The jeep that belonged to Anthony Scott plowed its way through Bauchi Road as he made his way back to his Bukuru residence. His chauffeur drove while Chief Scott busied himself with some documents at the back of the car. He looked up at the rearview mirror and called his driver. “Dapo.”
“Any word from the house?”
“No, sir. It seems she didn’t try leaving again.”
“Ok.” The commissioner returned back to his papers. After a while, he looked up again and said, “How is your injury?”
The driver hesitated for a moment, and then answered “It’s healing fine, sir.”
Chief Scott cocked a brow and said, “Is that so?”
The driver remained silent. The commissioner looked away from the mirror and said caustically, “Serves you right for not paying attention while you shaved.”
Dapo shrugged and said nothing still.
Anthony continued, “Same way you didn’t pay attention last night. Now my daughter is in this mess…” His voice was gaining volume as he continued. “The reason I kept you here was to watch over her. Don’t let her do anything stupid, but you failed me!”
There was silence. After a while, Dapo said softly, “I’m sorry, sir.” His voice betrayed no emotion. He maneuvered the car around the roundabout at Terminus and negotiated the Abuja/Jos expressway.
Anthony put away his documents into a briefcase and shut it. He leaned back on the seat and tried to relax on the plush leather covering. He sighed and finally said, “When we get home, I want you to contact my PA and tell him to arrange for our flight back to Uyo tomorrow.”
“Yes, after the charity tournament, I want to leave this town and take my daughter away from here before the police try to arrest her again.”
“Ok, sir.” Dapo looked at his boss through the rearview mirror as he answered. He caught Anthony’s gaze and the man nodded at him and said, “You’ll be coming with us.”
Dapo put his stare back on the road; there was no need to answer. The car was almost at the intersection which led to the area where the Scott residence was situated. In the distance, the blaze of lights that illuminated the houses in that area shone brightly in the gathering dusk.
Anderson was propped up on his bed. Though he didn’t seem so, his face looked tired. Walter sat beside him, eager to hear what he had to say. The old man heaved a sigh and began his tale.
“About forty-five years ago, I met and fell in love with the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her name was Rebecca Ette. We were both freshmen in the University of Uyo. I was new to the South since I am from Plateau State and grew up here. She showed me the way around Uyo. We grew close as the years went by, but we couldn’t go further than being friends because of our ethnic differences. We both left school a few years later and lost contact. But deep down in my heart I could never forget her. She was my first and only true love. I couldn’t date other women because of this.” He gave a self-deprecating shake of his head before continuing, “I’m sure you are wondering what kind of pathetic loser I am.” Before Walter could open his mouth to protest, he went on, “Anyway, as fate would have it, I was posted to Rivers State for my Youth Service.” He looked at the younger man and smiled wryly. “Yes, we had NYSC in my time too. And at the time, I served with a multinational oil firm. There was where I met the man who became my best friend.”
“Mr. Josiah Essien,” Walter found himself saying.
Anderson was taken aback by his words briefly. Then he smiled again and said, “I see you guys have been digging.”
“That’s what we are paid to do, what we are good at, to dig in our pursuit of the truth.”
“For the truth to set someone else free?” Anderson asked sardonically.
“In a way. The victim of a murder – the people he or she left behind – they all deserve the truth to be brought to light.” For a moment, when Anderson said nothing, Walter said encouragingly, “So, sir, you were saying?”
Anderson nodded. “Josiah and I became very close over the course of our youth service and we started planning business strategies together. We wanted to make it big and we weren’t ready to be anyone’s lackeys in any office. The year of the service ended and we started our firm immediately after. It was a small business. We started by hiring trucks to haul goods for marketers around the south-eastern and south-western states. In time, we began hauling oil and gas products. Our business expanded very quickly and we began delving into other lines of services. And six years after we started, our business became a limited liability company. We were in the money now and the pressure to settle began to tell on us. That was when Jojo – that was the nickname everyone called Josiah – introduced me to his fiancée. There was no quantifying my shock and dismay when I saw that his girlfriend and wife-to-be was none other than Rebecca. My Rebecca!”
The man’s voice betrayed the pain he felt at his recollections. Instinctively, Walter touched his hand.
“I’m fine,” he said hoarsely, tapping Walter’s hand reassuringly. “Even at that point, Rebecca and me – we were still very much in love. The feelings never died. The years that had passed did nothing to quench the passion. We tried our best to put a check on our emotions, to snuff out the feelings…but it just wasn’t possible. On the night before Jojo proposed to her, I went over to her place at her request. One thing led to another and the restraints we had put on our feelings were cut loose.” He looked up and faced Walter, as though daring him to condemn him for what he was going to say next. “We made love that night and I never once regretted it.”
He paused for a moment, and then continued, “She went on to marry Jojo and about six months after they moved in as a married couple – nine months after we made love – she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Even then, I wasn’t quite sure if the baby was mine or not, but I was happy for the couple. As the years went by, our business organization grew larger and attracted investors. Soon we had our hands in just about everything in Nigeria. Industry, import, export, you name it. We were all wealthy and happy, or so I thought.
“Then, Jojo called me one day; I think Jackson was about sixteen years old then. He confided in me that he wasn’t the happiest of men. He asked me if I thought Jackson was his son. I told him I did, and then he told me what he had never told anyone before, that he was impotent. As such, he couldn’t be the father to his son. He had lived a very wayward life back in his university days and had contracted an STD which he didn’t treat on time, one which caused him to be sterile. He told me he knew that he wasn’t Jackson’s father, but he couldn’t bring himself to tell Rebecca. I felt sorry for him, but I knew deep down inside that I was happier for myself. From that point on, I made it a point of duty to look after our son.” Anderson added a heavy stress on the word ‘our’ and he smiled as he finished the statement. A smile that quickly vanished.
Walter noticed this and asked, “Is this what caused the falling-out between the two of you?”
“Oh heavens no.” Again, he appeared taken aback by what the officer seemed to know. Chuckling sardonically, he said, “Heavens boy, soon, you might be the one telling my story.”
Walter smiled and said nothing.
Anderson continued, “Jojo never got to know I was Jackson’s father. Only Rebecca and I knew that. She begged me never to reveal it to either Jojo or Jackson.”
“Then…” Walter hesitated. “Then, what caused the split?”
“There was never a split, though we did have a quarrel, but it wasn’t enough to jeopardize all we worked hard for all these years.”
“So what caused your quarrel?” Walter asked insistently.
“Am I under interrogation here?” Anderson asked with a smile.
“No. I just want to know. Your story is very intriguing.”
“Ok, son, if you must know, it was because of politics.”
“Yes, politics. I never was one for all that business, but Jojo – he felt he had something to prove because of his condition and dove head first into politics.”
“What’s wrong with going into politics?”
“My boy, in my time, politics was a very dirty game. Not like now, when things have changed. It used to be very dangerous and people got hurt. Even right now, there are some old farts like myself in politics who still believe in the ways of old.”
“Wow.” Walter didn’t know what else to say.
“Well, as I was saying, Jojo went into politics, and that was when things started to go sour between us. I confronted him over the issue and asked him to pull out of it and concentrate on business and family, but he wouldn’t budge. He finally relocated to Uyo, his hometown, and governed the affairs of the company from the branch there. Rebecca was already a senior lecturer in the University of Uyo at the time, so it was quite convenient for them. I stayed in the Headquarters in Abuja, but I maintained close contact with my friends. There was a reason I stayed in Abuja, so far away from Jojo and Rebecca. The reason was Jackson. He was undergoing his Youth Service program in Jos at the time.
“Four years after he joined politics, Jojo was given the chance to become the Commissioner of Education in his home state. He was the favorite to get the appointment, but his rival had political clout mighty enough to get his way. Nobody really knew what went wrong.” The pain was back in his voice, etched on his face. “A few days to the day when the governor would pick the new commissioner, Jojo and Rebecca became victims of a ghastly motor accident while on their way home from church.” The old man blinked and a tear traced a path down his weathered cheek. “The reports said it was a failed brake. I was there at their funeral…” More tears coursed down his cheeks. “I made a promise to them at their grave. I was going to take care of Jackson.” He wiped the back of his hand over his cheeks. “Eventually, I left the head office and moved to Jos to head the branch and oversee the entire company from here. The headquarters in Abuja was left to be governed by one of our trusted partners.”
Walter nodded again. More pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. “So you moved here to look after Jackson.” It wasn’t a question.
Anderson answered nonetheless. “Well, yes. It was the promise I made to them…to Rebecca. That’s why I was so surprised when you accused me of killing him. I could never hurt my own son. I loved him so much. I was going to give him everything.” At Walter’s uncomprehending look, he said, “I was going to give him everything we owned. I changed all the papers regarding ownership of the company to reflect its new owner to be Jackson – that’s why I was going to travel down to Uyo today, to finalize everything.” His eyes filled up again and the tears began to fall. “It was agreed by me and the current CEO that when Jackson got married, we would sign over ownership of the company to him. So we started by offering him a job, which he was meant to start in a week’s time, and then he told me yesterday morning about his plans to propose to that Monica girl. It was all so perfect. But in the end…I failed.”
The words broke a dam in his soul. He leaned forward, lowered his face into his hands and started to sob, hard wrenching sobs that shook his body. Walter got to his feet and put a hand on his shoulder. He said soothingly, “You can’t let yourself get overly stressed, sir. You need to get some rest.”
Moments passed before the elderly man calmed down and leaned back to lie on his bed. His features appeared saggy with the weight of his grief and the wrinkles on his face were more pronounced. The boisterous man lovingly attending to his golf equipment this morning was gone, broken, perhaps never to return.
Walter felt a connection to his misery, felt echoes of it well up inside him. He said huskily, “Thank you for telling me your story, sir. I’m really very sorry about your loss. Losing your friend, love and son can’t be easy. Remember that truth I talked about earlier? I promise you, sir, I will find it for you. I will find who did this to Jackson, and he or she or they will be made to pay.”
Anderson said nothing. He stared unseeingly up at the ceiling. Walter looked at the clock on the wall. The time was 11:35 pm. He was mildly startled by how much time had passed. His stomach suddenly growled and his eyes felt grainy. He turned to the man lying on the bed, feeling reluctant to leave him alone. But his exhaustion was crashing down on him like a deluge.
“Have a good night, sir,” he said.
Anderson said nothing still. Walter patted him one more time on the shoulder, gently, turned and walked out of the room. As his steps faded away in the corridor, Anderson finally closed his eyes. As he dozed off, he muttered, “My dear Becky, I’m sorry.” He sighed. “I’m sorry I failed you.” In a few minutes, he was asleep.
Chrome woke up with a jolt. The alarm clock he set had been buzzing for a while and he quickly pulled himself together. He reached out to the clock and shut off the alarm. He looked at the time. It was almost midnight. He rubbed the remainder of the sleep from his eyes and faced the monitor beside him. On the screen, the sequence of numbers that were running down had stopped and there was a pop-up window flashing at the base of the screen. It said DNA RETRIEVAL: COMPLETE. He clicked on the window and it expanded to show the results of the second stage. As he looked through, he came upon a something that sparked his interested.
“Hold on a second,” he said aloud to himself. The words resonated slightly in the quietness of the lab. “What do we have here?”
He punched a button on the keyboard in front of him and the printer that stood beside lab table whirred into life. In a matter of seconds, it had printed out what Chrome wanted to see. He snatched the printout and looked at it intently.
“That’s strange.” He began to read out a potion of the printout, “Two distinct DNA found within a sample.” He held on to the printout for a while and then put it down. He faced the monitor once more and punched in some keys on the keyboard, promptly initiating the third and final stage of the analysis. “Time to see who you both belong to.”