If he had known that a shot will finish his life, he wouldn’t have pulled the trigger.
Meet Mr. Amaechi. He is sixty-nine years old. He is a policeman with titles that ranged from officer to corporal to sergeant, captain, and DPO. He is retired and sits on his couch as at the time of this writing, shaking his head and gesticulating to his sympathizers. His tiny little shakes reveal that he can’t take it, he can’t believe what he heard, can’t fathom why lightning struck thrice in his home only this year.
His eyes dart away from his neighbor who is pacifying his spirit with craps of motivational quotes. To his wife rolling on the floor, screeching, shrieking, and making howling sounds. It was tears galore. Her friends are trying and failing to keep her calm. But would you stay calm if you lose your three children in a space of ten months? Would you?
Amaechi shakes his head for the umpteenth time, scissors his hands against his chest, and shouts.
“Ozoemena! Ozomena! … Ozo ma mee…”
“Ndo, Nwoke oma.” A friend chips in and rises to stroke his shoulders. Amaechi flinches at the touch, stands, and scurries into his room.
Inside his room, he can hear the cries, the impotent soothing words. He thought of how the news came; Kingsley, the first son had slumped at the hospital where he works, and Chioma had died in the labour room with her child. And now Chris…his death had been gruesome because armed robbers shot him eighteen times.
He jolts because his wife intensified her wails. He moves to unlock the door but stops himself. His foreign foam couldn’t soothe his aching heart. The expensive pieces of furniture in his room couldn’t, and neither could his heart ‘Invoke’ fragrance. Did he pass the line with his actions years ago? If so, why doesn’t the trouble befall him? Why doesn’t this calamity leave his children alone?
His children were known in the neighborhood because they lived all their life helping with the vicinity development and even when they left for greener pastures they never failed to come by once in a while.
He casts his eyes at the door and barks, “Don’t disturb me! Let me mourn in peace!”
“Dad…” the voice registers.
“Dad, it’s me, flesh and blood.”
Amaechi throws the door open and wraps his son in a tight hug.
The last time Ejike visited, clad in black, he came in his Lexus car to celebrate his parents’ silver anniversary. He flew from Amsterdam without prior information. He aimed to surprise them and he did that and more. They had been complete. Three men and one lady flanking their parents. And the ceremony was the talk of the town…
“Dad, What is happening?” Ejike asks while rubbing his father’s back. “How can Chioma, Chris, and Kings die all in a year?” Ejike’s voice was a crack but he couldn’t hold the emotions in. “Did we offend anyone? Is there something we did that is hunting us?”
Amaechi holds his son, with tears shining in his eyes, he stumbles forward and jerks his head. The gesture is on autopilot. For every touch, Ejike winces and hopes the sympathizers stopped coming.
They all sit there, Ejike with his mother on his bosom and his father adjacent, nodding to condolences.
Night came but sleep left Amaechi’s eyes. He thought about his predicament. Prayed to God for intervention. And when he finally slept he had a dream, one that turned into a nightmare in seconds. He didn’t know he was screaming until his son and wife barged through the door and held him. He woke, dumbstruck and disoriented.
“It’s him!” he whispers. “That man is the one killing my children.”
His wife and son glance around and stare at each other. The clock chimes, it’s 3 am.
“Which man?” they ask at the same time.
Amaechi mumbles a sentence and grabs the bed sheet to wipe his sweaty body.
“I have something to tell you.” he hiccups, “I am sorry I haven’t told you before, it has to do with our change of fortune,” he glanced at his wife and she presses her fingers into her mouth.
“Did you sacrifice my children for wealth?” His wife thunders.
“No! Wait let me finish..”
“Okay, I’m all ears.” she extracts her arms from around him.
“It was thirty-nine years ago…” he began and told the story. And like most stories of misfortune, greed was at the forefront. He was just an officer, who relied mostly on his salary to feed four kids, Ejike was breastfeeding then. And life was hard, so he joined in extorting commuters and some drivers.
Clad in a black uniform, a lopsided shoe, a wide belt that shrinks his waist, and a bogus cap that fateful afternoon, he had gone on patrol with his fellow officers on the federal road, Lagos – Benin expressway; those hardly bring in money. But he strayed to the bush to ease himself, to feel the fresh air on his buttocks only to come back and meet the absence of his comrades. The van was gone too. He knew something either went wrong or right. And he hoped for the latter.
It wasn’t too farfetched that they spotted a Tokunbo car or a lorry with edibles and decided to have a taste of the spoils. It’s the norm with them.
He hadn’t thought about their disappearance for a minute when a car veered off the road and with a loud bang crashed against a tree. He saw the car fly and somersault before landing yet he waited for five minutes before heading to the scene.
On reaching there with his gun dangling on his stomach, he peered into the disfigured car and saw a man, heaving and trying to crawl out. The man was the only one in the car. Battered, bruised, and disoriented. His shirt was soaked in blood, and the side of his face was mutilated.
Little wonder he veered off the road, maybe he had fallen asleep, Amaechi thought.
Amaechi strained his neck and saw the man’s mouth move, “Help me, sir, please.”
Amaechi shrugged and kept looking. His eyes were busily flickering in search of valuables to loot. The man found his voice and screamed, “I have money in my booth, Please help me and I will reward you.”
Amaechi’s eyes lit up and narrowed to slits. “You have money in your booth?”
The man nodded.
“You will share it with me?”
The man repeats the gesture.
“How much are we talking about?”
“Help me first, I need a doctor and I promise to share it equally.” The man hiccuped.
Amaechi left the man in his agony and broke into his booth. He saw the bag and opened it. The sight he met was startling, tied with bands were wads of naira notes. A smile crept up his face and greed took over. He thought of ways to claim the money. He didn’t know how far his comrades were, so shooting the man was out of it. He neared him and his heart hammered against his chest. He was a good man. What has cash and hardship turned him to?
But the area was the middle of nowhere so he bent and tried to drag the man. The accident victim was already smiling, thanking God for such a good Samaritan. But before he could send his gratitude, his smile vanished and horror took over. The policeman held his neck and that was the last he remembered.
Amaechi is still telling the story, his face, pale. He says the man appeared in his dream and told him Ejike is the next in line. His wife stiffens and watches him, her eyes roaming, searching for the loving, caring, industrious, and innocent man she married.
“You mean you killed a man who asked you for help because of money?”
He nods and tries to reach them but his wife and son take steps back. He shrugs and drops his face.
“Dad, so, you’re the reason for everything that is happening to us yet…”
“I am sorry. I was overridden with greed and the ambition to succeed. And I didn’t know it was him until now.”
“You are heartless! Amaechi, you are a devil.” his wife bellows. Ejike is shaking his head and running out of the room. His mother is so overwhelmed to pursue him but Amaechi stands and races after him.
“Stop Ejike! Stop!” He hollers. Ejike ignores and dashes into his car. He honks at the gateman, the poor security man opens the gate and he zooms off.
The night is marred with silence as Mrs. Amaechi sobs into her wrapper.
The news reaches them around seven in the morning. As a phone call. Amaechi picks up and the voice inquires to speak with him. He answers in the affirmative but nothing prepared him for the news until it drops.
“What happened to my son?” he shouts, breathless.
The voice continues.
“He was in an auto crash this morning. He is here, at Ahmadiya teaching hospital.”