IZUCHUKWU’S CAR PULLED TO A STOP few metres away from the hospital premises. The hospital did not have a parking space, and a blue Nissan car was parked on the road in front of its gate. Izuchukwu walked the few metres, which he had earlier gone past with his car. When he reached the red gate, he pushed it open and allowed himself entrance into the hospital premises. The hospital was small. And Izuchukwu was not impressed. But, it was close to Nneoma’s residence—and that is the only reason Izuchukwu will give, that is, if anyone bothered to ask him, ‘Why did Nneoma take her son to that hospital?’
A middle-aged man sat close to the gate, though more closer to the entrance of a room adjacent to the gate. A careful look at its structure would reveal that it was not in the original architectural plan of the hospital.
The man’s dressing gave him away; a man from the northern part of the country. “Aboki, good afternoon,” Izuchukwu greeted. He did not wait for a response before he continued, “my sister call me say dem just rush her pikin come this hospital. Dem still dey here?” The man merely pointed at the entrance of the building. Izuchukwu was not certain if the direction, which the man had given, was an assurance that Nneoma was still within the premises; or, if it was to indicate that he did not want to be bothered and was simply directing him to the reception desk where such queries were better handled. Izuchukwu believed the latter. To support what he believed, he did not thank the man as he walked on.
Izuchukwu found Nneoma in the waiting room, with Ruth seated close to her. A woman sat close to the duo. Although Izuchukwu had not seen the woman before, he rightly guessed that she was with them.
Nneoma stood up when she saw Izuchukwu. “Nneoma, what is happening?” Izuchukwu asked as he approached them. The woman rose from her place when Izuchukwu had gotten close. Nneoma’s eyes looked weak. Izuchukwu noticed the lines under her eyes.
“Izu, I don’t know . . . I—”
“Why not sit down,” the woman said to Nneoma. Her voice was modulated and fruity. “You too.” This time she had her eyes on Izuchukwu. Nneoma sat. Izuchukwu took a position by Ruth’s side. The woman sat beside Nneoma.
The woman continued. “I was at home. Actually, I just got home—I have a shop, and I’ve been there all day. It was a surprise when I heard someone knocking violently on the front door of my flat. As I stepped out of my room, I saw my grandson running towards the door. I stopped him. I tightened the wrapper I had around my chest and stormed to the door. It was unusual for someone to knock that loud on my door, and I wanted to find out for myself the person who had enough guts to try.” Izuchukwu noticed Nneoma’s lips as they curved in a brief smile. He was certain the woman was ‘that neighbour whom everyone feared’. “Immediately I saw Ruth standing there,” the woman pressed on, “I knew something was wrong. I followed her unhesitatingly, straight off! Evans was lying unconscious in the room when we got in. I noticed a small paper bag close to him and a tablet that had lost its original colour. I raised an alarm, and more neighbours gathered.”
“When they called me I could not utter a word,” Nneoma said.
“I quickly suggested we bring him here, since it is close and I have a family card with the hospital—though my family rarely comes here; my late husband got the card, just for emergency situations.”
“Thank you,” Izuchukwu said.
“Mama Abraham, thank you,” Nneoma said.
“You’re welcome, my children.” She was clearly older than they were, but clearly not old enough to have either of them as a child. “Ruth, let’s go outside and get something to drink. I’m sure you’re thirsty.” Ruth nodded slowly. In her heart Nneoma thanked her neighbour. She was about to reveal more sensitive details about Evans to Izuchukwu, and the wise woman’s action would save her little girl, Ruth, the gory details. As mama Abraham walked out of sight, with Ruth by her side, Nneoma was already thinking of a suitable way to show her appreciation to the older woman.
“What is the situation right now?” Izuchukwu asked.
“He’s still unconscious.”
“Have you seen him?”
It had been another hectic day at the office, and members of staff were already heading to their various homes.
He sat by his desk waiting for Shola to show up. Shola had a car, and they lived quite close to each other. To keep himself busy, he read from one of the newspapers that had been provided in the office that morning. The office was large, and it had six desks—and as one would expect, six chair were there also; one for each desk. With Shola in a meeting with the Director, Steve was the only one in the office.
The door was open, so, at his arrival, Shola easily walked into the office.
“Man, I’m tired!”
Without taking his eyes from the newspaper, Steve asked, “Why?” He had a wry smile. The director had a knack for long talks, which easily wear her listener out.
“I’m sure you do remember where I’ve been,” Shola said, dropping a lean file on his desk. He paused awhile before he said, “I ain’t going home with you, I don’t have the strength.”
“You said?” This time Steve had taken his eyes from the page he had been reading.
“I wasn’t talking to you.” Shola had his eyes on the file. When his voice was heard again, his words were directed at Steve. “Let’s go, man.”
“Just a moment.”
“I’ll be waiting for you outside,” Shola said. He raised his bag from the floor, beside his desk. With one swift move he freed his jacket from the chair where he had left it. As he walked towards the door, he said, “You’d better hurry. I won’t wait for too long.”
Steve smiled. “You know you can’t go home without me.”
“I guess you’ve seen the weird report in the crime page—I wonder what the world . . . ” Steve did not hear the rest of his words, as Shola had walked out of the room. Though Steve was certain he would get the words correctly if someone dared to place a bet.
Steve was curious. He flipped some pages. He would take a glance and that would be all for the day.
TWENTY-FIVE YEAR OLD MAN RAPES FOUR YEAR OLD BOY.
Steve closed the newspaper and dropped it on his desk—though at a slower pace than he ordinarily would; even, he had initially planned to drop the newspaper at the receptionist’s desk.
Steve rose from the chair, the image of a six year old boy in his mind—though, from the simple calculation he had made, that boy would be sixteen now. Steve wondered if Evans was alright or if his senseless act ten years ago had left a dent in the boy’s life.
To Be Continued…