When I got to the cemetery, I sighted the guards standing near my husband’s epitaph. The sand that covered where Femi’s body lay was scattered. My mind buzzed with more questions, the most dominant being, ‘why would anyone want to steal my husband’s body?’ Did they want it for rituals? Was the body snatching done by some desperate scientist? Why Femi’s body? Was it only Femi’s body that was taken? But all the questions came together as one, when I reached Femi’s stone. Along with this question came a geyser of anger in my chest.
“What were you morons doing when some miscreants were exhuming the body? Aren’t you supposed to be guards?” The three men stood before me, head bowed, saying nothing.
“Answer me!” I snarled.
“Madam, na for night dem do am,” The bald-headed one said.
“And so what? What kind of guard sleeps deeply?”
The man shook his bald head. “Dem do something to us. We no dey sleep like that normally”
I eyeballed him and his companions flanking him.
The man standing next to bald head, with dreadlocks and a threadbare shirt spoke next. “The last thing I remember be say, one man pass and hin press one thing like that around gate”
I blinked. “What did he spray?”
“I no sabi oh, but after that, we just sleep” Bald head replied and the last man added, “Deep sleep, like Adam”
These men must think I’m here to joke. For all I knew, they could be lying… they could have sold my husband’s body to whichever psycho wanted it… they could be suspects. I pursed my lips, studying each of them, and they all looked like they could use some extra cash… which could have been offered by the psycho.
“You clearly think this is a joke, don’t you?” I chortled. “wait until I return with police men to arrest you”
I turned to leave. They were frantically begging. I stopped. Not because of their pleas, but because I had espied something from the corner of my eyes. I turned my full attention to the small thing sticking out of a mound of upturned earth. It could pass for just another piece of debris to any other person, but I knew my husband’s great toe. I stooped to get a clearer view.
“Get me a spade”
“You say wetin?”
“Shovel!” I snapped.
When they returned with the shovel, I scattered the sand and there was my husband’s body. Relief mixed with confusion and fury. I dropped the shovel and dreadlocks picked it and continued scraping back dirt to reveal more of my husband’s ashen body.
“Are you people so daft? Why did you call me?”
Bald head stared at the body with goggled eyes. “As we see say dem don scatter the ground na hin we say make we sharply call you.”
I wanted to tell the trio of how foolish they were to have called me before confirming when a horrified gasp escaped my mouth. I staggered backward as shiver ran up my spine. The others saw it too. Femi’s body was without a head. Breathing hard, I grabbed the headstone behind me for support.
“Wha… what is that?”
The third man of the three shook his head and exhaled, looking in a distance. “Madam, you wan hear the truth?”
I turned to him and nodded. I needed an explanation. It would have been better if the whole body was stolen. Why would the head be sawed off and the body dumped in the cemetery?
“You husband na ogboni member” the man said, with that far-off look in his eyes. “na dem dey comot their member head when they die”
Samson and the skulls…
“Shut up! My husband was never a cultist” My voice was tremulous and tears spilled down my face. “Please bury the body properly. I’m out of this place”
Once in my car, I leaned back on the headrest and wept. I was tired. Now that Femi was dead everyone seemed to have new insight into who he was. He was a slimy legal practitioner holding the forte for thieves… He was the man to blackmail a criminal for selfish gains… and now this? Femi, a cultist? Could I have been living with him and not have sensed any of these? Was I that careless? Whatever happened to my intuits? No, no. it has to be a lie. Femi can’t be involved in something as dark as occultism. I refuse to believe that. I know my husband…
Where do I turn? What am I meant to do next?
What called me out of my reverie was the pain in my lower abdomen. It felt like needles prodding my insides. The baby. Fear gripped me. I can’t afford to lose this baby. This was the last token of Femi I had; the last living token. This was going to be my last child. This child can’t die. I spread both of my palms on my abdomen and muttered ‘Jesus’. It was all I could bring myself to say.
Now you know the name of Jesus, abi?
When last did you pray?
When last did you read your Bible?
When last did you walk in God’s will?
You’ve been walking in the flesh… ignoring God, now that you’re in a mess, you know the name of Jesus all of a sudden.
Yes, the name of Jesus is a strong tower, but it only houses the righteous.
Your husband was dabbling into dirty things, that’s what brought about his untimely death.
They have come for you. And the child in your womb.
I was shivering, cold sweat broke out on the nape of my back.
“Jesus, help me. Jesus! I call upon you, have mercy on me Lord. Mercy!”
I continued praying, silencing the voice of the accuser. Portions of scriptures surged up in my spirit man.
…Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
…Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible be delivered; for I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children.
Open your mouth and declare the word of God, it was something Sister Grace would always say to me. She would go on to say, remember that angels excel in strength, they do the word of God. They heed the voice of his word. My sister, voice out the word of God. It is alive and quick. Sharper than any two-edged sword. More real than whatever you might be facing.
“This child shall live. You will not die! You will live to declare the goodness of God here on earth. Father, I confess my sin of pride and rebellion to you. I’m sorry for cutting off fellowship all this time. Help me Lord to stand perfect and complete in all your will. I pray that I will be filled with the knowledge of your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that I may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him…” My voice trailed off as tears cascaded down my face. I felt as though I could finally breathe. These scriptural prayers. Oh, these prayers… While Femi and I were courting, we would write out those words from the Bible and pray them over our lives, at our spot near the river in Abakaliki. During service year, we were on fire. NCCF family house was just the conducive atmosphere for our growth. But how did we forget about intentionality, about consistency? How did we forget the importance of standing steadfast, guarded with the whole armor of God? When did I become so foolish to repose my faith for protection in my black belt and my understanding? When did I become so ignorant as to try fighting spiritual battles with carnal weapons?
The pain in my abdomen had subsided. I wiped my tears and picked my phone. I put a call through to my doctor. He explained that abdominal pains are not uncommon during pregnancy. But I never experienced such in my previous pregnancies. He said he was going to check me when I came in on Thursday for my antenatal check-up. The next call was to Sister Grace, the head teacher of the children unit at my local church and the one friend I had that I could count on spiritually. In the recent past, I had stayed away from her because somehow, her fervor always highlighted how lukewarm I was. And that fact wasn’t one I was willing to come to terms with.
“My sister,” Grace enthused over the phone. “I’m glad to hear from you”
“When can we see please? Are you at home now?”
“No, I’m at the office. I hope there’s no problem?”
I sniffled. “Actually, there are and that’s why I want to meet up to talk… if you don’t mind”
“Of course, I don’t. Sola, I’ve been praying for you.”
I smiled. “We don’t call you Epaphras for no reason.”
She chuckled. “Let’s do lunch at 1pm. 1pm is 1pm oh, I only have an hour break before I have to return to the office.”
“There’s this place near my office. I’ll text you the address. Take care, dear”
After I dropped the call, I looked at the digital clock on the dashboard. 9:12. What was I supposed to do between now and 1pm? Should I return home? No, that’s a bad idea. Asides the fact that I would be wasting fuel, I could get caught up in traffic. I drove away from the cemetery, having nowhere in mind. I let grief envelope me. I let myself feel the absence of Femi. I didn’t stop the tears from trickling down. I drove into a mall. I walked in, hoping shopping would cheer me up. Retail therapy didn’t work. Instead, different things on the rack reminded me of the times I shopped with Femi. The stash of Gilette shaving sticks. He would have picked a pack. He would have picked biscuits too and a decanter of expensive liquor. I wandered the aisles, frittering time away, feeling dispirited. After some minutes, I decided it was best to return back home. It was very probable I’d meet someone I knew in the mall if I stayed longer. And I didn’t want that.
When I got home, the children had gone to school, leaving only Mama behind. She was seated on the couch, watching a Yoruba movie on the TV. Why did I get the feeling that she was too at ease for someone who just lost a son? Perhaps she thought same of me too. What kind of widow goes out and about shortly after her husband’s death?
I greeted her quickly and hurried down the hallway before she could slam me with questions. It was a good thing she was enraptured by the movie she was seeing. When I got to the room, I opened my bag to find that I had 14 missed calls; all from Saliu. Strange.
I called him.
“We need to meet.”
I frowned. “Was that why you were blowing up my phone?”
He didn’t say anything.
“What have you found?”
“Do you have access to your husband’s PC?”
“Well, do you?”
I chuckled. “What do you need that for?”
“The Aderile case!”
Why did he seem tetchy? I wasn’t sure I was interested in pursuing vendetta any longer. All that angry drive was gone now. It’s time to get back on track spiritually.
“Say something!” Saliu snapped.
“I’m not liking the vibe I’m getting this morning. Where’s this coming from?”
Saliu sighed. “Pardon me. I need you to retrieve all the documents pertaining to the Aderile case and send them over to me… Matter of fact, I want your husband’s PC”
I paused. “I don’t quite get you.”
Another sigh. “The files are not on his official system. My man inside ran a check”
I blinked. “You seem particularly intent on this case…”
“I thought we wanted the same thing. Don’t you want Aderile to pay?”
“Do you have a personal interest here?”
He didn’t say anything.
“Saliu? Are you there?”
“My cousin was one of the girls he took” His voice took on a new hoarseness. Anger? But I couldn’t tell if the anger was directed at me or at Aderile.
“Oh, I see…” So, he wanted to use me to avenge his own vendetta. Interesting. “Well, Saliu, I’ve decided to leave things be.”
“You dey craze?”
“You can’t back out.”
I scoffed. “Of course, I can. I used your services and payed for them. Now, I want out.”
“Okay, before you opt out, can you at least get me your husband’s PC?”
“Cos I’m trying to get justice!”
“I see,” I said dryly. “Good bye, Saliu”
I ended the call while he was saying something. My phone started ringing almost immediately. Saliu called me 50 times before I blocked his contact. Something wasn’t right. I went into the study and opened my husband’s laptop. I entered his password and went through his files. It wasn’t long before I found a document named ‘to nail AA’. I opened a drawer a fetched a flash drive. I copied the document to the flash drive and kept it back in the drawer. I went back to my room to pray and study the Bible. It was refreshing.
The tang of latte in the café would have appealed to me on a normal day, but today it made me nauseous. Grace stood up and waved me over. I walked to the booth where she was and hugged her briefly before I sat.
“5 minutes late, but I forgive you” Grace said and chuckled.
“Do you always do lunch in a café?”
Grace shook her head. “But I thought this was a nice place for us to meet up”
I shrugged. “Maybe it is… it’s just that my baby doesn’t like the smell of coffee so much”
Grace blinked. “Sandra?”
I scoffed. “I’m pregnant”
“Wow! That’s great news”
I nodded. “But that’s not why I’ve come to see you. Grace, I need as much prayers as I can get. I’m in a dark place and I can’t make sense of the shadows hovering around me. It started with Femi’s mysterious murder…” I narrated everything to sister Grace and I was grateful that she didn’t feel the need to say anything just yet. When I was done, I took a long drag through my nostrils.
“This is serious.”
“And Femi is not here to clear the air. Now, I don’t even know if I ever truly knew my husband. Every day, something new springs up.”
“We have light, we are light, the Lord is our light”
It amazed me how Grace’s first response was always the word. It must have come by years and years of deliberate practice. She had made a habit of looking at her eternal reality first and above whatever stared her in the face physically.
“We will seek God’s face and gain clarity. We have a sure word of prophecy from scriptures: The Lord will guide us. His word will be to us a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Confusion is far from us. We confound darkness with light; it will never be the other way round.”
I shook my head. “If I didn’t know better, I would think you were a robot programmed to fire scriptures in the face of adversity.”
She chuckled. “But you know better. You know that for a long time, I let situations toss me around and overwhelm my soul.”
“Until you learned to hold on to the anchor, which is God’s word”
I took a swig of my lemonade. “I wish Femi and I got back on track sooner. I wish I was more sensitive; I wish I stood at my post as a soldier and gatekeeper. On my watch, avarice filled my husband and turned him into someone else.” I pressed my lips together. “Didn’t the Bible say, in proverbs 1:19, that greed for gain takes the life of its owners? Now, we are left with pieces…”
Grace held my hand across the table and said nothing. We sat together in companionable silence for some seconds before she spoke.
“Did Deyemi tell you the Samson and skulls story?”
I scoffed. “No, he was saying rubbish” My smile died. When I saw Femi’s headless body, Samson and the skulls was what was on my mind.
“I sense you should ask him for the details of the story”
I nodded, remembering now how insistent Deyemi was on the fact that the story title was ‘Samson and the skulls’, how quickly Mama hushed him and led him off to bed. The picture I saw on the day of the funeral rushed into my mind, unbidden. Deyemi being dragged into a dark tunnel. I felt lightheaded. Grace must have sensed my frustration.
She stroked the back of my hand. “We are victorious, Sola. We just have to fight now from that place of victory. The Devil made you believe there was no battle going on so that he could wreak havoc while you slept. He also preoccupied you with fighting the wrong battles, fighting the wrong enemy so that you wouldn’t see the damage going on right before your eyes.”
Recalling how I handled what I saw on the day of the funeral, I shook my head. “I was fighting the air.”
“Now is the time to awake from your sleep. It is time to arise from the dead and Christ will give you light”
I tapped my lips, trying to juggle my memory. “That’s from Ephesians 4:15, right?”
Grace smiled. “Close enough. It’s Ephesians 5:14”
I snapped my fingers. “My bad!” I pressed the kinks out of my knuckles. “Men, I miss those our Bible studies at Bro Stephen’s place sha.”
Grace glanced at her watch and scraped her chair backwards. “We would have to pick this up when next we see. My boss is a no-nonsense man. Come in late, and you will have your head on the chopping block.”
I giggled, grabbing my bag. “It feels much better unburdening all these baggage.” I stood up and hugged her. On our way out of the café, Grace told me she would come visit over the weekend, with Kunle, her son.
I whipped my phone out of my bag as I unlocked the car, just in time to pick an incoming call from Mama.
“Sola! Robbers just left the house.” Mama’s voice was tremulous.
“What? What happened?”
The line disconnected. I slid into the driver’s seat and threw my hands up. When am I going to get some respite? I put a call through to the police man who had been working on Femi’s murder to inform him about the burglary.
Before I went home, I had to make a stop at the children’s school to pick them up. All the way to their school, I kept wondering why thieves would attack our house and in broad day light. What could they have taken? I felt grateful that we didn’t have heavy money in the house. But my jewelry box. Oh, my precious jewelries.
When I got home, policemen were already questioning Mama and I found that the robbers visited no other house asides ours and the only things the robbers took were the laptops in the house. Mine and Femi’s.
I went into the study and my heart dropped when I saw the drawer where I kept the flash drive wide open. I moved closer and gasped when I saw that the flash drive was still there. I unblocked Saliu’s contact and dialed it, but his line was not reachable. Why wasn’t I surprised?