Her chest felt as if a rabbit was running circles in it, leaving her feeling faint and breathless. Who else was involved, God not Lawrence too! The thought of the man who she hoped someday to be married to being involved in extorting her family, made her feel dirty. She embraced herself, somehow trying to shield herself from the shame that would come with the knowledge.
As if sensing her doubt, her uncle said; “Your boyfriend’s family was extorted too, we went to visit the family, when the news broke. I thought he was involved; turns out I might have been wrong. But we will still be keeping a tab on him.” Her uncle’s statement seemed to be a rock off her shoulder, leaving her paralyzed with relief. He was innocent; she felt that in her bones.
She was both physically and mentally fatigued by the time she was done with the police men, she literally had to drag herself to her bedroom, where she fell asleep immediately she laid her head on the bed. They would go see her dad later in the day, her mom had promised.
The pile of money sat on the table, crisp and clean, its scent filled the cool interior of the hotel room, Chijioke was seated in the only sofa in the room nursing a flute of champagne; once in a while he would grimace, as his wound still restricted his movement.
Sixty four thousand dollars! He had never seen or touched that type of money in his life. He touched it again, just to ascertain he was not dreaming, burying his face in it for good measure. This was the stuff of dreams. He whooped at the top of his voice startling the other occupants of the room. Chijioke and Loretta.
“I am fucking rich man!!” His voice was rich with pride and excitement. “Babe I will give you the world.” Loretta guffawed.
He had had his doubts while he cooked up this plan; he had expected a few hiccups but save the Engineer’s stroke and Chijioke’s brush with death, the plan had gone flawlessly, though he had to admit to himself that there was a time when he thought Chijioke had absconded with the money. When the money did not arrive at the appointed time, he had tried Chijioke’s number and found it had been switched off, he reached out to their other associates and they assured him that he had left and was headed to Cross River to meet him. An hour later, he still had not arrived, he ordered his associates to find out if he had being arrested and that too came up as negative. To say he got any sleep that night was a fallacy, as he tossed and turned, wondering what had become of Chijioke and his ransom.
When he heard the knock on the door the next day, he almost exploded with joy when he found a pale looking Chijioke at the door, loot in hand. First thing he did, was leave his place and rent a hotel in one of the worst parts of town, he would lie low there for a few days before he made his next move. The police were probably onto him now, both Larry and Becca; especially Becca would not hesitate to flip on him when they find out what he had done, so keeping a low profile was an absolute necessity now.
“Here is your share, make sure you share in amicably amongst yourselves. You guys did an awesome job; the police are still chasing shadows. I do not have to remind you of the need to keep your head down till the heat cools off.”
“Haba, you no need tell me.”
“Here is something for you to go treat yourself.” He offered him a wad.
“Chairmo! You too mush!”
“This is for me and my people.” He said putting a larger pile, bundle after bundle inside a duffle bag. “By next week, I go don jaway from this country.”
“What about my share?” Loretta chimed in.
“My share is your share.” He said with a forced smile. He noticed her forehead furrow into a frown. I hope she does not turn out to be a problem for me or else. He let the thought drift away, she could be taken care of; he need not worry too much about her.
“Chijioke call down for a chicken pepper soup, I need to wash down this happiness with something hot and peppery.”