When the door did not budge, the man behind the door cast his whole weight on the door and hissed loudly. Daniel could feel beads of sweat slowly forming on his forehead as he watched the door beside him; he silently prayed the visitor would give up on trying opening it.
“Hello sir”, it was the grumpy voice of Mr Adamu, the chief security guard of their school. “Your office is locked, sir”, his voice sounded tired as though his sleep had been interrupted.
“Yes sir, I pushed it hard. There is no one here”, all three students exchanged glances and turned back to the door.
The time was 6:12 pm and the sky was still bright enough. Mr Adamu soon moved away from the door and towards the window where Dan’s head was. Judy with dilated eyes motioned for him to duck and he comprehended and swiftly went down as soon as a bright torch was shone through the window pane.
“The curtains are still closed, sir”, he reported dryly as though it was a stupid idea coming there in the first place. There was a long pause before his voice came on again. “But I just checked the compound sir”, his voice was slightly high pitched; he then sighed. “Okay sir”, he replied perfunctorily and turned off the torch.
“No, I didn’t lock it sir”, he began to hurry towards the stairs and they could tell he was talking about the school gate.
As soon as he was gone, Judy folded her lips tightly and gave the drawer a quick push. The cry it gave almost gave her a heart attack and everyone paused with their ears ready to pick up the slightest sound of a footstep from Adamu climbing up those stairs again. When the comforting silence replied their beating hearts, a sigh of relief escaped her and she turned to Pam who nodded with her right palm on her chest.
“We have to go”, Pam whispered and turned to the door; Dan was already raising the latch.
They quietly filed out just as they had filed in and ran down the stairs as briskly and quietly as they could. They arrived on the ground floor and with their backs to the wall; they ran in the direction of the backyard. When they arrived at the fence, they heard the sound of the school gate being opened.
Dan was the first to go over the fence and while Pam was scaling, Judy threw over the nylon that contained her skirt and bible. When Pam had gone over, Judy followed. She propped herself up and crossed over with so much ease that she was shocked.
As she bent to pick up the nylon from where it had fallen, she heard the husky voice of Mr Belema querying and threatening Adamu.
She knew once he found the door to his office unlocked, the fence at the back would be next so all three ran as far away from the building as fast as their legs could carry them.
When they were quite a distance from the school, Judy finally stopped and bent with her hands on her knees. Daniel leaned on the wall and tried to slowly catch his breath while Pamela had her hands on her waist with her chest heaving up and down as though she had run a marathon.
“Aren’t you guys thinking what I’m thinking?” she asked as soon as she was stable enough to speak.
Nobody said anything for a few seconds and then Dan spoke up. “Echezona”.
Pamela said nothing, she just looked from one person to the other; she had the same thoughts but voicing it out sent a wave of panic through her.
She began to shake her head, “I don’t-”
“Are you seriously trying to defend him?” Dan stared at her with his mouth agape and surprise in his eyes.
She started to speak but thought better of it and turned to Judy who was scowling at her. “Your boyfriend definitely called the principal”, her matter of fact tone caused Pam to swallow hard.
Eche would not do that to them. His life was in danger as well.
She sighed and put out both palms before her, “Just think about it guys, what he stands to gain by doing that?”
Judy shrugged with pursed lips while Dan frowned and shook his head at how silly Pam was acting.
“Remember his life is on the line as well”, nobody replied and taking in their expression, she knew they were considering what she was saying. “Look, maybe someone saw us going over the fence and called Mr Belema. Have you even thought about that? We can’t just pin the whole thing on him”, she queried in a low tone as Judy stood upright and stood with arms akimbo.
“For the sake of clarity, there’s only one thing left to do. We’ll confront him”, her eyes were serious and Pam could tell she had not given a suggestion but an order.
She bit her lips and nodded slowly. “Alright”, she whispered as Judy noticed the brown envelope in her hand for the first time.
“What’s in the envelope?” Daniel asked before Judy could.
Pam absent-mindedly held it up and shrugged. “I have no idea, I saw it in his drawer and-”
“Why didn’t you put it back?” Judy’s eyes were widened in horror as Pamela facepalmed.
“There was no time for that”, she explained in a high-pitched tone; it was getting really annoying the way Judy thought she was the smartest and nobody could surpass her in wisdom.
Judy hissed with furrowed brows as Daniel walked up to Pam and stood beside her. “Let’s at least see what’s in it”, he suggested with a shrug.
“I’m not saying it’s useful to our cause”, she warned with her stern eyes on Judy.
“No one is saying you said that”, she retorted and rolled her eyes before letting out a loud sigh.
Pam licked her lips nervously and put her hand into the envelope. Judy walked to stand beside her and as Pamela pulled out its contents, all three stared at the picture horror-struck.
It was a picture of Jane and the principal making out.
She nibbled at her nails as she looked out the window of her room into the dark exterior. There was power outage as usual and she waited patiently for the clock to strike 8:00 pm so that she would turn the generator on. For the umpteenth time, Judith wished that she lived alone. She wished her father approved of her friendship with Pamela. She wished she did not have to be restricted by her parents; she wished they gave her more leeway. There was so much to talk about yet so little time. The initial plans of questioning Echezona had been put on hold at the mere sight of the pictures.
They had to dismiss Daniel so that they would privately talk about Jane but the purpose was defeated because they said nothing to each other on the way home; they were too shocked to speak. Jane had been all shades of bad and manipulative but what they had seen earlier that evening was Jane Uduka on a whole new level.
She pondered on how that part of Jane had stayed hidden from her all those years; her father had obviously sensed it and tried to ensure the friendship was brought to an end. Judy sighed and shook her head; as much as she tried to convince herself that the principal might have forced Jane into the act, she still could not bring herself to believe it.
The alarm clock on the bedside table jolted her out of her reverie; it was 8:00 pm already. She got up from the stool by the window and felt for the clock in the darkness. When she finally silenced it, she took hold of the rechargeable lamp beside it and turned it on.
With the lamp in hand, she found her way to the back of the house. As she opened the back door, the cold air that hit her skin caused her to shudder a bit and almost immediately, she felt goose bumps break out over her body; she was not receiving notes so why was she feeling scared? A high fence surrounded the house so she was sure she was safe; she had been safe for the past fifteen years. That thought sent a wave of relief through her so after exhaling loudly, she walked briskly and finally made it to the shed her father had constructed to keep the generator safe from the rain.
With all the strength she could muster, she pulled the recoil cord, but it did not start. She rolled her eyes as though she was already used to that. It was slowly becoming a pattern; it always came on at the third pull. With a sigh, she bent and pulled it two more times before the droning sound of the generator began to blare. With a sigh of relief, she headed back to the house and stopped in her tracks when she realized something that caused her jaw to drop and her eyes to widen in horror.
Mr Belema had murdered Jane Uduka.
Written by M. E. N.
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