Excerpted from “The Carnivorous City”, a novel in progress.
The office was off Olowu street, in a big two storey building that was a riotous warren of offices. It was the sort of building that made Lagos what it is; a city bursting at the seams with people. The building housed both residential and corporate entities.
Mayowa’s office was hard to find and they had spent close to ten minutes walking up and down before they finally found a door with an Excel Magazine sticker.
“It must be here. Now the dog will vomit that money,” Santos said as he turned the handle and pushed at the door. It didn’t open.
“Knock. Say you want to place an advert,’ Abel told Santos while he stepped out of sight, down the stairs.
Santos knocked but no one answered.
“Bros, nobody dey here,” he said and Abel was walking up the stairs when Santos motioned at him to wait.
“Who are you looking for?” Abel heard a voice ask and it was Mayowa’s voice. He was sure. He would know that voice anywhere.
“Is this Excel Magazine?” Santos asked and Abel heard Mayowa say yes.
“I want to place an advert.” Santos said and Abel knew that if Mayowa didn’t bite Santos was likely to say something that would give them out.
“Is it product or public announcement?” He heard Mayowa ask as he rattled the chain to get the door open.
“Em, na advert for house,” he heard Santos say as the door creaked open.
“Na you be the Publisher Editor?” Abel heard Santos ask and when Mayowa answered, he heard a sharp cry as Santos struck him.
Abel bounded up the steps, slammed the door shut behind him and latched it using the chain and padlock that was still dangling.
By the time he entered Mayowa’s office, there was blood streaming from his nose.
“Santos stop,” he ordered. ‘How many people are here?” he asked Mayowa as he pulled him up from the dusty rug and propped him against the wall.
“Where is your artist, we want to place an advert,” Abel mocked then he asked Santos to look around the office.
“Nobody s here,” Santos said as he got back into the office.
It was a small place with just two rooms; Mayowa’s office and an outer one that served as reception area.
Abel looked at him. His shirt was already stained with blood but it was clearly new. He had on a new pair of shoes too and there was a gold chain on his wrist.
“Where is my money?” Abel asked.
“I don’t ha…”
Santos didn’t let him finish as he kicked him hard in the stomach. Mayowa gagged then sank to the floor.
“Where is the money?” Santos asked again.
“I spent it,” Mayowa said curling into a ball.
Santos directed a well aimed kick to his head.
“So, you think you can job my bros?” Santos asked kicking him with every word.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Mayowa was crying, pain making him slur his words.
“Quick, remove your watch,” Santos said and in minutes, he had taken off Mayowa’s wrist watch, phone, bracelet, shoes and necklace.
“I thought you are a publisher, why did you do this?” Abel asked stooping to hear him.
“Bros we are all hustlers. Everybody wants to hammer like your brother.”
Abel regarded him for a while then he straightened up.
Mayowa looked like he had been run over by a car. His left eye was swollen and he was bleeding from his nose and mouth. His new shirt was dusty and blood stained. He didn’t look good.
“Santos, let’s go,” Abel said but Santos shook his head.
“If he starts screaming thief, we are dead. Let’s tie him up and cover his mouth,” Santos told Abel.
They gagged and tied Mayowa to one leg of his table with his belt and then as they made to go, Santos said, “Bros, give him one for the road.”
Abel looked from Santos to Mayowa. There was fear in Mayowa’s eyes and a silent plea too, but then Abel remembered how he had strung him along, how he told him about the mysterious stranger who knew about Sunny’s whereabouts, how he took the one hundred thousand naira and then asked for something for the boys and then how he said ‘God bless, you’ and crossed the road, probably whispering to himself and remarking how gullible Abel was.
Abel thought about all that and the anger bubbled to the fore. He lashed out and kicked Mayowa in the gut. Mayowa screamed and spat out blood, tears clouding his yes.
“That’s my bros,” Santos said as they headed out. “Leave the door open, so someone will see him.”
Abel was tingling all over. He felt alive. His heart was pounding. He hadn’t been in a fight in years, not that what had happened back there could be termed a fight, but it had been good to give back as good as they got. He had lost one hundred thousand naira but that wasn’t what it was about. It was the insult; of being had by a man purporting to help. He felt good that he had stepped to the plate and said you don’t mess with me.
“Bros, I didn’t think you could do it,” Santos said, almost as if he had been reading his thoughts, as they made a right at the roundabout that led to Allen and Opebi.
“Why?” Abel asked feeling a sharp thrill course through him, happy that he had acquitted himself well in the eyes of his cousin.
“Bros, you na gentleman. Na we be street boys.”
Abel smiled to himself as they waited at the traffic light, happy to have done something tangible. True, he was a gentleman and all his life he hadn’t been in more than three fights. There was something about hitting and hurting another human being that made him recoil. But that afternoon, Abel had been ready to kill. Something had snapped in him and all the impotence he felt since he arrived in Lagos, in not being able to do anything towards finding his brother had bubbled over that afternoon into rage at Mayowa’s office.
“Where’s that Fela’s CD?” he asked rummaging in the glove compartment.
“It’s here,” Santos said as he fished it out of the side pocket of the door.
Abel slotted it in and selected track six, Palaver.