Read Chapter 35 here.
Dante was back in his old apartment. He couldn’t sleep the previous night. He had spent the night thinking: what was going to happen to him now? Was he still going to be working for his father-in-law or was he going to be out in the cold after the funeral? How was he going to take care of the baby? Jackie was married by customary rites but hadn’t had her church wedding yet. If he acted fast, Jackie’s marriage could be annulled without much drama and they could plan their lives together. It sounded so simple but he knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
He put the glass he was holding down when the bell rang. He walked to the door and opened it.
“Hey,” he said and made way for Jackie to enter. He closed and locked the door. They hugged.
“I am so sorry.”
Dante nodded as he buried his nose in her shoulder. He held her more tightly. Jackie felt all of her emotions rushing back. She pulled out of the hug. She held his hand and led him to the couch. They both sat down.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
“No, I’m fine for now. Thanks. So tell me, what happened?”
“Her condition got worse and I rushed her to the hospital. The doctor said it had aggravated but he was going to do all the best he could to help with the pain. I was talking to her and she kept slipping in and out of consciousness. She asked me to get her some water and when I turned back to give it to her, she was gone.”
At least she wasn’t alone during her last moments. It would mean a lot to her that you were with her.”
“I know,” he said, playing with her fingers.
“Started planning for the funeral?”
“Not yet. Will go meet her parents and we’ll start. I don’t know how I’m going to cater for a newborn baby all by myself.”
“I’m sure Cece’s mum will love to do that.”
“Yes but it’s my child. Those people are crazy in every kind of way. If I slack, they will keep the baby away from me.”
“I doubt they would do that.”
“Then you don’t know the Bineys very well, Jackie.”
There was silence for a while.
“So you are married now, huh?” He said, touching the ring.
“Terrible timing, isn’t it?”
“Tell me about it.”
“Do you really love him?” He asked, looking into her eyes. She swallowed and nodded.
“He’s a really great guy.”
“Wasn’t he the same guy who made life at work miserable for you?”
“Yeah…I think it was Cece’s father controlling him then. When he told him off, can you believe he got him fired? He conjured some dubious stories about him. Thank God he had the truth on his side.”
“How do you know he’s still not in bed with them?”
“How do you mean?”
“Who knows, the man could have convinced your boss to take an interest in you and marry you off so we don’t get together when he realized his daughter didn’t have much time left.”
“You think so?”
“I won’t put anything past him. He’s as cunning as hell.”
That got Jackie thinking. Could Julius’ display of affection just be pretense? It felt so genuine but what did she know? Guys were naturally talented at deception.
“Hey,” he said softly, touching her chin. She looked at him.
“It’s not too late, you know. Just take time and listen to your heart. Whatever you decide, I’m here for you.”
She nodded and smiled. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. Jackie could hear her heart pounding. This was where her heart belonged…with him. He touched her face and rubbed her cheek with his thumb. Gosh, this was so wrong. Cece just died and I just got married, Jackie thought.
“This might be the only time we have together. I still love you. I’ve never stopped loving you.”
How could her heart say no to that? When he kissed her, there was no holdback and she didn’t resist. Jackie could hear nothing over the mad pounding of her heart. Was she having a heart attack? Jackie’s head was reeling when he broke off the kiss. She pulled him in for another kiss. He gently pushed her down on the sofa as the kiss deepened.
A harsh knock on the door rudely interrupted them.
“Are you expecting someone?” Jackie asked.
“No…I wonder who it is. No one knows I’m here. Maybe if we ignore him, he will go away.”
There was another knock.
“It sounds urgent. I think you should get that.”
He groaned, gave her one last kiss and got up. He walked to the door, unlocked and opened it. He took one step back.
“Are you Mr. Dante Mends?”
“Yes I am. How may I help you?”
“We will need you to come with us to the station, please.”
“On allegations of having a hand in your late wife’s death.”
“What? Who is the one who accused me of such a deed?”
“Come with us to the station and you’ll find out.”
Jackie walked towards Dante. “What is going on?”
“I’m being accused of killing Cece. Can you imagine that?”
“Please come with us peacefully or else we’ll be compelled to cuff you.”
“You dare not!” Dante was getting angry.
“Are you kidding me right now? Don’t tell me you believe that.”
“I don’t know what to believe,” Jackie said with a trembling voice. Tears had filled her eyes.
“I need you to believe me, Jackie, please…” Dante pleaded, as he placed his palms on her cheeks and raised her head to look into her eyes. She nodded.
“I’m going to go with them. Please lock up.”
“Okay, what can I do? I can’t be seen with you.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m going to call a lawyer right away. Kindly call Debrah and tell AJ as well. She’ll inform you of any developments. I don’t want you directly involved.”
“Okay. Please take care.”
Dante left with the two policemen. What was happening? Who would accuse Dante of such a thing? The Bineys of course. She must leave this place at once. If they found out she were here, they could come up with a story that she and Dante had conspired to kill Cece. That wouldn’t be good for her. What would Julius think of her? Gosh, she needed to be out of here fast. She took her bag and ran out of the apartment.
Edem and AJ were making out when they heard a phone ring. Edem looked up.
“Please ignore. Whoever it is can call back,” AJ said, pulling Edem towards her. It rang again. He looked up again.
“I’m the priority here, Edem. Please don’t pick up the phone.”
“Actually, it’s your phone.”
“Oh yeah?” AJ said and sat up, reaching for her phone. He stopped her.
“What happened to ‘I’m the priority here’?”
AJ gave him a sheepish smile as she tried reaching out for the phone. He stopped her.
“Please don’t pick up the phone,” he said, mimicking her voice.
“Alright, you win,” AJ said and kissed him. AJ’s phone began beeping incessantly. They both groaned.
“Geez…who died?” AJ grunted as she lifted herself up and picked up the phone.
“Oh no, it’s Naicy.”
“What is it?”
“What, Dante has been arrested?”
“For alleged involvement in Cece’s death.”
AJ called Jackie.
“Jackie, what is going on?”
“Please don’t be mad at me…I know it was stupid to go see Dante…” Jackie was crying.
“Calm down…where did you meet Dante?”
“At his old apartment. We were talking and then two cops came over and said he was to go with them to the station on charges of being complicit in Cece’s death.”
“Oh no, this is bad.”
“I can’t be seen following up on him because of Julius. Could you please find out how he’s doing and if he needs any help?”
“Jackie…I don’t know if it’s my place to do that. I’m also married, you know and I believe it’s best we distance ourselves…for a while. If he is innocent of the charges…”
“If? Of course he is.”
“Well, considering the fact that he was desperately trying to stop you from marrying Julius…”
“What are you insinuating, AJ?”
“You tell me. You disappear for hours two days to your traditional marriage ceremony and Cece drops dead on the day you’re getting married and you kept looking at your phone as if awaiting some message before leaving the room. What do you expect me to think, Naicy?”
“Are you suspecting me too? Geez, AJ, I thought you knew me better than that.”
“I do know you are incapable of hurting a fly but I’ve come to notice that when it comes to anything Dante, your brain stops functioning. How can I honestly believe this is all a coincidence?”
“If it were you AJ and I even harbored such a thought, I would have still stood by you. Good to know what kind of a friend you are.”
“Naicy…” The line went dead.
“That didn’t go too well.”
“Gosh, was I too harsh?”
“You could have toned it down a little.”
“This is all messed up.”
Edem rubbed her shoulders.
“Let the dust settle. Everything will be fine,” he said and hugged her.
Jackie arrived at her parents’ house sobbing.
“Nana Esi, what is wrong?”
“Oh mummy!” She hugged her mother and continued crying. Her mum rubbed her back.
“What is it? Is it your husband?”
She kept on crying.
“Your husband called me earlier. He said he’s been trying to reach you. Have you called him?”
Jackie shook her head and kept crying. It took about five minutes for Jackie to calm down.
“Are you okay? Do you want to talk about it?”
She shook her head. “Will call Julius. I just want to be alone,” Jackie said and entered her room.
“What do you mean you cannot get me out of here?” Dante shouted at his attorney.
“Apparently, there are higher powers involved and there seems to be some damning evidence against you, Mr. Mends.”
“What evidence could they possibly have? I had no hand in my wife’s death.”
“Well, the playback from the CCTV cameras at your residence seem to suggest the contrary.”
“CCTV cameras at my home? I’m not aware of any such devices in my house.”
“Then it appears the accuser had your house bugged or something. Now, is there anything you have to tell me? It’s better you come clean now and not when trial has begun.”
“Trial? It’s my father-in-law trying to give me a tough time. There’s no way we’re going to trial on this.”
“It’s too early to tell but now, it’s not looking too good for us.”
“Wow…so it’s like that, huh? Could you talk to Hon. Biney for me? I’ve no intention on spending the night here.”
“I understand. That’s what I’m trying to figure out. If word gets out and the media gets hold of it, this could all get very ugly.”
“Then do your best so it doesn’t.”
The lawyer excused himself and talked into his phone for a couple of minutes. He walked back towards him, shaking his head. Dante tried calling his father-in-law but the number was unreachable.
“If your father-in-law is behind this, then I’m afraid we can only pray that he doesn’t tell a journalist. Why is he bent on burying you like this? Did you two not see eye-to-eye?”
“We were okay, actually. I work for him or should I say, used to now? He knew his daughter was dying of cancer so why for the life of me, he would suspect I did something to quicken her passing is beyond me.”
“Again, I ask, is there anything at all I need to know, no matter how insignificant you might think it is?”
“No, there’s nothing. Trust me.”
“In my line of work, trust isn’t necessarily. Evidence or the lack of it, is what matters.”
Jackie covered her face with a pillow when her phone rang. It stopped and rang again. When it rang for the third time, she groaned and reached for it.
“Hi…are you okay? Been trying to reach you.”
“Sorry…finding it difficult getting out bed today. Guess the stress from all the planning has finally caught up with me.”
“Sorry to hear that. The interior decorator called that he had been trying to reach you to get access to our new place.”
“Oh shoot…will head there right away.”
“If you’re unwell, I can tell him to make it another time. We still have some time before the wedding.”
“No, it’s fine. I can do this. If we keep pushing it back, we will find out that we have nowhere to lay our head.”
Julius laughed. “Alright if you’re up for it. If something comes up, kindly let me know. And don’t hesitate to postpone it if your body still feels sore.”
“Thanks, dear. See you in the evening?”
“For sure. Let’s have dinner. Will call so I pick you up.”
“Great. Take care of yourself, yeah? Love you.”
“Love you too. Bye,” he said and hung up.
Jackie sighed. She hadn’t gotten a moment’s sleep since last night. She had been worried sick about Dante. She had tried reaching him but to no avail. Her heart jumped when the phone rang. She quickly answered it.
“Naicy…Sorry, I know you’ve been trying to reach me. I’m okay.”
“Does that mean you’re out of police custody?”
“Yeah…had to spend the night behind bars though. It was terrible.”
“What? Your lawyer couldn’t get you out?”
“When you have an MP pulling the strings, there’s little you can do.”
“Your father-in-law is behind this? Why?”
“Grieving over his daughter’s death, obviously. I fear things will get ugly. On my way to see him. Just hope he won’t be petty enough to let the media in on this.”
“I hope so too. I’m sorry you’ve to go through this.”
“Even in death, Cece continues to punish me.”
“She really is gone…She really loved you, you know?”
“Yeah, in her own crazy way. I hope her parents let me pay my last respects to her without any drama.”
“Good luck with that. I’ve got to go. Talk to you later.”
“Yeah, will be in touch.”
“News reaching us is that the CEO of Noble Realty, Mr. Dante Mends is in police custody in relation to his late wife’s death who happened to be the daughter of Member of Parliament Honorable Biney. The late Cece Eyram Mends had recently delivered a baby girl and passed away at the Nyaho Medical Center.
According to sources, the police apprehended Mr. Mends a day after his wife’s death, in the company of one lady who is allegedly his ex-fiancée but has kept close relations with. Initial questions raised are whether Mrs. Cece Mends died naturally or if there was any foul play and if there was, who stood the chance of gaining the most. We will be following this case keenly and will inform you of any developments… ”
“Oh no, this is bad,” Edem muttered and took his phone.
“It’s in the news, AJ.”
“Wow…it was only a matter of time. He is a CEO and an in-law to an MP. I hope this signals Jackie to stay far away from him as possible.”
“On the contrary…”
“What?” AJ’s heart jumped.
“It seems Jackie was there when he was taken.”
“Yep…the good thing is, her name wasn’t mentioned but if someone is bent on blaming Cece’s death on someone, Jackie could be implicated as it would seem the two had motive.”
“Oh goodness…why? Just when she got married! If Julius finds out…for crying out loud, why would she even go and meet him? Naicy is giving me such a headache right now.”
“Kindly call her and give her a mayday heads up.”
“Will do. Thanks for letting me know.”
“Sure. I know she’s like family to you and that makes her family to me too.”
“You’re the best. Talk later, bye.”
AJ sighed and shook her head. This could only get worse.
The interior decorator showed Jackie some color themes for the bed rooms and living room. Jackie was excited by the look and feel and also gave some suggestions.
“By the time we’re done, this place will be your little paradise. Cheers to your new life!”
“Cheers!” They clinked their glasses.
Jackie’s phone rang.
“Hi, bestie of the year,” Jackie said sarcastically.
“Where are you, Jackie?”
“I’m at our new place with the interior decorator. What’s up?”
“Chale there’s bad news. Dante’s arrest is in the news.”
“What, why? He is not the first widower in town. She passed away in the hospital. How could he suspected of killing her?”
“Well, there seems to be some motive.”
“A day after his wife’s death, he was found in the company of a lady who happened to be his ex.”
“No, no, no. Was my name mentioned?”
“No…but anyone who knows about you and Dante can figure that out.”
“Oh no, I’m finished. What do I do now?”
“Perhaps you should be the one to break the news to Julius. As unjustifiable as your presence at his place 24 hours after your marriage ceremony can be, I’m sure you can come up with a reason to defend why you were there. Get him on your side before this thing blows up.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“If you need anything, let me know. And please don’t try to be a heroine, okay? Keep away from Dante as much as you can. You have a wedding coming up.”
“I don’t see myself giving you that advice if it were to be Edem in this situation, AJ.”
“Guess what, I don’t picture myself in this situation either. I just don’t want you to be dragged into Cece’s family craziness. You have a lot on your plate already.”
“I hear you. Bye.”
“Is everything okay?”
Jackie turned and met the eyes of the interior decorator.
“Yeah, it will be.”
Hon. Biney’s secretary looked up and saw Dante coming in. She started to get up from her seat.
“Don’t bother,” Dante said and barged into the office. He looked up from his laptop.
“There you are. How was your night behind bars?”
“You think this is funny? You know how much I cared for Cece especially during her last days and you dare accuse me to having a hand in her death?”
“Of course you showed her affection during her last days…you did that because you wanted to be in her good graces, didn’t you? But when you heard that Jackie was getting married, you knew you had to do something, right?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh I’m sure you do. The CCTV recordings tell me as much.”
“Speaking of, why would you have my house bugged? That’s a total violation of our privacy!”
“I know what you did or should I say almost did and I’m going to nail you down for it.”
“Why are you doing this? I’m not your enemy.”
“My daughter gave up her life so she could have your baby. And now all you think of is getting back with your high school sweetheart.”
“So what, this is about Jackie?”
“Of course not. This is about my daughter who only received half-baked love from the man she died for.”
“I didn’t kill your daughter, Honorable. The cancer did.”
“Not disputing that…to an extent.”
“Are you seriously considering sending father of your granddaughter to jail?”
“The thought scares you, huh? I like that.”
“Fine, I’ll face you in court. But please keep Jackie out of the case. I heard that news report and I was beyond appalled. How could you do this? Don’t you have better things to do with your time than planning to ruin innocent lives?”
“Well between insufficient state funds and meetings at the House, I guess not,” he said nonchalantly.
“Do you promise to leave Jackie out of it?”
“Under one condition.”
“Sever all ties with her. I won’t let you keep my daughter writhing in the grave with you two enjoying your happily-ever-after to spite her.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I’ll bury her…along with you, of course and I have enough juice to get that done. I saw her on the CCTV recording as well.”
“Oh you didn’t know she came over to see Cece two days prior?”
Dante was dumbfounded.
“Now I believe you’ve exceeded the time for unscheduled walk-in meetings. Leave and close the door behind you.”
Dante shook his head and walked out.
“Hey, you’re here,” Jackie said when she saw Julius enter the house. She hugged him but felt his indifference.
“Is anything wrong?”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
Oh…oh…did someone already beat her to it? What exactly had he heard? She swallowed.
© Josephine Amoako 2018
Read Chapter 37 here.