Derin felt the heat rise in his ears as the killer of his son sauntered in languidly. He turned on the older Ajanaku and raked “and this is how you take him out of the hospital system abi? I thought you said he was no longer a staff of this hospital? What then is he doing here, dressed like a doctor on duty!”
“I assure you, Mr. Banwo that this is not as it seems.” Rasheed responded, as his friend was too flustered to say anything. The foolish boy had not only chosen to come after all the stern warnings and repeated explanations, he had decided to dress in doctor’s overalls and even hung a stethoscope on to complete the look.
“What is not as it looks?” Hakeem’s voice was grating, and he spoke with a slur as lazy as his movement. “I’m not good enough to show to the world, en, daddy?”
“If you were any good, any good whatsoever,” Dr. Ajanaku said in exasperation, “wouldn’t you have the common sense to stay away from here?”
“Oh, because I’m not you precious good son, I’m the one you wish died abi? Those years ago, you wish it was me that took the car out, that had the accident. Then you would have had all your problems solved by a single fatal accident. Me, your disgrace of a son would have been out of your hair forever, six feet below somewhere, with grass growing over, while Sule, your star child would have been alive and you would be happy. Well, I have news for you; I didn’t die like you would have hoped!”
Bintu sprang up and spoke to him sharply. “shut up, you this omo radarada! Why would you say such nonsense to your father in the presence of strangers?”
Hakeem looked at her with a mixture of emotions showing through his eyes – envy, anger and disdain. “Oh, so you are not content with stealing my position beside my father, you now tell me how to talk to him? the truth is bitter abi or you tell me, am I lying? Did I speak one single lie? It is because of the likes of you and Sule that I would never be good enough in his eyes, no matter what I do!”
He came into the light now, and Ope was quick to observe what she had suspected the moment he spoke. His eyes were glazed over, and his movements were not as coordinated as they should have been. For someone who hadn’t been looking out for it, they might have passed it off, but all the signs were clear.
She was genial when she spoke “Dr. Hakeem, please have your seat. We were about to get to the crux of today’s meeting when you came in”
Derin spun around and looked at her inquiringly, but her eyes told him not to say anything.
Awazi suddenly got up and raced round the table towards Hakeem as he sat down. She had kicked off her heels and was upon him in no time, before anyone could react. The sight of him for the first time since that day, looking so unflustered a mere week after he had practically killed Isaac unhinged something in her. She began to hit him wildly, shouting, clawing, and scratching. “Baby Killer,” she shouted, in the midst of tears, “Son of the devil!” she shouted again, hitting him some more. Hakeem did not defend himself; there was just something off about him. The much smaller woman stood over him, hitting and screaming away as he fell into a chair.
Bintu quickly got up and moved to restrain the woman. She had seen this kind of thing before and she knew that if the woman wasn’t restrained, she would end up killing somebody. It was some repressed kind of anger that tethered at the edge of madness, and only the object of the anger could trigger it, she couldn’t remember what the journal she had seen it in called it now. The woman was not seeing or hearing anything now, and they needed to act fast.
She dragged the screaming Awazi away from the cowering Hakeem. “Foolish boy,” she muttered under her breath.
Derin watched the drama unfolding before his eyes. His wife had suddenly gone berserk. He had never ever seen her that way in twelve years of marriage and fourteen years of knowing her.
Still breathing heavily, Awazi came back to their own side of the table and then sat down. She looked around the table slowly and then rested her eyes on Ope. “we may continue,” she said in a measured tone. No one saw her hands trembling under the table.
But one person’s trembling hands were not under the table. Hakeem’s hands trembled on the table.
Ope took the cue from Awazi, as calm settled in the room. She noticed that Bintu had positioned herself between Awazi and Hakeem. The woman wasn’t taking any chances.
“Whilst my client was about to make an announcement, I would like to bring something up which is material to this matter.” Ope began.
Through the clouds of her anger, Awazi could sense that Ope had found something to latch on to that would change Derin’s mind. She blamed her display of a lack of self control silently for this. She looked at Derin, willing him to abide by their decision. When she reached to take his hand, he withdrew his hand unconsciously.
Across the table, Rasheed sensed that the lawyer was on to something.
“Dr. Ajanaku,” she was addressing him directly now “were you aware that Hakeem here is a drug addict when you employed him as a doctor in your hospital, and then went a step further to name him as your Chief Medical Officer?”
The room fell silent for a moment. Everyone had been caught unawares by Ope’s question.
Rasheed spoke quietly, his eyes dark embers of malice as he responded “counsel, your tenses are wrong. There is a difference between was and is. Dr. Hakeem had had drug issues in the past, but by the time he returned to Nigeria and started practicing at Omega Clinic, he had been clean for two years. You cannot discriminate against a man for a past he had left behind and been totally rehabilitated from.”
Derin exploded! “You put the life of thousands in the hands of a druggie! You put the life of Isaac in the hands of an unstable drug addict!”
Rasheed again responded with measured restraint “Mr. Banwo, I would like to point out to you again that Dr. Hakeem was not addicted to any drugs at the point of employing him in Omega clinic in both capacities.”
Ope went in for the kill “you are then aware, that Dr. Hakeem was involved in a matter in the hospital he was working in the U.S and he had his license revoked. He had caused a patient to lose a baby, and investigations had revealed that he had taken drugs that night, before he had been called in for the emergency. He narrowly escaped jail term, but lost his license, before fleeing to Nigeria.”
“That still doesn’t mean he was on drugs while working in Nigeria. That event is therefore not going to be material to this case.” Rasheed shot back.
“Counsel, have your taken a close look at Dr. Hakeem this evening?” Ope asked.
Rasheed turned to look at Hakeem. The eyes. The trembling hands. The fool had been using and then brought himself here.
He slowly turned back to Ope and said nothing.
“I thought so,” Ope said. “Derin,” she said without looking at him.
Derin’s voice was even. “I will see you all in court, there is no deal, can never be any deal!”
Awazi turned Derin around. “Derin please,” was all she could muster.
Derin said nothing in response.
“They will dig Isaac up!” Awazi said more earnestly. The tears flooded her eyes now, but she could see that Derin was unmoved. He shrugged her hands off his shoulder and glanced at Hakeem.
“Then so be it, so help me God,” he responded.
Awazi began to shake, the words tumbling out of her “is it because of what I did now? Derin please, don’t punish me this way. Let it go, please.”
“You think this is about you? Let me ask you something, were you rational when you hit him? No you weren’t. But you did it anyway. No one held you back when you expressed your anger. Do not hold me back, woman, when I pursue my justice.”
Awazi began to mechanically pack her things, mumbling to herself “it’s all my fault, this is all my fault. If I hadn’t, then he wouldn’t.” she walked out of the room, unescorted.
“Mr. Banwo, I beg you to reconsider.” Dr. Ajanaku beseeched Derin. “Look beyond my son, and myself. Look at your wife, and look at your home. it is tearing you apart, take it from a man that has lost an adult beloved son before.”
“I can take care of myself, thank you,” Derin responded curtly.
Bintu stood up and looked straight into Derin’s eyes. “You are supposed to protect that woman you just allowed leave here in that state of mind. Are you any better than Hakeem?”
Derin did not respond. All the responses that formed in his head seemed inadequate.
“That will be all, thank you,” Ope quickly stepped in. She turned to Derin. “We were taking our leave.”
They gathered their things and slowly left the room. Derin look back at Hakeem on more time, and then at Bintu’s unyielding eyes. Those eyes, and the words its owner spoke to him seconds ago haunted him. He moved Ope quickly along, and they left.
He had thought Awazi would be waiting outside, but she was nowhere to be found. They went to the carpark, and he looked around but couldn’t find her car. “Where has this woman gone now,” he sighed under his breath. He called both her numbers, and they both rang out. Ope placed a hand on his shoulder. “She will be fine, maybe she just needs some time alone.”
His phone rang and he thought it was Awazi. He quickly picked the phone until he heard another familiar voice.
“Derin, you came to Ibadan and you didn’t tell me your mother?”
The doctor had probably called his mum.
“Maami, I came for the case, and since I know how you feel about it, I didn’t think…”
“Shut up you this boy! Even if we have differences, I am still your mother. Where are you now?” she asked
“Almost out of Ibadan ma. I’m headed back to Lagos now, I have something to work on for my boss tomorrow,” he lied.
“Derin, you are lying to me, your mother? You are still in Ibadan, is it not now that you finished the meeting you came for?”
Derin was annoyed. “Maami, so you are in cahoots with the doctor abi? Against your own son? Abi how else would you know we just finished if he didn’t call you? You are now in my enemy’s camp, talking to them, and you wonder why I’m not talking to you about the case.”
“What is wrong with him asking me to talk some sense into you, Derin? In spite of all I have told you, you still want to go ahead with this case? Is it that your Hausa wife that is pushing you?”
“Maami, leave Awazi alone! You think I don’t have a mind of my own? Oh, and so you can know, your friendly doctor put his drug addict son there to kill your grandson!”
She was silent for a moment. The drug addict angle was news to her, apparently. When she recovered from the shock of that, she responded “Derin, it your interest I have at heart. I’m coming now to meet you,” she said.
“Mama, don’t bother. I’m leaving now, and no to whatever you want to come and say, if it’s against going for this case. Good night ma.”
“Derin, I am still talking to you!” She shouted.
“Maami, o daaro. I have to go.” He responded and cut the connection.
“Are we really going to Lagos this late?” Ope asked.
“No,” Derin responded, “just didn’t want Maami’s wahala tonight”
Ope smiled again.
Awazi drove through the haze of her own tears on the deathtrap that the Lagos-Ibadan expressway was at night. Fortunately, it was a Friday night, and the traffic was on the other side of the road, going to Ibadan. She raced past Ofada, Ibafo and Mowe and in no time Berger was in sight. It had taken a little less than an hour to make the trip at speeds that made her little Honda, Derin’s old car feel light on the road. Thoughts coursed through her mind during the journey recurrently “Derin chose what she wanted over what I wanted. He chose to dig Isaac. She played him so well. Do I even deserve to have him as my husband, seeing how well she knows him and how I fail at reaching him every time I try?”
Suddenly, the little car stuttered and puttered. She had the presence of mind to maneuver it to the side of the road before it stopped finally. “Oh my God, not now, not here,” she said, hitting the steering.
She knew next to nothing about cars, but she guessed she had pushed the car over its limit in her race to Lagos. She dialed their mechanic’s number. Switched off. She tried Kamal’s number but it just rang out.
Finally, she called Samir.
Samir heard his phone ring on the dining table he was charging it on. He dillydallied about tearing himself away from the football he was watching to pick it up. Barcelona, his team was uncharacteristically behind and they had been piling the pressure on their opponents for the past ten minutes now without a goal. He knew it was only a matter of time before the goal came and he didn’t want to miss it. He allowed the phone ring out, but the caller called again.
“Damn it, I should have bought that extension box,” he said, referring to the one that would have allowed him charge his phone right beside his sofa.
“Hello,” he said sharply.
“Hello,” the vaguely familiar female voice said. “Am I on to Samir,” she inquired.
“Yes, and who am I speaking with please?” he responded gruffly.
“It’s me, Awazi,” she responded.
He smiled and scrambled to recover “sorry I didn’t quite get your voice. Let me turn down my TV.”
He quickly turned the volume down. “I’m here.” He said.
“It’s okay. I would like to banter, but I’m in dire straits now. I need your help.”
The tone of her voice was so earnest that Samir got worried. “What exactly is the problem, Awaz? He queried.
“I’m on my way back from Ibadan, and my car just stopped working now now. I’m stranded just after Berger. Mechanic is unreachable and Derin is in Ibadan.”
“You said you are in around Berger?” he asked.
“Yes, further down the road from where you’ll see people selling bread and co.”
“Okay, I know the place. I’m in Omole Phase 2, so I’m not that far away. I’ll be with you in some minutes.”
“Oh, Samir, thank you, thank you so much!” she gushed.
“Okay dear, see ya shortly,” he said.
He hung the call up. Well, she had called him eventually, even if he had not been the first she called. That was a starting point. He wore the jersey he had on but changed from his shorts to a pair of jeans and left the house.
Ope lay in the cozy hotel bed, wrapped in nothing but the big hotel towel. She had taken time to scrub every inch of herself clean from all the grit of the day and right now, she couldn’t be bothered to wear anything. Two rooms away, she wondered what Derin would be doing now. she had ordered a bottle of wine earlier and put it in the small tabletop fridge in the room. She began to piece together her ensemble. The bra. The g-string. The silk nightwear which was decent enough to wear in the hallway but still moved with her and gave the faintest hints of what was under.
She dialed his room number on her extension. “Awake?” she cooed the moment he picked the call.