Dr. Manny was still in the autopsy room examining the corpse of Jackson Essien, when his assistant, Dr. Stacey Anu, walked in through the only door leading in and out of the room. She was a petite young lady with more of a caramel complexion than one that was outrightly fair. She walked up to where Manny was and passed the flat file she held to him. Manny paused in his examination, flipped the gloves off his hands with audible snaps and took the file from her. After glancing through the papers in it, he handed it back to her and asked, “How is the mould coming?”
She watched as Manny took a flexible camera probe – the type usually used in hospitals for checking the colon for cancerous tissues – and peered into the opening on the head of the corpse. The monitor, which displayed the images received by the camera, was set on a small table beside the two doctors. Stacey put the file under her arm and replied Manny’s question, “The computer has imputed the measurements taken and is already constructing 3D images of the weapon. The mould should be ready at the latest by morning.”
“Ok, thank you, Stacey. You can –” He didn’t complete that sentence as his attention was stolen by what he saw on the monitor. “What’s this?” He took a pair of forceps and, with the aid of the camera, pulled out a small, shiny object from within the wound on the head of the corpse. The two doctors looked at the object on the forceps.
“This must be part of the murder weapon,” Stacey intoned.
“Undoubtedly,” Manny replied. He placed the material on a beaker and handed it over to her. “Here – take this to the lab and run the necessary tests on it. We may have a better insight as to what the murder weapon was with this.”
“Ok, what would you be doing?” she asked as she walked towards the door
“I have to call Chrome. He needs to know about this. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be very useful in his investigation.” He was already digging his cellphone out of his pocket, and then he dialed the number of the policeman.
Chrome and Jerome were just a few kilometers away from the station when his cell phone rang. He took it out of his pants pocket and checked the Caller ID. It was Manny. He answered. On his side, Jerome kept dividing his concentration between the road and the one side of the conversation going on beside him. His eyes darted intermittently from the road before him and his superior. It wasn’t as though there was anything to understand, judging by Chrome’s monosyllabic responses.
“Mm-hmm… Mm-hmm… Mm-hmm… OK… OK… That’s splendid. Thanks, Manny… We’ll be there in a few.” Finally, he ended the call and put the phone back in his pocket.
“What was that about?” Jerome asked, now giving the road his full attention.
“Manny found some kind of metallic object in the dead guy’s head, already running tests to try and decipher what it is and where it came from.”
“Manny sure is handy when you need him,” Jerome joked
“Yes.” Chrome chuckled – something he didn’t do often – and said, “He sure is pretty hands-on.”
Both officers laughed at the joke and Chrome said, “At least, with his help, we have made some progress in this case.” Jerome straightened up on the steering. He was still smiling. Chrome looked at him and said, “You better step on the gas. I want this case over with as quickly as you do.”
With a smirk on his face, Jerome put his foot down on the gas pedal as the car sped down the highway.
Edeeth ushered Monica into the interrogation room within the HQ complex. Unlike what the rumor mill had to say, the interrogation room was quite homely. It was well lit and had huge windows from which one could see different police personnel going about their daily duties along the corridors. The room was moderately sized, allowing for up to ten people to be in it at the same time without feeling claustrophobic. There was a long rectangular, steel table in the center of the room. Its edges were shaved to a smooth curve and the top was padded with harden foam, a few centimeters thick. On several occasions, suspects being interrogated have tried committing suicide by slamming their heads on the bare steel surface or on the sharp edge. Around the table were three metal chairs, two at the opposing breaths and one at one lengthy side of the table. They weren’t the most comfortable chairs you could sit on, but they wouldn’t leave a bruise.
Monica sat on one the chairs, which was at one breadth of the table, and Edeeth pulled up the chair at the length closer to where Monica was. She was holding a file which she placed on top of the table in front of Monica. Walter preferred to stand close to the door. He leaned against the wall on his back with arms folded in front of him. Monica’s gaze went from officer to officer as if trying to ask them questions with her eyes.
Edeeth finally broke the ice. “We have found Jackson Essien,” she said
“You have?” Monica asked, her face gradually glowing with excitement.
“Yes, we have,” Walter replied from where he was. He stood up straight now and had a gravely look on his face.
Monica looked at Edeeth, wanting more answers. When none was forthcoming, she stood up and said, “So, where is he? How is he? You don’t need my help anymore…right?”
“Not exactly,” Walter said. He was gradually making his way towards the table as he continued, “Not for a missing person’s case, anyways.”
Monica shot him a puzzled look. Edeeth touched her hand and said, “Jackson was found dead this morning near the Hills.”
Monica’s face went blank. It was like the wind had been knocked out of her. She slowly sat back on her chair. Her lips trembled and two globules of tears trickled down her eyes. The words, when she spoke them, came out in a very low, hoarse whisper, unbeknownst to her: “He died? Oh my God…he died…”
Edeeth, whose sharp gaze was trained on her, was quick to read her lips, and the policewoman asked, “What do you mean by ‘he died’?”
Monica must have realized that she had let something slip, because something shuttered on her face as she quickly regained her composure, and she said, “Oh, sorry. I meant to ask how he died.”
Edeeth leaned forward and said, “We don’t know at the moment. We’d hoped you would help us figure it out.”
Monica tried to hold back her tears, but they still came cascading down her cheeks in torrents. She buried her head within her folded arms and sobbed gently. Edeeth put a hand on her shoulder in a silent effort to calm her. She looked over at Walter, and he understood what she was trying to say. He left them in the interrogation room and walked down the corridor towards the reception hall of the building.
Walter spied two figures standing by the large revolving door which acted as an entrance and an exit point to and fro the building. One was a male and the other female. Walter recognized the male to be a Sergeant-Major of the uniformed police division. Sgt. Lanre Bucknor was recently transferred from the Abuja division of the force and had already fully acclimatized in Plateau State. Walter disliked him, more out of envy than anything else. They had attended a few training courses together. Even after all this time, nothing had changed. Lanre was tall, an inch taller than Walter, and he was also very good looking with caramel complexion. The ladies were easily drawn to him, something that didn’t settle well with Walter. Ever since he arrived for the Jackson Essien murder case, he hadn’t even gotten a second glance from any of the female officers, not even the receptionists and secretaries, all thanks to Sgt. Lanre who was at the moment chatting up the clerk who worked at the Records Department. She was all smiles. Walter creased his brow in disgust. For a good looking man such as himself, it was baffling that he was still single…not even a girlfriend. He often tried blaming this on his job as a crime scene investigator, but he knew deep down, it was all because he had the real hots for one lady, Edeeth.
He shook his head as if to physically knock out the thoughts from his mind, and then he put on the most plastic smile he could muster, before wandering towards the chatting couple. When Lanre saw Walter approaching, he parted his lips in a smile that matched Walter’s in fakeness. It would seem that the feeling of acrimony was mutual to both men.
“Heeey Walter!” Lanre said as he stretched out a hand to shake his rival’s hand.
“Lanre,” Walter replied, barely-concealed disdain in his voice. They shook hands vigorously, squeezing hard, as if trying to see whose grip was stronger, oblivious to the fact that there was another person present.
They were still engrossed in the handshake as Lanre asked with a tight smile, “So, tell me. Are you still getting your hands dirty at the crime scenes?”
Walter chortled in mock amusement, and said, “Indeed. What about you? Still shooting innocent bystanders?”
The barb found its mark, and Lanre gave a small laugh. He had always known Walter for his acid remarks. He released his grip on Walter’s hand as if to signify defeat. Only then did both men realize they had an audience all the while.
“Oh, you know Miss Cynthia Gajere, right? The clerk at the Records room,” Lanre said by way of introduction. She gave Walter a small wave, and he arched his head in return.
“Well, Cynthia, I hope my friend here hasn’t been feeding you with his falsified tales of valor,” Walter joked.
All three individuals laughed lightly and Lanre said, “Oh Walter, you’ll never change. You’re still full of shit.” The snarl in his voice was faint, but there.
And you’re still a sergeant, was the reply Walter thought of lashing at him, but his attention was drawn towards the revolving door at the entrance. A familiar vehicle had pulled into the premises of the HQ and was heading towards the parking lot. Walter excused himself from the company and headed towards the exit. Just before he pushed the revolving door, Lanre yelled out to him “Nice seeing you again, Walt.”
Walter raised a hand in the air and dismissively waved at him, without turning around. There was no need in getting friendly with an enemy, he thought. He pushed the revolving door and within seconds, he was on his way to the parking lot to meet Chrome and Jerome.
Jerome parked the car in a vacant spot which was reserved for the C.S.I department. Before he could put off the engine, Chrome had already opened his side door and started disembarking from the vehicle. He was just about to slam the door shut when his cell phone rang. He had an idea who it would be calling by that time. He and his girlfriend had a ritual they followed when it came to communication. He always called her by noon, and when he didn’t, she would. He was already smiling when he pulled the phone out of his pocket, but it wasn’t her name on the caller ID. It wasn’t even a visible number. Private Number was what registered on the screen of his phone. He picked the call.
“Hello,” he said.
There was silence.
“Hello…hello?” he said again, beginning to feel irritated.
Still there was silence. He was about to take the phone off his ear when he heard a synthesized masculine voice.
“HELLO,” the voice said, “AM I SPEAKING WITH OFFICER CHROME CHUNKE?”
“I am he…who am I speaking with please?” Chrome replied, trying to sound as polite as he could.
There was silence again. Chrome asked the question again but this time the line went dead. He held his phone and stared at it for some time. He felt it must have been some kind of prank call and the most likely culprit was his girlfriend. He smiled at the thought but quickly shook it off. He would call her later and give her the scolding she deserved, but right now he had a case to solve. Romance could wait.
Jerome joined him where he stood and they both made their way towards the front doors of the F.P.F Plateau HQ. By the time they got there, Walter was waiting for them. He informed them that they had Monica in custody and Edeeth was already interrogating her.
“It wasn’t easy, man,” Walter said as they walked towards the entrance of the building. “The security operatives stationed at the residence wouldn’t let us in and if it wasn’t for the young woman willingly asking to go with us, we would have needed an arrest warrant.” He paused and folded his arms before continuing, “She’s with Edeeth right now. She took the news of his death hard.”
Chrome cocked an eyebrow and said, “You mean she didn’t know of his death?”
Walter relaxed his arms before answering, “Well, the tears seemed genuine enough, even if she knew something, I doubt she would be willing to say it right now.”
“Yeah, you’re right about that,” Chrome agreed.
Jerome scratched his head to get the attention of his superiors. “I doubt we would make any headway by standing out here,” he finally said.
Chrome smiled, and dividing a look between the other men, he said, “Ok fellas, let go see how we can get our young songbird to sing.”
All three men were about to go into the building when a black Mercedes Benz GLX650 SUV pulled up in front of the entrance to the Police building. The driver’s side door was swung open and a heavily built man, with a fresh scar on his left cheek, stepped out and opened the owner’s side door for an elderly man. The grey hairs on his head and beards were evenly spaced and gave him a dignified look. He looked to be in his early sixties but was in terrific shape. He was tall, and each stride he took as he walked towards the officers was strong and sure. He stopped right in front of them and said, “My name is Chief Anthony Scott…S.A.N.”