Eyes bored into her.
She was attractive and she knew how to flaunt it. Her slim, well-shaped body looked like something out of a special mould. Moulded to perfection. Endowed with moderated curves and edges, flatness and turgidity at appropriate places.
Her fluorogenic brown eyes radiated sputtering sparkles that sent shivers into men and made them doubt their masculinity. Eyes that seemed like hypnotizing organs, making men want to do just anything to please her.
Her eyebrows were arched and jet black, with winged and curling eyelashes. The way the eyes rolled and shifted coupled with the movement of her eye lashes was an enigma.
Just below a straight nose characterized by narrow nostrils and pointed tip, sat magnolia blossom soft lips. The lips sat firmly to give that pacific elegance, and when curved produced a scintillating smile.
Her blushing dimpled cheek served as border line from a front view of a ravishing diamond shaped face.
Her skin was like something out of a smooth surface mesh with moderately fair complexion. Her legs were long and straight with slim hands that ended with long fingers.
Her hair was ebony black, oiled , simply made into pig-tails and packed with ribbons.
Her ears and neck were adorned with a Swaroki Henrietta Rhodium plated crystal necklace and earrings. She wore a Gucci intarsia jacquard flowers top over brown Prada straight skirt. Her beautiful legs were comfortably placed in an expensive Paula Cademartori roseline sandals.
She was beautiful and accentuated it with voguish style of dressing. She carried herself with royal grace, but the youthful exuberance was vivid. This damsel was just one month less than eighteen years old.
She walked graciously, swaying her hips with youthful grace , feeling the world in her pocket, beneath her, in her prime and enjoying every bit of it. This was Naairah Mukhtar, a second year Business Administration student.
She took pride in ignoring those who gawked at her, but enjoyed the attention, which made her vainglorious. She walked into the sophisticated eatery and saw Nadia sitting behind a table. She flashed her a smile then walked towards her.
Nadia was tall, slim with a ravishing swarthy skin. Her eyes were sulky and attractive; her nose was concave and gave her a sharp look.
“You are late, dear.” Nadia said with a pout. “ I told you that I was starving.”
“ I am sorry, baby.” Naairah said in a honey sweet voice. “ I had to get gas.”
“ We call it Petrol or fuel here.”
“ Here she goes again.”
“ Now sit down and let’s eat. I have been sitting here alone like a stranded bride for over fifteen minutes. Some of the guys kept ogling like I was in need of a man to buy me lunch.”
“ Ohhhh..I am sorry.”
Naairah sat down and heaved a sigh.
“ I am also famished.” She said. “ Where did you park your car?”
“Outside. You were too oblivious to notice.”
“ I guess so.”
“ Now talking is over.” Nadia said. “ Where is the waiter?”
Nadia called the waiter.
“ Chicken parmigiana for me and ……”
“ Jambalaya with chicken, Andouille sausage, rice and spices.” Naairah said.
The waiter nodded and left. It was an American restaurant in Abuja City.
The food was served within a jiffy. The girls settled down to eat while they were served drinks.
Naairah raised up her head to sip from her drink when she saw him come in. Their eyes met and he quickly looked away. There was an empty table close to them and she guessed he was coming to sit there.
But she could not take off her eyes immediately. There was something about him that made her give him a second glance.
He was tall and slim. He covered his Harris Tweed shirt with a brown colour leopard skin Borsalino jacket. His jeans was authentic Calvin Klein which stopped above his Louis Vuttion boots.
His sparkled from the glitter of his Paul Newman Rolex wristwatch.
Whoa! This guy reeked of money.
The fragrance of his expensive perfume diffused, giving the air a blend of aroma and cologne.
His wavy hair was worn in an afro cut with a short side burns which stooped at ear length and made thin. Then a swaggering goatee beard and low mustache. His eyebrow was thick over black eyes which radiated buccaneering personality.
His nose was turn-up and the lips were somewhat red. With an aggressive jaw and masculine expression, he cut the quintessence of a dashing man with the world in his pocket.
He nodded at her without a word then sat at the table next to theirs. There was something cold about him she observed. The waiter came to him while he brought some medication drugs from his pocket and put on the table. He held two handsets and one of them was very expensive.
Naairah observed that he did not give them a second look or seemed to remember they were there. That was unusual. Who the hell did he think he was? How could he just give a casual nod and ignore her presence. It was not that she wanted him, or expected him to talk to her but he ought to give her that look every man gave her.
“ Good afternoon, Mr Jalal.” The waiter greeted with reverence. It was obvious that he was known there. “ Your usual, sir?”
“Good afternoon. Yes, Abdul, my usual.”
“ Wait.” He said abruptly as the waiter turned to leave. “ God! I left my wallet in my car and it is with my automotive technician.”
“ With what?”
“ My car mechanic.”
“ And I need to take my medication now. I can’t do that without eating. I beg you serve me now then I come back to pat later. I also hope I can get at least three hundred naira for transportation to the workshop. What a mess!”
The waiter showed a worried expression.
“ What is the problem?”
“ I am afraid the manager is not around and I do not have the authority to do that, Sir.”
“What? Will I run away with your money?”
“ No, sir. You are one of our biggest customers but this thing called protocol and formality is a mess some times.”
The young man sighed.
“ But I need my drugs. I am disillusioned. I spend a lot of money here and you can’t do this simple thing for me. not even for my health?” He smirked. “ Okay, I will leave and if it means going on my foot, I will do it. Thank you very much.”
He made a move to stand up.
“ Serve him.” A sweet female voice emerged.
The young man turned to Naairah watching them. Oh God! She was listening? Now he looked embarrassed.
Now she was glad she made him have this look. The taciturnity had vanished and humility took over.
“Thank you, miss but I would not like to put such a burden on you. I can manage.”
“ It is not fair to turn it down. Please do sit down and eat….for your medication.”
The man looked embarrassed and befuddled. He seemed to be hesitating.
“ Thank you very much.” He said. “ I will drop the money with them when I come back.”
“ I never said I was lending it to you.” She said.
His lips widened and a tremulous smile was produced. Naairah was enjoying the discomfort on his face. She felt like he was kneeling before her as she sat on her throne. She was the queen and he was the subject.
“ Thank you, ma’am.” He said with that mirthless smile and sat back.
His usual was served. American fried rice and chicken soup with fresh fruit drinks.
He ate in silence though he received calls twice. From his conversation, it was obvious he was a young entrepreneur who was into importation.
He did not look at the girls again. Naairah noticed that he finished the food and did not leave ruminants. That was impressive. Some people waste food trying to impress, or avoid being called a glutton, so they leave food unfinished and that was prone to wastage. This guy finished everything and drank his juice.
He took his drugs and got on his feet.
“ Thank you very much.” He said and turned to leave.
What? He did not even bother to introduce himself or ask of her name! That’s it? Who the hell did he think he was?
“ Excuse me, mister.” She said and he turned, giving her an askance look.
“ Here.” She stretched her hand with a five hundred naira note. “ I think you don’t need to go in foot.”
“ Now, this is too much. I have taken my drugs and filled so I think I can trek.”
“ I insist.”
“Thank you very much.” He said. He moved back and collected the money. “ God bless.”
He smiled at her, then at Nadia then walked out with his imposing, bouncing steps.
This guy was impressive!
Nadia gave her a suspicious look.
“Am I missing something?” She said.
“ Can’t one help a stranded proud guy?”
“ I know you were trying to get him on his knees. And you did just that. Got the poor guy embarrassed.” She smiled. “ But he left without trying to know you….us. He still left with some of his haughtiness.”
That was true. This would not be the end. She hoped to see him again and would not relent until he bowed. The spoilt, rich, arrogant bastard!
She did not see him again after that incidence. She went to the restaurant ( Moore American Restaurant) more than five times but she never saw him. She was forced to ask the waiter who called him Mr Jalal. The waiter said he guessed he must have travelled abroad for business.
She could not understand why she was so desperate to see him again. Why did she keep thinking of him? Just to bring him on his knees? Was she not being megalomaniac?
So he had gone on a business trip. That was the assumption until that fateful day when her cousin, Laila came visiting. As they sat chatting, Naairah saw excitement on her face.
“ What is the excitement all about?”
“ I met this guy, whoa…he was cool. I mean a guy of substance with a great fashion sense and personality. This guy was wearing a Rolex. His clothes were designers. His cologne filed the air….”
“ He was so arrogant at first and would not even look at me, then he got into a fix and I had to help him.”
“ Yeah. It was in De Yummies restaurant. He wanted to have lunch so he could take his dugs but forgot his wallet in his car which was with his automotive technician,” she giggled, “I guess that is the American name for auto mechanic. The annoying part was that the waiter acknowledged him to be a very big customer of theirs but the manager was not around and they could not sell on credit. So, I bought food for him. He ate everything and I gave four hundred naira for transportation.
But he did not ask of my name. I guess he was trying to be modest. I know we would meet again.”
Naairah felt a bang in her head.
“ When did this happen?” Naairah noticed the grogginess in her voice.
“ Did he say his name?”
“ No. I said he so modest. But the waiter called him Mr Jalal.”
The nickel was dropped.
The saga begins……………….
" I need you to tell me the truth or I get you arrested.” Naairah had threatened Nura that morning.
" I don’t know him.” Nura had said defensively.
" You helped him with the charade. You greet him with reverence; address him as ‘sir’. Mr Jalal and give the impression that he is one of your biggest customers. You are part of the scheme, so I give you one more chance, talk to me or get caught up with nemesis.”
Nura felt uneasy. This may lead him into trouble.
" You promise to keep me safe?”
" But if you get him arrested, it would surely come back to me.”
" You talk as if you have an option .” Naairah said.
" We asked you not to worry.” Nadia said. ” Just tell us what we want to know.”
" Okay. He is my acquaintance. He has a skill of making friends with waiters in big restaurants and snack bars. From what I heard, he started by visiting his friends during meal times. He would chat until food was brought, eat then leave.
He once visited a friend of his, when he waited and did not see food, he bid goodbye and wanted to leave. Then the friend’s mother called the friend to come and get food. When he heard this, he turned and said he forgot to tell the friend something that happened a day before.
The friend now asked to postpone the gist for another time. He said he wanted to greet the mother, the friend said she was sleeping. So he left, cursing under his breath. That incidence led him to a more sophisticated move.
He began to go round expensive restaurants, waylaying young , rich girls just to get a swell meal and a little change. He uses the change to feed in the night and a day or two more then he strikes again.”
" I don’t get it. Where does he get all those expensive clothes He uses Rolex.” Naairah asked.
" He has his paraphernalia set. He has a guy who sells wristwatches for his boss. So he hires them. He also has another guy who lends him clothes. But not pro bono. There is a quid pro quo. He gives something in return. The phones...the expensive looking one is a crashed phone. It brings light but does not really function. I don’t know where he gets colognes.”
" Then you and the rest of the waiters who perfect the hoax, what does he give you?” Nadia asked.
Nura looked uneasy.
" He...he gives me tips. Okay, let me say, he does not only target young girls. He targets married women or older women. Some of these women try to know him further, or lure him by giving him more than he asked for. Sometimes, they give him three thousand naira. When he gets enough to last days, he does not strike again. His problem is food.
When they give him much, he runs away. He does not get attached. All he needs is the food and pocket money. So he gives me something.”
" You called him, Jalal. That is a fake name, we know.”
“Yes. His real name is Adnan. Surname? Only god knows.”
“Where does he live?” Naairah asked.
The waiter shook his head.
“Nobody knows where he lives. Adnan does not have a close friend. If you see him with you, it is for a reason...an ad hoc guy. He is called the Mystery Guy.”
" So this is all he does for a living, huh?” Nadia asked.
" That is what I don’t understand. He works in a bakery as a labourer. I wonder what he does with the money he gets there.”
" Oh my God!” Naairah exclaimed. ” And he was making a call to make us believe he was an importer. You even told me that he was abroad on business.”
" It is all part of the packaging.” He confessed. ” He will secretly flash his crony who would call with an American accent and they would be discussing fictitious deals.”
Naairah and Nadia exchanged glances and could not help chuckling. Damn! And they believed him.
" Another charade is playing humility by finishing the food.” Nadia said. ” The guy is hungry. Does he not have a family.”
" Nobody knows any member of his family. His pals used to tease him, calling him alien.”
" So tell us where he works.”
He looked at them with a perturbed expression.
" Don’t worry. We are not going to arrest him.” Nadia said.
" Big Bakers Confectionary.
Now they were sitting in Naairah’s car out the bakery waiting patiently. Their informant told them that he was on morning duty and would close in the evening. It was almost 4:00 pm.
" I just want to see the shame that would be on his face when he sees us.” Naairah said. ” Imagine the low life acting like a snub, one that was important.”
" It is all part of the packaging.”
" I can’t believe we are doing this.” Nadia said. “We are using the whole day for this low life.”
" We better let him know his game is up.” Nairaah said, resting her head on the headrest. ” Did you see how excited Laila was?”
" The guy is just after food and change not women.” Nadia said and chuckled. ” Is not not bizarre? ”
“Dan dan!” Naairah exclaimed .” Here comes the fraudster.”
He wore a faded jeans, which was not the fashionable faded jeans but worn out faded. His shirt was cheap with boots that must have seen the cobbler for stitching more than fifteen times.
He held a loaf of bread. He could not even put it in a polythene bag. He held the bread so dearly it was obviously important to him. He still had that buccaneering personality, and he carried himself with lion-like grace.
He walked, or bounced until he almost passed their car.
" Mr Jalal!” Naairah called and came out of the car. Nadia could not help chuckling.
Adnan turned swiftly with a frown on his face. He studied her face. He knew he had met her, and she was one of his mummies( he usually called his victims that). Where? Yummies, Moore’s American restaurant, Crystal foods, Cocos’, Aci dadi? Where?....okay, he remembered. Moore’s American Restaurant.
" Excuse me?” He said with a surprised expression. ” I am not Mr Jalal.”
" We met at Moore’s, remember? The guy who forgot his wallet in his car which was with automotive technician.”
Adnan still kept his face expressionless.
" I am sorry, you are onto the wrong person.”
" Do not play smart with me. You said you needed to take a drug and forgot your money, bla, bla,bla. All acting big and important.”
He looked at her and smiled.
" I am sorry miss. I am engaged. She is fiancée and I am fiancé . Fiancée- fiancé . Nice to meet you.”
Naairah was speechless.
What did he just say?
" You lowlife! You think I am here to toast you or what?”
" Ohh! Then I am sorry, I don’t give charity on Mondays. Which NGO do you belong to? Make Girls Purple, Woman Solidarity Movement, Stop Buying Fake Jewelleries For Babes, which? Drop your address, I will get to you.”
She was now red with rage.
" You dipstick! A wanker!You are an epitome of first grade troglodyte. How can a jackass like you with no sense of shame yank at me?”
" Thank you for the compliments.” He said. ” But instead of using the word jackass, why not use asshole instead? How do you see that?”
This guy was gut-wrenching. She felt like smacking his face.
" You are the lowest life I have ever seen.”
“No. There is a guy called Tanimu. He is worse than me. Would you like to meet him?”
She kept quiet, fuming.
" Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you look when you are infuriated?” He said with a smile
" You look bewitching, delightful, foxy, dazzling ,alluring, exquisite, beauteous and delicate.”
" I hate you!”
“And you will rest in police nest.”
“What for? Did I steal from you? For helping you?”
“Yes! Was that not an opportunity to get reward from Allah? Did you help me for the sake of Allah or as a show off? If it’s fisabilillah, then you get your reward. I am now a factor of getting reward for you.”
" You are shameless!”
“Wait!” He frowned, making his face granite hard. ” Are you flying off the angle just because of the food and change you gave me the other day? How much is it? Tell me?” He said running his palms over his pocket.”
" The food was one thousand five hundred and I gave you five hundred naira. Two thousand naira.”
He stopped running his hand over his pocket.
" That is big. Thank you.”
" I thought you were going to pay.”
“I only asked you to know the magnitude of benevolence you displayed. May Allah reward you.” He smirked. ” You want your money back. I can see why they named you Naira. I heard your friend call you that.”
" See? You are so ignorant. Naairah not Naira. Naairah means shinning, bright, you dimwick.”
Nadia could not avoid chuckling all this while. The guy was a drama king and his acting was so hilarious.
My friend has met a scoundrel, she thought.
" You are repulsive and pathetic!” Naaira said angrily. ” Look at your life. Holding bread without a leather bag.”
" Okay Miss Sunshine it is polyethylene bag not leather. Leather is from animal skin. Skin. Polyethylene is a polymer consisting of ethylene monomers bonded together and used for plastic containers and bags.....”
" Save your lectures. Go get a job!”
He pointed at the bakery.
" I have a job.” He said proudly. ” I am a production technical officer here.”
“That is another word for a labourer. Then stop being a rogue.”
" I will think about it. Thank you for coming.” He said, bent down and wove at Nadia. ” Hello, I am Adnan. We met the other day ,right? Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you too.”
Oh my God! If Naairah thought she was coming to make this guy feel ashamed and chastened ,she was in for another think.
Adnan smiled at Naairah.
" I hope to see you again.” He said. ” When I come back from Italy. Thank you for coming.”
He smiled once more then bounced away.
Naairaah was left speechless. She got into the car and started the car engine.
" What a guy,” Nadia said.
Naairah could not talk. She slid through gear and drove off.
Adnan held his loaf of bread dearly and walked passed a car. He was going to beg Maman Daddy for polyethylene bag to put the bread.
Inside the car sat a girl wearing dark sunshades.
" He just passed by me.” She said into her mouthpiece. ” Do we pick him now?”
" Are you sure he is the one?”
" One hundred per cent. He cannot hide forever” She said.
" Give him more time. I want to be sure he is the guy we want . What he has is all we need.”
She started the car and drove off.
" Daxy.” She called. The guy sitting on the passenger’s side raised his eyebrow. “He said not now. Let us confirm his profile. But I bet he is the one.”
Daxy nodded. ” I hope so. We don’t have all the time in the world.”
Adnan put his loaf of bread in the polythene bag, and crossed the road to buy kosai(cowpea cake) .Bread, Kosai, and soft drink. A cool night ahead. He was not aware that he was being watched.