This series was penned by a very good friend of mine, Chrome Chinke (tweets at @chrome1st). The setting is futuristic Nigeria, and the characters were named (first names) after actual people. Yours Truly (Me, in case you didn’t get it… lol) is one such character. I do hope you enjoy this, and stay loyal with your readership in subsequent episodes.
Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section as well. Thanks.
And now, for the feature story…
The hills of Kuru, a rural community in Jos South L.G.A in Plateau State, have been known to be treacherous as many-a-hiker have ended up with broken limbs as a result of falling down the steep slopes of these magnificent landmarks.
That being said, it shouldn’t be unusual to see a young man tumbling down the highest of the hills. The only thing visibly unusual in this scenario was the time. It was a quarter past midnight and the cloudy night sky made it seem even darker than usual.
The young man’s fall seemed endless as he rolled down the rough terrain, and with each spin, his head collided with a few lose rocks and got knocked hard on the ground. The cacti, which were the most thriving plants around the hills, didn’t spare him either. Their thorns ripped through his shirt and tore his flesh as he bounded downwards on his death roll. The G-forces associated with the free fall were so great that the man hurled what seemed to be his last meal before his unfortunate turn of events. He finally came to a halt at the base of the hill. The air was still. It was almost the end of the rainy season and the only sound that could be heard for miles was the short breaths coming from the battered body of the man. He was still alive, but barely. He tried to move but the shooting pain that rocked his entire body was enough to perish that action before it had begun. He gritted his teeth and blinked endlessly, trying to get the sand out from his eyes. He was thankful that he could still move them and see with them. He was able to roll them to the left, just in time to see a familiar shadow.
He wasn’t alone. The expression of shock in his eyes was enough to tell that he knew who this newcomer was. With the little strength he had left, he tried to speak, but all that came through his broken, bloody lips was a broken word. “Ple-ease…”
The shadow moved towards him, and the young man knew what was coming to him next.
It would be several hours later before his body was discovered and the Federal Police Force of Nigeria was alerted. In less than an hour, the Crime Scene Investigation department (C.S.I.) of the force had about half a dozen of their personnel running a sweep of the crime scene.
Stepping out of his government-issued Toyota Corolla sedan, Officer Chrome Chunke took a good look at the scenery. He liked the hills of Plateau State. He’d always wanted to visit with his girlfriend, but it turned out this trip wasn’t going to be for leisure. The man was a dark-skinned, heavily-built man with rugged features and the flinty stare of an officer of the law. Head of the C.S.I. department, and nudging forty years of age, he was known as an efficient and driven police officer.
He spotted one of his colleagues examining what seemed to be the reason why they were called out to this very site. It was almost sunrise and the sun’s rays were already creeping over the horizon. Chrome walked, with long strides, over to where his colleague was. After taking a good look at the mutilated form lying on the ground, he asked, “Okay, Walter, talk to me.” He hunkered down beside his colleague. “What am I looking at here?”
Officer Walter Udeme was his direct junior in rank, which made him Chrome’s deputy. He was slightly-built with a dusky light-complected skin. He had a scanty patch of hair on his chin, which passed for beards. After a short glance at his notes, he looked up.
“Well, chief,” he said, “we’ve got one dead male, no ID, looks to be in his late twenties or early thirties, about 6ft tall.” He paused for a moment and then continued, “Was found on this hiking trail an hour ago by an expatriate on his morning walk around the hillside.” He motioned in the direction of the Caucasian hiker who was being questioned by one of the uniformed officers.
Chrome looked up towards the summit of the hill as another one of his C.S.I. colleagues completed his run down from the top of the hill. Officer Jerome Oji joined them and reported his findings at the top of the hill. “It seems our John Doe came tumbling down from the top of this hill.” All the men looked up towards the summit, and Jerome, a fair-skinned, tall and lankily-built man, continued, “Scars on his body were inflicted by the thorns on the cacti along his path of descent, and from the depressions on the soil, we can deduce that he fell at such a fast rate that he couldn’t stop himself.”
Walter whistled, and then he said, “That’s a mighty long way down. It might have been a hiking accident.”
Jerome glanced at his notes and said, “The coroner put his time of death to be approximately 7 hours ago, which would be sometime past midnight.” He looked up at Walter and continued, “Not such a good time to go hiking, is it?”
Both men looked at each other, and then at Chrome, who had walked a few steps away from them.
By now, the sun was already over the horizon and its bright rays were burning up the sky. Chrome reached into his shirt breast pocket and brought out his Ray-Bans Aviator sunglasses. “Gentlemen,” he said to the other two men, “I believe we have stumbled upon the proverbial rolling stone.” He put on his shades and before he walked off to his car, he said, “Now let’s see if he gathered any moss!”
Dr. Emmanuel Etim was on call to perform the autopsy on the body of the young man. He had performed all the usual investigative procedures on the cadaver and was completing his report when Chrome walked into the Autopsy Lab clad in a white lab coat over his tailor-fitted suit.
“Good morning, Chrome,” the medical examiner greeted his visitor.
“Morning, Manny,” Chrome hailed back, calling the other man by the sobriquet he went by amongst his friends and colleagues, “Got the report ready?”
“Yes, I have.” Manny handed the clipboard in his hand over to Chrome. He was a coffee-coloured, slightly-plump man, forty years of age, whose gilt-framed spectacles did little to hide the sharp intelligence in his eyes. He continued, “Young male in his late twenties, multiple fractures across both arms and both legs. Six broken ribs which in turn punctured his lungs and caused massive internal bleeding.” He paused, and then he continued, “But it would seem that the internal loss of blood was not the actual cause of death.”
Chrome threw him a puzzled look and asked, “If that’s not what killed him, then what did?”
Manny walked towards the top of the autopsy table where the cadaver lay and pointed at the head of the corpse. “Here…” he said, “the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the top of the skull popularly known as the crown of the head.”
Chrome took a look at the depression on the head of the corpse. The wound looked painful enough to make him wince. “Were you able to decipher what caused the depression?” he asked.
“My assistant, Dr. Stacey, is already making a mould to answer that question properly, but from what I can see, this indenture wasn’t inflicted on our young friend here during his free fall. The wounds and fractures on his hands show that he guarded his head while he rolled.” He looked at Chrome for a moment, then back at the corpse, before concluding, “He received this knock after he had come to rest at the point where he was found. Someone did this to him.”
Chrome gave a deep sigh before saying, “I guess we have ourselves a murder case.”
The tension in the air was finally broken as the door to the autopsy room was swung open and Jerome walked in. “We finally got an ID on our corpse,” he announced before handing over a printout to his superior. “His name is Jackson Essien, 29 years of age, hails from Akwa-Ibom State but completed his National Youth Service Corps program four years ago here in Plateau State, and has remained ever since. He works at the Veterinary Research Institute in Kuru.” Chrome read through the details on the printout as Jerome continued his narration, “From a comfortable background, only child and an orphan. He lost both parents two years ago in a car accident.”
“Do we have an address of residence?” Chrome asked.
“Yes we do. Officers Edeeth and Walter are already on their way there.”
“Good, anything else to report?”
“One other thing, sir,” Jerome started. “We gathered information from the colleagues of the deceased that he had a girlfriend. Someone called Monica Scott.”
“Well then, Jay,” Chrome said, “let’s invite Miss Monica down to the station for questioning.”
Walter Udeme and Edeeth Ajuala were busy cracking some in-house jokes when they arrived at the residence of the young man that lay dead on the autopsy table. Edeeth, a dark-skinned lady of average height, with the kind of good looks you wouldn’t expect to see on a policewoman, looked around the compound where Jackson Essien once lived. Her braided hair was short and hung like the ringlets of dreadlocks. She walked around the compound while her partner knocked on the door of the first flat in the building. The building was typical in these parts of Kuru, built in such a way that the four flats within the building were independent of the other. The occupant of the first flat which was on the ground floor was an old retiree who identified himself as Sir Anderson Gyang. The wrinkle-faced man whose hefty build belied his seemingly advanced age was cleaning his prized golf clubs when the police officers approached him. A huge golf enthusiast, he always made sure all his equipments were in tiptop condition. He had moved to the area due to its serene atmosphere. Walter greeted him politely and after introducing his partner, they showed him their badges and proceeded to ask for information on his next door neighbor.
“Oh, Jackson? He is a very good boy,” the elderly man remarked. “Very polite and hard working.”
“Sir, could you please tell us if there was anything peculiar in his character in the last two days?” Walter asked
“Why? Did he do anything wrong? Did something happen to him?” Anderson sounded faintly ill at ease.
“No sir, we are just carrying out investigations at his place of work,” Edeeth cut in, trying to redirect the flow of the conversation. Before they left the FPF (Federal Police Force) Headquarters, they had been cautioned by their team leader to keep the news of the death of Jackson on the down-low. “We merely wish to make sure he hasn’t been embezzling company funds,” she added.
“Oh, okay…if you put it that way, I honestly can say that he is a well behaved boy and I doubt he is into anything notorious,” the old man said.
“Okay, sir. Is there anything you can tell us about his social life?”
Anderson was wiping his 9-iron golf club with a rag when Walter asked him the last question. His face was creased into a frown because he’d just noticed that the aluminum coating on the club was chipping off. He put down the club and let out a long sigh before answering. “Hmmm, well…all I can say is, he doesn’t have parties and the only visitor who frequents his house is his girlfriend.” The old man’s face lit up. “Lovely girl. I can’t really remember her name but she is a perfect match for him. They usually take walks to the hills and sometimes have picnics up there. I think she was with him yesterday evening…I believe around 7:30pm,” he concluded.
“Okay, thank you for the information, sir. We will take our leave now,” Walter said.
Anderson was the only tenant available at that time of the day, so the officers decided to head back to the station. As they were about to get into their car, the man called out to them from his balcony, “Essien is a good boy, whatever trouble he is in – I’m sure he is innocent.”
The officers exchanged a look and then nodded at the old man. If only he knew, was the similar thought that ran through their minds.
Edeeth punched the accelerator as the car sped through the highway towards the station. Walter looked at her as she maneuvered through traffic with the efficiency of a male driver. He smiled at a thought of them becoming an item. He had a serious crush on her but didn’t know how to tell her. He was about to make a witty remark about her hairdo when his cell phone rang. It was Chrome.
“Who’s that?” Edeeth asked
“It’s the chief,” he replied.
“He doesn’t like being called chief – remember?” Edeeth teased.
“Hold that thought,” Walter said, almost laughing, as he answered the call.