Shishir 2018, Short Stories -Godswill S. Umoh


The Careless Gift

By Godswill S. Umoh


It was one calm Saturday morning. Mrs. Cynthia Johnny walked into her living room and sat on the couch. Her two sons, Jack and Derrick were in their rooms. She tuned in to a news station on the television; incidents of crime made the headlines. A knock at the door broke her concentration.


She hesitated, and after realizing that she would have to leave the comfort of the sofa, she called out to Jack; her firstborn son, but he didn’t answer. “Derrick,” she called her second son, but there was no response. The knock persisted. “Who’s at the door?” She asked loudly.


Mrs. Johnny stood up, unhappy with the disturbance. When she opened the door, she was shocked at the team; two policemen and her neighbour, Mrs. Joyce Ogaga. The woman was known to be quarrelsome.


“What can I do for you?” asked Mrs. Johnny.


“Is this the residence of Derrick Johnny?” One of the officers asked.


“I’m his mother,” replied Mrs. Johnny. “What can I do for you?” she asked again.


“Please, madam, your son will have to come with us to the police station. He has some questions to answer,” he said, and then showed his badge.


“I demand an explanation,” said Mrs. Johnny. She was visibly shaking.


“Your son Derrick has been accused of stealing,” said the officer.


“No, no, not Derrick,” Mrs. Johnny cried. Just then, her two sons came out to the living room and saw their mother talking to the police. They were both in their twenties and had just graduated but were not employed.


Jack was not the gentle type; he was extroverted, arrogant and insolent. Derrick’s character was the complete opposite of his brother’s, so Mrs. Johnny felt that for Mrs. Ogaga to come accusing Derrick of stealing, she only wanted to set him up and bring her family to disrepute.


“Officers, That’s him,” Mrs. Ogaga said as she pointed at Derrick. “Arrest him!”


“For what?” said Derrick.


Mrs. Johnny did not move. “No, I’m not going to let you humiliate my son,” She said.


“Madam, you can come with your lawyer to Bob-Police station, Area Q,” said the policeman, and with that they picked up Derrick.


“I won’t take this lying down Mrs. Ogaga, and when I’m done dealing with you, you’ll learn not to foment trouble,” Mrs. Johnny said.


“I dare you!” said Mrs. Ogaga as she left with the company. Mrs. Johnny immediately called her lawyer.


Jack and his mother were still pondering on the issue when Barr Koko Edim; Mrs. Johnny’s lawyer walked in.


“Thank God you are here,” said Mrs. Johnny.

“I came as soon as I could,” said Barr Edim. “What is it?”


“The police just took my son to Area Q. One of my neigbours, Mrs. Ogaga has accused Derrick of stealing,” she narrated.


“Let’s go at once!” Barr Edim said. “We can use my car.”


“Jack, take care of the house,” Mrs. Johnny said while walking out of the door with Barr Edim. Derrick was being interrogated at the police station because Mrs. Ogaga accused him of snatching her handbag and phone when she was returning from work the day before. She claimed that as the thief struggled with her, because it was before nightfall, she was able to recognize him.

“It wasn’t me,” Derrick said. You’re accusing me wrongly. He sounded irritated. Mrs. Ogaga wondered if she had made a mistake. The police did not take lightly, matters of theft because it was rampant. Women could no longer walk the street wearing jewelry, or having their phones and handbags without being attacked. Mrs. Ogaga lived in an area where such incidents were frequently reported. Hence, Suspects were thoroughly investigated. They got a search warrant, went to Derrick’s house, searched, and found nothing incriminating. Derrick was released from police custody, but the case didn’t end. Barr Edim sued Mrs. Ogaga for defamation of character.


When Mrs. Ogaga was charged with defamation of character, She pleaded with Mrs. Johnny, telling her to accept five million dollars compensation as settlement out of court because she knew that due to loquacity, and a history of strife with her neighbours, people would be more than happy to be called as witnesses, but Barr Edim and Derrick’s mother insisted that the legal proceedings continued. Mrs. Ogaga was found guilty, and she was asked to pay fifty million dollars to the prosecution. She struggled to raise the money. She even had to sell two of her cars just to raise the money.



Mrs. Johnny was cooking in the kitchen when her phone rang. She went to pick it from the living room but the call ended. The caller called again. “Hello!” she said.


“Hello!” said a deep masculine voice on the other end of the line. “Am I speaking to Mrs. Cynthia Johnny?”

“Yes, please.”


“Congratulations Ma’am. I’m calling from Bells shopping mall. Today’s our anniversary. We randomly selected the names of our customers using lucky dip. We are glad to inform you that you are one of the lucky winners.”


“Really! What have I won?”


“You have just won an iphone, a luxury Dolce and gabbana bag,” said the caller. “You can come today or any time you are free for your gift. “Again, congratulations!”

Mrs. Johnny was ecstatic. She went back to the kitchen and hurriedly finished her cooking so she could go for the gift. She rushed into the bathroom hastily and tripped. She sustained an injury on her left hand. The excitement suddenly dwindled and she postpone going out for the gift. She went in for a nap, only to wake up by eleven p.m. She wasn’t surprised that she slept that long because the events that unfolded due to the accusation had left her stressed. “Indeed, the body needs rest”, she muttered. She picked her phone from the small stool beside her bed and saw Jack’s message stating that he wouldn’t be coming back home that night.



As dawn broke, Mrs. Johnny carefully prepared to go for her gift. She was in Bells shopping mall before noon. The manager said, “We have been expecting you ma’am. Please, come with me.”


The manager took her to his office where she was asked to fill a short profile form. She was just minutes away from receiving the highly anticipated gifts. Soon enough, the manager appeared with the gifts.


“Wow!” She exclaimed. She took the phone out of its pack. “This is splendid,” she acknowledged. “It’s lovely.”


Mrs. Johnny cherished the gifts. She was tickled pink by the handbag. It looked really expensive, like some kind of a bag for a very fashionable conscious lady


“Ma’am, can you take a look at the back of the phone?” The manager requested. Mrs. Johnny did as she was told.


“What do you observe?” asked the manager.


“Some letters are written on it,” she replied.


“Those are not just letters but your initials.”


“That’s true. C and J.”


“We customized the phone just for you,” added the manager.


“Oh, that’s incredible! I’m grateful. Thank you very much. It looks like a design made by the manufacturer.”


“Yes, it’s professionally done,” said the manager. “Congratulations, once again!”


“Thank you again,” said Mrs. Johnny.


“We look forward to your continued patronage,” said the manager.


“Let me assure you that Bells shopping mall will always be my preference,” Mrs. Johnny said as she dropped the phone inside the new handbag and hung it on her left shoulder. Mrs. Johnny shook hands with the manager and walked out of the mall to where she parked her car.


A boy walked behind without her noticing. The boy was obviously experienced because he was swift. He snatched the handbag and ran into a waiting vehicle. In one moment, her new gift was gone! Mrs. Johnny ran after the car and was able to only memorize the plate ID. She recorded the number on her phone.


“I must report to the police immediately,” she said and got into her car. At the point of turning on the ignition, she remembered Mrs. Ogaga, how frustrated the woman must have felt when she had a similar experience. “One can never know how terrible people feel in a bad situation until one encounters it,” she said.


Mrs. Johnny sobbed inconsolably. She drove to the police station to lodge a complaint. Mr Kewe Efe was assigned to investigate the case. He promised to do his best.


“Tracing the owner of the car is a good lead to begin with,” said the Investigator.



Mrs. Johnny got home feeling sad, but she hoped that the details which she gave of the car would expose the gangsters. She lamented bitterly to one of her cordial neighbours Jack was then, a volunteer teacher in a secondary school. He assisted in preparing the senior students for their examinations. The young man hoped the secondary school would employ him one day. Derrick started work in a car dealer station where he rendered administrative duties.


When Mrs. Johnny got home, no one was there. She went to her bedroom to rest; the duvet comforted her with its warmth.


Days passed and the police came up with the investigation report; first, Mr Kewe told Mrs. Johnny that the car she saw was a stolen car. The inspector explained that the car belonged to one Mr Fred Ogaga, and that the owner had reported to the police to track it. He added that the stolen vehicle had a case file at the police station, which meant that the police was saddled with the responsibility of recovering the car.


“Is the owner of the car Mr Fred Ogaga, my neighbour?” Mrs. Johnny asked.


“Yes,” replied the investigator. “He said the car was stolen from where he parked it.”


“What’s the next move?” Mrs. Johnny inquired. She was very concerned about how to get her phone back immediately.


“I’m afraid, you have to wait a little longer and give us some time for further investigation. We will get back to you as events unfold.” Mrs. Johnny felt she got fables as feedback, and that there was no way the items could be recovered.


When Mrs. Johnny got home, Jack had good news. He told her that the school in which he was a volunteer teacher had decided to employ him. He also told her that he had been given a flat in the teachers’ quarters. “I’m no longer a volunteer teacher,” he said to his mother happily.


“That’s great news. Congratulations!” said Mrs. Johnny, trying to sound excited, but the sad look on her face betrayed her. She was sad because she realized that she wouldn’t see Jack often anymore.


“Why the sudden change of countenance? Aren’t you happy for me?” Jack asked his mother.


“I am, it’s just that I don’t want you to go far away from me,” said Mrs. Johnny. Jack chuckled and promised that he would come every weekend to see her.


It was a Saturday afternoon. Derrick was not at home, but Jack came on a visit. He was in his room. Mrs. Johnny was in the living room, dusting and sweeping the house when she saw thick smoke coming out of Derrick’s room. She raised alarm. Jack ran out from his room.


Jack tried to open Derrick’s room. It was locked. “What do I do now?” he asked, confused.


“Break the door!” Mrs. Johnny ordered. “Wait!” She said, and asked Jack to first turn off the electrical power source. Jack quickly went and switched off the circuit. The smoke had begun to draw the attention of neighbours; she heard them talk about the fire. One of the neighbours knocked and asked, ”Is everything okay in there?” But Mrs. Johnny couldn’t answer. How could she, when she and her son were doing their best to curb the fire? Jack managed to break the lock and they both rushed into the room. Mrs. Johnny tried to use the fire extinguisher, but the smoke was suffocating. She decided to give the extinguisher to her son while she went to answer the door. In Derrick’s room, the curtains and the window blind had begun to burn and spread the fire to other parts of the room. Jack carried the mattress away from the floor so that the flake of fire will not ignite the bed. After that, he used the fire extinguisher. By the time the neighbours came in, the fire had been completely put out. The house was still misty though.


“What could have happened if nobody was at home,” Mrs. Johnny asked Jack, after she had thanked the neighbours and they all had left.



Some minutes later, Mrs. Johnny decided to go into Derrick’s room to know the extent of damage caused by the fire outbreak. The thick smoke had dissipated. Mrs. Johnny saw that the curtains had been completely burnt. She noted Derrick had left the iron plugged in the socket, and that the heat emitted by the electric current had melted the socket, and that had caused the fire.


Other electrical appliances were also affected. She looked at where the mattress was moved from, and what she saw was shocking. There, Derrick had kept a phone under the mattress. She picked the phone; it was the exact phone she got as a gift from the Bells shopping Mall. To further confirm, she looked at the customized lettering, it was her initials. She couldn’t figure out how the phone got there. Derrick sure had some questions to answer. She took the phone and kept it in her room, waiting for Derrick to come back. She didn’t mind involving the police if her son refused to open up.


She would have told Jack but he had gone for a meeting in his place of work shortly after the fire incident. Derrick soon came back to behold the damage he had done. He sincerely hoped that his evil deed had not been discovered.


His hope was in vain because Mrs. Johnny was ready for action. She had hidden the smart device with throw pillows and sat on the sofa. As Derrick tried to hurriedly walk past her, she called him. He came and sat by her. ”I’m sorry about the fire incident. It was a mistake,” he said.


“Derrick, I trusted you,” she said.


“I don’t understand, what’s this about?” Derrick asked feigning ignorance.


“How about this,” she said brandishing the phone. “Is this a mistake too?”


Derrick was speechless. He stuttered, “That’s my new phone.”


“Liar! Tell me what you know about the phone.”


“I bought it.”

“But You don’t have that kind of money.”


“Mom, please stop, I bought it.”


“From where?”


“A shopping mall!”


“For how much?”


Derrick tried to come up with a figure. He failed. The pain his mother felt which showed in her eyes was just too much to ignore.



The young widow hadn’t shared with her children that she had lost the gift Bells shopping mall gave to her. She just didn’t feel like talking about it. Mrs. Johnny then explained to Derrick that the phone was part of the gifts she got from the shopping Mart, “Now tell me how you got the phone,” she demanded. Derrick wouldn’t speak. His mother threatened to call the police. Only then did Derrick attempt to open up. He needed assurance that his mother would not hand him over to the police; Mrs. Johnny said only if he said the truth would she not hand him to the security agents.


“I belong to a gang of thieves,” he said as he began the ugly story. He told his mother how their boss would send them to different locations to snatch ladies bags, and how they would share the booty at the end of the day. “My boss gave me the phone on the day one of us brought it. I didn’t know he snatched it from you.” Derrick further said that a car or bike was usually used as get-away.


Derrick revealed that one of the cars used for the operation could hardly be traced because the car belonged to their boss who had reported it as stolen, so that if anyone reported the plate ID, the police would end up with the platitude: it was a stolen car.


“Who is your boss?” asked a bewildered Mrs. Johnny.


“Mr Fred Ogaga.”


“What? Mr Fred Ogaga is your boss?”


“Yes, but his wife is not aware of her husband’s double life,” said Derrick. “You remember when Mrs. Ogaga accused me? I actually snatched her bag but hid it from my boss.”


“Oh my God, you did what? You made me charge an innocent woman to court? God, this is too much for me.”


“Mom, I’m sorry.”


“Shut your mouth,” said Mrs. Johnny, sobbing, crying and asking God to forgive her. Mrs. Johnny was confused, not knowing what to do. She called Barr Edim immediately.

Soon, Barr Edim was in the house. Mrs. Johnny reiterated her son’s statements, asking what would be the implication if Derrick mentioned the culprits to the police. Barr Edim said the best thing was to involve the police so that the kingpin and his allies would be arrested and charged to court.


“As for Derrick,” said Barr Edim. “He will be let off lightly, especially if he has proof because the court can use his testimony to indict Mr Fred Ogaga.”


“How can he get solid proof,” asked Mrs. Johnny. “The best option is for him to wear wires which will enable the police hear and record any conversation.”


Inspector Kewe was contacted. Derrick narrated his gang’s modus operandi to the security agents, named their boss and other gang members. The police went after them and arrested all, not one was left. They were charged to court and prosecuted. Mrs. Johnny was amazed at how the fire in her seemingly insignificant home had indeed purged the entire city but imagined the fire ravaging in hell.





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