At the top of the hill, Chrome and Walter sifted through the crime scene. Making sure they didn’t miss a thing. Their eyes darting this way and that. Walter was slightly acrophobic, so he stayed well away from the drop-offs lining the hilltop. They worked from opposite ends, gradually making their way to the center. They couldn’t get any clear pattern of footprints because the scene had been heavily disturbed by some uniformed police officers before they arrived in the morning. They had to make do with finding something more solid than footprints. The wind atop the hill was quite strong and it sent Chrome’s tie flapping like a sail as he crouched down to peer underneath a bunch of cacti growing near a rock. Something there had caught his eye, something small and pink.
“Hey, Wally, over here,” he called out. When Walter got to his side, he pointed to the object and asked, “What do you make of this?”
Walter brought out a pair of tweezers and picked up the object. After careful scrutiny, he said, “I think it’s…a broken piece of…artificial nail?”
“BINGO!” Chrome replied with some excitement creeping into his voice. “That’s exactly what it is, and that’s exactly what I had hoped to find.”
“I’m sorry sir, I don’t follow,” Walter said as he bagged the piece.
“You see, when I first checked out Monica Scott, I noticed her right hand was balled in a fist while the left was not. I needed to confirm my suspicion by getting a better look. So I shook her hand before she left and got a better look. Her left hand had well manicured artificial nails while the right hand didn’t. The only time a woman removes the artificial nails on one hand, without removing that of the other hand, is when a nail is broken.”
“Wow, sir, you learnt all that from Ruth?” Walter joked.
“Amazing what you glean from the fairer sex when you’re taking a breather.” He winked at Walter and both men laughed. Chrome continued, “Let’s get back to the station lab. The glue used in fixing the nails might have a piece of the wearer’s nail tissue. If we put a rush on it, we can have a DNA report by morning. I bet my ridiculous government salary that it belongs to Monica.”
“Luckily for us, Jos has the equipment we need to get this done quickly,” Walter chipped in.
The world of forensic science had undergone tremendous advancements over the years, especially in the area of DNA analysis. About five years ago, a Jewish scientist, Prof. Abraham Smith, of Stanford University in California, USA (a leading school in the research in DNA), was able to develop a method which accurately cut short the time taken in completing a DNA analysis. With the help of a group of programmers in India, he developed a computer program which reduced the time taken in the screening process, DNA quantitation, PCR (polymer chain reaction) Step Calculation and DNA typing, thereby increasing the accuracy of the analysis by reducing human error. This method was currently being used by most law enforcement agencies around the world. A few years before the breakthrough, it usually took at least seventy-two hours to get a printed result for the analysis. This was done for urgent cases, but it was also very expensive to undertake. With the new method, it would take just a little over fifteen hours to complete an analysis for an urgent case.
And at the moment, the investigation of Jackson Essien’s murder was as urgent as any other.
Within the three years of the existence of the C.S.I. department of the Federal Police Force of Nigeria, four of its personnel had taken training courses on this subject. The Federal Government also made it compulsory within the time that all citizens should submit samples of their blood for DNA identification, including fingerprints and toe-prints. This was carried out in the last nationwide census. This move led to incredible breakthroughs in the solving of some cases which were once labeled as unsolved. Some cases, not all.
Within minutes, the two officers walked down the hill and drove away from the crime scene.
Back at the autopsy laboratory, Manny was getting his report ready for Chrome when Stacey walked in all excited. “Dr. Emmanuel!” she called out.
“Stacey, how many times have I told you? You don’t need to be so formal. Call me Manny, please,” Manny cut in.
“Oh sorry, Manny, force of habit.”
“No problem. Now, what’s got your knickers on fire?” Manny attempted to tease.
“Well, I went back to the forensic lab and it turned out the computer recreation of the murder weapon came out faster than we anticipated.” She handed a file over to him and continued, “Also, the material we recovered from the wound on the corpses head is aluminum. The thickness corresponds with the specifications used the coating of golf clubs.”
Manny was flipping through the pages of the report in the file as Stacey continued, “From the dimension fed into the computer simulator, it was able to give us a three dimensional image of what kind of golf club it was that inflicted such a wound.”
Manny himself was a golf enthusiast and he knew immediately what the kind of golf club it was at first sight of the computer image. He closed the file and sighed as he said, “It’s a 9-iron golf club, the strongest of all clubs used in the game of golf. A terrible weapon as well.”
Sir Anderson Gyang looked at his wrist watch as he stood in front of the compound which housed his flat and that of the late Jackson Essien. The time was a 3:45pm. His flight was scheduled to leave by 6:30pm for Uyo. He took a look at Jackson’s flat. The front door was still locked since morning. Anderson smiled. It wasn’t your everyday-old-man kind of smile; there was something coy about it. He turned away and headed into his house.
I have to start packing if I don’t want to miss my flight, he thought to himself.
Once more he turned to Jackson’s flat and spoke with a whisper, “Adios Jackson. My work here is done.”
He walked into the front door of his flat and shut it behind him.
Edeeth was waiting in the WAR Room when Jerome walked in. The nickname “WAR-room” was given to the C.S.I conference room which had been converted from a large storage room within the building. It was given the name because it looked like a battle had been waged in it. There were files here and there and a lot of things were out of place. Within the last year, the Federal Government had made it compulsory that all State police commands should have facilities in place for a C.S.I team. Jerome was glancing through some notes he had taken down and almost bumped into the table in the center of the room.
“Watch where you are going, nerd,” Edeeth joked.
Jerome made a funny face at Edeeth before settling down on the chair next to the one she sat on. The face made Edeeth chuckle. Jerome placed the note on top of the table and continued glancing through it. He noticed Edeeth had a file in front of her.
“You’ve got the info on his background already?” he asked her.
“Not everything, but this is good for now.”
“Ok, I’m still waiting on my source at the airport,” Jerome said as he resumed glancing at his notes, “but I had a hunch and called on the Akwa-Ibom State police command.”
“Oh?” Edeeth arched an amused brow. “You had a hunch? Well, I guess a bit of Chrome is rubbing off on you.”
Jerome smiled. “It does seem his personality is rubbing off on all of us.”
“True. Now, what was your hunch about?”
Jerome was about to answer when Chrome walked in through the door. He was closely followed by Walter, whose instant scowl betrayed his displeasure at seeing Jerome all alone – and sitting so close – with Edeeth. Walter had an extreme case of the green-eyed monster when it came to what he considered his.
The duo stood up as their superior officer walked to the end of the table and sat down. Walter was about to leave the room when Chrome called him back. “Wally, before you get started on the analysis, let’s table our findings.”
“OK, sir,” Walter replied. He returned and pulled up a chair on Edeeth’s other side.
Chrome leaned forward. “So far, Walter and I have found some interesting things at the crime scene.” He nodded at Walter who placed the evidence bag on the table. Edeeth picked it up first and smiled. Chrome continued, “We found that at the top of the hill, at the spot where we figured Jackson fell from.”
Edeeth passed the bag to Jerome. Walter brought out his digital camera and played back the pictures they had taken earlier. He showed them to Edeeth as he said, “We also found tire tracks and foot prints not far from the hill. We believe it was left there by the perpetrator because the foot prints go to and fro the spot where Jackson’s body was found.”
Jerome was about to collect the camera from Edeeth when his cell phone rang. He looked at the display and saw that it was Nene Ezike. He excused himself from the gathering and went just outside the office to receive the call. Chrome looked at Edeeth and asked, “Did you get anything interesting on the background of our dead friend?”
“Oh yes I did.” She opened the file in front of her. “Jackson Essien was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Josiah and Rebecca Essien. As we already know, his parents are also late. They both died from a car crash two years ago. His father was an industrialist and his mother was a lecturer with the University of Uyo.” She passed a sheet of paper to Chrome. “That is company profile for E.G. Group of Companies. It’s a very large firm with interests in oil and gas, import and export of goods and so many other ventures –” She was cut short with Jerome’s re-entry into the room.
The man started speaking at once, “That was my contact at the airport.” He returned to his seat as Edeeth resumed talking.
Chrome was the one who interrupted her this time. “Sorry, Edeeth, but I’d like to hear what Jerome’s contact said.” He motioned to Jerome.
“Well, um…my contact has it on authority that the commissioner’s name was in the manifesto on the last flight from Uyo to Jos. He travelled in the business class. However, the sources at the Jos airport have no recollection of him coming through the arrivals gate.”
Chrome nodded and said, “Ask your sources if we can get a copy of the manifesto for the last flight from Uyo to Jos for yesterday. We would like copies for both business class and economy class.”
“Will do so, sir.”
Chrome looked at Edeeth and said, “Sorry about that, E. Please continue.”
“As I was saying sir, the E.G. Group of Companies is a very powerful company. They have their headquarters in Abuja and other branches in Uyo, Lagos and even here in Jos, which is where Jackson was supposed to start working next month.” She paused for effect before continuing, “The company was created by two friends in the early nineties. Mr. Josiah Essien and his very close friend…” She looked at Walter before ending the sentence “…Mr. Anderson Gyang.”
The look of surprise written all over Walter’s face was enough to tell Chrome that both Walter and Edeeth knew who this Anderson Gyang fellow was. “Who is Mr. Anderson Gyang?” he immediately asked.
It was Walter who answered. “He was the man who identified himself as Jackson’s neighbor when we went over to his house earlier today. We would never have suspected he had any connections with Jackson.” Walter put a hand on his jaw and played with his beards. “That is very interesting.”
“That’s not even the interesting part,” Edeeth chipped in. “It turns out that both Josiah Essien and Anderson Gyang had equal shares of the company, 40% apiece. The remaining 20% was owned by five other investors. So the Board of Directors is comprised of these seven individuals.” Edeeth showed Walter and Jerome the copy of the document she received from the C.A.C. “When I got a hold of this information, I called one of the company’s directors and enquired of the validity of the information. He validated it and went on to give me more info.” She paused again, this time to see how interested her audience was in her story. She relished the attention being showed her at that moment.
“Are you waiting for a drum roll here?” Jerome interjected wryly.
A chuckle rippled around the table. Edeeth smiled and said, “He told me that Josiah and Anderson had a falling-out about three years ago. It was a very serious one and both parties never spoke to each other after that, not even during board meetings. Mr. Anderson relocated to Jos and headed the branch office here.”
Chrome sat up on his chair and returned the paper he was holding back to Edeeth. A hush fell on the gathering, and each individual mulled his thoughts for a moment.
Walter broke the ice when he suddenly stood up. “I have to get started on this.” He grabbed the evidence bag from the table and was about to leave the room when Stacey sauntered in. She was carrying a folder under her left arm which she placed on the table.
“Good evening, officers,” she greeted cheerily.
“Good evening, Stacey,” Walter and Jerome chorused smilingly.
“How you doing, Stacey?” Edeeth asked.
“I’m doing fine, E. Thanks for asking.” Stacey turned to Chrome and said in a reasonably subdued tone, “Good evening, Chrome – sir…” Something about Chrome’s presence intimidated her; it also didn’t help that she nursed a crush on him.
“Yes Stacey, what’s up? Did Manny find anything else?”
“Yes, Manny – I mean, Dr. Emmanuel…he sent me here.” She opened the folder in her hand and passed copies of her superior’s report to the officers – first to Chrome, then to the others. “As you can see from the reports you are holding, we have deduced the origin and composition of the metal object that was found within the wound on the victim’s head. It is aluminum and from its density we deduced it’s the kind usually used in coating sports equipment.”
“What kind of sports equipment?” Jerome asked
“If you flip to the next page” – papers rustled as they flipped – “you will see that, with the aid of the 3D computer diagram, the most likely sports equipment is a –”
“9-iron golf club,” Chrome cut in before she could finish.
“Yes sir, that’s what we think it is too,” Stacey said, smiling.
There was a brief hush again; it lasted infinitesimally before, as if on cue, both Walter and Edeeth exclaimed, “Oh shit!”
They looked at each other and Walter tossed the evidence bag at Jerome. “Here, Jay, you run the analysis.” He turned to Chrome, who already knew what he was going to ask and nodded in approval.
“You get going,” he said. “Jay will run the DNA analysis.”
Edeeth was on her feet, and both officers made their way out the conference room and towards the building’s exit.