo to on the night of Friday, March 25 after you picked her up at the bus stop?”
Continues next week.
By Toni Kan