The following Monday morning, Shadreck Mwangala graciously greeted his employees as he headed to his office, smiling to some, waving to others, and stopping every now and then to exchange a few pleasantries with some of them. It was a well-known fact that the business mogul was well-liked by almost everyone.
“Good morning old woman?” the CEO peeped through his secretary’s office before going to his.
“Good morning Sir,” the fifty-five year old woman cheerfully returned. “You look very radiant boss,” she said. “I take it your trip went well?”
Because she took so much pride in her age and never missed an opportunity to educate those younger than her, Grace had earned herself the Old Woman nickname around the office, a name she embraced very proudly.
Thanks to Beatrice, Grace Banda had been given the opportunity to be the secretary of the richest man in the country at her age. It was no secret why Beatrice had hand-picked her for the position; the woman hated the idea of young girls and single women prancing around her billionaire husband every day of the week.
Because she was happily married and with four children, Grace had beaten a long list of eligible candidates to become Mr Mwangala’s secretary.
Mr Mwangala returned the smile. “It could be that the trip went well or that I am just happy to finally be back home…or it could be both!” he told her.
Grace laughed. “I see you haven’t changed Sir. How come you did not come with the boss lady today?”
“Beatrice has a few things to take care of at her Salons. She will be here later in the day. Anything for me this morning?” He asked.
“Your young friend Mr Sampa is here,” she said. “He’s waiting for you in your office.”
“Oh yeah,” Shadreck said, scratching his head slightly. “I forgot that I had asked him to report here first thing in the morning. Bring some tea for me…and you know he’s usual right?”
Grace nodded, “I do, have already served him but will bring a fresh cup for him as well just in case.”
“Thank Old one,” Shadreck said and left for his office, smiling.
“Young man,” Mr Mwangala said to the twenty-something year old man he found siting in his office.
The young man smiled, stood up and offered his hand to Shadreck. “Good morning Sir?” he greeted.
“Please sit,” Mr Mwangala motioned for him to sit down after exchanging a handshake. “You are the only Zambian I know that keeps time no matter the circumstance Sampa. Keep up with the same spirit and you will be successful in life. So how have you been? The wife? Business?”
“Everything and everyone’s fine Sir, can’t complain.” Sampa replied. “When did you get back?”
“Last week Friday,” Shadreck laid his laptop bag on the table and removed the computer from there.
“Just a few days ago and you are already back in the office?” Sampa said.
Shadreck laughed in his usual deep and hoarse voice. “That’s how life is young man,” he said, turning on his laptop and waiting for it to fully come on. “People think that life for those already successful is easy but the truth is that’s not always the case,” he was saying. “Once you attain success, there is always the fear that you might lose it or it might slip right through your hands and you find yourself back where you started. That naturally forces you to work even harder.”
Just then Grace walked in with a tray of beverages. She set the cups before the men in the room and quietly walked out.
“It seems I always learn something new whenever I visit you,” Sampa said once they were alone.
“Good, because I want you to succeed in life instead of getting too comfortable. Your father was too scared to take chances but you have an opportunity to make something of your life. Now, do you have what I asked for?”
“I do,” Sampa picked up his bag and removed a large brown envelope and handed it over to him. “Everything I found on her is in there,” he said as he gave the envelope.
Mr Mwangala took the envelope and put it down without opening it. “Give me a summary,” he said. “I don’t think I will have the time today to go through everything.”
“I used the images I got from your security team at home to follow up on her,” Sampa started. “Her name is Evelyn Nanyangwe, her father is registered as Unknown on her birth certificate, her mother is…ah…Beatrice Nanyangwe…your wife sir,” Sampa paused to let the business mogul register the announcement.
“Go on,” Shadreck leaned back into his huge leather chair and motioned for the young man to continue, a complete blank expression on his face.
“She is twenty-four years old,” Sampa nervously continued. “She as raised by her grandmother, a woman called Melody Sinyangwe…your late mother in-law. She works as a secretary at a law firm called Sibu & Associates…she is single and has no children.”
“Did you find out what her reasons for trying to reconnect with my wife are?” Mr Mwangala asked, his voice tuned to the perfect pitch.
“I gathered it was because your wife is the only family she has left. However, judging from her Facebook updates, things did not go as planned and she appears to have given up on trying to reconnect with her. Of course she did not explicitly say that…she merely implied it but I was able to make conclusions based on their body language during their meeting outside your home.”
Shadreck Mwangala shut his eyes and placed his fingers on his eyelids. With his head bowed down, he stayed like that for what felt like forever.
“Is that all?” He had asked when he finally lifted his head up and opened his eyes.
“I am afraid that’s all I could find Sir,” Sampa said. “You only asked me to find out what her relationship to your wife is and since I got the assignment only two days ago….”
“I know,” Mr Mwangala said. “That’s all I needed to know. I am already regretting having asked you to dig into my wife’s past. That’s a part of her life she never likes talking about and I have respected that for all these years. There was just something about that girl that bothered me when I saw the surveillance videos.”
“If you want me to find out more about the girl’s father,” Sampa was saying.
“No, no, no,” Shadreck said, sitting up in his chair. “I think I already know what happened to him. She had mentioned something about him when we first met…she just never told me they had a child together. He’s dead already so you don’t need to find out anything.”
“I understand Sir,” Sampa said.
“Did she hate him that much to even forsake his daughter…her own daughter?” Mr Mwangala said, the words coming out as in a whisper.
“What did you sat Sir?” Sampa asked.
Shadreck looked up at him and shook his head. “Sorry about that, I was just thinking out loud. I hope you haven’t told anyone about this little task I gave you.”
“Of course not sir, I did as per our agreement.”
“Good,” the business man said. “I didn’t want to give anyone else this task. This is a very personal issue and I couldn’t risk it getting into the hands of the wrong people that’s why I asked you to help me out. You are like a son to me so I know I can always count on you.”
“I owe you my life Sir,” Sampa said. “I am always here whenever you need my assistance. I would never disappoint you.”
“Good, I like hearing that.” Shadreck removed a key from the inner pocket of his jacket and moved his chair backwards so he would have enough space to bend over and open his office that was under his desk.
He took out some cash and placed it into a small envelope before handing it to Sampa. “That should take care of everything,” he said as he handed over the envelope.
“Thank you very much sir,” Sampa reached out and took the envelope. “If there’s nothing more,”
“It’s fine yes,” Shadreck said. “You can go now. Thank you for this,” he tapped the envelope on the table.
Once he was alone in his office, Shadreck took the envelope into his hand and starred at it for a very long time, debating in his mind whether to open it or not.
He finally opened it.
He separated the documents from the pictures and decided to go through the latter first.
After going through a number of pictures, one image caught his attention and Shadreck put down the rest of them and remained with that one in his hand.
It was a picture of Kelvin standing outside Evelyn’s door. The time stamp on the corner of the image is what seemed to have caught Shadreck’s eye more than anything else on the picture.
It was 21:32.
Shadreck suddenly put the photo down and grabbed the rest of the bunch he had yet to look at. The next few photos were showing a progression of Kelvin’s movements outside Evelyn’s apartment;
It appeared he never knocked on the door. Instead, he turned back to his vehicle and drove away.
Shadreck threw the photos down on the table and pulled the land phone closer to him and quickly dialled a number.
Kelvin was just getting into his office when his cell phone rang from his pocket. Seeing who was calling from the screen, he quickly closed the door behind him and went round his desk to sit down.
“Mr Mwangala?” Kelvin said.
“Good morning son!” His soon-to-be father in-law cheerfully greeted him.
“I am okay Sir, is everything okay?” Kelvin immediately asked. It was rare for the man to call him. For all the years he had been with his daughter, Kelvin could count on one hand the number of times he had called him…and most of those times where to ask if his daughter was with him.
Shadreck chuckled before responding, “Of course everything is fine. Apologies for calling you this early in the morning but you will be marrying my daughter soon so this couldn’t wait. You are still going ahead with the marriage isn’t it?”
“Of course we are Sir, why are you asking me such a question?” Kelvin’s heart was pounding loud and fast.
“Can’t a father worry about his own daughter?” Shadreck asked.
“The wedding is still going ahead Sir, I promise.”
“That’s good then but we should still meet for a glass of beer. Same place tonight say….6pm.”
“Yes sir, I’ll be there,” Kelvin replied.
The moment Kelvin was done with that call, he called his mother.
“I think the old man is starting to suspect something mum,” was the first thing he said to his mother the moment she picked up his call.
“What are you talking about? What did you do to raise his suspicions? I thought you had everything under control.”
“I did…I am sure I did. But he’s acting strange. He just called me and asked if we were still going ahead with the wedding.”
“Did something happen that might suggest otherwise?” His mother aked.
“I don’t think so,” Kelvin tried to think. “Wait,” he said.
“What did you do?” His mother asked, sensing something.
Kelvin vigorously rubbed his hand through his hair in frustration. “Perhaps it’s Moola,”
“What about Moola?”
“There is this project I am helping Uncle with…you know, the case with those factory workers. I was trying to get close to some girl that works at that law firm that’s representing them so I could get her to divulge some information and Moola found out and got jealous.”
“How many times have I told you to stop helping out that useless uncle of yours Vinny? He has his own capable son to take care of him. Why should he use my son? This is not the time to be making such foolish mistakes. When your father died, he was one of the top people that wanted to take everything away from us. I can’t believe he’s my own brother. If I was not such a strong-willed person, we would all be on the streets right now.”
“Mother, that was a long time ago and he apologized. Can’t we all just move on now? Why do you like holding on to the past so much?”
“Because I was happy in the past Vinny….I was so dame happy back then but they took everything from me and I vowed never to…..” her voice was starting to break.
“It’s alright mum,” Kelvin quickly intervened. “I am sorry I brought it. I will set the record straight with the old man and everything will be fine. I will give Uncle’s case to someone else to handle. Is that okay?”
He could hear his mother smiling from the other end of the line. “That’s more like my son now,” she said. “I will also give him a call just to put his mind at ease.”
“I have to get back to work now mum, let’s chat again later. I love you.”
“I love you too son, bye.”
Kelvin set his phone down and covered his face in his hands.
How did things get this complicated? He asked himself.
I am so sorry for lying to you mother…please forgive me. I also wish I knew what I was doing. This is not easy for me.’
I just want it to end. Kelvin thought as his mind went back to the night he had driven all the way to Evelyn’s place only to change his mind and leave without seeing her.
“Why did I even go there?” Kelvin lamented, kicking his legs against each other.
* * *
Evelyn was walking from the office to the bus stop when a man who appeared to be in his mid forties stopped her. Thinking that he was someone in need of directions, she stopped and smiled at him.
“I am very sorry to disturb you ma’am,” the gentle looking man said. “There is someone who would love to have a chat with you.” He was pointing towards the black Mercedes Benz parked some distance behind him.
Evelyn’s immediately wiped the smile off her face. “Excuse me Mr, who do you think I am? I am not interested in this kind of thing. You should some other girls. And tell whoever is sitting in that vehicle to grow a pair.” She was glaring accusingly at the vehicle hoping that whoever was sitting behind the tinted windows would get the message written all over her face.
“How can a grown man so shamelessly send someone else to do his dirty work? Doesn’t he have any pride?”
Instead of getting upset, the man appeared amused by her tantrum.
“Are you laughing at me?” Evelyn asked.
“I am very sorry Ma’am,” he wasn’t. “Perhaps this might help.” He opened his palm to reveal a business card. He offered it to her.
Evelyn was ready to dismiss him when the name written on the card caught her eye. She quickly grabbed the card from him and gave it another look.
“Is this the man sitting in that vehicle right now?” Evelyn asked.
The gentleman only nodded.
“How do I know you are not lying to me?” She asked, looking him over suspiciously.
He smiled. “Are you sure you’ve never seen me anywhere before? I always appear anywhere that man appears. I am always either beside him or behind him.”
Evelyn stepped back to take another look at him. She smiled and said. “You are right, I thought your face looked familiar the moment I saw you. I have seen you on Tv and even on newspapers. But….what does he want from me?”
“That I can’t tell you ma’am,” the strangely familiar man said.
Evelyn sighed deeply and started walking towards the vehicle that seemed to be attracting the attention of every passer-by. Once they were by the vehicle, the gentleman opened the back passenger door for her and she quickly slid inside.
The gentleman closed the door after her and walked back around to take up the seat behind the wheel.
“I thought I was going to have to come out to convince you to come,” Shadreck said to her once she was settled next to him.
“What do you want?” Evelyn asked.
The car started moving.
“Where are you taking me?” Evelyn slowly started to panic. She immediately remembered the night of the accident. She might not have been sure of who was behind the wheel but she had her suspicions.
“Relax little Eva,” Shadreck calmly told her.
She threw him a look. “It was you that night wasn’t it?” She asked and then looked to the side to check if the doors were locked.
“Why are you panicking like I am kidnapping you?” Mr Mwangala asked. “Relax,” he tried to hold her hand but she quickly pulled it away.
Evelyn tried to look outside and she noticed they were now on the highway. “Where are you taking me?” She asked again.
“Has someone ever tried to kidnap you before?” Shadreck asked, finding her behaviour rather amusing.
Evelyn turned to glare at him. “Are you telling me that it wasn’t you that tried to run me over that night?”
Shadreck gaped at her. “Run you over?”
“I know it was dark but I remembered that vehicle. That was your wife’s car. I know it was her vehicle.”
“Why would your own mother try to kill you?” He asked.
“I knew you knew who I was!” she said accusingly.
“If I truly wanted to do something to you, I wouldn’t have picked you up in broad daylight…and these doors would be fully secured. You are free to get out of this vehicle if you just ask.”
To test his sincerity, Evelyn tried to open the door on her side and it actually open. Now in a state of panic, she tried to close it again but she was so nervous she couldn’t get it to shut tightly.
The gentleman driver slowly brought the car to a stop by the side of the road and came around to close it properly for her.
“Do you trust me now?” Shadreck asked her, a smile playing on his face.
“If it wasn’t you that tried to hit me that night, then it was your wife. She made it clear to me how much she detests me and doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
They were back on the road.
“Did she ask you to meet me so you can threaten me some more?” Evelyn asked.
“Beatrice doesn’t even know that I know about you.”
Evelyn threw him a questioning look.
“She doesn’t know,” he repeated. “That’s why I came to meet you. I can understand why my wife might have reservations about bringing you into our lives. That part of her past where you come from was very traumatic for her.”
“Traumatic for her?” Evelyn asked in shock. “What did she tell you about her past?”
“I didn’t want to meet you to talk about my wife.” Shadreck said. “However, I do understand why you might harbour such feelings towards her. She did after all abandon you at the most critical time of your life.”
“So did you come to me to try and make up for what she did to me using money?” She asked.
Shadreck laughed. “I got found out,” he said. “But,” he quickly added. “I am not trying to buy everything you might have gone through living life without the care of your mother and father…there is no price that can be put to that. I just wanted to….”
“You just wanted to pay me off so you could keep my mouth shut so as not to damage your perfect wife’s reputation, right?”
“There’s that yes but there’s also the fact that you are my wife’s blood. I can’t go on in life pretending you don’t exist. What my wife cannot do, it is my responsibility as her husband to step in for her.”
“Wow, I guess Beatrice did get a second chance after all. I just happened to pick up the tab for all her sins,” Evelyn said with tears in her eyes.
“How did she get so lucky?” She added under her breath as tears streamed down her eyes. “It’s just not fair.”
Shadreck handed her a box of tissue and Evelyn grabbed a few.
For a while, there was silence in the vehicle as it moved.
“Where are you taking me?” Evelyn finally broke the silence.
“Don’t you recognize this area?” Shadreck Mwangala asked. “We are taking you home.”
Evelyn looked out the window and recognized her neighbourhood. “That’s all?” She looked at him. “You are not going to shove an envelope of money in my face and ask me to stay away from your wife?”
Shadreck chuckled. “I only came to make the offer today. It is up to you to come to me to collect whenever you are ready. If I force the money on you, you will hold no loyalty for me. But if you come to me for it, you will owe yourself a lot more than loyalty. There’s no greater enemy to battle than yourself.”
“I see,” Evelyn said.
Parked outside her place, Shadreck handed her his business card.
“I already have that,” Evelyn said, showing him the one she had taken from the driver.
“Oh, I forgot about that.” He put the card back. “Call me anytime you need to talk.”
“I don’t think so,” Evelyn said as she got out of the vehicle. “But thank you for offering anyway.”
“Tell me something,” Shadreck stopped her outside the door. “When did the almost hit and run happen?”
It was on Friday…somewhere around midnight. Are you thinking about doing your own investigations?”
“If possible, yes…just to prove to you that my wife had nothing to do with it.” He said.
“Good luck with dealing with the truth, I know you will need it.” Evelyn said and walked away.
Shadreck watched her retreating figure in silence, a sombre look expression on his face.
“Take us home Oliver,” he told his driver who was still holding the door open after Evelyn.
Oliver closed the door and walked back to his station.
When Evelyn entered the house, she was about to head straight to the bedroom when something made her stop in the living room. A conversation she had had with Kelvin on the phone when he first started calling her flashed through her mind.
“Is this Ms Chileshe?” The male caller had asked her.
“Ms Chileshe?” She had asked, ready to end the call when she remembered George’s story.
Herbert Chileshe, the thought had crossed her mind as she stood in the living room.
“Who’s this?” She had asked the caller right before he hang up.
Two hours later, Kelvin had called her.
“Evelyn?” he had said.
“Who’s this?” standing in the middle of the living room.
“This is Kelvin,” you remember me? Moola’s fiancé.”
“Where you the one who had called about two hours ago?” She had asked him.
“Me?” he had laughed. “I got your number from someone just now. What’s wrong?”
Evelyn remembered feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing. Kelvin’s voice and the previous caller’s sounded very much alike and yet he had denied calling her.
So who had it been that had called her Ms Chileshe?
As far as she knew, only George and Beatrice knew about who her father was. She had always used her grandfather’s name Sinyangwe and until her conversation with George not so long ago, she had had no idea who Herbert Chileshe was.
If it really had been Kelvin calling, why would he hang up like that and then lie to her about it? He had already told her what his intentions with her were. It’s not like it would be a surprise to her if she discovered that he had somehow learnt about who her father was. It was after all his mission to discover whatever he could about his soon to-be mother in-law in a bid to have an advantage over her.
Could it have been Mr Mwangala? Evelyn scratched her head.
Was that why he had finally approached her in person?
Evelyn shook her head to dismiss her running thoughts and went to throw herself on her bed.
That night as Shadreck lay in bed with his wife, he nonchalantly asked her, “Meagan that white friend of mine that lives in Olympia, she told me that she saw your vehicle in that area late at night a few weeks ago.”
Beatrice gave her husband a puzzled look. “Late at night? A few weeks ago? You know I can’t drive in the night honey. What are you talking about? I am sure she a familiar car and thought….” she paused.
“What?” Shadreck asked her. “Did you remember something? Was it you?”
“Did she tell you which day?”
“She did,” he said. “Friday, it was around midnight or so. She and her husband were coming from a wedding and you drove past each other.”
“Oh yeah, she’s right! It was probably my vehicle she saw,” Beatrice said. “That was the day Kelvin had borrowed it because his was heating up after he dropped off Moola. I gave him mine to use for the night and he returned it very early the very next day.”
“Kelvin?” Shadreck asked, a chill ran down his spine as a look of dread crept into his eyes.
What are you up to Kelvin? Shadreck Mwangala thought.