Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Brand Of Cain Episode 11

They were all in the house; in the living room, each person looking at the other for an explanation. The silence lasted precisely two minutes before the lawyer spoke first.
“Where’s the driver? I haven’t seen him.” He asked Mr. Chima, who was the only person standing in the room. He had never sat in the room and he was not ready to begin now just because his master had passed on, even after the death of his master, Chima’s sense of servility had not waned.
“I don’t know his whereabouts, sir.”
“The deceased has a driver?” asked Lot.
“His name’s Richard and he’s not here.” Michael answered the detective.
Daniel Famous turned to the gatekeeper. “Sir, can you kindly go and wake Mrs––” he looked with pleading eyes at the gatekeeper to help him with the name.
“Martins. Mrs. Abigail Martins.” Kish helped.
Abigail, in a nightdress, entered the room yawning and stretching.
“I’m already awake.” She said.
Daniel Famous who had always had a private predilection for pretty women opened his mouth wide, his heart began banging violently in his chest so much that he was scared people around would hear. Except in movies, he had never seen a woman as striking in appearance as the widow, and what particularly sent his ventricles aflutter was the fact that she was dressed in negligee. The doctor’s eyes in the spectacles almost popped off their sockets, the detective only stared at her––he took his time to study the woman, his face carried that of a man looking through a high-powered microscope and observing an interesting specie of paramecium. Noticing where almost everybody’s attention was shifted; he could see that the men in the room were looking at her as if they could eat her with a spoon. The photographer was looking at the woman and also at the detective. The only person in the room who did not notice Abigail enter the room was the boy; he was lost in the world of his hand-held PSP Game.
“Oh, naughty me. I didn’t know that Cain would be having visitors.” She smiled, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have slept like a snail. Good morning, everybody. It’s a nice weekend, isn’t it? Don’t mind me, I oversleep on Saturdays. By the way, where’s the host? There’s a photographer––should I go and change to a better dress?”
Silence fell for a millisecond.
The detective stood up and approached her, “Good morning, Mrs. Martins. My name is Georges Lot and I am a detective of the LAGPID.”
Abigail appraised him and brightened up with excitement as she recognized the man standing in front of her.
“I know you! I see you in the telly; you’re that famous detective, aren’t you? I’ve also read about you sometimes ago in the papers. The ways you solve all these enigmatic cases have always appealed to me.”
Daniel was still staring at her agape. It took him a lot of his self-control to prevent himself from drooling at the mouth. He watched her closely as she brightened up when she was speaking with the detective. Daniel was not even listening to what the two were saying. He was engrossed in appreciating how radiant her face looked when she smiled. She looked so lively, so full of excitement and happiness. She hadn’t even known that she had lost a husband. Then he saw the smile disappeared suddenly from her face. From the look she carried, Daniel could see that she had sensed something wrong. Oh, not now, he thought, not when she is so happy. She must not know that her husband had been killed.
“Why are you here?” he heard her asked the detective. “Where’s Cain?” she looked around at the people sitting and said, “Richard’s not here, where’s he, too?” without waiting for an answer she burst out of the room into the compound and out of the gate. She saw some men standing around a body on the ground. Slowly, she walked towards the men and looked at her husband lying dead. She turned away quickly and leaned on the fence weeping. The others in the room had also come out to join her. Except of course, the boy.
“It’s a pity his life had to end this way,” Abigail said softly, “I feel sorry for him.”
“Let’s go back inside. These men will look after him.” The detective assured her.
Down the street came the wailing of sirens of the police car as the vehicle approached. The car stopped and five armed policemen jumped down from the back. Georges Lot approached and spoke to them; they immediately joined the four white-clothed men watching over the corpse. They were careful not to go too close to it so as not to tamper with any evidence––especially prints.
The street had become almost deserted after the arrival of the police car. The crowd that had gathered across the street to watch had fled, thinking there would be gunfire.
The detective, the doctor, the lawyer, the police officer, the wife, the gatekeeper and the photographer––all returned into the house. When everybody, except the gatekeeper was seated again, the detective asked:
“Mr. Um––Chima, you said there’s still a member of this house––the driver, and he’s not here. When last did you see him?”
“I was in my room last night when I heard the sound of one of the cars in the garage. I came out and saw Richard and Oga in the jeep. I tried to ask where they were going but my boss asked me to mind my business. So, I opened the gate when he ordered me to, and they drove out of the compound. That’s what I know.”
“So, that was what happened,” said the lawyer, “Richard drove out with Cain and he killed him. I knew it! I know that boy is a criminal. He has run away, we must find him and bring him to justice.”
“What makes you so sure about that, sir?” the photographer asked Kish.
The gatekeeper opened his mouth to speak but the detective spoke before him, “Nobody should be accused for now. It’s too early to assume or suspect anybody; we still have a long way to go in investigating this case. Nobody is guilty until proven so.”
“This is everything you need, detective,” said Michael Kish, “Richard killed his boss and ran away. What else do you need? Or do you think he will come back here to surrender himself?”
“We are not yet sure of what really happened and I shall be obliged if you will kindly keep your theory to yourself until I ask for it––all right?”
“If you say so.” Michael turned to the gatekeeper, “When you called me you said Cain asked you to do so, am I right?”
“You’re right, sir.”
“Then how come he’s lying dead outside? And why is there only one jeep in the garage?”
Before Eze Chima could answer the lawyer the door of the room was opened and a tall policeman poked his head inside. “There’s a young man at the gate, he called himself the driver.”
The detective smiled at the lawyer, “Maybe he’s come to surrender as you have said.”
“Allow him in.” Lot told the policeman at the door.
“Yes, sir.” The policeman disappeared and Richard came in a few minutes later, he was looking tired and angry. Lot, who was fond of looking closely at new faces, studied Richard and smiled.
“You’re Mr. Richard, right?”
“I’ll prefer you call me Mr. Philip. But you can call me Richard all the same.”
“Nice meeting you, Mr. Philip.” They shook hands. The man’s handshake wasn’t exactly a bone-crusher, Richard noticed, but it threatened to dislocate his second and fifth metacarpal bones. Richard quickly withdrew his hand before he ended up with dangling phalanges. However, he checked his hand still thereafter, to confirmed that there wasn’t one of his fingers still hanging from the detective’s palm.
“I’m Inspector Georges Lot,” said Lot, wondering how many times and people left he still had to introduce himself.
Richard knew the man––the famed Criminal Nightmare, as Silverbird Television had described him. He was not surprised to see Lot, and he did not feign any.
“I believe I wouldn’t be wrong if I concluded that you’re here to investigate the death of my boss.”
“You’re right, and I trust you’ll help us in arriving at the truth.”
“I’ll tell you all what I know.”
“But Richard, honestly, I’m surprised that––how can I put it? Your boss’s death didn’t affect you emotionally.”
Richard sat down, the detective also did.
“And why should that man’s death affect me?” he asked lightly.
“He was your boss, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, he was. Any problem with that? ”
“You don’t seem to show any concern about his death.”
Richard shifted in his seat, “Well, I cannot help my flippancy, can I? But let me tell you one truth, sir. I hate Mr. Martins, and he’s a man I would
hate even in heaven if by chance we ever meet there.”
“Don’t you think what you are saying may later be used against you?”
“I don’t care. If you don’t know, Mr. Martins had the manners worse than those of a lunatic when he was alive and it would be hypocritical of me to pretend I am moved by his death when I’m not.”
“De mortuis nil nisi bonum,” Lot quoted, “Freely translated: Say nothing but good of the dead.” The detective believed that in death, the very worst man is accorded respect even by those who know that he was a scoundrel all his life. Because every one of us must die, belittling a dead man is in a way like belittling ourselves. Moreover, if you speak badly about the dead, you somehow are mocking the great inevitable end––and mayhap inviting God to punish you for your arrogance.
“Even if the dead were an annoying nincompoop in his life. That crazy idiot! May he rot in the deepest pit of hell!” Richard growled, which surprised Abigail since she knew Richard to rarely use even the mildest of oaths.
The detective looked at Richard with a blank expression and nodded. Nobody in the room could guess what was running through the detective’s chain of thought unless he said it out. Even saying it out might be complicated to understand sometimes. But from his look at Richard, one may be able to deduce correctly or incorrectly that he noticed in the younger man that, in spite of the angry look Richard carried into the room, Georges Lot could detect a spice of suaveness in the young driver.
“Anyway, we’ll talk about that later,” he said, “Right now I want you to meet these people sitting here. That’s Barrister––”
“I know him.” Richard stared coldly at the lawyer.
As both men shook hands, the lawyer leaned forward and whispered in Richard’s ear. “I told you to watch your steps here but you didn’t; now you’re in for trouble. How would you like spending the next Christmas in a nice little jail? Be sure that I will arrange for you the durance vile you deserve.”
Richard glared into the lawyer’s eyes and whispered in reply, “Let’s wait and see.” Soft-spoken, yet as sharp as a harpist’s plectrum his words were.
Detective Lot noticed the transparent animosity between the two men but he decided not to comment about it.
“Okay,” said Lot, “That’s Doctor Adam of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, he’s probably going to help us on this case.” He pointed to the police officer, “That’s Officer Daniel Famous and beside him is the boy who reported seeing the body.”
Daniel waved in greeting and Richard nodded in reply. I’ve got a policeman I’m going to kick in the gut, he thought.
“That’s the photographer.”
“The photographer is the only one here without a name?”
The photographer was about to speak when Eze Chima quickly helped him out, “His name is Leba.”
“Leba? What a strange name.” Richard commented, “Let me guess, he isn’t here to take my picture.”
“Can I ask this scoundrel a question?” Kish asked the detective.
“No question is needed for now. Questions can wait,” said Lot, “Now, we need to clear up the mess around.”
The doctor stood up, pushed his spectacles up to the top of his nose with the middle finger of his ringless left hand, and consulted his wrist-watch,
“It’s almost ten, we have to move the body to the morgue before the morning sun starts darkening it.”
Doctor Adam went outside in the wake of the others; he called his men and spoke to them. A wheeled-stretcher was carried out of the van, and Cain’s body that was put on it was covered with a black rubber sheet. The stretcher was slid into the back of the ambulance, the door slammed shut and the vehicle pulled slowly away, the siren beginning to moan––destination, The State Morgue, for autopsy.
Before his departure, Doctor Adam called the detective aside and told him something, Lot nodded and shook the doctor’s hand appreciatively.
Without any other person around knowing, the doctor had just told Detective Georges Lot the estimated time of death of the deceased.


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