Two weeks later, Ryan hadn’t managed to talk to Annie. She refused to answer his calls or texts. Good riddance. At least he wouldn’t have to stress about living a double life, something that’d been
giving him sleepless nights. Strict to his new routine, he’d started the day by attending the six-thirty morning mass in the university chapel.
Afterward, he stopped at the exit, dipped his fingers in holy water, crossed himself, and strode to the office.
He stuck his head in the door. “Good morning, is that you, Anthony?”
“Yes,” said his colleague and a fellow spiritual brother, hunched to plug a laptop power cord into a socket.
“I thought I saw the lights off in your bedroom when I was leaving?”
“I must have already left. Mark was coming quite early today.”
Ryan collapsed into his chair, which exhaled like a slow punctured car tyre under his weight. “Oh, I see. By the way, have you become his designated driver?”
“No, just helping him for now, till he recovers from the eye surgery he had the other day.”
‘’Poor man, he works himself out like a donkey. Goes to bed late and he’s the first to wake.”
“You’re almost becoming like him—since you stopped seeing Annie.”
“Hey, guess what! I think she’s blocked my number,” said Ryan. He blew over the keyboard as the laptop booted.
“Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Well, I didn't want us to be enemies?”
Anthony drew the blinds. “I was afraid that girl was gonna make you quit your calling to celibacy.”
Ryan shook his head. “I just loved her as a sister and nothing more.”
“I’m happy it’s over.” Anthony opened his travel mug and sipped on his coffee. “You’d have caused a scandal.”
Ryan tilted back on his seat and pulled down the sleeves of his sweater. “I know.”
The brightening dawn seeped into the office. Birds sang on the trees across the window, bringing sweet high notes. Ryan felt their pull, imagined he was with them, singing upon the rooftops. He
stretched a hand and switched off the lights and focused back on the worksheet he’d been working on late into the night with his boss.
“I’m so looking forward to my meeting with the Big Cheese at ten,” he said.
Anthony took a deep breath and let it out in bits. “Just be careful. I hear Vincent’s not happy about this.”
“Say what? why?”
“He’s the CFO and you’re a mere Accounts Assistant. Who should be presenting financial models to the CEO?”
Ryan rested his elbows on the desk and his head in his hands. “Gosh, you can’t be serious.”
Anthony stretched both arms and yawned. “I don’t know if it’s true, but that’s what I heard.”
At seven-thirty, their colleague, Susan, walked in, punctual as ever. After greetings, they bent to their tasks. Ryan prepared some urgent cheques and left them on Vincent’s desk for signing.
About an hour later, Ryan's desk phone rang.
“Hello? Ah, yes, Vincent.” He glued the receiver on his ear, and twirled the telephone cord around his finger.
"Ryan!" There came a thump—perhaps Vincent's fist smacking his desk. "Come here. Right now."
“On my way.” He stood, smoothed his trousers, and rushed out.
The CFO, an older man, balding with a trimmed goatee, stood behind his desk. He'd buried his hands in his pockets. Vincent seemed so angry. An uncomfortable feeling pulsated in Ryan’s chest.
“Good morning,” said Ryan.
Vincent sat and shook his head, “Y’know you can be so stupid at times!” he almost growled, before standing up and pacing.
Heart pounding, Ryan remained standing, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “What have I done?”
Vincent picked one of the cheques and held it out. “What’s this?”
Ryan moved closer and squinted. “Ah, lemme see?”
“Nonsense.” With two strokes, Vincent crossed out the cheque. “I can’t teach you what you ought to have learned in high school.”
Ryan stepped back, mouth agape. “Sorry, I-I-I don’t understand. Err, what’s the t-t-the problem with the cheque?”
“You still don’t get it?” Vincent swept his desk with a hand and threw the cheques at him. “Get out of my office.”
Ryan stopped at the corridor and tucked the cheques sticking out of the folder in place, before returning to his desk. He slapped the folder down. That cocksucker! Fuck him and his bad temper! Damn
man-child. He took a deep breath. Not anymore. He wouldn’t allow Vincent to continue destroying his self-esteem like he’d done over the years.
Just when he’d leaned forward and started examining the crossed cheque, Anthony placed a hand over his shoulder. “Don’t forget our resolve not to let Vincent ruin us. Has he said something?”
Supposing Susan was still at her desk, Ryan feigned a smile. “Ah, nothing, I’m good.” He looked in Susan’s direction. “Where’s she? Man, I just can’t take it anymore, Vincent’s a jerk. He’s—”
Oh, boy! He wasn’t lucky. Vincent stomped into the office. “He’s what? No wonder you can’t even spell forty. All you do is gossip!”
Ryan’s eyes dropped on the crossed cheque and he saw his mistake. He’d misspelt forty as ‘fourty’. But really? Did such a small error warrant such public outrage?
He swallowed hard. “Sorry, I-I-I’ll write another cheque.”
Susan came back, accompanied by two colleagues from the other wing of the Accounts office. Everyone busied themselves, some glued their eyes on their laptops, others fumbled through the box files,
pretending to look for something, anything to avoid Vincent’s cold gaze.
Vincent moved closer. “Are you ready with the financial model? We don’t have much time.”
What the heck? He was also attending the meeting with the CEO? Perhaps Anthony was right, Vincent wasn’t happy Mr. Jackson had asked Ryan to take him through the model.
"Join me in the cafeteria. Bring your laptop." Vincent stomped off.
At the cafeteria, groups of students, lecturers and other staff clustered around tables, some eating, some nose-deep in their textbooks, others talking. A low hum of conversation buzzed beneath the
music and the chinking of forks, knives, cups... Caterers ran up and down, exchanging dirty cutlery for clean utensils.
“Get me black coffee,” Vincent said to one of the waiters, then turned to Ryan. “What would you like to have?”
“Nothing, I’m fine.”
“I know you like chocolate. Get him chocolate and samosa.”
Ryan touched his chin. Did Vincent think he was still desperate for food, like those early days when they first met?
“Should I first take you through the assumptions of the model?” said Ryan, flapping the laptop open.
Vincent pulled his seat closer. “That’ll be a good starting point.”
Before Ryan started, Vincent touched his hand. “Y’know, this is all your fault. But don’t forget, you, Anthony and myself are the only brothers in that department. So we need to show a
“I-I don’t mind being corrected, ah, with some decorum—I mean, privately.”
“Guys think we got our jobs not on merit but just because we belong to the celibate society which owns this university.” Vincent pushed the laptop aside to allow the waiter to set their order. “I
don’t want anybody to think I favor you and Anthony.”
By humiliating us before them? How stupid we all must look before them! This even proves their suspicion. Come to think of it, Vincent didn’t even have a bachelor’s degree yet he was the
“Okay,” said Ryan.
Halfway through their discussion, Vincent’s cell phone vibrated. He briefly glanced at the screen and tucked it back in his jacket. “Sorry, meeting canceled. Jackson’s feeling unwell, he’s not
coming in today.”
From the cafeteria, Ryan quickly prepared another cheque to replace the canceled one and took it for signing.
“Just leave it there, I’ll call you,” said Vincent.
Despite many reminders, Vincent hadn’t signed it by two o’clock. The bank would close at three, and if Ryan didn’t make it, he was sure to get another dressing down from the ornery CFO. He returned
to Vincent's office.
“Sorry, the bank’s closing in an hour’s time. Or should I go tomorrow?”
Vincent signed the cheque. “Sorry, I’m so swamped today.” He fished out an envelope from a stack of files on the desk and handed it to Ryan alongside the cheque. “Drop this to Patrick on your way.”
“Patrick the Audit Partner or the other one?”
Like a madman, Ryan reversed from the parking with such high speed that he almost hit his head on the steering wheel. He had only forty minutes to deliver the envelope and cash the cheque. Of
course, it only made sense to first rush to the bank.
At two-fifty-five, he barreled into the bank parking lot, parked, and rushed inside. As he gathered his breath, he noticed Olivia standing beside him.
"Oh! Well, hello."
She offered him a hand. “Yeah, running an errand for Gisela. She’s unwell.”
“I hope it’s not serious.” He cast a quick glance over her black t-shirt and tight jeans. Wow!
God, one would have thought she dressed in simple clads on purpose, so as not to compete with her clothes for attention. She looked hot.
“No, it’s not serious. More like... Er, ah, forget it." She moved forward in the queue.
He kept up with her. “It’s okay, y’know you can tell me anything.”
“Really! Um, ah… forget it.”
“C’mon, we’ve confided in each other before.”
Her eyes widened. She leaned toward him. “Have we?”
He ignored the murmurs and whispers oozing around them. “Yeah. Told you I’m celibate. Remember?” He peered in her eyes. “And you told me you’ve never had a boyfie.”
She briefly buried her face in her hands. “Good lord. I must’ve been high on Ken’s weed. Secondary smoking.’’
“HAHAHA! You can’t avoid it when you hang around him.”
“But he’s fun to be around, only that I struggle to understand his English.”
“What else did I say? This is so embarrassing.”
“It’s okay.” He rested his hand on her shoulder and quickly withdrew it, realizing this was inappropriate. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We both opened our hearts to each other.”
‘’So what is it you wanted to say?’’
‘’Ah, just gossip.’’
“Lemme decide that for myself.”
She leaned closer. "Gisela... Oh, gosh, how do I say this—s-s-she slept with Ken.”
“Oh, how d’you know?”
She smiled, revealing the bewitching gap between her teeth. “I can tell. Oh, I’m such a big mouth. Please don’t tell anyone.”
“Of course not.”
“She feels so guilty she can’t even look me in the eye.”
“When did this happen?”
“About two weeks ago.”
"Ma'am? Next?" A voice called out from behind her.
“Guess I’ll see you later?” she said.
“Sure.” Ryan watched her cat-walk to the cashier.
What an innocent girl! It was better not to scandalize her any further by telling her it wasn’t the first time Ken was banging her friend. But something didn’t add up. The last time Ken was with
Gisela, he left her with Olivia’s dad in the club. Ken himself claimed Gisela was cheating on him with Olivia’s dad. With such thoughts churning in his mind, Ryan left with a fat brown envelope
full of cash.
He stuck it in the glove box and drove to the audit firm. What did the other envelope Vincent had given him contain? With the recent controversial audit queries raised, anything was possible.
At least at the audit firm, he didn’t have to sprint to Patrick’s office. After parking, he stepped out of the car, tucked the envelope under his arm, smoothed his pants and strode to the office
“Hi, Doreen,” he said to the PA.
“Hey, how have you been? Please have a seat.” She indicated a couch in front of her desk. “Anything to drink, coffee, water?”
“Thanks but no thank you. I’m actually running late.” He lifted the envelope. “Just want to hand this to Patrick and then I’m off.”
She stretched out a hand. “It’s okay, you can leave it with me.”
“Just a sec.” He fingered his cell phone. “Lemme just confirm if I can leave it.”
After getting a nod from Vincent to leave the envelope with Doreen, he returned to the office.
A small traffic snarl-up at the university gate slowed him. Full-time students, having finished their lessons, crisscrossed at the gate with evening students who were arriving for their classes.
Damn, someone had parked in his slot. Must be a student. Why the heck didn’t they follow simple instructions—the slot was clearly marked reserved. Anyway, he reversed and negotiated a tight parking
spot a few meters away.
He reached across the dash and opened the glove box, then frowned when he found no envelope. "What the hell?" He bent and checked under the seat. Then swept his hand through the glove box. No
envelope. "Oh no. No, no..." He squeezed from his car and patted down his pockets. In desperation he checked beneath the car. "No no no!" What would he tell Vincent, who almost fired him for
With trembling hands, he dialed Anthony’s number. "Anthony! Come out to the parking lot! I'm in shit!"
Anthony came almost immediately. “What’s up?”
Ryan opened the glove box again. “I put petty cash here and can’t find it.”
“Are you serious?”
“I’m damn serious.”
Anthony pointed at the hole in the car door handle. “Look at the lock. It’s been broken into.”
“Oh my God, where did this happen?” He touched the hole with a finger, then caught Anthony rolling his eyes. “What? Do you know anything?”
“Things are just not adding up for me.”
Ryan banged the door shut and came closer. “What d’you mean?”
“Why is it suddenly things are getting topsy-turvy for you?”
“Wait, do you know something I don’t?”
“I warned you to be careful. Vincent is not happy.”
“But why? What wrong have I done?”
“Don’t forget you’re the one who made the auditors discover the missing amounts in the inventory valuation when they’d moved on to something else? And now you want to start working directly with
“Goodness me! First, I couldn’t let such a blatant error in the stocks pass without alerting the auditors. Isn’t he the one who’s always asked us to be keen on details? Secondly, the CEO found us
working on the model with Vincent and after listening on for some time, he himself requested me in Vincent’s presence to take him through the next day.”
“What if what you thought an error wasn’t an error?”
“What?” Ryan raised his eyebrows. “Vincent’s can’t have been trying to cover up anything? A sec.” He pulled out his cell. “It’s Vincent.”
Anthony pressed his hair back with both hands. “This guy might be looking at us. Talk to you later.”
Ryan nodded and received the call. “Hh-hello Vin-n-cent… Yes, Ok. I’m at the parking. L-let me come.”
Trembling, Ryan entered Vincent’s office.
Vincent leaned back and started tapping his fingers on the seat. “Hey, you look rained on, what’s up?”
“Err, s-s-someone b-r-r-r… broke into the car.” Ryan touched his nose briefly. “And stole the cash.”
“You can’t be serious.’’
Vincent started pacing. ‘’Where did this happen, at the bank?”
As if Ryan’s lips had a mind of their own, they kept twitching against his will. “I-I-I really d-don’t know.”
Vincent pressed each finger together and narrowed his eyes. “Are you saying two hundred thousand shillings is missing and you don’t know how this happened?”
“I think someone broke into the car. There’s a hole in the lock.”
Vincent bit his pink-patched lower lip and pinched his eyes closed. “Sometimes you blame me for being harsh. Honestly, how d’you expect me to believe you?”
“Trust me, I-I-I— “
“Are you listening to yourself? Your testimony wouldn’t convince a toddler.” Vincent snapped. “One minute you don’t know; the next minute someone broke into the car. Whom are you fooling?”
Ryan blinked twice. ‘’Trust me, I got nothing to do with the cash.’’
Vincent leaned on the wall and crossed one foot over the other. “Who said you had anything to do with the money. Are you feeling guilty?”
“Oh my God, do you think I stole the money?”
Vincent pushed himself off the wall and opened the door. “You’ll explain it to the police. Let’s go see the car.”
Heat rose up his neck. Still in shock, he kept looking around to see if he could find the envelope but stopped when he saw Vincent approaching with a few other staff.
Vincent felt the hole in the car door lock with a finger. “This is not a normal burglary. It was well orchestrated.”
“I hadn’t seen the hole until you touched it,” said Susan, bending a little to the car door.
Vincent shook his head slightly and took a puff of his cigarette. “We’ll get to the bottom of it.” He looked at his watch and turned to Ryan. “Go report the matter to the police station.’’
Ryan felt the heat rising up his neck. Was this a setup by Vincent? He’d had enough. So be it.
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