Pamela shook her head vigorously that Dan almost thought it would fall off, “All I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t make any sense”.
“Fine”, Judy retorted. “Prove me wrong”, she added with arms akimbo as Dan who was sitting on the single sofa turned his eyes back to his phone. He was already tired of watching the both of them argue about who was right or wrong; they had been doing that for the past ten minutes.
“I would love to”, Pam confessed in a haughty tone and sat down. She had called Dan to come over after Judy had decided to pay her an August visit.
“Well”, Judy began and faced the duo as though she was a teacher addressing her students. “Since you don’t have anything to say that can prove me wrong, I might as well explain my theory”, she watched for Pam’s reaction and smiled apprehensively when Pamela rolled her eyes with a smirk on her lips.
“Anyway”, she turned to Dan who was already looking up at her. “Here’s what I was able to come up with last night”. Dan nodded slowly and sat up in his chair apparently relieved that the arguments had finally come to an end. “I’m not saying Jane was sleeping around”, that was a wrong pick-up line and she knew it and confirmed it with the glare Pamela gave her.
“Pamela, we have to be realistic”, she pleaded but Pam simply frowned and looked down. Dan, on the other hand, sat still like a statue waiting patiently for Judy’s theory. “Jane was never one to burn the midnight oil and if you can remember”, her eyes were focused completely on Pam who looked up immediately with questioning eyes wondering what her friend was driving at. “That term, she was never worried about not sitting with us”, she sat on the centre table and peered at Pam.
There was a look in her eyes that begged Pamela to remember. Pamela closed her eyes momentarily and nodded slowly. “Yes, and I thought that was weird because she always begged and manoeuvred to sit beside us during the exams”, she recalled still nodding her head.
“Are you sure you wrote well, Jane?” Judith had asked her with apparent worry in her eyes. They had written Mathematics that day and Jane had been positioned at a seat far away from hers and Pam’s.
“Why do you girls belittle me?” she had not sounded offended; she had even smiled while she spoke. “Examination is not the true test of knowledge; you’re supposed to know that”.
Judy added, “Her confidence was supposed to be suspicious but we thought she was just being the typical Jane we knew her to be; pretending nothing ever got to her”.
“So are you saying that-”, Pam could not bring herself to speak of Jane in that manner even though the facts were already staring her in the face.
Judy was obviously aware of Pam’s hesitance so she voiced out her thoughts. “Yes, Pamela. I think Judy did that with the principal to blackmail him into making sure she passed with flying colours”.
“That’s preposterous”, Pam cried out and closed her ears much to Judith’s chagrin.
“Why in God’s name are you acting all self-righteous right now?” she hissed angrily and turned to Dan who already knew better than to get involved in their fight.
She studied Dan to be sure he was not in support of Pam’s silly behaviour but he was completely expressionless; he was not like Echezona. He was a hard book to read or even predict; she liked him even though it was a glaring fact that he was tripping for Pamela Lawson who was acting like an overgrown baby at that moment.
“So you think that Mr Belema got tired of the whole drama and decided to end it?” he made it sound like a question and Judy nodded slowly with a smile tugging at the side of her lips.
It felt good to have someone thinking reasonably. “I’m saying Mr Belema had a hand in Jane’s death and we have the proof”, she pointed at the brown envelope lying beside her on the table.
Dan thought for a while with his head bowed before he raised it up and sighed. “So, if the principal is responsible for Jane’s death”, he paused and looked up at Judith with furrowed brows and his finger on his lower lip. “How do we explain the deaths of the other three students?”
The question was definitely unexpected and Judith swallowed hard at the ball that had been thrown at her. She finally bit her lip before shaking her head and sighing helplessly, “I don’t know”.
She looked up at him and he could see through her just sitting there before him; she was trying all she could for her friend and he admired that. She would come up with theories and plans in her head not just to show how smart she was, but to be able to prove a fact and he could see how devastated she looked knowing how her theory counteracted that of the Holiday Killer.
“Are you sure it was not Mr Belema that killed the others too?” the sarcasm in her tone was glaringly apparent and that caused Judith to frown angrily.
With the look in her eyes, Dan could tell she would walk out of the house soon so he simply sat out in his chair and held her hands. She flinched for a second before turning her angry eyes from Pam to him and slowly, her glare softened and she was returning Dan’s smile.
Good, Dan thought happily and turned to Pam who stared at him with questioning eyes.
He waited for her to say something, but she simply sighed and turned away.
“I have to go to the shop, daddy will be on my neck if I’m not there before 12:00 pm”, Judith began to rise to her feet but Dan was already on his feet and ordering her to sit down.
“Can you two stop being kids and let’s get to the root of this”.
“Newsflash Daniel, we’re kids”, Pam informed him dryly without looking at him.
“You see what I’m saying”, Judy rose to her feet with annoyance clearly written on her face. “She just wants to die”, she explained flatly with absolute pity in her voice as Pamela rose to her feet.
“And how is that your business?” she retorted glowering at Judith as Daniel hissed and slumped in the sofa in frustration.
“Not again”, he whispered but they were already too absorbed in their quarrel to hear him.
He bowed his head and massaged his forehead as he waited for that round to end. Two minutes passed and both girls continued exchanging words and glares without any plans of stopping; Dan occasionally looked up at them and just when he could not hold himself anymore, there was a knock on the door.
Of course they did not hear it, so completely pleased with the distraction he walked to the front door and opened it to see Echezona in his usual sweater and jean trousers.
Eche pulled his head back and rolled his eyes at Daniel, “Why are you giving me that kind of look?” he queried as Dan quickly readjusted his stance and faked a welcoming smile; he had no idea he had been glaring at Eche.
He made way for him to pass and as soon as he was in, Dan closed the door behind him and turned to the two girls who had stopped fighting and were now staring at Eche. Dan walked past him and back to his seat to watch how the tables would be turned and both girls would direct their anger at Echezona.
“Sorry, I’m late”, he apologized to Pam as Judith plastered a fake smile and clapped her hands.
“A round of applause for Echezona Kalu, the award-winning betrayer”, her eyes looked angry and Eche simply sighed and turned to Pam who said nothing but waited patiently for him to deny the allegation.
When he got no help from her, he turned back to outspoken Judith with arms in surrender and a straight apologetic face that caused her to scowl at him. “Before you crucify me, will you at least listen to what I have to say?”
No words escaped her lips but her face was still tightened into a scowl which Eche completely ignored.
He sighed and looked from one girl to the other purposely ignoring Daniel’s presence; he was not supposed to be there anyway. “While I was with my mother at the hospital”, he began as Judy placed her hands on her waist with her eyes boring into his; nobody could tell a lie like her and if he was lying, she was sure to know.
Eche focused on Judy who seemed to be more interested in his reply than Pamela was. “I really wanted her to believe me, so I told her that if she wouldn’t help, then my friends and I were going to take matters into our own hands”, his eyes were glued to Judy’s and she frowned at how bold he was. “She got angry and asked what that meant”, he briefly turned to Pam and back to his interviewer. “My mother doesn’t really”, he paused and looked down with a sad sigh before looking back at Judy shaking his head slowly. “When she gets pissed, she sees me as one of the criminals in her station and-and-and I-”, his voice broke and he raised his head to the ceiling as though trying to hold back tears.
Judy turned to Pam looking perplexed but Pam’s eyes were completely fixed on Eche. “You don’t have to go into details, Eche. Just-”
“No”, a sad smile spread across his lips. “It doesn’t hurt so badly after I talk about it, you know that already”, his sad eyes were fixed on Pam and his voice was low yet audible enough for everyone to hear.
Judy was still confused as to what was going on; there was obviously more to Eche than met the eye. He slowly turned back to Judith whose hands had left her waist and were clasped before her like a little girl being scolded for breaking something valuable. “My mother isn’t the typical mum figure”, he confessed with tears welling slowly in his eyes. He swallowed and put his hands in his pocket then he looked into her pitiful eyes, “She was sick and in the hospital that day, yet I couldn’t stand her hurting me. So, I had to explain everything to her; I was so scared that I couldn’t leave out a single detail”, he confessed and bit his lower lip.
Judy felt sorry for him instantly and finally understood why Pamela always defended him. “So you told her we were planning to break into Mr Belema’s office?” she made it sound like a question and Pam instantly looked indignant.
“You’ve got to be kidding me, Judith. Is that seriously all you-?”
“I feel sad about his predicament too, but I just want to know why he didn’t try to warn us. Is that too much to ask?” she felt Pam was completely blinded by her feelings for Eche; whether it was pity or love, she had no idea.
“No, that is not too much to ask”, he replied in a low voice as both girls turned to him. “My mother is highly ranked in the police force; trust me, she’s smarter than she looks. As soon as she sent the text to the principal, she seized my phone and said that you all would learn never to break into people’s offices anymore”, he spoke as though the words had stuck somewhere in his head and he was simply retrieving them.
Judy sighed and bowed her head. “Anymore questions, detective?” there was obvious scorn in Pamela’s angry voice.
Judy looked up at her and smiled, “Actually, I think I have one more”, she turned away from Pam to Eche. “Did you tell her our names?” That caused Pam to turn to Eche too.
Though she would never admit it that was the smartest thing Judy had said all day. Dan sat up in his seat obviously interested in the reply Eche would give. He could imagine his father receiving a call from the principal and his mother being as hysterical as she loved to be.
“No, I refused”, he replied with a sad and reassuring smile as Judy and Dan smiled while Pam instantly cupped her hands over her mouth with her eyes widened.
She walked towards him till she was standing only an inch away from him. She looked up at him with furrowed brows and apparent worry in her eyes, “You didn’t have to”. Her voice was but a low whisper as she shook her head slowly.
He gently placed his hands on her shoulders and with their gazes locked; Eche pulled her close to him and felt her shoulders get tense in his hands. He swallowed and sighed before leaning into her ear and whispering, “I’m fine now”.
He stole a quick kiss on her earlobe before raising his head and looking back at her. Judy stared at the duo that completely ignored her presence and as though feeling guilty of the same crime, she turned to Dan who sat silently with his head bowed. She could only imagine how sad he felt watching Pam and Eche together; she then looked down at the watch on her wrist, it was 11:35 am.
She cleared her throat and caused the lovebirds to break apart. They both turned to her with fake smiles plastered on their faces. “I’m so sorry I ruined the moment”, she apologized perfunctorily and looked from one face to the other. “But it’s almost 12: 00 pm and we’re still supposed to check on some people”, she reminded Pam who nodded briskly and walked to the table.
They had already compiled the names on a piece of paper. Pam raised it up and all eyes were on her the moment she started speaking. “We have five people on this list; Miebaka George, Miebaka Tamuno, Victor and Victory Nwafor and finally, Sola Adekunle”, she looked away from the paper and to each face in the living room; she had their full attention.
“According to what we were able to gather, Miebaka George and Sola stay here in town while the other three stay in Borikiri”, she looked towards Judy. “You’ll visit the ones here in town so that you can go back to the shop”, Judy nodded and turned to Dan.
“You’ll join me, right?” her questioning eyes peered at him and two extra pairs of eyes joined hers.
He swallowed before nodding slowly.
Pamela shrugged and turned to Eche. “Will you be able to join us or do you have to go back to the hospital soon?” she asked half expecting him to give a positive reply to the latter.
He looked at his wrist watch and pouted his lips as he thought deeply. After a few seconds, he smiled at Pamela. “I think I have an extra hour to spare”, that caused Pam to smile involuntarily and she instantly put a straight face before turning to Judy who was rubbing her palms together.
Judy looked back at her friend with a determined look in her eyes, “Let’s do this”.
Written by M. E. N.
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