An Unusual Christmas In Ibadan – Episode 3
© Kayode Odusanya
The thin lady came into room searching Ngozi’s eyes for answers, but Ngozi was as clueless as she was. She walked over to them and collected the tab from the old man’s outstretched hand. Her face went from an expression of fear, to that of cluelessness, and then her eyes popped out. “Oh my God!” She said out loud as she studied the pictures on the iPad. “Where did you take these pictures?”
Ngozi looked from the lady to the old man, wondering what was going on. “I…It was actually a mistake. I had actually just dropped from the bus at Iwo Road…”
“When was that? What time?”
“I don’t know…probably like mid day.” She said and the lady kept staring at the pictures and occasionally glancing at Ngozi with a quizzical look on her face.
The old man had stopped shaking now, and a smile was on his face as he nodded his head. A ringing phone broke the silence in the room, and the man pulled it out of his pocket. He looked at the screen for a second and then said, “Video call from Tunde.”
“Come, let’s go outside.” The lady said to Ngozi and the two women walked out of the room, giving the man privacy to answer his call. They stood close to the four metal bars that held up a water tank beside the man house. She studied the pictures a while longer in silence before handing the tab over to Ngozi. “You have to take us to the exact spot you took this pictures right away.”
Looking lost, Ngozi said, “Please, can you tell me what’s going on?”
“The…the man in the picture with you is Wole.” She said and studied Ngozi for a while before adding. “That’s his room we just came out from. He is Mr. Ade’s first son.”
“Yes. He disappeared about two years ago. On Christmas day”
“But…I did a lot of research on Mr. Ade, and nothing came up about a missing son.”
“That’s because few people know that Wole is his son.”
Just then, the old man came out of the house with his phone in hand, “My son wants to speak with you.” He said and handed the phone to Ngozi. She was wondering why the man would think she would want to speak with someone she didn’t even know. Staring back at her was an extremely good looking man with a black tuxedo on. From his background, she concluded he was probably in an expensive hotel room.
“Hi…my dad said you found my brother.” The young man said.
“Hmm! Well, let’s just say I stumbled upon me.”
“Oh, my, I can’t believe this. Are you on Whatsapp?”
“Great. You can get my number from my Dad’s phone after this call and send me those pictures. I need to see for myself.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just so excited. My name is Tunde, what’s yours?”
“Okay. I got to get back to this wedding I am actually the best man…” He was saying and was distracted by a knock at the door. He looked back for a second like he was contemplating answering the door, then looked back into the screen. “Nice talking to you pretty woman.” He said with a smile.
“Ngozi.” She said.
“Yea. I forgot. Ngozi, don’t forget to hit me up on Whatsapp.”
“Can you please give my Dad back the phone? Thanks for everything.”
“Okay.” Ngozi said and handed the phone back to the old man, who was beaming with excitement now. He hurriedly walked back into the room and she faced the thin and tall lady and asked, “Ma, I want to understand something…”
“I don’t know how to say this, but, was…was Wole mentally ill before he disappeared?”
She was silent for a second before answering with, “Yes. He had a mental illness that could be managed with pills.”
“Okay. I was wondering why you all don’t seem to be too shocked seeing him the way he is”
“We are just happy he is alive. Come on let us go and get the car ready.” The lady said and pulled Ngozi along towards the front of the house.
The sun was scorching hot as they searched the ins and outs of the motor-park. They showed people the pictures Ngozi had mistakenly taken, but no one knew his whereabouts. Mr. Ade had called her phone more than a dozen times since they left the house, and as she saw his incoming call again, she muted it. There was nothing she had to tell the man and hearing the hopes in his voice and not being able to help hurt her soul.
When it started getting dark, the search party returned to the where they had parked the car next to a hotel. They all looked exhausted and disappointed. Ngozi thought of the fact that the day was over and she hadn’t been able to do what she was sent to Ibadan to do. She didn’t even know what to do next as she sat in the big black Mercedes Benz. Her reflexion in the car rearview mirror showed a tired face, badly affected by the harsh harmattan weather. Rabiu, the teenage driver said something to Gloria in Yoruba and started the car.
“We will try again tomorrow.” Gloria said after a long sigh. “I’ll prepare a room for you at our place.”
“No. Don’t worry. I made plans already.” Ngozi said sharply. “I’ll be staying with a friend at University of Ibadan.” She added.
“Oh! That’s not too far from the house. We can drop you off on our way home.”
The Benz came to a halt at the University of Ibadan gate around 7:15pm. They concluded plans on where they would meet the next day and she waved at them before walking into the University. When she felt they were out of sight, she turned around and started heading back out. While outside the school premises, she walked over the ATM gallery she had seen earlier as they approached the school. It was just beside the school wall. Ten Automated Teller Machines, all working, and there was still long queues at each on one of them.
She withdrew ten thousand Naira and slipped it into her laptop bag which had now started feeling like a bag filled with heavy rocks. She walked to an intersection a few meters to the right of the ATM gallery, contemplating her next move. Her boss had advised her to appear as attractive as possible on this trip. Now she was regretting listening to him, as she felt awkward looking for a hotel room alone, dressed in her overly sexy red gown and black pumps. She pressed the side of her phone, and the display screen showed it was 19:30. On impulse, she waved down a bike man. He zoomed pass her, slowed down, turned around and headed back towards her.
“Where?” The shabbily dressed man shouted out.
“Iwo road.” She said.
Although it was a very risky thing to do, she just felt a strong urge to go back to Lagos that night. Ngozi didn’t care if she lost her job, she just wanted all these to be over, and having to wake up in her beloved bed, with her giant teddy bear beside her.
It was 8:20 p.m and the bus she was seated in still had two vacant seats. She bought a cold bottle Team drink from the lady that had been making noise in her ear since she sat in the bus. She thought that would make her go away, but the lady went and brought another bucket of biscuits and kept asking her to buy. Ngozi was about losing her patience when a couple appeared. They took up the vacant seats and the bus driver started collecting money for the trip. The cost was a thousand Naira, so there was little problem of getting change for the passengers. In no time, he was done with it and driving out of the bus terminus.
Ngozi breathed a sigh of relief and took a sip from her lemon drink. Just when she was about to settle down and take a nap, she saw something outside the window that caught her attention. Underneath the giant electronic Billboard she had been admiring earlier in the day was a bunch of homeless people sleeping on the grass. One of them slowly lifted up his head. Ngozi cursed underneath her breath before shouting out, “Please stop the bus!”
To be continued