Femi sat up in the bed and rubbed his eyes together. He thought he had been dreaming but he hadn’t. There was a rechargeable lamp at a corner providing light to the room and as he looked outside the window, he wondered what time it was and how long he had been out.
“It’s about the murder of Chief Okafor”
That one statement had landed him in where he now found himself. He had told the sergeant to stay with Tosin while he went out to hear what the man had to say.
It had not occurred to him that he could be moving with the murderer, all he wanted was a lead and that was exactly where it lead him.
Femi had stopped at the counter to face the man but he kept on walking and when he had gotten to the large door, he asked if Femi wasn’t coming. He had looked around and saw that there was no one else at the counter; it was break time already and the only officer on duty was watching Tosin.
“Well, let me-”
“I’m running out of time detective…let’s go” he had said and walked out as Femi watched him.
He had looked at the large clock and wondered why no officer had returned, it was already 3:30pm and the break usually ended at 3:45pm. As he thought of what to do, he had heard the man close the door of a car and then the revving of an engine followed.
Without thinking, he had run out of the station but there was no one outside.
“What the-” he stopped the moment he felt something point at his lower back and the cocking of the gun had made him stand still.
“Move” the deep unfriendly voice had ordered as Femi obeyed and wondered what he had gotten himself into. Cars had breezed past the station and even people had walked past but they simply glanced in his direction and went about their business. Femi hadn’t been surprised; since he was not wearing the uniform, they all probably thought he had gone against the law and was being taken away to wherever.
The armed man led him to a pickup parked beside the police van and as soon as someone opened it, Femi was pushed inside and the door was closed behind him. Before he could reach for his gun, the man who had opened the door beat him to it and put a cloth bag over his head.
“You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into” he threatened but received no reply. And then he had wondered why he was being kidnapped; was it the murderer? Was he close to cracking the case? Was he going to be killed as well?
Those were few of the many questions he had asked himself as the car sped down the road. The vehicle had stopped and Femi was dragged out of the car still with the bag over his head. He had no idea how long they had walked when they stopped moving but the two hands holding him remained.
“Good evening detective” a deep friendly voice greeted but Femi was in a very bad mood.
“There is nothing good about-”
“I’m only here to help you”
“Wow, thanks a lot” he smirked with heavy sarcasm.
“Well” the man had said ignoring Femi’s sarcasm. “Like my friend told you, this is about the murder of Chief Okafor” he had paused. “So, we’re going to put you to sleep because you’ll need all the energy to interrogate your suspects” he had said and before Femi could give a reply, he felt a needle go into his arm.
“What suspects? What interrogation? What on earth are you talking about?”
“Go to sleep detective” the man’s calm voice said soothingly.
“No…just give…me…an…answer” he had drifted and he was now seated on a bed.
That drug must have been really strong, he thought to himself as he rubbed the spot.
Beside the rechargeable lamp were two plates and a note in the tray. He got up from the bed and walked to the stool on which the food was placed. He picked up the note and read it:
You need all the energy for tonight.
That meant he had not been out for more than a day, just hours. He opened the plates and almost salivated at the sight of the rice and pepper soup with goat meat.
What if it was poisoned?
His stomach growled in reply, all he had eaten was bread and tea in the morning. He finally convinced himself that if they wanted to kill him, they would have done so when they had him inside the vehicle. With that, he walked back to the bed saying a short prayer and when he was seated, he devoured the food like a hungry lion.
When he was done, he looked around the room and then his eyes finally came to rest on the door. He had no idea how long he had been locked in the room and he hated the feeling of being confined; he hated feeling like a prisoner.
He got up from the bed and walked to the door. He turned the door knob and the door opened, he had expected it to be locked. He took in a deep breath and walked out of the room. He turned to his left but he could see nothing; everywhere was dark. He walked back into his room and took the rechargeable lamp. He stepped out with it and just as he was closing the door, a voice startled him.
“You’re finally awake, detective?”
Femi couldn’t see his face since he had dropped the lamp when he heard the male voice.
“I hope you enjoyed the meal that was prepared for you”
“You’re very hospitable” he said in reply as the man bent down and picked up the lamp.
“It’s good you’ve eaten. Like I said, you’re going to need a lot of energy to question everyone”
“What are you-”
“Please follow me” he said and began to walk away as Femi followed.
“And no questions” he said nicely and a few seconds later, he said “we know how much you like to record your sessions, so here’s a tape recorder” the man said giving Femi a recorder.
They soon stopped at a door and the man motioned for him to enter.
“Your first suspect” he said enthusiastically as Femi stared at him.
“Who is in there?”
“I told you not to ask questions”
“Can I at least take the lamp in with me?”
“Sure” he said and gave it to Femi who wondered for the umpteenth time what he had gotten himself into.
“I’ll also need a pen and paper” there was no reply this time.
“We’ll try to make arrangements, take mental notes this time” he said as Femi nodded and took in a deep breath before going in.
He gently closed the door and used the bright light in his hand to scan the room. It was empty except the two seats in the middle of the room and a low stool in between them. He looked at the recorder in his hand and placed it on the stool. There was someone seated on one of the seats: hands tied behind the seat and legs tied to those of the chair. The person’s mouth was gagged as well and Femi wondered if the person had been kidnapped just as he was.
He took his place on the empty seat and thought of a way to get his attention. He played different scenarios as he watched the bowed head. All the scenes ended up the same. He finally concluded that there was nothing he would say that would make the person believe he had not ordered the kidnap so he made up his mind he would play the villain and interrogate his suspects.
“Hey” His voice was not threatening but it was deep.
He received no reply so he tapped the person on the cheek and when his head was raised, Femi was staring at Nduka.
Nduka’s eyes widened when Femi’s face finally registered in his brain. Hus eyes were filled with anger and his words muffled by his gagged mouth.
Femi suddenly realized this wasn’t going to be like all other interrogations. He was always prepared for his suspects and ready to attack them from all angles. This was different. As Nduka glared at him, he tried to bring himself to speak.
What would he say? As he thought deeply, he realized it was his only chance. He had to act as if he had ordered the kidnapping, that was if he was even kidnapped. He took in a deep breath as he bent forward and removed the cloth from his mouth.
“You bloody cunt! I will have you arrested. I swear-”
“Shut up Nduka. You’re threats would be threatening if you ever walk out of here alive” Femi said in a tone that even surprised him.
It had worked. Nduka was quiet.
“What do you want?”
“The truth” Femi demanded.
“I told you” he said as Femi gave him a you don’t mean it look.
“You know…” Femi began as his hand reached for his belt and that was when he remembered his gun had been taken from him.
“Please don’t” there was a sense of urgency in his voice and Femi wondered what he was talking about. “Please, don’t kill me” he begged as Femi realized what was going on. Nduka thought he actually had a gun.
“Why?” He asked taking advantage as he turned on the recorder. “Wouldn’t it be nice to be murdered just like you murdered your brother?”
“I did not kill Emeka” he was pleading; begging Femi to believe him.
“Well somebody did”
“It wasn’t me”
“I don’t believe you Nduka. You hated him; he exposed you and your business. You swore to get back at him. You said he ruined your life”
“He did!” Nduka yelled angrily as Femi noticed how bloodshot his eyes were. ‘He ruined me” Femi could notice the tears in his voice now. “I hated him for that”
“Was that why you killed him, Nduka?
“I did not! If I wanted to, I would have killed him when he ruined me”
“Why? Because your wife and kids now know who you really are?” He asked as Nduka bowed and shook his head.
“He was a monster” tears were welling in Nduka’s eyes. “I did none of what I was accused of” Femi stared at the man confused and unbelieving.
“What do you mean?”
“You won’t understand”
“If you want to leave here alive, you better make me understand”
“He desrved to die…after my graduation, I had begged him to let me work with him and he agreed. I worked as hard as I could and I got enough money to get married and have my own family. I eventually got to head the orphanage and that was when I noticed that the girls were going missing. I had spoken to Emeka about it but he never took it seriously and I was never suspicious. I had even ordered the gateman to beat up a man who had broken into the orphanage but Emeka saved him from a near death experience.
“I began to wonder why he was not interested in the girls that went missing and that was when I found out he was behind everything. I never found out what he did to them, I just knew they went missing” he paused to take in Femi’s expression; to know if Femi believed him but he could not tell because Femi just held a steady gaze.
“The mistake I made was to confront him. He had warned me to play along if I did not want to end up like one of the girls and he wasn’t bluffing. I swore to expose him and the next day, I was facing charges of child trafficking. He made sure I lost everything and when a lawyer had agreed to handle my case pro bono, I was thankful because I was broke. He worked really hard with the police but we still lost and my wife left me with the kids” he looked at Femi once more. “I don’t care if you believe me”
Femi said nothing. He was thinking…thinking…and then something struck him. “Who was your lawyer? And what police officer handled the case? Do you remember their names?”
“Of course. I can never forget them, I’m still indebted to them. The police officer was Tamunowari George and the lawyer’s name was Yemisi Bankole” he replied as Jide’s words played again in Femi’s head.
There’s always a connection…
He was about to turn off the recorder when he remembered something else.
“One more thing…did you send a written letter to him?” He asked as Nduka swallowed and nodded slowly. “You did not want to hurt his wife?”
“I stated it that way”
“Did you blackmail him?” He asked as Nduka smiled.
“That was what he had asked me before days before he died…and I wished I had but I had no evidence against him”
“So you didn’t?” Femi asked again.
“Thank you Nduka” he said turning off the recorder and rising to his feet.
It was when he opened the door that Nduka spoke.
“If you ever find the killer, please let me know. I owe him a lot” he sounded serious so Femi simply nodded and walked out.
He was half smiling. Things were never that easy, who was making things so easy for him?
“We need to move” the same young man said to him as they walked away from where Nduka was being held.
“Who’s next?” Femi asked trying to conceal his enthusiasm.
“You’ll see” he replied as they arrived at another door and Femi did not wait to be told to go in.
The room was the same as the first but a different person was seated. Femi quickly took his place as he wondered who the suspect was.
“Hey” he said as the old lady raised her head. Her mouth was not gagged and she was not tied either. She simply sat still in the chair.
“What is your name?” He asked nicely.
Dan’s mother, Femi thought immediately.
“Mrs Brown, did you know Chief Okafor?” He asked as she looked at him completely clueless.
“I don’t think so”
“Did your husband know him?”
“He didn’t have many friends” she replied confirming her son’s statement.
Femi stared at her. She was saying the truth, he almost dismissed her but he let his thoughts roll. Firstly, she would not be in the room if there was no connection.
Secondly, her age. She looked like someone in her eighties. She was older than the Chief and that meant only one thing.
“How many children do you have?” He began as her eyes looked sad immediately.
“I have two” she finally replied as Femi nodded.
He was trying to imagine the case of the Kayodes.
“Did you know any Emeka Okafor?” He asked as her eyes widened and fear filled them. Femi knew he had hit the jackpot, he hoped she would not break down before filling him in on all he needed to know.
“That monster” she whispered as if he could hear her voice. “Where is he now? Did he send you?” She began to feel uneasy.
“Calm down ma. He’s dead” he said and that calmed her down immediately. “How do you know him?”
She began to sob and that made Femi feel bad but he had no choice. He knew he had to push her.
“Did he ruin your life?” Femi asked since that was what the Chief seemed to be really good at while he was alive.
“He destroyed our lives” she cried as Femi remained quiet waiting for her to pour it all out. “She was only twelve” she cried and cleaned her tears with the sleeve of her loose gown. “Just twelve…she had nothing. There were no breasts, she wasn’t even the normal beautiful girl you would see on the road. She was the average poor girl that found happiness in going to block rosary with her long head tie.” She continued crying as she spoke. “She had gone to church with her brother that Monday at six, the church was just across the house we lived in. They always spent only one hour but at eight, she was not back. My husband had gone to look for them and after some time, some boys helping him found her behind the church…” she sniffed. “In a pool of her own blood and her brother also in a pool of blood” she paused and looked down before looking up at Femi again. “They were both unconscious for days but she came to before he did…she told us everything: how he threatened to kill her brother if she did not obey him. The bastard had raped my little girl until she passed out but that was not before he used a bottle on Daniel’s head” she explained as Femi finally understood the origin of the mark on his head.
“We called the police to help but they ignored us and asked for money needlessly. When we eventually knew who had done that to her, my husband and his friends paid Emeka and his parents a visit. He was either twenty three or twenty four then. The visit had also been fruitless and they threatened to kill us all if their name and reputation were smeared because of us” she paused and sighed sadly. “She ran away from the house and by the time Daniel came to, we found out he had lost his memory and had no clue as to what had happened that night. He even thinks he has only his younger sister” she looked at Femi.
“The aftermath of the rape was traumatic to everyone…watching my only son talk to me like a stranger was painful…watching my husband brood everyday for our daughter was painful…that man ruined our lives” she concluded and continued sobbing.
Femi was touched and surprised as well. Chief Okafor was a pedophile…
Was that connected to the missing orphans?Femi thought as Jide’s words came back.
There’s always a connection…
“Where is your daughter now?”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know if she still remembers us…she’s so furious at the world. She had even come for her father’s burial but since Dan did not know her, he didn’t even stop to say hi. She consoled me…and told me she loved me…and…”
“That she would give us the justice we deserve”
“What’s her name?”