By Cecy Gaitho
“We are all gathered here to celebrate the life of a woman, whose contribution to the society is immeasurable…” The Master of Ceremony remarked, as he opened the burial ceremony. “Mrs. Mercy Imani will always remain in our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers goes to his beloved husband and their son Yusuf, for they were great supporters of their mother’s good deeds.”
Honorable Agostino Podamali sat at the front pew in the Holy Angels church, too engrossed in thought. Beside him was their twenty-three-year-old son, who was a perfect replica of him. He was the only heir to their vast wealth and one day, he was going to be as famous as his father. To the general public, Agostino was the perfect husband and father, that any woman would wish to have. Besides his good looks and being a perfect husband, the gods of wealth had blessed him immensely.
His business acumen was praised by all and sundry, with none of his competitors coming any closer to his ever growing wealth. Together with his now dead wife, they never lacked at any fundraising ceremony within the village and beyond. Mrs. Imani was his second wife, having lost the first wife to a fire tragedy that engulfed their house when he was on a business trip outside the country. That had been thirty years ago and he had immediately moved from that area, citing that it reminded him of his dear wife.
Agostino Podamali had been born to his poor parents
“There shall never be as wise a man as the great Agostino!” he thought happily, knowing that the insurance was going to pay him handsomely for “the loss of his wife”. If only they knew the truth behind the man they all loved and had come to console on this day.
Agostino Podamali had been born to his poor parents in a small village in the south. He had grown up admiring his rich neighbor’s kids, who treated him like a bout of diarrhea because of their poor status. He had vowed to himself that he was never going to die poor no matter what. From a young age, he had developed an aggressiveness that made his classmates to revere him. When he turned eighteen, he ran away from home to middle East, to work in the oil mines.
Five years later, he returned home with lots of money and his trial in business had yielded much fruit. He employed many young men from his area and also those he had schooled with, which earned him the title Honorable. Because of his wealth, he had easily wooed Nyakio the village beauty and were married in a short time. Soon, they had moved to the city, where he opened other companies. As his fortune grew, so was his greed insatiable.
His wife had reported abuse severally but the local police had been bribed to dismiss her whenever she went reporting. And one day when Agostino was on a business safari, his house had mysteriously burnt to ashes, leaving his pregnant wife dead. Nothing had been saved in the raging inferno and news quickly spread even to media houses.
Agostino would be several billions richer
For a man of means like Agostino, the high and the mighty came to sympathize with him, for the loss of his wife and their unborn child. Little did they know that the mighty Agostino Podamali was behind the act, in bid to be paid a hefty amount of money from an insurance he had secured for his wife, with him being the beneficiary.
All through the burial, he seemed visibly shaken by the death and many people were really sorry for him. Even those who knew of his abuse towards his late wife were genuinely touched, as people tend to be during grieving times. In his heart, Agostino would be several billions richer and that is all that mattered. He would move to another county, open more branches and marry his second prey.
Mrs. Mercy Imani was a beautiful lady, both inside and out. She was well educated, intelligent and a compassionate soul. As a young girl, she had wanted to start a rescue center for young girls who were forced into early marriages, as it was the culture in her community. She had been lucky to get an education and her father had sent her to the United Kingdom to further her studies in community and social welfare.
The first years had been blissful until
When she came back, she had initially undergone financial challenges, until a friend suggested her to visit Hon. Podamali, a rich man who had just moved to their town and whose businesses were doing so well.
That was the beginning of her woes but it was going to be the end of Podamali’s deceit. While he secured young Mercy Imani with the money she needed to start up the rescue center, he had openly expressed his interest in marrying her. Two years later, they were wedded in a beautiful wedding, in the same church where today, he was bidding her goodbye.
The first years had been blissful until he started abusing her. the rescue center was doing well and Mrs. Imani was doing everything possible to conceal the pain that she was going through, behind closed doors. When their son Yusuf was born, Agostino had taken up his fatherly roles so well, often dotting his son at every given opportunity.
Despite the attention he got from his father, Yusuf was a gentle boy who loved his mother dearly. He had witnessed his father beat her severally and it pained him always. He wished he could save her from the monster his father always was while at home, but his mother never showed any abuse to the outside world.
A handsome young man with an aura of dignity
“When I grow up, I will take my mother to a faraway country, where daddy will never find us.” He always vowed to himself.
He went to the best schools that money could afford, and his father forced him to learn the tricks of his businesses despite the fact that he hated business with all his heart. He wanted to be a scientist and his father was going to be a big hindrance towards achieving his dream. As an only child, he was entitled to his parents’ wealth and only him could take up the family mantle. Half-heartedly, he learnt the tricks of the trade, hoping that one day when his father was dead, he would sell off the business and follow his dreams. He was never going to be tied to his father’s shadow.
At twenty-three, he was a handsome young man who carried himself with an aura of dignity. His father wanted him to concentrate on the business first, before ever thinking of “other things” as he always referred to marriage. He loathed his father but never showed it to his face. The day of revenge for his mother’s mistreatment would come, maybe when he was older.
I want it to appear like an accident
One morning, Yusuf woke up with a terrible flu. He was supposed to be at work as early as seven but he felt too sick to make it to work. He would sleep for two more hours before visiting a doctor. His mother was an early riser and was usually gone long before anybody else woke up. She had to ensure that all the girls in the rescue center were fed before going to school, and no one lacked any school item.
Yusuf’s bedroom was directly opposite to the sitting room and the rough laughter in the sitting room stirred him awake. He was amazed that his father had not left the house and the company of some visitors in the morning hours amazed him too. Silently, he tiptoed to the door and out to the corridor to see who the visitors were. His father hardly entertained any visitors during his working hours and he reckoned that they must have been very important people for him to see them this morning.
“I want it to appear like an accident. Nobody will suspect anything. Her car is a blue Mercedes, there are not many of its kind around here, right?” The three men nodded in unison.
“On that day, I will send her to town, you guys must have set the timer, she must be dead before Friday next week. Finish her off on Thursday afternoon.” Agostino continued.
He hated him with all the passion in the world
The men were big and in black business suits. There was something evil about them. From his hiding position, Yusuf felt a cold shiver all over his body. he could not believe that his father was planning his mother’s killing. He felt a surge of anger rise in this throat. The conversation had been sickening. As he crept quietly to his room, he knew that he had to act fast to save his dear mother. Thursday was six days away, the day of executing the planned killing. His father had said that it was supposed to appear like an accident. “To hell with you Honorable Agostino Podamali! My mother is going to live!” He almost shouted but realized his father was going to hear him.
He had to scheme fast. He debated on whether to confront his father but the man was an arrogant sonofabitch. He hated him with all the passion in the world at that point. Anger would not solve the situation, brains would. Hours later, when he was certain his father had gone to work, he rushed to his mother’s workplace, maybe she would help him hatch an escape plan.
Thursday was a cloudy day. There was an eerie silence around the village as if people were all aware of what was about to happen. Yusuf had not slept all night. He had been engrossed in deep thought for the last six days and finally, Thursday was here. He thanked heavens for letting him know the wicked plans of his father.
She was a lady in her late thirties
Four days ago, he had talked to his friend who took him to a black market, where he got fake travel documents and identity cards under the name Virginia Yusuf. She was a lady in her late thirties, who was visiting her aging grandmother in Switzerland. Within two days, all the documents were in order and Virginia Yusuf would leave for Switzerland on Thursday 2300hrs. After the “accident”, Mrs. Mercy Imani cum Virginia Yusuf would take a cab to a neighboring town, where she would lie low until nightfall when she would board her flight to Switzerland.
Agostino Podamali had woken up in unusually high moods. He had told his wife not to go to work early, as he had an errand he wanted her to run for him. Two of the girls at the center were getting admission to the university and she wanted to be there. She was going to call her assistant, Ms. Josephina Bakhita, whom she could delegate to. In her heart, she knew Ms. Bakhita would do a great job at the center, even in her absence. They had agreed with Yusuf that he was going to offer financial aid to the center in her absence, and also support Ms. Bakhita in every way possible. Everything was going according to plan unbeknownst to Agostino, who equally thought that things were working in his favor. Another huge cheque would land into his bank account and the cycle would continue. The next time, he would change tactic to avoid being caught.
The call came in around noon
“The Honorable Agostino is wise and he is going to win like all the other times!” He bellowed, happy that his wife had fallen into his trick.
The call came in around noon. He was seated in his office, perusing through the day’s newspaper. His mind could not rest, knowing that a big fortune awaited him in a few months’ time. He had done this before and he was confident he’d sail through swiftly. He knew that his son would be devastated but he had to do so for their sake.
“One day when I am old, the lad will appreciate all the efforts I put to give him a smooth life!”
News spread like wildfire all through the company. Mrs. Imani was loved by the workers, as she normally dropped by to greet them. She was a generous woman who came to their aid in times of crisis. Her death was a big blow to all. Seated at the Holy Angels church, it was evident that a heroine had gone to rest.
One year later….
Saturday was going to be Mrs. Imani’s first anniversary
Agostino Podamali sat at his office, deep in thought. He could not understand why New Life Insurance was taking too long to process his compensation after his wife’s death. He had been following up with the manager and they kept telling him to be patient. One year was such a long time to wait, while it was evident that his wife had had an accident. Although he was running out of patient, there was little to do because if he offered the manager a bribe, the circumstances leading to Mrs. Imani’s death would become questionable. His son Yusuf had never been able to come to terms with the death of his beloved mother. Escape Rescue Center had mourned the death of their director but had remained unshaken. He had been providing them with finances to run the center under the abled Josephina Bakhita.
Saturday was going to be Mrs. Imani’s first anniversary. They had invited the crème de la crème in the country. It was going to be a memorable day but to him, it reminded him of the unpaid dues. He had invited the insurance company, hoping that they would be touched and speed up the process. From where he sat, he noted that his son Yusuf seemed to be in a better mood than he had been since the news of the death. Maybe he had decided to accept fate. He had heard little of what the master of ceremony was saying, until he mentioned of a special guest.
I am sure many of you know me
“Ladies and gentlemen, in honor of our friend, mother and a great soul we all loved, we have a very special guest amidst us, who is going to address us. She was a close friend of Mrs. Imani and we all would love to hear from her. A loud of applause!”
Agostino did not notice his son leave his seat while the MC was speaking. He was thinking about the special guest and who she could be. He was curious to see the special guest. While the people were clapping, a lady clad in a hijab took to the stage.
“I am sure many of you know me. Mrs. Imani was a woman of good deeds and everyone will be rewarded according to her deeds.” She began her speech.
“Evil dwells amongst us and even here within our midst, there are wicked people.” She paused as a group of plainclothes policemen made their way into the front.
At that point, she removed her veil, and there stood the allegedly dead Mrs. Mercy Imani. Confusion reigned all over the hall. Agostino’s face turned pale.
“How could this woman be alive while we buried her a year ago?” He shouted in anger.
“Calm down everyone!” The MC said, in a bid to return order into the hall.
“Thirty years ago, your lovely Honorable Agostino killed his first wife in what was supposedly a fire tragedy.” Mrs. Imani said as people listened on.
“Out of greed for money, he took away two innocent lives, of his unborn baby and his dear beloved wife. The insurance paid him handsomely. Such a clever scheme indeed.” She sneered.
The plain clothes policemen were already edging towards where Agostino Podamali was seated. His secret had finally come out. Sweat trickled from his forehead.
“Thanks to my son Yusuf, my life was saved from yet another of his father’s conspiracies.
Agostino could not think straight. All his fortune had come crumbling down because of his stupid wife. How she had escaped the accident was a mystery, and he was going to find out some day. Right now, he had to get out of here and contact his hitmen, who had probably double crossed him. The voice of his former wife had come from the grave to haunt him and destroy all he had created for such a long time.
Infront of him, he could not believe the sight of his hitmen, smiling at him wickedly. His fears had been confirmed. “But whose body had they buried?” The question kept lingering in his mind.
The crowd was yelling and condemning him for his wicked ways.
“You are hereby arrested for gaining money under false pretense and also for planning a killing for monetary gains.” One of the officers said.
The curtain of Agostino Podamali’s deceitful life had fallen, while it was going to be a new beginning for Mrs. Imani and her son Yusuf, who would now follow his dream without being under his father’s illusions.
©Cecy Gaitho 0219