I woke to a pounding sound. I had fallen asleep, my head pillowed in my arms on the table. I wiped the drool from my lips and went to open the door. An elderly gentleman, one I had seen eat often, was there. I remembered his name as the dream fog cleared.
“Madam Shade said I should be here at 9:00,” Bako said, rather surprised I wasn’t Shade.
“Come in and let’s get started.” I opened the door wider and stepped aside. I was worried about Shade. It wasn’t like her to let anything slide. I got Bako into the shower room and went to check on Shade.
I found her back at the desk, staring at the lawsuit. Her eyes were reddish. Thankfully, there weren’t any tears. She must have run out of tears last night.
“Bako is here,” I said as business-like as I could. Shade looked up to me with a forlorn look.
“Does it matter?”
“Yes,” I responded. I had reasons to go on and knew they would fall on deaf ears. Short and simple was the only good response.
“They are destroying me.” I saw defeat in Shade’s eyes.
“The banquet will be next.” I said it firmly. I didn’t want to sugar coat it. Shade’s eyes widened with fear.
“It will ruin the Kitchen,” Shade said. I sat down on the camp bed as I watched her face go pale.
“I won’t let that happen.” There was determination in my voice, hopefully something Shade could latch onto.
“I don’t think we can stop these people,” Shade said, holding up the stack of papers. I gave her a confident smile. The smile held more confidence than I felt, but she needed more.
“No one will be left hungry, Shade. I need to speak to some old friends to see if we can turn this around.” I pulled the donor book out again and turned to the page with Dolapo’s name and pointed at it. “She thought this place was worth funding. I promise you, her donation won’t go to waste.” Shade’s face firmed up.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Make sure you open at 4:00.” I needed to handle this alone. “And don’t lose heart. It’s going to be a very long week. Let me take care of the rest.” Shade stood up and nodded her head like a little child.
“I will make sure we stay open,” Shade said, “whatever happens, thank you for trying.” She moved past me quickly. Her determination had returned, but not her confidence. I felt a little sorry for Bako, he was bound to catch the brunt of her frustration. I sat down and made the first call.
“Alege and Associates, this is Funmi may I help you?” the receptionist greeted me. I knew Funmi, but I really didn’t want to explain myself.
“Mofe Alege, please,” I said, trying to jump past the hurdle.
“Mr. Alege is busy right now; would you like to leave a message?”. I took a deep breath.
“Funmi, it’s David Akeju. I really need to speak with Mofe,” I said it quickly, hoping she would just let me through without an interrogation. No such luck.
“Mr David, oh my goodness, are you alright?” There was concern in her voice that exceeded the relationship we had had in the past. I guess notoriety does that to a person.
“I’m fine Funmi. It’s really important that I speak with Mofe,” The secret was out. People will definitely know The Promise Keeper is still breathing. I needed to move forward at a quick pace now.
“Alright, I will see if I can get him out of the meeting. Hold on a minute,” Funmi said, and then added, “Dolapo was right, you sang wonderfully.” I felt my throat knot a bit. I had forgotten she had known Dolapo too well. The two would talk during the company Christmas parties. I just sighed a ‘thank you’ and waited for Mofe.
“Where the hell are you, David?” Mofe asked when he came on the line, “The whole world is looking for you.” I wanted to skip that part so I did.
“I have a problem Mofe. I know I don’t deserve your help, the way I quit and all.” I knew he would help anyways; I just wanted him to know I knew I was a jerk, “It’s just that you’re the only one I could think to call.”
“Okay. What do you need?” Mofe had given me a pass. I had new respect for him.
“You know you help some people pro bono? Do you think you can extend the same favour to a friend of mine?”
“I’m listening,” Mofe responded. I told him everything. I did leave out some of my personal failures, like the bridge incident, but told him the rest. I told him about the City Kitchen and how its mission is to feed the homeless. I told him about Shade and the FIRS. I gave him the best guess as what was happening and ended with the looming litigation process.
“Are her books really clean?” Mofe asked.
“Some of the best I have ever seen,” I responded honestly. “Whoever is doing this, has strong connections. I promised Shade I would do what I could to end this.” Mofe laughed.
“I would never stand between a promise and its keeper,” Mofe joked, “how many FIRS agents came the first time?”
” I need to see the books beforehand.” Mofe was all in. “Let me know when the banquet is and I’ll make sure it’s company policy.”
“Thank you, Mofe. You have no idea what this means to me,” I said, trying to remain manly and not get all choked up. “I will surely get you whatever you need. I know we are on the right side of this one.” We ended the call with a lot of testosterone lingering across the line. Mofe liked the idea of fighting the FIRS, especially if he expects to win. To him, this was the accounting equivalent to a showdown at high noon.
“An auditor from my old firm will be here tomorrow,” I said to Shade who was doing some cleaning. She stopped scrubbing and looked up.
“You told someone you were here?” Shade asked incredulously.
“It’s war, honey, no holds barred.” I felt some trepidation when I realized I had used a term of endearment. It just slipped out, as if I had been speaking with Dolapo. I moved quickly toward the door, hoping she wouldn’t notice.
“Go get them, honey!” Shade yelled. I heard her laughing, which sounded good. Bako was giggling, which sounded bad.
I moved quickly now that my mind was made up. It took no time to get to the State CID. I walked in and straight to the desk that was manned by a uniformed police.
“I would like to see Detective Bakare, please.”
“Name, please,” the police asked, not looking up from the form he was filling out.
“David. He is expecting me.” I answered. I really didn’t want a scene at the front desk. The police picked up the phone and dialed an extension. The brief interruption seemed to bother the man. Whatever he was working on was more important than my visit.
“I got a David out here for you.” The police looked up at me after a second, “David who?” I sighed. “Akeju,” I whispered. The police became bewildered as shown on his face.
“Hello, Tony. You definitely want to meet this man.” The police hung up the phone. “My wife thinks you are some kind of great romantic. I have you pegged as in idiot.” His grin spread the room as he expressed his view.
“Both” I admitted. I would have to deal with the consequences of my choice. The police laughed and held out his hand. I shook it with a great deal of surprise. A short man sitting on the bench jumped up and headed to the desk.
“Whois this, Sergeant?” The man was wearing business casual with a long sleeve polo shirt.
“Mind your own business,” the sergeant responded sharply. He looked back at me and used his eyes to direct me down the hall. I was grateful for the fence he put up. This was going to be hard enough to withstand.
I met Detective Bakare down the hall. He wore a brown suit with a dull yellow shirt and a golden-shaded amoeba tie. His hair was cut military style with zero sideburns sitting on a six foot frame. He looked like the type of guy you want standing next to you in a dark alley.
“Yes.” I held out my hand and the detective shook it. I saw his expression change as he saw past my beard.
“David Akeju,” he said, and shook my hand harder, “Tony Bakare.” I added my smile to his and nodded. He led me to a small conference room and indicated I should take a seat.
“I understand you have my wallet,” I said. It would sure save me a lot of time if I didn’t need to replace the IDs and ATM cards. It would also be a convenient way to end the speculation of my death.
“Yes we do.” Tony was still smiling. “My wife thinks you are some kind of super husband.” His expression changed quickly when he realized what he said. “I am sorry about your wife.”
“Thank you,” I said in my practiced, ignore the painful memory, tone. “I don’t really deserve the myth that seems to have developed.”
“Well, obviously you’re not dead,” Tony said, returning to a subdued cheerfulness, “can you tell me where you were or do I have to read it in the paper?” It didn’t sound like an official request. I don’t think I was obliged to tell him anything. He just had one of those trusting faces and a pleasant attitude that was difficult to deny. I spilled the beans for the second time that day. I wasn’t sure if he could help with the attacks on Shade and the City Kitchen, but I let him know that was why I finally decided to end the hiding.
“You haven’t seen the paper?” Tony asked.
Tony pulled out the newspaper on his desk. He turned a few pages on the front section, folded it over and handed it to me. The title of the article was “City Kitchen Sued For Fraud.” The speed at which these people were operating was phenomenal.
“Damn!” I said as I read. I especially liked the part where they claimed that Shade Aiyeto had no comment. “They are moving faster than I thought. This is going to kill the fund raising banquet.”
“You could fill ten banquets if you just let people know you will be there,” Tony claimed, “my wife would demand tickets. I could get half the force to show up.” I smiled at the thought. Maybe my five minutes of fame would be worth one banquet.
“I don’t have much time. These guys are a few steps ahead of me,” I said. I could call the press, but I didn’t know anyone I could trust. The story could spiral out of my control and become about me.
“I think I can help you with that.” Tony picked up the phone and dialed. “Richard, is Femi out there? Okay, send him to my office.” He hung up. “Femi is our resident freelance journalist. He follows us out to crime scenes and sells the stories to the paper. I think you two can use each other.” He smiled conspiratorially. Femi walked in.
“David, this is Femi Adeshina. We affectionately call him Femo.” I rose and shook the hand of the confused-looking man.
“What’s this about, Tony?” Femi asked.
“A story for a story, Femi,” Tony, said indicating an empty seat to Femi, “David needs some press and in exchange you get an exclusive.” Realization washed across Femi’s face.
“David Akeju?” Femi asked, looking at me. I nodded. He smiled from ear to ear. “Deal!”
For the third time that day, I explained what had happened. Femi was taking copious notes as I spoke, and asking questions to clarify what I said. Tony seemed proud of himself for putting us together. He excused himself to get my wallet.
“So you want me to let everyone know you will be at the banquet. That’s it?” Femi asked.
“Yeah and I would prefer they don’t know where to find me prior to the banquet,” I responded.
“You’ll talk to no other reporters?” Femi was bursting at the seams. Tony returned with a polythene bag containing my wallet and some kind of form.
“No one but you,” I agreed, “at least until you get a chance to print the story.” Femi smiled and rubbed his hands together.
“After all this time, why are you coming out now?” Femi asked. I thought I just explained it all to him.
“I just told you, to help Shade and the City Kitchen,” I said, obviously frustrated.
“You don’t owe them anything, why would you risk it?” Femi was pushing me. I had no idea why, but I was edging on angry.
“Look, I promised her I would help. So I’m helping.” This time I made it sound final. Femi’s pen went into hyper drive.
“You just can’t make this stuff up,” Femi said absently, “another promise.” Tony laughed and I sighed. Femi was going to blow it out of proportion. The banquet needed it so I let it go. “Is it okay for me to bring a cameraman to the banquet?”
“I thought you were newspaper,” I replied.
“Freelance. With this story I’ll be a media superstar.” Femi celebrated with his hands in the air.
“Okay, but keep it low-key. I don’t want this to be theatrical.” Femi laughed at my remark.
“Too late for that. I’ll just try to make sure you don’t look too clownish.” Femi was cleaning up his notebook as he spoke. “I’ll need another interview the day after the banquet. It shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes or so.” I nodded my head. “I have to get this out if I am going to make the paper tomorrow. I won’t leak your location, but some will guess it. I would stay hidden if I were you.” He shook my hand and scurried off.
“You’ve been ‘Femoed,'” Tony said sarcastically. He pushed over a form for me to sign. It allowed me to get my wallet back. “You know it’s going to be a madhouse, right?”
“If that’s what it takes, so be it.” I signed my name and retrieved my wallet. “I have to break into my condo, think I will get arrested?”
“Come on, I’ll drive you.” Tony laughed as he grabbed his jacket.
…to be continued