MARK OF CAIN by Damex Mrcoded. Episode 15

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EPISODE 15

Exactly an hour later, Mr. Eze Chima, the gatekeeper of Martins’ Castle, was busy having his lunch of insipid rice and beans when his teeth suddenly broke something hard in his mouth––a small stone. It was one of those things one would have to endure after buying from a local food vendor. Eze stood up to empty the content of his mouth before he resumed his meal, as if nothing had happened.

It was ten minutes after his meal when he was happily digesting ‘an excellent lunch’ that a hard knock came on the gate from without. Eze went to open the gate and was confronted by two men dressed in khaki, they were looking tough. Chima could see the hardness and scowls of most policemen written all over the two standing before him. Between them was a pleasant-looking middle-aged woman, she was looking worried. You can’t be in the middle of these two apes and not look worried, Chima thought.

“Can I help you, young men?” Chima asked.

One of the two policemen brought out his identity card and extended it towards Chima. “We are from the District Police Department and we’ll like to see Inspector Georges Lot.”

The gatekeeper looked at the card without much interest and returned it to the officer, “I see, you can come in.”

It was already 4.25PM but the sun was still as scorching like it was midday. The gatekeeper led the two policemen to the interrogation room before his return to his shed. The two officers exchanged pleasantries with Daniel Famous and the detective. The two plain-clothed policemen were Daniel’s colleagues at the station; they belonged to some of those who called Daniel names, which actually made them not so close with Daniel.

“Young men, you’re welcome. Can I know your names, please?” Lot asked.

The first officer, an albino, was Moses Anuku, and the second––a tall powerfully built black man, was Ayo Festus. His description was exactly that of a brawny brute of a man. Lot turned to the woman. The woman had a surprisingly beautiful appearance, but looking into her eyes Lot felt like his privacy was being invaded and he averted his gaze; she had that look as if she stared long enough at your eyes she would discover your secrets.

“I’m sorry for summoning you this way,” Lot said, still avoiding meeting her eyes, “you only need to help us on this case and you’ll be back where we picked you in a jiffy,” he turned to the new officers, “Did you get that thing I asked you to find there?”

They nodded. The albino smiled and Daniel wish he hadn’t; Anuku’s teeth weren’t all that great.

“Fine. Moses, you stay with her. Daniel and Ayo should follow me.”

Daniel Famous and Ayo Festus left the room in the wake of the detective.

“Where are we going, sir?”

The detective answered from his shoulder, “To catch a mouse. Bring out your pistol and handcuffs; we’ve got a criminal to arrest.”

Daniel was not looking pleased, probably because of the presence of some of his foes, and nobody noticed that plain neurosis in him. Ayo did as he was told and the three men went into the big building. In the living room were five people: The widow, the lawyer, the driver, the boy and the doctor.

Detective Lot sat in one of the cushions, “Daniel, call in the gatekeeper. I want everybody present here.”

And in two minutes Daniel came back with the gatekeeper.

“Have you locked the gate, Mr. Chima?” Lot asked.

The gatekeeper nodded.

“Fine. Now Ayo, collect the keys from him.”

The officer obeyed.

Lot faced the others, “I’ve made my investigations and we’re here to catch the murderer of Mr. Martins in a few minutes. I want to use this opportunity to thank Doctor Adam for his patience and contribution to the success of this case; I wouldn’t have reached a quick conclusion without his help. Doctor, I’m personally saying ‘Thank you’.”

The doctor smiled, “It’s a pleasure.” He pushed his spectacles once more towards his eyes.

Detective Georges Lot took a deep breath through his nostrils as though he were about to disperse essential wisdom. “I was determined to fish out the murderer when I arrived this morning,” he continued, “Though I only got a paucity of the information but I still managed to arrive at a reasonable conclusion; I can now proudly say that the criminal will be arrested here anon. I’ve come to understand that this crime was committed by an amateur gradually growing a repertoire of criminal tactics and cleverness.

“I suspected, when I was starting to investigate this case, that nobody in Cain Martins’ ménage was moved by his death; it seemed like everybody was happy that he is dead. That gave me the first idea that he was murdered not by an outsider but by one of the people close to him, I later learnt that he made life quite unbearable to this household when he was alive, so one of you closely connected to Cain murdered him. The notion that he was killed by an outsider is simply nonsensical.

“I was confused in the course of my investigation because each of the household had an alibi or two––Mrs. Martins was in her room sleeping when the body was discovered, Barrister Michael Kish was miles away at the time it was found, Mr. Chima claimed that he was unaware of the corpse lying by the gate until he was called out by Daniel and young Hakeem.”

“I will be fifteen by November, I am not young.” Argued Hakeem.

Lot ignored him, “Richard was sent on an errand by the deceased and he spent the night at his mother’s,” he paused and continued, “I know that if not everybody, at least one person was lying among the households. In the course of my interrogations, I came across three different notes: I was given one by Mr. Chima, he claimed to have found it under his pillow; I found another note under the Bible in the deceased’s bedroom; then another was shown to me on Richard’s phone. One crime but three different notes, they can be quite confusing, so I refused to allow myself to be misled by the notes. The first note had the initials of the deceased, the second did not bear any name and the third contained the name and surname of the deceased. Actually, those notes rarely shed light to my investigation, I therefore classified them false. As far as I’m concerned, after being forced to go back to the drawing board of this case, I decided that the first note might have been written by the gatekeeper himself.”

Chima was about to protest but Lot lifted his hand like a priest about to pronounce a benediction, and cut off whatever Chima had intended to say, “I’m not ready to argue with you, old man.” He said and continued, “The second note might have been written by Mrs. Martins and put under the Bible because she had suspected that sooner or later the room would be inspected.”

Richard and Abigail exchanged glances and Eze Chima was glaring at the detective.

Lot continued, “The text message might have been created by the killer himself and sent to that phone number belonging to Richard. What I was really bent on retrieving is this.”

Lot raised a black polythene nylon bag hanging from his hand, he put it on the table and asked Richard, “Richard, do you know what’s in this bag?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have X-ray vision.”

The detective dipped his hand in the bag and came up with a pistol.

“What is this?” Michael Kish asked, as though he knew not what was flourished.

Lot replied proudly, “That is the gun which was used to murder Mr. Cain Martins.”

Richard stood up suddenly, sweat had immediately started dripping down his forehead. He demanded sharply, “Where did you find that? Tell me!”

“In your room,” Lot answered, he turned to others, “Lady and gentlemen, we have the murderer of Cain Martins––Mr. Richard Philip.”

Ayo Festus stepped forward with his pistol, “Mr. Philip, I have a warrant for your arrest on a charge of murdering Mr. Cain Martins––I caution you that you have the right to remain silent. You need not talk or answer any question, you have the right to an attorney and if you can’t afford any, a lousy one will be provided to defend you in the court of law,” he continued, thrusting his handcuffs forward, “Now, step forward and put your hands in front of you.”

Richard did as he was instructed and he was handcuffed.

Hakeem jumped up, “I cannot believe this! It is Uncle Richard all along?” he turned to Lot, “Permission to kick him, sir?”

“Why, Richard?” Abigail asked in a tremulous voice and lips, tears already flooding her eyes. “Why did you do it?”

Richard looked at her face and looked away immediately. He did not utter a word.

“I knew it! He’s the criminal,” Kish uttered, he turned to Abigail, “You don’t have to weep for this criminal. He doesn’t deserve your tears; they should just stick him in a cell somewhere and forget about him.”

“I want to know how you got to know that Richard is the murderer.” Chima said in a concerned and amused voice, he looked at the detective as if he were an idiot child for coming up mmmmwith this latest theory.

“Good question, I’ve been expecting somebody to ask me that, although I never though such an impressive question would come from you of all people. That sealed gun lying on the table has Richard’s fingerprints on it.”

The doctor opened his eyes wide behind his thick lens spectacle and he wanted to speak but the detective cut him off by continuing his speech.

“You see,” Lot continued, “I’ve been suspecting Richard from the moment he came into this room on the morning of the incident, but I couldn’t pin anything on him since he exonerated himself by claiming that he spent the night at his mother’s; lying that he was not around at the time of the murder. But as faith would have it, he who exonerated himself by lying also implicated himself by lying the more; he gave a false account of how the deceased was threatened by kidnappers with a letter asking him to send them a sum of five million naira to prevent his wife from being killed by them.

“It was quite a brilliant lie and with it he almost brought my investigation to a whinnying whoa but for three things which gave me the idea that he was lying: One, he told me that the address of where he was sent to deliver the ransom was number 47B of the renowned Alexandria Avenue, he stumped me there but for the help of Daniel, who unconsciously made an enlightening statement about Alexandria Avenue being a long street as it is––possessing a B. This brilliant statement spurred my remembrance of having a friend living in that particular street. Well, I called my friend and what my friend told me was contrary to what Richard claimed; my friend lives in number forty-two, the last number in Alexandra Avenue. In fact, there is no number in Alexandria Avenue having an alternative B.

“Two; I have never heard of any kidnapper or killer who threatened a husband of killing the wife without having any leverage or holding the wife hostage beforehand. Nobody would demand for five million naira without having something worthwhile handy. And three; he said he received a text message the night before Mr. Martins’ death when he was returning from where he delivered the money, but the time the text message was sent proved otherwise, the message came into his phone at exactly 9:26 on the morning of the eighth of this month. That was over nine hours after Mr. Martins’ death.

“After questioning him, we decided, without the knowledge of anybody among the household, to check Richard’s room for any evidence––and in the wardrobe, lying almost inconspicuously among his clothing, was that gun on the table. To give no one among you any benefit of doubt, there’s someone who will illuminate more light on this affair. Daniel, go and call in Anuku and the woman.”

The sweating Daniel went out of the room and returned moments later with the albino and the woman.

“Mother!” Richard cried and sank on his knees. “It is finished.” He said.

“What is going on here?” demanded Mrs. Philip, “Why are you in handcuffs, Richard?”

Lot spoke, “Mrs. Philip, I have just a single question to ask you in the presence of everybody here. Madam, was your son with you on the night of the seventh of this month?”

“What day was that?” she asked, getting really scared. She didn’t know if lying or telling the truth would implicate or exculpate her son.

“Friday.” Lot answered.

She shook her head slowly, “He came to me at about five in the morning of Saturday, not Friday.”

The detective smiled, “Thank you, ma’am.” He turned to the others, “If Richard was not at his mother’s between twelve midnight and five in the morning, where was he? I believe you all know the answer to that question. Well, there’s one last thing I want to get to your notice––when I assigned these two officers here to bring Mrs. Philip, they searched the house and found a briefcase full of money; the amount, I’m keeping confidential for now. The money has been taken to the nearest police station, I specifically asked the money not to be brought here because if he had seen the briefcase and his mother he probably might have fled.” Lot paused and continued, “You’ve all seen the motive now, haven’t you? He robbed Mr. Martins of five million naira and when the man found out that it was his own driver who had stolen the money, he called me to come the next day. But incidentally, Richard found out about the call he made, so he was afraid thinking his boss had called the police. He didn’t know that his boss called someone far intelligent than the police; his boss called me, Inspector Lot, whom no crime passes by.”

“But Oga and Richard went out together that Friday night. If he knew that Richard was the one who stole his money, why would he ask his driver to drive him out in the night?”

“Another good question. Obviously, Cain made the call to me before asking Richard to drive him out, but like most rich men, they like having the aces up their sleeves; when they had driven a considerable distance from this building, Mr. Martins, who didn’t know how to keep his mouth shut, began telling Richard about all what he knew and what he had done, that included telling him that he had called somebody from the law. When Cain called me, he refused divulging what had happened to me because he wanted to blackmail Richard so he could easily manipulate and dominate his life, seeing himself between the bull and the spear, Richard did the only thing he hoped would save him from the clutches of the law.”

“It’s a lie!” screamed Mrs. Philip, “My son did not kill anybody, he’s innocent. Richard will never kill, there’s a mix-up somewhere, something’s wrong. My son is innocent!”

“So, you’re the mother of a murderer.” The lawyer accused her.

Mrs. Philip spun in anger to face the man accusing her, “My son is not a murderer and––” she stopped, “Oh my God!” she screamed, “It can’t be!” her pupils were dilated and she looked as if she was going to faint. She shrieked and ran out of the house.

“Mama!” Richard called after her.

“What has gotten over your mother?” Barrister Kish asked Richard, with a smirk on his face.

“What did you do to my mother? Tell me now!” Richard screamed, advancing towards the lawyer but was held back by Ayo.

Kish spread his hands, “Nothing, she just acted as if I’ve turned to a demon.”

“But she ought to have known that you already are,” Richard lashed and turned to Lot, “Detective, I need to see my mother now. Please uncuff me.”

“That’s impossible.”

“Listen to me carefully, Mr. Man!” shouted Richard, “My mother just screamed out without a reason known to anybody here. I want to go and see her so you are going to get these crazy cuffs off me now. I swear I won’t try to escape, and if I attempt to, you can shoot me.”

“Okay, it’s a deal,” Lot signaled to the officer to remove the handcuffs, “And if he tries to flee, just shoot him. And, young man, do not ever talk to me in such a manner again if you still want your criminally handsome face intact.”

The officer removed Richard’s bondage and Richard rubbed his wrists. He went out of the room and the detective and Festus followed close behind him. The officer with the gun aimed the pistol at Richard’s back.

“This gun is aimed at your seventh thoracic vertebrae,” said Festus, “You do anything stupid, I fire, and––phew! If you survive, that is, nothing works below the waist. And believe me, it won’t be a story you’ll love to tell.”

Richard himself knew that sometimes when people are shot in the spine and they do not immediately die, they surely lose control of their bowels. Having known that, he tightened his anal sphincter so that even if he was shot he would not be a mess, causing an embarrassment to himself and to those who had to witness the repulsive excretion.

They found Mrs. Philip by the gate biting her finger and shaking uncontrollably. For a moment, Richard thought his own mother had lost her mind.

“Mother, what’s wrong? What happened?” Richard asked, holding his mother by the shoulders.

“Who’s that man?” she asked.

“Who? Do you mean Barrister Kish?”

“The man who called you a murderer,” she said, “Who’s he?”

“He’s Mr. Martins’ lawyer. Why are you asking, mama?”

She turned to the detective, “I need your help.”

“What can I do for you, madam?” asked Lot, he cast an is your mother normal look at Richard.

“I want to see that man’s left arm.” She said.

Lot cast Richard another funny but uncomfortable glance before asking the woman, “What for?”

“Please, sir. This is the only help I want you to do for me, be kind enough to help a helpless woman.”

Lot looked at the woman for some time before acquiescing to her plea.

“Well,” he said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Now, let’s go back to the house.”

They returned inside.

“Barrister Kish,” Lot called, “I need to see your left arm now.”

The lawyer looked at the detective like an old man looks at a young man who had just poured an elixir in the ocean, “What has my arm got to do with the situation here?”

“Just show me your left arm, I want to see it.”

“I refuse to do that,” Kish said in a determined effort.

“Then you leave me no choice,”

Festus immediately aimed his pistol at the barrister.

“Wait, wait, don’t shoot!” Kish screamed at the top of his voice, with arms raised upward he asked, “Are you that serious?”

“Very serious,” Lot replied, “show me your left arm before the situation gets ugly.”

Barrister Michael Kish begrudgingly unbuttoned his shirt and revealed his Unclad left arm.

Mrs. Philip gasped as she saw it; on the lawyer’s arm was the tattoo of a cross, written in the spidery and uncertain black ink of an amateur tattoo artist. She began to shiver again.

“Mother, you’re not looking well, what’s the matter?” Richard asked nervously.

She looked up at her son’s face with sadness and suddenly pointed to the lawyer.

“Richard, that––that is your father!”

F
or about half a minute there was a dead silence in the room, during which the falling of a leaf, or of a feather, might have been heard. Some could not understand what was going on, some were utterly baffled and some find it amazingly difficult to believe their ears. Then Kish suddenly broke the silence with a yell, “She’s crazy! It’s a lie!! It’s a lie!!!”

“No, I’m not crazy,” Mrs. Philip said calmly, “It’s the truth. Have you forgotten so soon? May 17, 1981?”

“What are you talking about?” Kish demanded, frankly astonished.

“The night you were attacked by the police, have you forgotten? I’m sure you haven’t.”

“I can’t believe this,” muttered Richard, “W-wait a minute, did you not tell me that he was killed that night?”

“Yes, he was––I can’t understand this,” replied Richard’s mother. She said to the lawyer, “You people were five in number and I saw the policemen dump the body of the five of you in their van. How come you’re alive? And your eyes! Your eyes––they have changed! How come?”

The question shot Kish in his midriff and he began to sweat. He looked deeply into the woman’s eyes; fear clouded his face for a short moment before his body relaxed and he sat down, “I want everybody seated, we have a long story to tell here today.”

“What is going on here?” Lot asked, “You’re sweating, Barrister Kish.”

“It’s a long story, Lot. Have your seat and tell your man to keep his gun; that is the last thing needed here for now.”

Abigail was quiet and very surprised. How could this be possible? She thought, Cain’s friend is Richard’s father. How come? Barrister Kish’s friend was killed by Barrister Kish’s son. It’s unbelievable! She looked at Richard’s mother; the woman was still a pretty woman who can rivet the attention of every man who appreciates natural beauty. No doubt about it, the woman was looking much younger than what Abigail guessed her age would be. She didn’t in any way look like Richard’s mother; she rather looked much like his elder sister. She immediately liked the woman and felt pity for her because the elderly woman was looking rather lachrymose at the moment.

Kish looked at the detective, “Lot, I want you to promise me that you won’t arrest me after hearing this story I’m about to tell.”

Daniel sat with his eyes wide open, barrister Kish is Richard’s father? How is that possible? What happened in 1981? I was not even born then.

“I won’t arrest you on one condition,” Detectives Georges Lot replied.

Eze John Chima was clearly startled. For the six decades of his life, he had never heard or witnessed anything as unbelievable as this. In the first instance, Richard was convicted of killing Cain, which still seemed impossible if the detective had believed his claim that Cain returned that night with the jeep. This was going in the direction that even he himself did not envisage. Secondly, lawyer Kish is Richard’s father, how is that? Both men have always shown hatred to each other, yet they are blood relations. He shook his head in wonderment. When will wonder ever cease?

“What condition?” asked Kish.

The fourteen-year-old Hakeem Musa was not exempted in the avalanche of wonder and confusion. Are we acting a movie or what? Hakeem asked himself. How can a lawyer who condemns criminals father a criminal? This story is getting more interesting, I’ll tell my classmates in school on Monday.

“My job here is to apprehend the murderer of Mr. Martins,” Lot said, “and if you are in any way connected with the crime I won’t hesitate to get you arrested.”

Doctor Timothy Hassan Adam was also baffled, despite that he rarely knew Richard, his mother and the lawyer, he was nevertheless surprised. A Barrister at Law fathering a breaker of the law. Funny and sad.

“Far from that,” Kish breathed in, then out as if he were about to disperse some important edicts.

“I’ll start this story from 1970,” continued Kish, “I was about Hakeem’s age when I lost both my parents in a motor accident. I was initiated into the underworld after my parents’ untimely demise. My uncle, whom I lived with thereafter, was the one who introduced me into the criminal world––he was a hardened criminal. I did not know until I started living with him, and I don’t think my parents knew before their deaths either for he was the most gentle and kindest person I had ever known. Nobody would have thought he was capable of killing a bedbug. He taught me how to wield knives, fire guns, how to beat my enemies in physical combats, how to smoke grass. Can you believe it? I started smoking grass at the age of fifteen, it’s not my fault; I was too young to know that I shouldn’t have joined their corrupt milieu. I don’t even think Baba 70 smoked cannabis sativa more than I did; I became very tough at that age, maybe it was the effect of the cannabis I smoke, I can’t say. But like my uncle, nobody suspected I was a criminal because I was the most gentle boy in class, not even Cain knew that I was a criminal. I never disobeyed my teachers and never beat up my principal like other students did. I read my books and passed out of the grammar school with good grades. I never liked tattoos but I was made to have one after only the first year of living with my uncle, they call it the sign of brotherhood, my uncle had much older men who helped him in his dirty works; I was like a baby in the midst of adults. We robbed many people of their belongings and we were never scared of the law because we thought we were smarter than the law itself; the police didn’t for once catch any one of us. I became as dangerous as my uncle after three years of my initiation.

“My uncle got sick and died when I was nineteen and I became the new leader of the gang. As young as I was, everybody in the gang feared me, I don’t know why––maybe because of the brutal rate at which I smoked grass or because I was fearless, I had no regard for my death. I robbed people of their belongings and threatened them though; I have never taken another person’s life. That was my weakness which I cunningly refused to show to anybody in the gang. We continued terrorizing everybody we come across in the streets of Lagos. We robbed banks and went free, and in no time, I was in money. I spent quite a large sum of the money on grass––smoking cannabis had become an addiction. I didn’t take to cocaine or heroin but I smoked about fifteen sticks of the hemp everyday. We were eight in number at that time but two died; one from chronic bronchitis and the other was run down by a Man Diesel truck during one of our operations when we were trying to escape from the police.

“We became the state’s some of the most wanted; five thousand naira for anybody who can give the police the information of how to capture us. Our name appeared in almost every daily newspaper.

“Your names were known?” asked Lot.

“Not exactly, you see, we had a name for our gang then. It was called Èyò––a name after the Lagos deities. Nobody knew our faces because they were always covered. We dressed in white clothing most of the time and on our heads were white hats; the clothes covered our entire bodies, draping from our heads down to our feet, and sometimes we covered our faces with black stocking masks and hoods pulled over our heads. Or maybe just disguises, like fake beards and moustaches. Also included were wigs and crazy clothes to confuse the witnesses. I didn’t have any interest in women, they never seem much important to me. My only interests were in money and grass.

“As funny as it may seem, after my high school education I got myself enrolled into the University of Benin where I studied Law, I didn’t know what prompted my studying that course. I became a lawyer at the age of twenty-four and still a virgin. Yet, I was the most wanted.

“Our doom caught up with us in 1981; a year after my graduation from the university. We got a message from one of our informants that there was a man who went to withdraw some thousands of money from the bank, we got interested and found out where the man lived. The situation did not go as planned that night when we went to attack the man; I got the shock of my life when we entered the man’s house. I saw a young beautiful girl, I’m not a man who really appreciate women’s beauty but this particular girl probed my emotion which I didn’t think I possessed; I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the girl and an animal desire ran through my devilish body. There was something mesmerizing about the girl’s appearance and for the first time in my entire life, I felt love. She was exceptionally different from every woman I’ve known, she seemed to possess an aura around her beautiful fragile body which is very hard for me to explain; that beauty was so appealing that it almost swept me off my feet. Then that wicked animal spirit that have always been in me took hold of my senses; after collecting the money which I was not really interested anymore, I ordered her into a room, I wanted to stop myself but I couldn’t, I was shaking uncontrollably and sweat was dripping from me furiously. I followed her into the room and made her undress herself, then I did something my gang member must not know, maybe I was really out of my mind at that moment, I showed her my real face. I didn’t know why I did that, probably the love I experienced or the guilt I felt. But the fact remained that I showed her my face, then I climbed over her, and with my body shaking violently, I gently entered her. It was like I was dead and in heaven, like I was in paradise, I continued thrusting in and out of her, not wanting the feeling to end. Then suddenly, my brain seemed to explode and I felt like a part of me had been merged with her. I slowly got off her and to my astonishment and regret, the girl was a virgin; just like me. That was when I knew that we shared a bond which not even any of us could understand, I was ashamed of myself and a pain which I had never experienced took hold of my body. It was the pain that was more than the Molest, it was the pain of taking away the pride of an innocent and helpless girl; I had selfishly popped her cherry.

“Some other things happened which I don’t need to say now, but I definitely told her that I loved her before I covered my face and went out of the room leaving her on the bed crying. I can still remember that first kiss, it was the sweetest experience; the feel of those softest lips still make the greenest memory in me. Still, what could an animal like me have to do with that innocent girl? I don’t even know her name.” he smiled and tears began to flow from his eyes down his cheeks. “Just almost immediately after that, something terrible happened and it happened very fast. I don’t know how the police got to know that we were there. They attacked us with a series of gunfire as we stepped out of the house.”

Kish turned to Richard’s mother, “That was what got you confused, we were six in number that night; one of us, Emeka, stood outside the house watching over. He also wore an armless shirt that night and he was the first to be hit by the police’s bullets. I was dazed and could not do anything as my gang mates continued returning fire to the police. I became numb and something kept ringing out loud in my ears that ‘it’s over!’. Then just beside me, one of us was hit in the stomach, the bullets sending the large parts of his intestines flying. I quickly calculated my escape; it became imperative for me to gird up my loins if I needed to survive this bloodbath––just some yards behind me was a fence. I immediately climbed over the fence and jumped into the compound of the building behind where I was, I jumped over another fence into a nearby bush. I was almost home before I realized that I was the one holding the money we stole; I ran home like escaping from the pit of hell; through the bushes and amid different bruises and scratches. It was about four in the morning by the time I got home and I packed all the money and others in the house into a bag in rush. I knew that none of my gang mates would leave that showdown alive. I changed into a more respectable piece of clothing and fled. There was so much money in the bag that it was heavy and uncomfortable to carry. I travelled to Zaria that day and lodged in a hotel where I spent two weeks before flying to England. But before my travel I came around that location we robbed; I was trying to meet that innocent girl again, but they had vacated the place. Nobody knew where the family went.

“I lived a more respectable life in England, though at first it was very hard for me due to not finding any cannabis to consume, what was actually in handy was cocaine with which I was not attached. I could understand why some hemp smokers run insane because I nearly ran mad myself when I could not smoke it again. It took me quite some months, after visiting several rehabilitation centres, before I could get rid of my addiction. I got to England in 1981 and got married to a girl whom I met there in 1984; she was also a Nigerian, her name was Lara. We lived together for five years before she divorced me and got married to one sordid mulatto.

“She gave birth to a girl after one year of getting married and I was very happy. I did not believe that I would ever become a father, but my world came crashing on me the moment Lara told me that I’m not the father of Belinda. I felt like dying, I was like a man who wanted to die but could not find the courage to kill himself. I did not blame Lara much for the actions she took, I accepted it, and it was my expiation. But that was the moment my nemesis came targeting on me dramatically.

“I decided to come back to Nigeria after spending twenty years of my life in Europe. Four different marriages did not work for me in England, I thought getting married in my country would be different. I made a considerable large sum of money there in England and I was reluctant to come home but I must get married and have a child, I realized that England is not the right place for me to do that. The first thing I did before arriving in Nigeria was changed my physical appearance in the little way I could, and hoped to God that nobody would recognize me. I knew that my eyes would be the first thing anybody that had encountered me would notice, I don’t know how I came about that extraordinary pair of eyes; perhaps, one of my ancestors was a foreigner, and the one thing I was able to inherit from their genes is the one which would make me stand out among crowd. And fortunately for me, I read it somewhere that a certain kind of contact lenses can impede the colour of the eyes; and with the aid of one of my contacts in England, an optician, was able to provide for me perfect spectacles. I’ve been wearing the same kind of contact lenses for a decade now; two years in England and eight years here in Nigeria, and this had magically turned the colour of my eyes to something darker, not really purely African, but dark nevertheless. And it’s only a very few people like Richard’s mother can notice the difference. I don’t even think you noticed, Detective.

“Anyway, I met another girl when I came back to this country in 2001, her name was Sara. We loved each other deeply and I was happy that I had finally found my soul mate; somebody who really loved me for who I am. I even told her about my past and she did not love me the less, I have never been so cared for in my life. She possessed that sweetness no other woman I’ve taken down the aisle had. I was about forty-seven years old and she was twenty-six with a beauty so astonishing, I provided her with everything she needed. I literally worshipped her like a goddess, I did not allow a single fly to pounce on her. She was my life. She got pregnant the same year I met her, nothing could contain the joy I felt. That moment, I knew that I was going to have a child of my own. My worst nightmare came when Sara put to bed, she gave birth to a boy alright––but the child was a stillborn, she herself died of exsanguinations shortly after the birth; she had lost too much of her blood. I almost became a maniac, I was no more myself; I could not bath, I could not barb or shave, I refused to eat any good food––I became a shadow of myself.

“Then it suddenly dawned on me that God had been punishing me, making me reap the fruit of my sins. I cried like a baby when I realized that, I cursed myself and God. ‘Why did you do this to me? Why?’ I asked God wrathfully, ‘You should have killed me instead. Why must Sara die? She was innocent, why did you kill her? You should have taken me.’ For many years, I stopped going to church to get even with God, I refused to get married again because I knew God would kill my wife. I was wondering why He is still keeping me alive, I decided He wanted me to see more evil days, and I was prepared. I knew that the final blow to knock me out was coming but I didn’t know it until now. This is how God want to destroy me finally, I’m not prepared for this, this one is too much for me.

“I’m a doomed soul, I thought I was not going to have a child, I didn’t know that I already have one. My son was close to me and I did not know. My son was the driver of my friend, he’s the murderer of my friend––my only son is going to be hanged––

“God is wicked!” he shook his head, another stream of tears welling up from his eyes. “He’s a wicked God!” he jerked his finger in the direction of Mrs. Philip, “She doesn’t deserve this! Why should God get her involved? What grief is more than seeing your own son getting killed for––”

“Enough!” Mrs. Philip screamed, “What nonsense are you saying?” tears that had secreted from hearing the lawyer’s story had clouded her face, “My son is not a murderer.”

The detective sighed and stood up, “What a sad story,” he murmured, “Madam, I’m sorry that you have to face the sad vagaries of fate,” he faced the lawyer, “I don’t even know what to say, it’s a pity you’re paying your price this way. If I may say, it would have been better if you had been killed with your fellow criminals that night. The father has eaten the sour grape and the son’s teeth are set at edge, like it says in the book of Jeremiah. It’s too bad that that only son of yours is also a criminal, and justice must be served. I swear I don’t like what I’m doing now, this difficult choice is putting me in an invidious position but there’s nothing I can do but the right thing expected of me, I hope you understand what I mean.”

The lawyer nodded and wept bitterly this time.

Abigail who had been silent for a long time asked the detective a question with trembling lips, she also had tears in her eyes, “What happens to my explanation of seeing Cain at about three that morning?”

“I thought you were lying before,” replied Lot, “But I know better now. You were actually merging your dream with reality without you knowing.”

Abigail looked at the detective as if he had just unzipped his trouser and exposed himself to her.

“Remember when I asked you the last time you saw your husband alive?” continued Lot, “You were not sure of yourself; you told me you saw your husband last at about ten, then you later said it was at three. It means you either unknowingly included the activities in your dream with your narration, or you just decided to complicate case by lying.”

“But I also saw Oga drive in at about one.” Chima chipped in.

Lot looked at the gatekeeper and decided to be rude. “What can one expect from an old man like you but hallucination?” Lot said.

“Watch your tongue, man!”

“What will you do if I don’t?” Lot shot back before turning to the others, “There’s another thing which I will like you all to know. Doctor Adam is here to tell us about it. Doctor, please.”

The doctor had a nervous throat clearing cough which he used when he was confused about how to begin his speech. When he swallowed, his Adam’s apple went up and stayed put, “Well, what we actually found out has not been tested but it’s something which will no doubt enlighten us about the identity of the killer. We searched under the corpse’s fingernails during our autopsy and found minuscule fragment of skin lodged under the nails.”

“He might have scratched himself. It does happen, doesn’t it?” asked Chima.

“Yes, it does. But our test showed that the skin was not the corpse’s. Mr. Martins possessed long fingernails and that scratch must have drawn blood. What we only need to do is get the little blood sample on the skin and compare it with the suspect’s; that will give us our facts.”

“This is the only possible explanation of that,” said Lot, “There was a fight or struggle between the deceased and his assailant, and he was able to scratch Richard; that is part of the evidence we are going to present in court after the test. The gatekeeper declared that he did not hear any sound; if that is true, it literally means that Cain was murdered somewhere else and dumped by the gate.”

There was another short moment of silence.

“But why did he kill him, why?” Kish asked painfully.

“Ask him, he knows best,” replied Lot.

“Aren’t we putting bracelets on the criminal’s hands anymore?” asked the irritated Ayo.

“Cuff him up. They’re waiting for us at the station.”

Richard spoke as the officer advanced, “Wait,” he looked at the lawyer in sadness, this time, tears was streaming down his cheeks. “It’s a pity,” he declared, “It’s a pity that I got to know you this way.”

“I’m sorry, son. I’m truly sorry.”

“You don’t have to be,” he said curtly. Then he turned to his weeping mother, “Stop crying, mama. Everything will be fine.”

Mrs. Philip continued crying bitterly, “I warned you, I warned you!”

Richard told the detective, “This is what I tried all my best to prevent.”

“And what is that?”

“Being accused of killing Mr. Martins,” he looked straight into the detective’s eyes, “I didn’t kill Mr. Martins, I swear on my life.”

The detective gave a wicked smile, the kind he had given many convicted criminals, “Tell that to the judge, he may believe you.”

“I did not kill Mr. Martins, detective.” Richard said in a voice that matched his lugubrious mien.

“Then who did? Me?” Lot asked scornfully, “How will you explain the gun found in your possession or the money you purloined?”

Richard looked in Abigail’s eyes as he spoke:

“Mr. Martins killed himself––he committed suicide.”

MARK OF CAIN by Damex Mrcoded. Episode 14

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EPISODE 14

According to Mark Twain, ‘Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.’ Barrister Michael Kish had some ugly stories of his own which he never wanted anybody to know or be told. He had always wished all his life that he had not gotten himself in the mess. But life must go on, first rule of survival.

Nemesis, he thought as he followed the younger policeman, does nemesis really catch up with people? Yes, it does. I’ve had my own share of the bitter cake. Nemesis or mimesis, man is prone to his own challenges in the struggle to keep his own head above water in the cesspool as he swims across the journey of life. Life contains a lot of different situations and parts that are prone to change everyday, every time and everywhere. Life’s a kaleidoscope. It’s the butterfly effect, whatever action you take today may affect the life of another person a million miles instantly or tomorrow or next year or ten years’ time. Change. Does the change from one’s past affect one’s future? Sometimes in life, we do some things we would never think of doing if we were given more than one choice.

He followed Daniel into the small room and he sat down facing the detective who was looking at him with an expression he could not understand––he returned the stare. Both men continued staring at each other, and the silence had begun to irritate Daniel.

“I’m sorry if I may be interrupting your chain of eye communication,” said Daniel defensively, “but I don’t see the sense in using our eyes to discuss when God gave us the free gift of speech.”

The detective broke his gaze like a child who had been defeated in a game of stare and Kish smiled. By habit he had always smiled even when he did not feel like smiling. Lot removed the cassette in the tape recorder and turned the other side before he inserted it back in the machine. Then he pressed ‘Record’.

“Your name is Barrister Michael Kish Jr., is that right?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“May I ask how old you are?”

“I’m as old as you are.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“Oh yes, I have. Have you forgotten your own age? We’re both born in the same year and month, but it’s a pity not the same day. You were born on the twenty-third and I was born on the fifth of March.

“Who told you my age?”

“The internet, bro.”

“Oh, I see. I guess we both have something in common.”

“You can say that again.”

The detective dipped his hand in his Bosom pocket and extracted a box of cigarette.

“Do you mind?” he asked Michael.

The Barrister shook his head. Lot opened the box and removed one stick, he dipped it in his mouth between his teeth and lit it with a lighter. He sucked in deeply and exhaled a cloud of smoke before speaking.

“You were a friend to the deceased, right?” he asked, pointing the cigarette at the lawyer.

“From teenage,” the lawyer replied, “We both passed out from St. Joseph College in 1974. We lost contact after then but I never forgot his name. It was after three decades of losing touch that fate brought us together again. We met again a week before he got married to that beautiful girl.”

“Did you attend the ceremony?”

“What ceremony? Oh, you mean the wedding?” he shook his head, “No, there was no ceremony. They got married in the court, both of them and the court officials alone.”

“So, you didn’t attend that?”

“Not at all. The week I met Cain was when he brought me here, he was living alone then, about two weeks later when I came to visit him I saw Abigail. My first thought was that she was a housemaid, because she was so quiet then and I could see fear on her face.”

“Fear?”

“I don’t think you can understand what I mean. The fear I’m talking is something else, she was afraid of looking at Cain’s face. She spent most of her days in the kitchen. I never thought she was a wife until Cain told me so.”

“Were you not surprised that somebody like Cain got married to a young girl like that?”

“I don’t expect you to ask me that kind of question. We are in Nigeria, remember? Anything is possible. And by the way, Cain was a rich man; he could get anything he wanted. Abigail on the other hand is not as if she’s a toddler.”

“Let’s say I’m just plain curious. Do you know if your deceased friend was once married before meeting Abigail? Any Mrs. Martins before her?”

“Yes, Cain once had a wife before Abigail.”

“Where is she?”

“Dead, he told me he once had a wife and a son. The wife died of liver cancer and the son was killed by armed robbers. He stopped the bullets meant for policemen. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“When did the wife die?”

“That was in the New Millennium; nine years ago. Three years after the wife’s death, the boy died too––he was seventeen then.”

“What was the boy doing at the robbers-police shootout?”

“Nobody knows, Cain said he didn’t know either, he did not even go for the boy’s corpse.”

“How sure are you about that?”

“Cain told me himself. He said he refused to go for the corpse because the boy was not really his son; that he was a bastard child born to him by his wife. perhaps the wife was cheating on him and got pregnant in the act.”

“And you believed him?”

“What do you expect me to believe? The boy died in 2003 and I met Cain again in 2006.”

“You seem to know much about the Martins’ connubial status.”

“Connubial what?”

“Cain’s marriage relationship.”

“Of course I do, I’m his friend. He told me everything about his family.”

“Okay, when was the last time you saw the deceased before his death?”

“Um––I think we met about two or three weeks before the incident.”

“You think? Please will you be specific?”

“I’m sorry; I can’t remember what day exactly. But I know it’s not more than three weeks previously, though we call each other occasionally.”

“When was the last time you spoke together?”

“Friday, the day before his death.”

The detective and Daniel leaned forward.

“On Friday?” asked Lot, “What time did you speak?”

“About ten in the morning.”

“What did you discuss?”

“Nothing, he called me to know the next time I’ll be visiting him.”

“Is that all you discussed on the phone?”

“See, I don’t know what kind of cigars you smoke, but you had better changed your brand. You’re starting to ask the impossible. Do you expect me to remember everything verbatim? We spoke for about twenty minutes on the phone, and remembering everything word-for-word is not intelligence, it’s lunacy.”

The detective leaned forward and stared into the lawyer’s eyes as he spoke, “I know it’s impossible for you to tell me everything. Telling everything you see, hear or do always demands selection. If I asked you to tell me all the events of your day the day before yesterday, you would probably reply like this: ‘I woke at six in the morning, took my breakfast at seven. I had bread and beans and tea. I met a lady whom I took to the cinemas and we watched ‘The Figurine’. You would, perhaps, never remember to tell me thus: ‘My phone died and I had to put another battery. I spilt a little tea on the table mat; I brushed my shoes and put it on, the lady had red paint on her fingers’. Everything is never told, therefore one selects. However, when selecting at times, those we rule out as unimportant and never told may be relevant––especially in cases like this. So, will you think deeply and tell me more of what you can remember?”

He was silent a moment and obeying the detective’s adjuration to ‘think deeply’. He shook his head in negativity. “I’m sorry, I don’t think there’s anything extraordinary in what we discussed,” he paused, “but he asked me a question. I don’t think it odd but maybe it can help in your investigation. He asked if I would always be there for him as a lawyer.”

“Did you ask him the reason for that question?”

“Not really, he told me he just wanted to be sure.”

“Thanks for your assistance,” said the detective, “but I want you to see something before you go.”

He brought out the notes again and gave them to the lawyer. Michael Kish read the notes carefully.

“You want me to tell you which was written by Cain?” Michael asked.

“Sure.”

He held out the first note immediately, “Cain wrote this.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I know. I can identify Cain’s writing with my eyes closed. He had the world’s most illegible handwriting; I can pick it out among millions.”

“What about the second note?”

“I have no idea who wrote that. Where did you find them?”

“Never mind, just one final question, please.”

“Fire off.”

“You’re Mr. Martins’ friend and lawyer; was he of any will before his demise?”

The lawyer was clearly surprised, “Will? No, he has no will. What would he need a will for? He has no other heir but the wife. He doesn’t really need any will.”

“Barrister Kish, you don’t own a gun, do you?” he shot out the question suddenly.

Michael replied immediately too, as though he had known that was the next question the detective would ask, “Good lord, no! Wouldn’t know which end to point now. But I’m armed with faith, righteousness and a pure heart.”

“Thank you, Barrister. I appreciate your contribution. You can go now, sir.”

“Officer, I’m not trying to challenge your ability but I think you’re taking too long to solve this case. I want to know who killed my friend and I would do everything to get him hung.”

This was the third time, Lot felt, that his appropriate degree of investigative acumen in solving the mystery fatefully presented before him had been doubted. “I’d prefer to use the word ‘Hanged’ instead.”

“Whatever, he will swing by the rope until he’s lifeless.”

Daniel who had been quiet as usual said, “Sometimes, those who hunt for the criminal do turn out to be the criminals themselves.”

Michael and Georges cast a questioning look in his direction. Daniel became nervous and added, “In novels, I mean.” Kish looked at him with his left eyebrow higher than the right––a display of legerdemain few people had been able to master, he apparently decided that Daniel had IQ problem, shrugged pitifully, and turned his attention back to Lot who was talking to him now.

“Thank you, Barrister Michael Kish Jr.; I’ll call on you if I need to ask you any more questions.”

The lawyer rose, shook the detective’s hand and went out the door.

The detective turned to his junior partner smiling, “This case is becoming more interesting. You agree with me, don’t you?”

“I think it’s more boring than interesting. It’s getting too complicated.”

“Elementary, my dear Watson. You seem to be ignorant of something––the more complicated a case becomes, the easier it tends to be solved. As a child, did you ever play the game called ‘Treasure Hunt’?”

“No, but I watch the reality TV game show called ‘Ultimate Search’.”

“They’re similar to each other, wherein one clue leads from A to B. from, let us say, a little message hidden underneath a stone to a further message pinned behind a tree. It’s the same in this case, but I’ll rather call this ‘Criminal Search’. A clue leads from one to the other. I know the clues are already there for me to use, what I only need to do is to link them together to fix the puzzle.”

“What clues are you talking about, sir? The notes?”

“The notes are parts of the clues, not all. This Martins’ saga is beginning to resemble one of those children’s puzzles in which numbered dots are connected in sequence to form a picture. But in this case, most of the dots are unnumbered––or missing.” said the detective, “Moreover, what do you think about the lawyer’s choice of the notes?”

“The wife said it’s the second note that was written by her husband, but the lawyer claimed it was the first. Honestly, I’m confused, but I think the lawyer was lying.”

“This may thwart what I’ve been thinking all along.”

“And what is that, sir?”

“That both the wife and friend connived to murder Cain.”

“It doesn’t make sense; you know it’s utterly impossible for that to have happened. The wife was sleeping at the time of the incident, unconscious of anything going on, and the lawyer was about hundreds of kilometers away. It’s absolutely ridiculous to link those two with the crime.”

“Before you think it––ridiculous, listen to this and tell me what you think––the wife was having a secret S#xual affair with the lawyer, and she had convinced him to destroy Cain’s will which, however, was stating that his property was to be bequeathed to someone else; a charity organization maybe. Both lovers had planned to kill the husband, and they had carefully laid down their plans. On the day of the crime, the night to be precise, the lawyer had already parked his car at a quiet place not far from this house. When it was time for them to carry out their evil deeds, the lawyer called Martins that he was close to the house and his own car had broken down, so he asked Cain to come pick him up. Without thinking, Cain called his driver and they both drove to the point of rendezvous. But unfortunately, he did not have the faintest idea about what was going to happen to him. When Cain got to the location, the lawyer did not waste time, he shot him in the forehead and carried his corpse in his car or trekked, then he laid the corpse quietly by the gate. If he had been killed close-by, the gatekeeper would have heard the gunshot. About five hours later Hakeem saw the body and came rushing to call you. The wife played her role when you called the gatekeeper out to see the corpse. She might have been watching the gatekeeper, and when he went out at your request to see the body, she quickly sneaked into his room, put a note under his pillow and hurriedly departed. At that exact time, the lawyer had already reached home and snoring; though waiting to receive the gatekeeper’s phone call. As soon as he got the call, he came rushing back as if he had known nothing. The deceased’s wife also completed her part by acting as though she was asleep all the while. A carefully planned crime. What do you have to say to that?”

Daniel stared at the detective in astonishment. For a moment he thought the detective was rambling, and with genuine concern Daniel began to doubt the detective’s sanity. Although, of course, he had listened with interest, and without interruption, to what Lot had said. Apart from the seemingly plausible a tale, it wasn’t particularly an astonishing analysis, it was not just the sort of self-consistent hypothesis that Daniel would have expected from the detective. He knew very well the amazing feats of logic the human brain was capable of––but quite often, life could elude logic––and when a brilliant logic itself got built there could always be a fault in its foundation of deductive analysis, thereby causing the whole edifice to collapse right on the occiput of the mason. This explanation of the detective’s did not bring together all the clues into one coherent scheme of justification, because there were one or two weaknesses in what Lot had laid down, at least as Daniel saw things at the moment. Whenever Daniel could not follow the train of the reasonable, he stopped. He didn’t always venture into shuttles of the unreasonable like most detectives did.

He shook his head, “I disagree with your permutations and combinations, remember Mrs. Martins said she saw her husband at about three in the morning. How do you explain that?”

“You’ve got a great brain, use it. If you have a criminal who went to the extent of writing a note to complicate things, do you think she won’t give another lie to make things as complicated as they can be. If you had the sense God gave a goat, you’d know that what she said about seeing her husband at midnight is fallacy.”

“But the gateman also claimed the same thing; he said Mr. Martins drove back in at half past twelve that morning. Was he lying too?”

Lot drummed his fingertips on the table, thinking deeply.

“Bribe.” He said at last.

“What?”

“I think he was bribed to say that, or he was made to believe that saying that was for a noble cause. Have you ever thought about bribery?”

“I don’t need to think about it because it is the most unusual thing to have happened in this case. I don’t think that man can be bribed to do something as outrageous as that.”

“Well, it may seem inexplicable to you, but if you think deeply in your mind you will come to realize that that is the only reason for that.”

“You’re burning up my brain, sir,” said Daniel, tapping his skull to make emphasis, “There’s another thing which you seem to be forgetting too; what about the driver who drove Mr. Martins out that night, what happened to him?”

“The fly in the ointment, it seemed as if there are too many fish in the net; I think he’s also involved in the affair. But I can’t conclude until I’ve heard what he has to say.”

Daniel spread his hands, “Well, lucky your belief has been thwarted.”

Lot met his face with the kind of eyes a pope would use in looking at Hitler after the end of a long war, “How do you mean?”

“You said it yourself; you said that the notes have thwarted what you have been thinking. The two cannot both plan the notes and have different ideas about it. You should think of another possibility.”

“No, I’m still sticking to my theory.”

“But you––”

The detective shook his head, “You’re not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, Daniel. Can’t you see it? That’s part of their plans too.”

“You’re not making the slightest bit of sense to me, sir. I’m sorry, my poor befuddled brain can’t take any more of these. I enjoy a challenging riddle as much as any genius like myself but when the riddle turns out to be as complicated as the Daily Times crossword puzzle I can only feel frustration and fury at being such a sap in the end. Unlike you, I can’t glance at a man and immediately know he is left-handed, diabetic, has a pregnant wife, and sells meat for a living. I only see the obvious and notice the unlikely.”

“Like I said, the two lovers planned about the notes; maybe they got two different people who do not know what was going on to write them. They had planned that the wife should claim that the second note, which was found in the bedroom, was written by her husband, and the lawyer should claim the first.”

“Why would they do that?”

“To complicate things as much as they could. For Christ’s sake, can’t you use your noggin for once? Have you got a Ph.D. in fatuity? They purposefully did that to confuse me. They are clever, those two, they knew that if they both claimed the same thing about the notes I’ll be suspicious of them. But they don’t know Georges Lot, nothing passes him by.”

He continued, “If you could remember what that woman said when I told her that she was the only person who inherits her husband’s property––do you remember what she said?”

“She told you to call the lawyer.”

“Good, remember what the first note says? ‘In the morning, call my lawyer’. There’s a link there; I haven’t shown her the note when she said that.”

“What are you going to do now, sir? Arrest them?”

“Not that fast, all what I said were only the possible reasons for Cain’s death; why he called me instead of his lawyer. I can’t arrest them yet, I need proof. Besides, we haven’t questioned everybody, therefore, before I decide who is guilty or innocent among the household, I need to question the last person involved, and I also need the gun.”

Daniel acted surprised, “The gun? Don’t you think that might have been miles away?”

“I have the feeling it’s around here, and I’m going to find it. Now, let’s call in our next guest.” He knew that he had reached this conclusion largely by imagination rather than by reason or even intuition.

“Who?”

“Who do you think?” Lot scowled at him.

Daniel Famous went out of the room to summon the driver––Richard Philip.

It was midday; when the heat of the sun had started to really rise and birds had begun to seek shelter in between the leaves of trees. Lizards and ants had begun to crawl into the holes of walls or under stones. In the living room of the building, Daniel Famous found Richard and Abigail in a lively chat, the lawyer and the doctor were watching the midday news where the BBC announcer was wrapping up the midday batch of bad news before going to the football scores. It took a considerable amount of efforts in his part to disallow himself from sitting in-between the lawyer and the doctor, eating popcorn and listening to the scores about the recent football match between the Wolves and the Marsupials.

“The detective wants you.” Daniel told Richard.

“Tell him I’ll see him in a moment.” Replied Richard.

“No, he wants to see you now.”

Richard looked up at Daniel in annoyance but Abigail spoke before him.

“Don’t be ridiculous, officer,” she shot out, “You have been on the investigation for hours without any result. I’m getting sick of you policemen.”

Daniel felt really hurt from such words coming from the mouth of a lady he was head over heels in love with, “Madam, I’m really sorry for the inconvenience but there’s nothing I can do, I’m only following orders.”

“What are you doing in the police force anyway? Can’t you find a worthwhile profession than one that makes you run after criminals?”

Daniel smiled, “It’s a long story.”

“I’ll like to hear that story sometimes ‘cause I can’t imagine an interesting young guy like you having a boring profession like policing.”

“Let’s just say I like serving my country.”

“I won’t buy that,” Richard chipped in, “There are many other ways of serving your country than this. Do you know that I always feel like breaking your nose just because you are a policeman?”

Daniel stared at him for some time and said, “Sometimes, no matter what we do or how much we try, we can’t change that thing which starts with the letter ‘F’. I’m in this job not because I really like doing it and I believe a man of your status should be in a better place than driving a rich man around. There are some idiots who can’t even speak a simple declarative sentence and yet they work in banks, just because they have the certificates they didn’t earn.”

Richard appeared a modicum mollified by what Daniel had said and he nodded silently. He was beginning to like the police officer standing over him, he felt the man was the only policeman with something worthwhile in his skull. He had initially wanted to beat his anger out of him when he had first set his eyes on him, he didn’t know that he would soon come to like him. And it seemed Abigail liked him too.

“You’re right,” said Richard, “but I can now move ahead in search of greener pastures and I’ll advise you to do the same.”

Abigail cast a sharp glance at Richard before facing Daniel, “Didn’t you tell me this morning that you wanted to be a footballer?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Why don’t you go for that instead? Maybe you’ll make it to the national team. That’s another way of serving your country, don’t you think so?”

“Honesty, I really appreciate your concern but it’s not as easy as you may think. If you are lucky you may get an official from the NFF watch you play and get interested in the way you play, then you get signed in as the country’s footballer. It’s a one in a million chances. My desire is to go to The Academy.”

She looked puzzled, “The Academy? What’s that?”

“The Academy is a football school,” explained Daniel, “Where one would be given the chance to display how good he is without the rule of politics. It was recently introduced by the NFA, and if one performed to their expectation he would be introduced into the national team or one of the country’s football clubs.”

She brightened up, “Really? That’s brilliant, you can go there and show them your stuff, I’m sure you’ll make it.”

Daniel smiled without humour, “Getting into The Academy costs a fortune. I guess that is why most talented footballers can’t make it there. I guess we all have dreams, then we grow up and realize how impossible they were.”

“How much are you talking about?” asked Richard.

“We are not talking thousands here, Richard.”

Richard whistled, “That’s a pretty large sum.”

“It’s no child’s play, but I believe in miracles.”
“A miracle? Tell me, how rich are you in your family?”

“We’re not rich; I can’t put my burden on my parents, because I’m the first child and I have two younger sisters and a brother after me. I’m old enough to cater for myself.”

“How old are your sisters?”

“The older one, Juliet, is twenty years old; and the other, Antonia, is seventeen. But don’t ever think about getting close to any one of them.”

A very faint smile came to Richard’s mouth, “The overprotective big brother. Your little brother? How old is he?”

“His name’s Silas, he’s the last child and only fifteen years old.”

“You’re a lucky man, Daniel; I wish I had younger ones like yours.”

“It’s not too late,” said Abigail, “You have a momsy who is still young.”

“My mother doesn’t look like one who is passionate about being led down the aisle, let alone getting into labour.”

“Oh God!” lamented Daniel, “The ‘tec’ will be very angry. Can we go now, Richard?”

When they got to the room, the detective was on his feet, and not looking very pleased, he kept walking to and fro the room. Daniel needed not to be told that he had aroused the man’s ire. He decided to blow a little gasket when he spotted Daniel come in. “Young man, did you want to spend your eightieth birthday there? Why do you just choose to make me angry? I should have found a better person than you because you are slacking mentally, really slacking.”

“I’m sorry, sir.” Daniel apologized.

“We’re sorry, detective. I am the one who held him up with discussion. Can I sit down?” asked Richard.

“Please, do sit down,” answered Lot, “I need to ask you some questions, Mr. Philip, and I promise not to take much of your time.” He pressed the necessary buttons again. Like a ritual that could not be ignored, he waited for about five seconds before speaking.

“Um, Mr. Philip––”

“Call me Richard, sir.”

“Okay, I learnt that on the night of the seventh you drove Mr. Martins out, is that true?”

“You’re right.”

“Can you explain what happened that night?”

“I don’t know what really happened, though Mr. Martins is a pain-in-the-you-know-what, he might have offended many people. But I can’t think of anybody who might go so far as to kill him.”

“Tell us what you know. You drove him out of the compound that night, what happened after then?”

The fan above began to oscillate again. Up PHCN!

“That night, after driving for about half a kilometre from here, Mr. Martins asked me to stop the car. He explained with fear which I had never seen in him before that a gang of killers sent him a note; they asked him to send a cash of five million naira or he lose his wife within twenty-four hours.

“I did not believe what he was saying at first until he showed me the ransom note. He told me that the note was posted to his office in the morning and he didn’t open it until about half past nine that night. He didn’t receive any phone call or any other message––just the letter. He received the letter at about ten that morning, according to the note, he had only twenty-four hours to pay the money or his wife would be killed. The letter warned that he must not get the police involved or he would lose his life after his wife had been killed. It was also written in there that Mr. Martins must not be the one to bring the money, so that was why he chose me to deliver the ransom.”

“Was Mrs. Martins kidnapped?” Daniel asked.

Richard shook his head, “No, she wasn’t. But the note really threatened that she would be killed if the demand was not met. I don’t even think she knew that somebody was out to kill her. I initially wanted to refuse when Mr. Martins gave me the money. I was thinking that I may be killed or injured if I went. Yet, if I refused to go Mr. Martins had no other person to deliver the money for him, and with my refusal Mrs. Martins would be killed; so I had no choice but to go. He gave me a black suitcase filled with money. It was the same suitcase I saw in the booth of the car about a week ago when I went to pick him at the airport. The description of where to go had been clearly written in the letter, including the phone number to call immediate I got there. I took the letter, carried the suitcase and got out of the car.”

“You did not go with the car?” asked Georges Lot.

“I wanted to, but he refused, he said I could still see some late public transport vehicles and it was safer to go there alone without any vehicle.

“On getting there I called the number written on the letter and before the fifth ring I was confronted by two masked men. They didn’t say any word; one of them extended his hand for the suitcase and the other collected the letter from me. They thereafter dismissed me with the jerk of their heads. That was what happened, it was on the second day when I came around that I saw the body of Mr. Martins. I was so confused and angry but I didn’t want to show it; since the wife is okay, I decided to keep quiet. If I had gone talking, I’m very sure she might have joined her husband by now, they wouldn’t spare me too. I think it was those men who killed him, I don’t know why. Maybe Mr. Martins eventually called the police, I have a feeling that the men were more than two; I can’t even recognize them if I saw them, I only saw their eyes, I did not even hear anyone speak between the two men.”

“What time exactly did you get there?” Lot asked.

“Where?”

“Where you delivered the money.”

“At about quarter to twelve, almost midnight.”

“Where’s the place?”

“Victoria Island.”

“Address?”

Richard paused, as he spoke he chose his speech one after the other, “The place was at Victoria Island, Alexandra Avenue.”

“Alexandra Avenue,” Lot repeated. “What’s the house number?”

Richard thought for a moment before replying. “It’s number 47B.”

“There’s something I need to know,” Daniel said, “You did not return that night, were there no more public transport vehicles?”

“I could still see some few transport vans, but when I was about returning I received a text message from the deceased that I should not bother coming again. So I decided to spend the night at my mother’s. That was why it took me the next day before I could come back.”

“Why did your boss ask you not to return?”

“I don’t know, I only got the message through text.”

“Is your phone with you now?”

Richard brought out his mobile phone, scrolled it for some time and gave it to the detective. On the phone was the message:

DON’T RETURN UNTIL DAWN. I HAVE MY REASONS. BYE.
CAIN MARTINS

Lot frowned a little, then he frowned a lot, “I can see the phone number here,” said Lot, “The number through which the text came in. Is this your boss’ phone number?”

“No,” answered Richard plainly.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m very sure. Mr. Martins had never used that phone number before.”

“Did you try calling the number when you got the message?”

“No, but on my way coming the next morning I tried it; there was no response––I wanted to tell him that I’d safely delivered his package and I’m on my way.”

“What about his original number, did you try that?”

“Yes, switched off.”

“What time exactly are we talking about?”

Richard lapsed into memory, “About some minutes before nine on the morning of that Saturday. What is confusing me is this; Mr. Martins had his own number, why didn’t he send me the SMS through his number instead of using a strange one? Another puzzle is that I don’t find the reason why he should have texted me when he could call? I’m not sure, but I think there’s something one needs to look into.”

“I promise you we’ll surely look into that.” Lot said, he reached over the recorder and stopped it. “You have a pretty good alibi, Richard, I’m quite impressed.”

“I thought the detectives were always breaking alibis. In detective stories, it’s usually the person with the cast-iron alibi who commits the crime, isn’t it?”

Lot chose not to answer the question tag. “Thank you, Richard,” he said, “You have been very co-operative. You can leave now.”

After Richard’s departure, Daniel said:

“To be candid with you, sir, I’m really flummoxed.”

“There’s something wrong in what that young man said, there’s something very wrong.”

“What is it?”

“He said that the letter warned not to get the police involved. Yet, Mr. Martins called me himself; he even transferred a large sum of money into my bank account. No, I don’t think they go together.”

“That was what probably killed him. Maybe the killers found out he called you after all.”

A frown line delved between Lot’s brows and he shook his head, “No, I don’t think so, I received the call before the delivery was made and he did not even tell me anything about it.”

“I have nothing else to say except for the fact that the avenue must be a very long one to have a B for the aforementioned number.”

Lot stared at Daniel for a long time and his face suddenly beamed with excitement as he leaned forward and clapped a hand on the younger officer’s shoulder, “Thank you, Daniel. You are, for the first time ever, a genius!”

“A genius in what?”

“My! You know not even what you have done?” The detective was appalled, “I’ll allow you to give your so-called brain the massage it needs while I go out now and make an important call.” He dashed out quickly, leaving the confused Daniel trying to find the cause of the sudden outburst of the detective’s mania.

The detective returned after about ten minutes.

“Who did you call, sir?”

“Your unit.”

Daniel was confused some more, “My unit?”

“I assigned two officers to go and bring someone who would help us on this case.”

“Who?”

“You know what curiosity did to that cat, don’t you?”

“Is the household aware of it?”

“No, and I will want you to keep it that way, okay?” Lot warned sharply, “And if you screw up you’ll find yourself to blame. Do I make myself clear?”

Daniel nodded dumbly.

“Fine,” said Lot, “Now, let us go another fishing before our visitor arrives.”

“Oh! No––not again!”

MARK OF CAIN by Damex Mrcoded. Episode 13

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EPISODE 13

Back in the interrogation room, the power supply had been interrupted and the ceiling fan had stopped its noisy oscillation. People still suffer the effect of poor power supply in the country––even in some envied cities.

Abigail sat opposite the detective and Daniel also took his seat, his eyes never left the woman’s face for a moment. He noticed something odd about Abigail; she had changed since she had been shown the note found under the Bible. Her cheerfulness had vanished and she had been looking more serious ever since.

Detective Lot cleared his voice before speaking, “I’m rather going to be like those forms you fill for passports.”

“I know.” Abigail replied.

“Right, now let’s start with this––” he shifted his heavy body in the seat. “How long have you been married to the late Mr. Martins?”

“Three years.”

“Any child between the two of you?” he asked, and swatted at a fly that was crawling up his sleeves. He missed the fly that came back to crawl over his head, sneering at him.

“None.” She answered her questions with more directness and precision without any further explanation, this brevity and new brusque tone worried Daniel.

The detective nodded.

“It means that the only person who legally benefits from his death is you. Is that right, madam?”

Abigail paused before replying, “I’m not his lawyer, call Mr. Kish and ask him.”

“I’ll do that, but since he has no living relation, his inheritance automatically comes to you. He might have died intestate. Don’t you agree with me, Mrs. Martins?”

She did not reply.

The detective continued, “Now, one more question, Mrs. Martins.”

“Call me Abigail, please.”

“Why?”

“Just call me Abigail.”

“Okay, I want to get something straight. Can you tell us all what you know about Mr. Martins’ death?”

“All what I know,” she said thoughtfully, “I don’t think I understand what you mean.”

“When was the last time you saw your husband alive?”

“On the night of the seventh of this month.”

“Time?”

“Lemme see,” she lapsed into memory, “At about quarter past ten.”

“Quarter past ten.”

“No, not quarter past ten,” claimed Abigail, she licked her lips and continued, “I think I saw him at about three in the morning of the eighth. That was the next day, Saturday.”

A facile lie––Lot thought, and such a silly lie. The silly way one says the first thing that comes into one’s head instead of just taking a minute or two to think. He knew that sometimes when people lied they first licked their lips to lubricate their falsehood.

“Three in the morning of the next day,” the detective frowned, “what was he doing at that time?”

“I don’t know what, but I know I saw him.”

“Are you sure of what you’re saying, madam?”

“How do you mean?”

“According to what I found out, it is utterly impossible for your husband to still be living at that time you mentioned.”

Daniel was alert. What is going on here? At that moment, he was already turning his head from the detective to the lady as the Q & A progressed––like an ardent fan at a tennis match. A gear in his own head kept shifting and engaging every now and then.

“Abigail, are you sure you’re not mincing words?”

“I’m not a fool, detective. I know what I’m talking about and I know what I saw.” Abigail said, “On the night of the seventh at exactly fifteen minutes past ten, I know the exact time because that was the time I switched on the television to watch Hacienda; the late night Mexican soap opera, Cain asked me not to lock the door, he said he was going out with Richard and that may take him some time before returning.”

“Did you ask him where they were going?”

“He said he and Rich wanted to pay a friend a visit.”

“Pay a visit to a friend in the night?”

“So said he,” Abigail replied, “It was about three that I saw him again in the room. He might have been there earlier, I saw him when I opened my eyes before I slept off again.”

“Are you sure it’s not a dream?”

“Excuse me!”

“Forgive me,” the detective said simply. He brought out the note he received from the gatekeeper and gave it to Abigail, “can you please carefully look at the writing on that paper and tell me if you recognize who wrote it.”

Abigail looked at the writing on the paper without any reaction.

“Who wrote this?” she demanded.

“You’re throwing back my question, madam.”

She looked at the writing again and shook her head, “I have no idea whose writing it is but it might have been written by Cain himself.”

“You amaze me, madam. You said you don’t know the writing, yet you said it might have been written by your husband.”

“In the morning, call my lawyer. MC,” Abigail read. “Who could possess these initials in here but Cain?”

“That’s intelligent, madam.”

“Where’s the intelligence in it? Does one need intelligence to know that the tortoise possesses a rough shell?”

“I want you to be specific, madam. Is the writing on this note your husband’s?”

“I don’t think so.”

“And you say your husband was still alive at around three that night?”

“Yes, he was.”

“If the doctor is right, then it means that your husband could not be with you at the time you said you saw him last, it’s absolutely impossible.”

“Why?”

“Doctor Adam said Mr. Martins’ death occurred not later than twelve midnight.”

Abigail was silent at first before speaking; she was thinking back, thinking back so very hard.

“Then the doctor is wrong.” She said, then she asked, “Detective, does it not seem like you are shinning a light in corners better left in gloom?”

“Pardon me, Madam. I don’t seem to get the meaning of what you said.”

She shrugged, “Anyway, it’s your job you’re doing. I shouldn’t blame you.”

Detective Lot sensed that the woman was hiding something very important but he didn’t know what it was or how he could make her spill it out. He stood up.

“Thank you very much, madam. You’ve been a great help. I’ll call on you if I need you again.”

After Abigail’s departure, Daniel who had been quiet throughout the questionings and answerings spoke:

“Detective Lot, I’m in love.”

Lot cast a sharp look at him and said, “You have a funny amorous personality, is it true love or merely gonadal twinges on your part?”

Daniel was wide-eyed, “Oh my God! I can’t believe you just said that, tell me you didn’t say it.”

Lot shook his head, “No, that woman is not for you.”

Daniel was frustrated, “Why on earth not? Is it because she is a widow? After all, sooner or later, someone is going to sweep her off her feet and carry her down the aisle. What is wrong if I’m that lucky man?”

“I know how it feels to love; it’s the best feeling in the world. But take this from me, young man, that lady is not for you. I’ll advise you to stop all your risible attempts to make her notice you.”

“Will you be kind enough to give me a reason why I can’t be her man?”

“I have no reason. But be warned, though––her honey may be sweet but she may likewise be a queen bee with a sting.”

“What an advice!”

“Why don’t you go into the room where you have everybody present and declare your avowal of love, and if you can’t do that then will you forget your love story for now and let’s face the issue on ground? We have two different notes here, and we haven’t really confirmed who wrote them. What do you think about these notes, Daniel?”

Daniel collected the two notes and read them again, “The notes were no doubt written by two different people, that’s what I think.”

“Explain.”

“There’s nothing to explain. These handwritings are absolutely different,” he cursorily compared the two samples of handwriting. “Here, it seemed like
amatuer and professional experts alike would pretty certainly adjudge the writings sparsely different. The first note contains a very bad and lousy writing. Before one can read, one will have to decipher it. The ‘t’ looks like ‘y’, and the ‘y’ looks like ‘7’. But the other writing is a well-written one, it’s very hard linking the two writings to one person.”

“That means one was written by Cain and the other by X. which do you think was written by the deceased?”

“The second note, of course.”

“Any reason for saying that?”

“The wife really confirmed the second note but she was doubtful about who wrote the first.”

“So, you believed what the woman said? She has really formatted your hard disk and put virus in it.”

“Why won’t I believe her? Do you think she won’t understand her own husband’s writing?”

“I suspect that woman of chicanery. I think she’s a pathological liar, like those people who lie when they don’t even have to. They can tell lie even when they know that their listeners are aware of the truth. As if they have an aversion to the truth about anything, no matter how benign––Mrs. Martins might fall under this category of people.”

“God! Everybody is a liar to you detectives, isn’t it?”

“That woman is hiding something––she’s hiding something very important. Did you not see the weirdness in the second note you and your love claimed to have been written by the deceased? It was apparent that the couple did not love each other when the husband was alive, then how come he wrote a note to his hated-wife stating his love at the eleventh hour?”

“We never know how much we love our spouses until we were about to lose our lives, don’t you know that? Even nasty people fall in love.”

Lot smile, “You are more intelligent than I thought of you.” He continued, “But the fact still remains that the woman is guilty of something.”

“You’re already suspecting that innocent woman, I can’t believe this.”

“Innocent you say? What makes her innocent? Is it because she is pretty? My friend, beauty is dangerous. And for all it’s worth, I personally find her
beauty quite beguiling.”

Daniel looked at the detective with annoyance, “So, what are you insinuating now? That she killed her own husband?”

“Nihil desperandum.”

“What are you saying again, sir? A Hail Mary?”

“It means ‘maybe’.”

“Jesus! What are you becoming, Detective Latino?”

“What of it?” the detective demanded sharply, “You continue to be sentimentally unbelievable! I have seen mothers who murdered their little children for the sake of the insurance money. Are you just hearing of a wife killing her husband? Did you even read about the politician who was stabbed to death by his wife?”

Daniel was agape; he could no longer fathom what the crazy detective was trying to theorize. He broke into a cold sweat.

“You saw her cry when she saw her husband’s corpse. Those tears were not fake, were they?”

“No, they weren’t. She really did cry for Cain.”

“Then?” He stared at Lot, waiting for elucidation.

“Her cry was of pity, not of grief. You remember what she said? I feel sorry for him. She didn’t cry because she won’t see her husband again, she did cry because she felt pity that his life had to end in such a brutal way. Take this from me, she was really glad that her husband died.”

“Be careful of accusing the wrong person, sir. That woman is innocent, I know she’s innocent. Maybe she hid her sadness behind an air of insouciance.”

Lot shrugged, “Maybe she is. But let’s think for once that she’s guilty.”

“What are you saying, sir?”

“Just let us look at the possibility that she planned the murder of her own husband.”

“That’s absurd!”

“She might not have killed him directly; she might have connived with someone to help her murder her husband. Most women don’t murder with guns, they can’t stand the loud bang from it, they instead use knives; quiet, penetrating and deep.”

“She’s innocent.” Daniel said gently.

“She may be and she may not be, but she’s my prime suspect in this case.”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”

“I’m not expecting you to believe it yet. I need only one evidence to nail them with––just an evidence.”

“Which evidence?”

“The murder weapon. Please call in our next guest.”

“Who?”

“Someone I think is the accomplice.”

“The accomplice?”

“Yes, call in the lawyer.”

**

Daniel Famous was astonished; the mysterious gumshoe had not been sweating all through their moments in the suffocating box called the interrogation room. The outside breeze was refreshing and he breathed as much as he could with every heaving of his chest, he had appreciated the importance of the free oxygen after learning the day before that suffocation had been considered one of the most dangerous means of meeting one’s ancestors. He was still not supporting the idea of searching the deceased room but all efforts and means he had employed to discourage the detective had proven futile, Lot’s mind was set on the task.

“You are forgetting what we’re here for;” said Lot calmly, “Let me remind you, we are here to unlock secrets lurking behind doors in this building.” He pointed.

Both men went into the building. The detective looked interestingly at the lawyer who was sitting beside the widow––their thighs, he noticed, were not very far apart, both were apparently discussing in a low voice; he was surprised that they had not seen them enter, their voices were too faint to be heard, Lot tried to listen by straining his eardrums but he could not hear, all he was able to catch were: don’t worry, everything is fine now. It was the lawyer who said that to the widow. Daniel saw them discussing and felt a brief pang of jealousy within himself. If he had had a hammer he would have bashed the lawyer’s head in.

The soporific effect of the air-conditioner in the large room had made its impact on Richard, he was lying asleep on the three-seater; Lot was contemplating if he was really asleep as he looked or he was faking it, and amid the atmosphere of the silent ennui was Hakeem on his feet swaying to whatever was pulsing through the headphones of his Discman, he was throwing himself around the room like a whirling demented dervish. He bellowed in delight as he saw Daniel and Lot. At one corner of the room, a mobile phone had been placed on a charger inserted in the electric wall socket. As Daniel watched as the light of the charger pulsed off-and-on he felt it had a kind of connection with himself and the case they were trying to investigate, in which ideas and motives behind the late man’s action that night pulsed off and on in his own mind, too.

“Have you found the silly man who killed Mr. Martins?” he asked seriously.

“Not yet,” replied Daniel, after gulping air.

Hakeem frowned, “Why? I want to kick that idiot so much that my boots will have to be surgically removed from his bottom. Seriously, I pray whoever killed Mr. Martins have AIDS.”

The detective smiled.

“Please, make your investigations snappy,” said the boy, “I can’t wait to kick the baboon.”

Daniel Famous swallowed hard and said, “Yes, sir.”

The boy faced Lot and Daniel, “You know I told you that I wanted to help on this case, and I’ve been doing some thinkings of my own. Do you know what I’ve been trying to do? I was trying to put two and five and eight together to get seven. It can’t be done, it simply can’t be done.”

“You can’t know the killers; you’re not a detective, are you?”

“Okay, I give up, let’s ask the tec. Do you know the criminal, sir?”

“No,” Lot replied, and before the boy could protest any further the detective added, “But I have an idea of whom the person might be.”

“That’s nice,” brightened up Hakeem, “Who’s the one?”

The detective looked with calm eyes at the boy, “And you expect me to tell you?”

The boy nodded vigorously, like one of those crazy dolls at the back screens of cars.

“Then follow me. Let me tell you the murderer in person.” As the boy began to rise from his seat, Lot added, “But you may be killed, too.”

That scared Hakeem and he involuntarily relaxed back in his seat, “What have I done wrong?” he screamed.

“Many things,” answered Lot, “One, you saw the body first; two, you called the policeman; three, you want to know the murderer; and four, which is the most devastating reason––you want to kick him in the bottom. I strongly suggest that you keep out of this. If there’s a murderer lurking around the corners, be he of flesh and blood or atmospheric vapour, summon not his attention to thyself, wise one.”

The boy shook his head and said hastily, “I don’t need to know him anymore; I’m not ready to nod a flying bullet.”

“Better,” Lot looked around and asked, “Where’s the doctor?”

“Here,” the doctor replied from the door, “I went to make a call to the morgue concerning the deceased. Can I see you a moment, detective?”

Both men went out and returned a few seconds later, looking as placid as possible. The doctor calmly took his seat and Inspector Lot faced Abigail.
“Mrs. Martins,” he said, “We’ll like to search your bedroom, since I understand that you and your late husband shared the same bedroom.”

“If I may ask, Mr. Detective, what do you want there?”

“Just a general inspection,” said Daniel, “We are hoping to find something which can help us on this case.”

Daniel had intentionally spoken so as to have the attention of the woman to himself. Abigail looked at him and smiled warmly, her smile almost sent his head spinning.

“You are free to go,” she said, “Just don’t check my wardrobes, you might find a skull.” She laughed and pointed to the entrance, “That’s the room.”

“You’re a funny woman, Mrs. Martins. I’ll laugh next week.” Said Lot, without any trace of amusement on his countenance, “We will appreciate it if you lead us, Ma’am.”

Abigail looked at him in wonderment before speaking, “See, detective Lo, you––”

“Lot,” he corrected.

“Whatever,” said Abigail with the wave of her hand, “You look too serious most times,” she said, lifting her chin, “The death of my husband shouldn’t make everyone a criminal to you.” She got up, “Well then, let’s go.”

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

The bedroom was too wide to be called one, and in the middle of the large room was a large bed spacious enough to sleep a battalion of soldiers, and a white coverlet was laid so tenderly that there was absence of any rumple. The bedroom was exquisitely clean and beautiful. The walls were painted blue. Unlike the sitting room whose floor was covered in rug, the bedroom was bare, with decorative tiles that made the floor glisten. The space adjacent to the window was occupied by a large built-in twin wardrobe and there was a TV set at one corner. The side wall opposite the window-side was almost covered by the mirror of an enormous vanity table, bearing an apothecary’s stock of oils, lotions, perfumes, powder, brushes, unguents, hand mirrors, colognes, combs, and make-up aids of all kinds. Up above the entrance were two pictures. The first was Cain’s, the man’s face was mean. The picture reminded Daniel about the facial look of one of the former Nigerian presidents. The second picture is entirely different from the first. The woman in the picture was so beautiful that Daniel held his breath for many seconds. She was smiling broadly as if the cameraman had promised to present her picture to the Archangel Michael. Daniel was finding it extremely hard to take his eyes off the widow’s picture.

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life in front of a photograph or face what you’re here for?” the detective asked slightly angrily.

“I’ll prefer staying in front of the photograph,” Daniel answered mindlessly. He turned to Abigail and said chivalrously, “Madam, you are very beautiful.”

Abigail felt embarrassed for a moment before she smiled, “Oh, thank you so much, that’s sweet.”

“I thought you would get on your knees and sing her African Queen.” Said Lot coldly.

“I will happily do that if she gives me the chance.” Daniel replied, his eyes not leaving Abigail.

She laughed, “You needn’t do that. I’ll rather hear it from the horse’s mouth. Let someone do me a favour and call me Tuface.”

“So let’s get down to business.” Lot said.

“But I’m not trained on how to search,” complained Daniel.

“Just look around and search as if you lost all your life’s savings in this room.”

“Okay,” Daniel got on his hands and knees and began searching under the bed and under the wardrobe. The detective checked the door handle, the table bearing the cosmetics, the window panes, the edges of the bed. Daniel was tired of searching for nothing.

“What exactly are we looking for, sir?” he asked in a frustrated voice.

“I don’t know; just continue what I asked you to do.”

“Why do men enjoy crime so much?” Abigail asked.

Daniel ignored what he was doing and faced Abigail, “You know what?”

“What?”

“I hate this job. I really wanted to be a footballer.”

“Oh, I love footballers.” She giggled, favouring Daniel with a smile that warmed him down to his toes.

“Really?” he stood up brightly, totally ignoring the work, “Don’t you worry, one day you’ll be watching me on that big screen in the living room, making Nigerians proud overseas. By then I would have been done with this dirty job that makes you do dirty things.”

“Dirty things like what?”

“Like this; snooping around people’s things. I really didn’t want to come but it was that Sherlock Holmes who insisted. So madam, forgive me if I’ve been offending you from doing this.”

“No––no, it’s okay. I’m not offended, you’re only doing your job.”

Detective Lot was now leafing out through the pages of a Bible, which was on a small table beside the bed. As he lifted the holy book from the stool he found a scrap of paper with a clear and concise writing, the three words on the paper were written in an artful cursive. The paper was a cut-out sheet of white foolscaps.

“Interesting,” Lot said.

The remark caught the attention of Abigail and Daniel.

“What is it you’ve found?” she asked.

Lot asked, “Madam, how long has this Bible been lying here.”

“For quite some time,” answered Abigail.

The detective gave the note to her. “Madam, I want you to look at that writing carefully and tell us whose it is.”
Abigail read the note and the skin of her forehead was squeezed together. The general drift of the note required no Aristotelian intellect to decipher; it contained plainly three most important words––‘I Love You’, no signature, no name. Abigail looked confused for a moment before raising her eyes to meet the detective’s gaze.

“Do you know who wrote that?” Lot asked.

Abigail nodded, she hesitated before speaking. “It is Cain’s, Cain wrote it.”

Daniel Famous’ eyebrows were hoisted aloft. He thought he saw some strange expressions on the woman’s face: surprise, excitement and fear. But Daniel only shrugged.

“Another question, Madam,” said Lot, “You said this Bible had been lying here for some time?”

“Four weeks, at least. I haven’t gone to church in a month.”

“Four weeks,” murmured Lot, “without dust on it.”

“What did you say?” Abigail asked.

“Never mind. Madam, does your late husband go to church?”

Abigail smiled, “I’ve never seen Cain go to church since he married me.”

“Another note,” said the amused Daniel, “How many notes are we going to find before today is over?”

The widow cast a questioning look at Daniel, “What are you talking about? Did you find a note before this one?”

The detective spoke.

“Mrs––we’ll like to have some few words with you.”

“That is what you’re doing now, isn’t it?”

“We want you in the interrogation room.”

“Why?”

“Maybe you can shed some light into this affair.”

“Is this about the first note?”

“Yes, madam. It’s about the first note and something much more important.”