When Kate and Deji reached the hospital and she found Edikan sitting up in bed and chatting happily, her happiness knew no bounds. She wrapped the teenager in a long hug until the girl complained that she could not breathe.
Mrs Clementine Itah and Mimi watched as Edikan chattered nonstop, regaling Kate with stories about her bravery in the face of the medical assault she had been undergoing since the night before.
“At least they’ve stopped taking my blood. Look at my arms.” Edikan proudly displayed her battle scars and Kate winced at the small puncture wounds on the girl’s inner elbow. “That’s not including this thing in my hand o. They call it a callu… candu… a cannula! They used it to give me drugs the whole night. My hand is swollen.”
Kate held back tears. That could have been her in the bed, battling with the pain and discomfort Edikan was obviously in. “I’m so sorry, dear. This should never have happened.”
Mrs Clementine Itah rubbed Kate’s shoulder. “Don’t blame yourself, my dear. The persons responsible for this will be caught. Let’s just pray this nightmare will be over soon.”
Kate smiled gratefully at the woman, but when she looked at Mimi, she was taken aback to catch a look of resentment in the girl’s eyes. The look worried her so much that a few minutes later, she asked Mimi to step outside with her so they could both talk. Deji wanted to follow her, but she assured him they would not step too far away from the room door, and besides the armed policemen would only be a few yards away from them.
There were barely outside the room before Mimi’s resentment spilled out and ran over.
“To hell with whatever everyone else is telling you! This whole thing is squarely your fault!” Mimi fumed in a low voice. “You just waltzed into our lives and everything falls apart. This whole thing with Imoh paternity comes out and now Edikan almost dies. My family is falling apart because of you. Why did you ever come into our lives?”
Kate ignored the hurt that Mimi’s words caused. She knew some of what Mimi said was true- if it was not for her, Edikan would never have been hurt. But the rest of what had happened could not be placed on her shoulders, and Mimi ought to be aware of that since she knew her father had been poisoned by the same coffee that had hurt Edikan. Kate knew she had to pick her words carefully, and reminded herself that the girl standing in front of her was actually just nineteen, and her sister. A sleepless night at the hospital had stripped Mimi of all her usual glamour; even her feet were in flat slippers instead of the ever-present high heels. Her face glowed under the fluorescent tubes in the hospital corridor, devoid of make-up and actually pretty. For the first time since Kate had seen her, Mimi truly looked her age.
Kate suspected the girl’s resentment had a lot more beneath it than was obvious, simmering under the surface. It probably went beyond what had happened to Edikan. Beautiful, spoiled Mimi was used to being the cynosure of all eyes, and in had walked Kate, taking all the spotlight. She only wished Mimi understood that she hated the attention as fiercely as Mimi loved it.
Following her instincts, Kate swallowed all the defensive words that were crowding the back of her throat. Instead she simply stepped forward and hugged Mimi, surprising her. For a few tense moments, Mimi remained stiff and unyielding, and then slowly her body relaxed. And although she did not put her own arms around Kate, she stopped resisting the embrace.
“I’m sorry for what happened to Edikan. She’s my sister, just as you are. You’re all my new family and I’m not ever going to hurt you or take your place in any way. I promise you that, Mimi.” Kate whispered in Mimi’s ear. “These things started with the death of your father, not my arrival. But I promise it will end with me, even if it means I have to go away.”
Mimi sighed and stepped back. She refused to meet Kate’s eyes. “Maybe that’s best.”
Kate remained in the hospital corridor for a minute after Mimi returned to Edikan’s room, thoughtful. She knew Mimi’s resentment was a result of fickle, selfish feelings, but they had still hurt. Maybe Mimi was right and the Itah family would be better off without her presence. After all, she was apparently the only target of the mysterious mastermind behind the recent murder attempts. When she had first arrived at Akwa-Ibom, the beauty of the state had gotten her wishing she could eventually settle down there, but as long as danger loomed over her like the sword of Damocles, she would only walk around like the legendary Typhoid Mary. She needed to return to Lagos. And fast.
Deji had to remind Kate of her meeting with her late father’s lawyer. The incident with Mimi still weighed so heavy on her mind that she had forgotten. She reluctantly said her goodbyes, promising to return to see Edikan in the evening. The doctors had given the girl a clean bill of health, but had requested to keep her admitted for one more night in order to observe her better.
Kate was silent all the way to the Barrister’s office, plans to travel roiling in her head. She had decided she would leave Akwa-Ibom the next day, even if the Barrister did not have the money he had offered on hand that quickly. She would use some of her personal savings and make sure she was on the first flight out of Akwa-Ibom the next day.
It was past time to stop putting her new family in danger.
They arrived at the Barrister Ekanem’s law offices at exactly thirty minutes to midday, and after their police escort was satisfied that the premises were safe, he followed Kate and Deji all the way up to the floor where the lawyer’s offices were situated. The Barrister’s secretary was surprised to see them and seemed a bit unnerved by the weapon visibly slung over the policeman’s shoulder, but she regained her composure quickly and asked them to wait, saying the Barrister was in a meeting till just before twelve. Kate assured the woman she was willing to wait till their previously agreed time, and they settled down to wait.
Kate had to nudge Deji a few times when she caught him ogling the secretary’s ample cleavage, but in truth she did not really care. Her mind had returned to Chris and his strange directives. Why had he insisted they arrive thirty minutes early?
Just as the small hands on her wristwatch aligned themselves at twelve o’clock, the Barrister walked into the room. His reaction was alarming.
He stared at Kate as though he had just seen a ghost; his mouth opening and closing soundlessly like that of a fish outside water. Deji and Kate exchanged a startled glance.
Just as Kate opened her mouth to ask the man if he was alright, a series of loud sounds broke the silence of the afternoon. It took Kate a moment to recognize the noise for what it was.
Gunshots! Coming from within the premises of the law offices!
Check back on Tuesday for more episodes.