Francis Is Alive (-5-)

One good thing out of everything annoying about Michael Livingstone was that he loved to smoke weed. He had screwed Olawunmi for God knew how many times, but as long as he paid for the endless drinks, barbecue and weed, Majeed was okay. Majeed was not a type to keep a single girl for long, but apart from the fact that Olawunmi was extremely beautiful, tall, and thick even with her height, possessing all the features that could lure a clergyman to a brothel, the other feature that made Majeed loved Olawunmi was because Olawunmi could smoke weed in a church and wouldn’t look high. So, the internet fraudsters would face each other in that apartment that was now claimed to be Olawunmi’s and would smoke weed with cups of hard drinks in hand. This would never be complete without the music; Majeed’s best artiste was Davido, Olawunmi preferred Wizkid, so when they argued on who was the best, cloud of smoke would be flurrying from their mouths against each other’s faces.

They were arrested once for public disturbance but when they learnt how to settle the police, nobody could get them arrested for that offense again. If they weren’t making noise with their home theatre and weren’t online with their clients, they would be talking about their past. Majeed said he fell from a storey building when he was a boy, Olawunmi was startled. “Did you die?” she had asked. And in the cloud of smoke, Majeed had told her, “I can’t even remember. It’s a long time ago.”

They were smoking again with the music loud but this time with Michael Livingstone in their gang, dancing to afro hip hop he claimed to have fallen in love with. They had been tutoring him on speaking Pidgin English and he had appeared to be a fast learner.

There was a knock on the door then.

The person knocked for a while but they couldn’t hear, not until the door burst open and who came in looking at them as if he was not going to leave any of them alive? A boy! He was in shorts and sneakers under an armless basketball jersey, golden wristwatch in hand, face cap turned backwards, golden chain around his neck. They all looked down at him curiously, and then he just pointed at the home theatre. Olawunmi went there to minimize the volume responsively.

“Hi y’all,” he said, raising his hand briefly. “I love your music, it’s not like I don’t, really, but that shit ain’t allowing my sister concentrate on her studies and she’s writing exam next week. So…”

Silence…

“You won’t have any problem with me if you keep your volume low, okay?”

Olawunmi and Majeed looked keyed up.

“You haven’t told us who you are.” That was Michael.

“I’m Lucky. We moved in two days ago, next flat.”

“Wow!” Majeed chuckled. “But you’ve got balls o! Haven’t they told you we don’t minimize our volume here? You’ve got to adapt, that’s all. You join us if you can’t beat us, that’s the drill.”

“Then you’re going to have a problem with me.”

“Wait, how old are you? What class are you?” asked Olawunmi sternly.

“I’m fourteen. I’m in JSS 3. What do you care?”

Both Majeed and Olawunmi laughed loudly this time.

“I like this boy,” said Olawunmi earnestly. “I really like him.”

“Me too,” responded Michael. “He had impressed me. He could be a cop when he grows up. Kid, what are you gonna do when you grow up?”

“That’s none of your business, white man. Keep your volume low or you’re gonna have problems with me.” He raised a middle finger, turned around and walked out majestically, banging the door closed.

They stood there looking at the closed door for a minute before Majeed finally bent to the tape and maximized its volume again.

*          *          *

Bade had had to travel to the University of Ibadan where he had been admitted for his doctorate programme to make some registrations that couldn’t wait. When the information about the registration’s urgency reached him, he couldn’t resume to the police station as he had planned for the next day. So, when he came back the fourth day, totally unaware that the police had followed him down to Ibadan and everywhere else to watch him, Sergeant Shuaib’s call was the first he returned.

The story of him and Eniola went as far back as the University days of course, but even with the gravity of all the promises and glee, their idealism was trampled upon by life’s realism. And Bade was beginning to realize, there’s no permanent love, no permanent hate, and even permanence itself suffers at the hands of time, which changes the position of concrete and abstract things every second of day. Eniola’s departure had ruined him and he had shrunk into his darkness, away from the light of his weighty ambitions and lofty dreams. And as if that was not enough, a postman had come to his door, delivered a package and fell dead right about the same time. Didn’t that just make it perfect for him? He hated that he was progressing with that same doctorate programme that broke his relationship after all, but could he stop now? He hated everything. And just when things would be completely perfect, he had to help the police investigate how a man had fallen dead at his door. So perfect!

As a dirty wind forced his eyes into tiny slits on the commercial motorcycle he had boarded for the police station, his mind hovered around numerous questions; why the package was sent to him, who had sent the package, and the question that particularly beat others, who the lady in the picture was.

On his trip to Ibadan from Lagos, he had sat at the front seat beside the driver, looking at the picture on his phone. It was unexplainable but the picture had awoken strange sensations in his psyche. He passed the night at a friend’s place in Ibadan but nightmares kept him up all night. He was sure he had seen the lady before but he couldn’t say where. So as he got closer and closer to the police station, his eagerness to see the whole of the package grew. What if the parcel was simply a map to discover some treasure-trove or a gift strictly meant for him somewhere? Who would stupidly throw away such a prospect? Perhaps the postman’s death was just an accident that had nothing to do with the parcel. He knew he was being silly about that new notion anyway. It was absolute nonsense!

He felt miserable.

It was a Friday afternoon and Muslims were trooping out of the Central Mosque after their weekly Jumat prayer. The road that the motorcyclist had to take was blocked, so he took a different route, longer but freer. And at last he reached the Station and paid the cyclist off.

Corporal Taiwo, the fat officer was already waiting at the gate and she led Bade to Mustapha’s office. Mustapha and Taiwo shared an office. Mustapha had personally arranged that because he liked Taiwo and found her ingenious.

“Welcome, Mr. Adebanjo,” greeted Mustapha as Taiwo led him to the middle table directly facing the door. “Shut it all the way,” he instructed, referring to the door.

Bade sat directly under the ceiling fan; Taiwo at her table behind him, waiting for Mustapha to begin his talks.

“I apologize for the delay,” started Bade. “The registration was really important and it had an ultimatum.”

“No problem sir, it’s reasonable, we can just continue from here. Taiwo,” he faced Taiwo now, “go grab the box from the evidence room.”

Taiwo heaved off the seat in her glorious massiveness and rumbled out of the office without a word.

“What should we get for you?” asked Mustapha. “There should still be some soft drinks in the fridge here.”

“Ah, I’m okay. Don’t worry, thank you.”

“No, you could just take—”

“No—no, I’m okay, seriously. I’m okay. Thank you.”

“All right then. So… how was your trip?”

“It was fine. Thank God.”

“I was really waiting to…” he paused, looking at his phone. “Hmm… could you excuse me for a moment?”

“It’s your office, Sergeant.”

Mustapha stood, left the office slowly. He had received a text from Taiwo, asking him to come to the evidence room quickly. He guessed she wanted to tell him something she wouldn’t want to say in Bade’s presence. So Mustapha whistled his favorite Bob Marley’s song as he walked leisurely to the evidence room just down the hall.

He entered the evidence room and that was it.

He never saw it coming! It was unbelievable! It was a catastrophe! At first he just stood there, thunderstruck and confused, overwhelmed and mystified, because lying on the floor face up in the pool of her own blood was nobody else but Corporal Taiwo, she had been shot in the head.

Shot in the head!

As his senses would later slowly tell him, whoever shot her could still be in there, so he went on his chest at once. No radio to announce the code red to the entire police station, he just held tightly onto his pistol for another sixty seconds until he was sure nobody was in there, and then he wailed for the whole Station to hear.

“Help! Help!! Officer down! Help! Officer down! Code red! Help!”

Of course it wasn’t something anybody would expect in a police station but the officers nearby heard and rushed down to the scene, to discover the unbelievable. A police officer shot dead in a police station? A bugle was blown instantaneously and a crowd of officers trooped down to the evidence room to see what had happened. Responsively, they rummaged through the internal and external premises of the station, nothing suspicious was found. Then some police officers started murmuring that she must have committed suicide, after all, a gun was in her hand.

“Oh my God!” Mustapha cried bitterly. He was sure that it was not a suicide. She saw something suspicious. That was why she had messaged him.

Taiwo’s phone lay by her spread legs, facedown. He picked it at once, tapped carelessly on this and that but there was nothing there except that she sent a message like five minutes ago. There was CCTV in the evidence room; all they had to do was go through the footage. So Mustapha led some other officers to the Footage Room immediately and they rewound the footage of the evidence room to ten minutes ago but there they discovered, something was wrong, even as forensics and detectives filled the evidence room as at the time, the CCTV still showed that the room was empty. Nobody was there, not even the bleeding body of the murdered corporal.

Mustapha developed migraine straight away. The officers were startled. Gunshots were loud outside, police showing off in response to the incident, pointlessly. Mustapha ran back to the evidence room, photographs were still being taken. Mustapha went to the shelf where the box was supposed to be, it was not there. He told the other officers what he was looking for and they all looked but it was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t sure of what to think again as the detectives went after him for questioning, an investigating police officer was becoming a suspect rather too speedily. Taiwo’s phone was in his hands, they collected it, blamed him for picking it in the first place as it meant tampering with the scene of crime.

He couldn’t answer their questions. So he just brushed through them for his office. He had to secure Bade first. He tried to hide the terror in his face as he entered his office, if he looked scared, how would the civilian feel then? But unfortunately for him, there was no need for the charade, Bade was not there. He faced the three officers who had followed him, asked them about Bade, the tall man with punk, where is he? They only shook their heads. He was scared more than he had ever been in his life? Nobody in the Station looked different too. He tried Bade’s phone. It rang but was not answered and then it became unreachable. Perfect!

Right about then, news came that two officers from that same station were found dead along a street in Surulere. When Mustapha requested for their names, they happened to be the two police officers he had assigned to tailing Bade. Nobody in the area had come up to explain what had happened to them, but after much efforts, they were at least about to gather that some white men had been unusually patrolling that area lately.

Sergeant Abiola, the officer from Homicide who had sworn to get the case from Mustapha’s hand was questioned, he swore innocence. The matter became popular in the news instantly and every Nigerian on social media talked and tweeted about it. “They’re not telling us the real story”, swore the bloggers. Police beef, terrorist attack, suicide and so on, so people speculated. The Assistant Inspector General of Police whose office was in Lagos Police Headquarters came down to see the scene, on the president’s directive. It was unprecedented!

…to be continued ON SUNDAY!

-Lord eBay (and his action series, 2017)

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