Click here to read the previous chapter; The Night Shift, The Night Shift-PT 2, The Night Shift-PT 3, The Night Shift-PT 4, The Night Shift – PT 5, The Night Shift – PT 6, The Night Shift – PT 7, The Night Shift – PT 8, The Night Shift – PT 9
The pounding at the door grew louder with each second that passed.
“I know you’re in there David Johnson, come out now!” A male voice, thick with Igbo accent yelled.
He swore under his breath as Danielle turned to him with confusion and suspicion written all over her face. He didn’t have time to explain that, they had to get out of there. He grabbed her and pushed her towards the side of the room that led to the kitchen, through which she could escape using the back door.
“Go.” He whispered as he dived towards his bedroom.
He grabbed the bag where he’d put the gun Amanda had given him. He hadn’t had use for it since then. Meanwhile, Danielle was frantically dialling the Police after she’d sent a message to her aunt that she and a friend were being attacked.
“What the hell are you doing?” He yelled, grabbing her phone.
“I called for help.”
He grabbed the phone and cut the call just as the lock on the front door shattered due to a massive blow. They turned around as a huge man came barrelling through the door with a gun heralding his entrance. This time, Danielle didn’t need any push, she ran towards the kitchen with him right behind her. The man raised his gun and aimed, a picture frame shattered, right where her head had been a second ago. He turned and fired a shot at the intruder to buy them some time. It hit the man in the leg but he still went after them.
“You have a gun!” Danielle yelled in shock as she yanked open the back door. She was close to freaking out. She’d been in the same house with an armed man. A little voice in her mind pointed out the fact that he hadn’t used it on her though.
“That’s not important right now!” He yelled back, dragging her out of the way as yet another man came out of nowhere and started chasing after them. He noticed this one wasn’t armed and was thankful that he had less to deal with. He led them to his taxi that was parked in front of the house but his heart sank when he saw that the tires were flat. All four tires had been slashed.
“No, no, no.” He muttered under his breath.
“We need to find another way out.” Danielle said, pulling him away from the now useless car.
A shot rang out and he noticed that some of his neighbours were now peeping from behind their curtains. This was way more attention than he’d ever attracted in his entire life. He and Danielle ran down the street and unto the main road in search of a means to get them out. They jumped on the first Okada they saw and gave him sharp instructions to move fast. This was not a Need for Speed movie where they could hop into a flashy getaway car. The Okada would do just fine to navigate through the traffic. He knew that the last place he wanted to go was his former house but he had nowhere else to go. He was trying to brainstorm an idea when Danielle’s phone rang.
“I’ve got a place we can go.” She said, after she ended the call and gave instructions to the Okada rider.
He hadn’t agreed on it but had no choice since he was short of ideas. They arrived at a street lined with bungalows on either side. It was a quiet neighbourhood and best of all no one would look for them there. They paid the rider and he drove off, leaving them standing at the gate to one of the buildings which had a number plate with the figure 74 on it.
“If I stay here, it might cause more problems for you.” He said, turning to face her.
He’d learnt his lesson from what happened at Amanda’s place.
“That’s nonsense. You saved my life and helped me even when we were strangers. Let me do something in return.” Danielle said, leading the way to the house.
Her answer left him momentarily stunned, staring after her before he followed.
She found a bunch of keys hidden inside a crack in the wall and she used it to open the gate before they headed towards the door. He kept walking, still wary of the fact that she might come to her senses. She unlocked the door and they went inside. The house smelt a bit dusty from lack of use but it was generally tidy.
“I used to live here with my aunt before we moved. She said I could use the place and that she’s sending us help.”
“Help?” He asked.
“Yeah, my family has quite a few good connections.” She said in a casual tone like she didn’t want to dwell on it.
His stomach growled quietly and he realised that he needed food soon. He was starting to feel his adrenaline wear out as exhaustion set in. Suddenly, Danielle spun around and grabbed him, twisting his arm behind his back. She dragged him down to the floor and sat on his back to keep him in place. It was one of the several moves she’d learnt due to having a sister who constantly encouraged her to learn how to defend herself.
“What the hell are you doing?” Gabriel yelled in shock. His voice was muffled from his position on the floor.
“First of all, let’s get something clear. I need to know who exactly you are. Why do you have two identities, a gun and more importantly, why are men like that looking for you?” She whispered in a harsh tone.
“Is this why you brought me here, under the guise of helping me?” He struggled under her, surprised that she was stronger than she looked.
She simply wrapped her legs tighter around him, keeping him in place and applied more pressure on his arm, causing him to hiss in pain. He thought it was crazy that he suddenly noticed how she smelled like warm honey even when he was in so much pain.
Later on, he might come to realise that it was probably the moment when he fell in love with her, despite the painful situation she had him in.
“I do want to help you. In fact I’m probably your best option at this point in time.”
“Why is all this happening?” He whispered, to himself. All he ever wanted was to be in control of his life, to be free from worries and to make something out of his life. He’d left home in hopes of achieving this only to land in a web that was larger than anything he’d ever encountered.
“Listen, you can’t keep running. I can tell that’s all you’ve been doing ever since. In the little time I’ve spent with you, I’ve noticed how nervous and suspicious you look all the time. You’re never truly at peace, not even in your mind.” Danielle said in a quiet tone, reducing the pressure on his arm.
“You’re the one to talk, you ran away from your home and you’re telling me not to keep running. I’m trying to save my life here.”
He used the opportunity he had when the pressure lessened and broke her hold over him. Danielle fell sideways unto the floor and looked up in fear as he stood above her. Her hair splayed across her face, obstructing her vision and she pushed it away. She was afraid she might have pushed him too far but he simply turned around and walked away from her. He couldn’t hurt her. That was when his words struck her. It was true that she ran away from home but she had her reasons. However, those reasons suddenly seemed trivial now. She knew her aunt was very forgiving but maybe it was herself she was trying to punish. The front door slammed shut, soon followed by a loud yell of surprise. She got to her feet and ran to the door, yanking it open.
There on the pavement, lay Gabriel with his wrists locked together by a pair of handcuffs. A uniformed Police officer restrained him against the ground and her sister got out from the official Police vehicle.
“Danielle, are you alright?” Claire asked, walking quickly to her sister. “Aunt said you needed help. I got here as fast as I could.”
All Danielle could do was to stare in shock at the sister she hadn’t seen in months.
“Take him to the station immediately.” Claire instructed the Policeman, before turning to look at Gabriel who struggled on the ground. “I can’t believe you had the nerve to try to hurt my sister, you criminal. What were you planning to do? Take her hostage? Get him out of my sight.”
“Young man, you have the right to remain silent, anything you say may be used against you in the court of law.”
As he was led to the car, his eyes pleaded with Danielle to say something but she couldn’t. She wasn’t sure of anything anymore. She didn’t know him to be the innocent taxi driver, not with all the secrets he was hiding. She watched as he was being taken away, her chest burning with guilt as his eyes held the look of someone who had been painfully betrayed.
“Sis, are you alright?” Claire asked, watching her carefully.
“He didn’t do anything.” Danielle whispered.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you’ve got it all wrong.”
Claire sighed and led them into the house. “What are you trying to say? That guy is a wanted criminal. The Police have been searching for him for months. I was scared out of my mind to find him with you here, only God knows what he could have done to you.”
“You don’t understand Claire. I’m not the one who is in danger, it’s him. He’s in danger.”
“He’s a criminal, wanted for murder.”
“Then why is he being chased all over town by men who wield guns?” Danielle shouted. “You’re a smart detective Claire. Maybe I don’t know the details of what’s going on but Gabriel wouldn’t hurt anyone. He even saved my life.”
Claire’s eyes narrowed in disbelief. “Gabriel? That’s what he told you? His name is David Johnson.”
Danielle winced. “I know that too. Just please, look into this carefully. Something’s not right Claire. You may be punishing an innocent man.”
Claire decided to relent. She’d never seen Danielle so worked up about someone before.
“Okay, I will. But you are going straight back home and not leaving the house.”
“Yes, I’m going to aunt’s place, fine.” She sighed.
Claire had a change of mind.
“You know what? You’re staying at my place instead. Besides, I need to keep an eye on you ever since that disappearing stunt you pulled. You made everyone worry so much.”
“I’m sorry.” Danielle said quietly, following her sister out of the house and unto the road.
“That’s just the first of many apologies.” Claire said as they got into the official Police vehicle.
All through the ride to her sister’s place, Danielle couldn’t help but worry over a certain taxi driver who was in a truckload of trouble.
Claire decided to look into the case again. She went over all the information which included background checks on David Johnson. Once again, her mind told her that something was wrong. First thing the following day, she went to the Police station in order to see the suspect. She needed him to tell her all that he could remember about the night of the murder. It was reported previously that he seemed to have lost his memory of that night but Claire was willing to try again.
“Hello Gabriel. Or should I call you David instead?” She said.
“Whichever it is you prefer.” He replied without any emotion in his voice. It seemed like his body was there but his mind was far away.
“I need you to cooperate with me on this. For some reason, there is still some conviction somewhere that you are not guilty of murder but in order to prove that, I need you to tell me exactly what happened and who you were with.”
He looked up at her for the first time since she’d walked in, seeing the striking resemblance between her and her sister. The same fair skin and wide eyes that gave a hint at foreign background. How could he not have figured it out? But then again, how could he have known?
“I’m aware of what you did for my sister, for helping her the way you did even though that help nearly led her into trouble.” She added in a firm tone. “But I’m willing to give you another chance to clear your name. All you have to do is cooperate.”
With that, he went ahead to tell her everything he knew about the murder, including his recent memories that had returned. He also told her about the men who’d constantly been following him.
“I always thought it was strange that your memories of that night had been supressed. I figured you were drugged during the attack which led to your unconsciousness. Those men were probably sent to silence you permanently before the effects of the drug wore off. In order to keep you safe, you’re going to have to remain in Police custody. This is your best chance at staying alive till we find those behind the murder.”
Over the course of the next few days, Claire was able to convince the superiors to give her more time on the case due to the release of new, useful information. According to David’s description of the man who attacked him, he was in the same uniform as the bodyguards the Senator had assigned to protect his daughter. Once the news reached Senator Abasi, he ordered his security team to be thoroughly investigated in order to flush out the infiltrator who was eventually caught. It turned out the man had been paid by a political rival to assassinate Nene Abasi. The case against David was finally closed as the real culprits had been found.
It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning when David arrived at the lush apartment building. He rang the doorbell and adjusted his dark blue button-down shirt.
“Good morning.” He smiled when Claire opened the door to her apartment building.
She returned the greeting and stood aside to let him in.
“Let me say this now. You may not be a wanted criminal anymore but I still don’t approve of your… friendship with my sister.” She said in a low warning tone as he warily entered her apartment.
Just then, Danielle walked into the sitting room where she found her sister glaring daggers at David as he tried as much as possible to maintain his calm demeanour.
“Sis, we’ve been over this.” Danielle sighed, taking David by the hand and leading him to the sofa.
“Yeah right,” Claire said, giving him a warning look before leaving the two alone. “Remember what I said.”
As soon as she left, he breathed a sigh of relief and turned to Danielle.
“Thank you,” He started. “Claire told me about how you convinced her to dig up more on the case.”
“If anything, I should be the one thanking you for saving my life.” She said. “I heard about my friends recently. Two of them are dead, only one survived and her parents have taken her out of the country so I probably won’t see her in a long time.”
David stared at her for a moment, suddenly not sure of what he was about to do. He knew he wanted to see her again. He didn’t want this to be their last meeting and he was sure that he would regret it if he didn’t try now.
“I want to see you again Danielle.” He blurted out, immediately regretting not adding more finesse to his words.
She seemed a bit shocked at his sudden outburst but gave him a slow smile.
“And here I thought you’d never ask.”
He relaxed a bit as the tension he’d felt from the fear of rejection slowly drained away.
“So what do you say to dinner by 7pm on Friday night?”
“Absolutely,” She grinned. “I’ll be waiting.”
For the first time in a long time, he felt true happiness. They exchanged contact and David kissed her softly on her cheek, discreetly inhaling her honey-like scent. He laughed quietly to himself, feeling like a nervous teenager.
“What’s funny?” She asked, watching him closely.
“Nothing, I’m just happy.” He said.
He left the house with a smile on his face, despite the niggling feeling of Claire watching him even though he couldn’t see her.
With a sister like that, who needs an overprotective brother?
He was determined not to repeat the same mistakes he had made with Amanda. He would make a conscious effort to keep their relationship open and free of any dangerous secrets. Besides, he was going to work on his self-esteem. He deserved to have a chance at happiness and his financial status didn’t determine everything in his life. He would go back to the university and complete his degree then he would look for a new job. He was sure he would find something. He nodded to himself, feeling a bright ray of hope. Life was looking better already.
Back at his home which was now safe to be inhabited, he picked up his phone and dialled the number he knew by heart. It was time to face his past once and for all. To mend broken bonds before they severed him instead.
“Hello?” The deep voice answered.
“Hello dad, it’s me.” David said as emotion filled his voice.
“David?” The shock was evident in his father’s voice. “Son, please come back home.”
“I’m sorry. I should’ve said it earlier.”
“I’m sorry too, son. Come home so that we can work this out… we all miss you.”
After they ended the call, he realised he missed home too and he couldn’t wait to start his life afresh but this time, with his family in it. He had acted rashly by dropping out of school. He would go home and let his parents know exactly how he felt and why he did it. The early signs of depression in his life were frightening when he suddenly didn’t care much for living. He had been scared that he would end up indifferent to life and everyone around him like his mother did after the accident. So he had run away from his problems instead, only to find even bigger ones ahead.
Sure, they weren’t a perfect family, far from it but he had no other and was determined to set things right this time.
WRITTEN BY BOLU AKINMARIN