We got to Benin a little after 3pm. The sun was blazing from the sky. The traffic was jammed and the people moved around as if everything was fine.
I noticed their young girls wore skimpy clothes that exposed their upper thighs.
Hmm! Maria was going to be careful otherwise, just otherwise.
”Baby, I will be looking around the beautiful city of Benin while you go visiting your friends” I had said to Maria.
”Uhhm nope, nope. We are going everywhere together” she said while laughing at my ridiculous suggestion.
Our first visit was at the textile mill road.
Her name was Agnes. According to Maria, she was an old friend who had tried to join their travel group to Italy but was dropped at the 11th hour.
One could see that the grudge was still written all over her face. I wanted to advice her on how to take life easy but it wasn’t my business.
She started weeping when she saw Maria.
”Look at how fresh you look, you even have a husband now” she had said between sobs.
What was she talking about? Husband.
Anyway I decided to allow Maria to enjoy her Benin visit. I could be called her husband or her son as long as it made her happy. I didn’t know what she had told them on the phone. I had seen her made some calls but spoke in a native language that I couldn’t figure out. Maybe she had told them that she had returned with her husband.
She would pay for that when we returned to Lagos.
Enjoy your visit Mrs Maria Ozoigbondu.
After minutes of trying to console and control Agnes, she calmed down and asked Maria when she was returning to Italy.
”I don’t think I will go back. Life is very difficult there” Maria had said.
It was the most clever answer I had heard from her. She had found out that telling Agnes when she would return could trigger a new round of tears, therefore she tried to paint Europe black. I liked her for that.
We left Agnes after 30 minutes. Maria gave her N5000. I gave her nothing since I figured out that she was a desperate girl. She could have gone to do some Juju with my money.
Our next call was to another lady called Aisha. She was half Hausa and half Edo. I didn’t know how she came to be but I figured out her father must have gotten hooked up with the mother somewhere in the Northern Nigeria.
Aisha was pretty with a pointed nose. She was Maria’s classmate.
I wanted to tell Maria that I liked that one, but I didn’t know what Maria had told Aisha about who I was. The way Aisha looked at me and tried to serve me showed that she also considered me Maria’s husband or Atleast a serious boyfriend. Maria also gave her N5000.
Where did she hid all those money? It seemed that she had some money but since we met, I never asked her how buoyant she was. I only knew that we met at the beach and that she drove a rav4. Most of the time that we had been out together, I had taken up the financial responsibilities voluntarily.
We made our third and the final visit of the day to a Madam Comfort. According to Maria, she was the mother of her Madam in Italy. She had come to pay homage and had bought her Breads and Juice. Madam Comfort was delighted to see us but also said that some other girl was there two days before with her husband too. She asked us to kneel down and closee our eyes while she held our heads and prayed for us.
Close my eyes? In benin city, noo.
Gam!! That was the trap I had suspected. Well whether it was or not, I wasn’t going to do that.
”Don’t worry ma. I am not a Christian. I don’t need the prayers” I had said.
I wanted to tell her to say her prayers without holding my head but a quick thinking asked me to deny Christianity entirely. Not that it mattered but I remembered that Peter denied Jesus in the Bible too.
Apparently it was a wise thing to safeguard yourself first. Then take the blames later.
If Peter, who was called the rock of Christianity, the first Pope, the keeper of Heaven’s gate etc denied Jesus despite being foretold, who was I to think twice before denying too.
Madam comfort said her prayers anyway, wishing us many Children and prosperity. When it was time to go, Maria gave her N10,000.
I on the other hand asked Maria to give her another N5000 on my behalf.
”I will give you the money when we got to the car” I had said.
”I don’t have any more money with me here” Maria had answered.
Hmm? The whole point was not to give the woman the money by myself. The only other alternative was to send Maria to the Dash hole to get the money by herself but I didn’t want her to see the money I left there.
I had over N100,000 and another €500 in the pigeon hole.
I asked Maria to follow me to the car, She came and stood at the passenger door. I opened the hole and gave her N5000 for the lady. Maria said that I should go and give her the money by myself so that she would know it was me who gave her the money.
The chicken brains at work!
I asked Maria to wait in the car. I walked back through the gate and told Madam Comfort that there was no longer enough money in the car. I told her that I would give Maria money to give her when we go out to the bank the next day. I didn’t wait for her to respond as I turned back and walked quickly back to the car.
Before Madam Comfort was able to come out from the gate, I already turned the car around and was already moving out of the area.
”Did you give her the money” Maria asked me.
”What else did I went to do in the compound Maria. I don’t like silly questions” I asked her. I was getting angry and I didn’t want her to know that.
We got to a hotel and I packed inside.
”Go inside and check how much a room cost and if there is a room available” I said to Maria.
She went into the hotel reception. Her bag was on her seat, therefore, I opened it and saw a bundle of N500 notes. I didn’t count them but I knew it was still more than N40,000.
Why on Earth did the girl told me she had no more money when I asked her to give madam Comfort money on my behalf? What exactly was she planning?
Two things were her possible plan.
First was to save money, maybe she had spent more than she wanted.
The second scary option was that she wanted me to give my own money to madam Comfort, by myself too. It was scary because even back in my own village, I was warned not to give people cash. As a result, I had to direct the old men and women to get the money from my mother who I had left some money in her care.
What the heck was this Edo girl planning? Then I recalled that the first time she said she was going to Edo, I had declined going with her. She had said that I would lend her small money which she would pay when she returned. I had read no meaning into it but there at the hotel, my mind was racing.
I began to recount the money deals I had with Maria in recent past days. There was really non. I had not given her any money recently. My money had not gone missing too because most of the time, I left my wallet and money inside the car.
I was almost tempted to leave Maria there and drive to another location and sleep but I decided to play dumb until the next day.
”They said a room is N5500 a night” she said.
I locked the car and came down.
”I guess since you said you don’t have any more money, I should pay” I said as I followed her to the hotel.
I wanted her to think that I didn’t search her bag and It work. I could almost see the smile on her face.
”We can never be too careful in the choice of our enemies”