Although the caller ID showed 'Private Number' Sarah knew those sounds, they were the all too familiar sounds of a frightened person. She heard the sobs, the clatters of her teeth, she could almost see her shudder and her body wracked with pain and tears. She could see a thick film of sweat across her forehead...
"Nyema, talk to me please. What happened? What happened?"
"I, I, Sarah I..."
"You what Nyema, please talk" Sarah said sounding scared and distressed all at once. This wouldn't be the first time Nyema would make such a call to her.
"Sarah please come over. Please. I I need you now. Please" Nyema said, struggling to speak
"I'll be there in ten minutes. Just stay calm, ten minutes ok?".
Sarah quickly pulled on a maxi dress and grabbed her car keys. What had happened this time? What had Samuel done to her friend this time around, causing her to sound so frightened, panicked and fear stricken? There was no time to think, she had to get to their apartment immediately.
Some minutes after Sarah hung up the phone Nyema dialed another number. This time she sounded even more frightened.
The roads were dark and quiet. Sarah's heart beat fast. Yet she wasn't sure why, these were the same
roads she took home most nights, they were the same streets and it was the same darkness, so why did it feel more quiet tonight, why did the sky seem covered in a blanket of black clouds?
She got to the Obong's compound and parked her car outside. Usually she tried to fit her car in beside Nyema's but tonight there was no time for that. The minute she was out of the car she charged towards the door of the bungalow. Just before she pressed the bell the door opened and in the doorway stood her oldest, dearest friend Nyema.
Nyema's eyes looked cold and lifeless, and she was just as Sarah had imagined; swollen bloodshot eyes, tearstained face with a body soaked in sweat. What she had not however imagined was the blood that covered her friend's hands and body. Fear immediately took hold of her but soon she saw that her friend bore no wounds.
"What have you done Nyema?" Sarah whispered in fear.
With her bloodied hands Nyema grabbed her and held her tightly. She was almost crazed and once again consumed with tears.
"I don't know. I didn't know when it happened. I didn't know... He beat me Sarah, he almost killed me. He bbbbbeat me, tore my clothes, held my neck. My neck Sarah. He held my neck!" And suddenly her hands flew up to Sarah's neck and wrung it tightly as she tried to show her friend just how her husband had attacked her.
Sarah was momentarily filled with fear and confusion and although she tried to ward her friend off Nyema held tightly on, her eyes still dead and blank as she scratched at her friend's neck, tearing into her skin, till finally with all the strength she could muster Sarah forcefully pushed her to the ground.
"Get yourself together for God's sake!" Sarah screamed and her voice echoed in the silence of the house.
"Oh my God, Sarah I'm sorry... I'm so sorry. Please help me." Nyema muttered. It was as though she was possessed, under an influence, unaware of where she was and what she was doing.
"Where is Samuel, what have you done Nyema?" Sarah was filled with dread of what might have happened. Was this Samuel's blood she had all over her body?
"Come" Nyema said calmly, taking her hand and leading her to their bedroom.
Sarah tried to force down the bile. The sickening smell of blood was nauseating but worse than that, she feared what ghastly sight might be awaiting in the bedroom.
The bedroom was very dimly lit but there was no mistaking the mangled lifeless body of Samuel on the floor. In a pool of his own blood. Before Sarah could utter a word Nyema spoke.
"You need to help me Sarah, please. We need to get rid of his body"
"You killed him? You fucking killed your husband? Are you mad Nyema? Are you? And you want me to help you 'get rid' of his body?" Sarah screeched, trying to keep her voice down but the madness around her was making that increasingly difficult.
"You are my best friend Sarah, the closest thing I have to a sister... I had no one else to call. Sarah if I didn't kill him he would have killed me. Don't you understand?" She asked in despair, her voice trailing off. "I'm so sorry, I know he was your friend, I know you loved him too but... I didn't know when I .... Please just help me. Please" she pleaded, tears streaming down her face.
"Hmmmm. Dear Lord. Ok Nyema, what do you need me to do?" Sarah said, resigning herself to the task that lay ahead. She may be many things but first, she was a good friend.
"Please, I cannot bear to look at him Sarah I just can't. Please, help me clean up, please..., just do what you can. I'll go and bring the car around to the front door, we'll drag his body to the trunk and, and....."
"Just go, and be fast about it" Sarah said and watched her friend move in a trance-like state. She brought her eyes back into the room, wondering how to go about cleaning up the mess on the white marbled floor. She ran into the bathroom to get a rag and a bucket on getting back into the room she hovered before Samuel's body, her feet in his blood, wondering how to begin. For the first time she looked at his now ashen face and immediately fell to the floor, giving in to the tears that had tugged at her throat since she saw the lifeless body. She was suddenly filled with confusion and hate for her best friend, how could she do this? Take the life of a man, her own husband. How? Samuel was not perfect, he had his demons and childlessness sometimes made men beasts, but he was a good man. Samuel was a good man. How could Nyema do this?
Sarah cried as she steadied herself on her knees trying to mop the blood away but it seemed impossible, there was just so much mess, so much blood. Sarah didn't know how long she stayed on her knees, futilely trying to mop away drying blood into the bucket while also dealing with the irritating pain of the deep bruises on her neck. It was then she wondered for the first time what was taking Nyema so long. But just as worry creased her forehead, she looked behind her through the window and saw a car drive towards the house, that must be Nyema, at last! She struggled to clear up as much blood as she could before Nyema came back into the room. It was then she heard the heavy footsteps.
Sarah immediately froze, those were not Nyema's footsteps, they were the footsteps of ....people.
Before she could make any sense of it a bright light flashed into the room, blinding her eyes.
"Who goes there!" a gruff male voice bellowed.
As the footsteps approached Sarah tried to stand but it was a struggle getting to her feet on the slippery floor and just as the men reached the room door she slipped and fell, landing on her hands and knees in the pool of blood, her hands laid just a few inches away from the knife, less than a feet away from Samuel.
"Freeze!" the man in the black police uniform bellowed again.
"Please sir, please.... I I I can explain. Please" Sarah pleaded, her voice sounded strange even to her own ears, they sounded like the squeak of a mouse.
"Your hands above your head madam! Obey or I shoot!" he yelled sternly, taking in the bloodied floor, the blood-soaked knife, the rag and the bucket, and lastly, the woman who knelt right there in the middle of it all. Sarah immediately did as he said as she saw him finger his gun, she could feel her bladder loosen and could feel the metallic taste of fear in her mouth.
"Sergeant come right here and handcuff this murderer" he barked to someone outside the room.
As Sarah was lead outside the house, her bloodstained hands in cuffs she looked dreadfully at the Black Maria and wondered if Nyema would be inside, if she had also been caught while trying to bring the car. A tiny relief coursed through her at the thought of Nyema owning up to her crime, she might be an accomplice but that was a much lesser offense. It was then she noticed Nyema's car was no longer in the compound. In a rare moment of clarity it all dawned on her.
For the first time that night she truly panicked. Immediately she began to shake convulsively as the sergeant bent her head down and forcefully shoved her into the car. And then she remembered Nyema's words.
"He was your friend. I know you loved him too. I know you loved him too. I know you loved him too. I know you loved him too" the words echoed.
So Nyema knew. Somehow Nyema had found out about her love affair with Samuel which they had managed to keep hidden for several years. Sarah's body went cold all over and she felt numb to her bones. All at once she was filled with fear, trepidation, anger, loss and a deep hate for Nyema.
Nyema had killed the man she loved, and was making her pay for it. In pain and frustration she almost tore at her hair but the handcuffs kept her hands bound. She swore beneath her breath, one day Nyema will pay. One day, she swore. Yet even as she did so she knew it was a promise in futility. Nyema had killed her husband and had perfectly framed her for it, tearing at her neck to give the illusion that she must have been in a fight with Samuel before killing him. And then she varnished like smoke into thin air.
For years she had been a good friend, always there when Nyema needed her, from childhood till this very day. How could Nyema have done this to her, how? Once again that night Sarah found herself in resignation. She dropped her head into her cuffed hands and wept, for Samuel, for being so stupid... and for the terrifyingly bleak future that lay ahead of her.