The Brand of Cain, Episode 2


 By Larry Sun
The streets of Lagos had changed for the better with the help of the Godsent Governor, Baba Fash. The roads had been re-paved and circular holes had been cut out of the sidewalks to allow the planting of young flowering trees. Old and condemned buildings had been demolished and new ones built. Traffic congestions were controlled, there was no one-way driving, no illegal parking of motor vehicles, and reckless drivers had been committed to hospital psychiatric wards to get their brains observed. Dress like a hooligan and find yourself behind bars. The concrete pole which had fallen across the busy road a week before had been re-erected; the broken concrete had caused a fatal accident on the motorway, claiming the lives of five travellers and making movement of vehicles a complete standstill that fateful afternoon.

          There was even more noise outside. In front of a shop was a crazy Nigerian Hip-Hop music thundering from two speakers as large as coffins. Men and women were bargaining, buying, selling, arguing, laughing, praising, criticizing, conferring—over goods like eggs, chickens, roosters, soaps, fish, peppers, butters and cassava flours. Yet, some market women were ceaselessly calling on passers-by to buy goods in which nobody was interested; one sweating woman clutched a screaming infant, she tried to soothe the baby by putting her breastto its mouth, but the baby itself appeared tired of salty mammary gland, it turned its face away from its mother’s bosom and continued shrieking. The nursing mother in question ignored the crier and continued to unravel with another woman beside her the puzzle surrounding how today’s tomatoes had lost their tomatoey tastes. After walking a few kilometres out of Market Lane into the Chevron Roundabout, Richard took the second exit into Nollywood Road; there were many vacant shops with ‘For Rent’ signs on their walls and dusty windows. People walked up and down the busy streets like ants through sugar. Just at the intersection of the Marvel Supermarket was a purse lying on the ground. Richard stopped when he saw it, the purse was looking fat––nobody would deny that it contained something valuable. Without thinking twice, Richard quickly picked up the purse and continued walking as if nothing had happened. He walked for a couple of minutes before he stopped to search its content. The purse contained a mobile phone, many rolls of money and different cosmetics ranging from a simple nail file to a compact plate of mascara. The amount of money in the purse, Richard found out after counting, was quite tempting. He returned everything into the purse as he had found it; he knew the owner of the phone would call. He had already walked a few kilometers from where he found the purse when the phone rang. He brought it out and pressed the green button.

          “Hello?” he said.

          “Oh, all thanks to God.”

          It was a cool, gentle, mellifluous feminine voice.

          “Who is this?”

          “It’s the owner of the phone that you are illegally in possession of.”

          Richard was shocked, “I’m not illegally possessing anything, I found it on my path.”

          “I don’t care how you got it, okay? I just want it back. I searched inside my bag just now and couldn’t find it, you don’t know how devastated I have been. So, can I just have it back?”

          Richard refused to be easily convinced, “How do I know you are really the owner?”

          “See, Mr Whatever…it’s not the phone that I need, it’s the SIM card inside. I just need it back, okay? You can keep the phone to yourself, I don’t care.”

          The woman had already decided that he was a thief; she didn’t even know him yet. He was in an annoying mood today, but this strange woman had cut him in the raw.
“Anyway, come to The Delicacies restaurant along Queen Aminat Way. You’ll find a deserted shed opposite the restaurant, go to the shed and pick up your SIM card.” He terminated the call.
 
                    ***********************************************

          “Hello, hello—” she checked the phone and realized that the man she had called had terminated the connection. She was grateful. At least, the man was kind enough to tell her where to pick her mobile card. She could not imagine how she was going to feel if she lost that SIM card. You rarely lose your phone or money in Lagos and get it back. There was a time, maybe prior to the year the country gained her independence, when they said you could leave your belongings almost anywhere and find them untouched when you returned. These days, even the clocks in churches are being purloined. She paid for the call she had made at a local call centre and jumped into her car; she switched on the ignition and drove towards the described location.
                   ***********************************************

          Richard stood sentinel in front of The Delicacies restaurant, keeping a careful watch over the purse he had dropped on a table standing before the shed, making sure that no wrong hand got hold of it. Over two decades earlier, the piece of land occupied by the restaurant was formerly holding a large private hospital, and beside the shed opposite was an old bank building which had been neglected. Its strong room was now being used in the nights by weed smokers and sellers. He had decided, after his annoyance had ceased, not to take anything from the purse. He kept everything in the purse. Richard was no saint, if he had wanted to take somebody else’s property, it wouldn’t have been this way, it was too easy, too clean; there was no likely danger in it. And to Richard, the danger in a crime was what made the crime interesting. When Richard was in the university and in need of some money for handouts, he’d stolen the Professor’s Nokia phone and had indirectly sold it back to him in another casing and colour. He had once tried smoking cigarettes and Indian hemp just to know how they tasted. He had gambled and conned just to feel what gamblers and con-artists felt. He had even successfully picked the pockets of a pickpocket at the bus-stop.

          He leaned against a tree and put his hands in his pocket to await the arrogant woman.

          Then just down the road was a glistening black jeep approaching.
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Catch the next episode next week Monday. Make it a date.

 
 

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