By Ekeoma Ajah
P r o l o g u e
Ogemnabia woke up to her phone ringing. She thrust a hand out from under the warmth of the duvet and with a practiced mo-tion, grabbed the device and pushed the button to mute the ringer. She squinted at the bedroom window; weak daylight streamed in through the closed blinds. But it was barely 7a.m. – she knew because her alarm had not gone off – on a Saturday morning, and whoever it was could bloody well wait.
Mere seconds later, Ogemnabia’s phone began ringing again. Her husband stirred beside her. Cursing under her breath, Ogemnabia grabbed the phone and looked at the screen. She sighed and pressed the answer button.
“Ali, tell whoever is at the gate to come back later.”
Ali’s voice was loud through the speakers. “Em, Madam, wahala dey o.”
“Madam, abeg make Oga come outside. Police dey here.”
She heard the beep of the call ending and let out an impatient breath as she got out of bed. Ali, their gate man, had always had a flair for the dramatic. Once he had summoned Ogemnabia to the gate at the request of a wandering self-proclaimed prophet with a prediction that their house would burn to the ground within three days if the prophet didn’t pray for them – for a fee, of course. She could bet she’d go out now only to find no more than a uniformed delivery man with a package. There was certainly no need to wake her husband.
Ogemnabia wrapped her night robe around her and slipped on her flip-flops. She shut the door quietly as she left the room. The air in the house held the stillness of sleeping bodies, and the only sound was the quiet hum of appliances. She savoured the rare quiet as she padded down the steps and made her way to the front door. Perhaps after she’d dispatched whoever was at the door she would enjoy a leisurely cup of tea in the cosy little downstairs room she liked to call her home office.
She opened the front door and almost walked into the group of men right on the doorstep. She searched for Ali in their midst and found him at the fringe of the group, his head bobbing up and down as he tried to make himself seen above the shoulders of the much taller men who had blocked him out. Farther down the compound, Ogemn-abia could see the pedestrian gate standing open like it had been flung aside. Up in the sky, clouds were gathering.
“Sorry, Madam, dem push me enter inside,” Ali said, panting.
Ogemnabia counted nine men: three wore police uniforms and were armed with guns, one was dressed in formal office attire, and five massive, muscular types wore grey coveralls.
“Yes, how may I help you?” Ogemnabia said, careful to summon her most haughty tone. No one could intimidate her on her own door-step.
“Eviction notice,” the office man said, flashing a sheet of paper. “We are here to repossess this house on the –”
“Sorry, wrong address,” Ogemnabia said, turning to go back inside.
“Is this house not occupied by one Mr. Chike Benedict Anyanwu?”