The sound of the message tone on Edeeth’s phone was enough to wake her up from her sleep. She stirred and stretched, blinking her way into wakefulness, before sitting up in her bed. The bed was comfortable, as comfortable as a hotel bed could get, and she rolled across the crisp sheets, in the early morning gloom pervading the room, to pick up her phone from the nightstand. The text was from Chrome.
She read: War Room. 2 hours. Urgent.
Chrome was fond of sending such cryptic messages to the members of his team. Edeeth nodded to herself in understanding and took a deep breath. She let it out with a yawn. She still felt a little sleepy, and her hand knocked some knickknacks on the nightstand about as she searched for her wristwatch. She squinted blearily at its luminous screen. The time was 4:30am.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” she muttered out loud. She grumbled about the time being so early, but she knew she had to start getting ready to head back to the FPF HQ. Then it occurred to her that she didn’t even know if Walter was still at the hospital or not. She got off the bed and went straight to the bathroom. Answering the call of nature came first before anyone else, she thought as she closed the bathroom door behind her.
Jerome was already awake when he received the text message from Chrome. He had been reading another text message which he had gotten while he slept. It was a text message from the Inspector-in-charge of the Akwa-Ibom State police command. It informed him that the information he requested from the command concerning the accident involving the Essiens had been sent to his email address. He deleted the message immediately after reading it, something he did when it came to security issues and went on to read Chrome’s. Then, he got out of bed and went to the wardrobe in his hotel room. He was always keen on his attire and loved looking smart for work at anytime of the day. It was his routine to pick out his clothes before even brushing his teeth. When he made up his mind on what to wear, he took off the clothes he’d slept in, made his way to the bathroom and switched on the shower. He was about to close the door behind him when the message tone of his phone sounded again. He peered outside the bathroom door, as if there would be anyone around to see him walk out of the bathroom naked. He tiptoed over to his phone and checked the new message. It was from Chrome. He was asking that Jerome get some clean clothes from his room. Jerome smiled. He knew he was the only one Chrome would trust with such a domestic duty.
The sound of his own ringtone greatly annoyed Walter as it pulled him up from sleep. It wasn’t that he didn’t like it – after all he chose the song as his ringtone –, it was the fact that he hated having his sleep interrupted, especially when he was luxuriating in it. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, muttered a swearword, and lazily picked up the phone and checked the caller ID. It was Edeeth. He quickly sat up on the bed and answered, “Hey E.” he said. There was an underlying enthusiasm in his voice that was still groggy with sleep.
“Already up, bright and excited for the day, are we?”
He imagined her brow arching with mocking disbelief at her words and chuckled. “Oh no. As a matter of fact, I’m still in bed.”
“At the hotel?”
“Yes, at the hotel. Where else would you imagine me sleeping?” He deliberately made his words weighty with a double entendre.
Edeeth’s laughing voice came across the receiver. “Anything is possible with you men. I asked because I wanted to know if you decided to play nanny to the old man all night long.”
Walter gave a laugh of his own. “Nah. I came back late last night. But about my hospital duty, Sir Anderson told me a lot of interesting things that you need to hear–”
“Well, tell it all at the meeting,” Edeeth interrupted.
“Meeting? What meeting?”
“Check you messages, bob. Chrome sent one to all of us. You know his style.”
“Oh…ok, thanks. I’ll do so now.”
“See you out front in a few.”
“Ok.” She clicked off and Walter, without doing as he said he would, returned his phone to the nightstand. He needed some more sleep, he thought with a grumble. Subconsciously, he picked up his wristwatch on the table and looked at the time. “Good Lord!” he half screamed. “Is that the time?” He tossed the watch back on the table and dunked his head into his pillow a few times. Then he lifted the pillow and covered his head with it, and said in a muffled tone, “Thirty more minutes!”
Anthony knocked on the door of his daughter’s room before opening it. He expected to see her either balled up in one corner, her grief still evident in the light of the morning or sleeping soundly in her bed, since the time was still in the early hours. He never expected to see her moving about her room, stuffing her things into the valises that were open on her bed. However, he wasn’t as surprised as she was when she noticed him standing at the door. He wanted to ask a question, but it seemed he had thought about the scenario a little more before eventually speaking, “It seems you are aware of our departure already my dear.”
“Yes, we are leaving Jos for good after the charity tournament.” He walked into the room. “Isn’t that why you are packing?”
Monica hesitated before answering in the affirmative. Her father came to stand beside her and took her hand in his. “Honey, by this time tomorrow, you will have a clean start. Don’t you worry about a thing, okay?” He kissed her hand and patted her head. Then he turned and started for the door; he turned around when he got there. “You weren’t planning on doing anything stupid, were you?” His eyes had narrowed on her face, and suspicion was suddenly sharp in his voice.
“No, daddy.” Monica’s eyes slid away from her father’s.
Apparently satisfied with her answer, he said, “Good girl.” Then he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Chrome looked less like the composed, always well-put-together man he usually was by the time he was done compiling all the information he had gathered from the DNA analysis. He stretched himself in a bid to relieve his body of the ache he felt from sleeping on the laboratory stool. His eyes felt gritty, and he knew they’d be reddened from the strain. His neck ached and the muscles snapped as he rotated his head to ease the kinks. He yawned and was instantly repulsed by the breath he perceived from his own mouth.
“Ugh!” he said out loud, flapping a hand over his nose. “That stinks!” He laughed with some self deprecation and stood up.
Just then there was a knock on the door. He walked over to it and unlocked it. At the doorway stood Stacey, looking perky and energized for the day. Her smile was bright and her composure had some bounce to it. She was wearing a tan-coloured turtle-neck blouse tucked into a black wraparound skirt. “Good morning, sir,” she chirped.
“Good morning,” Chrome grunted. “You are just the person I wanted to see.” At her arched brows that revealed her surprise, he added, “I need your help.”
He walked back into the room and she followed, dropping her large handbag on one of the stools. “Well, sir, I’m here now. Whatever you need, I’ll do my best.”
“I need your help with two things.” He had reached the table and brought out a file. “First of all, I need you to run this name by the Federal mainframe. It’s a name that popped up as the owner of the second DNA that was found on the sample I picked up at the hill top.”
“There were two DNA?”
“Yes, there were. I already have the identity of the first one, but this one is from a name I’m not aware of. So I want you to get as much info as you can concerning this individual and report it to me as soon as you get anything. Ok?”
“And secondly, I need to use the bathroom in the autopsy lab.” He laughed lightly after saying this.
The autopsy lab had a bathroom which was used by the personnel that carried out the autopsies to scrub down after each analysis, so as not to get any contaminants from the dead bodies onto their persons. Even though Chrome was a senior officer, he didn’t have access to the autopsy lab unless a member of staff was available. That was the real reason he was glad to see Stacey when she showed up.
The woman promptly reached into her bag and handed Chrome her access card. “Here you go, sir.”’
“Thanks a bunch.” He started out of the room. “In case Jerome comes in, tell him to bring my clothes over to the lab, ok?”
“Ok, sir,” she replied, then as though the thought had suddenly occurred to her, she added, “Just a minute, sir.” She began rummaging in her bag, lifting out a small tube of toothpaste, a mini bar of soap and a small tube of lotion. “I always keep these in case of emergencies like this,” she said with a smile as she handed the items to Chrome.
He thanked her and left the forensics lab for Stacey to begin the task he’d given her to do.
The time was 6:35am when Chrome walked into the C.S.I. conference room. He had taken a quick shower and thanks to Jerome, had on a fresh set of clothing. He was adjusting his tie when he sat on his especially reserved seat. He noticed that it was only Jerome who was present, and was about to ask the whereabouts of Walter and Edeeth when they both walked into the room. From the amused looks on their faces, they’d just been enjoying a joke right before entering the room. Chrome scowled at them and Jerome snickered. Edeeth instantly shot him a scathing look, one which made him stifle his amusement.
“Sorry for coming in late, sir,” Edeeth said, “but someone had to take an extra thirty minutes to get ready.” She threw Walter a sidelong look, one which he returned with a smile.
Chrome, however, did not share in their amusement. He half-snapped, “I don’t care what you lovebirds were up to, but we are all here now – so we can begin.”
Edeeth and Walter exchanged awkward looks at their boss’s terseness, and when Jerome snickered again – apparently he found their discomfort humorous – they both shot him scowls that again quenched his mirth.
When they were seated, Chrome began in a brisk tone, “I’m going to be brief so that we can get all our facts and findings on the table.” He brought out a flat file from his briefcase and set it on the table. He opened it and began distributing some documents inside it around the table. “As you already know, I carried out the DNA analysis on the artificial nail we found on the crime scene myself. The analysis ran through the night and was concluded in the early hours of today. From the documents you hold now, you can see that two distinct DNA were discovered within the sample given. I had to run two simultaneous searches using the National DNA Library, with Monica Scott as a reference for one search and a random search for the other.” He paused here and looked at his subordinates. Satisfied with their attention, he continued, “Sure enough, a match was gotten with that of Monica Smith. This puts her on the crime scene and makes her our prime suspect.”
Walter put up a finger, and at Chrome’s nod of permission, he said, “If Monica’s DNA was one of the two that was on the nail, then whose was the second one?” He looked down at the paper he held in his hand. “I don’t see it here.”
“I haven’t made copies of that yet. The name of the individual who owns the second DNA is Dapo Ajayi. Right now, Stacey is helping out with a search to determine who this person is and where he can be found.”
“Stacey?” Edeeth asked, her voice faintly quizzical.
“Yes, Stacey,” Chrome replied, almost sarcastically. “She came in earlier and I asked her to help with the search while I got ready for this meeting.”
“Ok, sir, whatever you say,” Edeeth returned with a slightly mocking smile on her face.
This made Jerome snigger again, and this time Walter joined in. Chrome shook his head and laughed lightly, “All right, let me hear about your findings.”
Edeeth’s hand shot up and she said, “Walter will like to go first.” And she looked at Walter whose surprise at being put on the spot like that was evident. A smattering of laughter rolled around the table. It was good to see that the night’s rest had lifted their spirits. Equanimously, Walter went ahead to narrate to them all that transpired between him and Anderson Gyang, summarizing the details of the man’s story. Jerome and Edeeth also gave accounts of what they found out at the airport. At the end of their presentations, Chrome nodded his head and said, “Well it’s clear now that Sir Anderson is off our list and Monica’s involvement is looking more visible than ever.” He paused as if to ponder on something, and then said, “The only thing now is…why would Chief Scott sneak into the state donning a disguise?”
Silence fell into the conference room which seemed to go on for several moments until the ringing of Jerome’s phone broke the silence. Startled by the sound and aware that his colleagues’ eyes were on him, he brought out the phone and checked the ID. “It’s Chude Miguel,” he said, and looking at Chrome, added, “The guy from the airport.”
“We’ll like to hear what he has to say,” Chrome replied.
Jerome nodded, picked the call and instantly put it on speaker. “Hello Chude,” he answered.
“Hello, Officer Jerome, good morning.” The man’s excitement was immediately obvious.
Edeeth rolled her eyes where she was seated.
“Do you have any information for me?” Jerome asked.
The other man’s voice came through the speaker, brisk as though he were a military personnel. “Yes I do, sir. I was able to get some information from the car hire service but it would be better if you came to see it for yourself – Over.”
It took a second for the last word to register, and after that second, everyone on the table began chuckling. Edeeth put her face in her hands, feigning embarrassment. They were all thinking the same thing: Chude Miguel truly did regard himself to be part of the investigation. Chrome signaled to Jerome to take the phone off speaker. When he did, Chrome said in a low tone, “Tell him another one of your colleagues will be coming in your stead.” At Jerome’s questioning look, he added, “You have an email to check out, remember?”
Jerome nodded in realization and resumed talking to Chude, giving him Walter’s description and details of how they would meet at the airport. When Jerome ended the call, Chrome stood and said, “So, Walter, you’ll check on this Miguel character and find out what he’s selling. Jay, you see to your email, and also check on Stacey to know if she’s through with her task. And Edeeth, you’ll be coming with me.”
“Where to, sir?”
“We’ll be going to pay the Scotts a surprise visit.”