African StoriesCrime and Intrigue StoriesNaija Stories

Loss in Four

The smell of thick smoke wafted into my nostrils, forcing my weak eyelids to flicker open. The severe pain at the back of my head rendered me dazed, blurring my vision. I staggered to my feet, trying to create distance between myself and the raging orange flames behind me. I couldn’t see where I was heading and the ache in my head made me very dizzy. I placed my hand behind my head; I felt the warm liquid, and the sharp pain that shot through my scalp made me withdraw my hand almost immediately. I could feel something else in my hand, it felt like paper. Squinting my gaze, I tried to focus my vision on the piece of paper in my possession, but couldn’t. I couldn’t see anything, but darkness and the bright orange flames. The heat emitted by the flames behind me only made matters worse. Oblivious of the obstacle ahead of me, I tripped over what seemed to be a rock, but was caught almost immediately by a pair of strong arms. I could hear a female voice, but she sounded distant. The deafening noise in my ear increased making me black out.

________

“Is he going to be okay?” It was a female voice, she sounded very concerned.

“We’d find out when he wakes up. He should be concious any minute now,” a sophiscated voice replied, with a touch of hope in his voice.

The pain in my head had reduced but I could still feel it. With a lot of effort I forced my eyelids open, but was greeted with bright light. I shut my eyes almost immediately. After a few seconds, I opened my eyes again, my vision was blurred for a few seconds, before my gaze zeroed in on the face of a pretty black lady. My lips stretch in a smile, involuntarily. Bolts of pain shot through my body as I tried to sit up, forcing me to remain on my back.

“Where am I and who are you guys?” I asked. I didn’t miss the surprise on the lady’s face. A man, who I guessed was the doctor moved closer to me, causing the girl to step back.

The door burst open and a guy who looked out of breath rushed in. “How is he?” His deep voice reverbrated in the entire room. His eyes fell on me, causing his face to light up in a smile.

“You scared us, man,” he said, when he got close to me, relief etched on his face.

Why didn’t I know these people? From their actions, they seemed to know me. The pain in my head was starting to return, I pressed my eyelids together in an impossible bid to blink the pain away. What was happening? I couldn’t remember anything at all. Not even my name. Who were these people? How were we related? How did I end up at the burning building? And how were the able to find me? All these questions pressed on, causing a whirlwind of pain and dizziness in my head. Seconds later everything went black.

“Mmm,” I murmured as I turned in my bed. My eyelids blinked open, the pretty black lady sat on a sofa at the end of the room, her head buried in her arms. Her natural hair was held up in a bun, a pair of shiny earrings dangling from her ears. Her dark skin was smooth and very inviting, her long slim arms made me think of places she could trace them to. I smiled at the silly thought.

“Hey,” I ventured. She looks up almost immediately, her sensous thin lips stretched in a weary smile. Her smile created a sense of longing in my chest, I wanted to hug her, and touch her and kiss her and…

“My love, I know you can’t remember me right now,” she stood up from the sofa and came to sit beside me on the king-sized bed, taking my hand in hers. “The doctor said it’s as a result of the blow you took on the head. In a matter of days your memories will slowly return,” she smiled rubbing the back of my hand. The shining ring on her finger caught my attention, making me withdraw my hand, as though the ring burned my hand. I ignored the pain all over my body and tried to sit up. I felt a little dizzy, but it cleared almost immediately. I looked around and realized that I was no longer in the hospital.

“Are we engaged?” Just then the door was pulled open and the guy from earlier walked in with a light-skinned lady in tow. I don’t know why a surge of anger and a need to care for the lady with him overwhelmed me. “Rita,” the name escaped my lips even before I knew it. Everyone looked at me, surprise etched on their faces.

“He remembers her name,” the pretty lady said, her voice laced with jealousy.

How could I remember her name but not mine or my supposed love? And the persistant feeling in my chest to hold her and at the same time kill her grew stronger. Was she my ex? I dragged my attention away from her. “Can you guys re-introduce yourselves and state the relationship we share? Start with my name please,” I said frowning.

“I am Nonso, we are like brothers. This pretty lady,” he pointed to the dark pretty lady, still sitting beside me, “is your fiancée, Susan. Rita here, is your late boss’s wife. And yes, you are, Chidozie. Though, you prefer Dozie.”

I looked at Rita, puzzled. She looked younger than Susan, it made me wonder how old my boss was and how he died? It seemed we were close for his wife to come to see me. Yes, I almost forgot, the piece of paper. I remembered stuffing it into my pocket.

“Where are my clothes from the day of the accident? There’s something in it,” I said, scanning the room in search of the clothes. Nonso nodded before leaving the room. Minutes later, he returns with the scruffy blood-stained pair of jeans and a rumpled shirt. I took it and rummaged through the pockets of the jeans for the paper. Once I found it, I tossed the the clothes away and immediately straightened the rumpled, blood-stained paper.

I always told you, you are not as smart as you claimed, Dozie. This is the proof of that assertion. I really hope you don’t make it out alive, but if you do, I will expose you to the world, if you dare come after me.

Love, Your Tigress.

I read the note out loud. We all stared at one another in surprise and Susan jumped to her feet, staring daggers at me.

“Tigress? Were you cheating on me, Dozie?”

“Not right now, Susan,” Nonso said.

I was in a fix, “Where did you find me?” I asked looking at Nonso.

“At your boss’ place. Your boss died in the fire. You had called Susan, telling her to come to your boss’ house. You said you were stuck inside and the house was on fire. But before we got there, you already made it out. I think you jumped from the balcony. That is the only way, because the entrance and exit doors were locked from outside. Plus that would explain your head injury. This means that someone tried to kill you, but why?” Nonso explained.

Who would want to kill me and why? Who is this tigress and what does she have against me? I wondered.

“This is too much for me to absorb. You were actually cheating on me the entire time. Who knows what you are involved in, since your Tigress is threatening to expose you?After all this is over, don’t look for me,” Susan said, and with that she stormed off.

I should care about her leaving, but I wasn’t bothered. I felt relieved to my surprise. It made me wonder if I really loved her. What kind of life did I live that this Tigress threanening to expose me, what does she have on me? “Where were you when the fire started?” I asked returning my attention to Rita.

She arced an eyebrow in question. “At my parents’ anniversary party. My husband was sick and couldn’t make it. You were with him that evening, you guys were having a business discussion, I think.” Her countenance fell, probably because of her husband. Nonso nodded, confirming her story.

This was going nowhere and the ache in my head, had resurrected after reading the note. I had to figure out who was trying to kill me and fast, because soon whosoever she was would find out I was still alive and come to finish what she started. My memories would go a long way to help me, but it was pretty much useless to me right now. “I need you make a list of all the staff at your home that day, or better still, that were on duty that evening,” I said to Rita, she nodded and dabbed her eyes with a white handkerchief. I felt I could trust Nonso, and so trusted him with interviewing the workers.

DAY ONE

“Have you made the list?” I asked Rita, who was engrossed with her phone.

She nodded, “Nonso has it.” She was back to biting her lips, her attention on her phone.

She looked dashing in her palazzo shorts and cropped top. My eyes took a quick trip down her exposed legs to her flat shoes and back to her face. A feeling of betrayal and longing hit me all at once. “Was there anything between us?”

She seemed startled by my question. “Uhmm…” she started.

“Hey Dozie,” Nonso walked in, interrupting her.

“Any info?” I asked trying to remove traces of disappointment from my voice. Nonso dropped his body on an empty space on the sofa already occupied by Rita. I look at them, envy gnawing in my chest.

“They all claimed to have seen nothing.” His countenance dropped and he looked at me with uncertainty in his eyes.

“What?” I asked, feeling a bit uneasy.

“The security man at the gate that night claimed to have seen your fiancée leaving the premises at about eight thirty.” He rubbed his forehead. “That is about thirty minutes before the fire outbreak. He said no one else came through the gate after that,” he concluded with a sigh. Rita looked surprised but not as surprised as I was. But for some unknown reason I couldn’t believe it.

“Susan would never do that to me. I mean what would be her motive?” I asked no one in particular. That would explain the Tigress right? I mean she was my fianceé. But if she was my Tigress, then why would she get upset with the note, that she allegedly wrote? This didn’t add up.

“Do you still have the note?” Rita asked. I nodded, unable to form any word. “I know you don’t remember but Susan was my husband’s secretary. That’s how you both met. I could compare the handwriting on the note with that of some of the written documents, she kept for my husband.”

Nonso nodded in concurrence with Rita. “She’s right. If we can find the person that wrote the note, then we’d find our culprit.” I nodded, I never even thought of that.

I excused myself to get the note, making a mental note to pay Susan a visit tomorrow. Taking the note from my drawer, I returned to the sitting room. On my way down the stairs, a picture of a tall, fat man, with receding hairline flashed in my head. Alahaji. I squint my eyes as if to see the image clearly, but it was gone as soon as it came. I looked up and find Rita holding onto Nonso’s arm, looking at him with pleading eyes. I balled my fists as rage surged through my body. Nonso was about saying something but recoiled when he noticed my presence. He pulled his arm away from her grip almost immediately, the loss in her eyes was unmistaken. Taking a deep breath, I walked up to her, and handed over the note, before returning to my seat. Rita stood to her feet, clutching her handbag tightly. “Who is Alahaji?” I blurted. Their expression was that of surprise and shock.

“Uhm, he was my husband,” Rita sounded unsure. It was evident that she didn’t want me to remember him. “You married a man old enough to be your grandfather?” I couldn’t filter the irritation and anger from my voice.

“Don’t judge me. You are no saint either,” she snapped. She walked away even before I could react to what she just said.

“I’m leaving. I have a meeting with some clients at the office. You rest, and recover soon so you can get back to work. Seyi and Sons Law Firm needs its chief lawyer,” he said with a smile. The surprise on my face seemed to fuel the smile, making it shine brighter.

____________

“If you love me, you’d do it. It’s the only way. Or don’t you love me anymore?” the veiled lady asked. I didn’t really know what she wanted, but whatever it was she wanted was the only criterion for us to be together. She pressed her hand on my chest and suddenly, we were in a bed, entangled in each other’s arms, under a blanket. She smiled at me, a very lovely smile.

I nodded. “I’ll do it. I”ll do it for us.” In a flash, I was stuck in a burning building and running out of oxygen fast, my hands were curled on the neck of a man. An unknown man, the betrayal and pain in his eyes, fought against my conscience, but there was nothing I could do. My hands had a mind of their own and so didn’t stop until his irises disappeared…

My eyelids flew open almost immediately, my bed was drenched in my sweat. Looking out my window the sun was already setting, the sudden urge to leave the house overwhelmed me. I jump out of bed and put on my flip flops. Outside, the heat wave met my skin in an unpleasant embrace. The leaves on the mango tree, swayed to the rythmn of an unknown drum.

“Oga, are you going out?” a tall, skinny man, in brown shorts asked me. I nodded and requested for the car keys. He looked at me unsure. “Oga, you fit find road on your own?” he asked concerned, but that only irked me.

“Musa, just give me the keys,” I said surprising myself, the shock on his face only confirmed my thought. I remembered his name. I had no time to dwell on the thought, for some unknown reason I was in a hurry. He reluctantly handed over the keys.

Hopping into the car, I took a deep breath to relax my nerves. I turned the keys in the ignition and eased out of the driveway and into the streets. From the side mirror I could see Musa waving before closing the gates. The streets were quite familar, they made me feel hidden and for some reason, it made me feel secure. Naked children running after a car tyre, women raining abuses on disobedient children and men probably discussing sports or politics at an overcrowed bar, with bottles of beer littered on the ground and plates of dry meat; all seemed to make me think of home, with my mom and dad and maybe siblings. My uneasiness returned the moment I eased the car unto the highway. I had no clue where I was headed but every turn I made, seemed rehearsed like I had done that before. I guess I had, I’d just forgotten. My lips twitched in a sad smile. I took a left, unto a dusty street, with big houses on each side. I reduced the speed of the car, to take in the environment. Unlike my street, this one was almost empty and in place of small stalls are big supermarkets. This was definitely the neighbourhood of the wealthy. But my house was very big and ostentatiously decorated, and located in the midst of poorly built houses and and loitered by waifs and strays of the society. Why didn’t I build my house here? Was I really humble? That seemed very unlikely. I felt anything but humble. After what seemed to be a long drive, I pulled to a stop in front of a huge brown gate. After a few seconds, I step out.

“Oga Dozie,” somebody called out with with a thick Hausa accent. I turned almost immediately, and met the smiling face of a tall dark man, with three horizontal line running across his face, from his cheeks to his ears. “Oga I think say you die o. As that your friend carry you for shoulder. You come look like person wey die.” His brown teeth flashed as he grinned. I look at the house. So this was the house where my life was almost taken?

“Can I go in?” I asked.

He nodded, “This one wey you dey ask permission, this na your house na,” he gave me a wierd look. He pulled the gate open for me and I walked in, muttering a thank you.

The house must have been pretty once upon a time, now it looked battered and dejected. I walked round the house, studying it carefully. There were four balconies and only two entrances to the building. Whosoever locked me in, must have been to the house. It had to be an insider to know the exact time to perpertrate this act. But if no one else was found dead, it meant that the house helps all left before then. But according to Rita, there were servants on duty that night. So why did they leave? It couldn’t be a coincidence for all of them to be away, leaving just I and Alahaji. I had to question them myself, if I would get anywhere with this investigation, I had to handle it myself.

Something shiny caught my attention close to the entrace door at the back of the house. I went closer and found a silver earring. I pick it up, for some reason it made me think of Susan.

“What are you doing here?” For a second I was startled, and let the earring fall from my hand. I pick it up before turning to meet the owner of the female voice.

“Susan?” I asked perplexed. She folded her hand over her chest; she looked nervous.

“What are you doing here?” she asked again, impatiently. I shrugged almost nonchalantly. “Just snoopng around. What are you doing here?” She looked away.

“I dropped something. I came to find it,” she said with a shrug.

“Oh, like your earring?” I asked, my eyes never leaving her face. The fear in her eyes as she watched the earring dangling on my middle finger was unmissable. “You were seen leaving this building few minutes before the fire outbreak, what were you doing here at that time?” I ask moving closer to her.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but I was waiting for Alahaji,” she replied.

“Hmmm, strange for this earring, I assume to be yours to found outside this door. Correct, me if I’m wrong, you came back for this right?” She looked away.

“No, I didn’t. They are not mine, I saw your car from my balcony, so I thought, I should come check on you.” She turned around and walked away. She just lied. She conveniently changed her statement. I decided to stop questioning her, so as not to scare her away if she was the culprit. Of all the time to lose my memory, it had to be now. Now that my supposed Tigress was out to murder me, for God knows what reason. I just hoped, Rita was able to confirm the handwriting on the note.

DAY TWO

The beeping of my phone, woke me up. I stretched my tired body, but I was not able to stretch my mind, unfortunately. I did not have one substantial lead and it was seriously messing with my mind. I picked up my phone, on unlocking it, I saw a message from an unknown number. Definitely not from a Nigerian number, the country code was different.

Babe, why are you doing this. I don’t want to have to kill you again. Stop your investigation. Because you wouldn’t be lucky next time. Your friend was lucky, my men didn’t run her over yesterday, they just retrieved the note. Stay out of my way or else… This is your last warning.

Great. Just great. I rolled my eyes as I got of the bed. Unfortunately, I lost my old phone in the fire and so, couldn’t verify the number. I halted almost immediately at the door, I sprinted back to the night stand and picked my phone. I quickly dialed the unknown number, after waiting a few seconds, the answering machine informed me that the number was out of reach. After a couple of trials, I gave up. I would ask Nonso to track the number for me. She not only knew I was alive but also that I was investigating her. I dialed Rita’s number, she answered on the third ring. “Can you come over today?” I asked unsure.

“Uhm, yeah sure. Besides I need to tell you something,” she said. I figured she was referring to the note.

“Okay, see you later.”

I texted Nonso, asking him to invite the workers on duty that night to my place. I needed to have a chat with them. I needed to do something fast, I couldn’t just sit around and wait for my Tigress to kill me a second time. Who knows, I wouln’t be lucky a second time. I wouldn’t just lose my memory but also my life. A few moments later, Nonso replied, saying they would be there by noon. He was sorry I couldn’t come over because he had a court hearing.

By noon, the house keeper ushered three women and a man into the sitting room, after obtaining permission. They were middle aged, and looked relieved on seeing me.

Oga, sorry. We hear wetin do you. God go punish the person wey do you this kind thing,” the man said. They rest nodded in agreement.

“Down to the reason I invited you here. You guys were away at the time of the fire outbreak. Why?” I cut to the chase. They all looked at me surprised, exchanging weird glances at each other. I couldn’t help but feel stupid. “Can some one just answer the question and stop murmuring,” I said raising my voice.

“Oga, you told us to take the evening off,” the man replied.

I told them to take the evening off? But why? “Why would I ask you to take the evening off?”

“Oga, I don’t know o. We were even surprised. That day you resemble person wey ghost dey pursue. We did not ask why, because you might just get angry. You were rushing us sef to go. You no even gree Bimpe to cook finish. You just say make she carry the thing down. When she come tomorrow, she go cook finish,” one of the women said. Why did I make them leave in a hurry that day, was I up to something. Did I start the fire? Nothing made any sense.

“Did you notice anything suspicious that day?”

They all shrugged, “Sha, the only thing suspicious that day, was that you and madam were acting somehow,” another woman replied. I nodded as if following, while lost in the actual sense.

“I need you guys to answer this last question truthfully, without fear. How close was I and Rita?” I asked, examinng their facial expressions.

The third lady scratched her head uncomfortably, “Tunde talk say he see you and madam kissing one time like that,” she said evading my eyes.

The man sat up uncomfortably, “It has been long, Oga”

I and Rita were lovers? But she was married. Unless she was cheating on him with me. “Who else was in the house that evening?”

“When I was leaving, I saw Madam and Oga Nonso at the backyard,” Tunde replied.

“At what time?”

“Around after eight.”

I rubbed my temples, as my head had started aching. If only I could remember what happened that day. All four of us were at the crime scene that evening. It could have been any one, even me. Or it could have been one of my enemies, I would surely have enemies being a lawyer. The fire wasn’t meant to kill Alahaji but me, Alahaji was just collateral damage. I later dismissed them and took a walk in my surprisingly beautiful flower garden. Going over the little information I gained today and the anonymous text message, I was tempted to stop investigating for a while, at least just until I regained my memory. The pills the doctor prescribed were doing little to help me recover my memory. I jumped when someone tapped my shoulder.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Rita apologised. I nodded, forcing a smile on my face. She smiled back, but the smile was gone almost as soon as it appeared. She looked prettier without the smile, I thought. She had bags under her eyes, but still looked beautiful. The feeling of betrayal crawled back into my chest and I frowned almost immediately. She reached out and touch my right cheek. For some reason it was comforting.

“What happened between us in the past?” I asked almost inaudibly.

“We used to be in love,” she replied amidst sniffles. “We were going to tell chief about it that day. You told me to leave the house that evening, so that Alahaji wouldn’t hurt me. We were so nervous that day,” a sad smile appeared on her face. “Then the fire happened and you lost your memory.” The silence that followed was deafening. “I still wonder if you also forgot how you feel about me,” she said, a lone tear raced down her cheek. She turned to leave, but I pull her back, pulling her into a tight hug. Not wanting to let her go. She created a little distance to look at my face. I lowered my head to meet her already parted lips, but stopped halfway. The feeling of betrayal, crawled back in, nagging continously in my chest. Anger surged through my body, making me push her away. Surprise and pain washed over her countenance. “What is it? Don’t you want me anymore?” Tears trickled down her face and my heart broke into a million pieces, seeing tears on hear face. I wanted to scoop her in my arms, and comfort her and make love to her, but I just couldn’t push away the feeling of betrayal gnawing at my chest.

“Why do I feel like you betrayed me? Every time I see you, this feeling of betrayal just floods my mind. Why?” I asked, my hands in my hair.

She shrugged nonchalantly. “How would I know? Probably this is just an act to discharge me,” she said, livid. “Have you ever wondered if Susan found out about us, and that’s why she decided to set the house on fire?”

I blinked. I never really thought about it. “I want to show you something,” I said dragging her along. I let go of her arm once we entered my bedroom. I opened my drawer and retrieved the earring, I raise it for her to see it. She arced her eyebrow angrily, “Why would you be showing me your fiancée’s earring?”

“I found it at the entrance door of your house. Susan was there too, she said she was looking for something. Then retracted her statement moments later.”

“I lost the note you gave me. A group of men, snatched it from me. so there’s no way for to find out who wrote the note,” she said regrettably.

DAY THREE

“How are you feeling?” the doctor asked.

“I want to say I am doing just fine, but that would be a lie. I was hoping to regain my memory by now, but nothing. It’s frustrating,” I replied, pulling my T-shirt over my head and tossing it aside.

He looked at me perplexed. “You should have started recalling your previous memories by now. The blow you took to your head wasn’t severe. Let me see your medicines.”

I handed over two white plastic bottles to him. He opened them and examines the tablet. “Who gave this to you?” he asked, surprising me.

“Nonso bought them. They are what you prescribed,” I replied.

“I know I prescribed this, the name is correct but the tablets seem off. They should be capsules, not white bar tablets. Who knows what you’ve been taking? Maybe the fault is from the pharmacy. You need to come down to the hospital for a total check up,” he said concern etched on his face.

“I would be there tomorow,” I replied. I was definitely going to sue that pharmacy. I just needed to find the receipt, the name of the pharmacy should be written on the receipt. The doctor left shortly after, advicing me to stop taking any medication.

I really needed to cool off. Stepping out of the bathroom, with a towel around my waist, I heard my phone beep on the table. I walked over to my night stand and picked up my phone. It was a video recording from the same unknown number. The video clip was short. In the video, I was opening the gas tank in the kitchen, I looked like I had seen a ghost. I pull another gas tank out of the kitchen and into the hallway where I opened it, releasing the gas.

I ran my hands through my hair, this did not make any sense. Why would I set the house on fire, with myself still inside the building. The video had to have been doctored. Was I trying to kill myself? It couldn’t be, because I jumped downstairs from the balcony because the doors were locked. Someone must have locked me in to die. It had to have been Susan. She must have found out about Rita and I. But that did not explain why I opened the gas tanks. Something wasn’t right.

Suddenly, I felt a strong urge to pay the remains of Alahaji’s house a visit. I quickly changed into a pair of shorts and T-shirt and dashed out of the house. On my way out, I bumped into my house keeper. “I need you to find the receipt of the drugs Nonso brought some days ago,” I said ignoring her greeting. Minutes later, I pulled up in front of the big brown gate. Susan’s black car was parked there too. She had a lot of explaining to do, I thought as I slammed my fist against the gate. Seconds later, the same Hausa man opened the gate, flashing a smile on seeing me. I walked past him, and half-sprinted to the backyard were I saw Susan. Her eyes were glued to the ground in search of something. “I already took it, if it’s the earring you are looking for,” I said out of breath.

She stopped in her tracks. “Why did you try to kill me?” I asked quietly. She turned around abruptly.

“I did not try to kill you. I loved you so much. We were going to get married. Why would I want to kill the father of my child?” What child? I wondered.

“I am six weeks pregnant. Yes, I came here to look for my earring. I knew if it was found at the scene of the crime, I would automatically become the prime suspect,” she said amidst tears. For some reason, I wanted to believe her, but I would not let her take advantage of my memory loss.

“What were you doing here by eight thirty that night?”

“I told you, I was waiting for Alahaji. We were supposed to go to a party together, but I received a text from him, telling me to go ahead. Wait let me show you,” she said searching her purse with shaky hands. On retreiving her phone she showed me a message from Alahaji at exactly twenty nine minutes after eight. She wasn’t lying.

“I was cheating on you with Rita,” I watched her eyes widen in surprise and hurt. “According to her, I was going to tell Alahaji about our relationship that night. And this morning I received a video recording of myself opening the gas tanks in the kitchen.” I pause to see her expression. She shook her head, backing away from me.

“You didn’t want to tell Alahaji about your illicit relationship with his wife. You wanted to get rid of him so you’d take his wife,” she said with horror in her eyes.

It made sense now that she said it, it all made sense. That would explain why I intentionally opened the gas tank. Was Rita in on the plot to kill her husband? But she said we were going to tell him not kill him. Now that I think about it, she also said Alahaji was sick on that fateful day. One of them was lying to me, but who? This made no sense. I turned around and walked away. On my way home I call Nonso.

“Hey man, what’s up?” he asked.

“I’m holding up.”

“Sorry I can’t be there for you, I left Abuja for Port Harcourt yesterday evening.”

“Don’t worry, your lives can’t stop just because I lost my memory. Down to the reason why I called, which pharmacy did you buy my drugs?” He was silent for a while on the other side.

“Rita offered to buy them. She brought them to the office and I brought them to you right away. Why, any problem?” he asked.

“No I just wanted a refill, that’s all,” I lied without intending to.

“Uhmm.. OK. I’ll text you the address.”

Minutes later, my phone beeped. He had texted me the address. Tomorrow, I would find out if the fake tablet was a scheme to prevent me from regaining consciousness or the ploy of a greedy pharmacist.

When I got home, I found Rita’s car parked outside. Why was she here? She wasn’t in the sitting room when I got there, when I pull my bedroom door open, I found her rummaging through my walk-in closet. “What are doing?” I asked startling her. The document in her hands fell to the ground. She turned to face me looking very pale. “What are doing here?” I ask again.

“Uhmm… I… uhmm… was looking for my husband’s will,” she replied, clearing her throat at intervals. I walk up to her and pick up the document. I flipped through the pages of the document. All his asset were willed to her, and the law firm was willed to me. For some reason, it upset me that all he left me was the law firm.

“Why did you want this?” I asked calmly, trying to surpress the rage burning inside.

She shook her head. “Nothing. I just wanted to see it.” I had no idea Alahaji’s will was in my possession.

“So why didn’t you ask me? Why sneak in here like a common criminal?” I asked, raising my voice. I grabbed her arm and threw her on the bed violently and pinned her arms to the bed. “Why did you lie to me about wanting to talk to Alahaji. When in actual sense we decided to kill him?” I asked changing the subject.

Her eyes widened in surprise and fear. “You… you remembered?” she stuttered.

“Answer me! Why did you lie?”

“I was trying to protect you. You were reluctant to kill him. You didn’t want blood on your hands, I wanted to free you from your conscience. I did it for you, because I love you. We both knew Alahaji wouldn’t let us be together, he was too powerful, he wouldn’t have spared us. So we decided to get rid of him. I put sleeping pills in his juice, so he was fast asleep. I left the house to avoid suspision, your part was to burn the house and get out immediately. But somehow you got locked in,” she yelled.

Behind me, I heard a bunch of keys drop to the ground. Susan. She shook her head, horror etched on her face, she picked her keys and ran. I wanted to go after her, but the beep of my cell stopped me in my tracks. Retrieving my phone from my pocket it was a message from the unknown number. “This is your final investigation. Enjoy the last hours of your life,” I read out loud. I throw my phone out of the window angrily and let myself drop to my knees. I slammed my fists against the ground until my they turned red.

“Who was it?” Rita asked standing from the bed.

“Get out,” was all I could say. “Take the will with you, and write down the name of the pharmarcy you bought those drugs,” I ordered almost inaudibly. She nodded. This couldn’t be happening to me, since Rita was innocent and Susan claimed to be innocent, I was beginning to think that I must have had multiple affairs.

DAY FOUR

I reluctantly got out of bed. If my supposed Tigress didn’t kill me first, then the police would be here for me. Susan was sure to report this case, I could see it in her eyes. I called Nonso but his phone was switched off. I might as well go to the pharmacy, if nothing else at least I’d find out who exchanged the tablets, that might just bring me a step closer to finding out the truth. I quickly took my shower and changed into a fresh pair of shorts and a T-shirt. I send Susan a text before grabbing my car keys and the note Rita left on the night stand and sprinted out of the house and into my car. Unfolding the paper, I stopped cold on seeing the handwriting. It was the same as that of my Tigress. She had been within my grasp the entire time. I couldn’t believe this, this meant she was working together with someone, could it have been Susan? I eased my car out of my driveway, and into the streets. My thoughts were scattered. Why would Rita try to kill me, and who was helping her? I had no idea what I should do or where to go. There was no need going to the pharmacy, I already knew who was after my life. I just didn’t understand why she wanted me dead. It couldn’t be for property, because she inherited everything. I decide to go the pharmacy. I followed the direction inscribed on the note. The drive was longer than I expected, yet no pharmacy of any kind was in sight. Instead I realised that I was now on a highway with no life in sight except for a few vehicles. I turned on my phone location and put my phone in my pocket before pulling to a stop at the last junction written on the note. Something just wasn’t right. This had to be a scheme to bring me out and I fell for it. I came out from my car and took a look around. I should have known this was a setup. I walked back to my car, while trying to open my car door, I felt a sharp pain shoot through my scalp as a metal object kissed the back of my head in a painful embrace, blurring my vision. Then total darkness took over.

The pain emanating from the back of my head was unbearable, I tried to rub my head but couldn’t because my hands were tied at my back. I forced my eyelids open, only to meet Rita looking straight at me. She had a pretty smile on her face.

“Hey love, I am so sorry my boys maltreated you.”

“Why are you doing this? I thought you—”

“Love you? Hell no. I never loved you. I only needed you to get rid of Alahaji Seyi for me. Then I realised that I also had to get rid of you, if not you wouldn’t let me rest,” she interrupted.

Now I understood why I felt betrayed whenever I looked at her, that must have been how I felt when I realised she betrayed me, on seeing the doors locked.

“But you left the building?” If I am going to die I must as well get answers first.

She shrugged. “Well that’s a long story.”

“Let’s fill him in, let us fulfill his last wish,” a masculine voice added. My heart shattered on seeing Nonso. He kissed Rita’s lips before draping his hands around her shoulder. I should have known, but why would he betray me?

“I know you’re shocked. I needed you to clear the path for me and Rita to be together. It was difficult to let her marry Alahaji. Then you also came into the picture and fucked my girl. Trust me you’ll pay for that. I worked so hard and you would always took credit for all the cases I won,” he scoffed. “So don’t blame me for wanting to take back the firm that rightfully belongs to me.”

“But you helped save me from the fire, why save me?” The feeling of anger and betrayal overwhelming me. I had never suspected him, not even when I found out he was at the scene of the crime.

“I locked the entrance doors, so you wouldn’t get out alive. But I was about leaving, when I saw Susan dash into the compound and claimed you sent her a text that you were inside the burning building. We found you struggling to escape the fire after you jumped down the building. I would have killed you right there but for Susan’s presence.” He concluded with a triumphant smile on his face. “You always thought yourself smart, but you couldn’t see through my charade.”

Rita added smiling heartily. “Well, we have come to the end of our story and sadly your life story, any last word?” Nonso asked.

“How could you d—”

“Put your hands up. It’s the police,” a voice yelled from behind me. In a matter of seconds the police surrounded the room and Susan was with them. I smiled, muttering a thank you to Susan, whose cheeks were stained with tears and eyes swollen from crying. I was glad, I guessed right about Susan reporting to the police, and that was why I turned on my location to enable them track my location. Although I got to keep my life, but at the cost of my freedom. I had fought a losing battle of love and ended with nothing. Not even my memory.

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