The gates of the Bukuru residence of the Scotts were flung open as the black SUV belonging to the commissioner drove in and parked underneath the linoleum shade, at the far end of the compound, which protected the cars parked there from the stultifying rays of the sun. The driver got out and opened the door for his boss while one of the army personnel who manned the gate opened the other door for Monica. When she got out, she headed straight for the front door, one which was opened by an attentive steward; she walked past the steward without acknowledging him or responding to his greeting. She could hear her father loudly reprimanding the military men as she made her way to her room and locked the door behind her. She walked over to her bed and sat down. Her eyes were red and from the way she was breathing, it wouldn’t be long before another wave of tears would start falling from them. She opened the drawer on the side of her dresser. There was an envelope inside it. She opened it and brought out a piece of paper. She glanced through it, and sighed deeply. She grabbed the framed picture which sat on top of her dresser. It was that of her and Jackson, together. She looked from the picture to the paper, and whatever that was in the paper must have been some sort of connection with her dead lover, because she suddenly felt overwhelmed by a surge of emotions.
“I’m sorry…” she whispered. “I’m so sor–” She couldn’t manage it. The lump in her throat resurfaced, too thick to be swallowed, and a fat tear trickled down her cheek. Another followed, and then another. And soon, she had started to cry again. Deep, bone-crushing cries, full-body sobs. Just when she thought she couldn’t cry anymore. Something inside her gave way again, and now she sobbed without pause or let up. For several moments, her grief overtook her, and soon began to dwindle to a stop.
that was when she heard the sound of footsteps coming toward her door. She began sniffling her sobs to a stop, dabbing at her moist face when a knock sounded on her door.
“Honey, are you in there?” her father asked from behind the locked door.
Hoping to mask the fact that she’d been crying, Monica spoke in a hoarse voice, “I’m here, daddy. I just need some time alone.”
“Ok, dear.” From the other side, Anthony had begun to back away from the door. Then he said again, “In a short while, I’ll be leaving for a charity dinner being organized by the country club. I was wondering if you would like to accompany me.”
“I told you, dad, I want to be alone for now.”
“Ok, what about tomorrow?”
“What about tomorrow?”
“Well, there will be a charity golf tournament at the country club. I happen to be one of the contenders.” There was some pride in Anthony’s voice, as though he wanted to impress his own daughter.
That made Monica dredge up a small smile in amusement. “Let’s see how tomorrow goes, daddy,” she answered.
“Ok, dear. Now make sure you get some rest. Have the cook whip up something for you to eat; I know how you like not to eat when something is bothering you. In fact, I’ll instruct her to send up a tray to your room in a short while. I will be back home quite late, so don’t wait up.”
“Ok, daddy. Bye.”
Monica listened from behind the door as his footsteps receded down the hallway. She was about to make her way back to the bed when a sudden wave of nausea overwhelmed her. She ran into the bathroom adjoining her room and let out the contents of her stomach into the toilet bowl. She threw up some more of her lunch before standing up; she flushed, and then washed her face and rinsed her mouth in the wash basin. She looked at herself in the mirror in front of her. A thought fleeted through her mind. She had to do the smart thing. She was going to have to run away. She was going to run away from everything – the police, her father, the ghost of Jackson…from it all. She had just left the bathroom when she got the nauseous feeling again.
“Maybe tomorrow,” she muttered as she fled back into the bathroom.
Walter drove erratically down the highway towards the Kuru suburbs where Sir Anderson resided. He kept swearing under his breath as he overtook vehicle after vehicle. Luckily, the traffic was light.
After checking to make sure her seatbelt was safely secured for the umpteenth time, Edeeth said, “Dude, take it easy.”
“I know, I know!” he snapped back as he swerved past another car. The look on his face was enough to tell Edeeth what was going on in his mind. She was about to say something when Walter suddenly blurted, “I can’t believe I didn’t realize it from the beginning!”
“Come on, Wally,” Edeeth tried pacifying him. “There was no way we would have guessed. He just didn’t look the part of a killer.”
“Yeah…well…I know” Walter muttered, not wanting to be mollified. He looked at the digital clock on the dash board. The time was 4:35pm. “This time, he’s not going to get away from me!” he gritted out as he punched the accelerator.
Jerome was in the forensic lab when he remembered he left his note on the table in the conference room, after the meeting they had. He was clad in a white lab coat and was wearing protective goggles and latex gloves. He was already on the second stage of the analysis – since the Abraham Smith Method was a process of three stages – when he had the urge to retrieve his notebook from the conference room. He made to stand up, and saw Chrome walk into the lab. He was holding a notebook in his hand. It was Jerome’s notebook. Chrome took one of the lab coats hanging on the wall close to the exit and put it on. Then he walked up to where Jerome sat and placed the notebook on the table in front of him.
“This is yours, correct?”
“Interesting.” Chrome paused for a moment before continuing, “I went through your notes. You seem to have a lead on something, care to share what it is?”
“Well, sir,” Jerome began, “when you asked me to get information on incoming flights to Jos from Uyo, I had a hunch.” He paused to check the equipment he was using to run the analysis, and then continued, “While I waited for my contact at the airport to return my call, I thought about the circumstances surrounding Jackson Essien and his family. It’s not every day an entire family lineage is wiped out without any cause. I’m also an orphan, so I could relate with this victim in a sense.” He switched off the centrifuge which was being used to separate a solution vital to the analysis, punched some keys on a keyboard which was linked to the computer beside him and went on, “I’ve often wondered about the way my parents died. I mean, I knew how they did, but I always felt there was more to their death than meets the eye. That’s why I became an officer. Something about that got me thinking. How did Jackson’s parents die? Investigations showed it was an accident, but I still wasn’t satisfied with that, so I called the Akwa-Ibom State police command to send a detailed report on everything they have concerning the case, including pictures of fingerprints found at the scene…anything that could be of importance.”
When he was done talking, Chrome nodded and said, “That was very good thinking, Jerome. So how soon do we expect their reply?”
“Well…uh, sir, since I mentioned to the inspector in charge of the command that you were the one asking for the information, he assured me that I would get it in about two hours. So that should be in the next thirty minutes.”
Chrome smiled. “That was quick thinking.” He glanced at the analytical equipment that was in front of Jerome and asked, “So where are we on the DNA analysis?”
Jerome switched on a monitor and said, “I’m through with the first stage of the analysis.” He pointed to the screen, which had a series of numbers rolling down at a very fast pace. “I’ve fed the information into the computer. The A. Smith program is already running and we should be getting results in a couple of hours.”
Chrome looked at the screen for a few seconds and said, “I’ll take over here. You work on your leads. Get to the airport and find out what you can from there. When you’re done there, you can call it a day. Report all your findings to me in the morning.”
“Ok, sir,” Jerome replied as he took off his goggles and gloves. He grabbed his notebook from the table and before he left the lab, he hung up the lab coat he was wearing.
The time was 4:55pm when Walter pulled up to the gate that enclosed the quarters of both the murder victim and Anderson Gyang. He parked right in front of the gate, sealing it off. There was a taxi inside, parked in front of Anderson’s flat. Edeeth got out of the car first and walked over the Walter’s side as he got out.
She stood in front of him, said, “Now be cool. Let’s handle this professionally.” And then, she walked towards Sir Anderson’s flat.
At that moment, the man came out of his house bearing a large bag and dragging a suitcase on the ground. He was surprised to see the officers and the look on his face said it all. “Officers, it’s a surprise to see you both again so soon. Hope all is well.” He dragged the suitcase to the cab and the cab driver opened the boot.
Walter seemed ready to lunge forward and, as if reading her partner’s mind, Edeeth immediately stepped in front of him and said, “That’s one heavy suitcase, sir. Travelling somewhere, are we?”
Anderson divided a patronizing look between the two of them before answering, “As a matter of fact, yes. I’m travelling somewhere. And before you ask, the destination is none of your business.” He flicked a pointed glance at his wristwatch and continued, “I seem to be running late. Now if you’ll excuse, I have to get going before I miss my flight.”
Walter was growing impatient and Edeeth could sense this. She spoke again before he could, “Sir, we are still investigating the whereabouts of Jackson Essien.”
Anderson stopped in his tracks. “Whereabouts?” he said.
“Yes, his whereabouts. We came earlier today and asked you a few questions about him, since he wasn’t at home.”
“Ah yes, I recall. Well, he’s still not at home…and I doubt he will be back tonight.” There was something faintly surreptitious about the smirk that now parted his lips. Before Edeeth could comment on the source of his amusement, the smile vanished, and he opened the door of the taxi and slipped the bag he was holding into it. He then straightened and said very coolly to the officers, “If that will be all, could you please get your automobile out of the way? I really need to be on my way.”
The affected impatience in his voice was the last straw for Walter. He walked past Edeeth, planted himself before the other man and said in a raised tone, “We know you killed Jackson!”
Anderson stopped midway entering the vehicle. He straightened again and shot a puzzled look at the belligerent officer in front of him. “What did you say?”
Either he truly was surprised, Edeeth thought as she watched the man’s reaction to her partner’s outburst, or he was an actor worth an Academy Award.
“I said we have overwhelming evidence which shows that you murdered Jackson Essien,” Walter said steely.
“Jackson…murdered?” Anderson echoed the two words, his voice not much louder than a whisper.
Before Walter could speak, Edeeth jumped in. “Yes sir, we found his body in the early hours of today. That’s what we are investigating.”
Anderson took a step back from the cab and kept on muttering, “Jackson…dead?” His breathing was becoming labored and he began to tremble. Edeeth knew something was wrong, but Walter still wasn’t having any of that. He charged forward but Edeeth snatched at his arm, her firm grip pulling him up short.
He shot her a look of annoyance. “Why are we wasting time? We know he did it. Let’s bring him in and end this charade!”
Edeeth’s voice was quiet and hard when she said, “I told you to keep cool!” She was about to say something else when she heard a sudden increase in the labored breathing coming from Anderson. Walter heard it too, and both of them turned to see that the elderly man sweating profusely. His body was weaving dangerously where he stood, and the taxi-driver’s worried gaze was on him too.
The man kept on mumbling, “Jackson…it can’t be…dead…no….it can’t be…”
“Calm down sir…please calm down…” Edeeth lifted placating hands as she moved closer to him.
But the shock he’d been hit with was apparently too much for his sixty-five year old body. He suddenly collapsed with a heavy thud on the ground. Edeeth ran to him and unbuttoned his shirt. “Oh no! He’s going into cardiac arrest!” She looked at Walter, who was stunned at what had just transpired, and said, “Don’t just stand there, call an ambulance!”
As if broken free of a trance, Walter sprinted to their car and radioed for an ambulance. Edeeth stayed with the old man as the taxi driver stood a few feet away, visibly shaken.