THE jarring noise punctured my eardrums, pierced into my subconscious and destroyed my lavish sleep and picturesque dream.
Damn! I hated alarm clocks.
I flung out my hand and slapped quiet the one blaring on my bedside table. Then muttered a curse against it—damned inopportune object!
I stayed motionless. Eyes closed. Breathing spaced. Waiting for sleep to return.
It did not.
I mumbled another curse. Waking up ritual was done. So I flung aside the old curtain that served, and very well too, as blanket and hurled my legs down the side of the bed-frame. I yawned, scratched my face, rubbed my eyes and hauled my body up to my feet.
I hated mornings. Even more than I hated alarm clocks. It topped the list of my one trillion and one most hated things in the world. Mornings—Menace. Same definition.
I shuffled into the bathroom. It was a tiny room I had carved out of my bedroom because I hated the trouble of having to walk down the hall just to have a pee, do the major, or do my constant battles with water.
Yeah, that last statement should tell you. Bathing made it into the one trillion and one most hated things in the world list. And it came top twenty. Used to be among the top ten but after dating my last boyfriend—a major asshole—other things took up its place and it went down the list. Might still go down, for I just started dating again and he’s looking like he’d beat Dipo on the asshole pecking order.
Probably should dump him.
I considered the fact as I gaggled. Then dumped the idea along with the water in my mouth into the washbasin hole. No, I like sex and I don’t plan on abstaining just because AIDS is real and Hell is an everlasting abode. Condoms and final act of contrition took care of those two spoilers.
Satisfied with that decision, I dropped down on the toilet seat, peed and then washed out my personal effects. The battle of bathing would be faced later… much later.
I shuffled back into my room, switched nightie for cut-off jeans and a Hell-yeah-life-is-good branded T-shirt and marched out of the room. I needed breakfast. It was after all something close to nine a.m. and the worms in my stomach were beginning to uncurl themselves.
There was leftover pasta in the refrigerator. I started with that. It tasted even better cold and congealed. Someone should put it up on ’em cookbooks—Pasta, best served cold. Maybe I should write a cookbook for alternate eating methods. You don’t always have to cook your noodles before you eat it. When in a hurry, just tear open the pack and bite into it like biscuit. Have done it plenty times and it was a real feast as snack.
Leftover pasta wasn’t enough. The fastest-fingered worms have gobbled it up and the rest were now spinning and growling. I yanked out a plastic can of vegetable soup. Whoever said eba did not fall into the menu for breakfast, huh?
But the soup was frozen up like winter and so I dumped it into a bowl half-filled with water. While it defrosted, I sauntered to the kitchen backdoor, scratching my butt-crack as I went. I pulled back all three deadbolts and then turned the key. Security was as important as breathing when you lived within walking distance off the neighbourhood’s most notorious bad-boys’ home.
Security was bull-crap if people can stroll into your backyard and dump—
I narrowed my eyes and studied the pair of muddy trainers-covered feet.
Where had they come from?
To ascertain who they belonged to, I scrolled my eyes from the muddy trainers, up the over-hairy bare legs, over the khaki shorts, the wrinkled T-shirt and then I hit the face.
Eyes shut, like in sleep. Rough chin beards. Full, slightly-parted mouth. Medium-sized nose and a broad, frowning forehead.
Anonymous. US Police would call him: a John Doe.
A stranger lying on my back doorstep and—
“Back here!” I responded to the shout.
And listened with my ears to the paddling footsteps while my eyes remained trained on—John Doe Anonymous Stranger.
“You already eaten the leftover pasta?” Petey’s voice was accusing from behind me. “And you have soup out too? Eba for breakfast, isn’t that unhealthy?”
“Not from where I come from.” I replied. Did not look at him.
“What are you doing over there?” He was coming over himself.
“Looking.” I replied, again not shifting my gaze.
“At what?” He stopped right behind me.
I adjusted and he fitted his slim body in the doorframe next to mine. “What is that?”
“How did it get there?”
“What is it doing?”
“Lying… on his back.”
“And what is it doing lying on his back?”
“DEAD?” Petey screeched. “Who killed him?”
I pursed my lips and my eyes went even narrower. “I did.”
“YOU KILLED HIM?” His screech went louder. “Why?”
I turned then. Stared at him. Pushed my mouth to the side in deep contemplation. Then I raised my hand and slapped him. Hard.
“Ouch! Why did you slap me?”
“Just for the heck of it.” I turned again to the body.
“You killed a man and now you are slapping me?”
That was why I slapped him. He was an idiot.
Petey. His real name was Peton. Don’t know where his parents thought it out from. His father was a cousin of my father’s and plenty times I’ve heard the old man—my old man—say that a nut was loose in his cousin’s head. Same nut was missing in Petey’s. He would have made it into my most hated things in the world list if he weren’t a cousin. Actually he’d been on the list until his idiocy won me a big website design job—so I figured he had his uses.
Which would be the explanation why he was living in my flat.
“I didn’t kill him.” For Petey, I had to clarify that. “Came out and found him.”
“Then who killed him?”
I breathed. Slowly and long. With Petey, I usually needed patience—in extra doses. “That I don’t know.”
Petey inhaled. Noisily and with a lot of gasps. “Tec,” his voice has dropped its hauteur—in degrees. “If you didn’t kill him and you don’t know who killed him, how did he come to be flat on his back, dead in your backyard?”
Patience, in extra doses.
“That would be the million naira question, Petey.” I scrolled my eyes up to Anonymous John Doe’s face again. “Who is he?”
“I don’t know!” Petey exclaimed. “I never saw him in my life!”
“That was actually a rhetoric question, Petey.” I shook my head. To stop him interrupting my situation analysis. “He’s not from the neighbourhood. Never seen him. Unless he is… was new to it in the last few days. Had been too busy to do personage study.” I sighed. “Did his body get dumped here, or did he walk up here and… died?”
“I don’t know, Tec.” Petey’s voice trembled. “I don’t like dead bodies.”
“No one likes dead bodies, Petey.” My voice was heavy with impatience, and sarcasm. “Except hungry-for-cadavers doctors possibly. Wonder if there’s a price for one.”
“For one hungry-for-cadavers doctor?”
I angled my eyes to stare at my cousin. How did we end up related? “For owning a cadaver, Petey.”
“You own a cadaver?” He sounded, and looked, utterly shocked.
Patience, I reminded myself. “This here is now a cadaver.”
His whisper of shock primed my hiss but I held it in.
“What killed him?” I was back to my situation analysis. “No blood. And no visible sign of injury.”
“I don’t think he should be here, Tec. I am beginning to feel sick.”
I spared him another glance. Grimaced at his pallor. Stupid fool’s skin was going pasty. “Get some balls, Petey!” I snarled.
“Have got them. And I think they are shivering now.”
He was beginning to shiver. Right there, against the doorframe and against me. Just what I need—a gutless fool.
“Don’t you dare go to pieces over this!” I hissed, jabbing him with my elbow. “We need to figure out what to do about this, and we need to do that ASAP.”
“We should call the Police, Tec. That’s what we should do.”
“Are you insane?” I was halfway certain that he was. “You want to call the Police?”
Petey dangled his head in repeated nods. “We have to. There’s a dead body here and we need to alert them.”
“Alert…” I cussed. Viciously. “You want to alert the Nigerian Police about a dead body on your backyard? A dead body, you found on your backyard?”
“Technically, you found the body, Tec.” Petey said. “And technically, this is your backyard, not mine.”
“Screw the technicalities!” I swore. “We are not calling the damn Nigerian Police. I have no intention of spending even one night in jail—not ever. And that, my dear Petey, is what will happen when they get here and find this body right here. You and I will automatically become the number one suspects. And as a man, you get to take first place in the suspects’ ladder.” I added with malicious glee.
Petey blanched. “But I didn’t do anything.”
“Try telling that to a frenzied Nigerian Police intent on closing a case.”
“I didn’t kill him and I can’t go to jail.” Petey was panicked now. “I’d die in jail.”
“That you will.” I had no doubt of it. “So forget the Police and keep them out of this.”
“Okay, no calling the Police.” Petey weepily agreed. “Can’t go to jail.”
I ignored the fact that he muttered that three more times before subsiding into effusive shudders. If I wasn’t calling the Police, then what was I going to do with Anonymous John Doe’s body for holy heaven’s sake? I can’t very well leave him there to rot and decay. Hell no, that’d be unbearable!
“You should still do something about him, Tec.” Petey’s voice quivered as he spoke again.
I ground my sigh of exasperation. “And why should it be me doing something about him?”
“It’s your house and your backyard.”
Perfidious jackass! “Now it doesn’t matter that you have a room to yourself in this house and have been sleeping in it the last two months, right?”
“I’m not touching a dead man, Tec.” Petey visibly shuddered. “I didn’t put him there and I’m not touching him.”
“I didn’t put him there either, did I?” Gosh, this was why he had a place in my one trillion and one most hated things list. “You’re such a wimp, you know that, right?”
“Not touching him.” Petey stubbornly insisted. “He is your dead and you should do something about him.”
“He is not my dead!” I hissed, and was sorely tempted to slap him again. “He is an idiot dead who chose my backyard, off all places, to die.”
“You can’t speak ill of the dead, Tec.”
“I didn’t speak ill of him, stupid!”
“You can’t call me stupid and you did too speak ill of him. Called him idiot dead, didn’t you?”
I glared at him. This time throttling him was the only satisfying thing I could imagine. “Know what, Petey? Get out of my way. And don’t you dare call the Police or anybody else. Stay out of my way and let me think.”
I shoved him aside, banged the backdoor shut and marched off to my room.
God, I hated inconveniences. And that… bloody hell! He was an idiot dead and he was the mother of all inconveniences. I slammed the door of my bedroom and stomped to the bed, slumping into it with a hiss. Why did the fool have to choose my courtyard to come die in, eh? If he must die, why the hell not in his own home? And who the hell was he anyway?
“Self-centred, thoughtless prick!” I cussed aloud. Just like a man to not think of anyone else but himself. “And what the hell does he expect me to do with him now?”
Get rid of the body.
The thought came out of nowhere. And I sprang up from the bed even before the thought settled. But it wasn’t the thought that had me springing to my feet, it was the loud bang on my door.
Someone was knocking on the front door. And they weren’t friendly knocks.
I bolted from the room and ran, face first, into Petey on the corridor.
“Watch your damn step!” I bit out.
“Someone’s at the door.” He said in a trembling whisper.
“I know. I can hear the knocks.” I grated, hating the fact that I was whispering with him.
“Who can it be? You expecting anyone?”
Petey shook his head. More times than was necessary.
The bangs came again. In a triple series.
“Open the door.” A deep raspy voice yelled. “We know what’s going on!”
“Oh God!” Petey clutched my hand and went limp against me.
I was too busy trying to steady my palpitating heart to slap him back to his senses.
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