Mayen was being interrogated by Isaac. They had sent the officer who first spoke with her to invite her to their van which they parked at a distance from White sands. For 2 days they had mingled with the tenants of the settlement while disguised as civilians. Most of those who had spoken to them had various theories about who killed Edet. The squad was finding it difficult deciding who to prosecute. They argued back and forth, each insisting that his own suspect was the most likely. Isaac suggested that they take a breather by gaining a fresh perspective.
“Good evening, officers, ” Mayen greeted.
She was dressed in a black T-shirt and black jeans. Her hair was bound carelessly by a print scarf and her pretty face was lined with worry. It was 8pm, the hour at which she returned from her job as a sales assistant.
“How are you, Mayen? I am so sorry about the death of your son,” Isaac began.
She nodded, eyes downcast. Kome had rejoined the squad since his assignment with Veronica had ended. He stood with one foot in the van and the other outside, studying her with narrow eyes. Amina was sitting in the front seat, munching some nuts. Garba and one other officer were still at the drinking joint.
“We know you had no choice but to go along with your husband in this case. However, you cannot sit there, silent, while an innocent lady suffers. Do you think Edet will be happy with you? I heard he was very fond of Dr. Veronica. She showed me a picture they took together, in her phone,” Isaac said.
Mayen burst into tears. “I warned Victor but, he would not listen. Every night, I see my son in my dreams, warning me to leave that doctor alone. I told Victor to drop the case but he said when we get the money, the happiness will make me stop having those dreams.”
“Really? ” Amina asked, incredulous.
“That guy is unbelievable!” Kome exclaimed.
“He can’t even back out now because that DPO will threaten him,” Mayen said, wiping her eyes.
“It’s alright. We’ll get to the root of the matter. My question is who do you think killed your son?” Isaac asked.
“I have no idea,” she replied. “I have never snatched anybody’s man, I don’t owe anybody, my hands are clean.”
“You have not snatched anybody’s man? What of the wife of Sgt. Victor? Is she happy that you have a son for her husband? ” Kome asked.
“We had not thought of that,” Isaac said, looking up. “She should be a prime suspect.”
“Unless she sent somebody, I don’t know if she can kill anyone. Me, I am not the first girl to have a child for Victor and she knows it. Besides, she has a bad hand,” Mayen said.
“She has a bad hand?” Kome asked.
“I think Victor hit her and broke the hand but I am not sure. Her right hand is twisted.”
“Twisted? Hmm,” Amina murmured.
“I am going to call Garba. They have to find out where Victor lives and interrogate his wife this night. I promised to solve this case in 3 days and time is running out,” Isaac said, bringing out his phone from his pocket.
Amina got out of the car and took Mayen aside. Putting an arm around her shoulders, she spoke in a reassuring voice.
“I understand what you have been going through, my dear. Raising a child alone is tough. Losing him is even tougher. Take heart, do you hear?”
“Thank you, Ma.”
“Here’s some money. Take it and take care of yourself. You don’t need to get into anyone’s bed to make a living,” she said, putting an envelope in her hand.
“No O! Me, I am not doing that anymore! Any man who comes after me has to marry me first,” Mayen protested, shaking her head vehemently as she took the money.
When she took it out and counted it, she sank to her knees. “Thank you Ma! God bless you. You will never lack anything. Your children will live long.”
“It’s okay. Calm down.”
She spent a few more minutes celebrating the gift, so Amina stood by and watched her. When she calmed, Amina motioned for her to come closer and asked her, “Who was Edet’s best friend?”
“His name is Tolu.”
“How will I know him?”
“He looks like Edet, smallish, dark and has protruding ears, like a deer. His mother sells agbo in front of the barbing salon. You will see him there after school, helping her.”
“Tolu Agboola. His mother is Fausat Agboola. She is the 3rd wife of the man who is the head of the vigilante boys, Ade.”
Isaac motioned for them to come over, so they turned and headed for the van. He thanked Mayen for her co-operation before releasing her. They got into the van and headed for their station. It was a weary squad that ended up in Amina’s house. She was hosting them for a few hours. Taking seats in the spacious compound of her house, they waited for Isaac to speak.
“I know we are all tired. Let us not be weary because the joy of the Lord is our strength, ” he said.
“Supo, I think we need some refreshments to lift our spirits, ” Kome suggested.
“I ate more than I should have at that joint, trying to coerce that woman who sells agidi to give me information, ” one of them said.
“I don’t mean food,” Kome said. “Let us return to the fountain of living water for he will give us rest. He gives wisdom to those who ask without mocking them. Our father quenches the thirst of the weary soul.”
Amina started a song. “Let us sing unto the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously. The horse and his rider have been thrown into the sea!”
The squad sang, at first in a weary tone but soon, they picked up and were on their feet singing and dancing. As they danced, they clapped. More songs were raised in turns as they danced in a circle, lifting their voices in supplication. After 30 minutes, they went into fervent prayers, beseeching God for a breakthrough. It was their custom to fast when they had a knotty issue but they had been unabble to because their undercover work demanded that they eat and drink. Nevertheless they could pray and pray they did.
Veronica summoned Dr. Korede to her office the next day. She had arrived at work too late the day before due to traffic. He had already left. Now he walked in, smiling with the confidence of a man who believed he was in the right.
“Hi, doc. What’s up?” he greeted.
“I am very well. Please sit down.”
She waited till he was seated before speaking further. “Is it true you slapped Ifeyinwa yesterday?”
He hesistated. “I wouldn’t call that a slap because she deserved worse. That was more like a friendly tap.”
“What exactly happened?”
He adjusted in his chair, leaning forward with an intent expression on his face. “She was rude.”
“In what way?”
“I asked her to give me propranolol for my uncle who is hypertensive. She said I should be able to afford it: That the hospital would go broke if I kept begging for drugs. I turned to leave but she made a hissing noise that really got to me. Where I come from, women don’t talk to men in that way. Before I knew it, my hand had connected with her face.”
“In a friendly tap?” Veronica raised a brow.
“Like I said…” he replied, clearing his throat. “She deserved worse.”
“Violence is not only unethical, Doc, it is intolerable in this hospital and you know that.”
“I don’t think I was violent.”
“The girl was bawling and causing a ruckus!”
“Ahhh, she was just milking it,” he defended, waving a hand.
“I will call her in for you to apologize. After that, she will apologize for being rude. Do you agree?” Veronica narrowed her gaze.
He was silent, considering his options.
“I have another issue. Why do you regularly prescibe expensive medication for yourself and your relatives?”
“I have a list here, signed by you. The drugs are not for any of our patients. I know you are not diabetic neither do you have high cholesterol. Why did you need these drugs?”
She extended the list to him. He collected it from her, perused the list, noting that it was a duplicate but that his signature was undeniably present. There was no need for him to tear the list. Dr. Korede wiped his brow despite the cool air from the air conditioner.
“Yes?” Veronica urged.
“There must be some mistake. I think I needed it for some private patients. I told her I would pay for them.”
“Is there a receipt somewhere?”
“She never dispensed the drugs.”
“Did she give you a bill?”
“Do you deny that this has been your practice? I heard that that is how you get medication for your private patients.” It was a question and an accusation rolled into one.
“I don’t believe I just heard that!” he sputtered. She handed him a letter. “That is your dismissal letter. The accountant will pay you 1 month’s salary in lieu of notice. I don’t think we can continue to work together. ”
Dr. Korede gaped at her, mouth open. “You are firing me? Who do you think you are?”
He rose to his feet, banging his hand on her desk as he spoke. “You have no right!”
She rose as well. “Leave my office quietly. You can save whatever shreds of dignity you have if you do or I will call the staff who hate you most to throw you out.”
When he hesistated, she motioned for him to leave with her hand.
“You will regret this!” he spat.
“I have already been to hell and back. You have no power over me,”she stated.
He was about to say something else when her phone rang. She took her seat to answer while motioning with her head for him to take his leave. Lips quivering with anger and unspoken words, he left her office. He immediately went to his consulting room, slapped the letter on the desk and dialled Matron Ngwanu on the intercom.
“You need to hear what just happened,” he said when she answered. “I am coming to your office right away.”
Perez and Abel had spent a night in detention. They did not know that Cassandra and Rasheedat had been released on bail. Their lawyer had declined to show up because they were owing him a lot of money. Not only were they hungry, dirty and tired, they were having withdrawal symptoms. Usually they took more drugs to mitigate them but in detention nobody was going to indulge them. There were about 10 men in the dingy room that served as a cell. The walls were covered in scratched out writing. A bucket at one end served as a toilet. The floor was very dirty and there was no window. The only ventilation came from the bars so the strong crowded around the bars to get as much air as possible.
Perez and Abel were lying at the back of the cell. They had fought with two other detainees earlier and ended up with bruises. Now, they just wanted to get out.
“Why is that lawyer messing up, man? I can’t wait to get my hands around his neck,” Perez threatened.
“Yeah, kill him and get thrown in here again,” Abel snorted.
“What are we going to do?”
“We had better call Uncle Obi. He has the clout to get us out of here, no questions asked.”
“How did they even know we had stuff at the party? Do you think someone ratted us out?”
“I don’t know, bro. I am just confused. And hunger is not helping at all.”
“These people are mean. See how they interrogated us like criminals. I wish dad was still alive.”
“I am glad he did not live to see us thrown into jail. He would have had a heart attack.”
“Man, we gave that guy headache,” Perez chuckled.
A guard rapped his fingers on their cell door. “Who is Azeez?” he asked.
“I am,” a burly looking fellow replied, jumping to his feet.
“This way,” the guard ordered. He unlocked the door and let him out.
“Sir, has no one asked for the Ogwu twins?” Perez asked.
“Who know you? Nobody gives a hoot about you,” he jeered. “Wait, Ogwu you said?”
They approached the door hopefully.
“Yes, Perez and Abel Ogwu,” Abel said.
“Your name means drug in Igbo; Is that why you want to derail your lives with cocaine? Fools!”
He laughed loudly as he secured the door behind him and marched off, Azeez in tow. Abel and Perez sank to the floor, their stomachs knotting with dread. Perez punched the floor in anger.
“We are going to rot here, man. We are going to rot here,” he muttered.
Abel shook his head sadly. He did not know what to say or he was too hungry to come up with a reply. All he could hope for was for Cassandra’s parents to bail her out and for her to insist on his release as well. Surely, they would have missed their beloved daughter by now. He trusted his girlfriend. She would not allow him to stay in detention. As for all his false friends, he already knew their worth. They were not good for much.
On Monday, DSP Amina went to White sands after school hours. She was able to find the shop of Fausat who sold agbo, a local herbal remedy. It was just a table under a canopy but the proceeds were enough to feed and clothe her 3 children. They all had different fathers but the youngest, Tolu, was the son of Ade, the local vigilante head. He married her because the boy was his carbon copy and he loved him dearly. She lived in a one-room apartment with all her children and her younger sister. Tolu was a very witty boy. He could run very fast and shot the most lizards with his catapault. This made him very popular among his peers, though he was particularly fond of Edet.
Edet’s death had made him very sad so his mother kept a close eye on him. She did not want anything to happen to him as his father would be very angry with her. In fact, her continued stay in White sands depended on the boy. When Amina arrived, she greeted Fausat cheerfully and struck up a conversation. As with all mothers, she was eager to talk about her children. Soon, they were chatting like they had always known each other. Amina regaled her with tales of how mischievous her own children were, injecting details that painted an image of her as a trader in bananas. She said her kids often hawked in traffic after school and that she was headed home to get more bananas as they had almost sold all their stock for the day. Her stop at Fausat’s shop was to get a remedy for the backache that troubled her. Someone had mentioned to her that her agbo was very effective and that was why she came to buy hers.
“My agbo is the best O! I don’t mix it with anything to cheat people. Let me tell you, this agbo can cure malaria, typhoid, even staph, ” she boasted.
“Eh eh! Tell me something, ” Amina injected, slapping her thigh.
“There was a man who had weak erection. As soon as he took my agbo, his wife carry belle!”
“She born twin na! If you like, ask people, they will tell you, Mama Tolu agbo no dey fall hand*,” she laughed as he spoke.
Amina laughed as well, settling in the bench for more details. “Where you dey buy am?”
“I dey prepare the agbo for my house here. Na my grandma teach me. The thing dey our blood. We no do juju, we still believe in God. All these herbs na wetin keep our forefathers for olden days, make them live long. Even if you want make I do for you make you dey sell, I dey kampe.”
“Na good business. I go dey sell am for night when I don sell my banana finish.”
“Ha, If Tolu hear banana, E no go gree make I rest. That boy wey like banana like monkey.”
“Eyah…I kept my basket at the bar near the road. I would have given him banana. Pity.”
Right on cue, Tolu showed up. He flung his bag on the floor, prostrated to greet his mother and Amina, before reaching for a bottle of Coca Cola his mother had consumed halfway and left by her side. She slapped his hand as he reached for it.
“Ma!” he yelped, eyeing his mother angrily.
“Your eye no dey see sweet thing? I don tell you say na sugar do make you no fat. Nonsense!” his mother scolded.
“Take it easy. Ore mi,” Amina drew him into an embrace and rubbed his head. “The boy is hungry.”
Tolu leaned on this kind stranger, accepting her comfort with gratitude.
“Don’t mind the yeye boy. Take your agbo, jare. When you use it the way I told you, you will see the result,” Fausat said, handing a small package to Amina.
“Ma, I’m hungry,” Tolu whined, rubbing his stomach.
“Come and eat me. Shebi I look like amala?” She clucked her tongue.
“Let him follow me and collect the banana, Ore mi. The boy must have worked so hard in school. It is just by that bar by the road,” Amina pleaded.
“Banana? Mami, please, “Tolu joined the pleading.
She considered it. Tolu was old enough to take care of himself, the lady seemed harmless, besides, this was their territory and he was known by everyone. What was the worst that could happen?
“Okay, but don’t waste time. I have agbo for you to sell for me.”
“Thank you Ma!”
He leapt into the air, rubbing his hands with glee. Amina rose and tied her wrapper more securely, before handing money to Fausat which she took out of her apron. Thanking her for her hospitality and promising to return for more agbo, she set off, Tolu in tow. They went in the direction of the bar, he carried her agbo while she engaged him in conversation. She had a way with children for soon, he was telling her all about his life in White sands. At the bar, she stopped and drew him to a corner.
“Tolu, I want to tell you a secret,” she began.
He looked at her earnestly.
“I lied to your mother. I am not a banana seller. My name is Amina and I am a police officer. I am trying to catch the person who killed your best friend Edet and I need your help.”
He started. “Police? ”
“Yes but, you must not tell anyone. Now, who do you think killed Edet?”
Tolu darted a furtive glance about. No one could hear them as they were surrounded by abandoned scrap. His eyes teared up as he began to speak. “I think Aunty Ekemini killed my best friend.”
My sincere apologies for being incommunicado. My device developed a fault so I could not even log on to explain my absence. Cheers, Dr. N. To leave a comment, click on the title.