Desmond was worried. As he raced his car to Marigold Hotels and Suites, he tried to convince himself that nothing bad had happened, but his instincts told him otherwise. Nkem’s call had brought on a potpourri of emotions. First he was relieved that she was alright; then he got angry that she skipped security and eventually he became worried. She had sounded strange……too strange. How she managed to escape from under the nose of the two police orderlies stationed to guard her was still a mystery. His partner, Edwin, maintained stoic silence as he drove them to the hotel at break-neck speed. Edwin had been made to look a fool and he hated it. Nkem wasn’t in his good books right now. She had double crossed them. Majorly!
Desmond and Edwin had been assigned to The Murder Case which left Nkem’s husband, children and sister dead. The investigation was personal to them because it was on orders from above. The Commissioner of Police wanted to use the media and internet outrage on the horrific murders as the perfect opportunity to ‘launder’ the image of the Police Force. He stepped into the case and announced their intentions to “Bring the killers to book in three months”. Since a murder case was the jurisdiction of the police, they bamboozled their way through the investigation process and subtly advised the NDLEA to fall back and give them air to thoroughly sift through the evidence on ground. As was expected, the public were not swayed by the show of grandiose investigative sham being carried out by the Nigerian Police; tasking them at every point and proffering jungle justice as the only solution.
Donald, on the other hand, was on a mini-holiday at the NDLEA’s quarters. He was released a few weeks later for “lack of evidence” to incriminate him on any drug-peddling charges. The excuse was typical: “The evidence that was purported to be in the custody of the NDLEA had been ‘STOLEN’ by unknown persons and investigation into the theft had commenced.” The anguish and public outcry at Donald’s release was unprecedented. A man and his children were dead and his wife is in a mental institution while Donald, the man responsible for it all was walking free; spending money in clubs and engaging in lurid ménage à trois with odious girls. The criticisms came hard and fast as one month turned to three and every likelihood of Donald being held culpable for the multiple murders, fizzled.
Through it all, Nkem alternated between being in a coma, dealing with manic depression, (when she came to) and being suicidal. Her husband, children and sister were buried without her knowledge while she received treatment at the psychiatric ward. Four months after the incident, Nkem was discharged with the prerequisite that she returned for fortnightly check-ups. That was when she met Desmond. He and his partner Edwin were working on the case and were often around to see and pry information from her. They often reassured her that they were getting closer to nailing the killers but she knew it was a lie. Desmond was kind, calm, extremely understanding and had quickly gained Nkem’s trust. The same could not be said for Edwin whom she regarded as a crass, arrogant son of a bitch! Nkem eavesdropped on their conversations often. She needed as much information as she could garner to set her plans in motion. Luckily, both Desmond and Edwin spoke freely in her presence; always assuming she wasn’t lucid enough to grasp what their conversations were about because she appeared heavily sedated most of the time.
As his car drew closer to the hotel, Desmond noticed two police vans parked at the entrance to the lobby. Gun-totting policemen, numbering ten, were in front of the building, acting like professional stunt-men while a rotund senior office was barking out orders. Desmond could bet his eyeballs that none of them had braved the situation and gone up to the actual Crime Scene. ‘He didn’t like meddling with these types,’ he thought to himself; feeling extremely superior and intelligent. From the look on Edwin’s face as they parked and got down from the car, his partner obviously felt the same. Their presence was greeted with salutes from the lower ranked officers while the superior officer on ground expected some form of camaraderie. Desmond and Edwin ignored him and made their way into the hotel.
Nkem was shaking violently. She had expected the runaway goons to return and seek revenge but that hadn’t happened. They had fled the vicinity, not because of her, but because they knew the police would be all over the place in no time. Nkem already knew that the hotel management would call the police as soon as shots were fired and that was why she called Desmond. If she was going to get out of here alive, he was the only one that could get her out. He had told her to stay put, that he was on his way and she’d obeyed. The down side to ‘staying put’ was that the initial rush of adrenalin had dissipated and the sight of so much blood and the bodies of the three dead men made her queasy. She wished Desmond would come quickly.
Sudden footsteps startled her and despite her shaky hands, she lifted the gun and shot blindly.
“What the fuck? Nkem? Nkem??? It’s Des… stop shooting and drop the gun down.”
Desmond’s voice was a relief. She peeked through the broken door and saw Desmond trying to enter the living room suite with his hand raised up in surrender. She saw several pair of eyes peeking from the door way. To her, they looked like a parliament of owls and it made her chuckle. Desmond stopped in the middle of the living room suite, his hands still up. He noticed she was trying to squeeze her way through a door that had obviously been forced down and was now leaning haphazardly on the frame. Nkem was naked, save for a bloodied bra and her eyes had the fevered gaze of a woman in the first stages of dementia. More owl eyes appeared at the entrance door, some widening into unbelievable proportions at the realization that it was a naked little lady that was responsible for this chaos. Nkem was still holding the gun but it wasn’t pointed at anyone. It was just hanging loosely in her hand with her finger touching the trigger slightly. Desmond knew that one wrong word would make her volatile.
“Nkem, look at me… Look at me dear. You’ll be fine,” he told her with as much conviction as he could muster.
“I killed him. I killed Donald. He took away my husband, my twins and Oge. I got my revenge. I killed him back.”
Desmond worried for her. She looked lost; alienated by her grief and near insanity.
“You did good dear. Now drop the gun and come here…..we need to get you to the hospital,” he said patiently. He took a few steps towards her and half expected her to raise the gun at him. Instead she smiled and shook her head.
“You want to arrest me; I know,” she said. “But he deserved to die! Everyone knows he deserved to die.”
Edwin was standing at the entrance of the room, watching Desmond try to calm her down. Edwin was alert. His hand wasn’t far from his service pistol.
“Yes he did deserve to die but you have to drop the gun before you hurt yourself. Nkem…..please give it to me.”
Nkem looks at the gun as if noticing it for the first time. She points it at Desmond with a sly smile and his hands goes up in the air again. At the same moment, Edwin pulls his gun and points it at her.
“Drop the gun down,” Edwin growled angrily. She turns to smile at him with fevered eyes.
“If I shoot him, you’ll shoot me and we’ll both die. I think death is better than jail or pity… or what do you think?” She asked with a wan smile.
“Drop your gun,” Edwin said more menacingly, aiming the gun at her left breast.
The senior officer from the lobby entrance had summoned the courage to make his way upstairs with his parody Swat Team in tow and chose that moment to appear at the door. He took in the scenario and immediately tried to establish his authority by barking out his outrage.
“Why is she pointing a gun at an officer? What is going on here?”
Nkem’s mind snapped. She turned the gun and fired at the entrance.
She noticed the prompt disappearance of the owl eyes and the barking Senior Officer. She chuckled again as a sudden weakness enveloped her. For some odd reason, she felt sleepy……tired. All she wanted to do was lie down. The gun felt heavy in her hand and she let it go chuckling again as it hit the floor with a thud. She felt Desmond’s hand around her as he carried her and placed her on something soft…..A bed? A couch? Whatever. She got a whiff of his male scent and smiled at him through sleepy eyes. ‘Why was she so sleepy? Maybe killing people sucked the strength out of her’. She closed her eyes briefly and could hear the soothing sounds of “ADIEMUS”… Enya’s music always calmed her. She hummed along to the song but her lips didn’t move.
“Nkem! Nkem!!! Nkem look at me…… open your eyes and look at me….. FUCK!!! Nkem…..Desmond’s voice was frantic. He tried not to shake her because she was losing so much blood. Instead, he pressed his hand over the bullet wound on her left breast, trying to stop the bleeding.
Someone handed him a towel and he used it as a compress in an attempt to stop the flow. Her eyes flew open and she could see Desmond. He looked blurry. She wondered why. She tried to touch him but couldn’t feel her arms. She couldn’t understand the manner of fatigue she felt but she liked it. It gave her calm from her tortured existence. She smiled again at Desmond.
“I’m going to sleep and dream of Osas and the twins”
Nkem closed her eyes and heaved a contented sigh.
Desmond cradled her dead body and turned to look at Edwin, his expression deadpan.
For the first time in his life, Edwin regretted holding a gun.