That was definitely not the reply they had wanted from him but that was honestly all he had for them. Dan finally nodded and rose to his feet with a smile.
“Thank you for your time, Senior Miebaka,” he shook Miebaka who scoffed.
“Please, just call me Miebaka,” he corrected as he rose to his feet and shook Dan’s hand.
They both turned to Judy who was slowly rising to her feet. She had her face scrunched and her brows came together as though she was trying to remember something.
“Judy, are you-” her eyes suddenly lit up and she walked towards Miebaka offering him a deep penetrating stare.
She cocked her head to the side still considering the possibility of how useful his next reply would be. “Did James ever,” she put out her arms and pouted her lips. “Did he ever have an issue with the principal?”
Dan was about to ask how that was of relevance to their cause when he finally remembered the pictures they had seen in the office. He instantly turned to Miebaka who was nodding his head like an agama lizard.
“They never agreed on anything,” he paused as he widened his eyes and cupped his mouth with his right palm. “Shit, I never thought of it,” he began to turn away from them.
Judith did not give him that avenue, she moved with him to keep her eyes on his face. “Thought of what?”
Miebaka’s palm came off his mouth and his finger came to rest on the bridge of his nose. “The-the principal”, he stopped and sighed. “I really shouldn’t be telling you this,” he shook his head.
“Please,” they both begged at once as Miebaka nibbled at his pinky finger and finally sighed.
“The principal was making sexual advances towards James’ school daughter,” Judy’s eyes widened and a gasp almost escaped her but she quickly put her palm over her mouth. “James confronted him in his office and threatened to report his act of misconduct if he continued,” Miebaka had a distant look in his eyes as though he was trying to replay the scene in his head.
Dan walked to stand beside Judith in front of Miebaka. “When did this happen?”
He looked up at the duo with his mouth agape. How could that important detail have skipped his mind?
“A few weeks before we closed for the Christmas holidays,” he replied as the duo gasped and Judy found her palm on her mouth.
What would Mr Belema gain by killing innocent children? It is to keep his dirty secrets safe, obviously. She looked back at Miebaka who looked as if he was going to breakdown in a matter of minutes.
“We really need to involve the police,” she paused and turned to Dan. “We need to involve our parents as well.”
Dan nodded in agreement and tried not to picture the whole scenario each of them would have with their parents. Just as Judy stretched forth her shaky hands to bid Miebaka goodbye, a thought hit him.
“Miebaka,” he turned alongside Judy and both pairs of eyes stared at him. In the past ten minutes, they had made discoveries that they never thought were even plausible.
He exhaled loudly and raised his index finger to his face which was squeezed in a questioning manner and his head tilted to the right. “Do you happen to know the name of his school daughter?”
Miebaka looked up at the ceiling for a while before scratching his head slowly. “I don’t,” he paused. “I haven’t really heard from her after the whole incident, so-,” his eyes lit up instantly. “Yes, her name was Martha Attah.”
Pam and Eche finally arrived at Nembe waterside where they had been told they would find the Nwafor twins. Their uncle had not even shown any interest when they had asked of the twins; it was as though people knocked on his front door daily requesting to see the truants.
His reply as soon as they stated their reason for coming had been explicit and it stuck to Pam’s brain like glue.
“I am not responsible for whatever they did to you. Enter a taxi or a bus and go to Nembe waterside”, he had put his hand in his pocket and brought out his phone. “Take down their numbers and don’t come back here”, the line sounded rehearsed as though he had said it to a lot of people.
“Those twins are definitely a real pain in the ass”, Eche shook his head as they looked around and scanned the faces of the rough looking men that wore sagging shorts, insanely ripped jeans and faded T-shirts with horrible hairdos that made one wonder when last clean water had touched them.
“They always become useful at the end in our home videos, why can’t it happen that way in real life?” she blurted out before she could stop the words from coming out.
Eche had to laugh hard at how silly she sounded. “Seriously, you’re comparing those movies to real life?” He asked amidst laughter as she frowned.
She knew how much he despised watching home videos, he always told her he would rather have his brain removed by a surgeon than watching any of those “IQ reducers” in his own words. “You’re not ashamed of yourself. You spend your time watching white people that will never know you exist”, she faced him squarely as she spoke; that was not the first time they were having that fight and she liked when they fought like the kids that they actually were.
“As much as this is not the time and place for this, let me still ask you. Tell me the name of one Nollywood actor or actress that knows that Pamela Lawson exists?” he knew what was coming so he readied himself.
“Ken Erics”, she blurted out as Eche exploded into a burst of maniacal laughter that caused passersby to look in his direction.
She ignored him and walked on as though they were not together. He ran after her still laughing as she turned to him with a frown. “Eche, please stop laughing”, she begged as he held his mouth and struggled to keep mute. “You’re embarrassing me”, she frowned playfully as he sniggered and pointed at her.
“Who’s embarrassing who?” He grimaced as he struggled to keep himself from laughing. She soon found herself laughing with him when she finally realized he could not keep himself from laughing at her.
She had been the first to like and comment on a photo of Ken Erics on Instagram two months earlier and she prided herself after that because he had “reacted” to her comment.
“I think we have to call them”, Eche finally said when he had caught his breath and stopped laughing.
It took a while her brain to register that he was talking about the twins; she had been so caught up in the mood with Eche that she had momentarily forgotten about the Holiday Killer that was after her. Then again that was one of the many effects his presence had on her. “I agree”, she finally said and dialled the first number though she was not sure of whom she was calling; the two of them were so identical and was always together.
The recipient answered on the third ring with a deep and unfriendly tone. Before she could say a word, Eche thought for a second and then snatched the phone from her to speak to him instead.
“Hello, where are you?” he asked casually as though they both had an appointment. “I’m there already”, he replied with a straight face as Pam stared at him and watched him turn around. “I can see you. You’re wearing a red face cap, right?” he asked and waved his left hand in the air. “Can you see me?” he asked and finally nodded his head before hanging up.
He sighed and handed Pam’s phone back to her. He pretended not to notice how she stared at him in awe.
She put the phone in her right pocket. “You are one hell of a guy, Echezona”, she confessed shaking her head as he smiled and tried not to blush at her statement.
She turned back to the person that approached them; he looked haggard and dirty and if she did not know any better, she would have thought a kidnapper was coming towards her. He finally reached where they stood and Eche casually put out his hand for a handshake but the twin simply slapped it in a friendly way and kept his eyes on him.
He looked at the young boy who wore a black sweater despite the sun blazing in the sky. He was trying to remember where they had met and with the way he had sounded on the phone, it was as though they had an appointment. He easily forgot things but he was sure he had never seen him in his life. He finally shrugged and put his hands in his pocket with a sigh of resignation escaping him.
Eche smiled when he was sure he had given up. “My name is Eche. Where is your brother?” he asked and Pam had to turn to him; he spoke with so much audacity as though he was familiar with thug life.
He hissed and waved his hand. “Those black mambas carried Victory away yesterday”, he was referring to police officers. He made it sound as though it was a normal thing that happened to them.
“That’s sad”, he put his hand in his right pocket and looked Victor in the eye. “Look, Victor, we need to talk to you about something important”, he said quickly as Victor turned to Pam as though noticing her for the first time.
They looked young and from their looks, they resembled good kids that he could actually make a good sum of money from. The boy though seemed problematic; the tone of his voice did not match his English language and good looks one bit. He acted like he was one of them and unless he wanted to fight and end up with his brother in a cell for the next week; he had to cast his evil eyes somewhere else.
“Important”, he repeated as though he wanted it to register somewhere in his head. He then looked at the duo with suspicion evident in his eyes. If the young boy dared to ask for drugs, he would know they were trying to set him up. He had just gotten out of prison a week ago and his uncle who had sworn never to do anything asides provide a roof over their heads had almost killed him with his eyes. If eyes could kill, Chukwudi would have murdered him alongside his brother years ago. “What is it?” he made sure he retained his unfriendly tone; he had enough troubles on his own already.
He looked around as though searching for someone before finally shaking his head. “Are you hungry? We could go to a restaurant or somewhere more private”, he casually requested as Pam moved closer to him and hit him lightly on his right thigh.
Victor had to open his eyes in utter amazement; he was being offered lunch by a complete stranger. Not that he was scared, but he wondered what was so important that the young boy felt a nice meal would make him agree to. “What exactly do you want to talk about?” he had to be sure of what he was getting himself into. If they wanted to know about the girl that was raped two nights ago, they were fighting for a lost cause. If they wanted to know about the man that was rushed to the hospital with multiple knife wounds, he was definitely going to reject the lunch offer. If they wanted to ask him about the market woman’s seven-year-old son that went missing a week ago, he was also sticking with the option of getting away from them.
Eche’s lips stretched into a thin line. “It’s about Paul Tamuno”.
Pam tried not to squeeze her face in disgust at the sight that lay before her. Victor had devoured the garri and eguisi soup like a hungry animal that had been locked up for days. He stretched himself in his seat and raised his shirt up to the area just below his breasts and belched loudly. He sniggered and twitched his left eye seductively at Pamela whose face was squeezed in utter disgust; it was a miracle she did not shudder at his “supposedly” seductive wink.
He rubbed his hairy stomach with a smirk on his lips as he continuously winked at the girl who sat before him with absolute disgust written all over her face.
“Are you now ready to speak with us?” Eche finally turned the attention to himself and Pam could not help but be thankful to him for that.
Victor sat up properly in his seat and yawned tiredly. “What did you say you wanted to talk about again?”
Eche swallowed and closed his eyes before speaking. “Paul Tamuno.”
He thought for a moment before nodding his head as though he suddenly remembered then he shrugged almost immediately. “What about him? He’s dead. What’s there to ask?”
“How did he die?”
“He fell into a well”, he answered dryly as though he just had to reply in honour of the meal he had been offered.
Eche leaned towards the table and retained his straight face. “You don’t suspect foul play?”
That question surely caused Victor to adjust in his seat. He looked from the boy to the girl and then back to the boy. “Look, I can’t go around saying what I know nothing about. Paulo is dead and-”
“Do you believe Paul just fell into that well?” Eche pressed as though he had not just heard Victor.
Victor sighed and facepalmed. “Paulo was a troublemaker, a bully; just like my brother and I,” his matter of fact tone was completely devoid of any emotion. “Maybe he wronged the wrong people,” he shrugged and looked up at Eche who had a cryptic smile on his face.
Pamela finally spoke up. “Was he acting weirdly before his-?”
Victor put out his right palm to keep her quiet. “We were not that close, okay. Our friendship ended at the school gate. Besides”, he paused. “We weren’t even in Port Harcourt during that Christmas holiday”, he pursed his lips and inhaled deeply as he turned to Eche.
Eche cocked his head to the side and studied Victor, he looked quite shaken. “Are you trying to say, if you were around, you would have been in the same condition as Paul?”
The question was not relevant to their cause but Pam still found herself interested in Victor’s reply. He looked uneasy as he stared at Echezona and for the umpteenth time, he looked as though he was trying to place his face.
He quickly changed the subject. “Did you say you attended Afobiri Secondary School?” he finally asked as Eche nodded slowly but no hint of recognition showed in Victor’s eyes.
She studied him as he continuously stared at Eche and like a flash of lightning, she remembered the pictures. As much as she did not want to think about it, the images of the photographs kept resurfacing in her head.
“Did he have any issue with the principal?” she asked as Victor turned sharply to her and began to chuckle.
Eche was obviously lost because she had not mentioned the pictures to him; it was her earnest plan to keep her friend’s image untainted.
When Victor’s chuckle had subsided, he looked Pam in the eye. “Fine girl,” he began with a wry smile. “We all had issues with that man,” he stated and Pam had to roll her eyes.
Of course, they were supposed to have issues with the man; they were truants for Christ’s sake.
She sighed in resignation and just as she was about to give up, she saw a look flash through Victor’s eyes but he looked away immediately.
“Victor,” she called and leaned closer with her arms on the table. “Did Paul and the principal have any-”
He sat up in his seat and raised his hand in the air. “I don’t know anything,” he was clearly avoiding eye contact as his eyes scanned the table for nothing in particular.
“Please Victor,” she balled her fists and almost found her fist banging the table but Eche gently covered her balled fist with his right hand and she exhaled slowly and faced Victor. “Please Victor, please,” her voice was lower and Victor could not restrain himself turning to her.
He sighed and shook his head. “You didn’t hear it from me,” he warned with his finger pointing at her and she nodded hastily. “Fine,” he tapped the table lightly and pulled his chair forward as though to make sure nobody eavesdropped on what he was about to say. “That principal of ours is a bloody hypocrite,” he stated and pointed his finger once more at Pam but said nothing more.
She soon realized he wanted her to either agree or disagree with him; she quickly nodded her head and he continued. “Paul had something on him; something dirty,” his voice was a low whisper as though what he was saying was for just their ears.
Eche leaned in and in a low voice, he asked. “What was this thing Paul had on him?”
Victor pursed his lips and shook his head slowly with his left palm opened. “He never told us; he only told us that if we were ever in trouble, all we had to do was tell him and he would ensure we came out unscathed,” he licked his lower lip and bowed his head.
Pam felt Eche’s eyes on her but she could not turn. Had Jane walked into a trap? Had she tried to act like Paul and she finally got caught in a web of her own scheme?
Victor’s finger touched her palm and she flinched instantly. He did not find it offensive neither did he apologize, “Do you think Mr Belema had a hand in Paul’s murder?” he whispered with keen questioning eyes as Pamela turned to Eche and back to him.
She shook her head slowly. “I really don’t know.”
Victor did not look as if he believed her; he could tell she was holding back something. He thought of pressing, but he quickly decided against it. It was none of his business.
Eche looked down at his wristwatch; it was 1:45 pm already. His hand was still on her palm so he rubbed it gently and when she turned to him, he mouthed the words, “Let’s go”.
When she nodded, he turned to Victor who was back to picking his teeth with the toothpick in his hand. “Thank you for your time,” he smiled and rose to his feet as Pam smiled and rose to her feet as well.
“Thank you, Victor,” she could not believe how genuine her smile was. He had truly turned out to be helpful.
He nodded, “Look, I know it’s none of my business,” he pouted his lips as the duo stood to watch him. “But you have to be very careful,” he advised with his brows together and instantly went back to picking his teeth.
They both nodded and left. Pam tried to gather her thoughts as she walked towards the exit. Jane and Paul had underlying issues with the principal but she did not. Or did she?
The phone that rang in her pocket stopped her train of thoughts. She quickly took it out of her pocket and answered it. “Hey Dan”, she paused. “Oh Judy, what’s up?” she asked with pouted lips and listened to her friend on the phone. “Oh, that’s okay. How’s it going with you guys?” she waited for Judy to finish and then she hung up.
“What did she say?”
“That there’s no need visiting Miebaka Tamuno, they’ve already seen George”, she explained and he nodded and looked down at his watch. “You should get going, your mother needs you”, she advised hoping he would offer to escort her to her father’s workshop.
Even though she was too proud to admit it, she still loved him and she could tell he knew it.
He looked up at her and nodded quickly. “Yes, she does. Would you mind if I followed you to the workshop?” he asked as Pam tried to stop herself from smiling but failed miserably.
“I wouldn’t mind.”
Written by M. E. N.
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