Ify let the phone fall from her hand to the ground. She stood still for what seemed like forever.
Chinonso Okeke was dead!
She got into the car and for five minutes, her head was bowed as a train of thoughts ran through her head. What would become of her? How would she find the dealer? What if they came next for her?
She could not find the dealer without Chinonso and even if she wanted to try, she would need a lead…and just at that thought, she felt the urge to go into the house; the police had not showed up yet…but what if the killer was still in the house searching for possible evidence? Tosin probably still had everything intact and that was why they were after her life; Ify thought to herself.
As hopeless as she felt, she started the car and drove towards the front of the building and noticed the little crowd that had gathered in front of Tosin’s door. Since there were people present, it would not be so hard to search the place. With that, she stopped the car and alighted from it.
As she approached the crowd that seemed to be increasing, she heard someone mutter: “Who could they have offended?”
“It could be armed robbers-o”
“In broad daylight?” the person sounded unconvinced.
It was not easy to make her way through the crowd but she did and was able to enter the house whee onle the few who dard stood and what she saw was a big surprise to her. Tosin lay dead in a pool of her own blood and the other corpse in a similar condition. She felt a smile within her as she studied the dead man in a red shirt and a pair of white trousers.
The three men with her in the house turned to take in her expression. Of course she felt sorry for Tosin but she could not let them see that she cared less about the other corpse. She briefly shook her head and walked out.
She managed to find her way through the crowd. When she was out on the street, her eyes went straight to the car and a smile surfaced when she saw Chinonso in the passenger seat.
Ify got out of the en suite bathroom with her clothes already on her and noticed that he was still working on the laptop. They had left Lagos immediately after the incident the day before; they did not even think of going back to the hotel where they had lodged. He had explained how he had escaped death while she drove then.
“she said the only way she would ive me what she had taken was if I promise to protect her and I agreed. We were about leaving when you called and then I knew something was wrong so I got my gun ready immediately but there was no time to warn her and then the door flew open. I shot him but that was not before his bullet reached Tosin” he had paused. “She died instantly…and there was no time to search the house so I just took this an ran out” he explained as he pointed towards Tosin’s handbag on his lap.
He had then turned to her and asked: “What did you even go in there to do?”
She had shrugged and said: “To smile at your corpse”
He had spent close to thirty minutes searching the bag. He had gone through its contents carefully and patiently that Ify had to admire him for that. She knew is she had the bag; she would throw everything in the backseat and frantically search for papers and whatever seemed important.
“Wow” she had heard him say and turned to see him with a flash drive. He immediately reached for his laptop in the backseat and booted the system. When he was done, he plugged it in and a broad smile had appeared on his face when he saw all the files and folders staring at him.
She had told him to go over them later and to her surprise, he had listened and took over the wheel.
They then talked about the dealer and Nonso had explained how he had noticed a regular pattern in the clips gotten from the surveillance cameras.
“Scarface was a constant…but when I listened in closely, I realized he was not the one negotiating. It was as though there was someone else there but not with them at the table. I kept on watching and re-watching them and one tape finally gave it all up” she had sat up eagerly to hear the rest.
“There’s a monitor and that’s where the negotiator alias my brother-in-law is. He’s a smart bastard; he sends his boys and uses them as bloody sacrificial lambs”
“So you saw your him on the monitor?” she had asked emphatically.
“No…he had his back to the camera. I could see only the seat; not even the back of his head was visible” he had turned to see a look of uncertainty in her eyes. “I’m positive that was your husband’s murderer on the screen”
They got back to Port Harcourt at 2:00am. She had slept once or twice in the car but she still felt exhausted and she knew he was too but as soon as they arrived at the hotel, he had taken his place on a chair and bean to work on the laptop.
She had awoken at 10:00am and noticed him still on the seat before she went to have her bath.
She took a seat and sat beside him. She studied him closely and noticed the bags under his eyes as well as the frustration in his eyes.
“You should get some sleep, Grumpy” her tone was motherly and she did not like it.
“Not until I access these files” he replied as she turned to the screen. “All the files are protected with a password and I have tried everything I can think of” he explained and put his right hand on his forehead as he leaned back in his chair.
“Well, at least if you are able to find the password, hou can go to sleep before going through the files” she said.
“Sure, I will…if I’m able to” he sighed and remained in his position with his eyes on the ceiling as he tried to think of something he had not tried before.
He heard her punching the keyboard but he knew it would be as fruitless as his efforts.
“What do we have here?” there was a smile in her voice that Nonso sat up to look at her.
He followed her gaze to the monitor to see an open folder on Scarface. “How did you –”
“Go to bed” she cut in immediately.
“No, you have to tell me the password so that I can open the others” he said with a smile on his face as he scrolled down the folder.
“You’ll have to sleep first…at least four hours”
“Are you insane?” he asked with a penetrating glare but his gruff voice did not seem to have an effect on her.
“That voice won’t help you” she said to his surprise. “When you wake up, I’ll tell you the password…it’s the same for all of them. I checked them randomly” she said quickly.
“Listen, I took coffee the whole night and also this morning, so I won’t be able to –”
“I really don’t care. Just lie on the bed for four hours and then you’ll have your bath and eat” she outlined as if she was reading a book and began to shut down the system.
He felt stupid taking orders from her but he obeyed since he needed the password. He wondered how he would manage to sleep for four hours with the amount of caffeine that filled his system. He then decided to occupy his mind by thinking of random things that would drain him but the moment his head hit the pillow, he slept off and did not wake up till 8:00pm.
After devouring three wraps of garri and eguisi soup and washing it down with two satchets of water, he had a compulsory rest of fifteen minutes before he was allowed to get back to the system.
As Ify made him do all that, she could not help but think of her late husband.
He booted the system and watched her type in the password to open a file on the dealer.
“Nonso” she said when she was done
“That’s the password” she said to him as he stared at her.
“I’m a lady, we notice these things” she said and pulled a seat to sit beside him.
As he scanned through the familiar files and folders, he noticed one that did not even ring a bell. It was named “official”. He double-clicked and typed the password. The folder opened and in awe, he gazed at the files contained therein. It contained records of the pedophile he had been working on ten years ago. Also in the folder was another folder on the fire incident that had claimed the lives of Onyi and her mother.
“This lady cleaned out my office” he muttered to himself.
“Is that an autopsy report…concerning the fire?” she hoped he would not take offence.
“Yes” he replied curtly. “I don’t even know why it was done…just a bunch of orthodox idiots” he commented and went to the previous folders on the dealer.
Nonso’s entire attention was on the system. Tosin alias Sandra had scanned every single record and put into the flash drive and he felt grateful and a bit sad at her demise. Ify on the other hand kept on wondering why someone would run an autopsy test when the cause fo death was already known. Nonso claimed they were being orthodox; but then, the result had been sent to him…that meant it was relevant.
“Did you ever go through those autopsy results?” she managed to ask as he bit his lips and turned to her. She was ready for the blame game that would begin.
“You have a lot of nerve asking me about that. The fact that we’re together does not mean we’re friends, got it? I still despise you” he reminded her with so much scorn as she swallowed hard and nodded slowly before leaving his side.
As he continued revising records, he frowned at Ifeoma’s guts. How dare she? Did she somehow think he had gone soft? He had once tried to go through the results but one look at the picture of Onyi’s charred corpse had filled him with tears. Just remembering it almost triggered him to hurt Ifeoma but he managed to keep himself under control. It was not yet time –her time.
As soon as she was sure he had gone quite a distance from the building, she got out of the bed and hurriedly booted the system that was still on the table with the drive behind it but she suspected he had copied all the files to the system already.
When the system was on, she plugged in the drive and opened the official folder quickly –she just could not get it out of her head. She clicked on the “Autopsy 1” file and a result with Onyi’s full name at the top appeared. Everything appeared normal including the cause of death. She opened another file: “Autopsy 2”. It was that of Onyi’s mother. The result also seemed normal until she got to the cause of death.
“What are you doing?” his gruff voice asked from the door as she turned to him in fear.
“I just –”
“Just shut up and get lost” he ordered as she left the seat quietly.
“Her mother didn’t die in that fire” she still managed to tell him with an iota of doubt in her voice.
“Yes…she drowned” he smirked with heavy sarcasm but she did not say anything in reply. She looked as if she was thinking.
He then took his seat in front of the system and kept his eyes fixed on the screen.
Ify was right.
He closed his eyes a number of times to be sure of what he was seeing…but it was clear.
CAUSE OF DEATH: THALLIUM POISONING
Nonso slumped in his seat looking confused. Thallium was a drug formerly used in producing rat poisons and was very lethal. It had been banned in the U.S.
“But how?” he asked to nobody.
“Someone was poisoning that old lady” she said as he gaped at the ceiling.
Poisoning…it was not just once.
Nonso was perplexed. “Why would…” he paused to think and turned to Ify who sat on the bed looking down. “What are the effects of the drugs?” he asked remembering Ify had always been a reader.
“From the little I know…numbness mostly” she said hoping she was correct.
“She has been complaining of numbness in her body; especially her legs…I mean her feet”
Onyi’s complaint was so clear in his head.
“…Remember I got back home that day and saw the drugs on the centre table in the living room”
“Oh my God!” he exclaimed. “Steve”
“He’s…” he paused and tried to think of his motive but there was none. “He’s a doctor”
“A doctor poisoned her…why?” she asked.
“That’s what I don’t know” he said. “He had given Onyi some drugs for her mother and that was when her mother started complaining of numbness”
“God!” Ify exclaimed with her hands on her mouth. “The poor girl was poisoning her mother without knowing” she suddenly felt for Onyi.
Nonso brought out his phone from his pocked and waited for the recipient to answer.
“How are you doing?” he asked and waited for a reply. “I’m good…I need you to do me a favour”
The next day, they were permanently out of the house and in a one-bedroom flat that Ify had no idea who it belonged to. The room was empty except for the bed at the corner and a stool in the middle with a laptop on it.
As they watched the live video of Steves’interrogation, Ify could not help but wonder why they had left the hotel. She took her attention back to the laptop; the interrogation had been on for almost thirty minutes but Steve was unyielding.
“I’m not saying anything until my lawyer is present” that was all he had been giving as a reply.
Nonso made a call and said “Make him face me…I want to do it myself”
“I don’t think that’s a –”
“Just do it” he said impatiently as the recipient put the system in front of Steve.
“I will make sure you –”
“Shut up” Nonso ordered and Steve did shut up.
He looked intently at the face in the computer and it took almost a minute for him to remember. “Chinonso Okeke?” he sounded unsure.
“Good day Steve”
“I thought you were out of the force…what’s going on?”
“You weren’t arrested. You’re not in the station either. You’re in a place where I can get you killed and nobody will know about it” he informed Steve who looked furious immediately.
“You better –”
“Just shut up Steven. I just want to ask you some questions and then let you go…if I wish” Steve nodded slightly.
“Good. Do you remember Onyinyechi?”
Steve thought for a second before nodding. “Your girlfriend…”
“Do you remember her mother?”
“Yes…Onyi said she had diabetes”
“And what did you do to help?”
Steve wondered where he was going but he replied without wasting time. “I always checked on her” he said as Nonso made a face.
“You did not give her any drug?”
“Why…” he paused and then smiled. “Oh yes…there was a day she had come to visit me and I saw her with some drugs that were completely useless to her mother…so I gave her the correct drugs” he explained.
“What drugs did you send?”
“Err…I don’t remember. I met a colleague to prescribe them”
“So you didn’t know what you bought?”
“They were the right ones, I’m sure”
Nonso looked away before asking the next question. “Do you know what killed her mother?”
“Everyone knows…the fire” Nonso shook his head but kept his eyes fixed on Steve.
“Traces of thallium were found in her system”
Steve said nothing. He just kept his eyes fixed on Nonso in a completely expressionless manner.
“I don’t know how that happened” he shook his head slowly.
“Why would you?” he asked and suddenly the answer seemed to pop up in his head. “You liked her…you had always wanted her…” Steve made no effort to deny.
“Was that why you tried killed her mother? Since she was obviously in love with me, your plan was to use her mother’s death to come into her life, right?”
“Can you listen to how silly you sound?” Steve retorted and Ify felt within herself that Nonso was gradually losing it.
Nonso glared at him. He did not care if he sounded silly. Nothing seemed to make sense after Onyi’s death. If Ifeoma and her father could kill Onyi, then there was no law that stated that Steve was completely innocent.
“She trusted you…and now she’s dead…and you’re married with three boys” a lopsided grin appeared on his lips and Steve shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“What are you trying to tell me?”
“Do you still have it?” Nonso’s eyes were now on the one of the men in the room with Steve.
“Yes…it’s still wrapped” the man replied.
“Good” he said and turned his angry eyes back to Steve.
“No…” Steve began to say. “You can’t do this”
“You’re going to have a taste of your own medicine, Dr. Steve” he said in a calm voice that was meant to be soothing. “And then I’ll make sure your wife and children have a cup of tea with it as well”
“Have you gone crazy?” Steve yelled as one of the men held his mouth open and the other opened the wrapped parcel.
“Please don’t do this” he begged even though his words were not clear due to his opened mouth.
“Did you poison Mrs. Nwodo?” he asked as the man holding Steve’s mouth open released him and made him face Nonso on the screen.
“I did not…” there were tears in his voice. “Please be reasonable…”
“Do you want your wife and kids to stay alive and healthy?” he asked in the same calm voice as Steve nodded slowly.
“Then tell me…did you poison Mrs. Nwodo with thallium?” he asked as Steve opened his mouth to speak but then closed his eyes tightly before speaking.
“I did…” he replied as Nonso looked down.
Ifeoma knew just how persuasive Nonso could be but she hoped he was bluffing about poisoning Steve and his family.
“I’m sorry” he added immediately as Nonso looked up at him.
“You’re going to tell that to Mrs. Nwodo” he said and clicked his fingers.
“I said I would spare your family…not you”
Steve’s head was held in place and the other man forced a spoonful of thallium into his mouth. He tried to fight but his hands and legs were tied to the chair.
Ify stared in horror as they forced the powder down his throat. She closed her mouth in order not to scream and also to avoid an outburst from the monster beside her. She had thought he was bluffing to get Steve to confess but he still wanted him dead.
She watched Nonso whose eyes were fixed on the struggling man. She stared at the monster he had become; the monster Onyi’s death had created. His heart was gone and in its place was a dark hole and a very deep one at that. With that enlightenment, she convinced herself that Chinonso Okeke would make sure she paid dearly for taking Onyi away from him.
Ifeoma was born with a silver spoon and had lived with that spoon all her life. She had gone on amazing trips and holidays but she had never spent as much time on the road as she had spent with Chinonso Okeke. As soon as Nonso had told them to dump Steve’s corpse, they both headed for Abuja and at the end of the trip, she felt so worn out.
They lodged in a motel and she had barely slept for an hour when he woke her up.
They both sat in silence as Nonso drove down the busy road. He drove on for hours and finally parked the car in front of a psychiatric hospital.
I’ll be damned, she thought to herself as they both alighted from the car.
She followed him into the building and while he spoke to the nurse at the receptionist desk, she checked the time on the wall clock; it was 3:55pm.
“Odoh Chidimma” mentioning Ikenna’s surname made his blood boil.
“Room 702” she replied giving him a key and her eyes immediately went back to her phone.
“Thank you” he managed to say even though he knew she would not reply.
As they walked up the stairs and through the passage, they heard people cackling and guffawing.
He saw a nurse and asked for directions and she pointed towards the end of the passage.
He stopped and felt his heart beat ten times faster. He wondered what she would look like and if she would remember him. There was no noise from her room and that made him wonder if she was alone.
Did Ikenna order them to use loneliness as a means to kill her?
The passage was wide and there was a long bench facing Dimma’s door.
“I’ll wait here” Ify managed to say without a shaky voice but he did not give her a reply so she took her place on the bench and watched him. She could imagine what he was going through but she still felt he was the one meant to be locked up instead of Dimma.
As he put his hand on the door knob, a nurse approached him and asked, “Nobody followed you?”
“N…no” he replied as she looked at the number on the door and nodded. “Was someone meant to follow me?” he could sense the fear in his voice.
“Not to this room” she replied dryly as he gave her a questioning look.
She pulled him close and whispered to him. “Personally speaking, I don’t think she’s sick…all she does is cry and take her drugs when she’s asked to”
“Then why is she still here?” he hoped the anger rising in his system was not obvious.
“We had sent a message to her husband…he said he would come soon” she paused. “And then she went berserk the next day”
“What do you mean?”
“On the day she was meant to be discharged, she started yelling Onyi until she had been sedated”
“When did this happen?” Ify asked from the bench as the nurse as well as Nonso turned to her.
“Who are you?”
“Her cousin” she lied immediately as the nurse nodded.
“About six months ago” she replied and walked away as Nonso kept his eyes fixed on where she had been standing.
He turned to the door and after taking in a deep breath, he opened it using the key he was given and entered.
He closed the door behind him and stared at his sister sitting on the bed. She was dressed in a white gown with both her hands placed together to keep her from hurting herself. He had been told of how she always pulled at her hair and hit her head on the wall in an attempt to get Onyi out of her head.
He slowly walked to where she sat with her head bowed. He wondered again what she would look like.
He cautiously sat beside her and waited for a reaction from her but she remained still. He lifted his right hand and placed it on her lap but she did not move.
“Dimma” he whispered but he could barely hear himself. “Dimma” he called more loudly as she turned slowly and stared at him with no note of familiarity in her eyes.
Nonso almost felt his heart bleed but almost immediately, a smile appeared at the corner of her lips and that eased him immediately.
“Brother” she called as if she wanted to be sure he was the one; her voice brought tears to his eyes.
He had never visited her and since his mother in the village felt that Ikenna was handling everything properly and that Nonso was not sound, she almost sent him to a mental hospital since he was losing his mind due to Onyi’s death.
How much that annoyed him. They had all made it a habit to attribute whatever he did or said to Onyi’s death. He knew that was the truth but hearing it from everyone only embittered him more and fueled his quest for vengeance.
“Brother” she sounded sure and there were unmistakable tears in her voice as she put her head close to him and he embraced her.
Nonso did not want to let go of his cousin but when he finally did and held her face in his, the sight of her tear-filled eyes made the tears that had been welling in his eyes finally stream down his cheeks. He sobbed and put his arms round her while she cried also.
They remained that way for almost two minutes before Nonso pulled away and wiped her tears away.
With a kiss on her forehead, he said: “I’ve missed you”
“Then why didn’t you ever come?” she asked looking at him and it took him a while to know she was waiting for an answer.
“I’m sorry” he said and sniffed as she nodded slowly and smiled.
“Mummy is fine, right?” she asked as Nonso wondered why she was sitting in the asylum. She looked normal to him.
“Mummy is fine” he assured her falsely and kept his eyes fixed on her with nothing in mind to say.
He had no idea why he had felt like seeing her after so many years that had gone by.
They both sat in silence and just when he was about to get up, she smiled at him and he did not know why that scared him for a second.
“Are you married?” she asked as he shook his head slowly.
“Girlfriend?” he shook his head. “Why?” her voice reduced to a whisper. “Did she tell you not to find someone else?” Nonso did not need a soothsayer to tell him what she was talking about and he knew it was time to leave.
As he rose to his feet, her eyes followed him.
“Nonso, she’s still alive. She was here the other day” she explained as he nodded and walked to the door.
“I love you Dimma” he said and left.
His heart felt so heavy. He closed the door and his eyes went once more to the number on the door…0702..that was her birthday; what a coincidence, he thought to himself and turned to find Ify’s seat empty.
“Damn you Ifeoma” he cussed under his breath and then looked to his left and then his right; where would he find her?
The passage was empty but the noise in the wards persisted. As he walked towards the reception, he thought of how stupid Ifeoma was. She was meant to be scared for her life and try to stay by his side but her foolishness had gotten the better part of her.
When he finally arrived at the reception, it was empty also except a lady snoring on the seat.
Where was everyone? He wondered and walked to the entrance. There seemed to be a large crowd outside the gate of the hospital.
Wondering what was going on, he ran towards the gate to ask questions and that was when he noticed the thick black smoke rising into the sky. With a tingling feeling at the back of his head, he struggled to make his way past the crowd and finally came face to face with his car going up in flames.
He tried to pick up something reasonable from the people around him but everyone was talking and he could not pick out a single word. He was positive Ifeoma had nothing to do with it.
Was the dealer onto him?
He hailed a cab soon after and the moment he got to his destination, he paid the driver and alighted from the car.
As he walked to the room, he began ruminating on the recent happenings. In his quest to find Ikenna alias the dealer, he had encountered a fake Jennifer Green, a fake Sandra Asogwa, a dead Scarface that would have been a possible lead to the dealer. He had also found out the truth behind Mrs. Nwodo’s death and the stupid Ifeoma had run away and his car was destroyed and charred.
The dealer was indeed one step ahead of him.
He had no idea what he was going to do. The dealer already knew he was after him. He always thought he had that element of surprise but ironically, they had switched places and he was the one receiving surprises.
He hurried inside his room and locked the door. The place was still in order; they probably had no idea where he was…or he was yet to receive another surprise for the day.
As if in response, he heard someone clap behind him.
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