Isaiah’s squad dressed in black descended on St. Lucas hospital at 12 midnight. They had informed Veronica of their plan so she had arranged a substitute security man who showed up like an understudy in order not to alarm Momoh. He opened the gate to let in the police van, assuming that they had come to continue their investigations as usual. The corporal who drove swerved sharply before the hapless man so as to block the view of anyone outside. Quick as lightening, they blindfolded him and bundled him inside the van. The corporal drove off with a screech. Momoh was a blustering bundle of nerves. He was crying and begging for mercy but the officers ignored him.
At their station, they stopped and carried him out. He was slung over the shoulder of the sergeant, a huge, burly fellow. By this time, Momoh had wet his pants.
“Officer, abeg, I get wife, I get five children. My mama still dey alive. No kill me, make una no kill me!”
They roundly ignored him. Isaiah unlocked the door of their interrogation room. It was a room at the back of their station which could be accessed without drawing the attention of those inside the station. Momoh was deposited on the floor and tied hand and leg. Finally, Isaiah spoke.
“Momoh, you know my voice?”
“Yes, sir,” he said trembling. “You be the oga police.”
“Good. You have been seeing my good side before now. Today, you will see the terrible part of me.”
“Sir, abeg, I no wan see!”
“As soon as I remove your blindfold, you will receive the beating that will cure you of lying.”
“Oga abeg, I no do anything, I no do anything! ”
“You did not open the gate for the woman who killed that boy?”
“Never! Master, I swear!”
“Kome, take over.”
He gave Momoh a blow so hard that even Isaiah winced. Momoh doubled up in pain, grovelling, begging.
“You connived to kill an innocent boy. How much did she pay you?” Isaiah asked.
With each question, Kome landed a blow.
“Is she your girlfriend?”
“Why did she want the boy dead?”
“Who else was involved?”
“Where is your girlfriend now?”
“Why did you betray your boss?”
“Why did you watch her being arrested for a crime you helped commit?”
“Is this your first time or you have dead bodies buried at home?”
Finally, Isaiah raised a hand for Kome to pause. They filed out of the room and left him with Amina. He hovelled on the floor, whimpering in pain. As his hands were cuffed behind him, he could not hold the parts of his body that hurt. She took a seat facing him though he was unaware she was there. After a long while, she spoke.
He looked up, alarmed, then cringed as though expecting another blow.
“Relax, they are not here,” she spoke in his dialect. “I can help you escape. That man will not stop till you are dead and this place is a secret room. Nobody knows where you are. You will be buried without your wife and children knowing. Is that what you want?”
“No, please, help me my sister!” He got on his knees to plead.
“I need Ekemini’s address. She moved out from where she was living, telling them she travelled. I know you have her phone number.”
“I don’t know her.”
“You want to die here?”
“No, my sister. Help me!”
“I will give you a phone to use to call her. Tell her you want to see her or you will tell the police what she did. Convince her to agree and we will be merciful to you.” She stood and left him to ruminate on what she had said.
“Hello,” said Veronica.
“Hello. Is that Dr. Veronica?”
“Yes it is.”
“My name is Javier. I am the country director of the organisation for the promotion of safe reproduction in Africa.”
“Great to meet you.”
“I watched your interview on TV and I was so moved that I had to find your number and call you. In fact, I was moved to tears. Your story reminded me of that of my mother, who was once falsely incarcerated in the US,” he said.
“I am very sorry to hear that.”
“O, she’s fine now. She spent one year in jail because we couldn’t afford a lawyer to get her out. My mother was a housekeeper who witnessed a crime. Her employer framed her for the crime and the state-appointed attorney did not care enough to do a good job. I had to bring her case to the attention of an organisation that fights for wrongfully convicted people before she was acquitted.”
“That is such a powerful story.”
“Do you know Reynolds?”
“Yeah, my brother volunteers at his organisation.”
“He called and asked me to watch you on TV.”
“Aww…That was nice of him.”
“I have a question for you. Do you regret stopping to help that child? Would you do the same again?”
“I honestly have no regret and I would stop for anyone who needs my help. There are a few things I would do differently though. I would have taken pictures both of the boy and of my car at the site. Also, I would have reported to the police immediately I got to the hospital. When his mother insisted that I was responsible for his injuries, I should have made her sign an agreement stating that I was not the one who knocked down her son. That would have been my condition for undertaking his treatment,” she said.
“I agree. Since she was desperate to save her son’s life, she would have signed anything.”
“She would have. Even if they later tried to frame me, I would have had better evidence against them that would absolve me of the crime.”
“You are an exceptional doctor.”
“Thank you Javier!”
“Well, I called because we need a hospital to cater to our staff numbering over one thousand in Nigeria alone. I can’t think of a better person to work with. We used to use another hospital but our staff have been complaining of their poor services. The two other hospitals we checked out did not meet our requirements. Can we set up a meeting for Tuesday?”
Veronica had to count to three to prevent herself from rising and letting out a whoop of delight. This was an answer to prayer that far exceeded her expectations. Firing Dr. Korede had led to Matron Ngwanu quitting. Together, they had set up a calumny of lies and blackmail, spreading rumors about the hospital that led to a decline in the attendance and income. It didn’t help that most patients trusted both of them and saw her as an outsider.
“Are you still there? I promise you a fair deal. Besides, I plan to advise five similar organizations whose directors are my friends to switch to your hospital. What do you say?”
Veronica had managed to control herself. “That sounds interesting, Javier. Thank you for considering us.”
She wanted to scream, “Come right away!” but she comported herself. She was a CEO not a fish monger after all. “I’ll see you then.”
He ended the call.
Ekemini was up at 5am everyday to prepare the moi moi she gave to two teenagers to hawk for her in Balogun market, for a fee. They would have to take a bus to CMS and then walk the rest of the way carrying the hot tray. It was not a long journey. She had to use them to generate an income since she had left white water unceremoniously. Mayen called a few times to ask where she was but she lied that she was in the village in south south Nigeria, observing her mother’s funeral rites. She feared that her sins would find her out one day. Every day, she worried that it would be her last as a free woman. She trembled whenever she heard a siren. The sight of a policeman was enough to send shivers down her spine. She was beginning to wonder if it would not be better for her to turn herself in. A product of an abusive home herself, it was the only life she knew.
She had fled from her mother and step father because he took advantage of her with her mother turning a blind eye from her teenage. A truck driver gave her a lift on the condition that she would pay in kind. She did, in the back of his truck. In Lagos, she kept trading her body to survive until she was drafted by a kidnapping ring. They contracted her to lure children for their nefarious activities. Also, it was her task to take care of them till they were trafficked either as slaves or to ritualists. They moved often. As soon as the law got on their trail, they would change location. In white water, she began to run a “creche” in order to camouflage her activities. It was unfortunate that Edet caught her with the little girl. She could not explain what drew her to children. Maybe it was because they could not take advantage of her like all the men in her life had. She could not afford to let him say a word to anyone so she had chased him into ths street, yelling for him to stop.
When she heard the crash, she hung back. She knew the neighbours would not know what to do to save him. They would be busy abusing the perpetrator or crying or wringing their hands to actually make a move to assist him. By the time she realized that Dr. Veronica had stepped in, she decided to stage an appearance. Framing her for the crime and all her fake tears were part of the plan. The difficult part was making sure she was by his side when he woke up. She had two children who were kidnapped, in her care. Her neighbours believed they were her relatives. She had to take them to a remote location and let them go. Then she lied to her employers that they fell sick and she released them to avoid drawing suspicion. That enabled her to focus her energies on ‘caring’ for Edet.
She made herself invaluable so that Mayen thanked her God for giving her such a good friend. When he was fully conscious, she chose a time that they were alone to give him a warning.
“Edet, do you want to die?”
“You must not tell anybody what you saw in my house, do you hear?” she pinched his ear as she spoke.
He did not show any sign that he was in pain even though she was pinching quite hard.
“If you tell anyone, I will kill you and kill your mother, do you hear?” she repeated, twisting his ear for good measure.
He looked up at her from his bed where his leg was suspended.
“Aunty, what you did is not right. She is a baby,” he said softly.
“Sharrrap! I see you are stubborn. You will see what I will do to you.” She knocked his head. He did not flinch. She would have said more but a nurse was at the door so she sat down, eyeing him furiously so he would not utter a word.
When she got home that evening, her heart was full of fear. For an eight year old to look her boldly in the eye was a sign that he was unafraid. He obviously believed she was bluffing. Besides, he thought that the hospital offered him protection. Time was running out. At any moment, the boy could open up to anybody. She had to think fast.
At the nurse had left after dressing his wound.
“Do you like little Beauty?” she had asked him.
“Yes,” he replied. “She is my friend. I am going to report you to Dr. Veronica. What you did is wrong.” He crossed his arms defiantly.
“I am going home now. Should I hear that anybody knows of what you saw, I will kill her. I will cut her with a knife and throw her body in the atlantic ocean,” her voice was menacing, her face threatening.
“But…but, she is your sister’s daughter?” His eyes were wide with alarm.
“My sister? Have you ever met my sister? I have no sister. Beauty is not related to me in any way.”
Edet could not utter another word. He realized that he was dealing with an evil person, a woman without a conscience, one who would not hesitate to destroy anyone she perceived to be in her way.
“Please don’t touch her,” he pleaded. “I promise to keep your secret. No one will ever hear of what I saw.”
“Good boy! I knew you would see things my way,” she smirked, rubbing her hands.
“I have to leave. Make sure you take your drugs do you hear?”
He nodded, sullen. She laughed and blew him a kiss as she rose to gather her belongings. For days, after she got home, she agonized over not knowing whether or not the police would come after her. She went about her activities like a robot.
The day before the day Edet died, she was in a bus heading to the Iddo market when a strange-looking man, dressed in white asked, to read her palm. Before she could object, he grasped her hand and turned it so her palm faced upwards. She watched him, sceptical, as he traced the lines of her palm.
“You are not married. Children are many in your hands. What are you doing with all these children? One of them, a boy will kill you,” he said.
She wrested her hand out of his grasp.
“God punish you. You are the one who will die! Rubbish!” she spat as she shouted for the bus to stop at the next stop.
Immediately, she boarded a bus to St. Lucas. The security man had become her friend because she flirted with him whenver she visited. Once, she had let him take her into his room and kiss her but she did not let him go further. She had always felt that she would need him one day. Today was the day. Due to traffic, she arrived late. She hung around the street, waiting till dark to approach Momoh. He was more than happy to see her and to play host for the night. In the early hours of the morning, while he slept, she crept into Edet’s room. She only wanted to reason with him. At the most, she would threaten him. She feared the divination of the prophet she met in the bus; she did not want to die.
He was not listening to her. He tried to cry out. She placed the pillow across his face just to muffle his screams. Why she held it there for longer than she should have, she would never know. He was not breathing when she took it off. She tried to rouse him but he did not respond. Finally, she had to make her escape. Momoh was awake when she returned to his room. He asked her where she had gone but she insisted she went outside to ease herself. It was when an alarm was raised later in the day, when she was long gone, that he realized just how deeply involved he was in the whole scandal.
Ekemini’s phone rang. She saw it was Momoh’s number and ignored it. By the time it rang three times, she answered.
“Hello, where you dey?” he asked.
“What kind of question is that? Have I not warned you about calling me? Listen, you need to stay away from me.” She was short with him.
“The police are on my neck. Let us meet today, this morning. I want money to get out of this town.”
“I thought they arrested your madam for the crime?” She put down the leaf she had been spooning moi moi into.
“Yes, that was before. Last night, they said they will come today to arrest me!”
“Momoh they don’t know anything. They are grasping at straws.”
“Give me your address. I need money.”
“How much are we talking about here?” she asked.
“Fifteen thousand naira. I want to go back to my village and farm till things calm down.”
“Okay. Come early or you will not see me,” she warned.
She proceeded to describe where she was living and how he could get there. An hour later, she got a call from him that he was outside. She was to stand outside her doorway and wave. It was a slum much like white sands. The difference was that she had not started taking in the neighbourhood children. It takes time to build trust and she knew that any false move would give her away.
“Where are you?” she said into the phone. She had left it on as she went outside to wave to him. “I can’t see you.”
Someone she could not identify sneaked up on her and held her hands in a vice like grip. The phone clattered to the ground, unheeded.
“Ekemini, you are under arrest for the murder of Master Edet,” she heard.
Her heart sank. The day she had dreaded; the day the prophet had divined, had come. She slumped in the arms of the man who held her. In a daze, she felt her wrists being cuffed as she was dragged to a police van. She was thrown into the back. Looking up, she saw Momoh. He was also in cuffs, his face swollen and misshapen, with crusts of blood around his upper lip. He looked at her helplessly, pleading for forgiveness with his eyes. If she could speak she would have told him she was not angry. Her chickens had come home to roost: He was not at fault.
“Dr. Veronica,” she heard one of the officers say into his phone. “It’s over. We got her.”
I hope you loved my little story. Please give me a shout out if you read it. I also welcome corrections and observations. I wrote this story to give us a peak into the struggles doctors go through in Nigeria, hoping to win over those who see only our deficiencies. May you only meet godly doctors on your journey, in Jesus name!
Remember, God causes all things to work together for those who are called according to his good purpose for him. Have you answered the call? If you will like to, say after me, “Jesus, come into my heart today. I confess all my sin and I turn away from them. Write my name in the book of life. Fill me with your holy spirit and lead me to live for you all the days of my life. In Jesus name. Amen!”
Do click on the title to talk to me or send me a confidential email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Love ya.
Cheers, Dr. N.