Bade has never been in a police interrogation room before, but even though they had sat him there for almost an hour, alone, he knew they were watching him somehow. There was a mirror bolted to the wall by his left. It was either through that or through the camera facing him at the far end of the wall. They were watching him; he had seen enough of American films to be sure of that.
Lagos State Police Command laid along Oduduwa Street in Ikeja, Lagos; a building quite conspicuous for its purpose. Bade was becoming terrified gradually; a bit of anxiety, a bit of fear. He had faced his studies so that he would be the one educating the children on how to not end up in police cells, educating the people so that they wouldn’t find themselves just where he was.
He jerked his knees and tapped on the table in front of him for another twenty minutes before, thankfully, the door finally opened and a man came inside with a box in his hand. The room was stuffy. There was a ceiling fan looking fanciful above them but it wasn’t on.
Bade perspired copiously. On a normal day, he would wipe his face with a hanky but he couldn’t even leave his house with a pair of slippers not to talk of a handkerchief. The man who entered was in a striped shirt, shaven head, tall and brawny with a tiny moustache but clean chin.
He looked happy like he had come with good news and the man who just died back there was nothing to be sad about. His eyes met Bade’s as he drew the door closed behind him.
“Oh, this place is stifling,” he said as he fiddled with a wall switch and the ceiling fan came on with a soft screech that reminded Bade of his hostel at the university days.
Bade was anxious, he wouldn’t be sure of what he was supposed to think; whether he was to consider himself a criminal or someone who needed police protection. The man lowered the box on the table before him and sat directly opposite of him.
“Mr. Bade Adebanjo.” He extended his hand. “I am Sergeant Mustapha Shuaib, but you can call me Mustapha as my friends do. I am the IPO for this case, General Investigations Unit. Sorry for keeping you here this long. You know… police business, put this and that in order, that’s what we do and it’s quite tasking,” he said in a smiling face.
Bade only nodded.
“Mr. Adebanjo, hope you’re okay. You’re sweating and… are you all right?”
“I am. I’m okay, thank you.”
“Yes, it’s just the heat, that’s all, and since the fan is on now, so…”
“I hardly need fan in harmattan, but it’s okay, let’s be thankful to God. Heat is a small thing. They said you’re not bruised anywhere even with the accident.”
Bade looked at him, bruised? What accident?”
“What accident? I didn’t have any accident. I’m not bruised.”
“Okay, that’s good. You know, I was bothered maybe you should be looked at by a doctor but since you said you’re good… The way we found your house, chairs askew, everything thrown about, the André, we could only thank God you got to the postman first before he got to you.”
Bade was looking at him intently, trying to get what accusation he was trying to logically slam in his face.
“If you don’t mind, our medical department could take a look at you immediately after this… interview. But first of all, you’re going to help us with a statement. After that, we shall talk and… and… that should be all.”
“You said the post man got to me or I got to the post man first or something, I don’t understand that.”
“Be patient, just write the statement first.”
He gave him papers, guided him, and after Bade was through writing, he collected the statement, sat back to read it, again and again, and finally he placed it in a folder from which he had withdrawn the papers.
“So,” he sighed. “Can you now tell me how it went down? How everything happened.”
Bade wanted to say he had written it in the statement but then he realized the sergeant knew but was only probably trying to see if he would contradict himself. So, he told him the story all over again.
“You mean, a guy just came and just died like that?”
“Yes, like that.” Bade nodded.
“Shot by a ghost or demon you mean?”
Bade scoffed then.
“Yes, he came, he handed me the box, staggered back and just died like that. People were there, my neighbours saw it.”
“Hmmm… but our report says otherwise, Mr. Adebanjo.”
“What does your report say?”
“That people only came out after you screamed. We questioned your neighbors already, they said they only found you with the dead man, nothing before that except… the neighbor above your flat said he heard struggles, things breaking, glass shattering and all.”
“My neighbor up flat said that?”
“Yes, he did.”
“Wa—wait—wait—wait! What are you trying to say now? Are you saying I killed the man?”
“It could have been for self defense.”
“I’m an educated man for God’s sake! I have two Master’s degrees. Why would I kill anyone?”
“We don’t know, that’s what I want you to explain to me, you know, on the sly. I am your friend and I’m here to help you. Killing could be for self defense. No one would blame you for defending yourself? It’s not like killing is bad or something. In fact, you—”
“I didn’t kill him!” interjected Bade, almost screaming. “Ask the officers who came. They said the postman had been shot twelve hours before that time.”
“Almost the same time your neighbours heard struggling noise from your apartment.”
“Oh my God, what neighbours—what concerns anyone about how I arrange my room? I threw things about because I was angry, that’s all. It has nothing to do with… to do with some… postman dying?”
“Mr. Adebanjo, calm down, I’m not accusing you of anything now, am I?”
“You are. Wait, am I under arrest? I need to know.”
“You’re only here to help us, Mr. Adebanjo. You don’t have to be, if you’re resourceful enough. You see, we need your help in understanding why that man in the fridge out there died, your help, not to lock you up. And after then we’d also help you s—that we can just… but if you keep nagging like this ehn.”
“I’m not nagging. I didn’t kill him.”
“Tell me about what happened in your room.”
“Ah, Jesus Christ! Okay. This is what happened. When I’m mad… I mean, when I’m angry, I break things. I was angry, that was why. My neighbor should have told you that tha—that wouldn’t be my first time of doing that.”
“But… why were you angry? Would you care to tell me why?”
“It’s my fiancée. She left me.”
“Hmmm… your fiancée left you.” He sat forward in his chair, picked his pen out alongside a jotter and scribbled some stuffs there, and then returned the jotter and the pen.
“What’s her name?” he asked.
“Poor girl broke a gentleman’s heart!”
He picked his phone out, tapped on the screen briefly and pocketed it afterward. Then he held unto the box on the table gently, withdrew a photograph of the deceased postman, taken after his death, and pushed it slowly to him on the table.
“Who is he?” he asked.
Bade bent over the picture intently.
“It’s the postman,” he retorted.
“Yes, I know that already, you haven’t told me about him.”
Bade closed his eyes to avoid tears coming out. He shook his head simultaneously. He felt like he was being tormented by the devil.
“But have I not told you that I’ve never seen him before like what, a thousand times? I wrote it in the statement, you read it and then I said it again. I also told the officers who brought me here. How many times do I have to tell you? Until he brought that box, I never saw him before.”
“But he can’t just drop from the sky to deliver a parcel to you, can he?”
“He was a postman. Postmen deliver parcels to people they don’t know, people who don’t know them.”
“That’s the problem, Mr. Adebanjo. He was not a postman.”
“Then what was he?”
“You tell us. You’re the one who knew him.”
“I don’t know him.”
“Now you don’t?”
“I never said I did? Please, am I under arrest? I need to know. ‘Cause if I am, this is the point where I call my lawyer.”
“Then what the hell are you trying to do? Are you trying to implicate me or something?”
Sergeant Shuaib reached for the box and brought out another photograph but this time of a woman in Yoruba attire, in a sitting position, carrying a purse on her laps. She wasn’t smiling in the picture, like she was not taking the photograph by her will or perhaps smiling was not necessarily a thing of the photograph back in her time. She was beautiful, that was not difficult to realize even on an 87-year-old black-and-white photograph.
“Who is this woman?” Sergeant Shuaib asked, pushing the photograph forward slowly like he had done with the first one.
Bade glanced over it briefly and announced that he had never seen her before.
“Really, can you at least pick the picture and look at it more closely?”
Bade picked it and looked. That was when some noise broke out at the door, like two people arguing and the door was finally flung open.
“Mustapha,” the beefy man that came in barked. “It’s becoming unbecoming of your unit to be hijacking our cases! Somebody was shot in the back, in the middle of the street, that’s a Homicide case, isn’t it? What’s your business with it?”
“Calm down! Calm down! Wetin naw? Wetin you dey talk now? Your unit dey there when we go carry the body? Whether Homicide, General Investigations, Anti-Robbery Squad or even the anti-fraud section, do we not all belong to the same department? Are we not serving a common goal?”
“There is your rhetoric!” snapped the beefy man. “This case is ours. I am taking this to the Area Commander! Enough is enough!”
He stormed off, leaving a woman in police uniform, a Corporal, rather too fat to be an officer gaping at his back. She finally looked at Sergeant Shuaib in raised hands and shrugged, then she drew the door closed and only the wailing of the called suspects in holding cells was audible.
While they had their argument over whose jurisdiction the case was supposed to be, Bade had looked at the picture closely, and, something was awaken in him, a sense of acquaintance with the woman in the photograph. He felt a certain ignition of memories he couldn’t actually express. He had seen the woman before, in fact, many times, but he couldn’t tell where or when. It was actually more than that, the lady’s face felt too familiar even though he couldn’t place the exact when or where.
“What is it? Do you know her?” Sergeant Shuaib asked eagerly, having seen the expression on Bade’s face.
“I do know this lady,” Bade tapped on the picture. “I know her very well or so… it seems but… I can’t… I can’t just say where yet. But I do know her. I’ve seen her before, several times. Why are you showing me this picture?”
“Because it’s from the parcel.”
“So, someone sent this to me? But why would someone send this to me?”
“We don’t know. We were hoping you would know.”
“I don’t know… yet. Is there something else you’ve not shown me?”
“We are… not authorized to… let’s just say this is what we’re allowed to pick out of it for now.”
“Pick out of… all right then. So, what next now? I’m hungry. I’d love to return home.”
“Of course. You could use the time to think on where you met the lady, but I’m sorry, you can’t take the photograph. You could snap it with your phone if you like.”
“It’s okay. That should do.”
“This is my card. Call me if there’s anything. Tomorrow, anytime from 12pm, you can return here so that we could continue from where we’ve stopped today.”
“Okay. I do hope you make progress with your investigations. I’m more than eager to see why a shot person would show up at my door to deliver a parcel to me.”
“We’ll show you everything tomorrow, by God’s grace. You’re free to go now. I’ll have some officers escort you to your house. Thanks for your cooperation so far. This way…”
He snapped the photograph with his phone. He was escorted outside where the car that was to take him was waiting. Sergeant Shuaib called some officers to take him home. And after the car sped off, the fat Corporal walked up to Sergeant Shuaib and they both gazed at the clear road quietly for a while until the Corporal asked why he let him go so quickly. What did they discuss that was so short?”
“It’s the best way. This is a very… weird case. We can’t discover anything if we keep him here. I don’t understand any part of this yet.”
“You don’t… and I guess that makes it more interesting for you, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, I like mysteries.”
“What about… you know who? Hope he’s not going to pry the case out of your hands.”
“It won’t be the first time he tried and failed. Let him try. Taiwo, I want two officers on that man day and night incognito. I want to see who visits him, who he visits, what he does inside the house, who he speaks with, where he goes, everything. That way, we’ll know if he’s hiding something.”
“I name the candidates, you give the order. You’re the boss.”
“Make a list of potent officers then.”
“I will but why is it so important?”
“A picture lady he just claimed to know, if she’s alive, would be over one hundred years old now. So, she’s not likely to be alive. The picture was taken in April, 1938 and where was he then?”
“Definitely not born. And he claims to know her?”
“Then he’s hiding something.”
“Yes, that’s what I’d firstly think but he could’ve said he doesn’t know her, you know, to simply lie.”
“So, you’re saying he knows a dead person?”
“C’mon, how can I say that? Let’s go and look at the parcel. There’s a diary I want you to go through for me, and a load of pictures.”
“Okay sir. You’re the boss.”
* * *
Somewhere in Nepal, a bald lanky man ran through the gates, across the garden and finally through the door of a once crowded mansion. The mansion as it looked, used to be a household with stewards and servants but was empty now, cobwebbed and quiet. It was Professor William Macadam’s, an eccentric private collector of artworks and antiques. He was half American and half Nepali but he had always lived in Nepal. According to him, it was a better place to think.
The man who had run into his house was Dr Graham Hill, highest paid surgeon in the United States in the 90s before his license was revoked on the allegation that he was illegally conducting organ transplants and despicably dangerous experiments with children. His own son died in one of his experiments and his wife had gone to expose his secret laboratory and it was only because he knew some powerful men that he did not serve a term. He had run to Russia, from there to India, then finally to Nepal where he had met some new rich men who had funded his researches for a while until they finally dumped him when the intended results were not obtained.
“Professor!” he called as he flounced about the house in search of Professor Macadam.
“Will you hold it now, what do you want?” grunted Professor Macadam himself as he appeared upstairs with a jug of whatever he was about to pour for himself in hand, looking askance.
“I’ve found him!” groaned Graham under his breath as he walked up the steps.
“The man whose blood sample you gave me last year. Francis Whyte. I’ve found him.”
Professor Macadam looked at him dubiously, and then he shook his head and turned around. “You found someone else. That man is dead,” he grunted sardonically.
“I told you he is, and now I’m telling he isn’t.”
“I found out myself after you told me.”
“Graham… it’s not that I’m not eager to find this news true but this man you’re talking about, Francis Whyte… I employed some men to look for him after everybody told me he’s dead, they didn’t find him. If he was alive, they would’ve.”
“That’s the point! He was not found because he was sick, probably from whatever made people think he was dead. And now he’s back on his feet. I know people Professor, and you know I do. Powerful people! He’s alive. They saw him. They saw him two days ago.”
“Who saw him? Do you think everyone knows what he looks like?”
“If the police do not know what he looks like, you do, don’t you? And a lot of other people do too.”
“So, if you say he’s alive, where’s he?”
“Nigeria? What would he be doing there?”
“I don’t know but a lot of traffic is going down there in the past two days, that’s why I’m convinced it’s true. Russian League of Hit Men, the Chinese Klu Klux Klan, and every deadly criminal dynasty I know.”
“If that’s true, he probably wants to drop David Imoukhuede. The Americans must have sent him. Take this.” He offered Graham a cup of what he was drinking. “Do you think we stand a chance?”
“We do. I know some… oops!” he spat the sip he had taken on the floor, mouth scattered. “What’s this?” he nearly cried.
“Idiot, it’s an Indian herbal drink. It cleanses the blood. Drink it or give back my damn cup.”
“Oh! It tastes like shit!” He sipped again, swallowed it this time in squeezed face.
“You were saying?”
“Yes, yes—yes, I know some… damn, my mouth is so sore! We stand a chance. I know some men in China, the C-gang they’re called, they used to supply me organs for researches back in the days when I could afford them. They can deliver anything you ask of them, even a man as famous as Francis Whyte.”
“Yes, like transporters.”
“And you think they’re that capable?”
“Yes, I am sure. I can bring them here if you want.”
“Don’t. A ghost flight to Nigeria, that… I can arrange for them. And you don’t have to mention my name to them, do you understand? I don’t want them linked to me provided they go down on the mission. So, you better get your ass out of here and bring Francis Whyte here for me if he’s truly alive.”
“What about the…”
“The FBI has placed twenty million dollars on him. You know, the C-gang… if they learnt of that, they could—”
“Tell them I’ll pay thirty million dollars in cash. Now drop my cup and get the hell out of here.”
“I’m on it,” he placed the cup down, reversed and hurried down the steps.
“Francis shit Whyte, son of a bitch!” Professor Macadam murmured to himself as he poured his herbal tea.
…to be continued, ON WEDNESDAY!
-Lord eBay (and his action series, 2017)
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