A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
Ivie braced her chin with both fists and gazed at the table. The police guard had promised Richard would arrive two o’clock. It was thirteen minutes past two, and no sign of him. Droplets did not form at her brow, unlike her previous visits that had her in the room without power, leaving her to dwell in the heat. The waiting room had much heat, so how much did the cells then have, how much did Richard’s cell have? She had formerly tasted cell and could make a guess, but hers was only for three days, nothing close to the two weeks Richard had spent. A week in a place like a cooking cell was not something good.
Footsteps thudded nearer. The door opened and Richard stepped in. No handcuff clasped his wrists and his trousers had the lines of new clothing. He sat on the other side of the table and took his palms across his face, wiping the gloom he had carried. With all the days in prison, traces of his perfume fragrance still clung to his skin.
She thought of a word to say, one that would depict what she had in mind. “I’m sorry for your stay here,” she said, that being all she could thinkof, even if it wouldn’t please him. With his condition, scarcely anything would be pleasing.
“You’re sorry? What are you sorry for?”
He said the expected words and they scathed her earholes. The guilt should not be stolen from her, or shared with her.
“How is your health?” he asked.
No words pleased someone who had seen the sands of jail. A good health answer would do him no good than the truth. She reached for her trouser pocket and brought out a pen, “I picked this from the officer’s table on my last visit. I’ll drop it back on my way out.”
He thumbed a bulged pimple at his brow. She tried not to look at the way it bulged out and the redness at its tip. “What about the antidepressants?” he asked.
“I don’t take them anymore. They do nothing.”
The pricking that occurred anytime she talked about her disorder did not raid her this time. They should talk about the disorder, as long as it kept him talking.
He sniffed and touched his nose with a handkerchief. “What about the therapist gave you?”
“I’ve read the book. I’m reading it for the second time. I read at least a page every day before I go to bed.”
“Does it help?”
“It’s better than the antidepressants.”
“The doctors who wrote it did a good job.”
They did a very bad job. Reading about others experience only made her feel she wasn’t alone. “How are you doing, Rick?”
“I’m not good. Jail’s not good. I hate it, but I don’t regret what brought me in.”
She shut her eyes, and opened them to see a clear him. “What if you don’t get out?”
“I will. It might take long, but I will. How’s your friend, the victim?”
“I haven’t seen him for long. The doctors don’t allow anyone to have contact with him.”
“That’s expected.” He sniffed. “Who is he to you?”
She thought of any reply, and scrutinized his face for what could suit. Nothing could. Whatever she said, his face would still remain thin and drooped. “He is a friend.”
He ran a hand over the table’s edge. “I never knew you had male friends.”
Other words hid between those, words that better remained hidden. “I knew him from the gallery. Several times, he had come to buy paintings. We knew each other better and became friends.”
“You trust him?”
“You trust this friend of yours?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Do you believe that sometimes trust fails?”
“You were at the preliminary hearing. You must have heard when the prosecutor said the victim consented to the claim that I shot him.”
“If he consented, then the interrogators might have had a way to make him do. Those people can make someone say anything. Bakare is a sick man who doesn’t know what he’s saying. When recovered, he will dispute the claim of you shooting him.”
Richard shook his head. “I once told you what transpired at the scene. I told you I saw this friend of yours with a gun. I wasn’t lying or joking when I said it.”
She inhaled some of the hot air and allowed it burn the lines of her nostrils. “There were two men there, Rick. You could be mistaking.”
“I know what I saw. Don’t put too much trust in him. That’s all I wish you do.”
She took her gaze to the table. A gun did not fit into Bakare’s hands. An image like that could not form in her head. Those same hands that had caressed all of her paintings couldn’t caress a gun “How then did he end up the victim?”
“He was framed, and that is the only explanation. Those who framed him aren’t saints, and neither is he. What job does he do?”
“He runs a computer store.”
Richard touched his nose with a handkerchief. “I saw everything clearly. My scope is highly magnified. I saw both men and the woman who shot your friend.” He sounded sure and truthful as ever. Of course, he could not lie. He could only be mistaking.
“It was Ezinne who shot your man,” he said.
“What did you say?” She fixed on him if he would repeat those words again.
“Ezinne was the woman who shot your friend.”
He had been seeing things. Very bad. Two weeks in prison was enough to cause so many seeings and thinkings.
“Richard, Ezinne is your wife. It wouldn’t be good to say such of her.” She paused. “You should try having more rest.”
His eyes reduced to a thin line and a streak of displeasure crossed their black circles. “You think I’m sick in the head?”
“No, no, I’m not saying that. I’m—”
“I get it. It’s not easy to believe.” His eyes became normal, or near normal. “Wait till you hear the case in court.”
“Rick, Richard, I—”
“You think I’d accuse my wife of something I’m not sure about?”
“Not that. Look at it from the right angle. There’s no connection.”
“Whether you deem it true or not, help me convey the information to Jide. I couldn’t get myself to tell him on his last visit, and wouldn’t want him to first hear it in court.”
Blood flocked in his eyes, circling his eyeballs. Those very eyes were bloody red. “I believe you,” she said.
“You don’t, and don’t say you do. That’s lying.” He looked at the wall clock above her head and rose. “Visiting time is almost over. I should leave. I don’t an officer’s warning.” He aimed for the door.
He left with blood-filled eyes. There could have been a way to make him leave with something close to a smile and not bloody eyes. That little, he deserved from her. Jail was the worst thing that could happen to someone, and he never would have experienced it had he not known her.
She left the room and made for the station’s reception. There, she brought out the pen from her jean pocket, signed out, and left the pen on the table.
A taxi stopped by and she began her ride to Erneto Aives.
The taxi stopped some distance from the “no parking” signboard, leaving her to trek the remaining to the gate. Asking the gatemen if Jide Echem was in was not the best idea as they might kill any stranger that disrupted their chattering.
She opened the reception’s door, and the conditioned air froze her skin. Nearly everyone dressed like their CEO, suit jackets and trousers. One of her paintings hung beside Richard’s picture, one of those she sold to Jide.
The receptionist’s perfume reeked of wet alyssum, and more of it rained from his armpit when he stretched a hand to the right to indicate the way to Jide’s office.
Jide’s title gleamed at the third door. She knocked and opened. A woman welcomed her and made a phone call to Jide.
Ivie pushed Jide’s door gently and opened. He raised his head to her and greeted good evening. When last was there a good evening?
“I went to see Richard today.”
He pressed a button on his keyboard and looked back at her. “How is he?”
“Not very good.”
His cheeks flattened, and then a furrow surfaced on them. “I don’t know how all this will end.”
“Richard wanted me to tell you some things, things like Bakare was framed and shot by Ezinne. He said Bakare was with a gun at the orchard.”
Jide’s head jutted forward. “Richard told you this?”
“I don’t know what made him say those things.”
The light from his laptop screen went off and the true darkness in its face showed forth. “How can he say Ezinne shot the victim when the armed man was the victim?”
“I don’t know what to think. He was serious when saying it and bits of anger crawled in when he found doubts in me.”
He moved a finger on his touchpad and closed the laptop. “We will go talk to his lawyer. The firm should still be open.”
“You think he would tell his lawyer those?”
“We should learn what the lawyer knows.”
He unwrapped his suit from his couch’s backrest and covered himself with it. “The last time I talked with Richard, he mentioned nothing of what you just said.”
“On our first talk after his arrest, he said something about Bakare holding a gun at the orchard.”
“You told the lawyer?”
“Rick must have told him, and it probably isn’t true.”
He turned face away from her touched his forehead with a fist. “What do you think is true?” His voice jerked her. “Do you think he would be behind those bars if truth exists?”
“I thought he told you.”
He bowed his head and tapped the table. “I’m just hearing about that. Please, say anything you hear, truth or not.” He rose and lifted his briefcase from the table. “I pray we meet the lawyer there.”
They entered his Toyota and started for the firm. It was a long drive to the firm, but with Jide’s speed, they could save substantial time.
To Be Continued….