Jenny took another ten minutes before coming downstairs. I had
decided to be a gentle man and wait for her so we could have
breakfast together. When she came down I saw she had
changed into a polka dotted white dress with frilled edges and I
wondered where she had gotten the outfit from. She walked in
purposefully and sat down beside me. I noticed that the
bandages around her hands had gone and I couldn’t see the
“Impressive,” I said pointing at her hands. She looked at them
again and smiled.
“Thanks” she said, pulling up a chair and sitting down at the
table with me. The cook was sitting at her corner of the
restaurant and came towards us. I ordered my usual, bread and
tea with eggs and sausages. Jenny asked for fried rice with fish
and orange juice. I raised my brow when I saw the fish.
“You eat fish?” I asked.
“Yes, don’t you?” she looked at me quizzically. I said nothing
and we commenced breakfast. “I was thinking of how we are
going to catch this leopard fellow,” I said in between mouthfuls.
“It will be easy enough for me to keep my eyes open, so to
speak when we get to the office. I want to believe the reason I
haven’t seen a manifestation of him before is because your ring
was somehow preventing it.
“That’s very possible,” she replied. “I originally wore it to protect
myself from the effect of your powers but maybe what it did
was to scramble your system a bit, reduce your perception and
reducing your abilities at the same time…”
“So that plan should work.” I interrupted. “But what if it
doesn’t?” she said.
“What if he has some powers of his own that prevents him from
being exposed, maybe a talisman that suppresses the beast
within him? It was not unheard of in the old days for the man-
animals to carry talismans like that, cloaking their abilities from
“Alright, if it comes to that then we’ll have to do a little more
detective work.” I said. “Something else will give him away; his
character, what he says, where he’ll go. And then there is the
“The what?” she asked, looking confused. “He has a blue
Camry. That’s what he hunts in.” “But, all our official cars are
black. I haven’t seen anyone ride in with a blue camry before.”
“Well,” I said, “We can ask about Camrys. He might give himself
away with that. Or at least manifest something when it is
mentioned. Even if he is wearing a talisman I should be able to
see something. I mean, even with your ring on I was able to see
through to your real self, which means I was overcoming
whatever it was your ring was doing anyway…”
“More likely because you kissed me, the intensity of the
contact.” She said. “That’s what opened your eyes.”
“Ahem, I kissed you? The way I remember it, you kissed me…”
“Whatever makes you sleep at night, honey.” She grinned.
“Anyway, you’re saying you may be able to perceive more
things today?” “Definitely,” I said sullenly, still smarting over her
“I’ll just have to keep my eyes open that’s all.
“And what do we do once we have apprehended the villain?” she
asked, narrowing her eyes.
I hadn’t thought of that. Were we going to hand him over to the
police or dispense with some jungle justice of our own? I
remember what happened with Mr A****, how his own powers
turned on him and made him mad.
“We’ll cross the bridge when we get there.” I said.
She looked at me thoughtfully. “About last night…” she said,
“Was there only one dream you had?”
“How does it matter?” I asked, looking at my plate.
“I’m sorry.” She said quietly.
“I had to try-“
“No you didn’t.” I replied.
“You would have gotten yourself killed or something.”
We were silent for a while. I think we were both embarrassed by
the little information we had quietly ignored since we woke up. I
almost didn’t want to tell her I remembered her invasion of
Chukwudi the Stronger’s sanctuary. I had experienced the whole
thing as a dream of course and may not have been able to stop
it if Chukwudi had gone further…
Jenny broke the silence. “You acted without hesitation…”
“That, er, wasn’t me.”
“Yes it was.” She countered. “It was you without any of your
controlling self righteousness. You without your ego or
superego. You could have really killed me.”
“So what, you’re scared of me now?” I asked looking at her.
She nodded quietly.
“Scared and Awed at the same time. I’m more attracted to you
now than ever.”
The statement caught me by surprise and I laughed out loud and
the cook looked up from her desk. I stifled what was left of the
laugh and saw that Jenny was giggling.
“At least I know not to visit you in your dreams again.” She said,
I smiled back. Then I took her hand.
“I’m really…he’s really…I’ mean…we’re sorry for what
happened. I would never hurt you like that…”
“You wouldn’t, but he definitely would, without apology too. I
can almost hear him laughing in my mind.”
I faltered, knowing she spoke the truth.
“It’s okay Chuks, I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself.” She
said, and got up from the table. “Besides, you shouldn’t show so
much worry for me. I could mistake it to mean you are
beginning to care.”
The meeting that day went as planned. The laborers in the field
had gotten their demands met and I was receiving some
accolades at the office for my negotiating skills. I tried to tell
them that I didn’t do any negotiating really but Jenny shushed
me and besides they weren’t really interested in my modest
replies. Mr. Bells clapped me on the shoulder and called me
aside. As he was doing so I saw Chioma, the lady with the short
hair who came with her huge Lebanese boss to the site the day
before. She backed away as soon as Mr. Bells started talking.
“Well done Mr. Chukwudi, well done.” He grinned and steered
me towards the parking lot outside. “There are a few other
things I would like you to look into for me. We have some men
at the Airport
who say they keep having problems with the authorities.
Anytime I go there to find out what the problem is, the Airport
staffs say there is no problem. I think they are hiding something
“Maybe they are not comfortable with you, being a foreigner and
all, Sir.” I said.
“Exactly what I was thinking as well!” he exclaimed.
“Could you take a look into that matter too? Talk to them; see
what they have to say,
“Beg your pardon sir, I said quietly, “But I’m not the only
Nigerian on your team. Why don’t you tell the others to have a
look into the matter? Remember I’m just a contract staff. They
“Envious? I don’t care. Look, I’ll level with you; I run a very
lucrative business, Mr. Chukwudi. I believe I pay my staff well,
too well if you ask me. Most of them only do their bit and that’s
it, they are more interested in the money and how much they
can eat from my hand, none of them have any real interest in
this job as far as I am concerned. None of them show any
initiative, it’s all Yes sir, No sir, Right away sir, whatever you
say sir, and it irritates the hell out of me. I know they are all
afraid of Sidney but not one of them can man up to tell me to
keep him out of the firm grounds.”
“I’m not so comfortable with him myself sir,” I said, looking for
an entrance to investigate him.
“Ah…but you are the only one that showed any courage by
approaching the beast. That was very impressive. But do you
really want me to remove him? You didn’t seem scared of him
I thought, if only you knew. But I smiled and said, “Not really.
Tell me again how you got to keep such a magnificent
In my mind I was like, if he loves leopards so much, maybe he is
the leopard himself.
“Purely accidental,” he replied smiling although a shadow had
crossed his meaty face.
“Like I said, we had gone to do some business in South Africa
and my wife and kid had insisted on coming along. Methinks
wifey just wanted to make sure I wasn’t up to any shenanigans
when I got there, you know what I mean?” And he elbowed me in
the ribs playfully. I smiled awkwardly and waited for him to
“Anyway I had gone out for a meeting while my son went on a
safari with his mum. They said he spotted a baby leopard in a
bush somewhere and jumped out of the car to go and help it.
The guide says he tried to stop him but before he could remove
his seatbelt my boy was off. That’s my son, always going out of
his way to help animals and such. Most other kids would just
pull the legs off lizards but not my son. He said he wanted to
grow up to be a vet. He was twelve, by the way.”
A cloud had instantly formed above his head, a dark cloud. A
terrible chain had also appeared around his neck, the familiar
chain of those who carried the weight of guilt.
“Sir,” I said, noting the discomfort the sad memories were
putting him in,
“if you don’t want to talk about it…”
“No, I do.” He sighed and smiled again, this time ruefully.
“The leopard cub had been hiding from a snake. A black
mamba. My son stepped on it as he went to pick up the cub. He
was dead before they could turn the car around and head back
to the hospital.”
“I’m so sorry sir,” I said. “Well, that was five years ago. I wasn’t
with them of course. I was busy at my meeting. When I came
back my wife broke the news to me. I ran out to the place where
it had happened intending to find the snake and kill it. I know, I
know, I admit that was an irrational thought at the time but I felt
I would get some satisfaction out of it.
When I finally found it, it was dead. Its head had been crushed in
by a hunter who owned up to killing the leopard cub’s mother.
He said he didn’t need the cub and I decided to take it out of his
hands. He didn’t even ask anything for it. I realized later that he
must have been a poacher or something, but I didn’t report him,
In a way he had exacted vengeance for my son and I was
grateful to him for that. And taking care of the cub kind of made
me feel close to my son again, you know? It’s what he would
“So you named him Sidney.” I said. “Yeah,” Mr. Bells said.
“And he’s a real good leopard. He looks ferocious and all but is
fully domesticated. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Yeah? So what does he eat? Vegetables?”
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