Probed” is a science fiction concept with a Nigerian setting about five extraordinary children trying to live ordinary lives. I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I love writing it!
It took all of Muyiwa not to take a step back. His eyes widened and he clenched his jaw to avoid it dropping open. But he regained his composure in less than a minute.
“Please let this be a coincidence.” He prayed earnestly, forcing a smile to cover his anxiety.
“Sit down boy.” Chief Benson urged. “We’re yet to order lunch. What will you have?”
Ronke looked at her father, then her boyfriend. She disliked her father just as much as she loved Muyiwa, and her boyfriend knew both facts perfectly well. As a matter of fact, he was the reason she agreed to her father’s request to spend the weekend with him. The whole experience was awkward; and a few times she just wanted to jump on his back and hit him on his head.
That was the rage she felt at her father, who left her mother for a mistress just three years after his major financial breakthrough with Ekson paints. Her mother never really recovered from the ordeal, withdrawing into her shell and eventually falling into a deep depression she only recently started getting out of. He didn’t fail to pay the school fees of she and her younger brother and send them money and gifts from time to time, which she only accepted because her mother urged her to.
“He is your father after all.” She had said. “Let him fulfill his responsibility as one.”
She had remembered when they had to struggle to get by, and when money started rolling in from the paint company that bumped her family’s financial status up to average. Then the money started pouring in out of the blue, and their father changed eventually. He became proud and started to treat his wife and children with contempt, even though he made provision for all they needed. The money started to become like sand in one’s garri— the discomfort couldn’t be separated. Eventually he left for a young woman she usually saw with him till date whenever he appeared at an event. She hated them both.
Dealing with her mother’s depression was the hardest part of Ronke’s life. For almost a year mother stopped eating, and sometimes would go into an unforeseen rage which will not die until she had broken something around her. It was until she was resuscitated after a suicide attempt that she thought hard about her life and put back the pieces together. She went back to her businesses (which at the time was being run by her sister) and began to live her life normally again, getting stronger as she got closer to God.
The weekend trip was only made easier because her father’s mistress (he could never refer to her as his wife) had gone on a trip to the United Kingdom their only son, a half-brother who she had met only a few times, but always felt like smacking the back of his head at each occasion because he was extremely rude. She had plans to return home early when the father decided to ask about her boyfriend in a bid to engage her interest. She answered his questions vaguely in a bid to end the conversation quickly, but then eventually her father told her she wanted to meet Muyiwa— she did not see it coming.
“Why not?” her father pressed. “Is it a sin to want to meet the person my daughter is in a relationship with? We need to be sure he’s a good person. We don’t want you getting hurt.”
Ronke resisted the urge to roll her eyes. He was one to talk.
And there they were, at lunch in a fancy restaurant in Yaba, with his father throwing his subtle condescending look at his boyfriend who she knew was trying his hardest not to show how nervous he was. The clenching and unclenching of the fist of his right hand under the table was a dead giveaway for her. Her dad didn’t look like he was impressed though.
“So… my daughter says you both attend the same school.” he said as soon as the waiter brought in their orders. “What course are you studying?”
“Economics Sir.” Muyiwa said coolly. Ronke put her small hand over his under the table for support, and she could tell by the way he flashed a look from the corner of his eye and the way he didn’t pull away that he appreciated the gesture. She smiled to herself and shook her head. Ever since she and Muyiwa started dating she found herself looking out for subtle signs that betrayed his true emotions, because he was superb at concealing them.
“I see. You wouldn’t be attending such a prestigious school if you did not have the support of a rich background.” Her father mused. “Unless you’re on a scholarship or you have some rich uncle taking pity on you and sponsoring your education. Is that the case boy?”
“Daddy!!!” Ronke was embarrassed. She couldn’t believe her father would say such, even if it was on his mind. “Does it matter how he got into the school?”
Her father ignored her outburst. His eyes were on Muyiwa, who appeared ever so placid. “Answer me boy… who are your parents?”
“Daddy for your information… he is the son of Richard Ogunbade, a famous lawyer.” Ronke said angrily. “And even if he wasn’t, it doesn’t matter. He’s an intelligent and upright person, and mummy even mummy likes him.”
Muyiwa didn’t hear the rest of Ronke’s words— he was petrified as she had called his father’s name. He was pretty sure it was the same for Chief Benson, as his eyes widened and a new expression came over him at the sound of his father’s name. Muyiwa had evidently become a person of interest. If Muyiwa hadn’t been involved with those robbers, he probably wouldn’t have minded; he would have even been happy at the thought that her father was one of his father’s clients. But he was sure at this point he was the Chief Benson that sent robbers after the package— that counted him as a danger zone not worth exploring.
“Oh really… your father is Richard Ogunbade?” Chief Benson asked, flashing a smile that seemed sinister to Muyiwa. “His office is in Surulere right?”
All Muyiwa could do was nod in response
“He has done a bit of work for Ekson paints in the past… good man.”
Muyiwa almost started. His father had mentioned that Chief Benson was the co-founder of a paint company. He was undoubted the one they had been talking about.
It was either Ronke sensed his discomfort at being asked too many questions or she was uncomfortable herself, because she interjected into the interrogation by stating that the food was getting cold, and after that they ate in silence. Just as they were rounding up with their meals Muyiwa’s phone rang. It was Fredrick.
“Are you on your way home?” he asked. He sounded a little less composed that he usually did.
“Not yet sir.” Muyiwa replied curtly.
“Please head home as soon as possible.”
It was as if they knew he had been looking for an excuse to leave. He turned to his girlfriend and her father and gave them an apologetic look.
“Sorry Sir… But I have to leave early.” He said with a curt bow. “I’m needed at home.”
Ronke gave her boyfriend a concerned look, hoping it wasn’t a dire issue.
“It’s no problem my boy… we’ll definitely have more outings.” Chief Benson said with a smile and the wave of a hand. Ronke gave her father a surprised look. She didn’t think he’d ever smile at Muyiwa, let alone invite him for more outings. And this change of attitude began when he heard who Muyiwa’s father is, and for some reason that infuriated her.
“Where do you stay? We could drop you off”
It was Muyiwa’s turn to give her father a look.
“There’s no need for that sir… I came with my own car.”
“We could just follow you from behind.” The man insisted. “I would love to pay you a visit… and even say hi to your father while at it. We have some business to take care of. Or does Ronke know where you live.”
“No she doesn’t sir.” Muyiwa said curtly. “And with all due respect, I’d have to decline your offer. It is true that my father is waiting for me at home, but we are leaving the house immediately as we have some things to attend to. I don’t know where we’re going so I can’t go and meet him there, thus the need to wait for me.”
Chief Benson nodded slowly. “I understand. Maybe some other time.”
“Thank you for the meal sir.” He said, before flashing Ronke a small smile and dashing out.
Something was off with Muyiwa, and she could feel it.
Muyiwa was home as fast as he could. He bounded up the stairs to his father’s study, where Fredrick and Mustapha were waiting with Richard. Luckily for him Lillian wasn’t downstairs to stop him and ask how his meeting with their father went. He was full of anxiety as to what they might have discovered as regards Chief Benson and the robbery.
“Good afternoon.” He greeted as soon as he walked in. He sat on the couch next to Mustapha, but didn’t look at him. He fixed his eyes on Richard and Fredrick instead.
“It’s 4pm.” Mustapha corrected in an expressionless voice.
“Dad, Uncle Fredrick… I came as fast as I could. Did you discover something?”
Fredrick looked at Richard, who let out a defeated sigh and permitted him with the wave of a hand to share the information.
“We are strongly of the opinion that Chief Benson is trying to frame Ibrahim.”
“For real?” Mustapha wasn’t moved, so it was obvious that he had already been told.
“Yes. It’s the most logical explanation we could come up with.” Fredrick explained. “Think about it: if robbers intercepted while trying to obtain a parcel Chief Benson sent out that could cripple Ibrahim’s plans, you’d naturally think he’d be the one that sent them.”
“Especially if the lawyer was injured… or even killed.”
“I’m pretty sure to kill me or Fredrick wasn’t in his plans, but if that had occurred, I doubt he would have been moved.”
Muyiwa hung his head and let out a defeated sigh. “But how could we be so sure?”
“We can’t. It’s not like we could just walk up to Chief Benson and ask him.”
“How about we kidnap him, break a few fingers till we get what we need, knock out his memory and have Nneka heal them before he wakes up?” Mustapha suggested. Everyone gave him a look but he wasn’t fazed.
“Sounds foolproof to me.” he said with a shrug.
“We’re not doing any of that. It’s against th—”
“Chief Benson is Ronke’s father.”
It was Muyiwa’s turn to get a look from everyone. He still had his head hung so he couldn’t see the expression on their faces. He had been thinking about how best to lay the news to them but since he couldn’t come up with anything he just blurted it out.
“Talk about sleeping with the enemy.” Mustapha muttered, low enough for only Muyiwa to hear. His older brother replied by attempting to grab him by the throat. But Muyiwa was out of the couch before he could succeed. The force from his hand made a hole in the couch, right through the wooden framework underneath. Mustapha was at the other end, shaking his head in mock disapproval. Muyiwa was about to make another lunge when Richard intercepted.
“Mustapha… how many times have your mother and I told you to stop provoking your brother? That’s how he made a hole in the standby generator because of you last weekend.” Richard said sternly. “And you Muyiwa… I’ve had that couch for more than two years you know. You have to work harder at controlling your temper. Forget I have money… some things cannot be replaced. You can’t buy sentimental value.”
“Daddy I’m really sorry.” Muyiwa said, feeling very ashamed. He had missed the generator’s engine narrowly, and even though he flattened out the hole, you could still see the roughness and the rupture in the middle. He needed to stop letting Mustapha get to him, even if Mustapha needed to stop pushing him to the wall.
“Daddy I’m also sorry.” Mustapha said, sounding sober for the first time since morning.
“You’re lucky I’ve been planning to replace that couch… but I keep forgetting. Lillian hates it so much.” Richard said with a laugh. Fredrick smiled at his boss. It was true that his wife hated the couch, but Richard had insisted on keeping it… just to be stubborn. He had no plans on changing it, not that Fredrick knew of.
“So let’s get back to this interesting development.” Richard said, rubbing his palms with anticipation. “Tell us how lunch went with Chief Benson. I trust you represented our family well, so I’m not worried about his impression of you.”
So with that Muyiwa proceeded to telling his story in detail, with the others listening with rapt attention, Mustapha included. When he was done he let out a frustrated sigh.
“I still stand by our conclusion.” Fredrick insisted. “If he was really trying to get me or Richard killed, he wouldn’t try to rope himself into the family further.”
“That’s a possibility. But how do we find out what Benson’s true intentions are?”
“We may never know.”
Mustapha looked at his brother, and then at the two men in front of them.
“Dad… Uncle Fredrick… may we be excused?”
Their father nodded absentmindedly, and the boys left the study, walking in silence to the gym. Both brothers knew a workout was the only way to get Muyiwa off the tension.
“Guy.. I’m sorry for what I said about Ronke earlier.” Mustapha said, breaking the silence as Muyiwa went for the bench press.
“Well… you are kind of right though.” He said, before he started his work out.
“I actually didn’t—”
“I know. But I don’t think I should be with the girl whose dad tried to use my own dad for a sacrificial pawn.” He said between reps. “Please increase the weights.”
Mustapha did what he was told. “But she’s not her father.”
Muyiwa let out a laugh and pulled himself up to sitting position. “Suddenly you’re defending her? I thought you of all people would be happy to hear that.”
Mustapha was surprised at himself too. “See dude… I know it seems like I am against almost everything you guys do… but I don’t know if I just think the whole concept is abnormal or if I’m just envious that I wasn’t made capable of loving anyone… the same way I’m not capable of sleeping.”
Muyiwa smiled at his brother in understanding. “Think about this for a second Mustapha: before we adopted by the Ogunbades did you think you’d actually be capable of any emotion whatsoever?”
“My point exactly. If you could have love for a family that you didn’t grow up with, then you could have love for someone who stands out different from everyone else. It’s very possible. Your ability to rest may have been taken away from you, but your ability to love wasn’t.”
Mustapha quickly thought on what his big brother said. For some reason, it made him feel better.
“It is going to hurt me more than you think, but the love I have for my family surpasses the love of any outsider. So I think I have to let Ronke go.”
Mustapha clenched his teeth unconsciously. He felt he had a certain level of influence over Muyiwa’s decision, especially because of some things he said in the car earlier in the day.
“He might keep trying to get close to the family. It’ll be easier to avoid his advances if I broke up with her.” he said, lying back down to continue his workout. “We’re still not sure what his plans are, and I’m not willing to take any chances.”
“Muyiwa… I’m really sorry.”
“Mustapha the regret you feel now isn’t up to the regret I am going to feel when this is through.” Muyiwa said with a sad smile. “I love her, but I have to do this.”
Mustapha hung his head. He did feel an enormous amount of regret within him.
“We’ll get over this soon. Please increase the weights.”