The bed sat lonely in the middle of the big room with only two side stools on either side of it for company. There was little else to furnish the space. A damp looking rug lay out of place just beside the bed on the floor, the mustard color of it did nothing to enhance the scene.
There was a lamp on the stool to the left of the bed but there was no bulb in it. The only light source hung above her head in the ceiling and it flickered on and off a while before stabilizing itself into a dingy yellow glow.
There was one window with no curtains and beyond it she could see the traffic of cars in the street below, horns honking and people shouting off abuses.
The time was 11:47PM and the city was alive as though it were morning.
"Lagos never sleeps," her father used to say with a surly laugh that made his big belly heave up and down in front of him.
She wondered if he would approve of her spending the night in this cheap hotel room, with its humid bed covers and musty air.
"Let me open the window so fresh air can enter," her companion said and he began to make his way across the room towards the only window in the room. She smelled his stale cologne again as he passed her and wondered which was worse, the smell of him or that of the room. Through the drive in the taxi she had gathered herself towards the door and away from him almost as though she wanted to be swallowed up by it. He had tried to get her closer to him, extending a harmattan dried palm on her shoulder and she had flinched.
Now as she stood in the hotel room facing the bed, she thought she could see how much of a mistake this had all been from the start.
"I can give you N50,000 on Monday morning but you are not a small girl. I am sure you know what to do if you must take my money," he had said to her six days before when she found herself in his office for the first time.
Her legs had curled up under his desk and she felt the worms in her belly cringe in fright of him.
"But I can work. I am very qualified in typing and processing documents. I don't want free money, I want to work for you," she said, her hands clasped in her skirt.
He let out a throaty laugh filling the space between them with his mouth odor. He disgusted her. What was she doing here in his office anyway?
"You are very funny. Who says it is free money? Of course you would work. You are not a small girl. What I want you to do for me is work as well, except you don't see it like that sha."
"Sir?" She had begun to hate herself for sitting through the conversation.
"Go and talk to your friend Tolani, she is the one who sent you to me abi?"
"Talk to her. Then call me."
She had left his office that morning and headed straight for Tolani's fabric shop.
"Babe you are funny oh," Tolani began after she had mouthed her issue. "Look around you. Look at my shop. You think say na beans? How do you think I am able to maintain this place? Oga Emeka doesn't need a secretary, he just wants a young girl to satisfy his aging needs."
Tolani had a way with words, saying too much without saying anything at all. She wondered why she always ended up calling her for help.
"Kome see ehn, The reason I said you should go see him was because you needed help with your situation. Me sef I don't have if not I for don give you tey tey," Tolani continued.
Tolani never had money. Ever.
The other day while they were shopping together in Surulere, Tolani did most of the buying, she had asked for a helping of N2,000. In between tapping her index finger on her tongue and counting through a wad of N1,000 naira notes, Tolani had said, "Ahh babe! You should have said this yesterday when I had enough money. Ooooohj God! I really wish I had extra today," and continued counting the notes.
"So I should sleep with him for the money?" Kome asked
"You are not kukuma an angel, if I can do it why can't you?"
Three days later when she called his phone, she said to him bluntly, "I am free on Saturday evening. We can go to a place of your choosing but I want N150,000. In cash."
She almost slapped herself as the words fell out of her mouth and into the mouth piece. Where did that come from?
He had laughed that his annoying laugh again and she was sure she was going to strangle the life out of him if she had the chance.
"This girl, do you know who you are talking to?"
"Oga Emeka I have other men on my case, you wan do abi you nor wan do?"
"Okay okay. I would give you 100K for two nights. It is because you are a fine girl oh. Think about it," he grunted into the phone and she had imagined his big belly shifting up and down in front of him.
"1 night. I would satisfy you. When you make up your mind, call me." And she hung up without giving him a chance to think.
It seemed like forever as she waited on her phone to ring with a call from him. When it finally did at about 4PM on Saturday, he had only three sentences for her.
"My wife has gone out with my car so I would pick you up in a cab at 6:30PM. Be sexy for me. Text me your address."
He had a wife?
She was surprised how very little she had known of the man she had arranged a weekend rendezvous with. What was she doing really? This was no time to think. She immediately discarded all thoughts to change plans as she scurried around her little apartment getting ready.
Be sexy for me? What a mad demanding man he was.
Now as he opened the only window in the hotel room and the harmattan night air breezed in, she was sure she definitely should have cancelled when she had the chance.
With all of his power and prestige he could have taken her to a more decent hotel, No? Instead he had brought her to this dingy-dainty place. She was losing all motivation for what had brought them here in the first place.
"Excuse me please while I take a shower," she said to him, finding an excuse to be away from him.
"Shower ke? No no I cannot wait any longer. I have been holding it for you since the first time I saw you. Come here. Come and play with me small."
She was sure she could see the walls caving in.
The light in the ceiling flickered on and off again and she almost screamed in fright when the room went dark for only a half second.
She was now sure she couldn't go through with it. What was she thinking? How did she get here?
She watched him as he began to inch his way toward her and she prayed the ground beneath her to swallow her up as the stale smell of him reached her before he did.
Just then her phone rang in her handbag and she found herself flying hand first for it, grateful for the interruption. It was Tolani.
"Excuse me, I need to take this privately," Kome said in a rush and hurried into the bathroom, or what she imagined was the bathroom as it was the only other door in the room.
It was a bathroom alright, with terribly stained walls, a stainless bath bowl buried in the ground and a low sitting toilet all cramped together in the small space.
"Una don start?" Tolani asked.
"Start kini? I don't like this at all, I don't want to do it." Kome whispered, talking in hushed tones as she feared he might hear her on the other side of the door.
"Where are you people?"
"In one dead hotel like this in Ikeja. It is so disgusting I can't believe a rich man like that would have this sort of low taste."
"Babes it is not about him it is about you. Tell him the place is not up to your standard and see if he would not take you some place else. You think he cares where you people fuck?"
"I don't like this at all."
"Tohh. Oya tell him you are not doing again. Bye bye. Be easy oh."
At the end tone, she knew what to do. Get up, go out to him, tell him its over. You can't do it. Simple. Let's go home.
And she was going to do just that until she thought about the money again. One hundred thousand Naira for a night's work of being his lay was not much of a bad deal. Of course she'd had sex several times in the past but this once, she certainly felt like a cheap whore at it.
She opened the tap to let water run just so he could hear it and know she was busy in there. To her utter disgust the water ran a cold greenish tint over her hands and she shrieked, stepping away from it and flaying her hands this way and that.
"What sort of low cost battered hotel is this you brought me to?" She wailed as she stormed through the bathroom door and into the room. What she saw stopped her dead in her tracks, her feet stuck to the ground as though held by glue.
Her mouth hung open at the sight his naked penis standing straight and erect towards the ceiling.
He lay on his back on the bed, foaming at the mouth with his hands spread out on either side across the bed.
There was an uncapped bottle of tablets on the side stool and a pack of condoms.
She waited to watch for any kind of movement from him. Nothing. His large belly lay in a heap like molded dough for big pancakes. In an instant she felt life in her legs again and almost plunged herself towards him.
She walked over to him and began to shake him frantically. No response.
He was dead.
Or was he?
She couldn't be sure. She was no nurse and no expert at any medical emergencies. How do you even check for a pulse? Wait, what is a pulse? She was lost.
Confusion and fear gripped her all at once and she jerked away from his lifeless body.
She thought to call someone, anyone, but immediately imagined what a stupid move that would be.
Then the thought occured to her to run. Run away and don't look back.
Who saw her come into this place with this man? Would anyone recognize her?
Her heart pounded loudly in her chest. She shook him again and again. Nothing.
She looked around her in the empty, suddenly lifeless room. Her eyes caught hold of his briefcase on the floor by the bed. She wondered what might be in it and suddenly found herself jerking it open and splaying its contents on the bed beside his dead body. Was he really dead? She didn't have time to think.
There were several documents in the briefcase, envelops and old receipts. A neatly wrapped bundle of five hundred naira notes which could not have been more that ten thousand Naira lay in a separate pocket of the briefcase.
Ten thousand Naira??
Was that all he really had.
She found herself increasingly upset almost forgetting that he could have been dead.
She got up and walked around the bed to the other side where the bottle of tablets lay on the stool.
'Power Muscle Viagra' it read.
Could this have caused his death?
She barely had time to think it through as just then a fast knock reached the door.
Room service??? When did he call room service? This yeye hotel has room service?
And just then it dawned on her.
There was a married man lying dead on the bed. And here she was.