“James, what have you done?” Janet challenged. Her face went wild with anger. The beam from the street light settled on her.
“It wasn’t his idea.” Tumininu came in between them, her voice sounding hazy.
Pheya stooped to pick up stones again.
“Better start speaking up”, Pheya said, her hand raised, ready to throw one.
“Guys, please, stop the brawl”, One of the policemen softly appealed, walking towards them. Closely following him was the school’s Chief Security Officer dragging alongside his protruding belly. The policeman standing by the kids gave a salute.
“Please, come with us to the Security Station. We would love to explain some things and also take down statements.” The young man continued. James sat next to the policeman. The girls squeezed themselves into the rear without objection as the young policeman got set to drive them. The Campus CSO climbed into the Campus Security van and rode behind them.
The distance back to school seemed shorter than when they were coming. The paranoia and suspicion in the air was palpable. The vehicle was dead silent. They entered the CSO’s office and each found a space on a bench. The policeman and James sat on the seats directly in front of the CSO. The Chief cleared his throat.
“It has been a bad night for all of us. And a regretful one at that”, he started with a lot of guilt and hesitation.
“This young woman here …” he continued, pointing at Tumininu. He belched and slouched, sinking deeper into the chair.
“… got back from school one afternoon. She found a number of footwears outside her room. They were all male footwear. You guys are not children. So you know the cult group that will never enter your room with their slippers or whatever”. He continued. They nodded, hoping to get to the end of his narration.
“Bermota was indoors speaking with the men but Tumininu remained outside eavesdropping. She heard them threaten Bernice on a deal involving the car their oga gifted her and the need to deliver some ladies for their ritual. So, she came to report to us”, he belched again, tossed his key to the table and loosened his tie. He seemed to be done with what he knew about his story.
The police officer grunted. He shifted his bum and leaned forward.
“Erm, sir, that was not the whole story”, he said seeming to be a little concerned about the man’s misinformation. Tumininu sniffed, seeming to consent to his latent notion of the Chief.
“She left the door and returned when the boys were out. Bermota? Bernice, whatever, was still in the room. She asked for Janet’s phone number. I believe she was too scared to say no, be she gave her your number without asking what she wanted needed for. “
The room was dead silent. Pheya rested her head on Janet’s shoulder. Janet held her hand and stroke it softly.
“So, I think she met up with James who brought it to the campus security. My department from the police force was then brought in on the case”, the Police officer continued. The Chief Security Officer looked on his fingers plucking on imaginary beards.
“We could not make arrests without concrete evidence. We were also not ready to create unnecessary panic by informing you, Janet; not while we were uncertain of Bernice’s intentions with the phone number”, he smacked his lips, whether out of regrets or the realization that every other thing they did from there on was based on candid expectations.
They all knew so much from there on was based on assumption. Pheya only needed to see the logic before the assumptions before she goes berserk on all the parties involved. She looked hesitant but still strung to her feet.
“So, I had to go to this trauma because of baseless assumptions?” she asked, taking loose steps towards the Chief’s table. The rolled her fingers to a fist and heavily landed them on the table. Everyone knew no to go close. She ground her teeth.
“What if Pheya did not save the number?” Janet asked, softly.
“I would have. I checked your phone during the over-night reading.” James replied briskly, his eyes fixed on the floor.
“So, what about the party? Was there really a party?” She probed further.
“There was going to be. We wanted to make sure you girls were not at home. If Bermota couldn’t reach you, they would have to come and fetch you by force. We already planted men outside your hostel to follow them to wherever they go from there”, the police officer said, beaming with defeated wit.
“The moment you left the hostel, we were radioed. We were expecting you at Tumininu’s place. But you did not show up. We immediately swung into action”, the CSO attempted to look like they were in charge.
“I told Omohafe we were going for Tumininu’s party”, Fumbi announced with a guilty look
“And that was why you insisted on knowing the address of her uncle’s house when I told you I would not be seeing you tonight because she changed the venue? You got the chance to warn us but you chose to play detective. This bloody Idumota Sherlock Holmes!”, Pheya lashed at James. Furious. She rolled her fingers into a fist again and hoped it would land on someone’s face this time. James sprung to his feet.
“I have known you for four years and I loved you for two. I would never have done anything to hurt you.” James landed his first set of tears for the night. He really meant those words. He bit on his lower lip. His arm twitched. He sniffed.
“I told them something was wrong. They would not listen. I tried to reach you, all three of you. None of you picked up. I knew we were late already”, he continued.
“We really thought you were just trying to avoid him”, the Chief said, unashamed, clearing his gruff throat at the end.
“He took a bike to the address and called me when he saw Bernice’s car”, the officer said. One of the security men came in with papers for the statement and offered it to the five of them. Janet snatched the papers, tore them into shreds and threw them at the security man.
“In the name of investigation, you sent Janet a sticky note and even trailed us with a car. You knew me well enough to know we would not take the ride. I hope you get to understand the broken me too”, Pheya wipe her eyes a little too vigorously and went for the door. She stopped and looked back.
“And, you know the story damn better, so you can write the statements your bloody selves.” She added.
The next day, the story made the news.
“CSO RESCUES PARTYING KIDNAPPED VICTIMS, APPREHENDS EIGHT CULTISTS”
“James never forgave himself”, Pheya told the psychiatrist.
“I did not forgive him too. Now, I wish I did in time. But I cannot even speak with him. I pray for him every day. I was broken. But now, he is worse”, she continued. Her hands ran over her thighs as she rocked back and forth…