Femi tried to make sense of what he had just read; of the letter he was holding in his hand. The late Chief Emeka Okafor, a hypocrite? It did not quite suit his profile. He thought the man had a clean slate, loved his family, was even God fearing. He stared at the writing on the piece of paper. The letter could be from any one.
It could be any of them. There was no date on the letter to help him link it to an incident; probably Patrick’s adoption or Nduka’s business.
They both claimed he ruined their lives.
Chief Emeka had a past that Femi concluded he had to look into.
Every saint has a past, right?
Femi dropped the letter at his left on the table and held the big envelope in his hand. He was surprised at how calmly he pulled out its contents because he was really itching to know what was in it. In his right hand were two picture envelopes, a note and a letter envelope.
He dropped them on the table and decided to go through the pictures first when a knock came on the door.
“What is it?” the anger in his voice was obvious.
A young man in a police uniform walked in and saluted. “Mr. Okafor is here to see you”
Femi looked around and realized he could not entertain Godwin in his office.
“I’ll be out in a minute” he finally said as the young man saluted again and walked out.
Femi looked at the pictures in his hands; how badly he wanted to steal a glance at one of them but that would only make him want to look at all. As he took off his gloves, he wondered why Godwin had even come to see him.
Had they received any threat? If so, that would imply that Catherine had nothing to do with the murder.
He met Godwin pacing up and down in the lobby with a look of urgency in his eyes.
“Godwin, is everything okay?”
“No” Godwin replied shaking his head. “Can we go to your office and talk?”
“Um…that wouldn’t be a good idea. There’s one restau-“ Godwin cut him short.
“Let’s sit in my car, it won’t take long” he said and headed for his car while Femi followed.
When they were both seated in the car, Femi waited for what Godwin wanted to tell him, half-expecting it to make up for the interruption.
“We’ve lived in our house for as long as I can remember” Godwin began. “My parents were never troublemakers and for as long as I’ve known them, they love to avoid trouble” he saw the look in Femi’s eyes which was saying: hit the nail on the head, boy
“There is an old couple in the house next door. We used to be very close to them and even had sleepovers sometimes. They had two kids: a boy who was my agemate and a girl, Tosin, who used to be Catherine’s playmate” he looked at Femi to maje sure he was attentive. “I was ten and Catherine was fifteen alongside their daughter when Tosin got pregnant” he paused to take in Femi’s reaction but he was completely expressionless.
“I don’t know how but her pregnancy severed the tie between the two families and our parents stopped us from seeing them claiming they would be a bad influence on us…then two weeks later, Sophia went missing”
Femi got more comfortable in the passenger seat but kept his eyes on Godwin without saying a word.
“Till today, nobody has seen or heard from Sophia” he stopped and almost chuckled at the bemused expression on Femi’s face.
“What’s your point in this…story?”
“I’ve not finished…I was just ten like I said, so I don’t really know the details but one thing I knew was that they hated us and I remember Tosin’s mum saying we killed her daughter”
“I still don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me”
“I’m saying they hated us; especially my father” he paused and then added. “I saw his wife on my way to get something across the street today and I realized that I had never thought about them since my father’s death”
Femi’s eyes widened as he finally got what Godwin was trying to say. He started to speak but Godwin continued.
“When I went back inside the house and stylishly mentioned it to mum, she sat down and began to mutter…” he paused as he tried to remember what his mum had been saying that morning. “oh yes, she was saying…he said it, he warned us…I was as confused as you are now, detective; so I asked her to explain and she told me that their son had come to the house about a month ago and told them that they would pay for the death of his sister”
Femi took the story with a pinch of salt. First, why would they think the Okafors had a hand in their daughter going missing? Secondly, why did they think she was dead? And thirdly, why had her brother waited this long to exert his revenge?
It did not really make sense. There had to be another side of the story. Unfortunately, he was stuck with the testimony on a memory that was probably more than ten years ago.
“So you want to file a report?”
“I am telling you who the murderer is” he corrected as Femi smiled.
“Your story doesn’t prove anything”
“Look, Annie said she had seen their son last night”
“In your house?” Femi sounded serious.
“No…I just mean he’s around and that simply means we’re not safe”
“Calm down Godwin. I can’t just arrest this man without evidence; I can only take him in for questioning once you file a report”
“But my fami-”
“I’ll assign two officers to keep a watch on your house and theirs as well” he said as
Godwin seemed calm immediately.
“Come into the station and file a report so I can hear from the young man tomo-“
“Please do it today. It’s not as if you have any other thing to do; it’s your job to find my father’s murderer and I just provided you with a lead” he added as Femi said nothing and alighted from the car.
“Alright, file the report and I’ll bring him in today” Femi finally said as they walked back into the station.
Femi frowned in frustration at the fact that the pictures would have to wait.
As Femi went through the file again on his way to the interrogation room, he understood why Godwin had seemed so scared earlier. The young man had been arrested on counts of stealing, public intoxication, reckless driving and vandalism; all misdemeanours within the last two years. What puzzled Femi was his first arrest; when he was only fourteen; he had been charged with rape and attempted murder.
He entered the interrogation room and smiled at him as he sat across the table.
“I would like you to know that you’re not being arrested or detained… I just want to ask you a few questions”
“Look man, I know how this drill works…I know why I’m here, so let’s make it snappy”
Femi nodded and turned on the recorder. He noticed how the young man glared at it.
“Any problem?”he asked as the young man hissed and laughed mockingly.
“You guys make us feel safe with that and still do what you want to do…stupid police officers”
His last statement angered Femi but he knew better than to have an outburst. He needed maximum cooperation from the young man even if it meant taking in all the insults.
“Tell me about yourself”
“I don’t think I should…you’ve got everything you need”
Femi took in a deep breath and nodded with a fake smile.
“Mr. Jide Kayode” he called as the young man nodded. “Son of retired insurance officer, Kunle Kayode. Arrested on various counts and even imprisoned for the rape and attempted murder of Gladys Worlu at the age of fourteen” Femi read out loud and raised his head but not too quick to notice the change in Jide’s expression which lasted for only a split second.
“Wow! That’s quite a record” he said sarcastically.
“Were you at the house of the Okafors a recently?” He asked as Jide thought for a while and shrugged.
“If you call 10th July recently…then yes. I was there recently”
“Look, you and I know how this is going to end, so can you stop acting up and claim I said something so that you can put me behind bars?”
“You incompetent fools are so lazy, you don’t even care about evidence. You just arrest people and claim you’ve done your job”
“Will you just shut up!” Femi yelled banging his fist on the table. He was fed up with Jide’s ramblings.
Jide calmed down with a smile and kept his eyes on the detective.
“You look angry” he said in a mocking tone as Femi concluded he did not like the guy one bit.
“Tell me what you were doing at the house of the Okafors” he said in a threatening tone as Jide smirked his lips and threw a glance at the recorder.
He knew all officers were the same. They would act as if they were on your side and when you confessed, they would use it all against you; in ways you could never imagine. He was already used to it; experience had taught him to play their game with them; their games with no rules to guide the players.
Femi stared at him thinking of a way to break him; to make him talk.
“Listen to me Jide” his voice was firm but not threatening. “These files may tag you a rapist, a thief, whatever; but I’m not here to judge you; I just want us to talk” he said as Jide laughed like a mad man and clapped his hands.
“Believe me, I’ve never seen a better performance detective” he said amidst laughter.
“Jide, you threatened Chief Okafor and his wife and now he’s dead..do you have anything to say?” Femi still tried to sound firm without showing the anger boiling up his system.
“He’s dead? Oh my God” he muttered feigning pity.
“Do you know I could arrest you?” He almost yelled.
“Why? For the murder of a monster?”
“No…at least not for now, but for failing to cooperate with the police”
Jide looked at his watch; there was no time to play again.
Time to get serious, he thought.
“Okay, what do you want to know?”
“Everything” he replied as Jide smiled shaking his head.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, detective” he replied and sat up in his chair. “You seem different” he commented as he looked intently at Femi. “So that’s why I’m going to tell you all I know, but if you dare f**k me up, you’ll surely regret it”
Femi wanted to query him for his statement. Was he threatening him? How dare he threaten an officer of the law?
“Okay” was all he said.
“Hmm” Jide got up from the chair. “Mum will be preparing rice and chicken pepper soup for dinner and I have to help her, may I leave?” Femi just stared at him; at his audacity.
What did this guy think of himself?
“You can join us at seven…don’t be late” he said and walked out of the room.
The time was 5:22pm.
Femi quickly put in his latex gloves the moment he was back in his office. The excitement he had been feeling earlier was replaced by impatience. What if Chief was having an affair? The previous letter had already made Femi question the deceased’s integrity.
He brought out the pictures from the envelope as he sat down and eagerly looked at the first one. It was the photograph of a girl who looked as if she was six. She was light-skinned and very pretty. Femi wondered if that was Catherine when she was younger.
He looked at the next one; another girl that looked as if she was ten.
The next one; probably eight
The next one; maybe six
The photographs all contained images of girls within the ages of five and thirteen.
Why were they in the safe box?
He turned to the back of the first picture half expecting something to be written on it.
Written in red were the words: I know where she is.
The other pictures had the same words written behind them.
Femi was confused. Could they be orphans from the orphanage Chief was running? Had there been a report on missing children? Did someone kidnap them and ask for money before returning them?
He put the pictures back in the envelope and took up the second picture envelope believing they were photographs of more girls that had probably gone missing.
Well, he was wrong. The picture he was staring at was that of a girl; but not a missing girl.
A girl kissing Chief Emeka Okafor…
Written by Miracle Emeka-Nkwor
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