Written by Chibuzor Iwobi
I was in deep pain; my mind kept replaying the events over and over again. I sat silent, with an unlit cigarette in my mouth, on the passenger seat of the police car. I was at a point where everything about life annoyed me. How could he have gone? Just like that! The phrase “life is not fair” seemed inadequate.
Ahmed, so as not to jolt me, drove calmly. It was 8am; the streets of Lagos, like any other mega city, were extremely busy. Everybody trying to get to their place of work fast enough to avoid the inevitable traffic, often leading to reckless driving. On a usual day, witnessing that type of driving would get on my nerves, but today I was stone-cold.
“I wish you were here,” I whispered, to myself.
“Did you say something, Alfred?” Ahmed asked.
I said nothing. He took his eyes off the road for a few seconds staring at me.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
I still didn’t reply; I didn’t have the urge to. Sporadically, he would stare at my bland uninterested face. He understood what I was going through and was trying his best to help. Ahmed had been my partner for three years and he knew me better than anybody on the force. During the time of James’ death, he was on leave and had traveled home to the north to see his family. I kept on telling myself that if he was around then, James’ death could have been prevented. In a way, I felt like he was also accountable for what happened that night.
I turned the radio on and switched it to a sports only station to calm myself down. As I was catching up on the day’s news, I saw something that caught my interest. Unsure at first, thinking my mind was playing a trick on me. I leaned towards the windscreen to get a better view.
“What’s that?” I asked, with my hands pointing at what had sparked my interest.
“Where?” Ahmed asked.
“Oh my God!” I gasped, the cigarette fell out of my mouth as I opened the door and ran out of the car.
“Alfred!” Ahmed shouted, with a worried look on his face.
The morning fog clouded my vision; as I approached, my fears were realized. My body trembled with fear as eventually, I stood five feet away from him. Here I was, in the middle of the road blocking cars from moving. Horns were blaring, bystanders were throwing insults; I was causing commotion.
“Is it really you?” I asked, barely hearing my own voice.
Ahmed finally caught up with me. We were at the end of Adelabu road, Masha roundabout. At this point, people who were in line to board the buses, those who owned shops and even people driving had parked and come down to watch what was going on. Some ran away.
One shouted, “This policeman is mad, and he has a gun!”
“Alfred,” Ahmed called, angrily. ‘Why did you run off like that?”
“James,” I said, with a whisper. “Don’t you see him?”
“James?” He replied. I could hear the concern in his voice. “Are you okay, Alfred?”
“Its James,” I said, happily.
“Alfred,” He said, walking up to me cautiously. “James is dead.”
“But, I see him.”
“He has been dead for six months,” Ahmed said, while putting his hand on my shoulder.”
“I….know,” I replied. “But… I see him standing there,” pointing towards where I saw James.
“He’s smiling,” I said. “He says he is in a better place.”
“Let’s get back the car.” he said, with his two hands on my shoulders. “I’ll take you to home.”
“You think I’m crazy,” I said, turning around and staring him in the face.
“We have to go, Alfred,” He replied, ignoring me.
Ahmed held my hand and walked me towards the squad car. I could hear some people talk as I walked back to the car, making me feel like a mad man. I could see the concern in some of the people’s eyes. As I got to the car, I felt my waist and realized my gun was gone; Ahmed had disarmed me.
“Lets go,” I said, smiling. “I needed that,” I whispered under my breath.
As we drove away, I started getting flashbacks. It was of that night in the hospital, hoping the doctor would come out with good news. I had gotten him to the hospital as fast as I could, but I didn’t know if that was enough. Once he went through the doors of the ER, I went on my knees in the waiting room, begging God not to take him away from me. I was praying for about 20 minutes when suddenly, the doors opened wide and out came the doctor. I rushed to him. He stood for a few seconds in silence then took off his mask. I could tell from the look in his eyes that James was gone.
“No no no no no no,” I said, my voice getting louder with every passing no.
“I’m sorry. We did our best but, he didn’t make it,” The doctor said, bowing his head in shame. “I’m sorr-“
I grabbed the doctor, “Don’t you dare tell me he is dead.”
Before the doctor could defend himself, the doors spread wide open and some nurses were wheeling out James’ lifeless body. Time slowed down as I watched the gurney go till it was out of sight. Everything I felt when I heard my sister was dead came pouring in. There was a sudden feeling of depersonalization. I was hyperventilating and my chest tightened as I sweated profusely. Every step I took in an attempt to get out of the hospital was shaky. I kept falling on the floor and refusing assistance from the nurses to get me back on my feet. Eventually, I made it out of the hospital to my car that I had left in the hospital’s ambulance driveway. It was there the tears burst out.
“God, why?” I cried, “You let them take my little sister, now the closest thing to a brother I had, you let them take him too. Why? Don’t you love me? Bring him back, Lord. Bring him back!”
“Alfred,” Ahmed called, pulling me out of my reminiscence. “I know how much you loved James, his death was really hard on you but please stop crying bro.”
It wasn’t until the tears flowed to my lips that I realised I was crying.
“I know what you’re going through,” He continued. “I completely understand.”
“Let’s say I’ve lost someone close to me too.”
“Death,” I sighed. “But, could you have prevented that person’s death? I was so close,” I gulped my saliva. ”I was close. A few minutes earlier and I could have saved him.”
“Don’t beat yourself too hard. I doubt James would be happy to see you like this. You yourself just said he told you he’s in a better place.”
There was a loud silence for about five minutes.
“Do you know what you can do?” Ahmed asked, breaking the silence.
I stayed mute, staring and waiting for him to answer his own question.
“Revenge,” He said, with an evil grin on his face.
“My God!” I shouted, with surprise. “Are you being serious? That’s fucking wrong and for an officer of the law that’s real rich. ”
The car came to a quick halt and I hit the dashboard hard.
“Are you mad, Ahmed?” I screamed, slowly massaging the part of my head that felt sore.
There was a loud bang, a car hit us from behind, but Ahmed was too angry to be concerned. He shot up from his seat and turned to me. I felt another bump; a car had run into the car than hit us. We were causing a big pile up and I wanted to attend to it, but Ahmed pulled me back.
“Don’t you dare preach morality to me. What’s right and wrong? Please don’t. How dare you?”
“It is wrong and goes against everything I believe in,” I said, asserting my ground.
“Wrong? Wrong? Are you kidding me? I saw the crime scene from the pictures. All the blood, the heads, the body on the car, it was terrifying!” He shouted. “Alfred, revenge might be wrong, but one life for a thousand, I don’t think that’s wrong.”
I kept quiet after. He made a valid point, and as much as I wanted to argue, a part of me wanted revenge. I stared at my reflection in the side mirror and I saw a depressed man; one who had been trapped in a shell for far too long and it needed to be broken.
“His trail has gone cold,” I said, not sure if he heard me.
He was mute.
“How do I catch a ghost?” I asked.
“You’re the best detective on the force,” He replied. “Do you remember that case we solved two years ago?”
“Which one?” I asked.
“Remember the 25-year-old UNILAG student who was on her way back from campus at night? Her car broke down and she was ambushed by two guys who then raped, killed and dumped both her car and body in the river.”
“Yeah,” I replied, suddenly recollecting the situation. “Those fools left evidence behind. While struggling to get rid of the car, the license plate fell off in the process cutting one of the boys. It got buried in the sand.”
“And….” He said, hurrying me up.
“I’m just saying, you solved that case with little help whatsoever, you can solve this one too. With my help, we can catch him.”
I smiled. Immediately after James died, I went on a crazy manhunt. Catching him became my number one priority. All my resources were dedicated into finding him. I spent nights at the station to avoid waking my kids. It was like he disappeared off the surface of the earth. My sanity was in question because I certainly was not the man I was anymore. The dusk of each day ended with the bottom of a bottle. Everyone advised me to stop my wild goose chase. But only if I had gotten there on time, I would have truly made him a ghost.
My wife Angie supported me; she understood the pain I was going through because she loved James just as much.
“So what do you have on this mystery killer?” Ahmed asked.
“Nothing… absolutely nothing,” I sighed, angry with myself.
As we passed the station, I stared at the supermarket beside it and it hit me.
“The sketch!” I shouted.
“What sketch?” He asked, curiously.
“I have one,” I rushed my words excitedly. “I totally forgot about it. Oh my God. All these months, how could I?”
“You aren’t making any sense.”
“The last day I saw James, he came to me saying he had been pursuing this man who killed his mother, the same man who killed him. He gave me a sketch to use to assist him. There was also a book he kept talking about. Turn around!”
“I need to check the evidence lockup to see if that book is there,” I replied.
“Sure?” Ahmed asked, sounding unsure.
“Yeah. I’ll string all the pieces together when we get there,” I assured him.
We got into Evidence Lockup. I searched for the book and found it. Ahmed and I glanced through a couple of pages.
“April 4th 1999 – My plans aren’t working. In order to try and gain that satisfaction I got from Titilope, I kidnapped three women who bear a similar resemblance to her.”
“April 5th 1999 – My first victim: Ronke, almost as beautiful as Titilope. That angered me. I slit her throat.”
“April 6th 1999 – Today, I killed my second victim. She is an insult to the memory I have of Titi. What a dimwit.”
“Who is this Titilope?” Ahmed asked, “Any idea?”
“James’ mother,” I replied, still looking at the book.
“April 9th 1999 – The third victim, I killed her too. She was sure to fail my tests.”
“April 10th 1999 – I won’t rest till I find Titilope Jones.”
“April 14th 1999 – I desire to see her once again.”
I recalled what he told me that night.
“You should start coming. Your friend will soon be dead… like your sister.”
Could he have killed Funke? Did I wrongfully arrest an innocent man? No, no, it’s not possible, I thought
I flipped through all the pages of the book and there was nothing about my sister. Mind games? I thought.
“Alfred,” Ahmed called, his voicing snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Where’s the sketch?” Ahmed asked.
“In my desk,” I replied.
I passed the book to Ahmed.
“We are going to need that,” I said, “You know what to do.”
He nodded and tucked it inside his trouser. We walked out of Evidence Lockup and into my office. I pulled a drawer to bring out the sketch but to my surprise, it wasn’t there anymore but something was left in its stead.
A note saying;
“I’m bored Detective. Why have you stopped looking for me? I’m looking forward to our next meeting. Don’t come late, time is of the essence.”
Written by Chibuzor Iwobi (@JeSuisChiby)
Edited by; Gbadebo (@Oaa148) and Oladoyin (@Miss_Ola_D)
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