Chinonso stared at Onyi in disbelief. She had gone too far. He knew she did not like Ifeoma but what she had just told him was a blatant lie and he did not need a priest to disprove that.
He could not hold it in at that moment. How dare she accuse someone who was close to his heart? Ify loved him but not in that way and all he wanted to do was yell at Onyi.
“You don’t believe me?” she asked when he did not give her a reply.
“You think I’m lying againt your bestie?” she asked getting angry as he looked away with a sigh.
“Let me take you home to rest. We have a big day tomorrow” he said and began to move forward as her next statement stopped him.
“Why would you think I’m lying?” she yelled as he turned to face her.
“Because you hate her; because you’re so childish that you want to get her out of your hair by any means” he paused. “I mean, you’re a smart girl. You could come up with something better than that lie you just told me…what kind of accusation is that?” he queried and stared intently at her.
“I love you Onyi, but do not ever say anything against Ify” he warned as she nodded with a smile as if she had just discovered something.
“You love her, right?” she asked as tears welled in her eyes.
“I am not going to dignify that question with an answer” he said as she nodded and licked her dry lips.
“Goodnight Nonny” she said and turned to go as he sighed and held her hand.
“Onyi…just…okay, let’s -”
“Go home, your best friend won’t sleep until you’re safe in bed” that was true but Nonso said nothing.
“I can’t let you go alone…let me walk you home” he said as she pulled her hand away from his.
“Chinonso Okeke, I said goodnight” she said and walked away while he watched.
At quite a distance, she turned and yelled. “Mama’s condition is worsening…that is if you care” she said as he watched her disappear out of sight.
She was such a handful sometimes.
The reception at Royal Palace, Agbani Road was going to be the talk of the town for weeks to come. Everything had gone the way Dimma had planned and she was thrilled to have the wedding she had always dreamed of. All thanks went to her best friend and family too.
At 5:20pm, she sat in her car completely drained and exhausted with her husband beside her. She would spend a week in Abuja before she would return to school.
In twenty minutes, the car arrived in front of the house of the Okekes while her parents, together with Ify and her father, were in the car behind. Dimma knew Onyi was back at her own house because she had left the reception venue early to attend to her mother whose health was deteriorating.
Ikenna alighted first and then opened the door for his newly wedded wife.
Mr. Okeke got to the front door first and found it locked. Nonso had left the reception venue earlier and was supposed to be at home but since the door was locked, it was obvious he was probably back at the station.
“Oh my God!” they all heard Ify exclaim and turned to follow her gaze to the thick black smoke rising into the sky at a distance.
“A building is on fire” Mr. Okeke said with a sense of urgency as they all got back into the car but Dimma knew she had to take off her gown first.
It was a five-minute drive towards the smoke and Mrs. Okeke almost felt hot tears sting her eyes as she stared at the house on fire; it was Onyi’s house.
“The blood of Jesus” she said in a high-pitched voice as she stared at the house still engulfed in flames. There were people everywhere with buckets of water and some with fire extinguishers.
They alighted from the car and tried to find out what had happened. They had to find Onyi and her mother. There was an empty room in the house; they could stay as long as they wanted.
“Fire” someone managed to say when they asked. “The girl and her mother are inside” the informant said as Mrs Okeke turned to her husband with tears in her eyes.
Mr. Okeke stood in silence and felt his heart skip a bit when saw Ikenna’s car drive towards them.
Dimma was out of the car as soon as it stopped and she ran towards them as soon as she caught sight of them.
“She’s not in there, right? Daddy, please tell me she’s not inside there” she implored as he stared at her wondering what to say.
She turned to her mum whose eyes were fixed on her. “Mummy, she isn’t inside, right?” she asked and when her mother did not reply she felt her heart become heavy.
“Onyi” she screamed and began to run towards the house but Ikenna took hold of her in time. “Please, let me go” she begged in tears.
“Dimma, please calm down” Ify said as Dimma turned to her.
“Don’t tell me that. I have to get her out of there, you have to help me get Onyi out of there” she implored with tears streaming down her cheeks as Ikenna held her close and hugged her.
“Baby, please” but all that replied him were her sobs.
“Where could Chinonso be?” Ify thought loudly as her eyes scanned the area and she saw him standing at a corner of the house staring at the house on fire.
Ify ran towards him and held his shoulder. He slowly turned to her and stared at her with a look she had never seen in his eyes before.
He stared at her as a wave of emotions flowed through him. “You finally did it” he whispered and felt tears in his eyes. He should have believed Onyi.
The place was so noisy and she had not heard him clearly; she was about to speak to him when his uncle walked over to them and asked if Nonso had called the fire service.
“I guess they are still on their way” he said with a fake smile on his lips and shoved Ify’s hand away from his shoulders.
At about 6:45pm, the flames were finally put out. The bungalow was gone and so were mother and daughter.
“What are we doing today?” Sandra asked entering his room.
“I’ll let you know but first check if that woman is still alive” he ordered as she frowned a bit and left.
After Onyi’s death, Dimma had stayed back in Enugu but Ikenna had to go back to Abuja due to some urgent business calls he had received. Nonso had been sent back to Port Harcourt since they felt Onyi’s death had really affected him and since he was obviously going nowhere with the pedophile case. Three months later, Mr. Okeke had taken ill and died leaving Dimma and her mother grief-stricken.
Dimma had tried to pull herself together and handle everything since she was the sole heir to her father’s property worth millions of naira, but that was when she began seeing things. She always claimed she was receiving visits from Onyi. Her mother had tried all she could and prayed as much as she could but Dimma only got worse and began screaming in her sleep claiming Onyi was pulling her into the fire.
Ikenna had taken her to Abuja but she got worse and he completely gave up the day she had almost stabbed him claiming she thought he was Onyi. She ended up in the asylum after that and Ikenna took over the business at the request of Mrs. Okeke.
Nonso stared at the papers on the bed. Everything was Ifeoma’s fault. If Onyi was still alive, Dimma would not have gone crazy and the business would still be safe in the family. He did not just want to end the lives of Ify and her father, he wanted them to suffer as well and he had spent years cooking up his plan. The loss of Ify’s baby had been unplanned but it felt good; it was like an offer of ‘take one and get one free’.
“She’s still alive” he heard and looked up at Sandra.
“Good” he said and looked back at the papers with a sigh. “All this doesn’t add up” he sounded frustrated as Sandra kept her eyes fixed on him.
They had been on Ikenna’s trail after Nonso got to find out a year later that he had taken over his uncle’s business. He felt his aunty had made the wrong decision in letting Ikenna take over but he knew better than to meet her; he would be in big trouble. So, instead of trying to effortlessly talk to his aunty, he stalked Ikenna and soon got to know of his shady deals and wondered if Ikenna had not planned to take over his uncle’s business from the beginning and had used Dimma; her craziness must have made things easier for him.
He had no solid proof or evidence but he had a hunch and that was all he was working with. There was supposed to be an exchange deal at DIVA’S PLACE a week ago but it seemed the buyer had not shown up and the men were given a night off –that was where Ify was meant to come in. He knew how modest she was and wanted to enjoy how humiliated she would feel when she had to use her body to get information from a stranger but she had fainted and Sandra had to play her role.
She had been successful with a young man probably in his early thirties; dark, tall and muscular –just like Chinonso. The information she had gotten from him was similar to all others she had received. They never really knew who their employer was or what was meant to be exchanged. All they could ever say was ‘the dealer’.
In the last four months, there had been six exchange deals and she had been able to successfully lure one of the men after each deal but each one only claimed they had been hired two days before.
She wondered if it was mere coincidence that she always picked the newbies. They were there just for security reasons and all they knew was that they were in it for the money the ‘dealer´ could offer.
“They’re hiding something” came Nonso’s frustrated voice.
“I’m not sure about that…this guy was really sincere” she said remembering the last guy she had entrapped. There had been no need to physically torture him; he was scared enough for his pregnant girlfriend whose picture she had seen in his wallet while he had been unconscious.
“I swear that’s all I know; don’t kill her, I beg you”
“Get your badge” he ordered as he got out of the bed and put on his shirt. It was 6:30am. There was plenty of time for them and they had to utilize it.
Ifeoma gulped down the water and drained the bottle completely of its content. She had stopped bleeding but was still weak yet she felt much better than she did days ago. Sandra had been nice to her and always made sure she ate three times a day; she had even bought her drugs and Ify was taking a liking to her. She really wished they had known each other under different circumstances.
The key turned in its lock; they were back.
Sandra was the first to enter. She was beautiful despite the fact she never wore makeup.
“Hi, hope you’re feeling better” she said as she walked towards her.
“A little headache but I feel much better than I felt this morning” she replied and noticed how tired Sandra looked. “Did Grumpy overstress you?” she tried to sound funny and succeeded in making Sandra chuckle.
“Sandra, make the call I asked you to make” they heard him order from the door and exchanged glances before Sandra got up and left the room to make the call.
As Nonso walked towards the bed, Ify felt her heart beat faster. He noticed and smiled within him. He sat on the bed and watched her shift immediately. He removed the laptop from the bag Sandra had come in with and after booting the system, he plugged in a modem and sent a picture of a man in a suit with glasses tipped by his hand to the rim of his nose to an email address.
“Have you sent it?” Sandra asked from the doorway as he nodded. “He just sent it…remember, full background” she said and hung up.
Ifeoma felt curious and decided to ask what was going on. She felt she had a right to know; if he wanted to keep her away from her family and wreak vengeance on her, she could as well say whatever she wished to say. Nothing would change the fact he would kill her soon.
“What happened today?” she asked in a tone that surprised her. She had expected it to be shaky but it was firm and straight; as if she had a right to know.
The voice also surprised Sandra and she prepared herself to defend Ify if Nonso tried to lay a finger on her.
“Something big” he replied to their surprise.
Ify turned to face him to be sure he was really speaking to her.
“You know Ikenna, my in-law?” he made it sound like a question.
“He killed your girlfriend too?” she asked before she could stop the words from coming out. “Sorry” she said immediately she felt his eyes on her.
“He’s into some shady deals and Sandra and I want to nail him and get him arrested. He’s known as the dealer but never does the negotiation physically” he clicked on a photo in the laptop and showed her a group of men in black suits with serious looking faces. “All the CCTV cameras in the different exchange venues made us find out something” he explained and began to click on different pictures. “All the faces in each venue changed except –”
“ –that of the guy in the middle” Ify cut in and turned to see him glaring at her.
“Did I ask for your opinion?” he asked in an unfriendly voice as she shook her head immediately and apologized. “So I just sent his photo so we can find out who he really is…he’s our only possible lead to the dealer”
“So you’re not even sure Ikenna is the dealer” she stated as Nonso clenched his fist and bit his lip.
“Shut your trap” he ordered as she looked down immediately and Sandra’s phone rang making Nonso open his email with a smile.
“Thanks dear, that was quick” she said and hung up.
She walked closer to the duo whose eyes were fixed on the screen of the laptop. There were different snapshots from when he was really young and then slowly, as the shots changed, so did his face; beards, moustache, hair and finally a scar that made Ify gasp in horror.
“Scarface” she whispered as Sandra nodded.
“He escaped from prison five years ago” Sandra told her with her eyes still on the screen.
“No parents…no family members…no address. There’s no way we can find this guy” Nonso almost yelled in frustration as Ify thought for a while.
She tried to imagine she was her husband. What would he do if he was faced with such a situation?
Think Ify think.
“I got it” she said as they turned to her. His first crime, how old was he?”
“Nineteen” Sandra replied not knowing what she was driving at. Nonso’s eyes were also fixed on her.
“That means he was granted bail…we need to find out who got him out” she said as Nonso and Sandra exchanged glances but he said nothing and turned to the screen likewise Sandra.
“That would take time” Sandra said as Ify thought of something.
“David was in charge of the last case concerning Scarface before his escape…he was the one that had put him in there” she paused and looked at Nonso. “All I’m saying is that he probably has all the records of Scarface” she concluded as he scoffed.
“Is this a trick to get you to your house? You think they’re there?” he did not wait for her reply. “She has access to police files” he said and gave Sandra the laptop.
He kept his eyes on her; her eyes were filled with so much pain that it thrilled him. She was trying to hold back tears and he could not suppress a smile. He had so much in store for her.
“Jennifer Green, from Bonny in Rivers State” she said as Nonso turned to her. “I’ve sent her name to Johnny and he just replied” she paused and scrolled down the work. “She’s twenty three…they were dating then” she scrolled down and a smile crossed her lips. “There’s good news, she lives here in Abuja”
“What!” Ify exclaimed and rose to her feet. “We’re in Abuja?” she made it sound like a question.
“Yes” he replied and looked up at her. “The last place the police will try to search for your corpse” he smiled wickedly as she lunged angrily at him and grabbed his collar much to Sandra’s surprise.
“Kill me now you bastard”
Written by Miracle Emeka-Nkwor
For more stories, visit talesbymimi.blogspot.com