In a little over forty-five minutes, all the C.S.I. officers were assembled in the interrogation room 2, where Dapo Ajayi was being held. Walter, who had gone back to his hotel room to get a change of clothing after he was checked at the emergency first aid room, was the last officer to arrive, and he entered the room just in time to see Jerome begin questioning the suspect.
“You do know the reason why you are seated here, don’t you?” Jerome was saying, his eyes fixed stonily on the man.
Dapo didn’t say anything in response. He just sat there, his face set carefully in a cold expressionless stare.
Jerome continued, “That is beside the fact that you just tore up a police station and put quite a number of officers in the hospital.” He looked back at Walter, who was whispering something into Chrome’s ear, and then back at Dapo. Jerome noticed there was a slight smile on Dapo’s lips; it was so faint it was almost not there.
“I see you find that last part amusing,” Jerome said tersely.
Dapo responded to that, “Not entirely.” His tone was cool; it betrayed no emotion as he continued, “Just the part where I whupped your boy’s ass.” He looked at Walter as he spoke.
Walter arched a brow coldly back at him.
Dapo reclined on his chair and tried putting his cuffed hands behind his head in a bid to feign comfort; but that wasn’t possible to pull off, so he placed them back on top of the table in front of him. He began looking at the officers before him, one after the other, his gaze taunting, daring, scornful. “Well…” he drawled, “What is this? Amateur hour? Where’s the good cop–bad cop routine? Surely they must have taught you that when you were in the police college!” He chuckled softly, mockingly. It was obvious he was trying to elicit some obvious antagonism from the officers.
Much to his evident displeasure, none of them flinched or showed any sign of vexation towards his remarks.
Jerome leaned forward on the table and said, “I can see this isn’t your first rodeo when it comes to police interrogations, eh?” Dapo shrugged and Jerome continued, “As you are, no doubt, already aware, we aren’t your everyday police department. You see, we know things. Things other people may never get the privilege of knowing. Things people would never believe even if you tattooed it to their faces.” As he talked, he opened a file that was on the table and took out a sheet of paper which he placed in front of Dapo.
Dapo looked at it and his eyes widened.
Jerome said, “For instance, we know that your name isn’t really Dapo Ajayi, but actually Daphour Highjay. We also know for a fact that you’re not Nigerian, but you’re actually a Cameroonian immigrant who sought asylum in this country twenty years ago after you committed manslaughter in Douala as a juvenile.”
Dapo pushed the paper away from him. It was a copy of his records which were meant to be sealed and confidential. He shot his interrogator a snarling look, aware that the others were watching him, carefully observing his reaction. Hot anger brewed in his eyes.
Jerome continued, “I know, I know. Nobody was meant to see these records, right?” It was his turn to taunt Dapo. He walked around the table and stood behind the chair Dapo sat on and said, “But as you can see, we know. So I would advise you not to underestimate us.”
Dapo muttered something in French which sounded suspiciously like a cussword.
“Now back to what I was saying,” said Jerome, “you are not in this room because you shot up a police station – well, not originally. The main reason why you are seated here, wearing those handcuffs, is because we have overwhelming evidence which puts you as a suspect in the murder of Jackson Essien.” Jerome opened the file before him again. He brought out another sheet of paper and placed it in front of Dapo. He picked up the other paper which had Dapo’s records and put it back. “In front of you is a copy of the DNA analysis carried out on a sample retrieved from the crime scene.” Dapo looked down at the paper. “As you can see from the data, your DNA and that of Miss Monica Smith were found on the sample. Now, we have gotten Monica’s testimony which puts you as the killer.” Jerome looked at Edeeth and she nodded before he continued, “But you should know, it’s her word against yours, and going by your records, I’d say the odds are totally not in your favor.”
Dapo leaned forward on his seat and said, “So, what do you want me to do, hmmm?” Slowly, he divided a mocking look between the people in the room. “You want me to own up to the crime, confess that I’m the killer? Is that it?” He shook his head and slammed his cuffed fists on the table. “Not gonna happen!”
Jerome’s face wore no emotion as he said, “Well, I see you’re still indecisive as to owning up.” He opened the file again but this time, he brought out some photos with another sheet of paper. “Maybe these will help you decide.” He placed the pictures in front of Dapo. “Like I said before, we know things,” he concluded with an enigmatic smile.
Before Dapo were the pictures of the car parts and the wreckage from the accident which involved Jackson’s parents. The same pictures that had been sent by the police inspector at the Akwa-Ibom State police command.
“Take a good look at these pictures, Dapo, or should I call you Daphour? I don’t know, I guess either of the two would do, right?” Pointing at the pictures, he said, “I’m sure you are familiar with wreckage and car parts you see before you.”
Dapo didn’t look at them. He just cocked his brow at Jerome.
The officer said, “What I’m getting at is this” – he dropped the sheet of paper he was holding beside the DNA result from the fingernail sample. The new sheet of paper was another DNA test result. It was the DNA test result gotten from the hair follicle found within the wreckage of the Essien’s car. “You see this is the DNA result from a hair sample gotten from the wreckage you see before you. From the two DNA results before you, it is obvious what I’m getting at, isn’t it?”
Dapo looked then. The information on the one from the hair follicle was identical to that from the fingernail. He shrugged, leaned back in his chair and said, “So what does this prove?”
Walter’s and Chrome’s whispered conversation ended then, and Walter left the room, leaving Chrome to return his attention to the interrogation.
Jerome was saying, “It does seem that your DNA appeared at both crime scenes, and both deaths were meant to look like accidents, only that they weren’t. This proves that you must really hate the Essiens. Or” – he leaned forward – “you must be carrying out the biddings of someone who does.” He suddenly noticed a flicker in Dapo’s eyes and Jerome instinctively knew that he had just struck a nerve. He pressed on, “I want to believe that you bear no grudge against the Essien family. After all, there are no connections between you and them. So tell us who sent you and instructed you to carry out these crimes, or do you wish to take the fall for this person?”
Dapo looked away from Jerome. He was walking the tight rope now. He knew he had to regain some leverage somehow. He looked at Chrome, his gaze calculating, and then he glanced to his left where Edeeth stood, still gazing intently at him. He hated being stared at like that, especially by women. He looked back at Chrome, measuring the distance between them both and back at Edeeth. He knew he had to make his move now or never. He suddenly pushed away from his seat and sprang forward, in Edeeth’s direction. He covered the distance between them in seconds, his cuffed hands stretched to grab her neck. Edeeth’s face registered neither alarm nor surprise at his sudden attack before she swiftly weaved out of the way, letting fly a fist at his midsection, a punch that landed heavily and knocked the wind out of him. He exhaled sharply and staggered towards the wall. He had just fallen against it before a sudden sharp pain exploded in his lower back, causing him to bend backward. He felt his hands go limp and couldn’t lift them to strike his assailant as a long arm whipped round his neck and pulled him further backward until he landed in a heap on the chair he’d just vacated moments earlier.
The arm around his neck wasn’t thick with muscles, but it was strong, and he noticed that two slim fingers had found his right jugular vein and were ready to clamp down on it. If that happened, he knew he would be dead within seconds. With bated breath, he sat docilely, not fighting back.
The person who had him in a choke-hold was Jerome, and the officer leaned into his ear and said silkily, “I warned you not to underestimate us, Dapo. Just because we were short of one man doesn’t guarantee you the leverage of a hostage you were aiming for. I have newsflash for you, buddy. Everyone present in this room is capable of handling scum like you.” And then, he snatched his hand away.
Dapo coughed and wheezed as he tried to catch his breath. Jerome had walked away from behind him and went to stand at the end of the table beside Edeeth. Her eyes were trained on him, and for a second, Dapo thought she might be smiling mockingly at him. It enraged him. The little bitch! Just because she’d bested him… Reacting to his fountaining rage, he reached out his hands and aggressively pushed the papers in front of him to the floor. “You can all go to hell!” he yelled. “I’m not saying another word.” His eyes snapped angrily from one face to the other. “And just so you know, I’ll be out of here in no time.”
Jerome looked at Chrome and the latter nodded. Then, he sighed heavily, theatrically, to Dapo’s hearing. He sat down, opened the file yet again and brought out another sheet of paper. He held it in his hand and said, “I didn’t want to have to do this.” And he tossed the paper in front of Dapo. On it was written the flight details for a one-way trip to Uyo from Jos. There were two ticket numbers and they belonged to the penned names – Monica Scott and Anthony Scott.
Dapo squinted as he looked at the paper. His name wasn’t there. He slowly looked up at Jerome. There was pain in his eyes. He knew what the flight details meant, but Jerome took pleasure in spelling it out for him. “As you can see, your benefactor isn’t going to come to your rescue this time.”
“That’s impossible!” Dapo burst out.
“You can read, can’t you?” Jerome taunted. “It’s all there in the fine print. Once we let him leave the station, he’s all set travel back to Uyo with his daughter, and believe me when I say that he is never coming back here.”
Dapo was distraught. The muscles of his face worked as he battled a riot of emotions inside him. He blinked hard, and his turmoil was evident to the officers watching him. He finally looked at Chrome and said hoarsely, “What do you people want from me?”
“For starters,” Jerome said, forcing Dapo to refocus his attention on him, “we want you to tell us where you were two nights ago.” Jerome grabbed a small digital voice recorder, which had been on the table all the while, and turned it on.
Dapo gritted his teeth, expelled his breath hard and said, “Alright, I’ll tell you everything.”
It had been about two hours since the gunshot incident within the police station had been brought under control. Anthony Scott sat in the interrogation room 1 with Monica. They were flanked by the two uniformed officers who had been instructed to watch them. Anthony glanced at both officers with growing impatience. Just when he was considering forcefully leaving the room, his daughter in tow, Chrome walked in. He was followed by Edeeth and Jerome. The commissioner got to his feet, his ire and impatience etched in every line of his form.
“My friend, what do you mean by keeping us here all this time?” he barked. “Don’t you know I have places to be and things to do?”
Chrome gave him a slight smile and said, “My apologies, sir. The delay couldn’t be helped.” He motioned to Anthony to return to his seat and the latter grudgingly did. Chrome continued, “I’m sure you are aware that it was your driver that was behind the shootings that took place a few hours ago.”
“Yes, I know,” the other man said in a harsh tone. “But that’s his problem. Whatever made him commit such a despicable act is well beyond me.”
“Well, it turns out that he went on the offensive when he noticed that our men were about to arrest him.”
“Arrest him? For what?” He sounded genuinely surprised.
“Our investigations did reveal that there were three individuals present at the scene of the crime the night Jackson died. One of them being Jackson himself, the other your daughter and a third person was revealed to us, through DNA evidence, to be your driver. Your daughter’s statement also confirms this.”
“My daughter’s what?!”
“Oh? Aren’t you aware that your daughter has given her account of what happened that night?” Chrome asked as though he was surprised.
“No, I am not!” Anthony spat, whirling around to stab angry eyes at Monica.
She stared coolly back at him. “I told them everything I knew about that night, dad. I didn’t see why I should hold anything back. I loved Jackson, and I want to see his killer apprehended.”
Anthony’s countenance changed as he said in a pleading voice, “I told you not to say anything.” When Monica turned her face resolutely away from him, he turned to Chrome and asked in a slightly tremulous tone, “So what happens to my daughter now?”
“Oh, nothing, sir. She is free to go. We got a confession from Dapo which exonerates her from the crime.”
Anthony beamed a relieved smile, and he turned to Monica, “Did you hear that, honey? You are free to go!” Monica was staring from Chrome to Edeeth as he put an arm around her shoulders. He said to the officers in a cheery tone, “Thank you, officers. You have done a splendid job.” He stood, and Monica got up to.
“Not so fast, sir,” Chrome interjected.
The Scotts froze. An uncertain look gusted over Anthony’s face before he said blandly, “I and my daughter have a plane to catch, officer. We have already missed the charity event we were scheduled to attend, thanks to you. If you have any documents that need to be signed, you can send them down to my office in Uyo and I’ll be more than glad to attend to them.”
Chrome shook his head. “You have nothing to sign, sir. You just can’t go anywhere right now.”
Just then, Walter walked into the room bearing a portable projector and his knapsack slung over his shoulder.
Anthony shot Chrome an incredulous look as he snapped, “What do you mean I can’t go anywhere? Why the hell won’t I be going anywhere?”
Chrome walked up to the chief and stood just a foot away from him before replying, “Because we have reason to believe that you, Chief Anthony Ememesi Scott,” – he dropped a heavy stress on the second name – “murdered Jackson Essien.”