The trial had progressed smoothly and all was going in our favor. Bidemi Bankole kept assuring me that Dupe would walk free and I also believed so. Today was the ‘ D day’ and I was in a celebratory mood because she would be coming home. I opened a new bottle of champagne, while I worked on another portrait which I would give her once she was out.
I was painting her from memory, I could taste her on my tongue as I painted her standing on a beach with the wind playing carelessly with her hair. She looked so ravishing, innocent and angelic in a white gown. Her portrait seemed so real, so alive that for a second I almost spoke out loud to it. I knew Uche and his families would also be celebrating her freedom in advance and I hoped to be the first person to give her a gift.
My phone beeped beside me and I plucked it off the table holding my brushes. Great, I thought. Bidemi Bankole was calling to give me the good news. I felt excitement surge through me.
” Hello” I said, wiping my fingers on my work pant.
” Shark” Bidemi said.
” She’s out of the net?” I asked.
He sighed roughly and my heart skipped a beat.
” What is it?” I asked. We had worked closely together on the case and I had so much faith in him. Although I never stepped a foot into the court room, my mind and soul was always there. I knew everything had gone according to plan. It was obvious it was a set up and the real murderer was out there. That was the picture we wanted to paint in the mind of the judge. What could have gone wrong?
” The PI did not show up.” He said.
” D–n!” I said.” Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” The private investigator had called during the night that he had enough evidence to prove Funmi was behind the mask of the murderer. He was supposed to testify in court too.” Did you not ask for the case to be adjourned until you get in touch with your witness?”
” I did but it was denied. We lost the case, shark.” He said.
” How many years did she get?” I asked, steaming with anger. If I could see him at that moment, God knows I would have squeezed the breath out of him.
” She was sentenced to death by hanging.” He said, ” I tried my best for her, I am sorry”
I drove down to the private investigator’s house, all the while wishing I could run him and Bankole through with a sword. Suddenly something seemed fishy and I couldn’t lay my fingers on what might have gone wrong. Why didn’t the PI show up? Why didn’t Bankole try hard enough?
His car was parked outside his gate, I parked my car and entered the building. The place seemed deserted, I pushed open his door and almost stepped on his lifeless body. He was n*aked from the waist down and his blood had pooled beside him. He had a knife stuck in his bloated stomach.
I walked around his corpse, and went into his bedroom. Clothes and books were strewn all over the room. His drawer had been ransacked too, his drawers were pulled out.I couldn’t find any documents or files on Funmi, I closed the door gently and walked out of the building with questions reeling in my mind.
” What the hell happened?” I asked, pacing up and down. My furious eyes searched every faces seated in the room.
Uche looked so pale and weary. Annie was seated beside him, silently thumbing through her cell phone while his mother was sobbing into an hankie. Tade and Mabel huddled close to each other. I guessed the news of the PI’s murder which I related to them only few minutes ago shook them up more than they were all letting on.The police were more concerned with who discovered the body than going after the murderer. I had placed an anonymous call to them to inform them and I expected them to pick up from there. Things like this, makes me shake my head at the level of decadence in the system, they are all after money, nobody wants to be saddled with the dirty works.
” What went wrong in that court room?” I asked again.” Everything was going so well, what happened?”
” The lawyer thought she might have a better chance if she pleaded guilty.” Tade replied.” It was a foolish move but at that moment it seemed like a wise decision because….”
” Why didn’t anyone tell me?” I thundered.” Why the hell did Bankole ask her to plead guilty? And you all decided not to tell me?”
” Your so called trusted lawyer said she might get five years if she pleaded guilty and he asked her to name Funmi as her accomplice but she refused. Look Shark, we were all desperate and we thought it would be best if she pleaded guilty and got five years than being sentenced to life imprisonment. ” Annie replied.” We spoke to Dupe and…..”
” You all put the noose around her neck before the judge even proclaimed her guilty. She’s pregnant for God’s sake! She’s going through a lot now! How could you all ask her to plead guilty? That’s insane! the police have washed off their hands off the case because they believe they have found the culprit.” I said.” Now you have’ve all proved that they were right all along!”
” What do we do now?” Uche asked.
” We wait. They can’t hang her until she delivers the baby. How many months does she have to go?” I asked.
” Six months” his mother replied.
” Good. I will appeal the case but for now everyone should be careful and you all should be watchful because a mad man or woman is on the prowl and he or she is determined to bring this family down.” I said and walked out of the room.
I was packing our bags when the hotel room door opened and Tade walked in. He sighed and sat down on the feather soft bed. He held his head with his hands, his eyes were blood shot because he had been drinking. I finished packing the bags, got ready for bed and turned out the lights.
” Tade, what are we going to do?”
” Bell, I don’t know. That girl is crazy, there’s no telling what she might do next. And this country is so f*ucked up! Imagine an innocent pregnant woman being sentenced to death because those in authority failed to do their ground work. Because she was caught fleeing the murder scene does not mean she was the murderer.” He said, cursing under his breath.
” I am scared Tade. She might come after us too.” I said.
” I think you should go back to the states. Stay there until everything settles here, we are not safe as long as she walks free.” He said.
” No bell, you must go back to the states.”
He pulled me into his arms while tears filled my eyes. Somehow we were both responsible for the whole problem everyone was in now. We had awaken a demon in ‘ her’ and that demon was so slippery and cunning that she would be the end of us all.
” Come with me Tade.” I pleaded.
” No Bell, I have to stay back here. I will come for you as soon as….”
” Please” I cried. I was suddenly scared, I was afraid she might try to harm him too. I didn’t want to lose him.
” Shhs…” He said, wiping away my tears with his fingers.” Go to bed now,”
I laid back on the bed and closed my eyes. I tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep. In my heart I knew that this might be the last time I would be seeing him alive and that realization scared me to the marrows of my bones.
To be continued