Click here to read the previous chapter; The Unexpected
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.
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.
It was so much, the soldiers present could smell it.
TO BE CONTINUED.