Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Brand Of Cain Episode 22

Mouths were opened in utter disbelief, eyelids were stretched, stares conveying a paralysis born of shock. Lot’s cigarette was suspended in midair. The detective, though accustomed to a daily diet of crime, was clearly startled; his jaw especially was a gaping orifice as he stared at the young police officer. This time, he found himself incapable of masking his amazement because his flabbergasted countenance gave him off, and he felt as if he had all the while been investigating this case with one eye closed. He emitted a soft, nearly inaudible whistle.
“This is too much,” he mumbled. He removed his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and muttered, “My father wanted me to be an architect, I should have listened to him.”
Richard, who had given up every hope of ever getting out of the jam, was rocked. He could hardly believe his ears at first, he looked at Daniel with astonishment, he was short of words and all he could forcibly bring himself to say was, “You?”
Daniel held up his wrists for others to see––on each wrist were scratch marks. “These are where Mr. Martins scratched me.”
“How–how come you––” Lot could not finish the words, he was too astonished to make a sensible proclamation.
“This is the moment,” Daniel declared, wiping his tears again, “This is the moment to let the cat out of the bag, or the bag out of the cat––whichever way it may come. It’s becoming a burden on my conscience and I can’t stand here watching another man get punished for a crime he did not commit. It’s true, I killed Mr. Martins, but it was not intentionallly.”
Hakeem Musa got up suddenly, “What the devil is happening to me? Am I crazy or dreaming? Something in my head kept telling me that Papa Cain committed suicide, another said he was murdered by Uncle Richard and one is telling me now that he was shot by Brother Abduldaniel. Can someone please call me a psychiatrist?”
As usual, everybody ignored him, nobody was in the mood to get in a crazy chit-chat with a teenager. They were all looking at the sergeant’s face for explanation.
“It happened at about quarter to twelve that Friday night when I was going to church to attend a vigil. It was already late in the night and I was afraid of getting attacked by robbers, so I decided to jog in the attempt to get to my destination faster. As I cut out of this street into the next one, I saw a figure in black overcoat wearing a hat––and he was holding a gun in his gloved hand. I initially thought he was a vigilante, then it struck me he could be a highway robber, or worse, a ritualist. Three days earlier, a corpse had been found at Allen Area, with its head absent. I was so afraid that I hid in a nearby bush quoting Psalm twenty-three. It was when the figure aimed the pistol at himself that I sprang out of my hiding, what was actually ringing in my head was to save a man who wanted to kill himself. I ran in the cold air of the night, not because I am brave, which I am not, neither because I am prone to risks, which I am not, but because idleness does not breed salvation and I was bereft of any sanity whatsoever at the time. The suicidal man was having his back at me, so I crept silently behind him and grabbed the hand with the gun, we both struggled with each other for some time, that was when he scratched me with his nails. He was trying to break free from me and I was trying to wring the gun off his hand. It was when he turned to face me that I was horrified; he was looking very mad, like a bear with a boil. His face was scary, the teeth bared, and the eyes glittering coldness. He shook his body and pushed me with a growl but I still held unto the gun hand, he kneed me where it made me regret being born a male, I was still nursing the effect of the groin assault when he thrust his clenched knuckle into my breastbone with such impact that I coughed, the sharp blow nearly paralyzing me as it sent a high clinking report in my head. For a moment I thought there was an ancient cathedral nearby and the faithful Christians were being called to church service, I soon realized the bell was in my skull, tolling cacophonously. And the heat in between my legs was not in the least dropping its temperature.
“ ‘I won’t let you kill yourself,’ I said to him, breathing hard.
“ ‘What business of yours is it?’ he said, baptizing me with a fine spray of saliva, ‘You should have meddled at your own peril. Your death would aid my plan.’ He swung loose from me and aimed the pistol at me. Sensing the danger coming towards me, I quickly made my action. I’d ended up at the wrong end of a pistol before and I know how terribly a bullet can hurt, if you were not killed. I was very scared––he must not shoot me, yet, if I waited, he would kill me. Then, before he could pull the trigger I rushed him with a speed I didn’t know I possess. Within a split second, it dawned on me that I was no more trying to save the man who wanted to kill myself, I was trying to save myself from the man who wanted to kill me before killing himself. I grabbed the pistol again, trying with the whole of my strength to prevent him from pulling the trigger. But I could not match him in strength, he pushed me roughly and I landed hard right on my back which shook the holy breath out of me, like I had been hit by a truck––I lay where I had fallen, knowing fully well I was alive but reluctant to move my limbs, afraid that broken bones would come poking out of the skin. I looked above me hazily after what seemed to me like a century but was actually a few seconds, and I saw three small holes. It took me a while to realize that two of them were Mr. Martins’ nostrils––he was aiming the gun at me again. It is often misquoted that pride goeth before a fall. I’ve never understood the expression; after my encounter with Mr. Martins, I thereafter believe that it should rather be pride goeth after a fall. However it is viewed, I took a hard fall from his push, and my pride therefore wenteth. Because I had always prided myself in my cleanliness and stamina.
“ ‘Nobody can stop me,’ he roared, ‘Not even you.’ I thought the moment for me to meet my ancestors had come. Mr. Martins was looking like a devil; his eyes were merciless. Set. Decided. His finger on the trigger of the pistol, ready to pull at any moment. He was making a low growling sound that would have done credit to the soundtrack of a horror movie. It was then that I knew he was really ready to kill me.
“The pistol pointing at me again made me stand up slowly in an effort of surrender––no bone poked through my skin. Common sense had told me that you can never be faster than a squeeze of the trigger. No matter how fast you can hit or kick, or how much Western movies you’ve watched––I knew Mr. Martins knew that too, and he knew I knew he knew. Then I did something that anyone with an IQ greater than mine would not have dared––I kicked the gun out of his hand.
“It’s hard to send that kind of pistol flying; it’s not exactly a light gun. Nevertheless, it flew. Before the gun flew out of his hand there was a deafening shot; the shot went past my ear that I thought for a moment that its bullet had taken my brain with it. For a second, I think he look amazed at how stupid I had been before I quickly rushed to the gun and picked it up. He was rushing towards me like a bull when I looked behind me. I knew I would never be so lucky again if he got the gun from me so I shot the pistol as he was closing in on me. Believe me, I never intended to kill him––I only shot the gun to scare him off but the bullet went straight into his head, he fell down lifeless immediately, I thought I shot the pistol wide. My brain must have really been screwed from the fall. I stood there unable to move. What’ve I done? I felt the panic spreading through me, paralyzing me, causing sweat to break out on my face and my neck. Despite the coldness of that night, I was sweating as much as I would if I were locked in an oven. What had I done? Yet, what else could I do? I had killed a man, but only because that man had tried to kill me. The fact still remains that I had grabbed a gun and shot another man to death, in my bid to keep myself alive, I had sent another to his early grave. Before that night, I had never killed anyone, I was never comfortable with the use of a gun. I had never had a cause to shoot any man to death, and it was a cause I never thought I would initiate, so I hadn’t been looking forward to it.
“Mr. Martins’ head was turned to one side. Even in the dark, his fixed stare was unmistakable. Guilt sutured my heart and mind together, the thought of what I had done caused stitches of pain to pull in my chest. I will never be the same person again, for I had taken a life. Although circumstances had given me no option but to kill or be killed and though I knew Mr. Martins had chosen to serve evil and to serve it well, the gravity of my action weighed on me nonetheless, and I felt diminished in more ways than I could count. Gone was a certain innocence that I would never be able to regain. I began pacing rapidly back and forth, trembling from fear and exhaustion, rivulets of sweat were rolling down my face, my eyes were wide and darting this way and that at nothing, I had committed not only a terrible crime but a mortal sin in the eyes of God––I had taken another man’s life.
“Then, suddenly, I heard the faint sound of an approaching vehicle. ‘I must no be seen here!’ I said aloud. I must flee if I had to stay alive. I quickly dashed back into this street straight down, I should have taken the gun with me but I could not go back to retrieve it for fear of being spotted, I found myself, as I ran, chanting over and over a four-letter synonym for poop. I turned to a narrow footpath in the middle of the bush by the road which leads straight to my domain. I went into my room and locked myself in, my mind wasn’t at peace, nobody must ever find any trace of my going out that night. I could not remember whether I was breathing like a marathon runner or was sweating like a well-digger. The whole of my body ached from fighting with that bear; there was a long scrape on my left knee and a promising bruise on my left hip, and also a square inch of skin was missing from my right elbow. In addition to the damage to my hide, my clothes were already ruined with a big tear in the sleeve of my shirt. I could not shower or iodine let alone bandage, I quickly changed into my jersey and a faded pair of blue jeans trousers. Then I laid on the bed waiting for what would happen next, I could not sleep, my tired eyes were wide open still, so piqued I could have kneed myself in the groin if that were humanly possible. And about five hours later, I heard hard knocks on my door––a loud rapping. My first thought was that someone had seen me escaping and that person had made a report to the police, now they were on my door knocking to take me away. I started shaking uncontrollably, the knock continued growing harder and louder on the door. I thought they would break down the door if I refused opening. I was very surprised to see Hakeem standing there in front of me when I opened the door, he was breathing very hard.
“Hakeem is the only friend I have, he’s the only person who doesn’t despise me for my profession. He likes me and shares his problems with me, I never hesitated to share mine with him likewise––except this. He’s like my brother.”
Daniel looked directly at the boy who still had tears in his eyes but was staring at the police officer open-mouthed.
Daniel continued, “I relaxed when Hakeem said to me that he saw a dead man, at least I’d not been found out as the killer. Feigning ignorance of what had happened, I told Hakeem to take me there. We came rushing to the scene in his wake but I was very confused when I saw the body––the body was lying by the gate of this building, but I shot Mr. Martins some distance away, how come the body was lying by the gate? That was the question I was asking myself. I immediately knew that there was something very wrong––somebody carried that body and put it by the gate. That morning, when Detective Lot materialized at the scene, I became more positive that everything had been staged from the outset.”
“Why––why did you keep quiet all these while?” asked Abigail, slightly angrily.
“Are you kidding me?” exclaimed Daniel, throwing up his hands. “You expect me to confess and end up dangling by the rope? Besides, why was Mr. Martins out in the midnight aiming a gun at himself? Why was his corpse moved from the original place he died? What did he mean when he said my death would aid his plan? You think you would know the answer to all these if I had confessed from the beginning?”
“To which part of his body was Mr. Martins pointing the gun when you saw him?” Lot asked, “His chest?”
“I can’t really say, he was having his back at me, you know? I only knew he was aiming the gun at himself; it might have been his chest or his arm. Mr. Martins did not look like someone who was really determined to kill himself, his look was that of someone who was ready to bring another man down––not himself. Moreover, shooting oneself in the chest is less comfortable than shooting the temple, isn’t it?”
Lot said, “No wonder you looked scared when I asked you about the football match’s score.”
“With your reputation, I was scared you’ll find out that I was the killer after all.”
“I see it now,” said Richard, wiping his tears, “He wanted to shoot himself, probably wound himself by letting the bullet graze his flesh without reaching the bone, then he would accuse me of robbing and shooting him––if I was lucky enough to escape execution, I would surely spend the rest of my life in a federal prison, with his faithful backups.” He turned to Daniel, “I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that he committed suicide.”
“What are you going to do now, Detective Lo?” Abigail asked.
“My name’s not Lo for heaven’s sake,” said the detective, “Call me Lot or keep your widowy mouth mute.”
“Forgive me, I can’t stop myself from shortening people’s names,” she apologized. “Well, what do you say?”
“Justice must be done,” Lot answered simply, “Richard, I congratulate you––I wouldn’t have believed you if he hadn’t confessed.”
“What is my stand now, sir?” Daniel asked, “How many years are we talking about?”
“Who’s talking about years?” Lot asked him sharply, “You killed a man, remember? You may end up in the guillotine.”
Daniel swallowed hard, “But––but I didn’t kill him intentionally!” he screamed, “All I wanted to do was save his life but he made me take it. It’s not my fault, is it?”
“Sorry, I have vowed from the beginning of my investigation that I would do everything in my power to bring the criminal to justice.”
“But he’s not a criminal.” Abigail protested.
“Your own idea of justice is arresting a man who fought for his life? You’re despicable!” Richard retorted.
“This gentleman is not a criminal, I can prove it legally, if that is what it’s going to take.” Barrister Kish said.
“I’ve always been dreaming of kicking a public figure in the behind, I will gladly do that to you if you arrest my friend.” Hakeem warned.
The doctor looked at the boy, and then he faced the detective and said, “I don’t think arresting him would be a good idea. Look at that boy, he’s mean.”
The detective relaxed in his seat, he could feel the stare of everybody on him like he was a villain of a movie. A faint smile crinkled the corner of his mouth.
“With these eyes,” Lot said, “I think you people will beat me to a pulp if I as much try to get him arrested, with the inclusion of going out of here with an injured rectum inflicted by our Muslim brother here. I was only putting a little fear in Daniel; I’m not in anticipation of convicting him. Yes, the Bible says thou shalt not kill, but the true commandment is ‘Thou shalt not murder’. It doesn’t say ‘kill’ in the original language, because killing is a whole different thing from murder. Self-defense isn’t a transgression, defence of oneself is required when necessary, they don’t chain a man who defends himself, even in some circumstances, they give him medals. My mission here was to arrest the murderer, even if the murderer were my own son, justice must be served. But there isn’t a murderer her––only a criminal. The criminal in this affair is not Daniel––it’s Mr. Martins. It’s too bad I won’t be able to arrest him; one can’t flog a dead horse. He was the criminal, he planned the crime himself but unfortunately for him the plan boomeranged. Out of hatred and jealousy, he destroyed himself,” he turned to Richard, “Please don’t blame me for not believing you at first, I’ve heard too many lies that seemed the truth. I guess that was why I couldn’t discern the truth from the lie. I’m sorry.”
He turned to face Daniel, “You think I was going to arrest you? You think I’ll sit back and watch the future pride of this country rot in jail? No, I won’t do that. Martins got what he deserved, he has been hoisted by his own petard.”
Daniel smiled for the first time since he had entered the room with the detective.
Richard went to Daniel and shook his hand, “You saved my life––I don’t know what to say.”
“Kiss me on my next birthday.” He joked and Richard hugged him.
“Richard,” Michael Kish called from behind his son.
Richard turned, casting cold eyes at the barrister, “Can I help you––Mr. Lawyer ex-criminal?”
“Son, I’m––”
“You’re going to pause there because I’m not your son, my father is dead,” Richard said sharply, “I’ll never forgive you––never! The dent you put in my life, the atrocities you’ve committed. How can I be a son to a man who was once a criminal, a rapist? Don’t ever call me your son again!”
Michael sat down morosely, another stream of warm tears riding down his face, he said, “You’re right, I don’t deserve being called a father after all I’ve done, God had even made that clear to me. How I wish I was thinking about the future then, this is a regret I’ll live with for the rest of my life.” He looked at Richard’s mother and said, “I know that I’m like the devil to you right now, I spoilt your life and destroyed what you’ve ever dreamed of becoming, I’m sorry––I really am.” He wept, covering his face with his hands.
Mrs. Philip wanted to reach to him, she wanted to hold and comfort him; a man shouldn’t be crying this way. She felt pain in her heart for him; she wanted to carry his head in her laps and rock him, telling him she had forgiven him but she was not really sure if she had. Maybe she had, but she was not sure if her heart had. Because she could not go to him, she said, “How many tears are you going to shed?” she asked solemnly, but she was also shedding tears, “I’ve learnt one thing in life: the worry about our past becomes an obstacle to our future.”
Michael raised his tears-filled face, “If I could be given a chance to turn back the hands of time, I would change what fate is offering me. I’m sorry uh–um––”
“Maria––Maria Philip.” Mrs. Philip said softly.
“Oh––oh, I’m really sorry. I’m a devil to have put you through this, please forgive me, Maria––I’m sorry, I truly am.” Then he kept a straight face, he stood up and wiped the tears on his face before turning to Abigail. “I’m happy for you, Abigail; you can now live your life freely. After all you’ve been through in the hands of Cain; the least you deserve is someone to love and care for you.”
He said to Richard and his mother, “I should have known, I don’t deserve you. I tried to change my ways of life after my escape from the police but I faced too many temptations in the course of living a clean life. It’s not easy to give up a habit in a day––especially habits like smoking marijuana. The nightmares of my life began when I decided to live a better life. When you came in with the truth that the boy who had already been convicted of murdering my friend was my son, I thought it was that final blow from God. What started running through my head was the thought of the easiest way to commit suicide–would it be less painful if I shot my brain out? Or if I just jumped down the Third Mainland? Should I slashed my wrist in a water-filled bath tub?” he turned to Daniel, “You saved my life–really, you saved our lives. Thanks to you, I don’t know what would have happened to us if you hadn’t confessed.”
Barrister Michael Kish turned and faced the mother and son again, “Now, here you are–my son’s alive and safe; even if I don’t deserve you, it’s still a comfort to know that the woman I love and the son with my DNA are hale and hearty. I love you both.” He walked out of the room with his face set downward.
“I know we’ve had our differences lately, man.” Ayo said, giving Daniel a pat on the back, “But I’m really proud of you. You’re a hero.”
“We’ve got a lifesaver here and it’s the wonderful Danny Fame!” The tall white-skinned officer bellowed and shook Daniel’s hand with such violence that Famous thought he would tear his arm from its socket. “You should be celebrated.”
The detective stood up and shook Daniel’s hand before hugging him, “I’m also proud of you, son. You don’t become a hero by defending your country alone but also by doing the right thing. You are the hero here, wall posters don’t make heroes, neither does doing stunts in helicopters to rescue damsels in distress; with all the blows they rain on villains, they get only one back. Then marries the rescued damsel and the public praises him and put him in televisions and newspapers. Damn those heroes! God bless you. You’ve saved not one–but many lives today. Bravo, you’re the real hero.”
“I’m really flattered, thank you, sir.” Daniel said, smiling broadly.
Lot scanned the room and spread his hands, “Well, I’m done with my work here, I should be going now.” He said his goodbyes and left the room. Daniel ran after him.
Outside, he said to the detective, “You’re right. She isn’t for me, I should have known, Richard is the right man for her. I saw how she looked at him, she doesn’t look at me like that. I’m happy for her–for them actually, they’re just as compatible as TWO.”
“Two?”
“Tunde and Wunmi Obey.”
“Oh, those two lovebirds.” Lot cast a sharp look at Daniel, “Don’t tell me you’re jealous.”
“No, no, I’m not jealous. On the contrary, I’m happy for them,” he smiled broadly, “Besides, I just found out that she’s three years older than I am––that girl’s twenty-six years old, can you believe it? I’m not in readiness to spend the rest of my life with someone years older than me. My interest lies in dating someone not less than seven years younger.”
“If I heard you right, you’re trying to tell me that you’re hunting for sixteen years old girls?”
“Sweet six-teens.” Daniel said brightly.
“This time, I will get you arrested if you try it.” They both laughed.
“There is another thing which gave me the idea that she had been in love with Richard even before now–when you showed her the second note; the one we found in the bedroom, she already knew that it was Richard who wrote it but she lied to protect him. She knew that he would be suspected if she’d told us the truth. Did you notice her reaction when she saw the note, sir?”
“No, I didn’t.” answered Lot, feeling impressed with the officer’s sense of observation.
“One; she was surprised––how did the note get into the room? Two; she was happy––she really loved Richard and he had also confessed his own love for her through the note. She recognizes his writing alright. Three; she was afraid––she thought Richard was the one who killed her husband but she was not sure.”
Detective Lot looked duly impressed and appreciative, he felt it proper to congratulate his subordinate, “They say your eyes begin to deteriorate at the age of seven or eight, and your brain follows suit about some years later. But your brain, Daniel. It seems to get sharper. You know, with a few trainings, you could make a great detective. Maybe sometimes later we’re going to hunt together again, we’ll make quite a team.” He shook Daniel’s hand, “I really should get going. What I’m going to do when I get home is to get into bed and sleep nonstop for forty-eight hours.”
Daniel smiled, “A wise decision.” Then he added, “You’re starting to sound like Hakeem, sir.”
Lot smiled at him, “See you later.”
“Wait! There’s one more thing I’ll really like to clarify––we both searched Richard’s room and I didn’t see you test the gun for fingerprint. Yet, you claimed it contained Richard’s print when you showed it. How did you know that, sir?”
“Who says I know?”
“What! You mean you lied?”
“I didn’t lie, I guessed. It’s a simple process of deduction––a gun was found in the suspect’s wardrobe, there’s an eighty percent chance that the print on it would be the suspect’s. You’ve got to sometimes trust your guts. See you!” he departed.
Daniel was nearly speechless, he could only manage to wave, “Au revoir.”
.
WATCH OUT FOR PART 23

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