The rest of the day passed quickly. I was called out of Jenny’s
office after a few minutes by Mr. Obi who wanted me to go
through some documents with him regarding the project at the
airport and the company we had closed a contract deal with.
Kelvin came to see Obi for something but started behaving a
little weird when he saw me. I put his mind at ease by lying that
Daniel had told me about his issues and I had guessed the
secondary school misadventure bit. Soon he was relaxed and
we were all laughing and joking. He told Obi and I that he had
called his wife soon after I confronted him, and he intended to
visit them the moment we were through with our activities in
Asaba. A few hours later and it was three o’clock. Mr. Bells had
called to say that Engman, the foreman at the worksite and his
assistant foreman, along with some representatives of the
indigenes, were coming for a meeting this evening to discuss the
unfortunate incident of the mob action the day before. Mr. Bells
was very keen on showing them that Sidney was no man-eater
but he didn’t divulge to us how he was going to prove it to them.
“You guys will have to come to the meeting too.” He said
jovially. “It will start by 4pm.”
We agreed and soon we heard from the receptionist that
Engman and our visitors had arrived. Mr. Bells ushered Obi,
Kelvin and I into the large oval boardroom where we held most
of our meetings. Jenny and Chioma were already seated, Jenny
giving me a quick wink and pointing to the seat she had
reserved. Chioma was on the phone, having what appeared to
be a heated conversation but she still caught my eye and
frowned when she saw that I was about heading to Jenny’s
side. I was momentarily caught in a dilemma but Mr. John
saved me by suddenly appearing through the door with his
massive frame, grinning from ear to ear. He clapped me on the
shoulder, nearly tipping me over.
“Stop shouting on the phone, Chioma. I’m here!” he boomed.
While I asked about his health, Obi and Kelvin went to the table.
Despite her protests, Obi sat on Jenny’s right, the seat she had
reserved for me, while Kelvin, looking a little embarrassed, sat
on her left. I guess Obi was still a little homophObic.
Soon Mr. John half led-half carried me to the table and we sat
down beside each other. Mr. Bells welcomed us and took his
seat at the head of the table.
“You all are very aware of the event that took place here
yesterday concerning the unfortunate demise of a security guard
under mysterious circumstances,” he said.
“After some investigation by the locals, it was determined that a
beast, a wild animal had in fact attacked and killed the security
guard.” He paused for a moment, staring at each of us in turn.
“So far, all this has nothing to do with us whatsoever.
Unfortunately, things turned sour when someone from this
company leaked to the locals that we had a leopard in the
compound. That same person instigated the people into
believing that our leopard, our dear Sidney, was a wild beast and
a ravenous man-eater. The result of the ensuing panic was what
you saw that played out yesterday. Our office was besieged and
property destroyed. Even our PRO wasn’t left out of the violence
as she was physically assaulted. Who knows what would have
happened if some good Samaritans along with our very own
Chukwudi, Kelvin and Obi had not intervened? But for these
men’s chivalry, Jenny would have been seriously hurt!”
“After the soldiers came and dispersed the crowd I called a
meeting with the leaders of the people and was able to learn
from them who leaked the story about me having a leopard. I
wasn’t surprised at the answer I got. That such a person would
be so selfish as to put aside the well being of this company to
suit his own selfish agenda was the height of wickedness! I
cannot continue to tolerate such an individual around my
person. And so, today, I’m letting him go.”
The door opened and Mr. Daniel walked in. he looked tired and
shaken. He walked towards my side of the table, caught a
glimpse of me, and did an about- turn. He went to the other side
and realized no seat had been kept for him.
“Ah, Mr. Daniel.” Mr. Bells said. “We were just talking about
“Where’s my seat?” Mr. Daniel said, standing behind Chioma
and looking confused.
“Seats here are reserved only for members of this firm, people
who take the well being of this company to heart.” Mr. Bells said
gravely. “But I do have a letter for you.”
He picked up a brown envelope that was on the table and
handed it to Mr. Daniel who opened it with shaky hands. There
was silence in the room as his eyes darted across the typed
letter within, following the words from line to line. His eyes
flashed with anger and he looked up at Mr. Bells.
“You are firing me?!” He said Mr. Bells shrugged and said
nothing. Daniel looked around at everyone on the table, his
greed demon shrieked wildly on his shoulder and a small smile
played on his lips slowly getting wider and more maniacal.
“You think I care about being fired? You think I’m worried about
my future?” he threw his head back and laughed mirthlessly.
Chioma looked alarmed but Mr. John gestured that she would
“I don’t care about this job!” Mr. Daniel said. “I have enough to
feed me and my family and all our generations for a lifetime.
Forget this thing jo!” And he threw the letter on the floor.
“About that,” Mr. Bells suddenly spoke. “I have been able to
trace most of the money you have swindled from me all these
years. I know of your foreign accounts and the bogus contracts
you granted to yourself. I sent petitions to have your accounts
frozen pending a full investigation and that has been done. I’m
suing you for fraud and conduct unbecoming of a member of the
board. Oh yes, you’ll be paying me back every single dime you
stole either in cash or in kind, I’ll see to that.”
Mr. Daniel’s eyes shone with belligerency and he opened his
mouth to say something but Mr. Bells interrupted him. “I believe
you were on your way out.”
“You’ll be sorry. I swear, you’ll all be sorry for this…this…
disgrace! You’ll pay for it dearly, I promise you!”
“That sounds like a threat, Mr. Daniel.” Mr. John said grimly.
“Don’t let us add ‘threat to life’ as part of your offenses.”
Mr. Daniel stood there for a moment. Then he turned on his
heels and left the door, banging it shut behind him.
“Sorry about that unpleasantness.” Mr. Bells said, smiling
grimly. “On to other things.” “I have invited a few people over
today to see Sidney, to prove to them that he isn’t the vicious
beast Mr. Daniel claimed he was. When they see how calm he
is, they’ll no longer feel threatened by him”
“And how do you plan on doing this, sir?” Obi asked. Mr., Bells
smiled. “I intend to introduce them to Sidney in this very room
during our meeting today.”
There was a moment’s pause as we all looked at him
“Are you sure that is a good idea sir? Mr. Kelvin said finally,
“Sidney is pretty scary to look at. I don’t know if any of the
locals will even want to be in the same compound with him, talk
less of the same room, regardless of if he purrs like a kitten or
“I agree with Kelvin.” Obi said. “It looks a bit too risky to me.
What if Sidney starts to act up?”
Chioma and Jenny nodded in agreement. Mr. Bells looked hurt.
“Come, come now, has Sidney ever acted violently towards any
of you?” he said, Jenny raised her hand but Mr. Bells waved it
“Not you Jenny. Sidney is Jealous of you, you know that. That’s
why he’s always growling when you get near.” Jenny looked at
me and rolled her eyes.
Mr. Bells grinned and looked around. “I assure you, Sidney is as
meek as a house-cat. He’s so quiet that he’s even been in this
room the whole time and none of you noticed.
We all looked at Mr. Bells startled and started looking around
the room. My eyes fell on the lavatory door at the far end of the
“Oh dear.” I said.
Mr. Bells followed my eyes and laughed. “Very observant,
Chuks!” he said, and walked over to the door and opened it. Out
strutted Sidney, looking extra cute with a red ribbon attached to
his tail. Mr. Bells must have spent all of last night grooming him
for his fur coat shone brightly. He walked past us and towards
Mr. Bells who took its big head in his hands and rubbed his fur
vigorously. Sidney purred.
“You see, cute as a kitten! Our guests will love him!” Sidney lay
on the floor and rolled unto his back, allowing Mr. Bells to stroke
the fur on his soft underbelly. He really looked very docile.
“Can I pet him?” Chioma asked bravely.
“That’s the spirit, Chioma!” Mr. Bells said. “Go right ahead!”
One by one we all got up from our seats and went to pet Sidney.
There was a lot of tension at first but soon we were all relaxed
and playing with the leopard like it was a huge dog. Jenny
however kept a healthy distance.
“I just…I’m not so good with animals.” She said, smiling
uncomfortably. Mr. Bells chuckled good naturedly.
“Well, I daresay this plan might actually work!” Mr. John said.
“In fact, this is what you would have done with us the first time
we met Sidney, Mr. Bells. I can’t believe I’ve never petted Sidney
since we started out in Akwa-Ibom!”
“My apologies, folks.” Mr. Bells said, “I guess I was a little
selfish with him wasn’t I? I honestly didn’t feel he would like
being touched by strangers but since Chukwudi petted him that
day at the garden I’ve been having a rethink.” He nodded at me
I patted the animal’s huge head and it opened its mouth in a
wide grin before turning over. My hand nearly got crushed
underneath his head, it was so heavy. I imagined all those
movies where people fought with leopards and realized it was all
film tricks jo. If this creature were to pounce on a man, its sheer
weight would bowl the man over. We laughed as Chioma
squealed when Sidney gripped her hand in its jaws but let her go
without leaving a mark. After a little while longer Mr. Bells led
Sidney back to his enclosure in the lavatory.
“They’ll be here any minute.” He said.
“I told the receptionist to show them right up.”
As if on cue, there was a beep from the phone on the table.
“Yes?” Mr. Bells said.
“Excuse me sir, our visitors have arrived.” The receptionist’s
voice came over the speaker.
“Good. Send them in.” he said. A few minutes later, the door
opened and in walked the field foreman Mr. Engman and his
assistant, two other field workers and three leaders from the
crowd of the day before. There were smiles all around and Mr.
John whispered to me that Mr. Bells had ‘settled’ them very
generously the day before. The receptionist came in with extra
seats and soon they were all seated. Chioma got up and
introduced the visitors again to Mr. Bells although they had
already met the day before and everyone shook hands.
I glanced across the table at Jenny as all of this was going on.
She met my eyes and nodded. She was shaking like a leaf. I
looked at Chioma who smiled pleasantly at me and went back to
“Jenny, are you alright?” Mr. Bells said suddenly.
“Y…Yes sir. The Air-conditioning is a little cold.” She replied,
trying to smile although her eyes looked terrified.
“Well we can put it off or increase the temperature a bit. Would
that be okay?” Jenny thanked him and Mr. Bells used the remote
to increase the temperature. I looked at Jenny and mouthed
“Calm down” to her, and she nodded. I sat back and caught
Chioma looking at both of us, puzzled. I smiled reassuringly and
she shrugged and turned her attention back to the meeting
where Mr. Bells had been talking for a while.
“…and so, I want to once again apologize for the unfortunate
incident yesterday and I assure you that like I said before, I
indeed have a pet leopard but that’s just what he is-a pet. He
has never attacked a living soul in his life and is almost like a
son to me. My employees can attest to the fact that he is indeed
a gentle beast.”
One of the representatives stood up. “We are the ones to
apologize sir. We didn’t know what happened yesterday, if not,
our youths are not violent like that. We have already dealt with
the culprits among them who instigated the riot and we are
promising you here and now, such a thing will not happen again.
There was a round of applause.
Obi leaned over to Jenny’s side. I could see her sweating bullets
from here. He seemed to be asking her what was the matter but
she affirmed that she was alright. I caught her eye and nodded
“To show you that there is nothing to fear from my pet, I’ve
decided to let you folks have a look at him yourselves!” Mr. Bells
“Er…Mr Bells Sir, about the location of this meeting,” Jenny said
quietly. “I was thinking if they could meet with Sidney outside?”
“Why would you say that?” Mr. Bells said, smiling at Jenny
although his eyes blazed with anger.
“Well, the place is a little crowded…” she began
“And dark,” I said, “I don’t think they’ll be able to see Sidney in
all his beauty in this dark room.”
Mr. Bells looked at the fluorescent bulbs that lit up the entire
room like it was daylight. His expression was one of surprise
“The lighting is fine and Sidney won’t mind the crowd” Mr. Bells
said, through gritted teeth.
“Who is Sidney?” another of the representatives asked. “Is there
“NO, No.” Mr. Bells said. “No problem at all. Like I was saying, I
want to introduce you gentlemen to my leopard. He’s been in the
room this whole time, and with your kind permission, I’d like to
bring him out for you to see.”
The representatives looked at each other. Fear gave way to
curiosity and excitement and they agreed. Mr. Bells rubbed his
hands together, very pleased and went to the lavatory door. He
opened it and out came Sidney majestically, in his entire
splendor. The representatives gasped in awe and delight.
“Gentlemen, this is Sidney, my Pet Leopard.”
Sidney let out a low purr as if it understood it was being
introduced to strangers. Mr Engman, who had seen Sidney
before, was the first to approach it, the other representatives
stood up from their seat pointing and grinning.
Sidney didn’t seem to mind the company at all. He stayed with
Mr. Bells and allowed Engman to pet him and licked his hand as
he pulled away. This elicited an expression of pleasure form the
others as they casually began to advance…
All of a sudden Sidney stood at alert. The hairs on his back
stood on end and his ears cocked upward and forwards. He
uttered a low growl that wasn’t as friendly as his previous ones.
Mr. Engman stopped in his tracks; his hand still suspended at
the point Sidney licked it.
“Sidney?” Mr. Bells said, smiling nervously. “Sidney, what’s
Sidney paid no attention to his master’s voice. Instead he
lowered his haunches and tensed his muscles and uttered a
terrifying, ear-splitting snarl. He looked like he was about to
pounce. Everybody at the table jumped from their seat, me
included. From the corner of my eye I saw Jenny mutter
something to her ring and then she faced the leopard. For a split
second beast and mermaid exchanged glances. Jenny shook
her head in disapproval but Sidney’s mind was made up. With
another snarl and a display of sharp teeth, he pounced.
Mr. Engman screamed and jumped out of the way along with the
other representatives but it wasn’t them Sidney was after. He
charged straight for the only man in their group who hadn’t
made a move since the discussions began. He had stood up
when Sidney entered the room but had not made any attempt to
approach the animal. Now the animal came flying full force at
It all happened so very fast. Sidney leaping through the air, his
fangs bared, his claws extended. Mr. Bells shouting Sidney’s
name at the top of his voice. The other guests cowering in fear
on the floor…
And a sudden strangled gasp from Sidney as the man caught
him deftly, his right hand firmly encircling the leopard’s neck.
We all watched in amazement as Sidney struggled like the wild
cat it was, clawing at the air, trying to escape the iron grasp of
the man who stood firm and kept it at arm’s length, his body not
even shaking from the effort of holding the leopard at bay. He
grasped Sidney more firmly and the leopard stopped snarling
and its breath came in labored gasps. And the man brought his
face closer to Sidney, opened his mouth and gave a heart-
I recognized him from the moment he came into the room.
Jenny had seen him too. And even now, his manifested Leopard
towered over Sidney, its lion-like mane spread out, its two tails
swishing angrily as it declared its dominance over the smaller
beast. He was the Assistant foreman , the man I had talked to on
my first day at the field.
We had found our Man-Animal.
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