His hands shock terribly, his vision became blurry, a sharp pain bit him unrelentingly underneath his armpit, he lowered himself to the seat but the pain did not subside, his hands felt wobbly, he could not hold on to the phone in his hand, it dropped to the floor with a clatter, it felt like a horse had kicked him in the chest, he grabbed at the pain but it did nothing to pacify it. He could hear his name but it sounded as though it was coming from the far end of the tunnel, he was aware of the raucous around him as his vision began too blur and fade, till it turned black.
From the balcony of the two storey building, he had a clear sight of the building in front of him, it was a bunch of office buildings, the one he was seated in front of was a cyber café, no one was going to worry about a guy leaning on the railing smoking cigarette but he did well to keep out of sight, better safe than sorry.
He had signed up a week earlier to learn photo-shopping and video editing and had paid a hefty fee for it but in truth, it was the perfect excuse to be at the café everyday and every opportunity he got. A smile split his lips and his hand hung midair with the cigarette, he had learnt Photoshop and video years ago and was very adept at it, in fact that was how he earned his living but what cracked him up was having to seat for four hours every day listening to a quack give him a half baked lecture about editing tools, using outdated applications on an outdated computer system.
He joked that the computer OS must have been a Pentium One; it was little wonder that it spent most of the time frozen, then the hack would have them copy notes. Notes! Who copied notes for a subject that required ninety five percent practical and five percent writing?
The owner of the café, a soft spoken, lanky young man in his mid thirties who liked to be called Sparkles, who looked like he’d rather be anywhere but running an ailing business, once running an internet café had been big business but not anymore, the emergence of GSM and cheap internet had made access to information easier. Today cyber cafes were considered dinosaurs trying to stay relevant, they had slowly morphed into business centers, opting to do more photocopying and printing as people who walked through the door seeking to use the internet grew smaller and smaller.
He sucked hard on the butt of the stick in his hand and blew out a thick cloud of smoke, suddenly something caught his attention in the building across the road, first it had been what seemed like the guttural cry of a woman, and this was followed closely by scampering of people in the compound. The next instant, the gate was thrown open and a car flew threw it. He flung his cigarette and dashed downstairs.
“Hello, yes, a car just left the house, yes, I will try to make inquiries and get back to you. Okay, thank you.”
Minutes later he found himself in a vast compound and he walked into it. The place reeked of disinfectants and something sinister; sickness with a tinge of death, he really hated hospitals, he always shirked any opportunity of visiting them, somehow he felt that whatever sickness lurked therein will infect him and that would mean taking medications or worst still; injection. Those were the worst.
There were about ten people waiting in the large reception when he walked in, some looked sickly, the others he figured had come to visit their loved ones. He stood surveying them and trying to figure out his next move. Going from room to room was bound to raise suspicion, so he decided to go with option B; ask the receptionist.
The receptionist was scribbling furiously on the paper in front of her, barely aware of the people around her, once in a while the intercom would ring and she’d pick up and go on to answer in the affirmative and then hang up and go back to writing.
“Good morning ma.” He said when he walked up to the desk.
“Good morning.” She replied, looking up at him. When she looked up, he realized that she was no older than twenty-four and hoped calling her ma would not have made her feel offended.
She had a pretty, oval face on which were set two sets of curious eyes, a pointy nose and very thin lips that had been painted in a pink coat of lipstick. Despite this, she wore a straight, unsmiling face, a typical nurse’s face, blank and emotionless.
“My name is Chuka, my uncle was brought here earlier, please what room is he in. I have been trying my aunt’s number and have been unable to connect; can you direct me to his room?”
“Who is your uncle?” She asked, her eyes never leaving his, which made him very uncomfortable.
“Engineer Eze, he was brought in here around 2 PM.” She fiddled with the keyboard in front of her for a moment before returning her gaze to him.
“He is in the West Wing of the hospital, room 105.”
“Thanks a lot for your help. How do I get to the West Wing?”
“Go back the way you came in, follow the path way on your right, at the T-junction, continue to your right, the West Wing is the huge building in front of you; you can’t miss it.”
“Thanks again.” And with that he disappeared out the door.
It surprised him the number of people at the hospital, there were more than a three dozen cars in the parking lot to his left and he knew that was not the only parking space at the hospital, there was also twice that number of people roaming the hospital, all these people can’t all be having health issues, he found himself asking. Hospitals reminded him always of the mortality of man, you spend your days working hard, trying to make ends meet, one day you fall ill and they say it’s cancer or some incurable disease and then you die and other people get to get fat off of your sweat. He felt a chill course down his spine; he could not wait to leave this hospital behind.
The West Wing loomed in front of him like a phoenix, big and resplendent, covering area of about 80 x 80 feet, it was a building of about three storey, painted the same white as the rest of the hospital with crimson beams and lintel, its well manicured lawn and flower screamed “rich people” and unlike the wing he had come from, this place had a lighter traffic and its parking lot was almost empty. Its automated door parted into a pristine white, air conditioned lobby, the white color of the wall flowed into the white tile that covered the entire floor. Against a corner by the door that led to the various was a glass desk and behind sat another pretty nurse but this one looked out of place here, she looked like she should be walking the runway somewhere wearing designers and strutting her stuff. The frosted glass of the desk prevented him from looking beyond her neck, too bad; he would have liked to see more of her.
“Good day, how do I get to Room 105?”
“Who are you here to see?”
“My uncle, he was brought in here not more than an hour ago.”
The nurse looked at him skeptically, and then turned to her computer and a few seconds later turned back to him. “Two patients were brought in here within the time period you said but they are both not allowed visitors, so I am sorry, you cannot see him.” She said firmly.
“I see.” He said disappointed and as an afterthought, “but can I ask how he is?”
“Who did you say your uncle was again?”
“Eze, Ifeanyichukwu Eze.” She consulted her computer again.
“Mr. Eze, 50 years, brought in with a mild cardiac arrest, in stable condition now but would be bedridden for a few days.” She said.
“I really appreciate this; my dad would really love to hear that. Thanks a lot.” As he spoke, he noticed Mrs. Eze walking towards the lobby, she must not see him, he immediately brought his phone to his ears, pretending to take a call. “Sorry, I have to take this.” And immediately made a hasty exit, as he stepped through the door, he could hear the other door open and the shuffle of feet follow it, just as the automated door was shutting.
As soon as he was in the sun, he broke into quick strides, determined to put as much distance between him and the West Wing. He heard their voices before he saw them, three heavily armed policemen following in his trail and calling for him to stop, he broke into a run, eager to get to the taxi that was waiting for him at the gates, good thing he had chosen to let the driver park outside. He ran faster as soon as the taxi came into view, jumping in as soon as he was near it and screamed to the driver to drive off.
When he looked back, the policemen were disappearing like specks into the horizon, phew that was close. Time to break the bad news to his bosses
He hated elevators, he hated air flights, yet he did not know why he thought being in a cable car would be any different. It had being exciting at first, when he could still see the ground below but as soon as the cable gained more height, he became apprehensive and his breath started coming in quick successions, the ground below looked like a bottomless pit of mist and greenery, if he wasn’t so scared out of his mind, he would have taken time to appreciate how in the midst of the corruption and garbage that was rife in the country, there was still a place still mostly untouched by man and basking in its natural glory.
From up here everything seemed so small, so different, like the trees he had seen from the Airport before takeoff, they looked like broccolis from up here, he found himself thinking that if people took time off their problems to look at them from a bird’s eye view, they’d realize how little they were compared to everything else going on around them. Somehow he began to feel better, his thoughts beginning to wander to other matters that didn’t involve the cable snapping and the car plunging down hundreds of feet to their deaths.
Rebecca covered his hands in hers, forcing him to look at her, why was he worrying? She was here; his own guardian angel, nothing would happen to him while she was around. She flashed him a smile and his heart beat quickened again, why did he love this woman so?
“I love you.” He heard himself saying.
“I love you too.” She replied, surprised he had said that out loud, given his reservation for public display of affection.
The other couple in the car with them; Europeans by the looks of them, flashed them a smile and a knowing nod. The wife, a woman in her seventies chuckled and looked up at her husband, whose attention had returned to the scenery.
“You remind me a bit of myself.” She said with a thick German accent. Rebecca smiled. “We met when we were about your age and we have been together ever since. Enjoy it while it lasts,” she pointed to Lawrence, “soon they would be too occupied with trees and fine landscaping to notice you.” She added playfully.
“Come on Hannah, you know I will always notice you.” Her husband said in a husky voice and planted a kiss on her lips. She turned a bright red and snuggled closer to her husband.
“He moved to Nigeria in 1998 and I came to join him in 2010 after the last of our kids left home, we have four, those twelve years in between were really hard and despite the fact he shuttled between Bremen and Lagos, it wasn’t easy especially for the kids. One time, in maybe 2003, the whole family spent about nine months in Lagos, that time I did not appreciate Nigeria as I do now.” She smiled her mind wandering. “Now I don tey for here.” She added in manageable pidgin causing everyone to break into a fit of laughter.
The rest of the ride she talked of her love of the Nigerian culture and food, she had a particular liking for jollof rice and egusi soup, they had visited more than twenty states in Nigeria since her husband retired years ago, Rivers was another check on their list of places to visit before they finally returned to their home country.
When the cable car journey ended, Hans and Hannah asked them to join them for dinner, which they readily accepted.
Dinner was filled with laughter and beautiful conversation about the past and future, Hannah was full of questions about the young couple’s relationship which Hans kept apologizing for, but in truth they did not mind answering. She offered relationship tips to them and told them not to give up, no matter how difficult it got, citing her relationship with Hans.
The highlight of the evening had been when she asked them about sex and her poor husband almost choked on his wine.
“Hannah! That is enough, you have put the kids through enough as it is.” He reprimanded her softly. The older woman gave a throaty laugh and soon enough her husband joined her, before long the table was abuzz with laughter.
Rebecca was telling them about her plans after she graduated when his phone rang; he excused himself and moved away from the table, after a brief moment, he returned.
“I am sorry, but we have to call it a night.” Lawrence announced suddenly.
“Aw, so soon?” The older woman exclaimed, “I was hoping you would stay a little longer, it has been fun having another company other than this old man.”
“Well this old man is off to bed.” Hans said getting up, he extended a hand to both Lawrence, which they took, one after the other, “It has been a pleasure, I hope someday you can visit Germany, look us up.” He thrust a card into Larry’s hand.
“Uh, that would be lovely ja?” Hannah added with glee.
“Thank you for a lovely evening Mr. and Mrs. Fischer”
“It’s a pleasure. Good night.”
“Why did we have to leave so early?!” Rebecca asked when they were out of earshot.
“Ice Man is here.” Hopefully, with her new phone and SIM card, she thought. Her parents would be worried sick; Isabella would probably be pulling her hair out now. She picked up pace eager to reach Isaac, sooner rather than later.
“Where is he?”
“At the lobby.”
While he waited in the cool lobby of the hotel, his phone vibrated in his pocket, he went outside to answer it, this was one conversation, no one else should be privy to.
“Hello, Coach.” It was Evans on the line.
“How far, so wetin be the latest?”
“Omo the man dey hospital oh and them say he go dey bed rest for a few days and that go scatter our plans oh!”
“Nothing changes, we go on as planned, tomorrow I will call and demand for the ransom, you and the guys be prepared to move at anytime. I will call with the location of the drop when I have it.”
“Coach!!” he hailed and hung up.