The flats hum with the suburban sound of Lagos metropolitan life; TV shows, the cry of babies, spousal squabbles and there is the run of a blender in someone’s kitchen. Underneath all these is the eponymous clatter of generators.
As I drag myself up the stairs of the second floor, I heard the shrill voice of mama Joy, a small, thin woman with the voice box of an opera singer. She was yelling something about missing money from her purse. She wants Papa Joy to ask her daughter to put it back before she counts ten. I heard papa Joy’s mumble compete with Zeeworld ads.
It was relatively quiet on the third floor. It always is. And here is where my suspicion pointed me. I paused at the landing. There was a window overlooking the street, ambient light made a square on the floor.
A medium-sized, well-fed cockroach crawled across that dead light and disappeared under the door of the opposite flat. That is Mr. Evans flat, he and his wife and three children live there. He does administrative work for a hotel, the Continental, across town. He was a grouchy fellow, tall and with a brooding mien, and an accent that reminds me of school days in Ijebu-ode.
His wife is a much nicer woman. She has a big shop at the mall not far away. She just started cutting her hair low last week and my wife was thinking of doing the same. Their three children are theirs for sure; two boys and a girl who loves running up the stairs.
The other flat is occupied by a young couple. The guy’s name is Roland. I don’t know the wife’s name. I have seen her only a few times since they moved in two months ago. Mr. Roland is a doctor, smallish, handsome in a fresh and puppy way. My wife thinks he is effeminate. I think he is just supple.
Now Mr. Roland, I admit, is my prime suspect. The only thing is, he isn’t old enough to be Mrs. Akingbinle Eunice’s husband. Usually, I would require a picture but Mrs. Eunice hadn’t come through with one. For now, I just let my imagination run.
When I got to my floor I paused again. My neighbor here is a 60 something-year-old banker. I met him here. His wife is a teacher at Lapland college Lekki. His name is Mr. Gbade. Bald, always clean shaving, shrewd hooded eyes, he with a repertoire of jokes for every situation. Their apartment was quiet. A sliver of low energy white light shone under the door. I waited to see if a shadow would pass across it, or maybe a cockroach would emerge. Nothing.
No sounds. Have the couple gone to sleep? I heard that they have no children. The couple was always making short trips to Europe and Asia. Sometimes they’d be gone for a couple of days before we realize it. I made a mental note to ask my wife about them.
I knocked on my door.
I heard my wife tell my daughter, “Go get the door, your dad’s back.”