Kemi’s Family House
5:20 PM 7, July, 2015
Music is art. Fuji music is not. At least that was what Nicholas believed. It was blaring from a small transistor radio sitting on a worn out wooden box. He was sitting in a modest sitting room. The furniture was not expensive but they were neatly arranged. The wall was painted White. It looked freshly painted. Three family portraits hung on the wall. Beside one of the portraits, a golden clock chimed away. A ceiling fan hung far too low from a whitewashed ceiling. And the most notable feature of the room was a plasma Tv which was showing nothing. Nicholas couldn’t care less if the world cup final was showing on the Tv. He had been sitting alone in the room for what looked like 10 hours to him. Nobody had said anything to him. He had been sitting and waiting. Kemi is dead, and now he was sitting in her Parent’s living room, there wasn’t going to be a good ending to all this for him. The curtain that led to what looked like a corridor opened. He stood up. He tried to force a smile as the “jury” walked in. The foreman of the “jury” was Kemi’s father. He was a short man with a slight build. You would not be scared going into a fight with him. Well, except you looked into his eyes. He had one of the meanest stares Nicholas had ever seen. Those eyes were directed at him as he walked in. The forced smile soon disappeared. The “jury” had four other members. They didn’t look too interested in him. One of them sat beside him. He had a week old beard stuck to his sunken cheeks. His eyes were kind though. Nicholas tried to find some comfort in that. “Corper, we don’t mean to trouble you” Kemi’s Father started, quite solemnly too, Nicholas noticed. “But we can not find Kemi” Oh! Thank God! You idiot, thank God? At least they’re not accusing me of killing her. “We thought you had something to do with it, that’s why we came to your place” Sunken cheeks said. “Oh, me? Why would you…?” Nicholas stammered. He had to change the subject. “So, who do you think has her?” Who has her body? That is what I should be asking. “Well, we don’t know. That is why we need your help.” His kind eyes looked like they would pop out of his head. “Look here Corper” Nicholas turned to face the “foreman” “We know you and my daughter spend a lot of time together” Oh my God! “We just want to know if you know anything that will help us. Her sister, Lola, told me she has been keeping to herself lately.” What was he supposed to say? ‘Yes, your daughter is dead’? Or, ‘No, i don’t know what has happened to her’? Who could have killed her? She was a sweet innocent girl. He must have been quiet for long because they were all looking at him. “Sir..” he started. “You don’t have to worry if you know nothing” Kemi’s Father cut him short. “Please, just help us in any way you can.” As he moved down the staircase, he couldn’t help but think how lucky he was. He had thought they were going to accuse him of murder and here they were begging him for help. It was getting dark. The streets were almost empty as Nicholas walked home. Three little girls were dancing, not very far away, around their mother, who was cooking. Nicholas smiled. Everything looked peaceful. He had not experienced the town like he should. Like Kate did. He was not even happy to be there. Kemi was a welcome distraction from his routine boring life. She was pretty, easy to talk to and did not mind that he couldn’t care less for her town. They were different. He was born and brought up in a city. Had attended the best schools and believed the world was a bad place. She called herself a village girl, with pleasure too. She was a first year student at a Teachers Training College. A free Spirit, she did not believe there was anything wrong with the world. ‘Everything happens for a reason’, she would always say. The bark of a dog behind him made him jump. He had already forgotten that he was recently kidnapped himself. A kidnap and a murder with no body in twenty four hours? Something is wrong.
* * *
6:45 PM 7 July 2015
Kate had been waiting for more than three hours. She did not know what to expect. If they had found a connection between Kemi and Nicholas, then he probably wasn’t coming home soon. Nicholas had a nice room. Better than the one she had. It had a few things out of place but it wasn’t untidy. It did not look like he cooked much. His kitchen was far too neat. She looked at her watch for the umpteenth time. She picked a jacket from Nicholas’ closet, wore it and walked out of the house. Like most houses in Arandun, his house had a tree in front of it. She paced under the tree for a while. The night was breezy but she could no longer wait inside. “Kate” she jumped, startled. She had not seen him walk up to her. “I wasn’t expecting to meet you here” “Yeah, i decided to wait. Sorry about your jacket, it was getting cold” “It’s not a problem. Do you want to come back inside or should i walk you home?” She wanted to stay and get more answers but it was getting dark. “I think i should go.” She went inside the house to pick her bag. “I’m ready to go” She started walking and he followed her. “So, what happened? They just let you go?” Of course she was curious. She watched him as he explained everything that happened. He obviously cared for Kemi. She had always wondered how he connected with a girl who did not have much in common with him. He did not seem to interested in any other person. Well he called me when he was in trouble. They walked in silence for a while. Then something occurred to her. “Nicholas, have you told your Mom about your kidnap?” He looked like he was taken aback by the question “No. I’ve not had the time.” He looked lost in thought. She let him be.”I don’t think I’ll tell her” “What?!” She was surprised. She wanted to ask him why but she did not. He did not say why, so they walked on in silence. It was dark now. It always amazed her how beautiful Arandun was at night. The light coming from the houses made a very pretty sight. The town looked at peace. They walked past one of the hot spots of Arandun’s night life. Most of these spots were filled every night. Palm wine was the main attraction of this particular spot. A little distance away from the spot she saw two young men rushing towards a mosque. They had been walking for fifteen minutes when they got her house. It was a lodge for corps members. She lived with three others. She was grateful none of them was outside to see Nicholas. She would have had to explain why he was at her place so late. “Thanks a lot Kate. Sorry i put you through all this trouble.” “No, it’s okay.” She wanted to hug him but his hands were folded across his chest. “Just be careful , okay?” “Alright, I’ll try” he replied with a smile.” Good night” “Good night” She watched him go. “Hey Nicholas.” She called after him. “I think you should tell your Mom. Okay? Take care” He smiled and walked away.
* * *
Funke’s (Nicholas’ Mother) Office.
8:45 PM 8 July 2015
All it takes is a washing machine and a few minutes. She wondered how many of her customers knew that. It was good they didn’t know or didn’t care or she would be out of business. Her laundry was the biggest in town. It was the only one run by a woman too. She had started the business when she got tired of attending interview and hearing the same old statement:”We will get back to you”. She had being on the other side of the interview table now so many times. Being your own boss definitely had its advantages. She was enjoying one at the moment; chatting with your friend at Nine O’clock with your feet on the table. “I don’t understand, Funke. Why would you not attend the funeral?” Being your own boss also had its disadvantages. People ask you silly questions so early in the morning. Something Joy, her friend, was doing now with pleasure. “Why would I? The man died three months ago, i didn’t even shed a tear. What does that tell you?” “You are an emotionless robot?” It was one of Joy’s qualities inappropriate jokes. “He’s the father of my son. That’s all. In fact he was just a sperm donor, he was never a father to Nick” she rolled her eyes. She couldn’t believe she was having this conversation again. “Joy, why are you disturbing me? You were one of those who advised me to stay away from him when he was alive.” And she had stayed away from him. He wasn’t too eager to see her either. She often wondered how they had stayed together long enough to have a baby. They never agreed on anything. So when she discovered she was pregnant, they did not agree on the next course of action either. “Okay, do whatever you want.” Joy said standing up.”His family doesn’t even know you guys exist. You and Nicholas. I’m going to my shop. Take care of yourself” She had tried to stay as far as possible from Nicholas’ father. Nicholas did not even use his name. She had had more conversations about him in the three months after his death than she had in twenty years before that. Some felt like she needed to introduce Nicholas to the family. She did not have the same opinion. Nicholas was seven when he knew who his real father was. He was young but he had taken the information maturedly. She picked up her phone and started scrolling through her pictures. Like any mother would, she had several pictures of her only son. She looked at the last picture of him she took and smiled. He was returning to his primary place of assignment. He wore his uniform after she had begged him to. She was about to put her phone back in her bag when it rang. It was Nicholas. “Hello Nick, I was just thinking about you.” She answered with a smile. “You’re always thinking about me Mom.” It was true. “How are you?” “I’m fine, Joy just left my office. She asked after you. How’s your village? Hope the girls there have not stolen your heart with their food” He always had a ready answer for her when she joked about him and girls but he hesitated this time. “Mom, do you think Dad’s family know about me?” He never talked about his father. “Do you think they know?” “No, honey, i don’t think they know. Why? Any particular reason why you are asking?” “No. So how’s your business? Hope AquaKlean has not stolen any more of your customers?” He is trying to change the subject? “No, they have not” she decided to play along. “I’ve stepped up my game.” They talked for a few more minutes. Something was wrong she could tell. She knew Nicholas too much, she always knew when he was hiding something from her. Her phone rang. She did not feel like talking. It could be business. You need to make money whether you feel like talking or not. “Hello, good morning.” she tried to sound as pleasant as she could. “Good morning, this is Barrister Thomas. Is this Ms Akorede?” “Yes.” A lawyer? Why would a lawyer be calling me? “How can I help you Barrister?” “You and your son are invited to be at the reading of the Last Will and Testament of late Engr. Babatunde. I will forward the time and address to you. Okay? Thank you.” She couldn’t even say “good bye”. She still held her phone to her ears. This is not a coincidence. She had just been invited to the reading of the will of Nicholas’ father.
* * *
“Sir, she has been invited to the reading of the will.” Faruk never beat around the bush with news. “She has? I wasn’t expecting that, but I’m not surprised. Just keep me informed.” “Okay Boss” Well, this is getting interesting.