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Episode 9

Minutes after Jack left, Omolara was being dragged towards her bedroom by her two rascal friends. Despite her arguments, her father had placed a call to the family’s doctor who promised to arrive as soon as he can. She had asked after her mother and been told that she was in the bathroom. Her father also seemed fazed that she wasn’t out yet.

Lara sighed as her friends talked endlessly like parrots but strangely, she couldn’t hear a thing. Too many thoughts were running through her mind like tiny butterflies, refusing to go away. Jack clung to her brain like a background paint. His attitude was as puzzling as it was worrisome. Apart from the time she had seen him at the boutique, she had only spent a few hours with him in the car and few minutes with him in her house, but all in all, he continued to puzzle her the more. She remembered his ‘destiny’ reference and frowned the more. What a strange man! She thought. Then she remembered the smile he gave her father; in fact, everything about his brief discussion with her father hung over her head like the canopy of a parachute. She knew that others might not have noticed it, but then, she was always known for seeing beyond the ordinary and reading more meaning to everything. Jack had stood before her father and unlike other men; he had been fairly calm, looking straight at her father without jittering. She had been greatly impressed and judging from her father’s smile, she knew he was too. But there was something else…

Not only had her father given Jack his private pass card, which was something so unusual – it still puzzled her that he did -, Jack had broken into the first sincere smile as he collected it. Her breath had been knocked out as she watched his eyes dance with humor and his lips curl up in the telltale smile. The hard edges of his face had softened and for some seconds, Lara thought about the beautiful man before her, but then, as she continued to stare at him, she had shivered. Is it possible that the smile made him look more dangerous? His eyes had caught a fire that she couldn’t understand, like he had just been presented with a box of his favorite candy. Surely she was over-thinking things, she thought to herself as Teresa and Bola’s voice floated back to her ears. They were talking about her, there was no doubt about it, she thought with a smile, but again, she couldn’t join in on the conversation. She was yet to see her mother! Should she check on her in her room? God forbid something had happened to her in the bathroom. She was about to turn to do just that when Teresa yanked open the door of her bedroom and her eyes fell on the form on her bed.

She frowned deeply. “Mum?” she gasped out as she left the side of her friends, dashing across the room, despite the ache in her body.

Sewa pulled up on the bed to a sitting position, her eyes swollen from tears. “Oh… Omolara” she moaned as she wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand like a little child. Teresa and Bola were glued to the ground, staring with wide eyes. Even Lara was stunned. This had to be the very first time she would see her mother in tears.

“Muuum…” she drawled, overcome with emotions as she moved closer to her mum, but Sewa shrank away.

“No, don’t come near me” she gasped out, sobbing. “I am a terrible mother”

Lara frowned. What is going on here? “What are you talking about mum? Of course not, you are the best mother I could ever pray for”

Sewa’s tears seemed to increase. “No. No, don’t say that. I am horrible; very horrible”

Lara was in a state of confusion. She couldn’t understand anything anymore. Maybe it was because she was terribly tired, terribly hungry and in need of good sleep but right now, her brain couldn’t process what was going on. Doing the only sensible thing, she lowered herself onto the mattress slowly and watched as her friends also took their places on the bed. She had never seen them so sober except maybe in a funeral and she might have laughed but then, the situation at hand wasn’t hilarious even in the least.

“Mum” she murmured softly. “How can you say a thing like that? You are the best woman I know. I wouldn’t wish for any other woman in the world to be my mother”

“It is true” Teresa backed up. “Many times, I wished you were my mother. Lara is such a lucky bitch, she always gets the best of everything”

Despite the foul language Teresa used, Lara was grateful that her friends were here, if she had to face her crying mother by herself, coupled with the confusion she already felt, she might have just gone crazy.

“But, how can I be a good mother?” Sewa continued. “My own daughter was kidnapped and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I couldn’t save my daughter; I couldn’t even do anything to get her back! I was helpless. I couldn’t help my own child”

This was the first time that Bola and Teresa would hear plainly that she was kidnapped, but thankfully the two didn’t look too stunned. They obviously have deduced that fact from the various innuendos they had been hearing and now, they all looked at Mrs Banks with compassion.

“Oh mum” Lara said and hugged her mother. She just loved this woman. “How can this be your fault?” She murmured into Sewa’s shoulder. Drawing back a bit, she looked her mother in the eye. “You couldn’t have done anything, even dad, despite his power and authority could not do anything.  Stop torturing yourself! I am fine, you can see that right?” she said smiling. “But you don’t look like my mother! My mother doesn’t cry, in fact, she would be fussing over me right now”
she said grinning.

Finally, a small smile broke on Sewa’s face.

“Exactly, that is the woman I know” Bola seconded and Sewa finally giggled softly and the giggle became infectious because all the three women soon started grinning.

Sewa looked at her daughter. “Well, you do look a mess” she murmured. “Look at your hair” she promptly started fishing out twigs from Lara’s hair, doing her best to rectify the hair with her hands. The three friends erupted in laughter at Sewa’s predictable attitude.

“Yes! That is the mother I know”

With the emotional tension out, Teresa and Bola were themselves again. “Don’t worry mum” Teresa said, jumping to her feet. She would be as good as new in no time.” She declared.

“You can count on it” Bola said too, then frowned as she looked at Sewa. “But, you do need some rest mum; it looks like you haven’t slept much lately”

“And you didn’t have that bath dad talked about” Lara supported, feeling overwhelmed that her mother had been so worried about her; damn that kidnapper! Her mother almost looked like a child! Even her dad had been terribly worried, she almost couldn’t believe it.

“Well, how could i?” Sewa responded.

Bola went to Mrs Banks and pulled her up gently from the bed. “Why don’t I escort you to your room and get you a cup of steaming hot tea, so you can drink, take a bath and have a refreshingly restful sleep uhn?”

Teresa and Lara grinned at Bola’s ploy. “Yes” they chorused

Sewa looked at them like they have lost their minds. “Do I look like a baby to you girls?” she queried, with a raise of her brow.

“No, but we can pamper you, can’t we?” Teresa answered.

Bola put her arm around Sewa’s shoulder and started walking towards the door with a bemused expression on Mrs Banks face. “Is it tea you prefer or coffee” Lara heard Bola say, and was giggling uncontrollably to herself until the door closed behind them and Teresa turned to her with a straight face.

“What are you giggling about? It is your turn!” she declared and the smile slipped dramatically out of Lara’s face. “Strip out of that rag and get in the bathroom” she ordered.

*****
*****

Jack put the second box into the boot of his car and Felix leaned against the door at the entrance of the apartment, watching him. Felix would never understand that man who was his friend. He flattered himself by telling himself that he knew Jack more than anyone else, but with each passing day, Felix had every reason to believe that he was just as clueless as everyone who had come in contact with Jack Andrews. He had thought living with Jack would make him more accessible but it seemed that Jack had even become more mysterious than ever.

“Where are you going to Jack?” he asked the third time as Jack closed the trunk of the car. Exasperation never worked with Jack so he made sure his voice was still very controlled.

Finally, Jack looked at him as he climbed up the small stairs and entered the apartment. “There are a few things I need to sort out and I need to be alone to do that” he answered simply.

“Is that all you are going to say?” now, frustration was setting in.

“What else do you expect me to say?” Jack returned as he grabbed his laptop bag and his camera.

Felix shook his head. “So, since you need the privacy, why are you moving out? Why can’t you just tell me to leave, besides, I am the one squatting, remember?” he pointed out. “Are you running away from something or someone?”

For the first time, Jack laughed. “Running? Oh no, you know I can never run away from anything”

Felix had to admit that it was true. He couldn’t imagine the damned man running from anything, no matter how bad it is.

“You’re just going to have to trust me Felix. I can’t toss you out, I am not that cruel, but I do need some space, believe me, it is for your own good.” He said and walked out with the laptop and camera. He dumped them on the back seat of the car and closed the door. Before entering the car, he looked at Felix. “I’ll keep in touch. You can stay here for as long as you like; call me if you have any problem” he said, and with that, he entered the car and drove off.

*****
*****

Jack sat at the far end of the darkened bar with a glass of wine in front of him. He took comfort in knowing that no one could see him where he was, as he waited for Sword. He would never understand why the man chose to call himself Sword. Is it because a sword had been used to damage his face? He wondered, not for the first time, but that wasn’t his worry tonight. He had known Sword for a long time and he was someone he could trust. He saw him approach and leaned fully against the chair until he got to the table.

“Sir” he greeted shortly.

Even though Sword was obviously a few years older than him, he accorded him with due respect. “Sit Sword, you have done a very good job” he murmured.

“Thank you sir.” He answered.

“The boys have the money already?” he asked

Sword nodded. “Three hundred million Naira. Counted” he answered shortly.

“I see you increased it; that is good” he said as a small smile touched his lips. “Give the woman 200 million, be careful, she must not know about me, do you understand?”

Sword nodded.

“You can take the remaining hundred, to be shared with your men”

Sword sat up and his eyes grew round. “But… what of you?” he gasped out.

Jack’s face drew up in distaste. “I don’t want anything from that man! I already have what I need”

“Thank you so much sir”

Sword could barely contain his delight. Hundred million for him and his men? That should settle him financially for a long time, if not forever! Jack smiled. “I know I don’t have the right to question your motive sir” Sword said hesitantly. “But whatever it is, could you be gentle on the girl?”

Jack stared at Sword for some seconds. “She hasn’t softened you, has she?” he couldn’t believe it.

Sword shook his head. “It is just… she seems innocent despite her sharp mouth. Please forgive me”

Jack said nothing for some seconds, then he stood up. “Don’t worry, she is not my target, only the bait” he said and walked away.

*****
*****

Sewa Banks pulled the shawl over her head, hoping it was enough to serve as a proper covering to prevent anyone from recognizing her. She walked through the dark passage and heaved a sigh when she got to the last door on the left. She knocked three times and the door was yanked open instantly. She entered the room instantly and the door immediately closed behind her. Instantly, she lowered the shawl and faced the man behind her angrily.

“I told you not to hurt her Sword, I saw bruises” she burst out.

He was silent for some seconds. “I didn’t want to, but she spat on my face” he returned.

She opened her mouth to speak again and closed it. She had to get out here fast. “Where is the money?” she said in a small voice.

“It is with me. I would have it deposited bit by bit into your account by different people to avoid suspicion” he said.

“Okay” she said.

“It was good doing business with you” Sword said and stretched his hand out for a shake.

Sewa stared at the hand and turned away as tears sprung to her eyes. Without a backwards glance, she pulled up her shawl and walked out of the room. She had told Lara earlier. ‘I am a terrible mother’.

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