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EPISODE 10

Usually, the drive from Victoria Island to Ikeja never took more than twenty minutes with the speed the Barrister was driving, but one would always have to face the problems of traffic congestion on the motorways. Many drivers don’t always have any choice other than to cut into different streets and roads in a bid to avoid the incessant traffic. That was exactly what Barrister Michael Kish found himself doing, and driving with only one hand on the wheel.

Driving at an alarming speed, Kish expected a slumbering police car to rouse into action and take a serious pursuit after him, but there was no police car coming behind. He was not surprised though, getting arrested for over-speeding in this country was as rare as a lady not getting her bottom grabbed when walking out of a club house. But Michael Kish decided to slow down sooner than later, though. He didn’t want to be regarded a contumacious citizen, and besides, Michael Kish wasn’t a street racer; so he took no special pride in having wheels of speed and fury. Driving fast cars with utter contempt for the laws of physics can be interesting, from the point of view of the driver himself. But it can also be some faster means of adding more population to those already sleeping in Abraham’s bosom; a danger to the driver, his passengers and whomever he may hit in his carelessness. When the car had lost the undesired speed he turned on the car radio, Banky W was singing in praises of Nigeria––a touching song, then Michael took his time to give a deep thought to the weird phone call he had received earlier that morning.

A murder had been committed. Actually, he had not been surprised when the gatekeeper called. He was a lawyer, wasn’t he? And lawyers either defended a convict or prosecuted one. Getting involved in a murder affair was not a new experience to Barrister Michael Kish. He had been involved in countless homicide cases, including divorces, rapes, robberies, and a collection of other major crimes. He had handled eighteen cases from last February to the end of March; twelve of them were manslaughter cases, three missing people cases and three domestic marital problems. Michael Kish had personally made his own study of social defiance and crime, and he knew very well from time being that murder was one of the most despicable misdeeds in the sad gamut of human transgressions. The last case in which he had gotten involved was a political one––embezzlement. His client had been accused of stealing a certain amount of money meant for the repair of a major road in one local government area. Michael Kish had saved the Local Government Chairman, Alhaji Ali Badru, from being sentenced to a couple of years’ imprisonment.

Sometimes, Kish’s profession called for defending the guilty. He knew his client had actually siphoned the money, but business comes first. It was like a talent to him; whenever he defended or accused, Barrister Kish rarely lost.

He was on the express road again after cutting through Thomas Street, leaving the traffic hold-up behind him. To kish, the city of Lagos had changed as much as its people. The city was predictably different: it was bigger, the cars and shops were more numerous and more garish, and the streets were more crowded. He had always been amused and strangely proud about the usual hustling and bustling of the city of Lagos. This was a state of the country where he’d lived all his adventurous life before fleeing to England. For some reason, just being here gave him a sense of belonging, to one’s country, to one’s native land. It was a feeling he’d never had before, and he wondered if he would ever return to the exiled life he lived in England. Driving for another quarter of an hour, he turned left into a single-lane road. The road might have been tarred originally, but now it showed bald patches of sodden earth and weeds sprouting from cracks. He drove for another ten minutes before finally turning left into Adeniji Jones Street. The digital clock on the dashboard agreed with what his wristwatch also revealed–– 08.06.

Ahead, Kish saw a group of people in front of the building’s gate. Some, he saw, were lurking behind cars; some were standing at the side of the road, most of them were jostling for space like spectators at an overcrowded local stadium. He noticed that some people had formed a circle by the side of the large black gate and he stopped his car here and got out slowly with his heart hammering so loud in his chest. By the time he was about turning of the ignition, the radio was playing Banky’s “Lagos Party”.

One with a keen sense of observation would have noticed that he appeared scared of something. Peering into the crowd, the feature of his face was instantly knocked out of true by a seismic visceral of horror and revulsion. The body was lying on its back with a hole on the forehead, and the blood which was already drying up had dripped down the black piece of clothing on it. This was a crime scene, Michael knew, what was unforgivable was vomiting at a murder scene and contaminating evidence. He turned to a nearby bush to retch but nothing came out. He hadn’t had anything for breakfast; there was nothing for him to puke. Sometimes, it pays to skip meals, no matter what the nutritionist may say. Otherwise, Kish might have regurgitated like a fountain.

The body Kish had seen was Cain’s. Martins Cain was dead––shot in the forehead. Seeing the horrible hole on the forehead was turning Kish’s stomach, so he turned his back to it. He was still in that bilious state when he suddenly felt a cold hand on his shoulder and he almost fainted with fright. Quickly spinning round, he was confronted by a young man who appeared to be in his early twenties. The man smiled.

“Sorry to have scared you, sir.” The young man said, “That man’s death must have been a shock to you. You know him?”

Kish carefully studied the man facing him; the young man was dressed in a football jersey and a pair of blue jeans. Kish could not place the club or country the jersey belonged to. Football was one sport Michael Kish disliked; he could not find the fun in watching about two dozen men run up and down a wide field in pursuits of a single ball. And since the man facing him looked like a professional footballer in his jersey, Kish felt a dislike for him boiling up somewhere in his guts. He looked handsome in a funny way, though.

“Who are you?” asked the lawyer. He could not believe his own voice, it sounded like something scraped across a rough surface. He coughed to have a clearer voice.

The man did not answer. He instead dipped his hand into a trouser-pocket and produced a card which he handed Kish. Written boldly at the top of the card was: THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE. He’s a policeman!

“Officer Daniel Famous at your service, sir.” He had what ladies called the bedroom voice, and a mouth carefully designed for kissing. “Do you know the man?” he now asked.

“He’s––he was my friend.” Michael managed to say, with a clearer voice this time.

“A sad one, isn’t it? It’s amazing how you freaked out. Is this your first time of seeing a corpse, sir?”

“I can’t stand blood.” Michael falsely replied.

The policeman studied Michael for some time before speaking. “I understand that you’re the deceased’s lawyer––Barrister Kish, right?”

“Who told you that?”

“The gateman.”

“Where is he?”

“In the crowd. He called you, didn’t he?”

Michael Kish ignored the question and moved towards the crowd, the policeman following behind him. He moved past the body, there was a middle-aged photographer clutching the neck of his camera flashlight bulb as if it were some poisonous serpent. He was bending over the body and taking photos from various angles and under three groupings: an overall shot, a medium, and a close-up. Kish knew very well that such photos often revealed evidence originally overlooked, but he could not fail to detect that the photographer was evidently inexperienced in his job. Kish did not find the gatekeeper in the crowd, but he saw him at the gate looking neither happy nor sad. Michael approached him.

“Mr. Gate–oh, sorry. Mr. um––”

“Mr. Chima, sir. I’m glad you’re here.”

“How did this happen?”

“I don’t know, sir. I think this house needs an exorcist––you know? Some priests to come here and pray over this house, priests who really believe in the devil if there’s anything like that today. Holy water and crucifixes should be brought, too, because this is something that defies all logic. This is utterly supernatural!”

“When was he discovered?”

“At about six this morning.”

Daniel Famous joined them, holding a boy of about fourteen years old in the hand. The boy was a scrawny teenager who looked as if he might profit from an occasional snack of calcium. On his face was adolescent acne, but this facial symptom seem to be make his unusually bright due to the fixed smiled plastered on the face.

“That was when we came to tell him about the unfortunate death of his boss.” Said the police officer.

“We?” asked Kish.

“Yes, at about quarter to six, this boy came to call me that he saw a dead body. We immediately came rushing here and found that man lying there dead. Then, we called the security man out.” The boy wanted to talk but Daniel gave him a pinch, the only thing he believed he could do to keep the boy’s mouth at bay.

“Where’s Abby?” Kish asked Chima.

“She’s still sleeping inside, sir.”

“What!” Kish exploded, with an eyebrow ascending to the forehead. “Her husband is lying here dead and she’s still sleeping?”

“I specifically told him not to wake her.” Daniel chipped in. “I believe that’s the right thing to do for now. I don’t think she will take her husband’s death well enough, and we’re not looking forward to a double-casualty.”

A black car parked behind Kish’s and a solidly-built man came down from it. He was a half-inch short of six-feet and only a slight potbelly bespoke the many bottles of beer he often drank and the junk food he often ate. The man was in his mid-fifties with a strong hard face, piercing eyes and a shock of grey hair at each temple. He had several lines on his forehead, which served only to prove that he frowned a great deal. He walked into the crowd and bent over the stiff detritus of the man named Cain Martins, examining it carefully. The corpse, he noticed, was lying in an awkward position; the right leg was slightly raised and the other was stretched straight but without any footwear. The left sandal was lying some inches away from the body, the hat lying away had been knocked slightly askew, and it appeared as if it had rolled out from the head when the body hit the ground. The most disgusting view was the wound on the forehead; there was a hollow space on it, which undoubtedly housed a bullet. The bullet had probably jerked the head backward when it hit it, bringing out a splinter of bones and blood. There was trickle of partially dried blood, the bright viscid fluid, which had now turned dark, had flowed onto the overcoat. The man stood up and went round the body twice, he bent down again and searched the dead man’s pocket under the overcoat, from where he came up with a mobile phone. Checking the dialled calls on the phone, he nodded, probably agreeing to something he had been thinking. He noticed that, a few paces away from the body, were tracks of vehicle tyres, and he was about rising from his crouch to follow the trails when a shadow covered him.

Daniel Famous knew he should have stopped the strange man from reaching the body, but he felt a sense of recognition––he was still trying to remember where he had seen the man when that same man was busy meddling with the body. When his sixth sense came alive, he quickly walked towards the man to stop him from the body, “Will you please step away from the body, sir?” he said sharply.

The man looked up into Daniel’s eyes. “Why should I?”

Famous could not believe his own ears, “Why should you? You’re in a crime scene for heaven’s sake, and touching the body is disruption of evidence. By the way, who are you, sir?”

The man stood up slowly, he looked into the eyes of the police officer for some time before extending a card he produced from his pocket. Daniel collected the card. On seeing the card, Daniel immediately saluted with a sharp ––tion, sir! He thought as much, it was that incredible detective, why did I fail to recognize him in the first place?

“Now, who are you?” the man asked Famous.

“Police Officer Daniel Famous, sir. Sorry I didn’t recognize you at first.”

“And you want me to give you a medal for recognizing me now?”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“Don’t stand there like a tired masquerade, I need to know the family members of the deceased.”

Daniel walked the man towards the others who stood watching them; he introduced him to the gatekeeper and the lawyer.

“Gentlemen, this is Inspector Georges Lot of Lagos State Police Intelligence Department. He’s a homicide detective.”

“It can’t be!” Kish cried. “The ingenious detective of the LAGPID? I can’t believe this.”

Inspector Georges D. Lot had a reputation in the country’s police intelligence unit. His name and pictures always showed up in several daily national newspapers. He had received several awards for his undiluted crime-solving abilities and the clever ways he fished out criminals, especially in his field––homicide. The Daily Times newspaper once described him as ‘Godfather of Modern Detective,’ The Punch once called him “Detective Charisma,’ and he was once named ‘Detective Idol’ by The Guardian.

One of the many cases he had solved that made waves across the nation was that of the gubernatorial candidate who was reported to have been assassinated but for the arrival of Georges at the crime scene. After questioning the members of the house and making a few investigations within the first few hours of his arrival, he told the reporters and the police that the governorship candidate was killed not by any assassin but his wife.

With the little evidence and proofs he produced to the police, the wife was arrested, and with a little threat from the police, the wife confessed to the crime. She had been a mistress of her husband’s opponent and had stabbed her husband several times in the back when the man was fast asleep. She had later lied that a group of assassins had broken into their apartment and killed her husband. When asked why she killed her husband, what she had told the police could not be released to the press. The accomplice was also arrested and the truth was unveiled; he had persuaded the woman (with the promise of marrying her thereafter) to kill her own husband and make it look like the work of an outsider. Both paramours were tried, found guilty and hanged publicly. It was an unforgettable event in the history of the nation because for thirteen months, the state was governor-less.

But that astounding act of solving the crime had brought half a dozen awards to Georges Lot’s doorstep. It was one of the detective’s most famous cases. It had even been written up in magazines and newspapers; and there’d been talks about making a Nollywood movie out of it, though nothing ever came of that.

“Garbage is all a human corpse ever is,” said Lot, “and once we’ve learned what we need to, the sooner we dispose of it the better. Burn cadavers! That’s the best way–then if somebody wants to spread the ashes over some lake like the Asians, fine, no harm done. But cemeteries, coffins, they’re all barbaric––a waste of good land. I would prefer being cremated when my soul goes to the beyond to getting locked up in the coffin for the delicacy of earthworms and maggots!”

Barrister Kish, who was still in a confused state, asked, “How did you hear the news?”

“I happened to be in the neighbourhood.” Lot was not a man who just happened to be anywhere. If he ever went sleepwalking, even then he would have a purpose, a plan, and a destination. “But never mind. Who’s that man lying there?” the detective asked the question as though he meant––who’s that idiot sleeping at the side of the road?

“That? That is Mr. Martins, sir. He’s the owner of this house.” Daniel pointed to the massive structure behind the walls of the gate.

“This will be interesting.” Lot said, as he dipped his hand into his jacket pocket and extracted a pack of cigarettes. He brought out a stick which he dipped between his teeth; he lighted the cigarette and inhaled deeply, wondering which would rot first: lungs, liver or kidneys?

He spoke as the smoke curled around his nostrils. “Can you people introduce yourselves?” pointing with his cigarette to make emphasis.

Daniel spoke first, “I’m Officer Famous. This boy here came to call me at about 5.45 this morning, he said he saw a corpse so we both came running. The man was really dead when I examined him. We knocked on the gate to call the GM but it took him about five minutes before he could open up.”

“It was about six this morning when I heard a loud bang on the gate.” Said Chima. “I thought for a moment that we were being attacked by robbers. I was about pulling out my gun when I gave a second thought. Robbers rarely rob at six in the morning when dawn is fast approaching. I opened the gate and saw this man and the boy beside him. This one in sports shirt told me that he’s a police officer; he’s the one who called me out to see the dead body. It’s terrible.”

“You have a gun?” Lot asked.

“Yes, a rifle.”

“I’ll like to see it now.”

The gatekeeper went into his room and came back a few minutes later with a long gun. The detective took the gun in his hand and examined it. It was not the kind of weapon a serious violent criminal would favour. It hadn’t been fired more than a few times in not a long time, but it had some kinds of filmy substances on the barrel. He opened the cylinder, touched the inside of the barrel with the tip of his little finger and sniffed. It was the familiar smell of gun bullet and powder, it had been cleaned. He sniffed the outside of the barrel, and was trying to detect any odour of being recently fired when the gatekeeper said harshly to him; “What are you doing, young man? Do you want to eat the gun? If you are going to eat the barrel, please don’t do it here. And besides, I wouldn’t take it likely with you if my gun went down your oesophagus.” That was where both men started to hate each other’s guts; a significant case of hate at first sight it was between them.

The detective smiled at the man, “I’m only trying to check if you’re actually the criminal here, I don’t have to be wasting my time if you are.” He turned to Daniel, “Where are we on this case?”

“Um––I’ve asked a photographer to take several shots of the body, the pictures will be out tomorrow.”

“Good work, officer.” He patted him on the shoulder. “I need to make a phone call.”

Half an hour after the detective’s call, the sound of a medical emergency bus approaching could be heard; the two notes screeching nah-noahs as the medical unit skirted both shoulders of the road to reach the casualty. The ambulance was a minibus with Red Cross emblems and a flashing light on the roof, gathering speed as it made its way towards the detective. The vehicle stopped and an elderly man in white overcoat and a stethoscope hanging on his neck got out. His Adam’s apple looked as if he’d swallowed a coin.

“Morning, sir––” he held out his hand to shake the detective which Lot grabbed warmly. The detective’s hand, the elderly man felt, was like a pair of pliers. The grip from the detective caused the doctor to wince in solemn anguish.

“Glad you’re here, that’s the body.” He pointed to the corpse lying there on the ground.

“Can we carry him now?” asked the doctor, when he swallowed, his Adam’s apple went up a few inches and stayed that way.

“Actually no, there’re still some things we have to put in place.”

Lot turned to the others. “Meet Doctor Adam.”

The boy giggled, “Doctor Adam with a big Adam’s apple.”

Lot faced Daniel, “Hey, do you have your phone with you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Excellent, now call your division and ask them to send five men over here. Tell them what happened if you’re questioned.” Lot noticed blood oozing from the scratch marks on the police officer’s left wrist but he didn’t comment about it, it wasn’t any of his business, he thought.

“Okay, sir.” Daniel Famous began making the call immediately.

The detective turned to the doctor, “Doc, can you please tell your men in the van to come out and watch over the body till the police arrive?”

“Okay.”

The doctor went to the ambulance and called the four men dressed in white––they were soon standing around the body.

“They’ll be here in fifteen minutes.” Daniel said.

“Good.” Said Lot, “Doctor, did you tell your men not to touch the body?”

“I don’t need to tell them, they know their jobs.”

The detective crushed out his mutilated cigarette, his fingers covered in ash.

“Now, let’s go inside.” He declared, “We have a lot to talk about and a lot to find out.”

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