“Please, what’s the time?” Femi asked when he was with his escort.
“Are you tired already, detective?”
“No, I just want to know what time it is”
“Well” the young man said coming to a halt. “You don’t need to…your next suspect” he said as Femi sighed and entered the room.
The room was set just like the others and as usual, Femi took his seat and turned on the tape recorder.
“Hey” his voice was not as loud as before, he was tired and needed to sleep again.
The lady before him did not stir. Her hands were tied to the chair but her legs were free.
“Hey” he reached forward and tapped her laps. When she did not move, he tapped her face and Catherine immediately raised her head with so much alertness.
A look of familiarity took over her countenance when she noticed who was seating before her.
“God, I had a terrible dream…I dreamt that I was kidnapped-” she stopped talking when she realized her hands were tied to the chair. “You kidnapped me?” She asked as a wave of realization finally dawned on her.
“I need to talk to you”
“You could have called me to the station. What kind of method is this?” She asked furiously.
“I just want us to-”
“I will say nothing to you” she cut in as he stared at her.
“Then I don’t think you want to leave this place” he said as she glared at him.
“I don’t know what else you want to hear from me. I did not kill that man”
“I’m not here to ask about your…his death”
“Then why did you kidnap me?” the anger in her voice was unmistakable.
“I just want to ask you few questions and then I’ll let you go” he said as she laughed.
“And you really think I’m going to give you answers?” she asked rhetorically. “Close this case” she advised casually.
“Because the man deserved to die and his killer should not be punished because he or she did the world a favour”
“Why do you think that way?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I hated the man” she replied as Femi sighed. He was going nowhere with her.
“Cath-” he stopped as he noticed that her hands had begun to shake but she was trying to ignore it by clenching her fist.
He remembered when that had happened in the sttation and all she needed was a smoke.
“You tell me what I need to know and I’ll get you a cigar” he said as her eyes lit up for a split second.
“You’re bluffing” she said as Femi stared at her.
He knew he was bluffing but he had to take a shot. As he thought of what to say to her, his eyes wandered to the tape recorder and that was when he noticed the cigarette and lighter beside the recorder on the table. He did not even know when he smiled and looked back at her. She had followed his gaze and was now staring intently at him.
“You know what to do”
“You wish” she said and bowed her head to Femi’s surprise.
With no other idea coming to mind, he simply relaxed in his seat. He was really tired. He knew she would not hold on for too long; she was an addict.
It was about thirty minutes later that Femi sat up and stared at Catherine. She was moaning and shaking violently that it scared him. He tried to restrain himself for few more minutes. He did not want to give in but watching her shake was not a pleasing sight. He looked down so that he would not have to look at her. She had already stopped moaning but he did not want to look up at her. He could not tell how long his head had been bowed but he was tired.
He sighed and raised up his head to give her the cigarette when she shouted.
Femi did not know if he had heard properly. He looked at Catherine. She badly needed to smoke.
“Will you answer my questions?”
“When I’m done smoking” she replied.
“You’ll answer all my questions?”
“Yes…would you put the cigar in my mouth already?” She yelled angrily as he lit the cigar and put it in her mouth.
She inhaled deeply and then exhaled. She then glared at him and spoke:
“You’re supposed to remove it now” she said as he removed it immediately. “Haven’t you seen someone smoke before?” She queried as he put the cigar once more in her mouth and removed it again. “So, why did you bring me here?” She asked as he tried to think. He could not ask her outrightly about the murder but the text she had sent to her father two weeks before his death showed she had a motive, and that was what he wanted to find out. His officers had confirmed her alibi but she could have paid someone to do the job.
“I want to know everything about you and I want you to prove to me that you did not murder Chief Okafor” he said putting the cigarette once more in her mouth and removing it.
“It’s okay” she said as he put the cigarette on the floor and put it out with his foot. “What do you want to know about me?”
“Let’s start from why you hate Chief Okafor so much”
“I’ve told you, he was a monster” she said casually as Femi realized that was not helping; he had to come in from another angle.
“Do you remember Tosin Kayode?” He asked as her countenance changed. Femi could not exactly tell the expression on her face but it was not a happy one.
“I do”she replied almost in a whisper as Femi nodded.
“Your friend?” He made it sound like a question.
“She was” she said sadly.
“Was? What happened?”
“Our parents stopped us from speaking” her voice was still low.
“Why?” He asked as she looked up at him.
“I don’t know” she said looking away.
“Catherine, I need to know the truth” he said as she looked at him.
“What makes you think I’m lying?”
“I…when last did you see Tosin?”
“Before she went missing” she replied. “I had seen her in school that day”
“What about her pregnancy?” He asked as Catherine gave him a look of surprise.
“How did you-”
“The Kayodes think you led their daughter astray”
“I know” there was guilt in her eyes.
“Did you?” He asked as she looked at him. Femi noticed she was trying to hold back tears.
“You can talk to me, Catherine” he said softly as she bit her lips.
“I don’t want to” she tried to sound firm but the tears were obvious in her voice.
“Look, I know you hated him but Tosin said so many horrible things about him” he said. “She accused him of many horrible things but I need you to disprove them because your father was a good-”
“He was a monster” she flared as Femi sat quietly. She was right where he wanted her. “He was a horrible person…no, a beast” she said angrily. “Everything she told you is true”
“How do you know that? It’s not as if you were there” he said as she started to speak but kept quiet.
He wanted her to continue. “I need somebody to backup her story because I don’t even believe it…and I wonder if your mother would-”
“Don’t you dare” she warned.
“Then I need to be sure that you can back her story up” he said as she sighed and kept mute.
“I was there” she finally said with a sigh. “I…we were both together…I just don’t know how she got pregnant” she explained.
“Do you know who was responsible?”
“I said I was there, so I know”
“Was it during the usual sleepovers?”
“And where were you?”
“I was there”
“Hiding?” He asked as she looked at him and slowly shook her head.
“I was there with her” she confessed and sighed. “It was my fault” she said as Femi finally understood the guilt he had previously seen in her eyes.
“How was it your fault?”
“I…it’s a long story” she said with a sigh and looked up at him. “If I tell you, you have to promise not to speak to my mother…it’ll break her heart” she said as Femi nodded. “I…I was sick that day and mummy had gone to spend some time with her sick sister. The Kayodes were with us that day and at night…” her voice broke but she continued. “At night, he had come to my room where Tosin and I lay…I was so sick and I had begged him to leave me that night but he refused” she said as tears began to trickle on her cheeks. “He…he said I didn’t have a choice but to be his little girl as always” she looked at Femi. “Tosin tried to help…and he had sexual intercourse with her that night” she closed her eyes at the images her story conjured in her mind.
“Was that how she got pregnant?” He asked as she shook her head. “Then how?”
“After that night, I thought she would never speak to me again…but” a sad smile crossed her face. “Tosin was a friend to me…the best I’ve ever had in my life. She saw me in school the next day and asked if I had to go through that all the time..when I had told her everything, she said she was going to help. I thought she wanted to expose him but she chose t come for sleepovers to relieve me of the pain” she sniffed and tightened her lips.
“Then one night, he came home drunk and had his fun with the both of us…he had taken no precaution that night and that was how Tosin got pregnant… I had been menstruating so in a way I was safe”
“How long had he been assaulting you?”
“I think I was seven…I had followed him to a church conference and he told me…that night he had said that he wanted to play a game with me” she tightened her jaws as she continued. “He said…I had to take off my clothes and lie on the bed with my legs wide open” she swallowed and looked down. “I just…I only wondered what kind of game it was because he always played with us and I was so interested in the new game” she explained as she raised her head and stared blankly into space. “He told me I had to close my eyes and the moment he would climb on top of me, I would feel a tiny pain” she said with tears in her voice. “But I should ignore it and count to twenty” the tears flowed freely as she closed her eyes.
“I had laughed and jokingly told him that he was heavy and he said I could jump on top of him when it was my turn” she inhaled and exhaled before she continued. “I hurriedly did as he asked and opened my legs with my eyes closed…” She sniffed still trying to be audible. “The…I…” Her lips quivered as she tried to speak. “I couldn’t even count…I was crying…and begging daddy to stop…but he told me I wasn’t counting and that he wouldn’t stop until I got to twenty” she sniffed once more. “I started to count and then he said I was too fast…that I had to spell the number before calling it out…o-n-e one, t-w-o two” she said in tears and bent her head. “I don’t know how long it had taken me to count…I don’t think I finished before I passed out” she said sniffing.
“When I woke up the next day, he was so angry at me and said he would never play with me again” she looked at Femi with tears in her eyes. “I was seven and I loved my daddy so I begged him that I would play the game well next time…he was so angry at me that to convince him, I immediately removed my clothes and that was when he smiled at me” she explained. “The monster took advantage of my innocence and all I knew was that I was making daddy happy…but mummy didn’t have to know. He said it was rough play and mummy always queried us for playing roughly so I thought I understood what he meant
“It continued for years until I turned twelve and threatened to tell mum” she said sniffing. “He said if I tried to tell mummy” she looked at Femi. “…that mummy would have a heart attack and then he would kill me” she paused. “I didn’t care about him killing me…but losing mum, I couldn’t” she looked at Femi once more. “You have no idea how much she adores him; how much she loves him…I didn’t want to break her heart”
Femi was speechless for a while. Even his thoughts were stalled, all he could see were images of an exploited little girl.
“He always had a way of getting what he wanted and then when I turned fourteen, he said I was getting old and so he wasn’t going to beg me” she said spitefully. “I was happy that I was finally going to be free…” She paused. “He said he would love to see how good Godwin would be” she looked at Femi. “I had read books, I could imagine what he was going to do to my baby brother…I couldn’t let that happen and so we continued…after Tosin ran away, he told me that he would take Godwin if I tried the same thing…I had to stay” she sniffed.
“The moment Godwin was seventeen, I rebelled and ran away. I threatened to kill him. I resorted to alcohol and smoking…and that’s how I became this way” she explained and looked at Femi who still said nothing but stared at her.
She had been through so much that Femi wondered how she had survived everything without seeing a doctor. She had sacrificed everything for a brother who hated her.
“Why does Godwin hate you so much?” He asked as a sad smile crossed her face.
“Just like mum, he loves and admires that man so much. So when I left and they kept finding me and Chief kept painting a black image of me, the boy had no choice”
“Considering Godwin’s feelings towards you, do you ever regret-”
“No…I love my babybrother. I would do the same thing if I were in his shoes” she said proudly as Femi could not suppress a smile.
“Who’s Patrick’s father?” He asked as she smiled.
“Don’t worry, it’s not Chief”
“My fiancé” she replied to Femi’s surprise.
“You’re married?” He asked as she shook her head.
“I joined a group to help me quit smoking and drinking…that was were I met Kingsley. Things happened and we were engaged two years later, I hadn’t been alarmed when I got pregnant…I was living a healthy lifestyle already…but then, things happened”
“He left you?”
“He was murdered”
“By who?” He knew who did it but he had to ask.
“All evidence pointed to me”
“Poison?” He asked as she stared at him in surprise and finally nodded.
“Was that how he took your son?”
“Yes. He wanted me back as his sex slave and when I refused, he made mum think I couldn’t take care of my son since I had gone back to smoking and drinking to help me cope with Kingsley’s death and so he blackmailed me into giving up my son”
“What about the text you sent to your father weeks before his death?” He asked as she tried to remember.
“Oh! I get so drunk once in a while and call him to let it all out but he never answers, so I then send a text” she explained casually.
Femi was amazed at the kind of man Chief Emeka Okafor was. Assaulting his daughter at the age of seven was not only cruel but inhuman.
He let his eyes rest on Catherine. She was a strong woman and he admired her greatly. He did not think he could even cope with half the things she had gone through.
“Thank you Catherine” he said turning off the recorder and rising to his feet.
“My mum is broken by his death already, please don’t make her worse” she pleaded as Femi nodded sincerely.
Hearing it from her had given him a feeling that he knew would totally destroy her mother.
“Thank you” she said as he forced a smile and walked out with the lamp and recorder.
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 and as he watched her raise her head, a smile surfaced.
“Hello Annie” he greeted
The lamp was getting dim but he could still clearly make out her features. Her hair was ruffled and her eyes looked tired, but Femi thought she was still beautiful.
“What am I doing here?” Her voice was as calm as he knew it to be.
“You’re here to tell me the truth” he said as she looked confused.
“What are you talking about?”
“Where were you that night?”
“I told you-”
“Annabel” he called as she looked at him. “I know who you are and I know why you’re in that family, but what I want to know now is where you were on that fateful night”
She looked down and then at the tape recorder before looking back at Femi.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My husband was there when I made the call, mummy and the kids were also there”
“Well, I wonder what your beloved husband will have to say when he finds out why you married him” Femi threatened as her eyes widened.
“Don’t you dare-”
“Tell me the truth about that night” he said as her eyes went back to the recorder.
“Godwin’s never going to hear this, right?” She asked but he did not answer. She stared at him for a while before she spoke. “I went to see my friend”
“I think we both know how and why you did that”
“And then I went to a motel” she continued and looked at Femi’s almost angry eyes. “And then I heard he was dead the next day”
“And you expect me to believe you?”
“You can call-”
“Oh I don’t need to…did you kill Chief that night?” He asked but received no reply.
“Answer me!” He shouted as she moved in her seat.
“He deserved to die” she yelled.
“Well, every single person I’ve spoken to says the same thing but then, who committed this kind act?” She noticed how he stressed the word ‘kind’.
“I don’t know”
“You killed him, didn’t you?” He asked as she looked down.
“I wanted to” she finally said in a low voice.
“And you succeeded? You had your revenge?”
“No” she said curtly.
“What do you mean? Or you wanted the while family dead?”
“I didn’t kill Chief” she said defensively as Femi smiled.
“You’ll have to tell that to the judge” he said as he reached for the recorder.
“I got there but he was already dead”