SUNDAY, 13TH JULY 2014
Bosco parked opposite the Duro-Soleye Hospital and studied the environment. Here everyone minded his business and no one would suspect an assassin was around, so doing this job would be easy. All he needed to do was to enter the hospital, pretend to be Bola’s brother, get directions to her room and when they were alone, he would kill her. Thankfully, it was a silent pistol so no one would hear a thing. Perfect plan!
He, however, needed to be careful especially of that policewoman, if she was still around. He still wondered how she got to know about the exchange and where and when it would take place. If not for her, everything would have gone according to plan. She had foiled everything and created this mess for him. He saw her now as she walked out of the hospital compound, looking like every other woman on the street. No one would know there was more to her. She was a devil sent to make his life a living hell, but he was about to change that. The woman, dressed in plain, yellow shirt and a pair of black trousers, seemed to be staring at his car before she turned left and walked away, with her phone placed on her ear. Now, the coast was clear for him. His hand went underneath his jacket to check what hung inside the holster and when he felt the cold steel against his hands, his courage went a notch higher. He needed to do this job right or he would lose more than his life.
He got out of the car and locked the door. Then he went to the boot and laid his hands on it. Something was there that no one should know about. Something he needed to discard once he was done with this job. He headed straight into the hospital, crossing the road and into the compound. It was a small, two storey hospital and when he entered the large reception, he met a nurse at the desk.
He quickly twisted his face as if he was in deep worry. “Nurse, please. I am here for my sister. I heard she was involved in an accident and was brought here. Her name is Bola.”
The petite nurse looked up from the file in her hands. “Oh! Thank God! We have not been able to make any contact with her family. She had no phone on her. Thankfully, you are here.”
“Is she okay?” Bosco held tightly to the desk. “Is my sister okay? Can I see her?”
“Well, she is resting now. Luckily, the car was not on top speed or else it could have been worse. She got some dislocations though and some bruises here and there, but nothing that won’t heal.”
“Oh! Thank God!” Bosco looked VERY relieved. “Our mother nearly died when I told her. She is on her way, but may not be here anytime soon. But I am here. Is Bola alone? Can I see her now?”
“Unfortunately, she is sleeping now, so it’s best not to disturb her.” The nurse pointed at one of the seats in the reception. “You can sit there and wait. I promise I will alert you once she wakes up. I am sure she will be happy to see you.”
That didn’t go down well with Bosco. “I want to see my sister now and you are telling me to sit and wait for her to awake! I just want to see her and stay by her side, holding her hands! I am her brother!”
“Excuse me, please!”
Two pair of eyes turned to the entrance, when an elderly but graceful-looking woman stood.
“How can I help you, ma?” The nurse asked.
The woman walked slowly to the desk. “My name is Mrs. Williams and I will like to see Bola.”
“Oh! You must be her mother we have been expecting.” The nurse’s eyes flew back to Bosco. “Thank God she is here.” She walked around the desk. “Let me check on Bola and see if she is awake and fit to receive visitors. You can sit down there and wait.”
Lola raised her hand to object she was not the mother, but something told her to hold back. Bola, whoever she was, was in danger and she needed to be careful. Her killers could be anywhere.
She walked to the seat area and sat on one of the chairs. The young man, on the other hand, refused to sit and kept his eyes on the nurse till she entered one of the rooms. He looked very agitated and Lola felt sorry for him. She wondered who he was, a close family member or a friend. Still, there was something eerie about him and about the way the veins throbbed in his neck.
“I assume you are here for Bola too.” Lola asked him.
“Are you her friend or brother?”
Bosco stopped pacing and gave the woman a hard look. “I am her friend. Who are you to her? I know you are not the mother because I have never met you before.”
“Well, you can say I’m her friend too.” Though I have never met her.
“I’ve known her since childhood. This accident nearly took her life, but thank God it didn’t.”
Accident? Lola thought wildly. The little boy never mentioned that. This must be worse than she was told. Maybe she should just stand up and leave. “I hope she’s fine.”
The nurse returned, shaking her head. “She is still sleeping and I am sorry, I cannot wake her. You will have to wait till she wakes up.”
“Where is your restroom, please?” Bosco asked, holding his trousers as if he was really under pressure.
“The male restroom is that way.” The nurse pointed to the same direction she had returned from. “First room on your left on the corridor.”
Bosco walked smartly to the restroom, hiding a smile. He had studied the area very well. The restroom was just opposite the room where Bola was. All he needed to do was to pretend to use the restroom and then sneak out to the other room, making sure no one saw him. Then he would do what he came here to do and sneak out after giving a lame excuse.
He entered the restroom and stayed there for about a minute before moving. He opened the door very quietly and looked from left to right. Not a soul moved in the corridor and the nurse was deep into a phone conversation. The old woman kept staring at the entrance as if she was expecting someone to come through. Within few seconds, he tiptoed to the other side, his back against the wall. Then his hand went to the knob of the door beside him. This is it, he smiled to himself, as he left himself in.
1.05pm – same time
“I’m sorry I cannot just let you go, Mrs….” The doctor looked through the file in his hand for the name of his Patient.
“Pauline. Just call me Pauline.” I am Mrs. Nobody.
“Okay, Pauline. You have some first degree burns especially on your right arm and a bit of it on your left.”
Pauline sat up on the hospital bed. “Yes, I know that, but it isn’t something major. It isn’t like I have burns all over my body that I cannot do anything else or even take care of myself.”
“Yes, right. But still, I need you to stay for one night. Plus, you look like an emotional wreck.” The doctor insisted.
“He is right, Pauline.” Ezinne agreed with him. “The burn doesn’t look good at all.” Plus you look like an emotional wreck.
Pauline gave up. They were right anyway. “Okay. Just one night.”
The doctor smiled. “Thank you for accepting. I have to check on my other patients now. I promise I will check up on you again before my shift is over.”
“Okay, thank you, doctor.” Pauline rested back into the bed, making sure her bandaged hand was safely tucked beside her.
“What are you going to do now?” Ezinne asked immediately the door closed after the doctor. “I cannot believe what that witch did this to you.”
“I don’t know. I feel I have lost the battle already so there is nothing else I can do to get my husband back. I have failed, Ezinne.”
Ezinne exhaled sharply. Anytime her friend became pessimistic, it affected her, made her want to fight for Pauline. When she had arrived at Pauline’s house some hours ago and saw the burns, it took all her willpower and persuasion from Pauline to stop her from climbing up the stairs and forcing her way into the house to pour a bucket of hot water on Nneka.
“I almost told him.” Pauline spoke sadly. “Almost told him my darkest secret. Been thinking if it would have changed anything if I had opened up. Perhaps it would have made him more understanding, empathic.”
“Or made him hate you more.” Ezinne stood up, irritated at her friend’s words. “You never told him before he married you. You kept that secret from him for eight years, Pauline. Eight long years! He will detest you, blame you for all the delay. It was good you withheld it from telling him. You would have got more than first degree burns. Maybe a first-class assault.”
Ezinne’s words felt like hot steam on Pauline’s skin, adding to the pain she already was going through. Guilt gnawed at her, condemning her for keeping quiet all these years. But she had been afraid. Afraid to speak out. Afraid no man would have wanted her. Ashamed of being tagged a rape victim. Frightened to come out of the shell she had shielded herself in. She never knew that someday that shell would crack, exposing her to the shadows of her past and she would have nowhere to hide or run to for safety. That day had finally come.
Her phone vibrated and Ezinne picked it up from the bedside table. Her mouth opened in surprise as she handed over the phone to Pauline. “It’s Ola.”
Pauline almost jumped out of the bed, forgetting her pains temporarily. “Ola?” She grabbed the phone from Ezinne. Ola? What did he want with her? She thought he had completely forgotten about her. After the Friday reunion, he had not called her neither did not mention he would like to see her again when the meeting ended. And Pauline had not wanted to see him ever again. Not after she realized she would never be more than a friend to him.
“Pick the call, Pauline.” Ezinne encouraged. “Isn’t he the nice pastor guy you told me about?”
Pauline dropped the phone on the table and turned her back against it, fighting off the temptation to pick the call. She desperately wanted to. “No, I cannot. I thought he had travelled back to the States. Why is he calling me?” Especially when I am weak and need a strong shoulder to cry on.
“Maybe there was more to the meeting then. Maybe he felt a connection too.”
Pauline gasped. “How can you say that, Ezinne? A connection? He is married, for Pete’s sake, and has a happy family. The last thing I need right now is to be another man’s play tool.” The line cut and she relaxed. She overcame the temptation.
Ezinne sat beside her friend. “If he did not feel something, then why would he call at all?”
The phone started ringing again.
“Or why would he be calling again?” Ezinne added, picking the phone and placing it before Pauline. “Just pick the call, Pauline. Forget what I said about the connection thing. You need people around you now and right now, it’s becoming too tasking for me to be all you need. It’s just a call from a friend, that’s all.”
Pauline watched the phone ring and slowly her hands went to the handset. She took in a deep breath. “Hello.”
“Hi, Pauline!” Ola sounded very excited. “I thought you were busy, just decided to try my luck one more time. Will be leaving on Tuesday, so I thought we could catch up one last time before I leave. Can we see tomorrow, if that’s okay with you?”
Yes! Yes!!, Pauline wanted to scream out. “I…I can… I cannot, Ola. I’m sorry. I will be very… very busy.” Pauline tried to pull herself together. “I will not be available.”
“Are you okay? You don’t sound too good.” His voice was filled with concern and Pauline almost changed her mind. “Where are you?” He asked.
“In the hospital. Just had a minor accident, but I will be out in no time.”
“You are in the hospital? That’s not good. Where is the hospital? Let me come and see you now.”
“No, you cannot.”
“I insist. What kind of accident is that? Is your husband aware? Is he there with you?”
There was a moment of silence as Pauline did not know how to respond. Her husband was not there, had never been there. She had been all alone for a long time. “I’m okay, but if you insist, it’s Duro-Soleye Hospital in Ikeja.”
“Got it. I’m getting my driver to bring me down right away. Is there anything you would want me to come along with? Beverages, food, anything?”
How about a dose of love? “Bring anything that comes to your mind.”
“Okay, on my way. Will be with you shortly.”
The line cut and Pauline dug her head into the pillow. What have I done?
“So I guess he is on his way?” Ezinne asked with a sheepish smile on her face.
“Yes, and I hope I am not making a mistake.”
“Not at all. It’s just a friendly visit, that’s all, and I think you should be happy there are people who still care about you.”
Pauline sighed. Ezinne was right. Right now, she needed those who loved her to be around her more than ever. There was nothing wrong in having Ola over, was there? No, there wasn’t. But why was her heart beating so hard as if she had just committed a fatal error?
She was sleeping when he walked in. He smiled. This would be easier than he thought. He would just point the pistol at her chest and hit his target. She would not feel a thing. His hand went to his pistol pad. He would do this quick and get out of here before anyone could notice a thing. Her head turned sideways as if she was trying to wake up and she mumbled some things he could barely hear. Her broken right arm was fully bandaged and placed above her chest and her left leg was raised, hanging above her body. It appeared she was greatly hit. Well, she deserved it. If she had kept her mouth shut, minded the business she was sent to do, all these would not have happened. She deserved the pain she got and she also deserved to die. His hand went to the holster beneath his jacket.
“Bosco?” It was barely a whisper.
Bosco moved closer to the bed, hiding the gun behind him. “Yes, Bola.”
Her eyes still looked sleepy, but she was awake. There were bits of scratches here and there on her face. “What happened?”
“A car hit you.” He replied in Yoruba.
Bola twisted her face as she tried to recall everything that happened. “I messed up.”
“Yes, you didn’t follow instructions and you messed up everything.” How he hated her right now!
“How is my brother?” She tried to sit up as panic steadily took over. “Where is my brother?”
“Your brother is not here.”
“Where is he? I want to see him.” Bola tried to get off the bed.
“No, you will not. You remember our bargain, don’t you? Your foolishness has cost us too much already and your brother too will pay for it.”
“What do you mean by ‘too’?” Bola’s eyes followed his right hand that had rested underneath his jacket. “You are here to kill me?” Panic took the full swing. But before any sound could come out of her throat, Bosco brought out the gun and hit her hard on the head with the butt, knocking her out.
Then he raised the pistol above her chest, counting one, two, three and as he pulled the trigger…
The door flung open. “Drop your weapon!”
Bosco froze on his feet. He turned and saw a woman in yellow and black cloth point a pistol directly at his head.
“I will not repeat myself. Drop that gun!” Detective Bridget looked like she would not miss her target if the young man made the mistake of pulling the trigger. “Put your hands on your head.”
Bosco looked from the fearsome Detective to the unconscious lady on the bed and back. He had almost accomplished this task until this stupid policewoman came in. No doubt, she had been watching him and he had fallen prey to her trap. He held on to the gun. “If you kill me, you will not find her brother. Only I know where he is, so you need me alive.”
“You mean the boy you hid inside your boot? Don’t worry. I got him out.”
Gobe! Bosco thought wildly. It was clear all odds were against him. If only he could turn the tables… Without warning, he turned the gun on the Detective quickly and as he pulled the trigger, he felt several waves of pain in his legs. He slumped on the floor, writhing in pain.
“You should have listened to me instead.” Detective Bridget stood vigilant, ready to release more shots. She moved closer to him and knocked him out with the butt of her gun. “That is to teach you to obey Police Officers.”
She dashed to the bed, afraid she was too late to save the poor girl. She had almost lost hope when she entered the room and found the girl unconscious with a gun raised above her body. But when she felt the pulse on the girl’s neck, the Detective breathed a sigh of relief. She made it just in time.
At the adjoining room
“What was that?” Pauline asked, fear on her face as she laid face-down on the floor beside Ezinne.
“I don’t know. Sounds like a gun.” Ezinne replied, equally afraid.
“Gunshot in an hospital?”
“Shhhh!” Ezinne cautioned her friend. “Sounds like it’s coming from the room next to us.”
“Maybe my husband has come to kill me.”
“Don’t be silly!” Ezinne pressed her ears against the floor. “Looks like it has stopped. Let me go and check what it is.”
“What!” Pauline disagreed. “What if a stray bullet hits you?”
“There are no more gunshots, Pauline. I need to know what is out there if we are to get out of here alive.”
There was a heavy knock on the door and both women nearly fainted from fright.
“This is Detective Bridget. You may come out of your rooms. Everything is safe now.” The voice was definitely a woman’s and sounded very authoritative.
Slowly, Ezinne opened the door and right at the entrance was a woman in a commando position holding a pistol, with a very serious look on her face.
“Who are you?” Ezinne asked. A killer, no doubt.
“I already told you my name.” The Detective’s voice was blunt. “I just came here to tell you not to be scared. I got everything under control and the killer has been unarmed.” She moved to check if there were occupants in other rooms.
Killer? Pauline rose from the floor and walked slowly out of the room. Who would an assassin come to murder in an hospital? The shots indeed came from the next room and when she got there, she met a man lying flat in a pool of blood while the doctor was trying to calm a young woman, who was hysterical. Beside him was another woman, more elderly, who equally looked panic-stricken.
“What happened here?” She asked in a trembling voice.
Three pairs of eyes turned to look at her and she almost choked on her feet when she recognized two of those pairs.
What the heck is going on here?
“Sign here, please.” Detective Bridget passed a form and a pen to the elderly woman.
“Thank you, Detective ….”
“Detective Bridget.” Bridget answered with a smile. She was used to having people accept the fact that a woman could be such a good police officer that would bring down an armed man with a gun. So she was not surprised when she had walked through the door of the hospital with a pistol in her hand and the older woman had looked like she was about to jump out of her skin.
Lola signed the paper with trembling hand, barely focusing on the form. Her eyes were on the woman who had just brought down an armed assassin in a matter of minutes. The detective had walked through the door and asked them to quietly exit the hospital. Then she had locked the door from inside to go on a mission she evidently did not want compromised. The next thing Lola heard was a number of gunshots that had her and the nurse scampering away for safety. Then, there was the silence, after which the detective opened the door to tell them all was safe and the nurse should come in to do some cleaning.
“How did you know he was coming to kill the girl?” Lola could not keep her curiosity at bay. Plus, there was something about the officer than seemed strangely familiar, but she could not place her hands on it.
“Well, we had this lead, who unfortunately, was killed by the assassin’s men some weeks back. She informed us about a set of gang who was involved in drug-trafficking and peddling. According to her, the gang exploited innocent girls who they sometimes use to do the exchange and that one of the meeting places was Allen Bus stop. So, I had been waiting for an exchange to take place for many days now and I almost gave up. But today I got lucky. It is not every Sunday you see a girl in school uniform waiting at a major bus stop in Lagos. The nurse told me you came for the girl. Are you related to her?”
Lola was speechless. She had not thought of how to reply if asked that question. “Well, we not really related.”
“I thought as much.” Bridget took a quick scan of the older woman, taking note of the quality clothing on her. “You do not look like you would have a daughter who would fall prey to such act. They often use girls from poor background and who are desperate to make a living. So, I guess you are just a concerned somebody too?”
“I got a call from her brother. I was on my way home from another hospital when his call came through. He sounded very helpless and I could not resist his plea. So I changed course and came here immediately.”
“You are a good woman. Not many people will do that.” Bridget commended with an appreciative smile.
“Thank you, Detective. So what will happen to the girl?”
“Well, it’s obvious she needs more time to recuperate. This event has caused more than enough trauma than she can handle. For her safety, we will need to move her out of this place. Her life is in more danger than ever as the top dog of this criminal gang will more desperate to take her life. I need to get her to somewhere safe, somewhere no one would know where she is. She is my primary witness.”
“She can come and stay with me.”
“No, I don’t think…” Bridget raised an eyebrow. “Sorry, what did you say?”
Lola chastised herself for not thinking before speaking. How could she suggest that? Take the girl into her home as if that would solve the problem? It was clear it would not. Plus, the girl had expressed shock when Lola had walked into the room with the doctor. It was evident on her face that she had not been happy to see the older woman. Lola sighed deeply. “Never mind. There is…”
“That would be perfect!” Bridget was ecstatic. “We can move her right away to your home right away. Any extra minute spent here is putting her life more at risk.”
Lola folded her hands in disagreement. “I don’t think she would want to come with me. Actually, the girl and I have met before and our meeting wasn’t pleasant. She did not want to have anything to do with me.”
“Well, she doesn’t have a choice now. Go get your car ready. She is moving in with you and I hope you do not mind having her brother too.” Bridget nodded at the little boy who was being attended to by the doctor. He looked very tired, but in his eyes, a light of victory shone bright.
When Lola met the boy some minutes ago, she fell in love with him instantly. Something about him reminded her of Charles when he was little. Perhaps, it was in the way he carried himself as if as he was bigger than what he was or it was the bravery of his heart that melted hers. “I guess I can handle both of them.”
“Good.” Bridget concluded, walking away. “I will get them ready.”
“Wait!” Lola reached out to her. “I just have one question. Why would you trust me with this?”
“Because I know you very well, Mrs. Lola Williams. And I know that you always like to sit in the back left corner in the church every Sunday so you would greet people as they pass by.” Bridget tilted her head with a grin on her face as she walked away. “The world is a small place, isn’t it?”
Lola was stunned. That was it! She must have seen the Officer in the church, but the woman had looked different, wielding a gun. The world was indeed a small place, which was why it was important one needed to keep a clean state every time. She turned her head and met the eyes of the young boy who was being treated. The warmth in his smile enveloped her like a cloud and she smiled back. He did not need to say anything. His smile said it all. Thank you for believing me.