Today’s Episode is a special Christmas Love Episode. It’s specially dedicated to my friends Koye and Tunrayo who got married on Saturday. They dated for 12years and we finally followed them to the altar that day. Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy today’s episode.
Teju was again bundled into the stuffy back of the pick-up truck that had brought him. The battery of his phone was flat and he didn’t dare stretch his luck by asking that it be charged. He had been asked where he would like to be taken by the gentleman he spoke with over the phone who had introduced himself as the Minister of Police Affairs. He had been divided between saying Kofo’s office or his hotel, but he had decided on the hotel for two reasons. The first was that he didn’t want any trouble for Kofo, and he didn’t know if his release was by her effort or Peter’s. The second was that he didn’t want her to see him this way. Despite Saranja’s best efforts at cleaning him up, he still looked well beat.
The drive to his hotel took about an hour and there were times of waiting in traffic, since they were moving at the morning rush hour. He had requested to be dropped off a street from the hotel, as he didn’t want to attract any attention by coming down from the back of a suspicious looking police car smack in front of his hotel.
They dropped him off and sped off in the way he now thought was characteristic of police driving in Nigeria. Five minutes later, he entered the lobby of his hotel. There, seated on the stuffed waiting chair was Kofo.
The three men hadn’t slept all night. In that time, they had gone through all the evidence one more time in painstaking detail and had formed a plan. Maro was worried that they had heard nothing from Kofo since she had left them visibly distressed after receiving a message on her phone. But apart from that niggling issue, a fruitful night it had been.
“I’ll still remain Tricia’s prosecution attorney, that’s the only way this can work” Olu was saying
“Of course, and Taju will still defend her. You should still keep in touch with Saranja and in fact try to reach out to him. it’s critical he is in the court room on the trial day.”
Taju and Olu nodded in agreement with Maro. “You know, Maro,” Olu said as they rose to leave “you should consider a career in intelligence.”
Maro laughed “a politician’s son in intelligence? No way.”
“You really should, you would be an invaluable asset.” Olu retorted. They all laughed, shook hands and then wearily dragged themselves outside. The morning shift policemen smartly saluted Olu as he peeked out of his office to bid them farewell.
Maro waited until they were safely in the car before he raised the first of the two questions on his mind
“Do you think we should have trusted Olu as much as we did?” he asked.
“We didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, did we? It was either that, or grope in the dark. And without Kofo around, we would have gotten nowhere without opening up to him.” Taju responded.
“Now,” Maro said as the car began to move “the success of our plan hinges on our being able to trust that he will not betray our trust but go along with the plan. Do we hold any aces? Or are we totally in his hands and by extension Tricia’s fate?”
“Except you have any other ideas, that’s what we would have to do. Doesn’t it worry you that we have not heard from Kofo at all since yesterday night? Very unusual of her, on a normal day, she would have called to find out how it’s going with Olu. And she looked pretty worried about whatever she had read on her phone as she left.”
Maro nodded at each inference that Taju drew about Kofo’s departure “Yes, that she was. I’ve been tempted to call her a few times, but there was something in the way she looked at me as she left that said, ‘let me sort this out and I will call you’. So I guess we will go home, refresh and wait for her call. Abi?”
“Alright, where should I drop you off,” Taju asked
“Kofo’s office,” Maro responded.
“Why would you be going there?” Taju asked, confused.
“You have forgotten who this is all about, yeah? Tricia is there and I would like to see her before going home,” Maro responded curtly.
If Taju was white, he would have turned bright red out of embarrassment at Maro’s light rebuke. They were quite during the drive to Kofo’s office.
Olu watched them leave from his office window and for the first time since they had arrived here, he permitted himself to really think and analyze the situation properly. They were no fools, so they would have deduced that he had been induced somehow to ensure Tricia got
convicted. If there was any doubt in their minds, it would have been erased with his evidence destroying antics when he broke the memory card Kofo had brought to him, and with the phone records with Saranja. But they had chosen not to dwell on that, and he had trusted them by bringing all he had to the table. They had even formed a plan to save Tricia. But could he really trust them? Wasn’t it possible they were just setting him up.
And there was the issue of the plan. He would still remain in the force after this case was over, and he would have superiors. This was Naija after all, and cases got swept under the carpet every time if it involved someone high up and connected enough. And if he was on the wrong side of that someone, he might as well leave the force, and leave the country while at it. He was torn between following his heart, trusting Kofo and her cohorts and doing what he felt was right, and the raw, basal instinct of self preservation. Tough choice.
To say that Teju was extremely surprised to see Kofo would be an understatement. In spite of himself, he felt a series of contradictions as their eyes met. It was obvious she had been waiting there for him, and he wondered if it was all night. He found himself surprisingly delighted to see her, but embarrassed by how he looked at the same time. The reason he had come to the hotel first and not her office was to try to put himself together well enough to see her.
He had seen her first and paused where he was standing. Seconds later, she looked up from her phone and saw him. She jumped up and was in front of him in two giant strides. All the thoughts flew out of Teju’s head when she threw herself into his arms and kissed him – a firm, fiery and deep kiss that took his breath away.
“I was so,” kiss “so scared” kiss, “I was going to,” looooong kiss, “lose you” kiss of life!
When she gave him a breather and he could gather himself together, he went to the receptionist, who was making a rather bad attempt at acting like she hadn’t seen any kissing, to get the keys to his room. By the time he had gone through the formalities of getting his keys and turned back to her, she seemed to have become the comported Kofo again, different from the exuberant one he had met a few moments ago.
“We should talk in the privacy of your room. There’s much I need to tell you, and that I would like to know,” she said to him evenly.
They took the flight of stairs to Room 219 in contented silence. It was a large room, larger than what Kofo would have thought would be available in this hotel for a regular single room. Everything was orderly and arranged as the room service had left it.
Teju went straight into the wardrobe and selected a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to change into. He sat on the bed and then asked her “so how did I get out?”
She just walked up to him with a mischievous smile of her face “now that we are alone,” she said, sitting on him and facing him, “the first thing you really wanna do is talk? I still have a debt to pay, remember?”
He didn’t need to be told more. He kissed her passionately and she kissed him back like her life depended on that kiss. Initially, the kisses stayed on the lips, but it was only a matter of time before Teju’s lips strayed from her lips and explored the rest of her. Her back arched and she let out a moan as he bit her nape lightly. Then his hands crept under her top and she suddenly froze and jumped up from his laps and shouted “No!” pushing him onto the bed with force in the process.
Her move was so unexpected that Teju fell freely onto the bed, banging the back of his head on the wooden frame at the other end of the bed. Searing pain tore through his being, from the base of his brain to all his extremities.
“Oh my God!” Kofo screamed and she jumped on the bed to the other side. His eyes were clamped shut.
“Oh my God, Oh my God, what have I done, what have I done,” she kept mumbling to herself and cradled his head in her laps, rocking back and forth.
His eyes opened and she could see the pain in them, pain that seemed to be beyond the physical pain of bumping his head. All he said in a weak voice that tore at the fabric of her heart was “why?”
The tears were flowing freely from her face now
“I was barely entering my teens, and I lived with an aunt. Both my parents had died a couple of years earlier and life had been live with a series of relatives. My aunt’s husband had lost his job but she still worked. One day, aunty had gone to work, and I returned from school. I was in the kitchen, trying to make lunch. Uncle came in, casually picked one of the kitchen knives, sauntered over to me and threatened to slash my throat if I cried out. That day, he raped me repeatedly, doing it as many times as he liked. I was too numbed, in too much shock to resist or scream after a while. I lost my virginity to him that day and the pain was excruciating. He warned me to make sure aunty did not get to know, on the pain of death. I kept my mouth shut and hid my pain as best as I could. When aunty noticed that I winced a little each time I walked and asked what was wrong, I told her it was menstrual pain. She gave me money to buy drugs, and to make some lime tea to help with the pain.
After this had gone on for months, aunty walked in one faithful afternoon. Nothing could convince her it was serial rape. Since I hadn’t been screaming and had quietly lain down like a log, she was convinced I had seduced her husband. Sadly, to save himself, he acted like he had been bewitched and I was labeled a little witch set to destroy her aunt’s marriage. She beat me mercilessly, channeling what I now know was anger at his betrayal into my own torture for being a party to it, unconsenting I might have been.
So, I ran away. But ironically, the very thing I had run away from seemed to be waiting for me out there. Some boys, seeing I was alone, tried to rape me that day. I was only saved by a passing police car, which returned me to the nightmare called my uncle. I had formed an opinion that men were all like that deep down, and I have been unable to allow a man touch me since. He died, along with my aunt, a few months later. By then, I was pregnant with my daughter. I had to give her up to an orphanage when I had her. But I found her when I became a police officer and used all my means to adopt her. I…”
Her eyes had been clouded by the tears that were flowing freely from her face that she didn’t see or even feel he had gotten up. She was in a trancelike state and seemed to have been transported back in time to the horror of those memories. He interrupted her with a kiss and then whispered into her ears “shhh. I love you.”
Then he carried her off the bed into the bathroom and under the shower. One by one, he removed every item of clothing she was wearing, taking gentle care not to touch any of her privates as he did. Then he turned the shower on and slowly began to bathe her, looking into her eyes intermittently, the eyes saying more about his love for her than any words he could have said.
And then they made love. He was gentle. And this time, she gave the whole of herself to him, matching every thrust, following every movement. Together they made a rhythm that fused their hearts together. That day, Kofo found the release from her past that love could bring.
AIG Saranja left Force Headquarters for the last time that day. The meeting with the IG had been brief and direct to the point. His recent actions had embarrassed the presidency to important British interests and the First Lady and they had demanded a scapegoat. The president had in turn demanded for Saranja’s figurative head, but he the IG along with the minister had been able to convince the president to just quietly retire him, considering the number of good years he had put into service of the country in the police force.
Saranja knew that was cock and bull that should be told to the birds. The IG was glad about ridding the police force of him. But he was under no illusions as to the fact that he had been lucky to get off with just a retirement. If the formidable First Lady had been involved in this, then he was twice as lucky. But he wasn’t out of the woods yet. She had brought ruin to not a few powerful men in her hsuband’s political circle and she was to be feared. That call to the Speaker must have helped; otherwise, he would have gotten off much worse. The official communication of his retirement would be in the papers the next day, he was sure of that.
His phone rang. He ignored it the first and second times but the caller was persistent and he decided to pick the call the third time. It was Olu Williams.
“Hello Olu, how are you?”
“Very well sir, I hadn’t heard from you since yesterday and thought I should call you.”
“Look Olu, I am in no mood to banter. Your Kofo girl has proven more dangerous than I anticipated.”
“Kofo? What could that one do?” Olu replied. If Saranja had not been as agitated as he was, he might have picked up the exaggerated disdain in his voice.
“It is that kind of underestimation that has gotten me into this wahala. I am officially retired from the force, effective today, and its by that girl’s hand.”
“What! How can? That’s impossible!” Olu exclaimed, this time genuinely surprised. Those guys hadn’t told him anything in these lines. But then, maybe they didn’t know. There had been something suspect about how Kofo had left them the previous night.
“You will read it in the papers. She had been working with one UK boy who I suspect was sent here by Bruno’s life insurance company to verify cause of death, since he was not a serving policeman. I had wondered how she came about much of the info she had and so I did what you should have – put her under surveillance. I picked the boy up to rough him up a bit and find out what he knew after he started to bark up my trail. Apparently, the boy was smart enough to have a plan in case just that happened. And here I am, victim of that plan.”
“Wow!” was all Olu could say.
“Look Olu, I cannot stress enough how important it is to win the case. I’ll be plain with you, since you’ve been such a good boy. There’s four million pounds involved, and I can make sure you are settled properly, settled well. Just win this case for me, that is all.”
“Be rest assured sir, this case is in the bag. In fact, that was what I actually called to tell you.” Olu responded.
Saranja permitted himself to smile in spite of the situation. This was good news.
“When is the case adjourned to?” he asked
“Monday sir,” Olu responded.
“I will definitely be in the courtroom to witness our victory,” Saranja said. He wasn’t doing any police work in Abuja anyway, so where better to be than that courtroom?
“My thoughts sir, I was just about to ask you to try to be there.” Olu said.
“Alright good man, you can count on that,” Saranja said, and ended the call.
In Lagos, Olu had made up his mind which side he would be on in this Tricia brouhaha. He was in self-preservation mode and would serve the interest that would benefit him the most.
Maro got to the corridor of Tricia’s cell and the two sentries Kofo had posted stood approached him. They recognized him immediately and greeted him cordially. Kofo had included him the list of people they should allow access to Tricia. But they were also under strict instructions from Kofo about Tricia’s security and so they still frisked him and patted him down thoroughly before allowing him to Tricia’s cell.
She was seated on the single, well laid bed in the far corner of the cell. There was a book open on the bed that she seemed to have been reading before the clang of metals from the door opening activity got her attention. Her natural hair was packed neatly to the back
Maro walked into an astonished Tricia. She hadn’t been expecting him at all. She lowered her eyes when they met his. His heart ached at how broken the trauma of this experience had left her. The Tricia he knew before would meet his gaze firmly.
He quietly sat beside her and then wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “I came to talk with my fiancée. I have missed you dearly dear.” In one movement, he sat with his back to the wall and moved her into a position to meld into his side better. They sat like this for a while, while she sobbed quietly, taking in his scent. And then they talked. And talked. And talked. For the first day in more than a week, Tricia laughed.
Saranja was watching CNN at home when his phone rang. He was avoiding watching the local news since he had heard that news of his retirement had broken on twitter minutes after he had left Force Headquarters. He had thought the news would break the next morning, but things were different these days than in the good old days. Then, they had control of information flow. But these days, things were not so easy to control.
“Hello,” the female voice said over the phone.
“Hello madam, good to hear from you,” he responded.
“I have heard a few things that have made it necessary for me to call you, otherwise, I would not,” she said
“It’s okay,” he said, alert to what she would say.
“First, I hear Ivie is dead. And by your hand. While I do not think it was necessary, I would not weep over her. What is done is done. It does change a few things in the equation and we should talk about that.”
“It had to be done,” Saranja said firmly. He would not have any overseas person talk to him as if he was not capable of discerning which killing was necessary and which wasn’t.
“I hear you,” she said, almost mockingly. “The second is even more important. I hear you have been shown the door from the police. I wonder why, and I wonder if you are such an asset anymore. Maybe I should look for another…”
“You will do no such thing!” Saranja hollered.
“Really? And why can’t I?” she asked
“I still have things under control, and my boy has promised to deliver a conviction on Monday. The reason I am no longer in the police today is how committed I have been to making this thing happen. Your insurance company had sent an agent into Nigeria to make sure Tricia is not convicted. I neutralized him, but got caught in the backlash because he was a British citizen.”
“Hmm. So they did. That’s interesting. I’ll be in Nigeria tomorrow morning. I should come and see how things turn out by myself in that courtroom.”
“I’m not sure that is necessary, and it puts you in danger. This her defense team is well connected. They cannot get you arrested there, but I was in the police, and I know what is possible here with the right connections.”
“Oh, Saranja, shush. What kind of wife would I be if I do not come to attend to my deceased husband’s burial?” she said, and then hung up before he had the chance to respond.
That woman infuriated him, but he would endure her anyway. Right now, she held the aces as regards his money and endure her he would.
Tunde Leye is the author of the blog Finding Hubby, which catalogues the escapades of the well loved Oyin Clegg. He is currently putting finishing touches to his debut novel - Golden Sands, which will be published in Nigeria in October, 2012 and will be available in select stores and on Amazon. Follow him on twitter @tundeleye