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?”
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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.”
“The murder weapon. Please call in our next guest.”
“Someone I think is 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?”
“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.”
“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.”