“Is that Mr. Eton?”
“Who am I speaking with, please?
“Lawal, from the Nkpani police department.”
“Okay, hold on let me go get him.” There was a crackling sound, and a moment later, Eton’s gruff voice sounded, “Hello, Lawal,”
“Ya, good morning sir. Sorry to disturb you this early.” The time was nine o’clock and it wasn’t surprising that Eton just woke up. After all, he was the boss. When his father was still alive, he had to cope with the inconvenience of waking up as early as seven and getting to the office before eight.
There had been no difference between him and the common labourers in the company. Just that he was a senior staff and also, the potential managing director.
“Have you got any news for me, Lawal?” Eton asked.
“O yes, the result has arrived.”
“O, it has,” He flinched as though he had been pricked by the news. “When did it come in?”
“A few minutes ago.”
“Have you seen it?”
“No, I can’t. They won’t let me.”
“Try, Lawal. I’ve got to know.” Eton pressed.
“I was hoping you’re going to come down to the station.”
“I should, but I can’t. There’re reasons why I can’t, so please, try and find out and let me know as soon as possible. I’ll make it worth your time,” He added.
“I’ll try.” Lawal said. “Just the name, right?”
“Yes, I believe that’s what the forensic test is all about- revealing the identity of the killer.”
“Alright, I’ll call you back as soon as I find out,” and he hung up.
Eton walked out of the living room where he had received the call, into the veranda and out into the compound. He felt restless. He just didn’t know what to do or where to go. Why he had come outside, he didn’t know. He just wanted to think and sort things out. He should have been at work, but monetary business was far from his mind at the moment. He had got himself into something that if he didn’t handle well, would destroy him.
In his quest to solve a problem, he had put himself into a much bigger problem. But, he had done several of such while in school and had got away undetected, he thought. Why was this different? Was it because of the introduction of the forensic department in the police force? Was that the reason?
At this juncture, he heard the town crier’s bell outside the gate. He wasn’t far from the gate. A few steps took him to it and he stepped out.
The town cryer swung his arm one more time, sending jingles all over the atmosphere. He started proclaiming.
“People of Nkpani! Great sons and daughters of Nkpani! Clean the dirt from your ears so that you may hear me well. Our great and gracious king has ordered that by twelve O’ clock in the afternoon, every man old enough to impregnate a woman must be at the shrine of obaselowi to swear and claim his innocence of the death of Agaba.
It will be regarded as guilt if, for any reason, any man decides not to take part in this. Therefore, the king, with the support of the gods, shall take rabid disciplinary measures to enforce justice. This is the message I have been sent to pass,” He continued walking, ringing his bell as he did.
* * *
Sergeant Daniel had been in Inspector Gabon’s office for over thirty minutes. They had both examined the result, bewildered. Never in their wildest imagination could they have believed that he was the killer. They still weren’t fully convinced, though the sheet of paper on the inspector’s desk had the facts. What’s the motive? They pondered.
For thirty minutes, they had worked up their brains, but nothing new came. Just the name, Eton. Why should he kill his father? It was almost unbelievable. But, his finger print had been the only fresh ones that were discovered in the house, besides Agaba’s. Yes, that’s true, thought Sergeant Daniel. The other day, the guard had said on the day Agaba died, he had sent all his staff away for the weekend. If there was an intruder, why were his finger prints not detected? Could he have worn a glove? No, an Nko man would not have had the sense to wear a glove. Even if he did, what was Eton’s finger print doing on the knife. Yes, the knife that killed Agaba.
Sergeant Daniel started realizing the confirmation of his doubt. He had doubted the possibility of the killer coming in through the barbed wired fence. He had also doubted the possibility of him coming in through the gate since the guard claimed to have been there. He even said, plainly, to Eton that the killer of his father was an insider. Yes, he was. He began to see the whole mystery unravel before his eyes. That’s why Eton had been warning him to lay his hands off the case. He had got the killer. He knew. But, one thing remained – the motive?
“Why did he do it, serge?” Inspector Gabon asked, cutting Sergeant Daniel’s thoughts.
“I guess that’s what we’ve got to find out,” Sergeant Daniel answered.
“That boy is an animal,” The inspector said. “Look at how smartly he made it seem like it was the Nko people that did it.”
“He sure was smart. Foolishly smart. I wonder how many people have died from this already.”
“Serge, when the squad from calabar arrives, you will lead them there and get him arrested. Then you’ll move on to the king’s palace and let him know that we’ve got the killer and that the Nko people are innocent, after all. I believe that will make him call off the war.”
“Okay, sir,” Sergeant Daniel answered.
Constable Lawal had been at the door, eavesdropping. On hearing this last statement, he knew Sergeant Daniel would come out, and so he moved briskly to the counter which was his position.
* * *
Eton had been thinking since he heard the announcement from the town cryer. Not as though he was scared of swearing before obaselowi. As a matter of fact, he believed the whole swearing thing was meaningless fetishism. He felt the people wasted their time in the worship of powerless objects in the name of gods.
One could not blame him. He had his education in calabar where he assimilated the culture and religion of the west. If merely swearing before obaselowi would exonerate him from the case, he would. He believed the people of Nkpani were too superstitious. He would walk into the shrine and declare that he knew nothing about the death of his father, even though he did, and nothing would happen.
What scared him most was the police, the forensic test. Technology. Yes, that was it. If the forensic technology hadn’t got to Calabar, he wouldn’t have had anything to fear. He had killed several times in the past and no forensic obstacle reared its head. If he had known about the forensic innovation, he would have been more careful, probably used a glove. I guess I was too desperate, he said in his mind, and went over the situation before the killing:
She was a rare dame, one anyone would indubitably want to tame. With her display of radiance, it was difficult not to go into a trance. Beautiful, sumptuous, gorgeous, titillating were all gross understatement of her unearthly looks. She possessed such rare beauty that a man would rather not comment on. It was better left unsaid. She was like an object of a poet’s descriptive imagination. Her name was Koton. Of all the men that would put their lives and resources on line to have her, Eton was the one she chose.
He started dating her a year ago. The relationship brought boundless exhilaration to him and he wished it wouldn’t stop. She was the reason he prayed to see the next dawn; why he lived. Yes, he loved her that much. She was his sun, he revolved around her and the reflecting glow on him was evident even to a blind man.
He proposed to her six months after and his affection for her gained momentum when she accepted. As far as he was concerned, the earth and all the heavenly bodies were at their service. No one else existed, but the both of them.
Eton introduced her to Agaba. Maybe that was the mistake. Maybe he shouldn’t have. But how could he not. Koton and Agaba became somewhat close, but he thought nothing of it. Agaba was his father, and Koton would not mess around with him. How he underestimated Agaba, the wealthiest man in Nkpani. What woman would not fall for him?
Two weeks later, Agaba seldom went to the company, and when Eton returned, Koton would be in the house. What was she doing there? If he asked, she would say she was waiting for him. He became suspicious but decided not to ask for fear of not wanting to be wrong.
It all blew up weeks ago. He came back from work earlier than he should. He had a slight headache and thought he should come home and rest. When he entered the living room, he saw nobody. He was about entering his room, when he heard the sound. A giggle, to be precise. It was undeniably hers. He had heard it so many times that he couldn’t have missed it. He tip-toed to the door and pressed his ear to it. What seemed to be an amused laughter, suddenly turned into an amused scream, a ‘pleasurous’ moan. He stood for more than a minute, listening to the frantic moan of his fiancée.
He couldn’t take it anymore. His headache had stopped and his body quavered. He was as befuddled as the word itself. He kicked the door like he was an Okocha that craved a goal. And before him, was the worst scene in his entire life. Koton bent with her hands on her toes, completely nude, while Agaba, his father, stood behind her with his key in the ignition, riding expertly.
Death would have been preferable to this, he thought. If he had a gun, they would have instantly had a space in the spirit world; his father and his fiancée. He couldn’t bear it. He walked out of the house.
A week later, Agaba came to him that he had found a girl for him, from Nko. Nnanke was the name. Did he care to know? Koton was gone. She couldn’t have come back to him after what she did. A part of him had died. He had made a pledge in his heart that he was going to kill Agaba. And the coming weekend was perfect. Yes, the servants would be gone and there would be no obstacle. Anyway, he had to accept the Nnanke-proposal to make things seem okay, but he knew what he wanted; Agaba’s death. That alone would placate his anger.
The sharp sound of the phone brought him back to reality. He was expecting Lawal’s call, so he rushed over, “Hello,”
“Yes, who’s speaking?”
“Have you found out?”
“Yes,” He hesitated, and then said, “But, I don’t understand. It’s you.”
“Me?” Eton asked, but he wasn’t surprised.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s confusing, but why…”
“I’ll call back, please.” Eton dropped the phone before Lawal could probe further. They’ve found out, he thought.
The sun blazed severely on the bare bodies under it. Nature seemed angry, angry at the irrationality of the men in its care. Although, war was natural, but the volatility and bloodiness of this was bizarrely irrational. Hundreds of men, killed within the spate of twenty four hours. Could one describe this as the brevity of human life? Whatever.
King Kobogo stood before his men, all sweating profusely from the harshness of the sun. But, they were not bothered. They were determined to avenge their dead warriors. The king was pleased with them. They had proven to be true sons of their fathers and fore-fathers.
This time, the men stood together. Ugbojon was in the front roll. His face was painted with what no one knew. As usual, he held no weapon. He did not need it. All he would need were in him.
Eko was also in the front roll. He looked determined and angry. But the truth was that he was unhappy; unpleased with himself for leaving Nnanke again. He just couldn’t let that weigh him down. He was a man in every sense of the word. And real men don’t let themselves tied to the apron strings of women. He shut the door of his mind from the thought of her and looked forward at the king.
King Kobogo started speaking, “My people, we fought yesterday and we won. It is an indication that the gods are with us in this battle. And they will always be with us. We shall march to Nkpani again and bring back victory once more.” He paused and looked at the anxious faces of the warriors, then continued, “I shall lead.”
At this last statement, the warriors couldn’t conceal their excitement. A king had never led the Nko warriors to a battle before. How memorable it would be. It immediately became a privilege they craved.
Kobogo noticed their anxiety and said, “I can’t remain in my palace when my people are out there fighting for our land, fighting for our pride, fighting for our glory. This time, the Nkpani people have bitten more than they can chew and certainly, it will choke them. We shall march into their village and flood it with their blood.” He spun around sharply and stretched his hands towards his guard who handed him a rifle and a two-sided, sharpened machete. He held the machete with his left hand and rested the rifle on his shoulder with the other, then started moving towards the forest. The men moved along, watching their king who looked like a rebel.