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.”
“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!”
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.”