Lagos, Nigeria.

Pamilerin swirled in the big chair he occupied at the head of his round mahogany desk. He picked up the manuscript he had previously deserted and studied it again with bewilderment.

In his two years as the Editor-in-Chief of Stills Publishing House, nothing had prepared him for a manuscript like the one he held in his hands. He knew people could be crazy; they had had their share of folks sending in baloney, he knew.

And even though his father’s reputation had not hurt his career, he hadn’t jumped straight from university into this office, he had worked hard and he believed he had earned it.

Therefore he had enough experience in publishing to identify manuscripts that did not deserve their time of the day just from reading the first page.

The two pages before him surely should not warrant losing sleep over, publishers are not known to waste time on an incomplete work, it was usually automatically discarded. But he couldn’t deny it was different.

The Author was clever; he had to give him/her that. The unknown writer had succeeded in riveting him and then left him hanging as though the writer knew he would come asking for more.

Well, he wasn’t going to grovel and call the author for the remaining chapters. He wouldn’t care about a handwritten manuscript that contained only a prologue and a phone number.

As he continued to glare at the text as a way of showing his disapproval to the owner, he remembered he hadn’t read anything intriguing in a while. Plus things had really been quiet in recent times. The piece – if they could drag the author who apparently have sworn anonymity and do some necessary tweaking – could make a good sale, which was exactly what Stills Publishing needed at that moment. Something told him the author knew that, he did not see how the manuscript could have appeared before him otherwise.

He was muttering to himself about how arrogant the person must be when Ekene, one of his editors stepped into his office from the open door.

Ekene was one of the few people Pamilerin associated with at Stills because although his junior in rank and age, he saw the man as not only versatile but also very mature. He found he learnt a lot from him and hoped it was vice-versa.

Ekene was also the one who had found the manuscript where it had been piled with other refuse to be disposed of. As a man who believed in fate, he decided the work was meant to be found anyway considering where it was picked from.

“I see you’ve read the mysterious manuscript,” Ekene said, sitting his tall and lanky self on one of the seats opposite Pamilerin.

“Yeah! It has almost … potential,” Pamilerin responded, waving his hands to demonstrate. “And I have decided the author is sneaky, sending only the prologue, and not to mention it’s handwritten, I mean who does that in this age of technology?”

“Someone who probably can’t afford technology,” Ekene stated, matter-of-factly. “So, what’re you going to do about it? Are you going to call the person in?”

“No”, Pamilerin said emphatically. Ekene only lifted his brows questioningly.

“I don’t want the author feeling we are desperate, it’s supposed to be the other way round. I’ve to stall”.

When Ekene just kept looking at him with those serious eyes that Pamilerin felt saw more than necessary, he swore, “Hell! Yes, I will call. Okay, I admit I’m curious.”

“There you are! Apart from the fact that the manuscript has almost potential, we need it,” Ekene said emphasizing the ‘almost potential’

With a cock of his head and a smile, Pamilerin asked, “Is that an attempt at a joke, Mr. Asogwa?”

“I’ve decided it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try once in a while.”

“Well, good for you! You’re almost always too serious for your own good,” Pamilerin said with a chuckle.

“Hmm! True. I have heard that here and there. But while I would love to regale you with more jokes, I’ve to go home. Wify will be waiting.” He paused, contemplated and then continued, “If you haven’t sworn an oath to bachelorhood yourself, you’d understand.”

Pamilerin burst into laughter, raising his hands as if in surrender, “I didn’t say anything about you rushing off to your wife now, did I? And that’s no way to talk to your boss.”

“Sorry boss,” Ekene said, looking solemn and Pamilerin almost thought he took him serious, then he noticed the gleam in his eyes.

“Goodnight Ekene, to you and your wify”

“Goodnight,” Ekene bowed in mock salute and meandered out.

Pamilerin studied him as he walked out and thought that marriage indeed changed him. He seemed chirpy these days. Ekene had always been the last one to get a joke in a sitting and even when he did, he only offered what couldn’t really be called a smile. Adanma had done a hell of a job; he had to remember to tell her that next time he saw her.

Taking his eyes from the door, he stretched his length and concentrated again on the two-page manuscript in front of him. He wondered for the thousandth time how someone could reel him in with just a prologue and a phone number when completed works had failed to do that.

He checked the time on his wrist-watch and saw seven p.m, he decided he should call it a day after all.

Although the official closing time at Stills was five p.m. but de facto, they operated on lax timing, they were more concerned on getting the job done than recording the time you got in or closed for the day. He was sure some of the technical guys would still be around tinkering with some machine.

He scanned the width of his office and deciding it was a fulfilled day, stood up to file the manuscript. Somehow he perused it once again and his eyes picked out something he hadn’t noticed earlier and was sure none of his editors had noticed. At a corner, on the foot of the first page, was scribbled an initial with what he would guess a tinted pen, ‘S.A.’

To be continued next week Friday.

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