The Darker Berry #8
“I know I told you I can handle this but I honestly don’t think I can.”
“It’s not something you can’t handle.”
“It’s murder. Murder is not something I want to handle.”
She looked at him long and hard, her face expressionless.
This time, she looked away from him, her eyes on the speaker playing a Jay Z song. How could she tell him what she had found out without seeming like a meddler?
How was she still to hold on to her pride without seeming stupid?
Her hands reached for her black bag with the gold strap. She was going to leave before he got the words out of her mouth.
He was in her way before she could reach the door of his Study. Femi had brought her in there some minutes before because she had told him after they had sex it was going to be their last.
Concerned, albeit puzzled as to why he felt worried at all, he had demanded why she was not going to be spending more time in his bed and… arms.
He had gotten used to her body, the warmth it provided whenever they came together. She was easy to get used to – no drama, no demands and more importantly no expectations. She wasn’t drilling him about the incessant calls he received; some of which he received in hush tones when he was around her. She made everything easy for him and he realized that was why he wanted more of her.
Because a lot of her wasn’t too much, in fact, it was perfect. And maybe it also wasn’t decent or morally right, but at the moment he was okay being wrong.
So when she suddenly broke the news of ending their tryst, he’d been stunned.
That wasn’t Femi Agbaje – he was not the guy who wanted an explanation as to why he was being dumped.
He was the guy who didn’t care, the guy who did the dumping. He was not used to getting the red card, he was used to giving it.
And that was why he desperately wanted to know why this woman, the one he had gotten used to, was about to pull the plugs on one of the best sexual experiences of his entire adult life.
“Femi, staying in my way won’t change anything.”
“Then tell me what would.”
She sighed, a hand on her waist as she seemed to consider what to say to him.
“You’re not looking for a random thing to say so I can step out of your way, are you?” he asked.
“I may have to do just that. You’re making this really hard for me, Femi.”
His gaze fell on his boxers before he replied, “You’re making things hard for me already.”
She wanted to laugh but she knew it would mean loosening up. And that was likely to bring out the truth from her.
She did not want him to know the truth. It was not good for her that he did. It meant something…
The door swung open and Femi’s mother burst in. She had an angry look on her face; she was clearly furious about something.
And if the barely audible response she gave to Umi’s greeting was anything to go by, it meant she needed time alone with her son. Umi took that as her cue to leave. Heading towards the entrance, her hand was on the doorknob when she heard Mrs Agbaje’s voice.
“Where are you going?” the woman demanded, as if confused she was about to step out.
“I thought you needed time alone with Femi.”
“Not after what he had the nerve to do to his own mother!” the older woman snapped, her eyes blazing. Whatever reason she was angry seemed serious and again, Umi thought she had no reason being there. However what the woman said next changed everything and entwined them all in the next hour. “How dare you hire a private investigator to find your father behind my back? You ungrateful boy! Do you know who that man is? Do you know what he did to me? Do you know he is danger personified?”
Femi was confused, “How did you find out?”
Mrs Agbaje gasped in utmost shock, “You mean after doing something so atrocious, all you have to ask is ‘how I found out?’ what in the world is this nonsense?”
Femi sighed, “I didn’t want you to find out.”
His mother gaped at him in silence. She looked from Femi to Umi as if hoping one of them would provide her with the explanation she so desperately needed.
“You did not want me to find out.” She repeated calmly, “You did not want me to find out.” She said again before raising her voice as if suddenly realizing she had it in her to scream, “Do you know what you have done?!”
“I have found my father. And can we please talk about this without raising our voices?”
Mrs Agbaje faced Umi. “This is why I wanted you to stay. See the way he is talking to his own mother? With no regard whatsoever. Is this how you talk to your own mother too? Ehn? Do you not tell him the truth?”
“Please ma, calm down.” Umi wished she hadn’t done it. She wished she hadn’t…
“He’s my father, I was curious.”
“Curious?” Mrs Agbaje’s brows furrowed into a deep frown. “Curious? Listen to yourself, you sound like a teenager craving for undue attention from a missing parent. Like a small boy with Daddy issues. I have done everything for you! Everything humanly possible, I did. Yet you went and organized a search party for your useless father.”
“Do you know he’s a criminal?”
“Mummy, please relax…”
“And he left me when I was pregnant with you!”
“But you didn’t tell him. That was unfair to him and to me.”
The swift movement of her hand landing across his face silenced him immediately. Femi looked into his mother’s eyes; she looked the angriest he had ever seen in his entire life.
“You want to discuss unfair? Do you want to discuss unfair, Femi? Unfair is that your father broke my heart, refused to reveal his real identity and lied to me all through his stay here in Nigeria! Unfair is being left alone to care for a child, unfair is having to raise you into this man only to have you do this nonsense behind my back!”
Silence fell upon the room as Femi found a chair to sit on. He was silent and Umi wondered what was going through his mind.
It was all her fault. She shouldn’t have done it. She shouldn’t have gone into that study without his knowledge. She shouldn’t have.
“I just want to know why you were snooping through my things, mum.” Femi said silently. “Because I was going to eventually tell you this. I just didn’t expect you to snoop through my stuff before I did.”
“I didn’t snoop through your stuff, it was there lying on the table for me to see.”
Femi frowned, puzzled.
“You left it here for me to see! All your emails were printed and left on this very table.”
“I didn’t leave any paper here for you to see. What exactly are you talking about?”
And Umi knew saying it was going to change a lot of things, however, things had spiraled out of control and she couldn’t keep quiet anymore. So she braced herself for the inevitable. Exhaling, her hand clutching the strap of her bag, she said to the two people in the room with her, “It was me.”
They both faced her sharply, mother and son looking at her like she was crazy.
“What?” Femi asked, utterly confused.
And Umi relaxed against the wall as she prepared to launch into a story that had brought them where they currently were.
However, what she could reveal were only the details which she knew. Because beyond the whole drama that involved her, laid something even she wasn’t aware of just yet.
36 Hours Earlier
Iyabo tried the number on her phone again. He was not picking. Her patience was running out and one more try was going to piss her off.
What did he think he was doing deciding when to respond to her calls? She was the one who held a secret in her hands. He was not to decide when to talk to her.
Furious, she hit the keys on the keypad of her phone and typed him an angry message. If he was going to act like he was the boss in the current situation, she was going to remind him.
She had barely hit send when his call came in. Livid, she swiped her thumb across the screen and picked it. “Femi, what is doing you? I am calling you, you are not picking? You tink say I dey joke abi?”
He let her finish before he asked her calmly, “What do you want?”
Her eyes widened in utmost shock. What did she want?
Was he not aware she was blackmailing him and this, was her gig?
“What do you mean what do I want?” she asked, raising her voice. “You owe me money.”
“I don’t owe you anything, Iyabo.”
“Okay, you think this is funny abi? Okay na, give me till midnight and…”
“Iyabo, I know about Teslim.”
Her mouth was left hanging by that simple calm statement. Seconds passed without any word being uttered and it took a movement caught by the corner of her eyes to revive her from her temporary trance.
“And you can tell yourself I murdered a girl I had absolutely nothing to do with just because of your greed, however, what you cannot lie about is what you did to that innocent man.”
Her voice dropped when she spoke next, because she was completely thrown, and because she now had company in the person of her boss, Umi.
“Nothing happened,” she said, a hand on her forehead. The room was cool but she was beginning to sweat. This was not good. She needed the money she was blackmailing Femi for. How had he gotten steps ahead of her? How had he found out about Tessy? The one man she never told anybody about because of the circumstances surrounding how they met?
“If that is the version you want to run with. However, desist from blackmailing me, Iyabo.”
“You will. Or the entire Police force will have an interesting case of a con artist killed by his protégé years ago on their hands by morning.”
She swallowed hard. “But…”
When the call ended, she mustered all the strength within her to stop herself from yelling.
He had gotten ahead of her. Again, he had won! And the anger that surged through her because of that realization blinded her sense of reason. It was not that she cared much for being rational anyway, but more than ever, she wanted to be rid of common sense.
She wanted to fight Femi, even if it was one last time, so she could show him he couldn’t leave unscathed. He couldn’t win all the time. And even if he could, she wasn’t letting him get away without a scratch.
So she watched Umi as she bent over, speaking to the accountant in their little office space.
Without warning, she went to her and tapped her on the shoulder. “I want to tell you something very quick,” she said, a look of disdain on her face.
“Is everything okay?” Umi asked, taking in her demeanor.
Iyabo shrugged. “It is you that will say that one o,” she said, throwing common sense to the wind. “I sha want to see you.”
Umi abandoned what she was doing and followed Iyabo to a corner where the accountant could barely hear them.
“It is about your boyfriend,”
Umi frowned. “My boyfriend.”
“Ehn, yes. Boyfriend, bae, boo. Anything you people like to call it.”
“I am not sure I understand what you’re talking about.”
“Femi ah!” Iyabo said, irritated.
A brief look of annoyance flashed through Umi’s face before she replied. “I don’t know what you think or saw but Femi and I aren’t dating.”
“Okay na, if you like be doing like you can keep secret. Me I get eye and I fit see wella…”
Umi cut in before she could go any further. “Iyabo, I can assure you whatever you thought you saw was wrong. That said, I would act like this conversation never happened. So please get back to work.” Umi was about to walk away when Iyabo asked her the question that became instrumental in changing everything.
“You think you know him?”
“Again, that is not something I want to discuss with you.”
Iyabo hissed. “This is why I hate women like you. You people think you have sense but you don’t have. You think Femi is a correct person? You think your pussy is sweet and he would change for you?”
“Please watch your tone, Iyabo. This is getting out of hand.”
Iyabo drew a long hiss. “Let me tell you something, me and that man grew up together. I know him like the back of my hand,” she said, hitting the back of her hands loudly. “He will never change from the devil that kill somebody, cut her and bury her.”
Umi waited for a bit before she said. “You’re fired, Iyabo.”
And maybe that was why the other woman took that as her cue to ruin whatever was left, but she let it all out and didn’t give a rat’s house about the outcome. “Femi is a snake and he is evil. You better open your eyes and don’t let him use you like he used me and the other people. Shine your eyes, check his phone, his laptop and everything. He is hiding something.” And with that, she walked past Umi, brushing her aside with her shoulder before picking her bag and heading for the door. “Shebi you think you know him? I dare you to stay after finding out what you will find in his computer. He killed that girl. I was there.”
Then she left.
However, two things happened after her exit; deafening silence, and, the seed she had sown in Umi’s mind.
The one that piqued her curiosity.
Did she really know the man or was she being reckless and stupid all at once?
What if he was really a murderer? Why had she even believed him just because he said he had never killed anyone? What if nothing he said was true? Most importantly, what if she was in danger hanging around him?
She wanted to find out.
And she wanted to find out pretty soon.
So she grabbed her phone and sent him a message. They were supposed to meet up after her visit to the hospital to see Amra anyway but she wanted to ensure that the meeting happened.
After she hit send, she inhaled deeply, hoping she was not hooking up with a murderer before she suspended the thought and returned to work.
Hours after Femi received Umi’s message, he received her as a visitor on his doorstep all dressed up.
A smile formed slowly across his face as he ended his phone call with Wasiu.
He and Wasiu had been discussing a new business venture that would benefit the latter and at the moment, both were pumped about doing something together since their friendship went on a hiatus.
Wasiu wanted to be a film marketer in Nollywood and Femi saw that as a great opportunity to partner with him. He was already invested in the media anyway, he might as well spread his wings into Nollywood.
When he ended the call, right after agreeing to a meeting with Wasiu later in the week, he drew Umi into a long embrace. He had been with her at the hospital for hours the day before, however it seemed like he hadn’t seen her in days.
Especially since that male friend of hers – Chibuzor or whatever he was called – made it a duty to stick by her everywhere she went. Even when she had to use the bathroom, he wanted to follow her. Like their genitals were joined.
Femi found it amusing and ridiculous. And he also knew what Umi seemed blind to the fact that the man had the hots for her.
He wondered for how long he had harbored the deep feelings he had for the beautiful girl who seemed oblivious to how he felt.
The girl he would probably never get. Because men like Chibuzor never stood a chance, not when men like him were in the picture.
And if Chibuzor’s unmasked disdain for him was to go by, the man already saw him as some sort of threat. And he, Femi Agbaje liked a good sport. He was going to enjoy making him jealous.
And he intended to start soon.
So after he had yet another passionate sex with Umi in his bedroom, his body trying to recover from the breathless moment they had in bed, she’d told him they had to end their affair.
Something he found hard to understand.
And no matter how hard he tried to understand, he failed woefully. And he was not going to find out until hours later, in his study.
Back to present
Femi’s eyes darted from his mother to Umi.
“You looked through my stuff?” he inquired, confused. “Why did you look through my stuff, Umi?” Now his gaze was totally fixed on her.
He looked at her as she stuttered, clearly trying to find a perfect response to his question.
“My own is that God used this beautiful girl to reveal the rubbish you have been up to. And I will not sit here and watch you put the blame on her,” his mother said, she looked at Umi. “My dear, God bless you. You can go home now. Thank you.”
When Umi tried to leave, Femi drew her back.
He was not angry. He was bewildered. Why had she done what she did? She didn’t seem like that type of woman. Why had she snuck into his study when she told him she wanted to use the bathroom?
Umi’s phone rang and she told him she had to leave.
When the door shut in his face, he looked at his mother.
“I know you want answers but so do I. But I have to get it from that woman as soon as possible.”
Grabbing his car key and his phone, Femi sauntered out of the study.
He had barely stepped out of his house when the view before him caught his eyes.
Right outside his compound was that Chibuzor guy, holding his Umi in his arms, a hand touching her face.
What was the guy doing there?
And did he, Femi Agbaje just really think his Umi?