Gentlemen of the Bar – 19
THE OYELOWO MANSION
MARTIN OYELOWO’S STUDY
Martin Oyelowo was not a happy man. The somber expression on his face evidenced this fact. Opposite him, two pairs of eyes watched him, unflinching and direct. The study was quiet except for the television from which voices of CNN reporters hummed. Martin reclined in his seat, hands on the arm rest, waiting for his question to be answered.
The hinges of a chair squeaked.
“I wanted to see her.”
A storm gathered on Martin’s brow. His voice when it came dripped of ice.
“That wasn’t part of the agreement Boma.”
A powerful shoulder moved under the fabric of a well tailored charcoal suit.
“I don’t know – “
Martin’s gaze became piercing. He attempted a stare down with the younger man but it was a match of equals. Neither backed down until a knock at the door caused them to break eye contact. Martin’s eyes moved from the young men to the door.
It was his wife Damilola. She appeared surprised to see that he was not alone. Standing in the doorway, hand holding the door handle behind her, she stared at the men with her husband.
They bowed, offering her tentative smiles. Her eyes swept over them, noting every tiny detail about them. Finally she nodded, a pleasant smile animating her face.
As the attention of the younger men turned to his wife, the scowl on Martin’s face lost some of its fierceness. He studied the black and pink belted floral dress his wife wore. In his mind, he judged the dress too tight and wondered where she was going to. She seemed to read his mind because she turned to him.
“Going to the office and then – stopping over at Tosin’s place.”
Damilola paused at the door. She thought her husband looked as if he was about to say something but his face closed up again and he became hard to read. The lack of privacy made it impossible to ask questions. She nodded at him.
“See you soon.”
Damilola closed the door and Martin faced his guests again.
“You know what this means don’t you?”
The men were quiet after that and the voices from the television continued to hum. A few minutes later, Boma shifted in his chair and sighed.
“Look – urm, I am sorry – I know you are not too happy about what I did, but I had to see her.”
Martin continued to blink, as still as a statue.
“Sorry,” Boma said again.
A crack appeared on Martin’s visage. His humanity showed.
“Why her? You are still young. There are many women out there.”
Boma moved his head slightly and his jaw clenched. He looked his benefactor straight in the eyes,
“I love her.”
Martin shook his head. “Love is not enough Boma. I am not giving you all this,” Martin’s hand swept an arc in the air, “for you to throw it away on a whim.”
“I am not throwing it away.”
Martin leaned forward and placed his elbows on his desk, lips thinning in a thoughtful line. Boma watched him, acknowledging the first stirring of an emotion that was alien to him – the anxiety to please and to not offend.
“I see,” Martin said, his fingers drumming a short erratic beat on his desk. He turned to Naden. “Do you have anything to say?”
Peeling away from his chair and straightening his suit jacket, Naden gave his brother a brief sideways glance. He met cool eyes and a slight frown. He sighed inwardly and faced his boss.
“I apologize for – ”
“I don’t need you to make an apology for me,” Boma said, cutting Naden off. Naden looked back at his brother.
“I am aware of that fact,” he said, his voice carrying an undercurrent of anger. ”If you had let me finish you would have known exactly who I was apologizing for.”
Naden fixed his attention on Martin again.
“Sorry for the interruption. I was apologizing for my own oversight. I had no idea he was seeing her again.”
Boma shook his head but still he said nothing. Martin watched them and then exhaled loudly. He leaned back in his chair.
“I will have to think about this.” He narrowed his eyes at Boma. “I hope this is the last promise you break. Any slip from you and that is the end of our deal. Understood?”
Boma nodded. “Yes sir.”
A curt nod from Martin dismissed them. They were at the door when he called their attention. A car dealer friend would contact them, he said, could Naden make a stop at the man’s office at Ikeja to check on the car, a Honda Crosstour?
And who was it for?
He thought one of them needed a car?
A frown on his face, he opened the file before him and began to read.
I walk beside Boma, a little angry with him over his outburst in Martin’s study. Learning about his visit to Bariga to see the same woman that had led him into a life of crime had been upsetting. It did not help to know that the visit was not the first and one of their meetings had taken place in my car the day he had borrowed it.
The voice is familiar and quite close. I pause in my steps, aware that Boma has also drawn to a stop. Standing above us on the staircase is Angela’s cousin Fausat. Today she is wearing a white, red, blue jersey with the words Washington Wizards over a pair of stone washed jeans. Her hair is a stylish braided effort that is swept off her face to give her an air of innocence. A contemplative frown on her face, she looks from me to Boma.
“Are you twins?”
I open my mouth to reply but Boma is faster.
I think of Angela as Fausat takes a step down the staircase, hand trailing behind on the staircase railing. I also think of missed calls and the long silence. What next?
Fausat’s question forces me to abandon my depressing thoughts. I focus on her and try to smile as Boma answers her question.
Eyeing Boma with speculative interest, Fausat completes her walk to meet us.
“You look like him,” she tells Boma, lips twisted in a small smile.
“Okay,” Boma says, his voice gruff as he returns Fausat’s speculative stare.
“I am Fausat. You know my cousin Angie?”
Boma pauses for a second. Yes.”
Nodding once, Fausat angles her head in my direction. “You leaving?”
Disappointment on her face, Fausat’s lips curve into a half moon. “Well, that’s too bad. I was hoping you could hang out a bit.”
I look at Boma.
“Give me a few minutes.”
I get a shrug for an answer.
“He can come too,” Fausat says, favouring Boma with a smile as she spins on her heel and walks to the center of the living room. I walk slowly to join her. Boma takes his time. When he settles beside me on the double seater, he chooses to perch at the edge. Fausat sits in the lotus position I am beginning to associate with her, painting a picture of serenity. Eyes growing distant with thoughts, she tugs once at her right earlobe and exhales loudly.
“My mum – she says I can come back home.”
The announcement is an odd conversation opener. I realize suddenly that Fuasat’s serenity is only a façade. The faint lines between her eyebrows become visible.
“I am sorry about that.”
Her lips sloping downwards, Fausat loses her rigid upright posture and flops forward like an empty plastic bag.
I let a minute of silence pass. “You don’t want to go home?”
Looking down at her hands, Fausat shakes her head.
“No. I mean – don’t geh-get me wrong. I love my mum, but you know I love being here – being with Angie, big auntie – Angie’s mum, grandma, unk-uncle and everyone.”
“You can always come back – visit.”
Boma’s contribution is unexpected but I welcome it. I am eager to share the spotlight. Today my mind is a theatre of concerns and questions. It is in no state to handle an unhappy teenager with relocation worries.
Pulling herself upright, Fausat looks at Boma for several minutes.
“Yeah, I could,” she agrees, nodding slowly as if she never considered the possibility. Her expression brightens but not for long. “But maybe I cou- could just stay,” she says, lower lip jutting out in a pout.
“Yes, maybe you could.”
A big smile chasing the clouds from her face, Fausat nods her approval at Boma.
“You are cool too.”
I am not looking at my brother’s face but I can hear the smile in his voice when he says,
I take advantage of the break in conversation to consult my wristwatch for the time. It is only five minutes to nine but it feels like I have been at the house for the whole day. I look up to catch Fausat’s wistful smile.
“I guess you hah-have to go now.”
I give Fausat a wistful smile of my own.
We walk together to the door, the three of us. Boma and I slip out of the house, leaving Fausat standing in the doorway.
Standing with the door pressing into her side, Fausat’s face is pensive again.
“Are you talking to Angie?”
The soft thud of the car door closing as Boma enters my car reverberates in my mind, slowing the activities of the world and my mental capabilities.
I give myself a mental shake and concentrate on Fausat.
“Nothing,” Fausat answers with a shrug, “just asking.”
I turn to the car.
This time there is a mysterious smile on Fausat’s face when I turn back to her.
“You should call her.”
The call continues to ring, uninterrupted by the voice I hope to hear. After four rings, the disappointing dial of an unanswered call rings deep in my ears. I pluck the phone from my ear, squint at the screen and the piece of paper on my desk, and then try again. I am in luck this time. The call is picked after the second ring.
“Good mor – ”
It is a woman. Cool and professional, she peppers her greeting with the effusive introduction of her station as demanded by protocol.
“What can I do for you?”
I tell her what she can do for me. She is attentive. In my mind, I picture her scribbling on an officious looking notepad, gold and red pencil dancing between red painted fingernails.
“Will that be all?” she asks in her professional sing song voice.
“Yes, that will be all.”
“Okay. So see you then and hope you enjoy our services.”
The door suddenly bursts open, admitting my friends. They walk towards me with gay steps and happy smiles.
“Reuben is back,” Amina says, dropping into one of the chairs across my desk, her red and white colour block dress highlighted by her bright red lipstick. Agatha sits beside her, more somber in a black belted dress and a slick knotted honey brown weave.
“Yes, he is back,” she says, eyeing the fuchsia pink on her finger nails with disapproval. She turns her hands towards me. “What do you think?”
“Urgh,” Agatha says, making a sound that conveyed her disappointment at my lack of flowery praise. “You know I hate those words. It is either nice or not nice. Which one is – it’s okay?”
I smile. “Sorry. It’s nice.”
“Better,” Agatha says, smiling back.
“Okay, are you guys done now?”
I pause in the action of picking up my phone again to look at Amina. Pacified by the attention, she nods.
“So as I was saying, Reuben is back.”
“Yes Rueben,” Agatha says, looking at me with a sly smile. “The one you used to love is back.”
I roll my eyes. “Love indeed.”
Amina laughs. “You know I have been so used to not having him around that having him around feels weird.”
“Well, you have to get used to having him around again,” Agatha says, eyes twinkling at Amina.
“I guess. I just wish his leave did not end.”
“Or you wish he was sacked.”
Mouth forming an O, Amina stares at Agatha, her denial struck in her throat. I laugh. Amina’s jaw snaps back in place.
“Well,” she says crossing her arms against her chest. “I never liked him in the first place.”
We abandon the topic of Reuben’s return to discuss the recently vacant offices next door. Agatha tells us she will miss the quiet and introverted Sumbo while Amina states her preference for Tobi, the smart junior associate with a penchant for starched white shirts and suspenders.
“Have you talked to your father about getting new people?”
I shake my head.
“You should,” Agatha advises, looking down to her lap as a phone begins to ring somewhere around her. Her hand disappearing behind the table, she lifts up the Samsung S4 from her lap.
“My new boyfriend,” she says, waving the phone around. Amina and I watch her jump up from her chair and hurry out the office.
“The guy is a banker. He makes her laugh,” Amina tells me, picking up my name plate from my desk and turning it around. Lines of concentration appear on her face, giving her a serious look.
“What are you thinking of?”
“Oh,” Amina says, eyes widening slightly as she lowers the name plate back to the table. “Nothing really – just remembering the conversation I heard Reuben having on the phone.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Well, it’s not like I heard much or anything. It’s just the way he was talking to the person on the phone that got to me.” Amina’s eyes narrow. “It was sort of condescending. It wasn’t the normal Reuben talking.”
Amina says nothing after that. We sit in silence until she announces that she has a meeting with a client at three.
“And it is already two thirty,” she says, standing up from her chair and straightening her skirt.
At the door, she turns to me with thoughtful eyes.
“What kind of name is Jewel?”
Suffocated by a rush of memories, I stare dumbly at her.
“It makes me wonder about his character you know,” Amina continues, right hand settling on the door handle. “He has a second nature he keeps from everybody. I think you should be careful with him.”
My nod is automatic. Wriggling her fingers in goodbye, Amina closes the door behind her. Alone, I think of her words.
The puzzle is missing a few answers but the connection is suspicious. I mull over the possible answers for as long as I can manage until I remember my appointment. I sigh and reach for my phone. I call my date for the evening. His voice is cool and his tone cautious with politeness. I tell him about the venue of our meeting. He answers that he will be on time.
I end the call before he has a chance to reply. In the silence of the office, I tell myself I am not doing anything wrong and make a silent toast.
To new beginnings.
IKOYI BOAT CLUB
The club was quiet except for a few patrons discussing in low tones and enjoying the cool salty breeze of the Atlantic. Martin Oyelowo was one of those patrons and he was not alone on his table. His drinking partner was his friend of several years, Yinusa Ali. The men took long sips from their wine glasses, looking around the bar and out at the calm ocean. Martin looked at his friend.
“So when are you going back?”
Yinusa’s lips turned downwards.
“I don’t know.”
They discussed the situation in the country and the rumours about Yinusa’s retirement. Yinusa complained about his enemies within the force.
“They have been taking stories to the president about my age. They say I have reached the mandatory age for retirement.”
“Have you spoken to the president?”
Yinusa sighed. “I have.”
“What did he say?”
“He said he would look into the issue.”
Martin nodded. “Let’s wait and see.”
“It’s all politics,” Yinusa said, a frown on his face as he lifted his glass to his lips. “Politics everywhere. We are in trouble Martin. This country has gone to the dogs.”
Martin sipped his wine, refusing to dwell on the sober subject of the country’s woes. His attention fell on a pair of well dressed women passing his table and he thought of calling his wife.
“I should be going back to the hotel,” Yinusa said, breaking into Martin’s thoughts. “My flight is for seven tomorrow.”
Downing the rest of his drink in one gulp, Yinusa took his friend’s hand in a brief handshake and left his chair. They would see in two weeks, God willing, Yinusa said. Martin wished him a safe trip and watched him walk with unhurried steps to the exit of the bar.
Martin knew who it was before he turned.
“Olga,” he said drily, looking at the slim beautiful white woman in white kaftan. Her long blonde hair fell past her shoulders and hung low on her back. She approached Martin like a predator and he watched her, alert and unsmiling.
“Can I sit?”
Martin began to answer but just then he sighted his wife walking towards them. Olga followed his eyes, her smile losing some of its radiance when she saw who it was. Damilola came to stand beside Olga. Martin watched as the two women sized each other up.
“Good evening,” Damilola said, lined eyes narrowing at Olga. “It has been a while Olga.”
Olga’s smile turned icy.
“Yes it has.”
“Now if you will excuse me, I’d like to talk to my husband.”
Her chin raising slightly, Olga swept past Damilola, leaving her alone with Martin. Lowering her black clutch purse to the table, Damilola took the chair opposite her husband.
“Where is Yinusa?”
“He just left.”
“Why are you smiling?”
Martin had a change of heart about his wife’s dress. The length was suddenly appropriate.
“You look nice.”
Martin asked Damilola how she had known that he was at the club.
“I called mama.”
Martin told her how he had planned a date for them.
“But you had plans and I had the meeting with Naden and Boma.”
Damilola remembered the young men she had met in her husband’s study. Her expression turned serious.
“Those men – when I saw them, I thought something looked familiar about them. Then I thought about it and realized why.”
Damilola paused. Her husband cocked a brow at her.
“It reminded me of law school and the way you used to be. From the little I saw, they seem to have your personality.”
“Was that why you picked them?”
Martin Oyelowo smiled but said nothing. His phone vibrated on the table, calling his attention. He picked it up to see that it was the man he had once favoured to take over control of his firm.
“Good evening sir. Sorry to bother you but I need to have a discussion with you.”
“We are short of hands at the firm sir. I am thinking we need more lawyers.”
“Since two weeks ago sir. Two of our lawyers have gone – resigned sir.”
“I see. Have you discussed this with Naden?”
“I thought it was better to discuss it with you first sir.”
“No it is not. Discuss it with Naden.”
“Okay sir. And erm sir, I know two lawyers I can recommend for the firm.”
“Discuss it with Naden.”
Martin pulled the phone away from his ear and dropped it back to its place on the table. His wife was involved in a discussion with one of the club’s waiters. He watched her for some minutes and then leaned back in his seat. His eyes drifted away from his wife and scanned the area of the bar. At the end of the bar, a pair of aristocratic Russian eyes met his own. They were cold and promised unpleasant things.
The long carpeted corridor is cool and empty. I walk to the end of it, checking out the numbers on the door. I stop before the last door and knock. I wait for a few minutes but the door remains locked. I knock again. A sound of metal grinding against metal reaches me from the other side of the door. The door handle turns, leaving the door open. I frown at the door and then take a tentative step forward. The room is dimly lit but I make out the form of the woman standing in the middle of it. Dressed in nothing but lacy panties and bra, she smiles at me.
I find the formality strange but I am inclined to return her polite greeting.
I close the door behind me.
“It took you a while to get here,” the woman says, her voice husky and full of intent.
“Sorry. I got caught in traffic.”
The woman walks to me, her newness and flimsy underwear making her an object of intrigue. Her perfume is an intoxicating blend of flowers, spices and seduction. I stare into the mesmerizing depths of her eyes.
“This is supposed to be a meeting.”
Slim shoulders rise and drop in a careless shrug.
Her hands climb my chest, burning my skin through the material of my Thomas Pink shirt. She leans close and bathes my face with a blast of mint flavoured air.
“I like your body.”
I stand immobile, savouring her touch and watching her lower to her haunches. Her hands rest briefly on my belt buckle.
I shake my head, and pull her up to her feet.
Pressing her body against mine, she stares deep into my eyes.
Captivated by the light dancing in her eyes, I reach for my cufflinks.
Her eyes fall on my hands and her smile grows. Stepping away from me, she takes slow steps backward. My hand now working on the second cufflink, I follow her. We reach the bed together and she sits down on it, eyes looking up to me. I shrug out of my shirt and drop to my knees.
“What do you want to do?”
I ease her backwards to the bed.
“I am not very good with words.”
“I like words.”
I slip my fingers into the band of her lace panties and pull it down her long legs. She spreads herself open, inviting me in. I smile into her eyes and lower towards her body to kiss her perfumed thighs. I work my way upwards, sliding my hands behind her to keep her in place. She is wet and ready when I kiss her. Her moans are my guide. I circle the tiny knob in her center with my tongue, sliding into her secret places until she cries out in release. Pulling away from her, I rise to my feet and get rid of my trousers.
I shake my head.
Hands reaching to cup her breasts, she looks at me through desire filled eyes.
“Yes you can.”
Lifting herself off the bed, she pushes to the edge and wraps a persuasive hand around my wrist.
I join her in bed and she crawls on top of me, straddling me. I stop her movements with a hand on her waist.
My resolve is weak. She senses this and leverages on it to push past the barrier of my hold. Sensations shoot through my body as she lowers herself on me. We make love, slowly and passionately. She is wild and different from everything I have ever known. Time is suspended and all I can think of is how good she feels around me. She climaxes the second time, her nails digging into my back. I follow closely behind with my own climax. We lay still for several minutes afterwards.
“It is true what they say about make up sex,” she tells me, forefinger tracing lines on my chest.
I smile. “What do they say?”
“That it is the best.”
“What do you think?”
I roll off her body and pull her to my side.
“I think you have many sides to you.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“So can we talk now?”
“I heard you guys,” she says with a yawn. “I know what happened.”
I look at her in surprise.
She tells me about returning back to the house that evening and hearing my argument with Jewel. I smile when she is done.
“So the silence was not because of Jewel?”
“No. I just needed time to plan this.” Lips pursed, she stares off into space. “There is something though.”
“Amina talked about hearing Reuben on the phone. She said he was snapping at someone called Jewel.”
We are interrupted by my phone before I get a chance to tell Angela about Reuben’s connection with Jewel. I leave the bed to fish it out of the trousers lying beside the bed. I pick up the call and listen to Reuben apologize for his late call.
“The boss said I should discuss with you about bringing in some lawyers to replace Sumbo and Tobi. I have some lawyers I’d like to recommend. Let’s talk tomorrow.”
Angela is not in bed when I get off the phone. The sound of shower running and her low humming spills out from the half opened door of the bathroom. I listen to her and think of babies and ulterior motives.
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