Ifeoma Iloh sat in the living room with her eyes fixed on the wall clock. It had been a week since she returned home. She had been surprised to see her husband and son at home. David had sent out search parties and even made several calls to find her but all his efforts had proved futile.
Nonso had been right, Abuja was the last place anyone would search for her.
With an order from his superiors, David had put a bounty on Nonso’s head but there was no positive result yet.
Her father was still missing and Ify had told David how Nonso shot him dead on the day they had both been kidnapped them. Nonso was the only lead to her father’s corpse, or so she thought.
David and Chidi had been so pleased when she returned but there was an uncomfortable air that engulfed her whenever David was around; he had not been himself. He always seemed withdrawn and whenever she tried to find out what was wrong, he would claim he was fine and there was nothing wrong with him.
Three days ago, Scarface had been killed and that had only made David get worse; always looking alert and he never left the house. He had only left the house earlier that afternoon and Ify had seemed pleased to watch him finally let go of whatever had been holding him.
But staring at the wall clock at 12:15am and waiting for David was not so pleasing to Ify. She had called his cell phone but he had not replied any of her calls. She had also called his colleagues but none claimed they were with him. She dialed his number again and was about to press the green button when his call came in. Without wasting a second, she answered.
“Baby” she said rising to her feet.
“Listen to me closely” his voice was so low that she had to struggle to hear him clearly. “Closer than you have ever listened to me. I want you to know that I love you and our Chidi dearly…do not ever forget that” she tried to speak but he continued. “I want you to know that I was doing the right thing…I would never have done anything to endanger your life Ify” the tears in his voice were obvious.
Was he crying?
“David, what’s –”
A gunshot in the background cut her short and then silence followed.
“David” she whispered as if the gun had been shot close to her and she was trying to hide. “David…David” she began to cry.
“I love you” she heard his weak voice and gasped.
He was still alive…
“The first…note…” then he went silent.
“David” she screamed.
TWO WEEKS LATER
Ify found herself smiling at the happy voice of Chidi in the backseat of the car. She had taken him to Big Treat where she got him nursery rhymes, sing-alongs and some toys he had hand-picked himself. David had already been buried and she had tried (and was still trying) her best to make sure the effect on Chidi would be minimal. They had both lost someone very dear to them but she knew she had to be strong for him; for the both of them.
The song stopped and the moment the next one came up, he lifted his hands in the air as his mother introduced the song.
“There was a farmer who had a dog and Bingo was its name-o…”
“B-I-N-G-O…” he sang happily after her. “…and Bingo was its name-o” he stopped and waited for his mum to tag along but her eyes were on something else.
“Mummy” he called.
“Sing on sweety, I’ll join you soon” she said as he shrugged and continued singing to himself as she drove on.
Ifeoma stared to be really sure of what (or rather who) she was seeing. The lady was wearing a mini skirt and a tank top…
They returned home at 7:00pm but Chidi was already half-asleep. She led him to his room and lay in bed with him until his light snoring came as a confirmation of deep sleep; she had the rest of the evening to herself.
She carefully got out of the bed so as not to wake him and went straight to her room. She had trailed Jennifer Green and taken down her address and she had no idea why she had done that. Jennifer was meant to be living in Abuja so it was possible she had come to Port Harcourt to see a friend but Ify still had her doubts. She would go there the next day and ask a few questions but she would be wary of having any direct contact with Miss. Green.
She took off her clothes and had a quick shower and at the same time, trying to recall all she knew about Miss Green. When she was out of the bathroom and dressed in her pyjamas, her eyes settled on the door of Dave’s study. The door had not been touched since he had left them.
The place must be in such a mess, she thought to herself with a sigh. She turned the doorknob and entered. To her utmost surprise, the place was in order but for few pieces of paper on the table.
A sad smile dominated her lips; just seeing him sitting there with those papers littered all over the table would make her scold him and all he had to do was make a boyish face and kiss her on the lips in order to make her do the clean-up herself. How much she missed him.
She sat at his desk and noticed that the papers were not just scattered; it was an opened file. It looked as if he had been going through the papers and had to leave them due to an emergency. She immediately remembered the urgency in his eyes when he had left the house that fateful day. A picture of Scarface on one of the papers made her go through the files instead of just packing them. The file contained similar records to the ones she had seen in Abuja with information on his crimes since the nineties.
As she scanned through the others, she wondered why David had been going through Scarface’s records. She then put the papers together and closed the file. She opened the last drawer and put the file in it. She then opened the first drawer to put his pen and pencil in it when she noticed a folded piece of paper in the drawer; that was strange because that was where Dave kept only pencils, pens, erasers and rulers…definitely not papers.
She took it out and studied it. Then David’s last words re-echoed in her mind.
He had been talking about a note in the first drawer.
She unfolded it and it read thus:
‘My love, if you’re reading this, it means I’m dead. I don’t know how long it will take you to find this note and I really pray you find it soon… and if you do, that means you’re still alive’
She gasped after reading that line.
Was her life in danger as well?
‘Let me spare you the details because it is irrelevant at this moment. They threatened to kill you and Chidi if I did not comply and when I had doubted them, they gave me your exact location and said if I did not agree to do as I was asked, someone would shoot you…and so I had to do it. I was the one who had helped Scarface get out of jail years ago.
I think they let me live just in case he got into trouble with the authorities again but now he’s dead, I know they’re coming for me…soon. I really wish I know who’s after my life, the only name I have now is…the DEALER and nothing more.
I really hope they’ll stop at my murder…
But to be safe, there’s a wallet in the second drawer. My ATM card is inside. Run away from Port Harcourt with Chidi as soon as you read this…Be smart when doing it. Don’t make it look as if you’re running. Leave the car in the front yard; don’t go with too much load. The money in my account can last you for a lifetime. I know it’s unfair to you and our son, but you have to start your life anew…away from these monsters.
I LOVE YOU from the bottom of my heart and I’m really sorry that things turned out this way…Please be strong for Chidi…don’t let them get you’
She held the note and felt her hand shake violently. Her life was in danger? Who was the dealer? Where was she supposed to run to?
She folded the note and left the study with it. She would leave immediately. She did not know how long the dealer had been watching her but she would not sit by and watch someone kill her son.
As she locked the door to the study, a strange sound from the living room caught her attention. She took in deep breaths and stood still for the sound to repeat itself but there was silence except for the pounding of her heart in her chest. The sound would have seemed normal if she had not just read David’s note.
With a sigh of relief, she consoled herself that it was probably because of the note she had just read.
To be sure, she took a high-heeled shoe from the shoe rack and walked to open the door of her room. She took in a deep breath and slightly opened the door noiselessly. The passage was empty and she was about to open the door completely when she noticed Chidi’s door open with the lights turned off.
With a horrified gasp, she bolted her door and made for her phone immediately. She dialed a friend’s number and a deep voice answered the phone. Her lips quivered as she tried to speak.
“Ifeoma…hello…is everything okay?” he asked with a sense of urgency as she ran to the en suite bathroom and locked herself in.
“H…hello” she could barely hear herself.
“Ifeoma, what’s going on? I can’t even –” he stopped as someone hit the door to Ifeoma’s room and the phone almost fell from her hand.
“Jerry, someone is here” she whispered in a shaky voice and felt her eyes get wet.
“Oh my God” he was one of the few who suspected that David had messed with the wrong people and had gotten himself killed. “Where are you? Where’s Chidi?” he asked immediately.
“I’m in the bathroom…they have my son” she felt so selfish at the thought that they had killed her son and she was still alive. “How fast can you –” the door to her room finally gave way and she felt her heart leap out of her chest.
“Ify, I’m in my car already” he tried to calm her down but she was far from calm. She was shaking with fear and her silence scared the man on the other end of the phone. “Please, don’t hang up” he said and she obeyed but still could not speak.
She rose to her feet the moment the killer threw himself at the door of the bathroom. “Mrs. Iloh” the voice sounded unfriendly and impatient. She heard him grunt as he cast his whole weight on the door.
“Ify, is there anything in there you can defend yourself with?” Jerry asked as she scanned the room but there was nothing useful.
“Don’t make me destroy another door” she heard as he cast his weight one last time and the door gave away.
Ify’s heart skipped a beat the moment the door opened and she let the phone drop to the ground. In fear, her eyes first went to his gun pointing at her and then to his masked face and black outfit.
“P…please” she finally found her voice. “I have a son” she begged as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Not anymore” he replied and pulled the trigger shooting her in the neck.
A cup of cold water and two light slaps on the cheek did the trick.
“Hey” he called waving his five fingers in front of her face. Her eyes fluttered as she stared at him in confusion then disbelief; she was alive! He tapped her left cheek twice to be sure he had her full attention.
“Nonny” she called to be sure of what was going on.
Was he real?
The moment his frown replied her, she knew it was real. She was indeed alive…and that meant Chidi was too. Nonso was the one that had broken into her house…just like he had done before. She felt an eerie sense of happiness.
She could not move since both her hands and legs were tied to the chair she was sitting on.
“Last night” he began. “I was attacked by two men. They both died last night but before their deaths, one had told me that the dealer sent them and that they were also going after the officer’s wife and kid” Ify did not want to picture what Nonso must have done to get the information out of the killer. “I rushed to your house which was only ten minutes away from mine” he said and waited to take in her reaction. Of course she looked scared and surprised immediately. “I killed the guy there and shot you with a tranquilizer dart then I brought you here”
“What about my son?” she asked in a low voice as if she did not want to offend him. He looked sober for a split second but immediately regained his unconcerned composure.
“I don’t know what the guy injected him with” he confessed as Ifeoma bowed her head and closed her eyes.
Hot tears stung her eyes as his chubby face appeared in her mind’s eye. In less than a year, she had lost everyone that was so important to her; her father, her husband and little Chidi.
Nonso took out a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket and lit one.
“Then why did you come to save me? You always wanted me dead, remember?” she reminded him as he blew the smoke in her face making her cough and glare at him.
He smiled at her glare. It was funny to know that she could do nothing more than that. “Correction, I still want you dead” he said. “I know David had something to do with the dealer and he must have told you about it; I could not let you die with that” he said and waited for her to speak.
“You’re going to kill me either way; whether I tell you or not” she said as he acted impressed and gave her a thumb-up. “Well, he told me nothing” she said as his smile was immediately replaced with a piercing glare.
“You’re kidding, right? Your dead husband told you nothing?” he asked angrily. “I saved your miserable life for nothing?” she could sense the anger in his voice and knowing her saviour, Sandra was not present, he could throttle her to death.
“He told me something” she lied and started thinking of another suitable lie to back it up.
“What was it?”
“He…he was the one who helped Scarface get out of jail” she said slowly as Nonso frowned.
“Who cares about Scarface? He’s dead”
“But I saw his girlfriend…Jennifer Green” she said as Nonso looked confused. “Jennifer Green…I saw her yesterday. I know it doesn’t make any sense now but I felt something was not right. The day Sandra and I had gone to her place, it looked as if she was trying to settle in…so it seemed really strange seeing her in Port Harcourt last night”
“Wow” he said. “It is so impossible to have a friend that lives in Port Harcourt” he smirked as she looked down.
“She’s a fake” he announced as Ify looked up.
“I thought of that but how do you –”
“I checked out the two addresses…the so-called Jennifer and Scarface. Both places were empty…caretakers claimed it had been empty for over a year” he informed as surprise filled her face.
“But why would she pretend? What would she gain from –”
“Because she was working with Sandra” he yelled in frustration.
“I’m confused” she confessed as he sighed.
“The lady you saw at Abuja…the so-called Sandra was a fake too. She was impersonating the real Asogwa Sandra who was meant to be my assistant years ago. I don’t know how she did it; killing the real Sandra and impersonating her all these years” he explained with an atom of confusion in his voice. “The real Jennifer Green is also dead; she was raped and murdered and Scarface had been the suspect”
“But we saw her make that call and we went through the document…it was legit…wasn’t it?”
“She was working for someone”
“Maybe…” he did not sound convinced. “I just have to find these ladies…but in the mean time” he paused and turned to her. “You’re useless” he said and rose to his feet.
There was a transparent bag on the stool beside him. “This won’t take much time” he said taking the bag in his hand and walking towards her as her mouth opened in shock. He was really going to kill her this time.
“How do you plan on finding them?”
“I have –”
“Stop bluffing. You and I know that Sandra stole everything from you. I know where the fake Jennifer lives…and she could tell us where the fake Sandra lives also” she hoped he believed her.
“Why do I feel as if you’re lying so that I won’t kill you now?”
“I’m not lying. I also want to find out who the dealer is…he took my son and my husband away from me” she said and looked down.
She felt like Nonso. She could not believe it. She did not want to be a monster like her friend had become; at least she was not accusing anyone falsely.
“Is this a trick?” he stared quizzically at her.
“I actually have nothing to live for; so you can as well kill me” she pretended hoping he would buy her little act. “Death is better than living with the memories of my loved ones I’ve lost” she said as a tear stained her cheek and Nonso had an idea immediately; an idea that Ify smartly planted in his mind with her speech.
He had enjoyed her little speech. He decided within himself that he would let her live. What better punishment would she deserve?
“We have to move” he said as she smiled within her; he had bought it.
Nengi George sat still in her couch trying to convince herself that she had not gotten herself into deep trouble. Learning to be independednt at the age of 15 due to her parents’ death had taught her to jump at opportunities no matter how risky they appeared to be.
One such opportunity was posing as Jenifer Green. N600,000 was not something that was seen everyday in her world.
“We just want to know who hired you” Nonso said after an uncomfortable silence between the trio.
“Hired me to do what?””
“To pretend to be Jennifer Green” Ify said sharply as Nengi looked down and when she looked up at them, a smile surfaced.
“Jennifer what?” she asked as Ify sat up in her seat to tackle her but Nonso put out his hand for her to stay put and calm.
“Do you know your life is in danger?” his eyes were fixed on her. He immediately saw the effect of his words on her; she was scared but she remained silent. “We are your only hope right now”
“I’ve been safe all this while so don’t try to scare me” she tried to sound firm but Nonso could not hide a smile.
“Listen to me…Nengi” they had asked around and discovered her name was Nengi before they knocked on her door. “The person you worked for is a monster and has goons everywhere working for him…even police officers. Someone could waltz in here and put a bullet in your head” he informed her as she bowed her head and finally raised it up; she looked white with fear and uncertainty.
“How are you going to protect me? I need to be sure I can trust you guys”
“You’ve been safe all this while, haven’t you?” he asked as she nodded. “So, there’s nothing to worry about. We have our eyes on you”
She bowed her head once more and began to speak. “All I know is that I had to sit in that dark house in Abuja and wait for some people to interview me as Jennifer Green and after that I had to go to another house and get my cheque…and that was it…nothing more” she said as Nonso fixed his eyes on her; she was lying.
“Who was the lady posing as Sandra?”
“What…I don’t understand” the confusion in her face was unmistakable.
“The lady that I came with that day” Ify explained. “What is her real name and who is she?”
“I don’t know anyone. I was at work at the bar one night when a man walked up to me and asked me to pose as –”
“You’ve said that before” he tried to sound casual. “So you don’t know who that lady is? You’ve never seen her before?” he asked as she shook her head sincerely.
“Okay, thank you” he said as he left the house with Ify behind him.
“So what do we do now?” she asked as soon as they were out of the house and on their way to where the car was parked.
Nonso stopped and turned back in the direction they had just come. “We go back” he replied as she stared at him.
“Because you need to use the restroom” she began to speak but he put out his right hand for her to stop. “I need three minutes” he said as she frowned and they walked back to Nengi’s house.
It took Nengi seconds to open the front door. “Did you forget something?” she asked blocking the doorway.
“Sorry, I need to use the restroom…and he won’t understand” she said the last part and Nonso unconsciously made a face.
Nengi stared at them suspiciously for seconds before making way for them to enter.
She could not let Ify enter her house alone, so she left Nonso in the living room and followed Ify.
As soon as they were out of sight, he searched the sofa she had been sitting on before they left but did not find anything. He looked around and finally noticed her phone on a stool close to the television. He hurriedly went through her call log: she had made a call two minutes ago…the moment they had left. Without hesitation, he dialed the number in his phone and put her phone back in its position. He was very sure that Nengi was standing in front of the door of the bathroom trying to avoid Ify searching her house.
“Thank you so much” he heard as they came back into the living room and he rose to his feet.
Nengi nodded as they smiled and left.
Ifeoma waited till they were quite a distance and then she spoke. “Now what?”
“She was lying”
“Durhh…even a kid could tell” she said absent-mindedly and immediately remembered her little Chidi. She had not even seen his body yet.
“I went through her phone, luckily it wasn’t locked. She had made a call immediately we left her house”
“To Sandra?” she asked eagerly.
“I think so” he said as they got into the car parked on the side of the road. If she was the one Nengi had called, it would not be so hard to find her…he had his ways.
She fiddled in her bag for her keys grateful that another day had almost gone by and she was still alive. She found the bunch of keys, unlocked the door and entered the one bedroom flat. She had once had a nice apartment and a good job but greed had made her lose all that.
An offer of two million naira to pose as Ayogu Sandra had been so intriguing that she willingly abandoned her job and identity. When she had been told that her time of service was over, she had thought it was just the job, she did not know her life was included in the contract also. It was obvious she knew too much about the dealer and could give up information if she was tortured. She had been on the run since then and got the one bedroom flat a week ago on the outskirts of Lagos.
She turned on the light switch and stopped dead in her tracks when she noticed the man sitting on the bed.
He got up and walked to her, clapping his hands as he did so. All she did was look down. Nengi had called her four days ago but she had not been bothered because she knew he would never find her, but she was obviously wrong.
“Hello, miss…” he opened his arms waiting for her to mention her name.
She looked up at him, swallowed hard and forced a smile. “Hello Nonso”
“Wow…you remember me?” he acted surprised as she sighed and walked to the bed.
“Since you know everything already, why are you here?”
“You’re sure I know everything?” he made it sound like a question. “Of course I know that you have no conscience, no heart. I know that you stole from me because –”
“Stole what from you?” she cut in defensively. “I used the badge to get you most of the evidence, remember? And the bastard helped. He was always one step ahead of you”
“Of course he had to be, you were on his side as well as mine”
“It doesn’t matter Nonso, he beat you…again. And to top it up, my life is in danger”
He could not hold back a scoff. “You really think I care?”
“I’m Tosin –”
“ –Adekunle, I know” he completed as she stared at him and looked down. “How were you able to do all this? I mean murder an innocent girl and pose as her for how many years?”
“I never knew her. I was at the club one day and then I have a one-night stand with a guy who makes me a mouth-watering offer…he said all I needed to do was send a text to you and wait for your call, no matter how long it would take”
He looked at his watch and hissed. He had no time for her unrepentant speech. “Where are all the files?” he asked as she stared at him for almost half a minute.
“Nonso, I’ll give it to you…if you promise to help me”
“Why would I want to help you? Go to them”
“They’re after me…I still have everything. I ran away the moment I found out they had tried to poison me on the day they were meant to give me the balance. I can’t count the number of places I’ve been to just trying to run away from them” she paused again. “Promise me that you’ll protect me from them and I’ll give you everything” she said as he frowned.
How could he promise to protect her? He was barely doing a good job protecting himself. There were better way to handle people like Tosin…the police force had taught him that.
Ifeoma alighted from the car with an exhausted sigh. She had been sitting in the car while Nonso entered her house. It had been two hours and she hoped Tosin was in there. Mr. Grumpy had ordered her to remain in the car until he returned and she obviously knew better than to disobey. She stretched herself a little and moved three steps away from the car. She had no idea where Nonso had gotten it from but it sure looked old.
They had parked the car behind the building and she wanted to stretch her legs even though she knew it would clearly upset Mr. Grumpy so she walked towards the front of the building taking note of the rough and quiet road. She had always heard of how rowdy and overcrowded Lagos was and she had confirmed it during their journey but this place was so peaceful and quiet.
She just passed the building with a footstep with the intention of crossing the road when she noticed a man wearing a red shirt and a white pair of trousers walking towards the building. Ifeoma had never seen him before but he looked so suspicious that she took a step back and observed him under close scrutiny. His eyes darted in different locations as if to make sure no one was watching him. He looked as if he had only one destination in mind –Tosin’s place,
She immediately ran back to the car so that she would call Chinonso. She dialed his number and after five long seconds, his gruff voice came up.
“Hel –” two gunshots cut her short.
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