Get the Police!
Have you ever wondered what can be worse than nosy, can-t-take-a-hint, pain-in-the-ass people? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, that I can guarantee you.
So, I woke up the next morning—a little late I must confess—and guess who I found in the kitchen battering the pots and pans in what I supposed was a clean-up exercise? Ebere, the annoying housemaid that had long replaced an even more annoying Chidera.
“Ebere?” I yelled over the clattering noises. “What are you doing here?”
She spun around in shock and when she saw it was me, breathed deeply. “Aunty Ada, you scared me o.”
I hissed. “I asked what you are doing here.”
She stared at me with a baffled expression. “I am washing out the things I found in the sink.”
I let out another hiss, squashing the urge to slap some sense into her. Did the stupid girl think I was blind? “I can see you are washing, silly. Though why you have to do the dishes with so much racket is beyond me. What I’d like to know is why you are back early. I thought we gave you girls three days off?”
“Oh, is that what you mean, Aunty?” Ebere chuckled as if we were some kind of buddies sharing a joke. “Actually, I came home to find my mother planning a visit to Ibadan to see my elder sister who is staying there. So, since she won’t be at home, I joined the night bus back to Lagos yesterday.”
“So, if your mum won’t be in the village, you can’t stay with your siblings and other relations?” I snarled, unable to help my irritation.
Ebere stared at me. I’m sure wondering in her stupid head what her crime was? “Aunty, she is taking my younger ones with her. In short they left this morning. If I had stayed, I would be alone in our house. So, I thought the best thing would be to come back here to help you and Aunty Dani in the house.” She gave me a cunning smile. “That’s why I started cleaning up the kitchen as soon as I arrived.”
I stood for a moment thinking over my plan and how her presence might interfere with things.
“Aunty, will you be going to the boutique or should I prepare your breakfast?”
I snapped out of my thoughts and glared at her. “I don’t want any breakfast, just a glass of juice will be fine.”
She beamed. “Then I will press some of the oranges I bought from the village for you. They are very sweet.”
I ignored her and turned to leave. Ebere loved to chatter and she never seemed to get it into her thick skull that I don’t care to chat with the house staff.
“Em, Aunty Ada, please where is Aunty Dani? Adamu told me that she had not come home since she left day before yesterday night.”
Gossip mongering gateman, I cussed under my breath. Instead of facing his work and minding his business, he is busy interfering in matters that were none of his business.
“And since when did you and I start discussing Daniella’s or anyone else’s whereabouts, Ebere?” I rebuked.
“No, it’s not like that, Aunty Ada. It’s just that Adamu said…”
“I see that you and Adamu’s work in this house is gossiping and discussing our private’s affairs, abi?” I let out a long hiss. “No wonder you rushed back. It’s so you can poke your nose where it does not belong. Amebo.”
I clucked my tongue and marched out of the kitchen. Stupid, gossipy girl. Imagine coming back early to ruin my plans. Now I have to be extra careful with my movements and keep an eye on the nosy parker.
I had my bath, dressed up and grabbed my bag to go take care of my next plan but Chikezie was in the living room when I walked in.
“Morning, Chikezie. Or is it even midday now?” I smiled in a friendly manner. “Was there something you wanted? Or is Daniella meeting you here?”
“Hello, Adaeze.” Chikezie rose to his feet. He looked worried. “Actually that is the problem.”
“What is the problem?” I asked quickly, knitting my brows together.
“Daniella.” Chikezie answered. “I have been trying to reach her without any success since yesterday morning. I thought maybe it was possibly network issue but the unavailability continued even till now and when I went to see her at the hospital, they said she hadn’t been in at all yesterday. And she was supposed to be on duty too. Is she at home?”
“Are you serious?” My frown deepened. “I don’t even understand what you are saying, Chikezie. I should be asking you where Daniella is, not you me.” I let out a baffled laugh. “I mean she went out with you two nights ago and then slept over at your place, not so? So, didn’t she go to work when you guys woke up in the morning?”
“What do you mean, slept over at my place?” Chikezie asked sharply, jumping to his feet. “I haven’t seen Daniella since the evening after your parents travelled out.”
“Kai, stop with the funny joke abeg.” I chided, giving him a playful tap on the arm. “Daniella left this house day before yesterday at about ten-thirty in the night telling me she has to go see you. And later that night she sent me a text message that she can’t return as it was late and would see me the next day.” I wriggled my brows. “Are you playing hide-and-seek with me because you know daddy and mummy won’t approve of her sleeping over at your place?”
“This is not any hide-and-seek game, Ada. I don’t know what you are talking about honestly.” Chikezie denied. “I swear I haven’t seen Daniella for two days now. Did she actually tell you she was coming to see me?”
“Yes now, she…” I broke off and pursed my lips. “Actually, what she said was that she was going to see her man. But you are her man, aren’t you?” I gaped at him with a bewildered expression that would have won me an Oscar if this was a Hollywood movie.
“Her man?” Chikezie repeated. “She said her man not Chikezie?”
“Wait, let me show you the text she sent.” I dug into my handbag for my phone.
Chikezie read the text and became even more confused. And while we were both wondering what any of this meant, daddy and mummy called. This time they spoke with Chikezie and after he vehemently denied having met with Daniella that night, let alone keep her over the night at his place, the great Chief Igwe Onuorah declared a get-the-police-involved operation by calling the Police Commissioner himself.
Of course, he found a reason to blame me in this.
“Ada, how come you didn’t call us back to tell us that Daniella didn’t return home yesterday too?” He bellowed down the line. “There was a minor snow storm here after we spoke to you and the telephone connections were all down, so we thought that was why she couldn’t get through to us.”
“Daddy, I tried her lines over and over and they kept saying switched off, so I just assumed she was still with Chikezie.” I defended. “Besides, just because she was obviously not with him doesn’t mean she still didn’t spend the night out with a man. It’s what she told me after all.” I added, giving Chikezie a it’s-quite-possible shrug.
“Shut up with that nonsense!” Daddy snapped. “Are you trying to say that Daniella is seeing another man?”
I almost rolled my eyes at the disbelief in his tone but recalled that Chikezie was there and was watching me too closely. So, was busybody Ebere, who’d snuck out of the kitchen.
“Ah, I don’t know o.” I replied in a don’t-blame-me-for-this voice. I could hear mummy sniffing in the background. “She said she was going out with her man and I immediately assumed that it was Chikezie she meant. Now Chikezie is here saying he hadn’t seen her… what do you want me to say now?”
“I want you to stop speculating nonsense and both of you get busy with finding out where she is.” Daddy ordered.
And so we both spent the next hour calling up every colleague, friend, acquaintance and even neighbours asking if they’d heard from or seen Daniella. In between, we both alternately tried her numbers and still got no answer.
The Police soon arrived. They came in a dead-beaten Hilux van, three of them. Two waited outside while one, who I supposed was their superior, came inside to question us.
He was an ugly specimen. Tall, to the point of being awkwardly lanky and gawky and had this dirty black complexion. His eyes were huge and owl-like in his thin face. I supposed it would have been an attractive trait in a pretty, feminine face but he wasn’t feminine and he most certainly wasn’t pretty.
He introduced himself as Inspector Jacobs and started his round of questioning with Ebere who furnished him with plenty unsolicited details about the generous character of our dear Daniella. He questioned Adamu next and thereafter Chikezie.
While he chose to save me for last was beyond me. But when he finally turned to me, his owl-like eyes were suspiciously blank. It is my belief that those who eliminate every emotion from their eyes are never to be trusted.
“So, you were the last to see Miss Daniella Onuorah?” He asked after I told him what happened that day and even showed him the text message she sent me.
The question sounded suspicious but I answered calmly enough. “No, I wasn’t if you meant the last to see her in this house. Adamu saw her last before he opened the gate for her.”
“Adamu claims he didn’t quite see her as he didn’t have a close look.” Inspector Jacobs pointed out crisply.
“He didn’t have need of a closer look to know Daniella when he saw her, Inspector. He’d known her at least sixteen years and she is extremely fair in complexion that it would be hard not to know it’s her whatever the time of day or his state of mind.” I equally pointed out.
“Hmm.” Inspector Jacobs eyed me briefly, then bent to note something in his notepad. “She is your stepsister, right?” He asked not raising his head.
All my life I’ve fought hard to establish that distinction but this was one moment I didn’t want it noted. “She is, in as far as both of us not having same parents is concerned. But in every other way she is my sister and yes, like most sisters we certainly did have our issues but we also got along quite well.”
Ebere made a noise that sounded like a stifled snort but I continued without breaking speed. “Especially with her wedding coming soon, we’ve really been close. As a matter of fact we were discussing possible wedding gown choices before she left that night.” I smiled a little.
The Inspector had his owlish, beady eyes back on me and it took all my years of training and willpower not to squirm. Such a hideous pair of enormous eyes!
After a couple of more routine questions, Inspector Jacobs and his team left and so did Chikezie after snivelling about his darling Daniella and his fear that there was more to this than met the eye.
I played good sister-in-law to-be very well of course by listening and reassuring him that I quite believed there must be a misunderstanding somewhere which we will all comprehend once Daniella was back.
Which I assured him, I sincerely believed would be soonest.
With him gone, I sat back on the sofa and pondered on what my next step should be. Trying to re-evaluate things.
“Aunty Ada, I’m really afraid now o.”
I jerked around and had to force down my screech as I glared at Ebere. What was the darned girl still hanging around me for? “What?”
“I am seriously becoming afraid of this Aunty Daniella matter, Aunty.” She said in a low confidential tone. “It’s not like Aunty Dani to just vamoose out of the house and not return after a whole day.”
“And what exactly do you know are Aunty Dani’s habits?” I snapped, rising to my feet. “Olofofo!” I hissed. “I’m going out. So, if you like spend the whole day gossiping with Adamu at the gate, don’t do your work, you hear.”
I let out another long hiss as I marched out through the French door. With the Police involved now, I needed to hasten up my plans.
**Choi, we serve am late? Abeg if una wan blame anybody, blame PHED. I never smell light since Saturday night. So no power to schedule in post. Na outside oga-mi go charge laptop come so. We must see change for this nation o. Eh!**