We walked over bodies, young and old, looking for Candy among them. Ruth struggled to keep a steady stare. She only takes a glance and threw her face away immediately.
About an hour later we were done. It was a heartbreaking moment watching those bodies; someone’s wife, brother, sister, mother, father, child lying there oblivious of the happenings around them.
“As you can see, the one you are looking for is not here,” Doctor Whiskey said as we stepped out of the place.
“Notre Dame hospital?” I said, wrapping Ruth who was silently sobbing in a one hand embrace.
The old man took his seat beside the door looking coldly at us after locking up the place.
“yes!” the doctor said.
I thanked him and escorted Ruth gently out of the hospital. We entered the car and drove silently to Notre Dame hospital. We entered through the big gate and found a space in a very spacious parking lot that was almost filled. Inside the hospital was in a complete brouhaha. Everyone looked actively busy. Some patients laid on the floor unattended while others sat down. We went to a nurse who was screaming on top of her voice to enquire concerning the bodies brought in.
“excuse me,” I said gently.
She stopped abruptly, on seeing my bandaged hand she began calling a nurse rushing towards the exit door.
“Nurse Mercy! What’s wrong with all of you today? Why are these patients not attended to?” She asked, pointing at me.
The yelling nurse was fair and stout in her late fifties with a big tummy and tiny hands that hung beside her.
“I’m sorry, I am not a patient here,” I immediately put in.
She looked at my bandaged hand again and then to Ruth. Just then, nurse Mercy, a young, dark, average height nurse arrived and stood beside the fat nurse.
“what can I do for you?” The fat lady asked lackadaisically.
“Please, we are looking for someone, we wanted to know if she’s here.” I said.
“how do you expect me to know who you are looking for? Do I look like Google map to you?” she yelled at us.
Immediately, she called another nurse who was pushing a wheelchair patient and ordered her to bring her a soft drink and snacks.
“please, I have to take this patient into the ward. Why not tell nurse Gladys beside you?” the nurse replied in a cold tone and continued moving.
“All these nurses have grown wings!” the fat lady yelled and turned to the nurse beside her.
“get me a chair, my snacks and soft drinks,” she ordered and nurse Gladys left.
The fat lady stood, cursing and shouting at every nurse that crossed her path.
“Mike, I think this woman is mad. Please let’s go,” Ruth whispered into my ear.
The fat lady turned to Ruth looking furious.
“who is mad?! Who are you referring to as mad?!” she yelled.
“please ma, she wasn’t referring to you,” I said.
“you think I’m deaf? I heard this…This…This thing call…ing me, mad!” she said, hitting her chest with her small hand.
“do you know who I am?” she asked, pointing at Ruth’s face.
Ruth immediately started walking away. I followed her, still apologizing to the lady who followed us yelling. Other nurses intervened before she stopped yelling.
“imagine this lanky slowpoke calling me mad! Can you imagine that?” the fat lady explained to a nurse.
“Please, this is a misunderstanding here. She only said this woman is not nice and she misunderstood it to mean mad,” I tried to defend Ruth.
“liar! Liar! Am I deaf?” the fat lady yelled.
Just then someone screamed, “emergency! Emergency!” rolling in a patient on a stretcher with oxygen mask on the face.
This distracted everyone, giving us the time to move away from the fat lady.
We met a young doctor in his white suit rushing off to somewhere.
“excuse me,” Ruth said and stood in front of him.
He stopped, then gave Ruth an approving stare and said, “please I’m in a hurry.”
“can you help me locate the morgue? We are looking for someone who was involved in today’s shooting,” Ruth said, almost in tears.
The young man seemed to be moved by Ruth’s demeanor. He took a glance at my bandaged arm and said hurriedly, “Ask for nurse Fatima. She’s in charge. I’m sorry I can’t do much,” then ran off.
We thanked him and stopped another nurse who was rushing with a tray of syringes and medical tools.
“please, we are looking for nurse Fatima,” Ruth said, holding the nurse’s arm.
The nurse looked around, then pointed towards the fat lady we met earlier. She was sitting down now, eating her snack and soft drink. Before we absorbed what we saw the nurse had ready left.
“we are not going back there. Let’s ask someone else please,” Ruth said.
We noticed some nurses attending to people at the rear side of the hospital. We went there and waited for our turn, standing.
“what can I do for you?” The impatient nurse attendant asked.
“please, could you direct us to the morgue?” I said gently.
“Ask for nurse Fatima,” the nurse said and looked past me to the next person.
“please, I have asked. She’s not on seat. Who else can we ask?” I said, shading the guy behind me from moving in front of me.
“alright, ask of Pablo. Let the next person in please,” she said.
I thanked her and went for the hunt for Pablo. Eventually, we saw him in a blue overall sweating.
“what can I do for you? Be fast with it, I’m very busy here,” he said.
“please, we want to check for someone among the bodies brought in today,” Ruth said.
“follow me!” he said abruptly.
We followed him out of the hospital building to a small house secluded at a corner. Outside of the house, bodies laid on the floor with people attending to them and some persons standing on a side crying. Pablo walked fast in front of us to the boys working and said to them, “they want to check the bodies.”
One of the boys led us through alongside some persons looking for theirs. Once someone is being identified, crying follows. Ruth had already started hers even when we hadn’t seen who we were looking for. Candy wasn’t among the bodies, after going over them twice.
“I told you she’s alive,” I said to Ruth.
“why hasn’t she called?” she asked.
“perhaps she lost her phone,” I said.
We left the hospital and began driving to the barracks. I always felt this chills each I time I see this place. The place makes me want to hate Sandra, but no matter how hard I try I easily forgive her.
Soldiers stopped us at the gate. I introduced myself using Sandra’s name but they said I should call her. Then I mentioned lieutenant Musa’s name. They still insisted I called him. Since I don’t have his number we parked outside.
“why not call your mum?” Ruth suggested.
“that’s true,” I said and called mum.
Few minutes later, mum came out with a soldier escorting her.
She came out to meet us while the soldier with mum went to discuss with the soldiers at the gate. When mum saw my bandage, she screamed.
“what happened?” she asked.
I explained to her that it was a flesh wound. Just then the gate opened and we drove in.
I felt very uncomfortable staying at the barracks. Its memory drains me from the inside. But right now, I had no choice. Sandra’s apartment was okay. A two bedroom flat with everything intact. I just realized that I and Ruth had not tasted anything aside water all day. I was horribly hungry when mum served us rice and stew. I dug into it hungrily, then noticed Ruth had not taken more than two spoons.
“what’s it?” I asked.
“Candy,” she said.
“she’s fine. I promise you she’s fine,” I said, touching her hand.
She managed to eat a few spoons before she stopped. I was so hungry that I devoured the rest with two big glasses of water and then sagged on the backrest of the chair, cooling from the hot meal.
It was already evening and we all sat at the sitting room watching the news. The Oman group had visited so many areas in the state and killed over 200 persons in one night. Zadu sent a viral video of himself master minding the killings, threatening the government of more bloodshed if his condition was not met.
We all sat watching as bodies were carried out. And buildings burnt down. Ruth’s sob drew our attention. I quickly went to her.
“what’s the problem?” I asked.
“where’s Candy?” she asked, still crying.
I hugged her in one hand because I had no words for her.
“we are going to pray for her. God will protect her.” mum said.
I called Phila and enquired about her safety.
“Dad hired 20 police men to mount guard around our house. But we are leaving the country tomorrow,” she said.
Then I called Jacky. He took time before he answered.
“Mike, I am at home. I’m not going to abandon my inheritance for nobody. I still have some bullets left. I am not going anywhere Mike. They killed Julian. I am waiting for vengeance. What’s the essence of life anyway? I’m not afraid of death. Let them come,” he said angrily.
I thought of Amaka. She hasn’t called for some time now, which was good. But I have a child with her I had to check on. So I dialed her number.
“hello Mike,” she said.
“hope you’re safe?” I asked.
“of course I am. How are you Mike? Hope you’re out of harms way?” she asked too.
“why didn’t you call to know if you so care?” I quipped.
“I’m sorry Mike. I meant to call you but I lost a friend today who owes me money and forgot about everything else. I’m glad you’re fine. By the way, where are you?” she said.
“I am at the barracks,” I replied.
“oh, that’s good. You should be safe there. You abandoned me because of that lady right?” she accused.
“please, this is not the time for such talks. People died today, loved ones and…Please…” I grumbled.
“I’m sorry. Alright, the baby’s crying, let me attend to him,” she said.
“how’s he doing?” I asked.
“my baby is doing great. Thanks for asking, bye.” she said and hung up.
Ruth stayed up all night crying. I and my brother tried to calm her down yet she kept crying. The next day, I was in a deep sleep when I heard mum yelling. I immediately woke up and ran out
“what’s it?” I asked, agitated.
“Ruth has gone in search of her sister all by herself,” mum said.
To be continued…