Femi was shocked. Chief Okafor had not only been a cruel man but was, in reality, a wolf in sheep’s clothing: a chameleon.
“Did you report to the police about the murder?” He asked as she bent her head to the right and fixed her tear-filled eyes on Femi.
“He threatened you? You could try to be smart sometimes” Femi was almost angry at her. He wished she had been that intelligent.
A troubled look took over. She sniffed once more and bowed her head. “I couldn’t report because…” she sniffed once more and looked up at him. “…because I did it”
She did not wait for Femi to say anything before she explained. “He had warned me to stay away from the boy and so I was always sneaking around with him, telling him my parents wouldn’t approve. It wasn’t even up to a week…I had gone to visit and he was alone at home” she looked at the ground. “I don’t know how Chief had gained access to the food in our house and so the moment he collapsed, I was so confused. I didn’t know what had happened…the next minute…Chief was clapping his hands behind me and tagging me a murderer” she looked at Femi with pleading eyes.
“I couldn’t go to jail for a crime I didn’t commit but I knew from all indications, I had committed the crime…” she sniffed. “He was my only hope…he blackmailed me and I had no choice but to remain with him” she wiped the tears that stained her cheeks.
Her eyes were red and already swollen. Femi just wanted to reach out and hug her. She had gone through so much and all because of Chief Okafor.
“Did you try to blackmail him?” He asked as she shook her head.
“After framing me up, I knew he was a dangerous man and I never tried to do anything against him” she paused and then added: “I need to personally thank the person who got rid of him…you don’t even need to arrest the person because he performed a public service by getting rid of a monster”
“Thank you Amara” he said and turned off the recorder.
“Erm…my…my mother won’t hear about this…right?” She asked the moment Femi was on his feet.
Femi simply smiled at her: a fatherly smile. “Not a word” he promised as she tightened her lip and nodded with a forced smile.
“And mummy Uju…she’ll hate me and my innocent mother if she hears this…and I don’t want her to be hurt or heartbroken; she adored her husband” she was being sincere.
“Nobody will hear” he assured her and walked out with the light.
Femi took his seat in front of the young woman who stared at him in fear. Her mouth was gagged but only her hands were tied. As he removed the cloth from her mouth, he tried to search for her face in his memory but she did not look familiar.
He turned on the recorder and began. “Tell me your name”
“Juliet Awaji” there was fear in her eyes as she spoke.
Femi had no idea who she was or her connection to the case. She looked as if she was in her late twenties or early thirties. He then let his eyes go to the ring on her finger.
“Please, what do you want from me?” She asked getting uncomfortable with the way Femi was sizing her up.
I don’t even know, he thought to himself.
“Did you know Chief Emeka Okafor?” He had to start from somewhere.
“Yes” she replied wondering why she was being asked.
“How?” He asked immediately.
“He’s my friend’s father in-law” she replied as Femi suddenly remembered where Annie had gone to on the night of the murder.
“Did the police come to see you?”
“Yes…” she did not know what she had gotten herself into.
Femi noticed the fear in her eyes but made no effort to calm her down. She had already made them know that Annie had an alibi, so why was she on the list?
“What did you tell them?”
“She had been at my place that night” she simply said as Femi stared at her.
She had to be sitting in that room for a reason; not because she was a suspect but because she was a possible lead to the suspect.
It was either she was hiding something…
…or the right questions had not been asked.
Femi held on to the last thought and then tried to replay the last session with Annie in his head…and that was when it hit him.
…she wanted me to come since her boyfriend had broken up with her because she caught him cheating with her cousin.
His eyes went back to the ring on her finger.
“You’re getting married?” He made it sound like a question.
“Yes I am…in two months”
“Then you must really love him”
“I do” she said blushing as Femi sat up in his seat.
“Why exactly did Annabel come to see you that night?”
“She had a fight with her husband” she replied as Femi nodded.
“And so she spent the night with you?” He asked even though he knew the answer.
“No, she just told me about the fight with her husband and left”
“She drove all the way to your house from Rumuola to tell you that?”
“No. She had gone for a church program in the afternoon and so she had a fight over the phone with him and since she was passing by, she simply told me what happened and said she had to hurry home” she explained as Femi stared at her.
“You didn’t have a fight with your boyfriend?” He wanted to be sure.
“Thank you Juliet” he said and turned off the recorder.
“Is that why you brought me here?” She asked as he got up with the lamp in his hand.
Femi turned on the recorder and stared at the matron. There was no need getting a warrant anymore.
“Do you remember me?” He asked as she nodded slowly.
She looked scared; Femi liked it that way.
“Do you know the punishment for withholding information from the police?”
She shook her head. Her tired old eyes had a sort of pleading in them.
“Well, since you’re not so young, the least you could get would be…let’s see…two? Or is it four?…No, I think it’s-”
“I have no idea what happened to those girls” she cut in immediately as Femi watched her. “I talked to Chief, I convinced him to call the police but he warned me to do my job and leave the missing girls to him” she paused. “I got scared, I thought he was behind it all and so I resigned but he rejected my letter and threatened to kill me if the police got any report on the girls…apparently, it was my duty to make sure it looked as if nothing was happening” she explained to Femi.
“So did you try to do anything to find out what he did with the girls?” He wanted to know who the blackmailer was.
“That man was too smart, the most intelligent if I must say…I couldn’t think of going against him. His younger brother had tried it and I saw the outcome, I wasn’t willing to put my life on the line for those girls… I wasn’t ” she said with all sincerity as Femi turned off the tape recorder and rose to his feet.
Femi was already getting tired and he wondered how many more people he had to speak to. He took his place on the empty seat and waited for the lady seated to raise her head, he hoped it would be Annabel.
“Hey” he said turning on the recorder as Tosin raised her head and hissed.
“You again? Are you sure you’re a real detective? Because you seem to have a funny way to interrogating people”
“Tosin Kayode” he called with a smile. “I’ve missed you” he teased as she glared at him.
“So back to where we had stopped at the station…who was responsible?” His tone became serious.
She looked away and gave a light laugh. “So you’re blackmailing me with a picture?”
“Exactly” he said and wondered where the picture was because he had left it at the station. “Who was responsible?”
“Look, it has nothing to do with-”
“There’s always a connection” he hated the fact that he sounded like Jide.
Tosin bowed her head and bit her lips. She looked up and Femi did not fail to notice how much she was trying to hold the tears in.
“Chief Emeka” she finally said as Femi stared at her. He was not surprised.
The man had been a renowned pedophile.
“So that was why Jide went to prison?”
She simply nodded. “The old bastard ruined our lives” she could not stop the tears anymore.
“When he raped you, why didn’t you tell anyone?”
She gave a light chuckle and looked at Femi. “The man was a saint to everyone” Femi knew that already.
“Where is the baby?”
More tears flowed as she tried to speak. “He…he” she sniffed and looked into Femi’s eyes. “He took her from me when she was seven” she said and began to sob uncontrollably.
Femi had a feeling he knew what happened to Tosin’s daughter so he did not ask but Tosin was not holding anything back.
“He…” She close her eyes and tightened her lips as she spoke. “He raped her until she passed out” she said amidst sobs. “He did that right before my eyes…and I couldn’t save her…she was crying…begging me to push the monster off her but I was helpless. His boys had tied me to a chair and left just the three of us in the room…I begged him to stop. I begged him to kill me…to do whatever he wanted but leave my little girl, but he didn’t listen” she wiped her face with her right hand but it did not stop more tears from flowing.
“When he was done with my baby, he did the same thing to me…I had screamed so much I thought I would lose my voice but the sound system that had been turned up before he had started his evil act drowned my voice…I had passed out too” she confessed. “And I woke up in a hospital where I was told that my daughter was dead” she sniffed once more.
“And guess who took us to the hospital…Chief Emeka Okafor” she said as Femi closed his eyes. “He had claimed he saw us on the roadside and once more the beast was tagged an Angel” she said with mixed feelings.
Femi did not know when he pulled Tosin into a tight hug. She tried to resist at first but soon slumped in his arms and wet his shirt with her tears. He had not been there but the images her story had conjured in his mind were horrific. He could not believe she had gone through all that because of Chief.
When her crying had reduced to a whimper, he let her go and she wiped her eyes clean.
“I…I wanted to kill him and so one night I had called him to a bar…that was a week before his death…I don’t know who took that shot” she was referring to the picture Femi had shown her in the station. “I had planned to kill him that night in the hotel room but he had an emergency and had to go home” she looked down and then at Femi. “That was the last time I saw him”
“Thank you Tosin” he said and turned off the recorder.
“If you ever find the killer, let me know. I need to thank him immensely” she said as he got up and nodded.
Chief Emeka Okafor was a monster.