Chief Edozie asked Rain to sit and give him a minute when she showed up to his office at exactly 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning. He told her he needed to quickly wrap up a conference call with some of his business partners in China, after which their own meeting would commence. Because it was just the two of them in the room, and as expected, he was at the head of the table, Rain opted to stay on the opposite end from where he sat.
It was a convenient spot for her because it was farthest from him on the 12-seater conference table in the CEO’s tastefully furnished office. Rain crossed her fingers and prayed that with the distance between them, Chief Edozie wouldn’t notice how nervous she was. It was her first presentation to him since becoming part of management and she didn’t want to blow it. She was also aware of the consequences her discovery could have on the career and life of the CFO so it was important that Chief Edozie didn’t sense any doubt or prevarication in her voice and deportment when she spoke.
Another thing Rain wanted to be able to do when she spoke was to observe. She wanted to be able to read her boss’ facial expression and watch his body language for clues that she was on the right track and that she hadn’t misunderstood her mandate by descending into the arena of witch-hunt. It was important to her that she had his backing and he showed it.
Even though Chief Edozie was engrossed in serious banter with his friends in faraway Asia, Rain didn’t miss the three times he stole glances at her and it increased her discomfiture. Perhaps her makeup wasn’t done right, or her teeth was smudged with vegetables from the vegan sandwich D3 made for breakfast, or the yellow blouse she paired with her favourite black pants was too lacy and revealed too much skin.
Rain felt awkward sitting there doing nothing. She would have preferred to go back to her office and do some more work on her presentation until he was ready for her, but Chief Edozie kept signalling to her to stay and that he was almost done. From time to time, he would glance at her and smile, and she smiled back.
Watching him swivel playfully in the red leather chair with the company logo embossed on it, like he was in his house or out in a bar with friends brought back memories of when as his PA she was a constant fixture in this very room that terrified her all of a sudden.
Perhaps sensing her unease, Chief Edozie pointed to the fridge and mouthed if she wanted a drink and some biscuits. Rain shook her head and continued starring at the ceiling.
His call went on for another fifteen minutes and the waiting increased her anxiety about what she was about to do to Mr. Wakama. Instead of letting her anxiety dominate her mind, and send her imagination on a crazy downward spiral, Rain took her eyes away from the ceiling to Chief’s collection of exotic sculptures and paintings.
Chief Edozie was a connoisseur of the arts and other fine things. His office was like a museum people would pay to visit. From his several telling and retelling of the story behind each work to his guests, Rain remembered from which part of the world each item came, and how much they were worth if he bought them himself. While working with him, Rain had witnessed him curate his prized collection of famous and not-so-famous paintings and delicate objets d’art several times she felt she could do the job just as well as he did.
Rain recalled the first time she walked into Chief Edozie’s office. It was like walking into paradise and it took her breath away. After almost two years, she still couldn’t get over its simplicity and elegance. She had heard her boss say once to a visiting minister of the federal republic of Nigeria that the combined value of the collection in his office was close to a billion naira and Rain didn’t doubt it. It didn’t come to her as a surprise at all because Chief Edozie was like that himself – simple and elegant.
People who are into those sorts of things in the office told her not to be fooled by the simple black kaftans and senators he wore all the time to the office and when attending public events. One lady in HR told her his signet rings, wristwatches, bracelets, necklaces and the pendants dangling from them so casually was the payroll of the entire Edozie Express for twenty years. Rain thought Mrs. Aina was exaggerating but some other ladies in the company told her it was true.
The simple tailoring of his cloths intrigued her. The simple leather sandals he wore to work intrigued her. The simplicity with which he carried himself intrigued her. However, she was more intrigued by how accessible he was to Bayelsans that flocked his home and office steadily for financial assistance. Chief Edozie was open-handed – he never turned anyone away. She also knew he was open-minded – he listened to everyone, and it was her hope that he would listen to her when he ended his call and turned his attention fully on her.
“Alright Chao, Chen and Cheng, I’ve heard your arguments and I would think about it. But if you ask me, I would say we go for the second option. Anyway, you guys are the experts, so you must know what you’re doing. Just email the slides to me when you are done with the proposal. I have to go into another meeting now.”
Chief Rowland Edozie switched off his computer monitor. He turned to Rain and cleared his throat.
“So, Rain, what have you got for me? Let’s hear it.”
Rain opened her laptop and began to read. Chief Edozie listened with rapt attention, only stopping her when he wanted to ask a question or clarify a particular finding. Rain supported her presentation with photocopies of cheques and transfer instructions. She also had bank statements and made-up files created by the CFO to throw his boss off his trail. When she was done, Chief Edozie jumped up from his seat like a pedestrian trying to avoid a Dangote truck.
“Sir, it is bad, really bad.”
“My God! Wakama has finished me.”
“Sir, it is bad, really bad.”
“Who else knows about this?”
“I haven’t shared it with anyone, sir.”
“This is really troubling. My spirit has been telling me for two years now not to trust that man. I wish I had acted sooner,” Chief Edozie lamented. “So, what do we do now?”
“Sir, you know I am not an expert in these things. My recommendation would be that we engage the services of forensic auditors.”
“Interesting. We have to do that immediately. Let me make some calls to our lawyers and auditors, and then I’ll get back to you.”
“Did you mention your auditors, sir?”
“Interesting. It’s like you’re thinking what I’m thinking. If no one has brought this to my attention all this while, then it means Wakama hasn’t been acting alone. He must be in bed with the very people I pay to conduct due diligence on our operations.”
“That was the very thing that came to my mind when I started seeing discrepancies everywhere.”
“Interesting. Thank you very much, Rain. I really appreciate the effort you put in this and I must act on your recommendations immediately. The only thing is that we haven’t heard from the police yet.”
“Oh, I don’t think I told you, Mr. Wakama is missing.”
“No one has seen or heard from him since the night of my birthday party.”
“No. No. This can’t be true.”
“Some of the security guards at the house said they saw him leaving the compound after the party. One said he even stopped to chat with them and that he gave them some money before walking in the direction of the makeshift parking lot we created on my street that day. That was the last time anyone saw him, and his phones have been switched off.”
Rain couldn’t believe what she just heard. She tried to leave the chair but her legs were suddenly weak and wobbly. She could have hit the table face first, but Chief Edozie’s reflexes were sharp for a man his age. Like a superhero character in a Marvel series, he appeared from nowhere and she broke her fall with his hands.
“Rain, are you alright?”
“Sir, I…I…I don’t know.” The tears in her eyes were of confusion.
Chief Edozie wrapped her in his arms and offered her his shoulders to cry on. When she wouldn’t stop crying, he wiped the tears in her eyes with his hands and then gently touched the nape of her neck to steady her. Rain found his touch, and the strong masculine scent from his cologne very soothing, and she nestled in his embrace. He felt warm and safe, and when he didn’t let go, Rain snuggled even tighter. She was safe. He whispered some words in her ears, but she didn’t hear a thing he said. She was just too distraught that she might somehow be responsible for the disappearance of her father.
“Do you think he knows that I was on to something and maybe that is why he disappeared? God, I feel so wicked. Maybe if I wasn’t planning to report him to you, he would be here with us now.”
“I doubt that. Yenagoa has been unsafe for the wealthy for some time now. There have been too many high profile abductions in the city in the last few months. I think he has been kidnapped.”
“Oh my God!”
“I know how close both of you are and I saw how hard it was for you to even bring up your findings to my attention. Rain, Wakama would be fine. We would find him – trust me.”
“They usually call within a day or two, don’t they?”
“They will. We just have to be patient.”
Rain didn’t know what else to say so she decided to pull away from her boss’ embrace. As she did, shifting her head slowly to one corner, her face robbed against his and their lips touched slightly. It was a mistake that shouldn’t have happened, but when it did, none of them wanted to make amends.
Chief Edozie remembered the dream he had about her and it hardened a body part that sometimes lacked discipline in these situations. The kiss lasted for some minutes and when Rain eventually tore away from his grip, he reached for her again. This time, he lifted her gently, like a bride on her wedding night, carrying her through the door that led to the inner chamber in his office reserved for rest and escapades.
They made love once, but Chief Edozie held on to her long after they finished. In the exploration of her body, he was intentional and slow because he didn’t want her to forget him in a hurry and he could tell that she enjoyed it as much as he did.
After she wore her cloths and made to leave for her office, Chief Edozie called Rain back and planted a kiss on her forehead. The words that came out of his mouth after he thanked her, left her rooted beside the bed that had played host to many young ladies like her and it increased the confusion that landed her in his arms in the first place.
“Rain, I love you. I’ve loved you from the first day I set my eyes on you in that barbershop and I want you to be mine.”