The surveillance room of the Jos Airport was a small room at the far right side of the top floor of the complex. The terminal had four floors, excluding the subterranean floor which was used as a car park for airport personnel. As the officers and their guide walked up the flights of steps to the top floor, Chude had put in a call to a friend of his who worked as a security personnel. The plan was for him to meet the trio outside the surveillance room and help them get in. When they did, the officers were introduced to the head-security officer in charge of the room. They explained what they needed and the security officer obliged. The officers observed how high-tech the security equipments within the room were. In spite of themselves, they were impressed.
“So, what exactly do you want to see?” the security officer, who had been introduced to them as Chibuzo, asked the officers. He had settled his considerable bulk on his seat and fixed beady eyes on the officers.
“We want to see the security footage from the baggage collection room for economy class passengers,” Jerome replied. Those who travelled first class had a different baggage room.
“Ok, do you have a specific time in mind?”
“The time the last flight from Uyo landed. That should be around” – Jerome looked at the manifest – “20:00 hours.”
The head-security officer instructed another security personnel, who sat behind a large desk before a state-of-the-art desktop computer. Just behind the desk was a wall with an array of 10.1 inch flat screens embedded into it. Each screen showed a different part of the airport. The security personnel punched a few buttons on the console before him and immediately one of the screens, which had ‘PBS’ tagged underneath it, came on and the officers could see the baggage room. The time displayed on the top-left corner of the screen read 20:02. The baggage room had very few people standing around in it, most of them uniformed security officers. There was no luggage on the conveyor as it moved. Chibuzo asked his subordinate to fast-forward the playback. The man pushed a lever on the console and the time zipped to 20:07. On the screen, the people in the room could see that there was much activity in the room now. People were trickling in from the lobby which passengers just arriving into the airport would walk through to get their luggage from the baggage room. Edeeth and Jerome watched closely, not allowing the slightest detail pass them by. It took about a minute before Edeeth caught sight of someone.
“There!” she said.
“Freeze frame,” Chibuzo instantly instructed.
The image on the screen froze and Edeeth pointed to a spot on the screen. “Can you magnify this region and increase the picture quality?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” the man behind the console answered and did as instructed. A push of a few buttons here, a swing of a lever there, and in no time the image was magnified and the resolution was changed to give a finer picture. The officers looked closely at a man within the shot. He was wearing a dark brown jacket and a face cap. His face was not clear from the angle he stood but there was something familiar about him.
“Can you play forward in slow motion?” Edeeth asked.
The man behind the console nodded and did as he was asked. The image on the screen began to move frame by frame. They saw the man move slowly until he bent to pick up his bag – which was unusually shaped for a travelling bag –, and then he turned and faced the screen as he walked out of the room. The man behind the console froze the image at that point and the CSI officers were looking into the face of a man whose features were familiar to them. A man they were surprised to see had evidently travelled via economy class to Jos. He was Chief Anthony Scott.
“What the hell is going on here?” Jerome hissed at Edeeth in surprise, not really expecting an answer.
Chief Scott was the last person they thought they would see. Edeeth watched the screen, her brow furrowed as she pondered something. She eventually asked Chibuzo if there was a way to follow the man on the screen.
“The cameras end just outside the arrivals lounge. If he doesn’t have a car waiting for him, it would be impossible to track him from there,” Chibuzo answered. He asked his subordinate behind the console to bring up the security footage from outside the arrivals lounge. When the screen changed to show the outside of the terminal, the officers saw the man they believed to be Chief Scott standing near the road; then he suddenly moved toward the left of the screen. He walked on until he was out of the camera range.
“Well, that’s all we have,” the man behind the console said.
“There’s no telling where he went from there,” Chibuzo added.
Edeeth and Jerome looked at each other and silently agreed that it was time to leave. They thanked Chibuzo and his colleague and asked if they could make available a copy of the footage they had just seen. Chibuzo assured them he would do so, and the officers, led by Chude, left the surveillance room and made their way back to the ground floor of the terminal. As they walked, Edeeth kept on pondering on what they had just seen. She heard Jerome say beside her, “Should we tell Chrome about this now?”
“Not yet,” she answered. “Let’s get all the facts together. Then we’ll report it in the morning.”
Jerome heaved a small sigh. Thoughts he’d had earlier about his speedy return to the hotel to order some room service and hit the bed immediately after dinner were starting to look like they won’t become reality; at least, not for some time. “Ok. So what do we do now?”
“I don’t know. It’s just so annoying that his trail went cold outside the terminal.”
Chude interjected, “If I may, officers. If the man you were watching on the screen went to the left of the terminal, he most likely went to the Executive car rentals within the airport premises.”
Jerome and Edeeth looked at themselves, and then at Chude. “Executive car rentals?” Edeeth asked.
“Yes. They have been rendering their services within the airport for over a year now.”
“What kind of cars do they rent out?” Jerome asked.
“All kinds of cars – sedans, jeeps, you name it.” Chude paused, and then said, “If you want, I can check them out for you and let you know by morning.”
The officers wanted to turn down his offer and do it themselves, but the fatigue that was battering their insides was beginning to tell on them. Edeeth was the one who gave the man permission to carry on his inquiry. “Ok Chude, find out what you can. The likely name used to rent the car would be Ememesi Scott. We want to know where he is headed and at what time he rented vehicle.”
“Ok, got it,” Chude said, his eyes brimming with his excitement.
“Make sure you get back to us first thing in the morning,” Jerome said.
“Sure, officers, glad I can be of help again.”
The officers bade him goodnight and made their way to the car park. Jerome started the engine and before long they were back on the expressway, making their way towards Anguldi, where the hotel which housed the team was situated.
Walter had immediately called on the nearest nurse he could find after he found Anderson awake on his bed. He was presently being attended to by the doctor on call and a few nursing staff. Walter watched from outside as the medical team checked the old man’s vitals and asked him some questions. They removed the tube in his nose and shut off the EKG machine. The nurses left the doctor alone with the patient and after what seemed to be an eternity for Walter, the doctor came out as well.
“Doctor, how is he?”
“He is doing very well, though he’s still weak.”
Walter peered into the room. The man was lying down with his back slightly inclined but his eyes were open and his breathing was steady. Walter turned back to the doctor and asked, “Any chance I could go in to see him?” The doctor was about to say something, but Walter quickly chipped in, “Don’t worry, I won’t say anything to get him upset.”
“Please don’t. His heart is still weak. Any more excitement and he might have another episode.”
“I’ll be careful,” Walter assured the other man. The doctor nodded and walked away.
Walter walked into the recovery room. The old man noticed that someone had entered and he slowly looked to his left to see the police officer. His eyes flickered tiredly over the officer, and then he sighed and looked away. Walter moved to the side of his bed and stood, wondering what he was going to say, how he was going to begin.
“If you are going to apologize,” Anderson suddenly said in a weak, groggy voice, “better do it now.” There was no anger in his voice.
“I’m sorry for causing your heart attack, sir,” Walter intoned.
There was no response from Anderson. A few moments ticked by. Walter was about to turn away and leave the room when the old man replied. “Tell me the truth. Is he…is Jackson really dead?”
Walter turned around to face him. He leaned forward to look at the old man’s face. He was staring into space, his eyes glassy with sudden tears. Walter felt a rush of guilt for what he was about to do, but he knew he had to tell him the truth. “Yes sir. Jackson Essien is dead.”
The sigh that surged from the man was trembly and weak. He blinked hard, and the beads of the tears trickled down the sides of his face. The man was in obvious pain, and Walter, touched by it, picked up his gnarly hand and held it tenderly, silently comforting him. They remained still for a while.
Then Anderson said what the officer hadn’t expected to hear. “Jackson…” – his voice was feeble but the words were strong – “my son…is dead…”
To say Walter was surprised would be mildly stating the strength of his reaction to what he heard Anderson Gyang say. His lower jaw slowly dropped as a stunned look suffused his face. He stared at the invalid with disbelief, wondering, fleetingly so, if he had just told a joke and wanted to see how the officer would react to it. But the man lying on the bed, looking all broken up, his body trembling slightly with the strength of his silent grief, was anything but amused. Walter blinked rapidly and shook his head to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating from the fatigue he felt.
“Sir…” he began, “I don’t understand, sir…I thought I just heard you say Jackson was your son.” He fixed an intent gaze on the man.
Suddenly, Anderson wasn’t moving, and his eyes stared unblinkingly ahead of him. Walter was worried if he had caused him another stroke and was about to go into a panic when Anderson spoke in a grave voice, “Yes, my dear boy, you heard me right.” He paused for a moment to sit up, an endeavour Walter helped him with. Then he continued. “Jackson is my son.” He faced Walter as he said the words. He wasn’t crying anymore, though the sadness remained.
“I don’t understand.” Walter was shaking his head slightly in bewilderment.
Anderson sighed. He looked down at his hands and said, “I might as well tell you everything.”