Olai, having discovered that Aisha had been killed and that he was alone with her in the room, panicked. But then, he calmed down and cleaned the entire scene of any sign of his ever being there. Then he disappeared.
Next day, Agent Ella Johnson of the SSS came to the crime scene. It gets personal for her because everything in the crime scene reminds her of her heartbreak from last week. She had caught her fiancé in a sexual situation with another.
But then the ante is upped for her, when her partner, Essien, finds a letter in the crime scene, left by the killers.
And it was addressed to her.
Ella’s mouth went dry.
Her heart was thumping now. She let her eyes run across the words again.
I will smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have,
and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.
Tell this to Sisera.
She raised her eyes to Essien’s face. His face was expressionless, and gave away no ideas.
She looked away.
Tell this to Sisera?
She had read something like this in a novel. A killer murders someone, leaves letters at the crime scene for the police to find.
Some kind of Jack the Reaper copycat.
Quoting Bible scriptures and characters? What crazy killer do we have in our hands? I really should have submitted that resignation letter.
“Tell me what you have on the body, Essien.” Ella said.
“Due to the inevitable algor, since yesterday was undoubtedly cold,” he said, “plus, I’ve looked at the decomp. The palor suggests violence and rapid loss of blood. I can tell that there was no cocaine involved, so the rigor and livor suggests…”
“Can you speak English?” Yuri, standing at the window overlooking the gate interrupted.
Essien vented his anger with a quick look at Yuri, paused, and then turned back to Ella.
“As I was saying…”
“I just want to know when you think she might have died.” Ella whispered. “And in English, please.”
“Well,” Essien said, “Somewhere between 11 and 12 midnight.”
“Thank you.” She said. On the table in front of Ella was a white Blackberry phone sealed in transparent cellophane wrapping. Essien had put it there minutes ago.
“And this?” She reached out with her hand, picked up the telephone.
“Was found in her handbag.”
“I didn’t notice a handbag.”
“We found it on the floor on the other side of the bed.”
Through the see through cellophane bag, Ella tapped on the phone’s key. The screen came alive. There was a blinking message icon on the top right corner of the phone.
Ella tapped the message icon. New message. Bruce.
It read: Will be outside your door around midnight for the ring.
Something clicked in Ella’s mind. She looked from Yuri to Essien and then back to Yuri. Yuri turned his stare from the window to her.
“What is it?” He asked.
Ella sat up in a start. She had noticed something earlier. Something was wrong. She got to her feet and headed towards the bedroom door.
“What is it?” Yuri asked.
“I want you to download this phone. Collect the data. I want to know who she communicated with in the last three days. I want to know who she texted, called, emailed. Any form of communication. I want to know duration of calls and details on text messages.”
A little notebook and a pen appeared in Yuri’s hands, and he was taking notes.
Ella got to her feet.
“Those footsteps.” She said, just above a whisper. But Yuri heard her.
“Yes?” he asked. “Those bloodied footsteps? I’ve wondered why they headed towards the crime scene and not away from it, since those are clearly the footsteps of the killer.”
“Except,” Ella said, walking to the footsteps leading between the bedroom door and the exit door, “except they are not the footsteps of the killer.”
“Yes.” Ella stopped in front of the first footstep before the bedroom door. She reached with her gloved right index finger, and touched the red footstep. Then she raised soiled hand, smearing the red between her index and thumb finger. “When did the rain stop yesterday?”
“Somewhere between ten and midnight.” Yuri said.
Ella took another look at the red on her thumb, and her eyes widened.
“What is it?”
“These are not bloodied footsteps.” She said. “This is the red from the Abuja soil. And this could not have been sooner than around 1 am.”
She met Yuri’s gaze.
“Are you saying?”
“Yes.” She turned to the bedroom door.
“What is going on?” Essien was lost.
“Someone else came in here after the woman had been killed.” She said. “And he came in from the rain.”
“So?” Essien still didn’t get it.
“Whoever this was, he didn’t want to be found out. He knew she was going to be killed. He came in here to collect something.”
“How do you know that?”
“It’s all over the footprints.”
Yuri didn’t look convinced.
“It’s just footprints.” He said.
“The toes of the footprints are more emphasized than the heels,” she said, “which indicates more pressure on the toes. Tiptoeing. He knew she was going to be killed. The left footprint is even more emphasized than the right. He was either hurting on the right foot, or…”
“…is left handed.” Yuri said.
“I was going to say ‘left-footed’.” Ella said.
“So, he set this up?”
“No.” Ella said. “He came here to get something. And I think I have an idea what exactly he came in here to find.” Ella hurried inside the bedroom. She turned right. Ignoring Essien’s team – two men dressed in blacks – as they worked on the scene for fingerprints, she walked into the bathroom. And then her eyes fell on the left fingers of the dead woman.
At first she didn’t see what she expected. The fingers looked swollen. Wooden. Dead. The nails had gone white. Pale. The skins were dry. The entire body had taken a darker look from the last time Ella had set eyes on it.
But then she saw it. And she knew it for what it was.
Aisha’s left ring finger was long. Dark like the rest of the fingers. Polished, even. And dry. But at the base of that ring finger, she saw the pale band.
It was not large, just enough for Ella to understand that a wedding ring had been sitting on that finger not long ago. That was what the intruder had come in for.
The picture of the engagement ring James had given Ella passed through her mind. She shook her head, forcing herself to focus on the present.
She glanced at that band again.
Aisha’s wedding ring was missing.
Bruce had come for the ring.
She walked away from the scene to the living room.
“I want the video feed from the camera at the receptionist’s desk,” She said to Yuri. “Dating back to 09:00 pm yesterday.”
She turned to Essien, who stood looking at her.
“Essien,” she said. “You have the room. Our boys are on their way to clean up when you’re done.”
As Ella walked out of the door into the corridor, she already had her mind in a wild marathon.
The killer had said to warn Sisera. Sisera? Is that going to be the next victim?
And who the hell is Bruce?
Who the hell is Bruce?
The question played over and over again on Olai’s mind, punctuated with stark silence.
Dark. Quiet. Peace. And then in the next second the harsh strike of a lightning bolted into the darkness like a car’s headlights in a fog. The thunder that followed was the monotone of a ringing telephone.
He rolled on the bed, muttered a curse, before tearing his eyes open. He stretched his hand to the bedside table. Put the ringing phone back to sleep.
He rolled to the other direction on the bed, pulled the covers over his head, closed his sleepy eyes. But a sharp silent pain set his eyelids on fire.
What followed were images from the events of the previous night. Snapshots, most of them out of focus, like an assortment of disjointed pictures taken by an intoxicated amateur photographer.
They started his heart pounding.
In an instant, sleep left him.
He could hear nothing else now except the ten thousand hornets buzzing in his head.
Aisha had been killed.
The blood. The knife. The entire night. Everything came back.
As if he had just realized it, as if it had just happened few seconds ago, the fear that gripped him started from deep within his intestines. His heart was already on overdrive.
The ringing phone, now only vibrating against the bed side table, persisted.
Kicking the covers away, he got off the bed. He took a look at the screen of the vibrating phone and didn’t recognize the calling number.
“For God’s sake.”
Have they found the body already? He tapped on the phone’s screen, keying it to loudspeaker. “Hello,” he said to the empty room.
“Hi.” The voice was a familiar one. “My name is Inspector Ben Adams.”
Olai was not prepared for the lurch of his heartbeat when that name crossed his ear drums.
“Ugh?” he caught himself in time, hoping his voice had not given away the trembling in his fingers. He clutched his fingers as he said the next words, “yes, inspector. Good morning.”
“Save it.” The inspector said. “How soon can you get to the hospital?”
Olai paused. This had to be something. Of course they had found the body. Why else would they need me in the hospital?
“Err…” Olai racked his head for something to say. I need time. I’m not ready to face those alert eyes now. “I don’t know.”
“Get down here as soon as you can.”
The line went dead.
Olai’s panic went through the roof.
What just happened? Do they know I was the one with her?
Alert now, his head banging, the world spinning around him, he walked into the bathroom in his boxers and singlet. He stripped, got into the shower. Bowed his head. Turned on the faucet.
As the showerhead hissed, the first of the icy water biting into his nape, Olai’s breath caught in his lungs as a picture passed through his mind of the first of the strike from the stabbing knife biting into Aisha’s chest.
The bloodied vision of her twitching dying body from last night followed that thought. And from his brain, a heated rush began, went down his neck, down the centre of his back, exploding out to his feet. His toes felt tingly.
The strength ran out of his legs, and holding onto the edges of the bath, he swished down to a sitting position on the bathroom floor.
Not bothering to soap himself, Olai kept his head bowed, letting the water pour over him.
Have they discovered the body? And what did the police even know? She had been missing from the hospital last night. The sergeant in the hospital would have reported that in. And how long would it take the police to discover the body in the hotel bathroom?
Olai already knew the answer.
Hotel suites were cleaned out every day. Some hotels would have their rooms cleaned in the morning. Others would have theirs cleaned in the evening. But it was every day.
Okay. So it would not take long for someone to find the body. Of course the tone of the detective’s voice gave all the hint there was to give.
Something was up.
And it is more than likely that the body had been discovered. And now, Olai was going to go face this detective – again.
The man was intelligent. His eyes hinted as much. And it would not take him anything to find out exactly what happened.
But really, I did nothing wrong. I was only looking out for her.
Olai closed his eyes. The banging in his head was not receding. He wondered what it was he was scared of anyway. Immediately he asked himself that question, the answer came to the surface in his mind.
He wouldn’t want the General to discover that he had been the one with Aisha the night she had been killed. And he knew he had wanted to make love to the woman. Mad love. The guilt tore at his guts now.
Last night, Aisha and Olai had driven the General to the airport. He was a retired General of the Nigerian Army, but he was also a senator. He had gone for a meeting in Lagos.
And he had trusted me.
Whoever would believe me if I tell the truth?
And could he ever tell the truth convincing enough without this guilt messing up his testimony?
Get a grip on yourself, boy.
Olai’s intestines coiled when those words crossed his mind.
Get a grip of yourself, boy.
Olai recalled his eighth birthday. The memory had always blown a hole into his subconscious.
That night, mum had come home drunk.
Dad had left the previous night – never to return again – after they had been in a fight.
That morning, Mum had said there would be no birthday party this year. Something about money not being enough.
He had waited indoors for her all day. Nothing. No friends. Nothing. There wasn’t even electric power in the house. The authorities had cut the line.
Only his phone kept him company throughout the day, as well as the sickening feeling that life would never be the same.
The young eight-year-old had no idea how right he was.
When mum staggered in through the door, Oluchukwu – sprawled on the long couch – shut off the pornographic video he was watching on his phone.
It was obvious. She was drunk. Again.
He shut off the device’s light, closing his eyes, rolling onto his side, facing the backrest of the couch, pretending to be asleep.
It was a perfect strategy. It always worked.
Only this time, it didn’t.
Birthday boy heard mum’s staggering footsteps as she came to him on the couch.
The putrid smell of alcohol. Had she been vomiting?
When her cold fingers touched his face next, they sent shivers through him.
The finger was gone in an instant. And then they came back now, pulling him, turning him away from the backrest of the couch and to her.
She was trembling. She mumbled something that he didn’t hear. Some kind of incantation.
Oluchukwu felt cold fingers take his hands, raising them. Next, his palm was flat on exposed flesh. Warm. Soft. Succulent.
Just like his own buttocks.
And then she pulled him to a sitting position.
He opened his eyes now, and when he saw what was going on, his eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets, his heart beating.
He was holding onto his mum’s breasts.
And she was making him do it. And enjoying it.
Like the adult video he had been watching minutes ago.
This is wrong. This is wrong.
He pulled his hands away.
Eight-year-old Oluchukwu had been slapped across the cheeks before that day, but none was as blinding as the one she delivered now.
When the striking palm left his cheek an instant later, ten thousand pins attacked the cheek. His ear was ringing now.
“Get a grip of yourself, boy.” She spat the words again. “You coward. Just like your father.”
The words tore at his heart, exploding something in his tummy.
I am not a coward. I will never be like my father.
She grabbed his hand again.
The boy slipped his hands away, and ran as far away as he could from the woman that birthed him.
I am no coward.
And this instant, as the memory swept through his head, he couldn’t tell General Omar Ali the truth about last night with Aisha.
Get a grip of yourself, boy.
I can’t tell the general anything.
He knew that if he told the general, he would have to tell about the kiss.
If I tell him about the kiss, no man would believe nothing else happened after that.
No man would. Not even the Pope.
Another thought struck Olai. Everyone would question why I hadn’t called someone – the police maybe – immediately I found her dead.
He stretched his hand to the faucet, turned off the water.
Olai toweled himself dry, grabbed a toothbrush. He looked into the mirror, and thought he looked scared. His eyes were dark ringed. His brows scattered. His head still ached.
And who the hell is Bruce?
When Olai got out of the bathroom, slipped into his briefs and began creaming his body, he still hadn’t come up with a clue about the name.
He opened his wardrobe, and froze when his eyes caught sight of the torchlight on the floor of the wardrobe. It was covered with dry blood.
He remembered picking the torchlight from the congealing blood. The three grooves he had made. Won’t that leave some kind of trace back to me? Fingerprint? DNA?
Olai felt he was going crazy. The torchlight was not safe in the house with him. So he wrapped it in a black cellophane bag, and made up his mind to dump it in the next roadside waste bin he saw.
He sat on the edge of his bed, and wondered if he would ever be free of this sickening fear and guilt tearing at him right now.
But why not tell the general the truth, and damn the consequence?
Get a grip.
He shook his head. No.
They would think I killed her. Why not tell even Ben Adams the truth and damn the consequence? Wouldn’t that be the right thing? Doesn’t truth always win out in the end?
Getting off the bed, Olai made up his mind. He was going to go to that hospital, and tell the inspector everything that happened, just as it happened. He was only going to leave out the fact that he had wanted to sleep with Aisha.
That was what he owed the general as a friend, right?
But as he got to his door, another thought stopped him. There was an obvious hole in his story. If he had been so innocent, why hadn’t he called the police or informed the hotel management immediately he had found her dead?
Even Olai knew he would have a hard time believing that any man who told this story was innocent of the crime.
Olai made up his mind on what to do.
Go the hospital. Avoid every connection to the murder.
He picked up the torchlight. He would dump it in the next garbage bin he found.
Did you enjoy this story (as well as the entire Sisera series)?
Could you please spare five minutes tops, to let more people know about this as well?
Share on your various social media networks, and tag and invite your friends as well.
Also, don’t forget to comment below to let me know what you think.
Thanks a bunch.
See ya next week.