He was seated in an arm chair beside a bar, a glass of what looked like brandy in his hands. Last night’s mission had been a success. Not only had they retrieved the money, they got the old man’s stash of gold watches and pendants. Even now, the boys were in the living room downstairs, drinking, smoking and celebrating their mission last night.
He wasn’t in the mood to do any celebrating. All that filled his mind was Dumebi. If any of his boys knew that he was sitting alone, lonely and miserable because of a girl, they would call him soft but right now, he didn’t care. Right now, he missed Dumebi so much his heart ached. He rubbed his chest, dropping the cigar in his hand into the ash tray. Dumebi, that soft spoken girl that broke the walls in his heart and made him love for the first time. Where was she? How was she doing? His stupid pride refused to allow him pick up the phone and call her. A thousand times he had dialled the number and disconnected before it could ring. He even deleted the number, though her number was burned in his mind.
He groaned and stood up reluctantly. There was still discipline to be done and it fell on him. Even though the mission had been successful, the boys had been too reckless, shooting the old man and raping his two daughters. He had to discipline them. Shooting meant bullets and bullets meant money. More than that, bullets meant death and death left a bitter taste in his mouth. He avoided it whenever he could. It only brought about complications involving the police and his nagging conscience.
He would die before admitting that every time any death occurred during operation, he would pay a visit to the confession box in a far away parish. He had killed once, only once and even though it had been self defense, it still haunted him, the sound of that gun shot, his shaking heart and quaking mind, and the sound of cheers from the boys as he stepped out of that room. Olawale’s room, the former leader.
The boys thought he orchestrated it so that he would become leader. Nobody knew what actually transpired in that room. He never talked about it and the legend began to grow. Now the boys considered him an icon worthy to be emulated. They would never know how his heart beat three times faster during any operation. Always he carried with him the fear that he would be confronted with killing again, in front of his boys. The one murder had nearly killed him, the nightmares, the heavy guilt, the fear, the pain. He couldn’t go through it again. As far as he knew, if the matter of killing rose up again, he would flee. None of the boys would ever find him. His escape plan was well thought out and thorough. One thing he knew for certain, he would never kill again.
The business of burning the culprits hand with cigarettes was a brisk one, dirty but brisk and he gave the task to Odewale, his right hand. Now he could get to other things. Like Dumebi. No matter what he said, Dumebi mattered, she mattered so much that he knew he couldn’t survive another day without seeing her.
Kunle drove off to Sandy’s a bar he frequented when he wanted to be alone. There, after downing several bottles, he finally mustered courage and dialled Dumebi’s number. She didn’t pick at first. Then a hurried panicky voice answered
“Please call her later! Oh God…..please call later…” the line went dead.
Kunle stood up in dread. Who was that? What happened to Dumebi that she couldn’t even answer her phone? Graphic images of accidents filled his mind and he hurriedly called again.
“Wait!” Kunle shouted with the voice he usually reserved for the boys.
“Where is Dumebi”
“She’s in the Emergency Room right now. See I can’t talk please…..”
“Emergency? What happened…”
Silence. The line was dead. What happened to his Dumebi? He sank down heavily and called her again.
“Just tell me the hospital, please?” Kunle pleaded.
The girl took a short breath.
“St Mary’s at Clement road.” the line was dead.
He rushed out of the bar and drove to the hospital, tormented by images of Dumebi declared dead by the time he would get there.
He rushed into the receiving area to the nurse at the desk.
“Dumebi, where’s she?”
The nurse frowned.
“Young man, there are many patients in this hospital. Be specific.”
“A young girl, she’s in the theatre right now….”
The nurse looked at him, obviously expecting more.
“I don’t know anything else. I don’t have the details. Please help me check, please”
Her eyes softened and she looked into the computer, pressing a few keys.
“Okay. Dumebi Okonjo. She’s in OR3 right now, on the third floor.”
Kunle dashed up the flight of stairs and halted in front of OR3, staring at the door. Someone tapped his shoulder.
A slim tall light skinned girl. She couldn’t be above sixteen but she looked ashen, withdrawn and old.
“Are you the guy that called?”
Kunle nodded. “What happened?” He asked, afraid of the answer.
At that, a black fat woman sitting on a long chair exploded into a loud wailing, crying and shouting “Oh God!”
The perfect sight of grief. The girl rushed over to the woman, her own eyes filled with tears. She tried to pull the woman up to her seat but she failed.
“Mummy stand up. Stop this thing. Stop it. Daddy’s gone. We can’t bring him back. Please stop this thing, please.”
They broke down, each wailing bitterly. Kunle turned away, ashamed to witness such raw pain, his own eyes wet and his heart heavy.
The girl tapped him again.
“Are you Dumebi’s friend?” she asked him.
He nodded. “Please tell me what happened.”
She swallowed, her face going into a hard frown as if she was working up the courage to spill something heavy, bigger than her throat.
“Last night, we were attacked by armed robbers….”
Dread filled Kunle’s heart. It couldn’t possibly be…
“….they shot my father and killed him.” she blinked rapidly, like one in a trance. “Then they raped my sister and I. But Dumebi got pushed down the staircase. She….she couldn’t wake up again.”
The blood drained from Kunle’s face. The house, the very house they had attacked the previous night was Dumebi’s house!
He sat down heavily on the floor. How did it come to this? How? It was just a robbery, like several others.
The theatre doors swung open and the doctor came out, sober and unhappy.
Kunle’s heart fell. At that moment, he knew. He knew that if Dummebi didn’t survive, he would kill himself. Nothing would stop him.
Calmly, the doctor droned on and on about how she sustained injuries and fell into shock, she would have to be tested for STDS and probably a pregnancy test.
“Can I see her please? Can i?” Kunle asked.
The doctor nodded no and walked away.