Nonso turned to the stranger in his room. He was heavily built with broad shoulders and the leather jacket and ripped jeans he was wearing said so much about him to Nonso. One of his eyes were closed as if he had been involved in an accident sometime ago and that made Nonso wonder if the dealer was mostly interested in having wounded crooks work for him.
“Time to go” he said and before Nonso could react, he felt a cloth on his nose and he slowly drifted into a realm of unconsciousness.
His eyes finally opened and within seconds, his eyes adjusted to the light in the place he found himself. He was in a large room with suited men at all corners within his view. He tried to move his hands but they were tied and so were his legs. He turned his neck and only saw more men in suits.
How was he going to get out?
The sound of the door opening and closing caught Nonso’s attention and he turned to see the one-eyed man he had seen earlier in his room. He approached Nonso with a gun in his hand.
“Hello Officer” he said in a mocking tone when he was finally standing before Nonso.
He reeked of alcohol and Nonso feared if he did not tread carefully, the man would act irrationally.
“You’ve been searching for my boss, haven’t you?”
“Oh my God, how did you know that?” Nonso could not resist the urge to be sarcastic and completely forgot his decision to tread carefully.
The man frowned at Nonso and hit him hard across the face. He waited for more and was finally pleased it did not go beyond that.
“You have a sharp mouth…but by the time I’m done, you’ll be begging me to stop” he said in a warning tone as Nonso smiled.
“Is there anything you’re going to do to me that has not been done before?” he asked without fear as the man smiled and knelt before him.
“Who said I was going to do anything to you?”
With his hands cuffed behind him, two men held him and followed the one-eyed man who led them to a door and just standing at the door, he could hear the moanings and excited laughter from within. He wondered what the man had meant when he had asked him that question.
His answer came when the door was opened.
Nonso’s jaw dropped and his heart raced as he stared inside the room; not just inside the room but at the naked lady tied to the bed with a man on top of her. Her tired screams were muffled by the piece of cloth in her mouth. He could make out the tears that flowed from the corner of her eye.
He did not even know what he felt as he watched the beast on top of her. He tried to move but the two men held him in place and his struggle was pointless. He bowed his head and tried to hold back the tears that were beginning to well in his eyes.
Why was he crying?
He hated Ifeoma yet he was crying. He was meant to be happy. He was supposed to feel fulfilled…but he was trying to hold the tears.
“That’s a fine piece of meat, you know” there was a smile in the man’s voice as he spoke. “You know, I had her first…you know while it was still fresh” he chuckled and nudged Nonso as if he had cracked the funniest joke in the history of mankind. “Then two other guys took over…” he paused. “Just look at him having the fun of his life” he commented and raised Nonso’s head to look at the scene before them. “Just look at his –”
“Stop it please” he begged.
He felt so helpless. He could only stand and listen to the man and also the moanings of the man on top Ify. How he wanted to shoot them both in the head. He was indeed helpless and they made him stand and watch, slapping him whenever he closed his eyes.
“I thought you had a sharp mouth?” the man whispered in Nonso’s ear. “I think I should call in another” he said and immediately clicked his fingers.
“Please don’t. I beg you….don’t”
The man grinned and tapped him playfully on the face. “Good boy” he said and walked away.
Just while they were turning to leave, he looked at her and for a second, their eyes locked and he could read the thousand emotions that flowed through her.
Nonso sat in the room, tied once more to the seat with the two hefty men guarding him. His head was blank, he had no escape plan. He wondered how long he had been locked up; he wondered how Ify was, he could not understand why he felt for her so much. He really hoped she was still alive.
The one-eyed man walked in and motioned for them to bring Nonso. They pulled him along as they followed the one-eyed man down the hallway. There were no doors except the one at the end of the hallway. As they walked, Nonso could hear ordered footsteps as they came up behind him.
When they finally got to the door, the man stood still with his head bowed low. Almost two minutes passed before he raised his head and turned to face Nonso with a wicked grin across his lips. He then turned to one of the two men holding Nonso.
“You’ll take him in –”
“I’d rather not” the voice was deep and strong yet Nonso sensed an iota of fear in it.
Why would he be scared because he was asked to go in?
“You don’t have a choice” he threatened and motioned for the other to move back. He turned back to the one he had spoken to before.
“Well?” he said through clenched teeth as the man pushed Nonso forward.
The one-eyed man opened the door and the two men entered then he closed the door to look back at the suited men standing before him; he was searching for the person that would take the lady inside.
Scarface had taught him well before his death. Whoever set eyes on the dealer never lived to tell the story. Scarface understood that and never walked into that room and he hoped to do the same.
“Hey, you” he finally said pointing a finger at someone.
As soon as they entered, Nonso was pushed down on his knees. The room was large and smelled of jasmine.
Nonso had heard jasmine chased bad dreams away…he hoped it was fake for the dealer’s sake.
The room was empty except for a large swivel chair and a desk at the center of the room. The swivel chair faced an open window and backed them.
Nonso was finally going to face Ikenna but under different circumstances. He was supposed to have a gun in his hand and be the victor not the victim.
“So what’s the plan in-law?” he asked without fear but received no answer. He half-expected the man holding him down to hit him with his gun but there was no reaction from him.
The door behind them opened and footsteps were all Nonso could hear because he definitely could not turn back.
He soon heard a low groan and turned to his left to see Ify on her knees as well. His eyes were fixed on her, trying to call her and tell her everything would be okay; trying to tell her that he would kill the hoodlums that dared to touch her but she did not turn.
He turned back to the large swivel chair and then suddenly, the scene looked familiar. That was how the business deals were done; behind the large swivel chair where the bastard’s head was not even visible. He thought of speaking but remembering what they did to Ify, he bowed his head and remained silent.
The room remained quiet for over ten minutes before they heard the dealer’s voice.
“You’ve been looking for me”
The voice sounded strange. It tried to sound deep and gruff just as in the videos Nonso had watched but it just came out weird. Nonso raised up his head and so did Ify as well as the guards standing above them.
The swivel chair spun around and all four stared at the dealer.
The shock that filled Chinonso was inexplicable. His jaw dropped and he gaped at her as if trying to confirm a ghost was not standing before him. She just sat there smiling, taking in the expression of shock that had dominated the duo’s face. The two guards were only surprised at the fact that the dealer was a young woman and not a large man with an intimidating personality.
“Hello Nonso” she said with a smile but his stare replied her.
“H…how?” he finally managed to ask when he was convinced gaping at her would lead him nowhere. It really seemed unreal. Maybe he was still locked up in that room sleeping and he was having a bad dream…a very bad dream.
She smiled and then her face looked serious. “Shocking, isn’t it baby?” she asked and put her hands on the table.
“I…I…I watched you die” he sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. “I saw your corpse”
“Really?” she asked with a smile. “I’ve been watching you search for me” she finally said dryly.
“I…I can’t believe –”
“It doesn’t matter. Whether you believe it or not, this is the real deal” an impressed smile crossed her lips. “You thought it was your brother-in-law” she stated.
She tapped the table lightly and a door at the corner of the room opened. A wheel chair rolled in with a lady dressed in white moving behind. On the wheel chair was a gaunt-looking man who looked so ill. The shapes of his bones were so prominent that his skin looked like a light piece of cloth over the bones. He looked like a ghost –so pale. But that was not all, he looked so ill that Nonso had to look really hard to recognize his brother-in-law, Ikenna.
He started to speak but Onyi saved him the stress. “Meet my husband” she said with disgust and amidst laughter. “I’m just kidding” she then let her eyes rest on Nonso. “You look horrible, sweety” she then paused. “I’m sure you want to know everything” Nonso’s look was affirmative.
“You know that case you were handling…on the pedophile?” she asked and watched him nod his head. “That’s him” she pointed at Ikenna and glared at him with so much malice. “That’s the pedophile”
“I caught him once…and I wanted to teach that useless uncle of mine a lesson after what he had done to me in order to pay my mother’s hospital bills and so I promised not to tell the police if he helped me get back at my uncle.
“So I made sure my uncle watched someone molest his daughter just as he had molested me and after that, I killed him myself”’ she said with a proud smile on her face. “This idiot could not keep himself in check and he kept on raping and killing the girls and since he threatened to expose me, I had to help him by burying the girls whenever I could” she explained as Nonso mortified but she continued.
“They kept on putting people on the case and to save his ass, I had to threaten and blackmail them and make them eventually drop the case” she paused and looked into Nonso’s eyes. “That’s why they never helped you when you asked them questions” she told him and sighed.
“You know I’ve always wanted to be big and rich…I had great plans but I didn’t have the capital” she paused and turned to look at Ikenna in disgust again. “So I got this idiot to court Dimma…and then” she turned back to Nonso with a smile. “I made up that pitiful diary, which was actually the truth about me…my plan worked and you went all soft on me and trust me, I never wanted to reciprocate but then this good-for-nothing pervert kept on sleeping around even when I had told him to pipe low since he was pretending to be a big shot from Abuja…and you were then assigned to the case”
I knew blackmail would not work on you since you knew me so well, so I had to add modifications to my plan…you know…using you and your pathetic feelings of love for me” she said with slight disgust. “I had to get closer to you to make sure you had no suspicions or clues”
“But Ikenna was actually a big shot” Nonso interrupted. “The lavish wedding and all that…” he said as Onyi smiled and shook her head.
“Your sister loved him too much and believed he had tied all his money in a make-believe business and so she had sponsored everything”
“What about your mum?”
Onyi expression changed for a second and then her mask was on again. “She was a hindrance to my success…I wanted everything concerning Onyinyechi Nwodo to be destroyed so that the dealer Susan would be born. She would have gotten better with the right drugs which I didn’t give her…but her end was not as fast as I wanted it…so I switched to thallium” she paused and turned to Nonso. “And then I went to Steve and made sure I told you about it” she could not surpress a smile. “Poor Stevie…you murdered an innocent man in cold blood” she said as Nonso looked down.
“How were you able to stage your death?” he had to acknowledge within himself how smart she was.
“Oh!” she exclaimed and smiled. “That wasn’t so hard…and this time, miss high and mighty and her daddy were the chosen ones” she said and turned to Ify as if she was noticing her for the first time. “I love mysteries, you know? The ones that boggle your mind and yet you’re so obsessed with them, you can’t let go. I needed someone to take the blame for our deaths and so I told you that night about father and daughter’s plan to get rid of me” she said with a smile, definitely proud of her brilliance.
“But…why Dimma? Why my family?”
“You guys were the richest…and Dimma was the sole heir. She was my easiest source of capital”
“But my uncle showed no signs of ill health. How could you be so sure that you were getting your so-called capital immediately after the marriage?”
She smiled again. “I’m very patient Nonso…and I really didn’t leave Enugu immediately. I made sure Ikenna popped in often and put a lethal dose of thallium in your uncle’s –”
“You murdered him too?” Nonso tried to move but his guard was quick enough to hold him down.
“How could you, Onyinye?”
“Shut the hell up. You have no idea what it means to be poor and spend all your days going to the farm and pushing wheel barrows to and fro selling veggies and fruits…that’s not a life anyone would wish for”
“So Dimma never went crazy?” he asked slowly putting the pieces together. He saw guilt in her eyes for a minute but it disappeared just as soon as it came.
“There had to be a reason for Ikenna to take over the business, so…” she put out her hands and shrugged.
“She was your best friend…Dimma loved you like a sister” there were tears in his voice. Onyi had ruined their lives.
“So do I…that’s why she’s still alive” she said defensively.
“What about him?” he said turning to the man bound to a wheel chair.
“Oh…two spoonfuls of thallium everyday in his morning tea is not doing a bad job” she said with a shrug as the nurse’s mortified expression increased and immediately, Onyi shot her in the head with a silencer attached to her gun.
She sighed and blew air at the snout. “She was meant to take the blame for his death…but anyway…there are more”
Nonso stared at her and felt hot tears sting his eyes. She had used his family in her quest for wealth and power.
“What about Sandra?” he asked as Onyi looked annoyed.
“Do I have to explain everything? You know I had her killed and sent in a fake one. You were too broken to notice anything or to go to work, so I knew the chances of you ever finding out were slim” she paused and turned to Ify. “And then I had this whore’s husband killed after he murdered my most trusted worker, Scarface” she said to Ify’s surprise. Dave had never told her he was the one who had killed Scarface; that explained his weird behaviour before his death.
“She’s not a whore” Nonso did not even know when he said it and it definitely surprised the two women.
“Excuse me” Onyi thought she had not heard clearly.
“I said she’s not a whore” he replied in a low tone as she snickered and turned to Ify whose head was bowed.
“Oh sweety, don’t think he loves you. He only pities you and from my experience, he’s fond of mistaking pity for love” she then laughed. “I hope my boys took care of you last night” she smiled mischievously as Ify looked up at her and tried not to shed a tear.
“For the record, Dimma eventually went crazy” her eyes were back on Nonso. “…she couldn’t deal with it and she eventually started imagining I was there even when I wasn’t”
“So, what’s your plan now?” Nonso sounded defeated.
She rose to her feet and made her way towards him. “I want to come out in the open…like a normal person” she paused and looked into his eyes. “…and for that to happen honey, you both need to go”
Nonso looked down; it was over.
It had been a game all along and she had been the chess master while he had been a pawn in her hands.
“Susan has to be a free woman. Everyone knows Onyinyechi Nwodo died in the fire, Steve poisoned her mum, Dimma eventually went insane since she couldn’t handle her best friend’s death…and of course, Chinonso lost himself to alcohol and smoking and eventually shot himself” she smiled at him. “By the time we’re finished, nobody will even suspect you were murdered”
Nonso said nothing in reply.
Due to her death, he had punished a lot of people: Chukwuma Nnaji was locked up in a police cell in Enugu without getting a fair trial; Steve was dead; Chidi, Ify’s son, had been dropped in an orphanage and he had lied to Ify that he was dead…and finally, Ifeoma. She had gone through so much because of him. She had even lost her child. Guilt was eating deep into his soul and he wished at least she would survive. His sole aim had been to hurt her for all she had ‘supposedly’ put him through but now, he only felt bad.
The dealer cocked her gun and two shots went off simultaneously.
Confusion set in as Nonso watched Onyi fall to the ground, likewise the guard behind him. He was handcuffed and so was Ify…and that left only one person. He turned to the man behind Ify and saw him remove her handcuffs.
“Who…who are you?” he asked as the man walked over to him and removed his handcuffs.
“Sergeant Ibrahim Musa” he replied as Nonso rose to his feet and ran to Ify to help her up.
“Sergeant?” Nonso sounded surprised that a low-ranked officer would be given such an assignment.
“My bosses don’t know I’m here” he said as if he knew what Nonso was thinking about. “Can we talk about this later and think of how to get out of here” he suggested and helped Nonso lift Ify up.
Nonso walked to where Onyi lay. He took up her hand and felt her pulse; it was weak but she was still alive. He hand-cuffed her and pulled her behind the large desk. He took her gun and walked to the other guard.
He checked the other man but he was already dead; Joseph had shot him in the head while Onyi had received the bullet on her shoulder. He dragged the corpse to a corner and took his gun too.
“There are more than tweny men behind that door” Ibrahim sounded scared.
“I’m even wondering why they haven’t come in yet”
“They won’t. They think she’s still alive…they have to hear four shots and then that guy in a leather jacket has to receive a call from her. I think by then, she would be back in her seat with her back to them” he explained.
“Wait…four shots?” that was the first time Ify was speaking.
“You can’t see the dealer and live…and now I think we all know why” he said with a knowing look as they turned to the door.
They were sure there would be sporadic shootings the moment the door would fly open. Once again, Chinonso was blank. He really needed to get Ify to a hospital. She looked weak and pale.
“What about that door?” Ibrahim said remembering how the man in the wheel chair had been brought in.
“That’s true” Nonso said as they walked towards the door. But Ifeoma’s pace was too slow that Nonso thought of carrying her but he immediately remembered the wheel chair.
Without pity, he pulled Ikenna out of the chair and made Ify sit on it and without casting a glance at the gaunt man on the floor, they made for the door.
Suddenly, the other door flew open and cocking of guns behind them made them stop. “Drop the guns and put your hands up or we’ll shoot” they heard as Ify closed her eyes tightly.
It was indeed over. She was exhausted and running was useless. She just wanted everything to end.
The two men obeyed and dropped their guns. “Now turn around and put your hands up while doing that” there were more footsteps approaching the door.
Nonso and Ibrahim obeyed but Nonso did not turn the wheel chair.
“Musa?” they both heard and Musa looked up to see his boss staring at him.
“Sir” he saluted wondering how they had found him and then three more uniformed men walked in.
Nonso could not even understand how he felt as more police officers trooped in. Ibrahim had said none of his seniors knew where he was but Nonso did not care how they had found them.
“Please, she needs to go to a hospital” he said hurriedly.
ONE MONTH LATER
Nonso whistled as he sat in the back seat of the blue and white taxi. Much to his disappointment, Onyi was not facing the hangman but was imprisoned for life.
He had eventually found out how the police was able to arrive at the scene. Ibrahim had expressed his opinions on the dealer but his colleagues and seniors had ignored him and even threatened to suspend him if he did not mind his business and keep to his duty post.
Being a stubborn individual, he had dug deeper and found out about the deals and he was able to maneouvre and make them employ him for their one-time job. His aim had just been to see the dealer and prove that he was a threat to security and peace, but he met Nonso and the dealer confessed to all her crimes while his recorder was on.
His colleague at work had ratted him out and that was when they found the place and arrested all the men. It was the recorder that sent her behind bars and Ibrahim had been promoted.
Ikenna was also locked up in solitary confinement. His case had been mind-blowing and there were controversies arising from the media: 50% praising Onyi for her cruel thallium punishment believing he deserved worse and the other 50% seeing it as appalling and cruel.
Nonso felt it was due to the reception from the media that Onyi had gotten the life sentence instead of the death sentence.
The taxi came to a stop in front of Ify’s boutique. He paid the driver and walked in with a smile on his face.
Ify was at the counter attending to a customer. She cast a glance at him and turned back to her customer.
“See you soon, ma” she said with a smile as the lady smiled back and walked out.
Nonso walked to the counter still smiling. He was definitely not looking like the Mr. Grumpy Ify had spent time with.
“How are you today?” he asked as she forced a smile and nodded.
“I’m good” she replied with her eyes on her phone. “What are you doing here?” she asked before he could say anything.
“Well, since we’re friends again, I was thinking –”
“Friends? Chinonso, did you just use that word?” she tried not to yell but she seemed clearly upset.
Nonso stared at her in surprise. He had apologized to her and she had forgiven him. He had replaced the goods in her boutique also since he was behind the raid the last time. She had seen her son and her father and had even promised not to tell her dad that Nonso was behind the whole thing. He wondered why she was acting differently.
“Ify, you forgave –”
“That doesn’t mean we’re friends” she said calmly and slowly as if she wanted it to sink in. “I have to forgive you to help myself and nothing else…because of you, I lost my baby, I was raped and humiliated by a bunch of criminals…hating you will only keep me locked up and angry and I cannot give you such power over me” she said.
She did not report to the authorities what he had done to her father or her son or her business or her father’s building, neither had she told anyone about Steve’s death. She felt that was enough forgiveness on her part.
“Ify, I really am sorry” there were tears in his voice. It was not his fault that Onyi had been so smart.
“And I said you’re forgiven…but we can never be friends…never!” she said and heard Chidi’s voice approaching them.
“Ify, please you have to understand that I was –”
“You were supposed to trust me…I would have trusted you…we were best friends for crying out loud” there were tears in her voice as she spoke.
He started to speak but she put out a hand for him to stop.
“Please leave…I don’t want my son to see you” she said with a straight face as Chidi’s voice became louder.
Nonso bowed his head and walked slowly towards the door.
“Mummy” he heard when he was finally at the door.
He turned to give them one last look; Ify was no longer behind the counter but was squatting and saying something to the laughing child. Nonso felt a teardrop on his left cheek and walked out wiping it away.
Onyi had ruined his life.
Written by Miracle Emeka-Nkwor
For more stories, visit talesbymimi.blogspot.com