Femi immediately retrieved his hand from the recorder and stared at Annie.
“I left the motel at 11:00pm and used my key to get into the house. I knew he would be in the study so I went there…but he was already dead” she explained as Femi stared at her.
“I don’t believe you”
“It’s the truth”
He did not know why his eyes went to her finger, there was no ring.
Then he remembered the ring at the scene of the crime.
“Where is your wedding ring?” He asked as she bit her lips and sighed.
“I had dropped it”
“Where?” He asked with a serious look.
“In the study” she replied with her head down
“You wanted to strangle him but didn’t want the ring marks to give you away, right?” He asked.
“That was my plan…but I got scared the moment I saw he was not sleeping but was already dead. I had panicked and run out of the house before someone would see me” she confessed.
“So of all days, you chose to murder him on the 13th and according to you, someone else coincidentally murdered him?”
“Why did it take you this long?” He asked as she ignored him and looked down.
Femi actually did not care. He was convinced she had committed the crime.
He turned off the recorder and rose to his feet. He could not arrest her, he had no arrest warrant. He would not waste time to get one the moment he left, he just had to make sure she was locked in.
As he walked out, he met his escort and Femi could not suppress a thankful smile.
“So when can I leave?” Femi asked eagerly.
“Why do you want to leave?”
“Because I have to make an arrest. That is why you brought me here, right?”
“Yes” he said after looking at Femi for few seconds.
“I need to get a warrant”
“You still want to make an arrest? Upon everything you heard?”
Femi sighed and wondered what he had gotten himself into. He was appalled at the kind of life Chief Okafor had lived but that still did not give Annie the right to murder him.
“She took justice into her hands; she broke the law and it’s my job to-”
“Follow me” he cut in and began to move as Femi shrugged and obeyed.
The lamp had gotten so dim that Femi even wanted to turn it off. The man in front of him soon stopped and opened a door.
Femi started to speak but the man entered and he simply followed.
“Turn off the lamp and give it to me” he said as Femi did so without hesitation.
The place was so dark and Femi wondered what would happen to him. They claimed they were helping him, but he was beginning to have his doubts.
“Shh” he stopped Femi immediately.
Soon after, Femi heard the door open and close with footsteps following. The door kept on opening and footsteps kept on following. He quietly opened the recorder to remove the cassette when he realized he had been fooled. There was no cassette in the recorder; all the confessions had not been recorded. He could do nothing to Annabel, Tamunowari or Yemisi.
In fury, he turned to his left where he was sure his escort stood. And then he thought about it; did he really have a right to be angry? But he was. He needed to know who was in charge; he needed to know who had noticed his frustration and had taken due advantage.
The lights came on and Femi had to close his eyes and open them slowly before they became accustomed to the light. When his eyes were finally opened, he realized the reason for the constant opening and closing of the door. All the suspects were standing before him but they were not tied.
He stared at them and did not fail to notice the confusion that adorned their faces like masks. Their confusion was soon replaced by surprise and then fear.
Femi thought that the fear was due to the fact that their confessions might have been heard. Femi noticed two men seated at a corner with downcast faces and it only took a while for him to realize that it was Jide and Godwin.
Sitting together, they didn’t look like enemies but like brothers. Godwin’s head was bowed and Jide’s hand was on his shoulder. It then struck Femi that he had not interrogated the both of them; why then were they present?
No other person in the room had noticed them and they did not seem to mind the presence of the people in the room. Femi wondered if they even knew what was going on around them, they both seemed absorbed in their own little world.
Femi’s eyes wandered from them to the surroundings. It looked so familiar and it was when he turned to his left and saw the desk that he realized where he was.
The murder scene.
What is going on? He thought to himself.
“I know you all must be wondering why you’re here” said the man who had spoken to Femi when he was kidnapped; the boss.
Everyone’s attention was on him.
“Sorry about that detective” he said with his eyes darting towards the recorder in his hand.
Femi’s frown was the only reply he got but he continued.
“You all are here concerning the murder of the late Chief…” his voice trailed as Catherine Okafor realized where she was.
She had been in her mother’s room when someone hit her and there had been no one at home; everyone had gone out, or so she thought. She saw Annie standing in the room, but her mother, Godwin and the kids were not there. Fear filled her immediately.
She walked over to Annie whose eyes looked so pale and tired.
“Where’s mummy…and your husband?” She asked as Annie tried to narrate what had happened.
“I had gone to get ice cream for the kids but when I came out of the store, the car was gone and then two men had approached me smiling and I didn’t know when someone put a cloth over my face…then I woke up to see the detective” she explained as Catherine could not hide her surprise.
“Why would he interrogate you?”
“I think its routine” she replied after a long pause and turned back to the man who had greeted them.
“If this is empty, how do I prove that she murdered him?” Femi asked angrily raising the recorder as everyone in the room wondered who he was referring to.
All faces except Annie’s were eager to know what he was talking about; to see the killer.
The man simply let his eyes rest on Femi before a smile crossed his face.
“Patience is a virtue, detective” he said cooly as Femi started to speak but stopped when a door behind Chief Okafor’s desk opened and Ujunwa stepped out.
“You don’t have to prove anything detective, I’ll turn myself in” she said as everyone stared at her in shock.
They were all tongue-tied including Femi. Her eyes first came to rest on Cathy and then Annie and the others…one by one.
“I know everything” she said with a sad smile and sat at her husband’s desk. “I always knew” she confessed looking at Nduka. “When I found out he was a pedophile, I couldn’t believe it at first. He had been God in my eyes and to think that he was abusing those poor orphans…that was a hard thing to do” she paused and let her eyes rest on Tosin. “I did my research and finally found out everything…and I carefully thought of a way to make him pay for all he had done and that was why I started with the blackmail before ending it all” she looked at Cathy and felt tears come to her eyes.
“Sweety, I never knew what you went through…not until I heard you today” the tears trickled down her cheeks. “Had I known that monster laid a finger on you, I would have sent him sooner to his grave” she confessed as Cathy closed her eyes trying to hold the tears in. “I’m sorry” she said in tears as Cathy covered her face with her palms and wiped away the tears that stained her cheeks.
“You all in this room have been hurt in one way by Chief Emeka Okafor and I humbly apologise… Tosin, Nduka, Mrs. Brown, Jide, Amara…I know the money cannot replace whatever he took from you, it can’t even replace those kids he raped and killed, but I want you all to forgive me…forgive me for not doing what I should have done long ago”
“Annie…I understand your pain, your anger, your hate…and that’s why I won’t judge you” she said and inhaled deeply. “You did what you had to do, I want you to know I don’t hate you for that…you’re still my daughter” she said and turned to Femi.
“I had come in through this door, it was meant for security measures. The door leads to his portrait in our room” she explained pointing at the door she had just come in through. “It leads to our en suite bathroom…when he was dead, I had gone back to my room. It wasn’t easy but I had to do it” she simply explained and smiled.
“Don’t worry about the tape recorder, there’s something better”
THREE WEEKS LATER…
Godwin Okafor sat in the living room staring into space. Ever since the revelation weeks ago, he had not been himself. He had been made to watch the live-streaming interrogation of everyone. He was filled with mixed feelings towards everyone. He felt terrible for hating his uncle; felt guilty and really bad for hating his elder sister when all she had done was love him unconditionally; he did not even know what to feel concerning his father’s murderer: his mother; and then Annie…he felt used, heartbroken, guilt and pity all at once.
She had not come back home after that night and he had not called her. He had only spoken to and apologized to his uncle and sister. Since his mother was in prison and undergoing trial by a lawyer hand-picked by Femi, Catherine had taken on the motherly role and Patrick’s undying love for her had increased in those weeks. A lawyer had come and she had fiinally taken custody of her son. James on the other hand was just pleased to have his aunty around and wondered when his mother would be back from the village (since that was what he had been told).
A loud knock on the door got him standing on his feet and running towards the front door. He breathed deeply before opening the door to set his eyes on Annabel. They both stared at each other for what seemed like forever before Godwin finally realized himself and made way for her to pass.
As she walked in, she looked around the house with a longing in her eyes. She wondered if James was upstairs; she had missed him badly.
“Have a seat” his voice was barely audible but she heard him and obeyed with her eyes on the floor.
After Ujunwa’s confession that night, she had seen him and could not stand the tears in his eyes. She knew she was responsible…okay she knew most people were, but she had a greater percentage. Many times she had picked up her phone to call him but before it would ring, she would end the call. She had been so thrilled when he had called her the night before and said they needed to talk. Even though she had an idea of why he wanted to see her, she still wanted to see him.
“Annabel” she heard as she closed her eyes. He did not call her Annie as he used to.
She looked up at him and forced a smile which he did not care to return.
“I called you here so that we could talk” he began his well-rehearsed speech and noticed the fear in her eyes immediately. He wondered what was going through her mind at that moment. “I wanted to let you know that I’m sorry…for all that he did to you” he wanted to say more but his lips remained sealed. He had spent the whole night practicing and going over his lines just as he had done before asking her to marry him but he still could not say anything.
She kept her eyes on him and when it was obvious he was not saying anything, she spoke up. “You don’t have to be. What’s done is done” she said casually as he nodded his head sadly. “I’m really sorry I had to involve you in my…quest for vengeance. I want you to know that if there had been any other way, I would have never come into your life” she paused and sighed. “Goddy, I know you feel used-”
“You’re damn right I feel used” he yelled with so much anger he wondered how he had been able to keep it in. “You used me” he said rising to his feet as Annie kept her eyes fixed on him. She seemed to notice the tears in his voice as he continued. “I loved you…I married you…but…you used me Annie” he sounded heartbroken and closed his eyes trying to hold back the tears that were trying to make their way out.
“I had no choice”
“Everyone has a choice. You could have applied as his secretary…tried to be a friend to mum or whatever…there were a lot of choices Annabel” he said as she nodded slowly and rose to her feet.
“I’m really sorry” she begged as tears welled in her eyes. “I never meant to hurt you…you’re a good man and you don’t deserve this…I’m really really sorry” she said as he nodded quickly and inhaled deeply.
“Just one question”
“I want to ask you one question” he insisted as she looked away having an inkling of what he was going to ask. “Did you for one minute…or even a second love me?” he asked looking at her but she did not face him.
He walked to her and held her arms with a firm grip and made her look straight at him.
“Did you ever feel anything for me?”
“You would not even believe me”
“Try me” he said as she folded her lips and closed her eyes for a split second.
“You were the reason I had not made a move on Chief” she paused and looked into his eyes to know if he believed her. “I didn’t know how to watch you mourn his death or console you…I didn’t want to see you sad” she confessed as he nodded and smiled sadly.
“So in essence…you loved me?” he asked as she shook her head with a sad smile that almost made him faint.
“I love you” she emphasized as he smiled and pulled her into a warm hug.
The large restaurant was bubbling with life and people. There were people seated at different tables eating and chattering. In the ‘reserved’ area was a large table around which sat Jide, Tosin, Femi, Mr. & Mrs. Kayode, Catherine and the two children, and Florence, the lawyer handling Mrs. Okafor’s case.
“I still cannot believe you did this” Femi said with a surprised smile that stayed on his lips.
The money Ujunwa got from the blackmail had been distributed to all Chief’s victims and Jide had used his share to finally open a restaurant.
“Better believe it” he said smiling and finally rose to his feet. “I would like to thank you all for coming…well except them” he added pointing towards the two empty seats for Godwin and his wife.
“Seriously?” They all heard and saw Godwin walking towards them arm in arm with Annie.
Catherine could not suppress a smile as she watched the couple advance towards them. She had also shared her brother’s fears concerning Annie’s true feelings for him and so she had advised him to call her. Seeing the both of them take their place at the table made her know things were okay. As he pulled out his seat, Godwin stole a glance at her and caught her staring at him. They simply smiled at each other and he sat down.
“You’re lucky” Jide said jokingly and continued. “Cooking is one thing I’m good at…okay, it’s actually the only thing I’m good at” he confessed as everyone laughed. “And that’s why I’m thankful to you all for coming here…” He turned to Femi. “I must confess, I didn’t think you would honour my invitation…thank you” he said. “And to you Barrister…thank you for coming and for taking Aunty Uju’s case” he then turned to Femi once more. “You always wanted to know why my English was so good…well we had classes by some women who came by but Aunty Uju came everyday” he explained as Cathy and her brother felt so proud of their mother.
She was facing charges of manslaughter. Femi knew the law had to be upheld so he bent it a little and did not present the case as a murder but rather that she had killed him in defence. It had taken a lot of time and brains to come up with suitable evidence but the lawyer was good and so was Femi. She would still serve time but it would be minimal.
Tamunowari and Yemisi on the other hand were battling for their lives in court and considering the fact that a tape showing them confessing to their crimes was part of the exhibits, it was obvious that they would be spending the rest of their lives behind bars.
“So eat to your heart’s content because after today, you’ll pay before service” he said as they all laughed and clinked their cups.
Femi was not sure but he thought he saw a look pass between Jide and Catherine while she tried hard not to smile.