Claire Roberts had just stepped out of a restaurant where she had a brief meeting with one of her informants, a photographer, when her phone rang. It was her aunt. She’d notified her of her arrival in Lagos and wanted to check in on her and her sister that weekend. She’d been waiting for her aunt to get back to her with a suitable arrangement because they both had busy schedules.
“So are we on for Friday?” Claire asked, while hailing a taxi.
“Erm yes darling but there’s a slight problem. Danielle left the house.”
“Okay, when will she be back?”
“No, you don’t understand. She stormed out of the house and I have no idea where she is. I’ve tried calling her but her phone’s been switched off and it’s been two days since I last saw her.”
Claire blinked rapidly trying to make sense of what she just heard.
“Y-you’re telling me that my sister’s missing?”
She knew Danielle was a bit rebellious at times but she remembered her as a sweet girl who didn’t look for trouble. She realised she’d been away for so long she had no idea what could push her sister so far as to do such a thing.
“Yes, I’ve called everyone I could think of and I barely know her friends because she rarely introduces me to any of them.” Her aunt’s voice was starting to tremble.
The rational side of Claire that helped her in all her cases suddenly kicked in.
“Alright, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll come over tomorrow morning and you’ll tell me everything that’s been going on. Then we’ll try to figure out where she went. I’ll be there by 8am sharp.”
The next day, Claire stood by the roadside trying to hail a cab. She was seriously considering hiring a car for her personal use during her stay. Finally, an empty taxi pulled up before her on the curb. As it was her usual habit, she scanned the driver before getting in. He had a, full beard which covered the lower half of his face giving him an unkempt look and full eyebrows framed his dark observant eyes. They seemed to linger on her as if he was struck by some familiar memory and she couldn’t help but look closely at him. Was she missing something?
“Where are you headed?” He asked.
She gave him the address just before her phone rang, drawing her attention from the niggling sensation at the back of her mind.
“She’s not back home?” Claire asked her aunt over the phone.
“There’s still no sign of her.”
“I’m on my way. We have to find her she couldn’t have gone too far.”
Claire hung up and stared out the window, not really seeing anything. She was filled with worry for her younger sister. She realised it had almost been a year since they’d last seen each other. There were regular phone calls but it obviously hadn’t done enough to close the gap that distance had caused. She knew nothing about Danielle’s friends, who they might be, where they lived. She had no idea where to start from. She resolved to treat it like a case. She would find leads and follow them to see where they led.
She looked up at the driver, almost forgetting where she was. Once again, she was struck with the feeling that she was missing something and one thing she never did as a detective was to ignore her instincts.
“I was wondering if you could be of some help to me.” She started. “You see I’m looking for a good car hire service during my stay in Lagos, do you know of any?”
“Well, my boss owns a private cab service. He could probably hire a car out or maybe one of his drivers along with the car just in case.”
He was glad to recommend his boss anywhere. She was satisfied he was taking the bait.
“May I have your number so I can reach you?” She asked.
“I’d rather you talk to my boss directly. He owns J.D Transport Services.” He said.
I could work with that. She thought. So she collected the number and promptly saved it in her phone. Just as he was about to leave, she asked for his name.
“Gabriel.” He answered simply.
Within a couple of days, Claire had information on Danielle’s whereabouts. She’d had to pull a few favours she was owed in order to get the information. She’d also set up a meeting with J.D himself.
“She was last seen in a hospital. Apparently, she was admitted a few days ago.”
Her aunt got up from the sofa and began pacing with worry. “Is she hurt? Where did she go next?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out. If I can just get the contact details of whoever brought her in, I might have an idea of where she was last seen.” Claire was interrupted by her phone as it rang. “Sorry, I have to take this, it is work.”
She stepped outside to take the call.
“Talk to me.” She said, going straight to the point.
“We just received a lead on David Johnson’s whereabouts.”
“Yeah, what do you have for me?”
“He was last spotted on the island, near Lekki to be precise. Sources say he was headed to a commercial area but we’ve not heard or seen anything from him since then. It seems like he has disappeared altogether.”
“That’s not possible. My guess is that he has probably assumed another identity. He’s simply trying to keep a low profile. Send me the name of the street, date and time immediately.”
“I’ll do that right away.”
Claire hung up and sighed. Now she had to deal with twice the burden of searching for missing people but at least she had a good clue of where to begin this time. First thing in the morning, Claire took a cab to the location. There were only four notable buildings on the street; two fast food restaurants, a bank and an automobile company. She decided to visit the last one as it was J.D Transport Services, the company the cab driver had introduced to her. She frowned. Was it a coincidence that the company happened to be on the same street David was last seen? She figured she could kill two birds with one stone; hire a personal car and make enquires about David’s whereabouts then she’d go and check out the other buildings.
“Hello, how may I help you?” The receptionist greeted her at the front desk.
“I’m here for my appointment with the owner, J.D.” She said.
“Just a minute please.” The receptionist said, picking up the phone to call her boss. “He’s ready to see you.”
She gave her further directions to help her locate his office on the top floor. Claire waited by the elevator doors for them to open. As they did, a man stepped out and he faltered in his steps when he saw her.
“Hello, you’re the driver who dropped me off the other day?” She smiled.
“Y-yes I am.” He replied.
“You’re Gabriel right?”
“That’s correct.” He nodded.
“I decided to go ahead with your suggestion.” She said.
“I’m sure you won’t regret it.” He smiled.
The elevator doors were about to close so she quickly got in while he moved out of her way. The doors closed before they could exchange another word. In the lift, Claire’s eyes narrowed as she stared ahead of her. The man was strikingly familiar but she couldn’t just place him. One thing she knew was to always trust her instincts but she didn’t understand what they were telling her this time.
Gabriel leaned against the car outside J.D’s office. His heart was thumping for no reason it seemed. Something about that woman just gave him goose-bumps and they were definitely not the good kind. He got into the car and decided to get out of there. His route wasn’t to start for another hour or so but he wanted to get on the road early. Several hours later, he was exhausted and getting ready to round off. He stopped for dinner at a local food joint before heading towards his cab again.
“Hey, taxi!” A voice yelled.
He sighed in annoyance. He just wanted to go home and rest but he also needed to make as much as possible.
“Where are you heading to?” He said, making his voice as polite as possible despite his annoyance.
A group of two girls and two guys stumbled over to him. He sniffed the air around them and his nose wrinkled in disgust. They stank of alcohol, cigarettes and vomit. His eyes widened in surprise at the familiar face in their midst. Danielle? She was leaning on the second girl who had an unsteady arm around her. Her eyes were closed and she seemed half-asleep. He almost laughed at the sight they made. How could two very drunk people support themselves? Just so they didn’t fall into a ditch or something, he decided to pick them up. They squeezed into the car as one of the guys mumbled an address. When they arrived, he frowned. This wasn’t a house like he’d expected. It was a night club. He glanced at them through his mirror. They were in no state to be club-hopping. But he decided to mind his business.
They stumbled out of the car and he had to call them back to remind them about payment. One of the guys threw a ₦50 note at him before stumbling off to join the others. Gabriel shook his head and got out of the car to follow after them. It was one thing to be drunk and rude, and it was yet another thing to pay him such a ridiculous amount for his service.
“Hey, come back and pay me my money!” He shouted, walking faster.
The loud music from the club could be heard from outside and more people were trooping in after them. Ladies were decked in clothes that were barely there and guys were laughing boisterously at jokes he was sure he wouldn’t understand. Some couples leaned against the walls of the building, cuddled together.
Everyone froze at the first gun shot.
Instinctively, he dropped to the ground and rolled behind an abandoned car for cover. Seconds later, people began to panic when a group of thugs raided the area in their numbers. Gabriel swore under his breath. This was not how he planned his night to go. He ducked again when another shot was fired, followed by several more. People began dropping to the floor, not of their own accord but because they were hit by the stray bullets.
A second group of men dressed in black appeared, shooting at the first group. He swore again in panic. He was caught in the middle of crossfire between cultists. People ran out of the club and more blood was spilled. It was quickly becoming a massacre. He peered out from behind his cover to find the group he’d dropped off running out too, they were unsteady on their feet and one of the guys was shot in the chest. The rest screamed and his eyes went to Danielle who had dropped to the ground and was crawling towards cover with her friends behind her. People were being picked off one by one and it wasn’t long until there was silence as the cultists moved on. Dead bodies littered the ground and some were injured and left bleeding out on the floor. Music still played on from the club as if nothing had happened, providing a soundtrack to the massacre but the club itself was abandoned.
When he felt it was safe to get out, he crawled out from behind the car and moved quietly towards the massacre. He searched for Danielle and her friends but couldn’t find them. He dialled 911 emergency services for those that were still injured and continued his search.
He wondered why he seemed to have a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A memory flashed in his mind of the night Nene Abasi was murdered. He vaguely remembered the scene and the man who attacked him. It was the first time in weeks he’d been able to recollect any details of the incident.
It has taken witnessing a massacre to jolt my memory of the murder. He thought bitterly.
“Argh…” The quiet groan came from behind some bushes.
He followed the noise and found her lying on the ground covered in dirt and blood. He dropped down beside her and checked her for any bullet wounds, there were none. Her eyes fluttered open and she stared up at him.
“It’s you again.” She whispered before she passed out.
In the distance, the ambulance and police sirens were heard.