Adam looked at the empty, boring faces in front of him and sighed. “Yes we believe the third lady wasn’t a victim of the church street killer.”
He was in a meeting with all law enforcement agencies in the state under the strict orders of the state governor. The NSCDC, FRSC, NIS, NPS were all represented, even KWATMA sent a representative, it was ridiculous. It was a complete waste of time as far as he was concerned. He was supposed to be meeting with the heads of all these agencies but apparently they all thought the meeting was a waste of their time too and had sent their deputies. The deputies trying to assert some sort of authority had been firing him with questions, most of them silly repetitions of what another person had asked.
Kate sat to his right, her eyes darting here and there following the conversation but her fingers never leaving the keyboard of her laptop. Tola was seated next to her, her eyes begging him to endure the meeting.
“If you said there was somebody watching the lawyer, how did he get murdered without one of your people there to prevent it?” The representative of the NPS asked. Adam looked at him and wondered if he should answer the question. He did not understand why the Nigerian Prisons had to send a representative, they had no help to offer the investigation. Except maybe keep the killer in jail when he was caught, until he was sent to the noose.
“I mentioned earlier that he eluded our officers and they were not with him when he was killed.” Adam said as firmly as he could without being rude.
The chief of police was supposed to be a part of the meeting but had not shown up and had not even sent a representative. It was two days since Faruk told him about his suspicions and even though he was not was not convinced the chief could be the killer he had told Faruk to tail him.
The message he got from the killer had put more pressure on him. If the chief was the killer, he needed to be stopped and fast, another dead body would be the straw that would break the camel’s back. The people were already tired of his silence and there were already talks of vigilante groups trying to go after the killer.
“You have deployed policemen to all the churches in the state, that is a lot man power, how long do you hope to keep this up for?” The prisons guy asked.
“As long as we need to.” Adam said. He knew it was too much, but he had to do all he could. If the killer was going to dump the body in a church then he could not do it without being caught.
“Are you serious? There are other crimes being committed in the city, who will solve those?” The man from the NSCDC asked.
“Did you really put men in every church? Every single one?” A man whose upper lip was swallowed up in his mustache asked. He represented the Road Safety Corps.
“Okay, we are not keeping them there forever. We have information that there might be a murder soon, and so far the killer has dumped his victims in churches, so we are watching them.”
“Don’t you think he’ll change his dumping site when he sites your men?” Mustache lips asked.
“We are not stupid, you know.” Adam said, starting to get annoyed. “They’re not wearing uniforms standing in the open and wielding AK-47s.”
Adam continued for another forty five minutes telling them all he could and answering their question. He was tired, talking for so long while also fighting to keep his temper under check had drained his energy.
“I’ll take one last question.” Adam said, hoping nobody would ask any.
He was not so lucky, the man from KWATMA who had been quiet throughout the meeting raised a hand.
“Who are the suspects you have, do you have a list?” He asked.
“Well, yes we do.” Adam started uncertainly. They had suspects – the pastors, Solomon Alonge who was now dead, the chief and pretty much everybody who worked at CIB. But he could not tell them that.
“Can you share the list with us?” The man asked again.
“Well, unfortunately I cannot at this time. We will get them to you at a later time, when we are sure of their status as suspects.” Adam said and looked Tola who shrugged.
“Do you have a profile of the killer?” The man asked again.
“I’m sorry I said that was going to be the last question.” Adam said trying to cover for his lack of answer to the question.
“No, I think you should answer that question.” One of the men said, the others murmured their agreement.
“No, we don’t have a complete profile yet, we’re still working on it.” Adam answered, starting to feel the heat on his face.
“Do you have any solid leads then? Any angles you’re working?” The KWATMA man continued
“Are you even making any progress on this case?” Mustache lips added, looking at the others for support, they all nodded.
“What the heck is this?” Adam shouted, hitting the table with his hand. “You think we are playing around here? You think we just stand on highways checking permits or sit in our offices issuing passports? No we work, go out in the sun and lose sleep to rid this city of scum. You have the nerve to come here and question me?”
He packed the files in front of him and stood. “This meeting is over.”
He looked at Tola who had bowed her head during his rant, Kate sat still, her hands frozen over the keyboard. He had blown his top again. He looked round at the shocked men and walked out of the room.
Nobody followed him out of the room, Tola would probably make an attempt to clean his mess, save face as much as she could. Adam wondered why it did not take long to get him angry. Even though the questions asked were legitimate, he was not handling the case right, he was only jumping from murder to murder without a plan. He did not have much faith in profiles but it would not hurt to have one. They also needed to map out all the plausible suspects and leads and pursue them till they uncovered some other lead or became dead ends. But first, the killer had promised to kill another person, that had to be stopped.
His phone rang just as he stepped into his office. He picked it from his table. It was Faruk.
“Faruk.” He said.
“What the hell man, I’ve called you like one-fifty times.” He sounded anxious.
“Sorry, I was in a meeting.” Adam replied rubbing his head, his never ending headache was starting to act up again.
“I was made Adam, I was made.” Faruk said.
“You were what? Calm down and talk to me. You’re still watching the chief, right?”
“That’s what I’m talking about, he saw me.”
“Oh my God, how did that happen?” Adam dropped his voice to whisper and sat quickly.
“Alright, so I followed him around town for a while, then he dropped off his driver at home and drove off on his own. So I figured something interesting was about to happen so I followed him closely. I told you the man isn’t stupid.”
“Go on Faruk.”
“He drove out of town towards Ganmo, that got me even more interested. You know that’s where the three men were killed, right?”
“I was there Faruk, continue please.”
“Alright, he turned into the road that led to the settlement where the bodies were found, I was still behind him. This time we were the only ones on the road, no cars in between us. All of a sudden he stopped opposite the store where you said you found blood splashed on the wall, so I stopped too. That was my mistake.”
“He saw you then?”
“Well, not exactly. He started towards the house and was about to enter when he suddenly stopped and looked at my direction. I immediately dropped low in my seat but it was too late, he had seen me. He started walking towards me.”
“Crap! Did he see your face?”
“Nah, he didn’t. Immediately I saw him walking towards me, I started the car, turned around and sped away. I doubt he even saw the colour of the car I was driving.”
“That’s a relief.” Adam said with a sigh. “But why was he there? And why go alone?”
“I have no idea man, but does this confirm him as a suspect or not?”
“I don’t know, but there’s something going on.” Adam heard steps approaching his door. “I have to go, we’ll talk later. Stay away from the chief, okay?”
He disconnected the call. There was a knock on his door and Kate entered. Adam tried not to look her in the eye, he had embarrassed himself in front of someone who looked up to him.
“Uncle Adam…” she said, standing in the doorway.
“I just wanted to thank you for talking to my Dad, I would be on a plane to Senegal now if it wasn’t for you.”
Adam sighed, she was not talking about the meeting. “It’s okay. But he’s putting you on probation for a month, please stay out of trouble, okay?”
“Yes sir.” She said and saluted.
She left the room and almost immediately Tola entered.
“What was that Adam?” She said, her eyes blazing.
“What was what?” Adam could feel himself getting angry too. Tola was always the cool one, never getting angry. Seeing her angry made him angry at himself.
“Do you know the rubbish those men said to me after you left all because you could not manage your ego?”
“I did not ask you to stay there and listen to them, did I?”
“Oh, I should have stormed out of there too? What would that make us?”
“Dosumu, I am your boss, I can do whatever I want.”
“Of course you can, boss.” She said and stormed out of the office.
Adam stood up from his chair and held his head in-between his palms. He had never seen Tola so angry, apparently the case was taking its toll on her too. She had been right though, he had put her in a bad position. He picked his phone and left his office.
He stopped for five seconds in front of her door before he knocked. She did not answer but he went in anyway. She was sitting with her head on her desk. When she sat up, he saw tears in her eyes.
“Tola, I’m so sorry for shouting at you.” He said, standing by the door. “I shouldn’t have lost my temper there and left you to bear the grunt.”
She nodded and picked a white handkerchief from her table and dabbed at her eyes.
“Look, I know this case has been tough on all of us and I would not object if you wanted a break, even if it’s just for a few days.”
“You think a break is what I need? I love my job and hard as it is for people to believe, I love working with you. When you’re sane. But you had to hear what those men said to me when you left, it just triggered some stored up frustration, I guess.”
“I’m sorry about that Tola. I can get them all arrested if you want.” He said, with a smile. She smiled back.
“As annoying as they were, they asked some reasonable questions. Especially the last guy, the one from KWATMA. Apart from suspects and leads which are paramount, we should have a profile of the killer. Something to help us predict him.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in profiles.” Tola said.
“It won’t hurt us to have one. We should get a professional on that immediately. I’m delegating that to you.”
“What we need to talk about though is our leads and suspects or should I say lack of leads and suspects?” She said, opening up a note in front of her.
“Let’s go over the possible leads we have right now. Let’s start with the last murders, the three who were killed. Despite the killer not admitting that he killed them, I kind of believe he did. What leads do we have on that case?”
“Well, there’s the house where we found blood…”
“Yeah, that reminds me, Faruk just called.” Adam cut in and narrated to her everything Faruk had told him. “There’s something about that house, I think we need to devote a lot of resources to finding who bought or rented it from Garba. Or just find the Garba himself.”
“Then there’s the incense we found at the site. I called the woman I told you I was going to contact, she said she remembered someone asking for the flavour we found. But she said it was months ago and she said she’ll look for his phone number and get back to me.”
“Okay, those are two leads that can yield a lot if they’re not dead ends. We also need to find out who knew about the farm where Solomon was staying. How did the killer find out about the place where he was hiding?” Adam asked.
“If the chief is the killer…” Tola started, lowering her voice. “Then he could have access through the CIB.”
“Yes, but how would someone else know, someone who doesn’t work for the CIB?”
“By the way, I thought we are assuming at least one of them knew the killer, right? That would mean Solomon Alonge could have called the killer himself.”
“That’s right, he could have. We need to get his phone records then. I also think we should talk to his father again, find out if there’s any other person who knows about the farm.”
“Looks like we have work to do.” Tola said, clearing her desk.
“I think you would have to go on your own this time.” Adam said, looking at his watch. He had a meeting with Faruk at Crackos. It was to discuss the case but it had been twenty four hours since he had a drink, he badly needed one.
“Where are you going?” Tola asked surprised.
“I have a meeting with Faruk. Why don’t you take Kate with you for company, it will be fun for her too.”
“Fun? Talking to a grieving father is your idea of fun?”
Adam smiled, gave her a double thumbs-up and left the office.
Kate closed the door of the office and walked towards the exit. It had been a long day for her. Her outing with Tola had not been fun like she expected it to be. They had come back late despite not getting much, it was almost six thirty pm. Tola was a nice person and she cared about Adam a lot, it was obvious but she was also very professional. Kate wondered if she would ever really become friends with the woman and relate with her the way she did with Adam.
She stepped out of the building and walked towards the gate. Tola had gone about twenty minutes before she left the office, so she was almost by herself in the compound. She usually drove to the office but after her last episode with her Dad, he had withdrawn her car. He would not allow her take a taxi though and had told her to call when she closed so one of her dad’s numerous drivers could come pick her. But she was determined to show her Dad she could live without all the luxury that came with being the governor’s daughter.
She greeted the men at the gate and stepped into the street. She had not taken a taxi in years and was not sure how to go about it. It was better to take a single one and pay the cab driver any amount he wanted to collect. She dug her hands into her bag to get her wallet when a taxi stopped in front of her. She opened the door and entered. Thankfully she was the only one inside.
“I’m going to the government house please. How much will that cost?” She said to the taxi driver.
“You alone?” The driver asked, he wore a cap that covered most of his face. His voice was strange, almost as if he was straining to talk.
“That will be five hundred naira.”
“No problem.” She said and he started moving.
She knew she was probably over paying him but she did not care, she just wanted to show her dad she was not a spoilt brat who needed hand holding. She looked out through the window, the city looked beautiful in the almost dark night. She noticed that she was not familiar with most of the buildings she saw. It was strange because she always thought she knew everything on her route.
Two minutes later and she realized she was actually not on her route. They had turned into an unfamiliar road and it was getting dark.
“Driver, this is not the road to the government house.” She said, starting to feel uneasy. He did not reply. She hit his seat with her fist, her hands were beginning to tremble. “Didn’t you hear me, I said this is not where I’m going.”
He laughed shortly and began to whistle. The sound of his whistle rang in her head as she scrambled at the door. There was no way to open the door from inside. The window controls too were not functioning. Sweat poured down her face. She began to cry.
“Please let me go, I’ll give you anything you want.” She cried, banging on the windows. There were a few passersby but they did not seem to notice her. She balled her trembling fingers and with a scream punched him. “I said let me go!”
He m0aned and pulled the car over to the side of the road and turned off the engine. The street was dark and secluded.
He came out of the taxi and circled round the car till he came to her door , all the time keeping his face hidden below his cap. She hurriedly backed away from the door, trying to see through her tears. When he opened the door she saw that he wore some kind of mask over his face. She screamed and kicked at him as he reached for her. He smelled of mint and she could hear his deep breathing. He stopped and dug his hands into his pocket and brought out a bottle. He pointed the bottle to her and she felt a cold liquid spray on her face.
Two seconds after the liquid touched her face, she saw the man start to fade away, it was like he was being erased. She tried to move but she could not. The space where the driver had stood was replaced by darkness. The darkness seemed to have taken over the car and it was taking over her as well. She tried to fight but she was powerless against it. Suddenly the darkness stopped and she was gone.