Femi’s eyes went from the gun in his hand to his eyes which looked red. If Femi did not know any better, he would have thought Jide had been crying in the bathroom.
“You have no idea how many times I’ve tried to use this on myself”
Femi was relieved. He got up and walked cautiously towards Jide.
“Just give it to me” Femi said and carefully removed the gun from his hand.
He led Jide to the bed and made him sit.
“I can come back tomorrow if you don’t want to-”
“No, today is fine”
Femi nodded and took the plastic seat he had been sitting on and placed it before Jide. He sat down and waited patiently for him to begin.
“Where’s your recorder?” He asked jokingly as Femi smiled.
“I thought you didn’t like it”
“I actually don’t…but you can use it. I don’t know if I’m ever going to say this to anyone again”
Femi reached for his pouch and took out the recorder and his notebook. He felt as if he was about to get the confession from a serial killer or someone that could provide a lead. All he had in his office were just pieces of Chief Emeka’s secret life.
Femi turned it on.
“You said two things in the station earlier this evening” he began as Femi wondered what he had said that Jide had picked interest in. “You said you were not here to judge me” he gave a light laugh. “I wasn’t joking when I gave you my reply…but I don’t know, there’s something different about you. I don’t know if it’s because of what you said”
Femi was pleased with himself. That line had never failed him in breaking a suspect in all his years of service.
“Secondly, you said you want to know everything…and that’s what I’m going to tell you” he paused and looked down.
Was he feeling guilty? Was he feeling as if he was about to break a promise?
“We used to be really close to the Okafors…you’d be shocked at how close we were. Godwin and I used to be great friends. His elder sister, Cathy…” His voice seemed to drift at the mention of her name. “She was just a year older than I was, she was so beautiful… I really think I had a crush on her then; my sister was two years older than I was and she was very close to Cathy. They even fooled people into believing they were sisters…Tosin and Cathy” there was a longing in his eyes and voice as he mentioned both names.
Femi quietly took in these little details which he would use to know if Jide was saying the truth. He had studied the art of telling who was lying and years of constant practice had made him a professional at telling when a person was lying.
“Tosin was sixteen when my parents found out she was pregnant. They were shocked and disappointed in her. My dad was furious. She never mentioned who was responsible. I don’t know how Tosin’s pregnancy destroyed the friendship between the two families but it did; they claimed Cathy had influenced her negatively.
“We were banned from speaking to them and I think their parents had given them the same warning. Tosin suffered greatly and that was why she ran away”
“She ran away? I thought she went missing?”
Jide shook his head. “That’s what my parents or rather my dad wanted to think” he paused, took in a deep breath and continued. “She was having the early morning sickness everyday…and dad made it a point of duty to hit her every morning. He despised her and he had made no effort to hide it. If my mum tried to defend her, he would threaten to hit her”
“Did he?” Feme interrupted as Jide stared at him for some seconds and nodded.
“Mummy’s cries were our lullabies almost every night even before Tosin’s pregnancy. Well, we had gone to school together that fateful morning but we didn’t return together. I had thought she was in the bus but she hadn’t boarded the bus. I got home and she wasn’t home. In the evening, mummy started crying and dad was raking and calling every single officer he knew.
“He blamed it on the Okafors…on Cathy and mum claimed Tosin was dead” he paused and sighed. I was a little boy; I believed my parents. I was furious at the Okafors. I began to hate them when my parents claimed they were the reason Tosin was pregnant; and when she ran away, my anger deepened. I was furious…I think a part of me was furious at Tosin too; she had left me…she had left without me and it was heartbreaking to know that I meant nothing to my big sister. I was fourteen, my fury was justified but I took it too far…way too far.
“I went to their house a month later with my well rehearsed speech. Nobody had been at home so there was nobody to stop me from doing something stupid. I got into their house…the gateman did not know we were no longer allowed in there, so he let me in. As fate would have it, only Chief was around. I had gotten scared immediately.
“The way he glared at me had sent chills down my spine. I should have left…that would have been a good time to stop…but I didn’t” he laughed. “A fourteen year old who thought he was getting justice for his big sis…I knew she was not going to make it out there; I shared my mum’s fears. I told Chief that he would pay dearly for what his family had put mine through. I had noticed how he stared at me…as if I was a stupid thing that got off the streets and accidentally landed in his house.
“I don’t remember most of what I said but there is one thing I can remember…the sentence that made Chief sit up in his seat that day”
Femi could not help but sit up in his own seat and he saw a smile on Jide’s face.
“I told him my sister told me everything…I had noticed how his expression changed…I should have stopped…but I didn’t. I wanted to take advantage of the sutuation. I said I was going to tell everyone the truth…I would have said more but I left. I had felt so proud of myself…I felt mum and dad would be proud of me” he paused. “Well, I was wrong…I think it was a month later; I’m not so sure. I had missed the bus as usual because I loved to buy ice cream every Friday after school…it was so creamy that I always starved in school just to buy it. I got to the lady’s shop and was about to give her the money when a man came up and told me to help hold his bag.
“I held it and watched him pay for two cones…he then gave me the change and I had thanked him…all I could think of was ice cream for the Fridays to come” he paused and smiled sadly. “I had wished Tosin was with me at that moment…we fought a lot about everything and laughed about it when we were okay again. I put the money in my pocket and took one cone from him while he took his bag from me. I had thanked him and left with a part of the ice cream already in my mouth.
“I don’t know how far I had gone before I began to feel giddy. I ignored the feeling determined to finish my ice cream…my vision became blurry…I think I passed out…I heard voices” he stopped.
“What did you hear?”
Jide looked at him and shook his head. “Come to think of it, I don’t remember”
Femi looked at him. He was not lying.
“What then happened?”
“I don’t really know… I just kept on drifting in…and out…and the next thing was light everywhere…someone had pulled me up roughly. I had struggled really hard to see his face. He was wearing a police uniform” Jide’s eyes were on the ground as he tried to remember everything.
“He had said I was under arrest and all those things they say in the movies…I…I thought I would drift again but I didn’t. It was real; I was actually under arrest. In the extreme brightness, I had noticed the paramedics put someone on a gurney…blood was on the floor and it took me a while to see that there was blood on my hands and I was holding a knife…I think I blacked out again.
“I woke up in the station. I was put in a room and I saw a tall man discussing with my parents at the door. He had let mum and dad come to the interrogation room and they told me to do all he asked…what did I know? He had promised he was going to help us. The charges were rape and attempted murder since the girl survived. Mum and dad believed me and stood by me. The man asked me all the questions and I had answered to the best of my knowledge.
“He hadn’t seem pleased with my confession…dad’s lawyer wasn’t in town and mum’s own was in the village so the state provided a lawyer and the officer had told us he would handle my case and make sure I escape imprisonment. I had been so happy but he said I needed to be hypnotized so that I could recount what really happened while I was drifting in and out.
“I was scared of what I would say…what if I ended up being guilty of the crime? My lawyer agreed, mum and dad did likewise. I never got to listen to the tape until in the courtroom ”
“Well…what did you say?” Femi asked eagerly as Jide looked into his eyes.
“I confessed to the crime. I don’t even remember what the tape said but the whole point was that I had raped and tried to murder Grace Worlu” that immediately explained his hatred for the tape recorder.
“Was she a friend of yours? A school mate?” Jide shook his head.
“I don’t know her” Jide leaned forward and whispered. “I don’t even think she exists”
“Why would you say that?”
“I got out of prison six years ago and tried to find her but I never found her. No social accounts, no address, she just disappeared…and of course I wouldn’t go around asking the police for her details…that would raise suspicion
“My dad warned me never to step foot in this house but I persisted for my mother’s sake…she came every single visiting day to see me and I knew living with my dad alone would be torture…so I really wanted to come back home”
“Just your mother…does that explain why your English is perfect for someone who never completed his education? Did she have anything to do with it?” Femi asked. Jide’s fluent English had surprised him.
“I had a good teacher”
“Who?” He asked as Jide smiled.
“Tale for another day, detective” he replied as Femi nodded and brought up the topic that had really made him come by.
“You still haven’t told me what you were doing in their house on the 10th of July” he reminded Jide who simply exclaimed.
“Oh!…they must have told you that”
“I thought you wanted to tell me something connected to the murder…you had sounded like you knew so much”
“You weren’t specific when I asked you. You simply said everything and I just told you everything about me” he said proudly as Femi rose up angrily.
“Do you know how much time I wasted talking with you?”
“It’s nothing compared to the sixteen years I spent” he sounded defensive.
“You were guilty” Femi yelled angrily and picked up the recorder. “You said it yourself, you had confessed to committing the crime”
“His name is Tamunowari George and the lawyer’s name is Yemisi Bankole” he said before Femi turned off the tape recorder.
“I do not care” Femi said angrily and walked out.
It was 9:30pm and he was angry at the fact that he had achieved nothing useful within the last two and half hours.
“Femi” he heard Jide call when he was already out of the house and almost at where his car was parked.
“You’d better learn to care about everything…there’s always a connection”
Femi turned angrily to him. “I can see how your connection with with the deceased as a kid has helped me”
“There’s always a connection ” he repeated and went into the house.
Femi was seated in his office the next day scrolling down the Tecno phone he had seen in the safe box. There was only one contact in the phone: Amara.
All calls were made to her; the last time they had spoken was on the 12th; the day before his murder. Femi had a feeling it was the girl he had seen in that picture kissing Chief.
He checked the messages and was amazed at the number of texts they both exchanged. Femi made sure he read all the texts. They ranged from love texts to poems to angry texts…and then there was a different number: 09035862561
Femi immediately recognized the number and confirmed it by glancing at the piece of paper he had written the blackmailer”s number on. He quickly scanned the text:
Send the money to this account in the next twenty minutes.
Don’t even think about getting clever with me.
The message had come in on the 9th of August.
The next was on the 11th at 6am.
Send N200,000 to this account ASAP.
Chief had replied at 9:00am.
You must be insane.
The reply from the blackmailer was the picture.
On the 12th at 5:00am, another text came in.
N900,000 into this account
and N100,000 in cash tomorrow morning.
Chief had replied:
What time tomorrow and where?
The blackmailer replied:
I’ll text you.
That was the end…Chief had died on the 13th and…
Femi’s thoughts stopped as he remembered the wad of notes he had taken out of the box. He reached for it in the box where he had put it before going to Jide’s place and counted it; it was N100,000.
Femi wrote the three different account details in the paper on the table. He got up from his seat and walked to the notice board to which he pinned the paper.
His blackmail theory was correct but what he did not know was if the blackmailer was the killer.
He dialled a number in his phone and after exchanging pleasantries he went straight to why he had called.
“I need you to run two numbers in the database for me”
“You still haven’t taken a break from mind buzzing crimes, have you?
“There’s no good replacement for me yet” he replied as he walked back to his desk and placed a finger on the blackmailer’s number. He called it out to the man and also called out the number of Amara. “How long is it going to take?”
“Thirty minutes at most…I’ll send a reply to your email once I’m done and then I’ll notify you” he said as Femi thanked him and hung up.
He took his seat again and decided to call Amara. As he dialled the number in his phone, he thought of a suitable lie to tell her and maybe fix an appointment with her at her office or at home depending on her working hours.
She answered on the third ring.
“Hello” her voice was mature and formal; as if she had no spare time to waste on a stranger.
“Amara” he called unsure of whether to use Miss or Mrs and wondering if he had sounded rude.
“She isn’t around”
“Oh…please when will she be back? Or do you have any idea how far she must have gone?”
There was silence and Femi wondered if he had been to foward.
“Who is this?”
“I’m Femi…a friend of hers” he lied quickly.
“She’s never mentioned you…anyway when she returns, I’ll let her know you called”
“But where did she go?”
“SS3 students are having compulsory holiday lessons because of their WAEC and NECO exams”