Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Brand Of Cain Episode 18

It was midday; when the heat of the sun had started to really rise and birds had begun to seek shelter in between the leaves of trees. Lizards and ants had begun to crawl into the holes of walls or under stones. In the living room of the building, Daniel Famous found Richard and Abigail in a lively chat, the lawyer and the doctor were watching the midday news where the BBC announcer was wrapping up the midday batch of bad news before going to the football scores. It took a considerable amount of efforts in his part to disallow himself from sitting in-between the lawyer and the doctor, eating popcorn and listening to the scores about the recent football match between the Wolves and the Marsupials.
“The detective wants you.” Daniel told Richard.
“Tell him I’ll see him in a moment.” Replied Richard.
“No, he wants to see you now.”
Richard looked up at Daniel in annoyance but Abigail spoke before him.
“Don’t be ridiculous, officer,” she shot out, “You have been on the investigation for hours without any result. I’m getting sick of you policemen.”
Daniel felt really hurt from such words coming from the mouth of a lady he was head over heels in love with, “Madam, I’m really sorry for the inconvenience but there’s nothing I can do, I’m only following orders.”
“What are you doing in the police force anyway? Can’t you find a worthwhile profession than one that makes you run after criminals?”
Daniel smiled, “It’s a long story.”
“I’ll like to hear that story sometimes ‘cause I can’t imagine an interesting young guy like you having a boring profession like policing.”
“Let’s just say I like serving my country.”
“I won’t buy that,” Richard chipped in, “There are many other ways of serving your country than this. Do you know that I always feel like breaking your nose just because you are a policeman?”
Daniel stared at him for some time and said, “Sometimes, no matter what we do or how much we try, we can’t change that thing which starts with the letter ‘F’. I’m in this job not because I really like doing it and I believe a man of your status should be in a better place than driving a rich man around. There are some idiots who can’t even speak a simple declarative sentence and yet they work in banks, just because they have the certificates they didn’t earn.”
Richard appeared a modicum mollified by what Daniel had said and he nodded silently. He was beginning to like the police officer standing over him, he felt the man was the only policeman with something worthwhile in his skull. He had initially wanted to beat his anger out of him when he had first set his eyes on him, he didn’t know that he would soon come to like him. And it seemed Abigail liked him too.
“You’re right,” said Richard, “but I can now move ahead in search of greener pastures and I’ll advise you to do the same.”
Abigail cast a sharp glance at Richard before facing Daniel, “Didn’t you tell me this morning that you wanted to be a footballer?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Why don’t you go for that instead? Maybe you’ll make it to the national team. That’s another way of serving your country, don’t you think so?”
“Honesty, I really appreciate your concern but it’s not as easy as you may think. If you are lucky you may get an official from the NFF watch you play and get interested in the way you play, then you get signed in as the country’s footballer. It’s a one in a million chances. My desire is to go to The Academy.”
She looked puzzled, “The Academy? What’s that?”
“The Academy is a football school,” explained Daniel, “Where one would be given the chance to display how good he is without the rule of politics. It was recently introduced by the NFA, and if one performed to their expectation he would be introduced into the national team or one of the country’s football clubs.”
She brightened up, “Really? That’s brilliant, you can go there and show them your stuff, I’m sure you’ll make it.”
Daniel smiled without humour, “Getting into The Academy costs a fortune. I guess that is why most talented footballers can’t make it there. I guess we all have dreams, then we grow up and realize how impossible they were.”
“How much are you talking about?” asked Richard.
“We are not talking thousands here, Richard.”
Richard whistled, “That’s a pretty large sum.”
“It’s no child’s play, but I believe in miracles.”
“A miracle? Tell me, how rich are you in your family?”
“We’re not rich; I can’t put my burden on my parents, because I’m the first child and I have two younger sisters and a brother after me. I’m old enough to cater for myself.”
“How old are your sisters?”
“The older one, Juliet, is twenty years old; and the other, Antonia, is seventeen. But don’t ever think about getting close to any one of them.”
A very faint smile came to Richard’s mouth, “The overprotective big brother. Your little brother? How old is he?”
“His name’s Silas, he’s the last child and only fifteen years old.”
“You’re a lucky man, Daniel; I wish I had younger ones like yours.”
“It’s not too late,” said Abigail, “You have a momsy who is still young.”
“My mother doesn’t look like one who is passionate about being led down the aisle, let alone getting into labour.”
“Oh God!” lamented Daniel, “The ‘tec’ will be very angry. Can we go now, Richard?”
When they got to the room, the detective was on his feet, and not looking very pleased, he kept walking to and fro the room. Daniel needed not to be told that he had aroused the man’s ire. He decided to blow a little gasket when he spotted Daniel come in. “Young man, did you want to spend your eightieth birthday there? Why do you just choose to make me angry? I should have found a better person than you because you are slacking mentally, really slacking.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Daniel apologized.
“We’re sorry, detective. I am the one who held him up with discussion. Can I sit down?” asked Richard.
“Please, do sit down,” answered Lot, “I need to ask you some questions, Mr. Philip, and I promise not to take much of your time.” He pressed the necessary buttons again. Like a ritual that could not be ignored, he waited for about five seconds before speaking.
“Um, Mr. Philip––”
“Call me Richard, sir.”
“Okay, I learnt that on the night of the seventh you drove Mr. Martins out, is that true?”
“You’re right.”
“Can you explain what happened that night?”
“I don’t know what really happened, though Mr. Martins is a pain-in-the-you-know-what, he might have offended many people. But I can’t think of anybody who might go so far as to kill him.”
“Tell us what you know. You drove him out of the compound that night, what happened after then?”
The fan above began to oscillate again. Up PHCN!
“That night, after driving for about half a kilometre from here, Mr. Martins asked me to stop the car. He explained with fear which I had never seen in him before that a gang of killers sent him a note; they asked him to send a cash of five million naira or he lose his wife within twenty-four hours.
“I did not believe what he was saying at first until he showed me the ransom note. He told me that the note was posted to his office in the morning and he didn’t open it until about half past nine that night. He didn’t receive any phone call or any other message––just the letter. He received the letter at about ten that morning, according to the note, he had only twenty-four hours to pay the money or his wife would be killed. The letter warned that he must not get the police involved or he would lose his life after his wife had been killed. It was also written in there that Mr. Martins must not be the one to bring the money, so that was why he chose me to deliver the ransom.”
“Was Mrs. Martins kidnapped?” Daniel asked.
Richard shook his head, “No, she wasn’t. But the note really threatened that she would be killed if the demand was not met. I don’t even think she knew that somebody was out to kill her. I initially wanted to refuse when Mr. Martins gave me the money. I was thinking that I may be killed or injured if I went. Yet, if I refused to go Mr. Martins had no other person to deliver the money for him, and with my refusal Mrs. Martins would be killed; so I had no choice but to go. He gave me a black suitcase filled with money. It was the same suitcase I saw in the booth of the car about a week ago when I went to pick him at the airport. The description of where to go had been clearly written in the letter, including the phone number to call immediate I got there. I took the letter, carried the suitcase and got out of the car.”
“You did not go with the car?” asked Georges Lot.
“I wanted to, but he refused, he said I could still see some late public transport vehicles and it was safer to go there alone without any vehicle.
“On getting there I called the number written on the letter and before the fifth ring I was confronted by two masked men. They didn’t say any word; one of them extended his hand for the suitcase and the other collected the letter from me. They thereafter dismissed me with the jerk of their heads. That was what happened, it was on the second day when I came around that I saw the body of Mr. Martins. I was so confused and angry but I didn’t want to show it; since the wife is okay, I decided to keep quiet. If I had gone talking, I’m very sure she might have joined her husband by now, they wouldn’t spare me too. I think it was those men who killed him, I don’t know why. Maybe Mr. Martins eventually called the police, I have a feeling that the men were more than two; I can’t even recognize them if I saw them, I only saw their eyes, I did not even hear anyone speak between the two men.”
“What time exactly did you get there?” Lot asked.
“Where you delivered the money.”
“At about quarter to twelve, almost midnight.”
“Where’s the place?”
“Victoria Island.”
Richard paused, as he spoke he chose his speech one after the other, “The place was at Victoria Island, Alexandra Avenue.”
“Alexandra Avenue,” Lot repeated. “What’s the house number?”
Richard thought for a moment before replying. “It’s number 47B.”
“There’s something I need to know,” Daniel said, “You did not return that night, were there no more public transport vehicles?”
“I could still see some few transport vans, but when I was about returning I received a text message from the deceased that I should not bother coming again. So I decided to spend the night at my mother’s. That was why it took me the next day before I could come back.”
“Why did your boss ask you not to return?”
“I don’t know, I only got the message through text.”
“Is your phone with you now?”
Richard brought out his mobile phone, scrolled it for some time and gave it to the detective. On the phone was the message:
Lot frowned a little, then he frowned a lot, “I can see the phone number here,” said Lot, “The number through which the text came in. Is this your boss’ phone number?”
“No,” answered Richard plainly.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m very sure. Mr. Martins had never used that phone number before.”
“Did you try calling the number when you got the message?”
“No, but on my way coming the next morning I tried it; there was no response––I wanted to tell him that I’d safely delivered his package and I’m on my way.”
“What about his original number, did you try that?”
“Yes, switched off.”
“What time exactly are we talking about?”
Richard lapsed into memory, “About some minutes before nine on the morning of that Saturday. What is confusing me is this; Mr. Martins had his own number, why didn’t he send me the SMS through his number instead of using a strange one? Another puzzle is that I don’t find the reason why he should have texted me when he could call? I’m not sure, but I think there’s something one needs to look into.”
“I promise you we’ll surely look into that.” Lot said, he reached over the recorder and stopped it. “You have a pretty good alibi, Richard, I’m quite impressed.”
“I thought the detectives were always breaking alibis. In detective stories, it’s usually the person with the cast-iron alibi who commits the crime, isn’t it?”
Lot chose not to answer the question tag. “Thank you, Richard,” he said, “You have been very co-operative. You can leave now.”
After Richard’s departure, Daniel said:
“To be candid with you, sir, I’m really flummoxed.”
“There’s something wrong in what that young man said, there’s something very wrong.”
“What is it?”
“He said that the letter warned not to get the police involved. Yet, Mr. Martins called me himself; he even transferred a large sum of money into my bank account. No, I don’t think they go together.”
“That was what probably killed him. Maybe the killers found out he called you after all.”
A frown line delved between Lot’s brows and he shook his head, “No, I don’t think so, I received the call before the delivery was made and he did not even tell me anything about it.”
“I have nothing else to say except for the fact that the avenue must be a very long one to have a B for the aforementioned number.”
Lot stared at Daniel for a long time and his face suddenly beamed with excitement as he leaned forward and clapped a hand on the younger officer’s shoulder, “Thank you, Daniel. You are, for the first time ever, a genius!”
“A genius in what?”
“My! You know not even what you have done?” The detective was appalled, “I’ll allow you to give your so-called brain the massage it needs while I go out now and make an important call.” He dashed out quickly, leaving the confused Daniel trying to find the cause of the sudden outburst of the detective’s mania.
The detective returned after about ten minutes.
“Who did you call, sir?”
“Your unit.”
Daniel was confused some more, “My unit?”
“I assigned two officers to go and bring someone who would help us on this case.”
“You know what curiosity did to that cat, don’t you?”
“Is the household aware of it?”
“No, and I will want you to keep it that way, okay?” Lot warned sharply, “And if you screw up you’ll find yourself to blame. Do I make myself clear?”
Daniel nodded dumbly.
“Fine,” said Lot, “Now, let us go another fishing before our visitor arrives.”
“Oh! No––not again!”


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