The Chronicles of Sarah Jane by Nia Eze

Sarah Jane made her way around the building back to the front door. She had been around it twice but had not seen any other way in. It had to be the front door. She looked again in the space that 'good ole Doctor Greene' had said the key would be in half hoping that some miracle would have occurred since the last time she checked and the key would be mysteriously where he had said it would be.
The Chronicles of Sarah Jane
The Chronicles of Sarah Jane by Nia Eze
Sarah Jane blew out a huff in her disappointment. She felt a whirlpool of bitterness opening up somewhere in her, threatening to overwhelm her. She had been back here every month for the past year hoping against hope that she would somehow gain access into the building. No such luck! The place seemed locked down tighter than a crypt. She pulled at the handle to the front door in frustration and rattled it noisily. It wasn't budging, just as it hadn't budged all the other times. As she made to pull her hand back, another hand closed in around hers from behind her. She jerked in shock and reflexively pushed back at the person who had come up so quietly that she had not heard. She felt, even as she turned, the person flung back down the porch steps to the yard. She watched as the person lay still for a few seconds and then begin to writhe as he recovered his breathe. When he turned to look at her, she sagged against a column holding up the porch. "Obi, you of all people should know not to scare me like that." she chided as she walked down the steps to him. "I hope you aren't hurt. I pushed really hard." she commented. "You do push hard." Obi complained, holding unto his side as he struggled to get up off the ground. "I can't seem to help it nowadays." she said. They were both quiet for a few long moments, taking the time to access each other, see how well or not the other looked in the long month since they had last seen themselves. "You look..." "How are..." They both began at the same time. They both stopped abruptly and smiled sheepishly. Sarah indicated with her hand that Obi should go first. "You look...alright I suppose, all things considered." he said on a shrug and he walked up to meet her at the bottom of the steps. "You are too foolhardy for your own good." she scolded as she noticed his slight limp and wondered if she had hurt him more than he was letting on. He sat on the second to last step and patted the space next to him inviting her to take a seat. She hesitated but a moment and then sat down next to him. It felt good to sit with someone and not feel the need to hide what she was becoming, had become. Life in the last few months had not been easy on her. Sarah Jane would never have imagined that her life could ever have turned out this way. She had wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember. She had trained for a substantial part of her life to make that dream come true. She had made sacrifices, forsworn relationships that had had so much promise just to fulfill that life-long wish to be a doctor and she had made it. She had been rising so rapidly through the ranks. She had taken an interest in genetics very early in her career and she had pursued it. Her parents had been so proud of her when she had been accepted to work with the revered team of doctors at The Centre. It had been all they could talk about to family and friends, 'Our daughter the scientist!' How it had all come crashing down. She could imagine that there would be a lot of people who would laugh at her now and say, 'Well, it's only fitting what happened to you. You were going too fast. There had to be trouble on that road.' "How are you keeping?" Obinna asked her as he shrugged out of the back pack she now saw that he was carrying. "I'm getting desperate." she answered with her usual forthrightness. Obi clucked his tongue, whether in rebuke or commiseration, she was not sure. He unzipped the backpack and brought out something wrapped in a nylon bag. The scent of peppery, fried chicken assailed her nostrils and Sarah Jane smiled. It started small and then widen as he brought out yet another nylon wrapped parcel and the sweet smell of her favourite soap bar reached her. "You really...thank you." she said softly overwhelmed by her feeling of gratitude for her unlikely friend. When she had run to him for help that day that her world as she had known it had come crashing down in that hospital room, she had not realized that it had to have been the Lord ordering her steps. "That's better! I was getting fed up with your complaining. It's not going to stop me from doing what I can you know." She snorted out a chuckle as she peeked into first the nylon bag that smelled of soap and then the other. She took out a piece of chicken for herself and offered him another which he took smilingly from her. "There's been no luck getting in?" he asked. "None." Sarah Jane answered despondently. "Don't know why you won't let me break in." Obinna griped. She slapped him on the hand in reprimand. "What if it sets off some alarm or there's some...something that's there that it releases." Obinna was quietly thoughtful for a while as he slowly gnawed at his piece of chicken. "I wish I could say your experiences are making you paranoid." he conceded moodily. They both lapsed into silence as they polished off the pieces of chicken and drink that he had brought her. As they both cleaned up with the tissue napkins that he had brought, Obi began to talk. "I've been thinking of something but I thought I should clear it with you first?" At Sarah Jane's nod, he continued. "You know that briefcase we retrieve from Doctor Greene and his clan is still with us at the HQ." "It's evidence though. I thought of it but wasn't sure if it was something I could lay my hands on." she said. "Well the good doctor said that most of it was untested stuff and that he couldn't say for sure what they would do exactly. Perhaps there's something there that could help you." he concluded. Sarah Jane smiled. She always enjoyed a conversation with Obinna. He had a way of going round in circles before hitting the nail squarely on the head. Very squarely on the head. "How do you propose we lay our hands on it?" she asked. And Obi launched into his plans. CHAPTER 2 "Isn't that criminal?" Her younger brother asked her when she had told him the plan that Obinna had outlined to her. "I don't know. He's the police officer." she said. Her brother eyed her. "You are not dumb sis. Don't start pretending you are now on my account." he reprimanded sarcastically. "I'm desperate Andoah." "Apparently, if you are going to allow an officer in the force sneak out a briefcase containing only-the-Lord-knows-what that would be better destroyed, you are!" he exclaimed. "Would you rather I remained like this?" she queried not sure she really wanted him to answer that question. Andoah turned to look at her sharply and then turned away again. He sat as far as it was possible to sit away from her while sitting on the same side of the bed. Sarah Jane mourned the loss of their relationship. There had been a time when they had been closer than most siblings she knew but as Sarah Jane had began to perform better and better at school, at work and in life generally, they had drifted apart. It was not so much that they hated each other but rather that they were focused on entirely different things. Andoah respected that she was driven and passionate about her 'calling' he just did not think that everyone could or even should be that intense about what they chose to be. Her parents may have let Andoah get away with being 'less' if they did not have Sarah Jane's illustriousness to hold up to him as an example every time. Ultimately, the once close siblings had stayed out of each other's way for the sake of their respective peace of mind and comfort. "Do you think it's reversible?" he asked avoiding a direct answer. "I don't know but I've got to try." Sarah Jane said as she stood up from her bed and flounced towards the bathroom. Andoah took that rightly as he cue to leave. "I think you should let it go." he said abruptly as he got to the door out of her room. "And just be like this? Not be able to interact with people without being treated like a monster? I glow eerily Andoah! I can't go out without covering up like a mummy so that people don't think I'm a ghost. My eyes are loosing colour while my eyesight is becoming preternaturally sharp. I'm scared to hug people just in case I squeeze too tightly and break their bones..." "I know sis. I know." he turned back to her on a sigh. "Do you? I trained Andoah for years and years to be a doctor. Now I can't treat a patient for even malaria. It's apparent even to a child that I have something much worse than malaria wrong with me!" "You've always put too much pressure on yourself!" Andoah snapped. "What makes you think you must always be healthy to be a good doctor?" he queried. Sarah Jane opened her mouth to reply but shut it again. She could not readily think of a response to that question. "Chrissa has been asking after you." Andoah said out of the blues. Chrissa was his wife and had been her best friend at one time. She was currently nursing their young child. While Sarah Jane was exceedingly happy for her friend, she did not feel as comfortable visiting her as she used to before. So badly had her relationship with Andoah deteriorated that she would rather avoid Chrissa than visit and end up quarrelling with Andoah. "How's she and the baby?" she asked. "You could come visit and find out for yourself." Andoah responded. Sarah Jane gave him an evil eye. "Andoah, now it's my turn to ask you not to be obtuse." she responded. Andoah sighed loudly rubbing his hand over his face. He looked steadily at his sister for a long few minutes. "Nobody deserves this sis." he said. "Least of all you." Sarah Jane shrugged. "Life has never dealt anyone fair cards." "This is...'unfairer' than most." "What are you going to do about Officer Obi's plan?" Sarah Jane stared at her brother, wondering if they would ever get back their relationship, wondering if he missed it as much as she did, wondering if they would ever be okay, whether she would ever be okay. Right at that moment, the odds did not look good for her either way. Obi walked out of the police headquarters with his innards roiling with tension. He walked to his car and carefully placed his back pack on the floor behind the driver's seat. He breathed in deeply and sent up a wordless prayer. He was not sure if it was in thanksgiving or in supplication. Perhaps both. He shut the door gingerly, shrugged his shoulders and made his way back into the building. As he went through the swinging doors, he turned back to look back at his car. His eyes surreptitiously scanned the scene around his car. He couldn't see anything to be suspicious about. He turned to walk back to his office when out of the corner of his eyes he saw a familiar looking man cross the gates out of the Headquarters with hurried footsteps. He went back out of the building and followed the man, his inner radar urging him to hurry after him. Just as he made the gates, a sedan car with tinted glass windows sped off from the side of the street where it had been parked. He could not see the occupants of the car no matter how much he peered at the glass. He tried to read the plates but could only get the first three letters, ABK. He looked around the street but could not see the familiar looking man. He huffed out a breath and went back into the premises of HQ. As he went back through the car park, he stopped by his car to check that it had not been tampered with. He opened the door and patted the backpack to ascertain that his treasured parcel was still within. It seemed like nothing had been disturbed. Just as he locked up his car the cell phone in his pocket went off. He checked the incoming call on his screen and saw the name of his beat partner. He picked up the call and said into the phone before Lawrence could start, "I'm stepping into the building. I had to...handle something outside. I'll be with you shortly." He was already walking briskly towards the building even as he snapped his phone off. He was almost late for the meeting. It was the meeting where they would get the necessary approval to destroy stored exhibits that had exceeded their usefulness. He needed to be sure that the briefcase was one of those things. It would be the perfect cover for what he had just done. CHAPTER 3 Sarah Jane sat in her car across from the meeting place that Obinna had indicated. She was wracked with an attack of nerves. Obinna never called her. If he had, that meant he had somehow gotten the contents of the briefcase or...her mind shut down on her as she was overwhelmed by the implications of this single phone call. "What to do, what to do?" she mumbled to herself in a bid to gain some clarity. It was not working. Her mind was still flying around in fits and starts. The sound of someone knocking on her window jolted her. She turned to see the frowning face of Obinna looking in on her. She pressed on the button to bring down the glass. "Were you going to remain there?" He questioned and then when he saw the worry clearly etched on her face, he continued. "Perhaps that is an excellent idea." He went round to the passenger's side and got in as soon as she opened the door. Sarah Jane drew a deep breath as he settled in and pulled his seat belt on. "Why are you so frazzled?" he asked. "Has something else happened?" She looked at him with eyes that were a colour so light that they seemed translucent. "Apart from me feeling and looking more the freak?" She shook her head. Obinna sighed. "It's a bad day today right?" he noted. Sarah Jane felt the tears sting her eyes. She wiped at them hastily not sure that she would be able to stop crying should she give in and break into tears. "Funny enough, I can't tell if my hormones are going crazy or if I'm just depressed or...." she choked up again and fell silent. Obinna leaned over and pulled her into a hug. She leaned into it, accepting the comfort implicit in it as she struggled to gain some control of her emotions. "So what is it that you needed to see me about?" she asked as she pulled away from him. Obinna remained in his position, his arms still curved out in the mime of a hug, for a moment before he shook himself free and leaned back on his seat. Sarah Jane smiled. She knew that Obinna had some feelings for her but she was not ready to deal with it yet. She was equal parts amazed and alarmed by it and she found it rather unsettling. "Well there's good news and there's bad news." he started with a quirk to his eyebrow. "Which do I start with?" "I should be up for some good news." Sarah Jane quipped. "Okay. I got the contents of the briefcase and I think we've been able to bury that case administratively." he paused as if he were waiting for some sort of reaction from her. When it became apparent that there was none forthcoming, he continued. "I got it over to Mahmoud and he's sorting through them. I think he had started analyzing them before, when it was in his custody so..." he shrugged, "No feedback from him just yet but we are on our way." Sarah Jane raised her own eyebrows at him. "And the bad news?" she requested. "I think...that someone is watching me, us?" he said it questioningly. "I haven't seen any concrete evidence. Just things that don't add up you know. A sense, a sixth sense that someone is watching." he had a frown on his face as he concluded, like he was trying to figure out a puzzle for which he had no clear guide in his mind. "What do you mean, watching?" Sarah Jane enquired her senses going into ultra mode as her panic spiked. "I thought the network had been largely crippled." "Yes it has. But since we don't exactly know what it was like in the first place, who's to say that some part of it hasn't gone underground?" "I thought Doctor Greene gave an extensive confession during his plea bargain? That we have a fairly accurate idea of what the network looked like?" Sarah Jane asked, her agitation rising with each passing moment. "As extensive as his instructions to you about that house?" Obinna scoffed. "How do we tell that he told us everything he knows? What if he didn't know everything?” "Great!" Sarah Jane exclaimed sarcastically. "So on top of everything, we have the possibility of a rogue organization looking for whatever it is, with..." she stopped abruptly in her monologue. "What if..?" she turned to Obinna. "Do they know about me? Could Doctor Greene have told them about me?" she asked worriedly. Obinna was staring at her in shock instead of responding. She waited for him to answer her questions but he just kept staring at her. "Obi? What is it?" she asked as she realized that something was very wrong with the way he was looking at her. Obi blinked and dragged his gaze over her. "It's like...you...are glowing a bit brighter than usual. Pulsing even. Like a neon light. Oh just look in the mirror already!" he exclaimed, his voice sounding a bit panicked. Sarah Jane snatched at the rear view mirror and it broke off in her hand. She had forgotten her abnormal strength when under pressure. She turned the mirror to her face and almost let out a scream of terror. Her face was streaked with various colours from platinum to an iridescent bluish-purple. Her free hand came to her mouth as she struggled to make sense of the image in the mirror. It was like lights, neon lights were flashing off inside her skin or behind her skin, she could not tell. Her pupils had dilated to the point that it almost covered her entire iris and it was light. Sarah had never seen any colour like it on a human body. Was grey, ash or platinum? "What's happening to me?" she cried out and threw the mirror across to Obinna. He let it fall where it may as he was absorbed with watching her and her metamorphosis. Sarah Jane shrunk into her seat concerned for Obinna's welfare and confused as to how to act. "Obi what is happening to me?" she asked, her voice mewling with terror. "Let's get you to Mahmoud and Umar. They are still in town. I'll call them to meet us up at the Centre. Don't panic! Calm down!" he instructed even as he got out of the car his phone already up and against his ear. He came round the car and opened the driver's door. "Scoot!" he commanded, his voice brooking no arguments. Sarah Jane scrambled over to the passenger's seat and belted herself in. She could feel her nerves literally jangling as she tried to calm down as instructed. She was struggling for air and her breath was coming out in pants. She was fairly certain that she could see some kind of coloured air coming out of her mouth with each pant and her senses were hyper activated. She watched as Obinna struggled with the keys in the ignition. His hands were shaking so badly. Suddenly, she felt a sense of calmness steal over her. "Obi, I think you need to calm down. We don't want to cause any accidents." she said. Obi looked to her, his breath coming out in short gasp. Sarah Jane kept a soothing look on him, "Calm down please. We both can't be freaking out at the same time." "Alright." he finally responded. "I'm calming down." He took a deep breath and turned the key in the ignition. The car started up smoothly and Obinna felt a thrum of appreciation for a finely tuned engine. "Let's get you to those guys." he said as he set the car in motion and drove them both to the Centre. CHAPTER 4 Mahmoud stood beside the bed and watched Sarah Jane as she slept. Her complexion had mostly regained its 'normal' hue. He remembered the first time he had met her very clearly. She had been walking into the Centre from the parking lot while he had been lounging by the entrance trying to take a break from whatever craziness had been happening inside. He had never considered himself fanciful but it had seemed to him like nature had burst into song at her appearance. His lips twisted into a wry smile as the memories played out in his head. He picked up her hand gently and checked for her pulse. It was going strong. "You need to stop worrying so much. It's giving me a headache." Mahmoud looked at her face which remained quiescent with her eyes still closed but a small smile was playing on her lips. "Glad that you've rejoined us." He said. "Your complexion has returned to...you know, your normal. You're no longer quite as colourful as you were when you came in." "What happened to me?" Sarah Jane asked as she swung up to a sitting position. "We are not sure." Mahmoud sighed. "What have you been able to find out from your analysis so far?" She fired unconsciously slipping into her doctor mode. Mahmoud shrugged sheepishly. "It's like nothing we've seen before. I do not think this briefcase is exactly the one that we first had from Jay. There are things in this one that were not in that briefcase." "Or there were things added to it before the raid hit them." Sarah Jane shrugged. "So nothing at all?" she persisted. "Nothing." Mahmoud agreed apologetically. "Umar is working on them too. He has more experience with some of this so...let's hope he's able to make some sense of it. We are all doing our best." He assured her. Sarah Jane scooted into the bed and leaned against the wall. Mahmoud sat on the bed and turned to her. "How have you been?" he asked quietly. Sarah Jane knew he was asking about the past year so she shrugged. "I'm...I had hoped that the drug would have lost its potency or something by now." she sighed loudly and rolled her head on the wall. "I'm exhausted. Mentally and emotionally exhausted. I don't want to do this anymore!" she shut her eyes against the tears that seemed to be gathering and threatening to drop. Mahmoud reached out to touch her hand and reflexively, she snatched it away. Her gaze shut up to his and she caught the look of hurt in his eyes before he blinked it away. She chuckled mentally at her dilemma. She had to go and become a freak for men to come out of the woodworks, attracted to her. What was it about a damsel in distress that drew men like moth to a flame? She wondered if a 'messiah' gene was worked into their DNA. "I'm a little skittish about contact. I don't want anyone to have to go through something like this." she said by way of an explanation and an apology. Mahmoud jerked a nod. "So Obi, why were you guys meeting?" he questioned. "He was just giving me a status report. Mahmoud, leave it. I'm in no condition to contemplate a relationship with anyone just now." She spread her hand in a 'look at me' gesture. Mahmoud smiled wryly. "I always wondered if you knew." he confessed. "You have been pretty obvious about it." Sarah Jane said on a comfortable smile. She knew Mahmoud well. He would leave her be, at least for now. The door to her room opened to reveal her mother and Andoah. Sarah Jane jerked in worry as they both walked in. Her mother let out a long breath of relief on seeing her awake and seated. "Thank God." she said as she rushed to her bedside. Mahmoud stood up as she took a seat on the bed. "How are you feeling?" she said her hands reaching out to her daughter to comfort her. Belatedly, she remembered her newly developed phobia for being touched and put her hand down, her face looking forlorn. Sarah Jane felt the ache in her heart tighten as she watched her mother's forlorn expression. "I'm as well as can be mum." she replied a small smile on her face. "Try not to worry so much." she consoled. Andoah scoffed and turned around in a show of impatience at that. "How can she not worry?" he asked. "It would seem that just when we think it has done its worse, this drug just ups and does some other strange thing to you!" he blasted. Sarah Jane felt herself stiffen at the anger blazing out of him. Was his anger directed at her or at her circumstances? She couldn't tell. There was an awkward silence in the room after Andoah's outburst. "Chrissa wanted to come." he said, his voice breaking the silence. "I told her you were worried about possible exposure." Sarah Jane sighed. Her condition had taken a toll on her family. Everyone had been on edge for a year now and the discomfiture was beginning to burst out in little fights and quarrels which were hitting their familial bonds hard. "I'm okay now." she said exhaustedly. "Can we get you anything? How soon before they let you out of here?" her mother queried. "Mum." Sarah Jane called and looked over her head at Mahmoud. "Mum, I think it's time I isolated myself. What happened to me today was really scary. I need to...we are running out of time. Perhaps we need to...do something more. I'll stay here at the Centre for some time. At least long enough to run some test." she broke off as her mother began to sob quietly. "Mummy." she consoled tears glittering in her own eyes. "What would you need?" Andoah broke in, his tone brisk even as his voice clogged with emotion. "Toiletries and maybe a change or two of clothes, at least for now." she tried to imitate her brother's brisk tone. She looked up, from her mother, at him. "Tell Chrissa...a little patience. I'll...I'll see her soon." she said not sure of the veracity of her statement. "I'm sorry Mrs. Kwesi." Mahmoud began to speak to her mother who waved him shut. "I know. We need to leave soon. I know." she said as she wiped at her tears. Her hand reached out again to her daughter but stopped short of touching her. "Do not forget to pray." she admonished. "God...God does not forget His children." she sounded a bit dazed as she said that. Sarah Jane smiled as she did not want to worry her mother by asking the questions that bombarded her heart every day since that fateful moment when she had woken up. Where had God been when Jay had been kidnapped? Where had He been when this drug had gotten into her system? Where was His omnipotent power to heal her? Mrs. Kwesi got up and dusted herself. "Let us say a word of prayer." she invited and everyone bent their head respectfully. Sarah Jane smiled again as she thought that she had yet to meet anyone who could refute Mrs. Kwesi when she got going. CHAPTER 5 "You look horrible!" Mahmoud exclaimed when Obinna opened the door of his apartment to him and Umar. They both walked in spritely. Just watching both of them doing so hurt his head. He shut the door and turned back to them. "What's up guys?" he asked. "Called your desk today and they said you were ill." Umar said with a look of concern on his face. Obinna sighed and held his hand to his head as he walked to the nearest seat and sat down. "I think I caught the flu or something." he remarked. "You look...off colour, faded out." Mahmoud said a matching frown of concern on his face. Obinna's had snapped up at the Mahmoud's tone. "It's the flu. Sarah Jane is not contagious." he snapped. "Why are you so certain?" Umar asked him. "She's been staying at her parents, right? Don't you think if she were contagious, there would have been some weirdness going on there by now?" Obinna responded. Mahmoud shrugged. "He has a point there. The family seems unaffected by any 'weirdness' for lack of a better description." Obinna sent him a small glare. "How's she?" he asked. "I haven't come to see her because of the flu. Didn't want to add to her potpourri of issues." Umar took a seat opposite Obinna. "She's okay I suppose." Mahmoud took another seat adjacent to both Umar and Obinna. There was a pause. Apparently, this visit was not as innocuous as it had seemed. Obinna looked into the faces of the two doctors. None of them seemed inclined to say anything at the moment as they seemed lost in their own internal head space. "Okay, you guys are scaring me. What?" "I don't think anything in that briefcase can help her." Umar said. He did not need to clarify who her, was. "Why is that?" Obinna asked cautiously disappointment settling in his heart. "We ran some test that we should have run when she first woke up. Maybe then...but who knows." "Technically, she should be dead." Mahmoud blurted out. Obinna jerked his head in shock towards him. Only then did he see clearly the strain with which he was holding his emotions under check. "What does that mean?" Obinna asked in confusion. "Yes, all her organs are functioning seemingly. They are functioning but it's like her nervous system is in some kind of inertia but it is not. I can't understand it! I have never seen anything like it!" Umar said in a stymied tone. "Guys, speak english. Inertia, nervous system? Come on, communicate." Obinna said, his flu, temporarily relegated to the background. "Like Mahmoud said, technically she should be dead but she is not. Whatever Doctor Greene's serum contained...it's like she, her body is in some kind of cocoon...I can't explain what I barely understand myself! But whatever it is, it is keeping her alive. For how long? We can't figure it out. What will happen should the serum begin to wear out? What kind of changes could it have made to her DNA? We don't have those answers and we don't know if we even have the capacity to find out. Are they reversible?" Umar shook his head sadly. "I don't think we can. I don't think it would be a good idea even if we could." Obinna slumped back in his seat, his headache returning with a worse intensity than before. "So she's a walking dead?" he questioned on a whisper. No one answered him. No one needed to. They were all extremely intelligent men after all. "There is a problem then." Obinna continued after awhile. Both Umar and Mahmoud turned to him with questioning looks on their face. "I think there must be a rogue faction of the cartel." At first neither doctor understood what he was saying then their expression cleared as understanding came. "Did something happen?" Mahmoud asked. "I went back to that address that Doctor Greene had given her when she visited him. As I was walking round the perimeter, I saw fresh tyre tracks at the back of the building. There's a road there hidden by the bushes around it. It leads out to the next street, the one before. I think someone was in that building and left hurriedly when they saw me coming up." Obinna concluded and went on to tell them about the small odd occurrences that had him convinced that he was being stalked. "Do you think they know about Sarah Jane?" Mahmoud asked. "I have to go with the assumption that they do indeed know about her. She is not safe. But you know Sarah-J. With all of this, how do we convince her to...just stay safe?" Obinna gestured his exasperation. "How did she take the news?" he asked. Umar shook his head, "We haven't told her anything yet. But then Sarah Jane is an extremely smart girl. I suspect she's beginning to figure it out. She seems numb right now." "We have to get her to safety." Obinna said. Mahmoud could not help the scoff that came out of his mouth. Obinna turned sharply to him. "She's...she..." he stuttered sorrowfully as he struggled to contain his emotion. "She's alive and breathing. Whatever else may be wrong with her, she's still with us." Obinna reprimanded. Mahmoud's facial expression was stoic. "Does Jay know?" Obinna asked. Umar shook his head. "He has enough on his plate. He doesn't need this guilt trip as well." he responded. Obinna nodded. The conversation lulled after that as each man fell silent, wracking their brains for ways to keep a lady they had each come to love in their own way, safe. CHAPTER 6 Sarah Jane sat on the bench soaking in the sunshine. These days it seemed that she could not keep warm enough. She had worn three layers of clothing but still felt chilled. It was a good thing that the sun was out with extreme intensity today. Everyone else had run indoors to escape the baking heat of the sun. They had turned on the air conditioners to high cool and Sarah Jane had run out to sit in the deserted lawn. She was so still that if it were not for the occasional flutter of her clothes and hair, it might have seemed she was a part of a sculpture placed in the lawn as garden art. A lot of questions were buzzing through her head. She knew that Mahmoud and Umar were hiding something from her. She supposed she could demand that they tell her what it was but she was scared to hear the prognosis. There was no way it was good. She didn't understand all of what was happening to her, but the part she did understand was enough to tell her that it was futile. She could never be what she was before. She had been irrevocably changed. "Sarah Jane?" came the quiet questioning voice. Sarah Jane jerked even as she turned around. She would recognize that voice even in her dreams. "Chrissa?" she said looking stupidly at her friend and the little baby she was carrying. "Chrissa what...how...Chrissa you shouldn't have come!" she said plaintively. "I couldn't stay away anymore. Andoah..." there were tears running down her eyes as she looked her friend over. Sarah Jane stood and backed away from her a few steps staring longingly at her friend and her niece. "How are you?" she asked, her voice a choked whisper of love that she was scared to express. Chrissa nodded her head. "We are good." She came round to sit on the bench that Sarah Jane had just vacated. "I wanted you to meet Maya." she announced as she sat. "I don't want to...I need you to meet her." she concluded raising her eyes imploringly to Sarah Jane. "You..." Sarah Jane smiled wryly at the unspoken words, 'just in case you don't make it.' She shook her head at Chrissa. "You should be more concerned about her welfare. Yours too." "Can I not be concerned about yours as well then?" she parried. Sarah Jane felt her smile widen. That was Chrissa, her Chrissa! "Chrissa no one knows what exactly is wrong with me. What if...?" "You aren't contagious. At least I overheard Andoah speaking with someone on the phone and he was saying your doctors don't think you are contagious." she disagreed gently, patting the baby gently on her back as she began to get antsy. Curiosity pulled Sarah Jane to the farthest end of the bench from Chrissa. "What else did they say?" she asked pleadingly. "You mean they are keeping you in the dark? Why?" she asked in her usual direct way. Sarah Jane smiled even as her heart ached. She missed her life. She wanted her life back. She wanted to be able to pull both Chrissa and her niece into a big come-to-mama hug without being so petrified of hurting them. "Well, I think it's getting worse. I didn't listen to the entire conversation, just bits of it, but it seemed dire. That's why I decided to come see you anyway." Chrissa said gently, tearfully. "I just couldn't imagine... you...I wish this had never happened!" she wailed. Sarah Jane relaxed back on the bench. Chrissa was not telling her anything that she had not already suspected herself. "You know what they say about wishes and horses." she commented drily. Chrissa continued to juggle the baby who was by now making whimpering noises. "It's so hot out today Sarah, why don't we go in and sit instead?" Chrissa said as she grabbed the handle of her bag. Sarah Jane reflexively folded her arms over her chest and rubbed her hands against her upper arms. Chrissa took in her action and seemed to notice the quantity of clothes she was wearing for the first time. "Are you cold?" she asked a frown of concern for her friend touching her face. When Sarah Jane nodded, her teeth almost chattering at the memory of how cold it had gotten inside before she ran out. Chrissa asked. "In this heat?" she reached out her hand to feel Sarah Jane's forehead. Sarah Jane jerked back but she was not fast enough to escape. As her friend's hand connected with her forehead she stilled. It felt like a soothing balm had been placed on her skin right where Chrissa's hand was. "You don't feel..." she bent her head to the side as she tried to figure out what it was Sarah Jane felt like."Your skin feels strange." she commented as she drew her hand from Sarah Jane's face and placed it on her neck and then on her chest as if checking for a heartbeat. "What do they think is wrong with you? I heard something about an accidental injection but what really happened?" Chrissa asked her frown of concern deepening. Sarah Jane did not answer for the first few moments as she was still savoring the coolness of Chrissa's touch. It was lingering, like the effect of menthol or some such balm on the skin. The coolness clung to her as if it would like to make its way into her very being and heal something inside of it that hurt. "Sarah what's wrong?" Chrissa's voice brought her back to the awareness of her surrounding with a jolt. The frown of concern had expanded to full blown panic by the time the haze in her brain cleared enough for her to see Chrissa. "I think we should go inside. This heat can't be good for Maya and Andoah will have both our heads if any harm came to her." Sarah Jane said as she stood and began ushering them into the coolness of the building. "You would think that he had married a new wife or something the way he dotes on her." Chrissa grumbled as she fell into step with her friend. Sarah Jane chuckled. Was she chuckling at the adorable look of angst on her friend's face? Or was it the relief she could see warring with worry and grief in her eyes? She was not sure but suddenly, she felt happy to be alive. It had been a long while since she felt that lifted. She may be experiencing a life changing trauma. She may not know or even understand all the ramifications of what that meant for her future or even if she had a future. But for today, in this moment, she was alive and her best friend since forever, now her sister, was walking beside her with her niece in her arms. She did not as yet feel brave enough to hold her niece, maybe she never would but she could study her cute-as-a-button face as she tried to snuggle into her mother's neck to escape the full blast of the heat outdoors. Sarah Jane smiled. Yes, she was feeling blessed. CHAPTER 7 "Something happened today that I think might help." Sarah Jane reported to Mahmoud later in the day while sitting in his office trying to review her case. She had decided to take matters into her own hands and approach Mahmoud and/or Umar to discuss her prognosis. They had reviewed her notes and discussed her symptoms extensively for the past two hours and were nowhere closer to understanding what was happening to her or what they could do about it. "What?" Mahmoud asked freezing in mid-action and he ran his hand over his head for what had to be the fifth or sixth time since this meeting had began. "Chrissa, Andoah's wife came to visit with the baby." she said. Mahmoud's breath hissed out of him agitatedly. "Why would she do that without checking with anyone?" he asked slumping slightly on his seat. "Possibly because she knew we wouldn't let her come." Sarah Jane responded. "Yes! Why would she put herself, THE BABY, at risk?" "Because we missed each other and she wanted to see me before I died." Sarah Jane said blandly. Mahmoud stilled. "Who says you're going to die?" he asked. Sarah Jane threw him a look of reprimand. "Mahmoud, I am...let's say ill. Of course it's a possibility that I'm dying!" Mahmoud adjusted himself on his seat as he watched her closely. "What is it that you and Umar are not telling me? I feel like you guys are withholding information from me." "Why..." Mahmoud blustered but at Sarah Jane's continued stare, he caved. He explained as much as he could, as gently as he could what their findings and their fears were. Sarah Jane listened intently with dawning horror. She had known that it was bad but had not realized just how convoluted it all was. "How do you even begin to breach that?" she asked in bewilderment. "So it seems like my body is on some kind of lock down?" and even as she said it, a light bulb seemed to flicker for a moment in her head and then turn on fully. "That place, the place Doctor Greene sent me to, it's kind of locked down." she commented turning a considering look on Mahmoud. Mahmoud returned the look as he tried to figure out the tangent at which her mind had just gone off. "What if...?" she looked down at her file and she began to frowningly look over the notes again. "I need to go back there again. I think I need a different perspective." "A different perspective?" Mahmoud repeated questioningly. "Yes," Sarah Jane nodded emphatically. "A different perspective. Perhaps, we have been reviewing this from the wrong direction all along." She got up excitedly from her seat and began to leave the office hurriedly. "Ah, Sarah Jane, you may want to come seat back down." Mahmoud instructed a sense of urgency in his voice. Sarah turned around in surprise to see the same urgency reflected on his face. It was enough to deflate her excitement and she returned to the seat she had just vacated. "What is it?" she asked. "Obinna thinks that you may be in danger and we agree with him." he rushed out his speech as if expecting Sarah Jane to jump out of her seat and walk away without hearing him out. In a former life, she might have been sorely tempted to do so but nowadays, she was learning the virtue of patience amongst others. She nodded her head encouragingly so that Mahmoud could continue with what he had to say. "He thinks there is a rogue unit of Doctor Greene's network." Mahmoud continued. "He did say something like that when we met last. Why hasn't he come to see me?" Sarah Jane detoured. "He had a bad flu and didn't want to come over and contaminate you." Mahmoud answered wryly. Sarah Jane paused to think and asked. "It had nothing to do with...my blow out?" she questioned. "I feared so at first but no, I don't think it is. He is recovering from an honest to goodness cold." Mahmoud assured. Sarah Jane nodded her relief. "Thank God." she sighed. Mahmoud looked up in surprise. "What?" Sarah Jane queried. "I have always believed in God." she defended. "In His existence maybe but I had always wondered if you felt He was involved in the affairs of men at all." Sarah Jane refused to get into a conversation about God so she steered the conversation back to less troubling topics. "So I ought not to go back to the building?" Sarah Jane asked. "But if they already know about me, whether I go there or not wouldn't make any difference. They'd come get me if they wanted to. They proved that with Jay." "It's still better if we don't make it easy for them." Mahmoud argued. "Just like with Jay, we thought moving him to a different town would keep him somewhat safe but it hardly took anytime before they found him and got him again." They both fell silent after that as they each re-lived the horrific journey they had embarked on trying to save a boy who had come to be a dear friend to all of them. "I haven't heard from him in awhile." Sarah Jane smiled. "He hasn't been around much lately." she said. Mahmoud shrugged. "He's living." he said it like that was all the answer anyone would need. Living. "I need to live too." Sarah Jane said. "I don't want to hide anymore." She got up from her seat and stood to her full height drawing in a lungful of air and releasing it slowly on the exhale. "I will go to that house again." She held up her hand to cut him off as Mahmoud began to protest. "I will tell Obinna that he can come with me but one way or another, I'm getting into that house. I begin to believe that Doctor Greene didn't lie to me. Whatever is in that house...I need to get in to see." Mahmoud sighed loudly. "I guess we'll have to content ourselves with that. At least Obi will be there to shield you should there be any problem." Sarah Jane nodded but she was already walking out of the office. CHAPTER 8 Sarah Jane waited in her car across from the building. Obinna sat in the seat across from her. "Do you think they are watching us as well?" Sarah Jane asked. "Who knows? It's possible I guess." Obinna replied. "Do you think we should come down now?" she asked, fidgeting like a little girl. "Tell me again what you think has changed." Obinna said folding his arms across his chest in a challenging posture. Sarah Jane raised an eyebrow at him. "Well my complexion has improved." she started and at Obinna's skeptical look she harrumphed. "It has improved! So I am wondering if something happened that day that Chrissa visited." "So why don't we go to Chrissa?" Sarah Jane instinctively drew back from the notion in alarm but then checked herself. "For some reason that did not occur to me." she wondered. "Do you think that it would be...?" "There's been no report that anything has happened to her or the baby from exposure to you." Obinna observed. "True." Sarah Jane agreed her brow furrowed in contemplation. "What did Umar and Mahmoud have to say about it?" Obinna parried. "I...they think that her pheromones..." when Obinna tried to stifle an errant chuckle, Sarah Jane paused with a frown, "Well everyone has some of those! You're just full of it today!" It was the sensation of being watched that had her turn around even as Obinna gasped in surprise. The door to the building was standing ajar. It seemed that whoever had been standing there noticed that they had been spotted and slammed the door shut. Sarah Jane needed no further prompting as she got out hurriedly from the car and sprinted across the road heedless of the possibility of oncoming traffic even though the road was usually very quiet. "Sarah Jane!" Obinna barked agitatedly as he also got out of the car and sprinted after her getting his gun out but unmindful that he was leaving himself open to a frontal attack should there be any. Sarah Jane did not stop running till she got to the front door. She tried the door handle but it had already been locked so she banged loudly on the door. Just then, Obinna got to the porch steps and whispered loudly and angrily at her. "Are you crazy? What if it's a set up?" "To do what? You know..." she turned to face the door again and shrieked out in frustration, "I'm sick of this hide and seek game! Why won't you just show yourselves? If you want me, I'm standing right outside your door! What's stopping you?!" Obinna was torn between storming up the steps to pull her down and taking cover just in case things turned ugly and he needed to return fire. As he stood there indecisively, the most amazing thing happened. The front door swung open and there was no one standing in it. Sarah Jane barged in through it while he lunged in after her. As he near dove into the room with her, the door slammed shut behind them. Obinna turned towards the door with his gun raised. There was no one standing there either. He did a slow turn around as he looked for signs that there was someone in the room with them but there were none. "Obi, come and take a look at this." Sarah Jane called from a corner of the vast room. When had she gotten there? Obinna hurried over to her, still watching for any sign of activity as he went. On reaching Sarah Jane's side, he realized that what had grabbed her attention was a stack of briefcases all alike and all closely resembling the one that they had retrieved on the day of Jay's rescue. "How many are they?" Obinna asked. "Well, these are five of them plus the two in that place against the door and the six over there." she pointed out the briefcases that had at first escaped Obinna's notice as he had worried about the possibility of an attack. She turned around and did a slow survey of the room. "This place smells like...experiments. There must be a lab somewhere in the building. Where..." A door that had been built into the paneling at the opposite side of the room from where they were standing swung open and a tall man walked into the room from it. Obinna tightened his grip on his gun even though he kept his hand at his side and he moved in front of Sarah Jane. The man raised hands above his head. "I come in peace." he chuckled in sardonic amusement. Obinna's stance did not change and he was grateful that Sarah Jane seemed inclined to cooperate with him on this. "Who are you?" Sarah Jane piped the question over Obinna's shoulder. "Doctor Greene." he replied simply. The name fell like a bomb in the room and had Sarah Jane coming out from behind Obinna. She stalked towards the man, looking him over as she went and Obinna had no choice but to again hurry after her. When she got to him, she stood in front of him and openly studied him. "Doctor Greene?" Sarah Jane repeated. "Yes. Doctor Aloysius Greene." the man stated calmly. "So you are?" Obinna found his voice. "Doctor Edward Greene's son." "I see." was Sarah Jane's response. "I'm certain you don't." came the quick retort in that same sardonic tone. Sarah scratched at her head in confusion. "I never...realized that Doctor Greene had a son. I'm just now realizing we never really talked about his family." "Most work place relationships don't extend beyond the work space." Aloysius intoned like he was reciting something from memory. "Are you his only family?" Obinna asked rubbing his hand over his face and wondering if his brain had been dulled by the flu he had just recovered from. "As at today, yes. I used to have a mother and a younger sister. They both died a few years ago. I guess you could say it was the beginning of this adventure for us." "What did they die of?" Sarah Jane asked half dreading the answer. Aloysius smile sadly. "My younger sister had a fall at her school. It seemed like nothing serious at the time but she was bleeding internally unknown to us. She died a few days later. My mum...well you could say she died of a broken heart literally. She was hypertensive. Nothing was working to bring her blood pressure down after my sister died and she had a stroke. She went into a coma and never regained consciousness. My dad went a bit crazy there. I was doing an internship at the time and I had to put everything on hold to come be with him." "How did you guys come to test on humans? How was your existence kept under wraps?" Obinna asked. "Do you have the time to have this conversation?" "How long is..." "I've got time." both Sarah Jane and Obinna said at the same time. Doctor Aloysius waited for them to come to a concensus. Obinna and Sarah Jane looked at themselves and Obinna shrugged. "Can I place a call to the station?" He asked "Sure. Why not?" Aloysius replied and he turned to walk back through the door leaving them to follow him or not at their will. Sarah Jane started after him and motioned to Obinna to catch up after his call. CHAPTER 9 "So he might be able to help?" hope was very strong in Mrs. Kwesi's voice as she asked her daughter over the phone. "I don't know mum." Sarah Jane responded as she tried to adjust her body into a more comfortable sitting position on the bed. These days it seemed like there was no position comfortable enough for her. Her mum's sigh was loud over the phone. "I...I pray this all ends very soon." she said wearily. "I...how are you holding up?" she asked. "When next can I come and see you?" It was Sarah Jane's turn to sigh noisily. She was not getting any better. The clarity of complexion which had so boosted her hopes had gone over the course of a few days. If anything, it seemed she was worse, paler and more luminous than she had ever been since this plague came upon her. "Are you still there Sarah?" her mum called over the phone. "Yes mum, I'm still here." she responded fidgeting with the bed covers as she tried to think of how to dissuade what was bound to be another tearful and heart wrenching visit. "Do you want...? Sarah, how can we help? "I don't know. Make it stop? I don't know." Sarah Jane said sorrowfully. Mrs. Kwesi sighed. "Can I come on Saturday? Your dad will be back by then and we could both come." she said, trying to inject some cheer into her voice. "I can only take you and dad in small doses together mum." Sarah Jane gave a half laugh, the traces of which cleared abruptly from her face as she continued. "I'm not getting any better mum. I'm reconciling myself to the fact that I never might." "Don't say it!" her mother rebuked. "God..." "Don't!" Sarah Jane half yelled. "Don't do this 'God' thing now mum. It's more than I can take at the moment." There was a shocked gasp and then silence on the other end of the line. "Sarah Jane I brought you up better than that! What do we have if not for God?! Who knows what could have happened by now if the Lord..." "Mum! I'm going to hang up if you go on about what God has done or not." Sarah Jane interrupted. "Sarah!" her mum appealed. "How are Chrissa and Maya?" "Chrissa, Maya and Andoah are fine." her mum sighed into the line. "Baby, I know you are angry but...we are your family. We are all worried. Perhaps we don't vocalize it as well as we should but it doesn't mean we are not hurting too. This should never have happened to you..." "It did mum. Can we get over it already?" Sarah Jane said testily. "Are you over it?" her mum asked quietly. When Sarah Jane did not respond, she continued. "Sarah we...would it be so hard to just let us be there for you? We just want to know that we are not letting you walk this road alone. Let us in." Sarah Jane sighed quietly into the phone. She wished she could cry. In the last few days, it seemed that her tear ducts had dried too. She realized that she must have stopped sweating some time ago but had been too caught up in the big picture of her ailment that she had not noticed when exactly it had stopped. "Mummy." she sighed. "Mummy, I'll call you back." she disconnected the call and collapsed on the bed. The tears would not come. She really wished she could cry. Mrs. Kwesi was jittery. She had been jittery since her last phone call with her daughter earlier in the week. As she paced the arrival lounge at the airport waiting for her husband's flight to be called she was overcome by her feeling of anxiety. She reached for the nearest seat and grabbed it as her legs buckled under her. She dragged herself into the seat and put her head between her knees as she tried to calm down. Her baby was dying. She knew that was the truth of it but she was unwilling to accept it. An announcement came over the speakers but she was too frazzled to understand what it was about. Her eyes scanned the faces of people as they went about doing whatever it was that had brought them to the airport. Life went on. Her baby was dying and life had the audacity to be going on with it. She shut her eyes against the tears that suddenly filled them but it could not stop the tears from spilling unto her cheeks. She did not notice her husband come through the gates, stop to look at her when he noticed her seating by herself on one of the few benches in the arrival hall looking so forlorn. She did not notice him as he strode up to her until he sat beside her on the bench. Then she turned to look at him. "What has happened?" he asked, half afraid of the answer he would get. Mrs. Kwesi shook her head as the tears kept spilling from her eyes. Mr. Kwesi put his arm around her and shifted closer to her. "I was in touch with Doctor Umar. He doesn't think there's a lot they can do." he said in an odd, consoling voice. "She is so angry. Angry at life, at us I think and God?! Can you imagine? I can barely stand the thought of the pain she must be going through to be so angry." Mrs. Kwesi said her voice jerky with her tears. Both of them remained silent for a few moments locked in their embrace. "My baby is dying Luke." Mrs. Kwesi said mournfully as she looked in his eyes, searching for the measure of his grief. "Our daughter." Mr. Kwesi leaned back on the back of the bench, his arm dropping off from his wife's shoulder. "Have you nothing to say?" she asked. "Let's go home dear." he said as he stood up and put out his hand to help her up from her seat. She stared at him a moment longer before putting her hand in his. Once she got to her feet and gained her balance, she dropped his hand and moved off in the direction of the exit. Mr. Kwesi sighed and slung his overnight bag over his shoulder as he followed her out. CHAPTER 10 Doctor Aloysius spread out his notes all over his desk as he tried to make sense of the information in front of him. Silently, he cursed his father for putting another human being through this torment. He shook his head. There was something he was supposed to be seeing but he was not, for the life of him, he was not. He reached for a chart on his far left just as the beep went off on the security monitoring system. Someone had just come unto the property. He paused in his reach and turned towards the monitor on the second desk in the laboratory. He felt alarm race through his spine as he realized he was looking at a stranger. The man was of average height and slightly built. He moved stealthily around the property probably seeking for an entrance. Aloysius was not worried that he would find any. There was no other entrance into the building except through the front door. His alarm grew however when he realized that there were two other men who had been hiding in the bushes at the back of the property. They came forward now when the first man gave them some kind of signal to them. He stood up and hurriedly packed up his notes to lock them in the safe built into a wall in the laboratory. He went back to the monitor to see what was going on. It seemed that the men were setting up some kind of device against the wall on the side where the lab was located. Was it coincidence or did they have some information as to how the building was planned? Did his father send them? That thought alone sent a frisson of fear down his spine and propelled him towards his cell phone. Obinna, the police officer who had accompanied his father's latest victim, had insisted on leaving his contact when he had met with them. He picked on the second ring. "Hello." his voice came crisply over the phone. "Officer Obinna?" Aloysius asked. "Speaking. Who is this?" he responded. "This is Doctor Aloysius. I think that I am being attacked." There was the sound of a shuffle and then Obinna's voice came back on. "Are you at the lab?" he asked. "Yes and there are three men trying to break in. I think they are trying to use explosives." He heard Obinna shout something to someone in the background and then he came back on line. "How secure are you?" he asked. "As secure as can be but I never planned for explosives." Aloysius said drily. "We'll be there as soon as we can. Try not to do anything too crazy." Obinna said wryly. He had really ended up enjoying the time they had spent at the doctor's lab even if he had nothing to help them with at the time, he had promised to do some studying. It was amazing how different he was from his father. The older Doctor Greene was a real piece of work. He was already moving to the door as he disconnected the call, his partner was waiting for him holding the door open. "Do we need back up?" he asked as Obinna got near him. "I think so. Can we get someone from Explosives? He thinks these guys are heavily armed." Lawrence nodded as he moved off towards the offices of the anti-explosives team. "Meet me outside in five. I'll pick Osaru on the way." Lawrence waved to indicate that he had heard him and understood. Obinna winged by his Superintendent's office and briefed him hurriedly. He was given an express approval to proceed with the mission. As he hurriedly left the office, he pulled out his cell phone and punch in Osaru's digits. He was just about to cut the line in frustration when Osaru picked it up. "Boss! Sorry I was occupied." A sharp retort came readily to Obinna's lips but he forced it back for expediency sake. "Meet me outside in five. We have an emergency. I'll brief you on our way out." "Eh, Sir..." "Wherever you are, I expect you here in under ten minutes and you had better not be late." He cut off the call and looped towards the squad cars where Lawrence was waiting with two officers from Explosives. "Morning gentlemen. We have a situation at the address we are headed to and there may be explosives involved." Obinna said as soon as he got to them. He gave them a rundown of the possible scenario they were going to encounter and what their strategy would be and then gave the order for them to move out. Just as they were about to get into their respective vehicles, Osaru jogged up towards him. Obinna cut him a furious look as he slammed the door of the car he was getting into. "I had to run an errand." Osaru excused as he got up to him. Obinna refused to acknowledge his excuse as he tapped the designated driver to move. Osaru had to jump into the car even as it started to move. "Lawrence, brief him." He said shortly as he pulled out his cell phone again. He scrolled to the number which Doctor Aloysius had used in calling him and clicked the redial option. The phone had barely finished its first ring when it was picked up. "Hello." Obinna said. "Hello." a voice responded. It was not the doctor's voice. It put Obinna off his stride as he tried out various likely scenarios in his mind. Had the assailants gained entrance already? What had happened? "Doctor Aloysius?" he asked with as bland a voice as possible. The line clicked off. Obinna felt a swell of dread go through his body. "Hurry!" He barked at the officer at the steering. "It seems we may be late." he said agitatedly. The sound of the engine revving was the back drop to Obinna trying to marshal out a plan B, just in case. CHAPTER 11 Sarah Jane picked up the shrieking cell phone, grumbling about people who would call at unholy hours of the day. She checked the clock on her phone. Or not so unholy. She had lost track of time. It was almost eight am. She had moved back home with her parents after their last visit to the Centre. Her mum had insisted. Sarah Jane would have sworn that her mother's thoughts that day had jumped out at her, 'If this place can't help you, at least come home where we can be around for...' Her mind shied away from that path. She would not allow herself go there. If she was dying, so be it but she would not dwell on it. "Hello!" she snapped as she connected the call. "Sarah Jane?" a strangely familiar voice asked. "Yes?" she responded all trace of her irritation fading as curiosity and a weird feeling of dread began to fill her body. "It's me Doctor Aloysius." Sarah Jane bolted to an upright position on her bed. "What's ...is everything alright?" she asked. Her mind going off in several directions all at once. Had he found a cure? Was it bad news? "I don't think I have much time. Just listen. Do not interrupt at all." Sarah Jane felt the frisson of alarm racing through her increase with each word but she held her peace. Doctor Aloysius Greene was a man who liked to get to his point with succinct directness. She would ask her questions later. She listened attentively as he reeled out instructions at her. Sarah Jane's mind could barely keep up with the barrage of information being thrown at her. "Just in case, there is a safe built into the wall at the laboratory. The combination lock has been changed to your original birth date. All of these instructions and guide have been written in notes that I have kept there as well as a few vials that I have labeled. Get them. You'll know what to do once you have them in hand." Sarah Jane waited a few heart thumping seconds until it was clear he had said all he had to say. "Is there a problem doctor?" she asked. "Why do you sound as if...you would not be able to continue with your research?" she queried. "Say..." his voice was cut off by what sounded like a loud explosion. There was some rumbling in the background that Sarah Jane tried to make sense of but could not. "Doctor?" she shouted into the phone. "Doctor, what's happening? Are you okay?" There was no response from Doctor Aloysius. "Doctor?" she called out even as she was already off the bed and heading towards her wardrobe. Her room door was flung open and her mother came into the room. "Is everything okay Sarah? Who are you speaking to?" she asked in concern. Sarah Jane checked the connection to see if the call had disconnected. It had. She clicked on the redial button as she pulled open her wardrobe and began to throw whatever piece of clothing that came to hand on her body. "Sarah?" The bite in her mother's voice warned her that she was irritated with her for ignoring her questions. She turned to her mum fully dressed. "Where are you going off to?" "That was Doctor Aloysius. The doctor I told you about." Her mother nodded her understanding and her impatience. "I think something is wrong at his lab. He was sounding weird and he's no longer picking his call." Sarah Jane stared at her phone screen as another call she had placed disconnected without being picked. "If he...do you think it wise that you rush over there at once? Why not give it some time and then try his number again?" her mother reasoned. Sarah Jane considered her mum's word for a moment and shook her head. "Something is wrong. He left some instructions. I need to get over there now." she said already moving towards the door and leaving her mother to follow after her wringing her hands worriedly and mumbling what sounded like words of prayer after her. "What's going on?" Her dad called from the balustrade over the grand staircase. Sarah Jane rolled her eyes. She had known it would be a circus moving back in with her parents. "Good morning Dad. I need to get somewhere in a real hurry." she said even as she trotted backwards towards the front door. As soon as she cleared the door, she broke out into a run. She should be tired as she had not slept in over thirty six hours but she was not. She realized that she could function on less and less sleep these days. She called to the security guard at the gate as she jumped into her car. In a few minutes, she had driven out of the compound and was heading towards the main road that would take her towards the part of town where the laboratory was located. As she drove, she tried to call Doctor Aloysius but again there was no response. Her alarm grew as she raced towards the lab hoping that whatever was wrong, she would not get there too late. CHAPTER 12 He was dead. Sarah Jane stared at the stretcher as they wheeled out the body of her new found friend. She had screeched to a halt in front of the laboratory even as police squad cars had started arriving. There had been a rather large crowd in front of the building too when she had first arrived. The police had done their best to disperse the crowd but there were still a lot of people lingering looking unwilling to leave. The attendants were currently trying to load him into the back of an ambulance. He had been a rather tall man so it was a bit of a maneuver to get him in and still shut the door completely. She watched as Obinna spoke a few words with a member of the ambulatory team and both men nodded as they moved away from each other. She saw that he was headed her way and straightened her posture as she leaned on the tree. As he made to cross the road, a news van screeched to a halt on the road just a few feet from her. Sarah Jane quickly ducked behind the tree and watched as a news crew alighted from the vehicle all business like and began to move towards the scene of the carnage. And carnage it was. A substantial portion of the wall on that side of the building was gone. What had been so important that they had risked this sort of notice to get to it? She had no doubt in her mind that the cartel working with Doctor Greene the elder had been behind this incident. And now his son was dead. What kind of man would put his son's life at risk in this way? Or had he not known that his son's life was at stake? She heard the rumble of Obinna's voice as he spoke with the news crew. The cadence of his voice was very businesslike as he answered the questions being put to him with an impressive professionalism. While the interview was going on, the ambulance drove away with the body of the doctor. Sarah Jane felt a genuine moment of grief for his loss as she watched the ambulance until it disappeared from sight down the road. Nobody should have to die like that. She turned back to Obinna to see that he was bringing the interview to a close and was politely shaking the hands of the news crew and making light banter. She admired the urbane way in which he had conducted himself in the emergency. It was a side to him she had not had the opportunity to see before. She rather liked this side of him, very much. The news crew got back into their vehicle and drove off in a cloud of exhaust fumes. Sarah Jane waited until she was sure that they were out of sight before coming round the trunk of the tree. Obinna stood just a few feet from the tree watching her as she dusted off her clothes self consciously. "How are you feeling?" he asked. Sarah Jane studied his face and saw that he looked as weary as he sounded. She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders all in one movement. A light frown hit Obinna's face as he tried to decipher what the movement could mean. "Did you get any clues as to who could have done this?" Sarah Jane asked. "We know who did this Sarah Jane it's how to find them that is the problem." Obinna answered. Unbidden, tears stung Sarah Jane's eyes. That in itself was such a surprise that she stood still in shock as she felt the tear drops trickle down unto her face. She raised her hand to her face and used her finger to gently swipe at the drop of tear on one cheek. She brought it to her eyes and looked at it critically. It seemed normal enough. Just another drop of tear from a tear duct in her eyes but Sarah Jane wondered if that was true. "Are you okay?" came the question again. "I need to get in there. Can you make it happen?" she asked Obinna. The area had been cordoned off by the police and more official looking vehicles kept arriving every few minutes. Sarah Jane was sure that the road had been blocked at some point because only the official looking vehicles had been coming through and they all stopped at the laboratory. Obinna turned to glance at the damaged building behind them and turned back to her. "The anti-explosives team is still working in there. Maybe when they give an all-clear?" he said on a shrug. Sarah Jane sighed and dragged her back down the trunk of the tree until she was squatting. She took a breath so deep that it hurt her chest to push it in. "Why would they kill him?" she asked. Obinna was quiet in thought for a few moments before he answered, "Who knows?" He kicked at the grass at his feet. "Maybe they wanted some information from him that he couldn't give." "Could his father have known and given him up?" She asked. "Would he be so cruel?" "Who knows? Doctor Edward Greene seems to be one that has lost touch with his sanity a long while ago." Obinna turned again to watch the house. Some uniformed men were coming out of the building and one of them made a hand signal towards Obinna. Obinna straightened from his casual stance and held out his hand backwards to her. "That was the all clear we were waiting for. If you are serious about getting in there, you need to come with me now before the bigwigs get in on it." Sarah Jane grabbed his hand and fast-walked with him as they made their way into the building. Once inside, she dragged him towards the door in the paneling that led to the lab. It was hanging slightly off its hinges. The effect of the explosion was visible everywhere. Sarah Jane took note that the stacks of briefcases were still in position if a little less neat than the first time she had seen them. They walked into the lab where Doctor Aloysius had led them that day. Her eyes scanned the room till she located the calendar of charts that the Doctor had told her hid his safe. She walked briskly towards it and uncovered the safe. "What is it you are looking for? How did you know about a safe there?" Obinna asked as the policeman in him came out to play. Sarah Jane refused to take the time to answer him. Time was of the essence. Who knew what would happen next? Her nerves jangled together making her feel disoriented as she unlocked the safe as per instructions. There was a file of papers filled with charts, diagrams and scribbled notes. She pulled the file out and searched with her eyes for a bag to take them in. She could not see any so she slipped the file under her bulky sweater. Obinna was next to her in a flash. "I can't let you walk away with those. It may be critical to the investigation." he said in a voice that brooked no arguments. Sarah Jane turned to him. "Can I at least make a copy? He said I was to get this file at all cost if anything were to happen to him." She indicated the devastation around them to remind Obinna that something had indeed happened to him. Obinna breathed deeply in his exasperation. "I have done things since meeting you that make me shudder." he complained. "It makes me wonder how much more I would need to bend the rules to suit you." Sarah Jane felt her spine stiffen with offense at the censure in his tone. She would not ask if it were not so important for her. Life or death important. And here he was talking about rules. What rules? This could hold the key to her survival and she was not going to let him intimidate or guilt her into giving it up. She turned back into the safe and saw a clear plastic bag containing a jumble of vials and packets all neatly labeled just as Doctor Aloysius had said it would be. She brought the bag out and tucked it gently under her armpit under her bulky sweater. "I promise, I will get these back to you once I make a copy. He was insistent that I would need them." She made her voice as steady as possible as she spoke to Obinna. Obinna watched her, a mix of exasperation and curiosity mingling in his face. "And the vials?" he asked challengingly. "I need them too. There are so many briefcases around here that I'm sure contain replications of some sort of these." she defended and when Obinna raised a disbelieving eyebrow, she continued, almost begging. "You guys won't miss it." At which Obinna huffed. "When?" he asked. Sarah Jane tamped down on her sigh of relief that flowed through her as she recognized that he was going to relent. "Before end of office hours tomorrow, I promise." She turned to leave as quickly as she could. She could hear the 'bigwigs' making their way into the building, asking questions as they approached. "Throw in a sample of everything in that bag and we just might have a deal." he bargained. Sarah Jane joyfully nodded her head. "Let's get you out of here" Obinna said as he led her out through the hole that had been created by a partially fallen wall at one end of the lab. Those crooks had to have used some powerful stuff. There was hardly anywhere he looked where the effect of the explosion could not be seen. When they cleared the building, Obinna looked around surreptitiously to see if anyone was paying particular attention to them but it seemed no one was. He escorted Sarah Jane past the police tape used to cordon off the property. As she made to scamper away, he pulled at her arm. "Tomorrow, before close of business." he reminded, anxiety making his voice stern. Sarah Jane nodded as she rushed off towards the other end of the street presumably where she had parked her car. Obinna turned back towards the building his worry riding his stomach like a wild beast. CHAPTER 13 Sarah Jane moved deftly between the test tubes and beakers which she had set up at one of the Centre's labs. This was a lot more sophisticated than the one where the contents of the beakers and test tubes had been created. She monitored the progress of several beakers, referring intermittently to the notes, charts and diagrams she had place strategically around the lab. She had used a trusted courier service to send back the originals to Obinna along with samples of everything contained in the bag as promised. When she had gotten over her feeling of offense, she had appreciated that she had put him in an untenable situation. He was an officer of the law and he had broken the law for her at least twice. She sighed tiredly, feeling like the heroine of a melodramatic novel. The door to the lab opened and Doctor Umar strolled in. He paused in surprise as he looked around the various precipitating and boiling experiments around him. "I knew we do exceptional work in here but this looks a bit crazy even for us. What exactly is it you are doing?" he asked. "The security staff says you've been in here since the wee hours." Sarah Jane looked up him as he continued towards her, peering at almost all the experiments in his path to her. "Doctor Greene had a son." she announced blandly. Umar raised an eyebrow in surprise and then frowned. "Had?" he questioned. "He died..." Sarah Jane consulted the watch on her wrist, "Yesterday morning. I'm certain you would have heard about the explosion that happened on the news." "There was a passing mention of something like that. A residential building, gas or some such thing." When Sarah Jane just continued with her test tubes not paying him any mind, he stood in front of her, firmly planting his feet to get her attention. She looked quizzically at him. "Was it a domestic accident? Somehow I don't think you'd say it was." "It wasn't." Sarah Jane answered shortly. "What happened?" Umar asked. Sarah Jane sighed as she relented and decided to answer his questions. Umar would not stop asking until he got the answers he wanted. She indicated that they hop unto a pair of stools and she gave him a brief rundown of what happened, starting with her meeting with the elder Doctor Greene in prison. When she had finished, both of them remained silent for a few moments staring blankly into space as the contents of tubes and beakers condensed and titrated around them. Umar shook his head as he straightened in his seat. "This whole drama just keeps getting more confusing." he said in consternation. Sarah Jane continued writing in the notepad she had kept beside her. "What do you think they were looking for in the building?" he asked her. Sarah Jane shrugged. "How would I know?" Umar cast sly glance at her. "Obi hasn't kept you informed?" he asked cheekily. Sarah Jane sighed. "I think he's upset with me." she said. She was surprised at how forlorn she felt since yesterday. He had not picked up any of her calls to him neither had he responded to her text messages. He had not even acknowledged receipt of her parcel to him. She had had to call the courier service to find out if it had been delivered. "Ah! A lover's tiff?" Sarah Jane sent him a nasty glare. Umar chuckled even as he shivered. "You know, your eyes get really scary when you do that. Who would have guessed that Sarah Jane had such bite to her when your eyes were a lovely dark brown?" Sarah Jane hissed her displeasure. Umar sobered up quickly. "So these are from the safe in his office? What was he hoping to find?" "I think he was trying to understand what had happened with me. From all that I have read of his notes, it would seem that someone is trying to produce a drug that would interfere with human immunity." When you say 'human immunity' what does that mean?" Umar asked as he came around to look at her notes with her. "Doctor Greene called it a bolster when he mentioned it during my visit with him in jail. I think that is what the intention was but apparently..." she drew a hand down her side to indicate her current state. "It's not working as expected just yet." Doctor Umar was quiet for a few moments. "They have no qualms about testing on humans. In fact..." "They'd rather test on humans." Sarah Jane finished for him. "Do you think that Jay might have been given a shot of some such thing?" Umar asked. Sarah Jane perked up at the possibility. "It never occurred to me or any of us." she said. "Yes, because we did not know what else they were doing? So this confirms Obinna's suspicion that there is a rogue cartel." Sarah Jane sighed and banged her head in frustration on the surface of the desk in front of her. "I can't stand the thought of someone else going through what Jay and I have been through." she whispered. Umar reached out a hand to tap her back but stopped short of completing the action as Sarah Jane's back tensed. When his hand remained suspended in the space above her back but did not drop, she released her pent up breath. "You might as well let it drop. I've realized that I am not contagious that way." Umar smiled his agreement and did indeed tap her back in a friendly manner. Sarah Jane smiled her amusement. "So what do we do now?" Umar asked. "I'll follow through with Doctor Aloysius' instruction. For now, that's all we can do." "And hope that the police are able to bust this on time." Umar added. Sarah Jane remained silent. 'How did you fight a group that seems to come out of the shadows?' she thought even as her head began to droop drowsily. "Come on. Let's get you a bed. When last did you sleep?" Umar asked going into doctor mode. "I have these experiments to finish." Sarah Jane protested. "And you may miss something critical because you're sleepy. Besides, you are still my patient and I insist." When she stubbornly refused to move he tried another tactic. "I promise, if anything begins to happen, I'll send for you immediately." Sarah Jane looked intently at Umar. She had never known him to not keep his word so she nodded and allowed him steer her to the door and yell loudly for a nurse. When one came running, he gave his instructions for what should be done for her and handed her over to the nurse. "Thank you Nurse Sumbo." Sarah Jane yawned tiredly. She could not remember ever being so out of it. "For you Doctor Kwesi? Anything!" Nurse Sumbo said cheerily as she led her off to the observation room as per Doctor Umar's instructions. CHAPTER 14 The omelet was a dark brown that was not intended. Obinna sighed as he turned off the gas burner and dumped the perforated spoon back in the skillet. It seemed that he could do nothing right today. It had started when he woke up this morning with a feeling of such lethargy that he had struggled to get out of bed and get dressed for work. Then he had mistaken his aftershave lotion for toothpaste. Fortunately the distinctive smell of the lotion had saved him from putting it in his mouth before discovering his error. He picked up the skillet and studied the content critically, trying to decide if it could still be considered edible. He had been brought up with dire warnings and threats over wasting food and it was still hard for him to do so. When he concluded that the omelet had indeed been burnt beyond redemption, he emptied it into the trashcan. He finally accepted what ailed him. He missed Sarah Jane. He smiled wryly at that thought. He could pick up the phone at anytime and call her. She could have called him too but he guessed it was indicative of how upset with him she was that she had not. If for nothing else, she would have peppered him with calls trying to subtly get information on the case from him. He really wanted to apologize in person for losing his patience with her on the day that Doctor Aloysius died. It was after he had come down from the adrenaline high that he realized how hurt she must have felt by his careless remarks. He really should not have to go into the office today but things had gotten crazy again after Doctor Aloysius' death. The haul they had gotten in from the laboratory was going to keep several teams busy for various months trying to chase down all the possible leads that had opened up on various cold cases. Then there was the niggling worry that there was still something that they were all overlooking. Obinna decided he was not going to risk another egg in his current state of mind. He'd pick something up on his way in to the office. He finished dressing up and pulled on his jacket as he left his apartment. He locked up the door and turned to walk into the car when the sight of Sarah Jane leaning against it knocked the breath out of him. "I decided that if Mohammed would not come to the mountains, then the mountains would definitely go to Mohammed." she quipped as she straightened from the car. "It's been a crazy few days." He responded as he strolled in what he hoped what was a leisurely way towards the car when what he really wanted to do was grab her in a hug and twirl her around in the joy of seeing her. "I can imagine." she agreed as she walked around to the passenger door and waited. Obinna looked around for her car and when he did not see it, he asked, "How did you get here?" "My dad dropped me off. He had an early appointment and he was going to pass by here so...I asked for a lift." she shrugged. "Oh." Obinna said nonplussed. He was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. She came to see him and that was good enough for him. "Aren't going to unlock the doors? I imagine you are running a bit late already." Sarah Jane scolded. Obinna smiled as he unlocked the doors and watched her get in and fasten her seatbelt before he could even get one foot in the door. "Are you worried I'm going to send you away or something?" he asked as he slid into the driver's seat and pulled his own seat belt. Sarah Jane let out a huge sigh as she responded. "You would...I wouldn't blame you. You were right. I do put you in some untenable situations. I'm sorry." she apologized in her most heartfelt voice. Obinna couldn't help it, he burst out laughing. Sarah Jane stared at him in confusion as he tried to control his laughter. "Apology accepted." he chuckled as he finally got some measure of control over his mirth. "I was finally going to give in and come speak to you today." he continued. "You just beat me to it." "Oh." It was Sarah Jane's turn to be nonplussed. Obinna started the car and slid out of his parking space unto the main road. As he drove to connect to the highway he asked. "Where do you want to go now?" "I was hoping you could drop me off at the Centre. We are trying to make sense of the experiments Doctor Aloysius was conducting before he di...was killed." Obinna was quiet for a moment as he tried to absorb her choice of words and what it might imply. "Have you guys had any luck figuring it out?" he asked. "Not really. We have agreed though that he must have been working on some kind of immunity booster amongst other things." she had a slight frown on her face by the time she finished talking. "What?" Obinna asked. "Noth...Something just occurred to me. We have been so busy following this one trail that made some sense to us. What if he was actually working on several unrelated things at the same time?" "How do you mean?" Obinna asked. "We just assumed that it had to be the cartel that was behind this right?" Sarah Jane prompted. Obinna nodded to indicate that he was following her so far. "But what if it actually is not that cartel? What if there are others? The pharmaceuticals for instance? Or the manufacturing?" "Make sense Sarah Jane." Obinna said. "What if we are not dealing with that cartel but several? Like Doctor Aloysius was a contract scientist working on several patents you know, that kind of thing? Sarah Jane said excitedly. Obinna weighed the logic of it for several moments and then nodded consideringly. "It bears checking out." he said slowly. "So there would be a whole lot of people who paid for some service." He palmed his forehead. "This case has given me a headache consistently first thing every morning for the past one week." Sarah Jane made a tut-tut sound of commiseration as Obinna turned into the complex that held the Centre and pulled to a stop at the main entrance. He turned to look over Sarah Jane more fully as if he wanted to save the memory of her somewhere for frequent visits in his mind during the day. Sarah Jane smile widely at him. "Have a great day Obi." she said. "You too." Obinna smiled back and released the locks on the car. Sarah Jane got out and waved at him as he executed a neat u-turn and drove out the way he had come. Sarah Jane made her way up the front steps and into the building with a much lighter load in her heart than she had had all week. CHAPTER 15 The car skidded to a screeching halt at the entrance to the building. Mahmoud ran out to meet them, collecting the unconscious form from the limp arms of her weeping mother. "When did you realize what was happening?" Mahmoud asked as he carried Sarah Jane's limp form into the building. He was met at the entrance by a team of nurses and Umar with a stretcher. "I had breakfast ready for her as usual but she didn't come down as per usual. I thought perhaps she was delayed but after an hour or so, I decided to go check on her. She didn't answer to my knock so I went in and that's when I saw her." her mother broke into sobs again. "So we can't say exactly when she became unconscious." Mahmoud sounded beyond exasperated and worried. "I spoke with her...that is we were watching TV together till late. Possibly after midnight." her father supplied. Mahmoud nodded. "At least that narrows it down to sometime after midnight." They had gotten to the door leading into the theaters so he turned from watching that the IV lines were being inserted properly to snag Umar's attention. Umar nodded at him as he headed off Sarah Jane's parents to a waiting area. "Let's go this way. We will try to see if we can resuscitate her and also find out what might have happened." "Do you think...? She looked so pale!" Mrs. Kwesi cried. Her husband put his hand around her and pulled her to lean on him as her strength gave out and her legs buckled beneath her. "Please Mrs. Kwesi!" Mahmoud pleaded. "I don't want to tell her you collapsed when she wakes up!" Mrs. Kwesi looked up at Mahmoud the question in her eyes as plain as day, 'Will she wake up?' but before she could ask it, the door to the waiting area was burst open by Andoah. Mahmoud sighed in relief. "How is she?" Andoah asked his voice so sharp that it was painful to the ear drum. "Unconscious. Good thing you are here. You need to calm down and calm your parents down. Umar is in surgery with her and who knows but that he'll need all the help he can get." Mahmoud said as he edged towards the door. He was antsy to see her and be sure that she was...at least okay. The look of tension did not ease from Andoah's face but he nodded his understanding and went to where his parents were seated on the sofa, his mother sobbing noisily into his father's shirt with him mumbling words at her even though the horror and tension of seeing his daughter in the condition they had met her in her room, was still alive in his eyes. "Andoah, Sarah Jane..." his mother cried out when he got close enough, reaching her hand to him. Andoah grabbed her hand reflexively, the frightened little boy in him looking for comfort from his mother as incomprehensible events unfolded around him. "She'll...She's in good hands mum. The very best she can have right now." he comforted as he squatted down before her. He extended his other hand to clutch his father's upper arm and have his clutched by his father in turn. Mahmoud almost ran in his haste to get to Sarah Jane. At least, the rest of the Kwesi clan would hold each other up. No matter which way the news went, they would be there for each other. Obinna was at the very end of his patience as he listened to yet another crook mouth off at him and his partner as they tried to interrogate him. He had been edgy today. It seemed all the wires and nerve endings in his system were crossing themselves. He wanted this interrogation over so that he could go figure himself out. Maybe when he called Sarah Jane, he would feel better. She had a way of talking him down when he was in one of his 'out-of-sorts' moods. He had tried to reach her last night but her phone had gone directly to voice mail. That was odd but he figured that perhaps she was tired or busy and he would just call her in the morning. Then morning had come and his boss' call had gotten him up and out of bed at the crack of dawn with an emergency. He had barely had time to think much less remember that he had meant to call Sarah Jane. It was late afternoon now and he had barely eaten all day. He was hungry and cranky and exhausted and he just wanted this day to be over. He needed eat a good meal, check in with Sarah Jane and fall into bed and crash in exactly that order. He looked over at his partner and realized that he had been subtlety trying to snag his attention. When he saw that he had, he eyed him with a small nod to indicate that he felt they were done with the bozo sitting across from them. Obinna stood and knocked on the door twice with deliberation and emphasis as per their agreed signal for when the interrogation was over. A few moments passed and he heard the key rattle in the door. The door swung open to reveal two burly officers dressed in their uniforms. He gave them a quick nod and they nodded back and marched in to physically remove the man they had been interrogating. The man on seeing the uniformed officers and the handcuffs began to demand loudly for his rights and his lawyers. None of the officers, both the uniformed pair and the plain clothed pair responded to his demands. They just went about their duties, ignoring him completely as if no one had spoken. When his voice had faded as the burly pair dragged him off to the holding cells, Obinna turned to Lawrence to speak but Lawrence beat him to it. "Is everything alright?" he asked as he gathered up papers, tape recordings and other whatnots of their interrogations. Obinna frowned and rubbed his hand over his face. "I'm hungry and tired and generally...out of sorts." Obinna replied. Lawrence nodded his understanding. "Let's hope that when we report in, nothing else comes up and we can get out of here and go eat." Obinna nodded as he held the door open for Lawrence to go through. Mercifully, Lawrence's hope came through and they were let off without further claims on their time. They both stepped out of the building and breathed in the evening air deeply into their lungs. The fresh tanginess of the air felt good. It had been a nasty day. The propensity for meanness in man never failed to astonish Obinna and a lot of officers, never mind how long they had been on the force. "You want to go by the joint and grab something before heading home?" Lawrence asked. "I'm too keyed up to go home directly." he said. Obinna had heard a lot of his fellow officers who were married express the same thing. That it was sometimes very difficult to go home to loved ones when you had just been in touch with, God forgive him, the bottom dregs of society. It felt like you had to diffuse their evilness somehow from your being, reduce the potency of their effect on your essence before you went home to the goodness of family and loved ones, lest you infect them with it. Obinna shook his head tiredly. "I'll just head on home. I'm so tired I can barely think talk less of mix." He said as they strolled to where their vehicles were parked. Lawrence shrugged. "I'll just head there then. Some of the other guys are there already. Just hang out a bit." Obinna gave him a thumb up sign as he got into his car and gunned the engine. He still felt out of sorts. He checked his phone. There were some text messages from an assortment of friends and family but none from Sarah Jane. He scrolled to her number on his call log and dialed. Again, he got her voice mail. He contemplated driving by the Centre on his way home to check on her. He looked at the time on his dashboard and tried to judge if he would still catch her at work. He shrugged. It would be a quick visit. Just to check in on her and be sure that she was not overdoing things. He smiled in anticipation of seeing her again as he shifted gears and zoomed off. CHAPTER 16 Obinna sat in the chair and leaned his elbows on the edge of the mattress. He had run out of words to say. He had told her everything he had to say. How she lit up his day and his world, his relief every day when he got here to see that she had made it to yet another day. Breathing, if nothing else at least she was breathing. He had gotten to know her family pretty well in the past few months, her dad and his quiet strength, her mum and her passionate nature, her brother and his young family and especially her best friend and sister-in-law Chrissa. He and Chrissa had talked a lot as they sat keeping vigil over their friend's breathing body. They had talked of everything and anything, each eager for information about an aspect of their friend's life that they had not been allowed into previously. Obinna found that Sarah Jane had, well always been Sarah Jane! That she had been just as stubborn, just as willful, just as passionate and purposeful as she was as an adult as a child. He learned that she had always been quiet, that at some point she had been painfully shy but had slowly overcome her shyness as she grew older. He found out that her relationship with her brother had deteriorated as she had become more and more immersed in her work as a doctor and her burgeoning interest in genetics. That it had taken disaster to bring them both to talking to each other. The toll it had taken on their relationship and how they had just begun to rebuild it when she had gone into this state of unconsciousness again. Obi told her of Sarah Jane's dedication, her willingness to push herself to the limit with no hope of any other reward than that she had gotten it done right, whatever it was. He told her of her friendship to him, of his feelings towards her and how scared he had been that she would turn him down, that he somehow did not measure up to her and how he was hoping with all his heart that she would wake up so he could tell her and see if they had a chance. Chrissa thought that Obinna was either a very brave young man or a very reckless one but she liked him. He would be good for Sarah Jane, may the Lord show them all mercy and let her wake up again. They all worried about what she would wake up to. What will have happened to her when she woke up? What would they have to hold her hands through? There was none more worried than Mahmoud. He stood by the door, leaning against its post and watching Obinna. He was apparently lost in thoughts because Mahmoud had been standing there watching him for a while but he was yet to realize it. "Do you sometimes wonder if it might not be better if she never awakens?" he called out as he straightened out and walked into the room. Obinna whipped around to face him. "Have you been there long?" he asked as if just realizing how out of it he had been. Mahmoud made a demurring shake of head. "Not so long." he answered as he pulled the second visitor's chair closer to Obinna and the bed. "How are you doing?" he asked him both as a friend and as a doctor. Obinna sighed. "I will be so much better when she wakes up." he responded. "You should take care of yourself." Mahmoud chided mildly. "You don't want her waking up to you broken down and all that." he held his crossed fingers up between him and Obinna. Obinna felt his breathe catch and release, 'If she woke up'. How he hoped that she would! As he came off the prayer cloud he had just been caught on, the reality of what Mahmoud was saying sunk in. Though both of them had never openly acknowledged it, they had both realized very early that they were rivals for Sarah Jane's heart. Obinna looked at Mahmoud, trying to decipher what had gone on in his mind to make him say that. 'Was he saying something even?' Obinna did not want to ask. He had met Mahmoud through Umar who he had met in secondary school where they had become fast friends in spite of their different religious beliefs and tribe. Their friendship had grown tighter as the years had worn on and when they had both gone off to different schools, in different countries for further studies, it had not waned. He wasn't as close to Mahmoud who he had always sensed some reserve from. They had not seen each other in many years until Jay's case had brought them all together again. And till now, there had been the specter of their feelings for Sarah Jane between them. 'What had just happened?' Obinna wished he was comfortable enough in his friendship with Mahmoud to ask him outright. He was a good fellow, Mahmoud was. But he was unwilling to give up Sarah Jane just to placate him, if she would just wake up. Pray she woke up. CHAPTER 17 She had woken up screaming her lungs out, her voice had been so loud with an unnamed terror that it had hurt to hear her. The shrill cry had brought almost everyone running to her room. The only person who had not come running there was Umar. He had been at the lab, in the middle of a critical moment when the screaming had started. It had been a mercy that he had not dropped the beaker he had been holding at the time. She was sleeping peacefully now, at least it seemed so. They were all waiting with bated breath, hoping that it was not a fluke. That this was regular sleep that she would wake up from in a few hours not another few months. Obinna burst into the room with one of the staff nurses hot on his heels. "Doctor, I tried to tell him that he couldn't come in here now." she explained to Umar as she panted out her breath. Umar wove her away. "It's alright Nurse. It is alright." he said and then he gripped Obinna by his upper arm and dragged him to a seat. He looked just about ready to collapse. "I thought she was awake." he gasped as he tried to control his breathing. "She was. She was awake for some fifteen or so minutes and then she clocked out." Umar responded. Obinna glanced at him sharply at his choice of words. "We hope it's just normal sleep. It seems to be just normal sleep." Umar continued in a soothing voice. Obinna relaxed only slightly. He looked at the sleeping form on the bed, his thoughts going off at different tangents in fits and starts. "Has Mahmoud seen her?" he finally asked as his thoughts mellowed. "He got here before I did." Umar answered simply. Obinna nodded even though he was not sure why. He took a deep breath and was about to ask another question when there was a knock on the door. "Doctor," the same nurse who had chased Obinna down poked her head through, "her parents are here." she said. Umar looked at Obinna. "Come on." he said as he stood up. "Let's head to my office so we can all review our options together." "Review options? Is something wrong?" Obinna asked. "Apparently." Umar joked as he got both of them out the door. "She's been in a coma. At the very least, she'll need some sort of physical therapy. At worst, who knows how bad it can get?" he finished solemnly. Sarah Jane was fairly certain that she was awake. In fact, she was fairly certain that her eyes should be wide open. She tried to wipe her hand across her face but yowled as she felt the extremely painful jerk of what must be an IV line hooked up to her and put her hand down. She tried the other hand and there was no jerk or restriction. She put it up to her face to see if there was something blocking her view. She felt the skin on her cheeks and followed the trail up to her eyes. It was just skin. She held her hands in front of her and then brought it down to her forehead. She felt her skin and the sheen of perspiration on it. She heard the approaching footsteps on the other side of her door. She realized that the door was to her right. The door opened and she turned towards the sound hoping that she would see a familiar face but saw nothing. At least, nothing that made sense. It seemed like a sheet of white light with the occasional wriggle. "Oh good! You are awake. We were starting to get...what's wrong?" the nurse asked as the frightened look on Sarah Jane's face began to register with her. "I can't see." Sarah Jane complained and that was all it took for her to realize that she had gone blind. Was it going to be a permanent condition? Could she dare hope to recover her sight in the not so distant future? Like right now? 'This on top of everything else.' she thought and she began to cry in big gulping sobs. "I will go get Doctor Umar. He..." Sarah Jane heard the sound of retreating footsteps as the nurse fled from the room to go call the doctor. Sarah gave release to her tears and cried even harder. 'Blind as a door mouse.' The phrase chased through her head. How fitting it was. She felt like a lab rat. This serum, bolster, whatever it was she had gotten injected with, was holding sway in her body, turning it inside out, upside down, whichever way and there was no way to stop it, maybe until it finally killed her. What next would it do before it took her life? What other torturous experience did it have planned for her? At least, she won't get to see how badly it had destroyed her looks. No, that agony would have to be borne by others instead. She did not know whether or not to feel grateful about that. There was a rush of footsteps, definitely more than one headed down the corridor outside her door. She tried to sit up gingerly and had just successfully swung one leg over the edge of the bed when the door was opened. She sniffed the air. How was it that she had never consciously realized until this moment that Obinna had a peculiar smell? Oh, she knew that she must have known on some subconscious level if not, she would not have recognized the smell but she was only just now acknowledging that she could smell it. She turned towards the sound of the door shutting. It was all white. She couldn't see her beloved Obinna's face. "Obi? Who is with you?" she asked her voice hoarse with long disuse and all that sobbing. Silence greeted her question. She would have wondered if she had imagined the door opening and all those footsteps if she had not continued to smell Obinna. "Obi?" she called out again. "It's me. Can you see me?" he asked. Sarah Jane was so overcome at the sound of his voice that she could only shake her head as she tried to savour the sound of it. "So you can't see us?" Umar asked and Sarah Jane smiled. "No, I can't but it's so good to hear you guys. At least, I haven't lost my hearing." she joked. She held out her hand in front of her trying to hold on to someone. Someone came close and she grabbed a fistful of the person's clothes. It was Obi. She checked herself and resisted the temptation to draw him closer for a huge sniff. It felt good to be alive even if she could not see. "How do I look? Colourful again?" she asked as the thought occurred to her. Obinna shook his head and then realized that she could not see the movement. "Not colourful. You look the same. Thinner and a bit paler but the same." he said thoughtfully as if he was trying to give her an honest enough evaluation. "You look like you just woke from a coma after six months." was the next response. It was from Mahmoud. "Mahmoud." she smiled and sighed. "Six months!" she exclaimed, totally shocked by how long she had been unconscious. "Are my parents aware I woke up?" she asked. “Yes they are." Umar answered. "They were here earlier, after you first woke up but they left. Mahmoud persuaded them to leave and go and take some rest. We had no idea whether you were going to wake or leave us hanging again." Sarah Jane felt the mattress depress as he sat on the edge of her bed. She squeezed Obinna's hand tightly. "You, I hope you have not been negligent at work." she scolded happily. She heard Obi chuckle lightly. "She'll do fine. She's already her bossy self." he squeezed her hand in return. "I'm so tired guys. Do you think you can help me sit up?" she asked and suddenly there were several hands prodding her. Something about her countenance must have alerted them to her disorientation because Mahmoud suddenly said, "Just one person. This will take some getting used to." The number of hands trying to assist her immediately reduced to just two hands, Obinna's hands. "Do you think I will regain my sight?" she asked the room. "Who knows?" Umar answered. "The good news though is that we think we've worked out a way to stop the drug." Sarah Jane perked up at that. "When? How? So, are the effects reversible?" she asked with excitement in her voice. "Actually it was months ago. You were asleep and no." Mahmoud responded. "Not as far as we can see. But apart from this vision thing, the other symptoms seem to have stopped completely. As far as we can see." "In order words, while I may never go back to who I used to be, I won't get any worse?" Sarah Jane asked hope and dismay waging a war within her. "We hope so." Umar answered and Obinna squeezed her hand tightly in silent support. CHAPTER 18 Obinna stirred the contents of the cooking pot while his mother bustled about behind him at the counter. "Obi where is your mind?!" his mother exclaimed. "You've almost burned that sauce and you know your father will not eat it if it's burnt." she scolded. Obinna barely managed to stop himself from scoffing. His father was coming for his periodic visit with his family and his mum was going stir crazy trying to make everything perfect for him. Obinna was of the opinion that if that was what it took for a man to not leave his wife and son and go start a family with another woman, then his father would never have left in the first place. But he had, and Obinna could not understand why his mum kept putting herself in this position of pain. She'd go into a frenzy of cleaning and cooking and dolling up for a weekend with a man who promised to love and protect her for a life time. Promised and failed woefully to keep it but she kept letting him in, every time. 'He is my husband no matter what. What would you have me do?' she'd remark anytime Obinna had pointed out the futility of this cycle to her. His relationship with his father had been incinerated a long time ago and he felt no particular urge to rekindle it. In fact, the only reason why he had diligently worked at being able to stand remaining in the same room as him was because he knew that any open animosity between them would hurt his mum but as far as he was concerned, his father had given up his fatherly rights and privileges when he had chosen to move in with and marry his business partner with whom he had been having an affair which had resulted in a pregnancy rather than honour his matrimonial vows to his mother. 'It's not even as if you did not give him a son. Are you God that gives children? So if no other child has come, it is now your fault?' Obinna had blasted during one of their numerous fights during his teenage years. 'He is still your father! You can not...' 'It depends on what you mean by father.' he had retorted and his mother had burst into tears. He remembered that particular visit. He had been so antagonized that he had sulked for days afterwards, refusing to eat at home and almost making his mother ill with worry. It had been the argument after which he had turned a corner in his tumultuous home life. It had not restored his relationship with his father, but it had made him very protective of his mother. "I think it's okay as it is." he remarked as he turned off the burner. Learning to cook had been the therapy that had restored his relationship with his mum and he found out that he liked being able to prepare his own meals if he had to. "Mum, you remember that my friend I told you was in a coma?" he asked as he turned to join her at the counter. "The lady doctor?" his mum confirmed. "How is...? Has there been any change? Chai! May God help the poor girl!" "Amen." Obinna allowed her finish. There was no stopping his mother on a roll. "She's awake." he announced and the knife his mother held clattered to the counter top as joy lit up her expression. "Praise God!" she exclaimed. "Why did you not tell me since! You know I have been praying for her. How is she? Hope there was no damage?" she asked. "Some. But she's awake and she's recovering and coping." he replied. "Praise God! She will recover fully." his mother prayed as she picked up her knife and continued with her chopping. Obinna leaned on the counter. "Mummy, if I said I had found the girl I want to marry...?" Obinna started and had to grab his mother as she suddenly slumped against the counter in shock. "Haihn! You this boy! You will not kill me. What kind of shocking news is that to tell your mother so casually? "Ah ah! Which one is casually or serious? I'm just asking..." Obinna started to reply but his mother cut him off as she dragged herself to a stool in the kitchen. "So you have been seeing a girl without letting me know?" she accused. "Mum I don't tell you everything, you know that don't you?" Obinna retorted mildly. "This one is important! You want to marry this girl! Who is she?" "Sarah Jane." Obinna replied crossing his hands over his chest in a combative stance. "Sarah Jane? Isn't this the ..." His mother's forehead wrinkled in a thoughtful frown as she tried to analyze the information being presented to her. "Yes, Sarah Jane that just woke up from a coma." Obinna confirmed. Mrs. Chikwere sighed deeply, shaking her head gently. "Mama you've not met her yet." Obinna began to complain. "If I meet her and tell you I don't like her, will that make any difference to your decision?" his mother riddled him. Obinna was belligerently quiet. "You see, I do know you my son. You already decided you will marry this girl. Nothing I or anyone else says will change your mind except she says no." "Are you hoping she says no?" Obinna asked, a trickle of alarm going through him. His mother watched his face for a long moment. "Why this particular young lady?" she asked. Obinna was quiet for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. "She...knows what she wants out of life." he began. "Life has not dealt fairly with her but she just sucks it up and moves on. She's intriguing and...She's shy but you wouldn't realize it when you first meet her. She's very sensitive too." Obinna bungled along, trying to explain the inexplicable to his mum. A small smile dawned on his mother's face as she watched her son try to explain to her why he loved this girl whom she had never met but had heard so much about. She almost slapped her own forehead at her inattention. If she had been as attentive to her son as she should have been, she would have realized long before now that her son was in love and that the likely culprit was this girl that had been unconscious. "Mum, at least meet with her first before you make up your mind." he requested. "I will meet with her. Not because I think that if I said no you'd drop her. I'm curious to meet the girl that has my usually gung-ho son tied up in knots like this." she smiled. "I hope she's worth it." Just then the door bell rang followed by a loud series of knocks on the front door of the apartment. Obinna felt his shoulders tense reflexively. That was his father at the door. His mother eyed him and his change in posture and shook her head in defeat. There really was no arguing with Obinna about his father. "Please get the door and behave!" she ordered as she got up to continue with her preparations for the meal while Obinna shuffled reluctantly to the door. He really hated spending time with this man. CHAPTER 19 There were tears in Sarah Jane's eyes. Happy tears. She was long overdue for some of those. She sat quietly, almost pensively so, in the magistrate's office. A smile touched her face as she heard the door creak open and the smell that was Obinna reach her nostrils. The door shut behind him and he rushed to her side and took the seat next to her taking hold of her hand as he did so. "He'll be here soon." he assured her of the magistrate's imminent arrival. Sarah Jane's smile widened. "I was half hoping you would have come to your senses and bailed before he got here." she joked semi-seriously. Obinna squeezed her hand. "Not likely. If I haven't come to my senses by now, it's unlikely I'll be finding them anytime soon." he answered cheekily. "Tell me again quickly why you would want to do this to yourself?" Sarah Jane demanded urgently as a wave of panic washed over her. "We can't have children, I won't risk having children. I...what can you possibly find attractive about me? I'm a..." Obinna put a finger to her lips to silence her. "Freak? You're...one of a kind." Obinna said. "I don't know if you understand just how in awe of your strength I am." "Pfft! Strong? Me?" Sarah Jane scoffed. "I have just lived as the cards dealt me have dictated." "You could have cut out of the game at any time." Obinna remarked. He was quiet for a short while before he continued. "For awhile, I was worried that you might." he said solemnly. Sarah Jane smiled with nostalgia. "Is that why you kept coming to check on me?" she asked. "Partly." Obinna replied. "Mostly because I liked seeing you and spending time with you and that was the only way you would let me do it then so I took it. It was better than nothing." Sarah Jane sensed that someone else had joined them in the room and she tensed. Being vision impaired had been a real challenge. She, who was use to jumping right in with any situation, had had to learn to depend on others to help her. It had been a daunting and humbling experience. "So this is the lucky bride I have heard so much about." the man intoned. Sarah Jane turned towards the voice that had spoken. "Good afternoon Sir." she greeted. "Good afternoon, my dear." The kindly voice greeted. It put her in mind of a portly grandfatherly type but she knew through conversations with Obinna that this particular magistrate had a reputation for being as hard as nails on the circuit. Sarah Jane decided that it must be because he had to be that way when he was on his bench. This man was a sweetheart. She could tell. "So are you ready to put up with this cracked case as your husband. I almost feel sorry for you, what you'd have to put up with!" he joked. Sarah Jane turned sightlessly towards Obinna. Was she ready? Was he ready? Would they ever be ready? Where they really going to do this? Wasn't it crazy? There were so many questions running through her head as her tension communicated itself to Obinna through her trembling hands. He squeezed again. He had taken to doing that a lot. She took a deep breath and squeezed back. "I'm ready if he is." she said. "I was born ready." Obinna said as they both turned as one to face the Judge. As Obinna helped Sarah Jane out of the car, his face beamed with all the proper proprietary pride. His wife. This beautiful, strong, freakish and fiercely independent woman was his wife. Yep! He had his hands full and he did not wish it any other way. She couldn't see it but she was beautiful. She never had seen it even when she had been sighted. She had always been too riddled with her need to excel to revel in something that to her, would have seemed as pedestrian as 'merely' being beautiful. He wished that he could show her that her beauty transcended the paleness or translucence of her skin. It was beyond the sightlessness of her beautiful eyes. It was way beyond her trauma-ridden body. She was beautiful because she was strong, she was brave and as those of them who had come to know and love her could testify, she had a huge heart. One of the hugest he had ever met. "I can smell fried chicken in the air." she commented as he led her into her parent's house. They had decided it would be best if they lived there for now. It was familiar to her and she was better able to get around with minimum help than at his much smaller digs. "Did you really think that they would let us get away with it entirely?" Obinna chided. They hadn't wanted a big spectacle of a wedding. Sarah Jane was still very self conscious about her 'weirdness'. So everyone had let them have their quiet ceremony at the magistrate's but there was going to be party whether they wanted one or not. As Obinna led her towards the backyard, he could already hear that the party was in full swing. They had begun the merry making without them. "They really are having a good old time out there aren't they?" Sarah Jane asked. "That they are and it looks like they started without us too." Obinna commented as they both stood at the threshold of the patio. Andoah had sighted them and was looping over to them excitedly already. He swung Sarah Jane up in a twirling hug, making her gasp in half alarm and bubbly laughter. Again, the happy tears came to her eyes. It felt so good to have her brother back. The calls of 'congratulations' began as the guests, mostly family and very special friends began noticing that the happy couple had arrived. He set her down on a seat that had been reserved for them and her new husband hurriedly sat down beside her before other family members with a similar idea could snag it. Such was the serenity that seemed to permeate the air around her that everyone, young and old, distressed and prosperous seemed to want a piece of her. Everyone from the Centre was here. So were Jay and his wife and new baby. Obinna smiled as he remembered the squeal of delight that Sarah Jane had made when they had showed up early this morning. Both his mum and Sarah Jane's mum had immediately taken over the little family, fussing over them with determined care. They may not have met Jay before today but they had heard all about him from their children and they were curious to meet this person who had been so pivotal in the lives of their children. His eyes snagged Mahmoud's as he scanned the crowd with an unusual sense of elation and happiness. Mahmoud inclined his head to the side in greeting and raised the glass in his hand to him in salute. A young pretty lady was trying to gain his attention over something but his eyes lingered a few moments over Sarah Jane before he turned his full attention on the lady. Someone clapped him on his shoulder and he turned to look into the face of Umar. "So, I guess you went ahead and did it. How you convinced this sweet lady to marry you is beyond me!" he joked. "You do realize what you are setting yourself up for SJ? Sarah Jane's laughter tinkled merrily. "He's going to have to put up with a lot too so I guess that makes us even." she remarked. "I'm glad you guys have each other." Umar said. "It's a hard road this life. It's always great to have company for the journey." Both Sarah Jane and Obinna smiled. Umar and his wise sayings. The sound of the tinkling of glass interrupted them even as Chrissa came to them carrying a small tray of drinks which she promptly began distributing to everyone within range. "Attention everyone!" Mr. Kwesi's voice boomed. "Since I would need an excuse to get close enough to hug my daughter and my new son on their wedding day, I am proposing a toast." he said as he made his way towards the beaming couple amidst the guffaws and chuckles. When he stood in front of them, Obinna pulled his wife gently to her feet to be enveloped in a hug from her father. "I don't believe I have said it often enough." he said. "Let me remedy that. I am so proud of you. Always have been." he squeezed her tightly as he said so. As Obinna watched father and daughter have a moment together, Mr. Kwesi looked at him with a smile, "Welcome to the family son." he said. Andoah clapped his back in approval and Obinna looked towards his mother who stood beside a teary Mrs. Kwesi, beaming widely as she held Jay's son to her chest. Family, Obinna decided was indeed a blessing. EPILOGUE The man with his head chock full of grey hairs stood by the grave side, his shoulder bent with the weight of his emotions as he watched the diggers cover the hole into which the beautifully carved coffin had been dropped. He was burying his beautiful wife today. He would miss her something fierce. They had walked a long and memorable road together. A little hand pulled at his trousers. "Daddy Obi, won't Mummy Sarah be cold all alone there?" Chidera asked her small trusting voice shaky with unshed tears. Obinna resisted the urge to sniffle. Sarah Jane had been adamant, 'No tears Obi m'. I have lived long and I have lived well.' And she had. Their lives had been full. Joy, laughter, companionship, kindness, always Sarah Jane's huge heart of kindness had never departed their home. Obinna scanned the faces gathered at the graveside. Family, that word had come to mean so much more to him than it once had. Sarah Jane had taught him that. Family was not only gained by blood and she had gathered such an assortment of people as family to prove it. Her graveside was packed with every one of them Obinna thought, as he paused to look at each teary eye. They were honoring Sarah Jane. She had said no tears. They would not cry here. They would do their crying later, in private where they would not be seen as dishonoring their mother's wish. "No, little ma, Mummy Sarah has gone to be with Jesus in Heaven." he replied as he smoothed down the little girl's unruly hair. Chidera was quiet for awhile and then she looked up at him accessingly. Obinna could see the wheels of her mind turning as she geared up to ask him some other questions. "Daddy Obi, will Jesus come and take you to Mummy Sarah too?" she asked. Obinna could see the fear lurking in the dark recesses of her eyes. 'Oh this precious girl!' he thought on a hiccup. "Perhaps not today." he said. It seemed to placate Chidera for now. She would definitely come up with more questions later. Obinna wondered how he was going to answer them all. He really was going to miss his Sarah Jane. In loving memory of our wife, mother, sister and friend, Those who we love never truly die. They live on in our hearts forever. Continue to rest in peace dear one. Signed Family THE END AUTHOR'S NOTE If you are here, that means you survived till the end of the story! I hope you enjoyed it. I wasn't sure how this story would progress when I first started it. The working title of this book was 'Undead - Sarah Jane. As the book drew to a close, it slowly changed in my mind to 'The Undead Chronicles of Sarah Jane' to 'The Sarah Jane Chronicles, Undead' to 'The Chronicles of Sarah Jane' and we're sticking with that! Phew! Sarah Jane and Obinna seemed like such an unlikely pair. But then as I have travelled through life, I have come across so many couples like these two, a most unlikely pairing that somehow works. So here's my prayer for you; that it all works out for your good. Nia An Excerpt from SKYLINE, a novel by Nia Eze. Coming soon! CHAPTER 1 “He graduated magna cum laude from the American university he attended.” “He. Is. So. Cute!!” “Oh my goodness! They’re like…super wealthy.” “My elder sister used to date one of their cousins.” Alero placed a hand to her forehead. It was official. It she heard one more thing about the Adenirans and their golden son, she was just… “Alero! I’ve been looking all over for you.” Maggie, Alero’s best friend for years and years scolded as she sashayed towards her. “Was right here.” Alero smiled. “It was getting somewhat stuffy so I came out for some fresh air.” Maggie cut her a skeptical look that communicated her patent disbelief. “You were a bit overwhelmed.” She chided. Alero began to deny it but Maggie cut into her. “They are a bit much. You get used to them though.” She continued. “Give it time.” She admonished. Alero shrugged her shoulders. It did not matter to her one way or another. She was probably not going to ever be friendly with the Adenirans. The only reason she was at this party was because she had been at Maggie’s place for the week and it would have been awkward to leave her at home while the rest of the family went out for the evening and so she had tagged along. “Come on. I want you to meet Banjo and his sister. They’re pretty nice people so no worries.” Maggie said as she pulled Alero along, half dragging her actually. Sensing that there was no escape, Alero relented and followed docilely feeling like she was being led to slaughter. “Hey! You guys! Don’t you dare start out with me!” Maggie yelled as they reached the group hanging around Banjo. It was a pretty exclusive circle of super rich kids. Alero had indeed met some of them before while hanging out with Maggie. She had never really gotten comfortable with this clique. She had met Maggie on the playground of the nursery school they had both attended and it had been love at first sight for both of them. They had been best friends ever since. Over the years, Mr. Okwara, Maggie’s dad, had made a killing in the financial market. Money had become available to them in abundance and the Okwaras had moved up in life. They had relocated from the Average middle class neighbourhood where Alero and Maggie had grown and moved to the highbrow enclave reserved almost exclusively for the supper rich with the occasional high ranking government official thrown in. It was a testament to the love between both girls that their friendship had withstood the rigours of cross-city visits and the really wide change in their social status. “Where did you get off to Maureen?” someone asked. “Had to go get Alero.” Maggie responded. “Hey Alero!” Mide, one of the guys sitting in a loose circle around the star of the moment hailed. She had met him a few times at Maggie’s as he was good friends with her brother. “Hello Mide.” She responded, a shy smile touching her lips. “It’s been awhile since we saw your pretty face around these parts.” He commented. “Asked Maggie after you and she was babbling something.” That earned him a hard rap on the arm from Maggie. “I do not babble. And stop making those gooey eyes at my friend! Alero ignore him. He’s an inveterate flirt!” Alero wished the ground would open and swallow her up right that moment as it seemed to her that all eyes turned to the ‘intruder’. The girls seemed to eye her up as if she were a potentially dangerous rival that had snuck up on them unsuspected while the guys seemed to look at her again just to be sure they hadn’t missed something. “So you’re Maggie’s friend we’ve heard so much about.” A voice drawled. Had Alero been told that a body could react sexually to a voice, she would have insisted that it was not possible. Her pebbled nipples would have mocked that belief. She turned slowly, mortified at her own body’s reaction to face the speaker. It was Banjo. She knew that. She had just spent about half an hour outside with girls that had giggled every time he walked by or looked in their direction. “Ally, the dude here is Banjo.” Mide indicated with his thumb. “Banjo, Ally.” Alero had to smile at that. Only Maggie and their families called her ‘Ally’. To everyone else, she was Alero. What did Mide mean by calling her Ally just now? She peeked a glance at him and he winked at her in response. She quickly averted her eyes back to Banjo, Adebanjo Adeniran of the great Adeniran dynasty. She had to disagree with those girls, he was not cute. Cute, was something two year old boys were and this specimen, was definitely older, much older than two years old. She began to smile a greeting at him when the look in his eyes stopped her cold. Gone was the drawling, charming young man and in its place was…disdain. Alero resisted the urge to look down at herself to see if her embarrassing reaction to him was on display. “Hello.” She said coolly. To which he responded with a nod and continued his conversation with his friends. Clearly, she had been dismissed. Alero looked around till she spotted Maggie holding court at a corner of the living room. The parents were at the swimming pool area at the back of the house carrying on with their own party leaving the young adults all to themselves indoors. Alero slowly made her way to where Maggie chatted vivaciously with her friends. For the first time in all their years of friendship, Alero felt resentment for her friend. The burn of the snub she had just been given seemed too much for her to bear. It hadn’t been the first time. There had always been subtle shade thrown at her over the years as she had become Maggie’s ‘tag-along’ friend but she had never let it get in the way of her friendship with Maggie. But suddenly it mattered! Oh, how it mattered and she had had enough of it. She tapped Maggie on the shoulder to get her attention. “Hey Ally. I thought the guys intended to keep you for a bit there. They all….” “Would it be alright if I went on home…to your house?” Alero interrupted. Maggie’s smile immediately extinguished. “Why? What’s wrong?” she asked, concern marring her beautiful features. “I just…I’m feeling a bit dizzy. Perhaps I just need to lie down for awhile.” Alero finagled. “Did you eat something…? Did something happen over there?” she indicated the group Alero had just left with a jut of her chin. Alero felt her head turn involuntarily and her gaze clashed with Olly, Maggie’s elder brother. The slight frown of concern on his face was the final straw for Ally. “I can go on by myself. You don’t need to leave on my account. And it isn’t that far. I know my way home…to your house.” “Ally?” Maggie asked her frown of consternation deepening. Ally just waved away her concern and left. As she stepped outside, it felt like the slight breeze washed away the bitterness and pain of the burn she had just been dealt. She may not have realized it then, but in that moment, a few things shifted in her mind that would significantly shape her life in unexpected ways.

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