“Kill me now or you stop hollering your empty threats at me” she yelled in anger as he took hold of her hands and pushed her away but not so hard; and with that wicked grin still on his lips, he straightened his collar and looked at her.
“They are not empty threats, trust me. You will surely watch them burn first before you join them…but that’s when I’m done with Ikenna who dumped my sister in an asylum and took over my uncle’s wealth” he explained as his eyes grew angry and Ify cringed in fear.
He wanted to nab his brother-in-law so badly and had decided in his mind to use Ify’s death as his reward; besides she was responsible for everything. If Onyi had not died, Dimma would have not gone crazy, and Ikenna would have not been in charge of his uncle’s money.
Get Ikenna alias the dealer, and have your sweet revenge.
In tears, she went down on her knees and took hold of his trousers. “I had nothing to do with her death, you have to believe me” she begged as he kicked her.
“Would you stop lying?” he screamed in anger. “Your lies only make things worse, admit the truth” he yelled even though he knew it would not change anything.
“Fine” she said rising to her feet and looking him in the eye. “I did it, okay. I told daddy that I loved you and I wanted her out of the way…and then I came up with the idea of setting the house on fire so that it would look like an accident…all daddy had to do was make one phone call” she explained amidst tears and took in a deep breath trying to garner much courage to mutter the next words she had in mind.
“I killed her so that you could be with me” she stated as he slapped her hard across the left cheek making her spit blood on the floor.
He gripped her neck and pushed her to the wall and that was when Sandra knew she had to come in.
“Chinonso” she called but only noticed Ify’s face redden more. “Nonso” she yelled and pulled his hand away from Ify who fell to the floor gasping for air.
“Are you mad?” Sandra scolded as he stared at her for a split second and walked out of the room slamming the door shut behind him.
She then turned to Ify and tried to help her up.
“Don’t come near me” she cried. “You’re both monsters, so stop pretending you care” she said with her face on the ground and with her eyes closed, she let the tears flow.
She had left the wedding venue early and she had not spoken to him due to the quarrel they had when she had accused his best friend of planning something against her. He had really wanted to talk to her, so the moment she had left, he knew she was going home to her sick mum.
He helped in carrying the empty crates of malt before he had left for Onyi’s home. As he had approached from the right, he saw her coming in the opposite direction in her dazzling blue gown. They had both smiled at each other like a couple that had been kept apart for a long time.
His eyes had been fixed on her and hers on his.
But something distracted her and she stopped and turned towards the bungalow in horror.
Nonso did not want to look away from her but she had started running and he had to turn to see the house engulfed in flames.
“Onyinye, No” he screamed and tried to run after her but she was too fast.
Her scream still pierced his ears whenever he remembered that day. He had just stood before the house; unable to move or say a word.
Every day, he shed tears as he imagined a different scenario where the love of his life would have been saved. He always imagined his emergency hormone had shot in earlier than hers. He would run faster than her and stop her from running into the house to save her mother. She would scream and shout and shed tears but she would still be alive.
“Hey” he heard and turned to see Sandra. He was seating on a bench in the yard smoking.
He let out a stream of smoke through his nostrils and turned to her. “You were really stressed out today, you should be asleep” he said remembering how she had to use her badge to order for CCTV tapes from the exchange deal venues.
“I know” she said and sat beside him. “So should you” she said and watched him put the cigarette in his mouth once more.
She looked down and began. “What you did back there was really –” he cut her short just as she had expected.
“I didn’t kill her, did I?” he asked and turned to her. “Don’t pity her; you heard everything she said in there…she’s a murderer” he said as Sandra made a face. “She deserves every single thing I’m putting her through…do not let your heart get in the way” he advised with a hint of warning in his voice.
He inhaled smoke once more and threw the butt on the floor. Crushing it under his feet, he looked up at the not-so-dark sky and exhaled.
“We need to sleep” he said and led her into the building.
Ifeoma stared at the buildings they passed by still amazed at the fact that she had left her prison…after how many days? She had no idea.
It was good to feel the wind on her skin as Sandra drove the blue-black Mazda 626. She kept replaying the scene earlier that morning which still seemed like a dream.
“Get up” he had ordered in his usual harsh and unfriendly tone as he tossed a bag at her. “Go and have a shower and get dressed. You’ll be going with Sandra to visit Ms. Green. You’re acting as an assistant detective” she had sat up to be really sure it had been Mr. Grumpy talking and it sure was.
“And don’t even think of being clever. First of all, I’ll still find you and secondly, you have to think of your husband and little Chidi” and that was all he had said to her.
She turned to Sandra whose eyes had not left the road ever since they got in. she had changed her attitude towards her after she had spoken rudely to her the evening before.
“How far are we?” she managed to asked but Sandy’s eyes remained fixed as she turned the steering wheel and made a bend, they passed by few houses before the car came to a stop.
She had a serious look on her face that reminded Ify of Chinonso.
“Look, she might try to hide certain things from us but we’ll have to push hard and be really fast” she said as Ify swallowed and nodded her head.
“I won’t have to say anything, right?”
“For our safety…no” she replied. “You’re only here to reduce suspicion on her part” she added as Ify frowned a bit.
“But…you’re a police officer, I saw your badge”
“Are you an officer?” she asked in reply as Ify shook her head and watched Sandra take out a gun from the glove compartment.
She tossed it on Ify’s lap and smiled. “It’s not loaded, don’t worry” she said as they both alighted from the car.
From the buildings they had passed, Ifeoma seemed pleased with the structures; it really was the Federal Capital Territory. The streets were not really as bad as the ones in Port Harcourt which could make a drive really frustrating.
They both walked on in silence as Sandra took notice of the numbers on each building.
“I think it’s this way” Sandra said as they both turned left and after passing by five buildings, they turned left again. “There it is” Sandra pointed to a house on the right. “No. 29” she added as they walked towards the house and Ify began to feel her heart pound in her chest.
What if something went wrong? What if it happened the way it happened in the movies and Miss Green was in fact expecting them? What if…the thoughts seemed numerous that Ifeoma thought of running back to the car but managed to calm herself down.
Sandra knocked once but it was not loud enough and that made Ify feel that she was not the only person that was scared. She thought Sandra was a police officer, why then did she look scared?
Sandra knocked again –it was louder this time.
“Who is it?” they heard from within.
“Please, open the door. We want to talk to you” Sandra replied and put her badge to the spy hole.
They heard a click in the lock and watched the door open halfway. A tall slim woman stood in the doorway. Her hair was hidden in the hair net she wore and her makeup was really unimpressive. She looked like a shiny burger –so brown. In the midst of the unimpressive makeup on her face was a bemused look that made her look weird.
“W…how may I help you?” she sounded scared.
“May we come in?” Sandra asked politely as the lady swallowed and sized her up.
“I’m sorry but the house is a bit out of order” she excused as Sandra smiled.
“We don’t mind” she said with the smile still on her face as the lady looked down and after few seconds, made way for them to pass.
Ify studied the house with interest. It was not a bit out of order; it was a total mess. The air in the house was stale and Ify had to control herself and hope they would be out soon. The tiles on the floor were so dirty that Ify wondered why and how the lady was able to survive. The painting on the walls (most of them) had fallen off, leaving patches on the wall. There were only four plastic chairs in the living room and that was it –the place seemed so empty. The window blinds were closed shut that no atom of light could even be seen. The room would have been dark if not for the front door that was slightly opened.
“You are Ms. Jennifer Green?” Sandra made it sound like a question and the lady only nodded slowly in reply. “We came here to talk to you about your boyfriend” Sandra went straight to the point as the confusion that had been on Jennifer’s face doubled.
“W…what are you talking about?”
“You mean who” Sandra’s voice was purely official and stern and that made Jennifer quite uncomfortable. “We want to know about Johnson Tamuno” she elucidated as Jennifer’s eyes widened but returned to normalcy in a split second.
“I…I…don’t…I don’t know anything” she stammered and looked down.
What a terrible liar, Ify thought to herself and looked intently at Jenny who was now staring at her.
“I…I’m not lying” she said as Ify tried to hide her surprise. She did not know she had voiced out her thoughts.
“Then?” Sandra took her cue.
“It’s just that…I haven’t heard that name in a long whole…all I hear is…Scarface”
“So where is he now?”
“I don’t know” the reply was too quick and Sandra found herself smiling.
“Ms. Jennifer, you’ll be in big trouble if you don’t help us”
“I don’t know” she said and rose from her seat then paced about as both women stared at her in silence.
The silence was unbearable to Ifeoma but Sandra looked as if she had experienced it a million times and her eyes just followed Jennifer as she paced about. Ifeoma had no choice but to go back to studying how untidy the place was.
“We broke up” she finally said facing Sandra with folded arms. “But that was years ago…when he got out of jail for his first crime of attempted murder. I put his gun on the table and told him to make a choice between the gun and I…” she paused with a distant look in her eyes. “He picked up the gun and walked out…and that was the last I saw of him. I only kept on seeing his picture on the news” she explained as Sandra kept her eyes fixed on her.
When Jennifer said no more, she rose to her feet and Ify followed hoping she had not shown her eagerness to leave.
“Thank you” Sandra said and put out her hand for a handshake but Jennifer only stared at her. “Have a nice day” she said and joined Ify who was already at the front door.
They walked back to the car in silence and when they were seated, Ify turned to Sandra.
“So what do we do now?” she asked hoping they were not going back to Mr. Grumpy soon.
“We’ll wait” she replied as Ify gave her a questioning look.
“For what always happens”
“And what’s that?”
“You’ll see” she said and relaxed in her seat with a sigh while tapping the steering wheel and humming to a song Ify did not know.
They sat for a long time before Ify looked at the timepiece on the dashboard. They had left Jennifer’s house at 12:20pm and it was already 2:00pm and she wondered how long they would have to wait. It was at least better than being locked up in that room where she had spent the last couple of days if not weeks, she was not really sure.
They sat in the car for two more hours and Ify could not hold it in anymore.
“Aren’t you hungry?” she asked as Sandra sighed. “Come on, whatever you are waiting for is definitely not coming and –”
“Good” Sandra cut in and sat up in her seat.
Ify followed her gaze and saw Jennifer flag down a cab and she wondered if that was what Sandra had been waiting for.
Sandra started the car and followed the cab at a reasonable distance while Ifeoma kept on wondering what was so interesting about the police force. They followed the cab for about twenty five minutes until it finally stopped in front of a two-storey building.
They saw her pay him and go make a left after the storey building.
“Let’s go” Sandra said immediately and alighted from the car while Ify did likewise.
She hurriedly locked the door and ran across the street with Ify trying to keep up. Just as they were got to the bend, they saw her take a right and they hurriedly followed and only slowed down when they were at a considerable distance.
Jennifer stopped at a house with no fence and gate and knocked urgently on the door. They both hid behind a car and watched the door open. She ran inside as a face poked out of the door and scanned the area before closing the door.
Ify felt her eyes glued to the closed door. Jennifer had lied about Johnson Tamuno. She was still seeing Scarface.
“Did you get the address?” Chinonso was thrilled at the news Sandra just gave him.
“I would be dumb not to” she replied with a paper and waved the paper for him to see.
“We’ll go there tomorrow and –” he stopped as he noticed her mood change. “What’s the face for?” he asked as she sighed and looked down. They were seated on the bench outside the building and Ify was locked in the room as usual.
“His heart is beginning to fail again” she said as tears welled in her eyes.
Nonso looked away from her for a while. Ever since he knew Sandra, she had confided in him about her father’s chronic heart condition. He would show signs of improvement and start deteriorating later on in a way that affected not just his heart, but those of his wife and children.
“You want to go?” he asked as if there were options.
“I have to go” she said as he bit his lips.
They were already so close. Why did her father have to break down at that moment? Couldn’t he wait for a week or thereabout? Nonso scolded himself mentally for being selfish.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come?” he asked even though he knew the reply he would get. He had begged to see her father a number of times but she had always refused, saying her parents always read meaning into things and would therefore be overly excited at seeing her come home with a man; and she was not ready to raise her father’s hopes and finally break his heart with the truth.
“You know the answer” she tried to force a smile and then she held his face in her palms. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” she asked in a low tone as he smiled.
“I can only cope and hope that you’ll be back soon. You’re a great partner” he commended as she smiled broadly and leaned closer to kiss him.
He wanted to move away as he always did but he knew it would hurt her as always, so he simply kissed her lightly and rose to his feet.
“You should start packing” he said and walked inside as she held her lips in surprise.
FOUR DAYS LATER
Chinonso unlocked the door and barged in as usual and began searching the room. He opened drawers, rose up bedcovers, moved tables and even searched the cupboards in the bathroom.
Ifeoma gave him space while he did all that as if she was already used to it. It had been four days since Sandra left and he searched for something every day. The first day, he had been searching for a box; the next day, a ten-in-one notebook; next was a laptop bag. She wondered what he was searching for at that moment.
“Did you see some files in –”
“No” she replied and waited for him to leave as usual but he stood with arms akimbo. She had to admit, she enjoyed watching the look of frustration that had adorned his face in the past few days.
With a sigh, she walked to where he stood and spoke. “If I make a suggestion, would you let me eat? Would you get me something to eat?”
“Sure” he said absent-mindedly.
“Call her” she said as he made a face and nodded as if she had just said something stupid.
“Sure. I haven’t tried that” he smirked with heavy sarcasm and turned to the in-built wardrobe. “It’s been switched off since she left; I think electricity issues. She’s in Nsukka for Christ’s sake” he was clearly not speaking to Ify.
He put his hand on his forehead and sat on the bed. Everything they had done so far, every possible lead they had on Ikenna was contained in the files, box, notebook and the bag that contained the most important of them all: the flash drive.
“I have to go to Nsukka” he finally voiced out more to himself than to her, but he still expected a reply from her. “And what to do with you till then” he paused and looked up to notice he had been alone in the room all that while.
“Oh crap” he cussed under his breath and ran through the door he had carelessly left open when he had walked in.
Ifeoma ran as fast as her legs could carry her and flagged down an empty cab.”Please, take me to the nearest transport company”
“What!” she said still panting. She had not heard him clearly.
“N1,200…are you going?”
Without further ado, she hopped in and the driver zoomed off.
She opened the walled and was thrilled to find a wad of notes, all in thousands.
Nonso had dropped the wallet on the table before he had started ransacking the whole place. He had not noticed she took the wallet and ran out the moment he began to explain that he had called Sandra already.
The driver arrived at the park after what seemed like forever. She rushed to get a ticket and only felt relaxed when the bus hit the road.
She was free at last.
Chinonso arrived in Nsukka, Sandra’s place of residence, at exactly 10:00pm. Ifeoma was the last person on his mind; he knew where she was and how to get her when he was ready. He had bigger fish to fry at the moment.
He lodged in a hotel that night. He had to get himself to meet Sandra’s eyes but it was not his fault that she kept everything at a place and switched off her phone without letting him know where she had kept them.
After Onyi’s death ten years ago, he had been sent back to Port Harcourt and that was where he had received the email that he would be having someone under him since they were not willing to suspend him yet. He had been at home that day but he had not replied the message. That evening, he had received a text:
Hello sir, I’m Asogwa Sandra. My phone was stolen. This is my new phone number
Her boldness had surprised him but he had not been in the mood to commend someone so he had ignored her text.
Two weeks after that, a call had come into the station concerning an armed robbery. Without thinking, he had driven in his car and impatiently hit the teenage son of the caller that had already been robbed.
They had sued him for assault and that was when he was forced to submit his letter of resignation since he was obviously never going to get his head back in the game. A year later, he heard about Dimma’s condition.
That had fueled his anger towards Ify and he knew his badge and I. D would give him access to unlimited files but he had lost them both. He had been left with only one option; to call Sandra.
He looked at the system before him and looked at the clock. It was 10:45pm.
Nonso knocked twice and the door was opened by an elderly woman who seemed to be in her sixties.
In a kind voice but still staring at him, she asked. “How may I help you?”
“Are you Mrs. Asogwa?” he asked as she nodded. “May I come in ma?” he asked as she stared at him intently. “I’m your daughter’s friend” he said as she nodded with a smile and let him in.
“Please, have a seat” she told him pointing at a sofa. “I hope you’re not in a hurry, she went to buy something for her father” she informed as he nodded with a smile.
“I can wait” he said as his eyes began to wander around the house and the lady sat on another sofa.
“How long have you known my daughter?” she began.
“For quite a long time now, ma” he replied with a smile. “You have an amazing daughter” he said as the old lady smiled broadly.
“You’re the first person to visit Sopuru since she came back two months ago. I almost thought she did not have friends again”
Nonso kept his eyes fixed on the lady. Who was Sopuru? And what did she mean by two months ago?
“Two months ago?” he asked trying not to stammer.
“Yes; she just returned from the U. S.” she replied as Nonso shook his head slowly.
“Ma, I’m talking about your other daughter” he corrected as her smile disappeared instantly. Chinonso did not seem to comprehend the effect of his correction on her, so he continued. “I mean Sandra” he said as she folded her lips and rose to her feet.
“You’re Sandra’s friend?” she asked as tears welled in her eyes and Nonso wondered what he had said wrong.
“Young man, what brought you here?” he heard a deep voice say as he stood up to greet the sturdy elderly man that just came into the living room.
“Who are you?” he cut in as his wife sat back on the sofa and buried her face in her palms.
“I am her friend”
“You are?” he made it sound like a question but Nonso was staring at the man whose heart was always failing; he was as fit as a fiddle.
“Young man, let’s not prolong this. The person you are looking for is no longer here”
“What do you mean?”
“You have to go” he said with his right hand pointing towards the front door.
“Sir, please, if you could just tell me where I could find her. It’s really important” he pleaded.
“She’s dead!” he shouted as Nonso stared at him in utter shock.
“W…what? How?” he stammered.
“Her stupidity killed her” he replied and turned to a framed picture on the wall that Nonso had clearly not noticed earlier.
The young lady was dressed in a police uniform but had no resemblance to the woman he had come to know as Sandra.
“Sandra?” he whispered hoping he was not seeing things.
“She was murdered ten years ago” he heard her mother say. “She had just been assigned to assist a senior officer…she had been so happy” the lady said sniffing and staring into space.
Nonso thought of what to say but no words came forth.
“Please leave” the man said unable to bear the sad look on his wife’s face.
“I’m sorry” Nonso finally said and left the house.
Who had been posing as Sandra Asogwa all along?
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