The Divisional Police Headquarters.
The meeting between the Divisional Police Headquarters and the representatives of Senator Abasi’s security force was well underway before Claire Roberts walked in, looking like she’d come straight off the beaches of L.A. Well, her flight had only arrived that morning after all.
“Glad you could join us, Detective.” The Senior Officer said with a slight inflection to his voice at her lateness.
“Thank you, sir.” She replied.
She inclined her head curtly before acknowledging those in the room. The representative of the security force regarded her with a surprised yet doubtful look. She ignored it. She was used to being underestimated. In fact it worked to her advantage most of the time. She gave no excuse as to why she was late, not wanting to divert the attention of the meeting. Instead, she quietly took a seat at the table and focused on what was being said.
“Our suspect, David Johnson is a 20 year old young man. He dropped out of the University of Lagos about 3 months ago and sources say that he hasn’t had any contact with his family within those months. He lives by himself in a self-contained apartment on the mainland and used to work as a security guard at St. Augustine Hospital where the murder of Miss Nene Abasi was carried out during one of his shifts. He later quit his job and disappeared after breaking out of Police custody. Our men are still on the lookout for him but it is believed that he might have changed location recently since he is rarely seen at his home.”
Claire studied the images of David that popped up on the screen. He didn’t look like a criminal but then again, rarely did most of them. She took a few notes of his appearance and all that she found to be useful. She had been briefed on her way from the airport but it was important to attend the meeting. She hadn’t been back in Nigeria for a few years. In fact she had been on indefinite leave for the past two years after she nearly lost her life during her last case. She shuddered slightly as she remembered. She had been so sure it was going to be the end of her career, the end of her life. What frustrated her most was that those responsible had never been caught.
An hour later, the meeting came to a conclusion. They had gathered all the information they had on the murder although there were no eye witnesses, just statements given by staff who work at the hospital and people who happened to be in the vicinity that night. Almost all the signs pointed to David Johnson but Claire was determined to get to the bottom of the case. The suspect had escaped from Police custody and was now on the run which raised warning flags even higher.
After the meeting, she took a cab to the apartment she’d rented for the duration of her stay in Lagos. Once she was in her bedroom, she let down her long, full dark hair; a hereditary gift from her American father, along with hazel eyes and smooth, glowing skin. Her mother was a Nigerian and the chance encounter between the two was a story they had told her many times when she was young. But they were both gone now, a fatal accident had claimed their lives. All she had as immediate family was a free-spirited, slightly rebellious younger sister who lived with their aunt in Lagos. Her phone rang and at the ringtone, a bright smile lit up her face.
“Hello honey.” She said when she heard her fiancé’s voice.
“Hey darling, how was the meeting?” His deep warm voice made her feel better instantly.
Her fiancé, Colonel Isaac Lawal served in the US military and was fiercely protective of not just his country but his fiancée too.
“It went alright.” She replied, walking to the kitchen to prepare a cup of coffee.
She heard him sigh over the line.
“Whatever you do, just promise me you’ll be safe. I can’t come close to losing you again.”
Her hands paused their movement in measuring out the ground coffee and she set the spoon down.
They ended the call shortly after. When the hot beverage was ready, Claire poured some into a mug and went to her bedroom. There, she spread out all the files and information she’d gathered at the Police Headquarters and began to peruse them. Some of her colleagues might call her rusty after being out of the field for so long but she saw this as her chance to prove to not just them but herself too that her near death experience wasn’t the end of her bright career. Not when she was still just in her late Twenties. She had years ahead of her and she was going to start by cracking this case. Wherever David Johnson was, he didn’t know what was about to hit him.
As she read further, the details of the incident caught her attention. Why was he reported to have been unconscious at the site of the murder? Was that a sign of a struggle? If it truly was a struggle, then with who? Certainly not the late Nene Abasi because she was unconscious and bed-ridden at that time. Claire got to her feet and paced her bedroom floor. It seemed like there was another party involved.
But the question was, who?
After his week of intense training was over, Gabriel as he was now known was ready to hit the road. J.D had given him a new ID card and documents which he would use during his employment. He had a strategic route that would hopefully keep him away from areas where he was known and where he could be searched for. J.D had also given him accommodation in a boys’ quarters that was quite far from his former apartment on the mainland. His first day was full of nervous tension as he got into the car.
“Remember, David Johnson doesn’t exist.” J.D had told him early that morning.
With that thought, he started the engine and drove off. His first passenger was an old woman who was on her way to a church service. She had spent the better part of the 15-minute ride preaching to him and asking him to give his life to Christ.
“Such a nice young man, you don’t want to miss heaven do you?”
“No ma’am.” He replied respectfully as she got out of the car.
He breathed a sigh of relief when she was gone. Even after he had told her he was a Christian, she hadn’t relented in her preaching. After a quick stop for food, he picked up his second passenger which was a middle-aged man. The man was constantly on the phone throughout the journey and barely looked at him.
“Yes darling, I’m on my way.”
His ears perked up at the gentleman’s conversation.
“I can’t wait to see you too. Wear something really beautiful okay? I’m taking you out.”
It must be his wife, he thought, holding back a smile.
“My wife? No, she’s out of the country. We have the whole week to ourselves.” The man said with a smirk evident in his voice.
His eyes widened at that. Okay then, definitely not his wife. When they got to his stop, the man got down and paid the fare in a hurry. He must really be eager to go ‘home.’ Night came and he was through for the day. He returned to J.D’s home to give account of the day’s work and to collect his percentage.
The next few weeks were without incident and he settled into the routine although he never failed to be on the alert. He followed the news diligently to know what was being said about Nene Abasi’s case. The Police believed that he was on the run but they didn’t know his whereabouts and if he had his way, they would never find out. He knew he was innocent but if they didn’t believe so, he was still in danger and couldn’t afford to be careless. On Thursday evening, he was cruising down a main road in Lekki Phase 1 when a couple flagged him down. He slowed down the vehicle and immediately regretted his action when he got a good look at them.
“Oniru, please.” The man said.
He nodded curtly as they got into the cab, keeping his gaze averted. But his eyes were instantly drawn to her. Amanda, the girl who broke his heart. She didn’t look twice at him but the one time their eyes met, he saw a flicker of confusion in them before she looked away again and ignored him. He was silent throughout the drive, battling to keep himself from yelling out in frustration. Was he that irrelevant or better yet, unrecognizable? He should be glad that even she couldn’t tell he was the one. His disguise was effective but it hurt that someone who had mattered so much to him was so near, yet very far away.
When he arrived in Oniru, the man paid the fare, wrapped an arm around Amanda who smiled lovingly at him and they walked away. They were gone. Even long afterwards, he couldn’t wipe the image from his mind. She looked happy and she was finally with someone who seemed suited to her class and taste. He wore an air of importance and was very handsome, David grudgingly admitted to himself.
He should have been paying attention to road, if he had, maybe he could have stopped what happened next. But he hit the brakes just a second too late.
“No! No, no, no….” He kept muttering over and over as he got out of the car and ran towards the unconscious body that lay on the ground. “Somebody help!” He screamed.
The lady wasn’t moving. Oh Lord, why isn’t she moving? He screamed mentally.
“Ah! Oga, you don kill somebody pikin!” A passer-by shouted, attracting more onlookers.
A few helpful ones rallied around to carry her into his car and he immediately took her to a nearby hospital. All the while, his heart was pounding. If anything happened to her, this time he would truly be a killer. Once she was in the car, he drove quickly to the nearest hospital with his heart pounding a frantic rhythm. He debated within himself on whether or not to drop her at the doors and zoom off. No one must discover who he was and the Police must not hear of any sighting or else they’ll come chasing after him like hounds. He got out of the car and opened the back seat where she lay unconscious. Her chest rose up and down, a good sign that she was still breathing. His actions attracted the attention of a security guard who started walking briskly towards him.
“Young man, what do you have there?” The older man asked.
“Please help me, she’s been in an accident.”
The guard immediately assisted him in carrying her into the hospital reception area where a nurse took over from them by wheeling her away in a wheelchair. He glanced discreetly towards the door, feeling that his chances of leaving quietly were now ruined.
“Follow me to sign a few forms while we wait. Do you have any relationship with the victim?”
He was careful about his answer.
“She was involved in an accident, I just brought her here.”
“The good Samaritan, eh?” The guard said with a smile.
If only he knew. He thought, smiling nervously.
“I’ll leave you to Nurse Abigail now, she’ll collect the form once you’re through.” The guard said, turning to leave.
He breathed a sigh of relief at his absence. Something about those older, wiser eyes unnerved him and made him feel so guilty for even considering leaving the poor woman on her own. After submitting the form, he took a seat in one of the metal chairs and waited. He waited so long he didn’t even realize it when his eyes slid shut and he was fast asleep.