He missed his family. His wife, his two sons and his baby girl. Not being able to see them in the last five years had felt like hell. It still felt like hell. He missed his wife so much. Marrying her was the best decision of his life. She was everything he needed her to be. Everything he needed and then some. He missed her cooking. Damn, she could cook. If the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach then his heart was in Grace’s right hand.
He missed his sons, David and Daniel. The last time he saw them, David was 11 and Daniel was 9. Now they were almost men. He missed his baby girl, Rachael. The last time he saw her she was 7 months old. Now she would be walking and talking. He had missed so much of her life. Tears trickled down his cheeks as he clutched the picture from five years ago when Rachael was born.
His only mistake, was being a good Samaritan in the wrong place and at the wrong time. He still remembered her face. How could he forget. He dreamt about her every other night. He had tried to save her life. That was his mistake.
The gate of his cell opened. It was time. Two guards came for him. One of them cuffed him and they led him down the hall. The other inmates yelled. Hurling insults at the guards and cheering him on. He smiled sadly. As sickening as it was, he was going to miss this place. He had made friends and it had even broken his heart when his cellmate died.
This felt like the longest walk of his life.
They finally got to a room. As he entered he saw some familiar faces. The Director of Public Prosecutions, the man that had put him there; The Public Defender, the man that had done a shabby job at defending him. He couldn’t blame him. His salary didn’t require more than a shabby job. Thinking about it, it required less; The Sergeant who had testified against him; the Prison Warden and a Priest. How awesome. He was surrounded by his “loved ones”. The Priest asked him to close his eyes for the last prayer.
He closed his eyes as the memory of that night played itself again:
His car had refused to start that morning. He was already running late. Grace had to use her’s to drop the boys off at school. He opted to take a bus. He hurriedly kissed everyone goodbye and dashed out of the house. He made it to work in time and had a pretty long day. Work closed far later than usual.
He went to the staff car park thinking he had parked his car there in the morning. He remembered he hadn’t. He had to take a bus back but the thing was getting a bus to work from home was easier than getting one back. He had to walk.
It was dark. Sometime around 11pm. He knew some shortcuts and decided to take them. As he turned into a small street, he saw a man walk hurriedly in the opposite direction. He saw his face. He could see the fat scar across his right cheek as the dim street light shone on his face. His eyes were ice cold. On any other day, the look the man gave him would have scared him but it didn’t, he just wanted to get home. As he walked on, he saw something covered on the ground.
It looked like a person.
It was breathing. They were slow, ragged breaths but it was breathing. He moved closer. He removed the covering. It was a girl. She had been stabbed all over and badly beaten. There was blood everywhere. It crossed his mind to walk away, very fast. Then he thought, this was a human being. What if it was Grace that was lying on the ground and a stranger decided to walk away instead of helping her? He had to help her. He couldn’t just walk away. He lightly tapped her shoulder but she didn’t move. He put his fingers on the side of her neck to feel her pulse. It had stopped. He could’ve sworn that she was breathing seconds ago.
He had to do something.
He placed his left palm on her chest and place his right palm over it and counted to three then he pressed hard. He repeated this three times and gave her CPR but nothing happened. He tried three more times and gave her CPR again and then felt her pulse. It was beating again but it was slow. He heaved a sigh of relief. She was alive. He remembered that there was a hospital three streets away. The least he could do was drop her off there. He wanted to call Grace to let her know what was going on & where he was so that she wouldn’t be worried. His hands were covered in blood so he reached for his handkerchief in his pocket and used it to remove his phone from his bag.
Just as he was about dialing her number lights shone on his face and someone yelled “Hey!” He squinted as the light affected his vision but he made out two figures, most likely men.
“Good evening.” He said. “This girl needs help. We need to get her to a hospital.”
They were two men holding torch lights. The directed the lights the floor where he was kneeling and saw the girl.
“Drop the phone!” The first man yelled.
“Wetin be dis?”
“Aaah!” The second man yelled. “O ti payan!”
Jonathan was ibo but he understood a little yoruba and he could understand what the second man had just said. “No! I didn’t kill anybody. She’s not even dead. She needs help. We need to get her to the hospital on Banijo Crescent now!”
“Gbe nu e soun!” The first man retorted.
“You think say we no sabi see! See as blood full your hand and your body, you come dey talk hospital.”
Jonathan was stunned. This couldn’t be happening. If this continued, this girl would die. “Look, she needs help! We have to get her to a hospital!”
Something caught the second man’s eye. He shone his torch on the ground beside where Jonathan was kneeling. It was a knife. There was blood on it. “Aha! Afeez see wetin him use!” He said, drawing the other man’s attention to the knife.
“Aaaah!” Afeez yelled. “Wo Mr man, you are finished today.” He turned to his friend, “Sule call Rafiu and Yusuf make them dey come now now.” Sule brought out his phone and did as he was instructed.
Jonathan was shocked. “Who the hell are you people? Who are Rafiu and Yusuf? There’s a girl here who’s life is hanging in the balance and you’re calling your friends?! Does this look like a show?”
“Shut up your mouth!” Afeez said. “Na who talk say you fit talk? Na we be the vigilante for this area. We dey patrol for here every night. E don tey wey we catch person. Your own don baje today.”
Jonathan couldn’t believe his ears. In minutes he had been pinned to the ground by Afeez and Sule. Rafiu and Yusuf arrived in a pick-up truck. When they came out, he noticed a scar on Yusuf’s face. He remembered the face of the man that had passed by him when he had turned into this street. It was Yusuf! He struggled to free himself for Afeez and Sule but he couldn’t. They dragged him up and he watched Rafiu wrap the girl’s body in a cloth. He then carried her and dropped her at the back of the truck. Then Yusuf walked up to him and all he could remember was his fist meeting his head before everything went black.
Things happened so fast. The vigilantes handed him over to the police the next day. He was tortured and interrogated. He was told that the girl had died and all evidence pointed to him. He denied ever knowing the girl or stabbing her and insisted that all he did was find a badly injured girl on the road and try to help her. The officers who interrogated him refused to accept this. In months, his trial began and he was charged with the murder of Bisola Abdul.
He found out her name on the day of his trial.
All this time, Grace had been coming to see him during his detention as he was denied bail. She couldn’t believe what was happening. She was running out of excuses to give to the boys when they asked why Daddy wasn’t home yet. Rachael couldn’t speak as she was only a baby but she could tell that she missed her father. Grace was confused and heart-broken. Her visits were usually cut short by the prison wardens but he could tell that a part of her was angry with him for stopping to help that girl. She might not say it but he knew. If only he had walked past the body he wouldn’t be were he was today. He was angry at himself. It all turned out to be worthless as the girl had eventually died. He was here and Yusuf was out there enjoying his life. He didn’t deserve this.
His trial was horrible. Grace had stopped coming to see him. She said she couldn’t do it to herself and to their family. He couldn’t appoint a lawyer because he couldn’t reach Grace and there was no one he could call. He had been completely cut off by everybody when the news came out that he had been arrested in connection to a murder. He wasn’t surprised as he usually kept to himself. Besides his family, the only friend he had was his elder brother but he had died a year ago having lost a long battle with lung cancer.
He was given a public defender who did wonderfully well at doing a horrible job. The man all but properly defended him. During the trial he was told that the girl had been pregnant at the time of her death. Then the prosecution fabricated their story. Five witnesses he had never seen in his life, testified to the existence of an affair between him and the deceased. The story was therefore that he had killed her on finding out that she was pregnant as she had threatened to go to his wife. Everything played out like a movie to him. He couldn’t believe it. It happpened so fast. Before he knew it, he was sentenced to death by hanging.
Grace had sent him the picture with a letter. She said she told the boys that he had died. She couldn’t have them know about what was happening. She told him that she had read about the affair and pregnancy in the papers that witnesses had testified to. She didn’t know what to believe but she didn’t have the emotional resolve to continue with the drama.
She was done.
She told him that she loved him and she would keep praying for him. The boys were dealing with the loss of their father but she told him that they loved him dearly. That letter broke his heart. That’s when he decided not to appeal. He was done. The last five years of his life had been horrible. Being on death row had been sickening but it was all coming to an end today.
He heard the Priest bring the prayer to a close as he came back to reality, “…in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.” He was led to the top of the table and he climbed it. Then the rope hanging from the ceiling was put around his neck. He thought of Grace and his kids. He thought about the night before that fateful day. He had offered to bathe Rachael. He remembered her toothless smile and meaningless babble. He didn’t know what she was saying but she just went on and on and it sounded like music in his ears. He dressed her and she quickly fell asleep.
He then settled a quarrel between David and Daniel. Someone had hit the other and it was over the remote. He spoke to them about love and being brothers and how fights never solved anything then he made them apologize to each other and sent them to bed. He felt them slowly drag the table from underneath his feet. Then he thought of Grace. Her eyes, her face and their wedding night. He felt her lips touch his as he started to choke and then……
It all went black.