On the verandah sat all her brothers, they were silent as James Adeniyi approached. Their eyes were red and the air was tense. James could have turned back but he kept moving. He had been calling Ann all day but she had refused to pick his call. He knew she had a temper and could be petty at times. With her favourite perfume and red roses in hand, Ann would forgive him.
Every step he took further to the vultures gathered at the entrance to the Okoye’s home made his leg heavy.
“Good evening guys,” James smiled at them, standing a few feets away.
Chuks, Ann eldest brother answered “Welcome, what can we do for you?”
“I – I – am here to see Ann.”
Williams began to shake his leg.
“Our sister was shot last night, according to what mother told us, she was still raving about you and your attitude when she was shot through the window,” Nedu said without sparing him a glance. The fake flowers James held fell to the ground, he took more steps forward.
Justin, who was Ann’s favourite and last child of the family stood up, there was anger and sadness in his eyes. He folded his arms, it was as though he was trying not to throw a punch at James.
“Where is Ann? Where is Mama?” James could not stop the tears that came down his face.
“I think you should go, you don’t want our mother to meet you here,” William said.
As James turned to leave, Ann’s mother walked through the gate.
“You! What are you doing here? To finish the work you started? I forgot, you already finished it,” Ann’s mother charged at him like a raging bull, held his shirt, shaking him with a strength he never knew the woman possessed, his hat fell off.
Justin held his mother’s waist trying to pull her away from James.
“Justin, it is either me or him. This bastard killed my daughter.”
Her wrapper was almost coming off undone.
William pried her hands off James shirt. Justin and William held her.
Nedu gestured at him to leave.
James kicked the roses out of his way and he ran as fast as his legs could carry him out of the Okoye’s compound.
When he got outside the gate, he was breathing fast and tears were in his eyes. He took out his handkerchief to clean face, he raised his hand to adjust his hat and he met his receding hairline. It was embarrassing going anywhere without his hat, but that was the least of his worries.
“Good afternoon officer,” James spoke to the police officer behind the counter.
“How may I help you?” The policeman did not spare him a glance as he continued to scribble into his notepad.
“I want to see the D.P.O.” The policeman raised his head to look at the stranger who had been speaking to him.
“You said what?”
“I want to see the D.P.O.”
“E no dey.”
James smiled as he dipped his hands into his pocket.
“Haba, no be to see him talk small?” James shook the policeman with his right hand containing five hundred naira.
“Now you’re talking. Why you wan see am?” The policeman raised his eyebrows.
James almost rolled his eyes up, he thought the bribe would be enough but at this point it was wise to go straight to the point.
“There’s this case of Ann Okoye. I want to meet the detective in-charge.”
“Oga, make I no lie give you, no detective dey work on top the case. E get report wey we write down sha. You wan see am?”
Why did I ever think they will do things right? Dear God, please help me.
“Okay, bring the report let me read.”
“No be like that o, Oga, no be like that na. You suppose understand how logistics and procedure dey for this station?”
James put his hand into his pocket and gave him a thousand naira.
“Ehen, Oga, you sabi. Follow me.”
The policeman took him into a room close to the reception. The room had so many files. James sneezed.
“Sorry o!” The policeman said as he began to shuffle through the files on the shelf.
James sneezed again. This time the sneeze came out muffled as he had his face towel covering his mouth.
“It’s dusty here.”
The policeman paid him no mind.
“Na the file be this.” He stretched the file to James. James snatched it out of his hand and opened it with an urgency that would put the devil to shame.
“Oga take am easy, abeg no tear the report.”
James nodded and dismissed the policeman with a wave of his hand.
“You have five minutes,” the policeman said glancing at the worn leather wristwatch.
Ann Okoye died of gunshots from a .38 special bullet, this means the 9mm pistol was the weapon. The bullet went through her right atrium.
Investigation on this is ongoing.
“Bull shit! Bull shit! I need to get out of here.”
James walked out of the police station in anger. He was ready to revenge, he was interested in whoever killed Ann, he wanted the person to die a slow and painful death and the report he read at the station showed that nothing was going on. How many cases has been declared ongoing? How many murder cases ever got justice?
Ann, how did I get it wrong? Ann, talk to me? Who did this to you?
James paced his room back and forth and though the fan was on full speed, he felt as though the walls were closing in.
The shrilly ringtone brought him back to reality. He picked the phone and slide the button to red. The phone began to ring again.
“Hello,” he picked the phone without checking the caller’s ID.
“Is that how you treat your mother these days?”
“It’s you Mom.”
“Yes it is me and you better have a good reason for cutting off my call and then snapping a quick hello at me.”
“Mom, this is not a good time.”
“Really? You better you start talking.”
“Mom? I’m coming home. I need you now.” James sad voice broke.
“Now I’m scared. Please drive carefully. I’ll be expecting you.”
“I won’t drive, I’ll take public transport. I should be home in two hours.”
“I had to stay up for you to make it here. You know by now, I would have gone to bed.” Mrs. Adeniyi said as James walked in. It was already a quarter to nine.
“Good evening ma, sorry I kept you waiting. Where is Dad?”
“He travelled to Ogun to see his sick sister, didn’t he tell you?”
James told his mother everything he knew about Ann’s murder and she was perplexed. How could someone so young have enemies that wish her dead and even go through with carrying it out?
Mrs. Adeniyi offered to speak with an old friend of hers who would do a great investigation on the murder. James slept at his parents house. She made sure he took a bath and ate a light dinner of cereal and milk; before hitting the sack.
It took the investigator one week and the truth was out.
“You need to get here as fast as you can, there’s some news you need.” Mrs. Adeniyi spoke into the phone as soon as James picked it.
James drove furiously to his parents house. His Dad was eating at the dinning while his mother and the Detective were seated in the sitting room. The television was on and some half-naked girls were dancing to a trashy music but none of that mattered as James made his entrance.
“Good evening Mom, Dad, Detective Louis.”
His father waved at him, his mother nodded and the Detective rose to shake hands with James.
“Whatever results you get today, you should know that I love you and so does your father; life happens and we have to continue living.”
“Why does it seem like this pep talk is a prelude to disaster?”
Detective Louis cleared his throat.
“Ann is still alive.”
James blinked, closed his eyes trying not to shed more tears.
“Where is she? How could she do this to me? I thought we had something good going on?”
“Ann was shot with a stun gun. She didn’t die, her brothers had it all planned and they did not include their mother in the plans. Before Mr. Okoye died, he made some enemies and they were determined to make Ann pay for her father’s sins. That was the clause in the agreement her father had with the rogues he called business partners. Ann cannot call you, doesn’t want to be found. She has a new identity, face and dressing style.”
“Do you have a picture?”
Mrs. Adeniyi and Detective Louis shared a knowing smile.
“Here she is,” he handed a photograph of Ann to him.
James stared long at the picture, he laughed.
“Are you okay?” Mrs. Adeniyi asked.
“Mom, I’ll know Ann any day. No matter what.”
Mr. Adeniyi joined them at the table.
“You’re such a lovesick fool.”
James laughed out loud at his father’s description.
Pointing a finger at his father, “You got that right Old man.”
“Where is she?”
“I don’t think you should bother about this. If she loves you half as you love her, she would have found a way to get across to you.”
Mrs. Adeniyi stood up. “Come darling, let’s leave the lovesick boy to nurse his wounds.”
James smiled as his mother and father walked out of the sitting room hand in hand.
“On whose side are you?” James asked Detective Louis.
“Good choice. I know all that speech about me forgetting Ann was for my mother’s benefit. Where is Ann?”
“Ann is in South Africa and she has a lover already. This is what I mean.”
Detective Louis shoved two pictures in to his hands. James eyes went blurry as he saw Ann locked in a passionate kiss with another woman.