They were racing through the city’s wet streets, heading further and further into the dark reaches of the night.
A klaxon light roamed on the car’s roof, blaring its atrocious whine that alerted motorists ahead of them of their inbound. The young man behind the wheel slapped his horn tirelessly at the same time cursed the rain for making his driving appear gruelling. It wasn’t a fault of his actually, he was simply worried about offending his passenger who obviously didn’t seem to care about his driving skills, or of how soon they got to their destination. The young man couldn’t help cutting glances at his passenger every now and then, as if thinking he was alone with himself in the vehicle. His passenger had his face turned to his side window, looking at the flow of traffic. The man had said little to him since he arrived at his place to pick him up twenty minutes ago. After explaining his reason for coming to fetch him, the man had asked him just one question: “Whose orders?”
“The GC,” the young man had replied.
That had been all the man expected to hear. The young officer had waited in the den while the older detective disappeared into his room for a couple of minutes and returned wearing a shirt, jacket and coat. It was drizzling when the young man drove to the senior detective’s home; it had graduated into a downpour by the time they went to his car and his set his klaxon light ablaze as he tore out of the neighbourhood.
Third-Class senior detective Toji Oguavor was replaying the last figment of dream he’d been having before the young cop showed up at his doorstep. He wasn’t surprised when he’d opened his eyes to find that he was still in his clothes and that he’d sat on a lounge chair beside his bed instead of being splayed across his bed when he’d woken up. As he sat there watching the rain slid down the passenger window in separate trails, he couldn’t help but wish he was back at his apartment. He wondered what unusual prank the Group Captain, his over-all boss, had decided now to play on him by assigning him watch dog over a first-year detective’s gutter detail.
“Are you all right, sir?” the young detective asked him.
Toji ran a hand over his face. The car’s wipers went back and forth rapidly across the windscreen, clearing rain off it.
“It never rains in southern California,” mused Toji, quoting the line off a song he remembered once enjoying years ago.
“Sir, it’s August.”
Toji turned to look at the detective. “Thanks for reminding me, officer. That was a song, by the way.”
“Oh,” said the young detective, apparently hurt by his words. He returned his concentration on his driving.
“What’s your name, by the way?” Toji asked him.
“Samuel Ejun, sir,” the young detective answered smartly. “Detective First-Class.”
“What unit were you at before?”
“Motorpool, sir. I took the detective’s course early this year and aced it first time.”
Toji felt like sighing. “This your first gutter assignment?”
“Yes, sir. My very first.”
Toji caught the blatant excitement in the young man’s voice and didn’t know whether to envy him or not. It wasn’t the first time he was seeing this. Such is usually the way it goes when a First-Class detective is assigned his first homicide case to investigate. You could just hear all the excitement and urge-to-please bubbling from deep down in their gut. Most times they get too caught up in their excitement they forget the basic procedural details they ought to carry out first. Though first assignments are usually edgy for first-time detectives. Toji had barely aced his own when it had been his turn years back. How far back was that, he could barely recall. Nor could he remember what it had been about anymore. He did remember shaking nervous while the senior detective who’d been assigned as watch-dog over him pointed out where his lapses where during the investigation.
Toji’s eyes returned to the window. He noticed they’d driven past the Aguyi Ironsi bridge and were now venturing into Lakeshore village. It wasn’t really a village, per se, more a den for the rich and stupendously rich. The rain still hadn’t let up is onslaught.
“So tell me what’s the 411,” he turned to Samuel. “Whose death is it this time.”
His voice sounded weary with resignation at whatever they were enroute to; he couldn’t help it. Toji, just like every other detective veteran who’d worked Homicide in the Cape City Federal Criminal Investigation, had seen more than his fair share of dead bodies. It had gotten to a stage where he could step into a building and just one sniff of the air could tell if there was a corpse under the roof, where it was located and how long it had been almost better than a coroner. Sometimes he took images of the corpses with him after clocking out of work; they trailed him in his dreams.
“A dead girl, sir,” answered Samuel, glad that Toji was starting to show some life in his presence. “Sixteen years old. A house-help. Puncture wound to the chest from a kitchen knife. Dispatch sent off a code maroon at about,” he paused to check at his watch before continuing, “an hour and twenty-seven minutes ago.”
Code Maroon was Criminal Investigation Dispatch’s alert for homicide. The way the pecking order worked in the Criminal Investigation division is that once a code alert was given, it was routed through the proper channel to the desk of the Division C.O., who was responsible to delegating whichever officer was next in line to assume command, or as in this case, which detective was free to handle the incoming case.
It was a simple system that was sometimes made complicated when the division had a fresh batch of First-Class detectives, most of whom were still wet behind the ears and in need of senior detective supervision. Toji was still clueless as to how the choice of detective supervision was made. He figured that whoever was in charge of the homicide desk usually threw darts at which detective he had listed on his wall to see whom it landed on. That had always been his assumption, except this time, as the young detective had mentioned to him earlier, the GC had involved himself.
Toji had to reason why the GC would want him of all persons to take on supervisory role . . . but at the same time thought he knew.
He was hardly aware when they came to a stop in front of a large compound with a massive black gate in front of it; there was a squad car parked beside the gate. A policeman wearing his hoodie came from around the car to the driver’s window. Samuel lowered his window and showed the officer his badge. He had to yell above the din of rain still falling to be heard.
“Is everyone inside?” he asked the officer.
“Yes, sir. I’ll alert the man to open the gate for you.”
Samuel rolled back his window and turned to Toji. “I’d informed the first vehicle on scene to make sure no one leaves the compound till we get here.”
“Who’s the man of the house?” asked Toji.
“Chief Alan Barry. Politician. Under-Secretary to the Cape City branch of the PPP.”
Toji screwed his face as he looked at him. “PPP?”
“Progressive People’s Party,” said Samuel. “They’ve been all over the news lately over some scandal.”
“I don’t listen to the news,” said Toji.
Samuel wanted to say more but stopped when he looked ahead and noticed that the large black gate was sliding open for them. He drove past the gate and the man standing there indicated where to park.
It was a large compound, Toji noticed. The house looked immaculate and bogus, like the sort of jumbled structure a kid would build while constructing a sandcastle. The house was divided in three structures. The man house took up much the compound. The second structure was the garage. He could tell from the number of cars parked in front of it, hidden under tarps. The third structure stood at the far side of the compound near the back, and it served as the Boys Quarters.
Another squad car was parked near the front of the house. Samuel pulled to a stop beside it. An officer stood there holding an umbrella under his head. He approached the detectives’ vehicle and lent his umbrella to Samuel as he stepped out of his vehicle and hurried out of the downpour; Toji did likewise.
“Evening sirs,” the officer saluted. “The victim and everyone else is inside. My colleague is right now taking their statements.”
“Good, that’s very good,” declared Samuel as they walked toward the wide porch of the house away from the rain. Both he and Toji were shaking rain off their coats. “What about the ambulance? Are they on their way?”
“They should be arriving here any minute.”
The officer led them into the house. Toji followed behind, still wishing he was back at his apartment sleeping.