THERE AND BACK ON TIME – PART TWO
Chapter 6: Welcome To Portugal.
Portugal is located in the western side of the Iberia Peninsula. The only bordering country is Spain which had invaded them and took most of their lands. The Portuguese were the first people who built ships and started colonisation and international business. Lisbon is the largest city in Portugal followed by Porto. Lisbon is located near the Atlantic Ocean. An 8.5 earthquake had happened in Lisbon on Saturday November 1, 1755 and cut the area into two and water from the ocean had surged through the artificial valley created by the earthquake and formed the Tagus River. The Vasco Da Gama Bridge across the Tagus River is the longest bridge in Europe at 17.5km. It is a cable held bridge. It was estimated that between 10-100 thousand people perished in the earthquake. As a result, Lisbon became a hilly city without level lands. They have only one airport, The Portela Aeroporto.
This and other information I found out at the Lisbon central Library a few days after I arrived. I wanted to know if the city was worth living for me.
I had left Berlin Germany and landed in this strange city called Lisbon in a bid to acquire European residence permit and escape the encroaching German authorities. The laws in Germany say that one must either have a child with a German woman or marry a German citizen before you get their resident permit. Some of us who never wanted anything like a child or a woman to tie us down in one part of this big universe chose to look elsewhere for the papers. Another reason was that the German police were closing in on me. They found some illegal drugs in my room and had fixed a date for my court appearance. It was time to run. I had the money already, so I could afford to spend even €20,000 just to get the papers rather than have one woman holding me down in one country for over ten years in the name of marriage.
I had left Berlin that warm afternoon through Berlin Schonefeld airport to Palma de Mallorca Island in Spain and then Lisbon, Portugal. It took over two hours and at a time, I wondered if we were going back to Africa. I came out of the airport and boarded a taxi to the city centre. Jordan, my Nnewi friend in Germany had given me the number of a Francis, his brother who lived in Lisbon. I had sent some money to Francis to secure a place for me in Lisbon before my arrival, which he did.
Francis waited for me at Madrid Hotel near Elephant Blanco before I arrived. He shook my hands and motioned me to follow him. He took me to a three bedroom apartment where he had secured a room for me. I entered my room and unpacked my bags, after which I took my bath and joined Francis in the sitting room. He was playing Poker with two other men whom I later learnt lived in the same apartment. Their names were Vitus and Kennedy. Vitus came to Portugal from Holland for the same purpose as I while Kennedy was a football player who rented the apartment with his name. I announced my arrival with “Ekene diri Unu”, in Igbo which is translated “Greetings unto you”. They welcomed me warmly and I rightly guessed that they were anticipating my arrival. I sat down and watched the TV while they played their poker game. One hour later, I told Francis that I wanted to go outside and look around the city, something I love doing each time I visit a new city. Vitus, a fat yellow guy tasked me to buy them drinks since I was a new guy on the block. I happily agreed because I had over €5000 with me.
They packed their game and dressed up for the outing. Kennedy, the footballer had a small Fiat car which four of us boarded and headed towards the city centre. We headed to a restaurant owned by some Brazilian guys. We requested for Crabs and red wine, and upon being served, we ate and finished our wine. We drank more wine, and another, and another. Vitus was a wine tanker that never got filled up. I got bored eventually and demanded that we go to another place. I paid our bills which amounted to €411 and headed to the commerce centre called Rossio. This centre was also the place where all the sex workers patrolled in the evening for business
Resident Permit Rules
The following morning, I took my bath and called Francis to come into my room. News had been circulating all over Europe that Portugal were accepting applications for resident permit. The rich European countries such as Germany, Holland, Austria France, Belgium, Switzerland and the Scandinavians had only one way of issuing a resident permit to an asylum seeker; you MUST get involved with a woman or man. It’s either you wed their woman or man or in some cases, have a child with their man or woman. The Eastern European countries such as Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and others were busy trying to join the European Union. Their resident permits couldn’t even allow you to travel to the neighbouring Germany or Austria until you have their citizenship. In Germany and Austria for instance, if you have a child with their citizens, the government would give you what is called ‘Fathershaft’ or ‘Mothershaft’. The permit was like a visa. It would be stamped inside your international Passport. It was a temporal permit which required about seven more years to mature into a permanent resident permit. In those seven years you would be waiting for the permanent permit, you MUST avoid every illegal business.
You MUST not break any law such as beating the traffic or even fighting.
You MUST be working with the Father/Mothershaft throughout those years.
Another way of getting resident permit in Germany was marriage, which also involved a German citizen. You two would be required to travel back to Africa and wed, and then the German citizen would return alone while you wait in your country until the papers were processed. This method was dangerous because if the German citizen didn’t follow up the process as required, you would get stuck in your country. In some countries such as Holland, having a baby with their citizen will not get you a permit unless you were married to the partner.
As I mentioned earlier, Portugal was allowing applications. The rules include that you must have lived in Portugal for at least three years before you were eligible to apply. Some people who lived in Portugal but had gotten their permits elsewhere and had applied for the permit too. Whenever their application got approved, they would contact people from Germany, Switzerland and Austria and so on to buy the approved documents. In that case, if you were willing to buy the approved application, you would be required by common sense to change your names to the names of the original applicant. You would then go to any Nigerian Embassy in Europe to get an International Passport bearing the names of the original applicant. That meant that you would be bearing another name for the rest of your life as long as Europe was concerned.
Another option was to send your data to Nigeria where a new passport would be produced for you but with the names on the application you had purchased. People from other European countries also applied in Portugal by sending their data to someone in Portugal to apply for them or travelled there to apply in person.
In my own case, Jordan, my friend in Brandenburg had called Francis in Portugal who said there was an approved application that was available. That was the second reason behind my choosing Portugal, the first being that it was closer to Africa.
Francis presented some set of papers, supposed to have been the approved application to me. It had belonged to one Obinna, another Nigerian man who looked and behaved like a scammer. It was written in Portuguese which made it difficult for me to understand. I was told to pay €4000 before the papers would be given to me. The deal was shady and since there was no guarantee whatsoever that it was genuine, I refused to pay. Rather I asked Francis to help me apply for a new one. I wanted something with my real names anyway and I was not in a hurry to leave Portugal. I needed rest and Lisbon was perfect. Things were cheaper there; I was paying €200 a month for my room inside the apartment where we lived. They sold foodstuffs cheap; half of the residents were black too. Their transport system was cheaper.
Francis agreed to help me run my own application after I promised to pay him €1000. It was a big money for him since they were all hungry over there in Lisbon. They were doing Obra jobs (concrete and mason) to sustain them. They asked me to join them since I was just idle in Lisbon but when I found out that they were paid peanuts, I refused. I had money anyway.
The following day, Francis took me to the Nigerian Embassy to get registered. When we got there, there was only one old woman seated behind a desk. She demanded for €€200 before she wrote my names down as a Nigerian living in Portugal. It seemed they were all hungry, even the embassy workers. The Nigerian government had refused to send them International passport production machine which was the only thing that generated money. People who lived in Portugal were forced to go to other European countries to get their International Passports. In my own case, I had decided to get mine from Nigeria and it turned out to be the biggest mistake I ever made about resident permit.
After acquiring enough documents to apply for permit, I took them to the appropriate office and submitted them. Then it was time to wait. They didn’t tell me when it would be ready or whether they would even grant my request. I just had to wait. There were some hustlers in Lisbon too but mostly from Angola and Mozambique. I didn’t want to do anything illegal in Portugal, so I just had to wait. I asked my brother in Nigeria to make an international passport for me .I told him to use the passport photograph I left behind in Nigeria.
When the passport arrived, it looked so good. There was no way to detect faults in it, or so I thought. Since I had to wait for an unknown number of days or weeks, I decided to start making cross border visits to Spain.
Spain was a stone throw from Portugal. I would take my virgin passport and the application receipt I got from the office I applied for residence, and then board a train heading to Spain. During one of such visits, I was stopped by the Spanish police in Valencia. They used some kind of glass lenses to check my passport but they found no faults. They asked for my resident permit and asked me to return to Portugal. They took me to the train station and made sure that I boarded a train to Portugal. They gave my papers to the train driver and asked him to give it to me in Lisbon.
Since I had nothing to do in Portugal, I used that opportunity to learn about cocaine business. I had a friend in Valencia Spain who was involved in the trade. I only saw cocaine once in Germany but I wasn’t ready to deal on it then. A man from our village who lived in Brazil had told me to learn about cocaine so that he would be sending it to me in Europe. I would sneak out of Portugal and go to Spain without my friends in Portugal knowing what I did. They wanted to know of course but I wasn’t interested in telling anybody anything. I would tell them that I was going to Spain to watch football. A lie they all bought. It was also a lie I learnt in Germany.
I was able to transport drugs in Germany easily because I was a fan of Hertha Bsc football club in Berlin. I used their home games to move my drugs. Each time they had a home game, usually every two weeks, I would wear their jersey which had my name printed at the back. I would also take their small banner and their back pack to watch the matches. Then after the match, I would load drugs inside the bag and mix up with their thousands of fans. It was only Johnson who knew what I was doing. He found out on his own anyway. In the game of drugs, be secretive as much as possible.
Princess, my daughter was growing fast in Ghana according to Efuah. Against her mother’s wish, I would buy toys and clothes and send to her in Ghana. A suitor had come to marry my Efuah but she refused. It was causing problems between her and her mother. The suitor had returned from London and he had money. The pressure was getting too much. Efuah had asked for my opinion, I told her that my movement was still uncertain since I had no traveling documents then. I also told her that even if I got documents in the next one month, it would still require many years to turn into a permanent permit or red passport which was the only way to be able to bring her and Princess to Europe. I had told her to marry the man if she believed they could live together. She got married to the London guy in December 2005. After the marriage, the man left for London to process their papers for them to be able to live in London too.
After my two months in Portugal without any news of my papers, I decided to start sexcapades.
I had found out where the prostitutes stood in the evening for business. The place was called Rossio. It was near the port where slaves were sold during the slave trade era. The first time I went there, I saw many Nigerian girls, some girls from Ghana and some from Angola and Mozambique. Since the Angolans and Mozambicans didn’t understand English, I decided to start from them. I had left Germany with my post bank ATM card but since I didn’t want the Germans to know where I was, I had travelled to Spain and withdrew the whole €1200 in the account.
I was the only asylum seeker in Brandenburg with the bank card and even bank account. I had gone to the bank one day and told them that I wanted an account. They asked me to get permission from the Heim authorities. After pleading and lying that my Cameroonian roommate had been stealing my monthly allowances, they had agreed to help me open the account. Every month, I would pay in €100 into the account. When I withdrew the money in Spain, I went back to Portugal and decided to use the money on women alone.
The game began one evening. I went down to Rossio where the sex workers stood and called one of them. She was Angolan and didn’t understand a word in English. I followed her up to where she lived and since there was nothing to talk about; she removed her clothes as soon as we got in. Her body was very smooth and young. Her breasts pointed out like the head of a rocket propelled grenade. I started squeezing them and it was such a pleasure. The normal price charged by illegal sex workers was €20 but since I had flashed a €50 note in her face, she was ready to do some extra work on me.
When we finished, we went back to Rossio. We got to where she worked and I motioned a Nigerian girl to come.
“How much is for one night” I asked.
“€100” she replied.
I priced €80 and she agreed. She asked where I lived and I told her. She followed me to the house and that was how Jennifer came into my life.
Jennifer, a beautiful Nigerian girl had just arrived from Africa. She was from Ekpoma, Edo state. Her Madam had brought her to work in Portugal. According to her, she didn’t know the kind of work it was until she arrived. Her madam had demanded that she pay back €45,000 before she became free. How she was going to pay her was still a mystery to her but she was told to join the street sex workers. She had been able to raise €2000 so far but the huge balance of 43,000 awaited her. After I heard her full story, I offered to sneak her into Spain but she refused. She was scared of death. She said she was taken to a shrine somewhere in the bush in Benin, Nigeria to swear an oath, an oath that would hold her until she paid up the money. It was a complicated issue for me and despite my belief system; I didn’t want to get too involved in sketchy deals. She had followed me back from Rossio, a busy commercial area in Lisbon.
We got to my apartment which I shared with three other people at about 7 pm on a Sunday evening. I introduced her to Francis, the only guy in the house who welcomed her warmly. Then we proceeded to my room. She started removing her cloths as soon as we entered my room but I halted her. She was a pretty little girl, probably 18 or 19. How her parents allowed her to leave for Europe baffled me.
I asked her how she came to Portugal and she told me about her madam and their syndicate which spanned the entire West African coasts. She had been taken to Cotonou where she spent three months. Then they moved her to Accra where she spent some weeks before heading to Abidjan. It was in Abidjan that she had a hint of what she was going to do in Europe. The gang leader in Abidjan had consistently sent her to different men to sleep with. She never saw any money as the men would pay the gang leader. She only received tips from some of the men after sleeping with them. She didn’t even know where she was since they spoke a strange language.
She was not allowed to venture out alone during her stay in Abidjan. After another three months and a week, she was taken by road to Bamako. It was in Bamako that they finally boarded a flight to Spain. On arrival, they were smuggled down to Portugal at night. They were three of them but she didn’t know the whereabouts of the other two.
“Why didn’t you run to the police and report the case?” I asked her. Her response was the same, “Scared of Some juju in Benin Forest”.
After her long story, I removed her jacket and hung it on my door. She thought it was time for action as she stood up to remove her trousers but I motioned her to leave it. I had lost my appetite for sex and I wasn’t going to be a heartless beast after hearing such dangerous adventure of hers.
I used to think that my German experience was the worst adventure one could go through in Europe but after her story, I knew that I didn’t even suffer. I took her to the bathroom and told her to have her bath. After that, she returned and sat on the only chair in the room. I was compelled to do something about her situation but the point was that there were hundreds of them passing through the same situation and anything I chose to do for her would cost a lot of money. The first option was buying out her €43,000 clause but I wasn’t going to do that. That was a lot of money and I had no guarantee she would change after that. The second option was sending her out of Portugal but she was afraid to run away. The last option was to sleep with her and send her out to the streets where she belonged. I decided to give it time first. I took my bath and took her downstairs to a Chinese restaurant. We ate some vegetables with fried rice and chicken laps. Then we drank wine. After the food, we took a taxi to Benfica Stadium and walked aimlessly inside the museum. She was constantly asking why I was being nice but I had no answers for her. I just liked her but I knew it was not going to last. I was in Portugal for a purpose and the money I kept for leisure was running down. I knew that as soon as it got down to about €3000, I would cut down on expenses.
We later took a taxi back to my apartment. The other two guys had returned when we came in. I introduced her to them as we played poker in the sitting room. When she got tired, I asked her to go into my room and sleep. At about 1:30 am, I retired into my room only to see her lying naked on my bed.
The spirit of resistance to always becomes weak when it comes face to face with a naked woman . That was how I felt when I saw her naked.
She smiled as I loosened my belt.
After the first round of sweet sex with Jennifer, she offered to dispose of my used condom. I reluctantly agreed but I followed her to the toilet. Since the moment she mentioned voodoo, I had decided to be at alert. I knew there was nothing like voodoo power in Europe but I decided to be at alert anyway.
We returned to the room and lay on the bed quietly. She asked who I was, why I took her out, why I was nice and why I was sympathetic to her plight. I had no concrete answers, so I just told her that I liked her. I did not make any more moves for another round of sex and she gave up after just one attempt at raising my manhood again.
The following morning, she woke up and prepared to leave. I brought out a €100 bill and offered her, she refused. She said I spent more than that on her the previous night. She just asked me to pray for her since she didn’t know how to get out of her situation. I wanted to argue over the money but since I came to Portugal, I stopped being extravagant with Euros. I put the money back in my wallet and gave her my phone number. I took her downstairs and watched her walk slowly down to the underground train station. I went back upstairs and thought about her. She was the first teenage sex worker I had met in Europe. She seemed to be regretting her line of work but one can never trust those girls.
An hour after she left, she called me. She said she was feeling bored outside and that she wanted to know if she could come back to my house.
Was that why she rejected my €100? Was this girl trying to play me or what? Maybe I should give her that benefit of doubt. Ozoigbondu, who conquered the German police, cannot melt for Jennifer. Bring it on Jenny.
“You can always come to my place if you want” I said, knowing that it was going to be a gamble.
She came to my place twenty minutes later. This time, she wore a different outfit; a sexy short skirt over tight trousers. She wore Chanel perfume too. She looked good. As usual, I became alert. Why did she decide to show up in a sexy outfit, something must be in the air; something I would find out sooner or later.
“You look sexy,” I commented as soon as I opened the door for her. She flashed a sexy smile and came inside the stairwell.
“Are you not working today?” I asked. She ignored the question and walked ahead of me towards the top floor where I lived. I sensed that she didn’t want to talk about her work, so I decided to change the topic slightly.
“Why did you decide to come back here today?” I asked again. She stopped and turned to me.
“If you don’t want me here, I will go” she declared. She was still a teenager anyway, so I pretended that her statement was in order. We walked to our flat and headed straight to my room. She settled on the chair and grabbed a magazine I kept on my small table.
“Do you need something to eat, Jennifer?” I asked.
She said no and kept turning the pages of the magazine. I left the room and went into the kitchen. I wanted to cook fish pepper soup before she called. Since she was more interested in the magazine, I took the opportunity to start the pepper soup. When I returned to my room, she was crying. I became alert again. This Jennifer situation was becoming suspicious. I made a mental reconnaissance of where all my money was kept. Majority of it was safe in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A big chunk was in Germany. There was no immediate danger to my finance, so I decided to play the emotional game too.
“Baby girl tell me what it is,” I cooed, sounding convincing.
“I want to go back to Nigeria,” she murmured amidst tears. “I am tired of this life, I cannot continue. I called my brother in Lagos and he said I could come back and go back to school” she continued.
“Is that why you are crying” I said for the sake of saying something. “What do you want me to do?” I asked.
She said she could find a TC (travel certificate). I asked how much it was, and she said about two thousand euros could be enough for the entire process, including tickets to Lagos.
Her demand was not outrageous, so I decided to take up the challenge but she had to work a little for the money. That was how Jennifer came to live with me.
My apartment friends thought that I was just being extravagant with Jennifer by inviting her everyday but when they started eating deliciously prepared meals every day for at least one week, they began to realise that she wasn’t going anywhere soon. It was my plan and my money to make her cook every day for the boys. We had hardly cooked food in the apartment before her arrival but as soon as she came to live with us, we were partying with food on a daily basis. I gave her €400 to buy foodstuffs and store them up in the kitchen. She bought large quantities of fish and meat and stuffed them in the freezer. She would cook with beef on one day and the next day, she would use fish and cow head. Everybody in the apartment was happy but before they knew that she was there to stay, they had already been bought over with food. I felt one or two of them would someday ask me to tell her to leave. They didn’t know her well enough to leave her alone in the apartment. The only way I believed would work wonders was through food and it worked.
I also took her to the H&M clothing mall where she bought new cloths. She had decided to abandon her belongings wherever she kept them. She had come with some money, I didn’t know how much but it was enough to buy her five types of clothes. I on my own part gave her extra €100 to buy more clothes. She bought two pullovers and a trouser more.
After one week, the food ration began to reduce. I wasn’t going to feed them forever even if I brought Lucifer into the house. I owned the room where she slept and I already had a bargaining chip; food. After two weeks, the whole Jennifer affair changed. Her Madam who brought her to Europe had been looking for her. She couldn’t report to police since she brought her illegally into the country. She told few Nigerians. They suspected that she had run out of the country. They had even called Spain and Napoli to check if a new girl arrived over there. One afternoon, a lady stopped me in Colombo business district of Lisbon and asked if I was Solomon. I nodded and asked who she was. She said her name was Grace and that she was the madam of one Jennifer whom she heard was with me. There was no need denying her accusation, so I maintained my composure and asked who told her she was with me.
When in a difficult situation, ask silly questions to buy time.
“If she is in your house, please tell her that I want her back this evening” she said. “We have searched everywhere for her but couldn’t locate her”, she continued.
I stood there and fast tracked my thoughts on how to manage the situation. Suddenly an idea came; attack with more silly questions.
“She said her mother is in Nigeria, what kind of her madam are you” I asked and stared at her eyeball to eyeball.
She said nothing.
“She is with me but she said she want to travel to Nigeria. She asked me for help but I refused” I continued, knowing that I was mixing up the truth with lies. “She said she has nobody to run to, she also said you will take her back to your house if you know where she is. I have spent over €1000 on her TC but if you return €1000, I will bring her back to you” I finished.
She looked surprised. I believed she didn’t see that one coming. She asked me to wait, and then walked to a middle aged man who had been loitering around the area. They spoke for a few minutes, and then she returned to me.
“My husband said we are not paying you anything” she announced.
“Goodbye then” I said and moved quickly down to the taxi stands. She ran fast towards me while at the same time, motioning the man to come. She was on a high heel shoes, it prevented her from keeping up the chase. I dashed down the concrete stairs and diverted right. Some cabs were standing there. I jumped into the first in the line and said ‘Rossio’ The Turkish Driver started the car and raced away. I looked back and saw the two comedians waving the taxi to stop but it was too late.
I called Jennifer on the phone and asked if she was at home; she was. I redirected the cab to the Madrid Hotel and stopped. I took another cab and rode to my house. I didn’t particularly know why I was running. I felt that the Jennifer-recovery squads were more than two. I didn’t also know how they found out she had been living with me but that wasn’t the major problem. I knew that as soon as the food stopped flowing, one of the apartment occupants would squeal. I ran up the stairs and found the apartment door already open. I had called Jennifer as soon as I alighted from the cab at the front of our building. As soon as she saw me, she asked what the problem was.
“Your Madam and one other man are looking for you” I said.
She didn’t show any sign of surprise, she simply walked back to the room and lay on the bed. That was it. The fear that had been following me had been confirmed, the suspicion I had been nursing since she came to stay with me had just opened up.
I walked to her and sat by the bedside. “Baby you know that they will come looking for you here” I said.
She murmured something I couldn’t hear but when I lowered my head and asked her again, she said, “Let them go to hell”.
It was all I needed to hear from her. Time had come to battle it out with Madam but I was a little scared because those people were too involved with diabolical voodoo.
Time to Run
I spent two days inside the apartment without venturing outside. I had a feeling that Madam would be waiting for me somewhere in the dark corner of a building near my house. I had two taxi numbers; therefore on the third day, I called one to pick me up in front of my house. He drove me straight to Rossio area to buy food stuffs. It was a very open area, so I didn’t fear being attacked by anybody but I was wrong. A prostitute spotted me and called the Madam.
The news that Jennifer was with me had spread like wildfire all over the Nigerian community in Lisbon. The whole thing was becoming dangerous for me. I was on the lookout for her and her husband all through my shopping. Lisbon was a small city where everybody shops in the same area.
I saw her coming towards me from about 200 meters down the road. I brought out my Motorola Razor phone and put it on a recording mode. The Madam arrived and saw me carrying a nylon bag full of food items. She blocked my way and stood there vibrating like a toy gun.
“What is it again” I asked, trying as much as possible to be economical with words since my own voice was being recorded too.
“Where is Jennifer, I brought her to this country. I spent a lot of money to bring her here. If you don’t show me where she is, I will take your name to Olokun. You will die!” she shouted in my face.
I remained calm knowing that every single word from her mouth was being recorded.
“What is Olokun”? I asked, More silly questions as usual.
“It is the water goddess!!” she yelled.
“I will tell her to leave my place. If she wants to return to you, that one is her business, but please don’t send my name to Olokun in Nigeria” I pleaded, pretending to be very scared.
“Give me your phone number” I said without hope of her doing so.
She refused and said I should just tell her to return to her house.
I agreed and as soon as I turned to go, she called my name. “Solomon, I spent big money to bring Jennifer to Europe, if you want to live with her or marry her, you must pay me forty-five thousand euros” she said.
That was it. The very line I was hoping to record. She had just delivered it unadulterated. I nodded and left the scene. I returned to the house and kept the food items in the kitchen. I went into the room and saw Jennifer sleeping. I didn’t want to wake her up, so I went back to the kitchen and boiled 4 eggs. I opened a can of cooked maize and a can of cooked green beans. I also opened a can of smoked fish and made salad. I ate alone in the sitting room. After the food, I went into the bathroom and took my bath, and then I returned to my room and woke Jennifer up.
“Baby we need to talk” I said.
She was silent.
“I saw your Madam again today at Rossio. She confronted me and asked that I tell you to come back to her today” I continued. I brought out my phone and played back the conversation I had recorded. It was as clear as a studio-recorded conversation. She listened carefully and when it stopped, she smiled.
“What do you want to do with this” she asked.
“I don’t know, but I will think of something soon” I said. My first thought was to go to police. The European authorities had been debating over human trafficking and the suitable punishment for the offenders. It would be massive evidence if they got their hands on the recorded conversation. The problem however was that I haven’t gotten my resident permit. My virgin passport was not enough to be a witness in a European court. The second option was blackmail. Yes, blackmail. I had nothing to lose. Mrs Madam and her Olokun didn’t scare me a bit. I have never regarded any deity as powerful enough to harm me. Blackmail sounded a better option but the problem was how to begin.
I called Francis, my apartment friend and told him what was happening. He said he heard they were looking for a girl but didn’t know it was Jennifer. He was in for the blackmail but warned me to be careful. Unlike me, He was scared of Olokun. The following day, I got Madam’s phone number from Jennifer and called her. I scheduled to meet with her in Elephant Blanco restaurant. I got there thirty minutes before time and hid in a kiosk across the street. I brought out a Marlboro Menthol cigarette and smoked while waiting. Some twenty minutes to time, she showed up with two men I had never seen before.
Why did she come twenty minutes before time?
She went inside while the two men walked towards me and crossed the one-way street to the kiosk. They bought a pack of chewing gum and sat on the concrete bench a few meters away from where I was sitting. I had switched off my phone when I saw them coming. I pretended to have received a call, put my phone on my ear and talked on the phone while walking away from them. I crossed the road and walked faster towards the bus station. Luckily for me, a bus was coming up. I ran to the bus station to be able to be there on time before the bus stopped. I was in time for the bus. As I entered, I looked down the street and saw Madam coming out of the restaurant while trying to make a call with her phone. I guessed she was dialing my digits but it was off. As soon as I settled down in the bus, I switched on my phone and called her.
“Where are you, I am at the place now” she said as soon as she picked my call.
“I warned you not to come with anybody” I said.
“I am here alone” she lied.
“No, you are with two policemen” I countered, knowing that the men were not police. I just wanted to push her to the edge to spill out her intentions.
“They are not police, just my friends” she responded.
I hung up the call and waited. I knew she would call again and she did immediately. “What is it madam” I asked.
Before she could say anything, I cut off the line again and switched off my phone. I stopped at the next bus stop and walked to the road parallel to the one I was at and took another bus down to the Santa Apolonia train station. Thereafter, I crossed the Tagus River through the long Vasco Dagama Bridge and went to a bar with snooker tables at Rua Antonio Calvaho.
I got to the bar and sat down on the long stool facing tens of different whisky bottles turned upside down in a raft above the barman. I looked carefully at them until I found the one I wanted to drink. Since most of the Portuguese middle class didn’t know English words, so I pointed to a bottle of Johnny Walker and asked the bartender to give me two shots while, raising two fingers. She nodded, filled two shots and poured them inside a bigger glass. I downed the entire contents in one big gulp and asked for two more.
After payment, I took the second glass down to the hall where the snooker tables were located. I sat down and watched two people play the game. I wasn’t good at snooker and table tennis but I liked them. I watched them play while slowly sipping my spirit. When it was about 10 pm, Jennifer called me. She wanted to know why I had not returned. I hadn’t told her that I was going to meet with her madam at the Elephant Blanco.
I told her where I was and promised to come back in an hour. I wanted to waste as much time as possible before going home. Despite enjoying the Jennifer affair, I was beginning to get scared. I wondered why Madam had brought the two thugs. Was she hoping to beat me into releasing Jennifer? Or perhaps kill me; anything was possible. It was time to play out my own card. I called Madam and told her how silly she had acted. I was getting drunk and I knew that my words were not guided but it was time to play.
“I have enough evidence to show the police that you are trafficking girls to Europe” I said shortly, as soon as she picked my phone. “I recorded our conversation in Rossio and I am going to the police to give it to them. I know where you live, Jennifer has told me. I am no longer interested in your €1000 since you want war. The price is now €4000 and I need it tomorrow” I said in a very calm voice. “If you make one more mistake, you won’t see Jennifer again and I will send the record to the police” I said again and hung up.
My phone rang immediately but I didn’t pick it. I knew that blackmail was a serious offence too but not when human trafficking was the context. On her second attempt at calling me, I picked the phone. A male voice greeted me and asked how and where I would like to receive the money.
Amateurs! So easily?. They were not ready to back down yet. The game had to change. I hung up the phone without saying anything. They called back a few minutes later and when I picked the phone again, it was the Madam’s voice. Solomon, what did I do to you? I didn’t know you before and you didn’t know me” she said.
“Four thousand euros tomorrow or stop calling me” I said tersely and hung up again.
One of the men playing snooker looked at me and continued what he was doing. I had called out the money loud enough for them to pick interest. I went back to the bar for more drinks and as soon as I picked up my change to leave the bar, a young man from the snooker table tapped me on the shoulder.
“Are you American?” he asked.
“Yea, American,” I lied.
He nodded and introduced himself as Jose. He was from Lagos in the Southern district of Portugal called Faro. He had lived in Africa, Luanda precisely. He had decided to live in Lisbon and work after three years in Angola. He liked Africa and the Africans and always wanted to chat with them. He was also interested in learning more English but since he didn’t have time to study it in school, he loved to interact with people in English. According to him, he was a football player until he broke his legs in a game he played for Beira Mar against Belenense in the Portuguese first division. He had traveled to Angola to work when it became obvious that he couldn’t play anymore. He lived across the street, according to him and asked the hotel where I stayed.
I told him that it was across the river Tagus in Hotel Madrid. I also told him that it was expensive and asked if he could show me a cheap hotel since I still had many days to stay. I had changed my accent to American but I doubt he noticed the flaws in it. He hardly spoke good English, so I figured he couldn’t differentiate between accents. I was wrong.
He took me to a one room student apartment where foreign students lived. It was a little noisy for my liking but it was better and safer than where I lived. It was a new house. I rented a one-room apartment at the rate of 25 Euros a day and paid for two weeks. I gave them 350 Euros and went down stairs with Jose.
Jose was about 25 years; it was very easy to interact with him. I told him that I was going to get my bag and that we would meet at the bar the next day. I took a taxi all the way to the train station and boarded a train back to Lisbon Central area.
December in Portugal
We were already in the second half of December and everywhere had started becoming cold. Snow had started falling in Central and Eastern Europe down to Northern Spain and Porto area in Northern Portugal. The cold breeze from the north brought down the temperature in Lisbon to about ten degrees celsius, which was considered cold down there in Lisbon. I figured that Madam and her squad wouldn’t wait for too long around my house in that weather if they knew where I lived. I also suspected they knew where I lived anyway because someone must have pointed me to her in the first place. I called Jennifer to open the stairwell door before I arrived. I took a taxi to my street and as soon as I stopped, I jumped into the house and closed the door. I waited at the door to see if I could detect some movements outside but I heard nothing. We then went up and I told her what had happened during the day.
She was very sorry for putting my life in danger. She said she knew the two men who had come with Madam to the Elephant Blanco Restaurant. She told me their names and said that they were the people who usually shake down Madam’s girls if they fall behind in weekly payments. She said their names were Efe, a Nigerian and Abu a Guinean. I wrote down their names inside my phone.
I later informed Jennifer that we were going somewhere in the morning. She asked where it was and I told her it was in the Montijo area across the river. She had no objection.
Early in the morning, I called a taxi and we loaded our bags. I had woken Francis up and told him I was going to live somewhere else. I told him to call me if I received a letter from the Immigration people. Since we lived in The Amadora area of Lisbon, we took the shorter route across Ponte 25 De Abril Bridge across the River and got to Almada before going to the hostel where I had rented. The lady receptionist gave me my keys and we walked up to the first floor apartment. There was no Televion or Fridge in the apartment. Just a bed, a reading chair and table, a reading lamp, a window over-looking the Tagus River, an electric cooker, an electric kettle, and some other useless items.
We settled down and made tea. Jennifer was feeling cold and I could tell that she was also scared of how things were turning out. I was scared a bit too but I couldn’t show it. I had underestimated Madam’s powers.
We slept in the single bed afterwards and woke up around 11 am. I called Johnson, my mentor in Germany and requested for €5000. I knew that the next few days would be critical and I needed to have enough money to run out to any country in Europe with Jennifer if things became more hostile.
I got the money through Western Union an hour later and hid it from Jennifer. In addition to the five thousand I now had, I still had over two thousand left from the money I had earlier.
In the afternoon, I called Jose, my snooker friend and told him that I was around. He was not around but promised to come as soon as he returned. I took Jennifer to a mall and bought some canned foods that would be enough for us for a week or more. She insisted on buying two pots and a frying pan. In addition, we also got a 10kg bag of Basmati rice, some tomato pastes, a small TV set and a DVD player.
After our purchases, we went back to our apartment. There was no mood or appetite for sex, so we just lay on the bed and talked about Nigeria, Olokun, Germany and other unimportant things.
Jose called me an hour later to meet him at the bar. I took Jennifer along and went to the bar where I ordered for a full bottle of Johnny Walker at €50 and took it to a table. Jose saw us and came over. I brought a glass for him. We drank two fills and got down to business.
I told Jose that I was not an American. He laughed and said he knew from my English accent. He said I was a Nigerian and there was no point arguing. I told him why I was at the bar the night before and why I was running from those people. I told him about Jennifer and how I intended to help her travel to another European country to seek asylum or even go back to Nigeria. He listened carefully and was full of anger when I finished. He said we would use the evidence to get the money from the Madam and still report to the Police.
We went to my apartment and Jose called the Madam with his phone. He claimed that he was my close friend and that I was in his house at that moment. He said I had a recorded message that implicated her in a human trafficking crime. He played the recorded message to the Madam and demanded for €10,000. He threatened to go to the police if she didn’t get back to him through the same phone number in an hour, and then he hung up.
After the call, we went down and strolled into the district centre. We took a taxi to The Lisbon Oceanarium located in the Parque das Nacoes. The Oceanarium had the largest collection of marine species – birds, fish, mammals and other marine organisms. There were hundreds of tourists walking around; we mixed up and enjoyed our lives before Madam and her thugs would make another unpredicted move.
Late in the evening, we took a taxi and drove back to our apartment.
Mrs Osasere Aburime, popularly called Madam Grace had lived in Portugal for fifteen years prior to the Jennifer incidence. She was famous for trafficking teenage girls from Nigeria across West Africa to Europe. Rumour had it that she had apartments in Cotonou, Accra, Abidjan, Freetown and Bamako. They said she also ran local brothels in Napoli and Malaga. She had released a number of girls who had paid up huge amounts of money to her after many years of prostitution. She would use the money to sponsor other girls from Africa to Europe and that was how she made her money. It was rumoured that the police had been on her trail for over two years but they had not been able to catch her red-handed.
She had been using some shakers including Efe and Abu to retrieve money from her girls. She was as a matter of fact, running the biggest African human trafficking syndicate in the City of Lisbon. Madam Grace had a Permanent Resident permit in Portugal where she has been living for years. She was married to another Edo State born man who was just a statue in her life since she dictated the pace of the marriage and more. They had three daughters and no son. They lived in Baixa area where most of the residents were non-European citizens.
Madam Grace also had an African shop where she sold food items from Africa as a cover up for her operations. She also sold drinks in a small room behind her store where she rented out to people for quick sex. Her cup was getting full. She had rented an apartment for her girls in Lisbon where they lived. According to Jennifer, the apartment where the girls lived was in an area of Lisbon called Belem. It was miles apart from where she lived and only a few of her favourite girls were privileged to know where Madam Grace lived; Jennifer was one of them. Unfortunately for her, Jennifer knew her real names and the address where she lived. I had started collecting info on her from the moment she confronted me for the first time in Colombo business district. I had piled up a dossier on her and as it stood, I was going to make money out of it since she was after me.
Over six hours after Jose’s call, Madam Grace called him back and begged him to reduce the money. She gave two conditions to us. She wanted us to reduce the money to €1000 which was the original asking price and the second condition was that she must get Jennifer back. I wasn’t that interested in the money but getting Jennifer back was a non-negotiable affair. Jennifer said she wasn’t going back and that was where I stood. We were eagerly waiting for Olokun to strike us down from a small river in a Benin forest of Edo state. Nigeria. I had talked some senses into Jennifer and she now understood that fear was the greatest enemy of human mind.
Jose hung the phone and laughed at the amount the woman agreed to pay. I was tempted to go for the money but Jose said we could get much more. He said since the woman had a permit from Portugal, she would be fished out anywhere in Europe if she ran. He also argued that Madam Grace must have had other girls around Europe which meant that she couldn’t run down to Africa; a claim Jennifer affirmed. Jose was thinking like a criminal and I began to be wary of him too.
Madam Grace called back and increased it to two thousand euros, plus Jennifer. Jose proposed eight thousand minus Jennifer. They continued haggling, and soon Jose was cutting off the phone calls every two and half minutes. He told me that it would take the police about three minutes to place a trace on any phone call. When Madam Grace called again for the fifth time, she asked where I was, Jose told her that I went down to get a bag for traveling out of the country and that if she didn’t come across the river with the money in the morning, it could be too late. They had settled for five thousand plus Jennifer but I was not going to let her go. Madam Grace would skin Jennifer alive if she got her hands on her again.
We devised a plan on how to get the money. Jose would drive with two other people who would be waiting in the car some few meters away from the exchange point. She would naturally demand for Jennifer since she had told us to come with her to the exchange point. Jose would then tell her that those people in the car were his police friends and that he had not told them about the exchange. He would threaten to call them if Madam refused to hand over the money to him. He had also told madam not to come with her hit squad Efe and Abu. He told Nadam Grace that he knew all about her and that he would call off the deal if he saw any of them in the area. Madam was told to come with a taxi and not the train. She was also told to come to a busy area where her hit squad, if she managed to bring them along, could not be able to do anything.
At about 11 am on December 24, 2005, Jose called Madam and they agreed to meet at the Avenida de Libertade, the busiest avenue in Lisbon, Portugal.
The day had finally come. Madam Grace had made the mistake of trying to be smart with me and she had to pay for it. Based on the plans, I was not supposed to follow Jose and his friends to the venue. They were Portuguese citizens and if things went bad, they could easily get out of it. However, I wanted to witness the exchange whether it was dangerous or not. I took a taxi and stopped 300 meters down the street. I walked slowly up to a few meters from the roundabout at the beginning of Avenida. It was the busiest avenue in Lisbon with trees planted in the middle of the roads. The entire area was spared during the great earthquake that turned Lisbon into a Valley city. I went into the Louis Vuitton shop near the roundabout and stood close to the window where I could see everything that was going to happen outside. I had a feeling that the shop owners at Louis Vuitton would ask me to leave if I stood in one place for a long time, so I brought out two hundred euros and held it in my hand for everyone to see, and then I walked around the windows inspecting some over-priced T-shirts. A few minutes later Efe and Abu came out of a taxi and entered the Calvin Klein shop across the road opposite where I was. I had seen them once during the botched Elephant Blanco meeting but they didn’t see me, therefore I assumed they couldn’t identify me.
I quickly removed my phone from the pocket and called Jose. “I am at the Avenida. I just saw Madam Grace’s two thugs. They went into the Calvin Klein shop near the roundabout. You need to call Madam and change the venue,” I informed him.
He thanked me and hung up. Five minutes later, two black police cars stopped in front of the Calvin Klein shop and four heavily built officers entered the shop. They came out five minutes later with Efe and Abu in cuffs. They pushed both of them inside the backseat of one of their vehicles and drove away.
I called Jose again but he didn’t pick the call. I left the Louis Vuiton shop and walked ten meters down to a public pub. I ordered a cup of Sagres beer as soon as I sat down. The beer was brought together with the receipt. I paid for the beer and waited for Jose’s call while drinking.
When my phone rang in my pocket, I grabbed it as if it was hot. I looked on the screen and saw Jenny. I picked the call.
“How are you Jennifer?” I asked.
“I am fine. I just want to make sure nothing had happened to you. I told you not to go. I can’t imagine….”
“Jenny” I cut in, “I am fine, okay? I will be back before one hour. Prepare something for me to eat,” I said and cut the call before she could say anything else.
Ten minutes later, a message came into my phone. I checked it and saw that the number wasn’t stored in my phonebook. It was Jose’s number. I opened the text message and it read, “Business good meet bar 30 minuto”
I slowly put the phone back into my pocket and looked around carefully. Nobody was interested in me. I left my beer glass half full and scrambled out of the pub. I looked left and right to make sure nobody was following me, then crossed the road and stopped a cab which drove me to our rendezvous point; the bar, where I had met Jose in the Montijo district.
Jose wasn’t there when I came. I waited for him with a half glass of Johnny Walker. He showed up alone twenty minutes later and located me at the extreme end of the bar where I sat alone. He walked up and sat down opposite me.
I did a great job at hiding my anxiety. The end of the bar where we were seated was poorly lighted. It was getting dark outside too. Jose brought out a bundle of Euros carefully strapped with a rubber band. It was a mixture of two hundred, hundred and fifty euro bills. He said he had not counted them. I told him to count them and after about two minutes, he announced that we had made five thousand euros.
I asked him how much he promised his two friends, and he said it was five hundred each. He took the one thousand for his friends and another thousand for himself and gave me three thousand.
I handed him another five hundred and told him that the job has not yet finished. Madam Grace would pay again for sending the thugs to the Avenida where the original exchange was supposed to take place.
Jose, after learning from me that Efe and Abu, the two thugs had been sent to the exchange point, had called the police and informed them. He told me that he suspected that they could have come with weapons, so he called the police emergency number and told them where they entered just as I had described. The police had searched them and found out that they had no weapons but they had no resident documents as well. They were arrested, Jose had found out from the manager of the Calvin Klein shop.
Now that Madam Grace’s thugs were out of the way, it was time to ask for more money or smash her syndicate. I flipped open my phone and called her.
She picked the call after the first beep. “Where is Jennifer, I have settled your agent, send Jennifer back now!” she yelled from the other end of the line.
“Listen Madam Osasere, I think you should be more concerned about your thugs” I said calmly.
She kept silent at her end.
“They are in the police station and they are going back to wherever they came from,” I informed her without expecting a response. “Next time when I call you, do as I say or you will be the next person in the police net” I said and hung up.
Jose laughed and sipped his whisky. He was apparently enjoying the game. I called Jennifer and told her to come to the bar if she was bored. She said she was watching a Nigerian movie. I told her that I would come back in an hour and hung up. Jose and I drank more whisky and about forty minutes later, we left the bar and dispersed.
A day after we received money from Madam Grace, it was Christmas. Everywhere had been decorated with Christmas lights, every window glowed with yellow lights. The city of Lisbon was a beauty to look upon.
I thought hard about where to go. I was not going to venture into the main Lisbon Districts. It was dangerous since Madam Grace could have had more hit men on her payroll. I thought about Colombo, the best developed area in Lisbon. News had it that the place was developed by the money Portugal received by agreeing to join the Euro Zone. I later figured out that Madam Grace had a 50-50 chance of seeing me there, so I cancelled out that area.
Porto, yes Porto. Why not? I would have loved to sneak into Seville, Spain since it was very close to Portugal border but I wanted to go with Jenny. It was always easier to find your way out of immigration jam if you were alone, so I decided against it. Instead, I opted for Porto.
At about 12 pm, I told Jenny to prepare and pack a small bag. I told her to pack just two jean trousers and two pullovers for me. I had watched the local weather up there in Northern Portugal and it was hovering around five and six degrees Celsius. I told Jenny how cold it was up there and asked her to get a good jacket for herself too. Afterwards, took a taxi down to the Gare de Oriente train station and headed up North to Porto, the Second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon.
We stopped at the Sao Bento Central Station in Porto and walked to the taxi stand. It was a massive medieval structure built in the centre of Porto. It was also very cold, just as I suspected. We asked the cab driver to take us to a hotel near the city centre. He stopped in front of Novotel; a five star hotel which I believed would gulp all our money in two nights.
I instructed the driver to look for a cheaper hotel, and he took us to a street at the back of Estadio do Dragao, the FC Porto Stadium where we located the kind of hotel we were looking for. I paid the driver off and we went inside.
The price list of their rooms hung above the reception desk. I scanned it quickly and found a room with a big sized bed for two people. The price was forty euros per night. We paid for one week and took our key and bags to the second floor where the room was located. In the room, we unpacked and changed into casual clothing. We were far away from danger and it was time to talk about the future. I had been running and hiding with Jennifer to the extent that I had forgotten how she came to live with me. The escape to Porto had jolted me back to the realities on ground and it was time to find a lasting solution.
“Jennifer, we have been together for long now and we don’t even know where we are going to end or how we are going to end up.” I calmly began. “I am beginning to fall in love with you and get used to you but it is very dangerous since I don’t have traveling documents yet.” I continued. “I want us to decide our next move before we leave Porto.”
She didn’t say a word when I fell silent. She just lay there on the bed and small drops of tears came out of her eyes. I had expected that.
“I am going to start naming options and I want you to choose the best one for you” I said.
I listed the options out.
“I can find a way to send you to Germany, I know people there. If you agree to go there, I will tell you how to take asylum. You will be taken care of by the German authorities and if you are lucky, they can admit you to school.
Number two, I can send you to any other country here in Europe where you know people; Spain, Italy or France.
Or three, I can give you the money you asked for and you can get a TC and go back to Nigeria,” I concluded and stopped.
“I want to live with you” she managed to say.
What! Had this girl been thinking this way all along?
The phone vibrating on the table jolted me. I picked it up and it was my elder brother from Nigeria. He said ‘Happy Christmas’ and told me that my parents were expecting a phone call from me.
Then it hit me that I had not even thought about Africa since the Jennifer affair started.
How could it have been that way? Was I under a spell or what?
I wondered if the Olokun deity had confused me or maybe Jennifer herself had charmed me. I flashed back to how it all started. My original plan was to hook up a sex worker each time I wanted and pay her off after sleeping with her. How Jennifer managed to trick me into living together with me still baffled me. I remembered Francis once told me to use my whole free time to pray for the success of my papers but since I was not the prayer type, I didn’t give it much thought. At that moment, I wished I had taken his advice.
Then, I did what I usually do when presented with a difficult situation; take a decision and stand by it, whatever comes out of it, take it. There and then I decided to play along with Jennifer. Somehow, I would lay a hand on travel documents and vanish out of Portugal without a trace.
I called my father and spoke with him. After the Christmas wishes; he gave the phone to my mother. We spoke for long; she feared I was in trouble since I had stopped sending money every week like I did back in Germany. I told her that everything was alright and that I was busy looking for papers to come to Nigeria. I called my younger brother and promised to send him money to him and my sisters for the Christmas holidays.
Next, I called and spoke to Efuah. I had changed my phone number as soon as the Jennifer affair started and I forgot to send the new one to her. She had been trying to reach me without success. I apologized and hung up.
After terminating the call, I called Agnes in Germany. She had been missing me and had wished me happy Christmas. She asked if everything was alright with me over there in Portugal. After the pleasantries, I asked after Victor and hung up.
I tried Matthew’s number but his number didn’t connect; I guessed he was still in prison.
Kenneth, my cousin’s number in Berlin was the one I tried next. He was still living in the apartment I left for him. He had left asylum camp and was posted to a place where no drug business was going on. Johnson had been helping him out with rent pending when I would return. The credit in my phone finished and I dropped my phone on the bed and slept. Thereafter, I fell into a deep sleep and forgot the world entirely. It was a perfect escape from danger, from Madam Grace, from Jennifer, from Lisbon and from my own shadows.
I had wished to sleep for days but the list of my travails awaited me when I woke up some hours later. My whole troubles were still there, including Jennifer.
The City of Porto was one of the five cities that attained the status of a major city in the Iberian Peninsula in the early eighteenth century. The other four cities were Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Lisbon. Porto was the city where Henry the Navigator was born and raised.
After I woke up from my stress-induced sleep, I told Jennifer that we were going down to the city to feed our eyes; something I loved doing whenever I visited a new place. We walked downstairs and out to the street. The mighty Estadio do Dragao stood in front of us and dwarfed every other structure in the area. We trekked through Almeda Das Antas road behind the Estadio and saw a tram station. When we got there, we waited for minutes before a tram came.
We got into the tram without having any idea of where we were going. The tram was over hundred years old. Its history was somehow written in figures near the front seat where the driver sat. Its horn was a bell, its seats, metal. We purchased a ticket from the driver and sat near the front. When we got to a large green garden, everybody got down including us.
There was a large Cafe across the road. Boldly written in front of it was “CAFE VELASQUEZ” We got in and sat among numerous Portuguese drinking coffee and tea. We ordered for two cups of cappuccino. We took the cups outside and sipped it through a straw as we walked down the street like Romeo and Juliet. Down the street, we found Restaurant Vitoria which we entered and sat down. Some white Europeans looked at us as if we came in to beg for food. I ignored them as usual. A waiter brought menu list and dropped it on our table. I opened the menu and searched from top to bottom without understanding the names of the foods. I just closed it and demanded for rice and chicken legs. The waiter looked at Jennifer who nodded in agreement to what I had demanded. Before leaving to get our orders, I ordered for a bottle of Port wine because I had seen it in a table of one of the white men who looked at us when we entered. Port wine was a local product of Porto. It contained about 12% volume of alcohol. I preferred spirits with 42% and above but since I was with Jenny, I didn’t want to get too high.
We finished our foods an hour later and ventured into the Garden of St Francisco across the road. It was a magnificent garden with hundreds of tourists taking pictures. It was a pity that we had no camera with us. It was Christmas; shops were closed except bars and restaurants. We just walked around the park and when we got tired of it, we took a taxi down to River Douro.
River Douro was the largest river in Porto. It flowed in from northern Spanish region crossing Valladolid all the way into the Atlantic and crossed Portugal through Porto. I had purchased a €1 city map along the road. Not that I needed it but “when you go to Rome, you must behave like the Romans” There were tourists from all over Europe eating and drinking along the river, so we joined them.
At around 8 pm, it was getting dark and cold. We hired a taxi and drove back to our hotel behind the Estadio Do Dragao. We got to our room and took our bath together. We had somehow become unofficial husband and wife. Sometimes I wished the conditions we found ourselves were better. Jenny was a lovely, sweet girl. She knew nothing about the harsh conditions of Europe. I doubted she even suffered in Africa before heading to Europe. She could not even locate Germany, Italy or the nearby Spain in a map. She also could not name a single city in Europe except London; she could not differentiate between summer and winter. She could not even buy a train ticket from the automart machines on her own. By the time I found out she knew nothing about life in Europe, she was already living with me. Sending her away because of such things would make me feel bad for the rest of my life. I felt obliged to teach her all the basic things she should know about Europe but there was only one problem; I was in Portugal for papers. I could have even managed to teach her if we had not fallen into Madam Grace’s troubles. I wasn’t a religious person but somehow I felt that nature brought her into my life for a reason. All I needed to do was to find out what the reason was. A part of me had already decided to send her to Germany, teach her a story to tell during her asylum and forget about her. But she was a teenager and somehow our life had gotten entangled with each other. I had discovered that each time I brought up the issue of sending her away, she would cry and even refused to eat. Since we were on a forced holiday in Porto, we needed to make the best of it as much as possible. My nerves had started to relax a little bit. I had stopped being jumpy and on alert. I doubted Madam Grace would find us up there in Porto. Nobody knew where I was, even Jose. He had called me while we were on the train to Porto but I told him I was going to Algarve in the Southern Portugal. I pointed him south while heading north.
We slept after chatting for a bit. She wanted sex. I wanted sleep. She had noticed that she was stressing me and that she was a burden to me. She depended on me for everything and the last thing she wanted to do was to upset me. That would have been disastrous for her; or so she thought. During our sleep that night, I had a dream.
In my dream, a woman was chasing me with a knife. It was in Nigeria. I had just returned from Market and sat down to eat when a woman busted through my gates with a knife. I jumped up on top of the roof, she did the same. I spread my hands and flew, she followed me. We flew for several minutes and each time I looked back, I saw her closing the gap between us. I landed on top of a church building, she landed there too. Damn! Even the Church building won’t save me.
I flew out of the church building and landed in a tree, she landed in the same tree below me. She was still clutching the knife. Then it came to me. The only thing I needed was to fight back. I remembered that I had a knife at home too, I flew out towards my home and she followed. I got home and grabbed my own knife. She landed in the middle of the compound. I came out with my own knife and confronted her. She started going backwards. I pursued her out of the compound and she ran away. I picked up a stone and threw at her; it hit her on the head. She cried out and the sound woke me up.
I looked beside me and saw Jennifer peacefully sleeping. I lay awake on my back and tried to figure out the meaning of the dream.
Who was she?
They said dreams could mean an opposite of what happened.
Was it Madam Grace? Was it the Olokun herself?
One thing I was pretty sure of was that Madam Grace indulged in petty voodoo. I personally believed so much in physicality. During the night before I slept, I had thought about Olokun and the Madam Grace’s threats. I had thought that since she had paid some money without seeing Jennifer, she was left with the only option of taking my name to Olokun. I somehow believed that even if I had sent Jennifer back to her after the payment, she would still do something about it.
I lay awake from around 4 am until 6 am when Jennifer woke up. I was tempted to tell her what happened in the dream but that would have created a lot of panic in her. I waited for a good opportunity to tell her.
If that was all Olokun and Madam Grace could do, then I had discovered the solution; fight back. I had fought her back physically and defeated her. I had fought whoever it was in the dream and succeeded in chasing her away in the dream.
One more attempt Madam Grace, Just one more move from you; dream or physical and I will bring the war down to your doorstep.
I dialled room service for coffee and tea and they brought it ten minutes later. We drank in silence. I had brought a bottle of Johnny Walker with me from outside the day before. I opened it and filled my glass to half. Jennifer stared at me as if to say ‘why drinking this morning’? But she was gradually becoming afraid of me too. I pitied the poor girl. In as much as I blamed her for some of my troubles, my entrance into her life had brought her troubles too. Destiny had played a large trick on us and it was left for us to fix it. Unfortunately, the larger percentage of the fixing lay with me.
After two gulps of whisky, I called Madam Grace.
“Hello” a voice said on the other side of the call. It was Madam Grace. She was still half asleep. It was the morning of December 26. Two days after she had lost €5000 to blackmail.
“Madam Grace, I told you not to make any more move. You sent a witch to me in my dream last night. I defeated your witch but you will pay for it” I said and cut off the call. Jennifer looked at me, surprised written all over her face. She asked what had happened. I told her about the dream, leaving out the part where I ran to the church for help. I was not ready for any ‘accept Christ or perish’ topic.
My phone rang a few minutes later and it was Madam Grace. She said she had no idea what I was talking about. She said she had kept her own end of the bargain and that I was just being wicked by not sending Jennifer back to her. I told her to wait for a call before midday.
Suddenly I was in the mood for sex. It must have been the Johnny Walker. I turned to Jenny and smiled. She smiled back. That was the first smile on her face for a long time.
The whole running from Madam had deprived the young lady of happiness. I pitied her. Maybe sex will bring her back to normalcy, just maybe.
I kissed her on the lips. She didn’t respond. It was an unexpected kiss. I pretended not to be interested anymore and as I was about to shift away from her, she grabbed me and pulled me down on the bed. She was hungry for it. The way she nearly tore my cloths out of my body confirmed it. Before I could say jack, my entire clothing system had been stripped down to the stockings. She kissed my dick and started sucking. The effect of the early morning scotch kept my brain active. She sucked me while my stretched right hand squeezed her breasts. I had forgotten how the sweet girl felt and tasted since I began to run. When my dick had gotten stiff enough for action, I searched for my wallet.
Damn! No condom.
I was torn between flesh to flesh and running outside for a condom. I believed that running outside would change everything because there was the possibilities of not being in the mood anymore by the time I returned. I considered what could happen to me if I did it without condom; contacting disease, getting her pregnant and so on. The issue of getting her pregnant was quickly discarded since I could pull my dick out and pouring on the bed. The issue of disease lingered for a few seconds. Then it hit me. Madam Grace was after me both physically and spiritually. If the disease I could contact didn’t kill me, Madam Grace was going to kill me. Either way, I would be dead before I got to 120 years.
“Do it, attaboy!” that naughty part of me shouted.
The whole thought lasted for a few seconds as I turned around and saw Jenny lying naked facing me with a welcoming smile. I raised her right leg high and slowly dipped my dick into her already wet womanhood. It was a sweet sensation as I thumped in and out in a manner that made her beg for more. Her tight womanhood held every part of my manhood and made me come quicker than usual. She clutched my waist as soon as she found out that I was about to release. I couldn’t pull out.
Damn! I had released inside her.
She cleaned up and we did it the second time. After the sex, I told her that I was feeling a little cold inside my body. I went downstairs to a pharmacy along the street. It was open. I told the Brazilian lady that I needed some pills that could stop a lady from getting pregnant. She told me that I needed a prescription from a doctor. She was alone in the shop; I smiled and slipped a €50 bill in her hand. She smiled and went inside. A minute later, she came out with a pack of twenty tablets. She said the lady needed only one each time she had unprotected sex.
I asked for the price and she told me. I gave her a ten euro bill and left. She didn’t ask for the remaining one euro.
Back in the hotel room, I gave the pack to Jennifer. I had removed one tablet from the card and threw it away. I told her that I had taken mine. It was for cold prevention. The pneumonia killer. She took a tablet and kept the remainder in her purse. Thanks to language barrier, the name of the pills and its functions were written in Portuguese.
On December 27, business returned to Porto. I took Jennifer to the Banco Espirito Santo along the Rua Augusto. I sent €500 to Nigeria; €400 to my younger brother and €100 to Jennifer’s mother in Benin City. Jennifer was surprised at what I did. It was the first money she had sent to Africa. I called my younger brother and told him how to distribute the money. Jennifer called her mother and told her that the money was sent by her boyfriend. The woman thanked me and pleaded with me to take care of her daughter. Madam Grace had called them in Nigeria and announced that Jennifer ran away with one Igbo man. The mother had asked me what happened. I told her that I didn’t run away with her daughter. I made her understand that her daughter didn’t like what she was doing and had decided to look for something else. I hung the phone before she could ask me more complex questions.
When we finished with the African issue, we went to the bus station across Rua Augusto and boarded a bus to the Musica center.
There was a cinema hall near the mighty Musica house. We went in to watch a film. Twenty minutes into the movie, my phone rang. It was Francis from Lisbon. He wanted to know where I was. I told him I was in Faro, a Southern coastal city in Portugal. I asked him if there was a letter for me, he said no.
After the film, I called Jose and told him that it was time for our next move. He was so happy. He had made €1500 from the other deal and was ready for the next one. As soon as we got back to our hotel room, I called Madam Grace. She didn’t pick the first call. I sent her a text message that I was going to the police. She called me back a few minutes later and said she wasn’t with the phone when I called earlier.
“Have you heard about Abu and Efe” I asked. She kept quiet.
A strange kind of calm had taken over me. I had lost all conscience and I was ready for whatever Madam Grace was prepared to dish out.
“Why did you call Jennifer’s mother to report that she ran away with me” I asked again. She responded this time. “Didn’t she run away with you?” she fired.
“I see” I said. “I want us to end this whole thing once and for all. My friend had gotten hold of the recorded message. He said you must buy the message together with the phone” I said and kept quiet.
She didn’t say anything and she didn’t hang up either. I expected her to hang up but she didn’t.
“My friend will call you anytime. Make sure you settle with him” I said.
“What about Jennifer” she asked.
“She is no longer your property. As a business woman, you must expect to lose sometimes” I said and cut the line.
I called Jose and told him that I had travelled from Algarve to Porto. I told him to come up to Porto. He was excited. He said he would come the following day. There was nothing else to do for the rest of the day, so we walked down to a betting house near our hotel. Some English Premier League games were about to begin. I placed some single bets on the teams I believed would win.
Manchester United to win Portsmouth.
Liverpool to win Middleborough
Arsenal to win Fulham
Tottenham Hottspurs to win Aston Villa.
When the whole games that I betted on finished, I won three and lost one. I made €120 profit, divided it into two and gave Jennifer €60. She had been worrying me while we waited for the matches to finish. As soon as she got the €60, she was all smiles. At about 8 pm, we went back to our hotel room. We had bought cards outside. We played and drank scotch with ice until late in the night. One round of sex closed the day for us. We took our bath and slept. The next day was going to be exciting.
The Next Day
Jose called me before 9 am and informed me that he was on the way. I told him to call me when he got to the Sao Bento train station. I didn’t want to tell him the name of my hotel on the phone. There was a possibility that Madam and her squad tapped into my phone so I didn’t want to take chances. Jose arrived in Porto a few minutes after 11 am. I was in the station before he arrived. I had found a spot where I could watch everybody going in or coming out of the station. I wanted to know if he came with someone else or if he was followed from Lisbon without his knowledge.
In the dangerous game of blackmail, one can never trust anyone totally.
I saw Jose come out of the station alone. He called and asked how he could locate me. I told him to enter a taxi to cafe Velasquez. I jumped into another cab and followed him. He stopped at the cafe and called me again. I told him to enter the bus to Avenida Das Antas. I watched him enter the bus and then I asked my taxi driver to follow him. My taxi driver was suspicious of my moves. I guessed he thought I was a drug dealer. It wasn’t his business since the price meter in the taxi was running up.
Jose stopped at the Antas Bus station and called me again. I told him to look behind him. He did.
I asked him to come towards the cream coloured taxi standing 120 meters away. He approached us and entered the back of the taxi. We drove to the building next to my hotel and stopped. We entered a bar and bought two bottles of Sagres beer. We finished our beers, walked back to the hotel and rented room 211 for Jose in the same second floor. It was directly opposite mine. We got to the new room and sat down. It was time to discuss business.
“Jose, I want us to get more money from the woman” I said.
His face lightened up instantly.
“Last time, you told me that you wanted a vacation in Sao Paolo, Brazil. If this last deal happens, you will have enough money to go to Brazil.” I carefully watched his face as I said these words.
“Are you in or not?” I asked
“No problem boss, let’s do it,” he eagerly said.
“Jose, you understand that this could go wrong this time. You remember what happened last time with the two thugs. Another surprise may surface again, so you need to pay maximum attention to the plans,” I said and brought out a small map of Porto and a piece of paper where I had written down some names.
“This deal will happen here in Porto,” I went further.
“This is Boavista Avenue. It is a large square that has four major exits and two minor exit routes. We will get the woman to the square and watch her for several minutes before making any kind of contact,” I said as I showed him the places on the small map I had purchased some days ago. I told him that we would need one other person to make us three. I laid down the entire plan to him as he watched in awe.
We were to lure Madam Grace out of Lisbon where she knew the areas very well and bring her to Porto.
At about 12:30 pm, we got down and took a taxi to the Sao Bento train station. During my first visit to the station, I had noticed several lockers where people keep their belongings before venturing into the city.
We got to the Bento station and hired a locker, put the Motorola Razor phone which I had used to record Madam Grace’s conversation inside the locker and locked it. It was a phone I bought €100 a week before leaving Germany. We went back to the hotel. Jose called one of his friends who acted as a police officer during the first ransom collection. He told his friend to follow the next available train to Porto. His name was Nuno.
Nuno arrived in Porto a few minutes past 6 pm in the evening. Jose went to welcome him at the Sao Bento station. When they returned to the hotel, we sat down around the table in Jose’s room and reviewed our plans. The price this time was going to be €20,000.
After perfecting our plans, I called Jennifer and we went into the city and had some fun.
At exactly 11pm, Jose called Madam Grace. He told her that he had purchased the recorded message from me and that it was for sale to the highest bidder between her and the Portuguese authorities. He told Madam Grace that she had only one day to come up with €20,000 or forget about the record.
Madam Grace didn’t say anything. She just kept quiet and listened. The phone was on loudspeaker. After the call, we drank a bottle of Johnny Walker.
I took Jennifer to our room and retired for the night.
The next morning was a Saturday. Four of us went down to the hotel restaurant for our breakfast. A lot of people were there as well. When Jose’s phone rang, he went outside to take the call. He returned a few minutes later and nodded towards me. I followed him upstairs to his room. Madam Grace had called. She wanted the recorded message for €10,000. There was no mention of Jennifer; she just wanted the recorded message with the phone. Jose asked me what I wanted to do about it, I asked him to call her back and demand for €15,000. I told him not to agree on anything less.
After much pleadings and counter pleadings, Madam Grace agreed to pay €13,000 for the recorded message. She begged us to leave her alone after that. She asked where the exchange would take place. When we told her that it was in Porto, she was speechless. She agreed to come to Porto with the money on the 30th of December. In the afternoon, we hired a taxi and went to the Boavista Avenue where the exchange would take place. It was a large round avenue with six roads linking it from all sides of Porto. There were tens of shops ranging from bars, pubs to phone shops, boutiques and more. We located an Irish pub at the north end that overlooked the entire avenue and entered. They specialized in selling Guinness stout; a black beer that lacked every kind of sweetness. We took a litre of the Guinness stout each and sat in a quiet corner.
From the pub, we could see five of the six roads that entered the avenue. I pointed to the road leading to the Douro River and told Nuno that he was going to be at that spot with a hired car. Nuno said he had no driver’s license, so I re-assigned Jose to the spot. Nuno would be at the pub where we were at that moment and monitor every suspicious movement. I would go to the station to know when Madam Grace arrived and to find out if she came with another entourage. Jennifer would stay back at the hotel. We finished our bitter Guinness stout and entered a nearby phone shop. I bought three cheapest phones in the shop with three new sim cards. I gave one each to Jose and Nuno. We bought airtime and went back to our hotel.
From then on, every new contact between us and Madam Grace would be through the new phones. I and Jennifer retired into our room.
“Jenny” I instructed, “pay attention carefully. Tomorrow is going to be a dangerous day for us. Your madam will come here.”
She looked sharply at me.
“I don’t mean here in this hotel, I mean here in Porto. We want her to pay more money for what she has been doing to Nigerian girls. When we get the money, we will find a way to leave Portugal.” I said.
When I finished, she had nothing to say. She just stared at me. I was sure she admired my courage but she didn’t know how to approach the topic. She had suspended her life to me. The responsibilities of her feeding, accommodation, clothing, fun and general well-being had been given to me unconditionally. She was just helpless. It was a good lesson to me too. When we finished our discussion, we slept. The next day was an hour away.
I woke up earlier than usual. I opened the door and stepped out into the corridor. A tap on the opposite room woke Jose and Nuno up. Nuno opened the door and let me in. Jose got out of bed as soon as he saw me.
“Bom dia” he said.
I nodded, picked up the pack of Marlboro on the table and lighted one.
“Gentlemen, the day is here. This money we are about to receive is small but we will still be in serious trouble if the operation fails. We have covered our own end of the plans but still we don’t know what surprises awaits us out there” I announced.
They listened with utmost concentration.
“To make sure we don’t fall into any surprises, there would be no alcoholic drink for three of us until the deal is done. Do not do anything that will attract attention to you. Do not disobey any government laws including crossing the road without the green traffic light. Do not smoke outside until we are done.
Nuno went first. “Where is our meeting point after the operation?” he asked.
“There is an abandoned ship at the foot of the Douro Bridge. It has been converted to a bar. I will be waiting there” I said.
“What if she didn’t bring the money with her” Jose asked.
“We have the keys to the safe locker at the station. No money and no key. As long as she doesn’t give you money, she has no evidence to implicate you” I said.
“When we get the money, how do we give her the keys”? Jose asked again.
I hadn’t thought about that, so I scratched my head.
“I will give you the keys. When you get the money, don’t bother to count it. Just give her the keys, tell her the locker number and run for your life”. I finished and dropped the butt of the Marlboro into the ashtray on the table and went back to my room.
Jennifer had woken up and was already fiddling with her phone to dial my number and find out where I had gone. She greeted, “Good morning” as I moved into the bathroom. I locked the bathroom door and climbed on top of the toilet seat. I raised my hand up and found the money I had hidden behind the water pipe. It was rumpled but still complete. I pulled out €3000 and put the rest back behind the pipe. I put the €3000 inside my pocket and removed all my clothes for my morning bath. Ten minutes later, I returned to the room and sat down beside Jenny.
“Jennifer, we will be going out any moment today to meet your Madam. She may come with police or thugs, it means that there could be trouble” I said.
She looked at me and started crying.
“There is no need to cry, you will not get into trouble. Here is €1500. If I don’t get back in the night, hide your phone number and call me. If I don’t answer or if another person answers the call, cut the line and wait until morning. If after mid-day tomorrow and I am not back here, call this number” I said as I handed a written number to her
“He is my friend in Valencia, Spain. He will come here to pick you up. Our hotel deposit will end tomorrow. Pay them for another three days until my friend comes here. If my friend doesn’t come, take your bag and go to the train station. Buy a ticket to Coimbra. From Coimbra, buy a ticket to Madrid, the border in that area is porous. If the police stop you, tell them that you are from Cameroun and that you want asylum. I have called my friend in Madrid and told him about you. Here is his number. From Porto to Madrid is about 600km. The ticket will not cost more than €200 in total.”
While speaking, I handed another phone number written on a piece of paper to her. I finished and held her hand. “I know you are scared but the other option is to go back to Lisbon” I said gently.
When I finished with her, I went back to Jose and Nuno. “Call Madam now” I said as I entered the room.
“She called two minutes ago, she said she is on her way,” Jose said.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner, are you running this operation now”? I asked.
“Sorry Boss” he said apologetically.
He liked calling me boss and I didn’t care, I was running and sponsoring the operations anyway.
I looked at the clock on the screen of my phone and it was 8:15am. Since the trains to Porto from Lisbon’s largest station, at the Oriente leaves five minutes past every hour, I figured she must have left with either 7:05 or 8:05 trains. Porto is approximately 3 hours from Lisbon. It was safe to assume that she would be in Sao Bento Station by 10 am or 11 am. We reviewed our plans for the last time and got ready to move. I went back to my room and met Jenny crying. She stood up and hugged me as soon as I entered.
“Please don’t leave me here” she begged.
I told her that everything was going to be alright. I made her understand why I had to give her the plan B options. When she calmed down, I kissed her for a long minute, turned around and left the room without looking back.
Jose and Nuno were already downstairs. We got outside and entered one of the waiting taxis in front of the hotel. It took us to Avis, where Jose rented a small French car called Renault Megane. We took the car to Boavista Avenue and packed behind a fiat car. I gave then €500 and the key to the safe, and then I told them to disappear if anything suspicious occurred. I left them both and returned to a Cyber Cafe opposite the major entrance into the Sao Bento train station. The time was seventeen minutes to 10 am. I bought a cup of coffee and a thirty-minute internet voucher, and then waited for Madam Grace.
Laws of Power
The new emails in my inbox were from Efuah, Agnes and an unknown name. I opened Efuah’s mail. It was two pictures of Princess, my daughter. She had grown bigger and looked like her mother. A short message that accompanied it said that they were ok. Her husband had called and said that her travel documents would be ready by the middle of January. I wished her good luck and opened the second mail. It was from Agnes. She wanted to know how I was doing with the resident permit processing. She said she was also interested if I could help. Victor was fine. I closed it and opened the third mail. It was from a lady who claimed to be from Sierra Leone. According to her, she was in a refugee camp in Dakar, Senegal and wanted me to help her retrieve three million dollars her late father had lodged in a foreign account for her. She asked for my phone number and resident address and so on. I suspected this was a scam mail, so I replied her and gave her Madam Grace’s phone number. Madam Grace would be of a better help since she knew how to smuggle girls.
After the last mail, I looked up and saw people coming out of the station. A train had arrived but I was not sure where it had come from. Since Sao Bento station was the largest and the most central station in Porto, trains from all over Spain and Portugal stopped there. I looked at my watch; it was 10: 01am. I signed out of my email and concentrated on the train station.
There! The unmistakably fat Madam Grace was fumbling in her handbag. I watched her bring out her phone and dialled a number. She spoke for a minute or so and put the phone back in her bag. I watched her cross the road to where I was and entered a taxi. I figured out that it was Jose that Madam Grace had called.
Why haven’t Jose called me and report that the woman had arrived. Something was wrong.
I jumped outside and called a cab. I told the driver to follow the road south of the station where I had seen Madam Grace and her taxi gone to. Fortunately for us, we caught up with her in a traffic light. My taxi driver was a Pakistani man. I told him that I wanted to know where Madam Grace’s taxi was going. He nodded and followed her. We followed them to Massarelos roundabout but instead of going right to the Boavista Avenue, they diverted left down to the Douro River. At that stage, I knew that something had gone wrong. Jose and Nuno were no longer working according to plan.
I wondered if they had been discovered where they were waiting for Madam Grace and had decided to change the point of exchange. But why not tell me. I was running the operations. I was the group leader. I had recruited two of them. I was going to find out what was happening.
They got to the Douro River and climbed the Arrabida bridge. I followed them. They crossed the bridge and headed to the Vila Nova de Gaia, a suburb of Porto down in the South. They were heading to an area I had not visited, I needed to act fast. I called Madam Grace with my old number. She picked the phone after the first ring.
“Solomon, I don’t know where your friends are taking me to. I have the money here and they have been telling me to come here and there” she yelled.
“I am the person who told them to do that to you. I want you to stop at the traffic in front of you” I said.
She did. She got out of the taxi and stood in front of a coffee shop. I stopped behind them and asked her to settle her taxi driver. I told her to enter my own taxi and we drove away. We turned and headed back across the Arrabida Bridge. I asked her to switch off her phone.
I called Jose and asked for updates. He said that he would call me back and cut his line off.
“Where is the money?” I asked?
“Where is the record?” she fired back.
I told her that it was locked up somewhere close and that she will get it as soon as I get the money. She hesitated for a few seconds before throwing a small black bag at me. I opened it and saw rolls of euro currencies inside. I zipped it slowly and asked the taxi driver to head to the Sao Bento Station. We got to the station and I asked her to wait with the driver while I get the recorded message. She said nothing. Just like me, she was scared too. Her offence was too bad. She needed to destroy that recorded message and she knew that any wrong move would change everything.
I went down to the Angolan safe keeper who assigned us the safe where I had hidden the phone. I told him that I lost the key and asked him to open it for me. Luckily, he recognized me; I had given him a twenty euro tip when we brought the phone. He said that I needed to fill in some paper works before he could open the safe for me. I did. After the paperwork which included my names, my address, my phone number, he opened the safe box for me and I took the phone.
The price meter of my taxi had stopped at €138 when we got back to the station. I sneaked to the taxi window and threw €150 to the driver and threw the phone to Madam Grace. Then I walked hurriedly down the station again and disappeared through another exit. As soon as I came out of the station, I called Jennifer. I told her to get ready in ten minutes; we were checking out. I hung the phone before she asked why. I called Jose and told him to come to the abandoned ship; our rendezvous point. I told him that I had followed Madam Grace across the bridge and had collected the money. I figured that by the time they get to the ship and back to our hotel, I must have been halfway to another city.
Welcome to Braga
Less than ten minutes after I left Sao Bento station, I got to my hotel. Jennifer was packing slowly when I got to the room. I told her to hurry up. There was no time. I went into the bathroom and picked the money I had hidden behind the water pipe. I helped Jennifer pack faster. We scrambled out of the room and as we got down to the ground floor, my phone rang. It was Jose.
“We are at the bar in the abandoned ship,” he said.
“Wait for me, I am on way” I said calmly.
The taxi driver who brought me to the hotel from the station was waiting for me. I had given him extra €10 and asked him to wait. We loaded our two bags inside the boot of the Mercedes Benz cab, got inside as fast as we could and drove out of the hotel. I didn’t want to go to the Sao Bento train station. Madam Grace could still be there waiting for her return train. Coimbra was in the south of Porto, Madam Grace may have also for some reasons decided to use a stopover train which meant that she could change trains in Coimbra since the city was between Porto and Lisbon. The safest option was to head north. The nearest City in the North was Braga.
“Take us to Braga” I said to the taxi driver. The taxi driver looked at me as if I was a retarded person.
“Braga is forty minutes from here, it will cost you a lot of money,” he said. I told him to take us to Braga or I would find another cab. He shook his head and headed North to Braga through highway A3.
Braga was the fourth largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, Porto and Amadora. It was situated in the north-west part of Portugal. I had studied its map a few days before our final operation in Porto. The reason was to know which way to go when it was time to leave Porto. I had ruled out Lisbon due to Madam Grace and her thugs. I had also ruled out Amadora because it was pretty close to Lisbon. Coimbra, the next big city was a transit point to Madrid and many parts of Central Spain; it would be very easy for someone who knew me to spot me there. Braga was the answer.
We got to Braga in the middle of the afternoon on December 30. The weather was a little bit colder than Porto. I had switched my phone and Jennifer’s off as soon as we left Porto. I was sure Jose must have been calling but since he wanted to play smart, I made him understand that we Africans were never what they took us to be. The price meter on the taxi that brought us was hovering above €200. Our taxi man was concerned about the price. He believed that the two young African couple would not be able to pay him. I asked him to locate a cheap hotel for us. He murmured something inaudible and engaged his gear. I opened my wallet and handed €300 to him. The smile on his face returned.
After a few questions, we found the Liberdade Guest house, located in the Avenida da Liberdade; an avenue with mostly white occupants. We knocked on the metal door and a young man of about twenty-eight opened the door. He didn’t say ‘hi’ or ‘welcome’ or anything. He just gazed curiously at two black faces.
“We need a place to rent,” I told him.
He motioned at us to come inside. I asked Jennifer to stay with the taxi man while I check the place out. I followed the man to the reception hall. He brought out their room lists and their prizes. A quick scan down the list gave me what I wanted, a cheap apartment with private bathroom, kitchen and veranda. I pointed to the one I wanted. He took me upstairs to inspect it. It was a nice neat room with enough space. There was a long sofa, a reading table and chair, a television set, a reading lamp, a large bed that could contain three people, a wardrobe and some hangers in it. I peeped in the kitchen and found a gas cooker and a fridge. The bathroom was neat and spacious too.
We returned back to the reception and checked the price. The apartment was €30/day, €180/week, €600/month. I asked him to prepare a one week receipt for us. I went outside and got our bags from the boot. The taxi driver called me and gave me €25. He said that was my balance. I gave him the money back and told him to go. He gave me his number and asked me to call for his service when next I visit Porto. Then he drove away. We carried our two small bags inside and paid €180 at the reception. We took our keys and went upstairs. I opened the room and we entered inside the warm room, away from Lisbon, away from Porto, away from Madam Grace, away from Jose and away from danger.
As soon as we settled in our new apartment, I opened the black bag containing Madam Grace’s ransom money. I spread the contents on the floor and asked Jennifer to count them while I took my bath. When I returned, she said it was thirteen thousand euros. The money was complete. Our own share would have been about eight thousand euros, but since Jose and Nuno his friend had wanted all of the money, why wouldn’t I want all of it as well.
I told Jennifer to go take her bath. As soon as she went into the bathroom, I opened my two phones and removed the sim cards. I opened her phone and removed the sim card too. When she came out of the bathroom, she saw the phones scattered all over the table. She looked at them and decided not to ask questions about it. She knew I must have had a good reason for scattering the phones. She applied her makeup and wore her clothes, and then we went downstairs and into the historical city of Braga, Portugal.
We walked hand in hand like lovers and strolled down towards the southeast part of the avenue. We came out at the Joao XXI Avenue. We turned right and walked to the busy Immaculate Conception Avenue, went into a phone shop and bought two Nokia Phones. Then we bought three sim cards. We found a Chinese restaurant and entered. The incidents of the day made me forget that human beings survived on foods and water. We ordered fried rice mixed with chicken flesh and fresh crayfish. After the meal, we called a cab and went into the city centre.
I was wondering what to do for my little Jenny to make her feel loved and relaxed. The girl had been through a lot, running with me like a fugitive from one city to another. I wondered if she enjoyed the unexpected adventure. I wondered if she would agree to do the same things if the time was rewound. I wondered how she would feel when our paths would follow different routes someday. I just hoped she would be prepared because as for me, the Ozoigbondu 1 of Berlin, circumstances had trained me like a soldier and my mind had been fortified to survive every condition.
We stopped at a busy area and got down. There was a boutique around the corner where the taxi stopped us. We entered the boutique and I asked Jenny to start picking cloths and shoes to the tune of €800. It was time to change her wardrobe, irrespective of our predicaments; we still had the right to live normal lives. She hugged me in public for the first time and started shopping. I left her at the shop and crossed the road to buy two small pots, a bag of rice, tomato pastes, chicken, a knife, a video machine with cable, body creams, and a few more small items. When she finished, I walked back across the road and asked her to pay for the items from the €1500 I gave her in Porto for emergency. I told her to hold the remaining €700 but she insisted on giving it to me to keep.
We called a cab and loaded our purchases, and then we drove back to our apartment. When we got back, Jenny went into the kitchen while I worked on the new mobile phones. I put a new sim card in one of the new phones and put it on the electric socket to charge. I also put one of the old sim cards into an old phone and started writing down the phone numbers in it. Less than two minutes after switching the old phone on, it rang. It was Francis. He asked why my number had not been connecting and when I would return. He also confirmed that there was no letter for me. I was still talking with Francis when a beep came to the phone. I checked to find out who it was.
Damn! Jose was on the line. I ignored him and continued with Francis.
News down in Lisbon was that I had eloped with one of Madam Grace’s favourite girls. Some said they had spotted me with Jennifer in Madrid, some said Valencia; others said we were still in Lisbon. According to Francis, a search party had been organized in Malaga, Napoli, Lisbon and Paris. Madam Grace had promised money to anybody who could bring back Jennifer. He said Madam had been boasting in Lisbon about how she would skin me alive anytime I set my foot on Lisbon soil again. Rumours also had it that some guy had emerged out of nowhere and claimed that he knew me back in Nigeria. He said that I was a criminal that ran away from Aba, Abia State Nigeria when the Bakassi boys were killing thieves.
I thanked Francis and promised to send him €300 to pay for my room in Lisbon and keep the rest. The month was ending the next day. I finished copying the phone numbers that I needed and switched the old phone off again. Jenny brought out rice and stew later and we ate together like husband and wife. It was a delicious homemade stew. Somehow, my love for her had increased.
On the night of December 30, the children of Braga started throwing knockouts .I sat on the reading table while Jennifer sat on the reading chair. We played cards and watched the sky as different kinds of knockouts with different sounds and light designs decorated the night temporarily and faded away. Jennifer wanted us to go outside and get our own bangs but I was tired. We played our cards until midnight, and then we slept.
The following morning, I went downstairs alone and asked the receptionist where we could go and look around in the city. He suggested Bom Jesus do monte Cathedral. I went back upstairs and asked Jennifer to get prepared. We were going out. She took her bath and applied some colour on her face and some red greasy lead on her lips, and then we stepped out and hired a cab to the Cathedral.
Bom Jesus Do Monte Cathedral was one of the largest in Braga. It was built in 1722. It was located at the top of a small mountain. The staircase to the top of the mountain contained six hundred steps in a zigzag style. Each end of the zigzag hosted a fountain chapel used as a stop for the Catholic’s station of the cross. There were water trains that transported people to the top of the mountain but we decided to walk the entire steps up to the top where the Church was built. It was a good exercise. I ignored the fact that it was a church and held Jennifer’s hand as we climbed the steps. It took us nearly thirty minutes to get to the top since we paused occasionally to inspect some wonderful structures built hundreds of years ago.
When we got to the top, there were several tourists taking pictures and praying. A confession session was going on. The new-year was some hours away and believers wanted to enter it with righteousness. I asked Jennifer if she was baptized and confirmed and brainwashed like me in the Catholic doctrine, and she answered she wasn’t Catholic. I asked her to keep looking around while I stood in line for my own confession. I warned her not to venture too far away from the hall.
I was born a Catholic. My parents were Catholics who were members of the choir in the St Mary’s Catholic Church in my hometown. I got baptized in 1981 when I was a year old. I received the Holy Communion in August 1987 and got confirmed in September 1989. I was a dedicated Catholic who attended Church every Sunday until I moved to Special Science Senior Secondary School where I lived in the school like every other student. It was at the boarding school that I stopped going to church. It was then that I stopped receiving Holy Communion and stopped attending confessions. I saw no need to go to the church and confess your sins, ask God to forgive your sins with a promise never to do it again, then start doing the same things all over again from the moment you left the church. It looked absurd to me then and I stopped. But right there at the Bom Jesus do Monte, I felt the need to confess my sins. I felt the need to ask God for forgiveness. I had done a lot of things regarded as sins. I had dealt in drugs, blackmailed, was intimate, and looked at beautiful women with lust; the list was endless. The problems was that I didn’t know where and how to start. I wasn’t even sure the Rev. Father at the confessional understood English but that one didn’t bother me much.
Twenty minutes later, it was my turn to confess. I entered the Confessional and before I knelt down, the Rev. Father asked, “English, French or Portuguese”?
“English” I answered.
“What have you done my son” he said.
“Father” I began, “I have done a lot of sins, I have stopped attending church for long, I have fornicated, I have lied many times, I have stolen things that were not mine, I have sold drugs, I have taken alcohol, I have, I have, I have…” I stopped. I wanted to add that I ran away with Madam Grace’s young girl but that would require some kind of explanation to the priest, so I just kept quiet. There was nothing else I could remember.
“Is that all you want to tell God to forgive” he asked calmly.
“Father, I am sure there are other sins I can’t remember now” I said.
“Do you know how to pray the Rosary” he asked?
“Yes” I lied. I knew it but I was sure I had forgotten how to say the mysteries and other rosary related Prayers.
“Say the rosary three times, say our Lord’s Prayer three times and when it is 12 pm today, say the Angelus” he said. “Go in peace and sin no more” he said as he made the sign of the cross.
I got up slowly and left the confessional.
I returned back to the church auditorium and found Jennifer walking around. I walked up to her and told her that we were leaving. We went outside and saw an area where catholic materials were being sold. I bought a rosary Chaplet, a Station of the Cross Doctrine and a small bottle of olive oil. We went to the back of the hall and bought double €2 tickets. We entered the water train and rode down to the base of the mountain. A bus was already waiting. We boarded, purchased bus tickets and drove back to the Avenida de Libertade where our apartment was located.
When we got to our room, I announced to Jennifer that I wanted to pray. She was surprised; all those while we had been together, she had never seen or heard me say any prayer. I told her to either stay quiet on the bed or take some money and go out to the city. She endorsed the second option and left the room. I knelt down and closed my eyes. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy spirit” I said as I made the sign of the cross on my face.
The Catholic Church
As soon as I finished the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary, there was nothing else I could remember. I opened the doctrine book I had purchased at the Bom Jesus do Monte and read from it. It felt so good to be able to pray again. The events of the past few years had taken me away from God. In the past few years, especially as soon as I left Nigeria, I started doubting the existence of God. It escalated as soon as I saw the quality of lives the people lived over there in Germany. All those things we learnt about heaven back in Africa was staring right there in front of me; humans playing with animals, baskets full of fruits, green and very clean environments, perfect social and transport system, happy people and so on.
The worst of it all was that the Germans hardly go to church. The first time I went to a Church in Eisenhuttenstadt Germany, I found only the very old Germans in the church. None of them was less than eighty years. I guessed the Church was a kind of sanctuary for them, not a place to waste youthful lives. The only young people at the church there were just me and one other Ugandan lady who had gone there with me. How could that be, unless Germany was the heaven we were told existed? I felt no more reason to go to church. It had remained that way ever since until that very moment I saw myself at the Bom Jesus Cathedral.
“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee, Blessed art though amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus” I prayed. I got absorbed into the prayers and lost myself into it. After the first decade of ten ‘Hail Mary’, I said a little more prayers and it was Hail Mary, all over again.
While I prayed, I wondered why the Catholics had to adopt that style of prayer. Why would we say over hundred Hail Mary’s in just one round of Rosary? It was boring to me but we were also told to have faith. ‘Blessed are those who believe without seeing’. ‘Faith: a supernatural gift of God which enables us to believe without doubt, what God has revealed’. – Christian Doctrine.
Faith – another one of those ropes that tied us around the necks, legs, minds and never allowed us to think freely. – Me.
How could you believe what you don’t know? What you have never heard or seen just because a Pastor or Priest said so. How can you even identify a truthful priest? Someone divided the Red Sea with just a stroke of a stick, believe it with faith or go to hell. The other guy spent three or four days in the belly of the fish, believe it or go to hell. There was the other guy who walked on water, believe it or go to hell. There was no way around it except if you accept that one that walked on water. You can forget about the other ones, it’s safe. Just accept that one that walked on water and you are saved. Yes, saved from sins, such as Johnny Walker, drugs, adultery, fornication, lies, etc, but above all, saved from sex. Sex, the sweetest thing on earth was also banned. Don’t go there or you will go to hell. Oh! I remember there was a condition attached to sex. You must marry before you try it. Yes apart from that, you were bound for hell; somewhere where it was all fire and no water, no food but you will survive anyway and keep burning forever. You will not be allowed to die, that same God who loved you so much will not allow you to die in hell. He will make sure that you remained alive in hell so that you will burn forever. Somehow, all those things happened in a book. A Holy Book that was packaged thousands of years ago.
There was another version packaged for the Muslims too. In their own version, many virgins were waiting for them in their own Heaven if they kill the infidels on Earth. Ah! I was an infidel; my head in exchange for virgins.
One group invaded us from Arabian Deserts while the other ones invaded us from Europe; nowhere to run to. Our own African Gods were stolen and burnt; some of them were cooling off at the Louvre Museum in the middle of Paris.
We had found another God who wasn’t interested in chickens and yams and money. Just give those things to the priests and pastors and prophets, they knew how to give it to God. If you give it to God by yourself, He will not accept it. Somehow those magical things that happened in those two books can no longer happen in our time. The human beings had decided to indulge in sins and turned their backs against God. God had decided to abandon us but he loves us, yes he loves you. He loved Jennifer yet allowed her to be transported to Portugal to sleep with men for money. Maybe it was because she was born in sin. He also loved Madam Grace who committed that sin. He loves giving us second chances to repent. Ah! He rescued Jennifer through me, another sinner who had sold drugs to people in Germany. Or maybe drugs were not sins. Those doubts that had stopped me from attending church had crept in again while I was praying in my room in Braga.
My mind had been divided between doubts and beliefs and faith and miracles and sins and so on. I couldn’t concentrate anymore. Why couldn’t my mind stay in one place? Was I a devil or was I a special person? I stopped the prayers midway and called Jennifer.
“Where are you” I said as soon as she picked the call.
“I am at the reception downstairs, I don’t know where to go” she said.
“Wait for me, I will be there in a minute” I said.
We left our apartment building and walked down to the Immaculate Conception Avenue.
There was a liquor store managed by a middle aged Moroccan man. He was a Muslim, another confused and brainwashed African like me. His religion was against alcohol. What was he doing selling it to people?
Thou shall not judge, Another rope on our minds.
I bought a bottle of Hennessy VSOP and called a taxi. I asked the driver if there was any close beach around Braga, and he said there was one at Viana Do Castelo and Apulia but was about 30km away from Braga.
“Which one is the closest” I said.
“Apulia” he answered.
“Take us to Apulia”
Love in Apulia
Apulia: A small town of about 4000 people was located beside the Atlantic Ocean in the northwest region of Portugal. The cab from Braga dropped us near the bus station. There was no railway line. I paid the cab fares and collected her phone number. I told the lady driver to expect my call in three or four hours so that she would come to take us back to Braga city.
Jenny and I walked across the only major road in the town and headed down to the ocean. We got near the ocean and perched on a rock. The deep blue water stretched into infinity. Jenny was scared. The waves from the ocean hit the rocks occasionally and sometimes it looked like it would jump up and sweeps us away into the ocean. I opened the bottle of Hennessy I had bought from the Moroccan man and gulped down a large quantity directly from the bottle. I handed it to Jennifer who sipped a little and decided that it wasn’t worth drinking.
Right there, on top of a large rock facing the mighty Atlantic Ocean, in the small town of Apulia, I had fallen in love with Jennifer. She had fallen in love with me too. It was written all over her face. She had surrendered herself to me long ago. She had left all hopes and held on to me as if I were her hero. I had finally succumbed to nature after resisting the temptation for weeks. She was the closest thing to me for long. I had learnt to trust her as time went by. I remembered when I had decided to chase her out of my life. I had left €1200 on top of my bed inside my room in Lisbon. I had intentionally left the money there and went downstairs. I had told her that I was going to Colombo to buy something. Colombo was a thirty-minute ride from my house. I had walked down the street and entered a bar very close to my house. I had purchased a glass of Johnny walker and sat at a place where I could see every movement in and out of my house. I was hoping that she would take the money and vanish. I was half way through my drink when my phone rang; it was Jennifer. Great! I had caught her. She must have run away with the money and called to tell me.
“Baby, you forgot your money on the bed” she said.
“What money?” I asked in disappointment.
“There is some money on the bed, check your pocket, you must have thought that you put it there,” she had said.
“Oh my God, keep it for me” I shouted.
Being a very sceptical person, I had thought that she didn’t run away because she had nowhere to run to or because Madam Grace was looking for her then. I planned my second trap. When we had just arrived in Montijo area of Lisbon where Jose had helped me find a self- contain apartment in the students’ hostel. I had told Jennifer that I was going to send her to Germany. I had made the calls in her presence and arranged for a look-alike document to help buy flight tickets to Berlin. After the calls, she had said that she couldn’t go alone to Germany. She insisted that she couldn’t leave me and go anywhere. I also lied to her that I had a wife in Africa. She didn’t care or she didn’t believe me. I had tried some other minor tricks to scare her away but she had defied all of them and chose to live with me.
All those moments flashed past my mind at a very fast pace. I had nothing to say rather than to kiss her and that was exactly what I did. However, there was only one problem. I had just gulped down a large chunk of alcoholic.
Why didn’t I feel this love all these while when I had not taken any spirits? Why after Hennessy; that French poison?
Making judgments under the influence of alcohol has always had large negative after- effects. Whatever the reason was, I was feeling in love at that top of the rock in Apulia, every other thing should hold on. The last time I felt that way was back in Africa with a Ghanaian girl. If anything had happened to me in Braga, Porto or even Lisbon, Jennifer would have been the only person to know first. The responsibility of telling others what happened to me would have fallen on her shoulders. Knowing what Africa was, some people from my place and some friends would have even accused her of killing me. Africa, My dark beautiful continent; When are we going to grow up?
I turned around and looked her in the eyes and slowly said, “I love you”.
She looked at me and kept her gaze on my eyes.
“I know the circumstances that brought us together weren’t ideal for the ordinary human being but I believe you are an angel. God sent you to guide and be with me in this time of troubles,” I said.
Before I could finish what I was saying, she started crying. She placed her head on my shoulder and cried for minutes. I didn’t bother asking her to stop for I knew it was tears of joy. Yes, I was sure. I knew it was tears of joy. When she was done weeping, I took her phone and put two phone numbers in it. I showed them to her and told her that one belonged to Johnson, a friend of mine in Germany. I asked her to call him and ask of me if my number stopped connecting anytime in the future. The second number belonged to my elder brother in Onitsha. I told her the same thing I said about Johnson. We spent an hour or thereabout on the rock and walked to the sandy shores of the mighty Atlantic Ocean.
The Sandy beach of Apulia stretched out in front of us. There were numerous tourists from all over Europe especially Germany. Each group we passed along the shores spoke a different language. The children were throwing balls and playing every other sport in the book. The weather in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Germany and down to France had dropped to two or three degrees Celsius. Since it was a holiday, many of their citizens had decided to spend it where the weather was better. Some went to North Africa; Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Some went to Portugal, Spain and Southern Italy. Those with enough money travelled as far as South America, South Africa and some Asian countries. Jenny was the happiest among the people in the beach. She had just been told that she was loved by a man with whom she had been running with all over Portugal. She had been told that she was an angel on the eve of New Year; it was a perfect timing. She held my hand and swung it like little children playing in the sand. I held a bottle of Hennessy with my other hand.
We walked up to a wooden cabin, a young couple or perhaps lovers were being intimate on the bare floor. We stole glances and headed to the nearby wooden cabin. A teenage boy was sitting in front of the next wooden cabin.
“Hey Mister, do you want my cabin?” the teenage boy asked
“How much is an hour?” I asked him.
“Just ten euros,” he said.
I gave him a twenty euro note and he disappeared faster than a rat that had seen a cat. We went inside and sat on the polished wooden floor. Jennifer pushed me back on the floor and showered me with kisses. It was the first time she had confidently made a move by herself. She had started to relax with me and it was good for two of us.
I pitied this young girl, she had been living on the edge since she quit her sex work down in Lisbon. It wasn’t easy for her but on my own side, I knew how disastrous it could be if I based my judgement about her situation on sentiments. When I was younger, I had sworn that I would never date or marry a prostitute. But everything had changed at the beach. I then learnt that one should never say what he can or cannot do until a related situation presented itself.
“Life is one big road with lots of signs, when you are riding through those lots of signs, don’t complicate your mind”. That was one of my best Bob Marley quotes.
She had removed my pullover and singlet and was kissing me all over the lips, neck and belly. My hands were aimlessly moving around her body. The sexual urge had risen with the help of the alcohol in my system. We tore through our clothes and fucked right there on the floor of the cabin with the door open. Why should we care if the whites didn’t?
An hour later, we walked out of the beach and found two cabs waiting for passengers. We hired one and drove back to Braga. The time on my phone was 8:29pm. Different kinds of sounds from knockouts could be heard outside. People were eagerly waiting for the New Year, as if it wasn’t going to start the same 12 am like other days. We took our bath and changed into another set of clothes, and then we went downstairs and walked down the avenue into the city centre.
My phone rang as we entered an Italian restaurant. It was Francis from Lisbon.
“I told you not to call unless it was emergency,” I said.
“This is an emergency!” he said excitedly. “I met a guy who works with the Immigration. He said he can get you a resident permit but it will cost money” he said and stopped.
I asked Jenny to sit down, while I went outside. I asked him how the man was going to do it. He said the man stole the permit cards from the office, and then adds names, dates of birth and other required information. The man would first of all require the personal data of the intended recipient to enter them into the Immigration database, then he would steal the permit cards and add the names somewhere else after he left office.
I was feeling excited and suspicious at the same time but it was worth checking out. I was already thinking about how to abandon Portugal and the permit I applied for. My life was in danger and that alone superseded every other thing. I asked the price and he said it was four thousand euros. I told him that we would talk about it again on January 2nd since the following day was the New Year holiday. I returned to the restaurant and ordered spaghetti with some sauce. I had forgotten how it tasted. We ate happily like lovers, putting foods in each other’s mouth occasionally.
After the meal, we walked to a large water fountain and sat on the concrete pavement around it. My mind drifted back to the call I received from Francis. Jenny never asked me who had called me or who I had called but she did as soon as we sat down on the pavement. She must have noticed that my concentration on her had reduced after the call from Francis or maybe she believed that as a lover, she had the right to question me. I told her who had called and what he said.
She advised me to be careful since such process usually turns out to be fake documents. I already knew what she said was the truth. Some fake documents had been circulating but some genune documents were also obtained through the back door. All one needed to do after obtaining any document was to register it somewhere and start working with it. The place you worked with the documents will give you some papers to open a bank account. The whole thing kicks off from there but it would also mean that you stay back in Portugal for long: something I figured was very dangerous for me since Madam Grace had numerous hit men on her payroll.
We watched the fountain for close to an hour and went home. The New Year was fast approaching. Majority of the white people were outside with their families, enjoying the atmosphere and eating nice meals together. Majority of my people back in Africa were in the church by then. A call to my mother confirmed it. They wanted to enter the New Year in the church. Perhaps the coming Messiah was dealing with dates. That was how serious religion was in that part of the world.
At about 11 pm, we went back to our apartment and waited for 2006.
January 1, 2006: The New Year was welcomed with loud bangs from every corner of the planet Earth. I held Jenny tightly from the back as we stood on the window looking out into the beautiful lighted skies of Braga, Portugal. Without looking at the clock, one could easily tell when it was 12 am. The bangs had increased from once a minute to two hundred times per second. We had decided to stay indoors and watch the show rather than go out. I had wondered what was the essence and importance of the New Year bangs and had not come up with any tangible reason. I had told Jenny that we were not going to shoot knockouts and she had agreed. Although she had a stake in me as a lover but she also knew that the stake was allocated to her some hours ago; it was a very young stake that could break easily. She avoided arguing with my decisions. I didn’t like it but I believed that allowing her the freedom to argue out every topic would corrupt her.
Sometimes we have to assume the control of affairs on our own especially when we know better than the people among us.
Despite being the man of the house, I was also six years older than Jennifer. I had been to Europe long before her. Even from my observations, I was far more intelligent and brilliant. But still, her opinion was required while making certain decisions, especially the ones that concerned her directly.
As the bangs faded away with time, we discussed our plans. When the day broke, she suggested staying inside. I joked about going back to the Cathedral to get married. She laughed hard and long. We finally agreed to go to the city centre and walk around until we got tired. Then maybe, a new plan would come up. We stole kisses occasionally and I wished the conditions were better. It would have been the perfect New Year but when I recalled the dangers ahead, my joy was cut short.
When we got tired of looking outside, we went to the bed and kissed each other to sleep.
About 8 am, the woman of the house had decided that we cook at home rather than eating outside. I didn’t argue it. It was her right and I knew my boundaries as well. Despite being the Boss, it would be bad to deny her genuine wishes. We walked down to the Immaculate Conception Avenue and bought a chicken, green unripe plantain and ingredients. As usual, I bought a bottle of JaggerMeister sweet brandy from the Moroccan shop, not too hot at 28% alcohol volume. Most of the shops were closed as we walked back to our apartment.
Somehow, I had a feeling that our Braga tour was coming to an end. I still didn’t know how to make my move back to Lisbon, if I decided to go for the backdoor permit. It would have been very easy for me but Jenny was there and I can’t just leave her alone in Braga. The chances of being spotted in Lisbon were greater with Jenny coming along, though people knew her more than me in that area. I could easily sneak in and out of Lisbon without her but I was never going to leave her behind in Braga.
With these thoughts at the back of my head, I played a silly children’s game called ‘Snake’ with my phone while she cooked in the kitchen. She would occasionally come to steal a kiss and laughing, make her way back into the kitchen. She was the perfect wife, the type I dreamt of when I was younger but the problem of being a fugitive was there.
When she finished cooking, we ate. It was delicious as usual. I didn’t know if it was Jenny’s making or because chickens generally tasted good. I mentally gave her the credit anyway. Love can move mountains and love was blind, they said. There was nothing else to do, so we lay around and played cards until it was mid-afternoon.
I opened my bags and brought out my whole money. A certain €13000 was still intact. Jenny still had €750 with her, there was another €3400 left from my own money. We still had over €17000 with us and that was enough money in every currency in the world.
We went downstairs and hired a cab. We asked the driver to take us to the river we crossed on our way to Apulia. When we got there and bought a ferry ticket. We joined numerous tourists and entered a ferry boat. It took us around the city slowly. There was a man at the front who explained to us the names of every important place we passed. He explained the histories and other vital information about the places. It was fun and a time killer; exactly what I wanted.
Breakable bottles were not allowed in the boat, so we were served beer with plastic cups. We later returned to the spot where we started, joined a tourist bus and drove around the city centre where the river did not cover. We passed Estadio Municipal do Braga, the home of SC Braga football club. I usually noticed every stadium because I loved football and I am a Manchester United and Herha Berlin Fc fan. We visited the national Pene Park where the water falls many meters from the rock, the Praca de Republica where the giant water fountain was located, and the Garden of Santa bar where we alighted and had a few drinks. Thereafter, we went home and packed our bags. We were traveling south the next day. I had decided to take a shot at the permit Francis had told me about. Portugal was getting dangerous.
A proverb in Igbo land goes thus: “It is only a tree that hears it is going to be killed and still stands where it is.”
Going back South
There was only one major railway line from Braga down to Porto, Coimbra, Lisbon, Setubal and down to Faro. Portugal is a vertical country. The distance from West to East was approximately 65km while North to South was 562km. On the morning of January 2, we packed our two small bags and played in our room. I had decided to enter into Lisbon area in the night. It would be safer. Braga to Lisbon was about 322km. I figured out that a direct train running at the average speed of 80km/hour will take about 4 hours to get to Lisbon. I added about twenty-five minutes it would waste at the various stations along the way and got four hours twenty-five minutes. I wanted to get to Lisbon when everyone would be heading to bed. I also wanted to get to Lisbon when I would still be able to get a hotel room. I trusted Francis but not enough to go back to my old room in Lisbon. The ideal time to leave Braga was 6 pm.
I told Jennifer that we were leaving by 6 pm; she didn’t know why and she didn’t ask why. She had learnt to trust my decisions and it had been near perfect so far. She wanted to bring our DVD player along, even cooking pots but I told her to just pick the things she cannot do without. We played until it was 5:40pm, and then we boarded a taxi and drove to Braga central train station. I called Francis inside the train and told him that I may or may not come to Lisbon anytime soon. He was disappointed because he was hoping for his own share of the permit deal. He was acting as an agent/scout for the Portuguese Immigration criminal. He was surely going to be paid and being a Nigerian, he would also demand for settlement from me after the deal. I would do the same in his shoes and I believe you would do the same too.
We got to Lisbon at exactly 10:30pm. The city was still busy but not as busy as during the day time. We took a taxi down to Setubal, a sub city 20km south of Lisbon. where we found a cheap hotel and moved in.
Back in Braga, I had rented and paid for our apartment for one week and spent less than that. When I went back for refund, they pointed out where non-refundable clause was written in my receipt in Portuguese. I decided to pay one day at a time in Setubal. I didn’t want to waste more money.
We settled down and slept. My baby was tired after the bumpy journey from north. In the morning, I called Francis and told him that I was sending a friend to Lisbon to meet with him. I told him the friend would come and check out a sample of the permit. I asked him to get a photocopy of it if he could not get the real one. He agreed to meet with my friend in Colombo business district by 12 pm. I found an Angolan Taxi driver and hired him for €50 an hour. I figured everything would be done in an hour anyway. He took me to the Colombo around 12 pm and we had to wait 30 minutes for Francis. Africans are very bad at keeping time.
I called and told him where to meet my friend. I was at the back of the taxi when he came. The driver asked him to get inside and we drove away. About two kilometres out of Colombo, I raised my head from the back seat and touched Francis on the shoulder; he nearly jumped out of the car. The driver laughed hard.
When we arrived at the bar, I settled the cab driver and he disappeared. Inside, I requested for two shots of brandy with ice while Francis settled for Sagres beer. He brought out the original copy of the permit. He had gotten the copy from the immigration guy. It was a plain one, nothing was written on it, just the original Portuguese immigration seal. I checked it and it was the original, the problem was getting my data into the immigration database.
This immigration criminal we were going to deal with had only his word for us. There was no way we were going to be sure that he entered the data info. I was torn between agreeing or disagreeing but the urgent need to leave Portugal was stronger than ever. Finally I agreed to meet with the immigration man.
The deal was two thousand upfront and the balance when he finished adding my data on the permit card. When we finished drinking,. Francis asked for my room rent for the month of January, I told him that I wasn’t paying a dime for the place again. I asked him to go ahead to possess everything in the room I also told him to wait for my call in the evening. I gave him €150 for his transport and his troubles. I took his phone, opened the back and removed the battery and the sim card. I smiled as I handed the dismembered phone back to him and disappeared from the bar.
I got back to our hotel in Setubal and asked Jennifer where her international passport was. She said Madam Grace took and seized it the very day she came to Lisbon. She said she did the same thing to all the other girls she had brought from Africa. I guessed it was in a bid to make sure that they didn’t run away.
Really? To make sure they didn’t run away? Therefore it meant she was also afraid of losing them through running out on her. That also meant she didn’t even depend on the said voodoo alone. If she had trusted her Olokun, she wouldn’t have feared losing them through running out.
Yes! The voodoo issue was settled in my mind. The powerless Olokun in a Benin Forest down there in Nigeria could not even be trusted. May be it was just to scare the girls.
‘Fear’, that wonderful weapon that works like charm on human minds.
I was hugely disappointed. The plan was to get one permit for Jennifer too and leave Portugal together. But as I stared absent minded on the floor, I saw that plan slipping away from me. How was I supposed to tell her that I was leaving Portugal without her? She had run to me for help. She had given her soul and body to me. She had given her love to me. She would never forgive me if I left her behind; never. For many minutes, I didn’t know what to do. I was grossly confused. But there must be a way out. There has always been a solution to every given problem. There has always been a way where there is a will.
Yes!! There were two other options for her. One was to request for a passport from Nigeria like I did but I recalled mine took more than two weeks before it arrived; two weeks that I didn’t have in Lisbon based on how things had turned out. The second option was to take her to Madrid and get her a passport for €800 plus about another €700 it would cost both of us to go to Madrid and return. It would also mean that I will pay another €4000 for her permit. A permit I wasn’t sure of its authenticity yet… No, that would deplete my cash down from €17000 to €7000. It would also mean that she won’t take asylum again, which was what I wanted her to do.
Above all, it would mean that no government would be paying Jennifer anything, she would depend on me like most of the Nigerian wives depended on their husbands. I would not have cared if it was back in Nigeria but in Europe, everything was sold in euro which was difficult to come by except through crime. I wasn’t going to indulge in crime forever.
The useless Nigerian Embassy in Portugal had no passport machine. The embassy at the Restelo district of Lisbon had nothing except the old ambassador who loved Okro soup, and a register where they wrote the names of Nigerians living in Lisbon at a fee ranging from €100 to €200; depending on one’s bargaining power. I thought hard and decided not to make the permit for Jennifer. I would find a way to take her out of Portugal and arrange asylum for her.
I wasn’t ready to travel 630km across two countries without legal documents because of love. Trust me, love was such a wonderful thing but Jack saving Rose in the Titanic movie wasn’t an immigration issue, it was a life and death issue. I doubt Leonardo Di Caprio would do the same for Kate Winslet in real life if they found each other running from Madam Grace in Lisbon.
I called Francis in the evening and told him to come along with the Criminal Immigration Officer to the bar where we had met earlier. I hung around the area an hour before their arrival. When they called, I hired a taxi and picked them up at the entrance of the bar, and we drove down to Avenida Libertade area and discussed.
The conditions were acceptable to both of us. I gave him a photocopy of my International Passport and a Passport photograph. The immigration man said the permit would be ready in two days. I gave him €2000 and left them there.
In Lisbon, I was running from Madam Grace, her thugs and every Nigerian who had heard about me and Jennifer. Above all, I was running from Jose and Nuno, two Portuguese citizens who would not think twice before shooting me.
When I returned to my hotel in Setubal, I called Francis and asked him to arrange for a look-alike permit for Jennifer. He said he knew who to get it from but said it would cost me €1000. That was something that usually cost €500. I guessed he figured I was going to slip away from Portugal and wanted to grab as much money from me as he could; I agreed to pay him the money. I recalled that I was still going to buy tickets for myself and Jennifer. That practically meant that I was still going to venture into Lisbon in day’s time. It was risky and since my last days in Lisbon were approaching, I didn’t want to take any chances so I came up with a plan. I had to make sure that Madam Grace and Jose were not in Lisbon the day I would go looking for flight tickets. It was going to be a gamble but I would give it a try. I needed to get the permit and the look-alike first. Patiently, I waited and plotted my next move.
The travails of life in Europe had turned me into a thinking machine.
“Madam Grace, do you still want Jennifer back” I said on the phone as soon as she picked the call.
“Who is this?” Madam Grace asked.
“Stop asking silly questions” I fired back over the phone. Behind me, Jennifer was hauling insults at me.
“Solomon, God will punish you, useless man. So you want to send me back after using me. You devil!” Jennifer kept abusing me audibly.
“Solomon, where are you” Madam Grace asked excitedly, she must have thought that her Olokun had started work on me finally; that was the problem with gullibility.
“We are still in Porto. I will give her back to you but you must promise not to punish her. You know she is a kid. I am not interested in your money again,” I said.
“I don’t want to go back to her, she will kill me,” Jennifer was shouting behind me.
“I will not punish her, just send her back to me” Madam Grace begged.
“She will come back, let me just calm her down first,” I said and cut the line.
Jennifer and I looked at each other and laughed. Madam Grace had taken the bait. The plan was to lure her and her remaining thugs to Porto. It will give me some time to finish my business in Lisbon. It remained Jose and Nuno. Their own case was a minor one. Madam Grace had spread a bigger net to catch us. She had employed the help of many Nigerians who knew Jennifer very well. She knew that if they caught Jennifer, she would lead them to me. As for Jose and Nuno, they were the only two who had seen my face. It was possible that there were others in their own small group but I doubted if they could identify me. It was only two of them that could identify me. The plan was to find a way to send both of them to Porto as well, just like I was going to send Madam Grace. I needed all three of them out of Lisbon for at least 5 hours. The only place I knew in Lisbon where I could buy flight tickets with my expected permit was very close to Madam Grace’s Afro shop. The travel agent was a Ghanaian. I didn’t want to risk using the permit to buy ticket from a Portuguese travel agent. The permit could have been a fake one since I didn’t go through the normal process of waiting for months. If it turned out to be a fake, using it to purchase tickets from a Portuguese agent would be dangerous.
On the evening of the following day, Francis called and said he had found a look-alike for Jennifer. I asked him about my own permit, he said that it would be ready by the afternoon of the next day. I told him to wait and bring two of them together. I wanted to avoid as much meetings as possible.
I dialled Jose’s number with a new sim card I had purchased a few days back in Braga. He didn’t pick the call. I tried again and it was the same. I sent him a text message hoping that he would call back as soon as he saw the missed calls. He called back immediately. I had included my name in the text message.
“Hello Jose” I said as soon as the line connected.
“Where are you my friend, what happened” he asked calmly. I expected him to start yelling but he didn’t. I was disappointed. I hated being thrown off balance.
“Madam Grace came to Porto with some people. They were chasing me. I had to switch off my phone and run away” I smoothly lied.
“Did she give you the money?” he asked.
I expected that one. “Yes I told you I got the money from her, she gave me €13000 but things needed to quieten down before we meet again. Don’t worry, you are going to Brazil” I said confidently.
“Good, good, where are you?” he said calmly. His calmness was worrying me. That was not the Jose I knew. He was a very aggressive person. Why on earth was he so calm? I was alarmed. I was never going to fall for those tricks anyway. I decided to diversify my plans. I needed to test him more with another offer.
“I am still in Porto but not in the same hotel, How much is your cut and Nuno’s?” I asked. “I will come to Porto and we talk about it” he said.
What! Run, Boy Run!!
“Let’s talk about it on the phone, I will send it through Western Union in the morning” I said.
“No, my friend; It is better we talk about it in Porto. I will come in the morning” he said. I asked if he was coming with Nuno, and he said he was. This little Portuguese rat will never learn his lessons. He had been beaten once and yet he had setup another fight he had no chances of winning. Since the rat didn’t want to obey the number one law of Power (Never try to outshine your Master), he was going to pay for the insolence. I cut the phone and dialled Madam Grace again.
“Jennifer is angry that I want to send her back and she is afraid you are going to beat her” I said. “You need to come up here in Porto and take her by yourself; she needs to know you will not beat her” I said and hung up. I wasn’t interested in an argument over whether she would come or not. She called me back immediately and asked where I was in Porto. I told her to come to the Golden Tulip Hotel in the Boavista area of Porto by 2 pm the next day.
Ten minutes later, my phone rang. It was Jose. He said they will be in Porto the next day before 1 pm. I told him that I will be around by 2 pm at the Golden Tulip Hotel Boavista, Porto. He said ‘okay’ and hung up. I called Francis and told him that I would pick up the documents before 1 pm the following day.
Jennifer, who was sitting on the bed beside me all through the phone calls kept her gaze at me for a very long time and when she returned back to reality from the wonderland, she shook her head and murmured what I couldn’t hear.
Time to Run Again
Vilamoura is the largest luxury tourist complex in Europe, covering some 20 km² of land. It is located in the municipality of Loulé, in the Algarve, Portugal. I had arrived in Vilamoura with Jennifer on the evening of January 5th 2006. I had discovered that there was no flight from Lisbon to Berlin on 6th and 7th. From the look of the tourist Resort city, I had figured that there was nothing like a cheap hotels there. We had located the Crown Plaza Hotel at Rua do Oceano Antlantico and rented a room at €120 per night.
Earlier that day in Lisbon, Madam Grace had called me and said she was heading to Porto to pick Jennifer up as we agreed the previous day. It was around 10 am. I asked her to call me when she got to Sao Bento train station in Porto. After her call, I had called Jose and asked him to start coming to Porto as well. He had told me that they were already in the train to Porto. I had called Francis as soon as I finished talking to the Porto bound group. He said he was on his way to collect the Resident permit from his immigration friend.
I went downstairs and entered a bus down to Baixa where Madam Grace had her shop. I wanted to use that opportunity to find out about flight tickets before my documents were ready. I got to Baixa and went straight to a dirty congested boutique owned by a Chinese man who had lost half of his teeth. I bought a face cap and wore it. I pulled the peak down to cover half of my face, and then I walked quickly down to the travel agent’s office. He was there when I came. I greeted him as he offered me a single plastic chair opposite him. I need two flight tickets to Berlin tomorrow morning, I said. He pressed his computer keys several times and shook his head.
“There are no flights to Berlin tomorrow and the day after tomorrow” he announced.
I stared at him as he explained that there was a blizzard going on in Berlin. All the flights to Berlin had been grounded until January 8. There would be a flight from Faro to Berlin on the evening of January 7th but Faro was 260km south of Lisbon. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I had just sent Madam Grace’s squad and Jose’s Squad to Porto on a collision course and here was a shocker about grounded flights. However, it wasn’t time to grieve. I needed to think and make a quick decision.
I called Jennifer and told her to pack our bags immediately. I told her to suspend whatever she was doing and get ready. We were moving out of town. I called a cab and drove back to my hotel. Jennifer was still scrambling with her clothes. She had asked what it was and I told her that we needed to get as far away as possible from Lisbon.
I called Francis again; he said his immigration friend had not picked his calls. I decided to wait until 1 pm before leaving Setubal. I had given the shadow chasers appointment by two 2pm. I could still buy sometime before they found out that I wasn’t in Porto. I waited in my room as time crawled to 11:30, 11:40 and 11:50. Each ten minutes brought me closer to danger. At 12:30, I called Francis again. He said the man had answered his call but said they will meet by 1 pm during the lunch break. There was a glimpse of hope. Jennifer had noticed my restlessness and had started panicking. I didn’t bother consoling her; I needed some assurance and soothing words too.
My mind drifted to what would happen if the Porto squad discovered that I had sent them on a goose chase. Madam Grace would definitely call Lisbon and tell them what I had done. The hunting party down in Lisbon would continue their look out for us. I would be vulnerable since I was in the open. I knew I still had small time on my hand but I wanted to get out of Lisbon area as fast as I could. The city of Lisbon was no longer safe for me.
I knew Jose and Madam Grace would definitely meet each other in Golden Tulip Hotel in Porto. They would then ask the hotel receptionist about me. They would be told that there was no record of any Solomon there and they would figure out what happened. Jose was a clever young man. He would quickly know that I wanted to do something in Lisbon and had sent them out of the way. He may decide to partner with Madam Grace to go after their common enemy.
If I was lucky, they would fight each other in Porto but it was unlikely.
At exactly 1:30 pm, my phone rang. I picked it without looking at the caller ID. I thought it was Francis but I was wrong.
“Where are you” the unmistakable voice of Jose boomed from the other end of the line. “I told you 2 pm” I replied.
“I am already at the hotel. What is your room number?” he asked.
“I will be down by 2 pm” I said firmly.
Another call had entered in my phone while talking with Jose. It was Madam Grace. I picked the call and asked if she had gotten to the Sao Bento station, she said she was in Front of the Hotel Golden Tulip. I asked her to go inside the Reception hall and wait for us. I knew Jose, Nuno and whoever they had with them were in the reception hall too.
I told Madam Grace that I and Jennifer would come down soon. I hung up and called Francis, he didn’t pick the call. I tried again and no response; that was it. I grabbed a bag and asked Jennifer to get the smaller one and follow me. We were leaving Lisbon with or without resident permit. My life was far more important.
The Resident Permit
We got down to the hotel reception and handed the room keys to a half-breed African- European young lady receptionist.
“Are you checking out sir?” she asked.
I nodded as I moved towards the exit door.
“Excuse me Sir, it’s past mid-day!” she yelled at my retreating back.
Jennifer was already outside the hotel. I didn’t want to create any unnecessary scene by ignoring her. I turned around and asked her what she meant. She said that I was supposed to pay again. There was no time for argument, I dropped the luggage I was carrying and brought out a €50 bill from my pocket. I handed her the money and picked up my luggage. Jennifer had turned around and was watching us. I moved towards her and motioned her to move fast. The receptionist was talking behind us, probably about my change. I wasn’t going to let €10 hold me back.
We walked fast out of the lonely street where the hotel was located and called a cab standing across the road. The driver turned his car around and came to us. My phone had started ringing again inside my pocket. I ignored it. The Porto squad must have collided with each other in the reception hall of Golden Tulip hotel. I scrambled into the taxi.
“Your phone is ringing sir,” the taxi driver said as I entered and closed the front door. Jennifer had gotten into the back seat.
“Take us to the Oriente Train station” I said. I brought out the phone from my pocket, it was Madam Grace. I allowed the ringing to die. She called again the second time, I didn’t answer. Jose followed; he called three times without me answering any of them. He sent a short text message to me, it read, “My friend, don’t come down now. I saw the Madam here”.
I pictured what must have been going on up there in Porto. Jose would be pretty scared as soon as he saw Madam Grace. He would definitely hide somewhere in the hotel bar or even sneak out of the hotel. Madam Grace must have been boiling inside for waiting too long.
I copied out Francis’ number from my phone and switched it off. I called Francis from Jennifer’s phone; he picked it after just a ring.
“It’s Solomon, why are you not answering my calls?” I calmly asked.
“I just got the papers now, where are you?” he asked
“Tell me where you are, I will meet you there” I said.
He told me to come to Rossio. Rossio is directly opposite of my escape route. Rossio was where I had found Jennifer. Rossio was where 80% of Nigerians spent their free time daily. No, I wasn’t going anywhere near Rossio. I became suspicious of Francis but I was sure he didn’t know that I had sent Madam Grace and Jose’s teams to Porto; or maybe, just maybe, Madam Grace had called Lisbon to report what I had done, I expected that.
“Francis, listen carefully. I am in a taxi going somewhere and I am in a hurry. I have the whole money here and I need you to come to Oriente station right away” I instructed. He hesitated a little but agreed to come.
There was only one major entrance to the Oriente train station. We packed our cab across the road facing the entrance to the station and remained inside the car.
“Meu Amigo” I asked the driver, “do you speak English?”
“Some people are chasing me and my wife. They want to kill us because we refused to sell drugs for them” I said smoothly. “They may follow my friend to this place. If I see them and tell you to go, don’t move fast, move slowly out of this place. I will pay you well.”
He looked at me suspiciously. I believed he didn’t buy the crap I was telling him but he had no reason to suspect me. He was just a cab driver.
About twelve minutes later, a taxi pulled up at the entrance of the Oriente station and Francis got out. The cab drove away. He called me on Jennifer’s phone and asked where I was. I told him to enter the Station. He walked down the stairway to the Oriente station. I watched the entrance for over a minute but detected no suspicious movements. I called him to return to where the taxi dropped him. I asked him not to cut the phone. “Just hold your phone to your ear and walk back up to where you stopped a minute ago” I told him. A minute later, I saw him come out of the station. I told him to cross the road and come to the cab packed opposite the entrance. He approached our cab and got at the back seat where Jennifer was sitting. He closed the door and we drove away.
“Take us towards the highway” I said to the driver. I looked at intervals on the right side mirror to see if anybody was following us, there was none that I could see. We drove to Aguas de Moura, where the four major highways of Portugal met.
We stopped there and I got down with Francis. We went to the trunk of the car. Francis handed me the two papers. I checked my permit first, it was good. It looked very much the original based on the ones I had seen. I checked the look-alike permit card. It wasn’t Jennifer but it was a close resemblance to her.
It would do. I handed him €3000. He counted it and nodded that it was complete. I gave him another €200 and told him that I was going up North to Coimbra. I informed him that I would remain in contact. I entered the car and told the cab to head North towards Coimbra. We drove for about five minutes until I was convinced that Francis must have left the highway where we had dropped him. Then I told the cab to turn around and head south to Faro, the southern region of the Republic of Portugal.
During our journey down to Faro, I had started a conversation about Portugal with the cab driver; I told him that we were there for a vacation. He had said that he came to Portugal since 1991. He had lived in Faro and Coimbra, but now lived in Setubal where he worked as a part time cab driver and a tailor. He had convinced me to go to Vilamoura instead of Faro. He said Vilamoura was a new tourist city with football fields, golf courses and many more leisure and attractive places. I had decided that it was Vilamoura and that was how we found ourselves in the beautiful massive tourist complex.
The Crown Plaza Hotel in Vilamoura was a white ten storey building that overlooked the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Behind it, a double Olympic size swimming pool stretched out down to a dwarf flower fence that separated it from another hotel. Jennifer and I had rented a standard room that reduced our money by €120. We had been told that the money included nothing else except the room; no breakfast, lunch or dinner. Not even a cup of coffee.
We settled inside the room on the ground floor and rested for two hours. Our mobile phones were switched off. Strangely, I was asked for my resident permit before we were accepted in the hotel. During my race from Lisbon to Porto, Braga and Setubal, I didn’t remember ever being asked for my permit. I had only used my international passport. The troubles I was running from couldn’t even allow me to celebrate the permit. I was supposed to be overjoyed to have acquired the permit which would allow me to move freely from one country to another, but I had forgotten what relaxation and happiness felt like.
We had walked into the room and sat on the bed. I had brought out the new permit and gave it to Jennifer. She examined it and gave it back to me. She was too tired to say much. She just smiled and asked what was going to happen to her when I leave Portugal. I had brought out the look-alike permit card and gave her too. She smiled as I told her that we were going to Germany together. I told her that I was going to look for tickets tomorrow in Faro.
About two hours after we arrived at the hotel, I decided to go out to the reception hall and buy some over-priced bottle of Hennessy I had earlier seen on the small bar. As soon as I stepped into the hall, I saw a group of black men coming alighting from a commuter bus. They were all wearing green and white tracksuits. I looked at them carefully and recognized one of them. He looked exactly like Julius Aghahowa, the Nigerian football player. Yea! It was definitely Julius Aghahowa. My own Super Eagles of Nigeria had just returned from the evening training. They were lodged on the second floor of the same Crown Plaza hotel. I paid for the Hennessy quickly and took the bottle outside. I was a football freak and it was a fulfilling moment for me to see those guys whom I had only watched on the television. I had been through a lot in the past two weeks and it was a perfect moment of happiness for me. For once, I saw Nigerians who were not chasing after my life or my money.
I opened my Hennessy and guzzled down some contents directly from the bottle. Kanu Nwankwo was looking at me as if I had committed a crime. I smiled at him and said ‘Papilo’. He waved and smiled back. Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha got down from the bus too. I shouted excitedly, ‘Pa Jay’ as if we were old friends. For once, I forgot that I was on the run. I saw Wilson Oruma alight from the bus and he was very short. I couldn’t believe that as short as I was, I was a little taller than he was.
“Hey guy, you dey enjoy ooh,” Okocha said and laughed as he passed by me into the hotel. I looked at their faces one by one and identified them. I had seen them many times on teevee. They were just the same except that I was surprised at their heights. The TV had made them so tall. I counted them as they passed by me into the hotel.
The coach Eguaveon was right behind Okocha and Ike Shorunmu. Then the light-skinned Osaze Odemwingie, Vincent Enyeama, the young John Mikel Obi, the big headed Yusuf Ayila, Makinwa, Joseph Yobo looking calm as always, the ugly Taye Taiwo, Kanu Nwankwo the Tall, hair plaiting Chidi Odiah, my homeboy Chukwudi John Utaka, The very short Obafemi Martins, the ever humble Garba Lawal, Nsofor Obinna and Christian Obodo. I couldn’t recognize the others. They moved into the hotel and walked up to their lodge. I sipped more Hennessy as I watched them all the way to the second floor.
Another bus arrived, other sets of footballers started coming. It was FC Mainz from Germany. I recognized a Camerounian footballer whom I had been watching in German Bundesliga. They walked past me as I stood like a security agent sipping my Hennessy. Few of them stole a glance at the free guy doing what they were not allowed to do. Sport was very good. It extended lifetime but those players didn’t have freedom as I had: freedom to roam about, freedom to drink, freedom to blackmail, freedom to go wherever I wanted.
I went back into my room and found my Jennifer sleeping. She was tired. She had been on the run ever since she met me. She needed the rest. I sat down on the chair and watched her sleep. I flashed back to how it all started. I had only intended to hook up with a girl and have fun but it turned out to be a nasty move.
I stood up and went to the bed where she was sleeping, bent down and kissed her twice on the cheek and said quietly, “I won’t let you suffer anymore.” She opened her eyes and smiled at me.
On the Morning of January 6, we took our shower together on the bathtub full of hot water. We were hungry. We had eaten only cakes and Fanta at the hotel restaurant the previous night. I personally didn’t consider cakes a good meal. There was a Chinese restaurant about 200 meters down the street from Crown Plaza hotel. I poured a half glass of Hennessy and gulped it down at once before we left the room. Jenny was playing Mrs Solomon very well. She complained about drinking in the morning.
We walked down to the restaurant and ordered our usual rice. We ate quietly for about twenty minutes. We also bought a bottle of red wine against Jennifer’s wish. She complained that it was early and that we were spending too much money. She was right, it was too early but I saw some tourists also drinking red wine that time of the morning.
After the breakfast, we walked back to the hotel and waited for the airport shuttle bus. It came every hour from the airport to pick up people and drop new arrivals. Those Europeans surely knew how to enjoy themselves. Some minutes later, the bus arrived. We picked our documents and followed the bus to the Faro Airport. It was 20km away from our hotel. We got to the airport and headed to the Air Berlin counter. There were four attendants at their office. We headed to the only male attendant at the office. Women have a way of complicating issues for men especially when they see them with other women.
We told the man that we needed two tickets to Berlin. He said they had flight tomorrow evening but it was already fully booked. I asked him to book us on the 8th of January. He asked for our travel documents. I gave him mine first. He flipped through the passport and found the resident permit card in the middle. He looked at it for a few seconds and keyed my data into his computer. I collected the documents from him and handed him Jennifer’s card. He asked for the accompanying International passport. I told him that we forgot it in Lisbon and that we just had two days to spend in Berlin. He held the permit card and considered whether to sell the ticket to us or not. Jennifer was smiling at him as I had told her. He eventually keyed in the data and printed two tickets for us. We paid him, thanked him and went back to the main airport hall.
The airport was located on the coast of Atlantic Ocean. We walked down to view the mighty ocean. It stretched for miles until our eyes could see no further. I wondered how deep it was. The waves occasionally hit the rocky shores and receded into the ocean. It was a wonderful sight to behold. I thanked my stars for seeing such sights in my life time. It was true that unforeseen circumstances brought us to Vilamoura but ‘man can never run away from his destiny’. I believed in destiny. Whatever happens in our lives was predestined by nature and time.
Jennifer complained because of her fear of the ocean. She wanted to go back to Vilamoura, back to the safe warm rooms of Crown plaza hotel.
We left the airport and hired a cab to Vilamoura. On our way back to our hotel, we located the field where the Super Eagles of Nigeria trained. They were finishing up from the morning training. Jennifer was surprised to see Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo. She didn’t know any other player. She wanted to take pictures with Okocha and Kanu. We walked back towards the business district and bought a camera. By the time we returned to the field, they had already left. We walked to the road and waited for a taxi, which drove us back to the hotel.
At the reception hall, we met Austin Okocha. He was granting an interview to some German newspaper firm from Frankfurt. We waited for them until the interview was over.
When it was over, I motioned Jay Jay to wait. I told him that my wife wanted to take pictures with him. The man smiled and granted our request. I snapped them four times and she snapped me twice with Okocha. I asked him about the other players and he told us they were taking their afternoon nap.
There was nothing else to do except walk around the massive tourist city of Vilamoura. We held hands and walked slowly through the beautiful roads decorated with coconut trees and flowers. It was a lovely experience walking around with Jennifer and taking pictures every now and then. She was gradually forgetting the events of the past days. She was returning to humanity from the kingdom of fear and uncertainty. She once admitted that her life had played out like a movie in the past few days. I reminded her that every single life was a movie in the making, every single thing we do in life was a movie. If it got recorded or acted out, it becomes the movie that people buy and watch.
Passionate kisses and hugs had returned to our lives. We felt like we were no more on the run. We had shut our doors from the outside world by removing the sim cards in our phones. We had dismembered the entire phones and kept everything apart. We needed the rest. The only person who knew where we went was the taxi driver who brought us to the hotel. He was not a Nigerian, but was a security risk, although it would be a long shot for Francis to trace him.
I also believed that Francis wouldn’t sell me out to Madam Grace; he had made some money out of me. He was also in charge of the permit I had applied for at the immigration office. Even if he did want to sell me out, he still needed to trace the taxi driver. They would also have to come down to Algarve and find us in Vilamoura. Things like that usually take days to achieve. Days they didn’t have since we were leaving for Germany in two days. It was difficult in Portugal but it was also fun.
I had come, seen, experienced and conquered. I had left Germany to Portugal with €5000. I had requested for another €5000 from Germany while in Porto. I had made €15500 from Madam Grace. I had gotten what I came for in Portugal but above all, I found my Jennifer, a wonderful girl.
The following day wasn’t eventful. It was boring for me in particular. There was no reason to rack my brains or think fast. There were many places around Faro and Algarve to go. We decided to go to Lagos, a beautiful coastal city in Faro. It was close to the Faro airport.
When we got to Lagos, bought tickets and joined a tour boat with other tourists. We were all tourists no matter how one looked at it. We were served cappucino in the boat. The sun seemed to come out in that part of the world all the time. There was no torrential rain like I had experienced back in Germany. Jenny and 1 kissed in the boat like we had seen some white people do. We were all enjoying ourselves. People believed we were tourists as well; probably from USA since it was not in the African culture to go on vacations to that part of Europe. We spent close to three hours in Lagos before finally driving back to Vilamoura.
The following morning, we packed and left for the airport. Our flight was going to leave at 11:45 am. We got to the airport before 10 am and waited in the hall like some other travellers. When our flight was announced, I held Jennifer’s hand and walked to the gate to get our Boarding passes. We didn’t bother to check in our bags, it was less than 10kg each. We would take them inside the flight with us. We got our passes and returned to our seats. At exactly 11 am, we filed in a line and boarded the Air Berlin airbus. We climbed to the sky later and viewed the Atlantic Ocean as it disappeared gradually below us.
It was goodbye, Portugal.
The historical city of Berlin was the capital of Germany.
After the World War II, the city was divided into two by the victorious allies; United State and its allies took the West while Soviet Union took the East Berlin. The city remained divided after the war until the re-unification of East and West Germany in 1989. The great Berlin wall, which divided the city between West and East Germany, was destroyed as a mark of the unification.
I flew to Berlin with Jennifer, my girlfriend on January 8th, 2006. We were on the run from the bad people who wanted Jennifer to remain a prostitute in Portugal. We had escaped from them through Faro Airport in Southern Portugal.
We landed at the Tegel airport, Berlin at exactly 15:10pm; it was snowing as we were told inside the aircraft. As usual, everybody tried to scramble out of the aircraft at the same time.
At the immigration checkpoint, we were stopped.
”What are you going to do in Berlin?” the lady immigration officer asked me. Jennifer was right behind me.
“Visit,” I replied.
I didn’t want to name who I was coming to visit. It could complicate things later; therefore I had chosen to use short answers.
“Have you been to Berlin before?” she asked.
“No” I answered.
She looked suspiciously at my passport and resident permit, and then pressed a button and spoke on the special phone hanging on her neck.
She asked me to step aside and wait.
Jennifer came forward to be cleared.
That was it. I had suspected that the resident permit may not be authentic or that they may even find out that my passport had been done in my absence.
Jennifer was asked about her passport. She said that she forgot it in Lisbon. She was also asked if she had been to Berlin before which she answered negative as well.
She was told to travel with her passport when next she wanted to visit another country.
Jennifer was cleared to go into Berlin. She left the immigration check point and went outside the airport. She knew nobody in Berlin except Johnson, whom I had given her his number.
I had called Johnson back in Faro airport and told him that I was coming to Berlin with Jennifer. I had told Jennifer to call Johnson if I had any problem at the Berlin Tegel airport. I had also given her one thousand euros to keep in her jean pocket.
Immediately after Jennifer was cleared, a police man came to the counter where I was told to wait. The lady immigration officer gave him my passport and told me to follow him.
One minute later, we got to the police post inside the airport. I sat on a long wooden chair and watched as the man who had taken my passport and permit card scanned them through a convex mirror. He checked severally and when it seemed that he couldn’t find anything wrong with it, he called another man.
He told the new man that he had collected my documents from the immigration but couldn’t find any fault in it. They spoke in German but they didn’t know that I understood German language. I heard everything they said.
The new man said that Urby, the immigration lady who had given them the documents hardly make mistakes about documents. They trusted her so much and as a result, they decided to consult Portugal immigration to determine if the document was authentic.
I didn’t know how long it was going to take but I figured it would take up to an hour or more.
“Mr. Solomon,” the police officer said as he read from the data page of my international passport, “we are going to check your documents, please stay here and have patience. It won’t take long.”
I nodded in agreement as if I had another option.
As I sat there, I wondered what Jennifer would be doing outside.
Had she called Johnson as I told her?
Was she still outside the airport hoping that I would come out soon?
After some moments, I decided to concentrate and face my own problems.
Thirty minutes later, they came out with my documents and handed it to me. They also apologised for wasting my time.
According to what I heard when they were talking, the police captain at the airport had checked the papers and certified it authentic without calling Lisbon. He had told them that the Portuguese seal on the back of the permit was real.
I walked outside the airport towards the taxi stand and saw Jennifer sitting on a chair with some white people. She was clutching her bag to protect herself from cold. We hadn’t prepared to sit out in the cold for long
I walked up and tapped her on the shoulder. She looked and jumped up at the same time. I walked past her immediately and motioned her to follow me. We entered a taxi and headed down into the city centre.
Inside the taxi, she wanted to say something but I cut her short with a motion of my hand. I told her that I wasn’t interested in talking to her. The taxi driver looked at me and then at her and decided not to interfere in our affairs.
We got to Zoologischer Garten area of Berlin and got down from the taxi. The prize meter in the taxi was running at an alarming rate. Since Berlin has one the best transport system in Europe, there was no need for wasting money on cabs.
I had known the city pretty well from my time as a drug dealer. It was the city where I had done most of my drug deals.
When the cab left, we walked down to the U-bahn, Berlin’s underground train line and boarded the U2 train heading towards AlexanderPlatz.
“What happened?” I asked Jennifer as soon as we settled in the train.
She ignored my question.
“First of all” I said, “We didn’t tell the immigration that we were together. They cleared you out of the airport to go and not to wait for me. What if they had decided to send me back to Portugal? What happened to the phone number I told you to call if anything happens to me?”
“That was what I wanted to tell you inside the taxi. I forgot that I gave you my phone when I wanted to go to the toilet inside the flight,” she said.
I put my hand inside my pocket and found her phone. It was switched off.
“How could we be so careless? You could have been stranded in Berlin.” I said, relieved
We stopped at the AlexanderPlatz station and joined U8 to Boddinstrasse station, got out of the underground and walked to the Akunne Afro shop along the FlughafenStrasse; the place where the name ‘Ozoigbondu’ originated.
When we entered the shop, people started jubilating.
Jennifer was surprised at how everybody hugged me. Some said they heard what happened to me before I ran to Portugal, while others said they knew and even placed bets that I would return to Berlin someday. Some who didn’t know who I was, stood and watched as I received a warm reception.
Ozoigbondu had returned and those who knew me very well believed that my return to Berlin would be a good thing for them.
News that I had returned to Germany spread fast among the Nigerians in the city. Everybody wanted to confirm if it was true. People called their friends who in turn, gave me their phones to talk to one person or the other.
Tony, my mentor and supplier back when I lived in Brandenburg heard the news too. I owed him €4000 worth of the last drugs he supplied to me before my quarters was invaded by the German Polizei. He had heard how police invaded our residence too. He drove to the Afro shop where we came to meet with me. He was very happy to see me again. He said he had forgotten the money I owed him and even gave me €500 to help me settle down quickly in Berlin.
After drinks and food at the Afro shop, I called my old friend Johnson and told him that I had returned and that I was in Berlin. He was in Brandenburg but promised to come and see me in the morning.
I called a cab and took Jennifer to a cheap hotel facing the Hermanplatz U-bahn station. As soon as we settled down, she began her Question & Answer session.
“Why were all those people so happy to see you?”
“Who are you exactly?”
“How come you are very popular in Berlin?”
“I heard them say you ran away, what did you do?”
She asked genuine questions but I wasn’t going to lay down my past to her in a hurry. She was supposed to be worried about her future in Germany not what I did in the past.
We ended up sleeping like enemies that night. It was what I needed anyway.
The following morning, Johnson came. He said he was going to come before 9am and he was punctual. He brought me one of my bags I left in his care before my quick exit from Germany. It was the very bag that contained my Smith & Wesson pistol. He never opened the bag.
After hugs and pleasantries, we settled down to business. One thing I liked about Johnson was his direct approach to things. He didn’t like small talk a lot.
“Since you left, the Arabs took over Brandenburg from the Africans,” he began.
“I tried to snatch it back from them but nobody was willing to help me. Because of my young German resident permit, I didn’t want to take many risks. Now that you have returned, we will find a way to change that” he said.
“I am not coming anywhere near Brandenburg soon,” I said, knowing that he expected that.
“I know, you will stay here in Berlin but we will find a way to take Brandenburg again” he replied.
A while after, he gave me fifteen thousand euros, the remainder of the money I left with him before going to Portugal.
When he left, I pondered over his proposal. It was good to go back to business but that was not what I had in mind. I had wanted to lay low for a while but after giving his proposals a thought; I decided to have a go at it.
According to Johnson, the major supplier in Brandenburg was Fadi, the Lebanese snitch who had informed the police that I hid drugs in a hole in the wall of my room. The police had opened the wall and found the drugs. It was my reason for running to Portugal in the first place. I liked Germany a lot, the people were very industrious. It was that love for Germany that had brought me back to the country.
I had thought about going to other countries. Austria was good but was the same as Germany. If I had gone to Austria, I would have started from scratch, which I wasn’t interested in doing. Switzerland was good too but they had refused to join the Euro zone. It made their borders very tight. I had figured that it was better to live in a country where I could easily sneak into the neighbouring country or countries. Europe was good at chasing immigrants all over the place. Italy was just an upgraded Portugal. The citizens had hijacked the drug business in the country. They wouldn’t hesitate to shoot you if one drug deal went wrong. Greece was full of empty islands where majority of Nigerians sold pirated copies of music and movies.
I also ruled out the entire Eastern Europe. Those areas had not been properly liberated from the Soviet Union. The Russians still held lots of grudges against them.
Scandinavia was the next best thing, except that I didn’t know people over there. Holland was it, but I had decided to go there after I had settled Jennifer down in Germany:
I hated France and Belgium. They were a very cunning set of people who would drink all day and party only to take the money you worked for.
As for England, it was a big ‘NO’ from day one. The continental United Kingdom had no borders with anybody. It was just a massive island. Even running from England to the Ireland peninsula was by sea or air. Running through sea was the slowest run on earth. Running through air was dangerous. The best was through road or rail, which was why I never wanted to travel to USA too.
As soon as Johnson brought up the issue of reclaiming Brandenburg from the Arabs, I knew that going to Holland was not close. However, the plot to reclaim Brandenburg wasn’t so difficult because there was already a motivating factor; Revenge.
Fadi, the yellow rat who told the Police where I kept my drugs was going to pay, since he was the leader and major supplier in Brandenburg, removing him out of the way would put fear into others. It would destabilize their ranks and operations. It was the perfect first thing to do…
But the big question was how do we remove Fadi? I was no longer living in Brandenburg. Operating from outside the city of Brandenburg an der Havel was going to be difficult. I needed to find a perfect way to handle the situation.
Then an idea came, a perfect idea.
When Johnson left, I went down to the kiosk near the entrance of the hotel where we lodged, I bought the current catalogue of ‘houses for rent’ in Berlin. I also bought two new T-Mobile sim cards and went back upstairs.
I scanned through the catalogue and found some houses in the area I wanted. The Neukoln area where we lodged had too many Nigerians. As a drug dealer, I didn’t need many Nigerians knowing where I lived and that was exactly what was going to happen if I chose to stay in that area. Since Neukoln was in the south, I decided to go to the Northern Berlin area called Pankow.
I called the owners of the first house, they said the electric heater got spoilt and would be repaired in a week’s time. When I called the second one, I was told it was a one-bedroom apartment. The cost was €400 per month. The next one on the catalogue was a 2-bedroom apartment. The price was €600 and that was the one I went for.
Since my Portuguese residence permit couldn’t be used to rent a house in Berlin, I called Akunne and he arranged for German documents to rent the house. I went to his shop and we drove to the office of the house agents. We paid for two months as the rent law demanded in Germany. Afterwards, I went back to the hotel and picked up my bags, then Jennifer and I hired a yellow cab and drove to the new apartment.
The apartment in Pankow was as they wrote in the catalogue. It was perched at the top of a three storey medieval styled house. It had two bed rooms and a sitting room, a bed in each of the two rooms, an electric heater in each room, a keller (an underground store at the base of every building in Germany), an electric cooking gas, a fridge, and a wardrobe.
We dropped our bags and went outside to the Aldi Super market along our street to shop. We bought two cooking pots, knives, some beers, spoons, rice and many more food items.
Towards the evening after eating scrambled eggs Jennifer had made, we went to the Electronic market in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin and bought a television set, a DVD player and some sci-fi movies called Stargate SG-1.
In the night, we watched movies and kissed. Jennifer was surprised at the massive structures and the beauty of Berlin. She confessed that Lisbon was a village compared to Berlin.
After the movies, we went to bed and discussed what was next for her. She admitted that she would very much love to stay with me in the house but I told her that the police would definitely stop her someday. Berlin is not a place where one escapes the police net for long. I wanted her out of the way too. Love was important but I was about to initiate a drug war with the Arabs. There could be stray bullets and victims. I didn’t want Jenny to be caught in the crossfire. It was true that I fearlessly dominated the Arabs during my days in Brandenburg but I had lost a lot of ground during my Portugal days. And now that there was someone in my care, I didn’t want to front myself like I did before.
“Baby, you are going to the asylum camp next week. I will begin to tell you a story on how you came to Europe and every other information you need to know” I firmly said.
She kept quiet. I kept quiet too, the point had been made and pursuing it at that moment could have caused unnecessary panic or anger, so I allowed it to sink.
The next morning, I called Johnson and asked him to get me Fadi’s phone number. He sent the number to me through text message a few minutes later.
I called Fadi. He was surprised to hear from me after months of absence. He talked about my disappearance from Brandenburg. He said he heard I had left Germany. I told him that I relocated to Berlin and upgraded my operations. I told him that I imported goods directly from Amsterdam and Eindhoven in the Netherlands. He was totally amazed. He complained about how dull business was in Brandenburg and wanted to know if I could fix him up with some Holland connections too. We agreed to meet in Savanna night club Berlin the following night.
I called Johnson back and told him that I was going to meet with Fadi the following night, and he warned me to be careful since Fadi had a gun. I heeded his advice but I knew Fadi wasn’t going to come to a Night Club with a weapon, though one can never rule out many possibilities in drug circle. As a precautionary measure, I called Fadi back and asked him to meet up with me at the McDonalds in Zoo Garten station; an open place where hundreds of people walked every given minute of the day and night.
I went outside and got a pen and exercise book. The asylum camp for Jennifer project was about to begin.
We started with names. I wrote everything down for her. Her name was to become Jennifer Ebot, a Camerounian from the Northwest province of Bamenda. Her father was a native doctor while her mother had joined the church with her two children Solomon and herself. During my own asylum interview, I had told the authorities I was from Bamenda and that my father was a native doctor. I had told them that my mother had joined the church with me and my younger sister.
I wrote down the names of our Rev. Father and every other information linking us up. I also told Jennifer to tell them that her brother had been taken away by the Rev. Father who later said that he had sent him abroad. We perfected the story and reviewed it over and over again.
According to our story, Jennifer was my younger sister whom I had told the Germans that disappeared with my mother back in Cameroun. She had run to a neighbouring country called Nigeria with my mother after the government forces had arrested our father.
They had lived in a church building in Warri, Nigeria until she met a white man who worked with an oil company. The oil worker had dated her for a few months and had promised to send her abroad. She had been taken to a large cargo ship some weeks later and had found herself in this strange country.
She had left the ship weeks later at a seaport which she had forgotten its name. She had followed a train which had stopped her in Berlin where she approached a police man who brought her to whichever asylum camp she would be going later. The plan was to make Jennifer approach the police in Berlin and start her story from there. Police were generally sympathetic to women. The laws of Germany protected women more than anything else.
When we finished the story, Jennifer was confident and happy. She thought it was fun.
If our plans work, the Germans would someday, link Jennifer up with me if they could find me. Their database would tell them that we were related. There would be a DNA test to confirm that but that would only happen if we didn’t recognize each other or if I had been given the German resident permit since it would mean a family re-union.
Solomon Ebot and Jennifer Ebot, who somehow came from the same Bansuo in Bamenda Cameroun, who also reported that the government forces had arrested their father could not be a mere coincidence.
It was a gamble worth taking. Not that I wanted it that much but I wanted Jennifer to have some kind of attachment to my existence in Germany. It would give her a massive sense of belonging too. It could help her later or it could destroy her asylum. It was a two edged sword.
The following afternoon, Fadi called and said he was on his way to Berlin with Anja, his newly acquired girlfriend. Drugs were the real deal. Those teenagers back in Brandenburg would follow you if you were generous with weeds.
We scheduled to meet in the evening at the McDonalds. I told Jennifer to get ready. We were partying in the night.
At around 6pm, we met at the McDonalds and ate together with our girlfriends.. An hour later, we walked into a quiet bar and talked. He said there was a rumour that he was the person who told the police about the drugs they found in my room but he denied it. He said he was going to tell me that it wasn’t him but I disappeared. He asked if I would return to Brandenburg and I told him that I wouldn’t. I told him that since I dealt with Holland, he should be buying from me instead of coming down to Brandenburg again. He was delighted that I wasn’t coming back to share his little kingdom. He even offered me €500 out of excitement; I took it as a truce and to erase all suspicions from his mind. He was jittery and I knew he was guilty of snitching.
Fadi wanted our business to start right away but I told him that I had supplied all my drugs. I promised to call him as soon as I returned from Amsterdam the following week. The reason was to give me enough time to move Jennifer to the asylum camp.
After our discussions, we proceeded to Savanna Club to dance Salsa.
The following days followed quietly. Jennifer studied her stories daily. She had settled properly in Berlin and admitted that she would have loved it so much if we just made Berlin our home and started creating kids; the problem however was that she was not legally recognized in Germany.
I on the other hand could declare myself to the police whenever I wanted. The worst they could do was to hold me in prison and wait for a new court date. It would also mean that my asylum status would be reinstated.
Some days after meeting with Fadi, I called a meeting of the Nigerians in Brandenburg. We met at a cybercafé and talked about Brandenburg. They complained that things went bad as soon as I left. They all agreed on my proposal of taking the city back from the Arabs. I asked them to give me one week to come up with a plan on how to achieve that.
When they left, Bolaji, a Yoruba man called me back. He was one of the people who had just finished meeting with me. He wanted to be the main recipient of my drugs since I had decided not to show up in Brandenburg. He wanted to be the boss after we must have ousted the Arabs, so he asked to meet with me again and I agreed. When we met again, he gave me two thousand euros as bribe. I had asked him Fadi’s room number and he had told me. He had also given me the phone number of the administrative office in the Brandenburg Heim where they all lived. Since he was the only one who came forward, I accepted to make him the major supplier down there in Brandenburg.
Some days later, Jennifer moved to Camp. I had taken her near a police station in the Mitte district of Berlin. She had walked into the station and declared that she was from Africa and was looking for the asylum Camp. I had seen her walked into the police post before disappeared. I wished her good luck and I knew I was going to miss her so much.
As I walked home, I flashed back to how we met. I almost shed tears for letting her go but sometimes, we must abandon what we want to do what is right.
The anger at Jennifer’s departure and the loneliness that followed spurred me into action. It was time to start executing my plans.
I bought two new phones and two sim cards. I called Nigeria and told my brother not to call me anytime soon. I told him that I would be calling him myself. If he had anything to tell me, he should go to the internet and send a mail.
I called Fadi the following day and informed him that I had returned from Holland. Before then, I called my old supplier in Berlin and bought a kilogram of hashes and weeds. I was going to sell them to Fadi, so I kept the drugs, and waited for him.
Fadi came to Berlin with Jimmy, an Arab from Morocco. We met at the AlexanderPlatz train station and proceeded to my apartment in Pankow. After pleasantries, we got down to business.
I had kept the highest quality of skunk weed for them, the irresistible type that everybody wanted. I told them that I dealt on the best qualities alone. Fadi was happy because he had seen where to be getting the best qualities, or so he thought.
I took them to my apartment because I wanted to build confidence in them. I knew it was a very bad move but I was not a tree planted in the apartment. In my world, it was necessary to build trust and confidence, no matter how little.
I had purchased one kilogram for €3800 and sold it to him for €4000. There wasn’t much gain in it but profit was not the motive.
I told him that in order to reduce the prices for him; he would be depositing some money so that I would be able to purchase larger quantities in Holland. He agreed but said he didn’t have much money with him. They paid for the drugs and deposited €2000 for the next supply.
Immediately after they left, I called Bolaji in Brandenburg and asked if Fadi was around in the Heim, and he said he wasn’t. I told him to call me when Fadi returned. I knew Fadi was still on the way but I wanted Bolaji to keep an eye on him when he returned.
I got a call from Bolaji an hour later announcing that Fadi had returned. He also said Fadi had told him to come to his room and get his own supply of a new arrival of the highest quality weeds. I told him not to go near Fadi. He wanted to know why but I cut the call.
I dialled the Heim administrative office and tipped them off. I told them that I was calling from inside the Heim and that I had seen Fadi with a bag of marijuana. They wanted my name and room number but I cut off the call. Then, I opened the phone and removed the sim card.
I called Bolaji with another phone and asked him to come to Berlin. I told him to leave Brandenburg before immediately.
An hour later, I met him at the Zoo train station. I told him that I planned to put Fadi to jail as soon as possible. I was still with Bolaji when he received a call from the Heim. The Police had invaded the Brandenburg Heim once again and had discovered some unknown quantity of drugs in Fadi’s room. They had taken Fadi away with them. Jimmy was not in the Heim when it happened. It seemed like the Arab community of Brandenburg had been hit by the German police and the drug supply route of Bratown as we called the city had been cut off once more.
Johnson called me later and said Fadi had been arrested and taken to the criminal police headquarters in Potsdam. He said that police had given Fadi warnings twice to stay away from drugs. This third arrest was surely going to put him behind the bars for long. Johnson told me not to worry about hitting Fadi again since the police had done the job for us. He didn’t know that it was a setup, a setup orchestrated by me.
I told Bolaji to go back to Brandenburg that evening. He wanted to sleep over in my apartment in Berlin but I wasn’t going to sleep there myself. Fadi could lead the cops to the place. Despite the fact that I removed every trace of drugs in my apartment, there was still the problem of living in Berlin with Portuguese papers. It wasn’t allowed.
I slept in a cheap hotel of twenty-five euros a night and the following day, I bought a new house-for-rent catalogue and found another apartment further up north in Pankow Berlin. It was a one bedroom apartment: the type I had always loved. I sent a Nigerian owned truck to get my properties from the old apartment to the new one, and I gave him my keys and told him to call me when he finished. He demanded for extra cash since he was going to do the loading and offloading by himself. I paid him well for the risks although he didn’t know there were some risks involved.
The Nigerian people in Berlin were always looking for new apartments but it had always been difficult for them due to the fact that they needed a resident permit to rent a place. I found two of such people two days later and handed the old apartment keys to them. I told them that I had paid for two months; one month rent and one month deposit as the law demanded. I asked them to continue the payment to the agents account from two weeks’ time. I didn’t ask them to give me anything and they were very happy. They went around telling people how I had given them my apartment and waived almost two months’ rent for them.
The drugs gates of Brandenburg had opened again and since I was not a member of that community anymore, it was left for the strongest to take. Bolaji, despite bribing me with €2000, could not control the traffic. He was too dull for such business. Jordan had stopped dealing, Tony had run to Spain, Chibuzo to London, and Filas to France. These were the people who had lived with me while I was in Brandenburg.
The new arrivals were too scared to touch a gram of marijuana let alone a kilogram. Johnson who would have been the ideal replacement was still busy trying not to stir up problems that could affect his young resident permit.
Looking at my finances in Berlin, I had close to €28,000 left with me. It was dangerous since anything could happen to it. I decided to buy a vehicle.
I searched ebay.de and found BMW X5 for €11000. I called them and travelled to Cologne to buy and bring the car to Berlin. I had hired a driver who went with me since I had no German Driver’s license. I sent the car down to Nigeria the following week.
Some days after Fadi was arrested, news started circulating in Brandenburg that I was the person who gave Fadi out to the police. Some believed it but some said I wasn’t even in Germany. From what I heard from Bolaji, Jimmy had started plotting his revenge. I was sure he had checked on my old apartment and maybe had been told I didn’t live there anymore.
Some days after Jennifer left, she called me from a pay phone. She said she had been posted to Bremen, a city in the Northern Germany. Bremen was only four hours away from Berlin. She was crying on the phone. She said life was boring up there in the Bremen camp and that they were not allowed to sleep outside the camp. She wanted me to visit her the following day but I told her that I didn’t have time.
I still had to lay claim to the Brandenburg drug kingdom. Removing Fadi was just half of the solution. Laying a claim to the city especially from outside the city was a huge task.
I told Jennifer to hold herself and remain there. It was only a matter of weeks before they transferred her to the permanent Heim, and then she could be able to return to Berlin and stay with me. I didn’t feel too bad about her condition up there in Bremen, I was sure there were other people in the same Camp. I missed her and wished she was with me but the events of the days that followed her departure were dangerous. She would have been asking a lot of questions which I didn’t want. For instance, she would have asked why the two Arabs came to our apartment or why I had to leave the apartment for another one less than two weeks after moving in. She was used to that kind of sudden relocation from me but she was the cause of the Portugal travails. She knew nothing about me in Berlin. She had only seen and heard people hugging and greeting me but she had no idea what I did in Berlin in the past.
She apparently wanted us to start living together and possibly starts producing little Hes and Shes, but I had other plans.
I decided to visit her in Bremen after one week but at that very moment, there was a war brewing in Brandenburg and I was one of the major actors. As a major actor in the 2A war (Arabs and Africans), I was supposed to be as close as possible to the war front.
After deliberating on Jennifer’s issues, I called Bolaji and asked him to get Jimmy’s mobile phone number for me. He said he had it since all of them buy from each other. He sent the number to me after a few minutes.
I called Jimmy. As soon as he found out it was me on the line, he started yelling. I allowed him to finish yelling and then asked him what happened.
I knew what happened. I was what happened but in the game of drug war but every other information was critically vital.
Jimmy said the police invaded the Brandenburg Heim and searched only Fadi’s room. He said it happened the very first time Fadi had bought drugs from me.
“It couldn’t have been a coincidence” he concluded.
I told him that I didn’t know what happened to Fadi but if he wanted war in Brandenburg, I would bring it down to him. He threatened to bring the police to my apartment in Berlin. He didn’t know that I had moved. What an amateur.
After the conversation with Jimmy, I knew that the Brandenburg drug war had just started. Fadi was just the starting point. There were four other Arabs who operated in Brandenburg. They were planning to get me out of the way but unfortunately for them, I didn’t live in Brandenburg and they didn’t know where I lived.
The events of Portugal had thought me not to be afraid in times of troubles. It had also thought me that when faced with danger, don’t panic; think.
Living alone in my apartment gave me time the I needed to think. The war between the Arabs and Nigerians had been declared. The looming war to take Brandenburg drug business was pointing towards defeat for me. The reasons ranged from being a wanted man by the German government, to living in a different city from the war zone. As a wanted man, my movements were limited. For instance, I was not expected to be seen alone in isolated areas at odd hours. The German police were very good at asking immigrants for papers every now and then. It was true that I had Portuguese permit but I needed a travel ticket to back it up. There were number of days I was expected to stay outside Portugal. The best option was to avoid being controlled by the Polizei.
I had wondered whether the war was worth it for me. Two things motivated me. It was to make money, enough money to travel to Nigeria. I needed to spend three months in Nigeria after circumstances had turned me into a machine. I needed to recover myself and become a human being again.
The second reason was money again. I wanted to go to Holland when I returned to Europe.
The drug business in Holland was different from that of Germany. Germany, like Switzerland, Austria, Italy and all the other European countries were retail outlets whereas Holland was the European capital of drugs. Holland was where all the drugs were being distributed. Spain followed closely because of its closeness to the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. As a result, one needed a lot of money before starting business in Holland. I needed money for that too.
I figured out that if I win the Brandenburg drug war, I would make enough money from supplying drugs down there. I had money in Nigeria but I had instructed my brother to purchase lands for me in Onitsha and Enugu. I had also asked him to inject some of the money in his business. Therefore I thought it wise to make more money to allow me live a free life anytime I visited Nigeria. All in all, I needed to make more money before going to Nigeria. I wanted to impress girls, my friends and so on. Despite everything that happened to me from 2002 when I arrived in Europe and 2006 when I returned from Portugal to Germany, I was still twenty-five years old. I was still within the age limit where money was all that mattered.
That and other small reasons motivated me to get ready for the war. Another reason was that the Arabs had declared me wanted. If I had started running, it could mean Portugal all over again. I may not be lucky this time, it would be only a matter of time before I ran into them and that would be the end of me. Those Arabs didn’t see killing people as big deal; therefore the best option was to take the war down to them. If I lost, it would mean that at least I tried.
First things first, I called Bolaji to get me all the phone numbers of the remaining three men that made up the Arab Brigade in Brandenburg. I already had that of Fadi, who was cooling off in the police net in Potsdam and that of Moroccan Jimmy, who had assumed the leadership. Bolaji promised to get the numbers the following day.
I called Johnson and told him to stop dealing or stop going close to the Heim. He said that we could take control of the Heim again since Fadi was out of the way. I told him that if we were to take control of the Heim that way, the Arabs may regroup someday and fight back. The best option was to crush them totally. I also reminded Johnson that we were able to have that fighting chance because the Arabs hadn’t been able to crush the Nigerians totally when I left the Heim. He understood, but also admitted that he had no idea how I was going to do that. It was then that I told him what I did to Fadi. He was shocked. He thought he knew me but a few months in Portugal had turned me into a mean thinking robot.
The following day, I was watching the sci-fi movie Stargate SG-1, when my phone rang. I didn’t bother to check who the caller was; the movie had gotten to a stage where aliens had kidnapped Jack O’neill, my favourite character. He was being dragged into their domain while Teal’c and Major Samantha Carter plotted how to rescue him. The caller could wait.
The ringing phone fell silent and started ringing immediately. That got my attention. When I checked, it was Bolaji. He had collected the phone numbers of the remaining three Arabs.
I thanked him, stopped the movie and went outside. I headed to a second-hand phone shop and bought four Nokia 3310 phones and three sim cards from different network providers; Vodafone, O2 and T-mobile.
Back in my room, I opened my bag and found two of the sim cards I had used while living in Brandenburg. There were inside the bag I had left with Johnson. I searched through one of the old sim cards and found who I was looking for; Marko.
Marko was the young man who had purchased my pistol gun for me. I called him.
“Hey Milla, you back again, wow! Where are you?” he shouted as soon as he found out it was me.
“I am in Berlin, Marko” I responded.
He was very happy to hear from me. I invited him to Berlin the following day and he agreed to come.
“Brandenburg changed when you left. We heard police arrested you but we were not sure. Fadi had been giving us marijuana but sometimes he sold rubbish to us,” Marko announced as soon as we settled down in Irish Pub Zoologischer Garten Berlin. He had brought two bottles of Johnny Walker for me as a goodwill gesture.
Since he had started complaining about Fadi in a bad way, I figured it was good for me.
“Marko, I want to return to Brandenburg but I am afraid” I began.
I went on and told him that Jimmy threatened to kill me if I returned to Brandenburg. I also told him that the other Arabs were all involved in the plot to kill me if I returned.
When I finished, he was exactly what I wanted him to be; very angry. He was a citizen of Brandenburg, born and raised there and had lived there all his life. He was really annoyed to hear that the Arabs threatened to kill anybody in his little domain.
I asked him what we should do about it, he said he was going to tell his group back in Brandenburg first, and then they would decide how to handle the situation. I thanked him and took him near my apartment and asked him to wait for me in a kiosk near the U-bahn. I went to my apartment and dropped the whiskey he had given me.
I packaged fifty grams of weed worth €200 and gave him. I told him what it was and he was very happy. He promised to call me that evening as I walked him down to the Pankow U-bahn station. He left and went back to Brandenburg his home, his city.
As I had nothing else to do that day, I went to the Afro shop, the Nigerian rendezvous joint. The usual suspects were there drinking as usual and arguing about Manchester United, Chelsea FC, Barcelona FC and other Top European football clubs. I demanded for Semo and Egusi soup. It was brought to me by Chi Chi, a beautiful young girl from Onitsha. Akunne, the owner of the shop had brought a new girl.
I paid close attention as men made advances towards her. Irrespective of her facial qualities, she was going to be fat. The signs were all over her body. A man who was on the run didn’t need such girls. They could weigh you down. I decided I wouldn’t try anything. She smiled each time she passed in front of me. She flashed her white spotless teeth every time she wanted to say something. I guess she must have heard about Ozoigbondu. I decided not to buy anything for anybody that day.
The absence of Jennifer had started to tell on me. I had started missing her more and more as the days went by. Sometimes I wondered what she was doing. Was she sleeping with another guy, that inevitable question tormented me every other day. I had become jealous about her. Maybe because of the bond created between us by our troubles back in Portugal. It would have been easier to manage if I was talking to her but the absence of communication between us wasn’t helping matters. I wanted to go to Bremen as soon as I had time but I still needed her to call me first.
The call came the following day after midday. She had gotten an interview date. It would be in three weeks’ time. The Bremen system wasn’t the same as that of Eisenhuttenstadt where I had done my own camping. The news from Bremen was that people spent as much as six months up there in the camp before being posted. Back in Eisenhuttenstadt, the maximum time was two months.
Jennifer said she was missing me. She told me about how men were disturbing her every day. She also said she rejected all of them but I wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t her fault but human hearts had a way of misunderstanding the simplest issues.
The summary of the whole thing was that we were gradually drifting apart. She was not in my long term plan anyway. The way I had planned to go to Nigeria, and Holland afterwards didn’t have any provisions for Jennifer or any woman for that matter.
I couldn’t take her to Nigeria. I was going home alone to rest and return to humanity. The presence of Jennifer around me could hinder that prospect. On the other hand, I wasn’t going to take her to Holland when I returned to Europe because I was going to Holland to deal on the class A drugs; the cocaine. There wasn’t going to be rooms for romance.
I shut down my mind and slept afterwards. Jennifer’s issues could wait. Besides I had tried for her. I had risked my life and fought Madam Grace on her behalf. I had fought Olokun and some other forest gods just because of her. I was created for many things but dying for love wasn’t one of them.
Marko called me late in the evening and said he had made plans on how to deal with Jimmy. He said the boys down in Brandenburg wanted me back. He had given them some of the weed I gave him and they were rearing to go hard on Jimmy and the rest of the Arab brigade. I closed my eyes and slept again.
It was time to have patience.
February 2006 was already on the radar. The cold was at its peak in North Eastern Germany where Berlin and Brandenburg were located. People hardly went outside unless there was something very important to attend to. I stayed inside most of the days as well. Johnson had brought my PS 2 game console for me. I would stay in bed and play whenever I wasn’t on thinking mode.
Report from Brandenburg was that the drug supply had decreased. One gram of weed was being sold at €10 euro instead of the normal price of €8.
One cold early morning of early February, I received a call from Bolaji. Johnson was also on the line at the same time but I decided to talk to Bolaji first.
“Bolaji, what is it?” I asked immediately the call connected.
‘It is Jimmy!” he announced. He sounded very excited.
I asked him what happened with Jimmy.
“He has been beaten by some unknown Germans!!” he reported.
Bolaji went on to tell me how they had beaten Jimmy to a pulp and even broke his arm.
“He is on bandages and plasters,” he added.
According to Bolaji, some young Germans had rounded Jimmy across the bridge on the other side of the Canal the previous night. They had asked him to hand over his drugs to them which he refused. They had then proceeded to beat him blue and black and took the drugs by force. He wasn’t able to get up until an old man who was passing on the road called the police.
The police had come with the ambulance and he had been rushed to the hospital for treatment. He had returned the following morning.
When I called Johnson, he had a different version of the story. According to him, Jimmy had gone to the bush across the bridge in the night to hide his drugs; some German boys had seen him and demanded for the drugs. He had refused and had pulled a gun on them. Unfortunately for him, the Germans had guns as well. They had overpowered him and gave him the beating of his life. He had called the Police and was unable to identify the boys. He said that Jimmy has been walking around telling people that it was a setup from the Africans. Johnson asked if I had a hand in it, I denied. I didn’t want to scare my African brothers as well.
There were other versions of the story but the truth had come from Marko, the principal actor of the beating. They had waited for Jimmy around the Heim for days but each time, he had managed to slip past their net until that very night.
One of them had called him to bring weed across the bridge. He had gone there alone that night and they had surrounded him. They had beaten him and told him to leave town or they would kill him. Marko also said that Jimmy had promised to stop dealing. They had told him that they wanted to take control of the business in their city. It was their city and not some desert in Morocco or Arabian sands.
The following days, Jimmy had remained inside the Heim. No one saw him outside.
Among the remaining three Arabs, two of them lived outside the Heim but in the same Brandenburg city. Marko promised to trace where they lived and hit them too.
I warned him to lay low until the shock wave caused by Jimmy’s beating passed away. Those German kids always acted on impulse. I guessed it was because they were in their village, town and city. The worst police could do to them was just to lock them up for a few hours and release them. Unlike the Africans, Going to police cells wasn’t a big deal for them. They even committed petty offences intentionally just to go to cells sometimes.
Three days passed without any Arab seen with drugs around the Heim. Fear had gotten into them. I called Jimmy on that third day and told him what I heard. He said he would find out the people who did that to him. I laughed loud on the phone and told him to get ready for the next stage. He was shocked to find out that I was involved.
As usual, he threatened to go to the police and tell them about me.
“Jimmy, I don’t live in Germany anymore, I am a visitor and I changed my name,” I told him.
I also made him understand that he would never find me but that I would make sure that they left Brandenburg.
One by one, I called the remaining Arab dealers in Brandenburg. I would first of all introduce myself on the phone, and then the desert rats would start ranting until they get tired. I would then tell them to either stop going close to sell drugs in the Heim or wait for their own attacks. I called three of them and told them the same things.
The German police were very good at detecting where phone calls originated from; therefore I had boarded a train and drove over 100km east of Berlin to Frankfurt Oder just to make the calls. After the calls I had boarded another train to Berlin and left the phone inside a waste basket on the Magdeburg bound train west of Berlin. I had wiped the Nokia 3310 clean with my handkerchief.
Bolaji was getting too excited. Jimmy had suspected his involvement in what happened to him but he had no evidence. The children of Brandenburg had started throwing stones on top the roofs of the Heim to register their dissatisfaction on the low supply of marijuana. After what happened to Jimmy, every dealer in the Heim was still scared to venture outside. Despite working with Bolaji, I never revealed all my plans to him. He was a loud mouthed coward who would squeal at any slight torture or threat. Johnson was the only dealer who was courageous enough to show his face in the streets but he maintained his selected few people who bought from him.
I called Marko to come to Berlin again. It was time to take over the Brandenburg properly.
After shipping my BMW X5 down to Nigeria, I had about €15,000 left with me. I called my supplier and bought 2kg of marijuana. I invited Marko and Bolaji to come to Berlin.
I told Bolaji to come with money. I gave him 600g and asked him to go and start distributing them to the new African arrivals in Brandenburg.
He was scared of the quantity. He was used to buying 100g at a time. I tried to make him understand that 600g was just 100g multiplied by 6. It was all about mathematics but he was still scared. He agreed to take 200g at most. With the level of his fear, I figured he could throw the stuff away at the sight of the first police uniform, therefore I agreed to his 200g at-a-time proposal. The only problem was that I didn’t want frequent visits to my apartment. It was bad for security.
He paid for the 600g and took 200g.
Marko came two hours later. I lectured him on how to deal on large quantities. He had never been a dealer, he was just a smoker, but I figured that if I could train him properly, he could be a very important retail outlet for my syndicate. There was also the issue of trust but in the game of drugs, there was a very large room for trust and risks. If one was not willing to take risks or trust his partners, he would be limited to his dealings.
I lectured him for hours on the security of the drugs and himself. I laid down the laws of a drug dealer from number one to number ten. I asked him questions between the lectures and when I was satisfied that he could handle the business, I gave him 100g to start with.
Three hours after Marko left my place; he called me and said that he had finished selling the 100g I gave him. He wanted to return to Berlin for more but I told him to wait until the following day. He was on a speed mode and that was bad for drug business. Avoidable mistakes usually occur when a dealer wanted to sell everything to everybody in a very short period.
When he returned to Berlin the following day, He returned the money for the 100g he had sold.
I gave it to him at €400 but he sold it at €8 per gram as I had instructed. He made €400 profit in one day. He was very excited and told me that he went to the local night club with his girlfriend. Money had come and the good news was that the source of the money was a solid one.
I gave him 200g and told him not to return to Berlin until three days. He got home and sold the whole stuff in one day again.
The advantage he had was that most of the smokers in Brandenburg knew each other. It was the same thing everywhere in the world. All he needed to do was to call his friends and tell them that he had weeds for sale.
He even told me that some of his friends bought from him only to go and sell at a higher price to their own groups. That was exactly what I wanted.
The business chain was gradually increasing, which was why I wanted Marko to slow down a bit. I knew the police would catch him someday but I hoped I would have made a lot of money from him before then.
Bolaji on the other hand, was being cautious in his dealings in the Heim. He was afraid of the Arabs and naturally afraid of the cops. He finished his 200g in three days and returned for more.
I called Johnson and told him that I had some stuff too. He visited Berlin and took 700g. He wanted to be the semi boss down there in Brandenburg. In one week, I had distributed the 2kg and made over €1000. It wasn’t much but it was a good beginning. Ozoigbondu had returned to business.
A week later I rented another apartment. The frequent visits to my place were becoming dangerous. Every German citizen was a police spy. They would call the police if they suspected any unusual activities.
I had hoped that my Jennifer would return someday soon and it wouldn’t be such a good idea to introduce her to drug business.
Money had started coming again and it was a welcomed development. I had done a great job in avoiding Nigerians monitoring my movement. Whenever there was nothing to do, I would go to the shipping company owned by a Nigerian and join them to load fridges, spare parts and other African bound items. I would struggle with the others to make sure that we shared everything equally. Rumour was flying around that Ozoigbondu had no money anymore; some said that I had squandered my whole money in Portugal. Some said that Jennifer ran away with my money. I enjoyed the rumours because it made them stop asking for money from me.
Brandenburg was surrounded by other towns such as Rathenow, Stendal, Nauen and Tangermunde. It was time to expand my business empire. I started visiting those satellite towns one after the other.
At Rathenow, I met with a Nigerian called Allen. Allen was an Igbo man but a Liberian in Germany. He had been looking to join the marijuana business in the town but the Arabs wouldn’t let him. They didn’t want to give him weeds to sell and he didn’t know where to get them. When I arrived in Rathenow and asked for the Heim. I was directed to the Heim and introduced to Allen. Afterwards, I took him out into the town centre and bought him a good meal and drinks. There, I told him that he could compete with the Arabs and even outsmart them if he had the desire to do that.
After our meal, we walked to a nearby school where boys and girls were playing some sport games. We called two boys and asked them where we could buy weed. They told us to go to the Heim and meet some Arab man.
We eventually told them that Allen was the new dealer in town and that he had the best weed and sold at a cheaper rate, and we gave them Allen’s phone number.
Afterwards I took Allen back with me to Berlin and lectured him on how to start the business. I gave him 50g as a beginner. He called two days later and said he had sold them off. He came to Berlin for more., and that was how Allen started his business. In less than two weeks, the Rathenow outlet had started buying 400g from me at a time.
I also did the same thing in Stendal. Joe, the man I met in Stendal had turned a born again Christian out of frustration. He had been posted out of the asylum camp to the Stendal Heim but unfortunately, he knew nobody anywhere in Germany. He could have run away from the town like the other Africans had done but he stayed back in Stendal because there was nowhere to go. When I visited him, I was became the messiah he had been praying for. I also took him back to Berlin with me out of pity and lectured him on how to deal in weed.
There was a very large park called Hessenheide Park in Neukoln area of Berlin. The large park was where many Africans and Arabs sold drugs in Berlin.
I took Joe to the park and introduced him to the business. I handed him over to Chuma, another one of my retailers, to teach him the ropes. I welcomed him to stay with me pending when Madam Jennifer, the undisputed landlady would return from camp. That was how Joe started living with me.
My visit to Nauen was different. There was drug war already going on in the town before my arrival. It was similar to what happened between Africans and Arabs back in Brandenburg. The Blacks seemed to have upper hands but the resilient Arabs were ready for blood anytime. I decided that it would be dangerous to invest in that area.
At Tangermunde, there was no asylum Heim. The black man I met there was the most fearful man I had ever met in Germany. He told me never to even mention marijuana in the city again. He said the police had a way of hearing even the smallest whispers. He was also superstitious to the core. He worked in some vegetable farm.
I left him and returned to Berlin
A week after I had ended my empire expansion, I travelled to Bremen to see Jennifer. She didn’t know that I was coming. When I got close to the camp, I asked a lady to call her outside for me. The lady told me to go to a nearby park where people played. I came along with a rose flower I had bought for her. As soon as I entered the park, I saw some group of Africans playing football match. It was Nigeria versus Cameroun. I asked a man where I could find Jennifer.
He pointed towards a small wood cabin and said she went there with Emmanuel. I wanted to ask who Emmanuel was but on second thoughts, I decided to find out on my own. I walked to the cabin and to my greatest surprise; I saw Jennifer half naked, kissing a man.
“Hi baby girl, having a nice time?” I asked jeeringly. They both scrambled back into their cloths.
“You don’t respect people’s privacy!” Emmanuel shouted. His accent was Swahili; Kenyan, Ugandan or Rwandese.
I threw the flower in my hand down at their feet and turned back. Tears were already flooding my eyes but I didn’t want her to see me cry. She didn’t deserve my tears anymore. I was supposed to be her hero, not a weeping boy.
I left them and walked back to the field in the park where the football match was going on.
My heartbeat had increased. It was difficult to concentrate on the match or even on anything. I was doing a hard job trying to control my heartbreak and anger. It was difficult for me to stay there; therefore I walked out of the park to the road and boarded a bus back to the Bremen Central train station. The ICE (Inter City Express) train going to Berlin was coming in twenty minutes. I sat down on the metal chair on platform 6 where the train would stop and waited. Ten minutes later, Jennifer came and stood in front of me. She was crying. The Emmanuel guy followed her to the station but kept his distance from us.
Jennifer cried and talked at the same time. She was blaming devil for what happened. I wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying. I was thinking about where else to go from there since I had also wanted to visit the Heims in Bremen to see if I could open up a business in any of them. It was obvious that I couldn’t negotiate any business in my state of mind; I just had to go back to Berlin.
The train arrived twenty minutes late. I stood up and entered the train without saying a word to Jennifer. She had been begging and promising that it would never happen again. I didn’t care. I wanted to leave Bremen and that was what I did.
I got back to Berlin and pondered over what happened in Bremen. It was like a movie. I wished it never happened, I wished I never went to Bremen. I wanted the whole thing to become a dream. I just wanted to wake up and smile but when I pinched my skin, it hurt me. It wasn’t a dream.
I had planned to spend three days in Bremen going around looking for Heims where I could convince people to start buying from me. I had planned to take Jennifer out on each day and shop for her too. I had travelled to Bremen with €1000 because I wanted to spend €500 on her, €200 on hotels and the rest on transport, food and other miscellaneous expenses.
Back in my room, I sat on the bed for hours and shed tears.
Joe was concerned. He had left for Hessenheide Park to sell weed and when he returned, I was still on the bed. My phone rang for hours but I didn’t touch it. I didn’t want to talk to anybody.
I just lay there on the bed and reflected on the journey and the circumstances that brought Jennifer and I together, the things we had been through together, the things we had done together, the sweet kisses, yea the same lips I saw on Emmanuel’s mouth.
It was so painful to leave her in Bremen the way I did but that was a better option than beating her.
Around 9pm in the night, I remembered that I had not eaten anything the whole day. I got up and went to the kitchen to warm rice in the Microwave. My phone started ringing again and I decided to pick it. It was Marko. He had been calling since afternoon according to him. He had gotten a business deal to supply a kilogram of weed to a neighbouring town called Gross Kreutz. He was expanding our empire, which in itself was good news but the event in Bremen suppressed every other thing.
I asked him to come in the morning. It was time to go back to business. Pushing Jennifer to the back of my thoughts was the most difficult thing I ever did. Forgiving her wasn’t going to be the problem. The problem was how to erase that scene I had witnessed up there in Bremen. The only way to feel better at that moment was to decide on what to do about Jennifer.
I scrolled down the list of missed calls on my phone: Marko- eight, Bolaji- six, Johnson- one, Joe- two, Allen- three, unknown number- fifteen.
I figured the unknown number must have been from Jennifer. Why was she calling me? What was she going to say? That it was the devil, of course. Yeah, blame it on the devil.
What a shame, she couldn’t even wait until they got back into the camp. I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t see them, I wouldn’t have known anyway but I had caught them. I wouldn’t have believed if someone else told me.
Her pullover had been removed entirely, her bra had been shifted to expose one of her breasts, and Emmanuel had removed his pullover too. It was only a matter of time before the trousers hit the floor.
My little angel had committed an offence that was very difficult to forget and instead of holding myself down with the thought, I decided to terminate the relationship. Yes, it was goodbye Jennifer and when I leave something, I hardly go back to it. I had never touched any other woman since she made her entry into my life. I had loved her like nothing else. I had been preparing the new apartment for her return. I had bought a big bag and stuffed it with ladies shoes and cloths. It was going to be her surprise gift when she moved out of camp.
I opened my phone and removed the sim card. I inserted a new sim card and called my business partners to inform them of the new number. That was the end of Jennifer Ebot.
Unfortunately for her, she didn’t know where I lived.
During the days that followed my trip to Bremen, I stayed indoors. Nothing seemed to be able to remove my mind from what happened. It was difficult to eat. I blamed myself for my actions over what happened. I was weak and a part of me wanted to reach out to Jennifer again. I wanted to run back to Bremen and beg her on my knees; I wanted to hold her in my arms again like I used to do. I wanted to carry her on my back like I used to do, I wanted her to hold my hand in the street and wave it like she used to do but the reality was that it was going to be difficult to welcome her back. There was no guarantee that she wouldn’t do it again or that she had not already been doing it. I knew she would be trying to get me on the phone.
To ease my pains, I decided to go out and play with women again. It was time to open up my heart to someone else. I had to move on with my life.
I decided to start with Chichi, the young lady serving food at the Afro shop. I visited their shop one afternoon and saw her sitting on a man’s lap. People were still at work, she was alone with the man. They even pretended not to have noticed me. The girl just smiled, asked what I wanted and remained where she was. I smiled and waved her never to mind what I wanted and walked out of the shop. That incident didn’t concern me a lot. The only attachment to the event was that I had hoped to make a move on her. She didn’t belong to me anyway.
I walked to a cyber cafe across the street and bought an hour’s voucher. I checked my email and saw about five new mails.
One was from Agnes. She had heard that I was back in Berlin but couldn’t find my phone number. She wanted us to meet again. She added a church address where she worshiped with many Nigerians every Sunday. I replied the mail and told her that I would visit the church on the next Sunday.
The second mail was from a shoe company which I had contacted to see if they could be producing shoes at cheap rates for me. I wanted to be sending them down to Nigeria. They wrote that the least they could charge for a pair of shoes was €39 if I could order for 10 dozens at a time. I replied and told them that I would visit their office as soon as possible.
The third mail was from scammers. The sender claimed to live in London. He requested I send him my contact details including my bank account so that he would send two million dollars into the account which we would share later. I replied and sent him my Savannah bank account number back in Nigeria. The Savannah bank had folded up some weeks before I left Nigeria. I had about two hundred thousand naira in the account.
The rest of the mails were spams so I just deleted them and played with Ms Office. I had just discovered that wonderful application but I didn’t know how to use it. I wanted to learn it but hadn’t yet found someone who would teach me.
Then, my phone rang. It was an unknown number. I hardly answered such calls but since I was bored, I picked it.
“Baby please, I want to say something.” It was Jennifer.
“How did you get this number?” I asked.
“Johnson your friend gave it to me” she said.
I remembered that I did not tell Johnson what happened between us. I also remembered that I had given her Johnson’s phone number the day we left Portugal. She had almost gotten stranded at the Tegel airport Berlin because she had left her phone with me. As a result, I had told her to memorize Johnson’s number and that of my elder brother in Nigeria.
“What can I do for you, Jennifer?” I asked.
She started crying on the phone. It touched me to hear her cry; therefore I cut off the call. She called back ten minutes later and I answered again.
She begged for forgiveness. She claimed it was the first time. She said she had nobody else in Germany except me and didn’t know what to do when she got out of camp.
“You know what you were doing in Lisbon Jennifer, go back to it. Bremen is a big city, I am sure there are thousands of men who would want to sleep with you. You are a beautiful girl, men like to sleep with beautiful girls.” I said.
She kept quiet as I continued.
“If you have something important to tell me, please say it. I am going to change this phone number as soon as we finish talking. I am also going to ask Johnson not to give you the new number” I continued.
She cried as I reminded her where I had picked her up, how I was nearly killed in Portugal because of her. How I had brought her to Germany and made up stories to help her asylum.
I had wanted her to go to school in Berlin. The system allowed people under the age of sixteen to attend language schools and if the person did well, she could be allowed to attend higher schools. As a result, I had told her to use sixteen years as her age.
I was going to pay for her fees if she got admitted.
When we finished talking, I decided not to change the phone number. I knew she would be calling but the decision to take the calls was mine. I pitied the teenage girl. She obviously didn’t think about the repercussions of what she was doing. She didn’t think that I could visit Bremen unannounced.
As soon as I left the Cyber cafe, Marko called. It was time for business again.
The Arabs had run away from Brandenburg. Jimmy was rumoured to have left the city entirely to a place unknown. The other three stopped going to the Heim as well. The kingdom had been reclaimed by the Africans. The only problem was that it was still vulnerable since nobody was strong enough to lay maximum claim to it.
Bolaji was contented with the peanuts he was making. Johnson would have claimed it but he was married to a white lady and they lived together two kilometers away from Heim. The new arrivals were still too scared to touch drugs. Marko and his gang didn’t live in the Heim. They operated from within the city. The Guineans were encroaching. Abu and Biggie were their leaders.
Abu was a Guinean Fulani man who had lived in Cambodia before making it to Germany. Biggie was a fat Guinean too who wasn’t interested in anything that could result to a fight or trouble.
Both of them had heard that I had returned to Germany and that I was responsible for the demise of the Arab brigade, but they didn’t know if it was true or false.
Since there was no one ready to take over the Heim, I decided to make a brief appearance in the city. I figured that my appearance would scare the Guineans away for a while.
It was on a Sunday, a day I figured that the police wouldn’t be at work with full squad. I had called my supplier and informed him that I wanted to show my face there and he agreed to go with me. He had acquired a new BMW 120d.
I called Johnson and told him we were coming. I told him to find a way to get the two Guineans outside by 2pm. I wanted them to see me and know that I was really in town.
We entered Brandenburg some few minutes before 2pm. We drove past the small field where weed were being sold. Johnson and the two Guineans were there. Abu rushed to sell weeds to us hoping that we were some white guys who had come to buy drugs. As soon as he saw me, he shouted ‘Millaaaaa!’ He was excited but I didn’t laugh. I just squeezed my face as if we had problems before. He called Biggie to come see me.
Biggie had greeted me with a handshake, but I didn’t alight from the car. I sat there for a few minutes chatting with anybody who came to greet me. There were a few new faces whom I had not seen before. They came one after the other to say hello.
One of them looked tough. He didn’t bother to greet me. He just passed there and looked at us suspiciously. When we were about to go, I called him. He was reluctant to come but when he eventually showed up, I asked him to come inside the car.
His name was Peter. He was a Nigerian too, an Igbo man. He had been posted a few weeks back but found it so hard to get weed to sell. He was ready to deal on drugs but had no money to start. Everybody was scared to give him weed on credit. He had some massive biceps and would beat any other person in the Heim hands down in a fight.
I asked him how the business was going. He said didn’t have to tell me anything. After several attempts to get his ego down to the level wanted, I told him to call me the next day so we could talk again. He said I should be the one to call him since he looked older than me. I took his phone number before we left the city.
Peter came to Berlin a day after I visited Brandenburg. He had never been to that large city prior to that day. I picked him up at the AlexanderPlatz train station and took him to a restaurant. We ate a decent chinese meal and went to my hospital. (I had given my old apartment a new name, “The hospital” since that was where I packed all my drugs).
When we entered the apartment, I brought down a bag and opened it. Peter was shocked at the quantity of marijuana and hashes he saw. He wanted to jump and run at the sight of my gun too. I told him to relax. He wanted drugs and he had seen it.
“Do you have enough mind to take charge of Brandenburg drug supply?” I asked him. He shook his head indicating ‘no’.
“Why were you claiming to be tough when I visited there yesterday?” I asked.
He kept quiet. His eyes were fixed on the silver loaded gun.
“Don’t be afraid, drug business is never done by muscles. It is done by truthfulness and strength of mind. I am going to give you 50g of weeds to sell because I know you don’t have money yet.” I said.
His concentration was still at the gun. I picked up the gun and removed the safety latch. His eyes bulged. He was sitting on the sofa opposite me. My centre table separated us. If he had wanted to jump at me, the table would have been a huge obstacle.
“Like I said, I will give you 50g now. You will sell them, bring the money back to me and take more. You will continue that way until you have enough money to start on your own,” I lectured pointing the gun to the floor.
He thanked me but said the police would catch him in the train with the drugs. He asked if I could bring the drugs down to him in Brandenburg. I laughed.
I needed him to be very strong. There was no way I could achieve that if I baby-sat him.
“Pay attention Peter,” I instructed, “you will take this drug, hide it in your pants and go back to Brandenburg. That is what others do. Police cannot catch you because they don’t know what you have with you. You don’t really have many options. I was in Brandenburg from 2002 to October 2005. I was the leader there. I made money there too. I am the person who Sent Fadi to prison, and I am also the person who beat Jimmy and chased the Arabs away. I did all those things because I wanted the Heim to go back to the hands of Nigerians. I don’t live in Brandenburg again, that is why I want you to take charge of the Heim for me. You are going to become rich in just one year if you follow my instructions but if you don’t follow my instructions, you better run away from Brandenburg like the Arabs did,” I finished, while watching his reactions.
He was totally devastated. He could have made for the door if not that I was holding a gun in my right hand.
After over 30 minutes of trying to convince him, he agreed to take the drugs, but wanted me to follow him to the last train down to Brandenburg.
I took him to the station and showed him how and where the Brandenburg trains loaded up. I left him there and hoped that he didn’t throw the stuff away on the road.
As soon as I got home, Jennifer called. She was having her interview the next day and wanted me to pray for her. I told her to stop calling me. I cut off the line before she started her latest trademark of crying.
Peter called an hour after he left. He had safely transported 50g of weed from Berlin to Brandenburg, a journey of 35 to 40 minutes. He wanted praises from me.
“Look Peter, don’t call my phone again until you finish selling the goods” I said and hung up.
I left the ‘hospital’ and went to Akunne’s Afro shop. It was in the afternoon. Chichi was there as I expected. Her Romeo who had been carrying her on his laps the other time was not around. Akunne was not around too. Everybody had left for work except Ozoigbondu.
“Why don’t you go to work like others?” Chichi asked.
“I was sacked from my place of work? Do you have another one for me?” I joked.
She took it serious.
She said there was a restaurant that wanted two workers to work as dish washers. The pay was going to be €210 every week. She said she would do me a favour and call the manager to find out if the job was still available. I thanked her and asked for a bottle of Jack Daniel.
I was half way through my first glass when four police officers busted into the Afro shop.
“Ausweis bitte? (Passport please)” the only lady among them asked. I kept quiet and pretended not to understand German.
I spoke Igbo to Chichi and told her never to tell them that she knew me.
The lady police came a bit forward and repeated what she said earlier.
“O que e isso? (what is it?)” I asked her in Portuguese. I gambled with the fact that they may not know how to speak Portuguese and it worked. I didn’t even know Portuguese. I only knew a few commonly used sentences and words such as ‘Thank you, how are you, what is it’
The smart lady police asked me what language it was; the problem was that she spoke German again.
I demonstrated with my hand that I didn’t understand her too. It was amusing but I kept my straight face.
“Do you speak English?” she asked.
I nodded in the affirmative.
“Your passport, give me your passport please” she said with a suspicious smile on her face.
“Oh, my passport” I said with a smile as I dipped my hand inside my pocket and brought out my Green Nigerian Passport. I removed my resident permit card and handed it over to her.
She flipped through the pages and found no visa.
” Visum, visa,” she said.
I handed her the resident permit and kept my gaze on her face.
“When did you come to Germany?” she asked.
“Today” I replied.
“Do you have your travel ticket with you?” she asked.
“No, I threw it away, they told me that I can’t use it twice,” I responded, switching to dumb novice mode.
She handed my permit to another police officer with large stomach who scrutinized it with a kind of detective lens.
“How did you come to Berlin?” She asked.
“Flight, I came with Berlin Air” I said.
“Air Berlin” she corrected me.
I knew it was Air Berlin but in my attempt to play the dumb guy, I had decided to twist everything.
Two minutes later, the fat police spoke to the lady officer. He told her that he couldn’t detect any fault on the permit. The lady also said that she thought my passport was genuine. They spoke in German.
They handed my passport and permit over to me and left.
Chichi was scared. She thought the police were going to take me away. I asked her why she thought so; she said that Akunne had told her that I had run away from Germany before.
Ten minutes later, another set of two Police officers showed up in the shop. They came with a picture of a policeman. They told us that the policeman had been shot in Hessenheide Park by two Arab men. They asked us to call the police if we heard anything. Then they left after promising €10, 000 for any information leading to the arrest of the shooter.
Those stingy German police were ready to pay only €10, 000. The Americans would have paid a million dollars.
As soon as they left, I remembered that I had a gun. I thought that the police would begin to search all the places they had been seeing foreigners. I left the Afro shop and went home. It was time to dispose of the gun.
As soon as I got home, I brought down my bag and picked up the gun. I thought of a proper place to hide it. The best I could remember was outside the Berlin centre. Everywhere in Berlin: Mitte, Pankow, Neukoln and Charlottenburg were tarred.
There was a hill in Tempelhof area where Anja, a German girl I had dated took me to smoke weed. I remembered that there was an abandoned railway station under the hill. I decided to go there and dispose of the gun there.
I boarded the S-Bahn, (another train line that circled Berlin, slightly larger than the U-bahn) and headed to the hill with the gun in my pocket. There were numerous police officers in every station, and they looked into every train that passed through.
I got to the hill safely and went straight to the abandoned station.
“Fvcking nigga, du ashlock,” I heard behind me as soon as I dipped my hand inside my pocket to bring out the gun.
Two skin head Nazi punks came out from an open door that I had just passed.
“What are you doing here?” one of them asked in German.
I turned to face them while moving back slowly. They were moving faster than I and it was only a matter of seconds before they reached me. My mind was racing fast.
Run run run.
I didn’t know where to run to. The platform ended fifteen meters behind me. It was all bushes from there on. I also remembered that abandoned railways usually had a lot of metals scattered all around it.
They were already four meters from me and closing in fast. I pulled out the gun and removed the safety latch. One of them stopped while the other one was still coming but on a slower pace.
“Ta ta ta,” the gun spat as I released three shots into the open air.
The advancing punk stopped and started retracing his steps backwards slowly. I moved forward, towards them. The smaller one who had stopped coming towards me earlier started running out of the station while the bigger one who was advancing towards me moved ten meters away and stopped. I pointed the gun between his legs and released a shot. He jumped up and joined his friend in the race out of the station. I watched them scramble out of the station down to the single tarred road. I jumped down from the platform and walked fast up the hill. I got to the top of the hill and sat down on the grass monitoring north, west, east and the south at the same time. I heard no other sound.
Fear had started to creep inside me. I was scared of the police and the Nazi punks too. They could regroup and return with more of them. I knew the Nazis hated foreigners, especially the blacks.
Throwing the gun away at that point was no more an option. The punks could return and if they did, I would have been defenseless. I decided to hang on to the metal, after all the cops said it was an Arabic man who had shot the cop at the Hessenheide Park. I walked down to the other side of the hill, holding trees occasionally to prevent me from falling.
I bursted out to the motorway but unfortunately there was no bus stop close by. It was an isolated area. I couldn’t even determine where the S-Bahn was located.
I started walking up the road to my right. I didn’t know where it led to but it was a better option to going back to the abandoned station. I considered the gun to be just a weapon of intimidation to enable me escape, not to fight. It was an 8-round automatic metal. It had seven bullets in it when I left the house. I had released four shots at the abandoned station. It remained three and I figured the punks may also know about the number of bullets in such guns. Those white people usually had knowledge of so many things.
Behind me, I heard a vehicle coming closer. As I turned back to look, I saw a green and white car approaching. My heart skipped. It was a police car. They blazed past me and stopped twenty meters ahead. Those bastards hardly let something pass without enquiry. I was torn between running into the nearby bush and walking up to them. I decided to walk up to them.
The two cops, a man and a woman had gotten out of the car as I approached them.
“Please where is the train to Tempelhof airport?” I asked the lady cop from ten meters away.
I decided to start the talking because I knew they would ask for my passport if they started.
The male cop spoke German to his colleague. He said that I may have missed the road.
The lady cop asked where I was going, I told them that I had come to the hill to look around but didn’t know the way back. She pointed towards where I was coming from and said the nearest bus station was there. They said I should go to the bus stop and wait for a bus that will take me to Tempelhof airport S-Bahn.
I thanked them in English and turned back. I didn’t look back because I knew they would be watching me.
I walked for close to fifteen minutes before I saw the bus stop. The Nazi punks were sitting there smoking cigarettes.
As soon as they saw me, they jumped to their feet. I put my right hand into my cloth and left it there. They walked quickly out of the bus station and went back into the bush.
“Warte fur mich, du punk!!! (Wait for me, you punks!)” I shouted.
They obviously thought that I was still after them.
They quickened their pace into the forest and vanished.
I checked the bus time table pasted on the glass wall, the bus was coming in 4 minutes. I stood there facing the bush with my right hand inside my pocket.
The bus came three minutes later and stopped for me. There were five people seated in the bus, I entered the bus through the front door to show my ticket to the driver. Then I walked down to the extreme back end to sit alone.
The punks didn’t come out of the bush. The bus left after a minute at the bus station. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the Tempelhof airport station. There were numerous police officers there. My heart was beating faster than normal. I didn’t know if there was a stop-and-search. I walked straight to one of them and asked which direction led to Neukoln. He told me to wait on that very platform where they stood.
A train came two minutes later and I entered it. Two of the police officers entered too. I waited for them to go down from the train before we got to Neukoln but they didn’t.
As soon as we got to the Neukoln area, I got down at the first station. A taxi was standing there. I entered it and asked the driver to take me to Flughafenstrasse where the Afro shop was located. Every German was a potential police. I didn’t want to go straight to my apartment with the taxi. Whenever I boarded taxis, I never did.
I got down at the Afro shop and entered. It was already evening. The usual suspects had returned from work and were all over the Afro shop. Chichi was there too. She had apparently told everyone what happened between me and the cops earlier at the shop. Every one of them was looking at me as if I had stolen something.
I sat down and demanded for a bottle of Heineken. Chichi brought it a minute later and dropped it in front of me without saying a word. People were greeting me as usual. I ordered a beer each for everybody in the shop. I rushed my own bottle of beer and excused myself. It was time to go.
I walked up to the Boddinstrasse U-bahn station and headed to AlexanderPlatz. I got down and joined U2 train to Pankow area where I lived. As soon as I got back, I brought out the gun and kept it on the table. It nearly put me into trouble but it had saved me as well from the Nazi punks.
I sat down and pondered what my next move would be. I was definitely going to dispose of the gun but not on that evening anymore, therefore, I put it back into my drug bag and went to the kitchen to look for food.
My phone rang, it was an unknown number. I figured it was Jennifer and when I picked the call, it was her.
I decided that it was time to surprise her
“Hello my baby, how are you today?” I said as soon as she greeted me.
Jennifer kept quiet.
“Don’t you want to talk to me today, my sweetheart?” I asked.
She started crying, as usual.
“Stop crying baby; it hurts me to hear you cry. Remember what we have been through together. How was the interview?” I asked.
She was still crying.
“It’s ok my angel, I am no longer mad at you. I want you back in my life as soon as possible.” I said.
“I am very sorry. If you don’t want me again, I understand why but I don’t know what my life would be without you. This is not how I dreamt it to be between us. I didn’t know what had gotten into me. I will never do that again if you just forgive me this once,” she concluded, pleading.
”Jennifer, I…” and the phone went dead.
I kept my phone on the table hoping that she would call back immediately but she didn’t. I figured her money had finished since they used payphone in the asylum camps.
After eating, I reflected on what had transpired between me and Jenny on the phone. The world was not balanced. I had done worse things compared to what she did but I never got questioned by anybody. It was really men’s world.
I also thought about what happened between me and the Nazi punks. What if I had gone to the hill without my gun? The punks would have beaten me to pulp or even killed me. They didn’t like Blacks. They were all angry that the German government was taking care of foreigners.
I also thought about what the police officers would have done if they had seen me with a gun. I would have been taken to a police station and finger printed for illegal possession of fire arms. Then they would instantly find out that I had lived in Germany and had run away from a court case.
That would have fetched me a long prison term and they would have also sent me back to Nigeria since I had my passport and permit with me.
What Jennifer did was massively heartbreaking for me but not something I didn’t expect. She was a young girl of about 18 or 19. She was beautiful. Men were likely to be on tail all the time and it was only a matter of time before she succumbed to the pressure.
The event of the day had thought me that there were worse things than catching a woman with a man on the bed even if the woman was your wife.
I took a full glass of Jack Daniel whisky and waited for her call but, it never came.
The following day I decided to make a second attempt on the gun disposal campaign. As soon as I stuffed the gun inside my big baggy jean pocket, my phone rang. It was Peter. He had managed to sell 50g of weeds and wanted some praise songs.
“I have finished it” he shouted as soon as I said ‘hello’ on the phone.
“Bring my money back tomorrow morning” I said and cut the line.
He called again instantly.
“Keep another 50g for me” he said.
I cut off the phone again without saying a word. I wanted to give him a tough training. I needed a successor. I wasn’t going to sell drugs forever.
I had decided that I was going to take the gun away from Berlin City entirely. I wanted it to be far from me. I walked out of my apartment with the gun inside my pocket.
I got to the AlexanderPlatz station and boarded a train heading east. Our train stopped at the Berlin OstBanhof station. Many police officers entered with sketches of an Arabic man whom they believed had shot their member. The ransom money had increased to €20,000 for any information leading to the arrest of the man.
Damn I had managed to run into the cops again. Why was I even in such a haste to throw away my gun?
I took the sketch from one of the cops and inspected it closely, then handed it back to the cop. They were searching every train, car, truck and other transport means out of Berlin.
Our train left OstBanhof and headed towards Eissenhutenstadt and Poland. I stopped at a city called Frankfurt Oder and walked out of the train. There was a Heim I had visited there when I was expanding my empire. I recalled that there was a large park near the Heim. I bought a pack of Marlboro menthol and 1 litre of coca cola. I took a taxi to the park and sat near a small bush. My gun had suddenly become heavy in my pocket. I wanted it out of my possession as soon as possible.
There were no other people at the Park. I brought out the gun and put it in a small opening I had made on the ground with my legs. I covered it with grasses and left my legs on top of it.
I lit a stick of Marlboro and smoked, and twenty minutes after smoking and drinking cola, I stood up and left.
I returned from Frankfurt Oder and started missing the piece of metal. I couldn’t understand why I panicked. It was true that the gun could have put me into huge trouble but it also gave me a sense of security.
I sat on the edge of the bed and smoked my Marlboro. Then, phone rang, it was Marko. He said he was on his way to pick up 500g of weed. I advised him to stay back in Brandenburg since there was a police hunt for a killer. He wasn’t happy about it but I told him to remember the drug rule number 9:
“When you suspect that the coast is not clear, don’t deal”.
He laughed and hung his phone.
Jennifer called next. I had decided to forgive her unconditionally. I thought about the future girls that would come into my life. I didn’t know what they did in the past and a woman would never tell you what she did. They even hardly tell you their right age not to talk of what they did. Almost all their pasts had black spots. It was the same thing for men as well but the rules of relationship were written by men. They almost pre-exonerated themselves from crimes.
“I know you don’t have enough money to talk on the phone, so don’t waste your time crying or begging. I am not mad at you” I said.
I had decided to go weak once more. Something I did once in a while. Life was really boring when you hold yourself down to a single kind of life all the time.
We must always experience life both ways.
“Daddy,” she said and fell silent.
“How have you been?” I asked her.
“They said I have lost so much weight” she said quietly.
I knew she must have been thinking that it was over between us. She must have skipped meals and must have cried for long. She was definitely going to lose some weight.
“Why did you lose weight?” I asked that question, despite knowing the likely reason why.
She kept silent for a bit, then began crying again. This time, the crying touched me deeply.
I wondered why I had abandoned her up there in Bremen, Probably because I caught her making out with another man. Was that really enough reason to quit after what we had been through together? Perhaps I should have left her back in Portugal and let her continue with what she was doing but the truth was that we met each other for a reason, just like every other meeting. It was always left for us to fight hard against temptations that could destroy our relationships, whether marriage or not.
“Stop crying, I will come to Bremen tomorrow,” I said, trying to reassure her
She didn’t really believe it. She thought I just wanted to end the conversation.
“You will not come,” she said between tears.
I told her that I would come before 11am, the next day. Her airtime finished abruptly as usual and the phone cut off.
As soon as the phone cut off, I brought down my small traveling bag and packed three new clothes I had bought for her, one pair of ladies sandals, toothpaste, toothbrush and some other things I would need.
I called Joe and told him that I was traveling to Bremen and that I may not return until after three days.
I picked up the small bag and opened the door to the street. The cold afternoon breeze greeted me. I walked all the way down to Pankow U-bahn station and boarded a train to AlexanderPlatz. Then I followed S-Bahn to Zoologischer Garten station where the ICE Train to Bremen and Hamburg usually loaded up.
The train to Bremen was ten minutes away. I decided to wait on the platform and buy a ticket inside the train. It was usually more expensive than buying it in the stores but I didn’t want to miss the train while buying tickets outside the station.
I didn’t want my little girl to cry on the phone anymore. It was time to go to Bremen. I told her that I would come in the morning but there was no need for Jennifer to wait until morning. She had cried enough.
Four hours later, I stopped at the Bremen central station. It was already 5 in the evening. The camp gate usually closes by 6pm. I walked to a mall near the camp and saw some campers coming out. I stopped one of them and asked if she knew Jennifer Ebot. She replied in the affirmative and told me that she was inside the mall.
I wanted to walk into the mall and surprise her but on a second thought; I felt that she could be in there with Emmanuel or even another guy. Walking up to them could hold another surprise for me.
But what if I walked up to her and saw her with another guy? Surely they were not likely to be kissing inside the mall.
I made up my mind to bear whatever I saw in the mall. I opened a locker outside the mall and kept my bag inside it, and then I locked it, took the key and went inside the mall.
I saw a lean figure bending down towards an Ice cream refrigerator. I was coming from behind. She was admiring the big ice cream packs since she had no money to buy them. She had purchased a pack of cheap chewing gum.
“You can have the ice cream if you want,” I said from behind.
She jumped in surprise and stood there looking into my eyes as if I was a ghost. She stretched her right hand and touched my left hand.
“It’s ok my angel, I am not a ghost, I am not dead yet” I said gently.
“You look very skinny, angel. Did you get sick?” I asked.
She didn’t say a word. She just stood there and kept her gaze on my face. I moved closer and hugged her. Her eyes had started to water again. The tears had formed and it was only a matter of seconds before some memory triggered its easy flow downwards.
“Don’t cry please, I am here now. I have missed you so much and I couldn’t wait until tomorrow” I gently said.
She was struggling to keep the tears away from falling freely. I disentangled myself from her embrace and picked up the biggest ice cream pack in the refrigerator. We paid at the counter, picked my small bag from the locker, and then, holding hands, we slowly walked away from the mall.
“You are not going to sleep in the camp today,” I announced. “I hope you have your ID card with you?”
She nodded as we moved across the road to wait for a bus back into the city centre.
“I hope you won’t get into trouble for sleeping outside the camp?” I asked.
She said that people slept outside the camp after their interviews but always returned every week to pick up their weekly allowances.
She herself had done her interview over two weeks back and she would have been coming to Berlin ever since then but the ugly incident happened before her interview.
We got to Bremen Vegesack area and found a hotel. I paid for two nights and collected my keys.
Apart from wanting to see Jennifer again, the Bremen trip was a nice get-away from Berlin. I felt that some dark cloud was closing in on me in Berlin. Whenever I was in doubt, I usually stopped dealing or travelled out.
We got to the hotel room and opened the door. It was better than I had thought. It had a large bed with white silk sheets, a towel, paper tissues, and a small fridge containing some local becks beer.
I dropped my bag on the bed, turned around and planted a long kiss on Jennifer’s lips. She didn’t respond fully. I felt she was still not convinced that I had forgiven her.
I sat her down on the bed and opened the ice cream we had brought from the mall. There was a plastic spoon that came with it. I sat on the bed and carried her to sit on my laps, and then I fed her the vanilla cream like a baby.
She looked so hungry and sick. Her face was going pale. The blood on her face seemed not to be flowing. I was almost scared. Jennifer was dying slowly and yet she had been crying on the phone and probably off the phone too.
After the ice cream, I removed her pullover and bra. I bent down and pulled out her trousers and underwear. She watched as I did all that and when she was completely naked, I removed all my clothes too and led her to the bathroom. It was time to give her a hot bath like I used to do back in Portugal.
I gave her a thorough bath and led her back to the room. There were new clothes inside my bag, I brought them out and selected the ones I thought were the best, then helped her put them on. After this, it was time for Q & A.
“How did the interview go?” I asked.
She nodded and said nothing. I shifted closer to her and lay her on my laps. I didn’t want to rush the questions. She was in a total shock and required some time to deal with.
I stroked her hair slowly while she laid there on my laps. Then out of nowhere, she started crying again. I decided to let her cry out the sorrow in her heart. It took over ten minutes before she calmed down. It was already 8pm, and I needed to eat something. I took her downstairs and we entered a restaurant directly opposite the hotel.
We ate slowly and quietly, though I chipped in some jokes now and then. The jokes eventually worked. She laughed at a joke I had said and I picked it up from there.
Surprisingly, her face started returning to normal. Her expression relaxed. She was returning to humanity once more. I tactfully avoided some topics, such as what happened with Emmanuel and why I left her. I only concentrated on our hide and seek race in Portugal and how we outwitted Madam Grace.
After the meal, we left the restaurant and walked down to a large building. It was a cinema hall. We entered inside and checked the movies for the night. A movie named ‘Mission Impossible” was going to start by 10pm. We purchased the ticket and went back outside to find a bar.
“I don’t know what came over me. I don’t know why I did what i did. I had promised myself never to cheat on you but it just happened. I never slept with Emmanuel,” she said out of the blues.
“It’s okay Jenny. We have all learnt our lessons now. I want you to understand that your life belongs to you. You are free to live however you want but if you do what I don’t like or what I cannot deal with, I will just tell you and maybe we can end our relationship peacefully. I wonder why you wanted to kill yourself over what happened” I said.
“What I did was very bad. I should never have done that after everything you have done for me,” she said.
The tears were beginning to form in her eyes again. I rushed my drink and took her outside.
I told her to stop crying all the time or I would return to Berlin first thing in the morning.
We walked down to the cinema hall ahead of time and sat outside like many other people and talked about Berlin, Bremen and Portugal. She said she thought she had lost me for good, that she thought she was seeing my ghost at the mall, and that she also had dreams of me beating her.
Whether it was true or false, the point was that she went through a bad time and it showed all over her body and mind.
When it was 10pm, we went inside and watched the movie. Tom Cruise was the lead actor. I remembered him from another movie. I didn’t concentrate much on the movie, I just held Jennifer close to me throughout the duration of the movie and when it finished, we went back to our hotel.
She wasn’t in a state of mind for sex; I had no appetite for sex either since I met her at the mall, so we just lay on the bed and talked and kissed occasionally.
She had started reasoning well like the girl I knew. It was good. It was only a matter of time before she recovered fully. The good news was that I was going to make sure she recovered before I left Bremen. I worked for nobody but myself.
The ringing phone brought me out of bed. We had woken up earlier and started talking.
The tension had reduced. It was time to ask Jenny how she had been. I had tried much to avoid anything that could trigger her crying the previous day.
She had relaxed and it was time to clear some things.
“How was the interview?”
She smiled. “I told them everything you said”. It was so good to see that smile again on her pretty face.
What she said simply meant that she was my younger sister in Germany.
“From what you had seen and heard in the camp, when is it likely that they will post you out?” I asked.
“Maybe one month after interview” she said.
One month, that meant that in a little over two weeks, she could be released from the Camp. It was time to think about what she would be doing after Camp.
There was no work for the asylum seekers in Germany, they were simply not allowed to work or go to school. There must be an extreme situation before they allowed the asylum seekers to do anything. They just depended on the monthly allowances and some small money they made by doing some menial jobs such as loading buses and trucks for men and as for women, there was nothing. But I had to find something for her somehow.
I got down from the bed to check who was calling, it was Johnson. He was coming to Berlin that morning and wanted us to meet. According to him, a man from their village who lived in Cotonou wanted him to find out where he could be buying used clothes, used shoes, used ladies bags and purses and so on.
I told him that I would return from Bremen the next day so that we would talk about it. I liked the idea of venturing into a different line of business; a legal business.
“I am going back to Berlin tomorrow. I may come again before two weeks but if you get posted out before then, go to your Heim. I will come and pick you up from there” I said.
Jennifer stared at me as if she didn’t want to hear what I had just said.
“Thank you for everything, I will miss you. It is better than when I thought I’d never see you again” she said and started laughing.
It was so good to watch her laugh once more.
We played and laughed until late in the night. The urge to have sex had returned, therefore we had a go at it. It was all she needed to convince herself that everything had returned to normal.
The following morning, we hired a cab and drove to her Camp. I watched her enter the camp premises before I drove to the train station.
I had given her €150 and instructed her to hide it inside her bra.
On my way back to Berlin, I called Johnson. I asked him to meet me that afternoon. I also called Marko, Peter and Bolaji. I told them to come for goods in the evening.
Tension in Berlin had returned to normal. The police shooter had been captured in an apartment owned by a Turkish man in Schoneberg area of Berlin. The police had gotten a tip off from the owner of the apartment who wanted the €20, 000 promised to be given to the informant.
Johnson came an hour after I returned from Bremen. According to him, One Mr. Eze had contacted him from Africa. He wanted to start buying used cloths from Europe.
We went to a cyber cafe and paid the operator to search for such companies. He found some in Belgium, Slovakia, Ukraine, France and Italy. We called the dealer and asked how they sold the items. Eventually we decided to try out the ones we found in Bratislava Slovakia because they were the cheaper ones.
Peter came after Johnson. He wanted another fifty grams of weeds but I gave him hundred after over an hour of trying to convince him that he would not be captured by the police just because of extra fifty grams.
Bolaji came after Peter. He took 400g of weed, his record highest since he started buying from me. According to him, the tension in the Heim had returned to normal since the demise of the Arab cartel.
Jennifer called to find out if I had returned to Berlin safely. She thanked God for journey mercies. She had started sounding excited on the phone again; it was amazing how she had transformed from an emotionally drained little girl to an excited beautiful damsel in just two days she spent with me in Bremen. I wanted to take her to Hamburg too but I had to abort the plan because of the used-clothing business deal with Johnson. Hamburg was very close to Bremen and it was the largest city in the entire North Western Germany.
Marko also came later in the evening. He took 500g. He wanted more but that was the only thing left with me. I wanted every drug in the house to be sold because I was traveling to Slovakia the next day.
When it was night, I parked two jean trousers, two pullovers, two shoes and underwear, a leather black Jacket and toiletries. It was exciting to know that I was leaving Germany the next day.
When Joe returned, I told him that I went to see my girlfriend in Bremen. I told him that she may come to Berlin anytime and as a result, he would leave the apartment and move to the ‘hospital’. Fortunately for him, I had distributed out all the drugs in the apartment. He only needed to buy pots and frying pan, food items and a television set. I gave him €100 for TV and told him to buy other items by himself.
I called Kenneth, my cousin who lived in the Neukoln area and told him that I would be going to Slovakia the next day. As usual, he had no money and wanted some. I asked him to call Akunne and get a hundred euros from him. I had left two thousand euros with Akunne.
After the deals of the day, I watched football on the TV. Hertha BSC Berlin. My team had lost a home game to Bayern Munich. They were sliding down the league table and if they lost the next match, they would hit the Relegation Zone. I made up my mind not to continue as their fan if they got relegated to the Liga 2. It was true that Okoronkwo my friend was playing for them but he had spent most of the year on the bench.
I slept afterwards and eagerly waited for the next day. The idea of visiting a new country with new culture, different currency, different language and different ladies was very exciting.
Johnson and I travelled to Slovakia via Austria. It took about ten days for us to finish what we came to do. While Johnson later returned to Germany, I stayed back in Austria to meet with an old friend of mine who lived there.
The following day, I set out for Berlin. The night train from Austria to Berlin was not as luxurious as the German ICE or even the inter-regional train. The good news was that it had coaches with beds in them. I had purchased a ticket for Coach 15 which had four beds in it.
There were two other people in it when I entered. Two white punk skinheads, the racist type. They could strangle me in the night if I chose to sleep in that cabin, therefore I went to Cabin 16 where I had passed earlier and saw only one decent looking man.
I greeted him and climbed to the top bed opposite him.
The train left Austria Wien Westbanhof at exactly 8:30 pm. It was not a fast train and it stopped in many cities before reaching its final destination. The time stamp on the ticket said it would get to Berlin by 6:15am.
”Ausweis bitte,” a voice announced from the doorway. It was those German police again. They never allowed anything to slip past them.
I climbed down and handed my passport to them. The Portuguese resident permit was inside it, so were the train ticket from Berlin to Austria, as well as the tickets from Austria to Slovakia and back. The Slovakian visa which I had gotten from Berlin was in the passport as well. There were so many things to show that the document was real.
The fat German immigration police checked everything for several minutes and finally asked what I went to do in Slovakia.
“Business,” I said shortly and decided not to say anything more.
“What kind of business?” he asked.
“Used clothes and shoes, I buy them from all over Europe and send to Africa” I said and kept fell silent again.
He excused himself and left with the documents. A few minutes later, another policeman came and handed the documents back to me. He apologized and left.
When as I was settling in again, Jennifer called. She reminded me how early she would come to Berlin the next day. According to her, she had missed me so much and could not live another day without seeing me. She said she had purchased a new sim card but no phone yet.
She asked about the phone I bought for her when I visited Bremen.
”I am using the phone now” I said.
I had taken the phone with me to Slovakia since I needed two phones. The double sim phone was not in existence then.
I promised to buy her a new better one as soon as she comes to Berlin the next day.
When she rang off, I called Joe and told him to come to my main apartment by 11 am the next day. After the speaking with him, I called Johnson and told him that I was already back in Berlin.
He said ‘’thank God’’, and said he would come to Berlin when he had time.
We were already in the German territory of Bavaria, the state that hosted Munich, Nurnberg, Regensburg and numerous other developed cities. The call rates had dropped again unlike when I was calling in Austria with a German Number.
Our slow train continued its ponderous journey towards the Bundes hauptstadt of Berlin.
The business of weeds was about to commence in full force once more. The loyal admirers of Ozoigbondu were going to start feasting on my pocket again. But above everything, the main occupant of my thoughts was Jennifer. I didn’t know what was going to happen between us from there on. Traveling to Nigeria was already on my mind. I wondered how she was going to cope. Not because I was going to Nigeria but because I would go to Holland from Nigeria.
The weed business was just a stepping stone. I had already fortified my mind and had also raised enough capital to join the Amsterdam bandwagon. But then, some things had a way of fixing itself. I would wait and see how the whole thing turned out.
A few minutes past 6am, we arrived in Berlin OstBanhof station where the journey had begun. I was tired, therefore I decided against using the train to my apartment. I went down from the platform and called a cab. The driver drove me to two blocks before my apartment. On arrival, I paid him and walked down to my place. My electricity bulbs were still on as I had left them. The heater was on too.
I dropped my bag and found the warm bed. I didn’t care if it was dusty or not, I just fell on it like a sack of cement and slept off.
It was welcome back home.
Jennifer arrived in Berlin a little past 11am. She called from a pay phone. I told her to board a taxi and ask the cab driver to call my number for directions. When he called, I directed them to the Pankow U-bahn station where I picked her up.
She was still too lean but was definitely better than the last time I saw her in Bremen.
I was planning to be a little strict with reception but when I saw her, the whole plans melted into hugs and kisses. I held her hand as we walked back to the apartment.
She asked for her phone as soon as we entered the house and I told her to rest before we went out to get another phone for her, but she wanted the phone instantly.
I took her to the electromarkt behind our street and bought her a Motorola Razor, a flat black phone that was in vogue. It gulped my €120.
When we got back to the apartment, I brought down her gift bag and opened it. Numerous ladies clothes were carefully arranged in it. When she saw them, her eyes gleamed and she was the happiest girl in all of Berlin.
We rested for about two hours before hitting the road again. This time, we went to the Afro shop. Chichi was there as expected, as well as Akunne. The time was a few minutes past 1400hours but the place was already full. People congratulated Jennifer on her successful asylum process.
I told Chichi to cook a big pot of yam with fresh catfish, the way I used to do back then before going to Portugal. People were excited as usual, Ozoigbondu had returned to his senses.
The following day, business continued as usual.
Joe who lived in the ‘hospital’ apartment was doing most of the distribution now. I would direct the customers to him each time they called. I only selected Marko and Allen who had started buying in large quantities and supplied them myself.
I had given Joe a starting capital of €4000 and told him to pay me €3000 every month. He was happy since he was making up to that amount as well.
In the middle of May 2006, I purchased a flight ticket to Federal Republic of Nigeria. The flight date was May 30th. I didn’t tell anybody including Jennifer that I was going home.
I had about two weeks to plan on how to break the news to her. I was sure she would cry. I was sure she would miss me but I was also sure that nobody was going to hold me down in one place forever. It was time to go home and rest. My ticket was an open ticket, which meant that I could stay in Nigeria for up to three months before returning.
I bought some clothes and shoes, phones to give to people, even ladies clothes that were not meant for Jennifer. I had sisters in Nigeria too. I also bought a Mercedes V-boot one door for my elder brother, an Opel Omega car for my father and a Honda Civic for my younger brother who was in ESUT, Enugu and shipped them to Cotonou, Benin Republic.
By this time, Jennifer became suspicious. She caught me packing ladies shoes in a big bag one afternoon and asked who it was for since it wasn’t her size. I didn’t respond.
She started crying and accused me of keeping another girlfriend somewhere.
“Calm down baby, it is for my sisters in Nigeria,” I said and fell silent.
She cleaned her eyes and asked how I was going to send it to them.
“I am visiting Nigeria soon,” I said looking her straight in the eyes.
She stared at me as if I had just grown horns.
“You are joking, right?” she asked, looking askance
“No, I am not joking” I said firmly. “You are going to stay here until I return. There are some things I need to do in Nigeria, Jenny. We cannot live here forever. I will leave enough money for you to eat until I return.”
It was difficult for her to swallow but when she gathered enough strength to talk again, she asked,
“Tomorrow” I said, and braced up for the tears that followed.
The following morning, I called Akunne to come drop me to the Berlin Tegel Airport.
When he arrived, I gave him money to pay for my apartment for three months. I gave him money to buy Monat-Farkarte (Monthly transport ticket) for Jennifer to move around. I also gave her €1500 and warned her not to ever spend more than €300 each month. In addition, I gave her Joe’s number and told her to call him if ever there was any problem.
Jennifer followed us to the airport, and cried when they were going back.
I entered the Tegel airport and boarded Air Berlin to Amsterdam, and from there I boarded KLM Royal Dutch Airline to Murtala Muhammad airport, Lagos, Nigeria.
….I was there and back on time…
Samson Akpaka – 2015