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Episode 8

Lara stared long and hard at the man behind the wheels, driving her to God knows where. He was decked in black suit which made him look really powerful and wealthy. His perf drifted to her nostrils, making her itch with the desire to inhale that fragrance until she had it all stored in her system. Of course she knew him! He had successfully, yet unknowingly ruined her shopping spree since Bola and Teresa wouldn’t stop talking about his looks. “What are you doing?” she mouthed.

He glanced at her for no more than a nanosecond before taking his eyes back to the road. “Driving you away from whatever it is you were running from” he answered. “Who was that? An angry boyfriend?”

Boyfriend? The idea almost made Lara laugh but she wasn’t about to tell him that she had just escaped a kidnapper. “Who he is isn’t important” she said, then cocked her head to the side to look at him more critically even though his eyes seemed to be glued to the road. “What I meant to ask is, ‘what are you doing here’. I remember seeing you at the boutique several days back”

A dry smile touched his lips before vanishing. “Am I so unforgettable or do you naturally remember everyone you see?”

Lara opened her mouth to speak but closed it back. She forgot faces but how could she forget this particular one when her friends had nagged her half to death about just how handsome he was? She had hated him then for being the cause of her misery, even though he wasn’t aware of it, and now, as he drove away, looking larger than life, she decided that she hated him the more. The man was just too full of himself! It doesn’t matter that he rescued me, she told herself sternly. Deciding on the perfect retort she could come up with, she answered. “Well, thanks to balanced diet, my memory is perfect. Besides, it is not every day we see men hanging around women’s boutique with their girlfriends hanging on their arms, only for them to be flirting around with other ladies”

“I don’t flirt” he answered shortly, with not even the slightest softening of his features.

Well, what could she say to that? Practically, that was the truth! He hadn’t exactly flirted with her; in fact, he hadn’t done more than stare at her, penetrating her with those eyes of his. She sighed in confusion. “So you expect me to believe that your showing up here is a coincidence?” she shook her head slowly. Something is not right! She could feel it, and it brought goosebumps to her skin, or was it his powerful presence that brought out that reaction?

“No”

She turned sharply towards him, but damn him, he was still facing the road. Well, maybe that was a good thing since he would keep them from colliding with another vehicle. “This isn’t a coincidence? You knew I would come running out and need a ride?” Alarm bells rang loud and clear in her head. Wait, is he aware of my abduction?

“No” he answered again, and then finally turned his head towards her. Lara sucked in her breath. The day was already bright and those eyes… they bore into her, drank her in until she virtually forgot to breathe. He had dark eyes, like everyone she knew, but his own pair of eyes seemed darker. There seemed to be a sort of mystery behind them, a story yet untold, a darkness… “Nothing is a coincidence. It is destiny! Maybe we were destined to cross paths” A dry smile which did not reach his eyes coated his lip again before he turned back to the road. Lara stared at the strange man beside her in confusion. There was that coldness again! The one she had noticed even that time at the boutique. Something about him was terribly wrong and she couldn’t seem to place her finger on it. She noticed that his smile did not reach his eyes. He seemed closed off in a metal box, untouchable. It had to be something! Her eyes travelled past his broad shoulders to the large hands which held the steering. They were muscled with veins protruding. The strength in them couldn’t be denied. If fingers could talk, she wondered what story his fingers would tell. They seemed to have lines of experience and she wondered what those experiences were. They were no doubt bad! She could tell. Suddenly, he seemed too large, making her feel small and winded. The car seemed to shrink in size, charging the car with enough tension to put her nerves on the edge. She did not know how long she watched him but she couldn’t seem to take her eyes off him.

“Where would I be dropping you off?”

Suddenly, her brain snapped like she had just been jerked from sleep. “Oh my God!” She suddenly gasped, making him to turn his head in her direction. “What is the time?” She yelled. Please tell me it is not seven yet, please…

He checked his wrist watched. “Some minuted past eight” he mouthed.

“What?” She yelled again in outrage. Oh… Everything had turned out wrong and she had no one to blame but herself. She knew the money would have been taken to the dropping point 7am, why on earth had she let this man divert her thoughts? She spied his phone beneath the car player and grabbed it.

“What do you think you are doing?”

“Making a phone call.” She mouthed as she dialed a number and placed the phone against her ear. “You don’t mind, do you?”

His mouth tightened as he turned back to the road. What is his problem anyways? If he only knew who he was carrying in his car, she thought. When the phone was answered, she jerked forward in her seat. “Dad” she yelled in the car.

*****
*****

“I don’t give a damn Sewa, if he is watching, let him watch! Once the SSS gets here, I would tell them about what is going on, I would not sit back and watch someone take me for a fool.” He roared.

“”Please Tunji, I don’t want anything to happen to my daughter. Let us wait for the kidnapper to call. Please”

“No! We tried it before, but did it work? No! It didn’t work. I told you before, nothing good can come from giving in to blackmail. You see the results?” He barked and tossed his suit jacket on the chair. His private phone rang and he gritted his teeth as he picked it.

“Dad” Lara’s voice rang in his ear. He stood still. “Omolara, is that you?” He gasped.

“Yes dad, it is me. I escaped” she said unceremoniously. “Please don’t pay the ransom”

Tunji squeezed his eyes shut as Sewa grabbed his shirt, wanting to collect the phone. “It is already late. We have paid.”

“Oh noooo. I am sorry dad” she moaned.

“Tell me where you are and I would send a convoy for you” he managed to say.

“That is not necessary dad, I am on my way already. Someone was kind enough to give me a  lift even at his own expense, i would be home soon” she assured.

“Bring him over so we can fully appreciate him” he murmured, unlike himself.

“I will dad” she said and hung up.

Tunji slumped into a nearby couch in both relief and defeat. Sewa loomed over him, her arms akimbo as she glared at him. “Would you tell me what happened? How is my daughter?”

“She is coming”

She seemed to blanch. “She was released?” She asked faintly.

“She escaped”

“What? Oh, thank God. Soon, i would have my daughter back with me.” She breathed gleefully “So it really wasn’t James’ fault that they did not release her. Oh Tunji, you have to release him. The poor boy doesn’t deserve this”

Tunji glared at her. “As long as i still remain the governor, everyone involved in securing this house would pay dearly for this serious security breach. Someone inside this building is involved in this treacherous act and i would find that person, but when i do…” His face broke into a wicked smile. “The person would be better dead than alive”

*****
*****

Tunji Banks finally moved away from the private parlor to the sitting room while Sewa decided to go back to the room to have her bath. Tunji was anxiously expecting their daughter, but since she already called, the tension had died down considerably. He knew he ought to be at the government secretariat already but he couldn’t leave until he saw his daughter and knew she was alright, but most importantly, he needed to know if she identified her abductor. Maybe she could describe him, or them. Whatever the case may be, he would find whoever did this, even if it would take the last drop of his blood. No one could make a fool of him and get away with it. No! He settled for a cup of steaming coffee while he waited for Lara to arrive. He glanced at the door intermittently, waiting for her to walk through it. When the door suddenly opened, he jumped up only to find Lara’s friends staring back at him.

Teresa and Bola frowned deeply as they walked fully but cautiously into the sitting room proper. They were not used to seeing Lara’s father and frankly, they were both a bit scared of the governor. “Good morning sir” they greeted, looking skeptical.

“What are you girls doing here? Shouldn’t you both be at work?” The governor said without answering their greetings.

“Sir, we are here to check on Lara since we are on leave sir” Teresa said boldly. Her father had taught her never to squirm before anyone. “We have called her over and over again but her line is not going through”

“You both should be busy trying to make something worthwhile with your lives instead of jumping from one friend’s house to the other early in the morning. Go back to your houses” he barked at them. Tunji had never liked the fact that Lara moved with them. He had no doubt that they were part of the reasons why Lara never listened to him.

Teresa and Bola looked at each other but just as they turned to obey the governor, the door jerked open and Lara walked in looking totally unlike herself. She was dirty all over, her clothes were in disarray and her hair, was all shades of messed up.

“Dad” She gasped, rushing forward.

“Lara” Tunji bursted out in relief as he moved forward swiftly, wrapping Lara in his arms. For a moment, all their differences were cast aside as they held on to each other. Being the governor that he was, Tunji pulled away and gave her a rundown with his eyes. “How are you Lara? Did they hurt you? You are going for a medical check-up this instant”

I am fine dad, it isn’t necessary.”

“I don’t care. You are seeing a doctor and that is final!” He echoed, still looking her over.

“What happened to you Larrypop, you look like crap” Bola suddenly muttered.

For the first time, Lara smiled. “Thanks for the compliment”

“What happened to you?” Teresa’s eyes looked wide with panic as she moved closer.

“I would tell you about it but before then…” She turned to her dad. “Someone was kind enough to rescue me and bring me down here, I want you to meet him before he goes on his way”

“Of course, you mentioned that. Bring him in immediately”

Lara smiled at her friends as she went to the door, knowing the reaction she was bound to receive but something nagged at her brain. Where on earth was her mother? Shouldn’t she be welcoming her right now? She wondered vaguely. She opened the door and walked out. After some seconds, the door opened again and she walked in with her rescuer. Bola and Teresa’s mouths practically dropped to the floor as they stared at the man beside her. She hurriedly gave them a warning glance as she led him to her father. “Dad, this is Jack Andrews” she introduced. “Jack, my father – the governor”

*****
*****

Jack bowed his head slightly and raised it back, in a greeting manner, trying extremely hard to put a pleasant expression on his face. Scenes from twenty years ago splashed through his mind as he shook hands with the ‘almighty governor’. Anger took over his veins and his blood rushed with renewed speed. No! He couldn’t afford to make a mistake now, not when his revenge was just a handshake away. He smiled tightly at the governor. “It is a great honour to meet you sir” he said.

Tunji Banks smiled back. The young man before him had just unknowingly impressed him. He was used to people cowering before him, behaving like cowards but this young man – Jack Andrews, seemed to have great composure and confidence. He was the sort of man he wanted for his daughter. He scrutinized the suit he wore, noting the class. He needed no one to tell him that Jack was also wealthy. He nodded internally. Exactly what he needed for his daughter! “Thank you for rescuing my daughter, you don’t know just how happy I am to have her back”

“I did nothing sir, anyone else would have done the same”

Tunji nodded. “Why don’t you meet me at the government Secretariat tomorrow so that I can get to know you better” he fished his hand into his suit pocket, removed a card and stretched it to Jack. “Give this to the security when you get there.”

Jack smiled genuinely as he collected the card from Tunji Banks. “Thank you sir. It has been an honour meeting you” he bowed his head slightly again. Jack smiled internally for the first time in years as he put the card in his pocket. Oh… You just made a huge mistake Tunji Banks, he thought to himself.

#MaimedSoul

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