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.”
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!”
“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,”
“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.
TO BE CONTINUED.