Read Episode VII (The previous episode)
David’s WhatsApp message dropped around 3:17am. Rain’s problems with her family and her boyfriend prevented her from sleeping well, so for three nights in a row, she found herself tossing and turning in her bed. Perhaps, that explained why she was somewhat awake when her phone beeped, jolting her from another surreal flight of fantasy that evolved around wolves in sheep’s clothing and dagger-wielding friends.
Rain’s first instinct was to ignore the muffled notification, because at that time of the night it was usually some recycled joke, a rant about Nigerian politics and economy or an inappropriate video from someone in her secondary school WhatApp group.
Because a few of her old classmates that had relocated abroad for school or work acted like they didn’t remember Nigeria and their new countries of residence operated in different time zones, Rain was never in a hurry to check her phone. At a point, following pressure from the locals, the group admin, Eucharia, was forced to caution against sending messages when it was past 10pm Nigerian time, but her warning yielded nothing. It was obvious to Rain, and everyone else in the group, that with every ill-timed message, the offenders were reminding others that they were now based in America or Canada.
As she did in the past, Rain could have ignored the message, but her hunger for any kind of distraction made her reach for her phone from underneath her pillow. Her heart did the Zanku legwork when she saw the name of the sender.
In order to protect her eyes from the refulgence, Rain adjusted the brightness of the screen and began to read. In the short message, D3 informed her politely that he would be spending a few more days in Warri. He had decided to stay back until he heard from the hotel about his prospects.
At first, Rain was unsure about responding to David’s message because they hadn’t communicated with each other for days. Nevertheless, after about ten minutes of dithering, she decided to tow the line of civility and maturity. D3 would know if his message was delivered, read and ignored, and she wanted to be the bigger person.
If David was expecting a lengthy reply from her, she was certain of his disappointment. Nearly three minutes of typing and deleting only produced a monosyllabic affirmation of support for his decision to remain in Warri. Rain was happy she didn’t give anything away. She was glad she didn’t show excitement, anger or lust, three emotions that would have made her appear weak.
Whenever David decided to come back home, Rain thought to herself, she’d be waiting for him with her decision about their future together. But until then, she’d have to stay strong like Annie advised and only text “yes,” “no” and “okay” to his cold messages.
Her alarm went off at six but she decided to give herself fifteen extra minutes of shut-eye. When eventually she dragged herself out of bed, with her bible in her hands, Rain knelt down by the foot of her bed and said a short prayer for a good day. After that, she went into the bathroom to wash and try for bowel movement.
Rain dressed up in a white pencil skirt and sky-blue chiffon wraparound blouse that made her look smart and ready to take on the world. It was the colour and texture of the fabric that did the trick. There was no time for breakfast because of the extra minutes she spent deciding on the perfect wig, shoes to wear and the right amount of makeup to hide the dark circles around her eyes.
When she drove into the office complex at 8:32, Mr. Wakama’s car was already in the parking lot. It made her feel bad that her boss was in before her.
Not wanting him to think that her new status in the company was getting to her head, Rain dropped her handbag and laptop carrier in her office and headed straight to his, to apologise for being thirty minutes late.
“Good morning, Zaddy.”
“Good morning my Charming Princess.” Rain smiled. The accountant had lots of nicknames for her, but he had never called her Charming Princess before.
“I’m so, so sorry for being late. I should have been here earlier but I had problems with – ”
“Your car, right? Don’t worry my dear, I understand,” Mr. Wakama interjected. As customary of him, he was impeccably dressed in a well-tailored suit and an expensive-looking tie. His cologne was dense and masculine, and when he smiled, it brought a smile to her face too.
“It wasn’t – ”
“Don’t you just hate it when your car starts acting up? I believe you’ve used that car for about a year now. We should change it. You deserve something bigger. Perhaps an SUV to match your new job title.”
Rain wasn’t expecting to be rewarded for her tardiness. She didn’t know how to react to the possibility of a second car in one year. It was all too good to be true.
“I…I – ”
“I’ll speak to Chief about it today. If he approves, and I know he would, you should have your brand new Kia, Ford or Hyundai SUV by early next week. It is the standard for management.”
“Thank you, sir.” Rain couldn’t believe her good fortune. She couldn’t think of what good deed she had done in this life or the one before that brought her such good luck.
“Oh, no need for that, you deserve it. Padrino has seen something in you and I see it too. You will go very far in this company,” Wakama prophesied. Rain was flattered by his kind words. She was excited that her day was getting off to a good start in spite of how dark and lonely her night had been.
“These perks and privileges are starting to scare me. Can’t some of them wait after until I’ve proven myself?”
“See them as incentives while you do that,” Wakama beamed.
“But would there be opportunities for training?” Rain asked.
“I’m sure with Chief’s approval, we can arrange something for you in Lagos or even Dubai. But let me warn you, most of the training you’ll need to excel in EE, you’ll get on the job. That’s how we all learnt.”
“I’m prepared to learn,” Rain blurted. “But there’s no precedent to learn from because I’m the first ever Chief Business Analyst in this company and I’m terrified I wouldn’t do a good job.”
“So make your own rules as you go along,” Wakama advised.
“How do I do that?”
“You’ll figure that out when you meet with Chief Edozie tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll spell out your schedule and tell you your specific deliverables. The ‘briefing’ is a rite of passage here. It’s a tradition we all went through,” Wakama laughed.
“There’s no need for you to be. Chief likes you.”
Rain was silent. She didn’t see the point in contradicting the accountant’s assertion. It was something everyone in the office believed to be true.
“Chief likes everybody.” Rain was flushed with embarrassment.
“There’s no need for you to get all flustered,” Donald Wakama reached for her right hand and gently caressed them. The gesture caught Rain off guard. She winced but she didn’t pull her hands away. Considering how kind and encouraging he had been since the announcement of her promotion and even before, she trusted him. “We are all here to help you succeed, because your success would impact on the bottom line, directly or indirectly. At Edozie Express, we are one big happy family.”
“Thank you, Mr. Waks.”
“Why don’t you join me for some tea and biscuits,” Wakama ended the tactile succour abruptly, and motioned towards the coffee table in the middle of the room.
After some random chatter about politics, food, family and the early days of Edozie Express, it occurred to Rain that she had been in the accountant’s office for nearly one hour and she hadn’t learnt anything new from him about the finances of Edozie Express.
Donald Wakama deflated most of her questions about the inner workings of the department and he niftily ignored her request for files, invoices and contract documents.
The “briefing” lasted for ten minutes. Rain knew this because she set up the timing system for meetings in Chief Edozie’s office while she was still his Personal Assistant.
Rain thought Chief didn’t look or sound like his usual self, but she dared not ask the reason for his lethargy. The black kaftan and black Hausa cap he wore made it look like he was in mourning. Because she hadn’t been around him like she used to when she occupied the office right next to his, Rain could only assume it was fatigue from the long meetings he had before hers.
“I trust you have settled down in your new office,” Chief Edozie asked when his new PA ushered her into his office.
“I have sir,” Rain answered.
“Interesting. And I take it you have everything you need to help you hit the ground running?”
“Yes, I…I…do sir,” Rain stuttered. “Actually, It’s not quite clear what I’m supposed to be doing. Mr. Wakama and I are still trying to figure it out so there are no overlaps.”
“Interesting,” Chief Edozie said, rubbing his palms together as if to stave off the chill from the air conditioner in his office. It bothered Rain that he didn’t look good. “And how have you been, Rain? I’ve missed your coffee.”
His mention of her coffee cracked Rain up, but she controlled herself so she didn’t overdo it. “Everyone on the fifth floor has been great,” Rain said, changing the subject. “Mr. Wakama particularly, he has been very helpful.”
“Interesting. It is as if both of you are quite close?”
“In a father and daughter way,” Rain blushed.
“There’s no need to be shy. In fact, I am very happy to hear that you and him get along. It is important you maintain that closeness if you are to succeed in the task I hired you for.”
“I hope to learn from him, sir. Thankfully, the new organogram circulated this morning shows that he’s now CFO and I’ll be reporting directly to him.”
“Interesting. I think he’ll do very well as Chief Finance Officer. It’s a job he’s be doing for over five years now, the title is just for formality sake and to comply with industry standard.”
“I agree with you sir.”
“Rain,” Chief sat up straight in his chair. He was suddenly all business-like and even his voice sounded like a reprimand. “There’s something that’s not in that organogram.”
“What is it, sir?”
“I know you don’t have any accounting training or experience, but I want you to keep an eye on everything that goes on in the finance department. I want you to be observant and trust nobody. You have to tell me everything Mr. Wakama does. I have to know when he signs a cheque and everyone that visits his office. I want to know everything.”
“Sir – ”
“Rain, I trust you and I trust your sense of judgment. Things aren’t going on well in this company and I need you to help me straighten them out. There are too many suspicious payments and contracts; I need to know what is going on before it is too late.”
At the end of their meeting, Chief Edozie didn’t use the word, but it was clear as day that Padrino brought her on board only because he wanted her to spy on his accountant, now CFO.