▪ ♦ ▪
CHIEF Superintendent Charles Kanayo has just left the Imo State University Teaching Hospital where he’d gone to speak with the Pathologist attached to the State Police command, Dr. Denis Chikelu, on the autopsy findings so far in the Dana Bala case.
Dr. Chikelu hadn’t had much for him, and he hadn’t really expected much either, it had barely been twenty four hours since the body had been deposited by his team at the hospital. Well, however little the information he had, he wanted to update Fr. Chrys on them. So, slipping out his phone as the Police Sergeant on the driver’s seat of the Hilux van sped through the light traffic towards their Station, he dialled the Priest’s number.
“Good morning, Father.” He greeted once the call was picked.
“Good afternoon, Charles, how are you?” Fr. Chrys responded. “Are you on the road?” He asked, hearing the noisy static from the other end.
Charles pushed off the file he had on his laps onto the seat and tried to stretch forward his legs. “As a matter of fact I am, Father. Actually I’m on my way back from the Teaching hospital; had gone over to speak with our Pathologist there.”
Fr. Chrys straightened up in his chair at that bit of information. “Oh really?”
“Indeed yes.” Charles said, noting the instant worry in Fr. Chrys’s voice. “Not much has been ascertained yet, Father. The Forensic unit there, well, not much of a Forensic unit given it’s meagre facilities.” He sighed. “What he can tell us so far is that the bump on the skull wasn’t the cause of death.”
“Not from what Dr. Chikelu tells me. The swelling shows a hard impact to the back of the head by a hard object. Could be anything, but he suspects something made of wood.”
Fr. Chrys made an involuntary sound in his throat.
“The impact was hard enough to have caused a loss of consciousness.” Charles continued, his eyes frowning as he stared out the window. “It certainly was hard enough to leave a bump. But it wasn’t forceful enough to have caused death.”
“I see. Ah, do you have any idea how this hit with a… likely wooden object, may have come about?” Fr. Chrys asked, holding his breath.
Charles blew out a breath. “It could have been anything. A direct hit from someone behind her…” he heard Fr. Chrys’ quick gasp and understood that he must be shocked by this. “Or even a fall backward—she was coming out of the garden obviously, given the fact that her body was lying just a few feet from its threshold. So she may have slipped on something, lost her balance and went backwards to the ground.” That had been one of Dr. Chikelu’s submissions. “And while going down, her head might have hit a tree trunk and caused that impact.”
Fr. Chrys pressed his fingers to his eyes, debating whether to tell Charles the real cause of that bump on the skull or not. Realising he couldn’t as that would be breaking the sanctity of the confessional, and unnecessarily putting poor Cyprian in trouble as that wasn’t the cause of death, he buried the thought.
He asked instead. “So nothing more from the Pathologist, like the cause of the wound on her hand?”
“He would be getting in touch with me later with findings on that matter. You shouldn’t worry so, Father. As I said yesterday, this could all be just a fuss over nothing really. If that bump on the back of the head wasn’t the cause of death, the cut on the hand certainly wasn’t too. It was just a skin slash really. And it might not even be related to the knock on the skull. I mean, one might not have anything to do with the other.” Unless she was being attacked, he thought. “Whatever it is, we’ll be able to round up in the next two days and you can safely bury your dead, Father.” He assured.
Fr. Chrys nodded. “Thank you, Charles. I truly appreciate all your help.”
“Just doing my job, Father.” Charles brushed aside the thanks. “And by the way, they will be opening her up to check for poisoning.”
That Fr. Chrys’ voice had hitched in a gasp didn’t surprise Charles. Who would think of poisoning in a Christian home for teenage children for heaven’s sake? But they needed to rule out every possibility.
“It’s all part of the Forensic Procedure.” He assured him. “We might not have anything to worry about from that angle either.” When Fr. Chrys didn’t say anything, he repeated soothingly. “In any case, all this will soon be over and you can lay the poor girl to rest.”
About to once again thank him, Fr. Chrys recalled something else. “And Charles, what about her diary, any ideas from it?”
Charles sighed. That little diary had been nothing but a revelation into the true character of the late Dana Bala and the unhealthy liaisons going on in the Good Shepherd’s Home. Revelations he knew would shock poor simple-minded Fr. Chrys speechless if he knew. Since he would probably be passing back the diary to him after the autopsy investigation, there was no need to shock him now.
“Nothing from that diary, Father. Just the usual jottings of a teenage girl.” A way-too-knowledgeable teenage girl. “So, I’ll get in touch later, Father. Take care for now.”
“Thank you and God bless.” Fr. Chrys murmured before the line went dead.
He set down his phone and stared into space for a long minute. They wanted to open Dana up and test for poisoning. That was the Forensic Procedure. But… what will they find?
▪ ♦ ▪
JUSTINA walked into the sitting room and saw Anthony sitting by himself on the divan sofa. He had a book in his hand but he wasn’t reading it. He was staring out at the yard through the open window. She strolled towards him.
“Anthony?” She called softly. He didn’t respond, so she touched him on the shoulder, and called again. “Anthony?”
Anthony jolted and jerked around. “Justina!” He stared at her with annoyed eyes. “What are you doing here? What do you want?”
Justina’s eyes instantly clouded. Why was he always harsh with her these days? “I don’t want anything.” She retorted brushing her hand against her light-grey check dress. “I just saw you here and thought you might like someone to talk to.”
“I don’t want someone to talk to. I want to be alone. So leave.” Anthony turned away.
His callous tone made her want to cry. “Why are you treating me like this?” Justina asked in a piteous voice. “Why do you hate me now all of a sudden?”
Anthony shifted from her, annoyed and exasperated. He didn’t need another daughter of Eve nagging him right now. “I don’t hate you, Justina. I just want you to leave me alone. I want to be alone. Please.”
“You used to like me, Anthony. You used to care for me until she ruined everything.” Justina stood up and stared at him with hurt and disappointment. “We used to be so close but she came and snatched you from me.”
“She didn’t snatch me from you.” Anthony snapped, hating the conversation. “What we were doing was wrong and we needed to stop it.”
“You didn’t stop it because it was wrong. You stopped it because you wanted to start doing it with her.” Justina retorted, suddenly furious. She lifted her hand and swiped the tears off her cheeks. “You think I didn’t know that you two were doing it together? I even caught you two once inside the garden.” Her cheeks tinged at the memory, but she continued defiantly. “You left me because she took you away from me. And then she abandoned you and started doing it with small Cyprian.” She said the last in a mocking tone.
She hated Dana Bala, not only for snatching her beloved Anthony from her, but above all for boasting about it to her. That was how she’d known that they would be in the garden that night—because Dana had told her so.
“She didn’t abandon me.” Anthony snapped, turning to glare at her. “I left her. I stopped that evil thing we were doing just as I stopped it with you. And I don’t care if she had been doing it with Cyprian or even all the men in the whole world. I don’t care!”
But he had cared. Not because she was doing that evil thing with another person, no, but because she had been corrupting and defiling an innocent boy like Cyprian. A boy he’d looked on as his own baby brother.
“But it wasn’t evil while we were doing it.” Justina defended, wounded that he would say it was. “You told me it was a beautiful thing. You told me people who loved each other did it. You told me you loved me.”
Anthony coloured with shame and quickly turned away. Indeed he had told her all that. And indeed he had felt like he truly loved her then.
“I was a virgin.” Justina continued in a broken whisper. “You were the first person to do it to me. The only person who’d ever done it to me. I loved you. I still love you, Anthony.” She reached out and touched his arm.
Anthony jerked away. “Love is not about committing fornication, Justina. Love is pure and unconditional. What we did was wrong. What I did was wrong. I should not have led you into sin. And I should not have sinned with Dana.”
“It wasn’t a sin when we did it because we did it out of love.” Justina snapped, angered that he’d pushed away her hand. “It is what you did with that demonic Dana that was wrong and a sin. She came between us and destroyed our true love. You and I would still be together if she had not come here.”
Tears started raining down her face. Even in death, that useless Dana was still winning over her. May her soul rot in hell forever! She had snatched Anthony from her and turned him against her. Anthony, whom she had given her virginity and had believed she would one day marry and live happily ever after with like the couples she read about in the romance novels she had hidden away in her locker. And it would have all happened as she dreamed, as Anthony had promised her, but that wicked Dana had come and ruined everything.
“Do you know what?” She jerked him around to face her. “I am glad she is dead.” Anthony gaped. But she didn’t care. “Yes, I am glad that demon called Dana is dead. She deserved to die.”
Anthony was stricken by her words. He stared at Justina like he didn’t know her, and indeed he wasn’t sure he did at that moment. “She may have been a bad girl and did wicked things, maybe she was even possessed by a demon, but…”
“She was the demon herself.” Justina interrupted viciously.
The malicious glint in her eyes continued to shock Anthony. “Maybe, she was. But whatever she was or she wasn’t, she didn’t deserve to die, and no one had the right to take her life. No right at all to take her life.”
Justina stumbled backward, shocked. She stared at Anthony mouth agape. What did he know? Did he know what they’d done?
“What do you mean by that?” She gasped.
“Nobody has the right to take another person’s life, Justina. Only God the Creator of life can take life.” Anthony said hoarsely, burdened because his heart was in turmoil.
Justina stared, then she jolted, swung around and hastened out of the room.
Her heart was thudding wildly when she entered the room she shared with Veronica and it almost skidded to a stop when she closed the door and turned to find Veronica staring at her with red-rimmed anguished eyes.
“We have to confess, Justina.” Veronica cried out. “We have to go to Fr. Chrys and confess what we did. We have to, before the Police come and arrest us for murder.”
The tear she was holding back started to fall, and Justina slid bonelessly to the floor. What they had done couldn’t have killed Dana… or could it?