“What?!” Chief Anthony exclaimed in startle. “What did you just say?” His surprise was slowly turning to anger as he directed his gaze at Chrome. “My friend, am I not talking to you?!” he asked the silent officer, his voice beginning to gain volume. “I asked – what did you just say?”
Chrome took a step back from him and motioned to the table. “Take your seat, sir.”
Anthony cast a fretful look around, from one officer to the next. “What the devil is going on here?!” he half screamed at them. His gaze finally fell on Monica. She had been standing a foot away from him the whole time and the befuddled look on her face was enough to tell that she had no idea what was unveiling before her.
Noticing his eyes on hers, she said in a tremulous voice, “Daddy, what’s going on?”
“How am I supposed to know?” Anthony said snappishly. “I don’t understand why these charlatans are implying by saying –”
Chrome began, “We are not implying –”
“My friend, don’t speak to me until what is coming out of your mouth is an explanation,” the commissioner spat viciously at him. “What is the meaning of this embarrassment of seismic proportions!? Such a preposterous accusation!” he fumed.
Chrome replied, unfazed by the other man’s indignation, “Have a seat, sir.” His voice was soft and respectful, but there was something steely in the words that finally communicated itself to the commissioner.
Anthony snapped up straight, and his brows came down in affront. But he quickly swallowed his outrage, turned and stomped to one of the seats, dropping onto the chair with a huff. Monica moved to sit down, her movements more sedate.
“Alright, officer, let’s hear it,” Anthony said, then he leaned forward on the table and added, “But mark my words. If you have nothing to back any accusations you throw at me, I will bury you! You and your posse!” With this, he divided a pointedly menacing look amongst the other officers.
They had already arranged themselves inside the room. Edeeth and Jerome stood at opposite ends of the room, and Walter was setting up the projector he had been carrying on the table. Chrome brought out a small object from his pocket and placed it on the table. It was the digital voice recorder. He pressed a button on it and it began to playback a conversation. Everyone fell silent as the voice from the recorder filled the room. It was a conversation between Jerome and Dapo.
“Alright, I’ll tell you everything.” It was Dapo’s voice. “As you already know, I work for Chief Scott. He employed me after I was released from prison here in Nigeria. I worked for him as his driver and personal bodyguard. He treated me well and over the years, he gained my trust and I looked up to him as a mentor.” There was a pause in the recording, as though Dapo had stopped to catch his breath before continuing, “I would do anything to see him happy, and he knew this. One day, a few weeks after the last gubernatorial elections in Akwa-Ibom State, he called me to his study and told me he needed my help. I asked him what he needed and he told me that he knew about my military background. He also told me that he knew about my juvenile record and he promised that he would make sure my record is never found out by anyone, that is, if I did something for him.” There was another pause which lasted for a few seconds.
Then Jerome’s voice intoned, “What something did he want you to do for him?”
Dapo answered, “I told him I would do whatever he needed me to do. He then told me about his political rival in the race for Commissioner of Education in the state who was after his life. He wanted me to take care of his rival before the man did him in.”
“What is the name of his rival?” Jerome asked.
“His name, I understand, was Mr. Josiah Essien. He was the C.E.O. of a major corporation there in Uyo. The chief wanted me to get to him and his family, and it was meant to look like an accident. I tailed Mr. Essien from his workplace on a Saturday and waited until it was night, and then I snuck into his garage and tampered with the brakes of his car. I also tampered with the accelerator and then I left. The next day, on their way to back from church, the brakes finally gave out and since the accelerator was tampered with, the car kept throttling until they crashed. When I heard the news report that it was the whole family involved in the crash, I was satisfied. Chief was satisfied with my work and rewarded me handsomely. A few days later, he was chosen to be the Commissioner of Education in the state.”
At this juncture, Monica shot her father an incredulous look. Anthony felt her gaze on him but he refused to meet it, as he stared resolutely at the recorder, listening as the recording continued playing.
“A year after, he sent me here, in Jos, to be his daughter’s personal bodyguard…much to her displeasure. He asked me to watch over her and report anything suspicious. It didn’t take long before she started seeing the young man, Jackson.” There was another pause and shuffling could be heard through the recorder, as though Dapo was trying to adjust himself on his seat. He continued after the shuffling stopped, “I reported this to Chief and he instructed me to find out more about her boyfriend. Chief came to Jos a few times after that, and his daughter introduced them. I think he took a liking to the boy. However, I had a feeling deep within me of Jackson’s familiarity to me. After a while, Chief contacted me and told me that I had to make a plan to take him out –”
Monica gave a teary gasp then.
“–and make it look like an accident. I didn’t understand why and he refused to tell me. He just insisted that I kill him, and do it soon. My chance to eliminate Jackson came when I overheard Monica with him on the phone in the morning of the night in question. They had set a date to meet at his house that night. I called the chief and told him about it. I also told him about my plan. He asked me about the time and I told him. He then gave me the green light. As night fell, I followed Monica to his place and found out that they were going to the hill top to hang out. I had followed them there once so I knew a quick way to get there without being spotted. I had planned to knock him out and immobilize Monica with a hankie soaked with chloroform. But as I rushed out from my hiding place and hit him, Monica suddenly attacked me. I had to go rough on her, something I would never think of doing. I decided to kill him there. As I tried to strangle him, Monica dug her nails into my face. It hurt so much and I had to let go. I needed to immobilize her before I could go ahead with my mission, but Jackson yelled out to her to run. And she did. I tried going after her, but he grabbed hold of me. In the bid to free myself, I shoved him off and he missed a step and fell over the edge of the hill top.”
Dapo’s voice came through the tiny speakers of the recorder cold and matter-of-fact, belying the horror of his narrative. “For a moment, I was confused. I didn’t know whether to run after Monica or go down the hill to check on Jackson. I decided to get back to the house as fast I could before Monica got there.”
He stopped, and then a heavy silence ensued in the interrogation room. The silence was however broken by Monica’s sniffles. Moments later, Jerome’s voice sounded from the recorder, “So, Dapo, are you saying that Chief Anthony Scott instructed you to sabotage the car of the Josiah Essien in order to kill him and his family two years ago?”
“Yes,” came the reply.
“And are you also saying that it was Chief Anthony Scott who instructed you to murder Jackson Essien?”
“Will you be willing to stand by these claims and testify if ever called upon?”
The pause was brief, fleeting. “Yes.”
The conversation ceased and the recorder stopped playing. Chrome picked it up and placed it back into his pocket. The room was still quiet.
Anthony looked up at him, a remorseless expression on his face, and hissed, “Is this what you have against me – the confessions of a pathological liar?” He suddenly burst into a light, humorless laughter and shook his head.
A visibly shaken and teary-faced Monica lifted a hand to his shoulder. Her eyes were enquiring so many things at the same time. “Daddy, was all that true?”
“Of course not, my dear,” her father replied forcefully. “These nickel-and-dime nincompoops are buying into the lies of an ex-convict. Someone who would readily say anything just to get away from jail time.” He gave another short bark of laughter.
At that moment, Walter walked over to Chrome and whispered something into his ear. It almost seemed as if Chrome smiled for a second as he listened.
Anthony stood abruptly, saying, “If this” – he pointed an irate finger at the recorder – “is all you have on me, then I believe you don’t have a case.”
Chrome said quietly, “Sit down, sir. I haven’t even begun.”
The commissioner slowly sat back, fleeting perplexity passing over his features.
Chrome continued, “I know that with respect to the case of the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Essien, it’s your word against Dapo’s. So, there’s no case there, and I have no interest in it. But I said earlier that we have reason to believe that you murdered Jackson Essien.”
“And I suppose you think any prosecutor will agree to try this case simply on the word of an ex-con against me?” Anthony sneered.
“No,” Chrome answered, almost genially, putting his hand into his pocket, “no, I don’t believe so. And that is why I’m going to ask you a few questions. I believe you will answer truthfully.”
There was no response from the chief.
Chrome went on, “Where were you, sir, on the night in question?”
“I was at home,” Anthony answered promptly.
“Which of your homes?”
“The one in Uyo – where else?” The words were marinated with irritation.
“I see. So that means that you were nowhere near Jos when the murder happened. Is that correct?”
“Of course – Yes! Listen, you can ask my daughter if you think I’m lying.”
“Don’t worry, sir, your story checks out with hers.” Chrome paused for a moment and stepped out of the way of the projector. He nodded at Walter who switched it on. An image instantly appeared on the wall beside Chrome. It was a still image from the airport surveillance camera. It was one of the things Walter had procured from the airport that morning with Chude’s help. Chrome looked at the image, aware that the Scotts were doing the same, and then he turned back to Anthony and said, “If you say you were in Uyo, then how come you are seen here, albeit under a poor disguise, in the arrivals lounge of the Jos airport?” Chrome nodded again at Walter and he pushed a button on the projector. The image changed on the wall. “Here, we can see a copy of the printed manifest belonging to the airline you boarded from Uyo to Jos on the day in question.” The projector clicked off after Chrome had spoken. He looked intently at Anthony and said, “Care to explain how you could be in two places at the same time, sir?”
The chief was silent. Chrome could see the slight movements of his eyes and he knew that the man was trying to mentally concoct a story.
Finally, he smiled and said, “Okay, you’ve got me. I was in Jos that night. But I came into Jos for an entirely different reason. It was pure coincidence that such a thing would happen to the poor boy on the same night.”
Monica, who had been quiet all the while, whirled on him. “Dad…what are you – you were here, in Jos, last night? Why didn’t you tell me you were in town?!”
Her father smiled to her and sighed before saying, “My dear girl, you were going to find out eventually. I didn’t think it would be this way.” He waited a beat before continuing, “I’m having an affair with one of the ladies at the country club.”
Monica recoiled from him instantly, betrayal suffusing her features. From the corner where she stood, Edeeth arched a brow. Jerome stifled a sudden laugh, while Chrome and Walter remained emotionless.
Ignoring the stir, Anthony said, “There, I’ve said it. Officers, I thank you. For destroying my marriage and my relationship with my daughter, I thank you. If you think I’m lying, you are free to call my lover. She will vouch for my whereabouts on the night in question.”
“Oh I don’t doubt that,” Chrome said. “In fact, we know that you visited a certain Ms. Caroline Gyok, who lives on Bauchi road. We also know about the rented car.”
The chief was visibly startled by that, but quickly regained his aplomb and pounced, “You see? So how am I the murderer?”
“When I said that we knew about the rented car,” Chrome interjected, “didn’t that surprise you?” The commissioner was silent and Chrome continued, “Well, I guess this should also come as a shock to you. The car rental service you patronized fit their vehicles with GPS tracking devices.” He nodded at Walter and the projector came on again. This time the image on the wall was that of the satellite image for the GPS tracker that was in the car Chief Scott rented. “As you can see, this is a satellite image of all the places you visited on the night in question.” He walked over and touched a particular spot on the image. “This spot here, this is where the car you were driving stopped closest to the hills.” The projector was switched off again and Chrome walked back to the table.
Anthony was silent. Monica was beginning to quiver.
Chrome continued, “We found some tire tracks and footprints on the ground at a spot behind the hills, and we took some shots of the tracks. And they matched those of the tires of the jeep you rented.” Chrome looked pointedly at Anthony and asked, “Sir, what size of shoes do you wear?”
Anthony was silent. He slowly sat up on his chair and muttered, “All these evidence are inconsequential. They won’t hold any water in court.”
“We both know they will.” Chrome nodded at Walter and the image on the screen changed again. This time it was the image of what Walter had seen in the hotel room where Anthony had stayed that night. It was a blood stain on the wall near the door. The stain had a peculiar pattern. “Do you know what that is, sir?”
“How the hell am I supposed to know!” he spat in anger.
“That is a blood stain found at the hotel room which we believe that you stayed in before venturing off to Bauchi road. One of my colleagues took the liberty of carrying out a blood test on it. There was enough blood material and the test was successful. It turns out that the blood was a match with that of our victim, Jackson Essien.”
Monica had started sobbing again. Softly. Dejectedly. The cries of a woman beaten down by so many truths she didn’t want to have to accept.
Walter switched off the projector, moved to a corner of the room and lifted up – to the sight of everyone in the room – a golf bag. When he saw the bag, Anthony stiffened.
Chrome continued, “You see, our autopsy report shows that the injury that killed Jackson was blunt force trauma to the head. Our skilled doctors were able to reconstruct the murder weapon.” He walked over to the golf bag and brought out a nine iron club. “This is what was used to kill Jackson. We found pieces of the coating on the head inside the wound inflicted on Jackson’s head.” He put the club back and faced the chief again, his voice rising a little, “So, let me piece it all together for you. You sent Dapo to kill Jackson, but you flew into Jos just to make sure he does. Dapo had kept you apprised of his plans, so you knew to go the hill to wait and watch. You waited until he threw Jackson down the hill and you revealed yourself and finished the job. You went back to your hotel room, dropped the golf club behind the door, and then washed it up in the bathroom before driving off to Bauchi Road to see your supposed mistress. Do I have it right so far?”
Anthony stared back at Chrome, a gamut of emotions running across his face, dominant among them being impotent rage. Beside him, Monica’s cries had crescendoed a bit. She kept muttering, “Daddy, please tell me it’s not true…”
But her father sat in stony silence.
His mulish uncooperativeness began to irk Chrome, and the officer leaned forward, placing his hands on the table. “The only thing bugging me right now, is – Why? Why did you want Jackson Essien killed?”
There was no response from Anthony.
Chrome’s voice began to rise as he said, dropping his cordiality, “Why did you kill him, Anthony?! Why?”
Still, the other man said nothing. His mouth however had begun to tremble slightly, and the muscles on his face were working.
Chrome pressed on, “You killed his parents. What possible harm could a mere aspiring young man like that cause him? What aggravation did he cause you that was big enough for you to want him dead? Why did you kill him?!”
Anthony suddenly burst out, flying up from his seat, a snarling expression on his face, “You want to know why?! Do you really want to know why?! Ok then – I’ll tell you why!” Spittle flew from his mouth as he raged on. “Are you familiar with curses, my friend? Well, if you are, then you will know the gravity of a friendly relationship between me and the son of my enemy! There was no way I was going to allow the seed of that wretched family I swore to destroy plant itself in my own.”
At his outburst, Monica’s mouth fell open. Disbelief suffused her face. Her throat worked as the word started its climb. When it burst forth through her lips, it was piercing and strident. “NO!” And she leaped to her feet, lunging toward her father, her eyes mad, her fingers hooked into claws. But her intent was cut short when Edeeth moved quickly forward and tackled her into her arms. Monica struggled fiercely for a while, but her strength, no matter how grief-driven, was no match for the officer’s implacable hold. She beat at Edeeth’s arms, all the while screaming at her startled father, “How could you! Daddy – why! How could you!”
Anthony turned his face from his distraught daughter back to Chrome and said, “I guess this is the part where you try to arrest me, right?” He straightened up and smiled sinisterly. “Don’t think that will be easy. I am of course a commissioner and I am under some immunity.”
“No, you’re not,” Chrome said stonily and motioned to the uniformed officers who had come into the room. One of them moved swiftly to the commissioner’s back and pulled his resistant arms behind him.
“What is the meaning of this?” Anthony fumed as he felt the cold touch of steel on his wrists as the policeman whipped the handcuffs over them. “Do you know who I am? I will bury you and all the evidence you have!”
Chrome brought his hand out from his pocket. He was holding on to the digital recorder. It had been recording their conversation from the moment he put his hands into his pocket. He looked at the Chief, whose eyes widened with shocked realization, and said, “You see, sir, you are a commissioner for Education in Akwa-Ibom State and you committed a crime in Plateau state. I’m sorry, but your immunity doesn’t cover you in a jurisdiction this far. Besides” – Chrome walked up to him and said – “I am a federal police officer. I answer directly to the Chief of Defense Staff. I can arrest you anywhere.”
For a tense moment, both men stared at each other, Chrome with cold despisal and Anthony with naked dislike. He finally hissed at the officer, “This isn’t over, I can promise you that. I will get out of this and come for you and your measly band of morons! Mark my words!”
Chrome smiled and said to him, “Stop me if you know this nursery rhyme.
‘Jack and Jill went up a hill
To share some bottles of Larger
Jack fell down and we know his crown
Was broken by Jill’s own father.’”
“You bastard,” Anthony spat.
“Takes one to know one,” Chrome riposted. “You fought so hard to extinguish a family that did nothing to you. And you did this without any regard for how much roots it already had in yours.”
When the meaning behind his words sunk into Anthony’s mind, he turned his head slowly round to look at his daughter. Monica now leaned heavily into Edeeth’s arms, crying so much it seemed as though her grief would dehydrate her.
“Monica…” he rasped in an inaudible voice.
“I pray this sight of your daughter all broken up stays with you for a long, long time,” Chrome said. And he signaled to the uniforms who marched him out of the room.