A whole 24 hours and Johnny still hadn’t turned on his phone, or called me back.
Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t call him again – and it took a lot to even call him after all the stupid text messages I’d sent – but it was Johnny. At least he should give me a chance to explain.
The worst part about how I was feeling was that there was no one to talk to about it. I was carrying my grief alone while everyone else, the whole world, carried on.
I gave Kike some flimsy excuse to explain Johnny’s disappearance from the poolside. It upset me that she simply believed it.
Mama was worrying her head over one fine boy she was liking; she had her own problems, and besides, I wouldn’t talk to her about Johnny.
At the end of the day the only person I could talk to about Johnny was Johnny, and he wasn’t talking to me.
He had even switched off his phone, and the way I saw it, switched me off for good.
Indoors is so conducive to being heartbroken. It is as if the walls contain your pain, or when like me you’re grieving alone, they hug you when friends are lacking.
I waited for the girls to leave me and the walls alone so I could cry my eyes out but they wouldn’t go away. They stayed and gossiped and tried on new dresses, and I, under a cover cloth at 7 pm, kept checking my phone for messages or missed calls.
Janet came home with bags of shopping and a boxed iPad. The girls excitedly gathered round her to see her new toy and new things.
She let Kike be the first to handle the box and even open it up and fetch the brand new device inside. They had since made up, but only to the extent that Janet was still kissing Kike’s ass and Kike was unapologetically lapping it all up.
Mama, surprisingly, was the only one who knew her way round an iPad. She soon had it going and was checking her Facebook page.
Janet excited the girls with tales of how her new mugun was a British diplomat, was very handsome, and was very-very rich. Andy, that’s his name, was a middle aged oyinbo man that had even asked her to marry him. She also told how he was ‘an engine in bed,’ this told me she was either liking the man or taking his proposal seriously. Poor girl. But then again, maybe. poor man.
Janet was on an all-out PR campaign. She announced that she had something for everyone. Andy had taken her shopping and she had gotten enough La Senza undies for all of us. The girls went crazy. Bribery and corruption, even in our tiny BQ.
My phone rang as Janet emptied a shopping bag full of underwear onto the mattress. The girls lunched like starved feral dogs.
It was Johnny calling! My heart raced, and even before I answered I felt a lump in my throat that warned me I wasn’t going to be able to speak.
I got up and left the mattress to the girls and braced myself as I took his call.
“Hello?” My voice was weak. Guilty.
“Hello, who is this?” Said a male voice over the line. It wasn’t Johnny. ‘Didn’t even sound like him.
“This is Amaka,” I said without thinking. “Is Johnny there?”
“Johnny, is he your friend?”
Something alarmed me about the voice. There was noise in the background, chattering, that sounded familiar.
“Who is this?” I asked.
“Madam Amaka, you say Johnny is your friend?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“Please, I will call you back,” he said and he hung up.
What was going on?
I tried calling back but the phone went unanswered. Something was wrong. It only then dawned on me that it was unlike Johnny to switch his phone off for one whole day. He didn’t switch it off because of me; something had happened to him.
Panic pumped blood into my heart.
I called his number again. Someone answered but didn’t talk. I listened to voices talking and tried to make out what they were saying. Something about it felt unnervingly familiar. The call was cut off.
I waited a few minutes during which I did absolutely no thinking at all. I couldn’t focus.
“Kike, something happened to Johnny,” I finally said.
Kike stopped from holding up a black bra to her chest and looked at me.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know.”
The girls turned to me and I narrated the events starting from Radisson Blu to the phone call I just received.
“Accident?” Mama volunteered.
It made sense. He left the Hotel in anger and he had an accident.
“Is he dead?” She asked.
Kike reprimanded her but the thought had already formed in my own head as well.
Kike took my phone from me and called his number again. Again no one answered.
“What will we do?” Mama asked.
“Baby, don’t cry,” Janet said.
I didn’t even realise I had tears rolling down my face.
“Do you know his people? Anyone you can call?” Clara asked.
I didn’t. I knew him and that was all. I’d met quite a few of his friends but we were not friends and I didn’t have their numbers. There was no one I could call. If the worst had happened, the night at Radisson Blu would mark the abrupt end of knowing him. There would be no attending a wake keeping, crying at the funeral, grieving with his family. It would all have ended just like that, and he would have left my life, just like that.
I broke down.
My phone was with Kike. It rang and she answered it. She waved for us all to be quiet. I pleaded with my teary eyes for her to tell me if it was him.
“No, this is not Amaka…. Kike… Yes, Amaka’s friend. Yes, I know him.”
She stayed on the phone, answering question after question then she finally managed to get one in.
“What is happening?” She asked whoever was on the phone. “Did he have an accident?”
I gripped the arms of the two girls by my sides as I waited for the answer. I studied Kike’s face so I’d know the minute she knew.
Kike took a deep breath, closed her eyes then she started telling the person on the phone about the evening at Radisson Blu.
I couldn’t take it any longer. I reached out and grabbed the phone from her.
“Where is Johnny?” I screamed into the phone.
“Who is this?” It was a female voice this time.
“This is Amaka. Where is Johnny? What happened to him?”
“Please, calm down. I was just explaining to your friend.”
I noticed that the girls had gathered round Kike and she was whispering something to them. My fear was confirmed; he was dead. Johnny was dead.
“Where is he?” I asked. I meant which mortuary.
“If he’s ok, then let me talk to him.”
“You want to talk to him?”
“Please, madam, just calm down so I can explain.”
“Explain? What do you want to explain? Who are you? Where is Johnny?”
“Madam, if you want to see your friend you have to come and meet us.”
“That is what I was just explaining to your friend. When last did you see Mr Johnny?”
“When last I say Johnny? What does that have to do with anything?”
The lady paused. I heard muffled voices in the background and I could tell she was taking instructions.
“Madam, we can only allow close friends and family of Mr Johnny to see him now, which is why I’m asking when last you saw him. Are you his girlfriend?”
“Yes! Can I come and see him now?”
She took another pause then she came back on the phone.
“Madam, where are you now?”
“Ok. Do you know Wilmot Point in VI?”
“Navy Dockyard, after NTA.”
“Can you come there now?”
“Is Johnny there?”
“Yes, Mr Johnny is in the Navy Clinic there. Come and meet us now.”
“Is he ok?”
“Please madam, when you come.”
The worst had happened. My Johnny was gone, and it was my fault.
All the girls wanted to follow me there but when the Red Cab arrived Mama had the good sense to suggest that only two of us should go. Naturally she wanted to come but Kike played the cousin card and got into the cab with me.
I’ve never experienced that state of mind before. As I sat in that cab my mind was empty and full at the same time. I kept seeing Johnny’s face and hearing his voice as he called me, Omoge, but I was on auto drive – my thoughts weren’t mine.
My phone rang and I handed it to Kike without even checking who it was.
It was Mama, and from the conversation they were having it seemed as if Mama was still beefing over not being the one to follow me. I got mad. I took the phone from Kike, ready to give it to her.
“Amaka, me I don’t think you should go there o,” she said.
I wanted to abuse her or say something harsh but I didn’t have the words.
“Amaka, this whole thing doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe we should wait first.”
“Wait for what?”
I didn’t wait for her to respond. I ended the call and tossed the phone aside.
“Where do you say we are going?” the cab man asked.
Kike answered him: “Navy Dock yard, Ahmadu Bello.”
“I will drop you close. They don’t use to allow coloured cab to enter there.”
Mama sent a message and against myself I read it:
“Don’t go. Turn back. I’m calling Uncle China so we can go together. Come back.”
I deleted her message and sank my head back into the edge of the seat, starring at the grey velvety roof and hearing Johnny’s voice.
The cab man slowed down as we approached the Dockyard. My heart that had settled down began to race again.
A few Navy officers in front of the gate motioned for the cab to keep driving towards them.
The cab man hesitated. I was already leaning forward, eager to face what was to come. I told him to go on.
We were waved to pack right in front of the gate. A young Navy officer poked his head in through the driver’s window and asked which one of us was Amaka. I held up my hand that I was. He stood away from the window and next thing I knew, a gun was pressed against the cab man’s head.
Mine and Kike’s doors flung open and we were dragged out.
A woman in plain clothes was leading our assault. She commanded a gang of armed men in civilian clothes while the smartly dressed Navy officers looked on.
What was happening?
“Are you Amaka?” The lady asked me.
I recognised her voice from the phone. “Yes. What is happening?”
“Where is Mr Johnny?” She asked me.
What the hell was she saying?
Kike was shaking on mute in front of a gun. The cab driver was prostrate on the ground, pleading to another gun and explaining that he didn’t know us and had never seen us before – the cab company controller only directed him to pick us up from an address in Ikoyi and drop us off at Ahmadu Bello.
Police radios cracked to life and a police van driven by a maniac arrived to a screeching halt.
“Young lady, I will ask you one last time, where is Mr Johnny?”
“I don’t know!” I shouted at her.
A slap from nowhere momentarily made me deaf. Kike screamed in empathy, the cab man begged harder – for himself.
As I lost my balance, the man who had slapped me stepped in front of me and slapped the other side of my face – as if he wanted to correct the way I’d started leaning.
I saw stars, dancing just above my eyes, in a zone my range of view would normally not have covered.
I lurched forward and he must have thought I was going for his gun. He swung his weapon to the side and stepped away for me to fall. I fell in slow motion. I actually saw the butt of his rifle slowly moving towards my lips.
The last thing I remember was the taste of blood and sand in my mouth, and the deafening bang of a single gunshot.