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Ripped || 𝚋𝚢 𝙵𝚎𝚕𝚒𝚡 𝙴𝚜𝚑𝚒𝚎𝚝



THE SUN GRINNED HARD, shooting its scorching rays into the cab. 

“Take your money o, I go drop here,” I mumbled to the driver.

The rays pranced on me as I alighted, searing my face. I sauntered towards a mega mall, my adventurous gaze flitting about the exterior. The flashy rides strewn across the parking lot added more class. "Really a haven for first-class citizens," I murmured as I entered the mall.


“Madam, this your ATM no gree pay oo,” a uniformed waiter said in Pidgin English, his lips curling a smirk.

“How do you mean?” I replied, brows furrowed.

“Shebi na the third time wey you dey put your password so, but e no gree pay. Madam if you been no get money you for no come chop here oh. Na so—”

“What’s the meaning of this, young man, do you realise you’re embarrassing me?” I retorted, my shaky lips announcing my anxiety.

“What’s the matter here?” someone said. I looked in their direction. A black-suited young man was approaching us. Right then, I knew I was in for trouble. Only if I had gone to eat elsewhere ...

“Oga no be this yeye woman wey know say she no get money for akkant but she kukuma come here to come chop. Abi she—"

“That’s enough young man," the man said.

I heaved a sigh. At least he wasn't fuelling the fire.

“You sure don’t know how to talk to your customers. Does that really call for all these?” He added again, reaching under his suit pocket, “Imagine, the whole hall is now feasting on this scenario you’ve created."

I stood still, the embarrassment too bitter to swallow. I never dared to turn back, I could feel curious gazes ransacking my ramshackle figure, undressing me from head to toe. Sweat trickled down my blued cheeks in streams.

“Have this,” the man said, handing the waiter his ATM card.

“You don’t have to," I protested. "I can handle this. I really—”

“Shhh ...” He placed his index finger across his pink lips. “Let me do this please,” he said, easing a strong arm across my shoulder.

My shoulders twitched at the effect of his touch and I couldn’t help but stare at him. He was like an acquaintance. Stealing a gaze at him, I acknowledged my admiration for him, and I—

“Thank you oga, e don pay now,” the waiter growled, baring his brown teeth.

“ You better go learn how to do your job or else you might meet your end soon,” my saviour warned, waving a finger at the waiter.

“I don’t know how to thank you enough,” I said, amidst sobs, wiping the tears with the back of my palm. “Why did you have to do that?”

“ You needed help and I couldn’t sit back there watching a beauty like you get embarrassed… And I apologize for coming late—he embarrassed you already."

“Apology? For what? You owe me no single apology but I think I owe you the world right now." Was I saying enough? No. I meant it.

“That? Come on, that’s nothing?” He said, waving.

I stared more closely now. He looked more gallant than my teary eyes saw. Barrel-chested and topaz-skinned with a neatly cut afro. He was smartly dressed and his cologned scent pulled at my nostrils.

“When do I pay you back?”.

He took my hands in his, cupping them. “ I haven’t borrowed you any money, I only did what I thought was right,” he whispered, stressing every syllable.

"Erm—"

“ Gabriel Okon, Associate Professor of Information Technology, Ritman University," he said, smiling, as he handed me his complimentary card. “It's nice to meet you."

“Temitope Aregbesola, Laboratory Scientist, Saint Luke’s Hospital,” I responded in a shaky tone. “Thank you so much for your kindness. I really do appreciate it." 

I received his bulbous frame as it collides into mine, and I was—for a moment—afraid I needed more of the mystical aura his presence served me. 

“Please kindly place a call when you’re less busy,” he said with a husky voice that finally pried my heart open. He strode toward the exit, and I kept gazing.

That was how I met Gabriel, my dream man. Picking up my expired ATM to go shopping shoved him across my path.


I loved every fragment of his magical figure. His generosity was mind-blowing, and I wouldn't dare to understate his skills in a dimly lit room. He rocked the world, bust just the both of us. And he'd never leave any endowments of mine unexplored, that was always a turn-on for me.

On a Turkish Airways plane on our way to Paris, France, Gabriel popped the question:

“My world, be my soulmate till death sweeps me off this undecipherable earth. Let me kowtow before you … if only you’d be my Queen. Baby, will you marry me?” 

I couldn't erase those riveting lines off my mind. And. I accepted him with every bit of my being ...

Until ...


Five days after Dad received his pension and gratuity as a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Nigeria Army, armed men visited his apartment, carting away every single coin, leaving the poor widower unconscious with a shot on his left arm.

I abandoned my Masters programme’s examination in South Africa, flying back to Nigeria to meet him dead. And for four days, I refused to see the sun.


“We’ll leave no stone unturned until the perpetrators of this malicious act are brought to book,” a potbellied police officer assured me. God knew I had no bit of trust in the Nigerian Police Force.

I didn't go back to South Africa. Just moved in with Gabriel over here. Started a job too.

Now on a Monday morning, while I was sweating in my office, my smartphone buzzed, reeling my attention.

“Are we on to Miss Rita Aregbesola, the survivor of late Lieutenant Colonel Aregbesola Adeshite?” the voice over the telephone asked, with feigned politeness.

“Yes, I am. How may I help you please?” 

“ I am CSP Aniekan Akpabio. Your attention is needed with regards to the investigation of your father’s death. Imo State CID is the location. The DPO awaits you.”

I zoomed out of the office like a crazed runner. Dropped dead on my track as I stepped into the DPO's office. Armed officers filed behind several bare-bodied and handcuffed young men. I jumped out of my skin on sighting Gabriel.

“Ri-Ri … Rita.” His voice droned around the room, the corner of his eyes crinkled.

“G-Gabriel," I called, my eyes widened, and jaw-dropping.

“You know each other?” the DPO chipped in. He kept quiet when his question was responded with questionable stares.

“What am I doing here Mr DPO. And he,"—I pointed at Gabriel—"what is he—”

“This gang of criminals, led by him,” he said, pointing also at Gabriel, "murdered your late father right in his guestroom on the 9th of June, and carted away belongings worth of forty-six million Naira.”

My jaws dropped lower and I staggered. “How do you mean, DPO,” I mumbled. My handbag clattered on the tiled floor.

“Gabriel’s gang killed your father…” the DPO emphasised.

A step backwards. And another. My hands darted upwards, index finger as a dart, pointing at a crestfallen Gabriel. "Y-you .." As I crashed to the ground, I could see him struggling to reach me, his face a painting smeared with pain.


MEET THE AUTHOR:


Felix Eshiet is a writer, mesmerized with deathblows, kicks and jabs—action thrillers and short crime fiction.
He weaves crime tales set in Nigeria, West Africa; his stories are fledged with characters with Nigerian blood rippling beneath their tubes. On good days, he plays hit-and-run with other subgenres, ranging from Young Adult, Historical, Sci-fi and romance sub-genres. He believes in the Nigerian artistic heritage and shares in the luxe through his works.
Felix writes from Southern Nigeria. If he’s not writing, he’d be reading crime blockbusters and bestsellers.

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