12:20 AM, Monday
Professor Yilzum was awake when the first call came in, in the room he used as a study-cum-office, poring over a thick stack of computer print-outs: a paper on the jural correlativity of jus cogens and obligation erga omnes by some Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne. It was past-midnight, too late for anyone to be calling, except it was an emergency, but Professor Yilzum had first assumed it was one of his nephews or nieces most of whom had no sense of timing and always had an emergency: school fees, pocket money, textbooks, BIS subscription.
By the time the phone started vibrating on his desk the fifth time in a row, Professor Yilzum had to tear his eyes off his reading, and reach for his phone. None of his nephews nor nieces were that cheeky.
It was Dr. Yesufu on the phone. At this hour? Professor Yilzum thought. Weird.
Eleven minutes earlier…
“He’s not moving” Halima said. “Do you think he’s…dead?”
Dr. Yesufu killed the SUV’s headlamps, his hands shaking terribly.
Run, he thought, shock morphing hurriedly to panic. Start the car, throw it in gear and hightail it out of here!
But before he’d finished thinking this, Halima unlocked the car door, unhooking her seatbelt simultaneously and letting herself out.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” He began, but she was out of earshot before he was halfway through the sentence.
He got out of the SUV and went after her where she had gone and crouched beside the motionless body, tapping him or trying to heave him to an upright sitting position, Dr. Yesufu wasn’t sure.
“He’s not moving, but he’s breathing. I think he’s alive” she reported as his footsteps pattered out behind her.
Dr. Yesufu got out his phone and waved the screen-light over the prone figure. Halima yelped, involuntarily letting go of the body, and Dr. Yesufu would probably have screamed had he been able to find his voice.
“Mr. Edom” Halima muttered with disbelief as she scrambled to her feet. She sounded like she was about to cry. But Dr. Yesufu wasn’t bothered as much about recognising Mr. Edom as he was about all the blood pooled around his head. It could be shock, but he didn’t understand how Halima could have missed that.
“We have to get out of here now!” He whispered to Halima, yanking her by the hand and pulling her towards the SUV.
“What —why? He’s hurt. We have to tell someone. He could die.”
“He’s got blood all over him, Halima. Didn’t you see? And you have his blood all over you. I can’t have you here. You need to go to your hostel now!”
She pulled her hand free.
“But we did this? We hit him. We”—
“Didn’t do anything. All that blood came from his neck. It looked like a stab-wound. We didn’t do that.”
He pulled her hand again.
“What if he impaled his neck on some sharp object as he fell?”
“Halima, let’s go!”
“But we can’t just leave him there!”
“Someone would come by soon enough.”
“No!” She muscled her hand free again. “I’m not going until he gets help. He’s going to die if we leave him there.”
“Listen, Halima” Dr. Yesufu pleaded in a weepy voice, “I promise you I’ll handle this. But you need to get out of here first. I can’t have you anywhere near here. You didn’t see this. As far as you’re concerned this didn’t happen. You’re in your room now, in bed, sound asleep. Don’t make this any worse than it is.”
He yanked off her hijab and began pulling her top over her head before she could protest.
“Get in the car” he snapped in a tone that wasn’t to be questioned.
“In the back” he added, balling her blood-smeared clothes and shoving them under his car seat.
“Lay low” he hissed as he started the SUV’s engine, and started to reverse, leaving the headlamps off as he rummaged in the glove compartment for a box of baby wipes.
“Here, wipe yourself down” he commanded handing the box of wipes backwards.
Seconds later, he parked at the back of her hostel, navigating an unusual route that passed right behind Tchad Hall, underneath ancient trees and hunting bats; and Halima jumped out of the SUV and scurried into the hostel with nothing on from the waist up but her bra.
Now that he knew she was well out of trouble’s way, Dr. Yesufu could breathe easier.
Throwing the SUV into gear, he rang the DDG’s mobile.
Come on, pick up, he muttered under his breath. Pick up!
“So, what did you do when you got Dr. Yesufu’s call?” Inspector Raliyat asked Professor Yilzum, shooting Sergeant Bamshak a glance to make sure he was actually taking notes, and not, as he liked to kid himself he was doing, “committing it to memory”.
“I, urm… Well, I, eh —I had Dr. Yesufu come pick me up, and take me to the, urm, scene. I saw the body were it was lying face-down, with multiple stab-wounds in the neck and back…
“Mr. Edom was dead by then.”
“Wait, I thought you said Mr. Edom was lying on his back with one stab-wound to the neck when you left with Halima?” Inspector Raliyat asked, turning on Dr. Yesufu.
But it was Professor Yilzum who answered: “Yes Rali, that’s the point. Mr. Edom was killed after Dr. Yesufu left the scene.”
“You mean Mr. Edom was killed because Dr. Yesufu scrambled from the scene in order to save his job and protect his girlfriend” Sergeant Bamshak interjected eagerly, like he didn’t want to be beat to the punch.
Dr. Yesufu bent his head and Professor Yilzum chuckled self-derisively.
“So, lemme get what you’re saying” Inspector Raliyat continued, sounding suddenly defeated. “Mr. Edom was alive and had one stab-wound to the neck when you left him, but when you returned, he was dead and had multiple stab-wounds on his back… Is that right, Dr. Yesufu?”
“Yes. He was also moved.”
“Yes. From the road”—
“The spot where you noticed the fading blood spot” Professor Yilzum interjected.
“…to the path, underneath the mango tree.”
“Where the body was found by the female security-officer, yes?”
Inspector Raliyat rose and went to stand by a window.
“Look Inspector”—Dr Yesufu started to say, but Inspector Raliyat cut him off:
“Shut up! Just. Shut. Up… You know it’s on you, right? Even if I believe you, even if what you’re saying is the truth… It’s on you. Mr. Edom’s blood is on you.”
Dr. Yesufu covered his face in his hands and let off a whimper. And Inspector Raliyat…well, Sergeant Bamshak couldn’t recall ever seeing her so emotional. She looked like —oh shit! —she was crying!
“What did you do when you found the body lying there?” Inspector Raliyat asked, still looking out the window. It was hard to tell who she was addressing.
No one spoke up.
“Doctor…? Professor…? Would I be right to say you did nothing?
“What, cat got your tongues?”
“We did nothing, Rali. Yes. And you know why? Because nothing could have been done. He was dead, stone cold dead.”
“There are supposed to security officers and police men patrolling the compound at night, not so?” Sergeant Bamshak asked.
“Did you inform the —what now? —CSO?”
“C’mon, answer the question” Inspector Raliyat snapped from where she stood. “You didn’t call it in, didn’t report it now, did you? Why? Because you didn’t want to be entangled with a murder; because it would have saved you two —and as you both delude yourselves into thinking —the school from a scandal, right?”
Professor Yilzum started to study his toenails.
“Did you both think for a second that whoever killed Mr. Edom would have been close by, that if security men had been alerted the murderer may have been caught? But I don’t suppose that mattered now, did it? You both had your nice jobs and OK Japanese cars and free service tenancies and your small, cramped offices —the real deal, I betcha… What did it matter anyway? Mr. Edom was, as you put it Mr. DDG, stone-cold dead, right?
“Do you still think there was nothing you could have done, Professor? Tell me! Do you?!”
“Urm, wasn’t there any security officer that was supposed to be patrolling the area where Mr. Edom’s body was found?” Sergeant Bamshak perked up, more to diffuse the tension than anything else. “Someone who if they were doing their jobs could have possibly heard something…a scuffle, a shout, anything…”
“There’s supposed to be a security guard on that path, but at the other end from where Mr. Edom was found. He’s stationed opposite the girl’s hostel, near the mammy market. I guess we figured it best to concentrate our forces on the parts of the compound that could be more easily breached from Bagauda village.”
“What are the chances he could have heard something?”
“If he did, he probably would have reported it to me. It’s some distance, Sergeant. You walked it yourself.”
“And in all the time you and Dr. Yesufu were standing there, deciding, urm, that there was nothing you could do, no security guard happened on you two?”
“That’s weird” Sergeant Bamshak noted.
“I noticed there were security officers both at the school clinic and at the store —urm, what did you call it? —Gamzaki —yes, Gamzaki; there was one of those security men in brown uniforms stationed on the other end from the store, overlooking the murder-scene basically, as was another female officer in front of the clinic sitting and facing outward. Are those stations unmanned during the night-shift?”
“I’m not the CSO” Professor Yilzum said, “but I should think not.”
“OK, Professor. So, do you see why I think it’s weird that you and Mr. Yesufu over here were there at the murder scene and neither security guard noticed.”
“We didn’t stay long” Professor Yilzum said defensively.
“I suppose that makes sense” Sergeant Bamshak mused aloud.
“No, it doesn’t” Raliyat snapped and resumed her seat. “I’m putting myself in your shoes here, Mr. DDG… Dr. Yesufu calls me in the middle of the night, distraught, and tells me he thinks he’s in trouble. I ask him to come over to my quarters, and there he informs me he’s hit someone, a school staff—Mr. Edom —with his car, but that there’s something fishy about the whole business because Mr. Edom seemed to have been stabbed in the neck but was alive when Dr. Yesufu abandoned him to come fetch me, because he’s panicked and afraid and he doesn’t know who else he can trust, but me —that’s you of course, Professor. Pretty neat, huh? Stay with me here, please…
“So, Dr. Yesufu brings me to the spot where he left an out-cold Mr. Edom, but what do you know… There’s no body there. So what do I do? I’m a Professor of Law, mind you. I’m pretty smart. I wrote a textbook. So here’s what I do… I decide, based on my supernatural powers, that Mr. Edom’s body’s been moved from where he was hit by Dr. Yesufu’s SUV to a spot under a mango tree. All of this, mind you, based on nothing I could see firsthand for myself —what’s the more appropriate legalese for it Professor, fact or evidence?”
“I don’t understand what you’re getting at Rali”—
“That’s Inspector to you, Mr. DDG! How did you know Mr. Edom’s body was moved?”
“I saw the body under the mango tree, and Dr. Yesufu said he had been lying in the road when he left him?”
“How did you see him? You must have these night-sensor James Bond glasses, right?”
Professor Yilzum’s eyes thinned a bit at this. Whatever Inspector Railiyat’s game-plan, it must have dawned on him in that instant. But frankly, Bamshak still didn’t get where she was going with all of this verbal role-playing.
“It was a full-moon that night” Professor Yilzum said resolutely.
“Oh, was it now? So, lemme get something straight… You decided Mr. Edom had been moved based on what you saw with your eyes —possibly with the aid of your —concave or convex —lenses? Not that it matters anyway, but according to you, you saw that Mr. Edom had been moved, and all the illumination you had to see with was from a full moon —which I don’t believe showed on Sunday-night-stroke-Monday-morning, but let’s asssume I believe you… Is that your final answer, Professor?”
“Wrong. You’re going to wish you didn’t say that” Inspector Raliyat said standing and moving across the room to where the Professor sat in one quick stride, yanking him up by the shoulders of his shirt and pulling him towards the door. “You’re under arrest, Professor Yilzum. You have the right to remain silent because anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Sergeant Bamshak looked somewhere between shocked and bewildered. He’d lost the plot minutes ago, but at that instant he hadn’t the faintest idea what was going on. A few esoteric questions, a few answers that probably left a lot to be desired, and suddenly his partner was jumping a witness (or a suspect, he wasn’t sure), as usual with no warning whatsoever to him; and right now all the drama was beginning to make his head hurt.
“What? Rali! What are you doing?” Professor Yilzum gasped.
“Yes, Inspector, ma… What’s going on?” Sergeant Bamshak asked, rising.
“What does it look like? I’m arresting him.”
“For what? On what charges?” cried Professor Yilzum.
“The magistrate will let you know. Now move it!”
“Rali, please don’t do this.”
“I’m sorry, but that ship has sailed.” Inspector Raliyat yanked open the front door, while Bamshak stood disused behind, not sure what he was supposed to be doing, or if he was even supposed to do anything. And with this feeling rose a simmering frustration.
“Please, I beg you in the name of God, Rali. Please, don’t do this. I’ll tell you anything you want to know. I promise! Please!”
Inspector Raliyat paused, and then she released her grip on the Professor. “Don’t mess with me again or I’m throwing you in a cell with druggies who haven’t had a fix in days and criminals who’d be put off by your clergy-man looks. Believe me I will if you give me half the chance again. If the lice and bugs don’t inspire you to talk, then trust me a little facial reconstruction at the hands of some sleaze-bags in cell who’ll demand “protection money” —I’ll make sure you don’t have —will do the trick. Don’t mess with me, Professor Yilzum… Are we clear?”
The Professor nodded.
“Good. Now go sit, and let’s try this one more time.
“From the top now, shall we? You got to the spot where Mr. Edom should have been, and he wasn’t there? What did you do, Professor? How did you know he was moved? So what, he was under the tree instead of in the road where he’d been when Dr. Yesufu left him, but what’s to say he didn’t crawl there and die? Why were you, Professor —an intelligent man —convinced he was moved?”
A sigh. “I saw the bruising on his face, and decided he was probably dragged across the concrete.”
“And how did you see that, Professor? By moonlight? Because that’d be some tales by moonlight.”
“No. I used the flashlight on Dr. Yesufu’s phone.”
“See?” Inspector Raliyat drawled with levity so strained it was frightening. “That wasn’t so bad after all, was it?
“So, you touched Mr. Edom’s lifeless body?”
“Yes Inspector, I did.”
“Good. We’re making some progress now. Isn’t this just great?”
Professor Yilzum nodded. Both he and Dr. Yesufu looked terrified, and Sergeant Bamshak vacillated between that and unwholesome comfort in the possibility that this was all an act. Inspector Raliyat the bad cop.
“What sort of flashlight do the security officers on night duty use?”
“On a scale of one to ten, how high-powered?”
“Eleven. I should know. I got them myself.”
“Now here’s what I’m thinking, Mr. DDG” she continued, “that if I was a security officer at my post as I ordinarily should be, minding my business and —hell —the business of my employers, post-midnight, and I suddenly noticed a flashlight that clearly didn’t belong to a fellow security officer, then I was going to go investigate. Doesn’t that follow logic, Professor?”
“So now by your admission you were standing at the murder-scene, probably stationary, with a phone’s flashlight on, and you’re well within view of two —not one, but two —security stations, and neither security guard comes to investigate? Does that seem logical to you, Professor?”
“So you agree with me that there something here that just doesn’t add up, right?”
“Yes. And I can explain it.”
“Good. By all means do.”
And Professor Yilzum began to lay out the events of Monday morning in fine detail: how when Dr. Yesufu had pulled up in his driveway and narrated what had happened, he’d thought ahead to keep the situation, whatever it turned out to be, as contained as possible.
He’d called the CSO immediately and asked that he gather all of the security officers —except the one who manned the station near mammy market —for a meeting with him at the lakeside.
Why exclude the one security guard? Inspector Raliyat asked. Because he was most likely to pass the scene on the way to the rendezvous?
Yes. And usually the night guards communicated with whistles each wore around their necks —one blow meant one thing, two another, and so on. They had their secret flashlight signals too, but Professor Yilzum had asked specifically that none of that be used; it all had to be kept as quiet as possible. He described the situation as an emergency to the CSO, and asked that he go from station to station himself and inform each night guard of the emergency meeting with the DDG. Every night guard except, naturally, the pair at the gate, and the particularly excluded night-watchman near the mammy market.
“That was why no guard was around to notice you two. Hmm, makes sense now, and I could verify that from the CSO. So what was your excuse?”
“I didn’t have one, but I knew I was going to have to think something up. I’d probably have said some nonsense; said that I received a memo from Abuja about a security-threat to the campus. It would have flown.”
“I gather from your tenses that the meeting didn’t hold.”
“No. I was halfway there when the body was discovered by the female security officer who raised an alarm.”
“Hang on! The female officer…. Was she the one stationed close to mammy market?”
“No. She wasn’t. Her station’s at C-Block.”
“C-Block’s where Mr. Edom was porter, right?”
“Yes. Matter of fact, her station’s right outside Mr. Edom’s chalet. C22.”
“What then was she doing at the murder-scene at that time of night?”
Professor Yilzum shrugged, a look passing across his face that said he was only just now considering the possibilities. “Search me…” He said.
Inspector Raliyat stood and went to the window, looking out for several minutes.
“I’ll need both your phones” she said finally, motioning to Dr. Yesufu and Professor Yilzum. “All your phones” she added, looking pointedly at Dr. Yesufu, “and also the key to your front door, Professor.”
Sergeant Bamshak thought the request ridiculous but neither man protested.
“Let’s go Bamshak” Inspector Raliyat called, and laden with four mobile phones, one of which belonged to Mr. Edom, they headed out; Inspector Raliyat locking the DDG’s front door in their wake and leaving the key in the keyhole. “There, they can’t open it from the inside even if they have spare-keys.”
“They could easily shout from the inside and have someone come open the door” Bamshak muttered with a layer of angst beneath his words.
“And how would they explain their being locked up together? The whole point of all the drama in there is that both men are trying to avoid drama. Ironic, isn’t it? They’d wait there like obedient children till we get back. At worst they’d bicker and trade blames.”
“Look Raliyat, I’m tired of all your nonsense!” Sergeant Bamshak exploded, causing Inspector Raliyat to start. “All that rubbish back there… I won’t stand for it anymore. If we are working together you have to be upfront with me, and not treat me like some piece in your personal chess game. Either that or I’d walk away this instant. Are we clear?”
“First off, you’re a pawn”—
“In my personal chess game, you’re a pawn. ‘Piece’ is a tad too generic so let’s get into specifics… Pawn. And you know what that means, you’re expendable, insignificant… You’re replaceable.”
“Fuck you!” Sergeant Bamshak thundered, and started to stalk off. He walked several paces, stopped, then turned back.
“Look, I’m sorry about the way I just”—
Whatever else he had to say jutted down his throat as Inspector Raliyat threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. His eyes were mooned in shock for an instant, before closing, his lips settling into rhythm with hers as his brain clarified that he wasn’t dreaming, the kiss was real; it was actually happening.
“I’m sorry too” Inspector Raliyat gave out when finally, slowly, they broke apart, sounding out of breath, but not looking the least bit embarrassed. I didn’t mean any of those things I said. It’s just that”—
“It’s all right” he said, cradling her face. ” Don’t sweat it.”
“No, it’s not OK. Look, I like you Bamshak, a lot. And working with you is so distracting. It’s hard for me to handle.”
“OK, OK… Note taken. I’ll stay out of your hair.”
“No, that’s not what I mean. What I am trying to say is this is a job, and I have to be professional, which is hard to do with you around, and so I tend to overcompensate.”
“Look, all I’m asking is that you let me in on the joke every once in a while, OK? That way I don’t get to feel like an appendix.”
“So, what is it you’re not telling me?”
“I think I know who killed Mr. Edom?”
“I’m sorry I can’t tell you, Bamshak. There’s a very good chance I’m wrong, and I know how you get when you sink your teeth into something. I need for us to be able to access things objectively, and in order to be able to do that, I need for you to come to your own conclusions.”
“Tell me, Rali. Please… I can handle it. We’ll work the bases. You want objective? I’ll be objective, promise.”
“Oh, don’t start. Inspector, Rali, what difference does it make? Just don’t change the topic. All right, give me a clue at least.”
Inspector Raliyat sighed. “OK, I’ll give you a clue: Halima.”
“I knew it!” Sergeant Bamshak whooped.
“See? I knew you’d get like this.”
“OK, I’m sorry. Objective… Got it. So, what’s next?”
“We’ll drop by the CSO’s office, then head to the morgue.”
“Yes. Going to pay our friend Cele a visit.”
“Oh. What about Halima?”
“She can wait.”
Brows furrowing, Sergeant Bamshak asked: “Why do I get the feeling there’s something you’re not telling me here?”
Inspector Raliyat shrugged, but wouldn’t look at him. “I don’t know… Why do you?”
“In other news though… That was some kiss. Completely unexpected. I don’t suppose you could surprise me again.”
“No, I can’t. And I’d have to demand that you act professionally, Sergeant. We are on the job.”
Sergeant Bamshak did a mock salute. “Yes ma!”
“At ease, boy. At ease… Now, let’s get going” Inspector Raliyat said, letting herself into the passenger-side of the 504, with an ace up her sleeve.