Wedding Ops (Fiction Micro-series) Entry 4
Hospitals are not as frightening as people say, not unless you are going to the ICU. Mayokun took the stairs up to the fourth floor of St. Barth’s hospital. No matter how many times she visited, there was no getting accustomed to these cold, concrete slabs of stairs. She held on to the concrete stair-banister, panting, as she pulled herself to the landing.
“God”, She wheezed, “I hate this place.”
The air carried the smell of cheap antiseptic and freshly prepared pharmaceuticals. She could taste the bitterness of the chalky-white pills at the back of her tongue. She gagged, then took a deep breath.
“Ok, I can do this”, She muttered to herself.
She started down the hallway and kept to the right, following directions to the ICU. Nurses walked by in a hurry, technicians in white lab coats breezed by. Prospective patients and family members holding yellow slips of paper, looking frazzled and tired dotted the hallway. The hallway opened up into a small, sunny alcove with a desk pushed against its back wall.
It wasn’t Bimpe behind the desk.
The new receptionist eyed her and nodded at the visitors’ register. Mayokun picked the pen. The page was full, so she turned it over. The page wasn’t ruled. The receptionist waved her question away.
“Just sign here. Name here,”The woman spat out orders, ”Check-in time: four-thirty.”
Mayokun obeyed, writing slowly. Her eyes took in the worn surface of the desk, the edges were chipped, baring new, but dirtied wood underneath.
“Where’s Bimpe?”Mayokun asked.
“Is Doctor Awe around?”
“I don't know,”the lipgloss on the woman’s lips shone too much.
Mayokun began to make her way to the ward. Her steps slowed into a drag.
“I can do this.”
She took another step. “Nope. I can’t.” She leaned against the wall and took a deep breath. She had only ever made it to see Mumie once. That day, Mumie was asleep, her pretty face was now thinned out, her eyes were sunken, her lips, slack and her face was without animation—there was no stern look, no teasing smirk, no eyes rolling to heaven to thank God. There was no voice asking Mayokun to find a husband, or arguing about politics or asking about Aso-ebi. When Mumie did wake up, her voice was different, it was hoarse and tired, all it talked about were the witches in the ward. At some point, she screamed that they were trying to take her somewhere and that the room was moving. She wasn’t the same Mumie that was admitted a month ago. Fali was the one who sat with her and told her the witches would be burned with fire if they touched her and then read her the psalms until the drugs for the pain lulled her to sleep.
Dr. Awe had requested a CT scan and the results had come back inconclusive. There was an inflammation on her pancreas.
The biopsy was going to cost at least seven hundred thousand.
Inconclusive. What does that even mean? After collecting three-fifty thousand.
She buried her face in her hands.
Her phone beeped. It was a message from Akeem.
💬Akeem: This watch won’t move.
💬Akeem: It’s engraved. No one wants that. Can’t sell it.
💬Mayokun: Just polish it and reengrave with something else.
💬Akeem: Can’t do it.
💬Mayokun: How much is it worth?
💬Akeem: It’s a Breitling. Go figure.
💬Akeem: Come pick it up. I don’t want trouble.
💬Mayokun: Since when?
She hissed out loud.
Akeem had once sold certain undeclared paraphernalia from a foreign heist involving marked gold bars, though this was in the good days when he was full of vigor and making a name for himself and not creating senseless stories on Instagram wearing Gucci suits that matched his carpet.
An engraved watch didn’t seem like an awful big deal.
“Not my day,” She muttered and headed back to the receptionist with the glossy lips.
Sign out time: 4:47pm.
The hospital had a canteen behind its admin block. It was a white building with a blue roof, and sparse grass in its front yard. Mayokun stepped into the fluorescent-lit room. Instantly she was engulfed by the bustle of the busy canteen—the sound of metal clinking plates, voices shouting their orders, dragging of metal pots, and the opening of soft drinks, the clink-clank of corks hitting the cement. Mayokun joined the order line.“White rice, stew and beef”, She said when she finally got to the front of the bright red coca-cola counter.
“Add egg,”She said.
The server was a short boy with a mohawk cut, Malik, he was called.
“Sister May, you never pay the other time o.”He balanced two eggs bathed in red stew on his long serving spoon.
“Don’t worry,”She winked at him, “I go sort am. And extra for you.”
“Sister Mayo!” He cheered.
They laughed. He dropped one of the eggs on her plate and handed the food to her.
Mayokun settled in the back of the restaurant, keeping her head low and staring into her phone. There had to be a big job that she could do— to get Fali back, to get the biopsy done. They usually made double when they went out together. If she was flying solo she needed something big. Really big. The big fish—that was what Fali called it—that glorious job after which they would never have to work again.
Her spoon sliced the egg in two, exposing the delicate orange in the center, she spooned it into her mouth hurriedly. She scrolled through Instagram. Nothing.
She reached into her back pocket and turned on Fali’s phone, maybe her feed was more glitzy.
She had turned off Fali’s phone because Dare wouldn’t stop calling.
155 missed calls. 125 from Dare. She rolled her eyes.
300 messages. She pushed her lunch away. Where was his wife in all of this?
Fali’s phone beeped.
A pickup request.
4.996 star rating. What sort of passenger has a 4.996 rating?
Tap to accept.The screen read.
She tapped the screen, had Malik pack her lunch and went off to pick Fali’s passenger.
“Better be the big fish,” She mumbled, “or at least a good tipper.”
Mayokun pulled off the side of the road in front of the shopping complex. It was an old deserted building with ripped bills and posters dangling off its walls. She leaned forward staring out of the front windows for her passenger.
Her phone started to vibrate. It was probably the passenger.
“Hello,”She said,”I’m right outside the building—”
“Mayokun, I have been trying to reach Fali for a while. Where is she?” It was Dare’s voice.
“She’s…out of town.”
“She didn’t tell me. That’s unlike her. Where?
“She went to see her dad’s relatives in Iwo.”
“Bet it is” She said drily.“How’s your wife?”
Dare cleared his throat.“Is Mumie out of the hospital?”
“Hey.Hey .Hey. Let me stop you there, oga. How many peoples’ mother is she? Please do not call my mother Mumie, mommy, mom, mama…nothing. You are not—”
She jumped at the loud rasping on the back window, a man stood there.
He tugged on the handle and the faded gold handle came off in his hand. He lifted it to his face and threw it over his shoulder. The passenger door swung open and he dove in.
“Go! Go!” He yelled, the door slammed.
Mayo’s phone flew in the air. Her foot hit the accelerator. A car honked, someone one yelled curses.
“Olorib—” a blaring horn buried his voice.
She threw the car back on the road and pushed the accelerator all the way to the floor.
The man beside her looked in the rear-view mirror and then over his shoulder.
He glanced at her. Mayokun’s eyes were on the road.
Mayokun looked at him.
It was Flavor!
“What are you doing here?”
“I ordered an über.”He shrugged. He looked back again, as she sped down Ademola Adetokunbo.
“Head to the mainland.”
“I have to change the address.”
“I’ll do it.”
He pulled his jacket around, tugging on his lapels, he tilted his head till his neck creaked, grabbed the phone and typed a new adress into Fali’s phone.
He looked over his shoulder again,
“Are you in trouble?” She glanced at him.
“Always,” His lips raised to the right, in a boyish smile.
She kept her eyes on the road.
“This is the third time we’re meeting you know?”He said.
“Well, clearly I am,”His tone slightly embarrassed.
“Last time you were working, the time before that too. Are weddings your thing? You work mostly at weddings? Like a vendor of some sort?”
She glanced at the map and changed lanes.
“Well, I see you're working today,”She threw him a glance,“Where’s your wife?”
“You and this wife!” He chuckled.“Why do you care so much about my wife?”
“Err…because you have one and I impersonated her once.”
“I impersonated Ben Bruce once you know. Completely off topic. You were saying.”
He annoyed her. It was simple. How in the world did he just appear from thin air? He was everywhere. He and his eyes, and that smell. Suddenly an image shot into Mayokun’s left field of vision. A sedan was headed straight at them, she swerved right and righted the wheel. The car swung into the street after them, full throttle, filling up the space between them and the first car. Mayokun threw the gear to four and pushed the accelerator further to the floor until she felt the grooves of the pedal sting her bare foot.
She glanced in the mirror just as the passenger in the car leaned out. He held something in his hand.
“Is that a…”
She threw the gear down to three and swung into a street, cutting in front of a car. Horns honked. Yells.
She dodged a car, blaring her horn and she drove down the mellow Ikoyi street. She maneuvered through the quiet residential streets and swerved in after a car which was turning into an apartment complex building. The gates closed behind them.
“What the—“Mayokun yelled,“Who are you? Why are there men with guns after you? Are they trying to kidnap you?”
“Well, Uber is probably going to think you kidnapped me. This isn’t my destination.”He pointed to their blinking car location on the phone screen, “You are pretty far off the route. Just saying.”
“What…?”She glanced at it and back at him, “Tell me right now! What is this that just happened?”
“I was checking out some real estate in the area.” He shrugged, “The deal went sour.”
“There was a gun,”She realized she was still winded, her heart still thumping fast while he sat there, cool as the kdk fan in her apartment and unbothered in his stupid blazer.
She stared at him in silence, then took a deep breath.
”You are trouble. In every sense of the word,”She said, “I can’t do this. I have deadlines—”
“Right,” He cut in,”Let’s lay low for sometime and then drive to the mainland once the sun sets. Then I’ll be out of your hair and you’ll get a 5-star rating. Sound good?”
She gaped at him.
“We could even make something of it, like—,”
“No.”She snapped, slamming back against her chair, arms folded in front of her.
“Ok. Just a suggestion.”
They sat in silence for a long time, and when it was dark they headed for the mainland without turning the headlamps on.
“You know I have a job for someone with your skill set. Plus your driving is really good. You shook those guys off, sharp thinking turning into the apartment complex.”
“You need a driver who dodges bullets?”
“The other skill.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She kept her eyes on the road. She could feel his eyes boring through her.
“I have a wedding coming up, it’s in South Africa. The job will be there.”
“Look Flavor, I can’t help you. Don’t know what your talking about. I am an Uber driver and a budding wedding photographer.”
She took the exit to Anthony village.
“Plus you don’t even know me. Or who I am, where I am from—”
“Mayokun Cynthia Ladiran. Attended Newland Montessori. Father deceased just after kindergarten. Wrote JAMB 6 times. Bought results before a 7th attempt. Mother hospitalized. Cousin, business partner and flat-mate Falilat Ajayi-Lawal who is dating a very married man with a very pregnant wife.”
Her eyes, wide, she turned slowly to look at him, “Who are you?” Now as she stared at him his smile looked sinister.
She cursed, “You’ve been following me all this time…” She continued,“At the weddings…Now this uber ride…Are you Kayo’s guy? Did Otunba send you too? Who sent you? Where is Fali?” Her voice had risen with hysteria.“How do you know all that stuff about me. I swear if you touch me—” She pulled over swiftly at the gate of the destination.
“You would do well in theatre,”He said drily, “Look, I’m not from Otunba. I am not friends with any of your friends. I’m one of the good guys and we would like you to work with us.”
She stared at him, searching his face. Skeptical, ready to whack him out of the car if he tried any thing odd.
“It’s a short-term project.” He continued, “You’ll never have to see me again…if you don’t want to.”
“I don’t want to.” She said quickly.
She looked at him. She wasn’t sure about working with him. “Ok so you know all these things about me,”She said slowly, “What type of job is this?”
“An item. Tiny item,”He pressed his forefinger and thumb together, “Teeny.”
“Five,” He said.
That would pay for mom’s drugs, definitely not the Biopsy. Blood work. Some. She needed much more than that for Fali…
She blinked and recovered, “I’ll take ten.”
“Five point five,”He bargained.
“Eight,”She shot back.
“That’s a lot.”
“Find someone else.”
”I can talk to my superiors…but I’m not promising anything.”
“I never penned you for a thief, Flavor.”Mayokun chuckled,
“I’m not a thief. And it’s Flavian.”
“Whatever makes you sleep at night, hun,” She shrugged. Hun? Why did she say that? She kept her eyes on the gate, “So who is our boss?” She added quickly.
Flavian reached over , she could smell him. Spicy citrusy woody. Musky. She caught her breath as he leaned closer to her, his face closing in on hers. He leaned past her and pressed on the steering wheel, the hoot from the horn was squeaky. The gate began to open.
“The Defense Intel. Bureau of the Republic of Nigeria.”
In front of them unraveled a long drive-in shaded by tall trees that all but blocked out the sun.
“Welcome to the Secret Service. Ms. Ladiran.”
To be continued…