Samir navigated to the network connections of the phone and unchecked the mobile network option. Awazi would not be receiving any further calls from Derin tonight. He heard her fiddling with the toilet door and quickly dumped the phone, face down. She would not even know he had called.
She came out of the bathroom and looked at him so intensely, his skin crawled. He felt for a moment that she knew what he had done, and was about to begin to explain himself when she said “I don’t think it’s wise for me to stay here tonight. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it’s just 11:30. I’m sure I can get home, whether you decide to drop me off or not. I’ll send the mechanic down here tomorrow morning to come fix the car and bring it down home.”
“Haba, gaskiya Awazi, how would I allow you to leave here for home this late? No, I insist…”
“Samir, you are not allowing or disallowing anything. I am not asking for permission from you to go home, except this is a kidnap, abi? I am telling you that I’m going home tonight, because I don’t trust myself to stop a second time.” Awazi said firmly.
Samir got up, and went beside Awazi. He attempted to put an arm on her shoulder but she quickly put distance between them.
“Samir! I said I do not trust myself. Please!” Awazi said.
“Okay, okay, okay…” Samir mumbled, raising his hands in the air. “The house is big enough, I’ll stay in the living room, you can stay in any of the rooms and lock it from inside, if that makes you feel better…”
“Samir! Menene? You are not hearing me! Even if I left the door open, you would not touch me without my consent except I’m mistaken, in which case I should flee. Locked doors cannot stop what I’m afraid of – the fact that if we talked for long enough, my resolve will fail me. You know what, the more we talk about this, the later it gets. This is Lagos, even 1AM isn’t too late to move around.”
With that she began gathering her things. Samir saw she was truly serious about leaving, and he quickly offered “I can’t let you start finding your way yourself at this time, and I see that you’re bent on going. Let me drop you off.”
Awazi considered it for a moment. She had been planning on calling her cab guy and hoping he’d still be working at this time. Well, if Samir was willing to go and drop her off, then it was fine.
“Nagode Samir, I appreciate so much, and really sorry for the inconvenience.” She said.
Samir mumbled something about not being an issue and they made their way to the car.”
Rasheed shook the head of the police team as they made their way to the morgue with the body. The office was sealed and he was finally able to see the specialist who had concluded his examination of Dr. Ajanaku.
“How is he?” he asked the bespectacled doctor.
“I’m afraid this is not good at all,” he responded, running a hand across the bald center of his head. “His body was not fully recovered from the first stroke, and this one was much more severe. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but most people that have strokes this close lose the use of at least some parts of their body. I doubt if Dr. Omega will be able to walk properly again, and he might become paralyzed on one side of his body. I’m sorry.”
“Ha! What are you saying doctor! An active man like Haruna, that would be like a death sentence for him.” Rasheed said.
“I can imagine sir. It’s really unfortunate. I will do all I can do for him.”
“Okay doctor. Thank you very much for responding to us this late.” Rasheed said and shook him.
With that, he left for the conference room to be alone. He needed to think.
Bintu scrambled to dry her eyes as the big doors of the conference room creaked open, the quiet amplifying the sound.
“Bintu, you are here?” Rasheed said flatly, more of a query, than a statement. She didn’t respond to that, but asked, “have you spoken with the consultant?”
“The doctor is unsure of many things now, but he said his preliminaries tell him that Haruna will be fine, just like the first time. We don’t have much to worry about,” he lied.
“Rasheed, you’re not a great liar, for a lawyer,” she said. “I’m a nurse and I know that two strokes in such a short space is very much to worry about. Come out clean to me please. How is he?”
Rasheed sighed. “The doctor says he might not walk again or have use of one of the sides of his body…”
She burst into hysteric tears. “Ha! What have I done! Me and my big mouth, why couldn’t I keep it shut! Now, I’ve turned him into a vegetable, for what?”
“Bintu, it’s not you!” Rasheed said emphatically. “it’s a lot of people, not you. Haruna who married a woman he didn’t love and ended up beating her into another man’s arms. His wife, who brought a bastard into the house. The bastard, who, in spite of love and care who chose to behave exactly like what he was, a bastard!”
“Rasheed, don’t talk about Haruna like that, because he cannot defend himself!” Bintu shot at him.
“Iwo lo mo, na you know. But the boy had it coming. And yes,” his tone darkened “while at the matter of all these foolish children that don’t think of consequences, that other boy has it coming for him now.”
“Who?” Bintu asked, a quizzical look on her face.
“Who else? Derin of course. He’s the one whose stubbornness let us here. If only he had been reasonable, listened to the doctor, his mother, even his wife, we would not be here in the first place.”
“Yes, that impudent boy. It’s because of him that my Haruna lies there now. What are you thinking?” Bintu’s voice was filled with the malice of a woman who had been in possession of something she couldn’t show proudly and even that had been taken from her now.
Before Rasheed could answer, she continued “shebi he was trying to take away Haruna’s livelihood from him by shutting the hospital down without thinking? Well, his livelihood should be taken away first and let him see how that feels.”
“I’m already thinking of that. This time, Arinze has no choice but to do what I want. And that’s just the first thing. I will finish that boy.”
Agatha had been unable to sleep. She had given Derin time to get to Lagos from Ibadan and had been trying his number since. Her anxiety had been heightened when she had been unable to reach him. She had decided to call his wife’s number but that had been unreachable too. She was in the living room, watching a movie on TV when her phone rang beside her. She speedily reached for the phone, hoping it was Derin. “Unknown number,” she mumbled. “who is this one at this ungodly hour,” she said to herself and was going to ignore the call, when it occurred to her that it might be Derin. She pressed the green button and held the phone to her ear, waiting for the caller to speak, rather than say hello.
“Mrs. Banwo, my name is Bintu,” a female voice said.
She sighed. It wasn’t Derin calling. “yes, how may I help you?” she asked.
“I’m the chief matron of Omega Hospital.” Bintu said, in the same cold voice she had learnt to use with her nurses when they were being silly.
“Ha, hope there is nothing wrong with Derin abi why are you calling me at this time?” Agatha’s curiosity was piqued.
“No, as far as I know, nothing is wrong with Derin.” And then after a brief pause, Bintu added with meaning “yet”.
“Madam, what are you trying to say? Are you calling to threaten me or my son?” Agatha asked aggressively.
“Mrs. Banwo, your son, your stubborn, heady, impertinent son has caused me great pain. Doctor Ajanaku’s only surviving son committed suicide today, a shot to his head, after your son insisted on ruining us. Immediately that happened, the doctor had a stroke again, and is about to be reduced to a vegetable.” At that, her voice broke, and the pain came through when she continued. “I will ruin your son. I will make sure he loses everything, just as he has made me lose everything I hold dear.”
“Look, Bintu, I’m sorry for your loss, but Derin too was mourning for his son in his own way. You should understand that now, and I’ve been trying to get him to drop this case. He will listen to me…”
It was then that Agatha realized that the line was dead, and she had been talking to herself. The utter raw panic that had been brewing beneath clawed to the surface. She dialed Derin’s number again. This time, it rang.
Derin had been waiting for Awazi’s call hence when his phone rang, he reached for it immediately. That woman had some serious explaining to do this night. He had picked the call when it registered in his head that the ring tone had been Asa’s Iya and not Tosin Martins’ Olo Mi.
“Hello maami, how are you?” he asked, his disappointment evident. He would try to achieve the impossible task of making this call short so that he could leave his line free for Awazi’s call.
“Derin, now you should be proud of yourself.” Agatha began.
“Maami, please don’t let’s start this again,” Derin responded, trying to cut short what he believed was going to be a long lengthy lecture.
“Derin, keep quiet and listen to someone else that isn’t yourself for once!” She said forcefully.
Satisfied that he was listening, Agatha continued “Doctor Ajanaku’s son shot himself in the head as soon as you left them today. And to cap it, Doctor Ajanaku himself had another stroke as a result of the shock from that. He’s in coma now, and will be paralyzed. So now, let us see who you want to do case with!”
“It’s a lie!” Derin exclaimed. “I don’t believe it. They’re just attempting to deceive us in order to throw us off the case.”
“Just listen to yourself. And they would get your own mother to lie to you about something this important, just for their own gain? That’s how little this your precious case has made you think of your mother.”
“Maami it is not like that. It is just that this is so sudden and so convenient”
“Don’t maami me if you will disrespect me like this. The death of a man and the other becoming invalid is convenient abi? Because they are trying to escape the great case of Derin Banwo? Child get out of your world! The world does not begin and end with you. And let me tell you, if you love yourself, you will find a way to make amends with them. A Bintu called me, and she has vowed to make sure you feel their pain. I spoke with her, and I am a woman. She meant every word she said, I know for sure.”
“I need to find out for myself if this is true.” Derin said.
“So you cannot take my word for it abi? I am lying abi?” Agatha said, wondering how her son could be so blinded by one single thing like this.
“I’ll go to the hospital now to find out for myself tonight,” Derin said.
Agatha was silent for a moment.
“Maami, are you there?” Derin asked.
“So you are not in Lagos, Aderinsola?” Agatha asked.
“Maami, I had to…” Derin stuttered an answer.
Agatha cut the call.
Arinze answered his phone. He answered it at this time, because the people that had this number could call him at any time of the day, they were only his kids, really close family and business contacts critical to him in the corridors of power. It was Rasheed. Rasheed would not call at this time except it was exceptionally important.
“Rasheed, kilode? What are you chasing or what is chasing you that you are calling at this ungodly hour? Your Ibadan women have left you and you want to disturb me this night?”
“Arinze, cut the jokes, I’m calling on a very serious matter. You remember Ajanaku, my friend I told you I was handling a case for?”
“Yes, the good doctor,” Arinze answered, sitting up to listen to Rasheed.
“Your boy, that your headstrong Derin was here, like we hoped he would and we thought he would agree to be reasonable. He chose not to be and wants to go to court. And now, Hakeem, Ajanaku’s foolish son who caused this whole drama went to shoot himself in the head out of guilt. Hakeem is Ajanaku’s only surviving son, and the shock was too much. He had another stroke and Ajanaku is just a little better than a vegetable now.”
“What! Ha! This one is not good o.” Arinze exclaimed.
“Look, Arinze, that Derin must pay. I have other things planned for him, but the first is for him to lose his livelihood, like he was bent on making my friend lose his hospital. Let him know how that feels first. And look, omo Ibo, I am not making a request, I am family, and you are doing this for me,” Rasheed said.
“I can’t say no to you Rasheed, and this boy has really outdone himself this time. The person that eatsgbi will die gbi.”
Minutes earlier, just as Rasheed began to speak with Arinze, Derin had arrived at the hospital. He had decided to come alone; he didn’t want to face Ope again tonight. He made his way past hospital staff, all scurrying up and down. He could sense urgency in their movements, but he kept convincing himself that it was just a busy night. His brain told him that the reception area was scanty, and that it was midnight and so the hospital shouldn’t be this busy. But he forcefully thrust the thought aside, and continued to the only place he remembered, the conference room. He was hoping he would find someone there. At the door, he was hearing voices and he opened the door to see who it was.
The moment he entered, he knew that it was true. The Bintu lady was sitting down, hair scattered, face strewn with tear paths. The elderly lawyer was talking earnestly on the phone, and it was obvious it was a very serious call he was making.
The moment he entered, they both froze and he heard the lawyer saying into the phone “the idiot just walked in now, the effrontery. Kuku inform him now, and let him know!”
Derin wondered what was going on, when the man gave him a contemptuous look and handed him the phone. The look the woman gave him, his mind couldn’t find the words to describe. With raised eyebrows, he took the phone and held it to his ears.
“Hello, who is this?” he said
“Derin,” a familiar voice said and he unconsciously bent over and responded “good evening sir, this is a huge surprise” looking from the lawyer to the woman. He definitely didn’t like the surprise.
“Young man,” Arinze said “first, you lied to me that you had some bogus therapy to go to Ibadan for this your case, after I had warned you strongly about it.”
“Sir, I can explain,” Derin tried to salvage the situation.
“So your explanations will bring back the dead boy? Or my friend who you have brought this stroke upon? I advised you to desist from this path. I know your wife did. I have been told your best friend and your mother did. Rasheed, the lawyer who tells me you forgot your manners when you talked to him at the meetings is my elder brother. The doctor is my friend, a close, well respected friend. I think I’m talking too much. The crux of this conversation is that your appointment is terminated. You can have all the time to fight your case against dead people and paralyzed people. But you will not do it on my company’s time, deceiving this organization. You can come in on Monday, and the security will supervise you taking your things out of the office. After that, they will be instructed to deal ruthlessly with you if you attempt to come in.
“But sir, you can’t do this to me,” Derin said, his mind racing, his heart beating.
“I can’t? You always did think too much of yourself. Now give the phone back to its owner, young man!” Arinze said angrily.
An ashen faced Derin handed the phone over to Rasheed.
A few mumbled words and he cut the call.
“You came to see if your aim has been achieved? Follow me,” Bintu said. She calmly got up, and led Derin to the executive ward where the doctor was.
The strength was gone from the man’s face. The age was clearer, the lines were deeper, and the skin hung loser. He seemed gaunter than Derin remembered him in the afternoon, and he could see the effect of the waste that had racked his body. “You can look at him all you want,” Bintu said, and then walked away.
Rasheed then added “young man, all deals are off the table. This is war, and we have only just begun. We will reduce you to what you have reduced my friend to.” Then he left a still dumbfounded Derin where he stood and walked away, Bintu’s question echoing continually in his head “how are you different from Hakeem, Mr. Banwo”.
“Let me see you safely in,” Samir said as he parked in front of Awazi’s house.
“I do not think that would be necessary,” she responded, and briskly got down. She brought out her phone from her bag to call the gateman to come and open the gate. She dialed the number but got a “no network coverage” message on her attempt. When she checked the phone, she noticed the network of the phone was turned off. She hissed, “All these touchscreen phones sef,” she said.
She turned the network on, and almost immediately, pings hit her phone. She ignored them and pressed the button to bring up her dialed numbers. It was then she saw Derin’s call. It was not a missed called. She quickly opened the call history, and realized that the call had been picked and had lasted for a little less than a minute. She checked the time, even as she began to fear the worst. She had been in Samir’s house at the time. She turned around and went over to the driver’s side of his car, fuming furiously.