“Dami, are you there?”
I was either in a shock or was too angry that my voice disappeared. I opened my mouth but no words came out.
“Hello Dami, can you hear me?”
“Yes, Daniel, I can hear you.” I said with a voice lacking any form of emotion.
“Why the silence? You don’t even sound surprised to hear from me after all these days?”
“Surprised? Why should I be surprised?”
“Is this Damilola Coker?”
“Didn’t you check before calling the number? Of course, I am surprised that you had the effrontery to call me.”
“Why are you sounding like this? I was robbed on my way to Abeokuta. I have not been able to retrieve my line till today and immediately I did, I had to call you because I thought you would be worried about me but obviously, that is not the case. I am sorry to bother you.”
“Wait, did you say you were robbed?”
“Yes. At gun point. The guys took all I had on me including my phones, laptop and my suitcase that I was with in the car.”
“How did you now get my phone number again and this is not your number that I have?”
“I always did MTN Back up at the end of every week. So, immediately I slotted my sim, I retrieved all my numbers and searched for yours. What you had was my Airtel number.”
“Okay. Now I am confused. I would have to call you back because I am seriously confused.”
“What is confusing you?”
“Either you or someone duped me of 650,000 Naira with your number.”
“Like I said, I would have to call you later. Let me sort myself out.”
I ended the call and dropped my phone. I was seriously confused. I did not know what to think. How did the dupes know I was close to him to have called me? Oh, maybe my number was the last he called. But he usually locks his phone. How did they get access to his call log? Well, there was nothing too hard for all these robbers. Could it be that Daniel was being truthful?
A call from my phone jarred me back to life. It was from the Personal Assistant to the Managing Director of iPov Works. I was to have an appointment with him for 2pm but she was calling to cancel as he had an emergency to attend to in Abuja. How I needed it. I could not vouch for my mind being ready for any intellectual discussion today.
I picked up the phone and called Yemi.
“Someone is missing me so much that they cannot concentrate at work.”
“Daniel just called me.”
“Who is Daniel?”
“My friend that supposedly duped me of 650k.”
“Supposedly? Okay what is his story?”
“He said he was robbed at gunpoint and he did not know about the dupe. He sounded very surprised when I told him the story.”
“Do you believe him?”
“I don’t know what to believe. He sounded very genuinely surprised.”
“Why the silence?”
“I’m trying to think. Can we meet him together? That is if you don’t mind. I just want to look in his eyes and observe him while he responds to the questions I will ask.”
“Err…… I don’t want to give a wrong impression.”
“What impression are you talking about?”
“I don’t want him to feel like he is under suspicion. It will make him think I don’t trust him.”
“Hold on. I thought he was under suspicion and throughout all our conversation, you never gave me the impression you trusted him so much. You only about knew him so, what are you careful about or afraid of right now?”
“I don’t know. I just feel I should give him a fair hearing; just me and I could judge if he is telling the truth or not.”
“Okay, cool. You already have it figured out. I am only wondering why you called. Was it to seek my opinion or have me endorse yours?”
“You sound upset.”
He heaved a sigh.
“I am sorry if I am sounding upset. I guess I am not seeing reasons with you on this. I feel like you are trying to protect him but I should trust you and your judgement. Is he in Lagos now?”
“I did not even ask. I was too confused to ask him any questions. I just told him I would speak to him later.”
“Okay. Confirm when he would be in Lagos and book an appointment to see him face to face. This is not something you should discuss on the phone. You need to read his eyes, his body language and if he can hold your eyes while he speaks. I trust you should be able to read those.”
“I hope so. Thank you for being here now.”
“I wish you the best of luck.”
There was something steely about his voice. It was not something I could place but I knew that Yemi sounded odd. I know I am doing the right thing. If I invite Yemi to meet with Daniel, it will make Daniel too conscious and we may not get the truth from him.
I called Daniel’s phone.
“Hello Daniel. Are you in Lagos yet?”
“No, I am on my way. Any problem?”
“I was thinking if we could meet and discuss this today.”
“Wait. Are you calling the police on me?”
“What?! What nonsense talk is that? Do you have something to hide that you fear me calling the police on you? I just told you I was duped of 650k with your phone. I am giving you a chance to explain yourself and you are thinking I want to set you up? Is that what you would have done if you were in my shoes? Call the police?”
“I am sorry. I was just trying to save my head. Nigerian police do not listen to explanations. They will find a way to pin it on you.”
“But you are a responsible citizen with a very good job to your name. Your company will vouch for you.”
“Why are you talking like you have not been in Nigeria? By the time they have tortured you to a point of admitting to the crime you did not commit, your company’s endorsement will count for nothing. Anyway, where do you want us to meet?”
“Big Treat at Ikeja. Since you are coming in through Berger, it will be easy for you to find and it’s not far from my office. It’s open enough to convince you I am not setting you up.”
“Dami, I am sorry about your experience. Sincerely, I do not know what I would have done if I were in your shoes. This just goes to show that you have a beautiful heart and I promise to make this up to you.”
“Thank you, Daniel.”
I dropped the phone on the table and paced in my office. He sounded genuinely concerned. He was right to think I was calling the police on him; anybody could have done that. Thank God I called off Yemi’s suggestion on meeting with him. It could have killed his trust altogether.
Oh, my God, I am confused. If eventually Daniel is proven innocent, I would be torn between him and Yemi. In as much I have come to cherish Yemi’s friendship, Daniel still had the special place in my heart. God, I have known these 2 guys in a space of 2 weeks and here was I, plunging myself in an ocean of confusion. Well, let me deal with the issue at hand first, one step at a time. it is not as though any of them has asked me out yet.
Daniel called me around 1 pm and said he was driving towards Big Treat. I went to the GM and asked for permission to attend to an emergency. He asked about my appointment with iPov and that was when I remembered that I had not reported the newest update to him. I apologised for that and left.
By the time I got to Big Treat, Daniel was just driving in. I got down from my car and waited for him to park well. He walked up to me and hugged me very tight for about 30 seconds. I was softening under him as the second counted. He finally released me and held my hands as we walked into the building. We went to the food counter and he asked for what I would have, I told him I had no appetite for anything so, he ordered for fried rice and chicken for himself and asked that I pardoned him as he was famished. I asked for only water as that was all I could have. We found a seat far from where most people were sitting. The eatery was quite empty.
“So, start from the beginning and tell me what happened,” he said as he transferred a fork of rice to his mouth.
I narrated the whole story to him. I was so scared something had happened to him, how I didn’t want to hear any stories and decided to pay the full amount and some extra so they could take good care of him, how angry I got when I realized I had been duped and how shocked I was when I got his call. In all these, I made sure I skipped Yemi in the story. I thought it was not necessary because from the look of things, he was innocent.
All through the period I told him the story, he maintained his gaze and at some point, he dropped his cutlery and I could see genuine concern in his eyes. I think he passed the Yemi test. When I finished telling the story, he even held my hand and gave a gentle squeeze,
“I really wish I could change what happened but I promise you that within the next 2 months, I will pay you that full money back. The only reason it will take me this long is that I have to replace my Macbook Air and iPhone 6 within the next one month and you know how much that will cost.”
I heaved a sigh. If he was guilty, he would not be offering to pay the money back. What will the use of duping me be if he would return it?
“I would never do anything to hurt you. I know I have only met you for 2 weeks but nobody has made as much impact in me in such short time as you have. All through the period I was incommunicado, I was only concerned about what anguish you would have been going through not being able to reach me without even knowing you were going through worse. Forgive me, my queen. It is my fault that you were duped. If I was not robbed, this would not have happened.”
“Oh, please stop. You were robbed for goodness’ sake. No one prays to be robbed. So, it was not your fault. I am sorry for your misfortune.”
And then, my mind drifted. I must find a way to make Yemi see that Daniel is innocent