Let The Best Man Win by Johnson Onyedikachi.

Bilie took the three-piece flannel suit to the changing room. It was the nineteenth time he was trying on a piece of suit today. Either it was too classy or uppish. The salesgirl had grown tired of choosing for him, and had a secret prayer under her breath that he would just decide to leave.

“I need something charcoal grey,” Bilie said to the salesgirl.

“Sir, all the suits you have tried on are charcoal grey,” the salesgirl gave back, a note of urgency in her voice.

Still standing before the mirror, tugging at the lapels of the flannel suit, Bilie said, “But this doesn’t feel right on me. Come on, look at it! This won’t make me stand out amid a crowd. Don’t you have eyes?”

The salesgirl said nothing. She rubbed her temples instead with eyes firmly shut. Bilie turned around to look at her.

“Are you all right?” He asked, placing a hand on the salesgirl’s shoulder. “Do you have a headache?”

And that was it; whatever restraints the salesgirl had, snapped at that fragile moment, her teeth coming off her lips in a snarl of rage, hands swaying into the air with all the violence that they could muster such that Bilie had to duck back to escape getting hurt.

“You have tried on cotton-twill, pinstriped, and even double-breasted denim, and yet not one is good enough for you!” The salesgirl blustered, her eyes two small fiery beads that you could think laser beams would shoot out from at any moment. “If you don’t have anything to buy, just go home!”

By now, the store manager had appeared on the scene, and had been yelling the salesgirl’s name only to get heard by the angry bird on the third call.

“Grace, what is wrong with you?” The manager, a squat fat man, asked. “Have you gone mad? It’s a customer you are speaking to in that way.”

“Please, leave her alone. It’s my fault. I have been hard on her,” Bilie said, staring at the salesgirl whose innocent demeanor at the moment wouldn’t let you believe she had any violence in her. She had her head drooped down, her eyes set on her foot, her shoulders sagging as if she carried a tired sky on them. She was about to lose her job anyway.

Bilie was about to say one more thing in the salesgirl’s favor when his phone began buzzing. He took it out of his pocket, and the Caller ID showed it was his friend, Lotam, that was calling. He walked over to the sales manager.

“Please, let nothing happen to this girl’s job. I am begging. I will take all the suits I have tried on today,” he whispered to the sales manager who was still obviously offended by the scene the salesgirl had caused. “Please, I have to go and take this call. I will take the suits.” He turned to the girl, gave her a nod, and headed to the changing room. He let out a deep sigh and swiped his phone. Lotam’s vibrant voice came over.

“Bilie, have you seen Dinobi’s latest post?” Lotam asked.

“No, I haven’t been online since morning. Just because he is getting married, does that mean we will always be checking what he posts?” Bilie asked.

“No, Bilie this one is important,” Lotam insisted. “Check it out pronto.”

“Why not tell me about it? I am in the middle of picking a suit for the wedding. Best man goals, you know.”

Lotam’s throaty laughter came through and was abruptly cut out in a coughing fit. Collecting himself with an effort, he said, “That’s why you have to check his new post! You are no longer his best man. His elder brother is his new best man.”

Bilie tittered. “If you don’t shut that trap of yours, I will smack you through this phone.”

“I am not kidding, Bilie. Dinobi’s new best man is his brother.”

Bilie’s face fell. “But his brother is in Austria!”

“He is due to come back today, bro. And he is going to be Dinobi’s best man on Saturday,” Lotam informed.

“But I am Dinobi’s best friend,” Bilie said, the sadness seeping through him. “Well, I must be his best man, no matter what.”

“I thought as much. Dinobi’s brother is due to be at Murtala Mohammed Aiport by 13.30hrs,” Bilie said and hung up.

By now, rage had taken hold of Bilie in the place of sadness. In feverish movements, he changed back to his khakis and headed out of the changing room. He paid at the counter for the suits he had tried on, and headed out to the main road. The hot air outside only infuriated him more. He strode to his car, and threw his bags of clothes into the trunk. He glanced at his watch, the time was 12.05hrs. The airport was about 45 minutes away from where he was, and he had figured just what he would do.

He went to the stop, waved down a taxi, gave the driver his address, and climbed in. As the driver began maneuvering the traffic, Bilie thought it the right time to make his offer.

“Hey, can you lend me this cab for some hours. You can come and take it from Parkview estate,” Bilie told the cabbie who managed a chuckle.

“You dey ment?” The cabbie asked, swerving the wheel. In a quick movement, Bilie had taken out his pocketknife and had its point at the skin of the cabbie’s neck.

“Say that again,” Bilie snarled.

“Oga, there’s no need for violence nah,” the cabbie said, the plea in his voice very audible. “What is the name of that place you said I should come for it?”

“Parkview Estate. Be there by six tonight and you can have your cab back. Tell any other person, and I will make sure you die painfully slow. Now, pull over.”

The cabbie did as he was told. He was scared to death when he got out from under the driving wheel, and had a full bladder that was near bursting, but he had even more serious worries than the drumming in his chest as he watched Bilie drive off in his taxi.

Bilie pulled up at the airport, and waited. He had gone online to confirm what Lotam had told him. It was a very succinct and straight-to-the-point post from Dinobi; a photo of Ejike, his brother, in a white tuxedo, and a caption that read: “Look who’s my best man and he’s coming home today.” Sitting under the wheel, Bilie’s rage was a lit cooktop on which his sensibilities burned, and he swore he wouldn’t call Dinobi. After all, Dinobi didn’t call him when he decided to change his best man.

The time was 13.48hrs when Ejike came out of the airport, carrying his bags. Bilie had been waiting, and at once he engaged gear, and squeezed the throttle. He pulled over in front of Ejike who was a bit flustered at such an entrance.

Keeping his face away from view to avoid getting recognized, Bilie said, “Where you dey go?”

Rather in a haste to get home, Ejike said, “Amen Estate.”

“Get in.”

Ejike thought it weird that there was some kind of uppish confidence around this cabbie. He didn’t even get down to help with the bags, but Ejike only gave this a very quick thought and let it go. He opened the offside door, put his bags in and climbed in afterwards. Bilie started the car and drove off. A couple of minutes later, Ejike began to feel very uncomfortable with this cabbie. He hadn’t even seen his face, and it was very clear they weren’t going through familiar routes to Amen Estate. When he asked, he was told there was a busy traffic that should be avoided.

“Please, where are we going?” Ejike asked.

“You are asking too much questions,” Bilie gave back.

“What did you say?”

“Shut up!”

Ejike jerked forward to grab the cabbie, but Bilie had caught the movement through the mirror, and was quick enough to counter it with a swift dig to Ejike’s jugular that was precise enough to put him off. Bilie continued steering the wheel.

Ejike came awoke with a start, gasping for breath after the bucket was emptied on him. He shook his head, but the migraine was heavy. He found that he was strapped to a chair, and in front of him was a long table on top of which laid all sorts of instruments of torture: a whip of spiked tails, thumbscrews, knives, ticklers, collars, red-hot shears, pincers, pliers, hammers and sprinklers. Behind the table stood Bilie.

Ejike fastened his eyes on Bilie and recognized him instantly. “What’s the meaning of this?”

“I should be asking you,” Bilie said, grinning jeeringly. A minute of long silence crawled past, and Bilie continued, “Do you think you can just come back here and take my place?”

“Take your place? What sort of gibberish is this?”

“You will soon know,” Bilie said and picked up a thumbscrew.

“Let me out of this now!”

“Shut up!”

“And you call yourself my brother’s best friend. Get me out of this now!”

“Shut up! I won’t say that to you again,” Bilie snapped.

“If you are a man, set me free and let us fight it out. I swear I will kill you with my bare hands.”

By now, Bilie had dropped the thumbscrew and lifted the hammer. “Well, I am no man and I am not ready to fight. I will give you a slow death.”

Ejike spat at his feet. “Even animals will reject you!”

And that was it; Bilie lost it. He lunged at Ejike with the hammer, a fatal blow to the head. He delivered several other blows with the hammer until what was left of Ejike was a mat of blood and brains.

Bilie sprang up from the heavy sleep, soaked in his own sweat and out of breath. “A dream… a dream… it was just a dream.” He glanced at his wall clock and the time was 03.40hrs. His heart gave a lurch when his phone began buzzing, and the Caller ID revealed it was Lotam calling.


Johnson Onyedikachi is a teenage Nigerian creative writer who has unpublished manuscripts of poetry and plays. He recently picked interest in crime fiction and in August 2019, enrolled in an online course where he gained proficiency in article/journal writing including the use of referencing formats (MLA and APA style). He wrote in via johnsonshaqs@gmail.com

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