Silent Storm

Betrayal, they say, is like the snake’s venom. First comes the excruciating pain, then the swelling but even that is not the problem. The problem is the venom slowly traversing through your bloodstream making each breathe a struggle, ravaging your organs till you wind up dead. That is what betrayal does to you; the only difference is that dying is a choice: you could choose to channel your negative energy to the source and destroy it.

That was what he had tried to do. He had not planned to really destroy the source but things went out of hand and he was stuck in the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital in Port Harcourt with his wife.

He could still remember the first day he saw her.

“My name is Kelechi, but do not make the mistake of shortening it to KayCee or even KC, it sounds manly”, she had said at once before he could even give her a reply.

Her outspoken nature had got Chibueze’s admiration at that moment. They were married a year later and nothing could possibly go wrong. Oh well, that was until life threw a curveball at them. The day that had changed the course of his life started like any other day with him rushing off to the gym; only on this day, he wound up in the hospital. Three days with him unconscious, Kay devastated, and doctors scrambling to save him, he came to and found out he had been rendered a paraplegic by the car accident. The events of a day had altered his life…their lives permanently: his wrestling career ended prematurely, money from his life insurance policy was exhausted on medical bills and Kelechi could barely manage their home just working at the bank; she had to take up another job.

The doctors gave them hope that there was a chance he would walk again, she believed, he did not. He knew she was just searching for a tiny thread of hope to hang on to and ignore the reality staring them in the face.

“That’s what makes us human, Chibu”, she would always say.

With his career over, she coaxed him into going back to what he had always loved doing in his spare time –writing. He did not want to, but she begged him to channel his energy into writing and try to live for her. He felt he had to do anything to make her happy and so he picked up the pen. Soon writing became his solace; at the slightest sign of depression, he would reach for a pen and his notebook.

He was not satisfied with just pouring his heart into a notebook and escaping from his pain through his works. He grew frustrated with himself and felt useless as he watched his wife play the role of the breadwinner. His sense of uselessness and frustration intensified as the years rolled by. Two years and seven months on the wheelchair with just the ability of a reflex erection, he knew he was not the best man for her, but she never complained. She never told him about her needs that were not met; she only smiled, hugged, kissed and attended to him always. She was like a dutiful slave who did everything she was meant to do.

“Her contentment and undying love is too good to be true”, not that nagging voice again!

With that in mind, he began to notice things. That is the thing about the mind, when allowed to, it conceives things and with time one begins to see things and believe them regardless of whether they are real or not. He suddenly began to suspect the late nights she kept. Before the accident, she worked from 8:00am-5:00pm, but after the accident, she claimed she stayed late nights because of her extra jobs which were not stable. He also began to notice how her phone was always beyond his reach; either in her hands or on the wall-rack or even with her in the bathroom and she chose not to answer certain calls in his presence. If he asked about a certain caller, she would call the name of a mutual friend or tell him how mama Johnson insulted her at the supermarket or how Dede annoyed her by telling her she had no manners.

He felt everything about her was a lie and eventually began to feel angry at her for thinking he was that stupid. It was nobody’s fault he was bound to a wheelchair; it was not his fault that the streets of Port Harcourt had chosen to be busy that morning; it was not his fault that someone disobeyed the traffic signal; nothing was his fault or hers.

Consumed with thoughts of her infidelity, he hired a private investigator and in four days, he received the photographs as proof of her infidelity. The shots were taken in different places, with different clothes but one constant: a man. He looked like he was in his early sixties. Her choice of a lover was more than disappointing to him, but none of that mattered; he was satisfying her more than Chibueze could ever dream of doing.

While studying the pictures, his eyes went blurry. The happiness and the glow in her eyes; it had been ages since he saw that. For a split second, he was happy for her, but his heart hardened and his eyes widened when he saw the next photograph; she had brought her infidelity to their matrimonial home.

He barely left the house. The only thing that took him out was the routine checkup mandated to him by the doctor. That had obviously created a chance for her to bring her lover home. He stared hard at the picture and the black dress she was wearing before a wave of clarity overwhelmed him.

“You have to see the physiotherapist, Chibu. I’ve heard she’s really patient…just the kind of person you need”, she had explained holding both arms of the wheelchair to make sure he was not able to wheel away. That was the thing about the wheelchair that she loved, he could not walk out on her like he used to. She was always in charge.

On the day he received the photographs, he vowed to confront her, but she came back tired and, before he could say a word, she was snoring on the bed. She had neither noticed him nor the brown envelope in his hand.  She had not even helped him get into bed that night. He stared at her on the bed and felt pity for her at that moment. He almost told himself that he had no right to be upset with her; that he deserved whatever she was doing to him. He was imprisoning his wife; he was the guilty one. She had the choice of asking for a divorce, but she did not.

He began to wheel his chair away from her and towards the table that would serve as his sleeping pillow when her phone beeped. He reached for the phone and saw the message icon. Yes, he had changed his mind about confronting her, but he was still curious.

“What on earth is the password?”, he muttered when he tried to view the message and was asked to input a password.

“Chibukay”, she muttered tiredly in her sleep.

He could not believe his luck that night. He immediately unlocked it and viewed the message from Prof. Wale.

“That book is indeed amazing. I could not drop it until I was done.
Let us start with 100 copies. I just transferred N150,000.00 to the
stipulated account. I’ll pay the balance of N50,000.00 on delivery.
Nice doing business with you, Jessica Lawson”.

He stared long at that message wondering the kind of book business she had gotten into without his knowledge. He was confused and began to scan her phone for clues. Just as he was giving up on getting any clue, he saw the picture of a book cover, With Every Breath by Jessica Lawson.

He felt his heart stop at that moment. That was his work; he had written that book. She had pushed him so hard to go back to writing but he had done that just to pass time. All reasoning left him as he turned to his sleeping wife in tears, his heart broken within. Minutes ago, he was ready to let her continue with her lover if that really made her happy.

His head was blank then, she was cheating on him and living off his work simultaneously; it was no wonder she had never complained. She was getting paid for her undying service to him.

Resolved to beat her at her own game, he began making daily visits to Tonye Amachree, the physiotherapist. Tonye was shocked at the pace of his improvement and so was he; his resolution to move again was applaudable. He ensured Kay knew nothing about it by telling Tonye that it was supposed to be a surprise for their six-year wedding anniversary. He continued keeping tabs on Kay; she was slowly making waves on the internet with the book; and her pseudonym, “Jessica Lawson” was doing quite well.

In contrast to Kay’s jet black hair that was cut in a style that only her hair stylist knew, Jessica Lawson wore a shoulder-length red hair that was slowly becoming her signature. Added to that, she had a black mole on her nose that made her look rather different in a cute way. Kay always had a flair for jumpsuits and palazzo trousers, but her job at the bank never allowed her to practice her style of fashion. Jessica Lawson was rocking those perfectly.

He smiled whenever he watched an interview or a press conference. He knew she was smart but he was still amazed at how she was able to get into the book, blend with the characters and actually speak and act as though she were the author of the book.

With patience and an iron resolve, Chibueze was able to move in two years and that was when he decided to strike. With the knowledge that he could not do it alone, he sought the help of Tonye who obligingly agreed.

They began to make visits to Mr. Adekunle Bankole, a corporate lawyer, as well as the police station where he showed his manuscripts; he was made to know that the manuscripts did not serve as evidence enough to arrest her. They needed a stronger proof that the work was his: a confession.

He felt it was impossible, but the lawyer and the officers in charge alleviated his fears by telling him he just had to be wired and get her to talk as though nothing was going on. Once she gave a hint of her criminality, they would swoop in and arrest her. They had made it sound so easy and he decided to believe it was actually easy. The planned date was their wedding anniversary. He planned to get her to confess without really saying much. He had the entire scenario played out in his head. He would ply her with alcohol, get her drunk and talk to her about Jessica Lawson, the new authoress making waves on the social media. He believed when he had done that, the remaining scenes would play out eventually. It was just like writing a book; only this time, he was a character and so was his wife.

He left early on the morning of their anniversary with the guise of his daily checkups with the physiotherapist as a cover. His driver drove to the treatment centre where Tonye was waiting to drive him to the station. He told the driver not to bother coming back since, according to the plan, Tonye was supposed to drive him home. Without wasting time, Tonye drove to the station where Mr. Bankole and the police officers were waiting patiently. It did not take long to get him wired and as they turned to leave, an inspector was called in to attend to a file.

He was dark and huge with a little bulge in his stomach.  His hair was bald and his deep voice was outstanding. He looked like he was in his sixties and was quite sturdy for his age. There was an air he carried with him; one of self respect. Chibueze could not get his eyes off him. There was just something off about him that he could not place.

He saluted, took the file and walked past the paraplegic.

As Tonye started the car, Chibu noticed the same inspector from the corner of his eye making a phone call. He had no idea why he was so interested in him.

As soon as the car began to make its way out of the parking space, like a stroke of lightening, it became clear to him why the inspector had interested him so much.

He was Kay’s lover.

The sun was blazing, but he was shaking slightly. He could not believe how nervous he felt about what was going to happen once he was inside the house. He felt goosebumps all over his skin as he thought of the outcome; scared of what would become of his wife after she was arrested. She deserved every bit of what was going to happen to her in the next few minutes, but he still felt sorry for her.

Tonye assured him with a soothing smile that everything would be okay and alighted from the car to get the wheelchair from the booth. As she set up the chair, the front door opened and Kay walked out in a dazzling short red gown and black high heels. She had trimmed her hair and applied something to make it glitter; her haircut had never looked more alluring. She looked beautiful in her make-up and thoughts of her body and how he badly wanted to make love to her filled his head.

She walked to the car and smiled at Tonye. “I can handle him”, she told her and opened the door to help him out.

It was obviously a struggle for her to get him out, so Tonye helped her and when he was eventually seated on the chair, she put out her hand to shake Tonye.

She dismissed Tonye in a weird and quite dramatic way. If he did not know better, he would have concluded that his wife was jealous. He did not have the Adonis look that most wrestlers had. He was just a dark tall man who used to spend most of his time weightlifting. After the accident, his muscle fat stores slowly depleted and he lost his signature. He just looked like a normal guy; and just as the muscle fat stores depleted, so did his admirers. They were never really competition to Kay because she claimed she always had the upper hand.

“I have your mumu button, Chibu”, she would always remind him.

She closed the door behind her and turned the wheelchair to face her.

“I had no idea Tonye Amachree was so beautiful and youthful”, she commented as he smiled and she wheeled him to the room without waiting for a reply.

She helped him wear the royal blue suit she had bought for the occasion and looked disapprovingly at the watch on his wrist. He noticed the look on her face and started to speak but she was already taking it off. He tried stopping her, but got a sharp look from her.

“I do not like it”, she told him and took it off.

She then took out a new Rolex from the shopping bag and put it round his wrist. He tried not to show how worried he was as she wheeled him back to the living room and out of the house.

“I want it to be like old times”, she chirped and helped him settle in the car.

She rushed to the other side of the car and sat beside him in the back seat. “Who’s driving?”, He turned to the window and saw his wheelchair where she had left it. “…and why is the wheelchair still outside?”, he asked and turned to see the snout of a pistol facing him with a large grin on her face.

“There’s a driver honey…and I’m very sure you don’t need that chair anymore”, she said as he turned to see her lover in the driver’s seat. “Drive”, she ordered as the engine of the car revved to life and in a minute, they were driving down the quiet road.

On Sundays, the streets of Reclamation Layout were always deserted. Families were always in church or resting and Kay did not have to worry about anyone witnessing what would happen in the next few minutes. There was a river in the area; popularly called Ibeto river. It was a seven-minute drive from their house.

“Kay, the police know where I am”, he said as she smiled.

“Baby, the watch had a tracking device…and I knew it was wired, that’s why I had to remove it from your wrist”, she said confidently as the car stopped beside the river.

She knew his history with water. He was not a swimmer and he had almost drowned in his third year in the university. She knew he would not last as long as a minute in the water.

She quickly ordered him to get down as the inspector held the door open. He also had a gun so Chibu was helpless. He alighted from the car and stood staring at the inspector.

“You’re a disgrace to the police force”, he spat at him and received a resounding slap on his cheek.

“Let’s make this quick”, she said casually with a snap of her fingers as though she was disposing garbage.

“What will you tell the police?”, he asked and suddenly realized how stupid his question was when she turned to the inspector.

“A clear case of suicide, my love”, her eyes gleaming at how smart her plan was. She then made a sign for the inspector to throw him into the water.

“Wait!”, he yelled and brought out the watch from his pocket.

“Shit!”, the inspector cussed and flung the watch away from his hand into the water.

Everything happened so fast; a gunshot, Kay’s lover falling ever so slowly to the ground and a deep voice bellowing from across the street.

“Drop your weapon”.

They were surrounded. Two more police cars stopped across the road and two officers alighted from each. Kay impulsively flung her pistol into the river and watched her husband smile at her.

“You’ll have a nice time rotting in jail, Jessica Lawson”, he said as she pounced on him and toppled him to the ground causing an officer to shoot her in the leg.

“Ahh!”, she screamed in pain and smiled at Chibu. “You think I’ll rot in jail alone?”, she asked breathing heavily. “Wait till the police find out what happened to James Duru”, she said before closing her eyes dreamily.

His eyes were still on Kay lying on the hospital bed. Her last words kept ringing in his head.

James Duru.

The end of his life had been the beginning of Chibu’s life with Kay. He was Chibueze’s biggest competition and threat in the wrestling game. He was also sleeping around with Chibu’s girlfriend then, Isabel. She became pregnant and he had talked her into having the abortion that cost her life. Her best friend had told him and he could not contain his anger that night. He filled his system with alcohol to have the guts for what he had planned to do to him. He knew Duru’s route home and he waited patiently for him to pass by. He had not hesitated the moment he saw him walking towards him. With one last image of his Isabel lying dead in the hospital, he ran into him. He watched him hit the ground with a heavy thud. He lay still and lifeless but he was not satisfied. He alighted from the car with a knife and bent towards him to vent out his anger; and that was when he heard her voice.

“You know if you use the knife, you’ll be branded a murderer” she had advised. “He’s gone already, leave it that way”. 

She did not seem scared of him; her eyes were filled with pity and Chibu was lost for words. He had never even thought of witnesses before alighting from the car. He began to stammer incoherently but she smiled and waved him off.

“You look horrible, get out of here”, she had said and began to walk away as he got back into his car.

“What’s your name?”

Her moan brought him out of his reverie. If the police ever found out the famous James Duru had been murdered, that would be the end of his life. He walked towards her and looked at her pale face with her eyes fluttering slowly.

He turned to the door where the two officers stood talking. Assured of their absent-mindedness, he reached for a syringe in the medical tray and carefully pulled the plunger to suck in air. He tactfully inserted the needle in her vein.

“I can’t let you ruin me, Kay”, he said to her and closed his eyes as he pushed the plunger flange slowly injecting air into her veins causing venous air embolism. He held her left arm which jerked slightly and finally went limp and lifeless in his hand.

Written by M. E. N. (Miracle Emeka-Nkwor)

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