CHAPTER FOURTEEN – Paris
Tari hadn’t seen Rain in one week, and although he blamed himself for letting her slip out of sight, her parents were responsible for her disappearance. Anger was a mild word to describe how he felt over their actions. It had taken him only a few hours away from her for them to whisk her off without his consent.
A week ago, while doodling on a paper to keep him awake in a meeting, his phone lit up with a call. ‘Francis’ popped up on the screen. It was Rain’s cab driver, whose services Tari sometimes also requested whenever he went to the airport. Curious about why he was calling, Tari picked up his phone and exited the conference room. He answered the call, and the man’s frantic voice filled his ear with information that made his tummy churn.
Tari first took a few steps down the hallway, then stopped to steady his breathing.
“What happened?” he asked in a calm voice. “Who beat her?”
Francis continued speaking as he continued down the hallway, hastening his steps. He said he had taken Rain to her house an hour ago. He explained that they found the gate open and the security man away from his post, which was strange. But Rain asked him to stay in the car while she found out what was happening. He added that he regretted not following her to ensure she was safe.
Minutes after she had gone in, he saw Noah driving into the compound. Something didn’t seem right about his sudden appearance, considering the way Rain had dumped him, a story Francis had followed on Twitter. Besides, he had never liked Noah. Therefore, he followed him in and walked in on him, panicking over Rain, who was lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. Naomi was also in the house, and he could immediately tell, from Noah’s anger at her, that she was responsible for Rain’s condition.
But the moment the twins spotted him, they made for the backdoor, Naomi bolting out first and Noah hurriedly explaining that he had nothing to do with the assault.
Francis was left with the difficult decision of either calling for an ambulance or taking Rain to the hospital himself. He chose the latter and didn’t think of alerting anyone until she was safe in a hospital nearby. Only then did he think to call someone.
“I called her mother,” he informed Tari.
“Let me have the hospital address.”
By now, Tari was in the parking lot, hurrying toward his car. The driver gave him an address as he got in behind the wheel. Ignoring the prompt to fasten his seatbelt, he screeched out of the parking lot. He drove like a maniac and arrived at the hospital in less than fifteen minutes.
“Rain Kareem,” he mumbled to the front station nurse. “Her driver brought her here. I think she was beaten…”
“Yes, sir. She’s here. Are you her family member too?”
“Yeah.” He tapped on the front desk impatiently.
“She’s still in emergency. Her mom is there too.”
“Where’s it at?”
The nurse pointed at the exit, and Tari barely waited for her to finish giving him directions before he hurried out. He found the emergency wing on his left and burst through its double doors. There was a waiting room, and Dora was seated, head bowed, arms crossed. She looked up as Tari walked in.
“Good morning, ma’am.” He bowed in respect. She looked him over, not responding to his greeting. “Is she… Is she okay?”
“You’ve not seen the doctors? Has anybody spoken to you?”
“Can you not speak right now?” she requested quietly.
“I just want to know how she’s doing.”
“How am I supposed to know?” she responded, her voice going up.
Tari buried his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall behind him. Now and then, a nurse would walk past, but none of them had any information on Rain. Dora made a couple of phone calls, one to Habib and the other to Kofo. She mentioned something about moving Rain to a better hospital. Shortly after, a doctor came out. Dora got on her feet but with some difficulty. Tari dashed toward the doctor, who explained that Rain was fine. She had a concussion and sustained some facial injuries but was expected to pull through.
“Can I see her?” Tari and Dora asked together.
“No. Right now, she will be under strict observation to ensure no swelling in the brain. Whoever attacked her seemed to have slammed her head on the floor. She sustained other blows to the head. The chest too.”
Dora let out a sigh. When Tari looked at her, he saw tears in her eyes.
“So, let us observe her while you go and look for her assaulter or—”
“I will wait,” Dora said.
“That’s fine too. But you can’t see her now.”
“You’re sure she’s okay?” Tari asked. “You have to let us see her to be sure.”
“Yes.” Dora nodded. “Now.”
The doctor gave in. Minutes later, they were led into a room where Rain was kept.
“Oh God,” Dora muttered the instant she saw her. There was a beeping ECG that made Tari uncomfortable. If she was okay, why did she need the damn machine? Sensing Tari’s unease, the doctor explained that concussions could cause changes in heart behavior, hence, the need to monitor her pulse.
“Her head is swollen,” Dora whispered.
“The assault caused this, but she’ll be better in a couple of days. Right now, we need to let her rest,” insisted the doctor.
He led them out of the room, and as he left, Dora touched Tari’s hand.
“Find Naomi and Noah. They can’t get away with this.”
Tari nodded. He made his way out of the hospital, dialing Jaya’s number. After briefing her on what had happened, he asked for Noah and Naomi’s addresses.
“Oh, I think they live together. Where are you now? I’m near The Palms. Can you come and pick me up?”
“On my way.”
He arrived at The Palms, where her car was parked. She got into his, ranting over the incident. She raved all the way to Noah’s house, but Tari didn’t mind. He was raging as well. Jaya’s voice was a distraction.
As they had predicted, Noah and Naomi weren’t home. Their neighbors explained they had left the house in the morning and weren’t back. Tari left his number with the neighbors with instructions to call him if they arrived.
“Let’s go to Kevin,” Jaya suggested. “He might know where Noah is.”
“And Kevin is…?”
They went to see Kevin, who claimed he didn’t know where Mide was. Mide didn’t believe him. Screaming at him in tears, she told him to tell them where to find Noah.
“You know all the places he hangs, Kev! Stop doing this!”
Tari faced Kevin, unintimidated by his buff and height. “Guy, you don’t want to get into this. It will become messy if me or her parents find out that you’re withholding information.”
Kevin stared down at him. “I know a place,” he said.
The place was off Ajah, on a sandy road that almost had Tari’s tires stuck. But they didn’t find Noah there. Kevin refused to be helpful after that.
Tari dropped him off and drove to Jerry’s lounge. He found him barbecuing some chicken and told him about Rain. He wanted Jerry, who had contacts in government security agencies, to connect him with someone.
Jerry wiped his hands on a napkin and removed his phone from his pocket. He spoke to a contact, who promised to come over.
“Have a beer,” Jerry offered Tari and Jaya. Tari longed to return to the hospital but had to see this through. As they sat for beers in the lounge, Jaya resumed her rant. She asked for a cigarette, explaining that she quit a year ago but needed it now to calm her nerves. Jerry, a smoker, offered her a stick and lit it. Tari was silent, watching them smoke and talk. He was too angry to express himself.
A short man with one functioning eye entered the lounge two hours later. He looked in their direction and began toward them with an intimidating stride.
“DSS,” Jerry said. “He can find anybody you want him to find.”
The man sat with them, refused to drink or smoke, and listened to Tari’s story.
“Small thing,” he said. “Just give me their pictures.”
Tari didn’t have anything on the twins, but Jaya did. She showed the man their Facebook and Instagram accounts, and after studying their photos for a while and absorbing information about them from Jaya, he gave a perfunctory nod. He took Tari’s number and rose to his feet.
“You’ll hear from me.”
He left in the same intimidating manner he walked in.
“He will find them,” Jerry said with confidence.
Shortly after, Jaya and Tari were on their way to the hospital. When they arrived, the nurse at the front station informed them that Rain had been taken to another hospital. When she couldn’t give them the address, Tari asked to see the doctor he had met earlier. The doctor explained that Rain’s condition had worsened, and they had to transfer her to a neurological clinic. He gave the name of the hospital and hurried off.
Tari and Jaya drove there but were told that Rain was under observation. Unfortunately, the doctors wouldn’t let anyone see her.
“Come back in the morning,” was the answer they gave. Tari was stubborn, but Dora prevailed on him to leave. Her tone was gentle and kind.
“Just come back tomorrow, Tari. She’ll be fine. I think the worst is over.”
He sat in his car for a long time before leaving. At home, he couldn’t sleep. He played computer games until daylight came. After a quick shower, he made to leave for the hospital, but he got a call from the DSS agent. They found Naomi. She had attempted to cross the border to Cotonou.
“This is a serious case now,” he told Tari. “Her parents had reached out to my boss and the police. They want her to be held for attempted murder.”
“I agree with them.”
“Good. Since they’re not here, I’d like you to come to our office. When we’re done with her, we will transfer her to the police. They would need you there.”
“But come now. You might want to watch us question her.”
Looking back, Tari wished he had gone to the hospital instead, and the time spent at the DSS office and the police station stretched to late afternoon. By the time he went to see Rain, it was too late. The hospital had no answers for him. All they could tell him was that Rain was taken away by her mom against medical advice.
“She brought another ambulance, and they left with our patient,” said the attending nurse. “I’m so worried about how they’re moving her about.”
Jaya knew nothing of it when Tari called her. He got Dora’s number from her and tried to reach the woman, but her line was unavailable. And thus, began Tari’s nightmare. Nobody had information on where Rain had been taken. Habib’s assistant informed him that Habib was out of the country and was using an unlisted number, which she didn’t know. After reaching a roadblock on his search for Rain the following day, he contacted the DSS agent for help. The man returned to him hours later with the news that Rain had been flown out of the country.
“I don’t know,” he responded. “The plane left last night. When I get more info, I’ll get back to you.”
Tari had his trip to make to Munich. It was an official trip, which he couldn’t miss. Only after he had boarded his flight did he get a call from the DSS agent informing him that Rain was in France.
“I neither know the hospital nor the city. This is the most I can do for you.”
Tari forced himself to concentrate on his business, knowing Rain was safe. His trip lasted four days, but when he was to get on a plane back to Lagos, he changed his mind and booked a flight to Paris. It had been six days since he saw her lying on that hospital bed, and he was beginning to worry. With no information on where she was, he went on a cold search for her in hospitals in a city he was visiting for the first time. After a full day of an exhausting and futile search, he returned to his hotel room for a much-needed nap. He was awoken by his ringing phone. The DSS agent was calling to let him know they had found Noah, who had eluded them this whole time.
“We have strong reason to believe that his sister acted alone. He has a lawyer with him, and we can’t keep him, and neither can the police.”
“No, you have to hold him for something. He’s an accomplice since this is attempted murder.”
“I’m sorry, but nothing can hold right now. Your girlfriend transferred money to his account under duress from his sister. He wasn’t directly involved. Even the driver said he walked in on him shouting at the sister for what she had done. The sister herself stated that she acted alone.”
“I know, but—”
“We have to let him go, Mr. Abashi.”
“Your girlfriend’s mother has asked us to.”
“Kofo Aboderin. She saw a tweet he made before we got him, stating that she and Mr. Kareem would be blamed if anything happened to him.”
“You haven’t been online.”
“No. I’ve been…” Tari sighed. “I’ve not.”
“I don’t think she wants this whole thing out there.”
“So, you’re just going to let him go like that?”
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
Tari was frustrated. “All right. Thank you.”
He stayed in Paris one more day before deciding to return to Lagos. Jaya was the first person he called when he got in.
“Anything?” he asked.
“No. But Aunty Kofo is around. She said she’d be leaving for France tomorrow. I asked where Rain was, but she wouldn’t tell me. I wonder why they’re hiding her.”
Tari had a good idea. Having checked the internet, Tari saw that Rain and her family, thanks to Noah, were again the subject of scandalous gossip. Noah hadn’t shared what his sister had done but was giving updates on his present situation. The last thing he tweeted was about being released after being held for a crime he didn’t commit. Twitter lapped up his story, and it became a thing of the rich oppressing the poor. The optics weren’t good for Rain, her family, and Hara Telecoms. Tari was mad at Noah.
Eight exhausting days had gone by now. Tari was tired, but he had one last thing to do before letting the matter rest and hoping Rain returned to him in one piece.
He dialed Kofo’s number. Before now, he had gotten only her assistant on the phone, who always informed him that she was out of the country. The lady answered the line again but put him through to Kofo this time.
“Abashi, you don’t strike me as a lovestruck teenager. You need to calm down,” Kofo said. “Better still, leave my daughter alone.”
“I just want to know where she is.”
“If you didn’t find her in Paris, what makes you think you’ll find her now?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Rain is fine. Please, don’t call me again.” The line went dead. Tari tossed his phone on the bed and went downstairs for a drink. Oscar followed him back up, growling like he was in a bad mood too. Tari walked in to find his phone ringing. It was a number he didn’t know. When he answered, Kofo’s assistant’s voice came on.
“Don’t let her know I told you this. I know where you can find her this afternoon.”
The lady gave him an address and reminded him not to tell anyone about the phone call, or her job would be toast.
Tari hung up, remembering a client who had tried to get him to meet with him. He called the man and told him he would be available for lunch, giving him the address Kofo’s assistant had shared.
Tari changed into fresh clothes and left the house to a restaurant in Ikoyi where the meeting was to hold. Arriving late, he apologized to the client and sat for the meeting, which lasted a little over twenty minutes. While the client had a full meal, Tari took only a mocktail. His eating habits had been abysmal in Rain’s absence.
As the meeting drew to its end, Kofo walked into the restaurant, accompanied by her security aide. Tari lost concentration as his eyes followed her to a table where a man and two women were waiting for her. He watched them briefly, hardly listening to his companion’s words.
“Yeah, sorry. My mind drifted off a little. What did you say?”
The man repeated himself, and this time, Tari listened.
“You know what? Let’s move this conversation beyond here and through emails. Why don’t I come over to your office on Monday?”
“That would be great!”
“Good, because I have to run.”
Tari got on his feet and shook hands with him. “We’ll see on Monday.”
Then, he walked to Kofo’s table. She spotted him approaching and motioned to her security, seated at the following table, to stand down.
“Atari, what a surprise!” she said, smiling at him as if they were besties.
“Good afternoon, ma’am.”
He greeted the other people at the table and directed his attention to her. “May we talk, ma’am?”
“I’m in the middle of something.”
“It won’t take your time, I promise.”
“Then, we shall discuss it here. Where exactly in Paris is—?”
“Let’s talk.” Kofo lost her smile as she got on her feet. “Please, excuse me.” Clinging to her shawl, she walked to Tari and lowered her voice. “Why are you a pest?”
“I just want to know where she is.”
“I don’t know myself, Tari. She was in an induced coma for some days, and when she woke up, she specifically asked not to see me. Are you happy?”
Kofo glared up at him. “Boy, you don’t want to get on my nerves. I’ve been cordial with you, for Rain’s sake.”
“I just can’t believe her dad and mom won’t tell you where she is.”
“Rain doesn’t want to see anybody. Not me, and definitely not you. Satisfied?”
“Then, why are you going to Paris?”
“To see if I can convince Habib to take me to her. Look, don’t bug me again. And for the last time, leave my daughter alone.”
Kofo turned and plastered on a smile before returning to her table. Tari was confused by the information she had just given him. He got out his phone and sent a message to Rain as he left the restaurant, hoping she would read it. But the single tick, like the others, showed that she was still offline.
“I know you’re fine,” he said in a voice note. “Just call me when you get this. I miss you like mad, Ms. Kareem.”
Later that evening, he told Bara, Jerry, and Joko about his meeting with Kofo. They all agreed that what she had told him made no sense.
“She’s lying,” Jerry insisted. “Maybe Rain’s condition is worse than what they tell you.”
“Hey, that’s helpful,” Bara chided him.
“I’m sorry, but what are they hiding?”
“They just don’t want him around her. And I don’t think she’s recovered enough to want to reach him. Her phone is still off.”
Tari held on to Bara’s version, sipping his beer and feeding Oscar with cuts of his roast chicken. Sometime past 8pm, a tall man walked into the lounge. He looked like he was cut out of a fashion magazine, with the body and face of a model. It took Tari a few seconds to recognize him as Noah. His looks were grander and more sophisticated than his reputation.
“Easy, man,” Jerry said.
“Wetin dey happen?” Joko turned in Noah’s direction.
“Rain’s ex,” Jerry answered. “The Noah guy.”
They kept their eyes on Noah as he came up to them. He threw a general greeting and faced Tari.
“Bros, we need to talk.”
“Who’s your bros?” Tari asked.
“Abeg. Let’s just—”
“Say what you want to say here.”
“It’s about my sister.”
“The one you’re fucking,” muttered Joko.
“They won’t let me see her…”
“Because the moment you see her again, you’re going to bend her over,” Joko added, looking up from his phone. Noah returned the look with a nastier one before going back to Tari.
“They won’t even let me get her a lawyer, and they’re slamming her with attempted murder—”
“Run off to Twitter and do a thread about it,” Tari said.
“My guy, it’s ridiculous that they’re accusing her of attempted murder when it was a case of two fighting—”
“ARE YOU MAD?” Tari jumped to his feet. Bara wanted to say something, but Jerry stopped him. “Your stupid sister tried to kill Rain, and you were there and did nothing!”
“No, I came after they had—”
“Look, if you know what’s good for you, get out of this place now!”
“Who told you my name?” Tari looked at his friends. “He’s calling my name.”
“Guy, no be by shout o,” Noah responded. “Man to man—”
“Fuck your sister-fucking ass, fool! There’s no man-to-man here, you perv! Get the fuck out!”
“I’m begging on Naomi’s behalf, my guy. You know they’ll make her rot in jail.”
“As she deserves!”
Bara stood and faced Noah, standing between him and Tari. “Leave.”
Noah gave him a superior stare and scratched his beard. Tari stepped forward.
“And God bless you I see my name on Twitter in one of those your useless threads. My guy, I will find you and you’ll regret ever crossing paths with Rain.”
Noah scratched his beard a second time and walked out of the lounge, trying to maintain his pride in a sea of glaring eyes.
She woke up angry.
It was one thing to get hurt by someone for something that was no fault of yours. Having your assaulter haunt your dreams was a different level of madness.
To Rain, Naomi’s assault got her into a blackout for a few hours, leaving her in the loop of an endless nightmare. But in reality, she had been out for five days, first attended to by doctors in Nigeria who put her in an induced coma to stop her brain from swelling. Then, she was flown to France at the insistence of her parents.
When she first awoke, she straightaway asked for the details of the aftermath of her assault. But Dora called in the doctors to attend to her. After they were gone, she filled Rain in on all she had missed. From Lagos to Paris, it had been one torturous week for Dora, who had been by her side all through. The doctors in Paris had performed an emergency surgery that saved Rain’s life from a severe hematoma.
Rain noticed that Dora mentioned Tari only once. It didn’t seem normal that he would show up just once to see her. But when she tried to ask about him, a call came in for Dora. She left the room to speak to the caller, and Rain soon fell asleep. The following morning, she opened her eyes, longing for Tari’s presence. But she asked for Kofo first.
“She’ll be here soon.”
“I don’t want to see her.”
“I don’t. Tell her not to come.”
“Okay. As you wish. But why? Neither of you will tell me what happened in the Bahamas, why you had to leave like that.”
“It’s best you don’t know, Mommy. Where’s Tari? Does he know I’m here?”
“No, Watermelon. I just wanted to make sure you’re fine first.”
“I already told you last night. She’s been arrested, now in police custody.”
But last night, Naomi haunted my dream again.
“Don’t worry, she’s not going anywhere.”
Rain tried to tell Dora how Naomi had punched her endlessly in the face and head and slammed her head against the floor, but her mouth was dry, and her throat hurt. She shut her eyes to stop the tugging feeling in her left eye.
“Your dad is in town. He came in yesterday.”
If Dora was expecting a smile or a reaction from Rain over the mention of Habib, she got none.
“Tari?” Rain asked again.
“Watermelon, he’s swamped at work.”
No, he’s not. One of you decided you didn’t want him around me. Does he even know where I am?
“Rain, you heard the doctor. You should rest. Your heart rate is a little…erratic.”
Rain felt a sudden itch on her scalp. She raised her hand to touch her head, feeling the baldness on her scalp. Getting used to being without her precious hair would take a while. She was upset about it. She had a 4C type, difficult to maintain and hard to grow. It had taken her three years to reach that length. Now, it was all gone? Because of a stupid bitch who was fucking her brother?
“Rain…?” Dora’s eyes were on the rapidly beeping heart monitor beside the bed. She snatched Rain’s hand from her head. “You need to calm down. Naomi and Noah will get what’s coming to them.”
“On the run, but we will catch him.”
Rain drew her hand away from Dora’s and covered her eyes. The daylight was blinding. Could they take her to a darker room?
“Aww, my baby.” Dora sat on the bed, careful not to inconvenience her. “You’ll be all right.
When Rain felt stronger two days later, strong enough not to slip in and out of consciousness, she asked for her phone. Dora handed it to her. Taking her IV stand, she left the hospital room and walked down the hallway to stretch her legs. Then, she found a bench in an indoor garden, where she sat and dialed Tari’s number.
“Rain?” he answered, and tears flooded her eyes. “Where are you?”
Two mornings later, she opened her eyes to find him by her bed.
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages