Story: The Unexpected


    CHAPTER ONE

    “Mum, I’m off.”

    Martha looked up from her fashion magazine and eyed her twenty-two year old daughter from head to toe.

    “I see,” Martha muttered. “And why are your arms exposed like that?” But Sharon raised a brow in surprise.

    “The casting director wants us all in black tank tops and jeans – both guys and girls,” Sharon readily replied. She knew her mother all too well. “But I have my jacket for the road,” she added raising it to view.

    “Good,” Martha remarked. “Because I can’t imagine what our neighbours might say,”



    “Let them think or say what they like,” Sharon readily rebuffed flicking her brown hair. “I don’t need to explain myself to anybody. Not even if I choose to step out naked,”

    “Not when you’re under my roof, you hear me?” Martha stated now sitting up on the sofa. “You already know my reservations concerning this modelling nonsense. I’ve already told you to get a real job and get serious with your life. At twenty-two years of age, some of your mates are already settled in their husbands’ homes.” At that, Sharon tightly gripped her bag as the blood rushed through her temple. This talk of marriage always got to her.

    “Mummy, you keep talking like getting a husband is all that there is to life, and that getting one is just as easy as strolling down to the market to buy a couple of fresh tomatoes,” she said. “And believe it or not, my appointment this morning is concerning a high-paying job, no matter how uncool that might seem to you,”

    “You call dressing naked a job?” Martha sniped with a scoff.

    “Modelling is more than nakedness, Mummy,” Sharon affirmed. “And these your remarks will change once the big money starts rolling in. Just have a little faith in me, or is that too much to ask?”

    “Spare me the details!” Martha was quick to retort. “God knows I didn’t put you through school with no help from your no-good father to start parading yourself for the highest bidder.” It was then Sharon let her jaw fall open in astonishment. “That’s what I get for giving you an education – to use the grammar I paid for back at me,”

    “I don’t believe this,” Sharon muttered shaking her head. She was accustomed to her mother’s dramatics, but this was too much coming from Martha this Saturday morning. “I just came to tell you I was off, Mummy,”



    “Nobody’s stopping you,” Martha replied with a scowl. “But hope you’ve washed up those plates and that pot in that sink. You know you can’t leave this house without doing those,”

    “Long ago, Mummy,” Sharon answered.

    “Good,” Martha said with a nod and then reclined. “Because I can’t have a daughter of marriageable age in my house and still be doing her chores for her.”

    Sharon stared at her mother and then took a deep breath as she stood upright.

    “I’ll just be on my way before I’m forced to say something I might have to apologize for later.” And then Sharon turned and strutted out of the living room with her mother quietly staring after her.

    Looking unperturbed, Martha felt like biting her tongue again. She knew she had agitated her only child again with her acerbic words, and she never realized her deed until the words were already out of her mouth. But this time, Sharon had decided not to indulge her which meant one thing, Martha’s daughter was getting fed up.

    All Martha desired was for her daughter to bring home a man. If only she would get this silly thought of a modelling career off her head. But Martha knew that was close to impossible for there was no stopping Sharon Uzoh when she had an idea in her head. She sighed loudly and went back to her magazine. But a part of her wished her daughter would come back with good news.

    “She just doesn’t know when to stop,” Sharon vented into her phone as she strode down the large compound and towards the gate. A male voice was heard laughing on the other end, but Sharon held her frown. “It’s not funny, Austin. I promise you, the next time I hear word of this marriage again, I’ll shoot myself,”



    “Aren’t you dramatic?” Her best friend asked from the other end with more laughs. “But she should let you breath though,”

    “Thank you!” Sharon called now stepping out the gate. “She’s the one who always told me to pursue my passion, and that’s what I’m doing. She’s the one who always said I should never rush into marriage because it’s a “lifetime” project – in her own words! I’ve done everything she’s ever required of me, Austin. I went to school, concluded my Youth Service, but still nothing ever seems to be good enough. If I get a man today, I know she’ll still have an issue with either his tribe or his financial status… or something else. I know my mother well.” Austin was laughing again. “Marriage doesn’t guaranty happiness, my dear,”

    “I understand you, Sharon,” he said. “You’re her only daughter. I guess she just wants all the best in the world for you,”

    “I know what I want, Austin,” Sharon called back as she approached the road. “And all I want is to live a little, okay? I’d rather be single and content than to rush into a relationship just to prove something to the world,”

    “Yeah,” Austin said. “Life’s too short to try and please everyone,”

    “Thank you!” Sharon called raising a hand and some passers-by glanced at her direction but she could not be bothered. Then she looked towards the road. “You know what, Austin? Let’s talk later, okay? I’m about to get a cab or something,”

    “Oh, okay. And I’m sending much positive energy for your casting,”

    “You’re a gem,” Sharon smiled, and even Austin knew it without having to see her face. They knew each other that well. “And thanks for listening. Bye, love.” Then she put the phone in her bag and approached the road, looking out for the next available vehicle

    ******

    Taofeek was not having any of this. Not today. Despite his dark complexion, his face visibly fumed red in frustration behind the steering wheel of his commercial bus.

    “Why?” He called out at the police officer. “Why must I give you any money? Have I committed any crime? You’ve checked all my documents and they are valid. I have passed four checkpoints this morning already, and I’ve had to drop money for you people,”

    “Ooh!” Police Officer Michael Ogudi nodded at the bus driver. “So, you want to claim right, abi?”

    Most of the passengers began murmuring from behind as their patience began wearing thin, while the police officer faced ahead. “Officer Anu, don’t remove that barricade, you hear?” He called out to his colleague. “This driver wants to claim stubborn,”

    “Oga Driver! Pay the man his money and let’s be going now!”

    “I’m running late for my appointment!”

    “It’s just common hundred Naira!”

    “Common hundred Naira?” Taofeek instantly barked back turning. “How much do we drivers make in a day? I drive from morning till night and these people put all these checkpoints just to extort us for our hard-earned money. Enough is enough! I have done nothing wrong, so let me pass!” Taofeek was getting more frustrated by the minute.

    “Oga Michael, dat one still dey blow grammar for there?” Officer Anu called, slightly amused. But Officer Michael was not. Then the second officer approached the vehicle now. He seemed younger than his colleague. “Oga Michael, maybe we should allow this one go. His wahala is too much,”



    “NO!” Officer Michael barked with blazing eyes now. “If he doesn’t drop something, he will sleep here. Nobody must move that barricade unless I say so.”

    More murmurs emanated from the impatient passengers now while Taofeek shook his head at the men in uniform.

    “On what grounds, Officer?” He demanded. “Listen, don’t think I’m some illiterate driver you people think you can manipulate. I’m a graduate of Business Admin. And I wouldn’t be here if not for this country and its condition of no jobs,”

    “Ah! No wonder!” Officer Anu muttered with a nod. There were two other police officers present as well, but they simply sat under the shade of a tree by the road sipping on their cans of beer.

    Both Taofeek and Officer Michael’s eyes stayed locked in a glaring match now.

    “So you think you’re better than us because you went to school,” the officer let out. “You think you’re stubborn! Park this bus over there! Let other cars pass. ” He pointed.

    “What for?” Taofeek frowned raising a hand. “I know my rights and……..”

    “I say park!” Officer Michael’s eyes bulged out and then he raised his weapon to the dread of the passengers and they began calling out in panic. “Don’t let me repeat myself!”

    “Or what? You will shoot me?” Taofeek was not deterred as he stuck his head out in defiance. The frustration of being constantly extorted and harassed had hit its limit. He glared back into the officer’s eyes now. “Go ahead then. Shoot me!”

    And with that, Taofeek stamped on the acceleration pedal and the bus sped forward to everyone’s horror. The passengers exploded in cries of panic now, but barricade or not, this driver was going through.

    “STOP THERE!” The enraged Police Officer barked now. “I say stop!” Then he raised his heavy rifle and fired.

    *****

    Mercy glanced at the passenger seat as she drove and then smiled to herself.

    “You’re doing it again,” she mentioned. Seth looked away from the car window and faced her.

    “What is it?” He asked.

    “Wandering,” she replied. He was thirty-one and she, twenty-eight, and had been married for over a year now, and Mercy still sometimes found her man cryptic. But it was this same persona that drew her to him the more. “Where does your mind fly off to when you’re like that?” But Seth simply chuckled at his wife and sighed.

    “I wasn’t thinking of anything,” he replied resting his head. “I’m just tired, that’s all,”

    “They really wore you out from all those book seminars, didn’t they?” Mercy asked but he shrugged.

    “Still, it was fun all the same,” Seth said. “I’ve never met such brilliant and ambitious students before. I had a chat with a couple of them and you should hear them talk passionately about their dreams and future plans. Such minds are what we really need to be nurtured, and to propel our society forward. They said my speech inspired them, Mercy, but the truth is they were the ones who actually made the impression on me,”



    “Wow,” Mercy called as she drove on. “To think there was a time you hated public speaking,”

    “What can I say?” Seth shrugged. “You never know how much you can accomplish until challenge yourself, and your weakness.” Mercy nodded in agreement. “And to think I have to prepare for a Writers’ Conference next month,”

    “Well, until then, I’m going to spoil you for the next two weeks we have together,” Mercy called flashing him a grin. “I got us a bottle of wine and prepared your favourite Ofada rice this morning before coming to pick you at the airport.” She noticed his eyes flash open. “And after that, I have some Brazilian Citrus scented candles and a new NegligĂ©e waiting in the room,”

    “Ooh!” Seth’s eyes flew wider and his wife flashed him a sultry smile this time. “You know, sometimes I forget my very own wife is an army Sergeant.” Then Mercy instantly threw her head back in laughter, and her husband joined in.

    “I might be a soldier, Seth,” Mercy said before glancing at him. “But I’m still a woman, madly in love with her man.” Then Seth grinned, reaching and squeezing her hand.

    “I love you too, Mercy.” Then they drove in silence. “I really wished I’d made it to your decoration though,”

    “It’s fine, Seth. We’re both already much married to our careers as well,” she said and Seth nodded with a chuckle. “But not to worry, you have more than enough time to make it up.” She flashed him a grin and he reciprocated.

    “Who would believe my own woman led a squadron that saved a village from some savage Fulani herdsmen?” There was such admiration in his eyes, but Mercy was laughing now.

    “Honey, please!” She called blushing and then sighed. “You can’t even begin to imagine the rush one feels on the battlefield. People often think we don’t get scared too.” But Seth was not enjoying this talk anymore. A part of him strongly wished his wife would quit the army and lead a regular life, but he knew that was asking for too much. Not when her career had gained a step forward.

    Then Mercy’s eyes flashed open. “Oh, look! Roasted plantain and groundnut! It’s been a while. I want some,”

    “Me too,” Seth said and she pulled to a halt. A white bus was parked not too far ahead and they noticed the police checkpoint. Seth pulled down his window to call out to the roadside vendor – and that was when loud gun shot rang out!

    “Get down!” Mercy called to her husband as her soldier instincts kicked in. She reached for him and they both instantly ducked. There were screams allover the street now, and then Mercy slowly raised her head. Another gunshot rang out and then she sighted the erratic police man bellowing at the bus and firing warning shots at all directions. Passers by fled in all directions and the passengers flew out of the bus in terror, and not just from the doors. “I don’t believe this!” Mercy called out.

    “What’s going on out there?” Seth called, daring to raise his head. Another shot was heard.

    “OH, MY GOD!” The piercing scream came now. “Somebody, help!” It came from across the road, and then they saw her on the ground by the roadside. Someone had been struck down by a bullet and some people were rushing towards her now.

    The police officer appeared horrified now at the sudden mishap, and then they saw him fling his gun away and flee – towards the direction of their vehicle. The other officers scattered and ran as well.

    *****

    His heart pounding hard, Officer Michael Ogudi tore off his uniform and flung it off as he ran off without looking back. He had accidentally shot an innocent person and the last thing he needed right now was to be identified on the spot. He knew he was done for if caught. Now clad in his white polo shirt, he dashed by the black SUV, and then the driver’s door suddenly flew open, and before Michael knew it, both his feet were swept off the ground with one kick, and he fell forward unto the road, and hard!

    Turning on the ground, his eyes flew open in shock of getting tripped hard by a woman. Then Mike tried getting to his feet but she was swiftly atop him, pushing one knee against his back and he groaned. Mike struggled but she grabbed one of his arms and painfully twisted it behind his back, and he cried out in pain.

    “Stay down!” She called down to him. “Seth, I need my phone, and the cuffs in the glove compartment!” Her husband hurriedly complied. “I need to call for backup at the Barracks.” Then Michael Ogudi gasped out and his eyes flew wide open at the mention of that, realizing the severe hot water he had landed in.

    Now fully cuffed behind him, Mercy dragged him to his feet and shoved his face down against the hood of the vehicle. “You will answer for what you’ve done.” Some of the angry spectators began to cheer at the arrest of the trigger-happy police officer.

    Seth had raced across the road towards where the crowd gathered, and upon pushing his way through, he gasped out at the gory sight before him. There was blood everywhere and the young light-skinned lady cried out in agony. The stray bullet had gone through and shattered her kneecap. The more helpers tried to move her, the louder she screamed out in pain.



    “We can’t move her until the ambulance arrives!” A bespectacled man called.

    “But she’s losing blood!” An elderly woman called back. Without hesitation, Seth pulled off his shirt and bent over, attempting to wrap up what was left of her leg, with the lower part hanging lose by the torn ligaments. He had to stop as much blood as he could.

    “Please, call my mother!” The victim cried out in agony.

    “We will!” Seth tried talking to her as he bound her leg with trembling hands. “But I need you to tell me your name,”

    “Sharon!” She cried out in tears. “Sharon Uzoh! Please, call my mother!” Her bag lay nearby and someone picked it up. Then Seth knew he could wait for the ambulance no longer.

    “We have to get her to a hospital now!” He called. “We can’t wait anymore or she’ll lose blood.”

    *****

    “Where is my daughter?”

    Both Mercy and Seth turned to see the frantic woman rush into the hospital reception and approach the nurse behind the counter. “Sharon Uzoh? She was rushed here this… “

    “Mrs. Uzoh?” Mercy called as they approached her and She faced them. “My name is Mercy,”

    “The soldier who called?” Martha asked and then she paused as her eyes befell the blood stains still on Seth’s white T-shirt. “My God!” She held her face. “Please, whose blood is that?” But both husband and wife exchanged stares. “Where is my daughter, please? What happened to her?”

    “She was hit by a stray bullet,” Mercy painfully explained to the mother’s horror. “From a reckless police officer,”

    “What??”Martha exclaimed. “Stray what? My daughter? How is that possible?”

    “I assure you, madam, he’s been taking into custody and will face the full extent of…. “

    “I want to see my daughter, Sharon,” Martha said shaking her head and then she frantically held Mercy by the hands. “Where is she?” Then she frowned at Seth’s bloodied form and he instantly seemed uneasy.

    “She’s still in the emergency room,” he replied. “Maybe you should sit and wait for the doctor.” But Martha shook her head in objection.

    “I don’t understand,” Martha muttered. “She was on her way to her modelling… thing this morning. How can this just happen?” The couple glanced at each other again. Then the surgeon stepped out with a nurse behind him.

    “Doctor?” Mercy called and Martha immediately charged at him.

    “My Sharon? Where is she?” But both Mercy and Seth already saw the answer in his eyes.

    “We did all that we could, I’m sorry,” he gently said lowering his head. “But she’d lost a lot of blood when they wheeled her….” But Martha was already wailing before he could finish, and then slumped into Mercy’s arms and clung unto the soldier.

    “No! No! That’s not true! It’s not true!”

    “Thank you, doctor,” Seth said before they walked away and then turned to the two women. Mercy knelt beside the elderly woman now wailing out of control now. No doubt, this was the worst day of her life.

    “They’ve taken my only baby away from me!” Martha cried out. “God! Why are you so wicked?”

    Seth shook his head in empathy now as his gaze met Mercy‘s, and he also noticed the tear slip down his wife’s cheek.

    “I’m sorry.” That was all Mercy could utter, but both she and her husband knew it would take much more than that to pacify this grieving mother.

    CHAPTER TWO


    Mercy Chigboh had taken her time to arrive just when the procession was leaving the church with the white casket for the nearby cemetery; and from the distance she had watched as the late Sharon Uzor’s remains were lowered into the ground. Her mother, Martha was beyond inconsolable while nearby relatives held her for support. It had been four days since the fatal shooting and all involved were yet to move on from the ordeal.

    Standing at a distance from the number of mourners, Mercy’s heart went out to the grieving Martha, and behind her shades, Mercy held back her own.

    “My dear,” Martha had called surprised as Mercy walked up to her. The casket had been lowered into the ground now, and Mercy had waited for most of the mourners to depart. “You came.” Then they embraced.



    “It’s the least I could do,” Mercy replied. “I’m so sorry,”

    “Thank you for coming,” Martha said before dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief. Her eyes were puffed up and Mercy could see that she looked pale.

    “Martha, dear.”

    They both turned as a boisterous lady in a dark lace dress and shades appeared. “Are you ready to go home now?” She had an accent and Mercy could see she had been in tears as well.

    “Ethel,” Martha called taking her hand. “This is Mercy – she and her husband were with Sharon in her… last moments.” It hurt to say it all and Mercy knew. “Mercy, this is my sister. She came into the country on Sunday,”

    “Oh! The soldier woman!” Ethel called nodding.

    “It’s a pleasure, madam,” Mercy greeted with a nod.

    “Likewise,” Ethel replied looking her over. “And who would think you are an army Sergeant? Oh, bless your heart for all you’ve done for my sister these past couple of days,”

    “It’s no problem, Madam,” Mercy replied and then she saw Ethel yank off her shades and throw her a stern look.

    “And might I ask the measures being taken to deal with that pathetic excuse of a human being who put my niece in the ground?” She demanded and Mercy gave a deep sigh. She opened her mouth to reply when………

    “DON’T YOU DARE RAISE YOUR VOICE AT ME!”

    At that, they turned, and so did the nearby mourners.

    “Then stop defying me in public, woman!”

    They saw a man and a woman beside him, storming down the cemetery and towards them. From their attires, anyone could tell they were well to do. Then Ethel’s eyes flew open.

    “I don’t believe this!” She called shaking her head slowly. “Martha?” But her sister stared in silence.

    “Who are they?” Mercy had to ask.

    “Trouble, my dear,” Ethel replied. “They’re big trouble,”

    “That’s her! Martha!” The man called approaching them now. But his female companion chose to stand at the distance with her purse in hand. She had shades and a bonnet on to shield her delicate skin from the hot Nigerian sun. “Martha, what is the meaning of this?” The middle-aged man demanded with his eyes almost bulging out. “Explain to me how I got to learn of my own daughter’s death just a day before she was to be buried? I was out of the country for Heaven’s sake! And worst of all, I got to know about it via social media. What kind of person are you? If this was some vindictive attempt at me, then I must say I am very disappointed…..”



    “Excuse you?” Ethel pounced in to defend her older sister. “Who do you think you are?”

    “Stay out of this, Ethel?” He warned.

    “Or what? You have guts showing your face here and pointing fingers,” Ethel fired back. People were watching now. “Who said we didn’t try calling? And the messages? Oh, wait! Are we leaving out the mails she sent you?”

    “What?” Obiora Uzor was clueless now. “I saw no such!”

    “Well, not our problem,” Ethel replied eyeing him. It was obvious to Mercy that both women disliked this man. “How dare you storm out here and….”

    “Ethel,” Martha calmly called taking her sister’s hand, with a stare fixed on her ex-husband. “Don’t waste your breath. Just take me home, please. I’m tired.” Then she smiled warmly at Mercy. “Let’s go, my dear.”

    “Wait, you called?” Obiora still appeared puzzled, but the women walked away. Then Martha turned and gestured towards the fresh grave which was being covered up not too far off.

    “There’s what remains of your daughter,” she called. “Feel free to say goodbye.” Then they walked off, leaving him as he looked towards the grave in dismay. This was all still too shocking. Then Obiora’s eyes shot open – like a thought had just dropped into mind, only for him to turn and throw his companion a piercing glare which appeared to startle her. And almost like their eyes communicated, Yejide, his second and present wife anxiously turned and looked away, knowing her deeds had been uncovered.

    On getting to their vehicles, the women embraced and bade farewell.

    “You just call me if you need anything, okay?”

    “You’ve done enough already,” Martha said getting into the passenger seat. “But thank you,”

    “We must stay in touch,” Ethel called stepping to the driver’s door. “We must discuss further proceedings on how to deal with that reckless nincompoop, but first things first, I need to take my sister home now,”



    “See?” Martha called to Mercy, forcing a smile. “I’m in good hands.”

    Mercy smiled a bit. She was glad the grieving mother could still pull off some humour.

    ******

    Mercy zoomed in through the barracks gates and parked before the large brown building. Two Corporals waited to salute her before she strode in through the door. On seeing her step into the room, another soldier behind the desk instantly stood and saluted, before leading her down the long hallway. Sergeant Mercy Chigboh did not need to offer a word before the soldier knew why she was here.  They stopped before a small cell and the he placed a chair right before it.

    “You may leave us,” Mercy said and he saluted again and walked off. Slowly sitting and crossing her legs still in her black dress, Mercy stared into the small cell before her at the skinny looking figure, crouched in the corner. He was clad in a dirty white shirt and boxers.

    “She got buried today,” Mercy broke the silence and that made Mike Ogudi finally raise his head. A part of his face was bruised, and so were other parts of his body. It was obvious the soldiers in the barracks had taken their time to teach the reckless officer the error of his ways. “Of course, you have no children so you have no slightest idea the pain her mother must’ve felt today,”

    “When are you people finally going to kill me?” Mike dared to mutter only for Mercy to raise her brows.

    “Kill you?” She raised a brow. “Who said anything about killing you? My superiors finally complied with your I.G’s demands to hand you over into police custody first thing tomorrow morning. You see, you’re the most famous man in the state and he plans to make you a public scape goat to other greedy and reckless officers like you out there.” Then Mercy saw the perturbed look on his face and that made her grin. “Your name is on the news and social media, and not to mention the tedious trial awaiting you. Both the bus driver you tried to extort and all the passengers have come forward to testify against you. And have I left out the family of the poor girl you shot? This prison would feel like heaven, compared to the hell that’s about raining on you as from tomorrow. The world is waiting to tear you apart.”

    Mike could only hold his head in dismay and slowly shake it, and it pleased Mercy to see him more miserable by the day. She grinned in satisfaction as she got to her feet. “In a nutshell, Mike Ogudi – your life is screwed.” Then she turned to leave. “I’ll have one of the soldiers toss you a paper so you can see what you’ve done.” Then Mercy strode out with her heels clacking down the hallway.

    *****

    Now alone, the disgraced police officer buried his face in his palms. Never in his life did he think he would amount to this. Innocent blood was on his hands and the guilt of that alone almost killed him already. Then for the umpteenth time, in this humid and small lock-up, Mike Ogudi broke down and sobbed like a child.

    ******

    Opening the door, the maid gave a courtesy as her employer strode in past her with his wife hurrying after him, but not before taking off her hat and shoving it into the maid’s hands.

    “Abike, see to my luggage upstairs,” Yejide ordered. “I want my gowns hung and arranged just the way I want them,”



    “Yes, madam,” the maid said before heading up the stairs and leaving both husband and wife alone in the spacious living room of the large duplex they lived in.

    “Darling?” A concerned Yejide softly called approaching her husband whom already poured himself a drink at his personal bar. “You haven’t said a word since we left that cemetery,”

    “Calls, messages and mails, Yejide,” Obiora said before turning to her.

    “And?” Yejide asked passively. “So I heard that loud woman say back there.” Obiora frowned at her.

    “How come I never saw any of them?” He asked and his wife shrugged.

    “I don’t know,” Yejide replied but Obiora’s eyes stayed on her. “Ahan! Obiora, why are you looking at me like that? Do you think I have something to do with that?”

    “You tell me, Yejide,”

    “I don’t believe this!” Yejide called raising both hands in histrionics. “Really, Obiora? And you believe those women over your own wife,”

    “I know Martha,” Obiora said stepping forward. “And I know you,”

    “Obiora…” Yejide called, eyes raised open.

    “I just lost my daughter. So, don’t test me right now,” he stated. “Now tell me, did you or did you not know about those messages?”

    “Fine, I did it!” Yejide admitted rolling her eyes. “I saw the messages on your phone one morning when you left the hotel room, and I deleted them and blocked that woman’s number. And since I had the passwords to your laptop, I checked your mails and deleted any e-mail from her there as well.” Then she began pacing about as her husband stared at her in disbelief.

    “You did what?” Obiora then snapped. “Yejide Uzor, have you lost your mind? How could you?”

    “Oh, come on, Obiora,” Yejide called back facing him “We had been planning this vacation to Dubai for about a year. I know what happened to Sharon was quite unfortunate, but her mother had no right ruining our trip. For heaven’s sake, we had barely spent two weeks when all of this happened,”

    “You knew Sharon had been shot and killed by a stray bullet all these days and all you cared about was some stupid vacation,” Obiora said shaking his head. “What kind of person are you?” But Yejide simply shrugged again.

    “But you were going to find out anyways,” she replied approaching him. “Darling, we were having such a good time. We have not had such in a long time and I was not about to let anyone, or anything spoil that for me, okay? And it’s not like knowing much earlier would have changed anything. Sharon is still dead.” Then she touched her husband’s cheeks and gazed into his eyes. “Oh, my darling. Please, understand. I wanted to spare you some pain at that moment.”

    Slowly, Obiora Uzor pulled his wife’s hands away and glared at her.

    “What I do understand is that you are crazy,” he said and then backed away from her. Dropping his glass back on the bar, he stormed past her for the door. “I will not be bothered.” Then he was out with the door slamming shut behind him.



    Now alone, Yejide simply hissed and shook her head unperturbed. But unknown to both herself and Obiora, their fifteen year-old son, Victor stood at the staircase landing, and he had heard every word.

    *****

    It almost seemed like Mercy had rocks in her feet as she dragged herself into the apartment with her heels in one hand and her black purse in the other. She fared better wearing boots instead. Seth, her husband was on his favourite sofa in the living room, his laptop on his knee while the speakers played the classic hit “Black Coffee” by the legendary Sarah Vaughan.

    “Hey,” she called dropping her items. “Sorry I took a minute. You won’t believe what happened at the funeral today, babe.” Then Mercy saw her husband raise the glass of wine for a sip, and then she spotted the bottle on the stool beside him. “Babe, isn’t that the wine I got for our alone time?”

    “And what fun that has been so far,” Seth replied with a straight face taking his sip. Mercy noticed his disposition. She rarely knew what went on in that head of his when he wore the look.

    “Seth?” She called approaching where he sat. “Are you upset about something? What happened?” It’s not like she expected a reply to that. As much as they communicated well, which was required of any healthy relationship to function, Seth still had a habit for keeping to himself. But Mercy had long being used to that. Seth sighed and looked up at her.

    “Life happened,” he replied and then Mercy sat beside him on the arm of the chair. “Our demanding careers have kept us both apart for too long, and this was supposed to be our alone time after all this while. Just when we finally found the time, all of this happened. Our two weeks alone was supposed to count, Mercy.” He said and she listened. “And this might sound quite petty, but since that shooting, you’ve barely been home,”

    “Babe,” Mercy softly called. “But you should understand a mother just lost her only child. Mrs. Uzor needs every support she can get right now,”

    “And I understand that,” Seth replied. “Sharon literally bled out in my arms.” Then he shook his head and looked away. “I can still feel her blood on me.”

    “Baby,” Mercy called holding his hand. “We’ve all been affected by this, one way or another. But it’ll all be over as soon as we hand over custody of that goat to the police tomorrow.” Then she caressed her husband’s stubs. “And then I’ll be all yours.” Seth was smiling now as he let his wife plant a kiss on his lips before getting to her feet to stretch. “It’s been a long day. I’ll take a warm shower and then prepare dinner.” Then Seth watch her sashay out of the room.

    “For someone who’s just been to a funeral, you look hot in that dress, by the way,” he mentioned and Mercy giggled.

    “Naughty boy,” she called before disappearing down the corridor.

    *****

    Ethel was delighted to hear her sister laugh a bit as they sat beside each other in their bathrobes at the dining table, sipping from their mugs of Cocoa she had brought back with her from London. Ethel had spent that Thursday morning filling her sister on stories of various past encounters with the police.

    “Believe me, my dear sister,” Ethel called. “This one happened right before my trip to South Africa two years ago. I helped take my husband’s laptop to Computer village for repairs when this gutsy policeman stopped me.” Martha listened intently. “Would you believe the thing asked to see the receipt of payment for the laptop? Please tell me! Who carries receipts of their systems everywhere?”

    “Imagine!” Martha muttered shaking her head. “So? What happened next?” Then Ethel scoffed.

    “I told him I would show him,” she replied. “Just after he showed me the receipt of his gun.”

    “Ethel!” Martha let out laughing harder this time. “You’ve always been headstrong!”

    “My dear, to survive in this Lagos, one must be stubborn,” Ethel replied raising her mug. “Otherwise, people will take advantage and walk over you like a doormat. It’s that simple!”  Then she took a sip and shook her head frowning. “Goodness! I hate those police riff-raff! They will do almost anything just to part with your hard-earned money.” Martha shook her head. “I can bet on the head of my three children, Martha – but give almost every member of the Nigerian police enough helicopters to operate in the air and they will start to ask even the birds for bribes as well.” Martha was exploding with laughter this time tears escaped her eyes. Ethel had seen such comment about the Nigerian Police on Facebook some weeks back, and she had never forgotten.

    “Martha, maybe you should consider resuming work,” Ethel suggested. “I know it’s soon but the distraction might help a bit.” Martha nodded in agreement. She had been granted financial assistance and more than enough time to grieve at the Pharmacy, where she worked.



    “Maybe, you’re right,” she replied. “I’m considering next week.” Then they smiled at each other

    For a brief moment, it almost seemed Sharon was still with them. No wonder Ethel was her favourite and only aunt.

    “Ethel,” Martha called reaching out for her hand. “Thank you so much for being here. I haven’t laughed this hard since….”

    “Martha,” Ethel called back. “Don’t. My only regret is that I wasn’t around as often. It’s really sad how it takes a death to bring family together eventually.” Then tears slid down their cheeks almost coincidentally.

    “Regrets,” Martha mentioned shaking her head. “I still feel terrible that Sharon and I had a fight before she left home that morning.”

    The sudden knock on the door jolted them. “I’ll get that,” Ethel said getting to her feet and adjusting her bathrobe. “I’m sure it’s someone coming to pay their condolences.” And Martha nodded in agreement. Ethel got to the door, and upon pulling it open, she made a face.

    “Good morning, ma. Please, I’m looking for Sharon’s mum,”

    “Hmm!” Ethel let out rubbing her chin. “Why do I feel I know your face from somewhere?” Then Martha appeared behind her.

    “Ethel, who is it?” She asked, and then she saw the visitor standing in the doorway and her eyes flew open. “Victor? What are you doing here?”

    “Good morning, ma,” the teenage boy respectfully greeted before stepping in by a surprised Ethel. “I didn’t know about Sharon until this week. I’m very sorry, ma,”

    “Oh, my dear boy!” Martha called as her eyes instantly moistened with tears now. Then she pulled him close and they clung on to each other. “She was your sister as well.” Victor could freely let out all the repressed tears now, since he had come upon Sharon’s demise online.

    Now wearing a frown, Ethel simply crossed her arms and stared at this surprising scene before her.

    ******

    It was exactly eight on the dot that Thursday morning when the call came in and Mercy was always on the alert to answer her call. She had just entered the room and picked her ringing phone on the bed.

    “Corporal Segun,” she called throwing on her brown leather jacket. “I’m about leaving for the barracks and….” Then her eyes shot wide open. “WHAT?” At that moment, Seth stepped into the room throwing her a questioning stare. But Mercy was shaking her head in shock now. “Talk to me, Segun!”

    Holding his phone to his ear, Corporal Segun stared eyes wide open at the sight before him. “Sergeant, it’s really a bad situation at hand. You have to be at base as soon as possible to see it for yourself, sir!” The he put the phone down and gave a deep sigh, before turning to the other two soldiers present, and they were as shocked as he was.

    Now sitting on the ceil ground with his back against the wall was the lifeless form of the formerly disgraced police officer, Mike Ogudi. But this time, both of his arms laid bare by his side, deeply slit open, and a large amount of blood had gushed out unto the floor.

    CHAPTER THREE


    By midday on that fateful Thursday, the gruesome death of the disgraced police officer had spread faster than wild fire, even beyond Lagos state. Various active Twitter and Instagram users would trend on nothing else. The police department had accused the soldiers at the barracks of foul play, but a brief autopsy report from the Medical Examiner’s office had proven otherwise – Mike Ogudi had committed suicide, and even in death, the media made it clear he deserved all he got.

    Mercy walked into the living room with her phone tucked between her left ear and neck. It was Mrs. Martha Uzor on the line and Mercy had to keep her informed. As far as she was concerned, Mercy owed her that much.



    “No one saw that coming this morning, ma,” Mercy explained standing with one hand on her hip as she spotted Seth at the dining table with his laptop before him. “It’s no problem, madam. I’ll try to visit when I can. Please, take care of yourself. Bye.” Then she put her phone away and raised a brow at the sight of the glasses on her husband as he typed, and this only meant one thing.

    “That was Sharon’s mother. Goodness! It’s a circus out there, Seth,”

    “This must be good news to her,” Seth replied without taking his eyes off the monitor, but Mercy shook her head.

    “Not really,” she replied. “The poor woman just wants to move on from all this.” Then she sat on the nearest chair and threw him a stare. “I can’t believe you’re working again. So much for taking a sabbatical,”

    “Can you blame me?” Seth replied. “I need the distraction especially with all that’s going on. One of the Newspapers I freelance for really needs me to write a piece on this shooting frenzy.” At that, Mercy’s raised a brow at him.

    “I see,” she mentioned seeing his eyes light up at his work. Then Seth faced the laptop to her. “The Coward of The Year?” She read his headline.

    “Harsh? I know,” Seth said. “The guy really sharpened a stone and slit his own wrists. Sucks to be Mike Ogudi. It was either death or living in eternal shame.” Then he turned the laptop back to himself. “I’ll be needing more coffee.” Mercy watched him head for the kitchen. There was no distracting Seth when he got into full work mode. It was this same tenacity that earned him a number of awards both as a freelance writer and bestselling novelist.



    But Mercy would be lying to herself if she said the timing was perfect. She shook her head.

    ****

    Pacing about the living room, Ethel sipped from the glass in hand. It was a blend of Whiskey and Coke. She always had a small bottle of her favourite liquor stashed in her bag, just for when needed.

    “Ethel,” Martha called seated on her usual sofa. “You’re starting to get me dizzy with your pacing, and I see no reason why you should be drinking by this time of day,”

    “I’m upset, Martha! That’s why I’m drinking,” Ethel vented. “That spineless idiot committed suicide. Death is far too merciful for him, not after what he did.”

    Martha slowly shook her head.

    “It’s beyond our hands now,” she said. “We can’t punish the dead,”

    “My sentiments exactly!” Ethel fumed. “He was meant to be live and suffer so bad, he would actually wish he were dead. Oh, Martha! I’m so infuriated! I had plans for that coward. How I wish that man were alive, so I could kill him myself, again.” Martha forced a chuckle now.

    “Then what would you have me do as the grieving mother?” She calmly asked and Ethel stopped pacing.

    “That man chose this for himself. If there’s something life has taught me over and over, it’s coming to terms with matters beyond our control.”

    Shaking her head, Ethel approached and sat by her sister.



    “Oh, sister, I’m so sorry,” she called taking her hand. “You’re so strong. I really don’t know how you do it.” But Martha simply shook her head and looked at Ethel.

    “I don’t know.”

    Then Ethel got to her feet and took another sip from her glass.

    “If I might digress, didn’t you find that… boy’s visit a bit strange?” She asked, Martha looked up at her. Ethel was referring to Victor’s earlier visit.

    “Sharon was his sister, Ethel,”

    “Half-sister!” Ethel firmly corrected.

    “They developed a good relationship these past few years,” Martha said and then sadly grinned to herself. “My baby girl had a good heart. She was the one who reached out to have a relationship with Victor?”

    Ethel simply scoffed and flung a hand.

    “I hope you realize he’s still the son of that woman who destroyed your marriage fifteen years ago, Martha. As we speak right now, she lives in the very same house you and Obiora struggled to build from scratch, and spending his money,” she bluntly stated. “I don’t trust that boy’s visit, Martha, and I wouldn’t put anything beyond that Jezebel woman, or anyone who shares DNA with her.” All Martha could do was shake her head at her headstrong sister who then resumed her pacing again.

    “Let’s not judge the boy for his parents’ actions,” she said.

    “I’ve said my part, Martha,” Ethel replied as she rolled her eyes. “Be very careful.” Then she took the last of her drink while Martha rested her chin on her Palm and let her mind wander off again. She missed Sharon so much, and that hurt more than anything.

    ******

    The time was almost four that afternoon when Victor Uzor walked in through the front door. He took out his phone from his pocket and dialed as he hurried up the stairs. It was Martha on the other end of the call.

    “Yes, ma. I just came in,” he said now walking into his bedroom and shutting the door. “Please take good care of yourself. I’ll try and visit again when I’m free.”

    The door suddenly flew open and Victor spun to see his mother storm in with her eyes blazing.

    “Where are you coming from?” Yejide bellowed before he could utter a greeting. “Answer me!” Then Victor lowered the phone and faced his mother.

    “I went to visit Sharon’s mum.”

    SMACK!

    Her hand met Victor’s face before he could utter another word and he held his cheek in shock.

    “You did what?” Yejide snapped. “Have you gone mad now, Victor? Or have you forgotten that woman is my enemy?”

    “Mummy, you slapped me?” Victor muttered.

    “Do you want a second one?” His mother fired back and then hissed. “Don’t think because you’re now tall for your age and almost done with secondary school, you can’t be disciplined. What were you thinking going to that woman’s place? Or were you even thinking at all?”

    “Sharon was my sister,”

    “Shut your mouth!” Yejide barked raising a finger. “You should be happy that girl is dead.” At that, her son’s mouth flew open in disbelief. “What? Why is your mouth like that? Close it, jare!”

    “Mum….”

    “Don’t you know with that girl now dead and out of the way, your future is finally secure?” Yejide went on. “There’s no one to contest your inheritance as an only child now. Don’t spoil this for me, Victor Uzor! I have worked too hard for us to get here,”

    “Mum…” Victor muttered.

    “To provide you a comfortable life, Victor,” Yejide kept talking. “You don’t know what it feels like growing up under poor parents,”

    “Mum!” Victor called out this time.

    “Keep quiet. You’re not a baby any longer,” Yejide called back. “Stay away from that woman, Victor. Don’t you know her seeing you is a constant reminder that your father got another woman pregnant. Both in her eyes and everybody’s, I will always be the husband-snatcher, home-wrecker – the woman who took her husband away from both she and her daughter, and that’s the bitter truth.” Yejide never held anything back whenever it came to her acerbic tongue. Now stepping forward, she raised a hand to his cheek. “Use your head, my boy,”

    “You always have a problem with everybody,” Victor bluntly stated and his mother shook her head and frowned.



    “Stay away from her,” she warned. “I won’t tell you again.” Then Yejide turned to leave before pausing. “That reminds me, have you by any chance heard from your father? He never came home last night and his phone has been switched off.” But Victor shook his head, and then Yejide sighed and crossed her arms. “He’s probably drowning his sorrows at the bottom of some beer bottles somewhere. Typical of Obiora,”

    “Maybe, he’s still angry with you after what you did,” he said and his mother detected his judgmental tone. But Yejide simply chuckled and shook her head at him.

    “One day, when you have children of your own, remember to thank me for all of this,” she said before striding out in her purple gown, leaving her son staring after her. All Victor could do was shake his head and frown as he felt his stinging cheek again. He knew his mother could be many things, but her unsympathetic approach to this death in the family shocked him.

    ********

    Ethel had dabbed her eyes dry before setting foot from the kitchen and into the living room. She knew she really much had to be strong and sometimes comical for her “big sis,” but losing her favourite and only niece still had its heavy toll on her. However, Ethel could not dare risk breaking down in front of Martha.

    Martha had just regained consciousness on the couch after being sedated for the past four hours, and Ethel thought it was about time she ate, but Martha had insisted she lacked an appetite, and then there was a knock on the door to which Ethel opted to answer –  To her utter astonishment upon opening the door she let out an exaggerated gasp.

    “You? What in God’s name are you doing here this night?” She demanded with a frown.

    “Good evening, Ethel,” the visitor called. “Is Martha home?”

    “Who is there, Ethel?” Martha’s voice was heard before appearing behind her sister.

    “It’s the devil himself at our doorstep,” Ethel called back with spite. Martha froze in surprise at the unexpected visitor.

    “Obiora?” She called upon seeing the father of her only child standing in her doorway, a hand tucked in his pocket. Then he forced a grin.

    “Can I come in, Martha?” He asked. “I really need to see you,”

    “No, you may not!” Ethel did not hesitate to jump into action as she rudely blocked the doorway. “My sister isn’t seeing anyone today. So, you can go back home to your other family,”

    “Watch your tongue, woman,” Obiora warned throwing her a cold stare.

    “Excuse me?” Ethel fired back.

    “Ethel, it’s alright,” Martha called tapping her sister’s shoulder. “Let him in,”

    “I don’t believe this,” Ethel let out stepping aside and shaking her head. Then she shut the door.

    “I need to speak with you, Martha,” he said before glancing at Ethel. “Alone.” But a stubborn Ethel crossed her arms and refused to move.



    “Ethel, please,” Martha called. But before leaving, Ethel threw her ex brother in-law a most hateful glare.

    “I’ll be in the room, just in case you need me.” But none of them noticed that Ethel never got to the room, but hid behind the corridor door, ready to eavesdrop on every word. There was no way she was missing out on this shocking visit.

    Now crossing her arms across her chest, Martha shrugged and threw her ex-husband a questioning stare upon his presence. Then she watched him sit on the nearest sofa without being ushered, but Martha expected nothing less. Obiora had his thoughtless ways sometimes. She could see from his eyes that he had been drinking a lot, but who could blame him? It was clear Obiora was suffering from this loss as well.

    “I slept in a hotel last night,” he said upon giving a heavy sigh and sitting forward. “I just couldn’t sleep at home after all of this,”

    “And why are you telling me this, Obi?” Martha had to ask and he looked up at her.

    “Yejide admitted it all,” he replied with such heaviness. “Your calls, your messages
    ….she ensured I never saw them. I should have known you never would have kept Sharon’s death from me.” But Martha just stared, and then Obiora slowly got to his feet and gazed upon the mother of his first child. Martha had suffered a lot and he knew it. “Martha, I understand you’re in a lot of pain, but I will need you to put me up to speed about everything and how all this happened. If you want us to take legal measures against the responsible party who did this to our daughter, then we…..”

    “Obiora Uzor, please just stop!” Martha called raising a hand. “How much did you drink tonight? Really? You picked now, after all these years, to take some responsibility for your daughter. Now that she’s six feet under? Don’t be a hypocrite,”

    “Martha….”

    “Sharon was just eight when you abandoned us,” Martha let out. “Where were you when she graduated secondary school? Or University? You had no part in any of those years. You just left us for your new life with your pregnant mistress. After all I went through to support you, to help build your shipping business into what it is today. I had to watch another woman reap the benefits of my hard work. You have nerves, Obiora!” Her ex-husband could only stare, and then Martha stepped forward. It had taken her these many years to vent. “Did it for once ever pick your mind on how we survived all these years?” Then she chuckled in sarcasm. “To think you almost coerced me into giving up my career as a pharmacist to be a full-time housewife. Thank God that was one advice of my mother’s I never listened to.” Then Martha paused and shook her head. “Obiora, please just go home and leave me be.”

    Obiora could only bite his lip in anguish as he clenched both fists.

    ‘Martha,” he called. “I didn’t mean to cause you pain,” he said but she simply scoffed and shook her head at him.

    “It’s fifteen years too late for apologies. Please, leave me be. I need to mourn my daughter in peace.”

    *********

    Mercy was trying her possible best not to get upset tonight. She looked up at the clock as she threw on her brown leather jacket. 8:30 P.M. Seth was in the bedroom now and still with his laptop before him. No doubt, it stung Mercy hard to see him back at work. Or did he deliberately delve back into work just to spite her? If only she could smash the darn laptop. Now that she finally had all the time in world for her husband, he sure chose a fine time for this.

    Hissing, Mercy walked out the door without leaving word. She doubted her absence would be noticed.

    There was a lot of breeze that July night upon stepping out and Mercy pocketed both arms as she walked out the gate. It was a quiet night and everyone seemed to have retired early. All Mercy heard were the soles of her sneakers against the road as she walked down the street. Perhaps, the night walk might do her some good, or rather, she could drop by at her old friend and former classmate, Yeni’s place which was just two streets away. Yeni was a nurse and they had a pending matter to discuss.

    Mercy turned a corner began walking down the road when she heard the sound from behind. Footsteps. Then she stopped and turned, and that was when she saw the figure. He was also clad in a jacket and had a face cap on, which concealed his face.

    “Who is there?” She called, and then he stepped forward into view where a nearby streetlight revealed his face.

    “Sergeant Mercy Chigboh?” The stranger called and she peered at him.

    “Who wants to know?” Mercy asked with a straight face. She was almost certain this person looked familiar.

    “Police Officer Anu Fabiyi,” he replied with a coldness in his eyes, and it was then Mercy remembered him from the scene of Sharon’s shooting and froze on her feet. “Officer Mike Ogudi was my good friend,” he said, and that was when Mercy saw the pistol in his hand and clutched at her belly. “Tonight, you die,” Anu called and then he raised the gun and fired a shot at her.

    CHAPTER FOUR – [ FINALE ]


    Mercy groaned out as her body hit the ground hard. She had moved to dodge the bullet, but had not been quick enough and luckily for her, the bullet had only grazed her left shoulder. Still pointing his gun, Anu hurriedly approached where she fell and glared down at Mercy who then froze as her eyes met the barrel.

    “You’re making a big mistake, Officer,” she called up to him gripping her shoulder.

    “Not till further notice, I’m not!” Anu snapped. “I’ve been suspended without pay because of you. Mike Ogudi was a good man and you killed him,”

    “The man took his own life,” Mercy argued.”I did nothing,”

    “Still your fault!” Anu snapped back and then Mercy raised a hand.

    “Look…. Anu, right?” She called. “Don’t make the same mistake your fellow officer made. Put that gun away and we can….”

    “You people talk like we enjoy taking cash from drivers,” Anu vented before glancing about just to ensure there were no witnesses around. “How much do we get paid? Just like every hustling Nigerian, we have to survive also, no matter what,”

    “Listen…”

    “I’m not done!” Anu snapped again as he tightened his grip on the gun. Mercy nodded in compliance.

    “You bloody soldiers – always wanting to be in control of everything. Military era is over! But your own time ends this night.” And that was when Mercy saw the frustration in this man’s eyes and she held at her abdomen as her breathing paused. He was definitely going to pull the trigger.



    “HEY!” The voice suddenly called from behind and a stunned Anu jerked and turned. “Get away from her!” Then the gunshot rang out. But this time, it was Anu crying out and falling to the ground in pain. Mercy’s instincts had kicked in at once – pulling out her small tucked-in firearm beneath her jacket, she had taken a clean shot at her attacker’s shoulder blade. She had grown accustomed to carrying a weapon everywhere, due to staying in a war-torn part of the northern region.

    Jumping to her feet, Mercy’s eyes flew open in surprise as the figure in the corner stepped into view.

    “Seth?” She called just before letting her frantic husband embrace her. “What are you doing here?” Then she stepped back and let him look her over.

    “You’re hit!” He called reaching for her shoulder but she shook her head, approached the fallen officer and kicked his gun away from beside him.

    “It’s just a graze. I’ve taken worse,” Mercy dismissed. “How did you get here? Were you following me?”

    “You’ve never left the house without leaving word,” Seth answered. “I came out the gate looking for you when I saw this person step out of a car and follow you down the road. He was parked close to the compound.” Then Mercy gasped and they looked down at the groaning Anu, whom was bleeding.

    “I have to call this in,” she said to Seth before taking out her phone.

    “You shot me!” Anu spat out under gnashed teeth with such disdain, and in that instant, Seth suddenly reached down, roughly dragged the wounded officer and shoved him hard against the wall. Anu cried out louder this time as Seth punched hard at his wounded shoulder.



    “Police officer or not, I should kill you right now for attacking my wife!” He fumed, and he would have landed another blow if Mercy had not been quick to hold him back. Then Anu sank back to the ground again still wincing in agony as blood trickled between his fingers.

    “No, Seth. Let’s not make things worse,” Mercy called holding her husband by the arm before facing the man on the ground. “You have a lot to answer for.”

    ********

    The moment Victor stepped into the living room with the tray of food in hand, the warm smile instantly appeared on Martha’s face. She watched as he carefully placed it on the stool before her. The ceramic bowl was covered, with the clean glass cup and bottle of water right beside it.

    “Oh, my son!” Martha called placing a hand on her chest. “You’ve done too much for me already.” And she was right, for Victor had come over as early as ten that morning and had helped clean every part of the house that needed a touch of that. Not to mention the bag of fruits he had brought along for her. “My dear, please, sit with me and rest.” She tapped the cushion beside her and Victor smiled as he complied. He looked so much like his father. “Victor, do your parents know you’re here? Your mother especially.” But the smile on the teenager’s face instantly vanished as he looked away.

    “I don’t need their permission to go where I want,” he stated. “And they don’t have to know everywhere I am.”

    “But what if they ask?” Martha asked with concern on her face.

    “I’ll say I went to the movies with a friend,” he said now facing her. “I hate lying to my parents but…..” He paused. “Sharon used to say sometimes that a small white lie can save you a lot of drama.” At that, Martha let out a laugh and then sighed.



    “Oh, you young people,” she called gazing at the ceiling. “Your sister always did have her own opinions about life.” Then there was a brief silence between them as they sat. “And how is your father?” Martha asked breaking the silence. But Victor shook his head.

    “Daddy hasn’t left his room since he came home last night,” he replied. “He didn’t open his door when I knocked this morning to tell him I was going out. But Mum and I could smell his cigar and whiskey,”

    “We’re all grieving in our different ways,” Martha said shaking her head.

    “He’s angry with my mum for something she did,” Victor said, but Martha acted oblivious. “That’s what they do every time. They fight, and then mummy puts all her annoyance on me. Sometimes, I just feel like running away from that house.” Martha patiently listened. By getting to know his sister, Sharon, Victor had also grown to trust Martha, despite all the vile stories his mother had fed him about her while growing up.

    “My dear, son,” she called smiling warmly. I understand you. But the truth is we never get to choose our family – most especially our parents. It was the same thing with us when growing up. I sometimes understand what you young folk think of us. You feel we’re old-fashioned and all, but, my dear, imagine how it must have been for some of us growing up in our time. And not just being difficult, some of our parents were uneducated on top of that.” Victor listened and then smiled at her. If only Sharon were here.

    “Thank you, ma,” he said and then gestured to the tray before her. “You should eat now.” Martha nodded. She had no choice with this sweet boy.

    “I will,” she answered. “From what I perceived from the kitchen, your mother must have taught you well. Sharon never mentioned you could cook.” But Victor simply shook his head.

    “Our housemaid taught me when I was ten,” he admitted. “Daddy told me a man should never enter the kitchen, but I enjoy cooking,”

    “Typical of Obiora to say,” Martha commented with a sarcastic chuckle. “Well, it would please me so much if you ate with me, Victor. Would you indulge an old lady?” Then she reached for his hand smiling, and Victor knew he had no choice now. Anything to make the grieving mother’s day.

    “But you’re not old, ma,” he said before getting up. “I’ll just take some rice from the kitchen and…”

    “Oh no, Victor dear!” Martha called and then got to her feet. “You’ve been far too kind. Please, let me this time. I’ve been sitting on this chair for too long.” Then Victor sat back and relaxed on the couch and allowed her head for the kitchen, but Martha stopped walking and then turned. “And, Victor?” She called smiling. He was glad to see her do so – it was the least he could do for her upon all she had lost.

    “Ma?” Victor replied looking up at her as she smiled back.

    “Sooner or later, dear, I truly hope your parents realize the treasure that you are. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me, son. I will never forget.” Then Martha turned and disappeared into the kitchen. But what Victor never saw was when the tears slid down her eyes again.

    ********

    Back at the Chigbohs’, Mercy was having her own fair share of drama. You would think her attempted murder was her biggest problem that Friday afternoon as she sat on the couch deep in thought. Seth had insisted they go to the hospital but being the stubborn personality that she was, Mercy had stayed home. However, Yeni, her close friend, and also a nurse, had dropped by to nurse the graze the bullet had made on her shoulder.

    The shooting had hit the media as well and the highly ticked off Police Commissioner had declared a nationwide reformation of the Nigerian Police Force. But a pessimistic Yeni had let out a hiss before switching off the Television and tossing the remote.



    “Reformation my ass!” She spat out rolling her eyes. “Good luck with that,”

    “Haba!” Mercy exclaimed at her friend on the couch beside her. “Have a little faith in your country, will you?”

    “That will be the day,” Yeni replied. “I still wonder why you haven’t quit the force yet. Really, Mercy? Is dying for this God-forsaken country worth it?”

    “Don’t talk that way, Yeni,” Mercy said. “That’s why I’m still in the army. I strongly have faith in Nigeria, and if our generation does nothing, then who will? I’ve always told you we can set an example” At that, Yeni let out a sardonic laugh.

    “Maybe, you can set an example by using your military influence to wipe out those bunch of old bags in Aso Rock who have refused to die,” she blurted out. “Since I can remember, we were told we were tomorrow’s leaders, but here we are still.” But Mercy was laughing now.

    “For a nurse who is sworn to save lives, Yeni, I hope you don’t have homicidal tendencies,” she said.

    “Oh, leave nursing aside. I’m an angry Nigerian woman, Mercy,” Yeni admitted and then tapped her friend’s arm. “But first things first,” she said now looking serious. “As your nurse and your friend, Mercy, you have to tell Seth soonest.” At that, Mercy’s face turned serious.

    “I know,” Mercy admitted as she ran her hand through her brown hair and then sighed. “Lord, help me”

    “It’s only as complicated as you make it,” Yeni said which got her friend making a face.

    “Thank you, Oprah Winfrey,” she teased.

    The door was heard opening and they both turned to see Seth stride in with his car key in hand.

    “Sweetie, you’re back,” Mercy called as he and Yeni exchanged hellos. Then the nurse picked her bag and got to her feet.

    “Now, I can take my leave,” she announced and then gestured to the plaster on Mercy’s shoulder. “You take care of that, okay? And try staying out of trouble,”

    “Girl, please! A bullet simply grazed my skin, okay?” Mercy called rolling her eyes. “I need no babysitting for that. You two keep forgetting I took down……”

    “A horde of Boko Haram insurgents,” Seth completed in sarcasm to Yeni. “Yeah. She never tires of that.” Yeni was laughing and shaking her head now.

    “Oh, you two,” she called. “Anyhoo, I’m leaving now. I’ll drop by tomorrow.” Then she embraced both of them and let Seth walk her to the door.

    “So!” Seth called upon stepping back into the living room and Mercy stared at him as he sank into the couch beside her. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

    “What?”

    “You’ve been wearing that look on your face like make-up since before I left for the station,” Seth said. “I know when you’ve got something in mind. So spill.” The he watched Mercy blow out a sigh.

    “I almost died last night, Seth. But as much as I have faced worse on the battlefield, I was scared not just for myself.” Then Mercy paused. “I’m pregnant, Seth,” she stated facing him and he froze. “I found out just before you returned from your trip. I was going to tell you, but with all this frenzy about this shooting, the timing just hasn’t been right,”



    “You’re pregnant?” Seth muttered with a blank stare.

    “It’s almost six weeks now,” Mercy continued. “But I was pretty much occupied with duties back at the Base and war front, I never noticed the symptoms till I got back to Lagos.” But Seth just stared at her and she arched a brow. “Seth, won’t you say something?”

    “Wow! I don’t know, Mercy,” he let out rubbing his head. “I don’t know, babe. It’s what we want, or do we? Or… what do you think?” At that, Mercy suddenly laughed at her husband’s incoherent words.

    “Sweetie!” She called out grabbing his hand. “I’m as confused as you are too.” And Seth was laughing with her now, but they both had no idea why.

    “A baby?” Seth called shaking his head. “But I thought we were careful. I knew kids would eventually come along the way, Mercy. But… but now?” Mercy nodded at him.

    “Just when both our careers are going well,” she added. “We’re literally married to those right now,”

    “Our careers are our babies at the moment,” Seth added letting out a loud sigh again, and then he watched his wife slowly place her hand on her flat abdomen.

    “Well, what do we do now, Seth?” Mercy asked and he squeezed her hand.

    “We deal,” he replied. Then they gazed at each other in silence.

    ********

    “Obiora!” Yejide called after her husband as they descended the stairs and into the living room. It was almost six on that Friday evening when Obiora eventually emerged from his bedroom in his brown robe; and Yejide had waited all day to pounce. “Obiora, I am talking to you! For how long will we keep doing this?” Then she grabbed at his arm and Obiora turned with a blank stare.

    “Now is not a good time to be near me, Yejide,”

    “Do I look like I care what you think?” Yejide asked shaking her head hysterically. “First, you vanished from this house and then came back this morning without any word. Look! This gloomy and drunken behavior isn’t helping this family right now. You, of all people should know how much I don’t appreciate sadness and misery around me.” But Obiora stared at this woman in disbelief. Dealing with Yejide had always been wearisome, but this was another level entirely. She was the very reason he had missed his own daughter’s funeral and she still defiantly stood her ground. “You know, Obiora? Just be a man and move on, you hear? Stop it! It’s not like you cared about that boring woman and her daughter since we got married.”

    WHAM!

    Yejide let out a gasp as she held her cheek with eyes wide open and gazing at her husband. Obiora had never struck her before, despite how much she rode his nerves over the years. Then Yejide put down her hand and sighed. “Okay, maybe I deserved that,” she said nodding and then gazed into his eyes. “But the next time you raise your hand at me again, I swear I will kill you myself,”

    “Mention my daughter again,” Obiora dared stepping forward. “And see what happens.” At that, Yejide knew she should worry.

    The door opened and they both turned to see their son, Victor walk in and then pause upon seeing them.

    “Mum? Dad?” He called with question on his face. Victor knew he had walked into the middle of something. “What’s happening?”

    “You tell me, boy!” Yejide snapped as her eyes instantly went ablaze. “Where are you coming from that you haven’t been picking my calls? Oh, wait! Let me answer that – it’s that woman’s house again, isn’t it?” Victor simply stared at her in silence. “Answer me before I do something to you this evening!” She yelled now and then pointed. “You are a very wicked child, Victor, Uchenna, Oluwatobiloba Chigboh!”

    “Victor?” His father called now, but calmly. “What is your mother talking about?”

    “Talk, you wicked child!” Yejide snapped clenching her fist. “Look at him – an enemy of his own mother. A betrayer…..”

    “Will you shut up and let the boy talk?” Obiora called and she faced him with a finger raised. “Must you always raise your voice at people to make your point?”

    “Don’t tell me how to talk to my own son, Obiora!” Yejide fired back.

    “Yes, mum, stop shouting at me!” Victor was also fed up this evening; and then his mother turned in surprise. “Yes, I went to see Sharon’s mum. My sister died and you didn’t tell us. Sharon’s mum is nice but you always beef her when she doesn’t even think of you.” At that, Sharon’s face contorted into a frown, but Victor was not done talking. “Yes! I went there because I’m tired of seeing you and dad always shouting and fighting. I’m not happy in this house, Mum!”

    Obiora lowered his head and bit his lip while Yejide simply pouted and eyed him.



    “Are you done?” She asked cocking her head. “I can see you’ve….”

    “Enough,” Obiora called. “Victor, go to your room. I’ll talk to you later, son.”

    “Yes, dad,” Victor replied. Stepping forward, and then he suddenly froze before them.

    “Victor?” Obiora called arching a brow. Then their son grabbed at his chest almost like it was hard to breathe and his eyes shot out open.

    “Victor, what is happening?” Yejide asked now, and that was when the blood suddenly gushed out his mouth and nostrils to their horror. Yejide was screaming now.

    “Mum? Da…..” A petrified Victor muttered before dropping to the floor before them. There was blood freely oozing out his eyes and ears now as he began convulsing violently.

    “Obiora, do something! VICTOR!” Yejide tugged at her husband whom was rushing to their son. Then she began tugging at her hair now, screaming out. The maid rushed in from one of the hallways and the dreadful sight before her also got her screaming. “Don’t just stand there, call the driver! Call the doctor! Do something!” Yejide was beyond hysterical now, and then she knelt by her son now and began calling at his name. “Obiora, let’s take him to the hospital! What is happening to our son? Let’s take him to…..”

    “He’s gone, Yejide,” Obiora stated without looking up and Yejide froze. She had not noticed when their son had ceased to move, but his bloody eyes still gazed right up to the ceiling.

    “What?” She called tugging at her husband’s shirt, then she stared at Victor’s bloodied face as she trembled allover. His face appeared swollen now. “Victor? My baby.” She softly called as the tears trickled down now. She watched her shocked husband fall back and sit on the floor with his eyes still on their son’s body. Obiora Chigboh had no children now.

    Then Yejide screamed louder than before.

    ********

    Gazing into her bathroom mirror, Martha gave a deep sigh before emptying the remaining contents of the tiny vial into the sink. The potent substance should have taken effect in Victor’s body by now, and it was untraceable. Martha had not been top of her Pharmacy class for nothing.

    Those harsh words replayed in Martha’s head yesterday as she closed her eyes. It was just yesterday:
    Victor had called her on getting back home and Martha had overheard everything when the boy had forgotten to cut the call as he argued with his mother, Yejide.

    “You should be happy that girl is dead.” Martha clenched her fist. “Don’t you know with that girl dead and out of the way, your future is finally secure?”

    Sweet boy, Victor.

    Martha had hated poisoning his food, but the teenager was the perfect sacrifice. It gave her some much satisfaction knowing both Obiora and Yejide would finally suffer the same pain she endured in losing a child. Then Martha looked at the small glass vial one last time before tossing it into the toilet and then flushed. She was certain she would be the first suspect in Yejide’s mind, but there would be nothing to trace back to her. And Martha had nothing to lose now. She would patiently wait . “Well, let them come,” She muttered to her reflection.

    Perhaps, she should indulge in some Whiskey tonight. But Martha never drank; and she had coerced Ethel, her sister to go out and give herself a treat for once, instead of babysitting her all day.
    Martha knew where Ethel hid her bottles as she washed her face, stood tall and then stepped out of the bathroom. She was ready to move on now, but her baby girl, Sharon would never be forgotten.

    THE END.

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