Ike hailed a cab and gave his Achara Layout address. He had left a note and a duplicate key for Gabrielle to meet him at his apartment that evening to discuss what he had learned from her grandmother. He slipped into the back seat of the cab and let his head rest against the headrest. He closed his eyes to reminisce on the ecstasy that came with making love to Gabrielle.
This was just great. He had never made love to anyone like that before, and that meant a whole lot. No past intercourse could compare to what he felt making love to her.
He tried to keep his mind on her case. He had not expected to be this lucky. He knew the existence of a sibling would be a shock for her, especially since it seemed likely that the sister was the killer. But nothing surpassed the feelings of joy, relief and almost satisfaction that enveloped him. He might finally be able to save Gabrielle from the destruction that had overtaken her life.
He got out at his building and paid the fare, overtipping the cab man and bounding into his building. The street had its usual noisy gloom with street boys dragging joints over bottles of beer at one point, and ladies awaiting pitch darkness for their nightly routines with the guys. The hall leading to his flat which was empty, and as he paused to pull out his keys from his pocket a blow fell on the back of his head that knocked him to his knees. He turned to face his assailant and then suddenly realized there were several men in the narrow hallway, all coming at him. In the few seconds of consciousness he had struggled to return the punches and kicks raining down on him, he heard a harsh voice say, “Stay out of the Rosenfeld case!”
Then everything went black.
Gabrielle arrived at Ike’s street a little after eight pm, a little apprehensive, a little sentimental – A feeling she would never admit to Ike. The street wasn’t exactly what she expected, and it dawned on her that all her life, she had never been to this part of Enugu State – she had thought of it but never really pictured herself there. A slight guilt enveloped her. She paid the cab driver that brought her, confirmed the number circled on the building wall and walked straight in, ignoring the whistles that trailed in her wake.
She walked up the narrow flight of stairs leading to his flat. She balanced the waterproof bag in the crook of her arm as she fished in her bag for the key Ike had given her. She rummaged in frustration for several seconds and then noticed that Ike’s door was slightly ajar. She dropped the bag when she noticed the drops of blood on the floor, and pushed the door open.
Ike was sprawled on the couch in the living room. He still had his jacket on, and one hand trailed to the floor; his face was a mass of cuts and lumps, one eye was swollen half closed, his shirt was ripped across his chest, revealing a large blackening bruise across his ribs and a deep cut on his lower lip ran all the way to his chin.
Gabrielle gasped and threw her purse to the ground as she ran to the couch.
“Ike?” she whispered in a shaky voice, afraid that he wouldn’t answer.
His good eye opened. “Gabrielle,” he said thickly.
“Oh my God, what happened to you?” wanting to touch him but cautious of doing more damage.
“Don’t worry about me, Steve would be here soon,” he said, trying to get up.
Gabrielle pushed him back down. “You’re going to the hospital,”
“No hospital.” He said in as strong a voice as he could muster. “Look, this is a good sign.”
“A good sign?” she repeated, horrified.
He closed his eyes and nodded. “Means I’m getting close, and whoever is framing you is getting scared.”
“Ike, let me call my doctor, he would come right over here…”
“Calm down. Steve is on his way.”
“Steve is not a doctor.”
He closed his eyes and clenched his fist. When he opened them again his expression was grim. “Are you going to flip out over this after all you have been through?”
She stared at him for a few seconds and then got up to get their dinner from the hall and shut the door.
“Can I at least clean you up?” she asked, dropping the bag on the table.
“I’m sorry I barked at you,” he said. “I just need you to help me now because I’m finally getting somewhere and that’s when you really have to be careful.”
She went to him and sat on the edge of the couch. He put his arms around her and she kissed his cheek.
“Gabrielle, I’ve got something wonderful to tell you. At least I hope you think it’s wonderful. It is probably the solution to the mystery of who killed your husband.” He gingerly pushed himself up to sit properly.
“What did my grandmother say?”
“Among other things, she said you have a twin sister. An identical sister.”
Gabrielle absorbed that in stunned silence. Then she said softly. “How?”
Ike told her what her grandmother had told him about the Agus and her true identity.
Gabrielle mumbled feebly the first fleeting thought that entered her head. “But I look like my daddy.”
“Yes, he’s your father,” Ike said warily, rubbing her hand gently. He told her about Chikwado and her father, and then about the splitting of the babies.
“My parents got one and the Agus kept the other?”
Gabrielle’s breath escaped slowly as she thought about what he had said.
“And you think the person who shot George was my… sister?”
“But why? Why?”
“That’s what we have to find out. We have to prove to the prosecutor that she exists, and that she has motives, means and opportunity to kill George. I’ve got a PI friend that’s tracking the Agus now. We would find her.”
“My sister,” Gabrielle murmured softly. “How strange that sounds after spending an entire life as an only child.” The emotions welled up and she started crying.
Ike embraced her and stood holding her while she sobbed. They both heard the knock on the door.
“That will be Steve.”
“You think they knew each other, George and my sister?”
“People are rarely murdered by strangers” he said, releasing his grip.
She looked at him skeptically as he limped to the door.
Ike pulled open the door of his apartment.
“Hi, Steve,” he said.
Steve who was clad in a brown shirt and carrying a large briefcase looked at his partner appraisingly.
“You don’t look that bad. I’ve seen you worse.”
He glanced nervously at Gabrielle’s tear stained face.
She nodded at him and then headed for the bedroom.
“You didn’t tell me she was here.”
“It’s her skin we are trying to save here so would you give me a break?”
“You’re trying to save her man, I’m not.”
“So who beat me up then? The street boys? Somebody wants Gabrielle to go to prison and from their point of view I guess I’m the only thing stopping that from happening. Let me see what you’ve got, please.”
“The Chief would be furious if he finds out I took these.” Steve handed him the briefcase and walked inside.
“He would be a lot more furious if he finds we helped convict an innocent person.” Ike shut the door.
Ike told him about his visit to Gabrielle’s grandmother and the piece of information she had given him, and the two men were quick to work.
An hour later, the two men were surrounded by piles of notes, plates, and cups. They had been going through different statements from eye witnesses and friends of George.
“You know, Ugochukwu, the Press secretary mentioned something about a restaurant George visited often, some Chinese restaurant around the Stadium. He said it was George’s favourite. We checked it out but it was clean. Just a small restaurant below a white duplex.”
“This Ugochukwu said George went there often?”
“Call him and have him meet us up there. I want to go there myself.” Ike said, handing him the cell phone.
“Call him, Steve.” Ike said coldly.
Steve went to the other end of the room and dialed the number, spoke to him for a while and came back to an already dressed Ike and Gabrielle at his side.
“He said he would meet you there at ten pm.” Steve said as he bent to pile up his briefcase.
Ike checked the time on the wall clock. It was nearly nine thirty. “Then we should leave now.” He said, grabbing Gabrielle’s arm, and heading for the door – his gait flaccid.
By the time they got to the restaurant, the place was closing up. It was a tiny restaurant with six tables jammed into a narrow space. The sole waiter was refilling salt jars, and the older woman answering a call was wiping the counter when she looked up and waved and smiled at Gabrielle.
Ike and Gabrielle exchanged glances.
“Is she waving at me?” Gabrielle asked.
“Looks like it.”
They approached the counter and the smiling woman said to Gabrielle. “How you be, Miss Gina? You man no come for you since. I always here all the time, I know. You travel?”