© Copyright 2018 by Chika Obi
Chamberlain had no idea what the night had in store for him, but who ever does? Very excited that the long awaited and much anticipated trip was now just a night away, he whistled happily to himself as he packed a few clothes and important items he would need on the journey. His dad was in the sitting room occasionally screaming at his 32-inches Sony television as he watched his favourite show “People and the Society”. He was eager to see the end of the show before retiring for the night but several things easily got him ticked off at the show.
“This is arrant nonsense! Madness! Such absurdity should never be tolerated”, he screamed at the television.
“Daddy it is late o” Chamberlain reminded him.
“Keep quiet there my friend” his father retorted sharply.
Only when they watched their National football team play did their voices rise this way but tonight was an exception.
Suddenly, Chamberlain heard a strange voice from the sitting room “Now you will learn to mind your own business”. The voice was very harsh and obviously intended to instil terror in whoever heard it.
“It must be an unwanted visitor’ Chamberlain thought to himself and though he wasn’t seeing whoever was speaking, he was absolutely terrified. His feet felt heavier than lead as fear rooted him to the spot where he stood. He swallowed hard as he tried in vain to gather his thoughts and properly assess the situation. Without warning, his thoughts were rudely interrupted by the sound of gunshots which nearly made him jump out of his skin.
In the sitting room, three armed and heavily built men stood gloating over the now motionless body of Justice Ernest who had just been shot in the forehead and chest. There seemed to be an excitement about them as they watched for a few more seconds as if to confirm that the Justice was truly dead. Satisfied that their mission had been accomplished, one of them spitefully hurled an insult at the dead man as the three walked over the body with sinister smiles on their faces. They rejoined four of their colleagues who had been hanging around the house outside and the seven agents of doom disappeared into the darkness of the night.
It was only about 8:30pm but the darkness of that night was almost tangible and accompanied by an eerie silence which seemed to have enveloped the entire estate. Except for the noise from the cold blooded killers as they drove off unchallenged and cheering loudly, there was no other sound. When they were out of earshot, the estate could as well have been a cemetery. If the other residents of Duke Estate had heard the gunshots, there was no way to tell, nobody gave any indication. Even the usually chirping crickets and croaking frogs had fallen silent. The silence was just too loud on that dark night.
As all the drama of the night unfolded, poor Chamberlain remained glued to his unintentional hiding spot. The unwanted visitors had either forgotten that he existed or had no interest in ending his life too. By this time, his breath came in quick, short and shallow pants. He could hardly get enough air into his lungs. He was shivering uncontrollably from head to toe and his mind was a jumble of incoherent and uncoordinated thoughts. Oblivious to him, he had wet his Puma trousers, and even if he was aware, he wouldn’t have cared at all. Remembering something his father usually did, he began rubbing his chest in a bid to calm himself down and gather his thoughts. Slowly, sanity returned to the boy and he began to assess his situation.
He was quite certain the unwanted visitors had left and so willed himself to go to the sitting room. His legs were quite slow in responding to his desires but he slowly began to make progress, carefully shuffling out of his room. The fear still gripped him and drove his thoughts every which way. I know I heard two gunshots, but I think they are the type used to scare someone so that they will keep quiet. They just wanted daddy to be afraid, that’s all. But why is daddy not saying anything since they left? Ah, maybe he is still scared so he doesn’t know that they have left. I will just go and tell him they have gone.
Despite the thoughts he conjured to try and assure himself that his dad was okay, there was still this ominous sense of dread as he approached the entrance to the sitting room. Who would have thought that this same boy was just few minutes ago swimming in the euphoria of a pending trip with his dad.
As he came to stand just a few inches from the sitting room entrance, he let out an exclamation “Jesus!” and quickly ran back to his room. He tried to push away the image he had just seen, perhaps hoping that if he could ‘unsee’ the sight, it would not be real. He couldn’t process the implications of that image being real, he didn’t want to. He curled himself into a tight ball in one corner of his room, hugged his knees and was rocking back and forth; whispering to himself over and over “Impossible, it’s impossible”. He shut his eyes very tightly, willing the darkness to purge the unwanted sight from his memory. It had been just a quick glimpse but the image was burned into his memory and refused to leave.
His eyes began to burn as he felt the strength drain out of his body. He was tired of fighting the truth, the reality was settling in and the reality was too heavy for him. “Why me? God, why me? Why now?” The tears flowed freely and in torrents. His body shook tremulously with the intensity of his sobbing, his mind drenched in sorrow so thick he could think of nothing at all. He couldn’t even describe how he felt; he was too weak to even assess his situation. All he could do was cry. After he had cried out most of the sorrow, he felt strong enough to get on his feet and walk to the sitting room. There the sight of his father lying in a drying pool of his own blood brought fresh waves of sorrow over the poor boy. He threw himself on his father’s body and wailed loudly, not minding the erstwhile silence of the night or who heard his voice.
“Daddy, Daaaddyy” the lad wailed, shaking the body of his father, whose white singlet was almost completely soaked red. Not minding his own hands being covered with the blood, Chamberlain kept shaking his father’s body vigorously. His father had been his best friend ever since leukaemia stole his mum away from them about five years ago. They had almost been strangers before her death but her sickness and death brought about a friendship forged by shared sorrow. He was his mother’s pet and had become his dad’s buddy but death had taken them both away from him.
A top ranking manager in one of the best commercial banks in the country, Mrs. Evelyn was rarely ever in the picture until a remarkable experience forced her to realign her priorities. Chamberlain was left in the care of the housemaid Juliet, a teenager from Bende; a city in eastern Nigeria, for most of the day and only got to see his mum for a short time before bed. She was always gone before he woke up. It was during one of these special periods at night when mother and son were enjoying their together time that Chamberlain let out a scream when Juliet entered the room. Perplexed by his strange behaviour, Mrs. Evelyn sought to find out from the toddler what the problem was but he kept screaming, pointing at Juliet and rubbing his lower abdomen with his other hand. He inched closer to his mum as if for protection and at this point Mrs. Evelyn turned to the maid and asked “Julie, what happened?” She noticed that Juliet had broken into a sweat, had a very uncomfortable look on her face and was twiddling her thumbs. Juliet said nothing.
Raising her voice, Mrs. Evelyn repeated “Julie I am asking you, what happened?”
“Aunty, it’s…emm…it’s the devil…the devil” she stuttered in reply.
“The devil that did what?” A very smart woman herself, Mrs. Evelyn had pieced it all together: her son had been molested. It could have been going on for long – there was no way she could tell. She gave the girl the beating of her life and then sent her packing.
A year later, she resigned and became a full housewife, a very tough decision but one she rationalized to herself and anyone who asked, saying “My son is more important”. She had all the time for her son and mother and son bonded. After a few years, when she was confident that Chamberlain could do well with less policing, she felt it was right to get a job again. After a few months of searching, she secured a position in an insurance firm as the personnel manager. Whilst relishing the shine of her new job, the mother and son rapport was maintained and even blossomed. Meanwhile, the father of the house was usually away from his family with several responsibilities pulling in different directions.
Her ship was sailing smoothly until leukaemia threw a heavy punch ushering her into turbulent waters. Gradually she lost her touch of grace – the reason she smiled at life. Justice Ernest and his son were held emotionally hostage as a blanket of dullness settled over the family. Despite the best medical care money could provide, leukaemia claimed her in an amazingly short period of time. So, Chamberlain lost his closest companion and the family of three lost its shine.
Walking down sorrow lane, Justice Ernest made sure his boy was never alone. The years passed slowly and the two were able to recover from their loss, helping each other on the journey and tightening their bond in the process. They each became the cynosure of each other’s eyes. Chamberlain built his world around his dad. Long distance vacations became an annual ritual for them, the most special part of each year. That was what they had been preparing for before this unfortunate tragedy struck tonight.
“Daddy, Daddy, it’s me, Chamby boy! Talk to me!” Chamberlain kept calling out to his father, whose silence to his beckoning tore his broken heart even further. “Please get up, Daddy, please!” his voice tore through the quietness of the dark night. Sighting his father’s phone he reached for it but discovered he was hardly able to hold the phone in his hands as his hands were shaking vigorously and were also slippery from all the blood covering it. He wiped his hands on his pajamas and picked up the phone again and this time was able to get a firmer grip on the phone, though his hands still shook terribly. Scrolling through the names in the contact list, Chamberlain felt a wave of helplessness wash through him as he realized he didn’t even know whom to call, tears welled up in his eyes again blurring his sight so he couldn’t read the phone anymore. A fresh wave of sobbing began.
After he had calmed down a little bit and searched some more he was able to spot a name James Neighborhood. He quickly dialed the number and the phone rang twice before it was picked. After a few seconds of wobbly signal, he was able to here a voice from the other end of the line, “Hello?”. It was Mr. James the chairman of the neighborhood group. Only deep familiarity could have made him take a call at almost eleven in the night.
“Please sirs, come now sir, please come sir, please come now sir, it’s my father o, please come sir, come and help him sir…” Chamberlain wailed over the phone at a thousand words a minute.
“Calm down boy, what is the problem? What happened?” the man at the other end responded calmly.
“They have shot him o”
“What do you mean? How?” his voice had risen sharply.
Chamberlain began to rattle off some explanation but the man shortly said, “Don’t worry, I’m on my way”.
Pulled by sympathy for the boy, Mr. James came as fast as he could. Through sobs and tears, Chamberlain briefly explained what had happened. He ascertained the condition of Mr. Ernest and confirmed that he was indeed dead. He lifted the lifeless man into his car and drove to the hospital where he went through all the necessary arrangements and transferred his body to the mortuary. He also went to the police station where he filed a report. Throughout all of it Chamberlain sat in the car, crying silently, his mind enveloped in a dark cloud of sorrow.
As they drove back to the estate, there was silence in the car as each was lost in thoughts. Mr. James wondered who could have ordered the hit on Justice Ernest while Chamberlain worried over what would happen to him now decided it would be his life’s work to discover who robbed him of his dad and make them pay, but first things must be done first. His dad must be buried first. Investigations will follow later. He just had to take life one step at a time.