Agatha watched her son go, and with his exit, she knew what was going to happen. Yet she chose to cling to hope, no matter how faint. A voice niggled at her mind however, telling her that if the combined efforts of the three of them in the room didn’t convince an unprepared him to change his mind, then it was as good as out of their hands. A friend’s frankness, a mother’s earnest plea and a wife’s passionate appeal to the heart hadn’t gotten through to Derin. He had his father’s will.
“Awazi, my daughter,” she said, as she got up to help her stand. “You mustn’t give up. As it stands, you are the one who is most likely to reach him. You are his wife, and you must know as I know that this pursuit of vengeance will destroy many things.”
“How do I reach him? He can hear no one but his own heart. And all it seems to say to him to avenge his only son, a legitimate desire.” Awazi’s voice quivered with emotions as she spoke the words.
“You are the only one with access to that heart, and you must find a way…” Agatha responded.
A resolve rose within Awazi’s heart, and she promised herself she would do this for her marriage, and for her own sanity. She was unsure if any of the two would survive a long drawn out legal battle. When she spoke next, her voice was steady and firm. “What kind of hostess am I? Let me make breakfast quickly.”
And then she walked briskly into the kitchen and set about busily preparing the easist meal she could think of for her guests. But even as she went about her cooking, she wept quietly at the way her life had changed in the last twenty four hours. Time indeed changes yesterday.
Derin dialed a number he hadn’t called for years, wondering if the owner would still use it. It had a noisy version Gangnam Style as its caller tune, but thankfully, the owner picked the phone before the second line and his ears were saved from the hullaballoo.
“Mr. Banwo,” the sultry female voice said. “And to what do I owe the pleasurable surprise of this call?”
Derin smiled in spite of himself. “You will not change, abi? Barrister Opeyemi Dada. Get off your bed; I want to talk about something serious.”
“Ah, I am totally unserious on Sundays. Please call back tomorrow.” She pronounced her Rs with a slightly exaggerated roll of her tongue which made her manner of speaking even more interesting with its promise of a sensuality that was only thinly veiled. He imagined her playfully pouting as she spoke those words. With some effort, he dragged his mind away from that to the task at hand
“Ope, I need to see you, and no, I’m not coming to your house lailai.”
She let out a soft laugh, “and would I eat you up?” then as if just realizing other meanings to her statement, she laughed again and then said “not to worry sir, I have no such designs on happily married you. Let’s meet up at La Mango. I might just show up in a swimsuit though, since they have a pool there.”
Derin shook his head. She was just naughty and couldn’t resist any innuendo laden opportunities.
“Can you make it in another thirty minutes?” he asked
“Ah, slow down, farabale, oga Banwo. Didn’t know you were that eager to see my Bikini body. Thirty minutes is out of it though, I can do another one hour.”
“Alright then. I’ll just wait for you until then, since I’ve already left home so I will just head towards Ikeja. Shall I order anything for you while I wait?”
“Naa, all the things I’d like to have there are a la carte and they come from a cold bottle.” She replied.
“omuti” he replied.
“Ah, I learnt from the best drunkard club member of FOADs (for only addicted drunkards), remember?” she responded.
“Madam, oya, come and get off the phone and start coming. See ya in a bit,” he responded, and then cut the call off.
Agatha enjoyed the breakfast of French toast, sausages, eggs and baked beans, in spite of the circumstances. She had also forced Awazi to eat, while Kamal had not required any encouragement to gulp down his own portion which was significantly larger than those of the two ladies.
“I’ll need to head back to Ibadan now; I think you and Derin need time alone so you can get through to him.”
Awazi nodded, and helped her move her things to Kamal’s car. For the first time in her marriage, she wished her mother in-law wasn’t leaving. Kamal promised to come by the next evening on his way back from work, and then she watched the car cruise away. She turned back and went into the house. And for the first time since Isaac passed away, she was all alone. She tried to call Derin’s number but it rang out twice. As if to emphasize the aloneness, PHCN took the power and the whole area became quiet. All the neighbors seemed to have gone to church, so the typical cacophony of generators didn’t break the silence. The quiet was maddening. She lay on the couch, until the tiredness again overtook her, and the sleep delivered her from the despair.
Derin watched from his vantage point beside the large transparent glass that divided the bar and lounge area of La Mango from the pool area as the woman he was expecting walked in. She was taller than average, almost as tall as Derin himself. Her skin was a light chocolatey shade, and years of pampering left it flawless. And she wasn’t afraid to show off that skin. She was wearing a pair of cream shorts displaying her toned legs and one of those chic sports jerseys female football fans wore to support their husbands’ or boyfriends’ clubs. And as he looked at her now, it seemed the years had not done anything to affect her figure (except she was using some advanced packaging, he thought with a smirk). But he knew the truth, that her stunning figure was for real. Several male and female heads turned as she walked in, the male ones glued to her in open admiration, and the female ones with unmasked jealousy. She had that effect on everyone, and he wasn’t exempt. In fact, in his case, she had more than an admiration kind of effect, because unlike other men whom she ignored, she went out of her way to induce those responses in him. He felt a stir within his tummy. He hadn’t expected to still be affected this way by Ope, and he was thankful he hadn’t decided to go and “pick her up from home”.
Presently she arrived at the table and sat opposite him.
“Mr. Banwo, I believe?” she asked in mock seriousness.
“No, I’m the pope,” he replied with a smile
“Then you are of no use to me sir, as I’m here to meet the hot, dashing Derin Banwo, who I intend to speak in double entendres with all morning.”
“Ope, you sha will not change,” he responded. “So which of your bottled friends would you like to meet?”
“Ah, I haven’t changed yet. I’m a very faithful’ friend” she said, emphasizing the faithful while flashing a falsely innocent smile at the same time.
He signaled the attendant to bring his food and the drinks he had preordered. He hadn’t eaten since the previous afternoon since he had left the house without eating this morning. He was very famished but had chosen to wait for her to arrive before having his meal. He had ordered jollof rice with plantain and grilled fish. She would be having Heineken as she had always done since he could remember.
Amidst small talk, the food and drinks arrived and was served. The moment the waiter was gone, her countenance became serious.
“While I’d like to flatter myself that you suddenly began to miss me and wanted to see me after five years, I am with enough of my wits to know that isn’t the case. So, would you save me from worrying my pretty head and tell me why you called me away from my blissful Sunday morning laze fest?”
“I just lost my only child, Isaac.” Derin said. Suddenly, the food became unappealing and he could have been looking at a plate of sawdust.
“Oh my God, oh my God, it cannot be true. How?” the normally composed Ope lost her composure. She knew of Derin’s struggle to have a baby and how much of a miracle that baby had been. She shook her head. “Tell me it’s not true.”
“I would love nothing more than to say it isn’t true, but it is my sad truth. And what’s more, he didn’t just die, he was killed!” His voice had become a low painful drawl.
“What! WHO THE HELL DID THAT. I WILL PERSONALLY GET THE BASTARD HUNG.” She said rather loudly, and a few heads turned but she couldn’t care less.
Derin was convinced he had made the right choice in this fight. Not only was Ope his friend of many years, but she was one of the best lawyers around, and she worked on her own, taking civil cases from plenty top corporate legal departments, so she would be able to take this case on if she wanted to. And he intended to make sure she wanted to.
“Let me tell you what happened,” he began, and then went ahead to recount their experience to her and the offer they had asked his mum to come and make earlier in the morning.
When he was done, the first question she asked was “do you still have the card you took from the hospital yesterday?”
“Yes I do, it’s in the car. Would you like to see it?” he responded
“Yeah, later. But it establishes you as their patient. Makes our case easier to pursue. And I don’t know why everyone is asking you not to fight this fight. Yes, it might take a while, and be long, but it’s worth it. People are allowed to almost literarily get away with murder in this country because no one wants to fight. The ‘it is not my head that the coconut must be broken’ mentality is annoying. Look, Derin, I’m with you on this, and will do everything in my power and expertise to win this fight.”
Derin unconsciously compared how this woman supported him almost instantly and how he didn’t have his wife’s support. He shook those thoughts out of his head, but they kept clawing back in. Ope had been his first girlfriend in the university and they had been the “it” couple in school. Everyone assumed they were going to get married. But service year had changed all that. She had wanted to relocate from Nigeria after they had finished serving, and he was having none of it. After going back and forth on the matter, she had eventually left to pursue her master’s degree and it had torn them apart. He had met Awazi around that time, and by the time she came back three years later, he was married. But it was obvious she had not gotten over him, and there would always be space for her in his heart. She blamed herself constantly for letting him slip away, and hadn’t married.
They had kept in touch, and when Awazi had left him years ago, it had been in her arms he had found solace. The issues had resurfaced after a while. She was even more independent now, and again the relationship had ended. That was five years ago, and he had pursued his wife again until she returned to him. Awazi had found out about Ope eventually, and he had nearly lost her again, but he had been tenacious and they had worked it out after she had made him promise to cut Ope off. He had made the promise, but hadn’t totally made good the promise. Yes, there had been no romance again between him and Ope, but they still kept in touch and he had called her instinctively in this situation, not just because he wanted her to be his lawyer, but because he also knew she would think like him and offer her support, a support he was critically lacking at home now.
“The first step,” she was saying now “is to write the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. We will demand for the withdrawal of the operating license of the hospital, as well as the practicing licenses of the doctors involved.”
“Okay…” Derin said in question.
“They will not respond or do anything as expected. But we are doing this, so that we would be able to join them as parties to the statement of claim we will file against the hospital and doctors. The truth is, it is not a murder legally, so we cannot get a criminal case instituted. But we can file a civil case, and pursue the loss of license as well as payment of huge compensation. How is that?”
“If it’s the best we can do, then let’s go for it.”
“Okay Derin. We are also going to register an NGO to crusade against hospitals treating their patients poorly, and whatever money comes out of the compensation goes to it. To remain credible, you must not be seen to be trying to make any personal money out of this.”
He nodded in agreement and then she continued “I’ll need to find out who their lawyer is so I can know what I’m up against, whether it’s a fight by the book we are looking at, or if it will be a roforofo type of fight.”
“How soon can we start this?” Derin asked.
“I’ll have the demand to the Medical Council ready by morning and they’ll receive it before noon tomorrow. The statement of claim should be ready by Wednesday as I have something else I have to work on and have ready for a client by Tuesday.”
Then she pointed at his plate and said “Now, eat this very expensive food you have ordered while I tell you what I think we will be up against, and how to win.”
Doctor Ajanaku had just received bad news. When the older Mrs. Banwo had called him earlier to tell him she was enroute Lagos to talk to her son, he had been optimistic. He had called her just now, and the first warning signal of wahala was when she had said she was on her way back to Ibadan. He wondered why she was returning to Ibadan so quickly. She had then told him of the episode with Derin, but had been quick to assure him that the wife was willing to go with the plan and had even made demands. He had thought the wife’s demands reasonable and doable and he had said so. Agatha was still hopeful that Derin’s wife would be able to convince him to drop pursuit of the case in court, but even as she said so, he knew that it was a lost cause. If three people couldn’t convince him in a concerted effort, it would take a miracle for one of them to.
He was now at his lawyer, Rasheed Sanda’s house to give him an update on the matter.
“The boy will not listen.” Rasheed said with certainty after he had listened to the gist of the matter. Rasheed was a fine judge of character and Doctor Ajanaku agreed with him.
“So, what should we be expecting now, Rashy?” Doctor Ajanaku could be informal here, since they were meeting alone and in his lawyer’s Dugbe residence.
“Again, we don’t know who his lawyer is, but I’m certain we won’t have to wait for much longer to find that out. I expect that they will file claims, and will go for license revocation and crippling monetary compensations, effectively ensuring not just the hospital dies, but that you’re unable to practice again.”
“That is as good as killing me now, removing my means of livelihood, and also ensuring I cannot even try to build anything again in future. Nkan buruku! Rashy, Gba mi o, help me, ti e o ni baje”.
“We will counter their claims, and then if that fails, we will invite them to negotiate at a pre-trial conference. With the generous offer you have made, they will be compelled by the Judge to take your offer, rather than burden the legal system with a case that would probably achieve almost same result in the end. I expect it to end there, but in case it goes to court, we’ll need to dig up as much evidence as we can, because in a case like this, it’s not just a case of creating reasonable doubt, but rather a weighing of evidence on both sides against each other. It is the side that tips the scale the most heavily that carries the day”
“This my son will not kill me! Omo eni I ba joni, a bayo, how can my own son be the source of my greatest crisis. It’s not his fault, it is that stroke. When the big thing brings one down, then the smaller ones run roughshod all over.”
“My doctor, you cannot keep thinking like this o, lest the thing comes back and brings you down irrecoverably. The boy has done this one, now it is for us elders to calmly salvage the situation.”
“I would have loved to be certain of the cause of death; there might be a loophole there. But now, the body is gone, and the baby is buried.” Doctor said.
“Hmmm. Doctor, now that you mention autopsy, I have an idea.” Rasheed said.
“And what might this be, my friend?” a now curious doctor asked, seeing the twinkle in his friend’s eyes. He had learnt over the years to sometimes speed up things with Rasheed; otherwise he would take all the time to get what he wanted to say out.
“You said the Derin’s mother reported that his wife does not support this case. So we have a weakness to explore there, should he want to go to trial. At pre-trial, one of the items of evidence we will require to proceed to trial would be an autopsy report detailing causes, time and all other info as regards the death. Let’s see if his wife would still allow him go to court, knowing that would mean their baby will have to be dug up, sawed up and that they would probably have to relive the experience of burying their child all over again.”
“Kai! You these lawyers, I fear you people o. Of course the woman would not have that happen. The case would die at pre-trial.”
With that, Rasheed called for the steaming Amala to be brought in.
When Derin walked in, Awazi smelt the strange perfume on him, and it was a feminine fragrance. She almost tore into him in that instant, with accusations of going to find comfort with another woman but restrained herself, knowing what she planned to do that night.
She would wait.