Raliyat stepped into a room and owned it. Bamshak was in awe.
In the Students’ Affairs Office, Raliyat commandeered an empty office used as storage space for students’ logbooks and both police officers stood on either side of the phone as ringing filled the room.
“Hallo!” Mrs Atete’s voice boomed on speaker-phone.
“Hello, Mrs Atete, this is Inspector Raliyat from the Kano State Police Command speaking.”
“I am the IPO—”
“…investigating the murder of Mr. Edom. I learnt he reported directly to you. Is that right, Mrs. Atete?”
“Yes, you are right. Edom, him work under me. Am so sad about the news.”
“I understand also that you’re currently in Abuja, answering a query.”
“Yes, but no query o. Am not answer any query. His just complain that one student make about me and I come to explain myself here.”
“I see. So when are you due back?”
“On Monday, inshallah.”
“Ok, I would like to speak to you then, see if there’s anything you know that might help in our investigation.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
“One more thing, Mrs. Atete… Is there any other official from Kano campus who is due to be in Abuja this weekend, or who is there already?”
“Some of the lecturers in Kano teach in Abuja, too. But none of them was in Abuja as of now.”
“Anyone expected in Abuja today, or at any time before the weekend, on official business?”
“Official business? I don’t think. Except it’s to come and lecture.”
“Thank you very much, Mrs. Atete, you’ve been most helpful. See you Monday.”
“Dr. Yesufu has no business in Abuja and might not even be headed there,” Raliyat said as she terminated the call.
“He might have a house in Kano town,” Sergeant Bamshak offered.
“Yes, but who can we wring such information out of? Definitely not the Professor.”
“We could ask some other colleague of his.”
“Yes, the place is swarming with them,” Inspector Rali muttered sarcastically.
“I think we should pay that Assistant-Porter a visit now.”
Mark, the Assistant-Porter for C Block, looked like a teenager but carried himself with airs that betrayed him to be much older.
When asked about his relationship with Mr. Edom, Mark said, “We worked together.” And that was it.
Inspector Rali glanced briefly over her shoulder at Bamshak. His colleague, a man who had been depicted as the epitome of kindness in the last few hours, had just died. Shouldn’t Mark be more affected? And seeing that he wasn’t, what did that mean? If Mark, who should have known Mr. Edom better than most on the campus, reacted with such indifference to his death, what did that say about Mr. Edom? Was he as saintly as had been asserted, or had everyone been beatifying the dead?
“Do you know where Mr. Edom was coming from when he was murdered?”
“He went to drink at Daka Tsalle,” Mark replied, deadpan. It was clear Mark disliked Mr. Edom and was unapologetic about it. Death had done little, if anything, to water down the animosity.
Bamshak could easily imagine Mark wishing Mr Edom ill, but not enough to harm him. That would have been too easy. Mark wasn’t even pretending to care.
“Did Mr. Edom go alone to Daka Tsalle?”
“He went with a student.”
At this, Inspector Raliyat sat up straighter.
“Any idea who the student is?”
“All I know is he stays in N hostel.”
“Anything else you can think of that might help?”
“I suppose that’s all for now. You’ve been most helpful, Mark. I’ll let you know if we need anything more from you.”
They started to head out, Inspector Raliyat leading the way, when suddenly she stopped in the doorway and Sergeant Bamshak bumped into her. He took a quick step back, mouthing an apology, and for a second he could have sworn he saw Inspector Raliyat smile.
“Mark,” Inspector Raliyat called, “does Mr. Edom have a car?”
“He just has the motorcycle parked outside.”
Inspector Raliyat paused for a minute, and then returned into the room. “If his motorcycle is parked out here, it means he got to Daka Tsalle some other way. The student Mr Edom went to Daka Tsalle with — do you know if he has a car?”
“I overheard Mr. Edom telling the student on the phone to come and pick him at mammy market so they could go to Daka Tsalle together.”
“He couldn’t have done it, could he?” Bamshak asked after they left.
“Not a chance. I think we should be wary of those more devastated than they have a right to be. Our killer would more likely be amongst those.”
“Why do you think they fell out, Mr. Edom and Mark?”
“What makes you think they were ever chummy?”
Inspector Raliyat was making notes: doodles and diagrams, names and adjectival jottings on the bearers of those names. As her pen slid across pages in a frenzy, so did the chatter:
“There’s Professor Yilzum” — she wrote his name and appended a question-mark beside it — “and then there’s Dr. Yesufu… The student with whom Mr. Edom had been out drinking before he was murdered…” She drew an ‘S’. “Skid-marks, whose car was it…? The student? Let’s say it’s the student… He could have killed Mr. Edom in his car, thrown him out of it, and peeled away.”
“It’s not possible that someone could have inflicted the injuries on Mr. Edom in a car, except he was drugged and lying in the backseat on his stomach,” Bamshak countered. “Wasn’t it you who said there had been a struggle?”
“What if there were two attackers in the car, and the killer attacked Mr. Edom from behind?”
“That makes the neck wound plausible but not all those wounds on his back.”
“What if they stabbed him in the neck, took him out of the car, and stabbed him several times in the back before taking off?”
“Would you have done that?”
The question seemed to catch Inspector Raliyat by surprise. “No. I don’t suppose I would have. Killing Mr. Edom in the car doesn’t make much sense.”
“What’s puzzling,” Bamshak said, “is that Mr. Edom was walking down that path when he was murdered. He had been out drinking with a car owner. Why hadn’t the student offered to drop him off at the porter’s lodge?”
“Because he wanted to trail him and kill him?”
“Or because he didn’t like him.”
A frown of concentration crossed Raliyat’s brows. “Male bonding isn’t exactly my turf, but do guys drink beer with people they don’t like?”
“If they have to. And then, it’s just the beer and no extra niceties.”
“Like saving one the stress of a long walk in the dark?”
Sergeant Bamshak nodded. “It appears like Mr. Edom was out drinking a lot the day he died. Melvin saw him at Tiga, remember? And now, according to Mark, he was at Daka Tsalle, too. We need to find out where he was first.”
“I’d wager he was at Tiga first. Melvin said he saw Mr. Edom and Dr. Yesufu arguing near Dr Yesufu’s SUV. It must have been light outside.”
“That would mean Mr. Edom went to Tiga, had an altercation with Dr. Yesufu, returned to campus, hitched a ride with some student and changed venue to a bar in Daka Tsalle.”
“Sounds about right.”
“Where do we start asking about the student Mr. Edom went to Daka Tsalle with?”
“We don’t,” Raliyat said. “We’ll just get a list of the names of all the students in N hostel who have cars, pick out those known to be chummy with Mr. Edom or those who have been known to go watering-hole hopping with him, and then we question them, put the facts to them and see how they react.”
“You’re absolutely brilliant!” Bamshak gave out before he could catch himself.
A look passed between them neither was willing to test.
“Go home, change into casual clothes, and we’ll go out for a drink,” Raliyat said finally.
“You and I?”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Raliyat chuckled.
“So where are we going?”
“To Daka Tsalle, of course.”
And then realization came to Bamshak. They were chasing a lead. What had he been thinking? “I could go alone and report to you tomorrow,” he offered.
“What, you think I can’t handle being in a bar?”
He shook his head. It wasn’t her he was worried about.
“Don’t worry, Bamshak. I promise not to bore you. It would be fun, but it’d be work. Work and fun. We’re about to make inventing history.”
And it made Bamshak wary, the possibility they could have a bit too much fun. Police business or not, the both of them casually dressed and out about town was going to feel a lot like a date.
The thought made Bamshak uneasy.
Written by Chiedozie