There was an unsettling silence in the room each occupant lost in his and her own thoughts, Mr. Desmond, the family doctor, his secretary and a nurse had joined the number of people in the house. Day had broken and still they were waiting for the police to make an entrance. Titi sighed for the umpteenth time, why were things so slow in the public sector? Their family doctor had arrived within forty-five minutes of being called, well she agreed that it was probably because he was a family friend too but at least he came, it was almost 8 and they had been in the same room with a dead body for almost 5 hours, Mr. Desmond Achike had certified Chukwuma dead at 6, stating that the bullet had severed the skull, pierced the prefrontal cortex and dived into his cerebrospinal fluid leading to instant death. He had explained to them that there was the absence of any central pulse neither was there any heart sound.
Each one of them took different positions in the house, the young couple elected to stay with Chizaram in the room since Ezinee had refused to allow her daughter see the lifeless body of her father, she would rather not have that image imprinted on her daughter’s mind and gladly the young couple jumped at the offer to be with her. Mr. Akinwande stood still at the window looking beyond the houses adjacent to Ezinne’s house. The occupants were going about their chores oblivious of what had happened in their surrounding, or maybe they were but had refused allow their curiosity wonder. The doctor was on the phone talking animatedly with his colleagues and giving orders while his nurse was fiddling with her phone. Mr. Desmond’s secretary was staring up at her boss, her mind doing a lot of mathematics that even the dead could sense.
Ezinne was rocking herself within Titi’s firm embrace, asking herself over and over if this was a dream and how this had happened in the same house that she had spent 5 years of her life. Neighbours were coming and going and from their faces she could see some with sympathy for her, others with disgust and accusations. How she longed to explain herself but on a second note she realized that these number of people had lived in the compound when her husband had turned her to his pressure reliever and none of them had uttered a word. Today he was lying there powerless and some of them had the guts to look at her with disgust. She heard one of them whisper to the other, ‘Why didn’t she just report him to the Social Welfare? Now she will be locked up and her daughter would be both fatherless and motherless. Soon that one will grow up and join the menace we have to live with in this society’
Ezinne threw the woman a murderous glare and her gossip partner, another woman just as chubby as she was, shushed her and indicated with her eyes that they took their discussion outside.
Well that was better, at least she wouldn’t hear what other murderous take they had on her already diminished reputation. She was still floating in the thanksgiving when her sister in-law burst into the house, her wails louder than the church bells. Ezinne jerked, her heart pounding in her chest. Titi held her firmer, reminding her that they were in it together.
“Is it true? Where is he? Where?”
Her eyes were swollen and she looked like she had come straight from her bed right after Ezinne called her. Gone was the usual perfectly made-up face, not even a smear of lip gloss. She looked awful and Ezinne pitied her. She tapped gently on Titi’s arm, silently notifying her of her need to rise. Titi nodded and let her go.
Ezinne found her way to Osisioma as the woman crumpled beside her brother’s body and lifted the blanket that had been thrown over him with shaky hands.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!” she broke down, clutching to her brother’s body and shaking it live she would revive him by doing so. “You evil woman, God will punish you. You will not go free with this one!” she cursed ignoring Ezinne’s gently touch on her arm.
Ezinne was cautious of latching on to Osisioma, first she really did not know the depth of hatred the woman had for her and secondly they had never been best of friends and to top it all, the woman was already accusing her without knowing exactly what happened.
Titi saw the battle of emotions running through Ezinne and immediately knew that things were not well between these two too. How much worse could it get? She asked herself. She was yet to understand what amount of bad blood ran in this family but her guess was that the man had married a woman against the wish of the family and ended up hating her and blaming her for causing a rift in the family. She got up and came to help lift Osisioma, the woman was light so except from her lack of enthusiasm to get herself off the bloody floor, it was pretty easy for the both of them to lift her. She was still cursing and wailing.
As if the police were on her tail, they stepped in all dressed and acting busy. Titi rolled her eyes, so much for quick response.
The man who looked like the leader of the team asked for the owner of the house and Ezinne stepped forward after placing Osisioma to occupy the seat she had just vacated. Titi stood just behind her, the support she had needed all her life.
“Good morning gentlemen” she greeted through her cracked voice before clearing her throat.
“Good morning ma’am, I am detective Femi Olaniwun, can you show us where the body is?”
She shook her head without responding, then pointed to the half-exposed corpse, the blanket had come off from Osisioma’s jerking. The detective strolled to it like he was walking towards an award. Ezinne held her patience, she really had no where to go today other than to unpack she basically had nothing to do, and the unpacking may not happen anymore, there was no way she was going to remain in this house after what had happened today. By the way where on earth was Akunna? She had called her like 2 hours ago so why wasn’t she here already?
She heard the detective asking questions and Titi answering him and from where she stood she could see herself looking guilty in his eyes too.
“Ma’am, I understand you were in the house when your husband was shot, where were you?”
Really, his question sounded like he was asking her if she killed him.
“Yes I was in my daughter’s room when I heard the gun shot”
“So you are saying, you did not know what happened to your husband”
“It was 3 am sir” she tried to maintain calmness.
“Who else was in the house?”
She looked from the man’s eyes to the floor then to the body that used to torment her. A frown creased her brows.
“Please can you answer me and why were you sleeping in your daughter’s room?”
“Errm, my husband and I have been estranged for more than 4 years, and I didn’t see any other person in the house. It was just me, him and our daughter” she swallowed hard making a failed attempt at pushing down the lump that stuck at her throat.
“She killed him. She failed the first time she tried and now she succeeded.” Came Osisioma’s pained voice.
Ezinne saw the detective’s interest move from her to her sister-in-law and she sensed the flood gates about to open on her and the only thing she could think of was her daughter.