Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Brand Of Cain Episode 13

Yesterday, the sky was pregnant, it appeared to
be swaddled in disposable diapers, but the rain
that was supposed to break was not delivered.
Today, the sky was blue with a scattering of
popcorn clouds, the day was mild, there was no
wind and no rain was in the forecast.
Cain Martins had gotten his own share of the rule
stating that every man born of a woman must
surely return to dust, and Detective Lot had given
the household a week to mourn the departed soul
before resuming his investigation, but there was
no mourn at all––it appeared as if Cain Martins
never existed at all until the detective came
reminded the household that someone there had
died a fortnight earlier. He was only able to
convince them that Cain had existed when he
spoke about death in sepulchral tones. Everybody
was seated, including Hakeem who was in his
best sartorial presentation, and Doctor Adam. On
the television, an evangelist was gesticulating
furiously, but the sound was muted, so he
seemed like a crazed and poorly trained mime.
The Dow tape with its hieroglyphic markings ran
across the bottom of the screen. The resulting
scene was slightly less baffling than the antics of
an ant colony.
It was Hakeem who brought to the household
notice the obvious, “Why is the photographer not
here today? I was expecting my picture to be
taken today.”
Eze Chima answered him immediately, “Will you
do us a favour and zip those lips of yours?”
“I only asked a question, sir.”
“I said shut your trap or I throw you out of this
compound.” He glared at the boy.
Hakeem seeing the gatekeeper’s angry face
immediately tightened his lips; a symbol of his
acquiescence to the ex-soldier’s command.
The detective spoke:
“It had been almost a fortnight since the death of
Mr. Cain Martins, and we all know that it was not
a natural death––he died from gunshot wound.
“From my point of view,” he continued, “Two
things were bound to have caused his death; it’s
either he committed suicide, which is still highly
unlikely, or he was killed in cold blood.” He
paused to look around for any reaction from
others, it was only the police officer who
shuddered in disgust, others were as mute as
sheep.
“That is what I am here to investigate and I want
everybody to co-operate with me in arriving at
the truth,” he turned to the doctor, “Doc. Adam,
you performed the autopsy, right?”
The doctor nodded.
“Okay, doctor, I need to ask you a question. With
a self inflicted gunshot wound there’s always a
powder burn on the victim’s hand. Was one
discovered on the deceased?”
“The answer is no.” the doctor replied plainly.
Detective Lot nodded in approval, “I thought as
much. This means that we rule out the possibility
that the deceased committed suicide. That man
was murdered.” He called Abigail, “Madam, can I
have a room where I can make my interrogations?
Starting from Hakeem.”
The boy stood up abruptly, “Why me? Please do
not torture me, I did not do anything.”
Lot tried to calm him down, “Be cool, boy, I learnt
that you saw the man first.”
“Yes, but he was already dead.”
“That is why you need to help us on this case.”
“You are not going to use coercive measures in
getting the truth out of me, are you?”
“Of course not, why would I do that? I trust
you’re not going to withold any information
regarding this case, are you?”
The boy grinned widely, “I will be glad to help.
You see, it is a wonderful thing to be involved in a
murder case, is it not?” he did not wait for an
answer, “I have never seen a dead man before
and that sight is what I’ll always keep green in
my heart. But believe me, I am not looking
forward to a kind of death like that, I will not like
somebody hiding a bullet in my skull. Besides––”
The detective cut him short, “I’ll appreciate your
help, thank you.” Death means very little to a boy
of fourteen, he thought sadly. He looked at
Abigail, “Madam?”
“Oh, there’s an empty room among the boys’
quarters. You can use that one.”
“Can you provide us with a table and three
chairs?”
“Sure,” she turned to the gatekeeper, “Mr.
Chima, please make sure they have what they
need.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Lot said.
“Ordinarily, my upbringing would require me to
say ‘Don’t mention it,’ or ‘A pleasure of mine,’ or
‘You’re welcome’. But they’ll all be lies.”
“Uh––I don’t understand ma’am. Can you please
be clearer?”
Abigail smiled, “You’re a detective, aren’t you?
Figure it out yourself. By the way, from the little
detective stories I’ve read, a detective would have
made some startling deductions from the most
trivial phenomena by now.”
Lot ignored the insult. In about a quarter of an
hour the interrogation room was prepared. The
room was as commodious as a coffin, it was also
dusty, cobwebs festooned the corners of the
ceiling. There was no rug or carpet, and above,
the ceiling fan was oscillating loudly without
blowing much air. There was an air conditioner,
but it did not seem to be working. The light in the
room was subdued and the low-wattage bulb was
encased in wire mesh and bolted to the ceiling. A
fading sign on the wall facing the door: TRUST IN
Jesus.
Detective Lot sat in a chair facing the door; he
was awaiting his first questionee. The door was
opened slowly and Daniel came in, behind him
was the boy, who was still grinning from ear to
ear like a monkey eating thirty naira sugarcane,
and some vitamin deficiency in his teenage body
seemed to be screaming for appeasement. The
boy sat down and crossed both arms and legs
uttering bismillah, he brought his finger to his
mouth and bit at the nail, he caught himself on
time and stopped the action. Biting his nails was
a bad habit he had not been able to stop. Daniel
Famous took the third chair, a chair whose right
rear leg wasn’t very firm and which had a
tendency of collapsing under the police officer’s
weight.
“I feel very happy.” The boy said.
The detective was getting irritated to quite a
disproportionate extent from the fun the kid was
having, the child was simply having no idea the
gravity behind cause of a man who had lost his
life. He thought the situation on ground was what
he should be joking around about.
“Why? Is today your birthday?” Lot asked.
“No, I am just glad to be involved in this. Will I be
shown on the television? Will my name be
mentioned on the radio? Is my picture going to
be printed in the newspapers?” the boy asked
eagerly, “I will really love that, I will become
famous and my parents will be proud of me. In
short, my friends and classmates will envy me,
beautiful girls will woo me.”
“Actually, you would be shown on the TV,” said
Lot, “Your name would be pronounced on the
radio and you would appear in the papers as you
have said––”
The boy became very excited, “Really? I will––”
“That’s if you are the murderer, and after
becoming infamous you’ll be hanged like a crazy
dog. So, I will advise you to rest that wagging
tongue of yours, get off your ebullient mood and
answer my questions truthfully.”
The boy’s smile vanished like a rat down a hole,
he looked at Daniel’s face for intervention but the
policeman merely shrugged.
“I am not a murderer, I did not kill anybody,” he
started sobbing, “I will never kill anybody in my
life. I am not a killer.”
“Hakeem, nobody is accusing you of murder.”
Daniel said.
“But he just called me a murderer, he called me a
murderer.” He cried some more. “Now, I am
being tortured!”
“No, he didn’t call you a murderer. He’s only
interested in asking you some questions, that’s
all.”
The detective brought out a portable tape
recorder, he inserted an empty cassette and
pressed the ‘Record’ button when the boy finally
stopped his wail.
“According to Famous, you saw the deceased
first. How did you come across the body?”
“It was about half past five in the morning when I
saw the body, I initially thought he was asleep.”
Daniel was startled, “He was asleep at the side of
the road?”
“That was what I thought at first, I thought he
was in a complete state of inebriation––as in
drunk till unconscious.” He had read his
dictionary, “It was when I noticed the wound on
his forehead that I realized what had happened.
One need not to touch it before knowing that he
was as dead as Sanni Abacha, his eyes were wide
open like those of an uncanned Titus. May he rest
with Allah in his gardens.” He continued, “I
quickly rushed to Brother Daniel to report what I
saw. We both returned to the scene; the body
was lying by the gate of this building so we
knocked the gate and the gateman opened it
almost immediately, the man was already awake
after all––his eyes were as clear as the Islamic
rosary. That’s all I know, I did not kill anybody, I
am innocent.”
“What were you doing there so early in the
morning?” asked Lot calmly.
“I was not being a vigilante, that is one job I
detest. I was returning from the minaret. Brother
Daniel can testify to that, he saw me holding my
Qur’an when I came to call him. That day was on
a Saturday and I went to Tajjud vigil the night
before, which was on a Friday.”
“Now, I want you to answer this question
truthfully.”
“That I killed him? I have told you, I am not––”
“Will you stop flapping your flatulent mouth and
let me finish?” Lot roared angrily.
The boy became mute.
“When you saw the body, did you come across
any weapon––any gun?”
Hakeem shook his head.
“Are you sure?”
He nodded, beads of sweat had begun to form on
his nose.
“Before seeing the body, did you meet anybody
on your way?”
He spoke up this time, “I met many people, most
of them were returning from church, but I did not
see anybody when I turned into this street. The
street was as quiet as a Shehu’s grave.”
“What about when you were going to Daniel’s,
did you meet anybody?”
“I met nobody, but I felt the spirit of the dead
man following behind me. It made me burst into
a run with fear.”
“Okay, thank you, but before you go, how old are
you exactly?”
“I will be fifteen by November twenty-eighth.”
“What’s your full name?”
“My name is Ciroma Hakeem Musa and I am not a
terrorist.”
The reply surprised the detective, “Who says you
are?”
Hakeem spread his hands, “That is the idea. Most
people believe every Muslim is a terrorist.”
“Then you’re a devout Muslim, right?”
“A faithful believer in Allah and Prophet
Mohammed, salla Allah alaihi wa sallam. I have
never gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca, but I pray
to Allah five times daily and I do not eat pork.”
“Are you from the North?”
“I am precisely a Fulani but my parents work here
in Lagos. My mother sells Tuwo Shinkafa at the
car-park and my father imports cattle from
Kaduna to sell here in Lagos.”
“You’re a very smart and intelligent boy, I like
you.”
The boy’s face brightened up like a Christmas
light in a dark alley, “SubhanAllah. Allah be
exalted.”
Lot smiled, “I want you to pray to your Allah or
Mohammed to give us the wisdom to catch the
murderer. Will you do that for us, please?”
“Detective Abdullot and Brother Abduldaniel,
have faith in the Qur’an, first paragraph, book
four.”
“Care to tell us what it says, Imam Musa?” Daniel
asked.
“The feasts were brought among the unbelieving
infidels and no longer were they unbelieving.” The
boy quoted. “You see, all you need is faith and
Allah will help you.”
“Do your parents know how intelligent you are,
Hakeem?” Daniel said to Hakeem, the boy’s
foibles he had always been finding charming.
Hakeem shrugged, “I doubt it, my father spends
more time with his cattle than with me and my
mother is always flirting with cab-drivers at the
park. They are both illiterates, of course.”
“Thank you, Hakeem,” Lot said, “You can go
now.” He pressed the ‘Stop’ button on the
recorder.
The boy rose and bowed to the two men, and
then he walked out like someone who had just
rescued a drowning dog in the presence of an
impressed crowd.
Georges Lot turned to Daniel and asked, “What
do you think?”
Daniel smiled, “That boy is funny and intelligent.
He’s definitely one of those boys who do not mind
exchanging banters with anybody they come
across. And he speaks English almost perfectly. I
mean he never uses contractions. Never ‘I’m’ or
‘you’re’ but always ‘I am’ or ‘you are’.”
“I know what contractions are,” Lot snapped at
him, “Was he lying when he was explaining how
he came across the body?”
“If that boy was lying, you would have known, sir.
He spoke everything he knew.”
A bee buzzed past them and banged its face
against the wall.
“The gun was taken away by the murderer.”
Though Lot spoke out, he actually spoke to
himself.
“Mr. Martins might have committed suicide.”
Lot cast a sharp annoyed look at Daniel and said,
“Have I got to tell you thirty-six times, and then
again thirty-six that he was murdered? Where
were
you when the Almighty passed out brains?”
“I’m sorry, sir. Who are we questioning this
time?”
“The gatekeeper, of course.” Lot answered. “Wait
a minute, Hakeem said the gatekeeper was
already awake when you knocked on the gate,
was that true?”
“It seemed so.”
“Then he might have seen or heard something.”
“Or he might know how the body reached the
gate.”
WATCH OUT FOR PART 14

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