*Recap: Daniel rescued Dami from the hands of the client Mr. Phillips assigned her. Unfortunately, the two friends fought and weren’t on speaking terms. Natasha sent Inspector James a recording to help crack the case of missing persons and human trafficking.*
8:55am, 31st May 2016,
My hand hovered over the door uncertainly. I was having a mental debate within myself. Should I knock or leave quietly? There was only so much I could do without seeming stupid. Even though Daniel didn’t bring up yesterday’s issue, I still felt troubled that we had left things unsettled. I took a deep breath and raised my hand again when the door suddenly flew open. I didn’t move away fast enough before Daniel walked right into me.
“Dami, what are you doing here?” He asked after helping me regain my balance.
“I…” I trailed off, unsure of what to say.
He watched me curiously with his hands still resting on my shoulders. For some reason, I felt nervous. It was a feeling that was strange to me where Daniel was concerned. I frowned, suddenly confused and took a step back, letting his hands fall off my shoulders.
He was about to speak when we heard Angela’s footsteps headed towards us. Moments later, she came to greet us cheerfully and I replied in a similar manner, pushing away the uncomfortable feeling I had earlier. I figured something she said yesterday made me see Daniel in a new light and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. As the day progressed, I began to notice things I hadn’t noticed before. Like how striking his features really were and how his gaze seemed to linger on me with a slightly curious look as if he was trying to figure something out but he never said a word about anything unusual. Rather, it seemed he only talked to me when it was absolutely necessary.
I felt like my best friend was slipping away from me.
It was late in the night when I heard the voices. I was on my way to the kitchen to get some water but I stopped in the hallway when I noticed the light in the sitting room was on. When I moved closer, I could distinctly hear Angela’s voice and she sounded upset.
“…you don’t know what you are doing.”
“Of course I know what I’m doing.” Daniel’s voice spoke next.
“Obviously not because you would realize that it’s stupid, you’re only pushing her away.”
There were a few moments of silence before he spoke.
“It’s something she did first.”
I heard a frustrated sigh from Angela and a rustling sound like she was getting off the couch.
“Grow up, Daniel. How was she supposed to know?”
I heard him scoff in anger before replying.
“Oh forget that, it’s not even the issue now. The fact is that she got into this whole mess because she wouldn’t listen to me. Instead, she decided to run off to go and rescue that…that boy!”
“Oh, is that it Daniel? You’re jealous?” There was a mocking edge to Angela’s voice now and I could detect a smile in it.
I waited expectantly for his reply but it never came. I got so carried away that I wasn’t aware of the movement coming from the sitting room as they came closer. I looked up to find myself staring into Daniel’s eyes which held a very irritated look. Behind him was Angela who gave me a look of pity but there was humor in her eyes. She cleared her throat and walked away quietly, leaving us both standing there.
“I’m very sorry-”
“Why would you-?”
We began at the same time.
He sighed and gestured for me to continue.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.” I said quietly.
“Lately, you’ve been sorry for a lot of things.”
I looked up and watched him closely. It seemed he was finally ready to talk about the past few days.
“That’s because it seems like everything is always my fault.”
“Not everything… just a fair amount.” He cracked a smile, causing me to smile too.
“Listen, I feel like… we’ve been drifting apart. I don’t know how to explain it but…”
“I understand and it’s partially my fault.”
“Now that’s out of the way, do you mind telling me what you and Angela were discussing? I have a feeling some of it has to do with me.”
“It’s simple really. We were talking about how you make stupid decisions.”
“Daniel.” I said in a warning tone.
“Okay, okay.” He looked towards the ground for a second before looking back up. “Remember when you went with the Police that time your friend Nonso was kidnapped?”
He winced slightly after that sentence.
“Asides from the fact that it was dangerous, that wasn’t the only reason I didn’t want you to go.”
I suddenly found it difficult to look him in the eye and started fiddling with the edge of my shirt instead. He reached out a hand to stop my fingers from moving about frantically.
“No, I want you to look at me Dami.” He said as his eyes grew more serious. “Watching you put your life in danger all because of another guy was… it was something I told myself I never want to see again.”
“What are you trying to say, Daniel?” I asked warily.
“Look, I care about you Dami… as more than a friend.”
I found myself shaking my head as I took a step back. Daniel’s expression dropped slowly before it turned blank.
“So, I’m guessing you… you know what, never mind.” He gave a small laugh that was without humor.
“Daniel, I’m sorry but-”
“Stop telling me you’re sorry!”
I gasped in shock at his sudden change in tone.
“I have somewhere I need to be.” He said before walking away and slamming the door shut.
My shoulders sagged with frustration. I didn’t know how to talk to Daniel anymore without getting him upset and his revelation completely threw me off because I never saw it coming. I glanced at the wall clock to find that it was close to midnight. Him leaving the house by this time made me worry but I stubbornly told myself that he could watch his own back. With that thought, I went to my room and forced myself to sleep.
Two days later was when I got the phone call. Daniel was found lying unconscious by the roadside and the doctors couldn’t do anything for him because he’d gone into a coma.
7:30pm 3rd April 2016,
Natasha was lying on the new sofa she’d bought in the living room with her mother as the two talked about anything that came to mind. Moments later, her phone rang and interrupted them. She glanced at the screen and her expression dropped in such a way that her mother noticed.
“Chidera, is anything wrong?” Her mother asked.
“No, nothing is wrong.” She smiled, putting the phone down.
Minutes later, she excused herself and grabbed her purse along with her shoes. Her mother frowned as she made her way towards the door.
“Chidera.” She asked giving her daughter a piercing look. “What is going on?”
“I just need to see someone quickly, it’s very important.”
Before her mom could say a word, she was out of the house. Her phone rang again moments later.
“Natasha. Come to my house immediately.” His voice made her pause in her tracks. There was a warning tone in it that made her heart beat faster. When she arrived at Andre’s house, she was met with a solemn environment.
“Sit down Natasha.”
She sat down gingerly and gave him an expectant look.
“Two days ago, Chief Anozie was arrested by the Police for dealing in hard drugs.”
She frowned in confusion at the nature of the conversation.
“Yesterday,” He continued. “Mr. Charles Dike was asked to go in for questioning. Are you sensing a pattern here?”
“I… I don’t understand…”
“Shut up Natasha!” He got to his feet. “Don’t try to act dumb. These two men have been your customers before. How did the Police get their contact?”
“You think I had something to do with this?” She asked with her heart beating rapidly.
“If I find out that you had anything at all to do with it, I swear Natasha, what I would do to you will leave you shocked.”
Barely a minute later, her phone which was on the table between them, began to ring. The screen lit up with the caller ID flashing brightly as “Inspector James.” All it took was one look at Andre’s face and Natasha knew she had landed herself in a truckload of trouble.
“Tell me who this man is.” Andre said as his henchman whipped Natasha with a belt.
Despite the pain of all the lashing she had received, she kept he mouth sealed and refused to give out any information on Inspector James. She didn’t know what gave her the strength to be able to bear all the pain, but she held on.
“One more chance Natasha, tell me all you know and I’ll let you go.” Andre said in a compelling tone.
Still, she kept silent, refusing to give in. Andre got impatient with her and signaled for the man to take her away. She was kept secluded in a room and denied of food and water for as long as she continued to hold back information.
After two days, Natasha could barely function and she craved even a sip of water. Each day, she was flogged within an inch of her life and bruises began to form all over her body. Late one night, the door to her personal prison slid open quietly and a figure crept in. She raised her head to look but her body could not respond as quickly as usual. She wanted to get up to defend herself but there was no energy to even move.
The figure crept closer and knelt down beside the bare matrass which was used as a makeshift bed.
“Natasha, don’t be afraid, it’s me.”
The voice registered as Rashida’s and she felt relieved that it was not another round of torture.
“I brought you some food. It’s not much but it’s what I could get away with.” She handed her a small nylon bag containing bread and butter along with two sachets of water.
Natasha wildly dove for the water first before starting on the food.
“I heard a few rumours about what’s going on, if it’s true that you want to expose Andre and the boss, well… I think you’re doing the right thing. That day, after the meeting I noticed you were acting strange but I never said anything. Just know that if you need any help, I’ll do what’s in my power to help you.”
Natasha sat up and dropped the food by her side.
“There is one way you can help me.”
Rashida immediately set about the plan they had come up with hoping that it worked out to their advantage before it was too late.
9:35am 4th April 2016,
I sat by Daniel’s bedside in the hospital, awaiting his discharge. Angela had paid the medical bills and was waiting for us outside. My heart skipped a beat as I remembered getting the call that he was in the hospital. According to the staff, he was knocked down by an oncoming vehicle on his way back home but fortunately, a passerby rushed to seek help just in time. I felt terrible at being the reason he stormed out of the house and ended up in that condition.
I realized all this time, he’d just been watching my back and I’d never shown any appreciation. I thought about what happened before he left, what he told me and how I reacted. I realized that I’d hurt him more than he cared to admit but his anger was his way of hiding his hurt. After all these years, and it was like I was just learning who my best friend really was again. I began to see him in a different light and also accept the fact that things had changed between us.