He drove a very far distance away from his house before parking under the awning of a closed Car Wash. His wife wouldn’t bother to come this far, which was, if she was crazy enough to chase after him. The other car was bad anyway. He got out his phone and dialled Casmir. He should be about his duty by now, it was almost 11p.m. He hadn’t been joking when he told him he saw something unique in him, the man was a fighter. He had faith Cas would do all it required to get Sandy back. On his part, he was about doing his possible best to get Sandy from him.
The number kept ringing off the hook. He dialled absently for the eighth time, while he went over his plan of possessing Sandy from Cas. The plan was simple – He’d kidnap her. He ran over the plan again in his head, chipping off the parts that sought to complicate the simple act. He dialled the tenth time, still no show. He decided to rest it a bit.
To kidnap her, he’d propose to Cas on phone to come pick them up. He was assuming that for the mission of getting back Sandy from Ochuko, Cas had driven to Ochuko’s place on his bike. A man would use what is at his disposal to accomplish a simple task. The task ought to be simple for Cas. If he killed Ochuko in the process, with ease of course (which he believed was the case), he wouldn’t see the need to hasten away from the vicinity. There’d be nobody on his tail. What he’d fail to put into consideration was the chances of Sandy jumping off the moving bike. He’d point this out to him and make him see all he stood to gain by accepting his kind request.
Cas would accept the offer. He had entertained him with enough beer, free of charge, in just one evening and given him the roadmap to his redemption, after all. He’d stash his bike somewhere and lead Sandy to the roadside to await his arrival. He’d spot them standing under the dull glow of a street lamp as he neared Ochuko’s place, Sandy’s mouth shut tight with tape to prevent her from raising alarm. He’d pull over beside them, open the door (just like in the movies) and ask them to hop in. Cas would guide (or push) Sandy into the open passenger door and he’d zoom off immediately before he got a chance to throw in a foot. He would chase after him, first with his legs, then he’d remember his stashed bike and run to get it. However, he’d be so far gone when he finally bursts into the road with his bike.
He wouldn’t be able to report Sandy missing after failing to recover her from him because he was a wanted man already. There’d be nobody to contact for help, so he’d do the right thing. He’d be silent about the whole affair. Meanwhile, he’d take Sandy to Jigawa or Zaria and begin a new life with her… and wouldn’t she be grateful to him for saving her from a monster?
Cas just had to pick the call, the plan was too appealing to be delayed. He dialled the number again, it rang off the hook still. He thought of his wife one final time. He tried to pinpoint the exact time she began changing and couldn’t. She had been that way all along, only he had chosen to be ignorant about it. It had taken the entry of Sandy into his workplace and heart to finally see her for the monster she was. Sandy!
There was no use dialling Cas, he would be too busy getting the dirty job done to care about a call. It occurred to him also that his man, Cas, might have left the phone at his house. He decided to drive over to Ochuko’s place, he had the address.
So he drove.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Aside the little harassment from a police checkpoint (which was finally settled with two-hundred naira), the drive to Ochuko’s place was smooth. The street gate which should’ve been locked at that time was wide open with nobody hanging around as vigilante or security. Few residents had their generator running, if not so, the street would’ve been a graveyard. Doc Al killed the engine of his car some feet away from Ochuko’s gate and listened for other noise.
The only other kind of noise he heard was the sound of his respiration. It was a bit reedy because his nostrils were jammed, but steady. He had nothing to fear. He got out of his car and closed it quietly. He walked straight to gate and rapped on the glass window of the guard house. He was not thinking of his action and the likely consequence, he was certain Cas had taken care of whatever guard there was. He just knocked for the pleasure of it.
He raised the lid of the little square opening in the gate and unfastened the latch. It didn’t make a sound. He opened the gate and stepped in. He took in the beautiful landscape, admiring the arrangement of the trees. The place was serene and welcoming, he felt he should lay on the lawn and let the night breeze caress his face and arms. He forwent the thought and moved carefully down the cemented paving.
Lights were on in two rooms, which proved that the occupants there were either up and working or sleeping with the lights on. He expected to hear some noise – footfalls, voices (or whispers), a crash. There was none. He began to feel he was late. He peeped through the net of one of the lighted rooms’ window and found nobody in the room.
He went to the other window but couldn’t see anything, the drapes were down. There was no way he could push it aside because of the net. He stayed beside the window, ears cocked for a while. When he retrieved his head, there was a thoughtful expression on his face. There were occupants in the room and they were fast asleep.
Where was his man?
He finally assented to his wish. He went to a level section of the lawn and laid on it with his hands laced behind his head. He needed to maintain his calm. He needed it to plan effectively. He was certain now that Cas hadn’t shown up yet. He decided to wait him for thirty minutes but that would mean altering his original plan. He didn’t like that. He wished he’d foreseen this and built an alternative plan. His head began to hurt at this point. He closed his eyes and shoved every thought to the back of his mind.
His mother used to say the best relief to headaches was to stop thinking. His headache wasn’t receding however, he was thinking about her. She granted his every desire. She did everything to make him happy. There was a day he had come back home from school with a bleeding nose. The school bully, who was his junior in school, had picked on him for standing for a younger boy. The bully, whose terrible name was Johnbosco had butted him on the nose in his fury. He had woken up later to an empty school field and a bleeding nose that wouldn’t stop. The moment he arrived home, he didn’t need to explain to his mom. She knew already.
“Al, what should we do to him?” she had asked in the calmest voice he’d ever heard. It soothed him in a way a millions ‘Sorry’ and cuddling wouldn’t, and she was smiling sweetly at him.
He knew what she meant. She wasn’t trying to check his virtues, she wanted justice. She wanted him to have revenge because it was his.
“Let’s make him disappear from school. I don’t want him to bully anybody ever again.”
“Done.” She replied.
The next day, Johnbosco didn’t come to school. His mom called to explain that he had an accident. The nature of the accident, nobody ever knew. Johnbosco either never recovered from the accident or chose to attend another primary school upon recovery. His mom had smiled at him as he returned from school worn out and hungry. She winked at him as she set his meal on the stool before him. She never asked about Johnbosco and he never told her he was no more. He understood the wink. It was a secret she died with, along with many other secrets.
It was fifteen minutes past his waiting time. The pain in his head had stepped up a little. He stretched on the soft, sweet-scenting grass and brought himself to his feet. It was time for action. His man had failed, he wouldn’t fail. There was no going back home. A little doubt crossed his mind – what if Sandy wasn’t in the house? He pushed the thought aside, it wasn’t good for his confidence.
He went to the entrance door and tried the door handle, it turned and the door opened without a sound. This man must think he was nothing or had nothing someone would want, he thought. He was so careless about his security. He didn’t bother about it for long, his carelessness was good for his mission. He looked about the dark room and thought it was decorated to a feminine taste. He realized then that he hadn’t considered Ochuko’s wife. The man might have dropped Sandy off somewhere and was sleeping soundly in his bed with his wife. He couldn’t even say for sure that Sandy left with him, he never saw them leave the hospital.
It was a combo now, his head banged and sweat was forming under the arm of his short sleeved shirt and dripping from his face. He silently hurried out of the sitting room to the kitchen. It wasn’t hard to locate, the door was slightly ajar. He let himself in silently and closed the door behind him, latching it. The kitchen was the definition of a modern kitchen. It was white, neat and decorated with the latest kitchen equipment. He reached for the fridge and drew out a bottle of wine. It was half-empty. He poured himself a glass and went to sit on the white chair with it. The wine tasted heavenly, a perfect relief for his headache.
There were sheaves of sticky notes spread on the table. He picked a bunch and tore one leaf from it. He set it in front of him and chewed on the bottom of his pen. He intended to scribble a new strategy for stealing Sandy but nothing was forth coming. If he doesn’t write down a plan, he wouldn’t be able to act, that was the kind of man he was. Something had to come to his head. He looked around him and something caught his eyes.
It was the glint of the white light of the bulb on the stainless blade of a knife. There were several of them hanging from a rack. He shot out of his seat and went to make a selection. A plan was coming to mind. He selected the largest of the knives and slashed the air both ways with it. The wheeze was satisfactory. He ran a thumb on the edge and confirmed its sharpness. A stroke would cut past the dermis.
He sat down back and began to write. He paused once in a while to review what he had written. He struck out things he had written several times and sipped on his wine. He had the whole night to himself and it was going to be a pleasurable one.
* * *
The inspiration Miss Sharon waited on God for finally came but she was certain he had sent the devil to deliver it. Walking down the entrance, heading for the Counter was Wunmi. She had a smile on her face that was nothing but infectious and it had infected the nurse who had been discussing with her colleague. The nurse threw both hands in the air as if for embrace but gravity and reason held her down. Her colleague clasped a hand over her mouth and prevented the scream that would have gotten everybody’s attention.
The bitch had followed her. She bent her head and from the side of her eyes, she observed someone observing her. She couldn’t stop her reflex, her eyes darted that way and picked up the thin patient. He wasn’t just smiling at her this time, he was waving too.
Did he know her from somewhere?
She didn’t care to know. She brought out her phone and pretended to be engrossed with it. She threw routine glances at the reception counter to track Wunmi. They were still chatting like that was the reason she had come to the hospital. If Wunmi had been following her to this place, she’d be looking around any moment in search of her. The whole thing was blowing up. She picked her package and went to sit behind the thin patient. It was against her will to do so, but contacting any contagious sickness he had at this point would be a hundred times better than being spotted by the bitch.
She’d surely kill her this time. She was the reason she was yet to achieve her task. At the moment, she wished she had a sniper or a gun with silencer attached to the nozzle. Her work would’ve been a lot easier. Wunmi’s fall and the strange, new hole in the centre of her head would cause a pandemonium that would either lead her to Lucy’s room, or get the little brat running her way.
“You’re a very beautiful lady.” The patient said as she took her seat.
She ignored him and the offensive odour oozing from him. She’d die if she sat behind him for long.
“I like fine ladies. They are—” He looked up in search of his missing words.
She stole a glance Wunmi’s way and was in time to see her and the nurse walking towards a passageway. She was glad she’d not have to die of his stench. She got up and made her way to the passageway through the little space between the wall and the last set of seats, hoping the other nurse at the counter wouldn’t pick her movement.
“They are very dangerous women.” The man said thoughtfully, but Miss Sharon was out of earshot.
Whether Wunmi was being led to Lucy’s ward or not, Miss Sharon tagged along. She hoped to kill her too.
* * *
“This Lucy girl I’m taking you to, I’ll be in trouble if she raises alarm or airs her distaste of your visit.”
“I’m sure she would want to hear what I have to tell her. Raising alarm is what I hope she doesn’t do.”
“It’s because of you I’m taking this risk, please don’t do anything that’d make me regret.”
“You know I’m not like that. I assure you, nothing would go wrong.”
The nurse stood with her head slightly bent in thought. She let out her breath at last and shook her head.
“Okay. Wait outside here let me tell her she’s got a visitor.”
“If she asks who it is, tell her it’s her friend’s mom. If she asks which, tell her to discover that herself.”
“Fine. Come this way so she doesn’t catch a glimpse of you.”
Wunmi moved to the end of the door post. She looked behind her and thought she caught movement at the entrance of the passageway. Vivian, her nurse friend told her nobody had come to visit Lucy since she was admitted this afternoon. It meant that Miss Sharon hadn’t gotten here yet. She was sure the lady was coming here to meet Lucy and that something bad would happen to Lucy if they met, but she didn’t know what. The movement could be Miss Sharon, she might be following her. She started walking back down the passageway but the door was opening again.
Vivian came out. “She doesn’t want to see anybody, but…”
“She thinks it might be Chikaodi’s mom, she always pays surprise visits. So, there you go.”
“God bless you, Vivian.”
“I hope things turn out fine between the both of you. I’m sure her forgiveness would give you peace of mind. This would be my biggest chance of repaying you for your kindness.”
“No dear. You’re not repaying anything, I didn’t offer you that help with the intention of getting it back someday.”
“Oya, go in and stop wasting time.”
Wunmi was glad for that thoughtless decision she made last year. A customer had just paid cash for the thousands of birds he purchased from her and the profit was huge. She had been thinking of a million things to do with the part of the profit that wouldn’t be going to her bank account when she decided to give seventy-five thousand naira to the veterinary doctor treating her birds. The decision hadn’t come as a consequence of being overjoyed. It just occurred to her to that the doctor might be in need of cash. Well, everyone was always in need of cash. The doctor, who happened to be Vivian, had needed some cash to send to her younger brother to pay his tuition fees. She was a corper then and didn’t have much cash on her.
She was lost in her recollection and smiling, totally unaware that since her entry into the ward, Lucy hadn’t screamed. She stared at her with a certain kind of calmness that was eerie.
“Hi, ma.” She replied, clear, white eyes trained on Wunmi’s face.
“Can I come and sit beside you?”
Lucy shifted; Wunmi took that as an affirmative. She went and sat beside the little girl, placing a pillow on her back, just like her.
“I’m sorry for putting you in this condition.”
“That’s okay, I’m fine now. Just that my dad won’t let me come home. He wants me to complete my treatment.”
“That’s the right thing, dear.”
“But…” Lucy looked at her wiggling toes then back at Wunmi. “I don’t like this room. I don’t like hospitals.”
“Is that all your reasons for wanting to go back home?”
“Yes… and No.”
“You’re scared of this place. You’re scared that somebody might come to kill you.”
Lucy started, she got away from her position and came around to sit in front Wunmi. Her eyes were shiny and huge.
“How did you know that?”
“I was once a little girl like you. I used to be very scared to be alone and here you are, alone in a big room with two empty beds. You’ll be imagining what happened to the last people that slept on those bed. You’ll wonder if they died. You’ll be scared that their ghosts would come for you.”
But that was not it. She didn’t know when she mentioned that word ‘kill’, it had slipped into her mind the same way many knowledge she didn’t have prior to the incident had slipped in. It was a bad word to use with kids and she was trying to cover up for the slip. Lucy wasn’t interested in her reasons, she was looking at her like she knew something more. Like she knew the truth.
“Those are not what I’m scared of. My dad read me scary stories to sleep and I love them. I sleep alone in my room and I know there are no boogeymen in the closet or witches that fly at night and likes to scratch little children’s face.”
Wunmi looked at her solemnly. “She tried to kill you?”
“Yes. And I still don’t know why she would want to kill me. She was like my mom. You know—” Her voice wavered. Wunmi drew her into her embrace.
“I don’t know why too, sweety. She tricked me too.”
“My dad wouldn’t believe me. He was looking at me like I was an olodo.”
“Sweety, it’s hard to believe that someone you trust so much is a bad person, especially when it’s a kid trying to make you believe that.”
“I just want to go home. I have a feeling she would still come here.”
“I’m with you now, nothing would happen to you.”
“Will you spend the night here with me?”
That was one question she didn’t know how to reply because she hadn’t thought about it. She hugged her tightly instead.
“Were you my dad’s girlfriend?”
Kids, she thought, one thing always led to another. She got off the bed and went for the Air Conditioner remote. She wasn’t feeling the thing. She passed the door on her way and that feeling of imminent evil invaded her. It crossed her mind to open the door and check if someone was there but she discarded it. She had little time to spend with Lucy and there was plenty to tell her. Opening and closing back the door seemed to her like an act that took thirty minutes to accomplish.
She went back to the bed to the inquisitive Lucy, something had changed in her. She was back to her cheerful self, her eyes were beginning to sparkle in excitement. She anticipated Wunmi’s reply.
* * *
For the first time since the commencement of this particular mission, Miss Sharon had real fears. She clearly saw herself failing, and as if the good spirit in her had finally broken free of its confinement, she considered stepping into the room and falling to her knees to plead for forgiveness. Never! Agreement was Agreement. She’d agreed on her mother’s term to kill Lucy, she wouldn’t go back on her agreement. It was what the old woman was expecting from her, she would shame her.
Wunmi had somehow known what she came for without being told and that was scary. She had left the woman’s house she’d ditched her in and found her way here, which was scarier. She had easily gotten little Lucy to confide in her and the small girl was already seeing her as a Jesus, that was the scariest.
Something had to be done, and fast. She knew, even amidst her doubts and fears, that this was the ideal time. She was done listening to their conversations. They were talking about love and emotions now, the females’ curse. She was done with love and talks of love.
She didn’t love her mom anymore. Somehow, she had stopped loving Ochuko (She believed so). All that was left was to hate, to destroy everything built out of love. It occurred to her that her mom was right, she was created for this. Created to hate and kill.
She looked at her hands and saw the things that were wrong with them. They were holding a plate of poisonous berries hidden in a nylon bag. Poisonous berries hardly helped people kill anything especially when the victim had lost trust in the killer. She looked around, nobody was coming her way. No one had come this way since the bitch nurse left.
She decided to go for a short walk. She was going to look at the brighter side – the two people she dearly wished to terminate were together in one room and were partly anticipating her arrival. She would make their deaths ceremonial.