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Nazaretha and his friends sang the hymns alongside with the congregation without even looking into their hymn books; they couldn’t even tell what hymn they were reciting, they just followed the rhythm with their mouths while their minds were far away. They were all seated on the same row, at the first four seats close to the aisle, Nazaretha was seated at the rear.
Several times did Nazaretha’s eyes meet with his mother who was sitting on the left side of the congregation occupied by females; it was that kind of church where the males sat at a different side from females.
“Nazaretha, we dey go police station go see Papa today after this service o,” his sister, Covenant who was an usher in church said to him in whispers after nudging him.
He froze and his heart throbbed in fear at his sister’s words. She didn’t wait for his reply but walked back immediately to the position she was supposed to standing. Nazaretha could feel the eyes of the other three boys on him, he knew what they wanted to ask was what his sister told me.
“She say I go follow them go police station after service,” Nazaretha said in low tones.
“Ehn, you go go na,” Chinko responded in low tones also. “Remember say Mighty Joe say make you no run from police questioning.”
“Na true o,” Sunday joined.
“Hello boys,” a male usher with a thick voice interrupted their conversation. “Remember service is going on,” he said and returned back.
The service closed soon and some of the congregation began to break into groups while most of them went their way to their various houses.
Nazaretha and his friends waited outside the church, expecting his mum or elder sister to come out. The first person that came out of the church building was Patience, all Nazaretha’s friends shifted back from him immediately they saw her walking towards them. They knew she had troubles, so they always avoided her like a plague.
“Nazaretha, Mummy is coming and we are all going to the police station now,” Patience said to him.
“Ehn?” Nazaretha didn’t process quickly what his sister said and wanted to blast her in pidgin but then he remembered that they were in church and his father always wanted them to speak correct English there.
“I say m…”
“No worry, I don hear.” Nazaretha cut her short.
She felt disrespected with the way he answered but not wanting to cause a scene in the church environment, she let it slide. Her eyes met with the three boys at the back of Nazaretha but they quickly took their faces away, she hissed and eyed them wickedly, she had the belief that they were the ones teaching and leading Nazaretha into bad things.
**At the Police Station**
Nazaretha had confirmed contrary to his fears that his father had not mentioned anything to implicate him, rather he had tried to take the whole blame for the missing file; Mighty Joe was right after all. Nazaretha was being questioned by the police and he answered cooperatively , wanting the quick freedom of his father.
“You were the one that your father gave the bag to keep?” The officer asked.
“Yes,” Nazaretha replied.
“And you kept it inside your room?”
“Inside his room,” Nazaretha corrected.
“Okay, but nobody entered your house until this morning na?”
“I’m not aware of anyone that entered into the house, I just heard about this morning’s o when I came here.” Nazaretha said.
“Okay,” the officer replied and paused. “You see what I believe is that those who broke into your house today are thieves who heard about the five million scandal of your father, so they thought that he could have kept the money at home or even have something valuable in the house, that’s why they broke in.”
Nazaretha stayed mute, unable to contribute or make a comment on the man’s assertion.
The man continued to speak after a minute, “My boy, do you what I’ll advice you to do now?”
“No sir,” Nazaretha stared at his face eagerly.
“I want you to confess and bring out the money where you kept it,” the officer stated.
“Haba! I can’t take that kind of money, I’m not a thief.”
“I’m not a thief,” The officer mimicked him. “With the kind of bad boy hairstyle on your hair?”
Nazaretha touched his head to confirm what hairstyle was on it, it was the low “galas” haircut he just had few days ago which he knew his father would be strongly against but had not just noticed it, only his sisters and his mum had noticed his haircut and his mum had advised him against it.
“This is just an hairstyle officer, I recently changed it.”
“Well then, if you say you are not the thief, you have to advice your father.”
“Advice my father?” Nazaretha questioned.
“Yes, advice him to cooperate with us. The reason you’ve not seen several marks of beating on his body is because the DPO knows him. The DPO is a member of your church and vouches for him that he can’t steal. But your father’s boss has insisted that it was your father who withdrew the money, he said that his account manager mentioned his name.”
“But my father would never do that,” Nazaretha cut in.
“Calm down boy before we label you an accomplice, what you need to do is tell your father to cooperate with us now and tell us where the money was kept, so that we can release him with ease but if we confirm on Monday from the bank that he was really the one, ” the officer stopped and made a scary face to threaten Nazaretha.
“Then say na my Papa name den use collect the money o,” Nazaretha lamented to his friends. They were all present in Mighty Joe’s house except for Charly whose mother had sent him an errand.
“But you sure say your Papa no fit do anything like that?” Mighty Joe put in.
“No, my papa na Christian and even if hin no be Christian sef, he no go carry the money con stay like that, e for don ja tey tey,” Nazaretha replied, using “ja” a slang meaning “run away”.
“Then who fit con use hin name?” Chinko said.
“I no know o,” Nazaretha replied.
“Well, if the person uses his name, he can’t use his face. They will confirm at the bank that it isn’t your father who came to get the money.”
“Yea, so go and put your mind at rest.”
“Okay,” Nazaretha said.
After about two minutes of silence, Chinko spoke, “Mighty Joe, shey we don’t need to go to Nazaretha’s house again to search?”
“Yes, we don’t need to go there anymore. Nazaretha father and the police searched for the same thing and did not find it.” Mighty Joe replied.
“Okay na, since we sure say police go confirm say no be Nazaretha Papa carry the thing, me I wan go play ball.” Chinko said, standing up.
“No problem,” Mighty Joe said and then turned to Nazaretha. “You too go with them and relax, put your mind at rest, no yawa.” Mighty Joe said.
Nazaretha got up reluctantly and followed his friends, Mighty Joe watched them as they left.
Not too long after walking down the street did Nazaretha and his friends meet with Ibukun buying some snacks from a store. She also saw them and smiled at Nazaretha.
“Nazaretha, when would you come and use your remaining time?” She asked with smiles on her lips.
Nazaretha was speechless for a while, he didn’t even remember if he had more time to use in the caf�. His friends’ eyes were on him, expecting him to give a quick reply especially now that the girl was sounding like she liked him already.
“I kept your ticket for you and it’ll expire this night, so you better come and use it today.” She said and walked away from the store back to her caf�.
“Guy, she dey follow you talk, you no fit answer?”
“I don forget say I get time for there before and I no even dey in the mood.” Nazaretha said.
“Which mood you no gree dey? Shey na your Papa own dey worry you? Shey them go soon confirm say no be him take the money na. You better dey in the mood o, this girl don dey in the mood sef. You no fit talk sef, anything fit happen for inside her shop now sef wey light no dey.” Chinko said.
“For inside her shop?” Nazaretha asked.
“Ehn na,” Chinko replied, ” for inside her shop, na that kind place e dey sweet pass.”
“Ehen,” Nazaretha hummed with his eyes rolling with expectations, temporarily forgetting his father’s troubles.
“Oya, make we go jor.” His friends encouraged him.
…to be continued