Before Mrs. Bankole and her husband went to bed, she noticed something was bothering him with the way he was handling things. He cursed and screamed over little mistakes he did in the kitchen. She wondered if he was tired of taking care of her. She had told him to employ a help but he refused and promised to assist her with the chores. He cooked, cleaned the house and fed her too. He was becoming the man she married many years ago.
Hours ago, he was chatting and cracking jokes with her but after he received a call, and left to the bathroom to answer, he came out looking very anxious, she knew something was wrong. She woke up at night and found him awake, staring at a photo.
“What’s going on?” she asked in a softened tone.
He was a bit startled to see her awake. “Are you okay?”
“Yes.” She replied and moved closer to him. “Whose picture is that?”
It was too late to hide it. He had to show it to her. “It’s Tiwa’s own.”
She took it from him and smiled at it. Tiwa was only six years old then. “That’s my little angel.”
Mr. Bankole wrapped his left arm around her shoulder. “Yes. I knew she was going to be a great woman. I am so proud of her.”
“Me too, I miss her and I can’t wait for her to come back home.”
He closed his eyes and shook his head. He was very worried. “I can’t wait too. The other agents miss her too.”
She looked at him. “But why are you looking at her picture by this time of the night?”
“Nothing, I thought about her today. She and Mr. Gold are getting close to the truth. They will catch the heart-taker very soon.”
“That’s good but is there anything bothering you?”
“No!” he quickly answered her. “I am totally fine. I think we should go back to bed. I have a meeting in the morning.”
He kissed her forehead before he pretended to shut his eyes to sleep.
Adebiyi had to turn back home. Popoola kept assuring his friend everything was going to be fine. He didn’t want his friend to worry. Mimi was already sleeping in Donald’s arms at the back of the car. They arrived home at 3:58am. Everyone departed to his or her rooms except Adebiyi. He served some scotch at the bar, went to his office, and sat down. He opened the lower drawer and brought out an old newspaper. He recalled the day he swore to make Tiwa pay. If only he could turn back the hands of time, he would have stopped her from coming to live with him and investigate a deadly case. He took his cup from the table and drank everything. He blew out a faint whistle and stared at Tiwa’s picture.
“I love you.” He whispered. “I am ready to do anything to bring you back home. Where are you Tiwa? Please, don’t give up. Fight for your freedom and fight for me. I am helpless. You are the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. Don’t die. Don’t leave me.”
Popoola came around 6:12am to check up on him. Adebiyi was shirtless. He was resting on the floor. They looked at each other.
“I know you didn’t sleep,” Popoola said and walked closer to drag him up on his feet. “You have to clean up and get dressed.”
“I know. Have you heard from Samson?”
“Not yet but he should have some news about Nkiru Danjuma.”
He cleared his throat. “Do you think he will kill her?”
“I don’t have answers and it hurts that I cannot help you right now. I should be paying you for what you have done for me. My sons called and wanted to speak with you but I don’t told them you are unable to talk. They wished they were here to do anything to make you happy.”
“The only way I can be happy is to bring Tiwa home, alive!” he said and walked out of the room. He went to the living room and turned on the television to see if there was any breaking news. There was none. He was a bit relieved.
Popoola came to meet Adebiyi and begged him to have his bath.
“What if I don’t want to?”
“You should. By eight, I will call the officers to hang around our vicinity for a look out for Asante.”
“Have you sent his picture to their phones?”
“I did that before I went to bed.”
“They have to be in mufti. None of them must dress as an officer of the law.”
“That is exactly what they will do.” Popoola said.
The splash of cold water on Tiwa’s face woke her up instantly. She was breathing fast and continuously shook her head vigorously until she was able to see clearly. She saw Asante peering at her, smiling. She looked at him scared and quickly peeped at the rope on her right hand. She lost hope. Tiwa felt she must have slept off. She was very weak to do anything to save herself. The injuries he inflicted on her arms had dried but still hurt badly. She started to shiver. She was catching cold.
“Good morning sunshine.” He threw the empty bucket on the floor.
“Can you loosen the rope a bit? It’s very tight.”
“How was your night?”
“What time is it?” She asked.
“8am.” He replied and leaned closer to her waistline. “You stink!” He covered his nose and moved backwards.
“I had no choice! I wanted to pee.”
“Why couldn’t you hold yourself!” He brought put a cable wire from the pocket of his trousers and wiped her on the stomach.
Tiwa wailed out and grunted in pain. “Go to hell!” She wasn’t going to give up at that moment.
He roared into a bizarre laugh and spoke. “I can’t clean you up. Someone will have to do that for me.”
“Who?” She asked shocked.
“You will find out at night. I will have to leave you and think of a way to teach DJ Newton a lesson.”
“But he didn’t do anything!”
“He should’ve minded his damn business by not mentioning me.”
“Newton never suspected you. He only said you were close to the girls because you were in charge of the food. Are you really daft?”
“You still have the guts to insult me.” Asante clapped his hands and smiled. “I will not allow you keep me here. See you at night.”
“I will be here all alone! You can stay and talk. Let’s talk about Nkiru.”
“I don’t have the energy to talk about her.”
“Will you kill her?”
“You should know the answer to that question.” He said heading towards the door. “See you later. Get prepared for your guests.”
“Guests?” Tiwa asked stunned. “How many people are working with you?”
He winked at her. “Go back to sleep.”
“I am hungry and tasty!!”
Asante smiled. “Maybe I will change my mind about ripping out your heart. It will be my pleasure to starve you to death.” he walked out with a grin on his lips.
If it were possible, Tiwa’s heart would have jumped out from her pounding chest.
Adebiyi and Popoola drove to the home of Asante and found it the way they left it the previous night. Two of them went to the next building to ask about the occupant. They met a man and his wife coming out from their house and both of them introduced themselves.
The woman spoke, “I think I have seen you around here before.” she pointed at Adebiyi. “But that was some years ago.”
“I think we met when I employed Mr. Asante and came to visit his mother.”
“Oh, yes!! I remember now.”
“I hope there’s no problem?” Her husband asked.
“We went to Asante’s house and didn’t find him and his mother.”
“His mother?” The woman asked surprised. “Didn’t you know she died two years ago?”
Adebiyi and Popoola exclaimed in shock.
“No.” Popoola had to answer after a long silence. “He didn’t tell us.”
“She died and he packed out of the house. It has been empty and we thought he would come back and do something about it. Maybe sell it since he couldn’t live there alone but how come you didn’t know. Does he no longer work for you?”
“It’s a long story. Do you have any idea where he lives now?”
The couple shook their heads.
“Thanks for your time.” Adebiyi said and told Popoola they should leave. They drove to the police station.
Mrs. Bankole paid a surprised visit to her husband at the office. It was 1pm in a sunny afternoon. Some of the agents welcomed her and took note of her weight loss and pale skin.
“What brought you here?” He asked her after she sat down.
“I have been trying to call Tiwa and her number is switched off.”
“I spoke with her few hours ago.”
She relaxed her back and heaved a satisfied sigh. “I was getting worried over nothing.”
“Tiwa explained Mr. Gold and her number might not pull through for a while. They are travelling.”
“She didn’t say but she promised everything was fine and I should not panic.” Mr. Bankole replied her.
“I think I am beginning to get scared of this heart-taker. Only God knows who will be his next victim. I wonder what the families of the past victims are going through. I can never bear the loss of a child. God forbid, I rather die. I will never bury my children.”
“We will never bury Tiwatope.”
Mrs. Bankole looked at him disappointed. “I gave you two children and you will acknowledge both of them. You have a son and you have to start finding a way to get him back home. You can’t neglect and hate him forever. He is not gay!” She stood up.
“Where are you going to?”
“Stay. We will go home together.”
“Whenever we argue about our son, I don’t ever want to be around you.” She said and zoomed out of the office.
Adebiyi was back at home and he ate a little and took some drugs for his headache. He raced towards his phone when he heard it ringing. It was Samson.”
“Any new details about the whereabouts of Nkiru Danjuma?”
“Not really sir but we know she travelled to Calabar for an occasion. My sister is finding a way to get the location.”
“Do everything you can. I will send you some money right now to board the nearest flight there.”
“There is no time Samson. He has taken Tiwa.”
“Blood of Jesus!! I will do everything to find Mrs. Danjuma. She might have a clue where he took her.”
“I hope so.”
“Please sir, don’t do anything drastic. We need you alive.”
“Then pray hard Tiwa comes back to me alive!”
Adebiyi cut the call, turned and saw Popoola staring at him. “Any bad news?” He asked, looking frightened.
“Relax. Nothing bad has happened but an officer called to report a young woman’s lifeless body was seen far from here. It is not related to the heart-taker.”
“Her heart was not taken?”
“No. She must have been a victim of ritual or a kidnap gone wrong.”
“That’s bad news.”
“I know but it has nothing to do with Tiwa.”
He sighed faintly and sat down. They heard a knock on the door. Popoola went over to the door to confirm the person and he opened it for her. It was Joyce. She greeted them and asked if there was any problem. She had seen Adebiyi’s missed calls and decided to check on them.
“What!!” She bellowed after he narrated what happened. “You mean your chef is the same cook that worked for my boss?”
“I can’t believe this!” She said and sat on a sofa. “I didn’t see him the first time I came here. I would have recognized him.”
“Have you heard from Mr. Monday?” Adebiyi asked.
She looked at him and answered. “No.”
“I want to know more about him. Do you know if he’s back?”
“I don’t think so. He’s office is still locked.”
“I have to find him. I thought he was no longer useful after we got your list and found out the heart-taker’s identity. He might likely know where Asante lives. I don’t why Donald was not able to trace where he went to and who he was likely talking with on the phone.”
“I think you should continue to do what you are doing to find her,” Joyce said. “Do you have any lead, where he might have taken her to?”
“I won’t be here if I knew.”
She rose on her feet. “I have to be at family gathering. I will be back tomorrow morning and ask around the office vicinity about the agent. One of your workers can even accompany me there to ask questions.”
“I can follow you.” Popoola suggested.
“I think your friend needs you more. What about Donald?”
“I believe he will be willing to follow you.” Adebiyi answered. “He wants to make things right.”
Joyce smiled broadly. “I should be on my way now.”
He offered her money, thanked her and she left.
In the afternoon, Adebiyi and Popoola joined the police officers to monitor their neighborhood. After many hours of observing, nothing came up. In the evening, the officers began to leave one after the other until no one remained except Adebiyi and Popoola. Both of them stayed back and continued to watch. At, 9pm, Popoola pleaded with his friend to go home and rest. He refused.
“If he had killed her, we would have seen her body. I think she is still alive. Maybe he has changed his memo; he might keep Tiwa and planned to eliminate her on the seventh day like he did with three of his victims.”
“Then there must be a reason for him to keep her alive.”
“Tiwa is strong. I won’t be surprise if she challenged him.”
“If she did,” Adebiyi said. “He will be angry, make her pay for that and might even wished she died a painful death. I’m just assuming.”
“I know.” Popoola said. “Let’s go home and rest.”
“I will but I want us to go and check on someone.”
The heart-taker came back into the room. Tiwa was awake and staring at the ceiling. Her lips remained sealed as Asante walked closer to her. He turned on the light switch for a brighter view. Tiwa’s mouth was dry and there was pain all over her body.
“Did you miss me?” He asked and smiled.
She looked at him and tried to answer but the inside of her mouth lacked moisture.
“I brought someone to clean you up.”
Tiwa eyes turned angry and managed to speak slowly and wearily. “No man should dare lay his hands on me.”
He exploded into a loud laugh. “Who said anything about a man?” He glanced at the door and said in a loud voice. “The two of you can come in.”
Her puzzled eyes travelled to the door and when she saw them enter, she gasped. “Joyce? Mr. Monday?”
The three of them burst out laughing. Joyce was looking directly into her eyes. She noticed the agent’s left ear was covered with bandage.
Fear gripped her hard. Her scared eyes enlarged. Cold sweat creased her forehead and it was impossible for her to wipe them off. Trapped in her own world, she feared they would kill her tonight and she would never see Adebiyi again but before that would happen, she needed a thorough explanation.
Adebiyi drove to the home of DJ Newton. As they approached his residence, they saw some people, police officers, and an ambulance in front of the house. Adebiyi parked the car, rushed out and went to find out what had happened. He thought Newton might have heeded his advice, gone back to drugs and overdosed. He asked one of the male paramedics and he informed him, Newton was found dead on the floor in his living room. Someone had stabbed him to death.
The sad news crushed Adebiyi’s heart.
To be continued…. on Saturday.