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,”
“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?”
“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.”
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.