Tale of a Night Avenger

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I’ve been hard pressed for months now to sit down and write a sequel to my recently published crime thriller ‘The Rabbit’s Man‘. Although I’m going to have to disappoint a bit with what I have to reveal here. Yes, I am working on writing another novel that will act as a follow-up to ‘The Rabbit’s Man‘. However it’s not going to be an actual sequel. Instead the follow-up is going to be about the earnest detective character in the novel, Toji Oguavor, as he recuperates from where he’d left off in ‘The Rabbit’s Man’. The story will involve him solving the crime of a young servant girl murdered by her ward, a politician who wanted to use the young girl for ritualistic purposes.
I’m titling the next novel as ‘The Night Avenger: A Toji Oguavor Mystery‘.
Here’s an excerpt below:
* * * * *

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.

 

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Man, Woman + Child

together-by-wak-boarderOne thing that’s constant in an African home is family. You’re nothing if you don’t have one, and it’s hard for any man to journey though life without the thought of having a family, whether past or present. What’s most important though in a Nigerian family home is tracing a family’s root to the myth of time.

Adam loved the earth:

The trees on her breasts

The rivers that succored her valleys

Out of her womb sprung a seed:

His Apple tree.

“My darling, my love,” she muttered in his ear:

Plant, feed, nourish

Love, comfort and cherish

These eyes that bare resemblance to thine

Heart and limb

And call him: Oranmiyan.

The House on Delafield Place, NW.

2012-10-21 12.31.35There was me and my one-room crib.

There location was decent – just off Decatur Street, NW. Once it was a black neighborhood. But real estate in the nation’s capital had changed. Lots of folks were relocating into the city, away from Maryland and as far as Baltimore. Latinos and white Americans were gradually populating the scenery. One of my neighbor who shared the apartment with me said he could still recall a time where a white kid would be in danger walking around these streets, especially without a black friend by his side. Somehow I believed him.

There were four of us living in the house, all of us males. One who lived down in the basement was from Brazil, and he was almost always on the move traveling in and around the country. There were two Africans in the house: myself, and another young man from Uganda. Though we hardly got along. There was James, who was the oldest amongst us, and the other, Wallace. Wallace was a cool fellow, except when it comes to cleaning up whatever mess he’d leave in the kitchen. Much of the time I was the only always taking out the thrash.

My room was in the back. Behind it was the alley. Lots of cats hung around the alley. One time I almost stepped on one of them in the dark.

Much of my time was spent in my room, at my table, facing my computer. I had nothing else on my mind except then working on editing my novel, ‘The Rabbit’s Man‘. It was a real headache thinking of just one thing and nothing else to do with myself. I couldn’t even go out and see about getting a job because my visa status was against my attempting that. A good thing I’d saved up enough bread before I left home, so for the time being meeting the rent wasn’t a problem. Though that was bound to change the day Hurricane Sandy hit. But for the time, it was summer and hot as a African desert outside.

2012-10-18 18.39.45Evenings when the heat cooled, I’d head out for long walks. Sometimes stroll down to Petworth Library, or go watch a college football playoff at the Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School which was just next door behind the library. I remember one time getting lost, and that usually happens whenever I try to be adventurous at nighttime.

Weekends I’d ride a bus down to Silver Spring and go watch a movie at the Highwood Theater. Do some window-shopping and stop by somewhere to water my lungs with a beer. It felt good walking the streets of a foreign country. But never so good when alone. Especially knowing you’re going to return back to your one-room crib with the silence waiting for you.

Worse when you know you’re probably going to be doing the same thing come morning.

Frailty

stock-footage-silhouette-of-hand-with-gunI’m in my car heading downtown, towards the city harbor. It’s my last day on the job, my last night as a city detective. I’ve been a cop since the month before I turned twenty-one. It’s a job I loved, cherished, and despised at the same time. I’ve seen a lot of things, done a lot of things, and have been there when things have been done to others. Though tonight was going to be one of those few nights where I get to be the one doing the deed.

Tonight was the night I settled a score with an old enemy who’s been dogging me for ages; an enemy that just wouldn’t die.

I reached into my jacket pocket and took out my cop shield. I held it in my hand, feeling my thumb over the metal, taking warmth in the feel, before throwing it into the glove box; tonight was one night I knew I wouldn’t need it. I reached for my holster and took out my six-shooter – this was all the luck I knew I was going to need. I flipped open the chamber and glanced at the bullets resting inside. I’ve got additional ammo in case I ran out of these ones. I returned my gun to my holster and took stock of the situation as I continued to drive.

A little girl was missing tonight, had been missing going on two days now; the description of the mastermind behind her kidnapping matched the perp whom I was after. He’d even called less than ten minutes ago before I tore out of the station, describing to me exactly where he would be. He had a reason for taking the girl, and he knew that I knew too. His specialty was little girls. In the past couple of months, five of them had suffered despicable deaths; there was no way I was going to let another happen, even though I had less than an hour before midnight to still be carrying around my badge.

I arrived at the harbor and drove past the open gates. His phone call had told me to come by the east end of the jetty, where much of the buildings there were old, crumbling warehouses. As I got halfway close to it, I turned off my engine and decided to proceed cautiously on foot, my six-shooter drawn out.

All around the jetty was eerie quietness; in the distance came the sound of a ship’s foghorn. My feet made slight crunching sounds as I proceeded to investigate a large empty warehouse building that was in front of me.

A light inside the building suddenly came on and it focused downward on the little girl in a green dress, tied to a chair in the center of the building’s empty space. She looked up at me with teary eyes as I approached her slowly while eyes scanned the dark interior.

“Hi there, Abbie,” I called the girl by her name. “Is the bad man around?”

She nodded, too frightened to speak.

“Don’t worry, I’m with the good guys. I’m going to get you to your parents, I promise.”

At that moment, my body became still as I sensed something coming directly at me in the dark. I threw my head and my body to the left as I heard a swooping sound connect with my shoulder, making me cry out. I was lucky – if I hadn’t ducked in time, the piece of wood would have knocked me out completely. I aim my gun where the wood had appeared from but was too late as I felt it slam on my wrist, knocking the six-shooter off my hand. I couldn’t really make him out from the darkness in the room, but I knew it was him; his breathing felt loud in my ear. I threw myself against him and we both fell to the ground, grappling. I rammed a knee to his groin, heard him grunt, and followed it with a fist. I struck his jaw before prying the wood from his grip. I came to my feet and clubbed him with the wood, at the same time cursed at him.

“There you go, you bastard! How do you like it, eh! Hurts, don’t it!”

Each time I cursed, I swung the wood hard on his head, heard him cry out more. I could also hear the girl scream out, but at that moment, satisfying my rage was I wanted. I went in search of my gun and came back and shot him three times.

There was the sound of my heart beating fast, and a pressing ache in my shoulders and knuckles as I stood there letting my body return to calm. I dropped to my knees, took out a torch from my pocket and brought the light down on his face.

I stared gape-mouthed, the sound of my voice died in my throat as immediately I recognized whose face it was. Though I’d battered it to a pulp, it was still enough for me to recognize Simon – my son.

There I sat right next to my killer son’s dead body, crying, too weak to even move. Then I felt the little girl come and hug me. “Thank you,” she said, “thank you for rescuing me from the evil man.”

I hugged her back, sniffling back my tears, and said: “It’s all right, Abbie. You’re safe now.”

I picked her up and carried her to where I’d left my vehicle. I left my son’s remains for the rats and other tiny creatures in the building to feed upon.

 

Death of a Literary Agent

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Here once lived Enivel Greenberg
Agent extraordinaire; defender of the weak and unpublished,
Seeker of query letters, whether agented or none.
A warm smile for a salutation
Synopsis be damned by the doorstep, you’re bound to fail
His review. Whether Kirkus or New York Times,
Invitation opened all year round,
Except on Hanukkah,
Genre specified – horrors for lunch;
Roasted Y.A., for dinner;
Anything on the Holocaust for Sundays;
Post-modernism dropped by his office everyday . . .
So many letters I tell you, you’d think he was a hot same:
Addresses often lost in transit
Not his fault – writers never could spell English.
A heart-attack the doctor declared:
Somehow his SPAM cells couldn’t fight back.
Here’s a drink to a dearly departed soul
A good thing he left behind fifteen pairs of shoes,
Mourned by a blog, a LinkedIn and a Facebook page;
He definitely will be missed
If only I remember his name.

One More Step . . .

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One more step is all I ask
Too little, too late. The hour is at hand,
So much I want to lie down
So badly I want to shut my eyes
And sleep into Nevermore.
This hurt, this pain, this fear
Where does it all end?
Won’t it ever go away?

All I ask is one more step
The wind fights to push me back
I’m so weary to look ahead
I hurt all over; I cry every day
Still all I seek is one more step
Hopefully that will get me through the day.