The Lady pushed her cart somewhat mechanically. She stopped at a door prepared to knock, but her hand stopped in mid-air as she noticed the sign hanging on the doorknob; do not disturb!
She pushed her cart past the door to another and seeing no sign knocked gently.
She knocked again, and hearing no response she used her key card and opened the door. Before she could even push her cart in a voice shouted harshly. “Come back later, let me sleep for God’s sake!”
She withdrew hurriedly and shut the door, and without a word pushed her cart further down the hall. She was used to such petty tantrums from the hotel guest. She didn’t give a shit about them, she just wanted to do her job which was to change the towels and the sheets, clean the room and get out of there.
There was also no reply from the next door and she entered the room announcing her presence as she pushed her cart ahead of her.
“I want to change the sheets please, I’m from dry cleaning”
She got no response and noticed the room was empty. She sighed out in relief and began to hum as she headed to the bathroom first. The towels were obviously used and on the floor in a bunch. She wrinkled her nose as a pungent odour irritated her. She couldn’t place the source of the odour but it was strange and foul and irritated her. She smiled wryly at the irony. Considering the fact that she was a cleaning lady. But apart from the dirty towels on the floor, the toilet was still as she had left it the day before it was still so clean it might have never been used.
She reentered the room rolling her sleeves, looking around, whoever had been in this room must have checked out last night, the bed was exactly as she had made it 24 hours earlier. But what was that odour that forced her nose to wrinkle?
She observed the bed and sniffed the air. Suddenly something caught her attention and she dropped the new sheets on the bed and crawled across it without taking off her slippers. (She was the one who would still wash the sheets after all) she peered at the wall above the headboard at the object of her fancy.
There was a hole in the wall. A circle, carved perfectly into the wall with smooth curves as if it were part of the architectural plans. She looked at it confused but intrigued, it had definitely not been there the day before.
She peered into the next room from the hole, just with one eye. She could see the bed, and part of someone’s legs. someone was asleep in the other room and another guest had somehow drilled a hole and spied on the other guest. She frowned as she considered this. She could imagine a pervert peering at a female guest while she was naked in the next room. But the legs she was seeing was hairy and definitely masculine. Overcome with curiosity she changed her view, shutting her right eye and staring through her left.
She saw….the bed clearly from this view and she pondered what the sticky thing she was looking at was for a split second before the brain finally clicked with the realization that it was, in fact, looking at one. One that had been blown apart, the pungent odour attacked her along with the realization and the flashes clicked like shutters beneath her eyelids in her mind..engraving itself forever in her memory…..the blood, pasty and sticky, so red and thick …the whitish pinkish fluid which wasn’t a fluid but solid matter….particles of brain matter..the…the… The scream ripped out of her coming from deep within, the mirror shook, so did the chandelier up above. This was a scream too high to have come from the throat. this kind of scream originated from the soul. It had to be.
She ran out of the room, her hands shaking, her eyes blinking, trying to unsee what it could not. All the while, she didn’t break or gasp for breath but continued screaming.
And the glasses continued to rattle
I waited my turn patiently, tapping my steering wheel to the old school tune coming from the radio. I didn’t know who it was and in fact was tapping my fingers partly to stay awake. I glanced at the dashboard checking the time, it was 10:44am. A normal person should be energetic and would be a little bright eyed no matter how tiring the day was. But when you could hardly boast of 5 hours sleep in the last 72 hours then you were no longer normal.
I leaned hard on my horn although it was fruitless, I was still about four cars from the pump but at least it jerked me fully awake.
The last two years.. 19 months to be precise had been a….I still run out of adjectives to describe what had taken everyone by storm and what was still referred to as the devil’s initiative. Trust the media to at least come up with a provoking if not witty headliner.
I had been at the center of it all, well to be precise, we were a handful of people but I had been at the core of the center, from the moment I had found out that Mr Amunike or Chief Amunike, business tycoon and owner of the “Sunrise Steel” company, (not to mention the now out of favour ammunition alcohol drink) had been trafficking helpless women, mostly widows out of the country, It had become my life’s calling to expose him. The scars still burned, I had lost Fomé, Andy had lost Mona and his unborn child. I worried about my friend. He had lost his wife and unborn child and while I found Olivia by some unbelievable luck, he had no one. He had thrown himself fully into our PI firm, taking on case after case, closing down surveillance, security meetings and had even engaged himself in field work with Bami and Tonye. And trust me, the BROTA agency was engaged in lots of field work. Although it was relatively safe but when I say relatively I mean 60%. We had the backing of the Government, at least the Lagos State Government (I had saved his life after all) and when the clients multiplied and the case load became too much we had to recruit new agents. I fully trusted Bami and Tonye’s capacity when it came to field work and left that aspect in their capable hands. Both had saved my life and I had so many memories to remind me, was it when Tonye’s shot cracked the night when I had been flat on my back expecting the blade from the shadow with 500 scared widows behind me? Or when Bami had-
The blast from the horn jolted me again but this time it was from the car behind me. I started my engine and covered the space that had been freed ahead
I opened my shirt button and dug out the chain I had round my neck. There was a heart shaped pendant at the center and I opened it and stared at the two pictures on either side. No, there was no way I was getting involved in any field work or any case that looked the least bit dangerous. I smiled at Olivia feeling a love so intense my chest burned, but then I glanced at the second picture. At the clear eyes so much like mine, the curly hair, sweet dimples buried in her fat cheeks and the heat became warm immediately. Emma, my Emma, my daughter. She was a year and two months…two weeks, 3 days and a couple hours old (heey…I was once a banker) anyway I had a different kind of responsibility now and I couldn’t afford the kind of heroic charge that once burst through my veins and brought me a whisker from death on too many occasions to run free.
Which was why the past couple of days had been hectic, troubling, stressful with all manner of thoughts going through my mind.
At first the hunt for the last shadow had kicked of quite expectantly. The media had branded us the golden detectives, the Governor along with a senator had gifted us a golden budget to bring the bastard Chief Security Officer of Sunrise Steel and the head and last remaining member of the sunset shadows. For the first time I had access to the kind of intelligence I watched on the big screen so many times. Tonye and Bamy were ex DSS agents with reliable sources, the Government backing had linked us with different agents from different agencies and I came across fancy gadgets and fancy strategies but the shadow whose office name was Mr Kehinde continued to elude us. He remained the last shadow, always disappearing into thin air without a trace. One day he was in Australia, the next day Japan, the next he had been sighted from a satellite image and was definitely in the Caribbean. He remained elusve and it had been a blind chase from one country to another.
At least we had traveled the world. But then time went by, Olivia’s stomach started to get bigger and my priorities started to realign.
The moment the nurse had placed Emma in my hands and she had looked up at me with big black eyes I knew I had to kiss my short detective career goodbye.
I started my engine again when the car moved and crawled forward while I remembered the conversation I had with Bami in the hospital corridor the night of Emma’s birth.
“Bami…its over, I’m done, I can’t risk my family again man…I’d take my old job back. Ariyo would take me back at the bank” even as the words left my mouth I knew it was folly.
Bami had looked at me strangely (with his strange eyes)
“That’s crazy…you can’t expect things to be the same as before…things changed and you know it but you’re still Rex Obasi…you’re the R in BROTA…you’re my brother….you’re Andy’s brother!”
The guilt had been amazing and I felt very selfish then but then we talked, really talked and he could understand my fears. I had been trained by the best teacher which was experience and a good teacher didn’t need to repeat himself twice.
Finally I found the perfect compromise, agreed to take over Olivia’s old job, running the desk at the agency was relatively safe and Olivia had gladly taken indefinite leave so to be frank I was the new secretary. And whenever I stamped a case file or read a confidential detective report, I felt the longing deep deep deep down. But that’s all it can ever be. I was going to be 31 in three months and I planned to remain a loving father and husband for the rest of my life and I wanted it to be a long one.
Which was why I was worried sick since the last three days. It all started with an anonymous mail and it had brought back hunting memories.
The moment I saw the address I felt a cold chill inside of me.
The message had been chilling.
“Your sun has been bright and overhead for a long time. Hope you enjoyed it but now sunset is here and you know what that means…”
I immediately remembered the messages the crazy shadow killer used to send me and how he had almost killed Andy the night at the wharf.
I knew better than to tell Olivia and it had taken me just a second reading of the threat to known what I had to do.
First I convinced her to spend the weekend with my parents who always called to speak to and ask about their granddaughter almost every night. Then I arranged with Bami to have two of the best agents arrange shadow security…which ironically meant Olivia had no idea she was under security watch.
72 hours of running around in circles with no lead, no reply to my bold(who the hell are you?)enquiry and no meaningful clues from anywhere to go on. This could only mean Mr Kehinde was back and he was coming after me. God. Why me?
So here I was thinking about thinking, sitting in a fuel station just a car away from the pump.
I finally bought fuel, filling my tank cause of the scarcity rumours that had been flying about lately.
As I drove home my phone rang. I checked the caller ID. It was Sam, aka S.s (Short Sam)
Sam was my buddy from the university and a brilliant hacker. He had helped me hack into the widows initiative website two years ago and still helped me out frequently. My phone was connected to my car’s Bluetooth and since the window was up and I was the only one in the car, I answered the call.
He sounded tired “men its a dead end….whoever this real shadow that sent you the mail is, he knows what he’s doing”
“So you couldn’t trace the IP or something”
“There’s just so little to go by, the address was created a week ago, and the IP placed the location at Sweden”
“Sweden?” I was baffled
“Then Russia, then Ukraine, then Croatia….the list is long not to talk of the firewalls”
I scratched the back of my neck tiredly “typical of a shadow”
“I’d keep trying, if anything comes out I’d let you know”
“Thanks Sam…I appreciate this”
“Hey, its all for a good course, finally my conscience is clear and I’m doing what I love”
I ended the call and tried Olivia’s call through voice command.
She picked on the second ring.
“Hello darling…how are you?”
I could hear the ruckus in the background. The shouting of kids playing and having fun and I smiled. I also lied “I’m doing good….I’ve just been working out although the house had been quite lonely and I miss you like crazy” (at least that wasn’t a lie)
“Awwww….well here has been the total opposite of lonely…Utebo is here with the twins and Emma and Soma have been playing all weekend.” I thought her voice sounded strained. Soma was my immediate elder sister’s daughter and just ten months older than Emma.
“How’s mom and dad…is any of them there?”
“Dad just went out not long. But mama is is in her shop outside. Do you want to speak to her?”
“No I’d call her later…and I’d call you later, I’m almost home…give Emma a big kiss for me”
I could hear the smile in her voice. “I would, I’d collect mine when I come home”
“Okay bye I love you” I rushed and cut the call. I didn’t want them home yet. Not until this last shadow threat was nullified.
I entered my garage and my phone rang again this time it was Andy.
He didn’t waste any time for greetings.
“There’s been a murder”
“Have you reached Bami….you know what I have on my hands won’t give me time for-”
He interrupted me. “Oba, believe me you’re going to need to see this one”
The moment Olivia got off the phone with Rex she dialled Tonye.
Her friend answered on the first ring or before the first ring if it were possible.
“Any developments Tonye?”
“Still nothing yet..but its just a matter of time before we trace him”
“OK…Rex called me now and I could tell he was really stressed out”
“You know Rex, anything about family, he drives himself past the limit.”
“Please keep an eye on him…I’m worried and he keeps dodging my statement about coming back home”
“I know, don’t worry”
“Listen Tonye, thanks for telling me about the email threat”
“Don’t mention. We sisters have to look out for ourselves”
Olivia walked to the window and parted the blinds. She could make out the dark sedan in the distance and knew the agents sitting in the car, tasked with protecting her. Clyde and Kevwe. She had been the one to type out their employment letters.
She closed the blind and wandered back to the parlour. Where her daughter sat with her cousin and best friend. Both of them staring at the animated movie: ‘Moana’
And just like Rex earlier, the love warmed her and a fierce protective feeling made her eyes harden a bit. No one was going to touch her daughter. She would die to make sure of it.
She left the children alone, shaking her head as the twin boys ran around shouting and shooting each other with their thumbs.
They were 7 and their father had just been recently promoted to lieutenant colonel. The twins would always tell her any chance they get ‘I want to be a soldier like my dad’ causing her lips to turn upward in a smile every time
She left the children and went outside, opening the door that led directly to her mother’s shop. Her husband’s mother was her mother, not her mother in law. They had gone through so much together and they loved each other dearly like mother and daughter.
Her sister in law(Utebo) who was more like her sister was sitting on a stool talking to her mother and she smiled when she saw Olivia.
“They’re still watching that cartoon shey?”
“Third time in a row. They are even singing the songs already” they all laughed and Olivia settled on an upturned empty crate. She was with her family, the type of family she had always wanted and she cherished moments like this.
“So when is Papa’s semifinal ram fight?” she asked
Mama Obasi smiled with a mischievous glint in her eye and in a conspirator’s whisper “Rambo was certainly delicious, but this his new ram isn’t half as good as Rambo was. Even Al told me himself he knew the ram wouldn’t make it past this stage”
“Well if he isn’t half as strong as Rambo we’d have to find out if he is atleast half as delicious for fairness sake” Utebo said as she got up to attend to a customer. Mama and Olivia couldn’t help it, they burst out laughing.
The minute the call came in, Bami crept out of bed, careful not to wake his wife and left the house without having his bathe. He approached the hotel few minutes before ten, barely an hour after the body had been discovered. He had seen the body, standing to the side while the coroner took pictures and his strange eyes widened in disbelief.
“How soon can a DNA test be done to confirm his identity?” He asked the woman detective who was looking round the apartment with a crime scene technician careful not to disturb the coroner who was jotting down his findings and taking pictures of the unrecognizable head and the lawn tennis ball sized (also known as alarm ball and it was quite alarming) hole in the head. Bami couldn’t believe his eyes, he had stared at the picture too many times and knew whose corpse he was looking at but he still needed to be sure.
“Okay I’m done here…they can take the body to the morgue I still have some tests to run…maybe an autopsy” the coroner finally announced as he jotted down his findings.
“I need you to confirm his ID for me asap…please its urgent” Bami said to the coroner as he passed him. He glanced at the badge, it wasn’t difficult to notice. “You’ll have to come with me to the lab then…if its that important”
“Okay, sure let me make a quick call” he was already dialing Rex but he frowned in thought and cut the call. He speed dialled another number.
Andy picked the second time he called.
“Where are you?”
“I was having a shower”
Bami remembered he hadn’t had his “you need to hurry to this crime scene, immediately…” He rattled of the address
“Okay…have you told Rex yet?”
“No…not yet…I want the body to be confirmed first”,
“Confirmed….confirmed as who?”
“Mister Kehinde…the leader and last of the sunset shadows”
Andy whistled “I’m on my way”
After Andy’s call I trafficated left, thankful there was a roundabout just ahead.
I drove to the hotel with the same feelings I had become used to in the last 72 hours, namely: worry, fear, anger, confusion. Andy had refused to tell me whatever it was about the murder that I needed to rush down there immediately but I guessed it must be important because he was aware of the latest threat.
The hotel looked like one I had used before when I was with my family and on the run, jumping from hotel to hotel.
I noticed the strong police presence immediately I entered the hotel lobby. I headed for the stairs thinking if I should call Andy or not, he had given me the room number so I decided not to.
Room 68 was on the third floor and as I rounded the steps I was face to face with a uniformed officer. His Job was to make sure no one got on the floor.
“This floor is closed, go back”
“That’s why I’m here”
“Are you a reporter? He looked at me suspiciously and I wondered the kind of rock he had been living under at least my face had been splattered on newspapers, billboard,magazines…there were numerous interviews, talk shows not to mention game shows. But this cop didn’t know who I was.
“I’m here for the murder investigation, my frie- partner called me”
“This is a crime scene, lemme see some ID”
I tapped my flat pockets already knowing my badge wasn’t with me. Even my PI licence card was in my wallet and my wallet was…..somewhere.
“No ID I can’t let you through sorry”
“Come on don’t give me a tough time” I pleaded.
“I’d have to ask you to leave”
He then proceeded to escort me to the edge of the stairs. I hung back immediately after the curve and called Andy.
“I’m outside but a seven foot bag of beans in a uniform won’t let me in”
“I don’t have it here”
“Okay, stay put I’m coming”
Five minutes later I followed Andy as he led the way. I was caught up in what he was saying “the maid came in to clean the room as usual, then she saw the body through a hole in a wall.”
“So she didn’t exactly stumble on the body?”
“No the main crime scene was undisturbed”
“This hole, what kind of hole are we talking about?”
“See for yourself” he opened the door and I entered the room.
“The maid glanced at the body from here…the killer drilled a hole and used the pillow to silence the shot…it was nasty”
I made a face “the body is still next door?”
“No…the coroner has taken it”
“Whew…I can do without seeing a dead body right now”
“I didn’t even see it…I just studied the photographs” Andy informed me.
I studied the wall “Amazing….what could perforate the wall perfectly?”
“That is the big question no one knows..” Andy folded his hands and watched as I studied the wall. I didn’t know why but I suspected there was something Andy was not telling me.
I almost touched the inside of the hole but I stopped.
Now Andy had been into machines advanced tech classes when we were in school and I knew his physics classes entailed a lot of practical work.
“I don’t know about the smoothness of inner curve but I just thought of something that could do that!”
I perked up “what?”
“There’s a kind of small hand drill..the one I remember was even pocket size..we called it a hole saw”
“Yes….although we used ours to cut a hole in plywood.” He frowned at the wall as he thought back.
I straightened up finally and tapped the wall. It sounded hollow “I’d say this is the next thing to plywood.”
I moved round the room to the other side of the bed, Andy remained rooted to the spot. I brought out my handkerchief from my back pocket and opened the drawer. There was a laminated piece of A4 paper listing the hotel’s prices from basically everything…rooms, food,drinks”
I closed it without touching anything. I opened the second and the last drawer. My eyes grew wide, I could literally feel it swell up in my eye socket and Andy looked at me “what…what is it”
He hurried to my side and saw it too.
The gun had to be a…I didn’t really know. I’m not sure I knew it. Andy apparently did because he said “Its a desert eagle”
“This has to be the murder weapon…so the killer stayed in this room, waited till he could probably hear the snore from the next room, then he drills a hole expertly without waking up the deceased and shoots him point black in the head through the hole in the wall?”
Andy nodded in agreement “then I’m guessing he took off from the hotel immediately he was done.” He turned one of the pillows over and I saw it had been used to smother the shot.
” The killer has excellent aim sha”
“Yea…we should check the registry at the reception get the description of this psycho and hopefully clips from the security camera and put a Nation wide APB on him”
I agreed “that’s one way to go” but I didn’t move even when he turned towards the door I remained still. He turned back and looked at me
“Andy what’s going on? What’s so special that you dragged me here?”
His phone rang in response and he picked it up.
He listened for a second with a intense look on his face, then he seemed to relax. “Yea…he’s here with me….I’d tell him”
By this time I was almost going red with frustration at whatever coded game they were playing. However Andy’s next words was like a bucket of ice thrown at my face.
“That was Bami…he went to the lab, the body has been identified…Its Mr Kehinde….the last shadow… the real shadow was killed sometime after midnight…they just id’d the Vic and its a confirm match…he’s dead Rex….gone”
I blinked and suddenly wanted to sit down. “Who killed him?”
“That’s the mystery but the important thing is he’s no more…you’re free from the threats…your family is safe.”
I let out the breath I had been holding for the past three days.
Sgt Mabel Dagnet watched Terry bag what had to be brain matter stuck on the wall.
“This is one nasty bastard” Terry said. This was definitely the most gruesome case he had worked.
Dagnet didn’t reply she wandered to the closet at the other end. She was in her late forties and had fifteen years service under her belt and she hadn’t come this far by chance. She was a determined lady or according to one drunkard she had arrested once; ‘a helluva lady’.
She closed her cases. She had a 95% success rate (she had calculated it her self) and in all her cases she always made an arrest and this wasn’t going to be an exception. She’d be paying the receptionist a visit very soon.
“Bullet fragments?” She asked the young man in a polo shirt. Terry worked crime scenes, ran forensics and was always the first to sweep a scene during any investigation.
“I haven’t gotten to it yet, it lodged deep in the mattress…the hole is high so the angle of the gun was such that the bullet went through the top of the head and exited above his left cheek.”
“That has to be a powerful hand gun…even with the pillow” Officer Dagnet observed “I need you to work on those bullet fragments and let me know what kind of weapon we’re dealing with here”
“There’s so much to bag…I can’t rush it” the young man protested in a whiny voice.
Dagnet rolled her eyes “I’d give you space” she decided to go and check on the receptionist downstairs. The agent was definitely not coming back and she didn’t care, she didn’t need any help and certainly not from them.
She opened the door and almost ran into the agent. He had his hand out like he had been about to open the door. There was a second man with him, she couldn’t see any badge but she knew him. It was Rex Obasi. She had followed the story two years ago. She didn’t like him. The golden detective, he had been branded by the papers with his little group like they were better than the rest. Like they were better than her. In her opinion he wasn’t worth shit as a detective and his little group were just a bunch of attention seeking individuals who seemed to have a special magnet to attract the media.
She was still thinking whether their presence was a positive or a minus, a pro or con when the agent spoke up.
“We found the gun”
I didn’t like the way the detective looked at me, it made me feel uncomfortable to say the least. Her eyes were impassive and almost expressionless but there was anger in them.
“So you just happened to stumble on the murder weapon?” She asked as she stepped back so Teddy could bag it.
“I wouldn’t have stumbled on anything if you had done your job and canvassed the area properly” I replied with much heat.
She backed down but studied me suspiciously.
Who was this clown? I could see a slim rectangular badge with her name clipped on her breast pocket. M. Dagnet. Whoever she was she couldn’t burst the bubble of elation I was feeling at the moment. The last shadow was dead! The sticky blood splattered on the wall belonged to the shadow, murdered in cold blood but that wasn’t the important thing right?
“Done” Terry stood up straight and held the weapon up so we could see it through the transparent ziplock bag.
“What weapon is that?” I asked him then glanced at Andy
“This is a colt. Colt 45…powerful handdgun” he said confidently.
“Bollocks…that’s a desert eagle” Andy countered.
Teddy shook his head like he was explaining to a confused child. “The deagle has a longer barrel…that is often the beauty and should I say Achilles hill…but this here is a colt no doubt”
“Diggle?” I asked
“Deagle” he repeated then looked at the detective. “Where did these people come from?”
“Go and finish up in the other room and make sure to retrieve the bullet fragments and shell casing..let’s run a match and be sure”
Teddy left the room without a word.
“Can you trace the gun to the owner?” I asked
“If its registered” she replied “which I doubt” she looked at me strangely “so…I’m made to believe you had some kind of peculiar relationship with the deceased”
“There was no relationship…there was nothing peculiar…I exposed his band of assassins, he went into hiding then threatened me”
She scrutinized me further and I was suddenly sick of her bullshit.
“Look..if you want to interview me…go ahead but for now I have a personal interest in this case and I have jurisdiction and approval to investigate what I want…I’d dig up the badge if that’s what you want”
My rant subdued her for the main time and she beeped Terry to sweep the room for finger prints before he left. I pitied the young man and his huge workload.
She looked at me for some seconds then apologised stiffly “I may have been out of line..we need to work together”
“Its alright…you’re just doing your job” I replied
“Now that you girls have put away your claws can we proceed with the investigation?” Andy asked cheerfully
The three of us headed downstairs to the receptionist’s desk.
The receptionist was a young man in his early twenties. There was something familiar about him and I became certain I had used this hotel sometime in the past.
I observed his clustered desk as he flipped the pages of a giant book which had to be the registry.
“Make that 48 hours…the last 48 hours…do you remember who lodged in? Room 67?” the detective asked. She was in charge of the investigation and she made sure we knew that.
He scratched his head as he traced the names with a finger. “I’m sure I’ll remember once I see the name” he flipped a page and we waited for him patiently as he traced the name he had registered for the room with the hole.
“Okay…here it is….by 2:30pm yesterday one miss Olivia payed for two days”
“Wait a minute…a woman?” Andy asked surprised. The detective was also clearly shocked.
My brain was swimming. Miss Olivia? What a hell of a coincidence…the same name with my wife although I’m sure it wasn’t a real name.
“That’s it..no surname?” Detective Dagnet asked.
“I’d have to fish out a copy of the receipt..this was just for registry purposes”
“Please you need to fish it out immediately” she replied
Andy spoke up “do you remember anything about her?”
The man paused his hand on the drawer he had been about to open then frowned into space as he tried to recall.
Detective Dagnet sighed in frustration “forget that first, do what I asked you…get the receipt”
I saw Andy glance at her with fire in his eyes.
“For all we know that name is phony!”
The desk clerk snapped his fingers and the detective bit back whatever retort she had come up with. I just looked at everyone in silence the name ‘miss Olivia’ kept dancing round my head. I was uneasy.
“Room 67…she was young…maybe my age, I remember because when I gave her the keys I wondered about the dark shades she had on and joked about it but she didn’t smile.” He frowned and I could tell he wasn’t pleased with the way his joke had affected or should I say unaffected her.
“What else can you remember?” I prodded him.
He glanced at me “ooh…she was a looker all right” he smiled mischievously.
“Can you bring out the receipt now?” The detective asked through her teeth.
He opened the drawer immediately and buried his nose inside, searching for the copy of the receipt he had given the lady killer.
He rumaged round the drawer then opened the next “it has to be here somewhere” but his desk was a mess, and each drawer was filled to the brim with receipts all with his crab like writing.
I observed the hotel, there was a security camera at a corner facing the door then there was another in a good angle, facing the clerk’s desk. I caught Andy also staring at the camera and I could tell we were thinking the same thing. The detective however had her mind set on getting the receipt and a name to work with, she hadn’t even noticed the cameras.
“These cameras how long do the clips last?” I asked.
He looked up and glanced at me again “I think 24 hours or so…the clips are recorded in the manager’s office”
“Manager….not security?” Andy asked surprised.
“He has trust issues..we have security but they just stand around basically”
“So he’d be able to show us the tape?” I checked my watch..it wasn’t up to 24 hours since the killer had lodged in and from the clerk’s description the killer had spent a considerable amount of seconds at the desk.
“Yes once you flash that shiny badge in his face he’d show you anything” he pointed at the belt on Andy’s hip and I raised an eyebrow.
“What was the joke you told her? Tell it to me” I said and the detective looked at me. I could tell she felt the investigation was getting out of hand and was no doubt about to call for the receipt again but the clerk slid the drawer shut and smiled sheepishly. “I may have joked that I was the one who needed her shades because her boobs were larger than the sun”
“What a nasty and sexist joke…to a potential customer for that matter…believe me if we were in other advanced countries you would have been charged with sexual assault” the detective spat the words with so much venom, taking a threatening step forward.
“Jeez not one of those bloody feminists again” Andy muttered to me and I rolled my eyes in agreement..
The clerk was visibly shaken and he held out a piece of paper like a sacrifice.
“I’ve found the receipt…here it is”
“What’s the full name?” She asked immediately
He scanned the receipt.
“Olivia Obasi” he said.
Andy looked at me.
My eyes were rolling but this time it wasn’t intentional..
When Bami answered his phone and got up she rolled over enjoying the free space. She waited for him to come back or call her for coffee like he normally did but he didn’t.
After what felt like an hour, she stretched awake fully.
“Bami” she called out.
When he didn’t answer she brushed her teeth then went to the kitchen to get her mug. She saw his scribbled note on the fridge when she needed milk.
Got called to a new scene, call you later.
Of course a new scene. Nothing related to the last shadow that had everybody running around the last three days. She opened the fridge and closed it without taking the milk. She stumped back to the room. Her husband was fond of this, they were supposed to be a team but he always seemed to forget she had been an agent before she became his wife and was in fact still one.
She was about speed dialing his number when her phone rang in her hand. It was Olivia. She picked immediately.
“Hello………you know Rex anything about family……..”
“Thanks for telling me about the threat and everything”
“We sisters have to look after ourselves”
When she dropped the call she stood lost in thought for some minutes.
Olivia was her friend. The closest friend she had ever had and when Rex first received the emailed threat, she at first agreed with them to keep the news from Olivia but when she found out Rex had planned for Olivia and their daughter Emma’s weekend trip to the middle belt, she couldn’t hold herself. This wasn’t just any case, where people were vic1 or John Doe, no this was real. Olivia was a friend, her friend, Emma was her goddaughter. And so she had called and informed Olivia that night and Olivia had been shocked, scared, angry but had agreed the safest course of action would be to travel for the weekend.
After the call with Olivia, she forgot her initial annoyance at her husband and forgot the eggs also. The helplessness in her friends voice had really gotten to her.
She speed dialled another number.
“Kristen where is the report I asked for?”
“I’m with it ma…its on your desk already”
“Why the hell is it on my desk didn’t I tell you I needed it in soft copy sent to my phone?”
“Actually you didn’t but-”
“Must I tell you?”
“Anyway I’m on my way” she cut the call then winced. That was harsh but she couldn’t afford any sleep ups not when her friends lives were at stake. The report was accumulated and collated data on every person alive that had one sort of association or the other with the shadows. With priority on the last two alive. The missing leader and the second one in prison. The report was as you’d expect voluminous. The suspect list was unending. And she was way behind.
She Changed her clothes and grabbed her keys and just like her husband earlier she hurriedly skipped the shower.
At least she brushed.
My world stopped spinning for a second and I blinked as the name began to spin round my head.
Olivia had completed the name change months after our marriage. Now someone had used her name as an alias to commit murder.
I wasn’t even going to consider Olivia lodging, and blowing the Shadow’s brain by nightfall. She wasn’t a killer. She couldn’t even hurt a fly.
Andy was still looking at me and so was the detective…strangely. She must have put two and two together.
“Interesting” she said “And who else should stumble upon the murder weapon if not her dear husband”
“No ma…she wasn’t married…she wrote miss Olivia-” the clerk began and was cut off with a lethal look she threw his way.
But something he had said earlier had got me thinking.
“You said you told her boobs were bigger than the sun”
He looked down “she did not find that funny”
“So were they?”
“Were they what?” He looked confused
“Bigger than the sun?”
“And where is all this nonsense heading to?” The detective interrupted crossly
“Its important” I held a hand up “where they?” I asked again.
He sighed in memory “They were one of the largest pair of water lemons I ever seen”
A knowing look passed between Andy and I.
Detective Dagnet caught it and asked “what..what is it”
She was too annoying and I wasn’t about to reply her so Andy spoke up “Olivia Obasi…the real Olivia Obasi my sister in-law does not have ‘boobs bigger than the sun'” he quoted with his hands. “This is a setup”
She glanced at me “why would anyone want to set her up?”
I would have to be a psychic to have been able to answer her question so I just stared at her. “We need to see the tape” I said finally.
The hotel manager the one with the ‘trust issues’ wasn’t in his office when we got there.
The clerk tried the door although it was clear it was locked.
“Where can he be?” Dagnet asked
“I don’t know honestly….I hardly come up…my own is just to man the desk downstairs.”
“Did you notice him pass you heading outside?” Andy asked
“No…I’m not sure…but he could have followed the kitchen at the back”
“Give me his number” Andy asked.
“Aaagh….I left my phone downstairs”
“Oya go and get it…always be security conscious somebody can just steal it now” Andy watched him leave then turned to me “what are you thinking?”
I shook my head. “I don’t even know…I’m not really surprised the shadow is dead…or to be frank I don’t really care, he definitely had a lot of enemies but-”
“And you were one” Dagnet chipped in
“But…why use Olivia’s name as an alias…to frame her or what…why?”
“Looks like the killer wanted to kill two birds with a stone” Andy said
“But why….what kind of message is the killer trying to get across” I had purposely not referred to the killer as ‘she’
The killer had to be a professional…the execution of every thing..from the wall drill to the actual execution it all had the finesse and mature touch of a pro.
Which was fitting, I guessed only an assassin could kill a shadow. But I had killed two…or three….if I included the crazy Tosin. Tonye had shot three that night and the widows had mauled one to death. Not to talk of the car that had tumbled off the 3rd mainland bridge. Three shadows plus the old woman who further investigation had revealed was indeed chief Amunike’s mother had been fished out the next day, or at least what the fish couldn’t finish. That brought the total dead shadows to ten. I knew for a fact that the only one we had managed to capture had been killed the night he arrived at the prison.
The last was now dead. Their leader.
I suddenly remembered the tattoo and bookmarked my brain to ask Andy about the deceased’s back and if it bore the four words that was their identification.
Dagnet’s phone gave two shot shrieks and interrupted my thoughts.
“What is it?” She snapped into the receiver. She frowned clearly not liking what she was hearing.
“Where is he…hold up don’t harm him…just hold him I’m coming” she hooked her phone back on her belt and I saw her gun for the first time. It was huge.
“What’s happening” Andy asked immediately
“Its one of the guests on the murder floor about three rooms before the crime scene, he wanted to get back into his room but the uniform didn’t let him and they had an err…disagreement” she headed for the stairs. The managers office was on the 5th and last floor of the hotel.
“Of course if I pay for a room I’d like to be able to enter anytime I want” Andy muttered and was about to follow her but I held him back.
He looked at me surprised.
“I have a feeling time is of the essence…we need to see that clip” I said.
“But the manager…” His voice trailed off as he understood my intent.
He brought out his wallet and without a word gave me his debit MasterCard.
I faced the door and tried to jimmy the lock and when it seemed like it wasn’t working, my shoulder did the rest.
I stumbled into the room with Andy behind me and shut the door. It didn’t shut because the lock had been damaged so I signalled Andy and he dragged the chair that was facing the window. I could tell the view was magnificent from the window and must have been the manager’s favourite spot.
The chair held the door in place and I hoped from far one would think it was locked. Honestly I didn’t really care.
I could see the office also served as living quarters for the man. The wall had been removed and two rooms had been converted to his office and room.
In the office I saw the screens. They were about ten screens, ten monitor screens. I studied the setup and . They were all connected to a CPU under the table. The cables were a nightmare.
Andy came to stand by my side. We watched the screens with the only sound coming from the frequent beeping of the CPU.
I could see the car park, on two screens from different angles, the entrance of the hotel on another and I had hoped to catch my car from this angle but I didnt even see the tail light. I must have confused the spot.
I saw the reception desk immediately. The camera directly above the entrance pointed at the desk and another one above the desk offered a clear view of the entrance.
“These are the two cameras we need to focus on first…” I pointed at the two screens then glanced at the screen showing the car park again. “Then we’d check if we could luckily see her arrive in a car”
“Splendid…what time did the clerk say she lodged in”
I glanced at the screen. The clerk was at the table again and can you believe it, he was sleeping!
“Is this fool not supposed to be getting his phone?” Andy asked and I shrugged.
I located the keyboard under the cables and searched for a mouse.
“I think he said she checked in by two in the afternoon…so we’d concentrate anytime from noon” I didn’t see any mouse and tapped the keyboard watching the screens to notice which of them was the main source. Nothing.
I tried a common shortcut combination, to flip through the open windows or at least bring up the status bar (alt + tab) still nothing. No flicker on any of the screens. Apart from the clerk who was on his knees searching under his desk for his phone on the 5th monitor, there wasn’t any movement.
“Are you sure the keyboard is connected?” Andy asked
I pressed caps lock but there was no blinking light. When I traced the plug I knew why. It wasn’t connected to the CPU.
“These equipments are stone age…I wonder who is their security head” Andy said in disgust.
“Apparently we’re in his office” I replied but warning shots were going off in my head
I was preparing to wade through the mangled cables for an adequate port to insert the keyboard. At least it was USB.
Thankfully my partner beat me to it.
“Hey Oba check this out” Andy had traced the end of a VG cable and he held it up. It also wasn’t connected to the Cpu. “It seems nothing is connected to the CPU, the cables just lead under the table but apart from the power cable and…” his voice trailed off as he buried his head further into the ungodly tangle.
I was confused and so was Andy. “That’s strange. If its not connected to the CPU then were is the feed coming from?”
His head emerged and there were cobwebs in his hair. “As in this man is just confused, if the plan was to go wireless why gather this ancient…”
“Remember what the clerk said, its like something happened so he had to transfer the surveillance here maybe he changed somethings”
“And left those cameras that look like telescope downstairs?” Andy asked “And left all these rubbish….these man should have left this kind of work for professionals. Plus our 40% discount he didn’t even reach out”
I had sniffed the scent so many times in the last two years that I knew it at a whiff and I caught it now. “Something smells fishy bro”
Andy wrinkled his nose and ran his tongue over his teeth. “I had sardines with my toast this morning”
“No…I smell a rat” but then I caught the mischievous glint in his eyes and I smiled.
We heard a voice from outside.
“I’m around let me call you back”
“That must be the manager” Andy said
I looked at the screen. The clerk was still asleep, his feet on the desk. The manager hadn’t passed by meaning he must have been somewhere in the hotel. To be fair the hotel must have been deserted. There wasn’t even a single soul in the lobby that is apart from the sleeping clerk. Even the patrolling cops I had met on my way in must have climbed up to attend to whatever ruckus Dagnet had been called for.
“Well he’s the only one who can show us the clips..” I said resting my hip on the table and folding my hands.
Andy smiled. “I’m gonna enjoy this”
To be continued….