The Last Smile – Episode 24
By Adeola Nissi
After Luciana had eaten, they had allowed her take a nap in order to rest and relax more. Luciana had fallen into a dreamless sleep and woke up almost two hours later. The first person she saw when she opened her eyes was her mum. Bewaji seemed to derive pleasure from watching her daughter sleep; in fact, she derived pleasure in watching everything Luciana did.
Lucy smiled down at her mother with sleepy eyes. “Relax mum, I am not going anywhere”.
Bewaji smiled. “It would take a few days to make me believe it baby”
Lucy nodded. “I missed you mum, so much” she sat up.
“Me too dear. I told you that leaving this house was a bad idea but you never listen. You are just as stubborn as your father”
“Don’t go there mum. I left for work, besides, I like it there. I love the work. Mum, I think it is best I talked with everyone about the situation on ground. The guy is still freely roaming the streets” she changed the subject.
Luciana got to the sitting room and found everyone waiting there, having a little chatter. Their eyes followed her to her seat, making her feel awkward, with her legs hitting themselves. “Can you guys stop staring? You are making me feel weird” she stated exasperatedly.
Teju laughed. “We are still surprised that you are here babe”.
“Get used to it”
“I am used to it already. Now, let’s get down to business” she transformed to a lawyer within the twinkling of an eye and Lucy smiled. “I have my luggage packed for Abuja tomorrow. I should be able to lay my hands on the murderer.”
“Fred is not a murderer, he was just blinded with jealousy-” everyone in the room stared at Lucy like she had lost her mind. “Besides, Teju, you can’t go looking for a ‘murderer’ in Abuja. He is a man and you are a woman; a fragile one at that”
“Oh… give me a break Lucy. It was your mummy attitude I missed a lot. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I am a barrister for heaven’s sake” Teju retorted.
“Lucy is right” Deolu stated. “It is risky having you there alone. I am coming with you”.
“Obviously not. I am not going to be all alone, that policeman Deolu told me about would be helping me out. Besides, you need Deolu here now.” She replied.
“No” Luciana said immediately. She softened. “Listen Teju, I would hate myself forever if anything happened to any of you because of me; you especially. Let Deolu go with you. He is a man and he can take care of you and himself” Lucy concluded.
“I want to go and see the face of that scoundrel and teach him a lesson he would not forget in a hurry” Ken dropped with finality in his tone.
“You would do no such thing” Bewaji said glaring at him.
Teju looked at the whole scenario and laughed. “Well, this is cozy. Since my over-protective sister does not want me alone, I would go with Deolu. His numerous connections should come in handy. Dad, I am afraid your presence there would be more harm than good”.
Ken growled. Women and their easy ways of twisting themselves around your neck until you had no choice but to succvmb to their will. He swallowed.
Teju thought of how to drop what had popped into her mind during the course of the argument. She knew it would not be taken well. “There is a little problem though”. When she had all their attention, she continued. “There is no evidence. When we find Fred, which I am sure we will, there would still be no evidence to ensure he gets the punishments for his crimes. If he gets a good lawyer in court, he might even coin his way out without a scratch”
“What other evidence is required? My daughter here is enough testimony”. Ken said and Bewaji nodded her head vigorously.
“No sir, the law does not work like that. We need proof. If only we could make Fred assume that Lucy is dead…”
“What?” Deolu yelled and Ken sat with his eyes wide open. Lucy seemed to have frozen on her seat.
“God forbid” Bewaji yelled. “Listen, I am not in for all this ridiculous nonsense you lawyers put yourselves into.”
“Please understand me. If Fred is made to believe that Lucy is dead, we can get some evidence from him. After his mind must have settled on the fact that she is dead, Lucy can now appear to him like a ghost and he would spill the beans, while we record secretly; just like what we see in the movies”.
Lucy laughed slightly. “I have always imagined myself as an actress. When do we get to act this movie?”
Bewaji turned glaring eyes at Lucy and she flinched.
“You want me to announce the death of my daughter when she is still alive?” Ken asked, stupefied.
“And would remain alive for a long long time” Bewaji added.
Teju was speechless; she also could not believe that she was uttering such jargons, even though she knew the stunt would be helpful.
“But I understand what you are trying to say” Ken said thoughtfully and Bewaji turned to glare at him. “It does not have to be made public. We can just get someone to print it out in something that would definitely pass for a colorless newspaper. Add other irrelevant stories. It can just be a piece of the newspaper, a fake newspaper at that. You can slut it in your bag and show them. They would be so concerned about the story in the paper that they would not even think about the authenticity of the story. Besides, that is the news Fred is expecting. He already imagines her dead; we just need to fuel his conviction”.
“You think and talk like a lawyer sir” Teju grinned.
Ken shrugged. “Well, I always knew I could succeed in that profession but unfortunately, I went for engineering.”
“You would beat the experts in the field also”
“Ken” Bewaji yelled, with her eyes popping.
“Mum, it is ok. As long as this can keep Fred locked up in the cell, I am down with it. I should enjoy the acting”.
Teju noticed Lucy’s emphasis on Fred’s being locked up and it struck her as odd. The Lucy she knew would even intercede and plead on the behalf of even a murderer. Even though she would like to believe that the reason for Lucy’s action was because the person that this murderer had attempted killing was her own self, she knew that there was more to it than meets the eye. She had noticed the way Lucy carefully picked her words when she had explained what happened to her earlier on. She looked at Lucy and wondered what Fred had actually done to her.
Deolu and Teju walked into a hotel the following evening. They had left Lagos later than they ought to because they needed that newspaper, even though it was only a spreadsheet. Deolu had booked a flight for both of them and they were in Abuja earlier than expected.
“We need two rooms, very close to each other.” Deolu smiled at the receptionist. Teju rolled her eyes as she watched the receptionist flirt with Deolu. She almost hissed out of annoyance. That is the way ladies bring themselves low and end up becoming a ‘use and dump’ for guys. She mused. The lady gave Deolu the two keys and he gave her some money with some extra naira notes for herself. She thanked him immensely and her praises followed them as they walked away from the reception.
“Do you have to do that?”
“Do what?” Deolu returned.
“Tip everyone you see. Money should be spent carefully. The fact that you have excess money does not mean that you should spend it lavishly”
Deolu smiled. “I don’t tip everyone I see, only those that I feel like. It is good to give people money, especially people who are in need of it. You don’t know who might be of help to you tomorrow”.
“I give alms to the needy, I am not saying it is wrong, only that you should be careful to not overdo it”. She replied.
“Yes ma” he gave a mock bow.
Their rooms were opposite each other, so they both went to their rooms to freshen up and relax. Barely thirty minutes after, Teju knocked on Deolu’s door. He had just finished putting on a casual cloth after taking a shower. He would have relaxed a bit on the bed if Teju hadn’t knocked. When he opened the door, he noticed she was still in the clothes she had on before.
“Come inside Teju. Thought I should give you some time to relax before we get dinner” he said as he ushered her in.
She laughed slightly. “There is no time to waste. I need to survey my surroundings and get some things to work on tonight, so that I can have a solid ground to work on tomorrow”.
Deolu stared at her. “This is past six Teju, it is almost dark. Everything can wait till tomorrow.”
“No.” Teju shook her head with a calm smile.
Deolu looked at her for some seconds and exhaled. “Sit” he ordered. Teju wanted to argue but the tone of his voice told her that there would be no room for arguments.
Seated, she faced Deolu on the chair. “I am seated. What is it?”
“Teju, I have known you for some time now and I think I know you to a certain extent. The recent problems have brought us together more and I have been able to see a part of you that I never saw before. You changed recently. You have become quiet and distant. You have also turned to a workaholic. Something is wrong. Can you tell me?”
Teju paused and looked on. “What makes you think something is wrong? Lucy-”
“Don’t give me that fake story, Teju. I know you are hurting, someone hurt you badly but I don’t know who. Is it your fiancé?”
Teju’s head snapped. “No” she stood up immediately but Deolu held her hand back.
“Be honest with me T, let it out. What did he do?” he probed, getting up too but keeping his voice calm and soothing.
“He dumped me six months and five days to our wedding for a harlot, that’s what he did”. She snatched her hand from his and flew out of the room.
Lucy lay on the bed as her mind wandered away. She swallowed as various unwanted thoughts clouded her brain. She wondered if it was possible to sleep without thinking.
“Luciana” Bewaji called and she jerked out of her thoughts. She was not aware of the door opening.
“Hey mum, you are not asleep yet?”
Bewaji smiled. “No. I feel we need to go and thank the Good Samaritan that helped you. You surely know the place. That guy was used by God to save your life.”
Lucy’s heart skipped severally. “You know mum that I ought to lay low for now. We don’t want someone to pass information to Fred that he or she saw me. You know, we had been friends for a long time and most of his friends know me”.
“That filthy thing” Bewaji swore. “Although, you could write the address of that Raymond so that we can go there without you. I would never be at rest until I appreciate that guy for the great thing he did for me. Your dad and I would go; you would stay here with Dana” she concluded.
Lucy swallowed hard. “Ok mum”
…To be continued
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