The Divisional Police Officer of Victoria Island, a heavy-set man sat in his office, a one-story building which was squeezed in-between two tall buildings. It was spacious and had a huge window overlooking the ever busy road of Ahmadu Bello. Its floor was covered with a red carpet. A huge polished mahogany desk and a swivel-chair occupied one corner of the office, just directly opposite the window, and a medium sized metal cabinet occupied another corner. The only illumination in the office came from the rays of sunlight penetrating into the room, through the red curtains, draped over the window.
Every activity pertaining to crime detection and solving in Victoria Island were overseen in that office, under the watchful gaze of the vertically aligned portraits of his superiors, hanging on the green wall, directly above where he sat. The portraits were three in number; the President’s portrait, which hung authoritatively in the middle, the State governor’s and that of Inspector general’s flanking it. The presence of these portraits was becoming more of a motivator to him than by constitutional mandate. On several occasions he would dream of having his picture hung on the walls of every department, parastatal and office across the country someday. It had been his drive ever since he was recruited into the force and he vowed to gear it into motion.
In addition to being ambitious, he was also a sorely methodical man, a quality that fetched him good results in his endeavors and he took great pride in that. A look at his desktop would leave that impression of him on his visitors. The desktop was neatly arranged, each item placed according to their usage and purpose, and with only a few high priority documents sitting on it. Others were locked up inside the metal cabinet to his right.
He was rather huge for a man his age and had climbed up the ladder so fast that it attracted the envy of his colleagues. Since his assumption of the office of the DPO he was constantly being bombarded with heavy criticisms and hateful remarks. His enemies seized on every little opportunity they had to hammer into the ears of anyone who cared to listen of how incompetent he was, and how his cupboard was filled with skeletons, as if no one’s cupboard had a skeleton. But then being bothered about such trivial matters as the tantrums of rivals were for the weaklings and he wasn’t one.
Despite the various inflammatory allegations leveled at him, he’d somehow managed to maintain a clean slate. Not that he was a saint- he was far from it- but he’d been too discreet that it would take an axe, as heavy as an armoured tank to break open his proverbial cupboard. He knew he was surrounded by impatient hawks waiting to prance on him and he was determined never to give them a chance to.
The DPO ate, drank and breathed his job. He was very strict when it came to maintaining discipline in his office, and it bought him a nickname from his subordinates; Bulldozer he was called but never to his face. Everyone in the office dreaded his wrath, which he seemed to be brimming with it this hot afternoon.
He was yelling into his landline when he heard a soft knock on the door. He covered the mouthpiece with his left palm and shouted, “come in.”
Two men walked into the office, one donning the full police regalia of all black and a black cap, the other cladded in a black cotton suit, who looked much older than the police officer and was trying desperately to hide his disgust of having to enter the office.
The DPO pointed at the empty seat in front of his desk, a gesture indicating to the visitor to have a seat, which he read and sat down while the other man kept standing with his hands behind his back. He went back to yelling at whoever was at the other end of the phone, with both visitors trying vainly to ignore his loud and overbearing voice.
After some minutes of cursing, shouting and commanding, he dropped the receiver and ordered his subordinate to leave them. The moment the door closed, he heaved a sigh and relaxed his countenance.
“Welcome Mr. Andrew,” the DPO said as he rose from his seat, his massive frame casting an almost intimidating shade on his visitor. He belonged to the ring not here? Andrew thought amusingly. The DPO thrust forward his right hand across the desk for a handshake at his visitor.
Andrew stood up, took his hand and shook it firmly.
“As you already know I’m the DPO of VI, but you can call me John.”
“Thank you Mr. John,” Andrew said, sounding anything but enthusiastic.
They both sat down. Andrew adjusted his suit.
“How was your flight?” John asked, with a tinge of mellow in his voice.
“Apart from the usual and annoying delay at the airport, it was fine.”
“And how are the big boys in Abuja doing?”
“They are there, waiting to pounce on any unfortunate prey.” This time Andrew was forced to smile a little.
“It’s the nature of the job; your success depends on someone else’s failure. And if you can engineer someone else’s failure you pave way for your success. ”
“Or you can just work hard and allow nature to take its course.”
“Then my friend you’ll forever remain a pauper in this country of ours.”
They both laughed at their musings. The air around them became lighter.
“Forgive my earlier outburst,” John said, grinning. “I had to call my boys to order.”
“That’s fine, I’m used to it.”
John placed his elbows on the desk and leaned forward. “I personally requested for the assistance of the State Security Service through the State Director. And I never expected you would be the one they would send down here.”
“You gambled with the Commissioner?” Andrew asked incredulously. Andrew knew that such requests usually passed through the office of the commissioner, but obviously the DPO bypassed him- a very wrong move by the DPO if you asked him, but he knew why he did it. Andrew knew that there was no love lost between the police and other security agencies: aside from their anger at being paid lower than the others by the government, they strongly believed that the others encroached on their jurisdiction, hence undermining their efforts and value. Had the DPO informed the Commissioner beforehand his plans of involving the SSS he wouldn’t have approved it. It was a bold step by the DPO, one with huge consequences that could be damaging to his career should anything went wrong.
“I had to. You should have seen his face; he was pissed when he got the notification from the State Director. But then it was too late for him, he had no option but to consent to it.”
“That was a big risk you took there.”
“I know what I’m doing. Everybody wins if this case is cracked,” John said solemnly. “Like I said earlier I never expected you would be the one they would send down here.”
“Well… I guess my expertise is still needed and I’m glad to be of service,” Andrew replied assertively.
“I just hope I’m making the right decision here?”
“I hope so too.”
John stared at his visitor, somewhat not satisfied with his response. He was a bit disappointed. Of all the intelligent staff the SSS could boast of it was him they had to send? He thought bitterly. The proficiency of the SSS on matters of this kind was not in doubt, it was the reason he consulted them at the first place, but he doubted the competency of the man they sent to him. This was no ordinary case and it shouldn’t be toyed with. It was a murder case. And based on the similar signatures it seemed to have with the mysterious deaths across the country over the years, it had been flagged as the doing of a serial killer, a new dimension of crime that was way under the radar of anyone in this country. Given how crucial it was to curb this menace, this was the best the SSS he counted on could do; sending an incompetent fellow to do the job of a contingent. What exactly were they thinking?
From what he gleaned off his research about Andrew prior to Andrew’s arrival, Andrew didn’t measure up to the kind of person he thought could handle this job. Yes there were cracked cases credited to him but none of them amounted to the extremity of this one. It was bad it had to happen in his turf. On the other hand it presented an opportunity he intended to capitalize on to further his ambitions, and he wasn’t going to allow it slip through his fingers.
When it became obvious to him Andrew wasn’t going to say any further, John tore his eyes away from him, selected one of the files sitting on his desk and said, “while I was waiting for your arrival, I look the liberty of pulling your records, just to cover all grounds.”
Andrew shot him a curious glance. Even though it was conventional for the DPO to assess his records, it was irrelevant and Andrew wasn’t comfortable with that. John opened the file, flipped through some papers, looked up at Andrew and began reciting a summarized poem of his biography.
“An erstwhile police officer from Delta State with the rank of an Inspector, evicted from service on an account of gross insubordination. Later recruited by the SSS several years later and now retired on reasons best known to you.”
“My eviction was supposed to have been expunged, why bring it up?” Andrew said curtly.
“I’m aware of that. But you see, I’m very methodical, so you’ll understand my reason for going the extra length. I tend to see it as a subtle discrepancy in your record that needs to be au fait with. I’m aware it had something to do with the SP case you pulled off several years back, but what I don’t get is how it led to your dismissal?”
“What do you want to know?”
Andrew exhaled heavily, crossed his legs and took the pain of narrating the ordeal he wished he didn’t have to tell anyone. SP was the code name for Samuel Peters’ case which entailed the investigation of the gruesome murder of the foremost politician 9 years ago. He recounted to John how suddenly the then DPO of his division had instructed him to close all ongoing investigations on the murder, even when he was so close to solving the case. He’d refused. He was confronted, bribed and threatened, yet he persisted. In an attempt to stop him the DPO facilitated his dismissal from office on the grounds of disobeying a direct order. Still he never relented. He’d fought fiercely to bring the culprits to book, and had eventually succeeded. His efforts led to the apprehension of the culprits by the court, together with the DPO who was now serving a 21 year term in Ikoyi prison for bribery and corruption.
By the time Andrew finished, there was a glint of satisfaction in John’s eyes. Andrew’s story jibed with the rumor he heard. His bar of competency just increased in the DPO’s mind, but one thing still bothered him though.
“Why were you not recalled?” John asked.
“Not coming back was my decision. I was called back though but I rejected it.”
“I wasn’t satisfied with their terms and offer.”
“I see. The SSS made a better offer then?”
“I guess so.”
The D.P.O sank further into his swivel-chair and smiled.
“What is the nature of your job in the SSS?”
“It’s classified and you know it.”
“Are you married?”
“No,” Andrew said, now getting bored with the series of questions being thrown at him, and wondering where it was leading to. If it was his attempt to exert some form of superiority here, he’d failed? Andrew thought. Inwardly he cursed the SSS for having to partner him with the police on this case. He would tolerate no repetition of what happened last time? Police officers were always over ambitious and the DPO had it written all over him. A line would have to be drawn here somehow?
“You know,” the DPO continued, “a wife helps keep your sanity in check, because I know how cracked up one can get sometimes over some cases.”
Andrew laughed. “I believe you’re speaking from experience?”
“Oh yes! I have my wife and children to thank for my sanity sometimes and I advise you go get one.”
“I’ll. Thanks for the advice,” Andrew said knowing full well it was an empty promise. He wouldn’t tread that horrendous path again, not after what happened last time. Such voyage required certain responsibilities he didn’t have. Andrew pushed the thoughts from his mind and tried to wear a cheerful look.
“Back to business,” the D.P.O said. “I believe you’ve read the dossier?”
“You’ve seen the pictures taken from the scene? What do you think?”
“I’ve a working theory already but I still need to see the scene before I can reach a reasonable conclusion,” Andrew said.
“Ok then,” John said. “The place is still cordoned off as we speak. My men are still combing the area for clues and I have ordered them not to touch anything until you arrive. From what I garnered you like working that way?”
Andrew nodded in agreement.
“The state CID has assigned an officer to work with you on this case. He’s good. You will meet him when you get there.”
“I want to be updated on every latest development on this case. As you can see I’m answerable to the Commissioner on this.”
“I’m counting on you to pull this case. My neck is on the line here. Please don’t fail me.”
“I won’t. Can I see the place now?”
“Sure,” John said and placed a call to the receptionist to fetch him his driver. A minute later a young man strolled into the office and greeted the DPO.
The DPO looked up at the young man and instructed, “you’ll take Mr. Andrew here to the same location you took the man from the CID, and come back immediately, you’ll take me home when you get back.”
“Yes sir,” the young man answered.
John turned to Andrew. “I’ll call ahead to inform them you’re coming.”
Andrew stood up and followed the young man. He’d waited years to get his hands on this particular case, now that he had, he would make sure that bastard rot behind bars no matter what it would take? Andrew thought to himself and caught a glimpse of the DPO placing a call before leaving the office…
Spare no rod my humble brethren in NS…