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“Maro, why is this man with you?” Tricia asked, disdain oozing out of her so strongly it was palpable. “Trish, he is the best lawyer I can get you, and I will not allow you to be defended by any state lawyer who could as well be seen as an extension of the prosecution”
“Maro, you do not know. Let me tell you what happened. He is the reason Ivie didn’t allow me stay with her, I could see the way he looked me over the day I went to see her and I know she saw it too. And that is why she arranged for me to stay with Bruno. I didn’t know she had assured Bruno I would pay rent in kind. When he demanded for his “payment” and I refused, he raped me. By the time I recovered and called the police, they arrived to find Bruno dead and everyone thinks I killed him. No one will believe my story and even I am beginning to doubt me. All because of this man’s lustful eyes!”
“Stop it! Tricia , stop it!” Maro said, raising his voice slightly. The force with which he spoke caught her and she mellowed. “That might have happened, and Ivie and Taju here have been bad.” Taju winced in his seat, but said nothing. In his heart of hearts, he knew she was right. Maro continued “but we are all trying to get you out of here, out of,” he waved his hands around “this. And you are going to have to help us, to help me.” He placed his hand over hers as he said the “me”. That did the magic. “I’m doing this for you, and only you, Maro.”
“Good, dear,” Maro replied, letting out a huge sigh of relief. Taju then turned to Dudu “as she is now officially my client, I would like to speak with my client privately.” Dudu hesitated, but he knew he had to leave. “Ten minutes,” he growled. Taju turned to her when Dudu had left. “Do not leave any detail out.”
AIG Saranja knew Chief Dickson. When Olu had called him, he had at first been worried. But on thinking about it again, he deduced that the chief wasn’t involved in the matter. A simple call to certain PDP stalwarts would have killed the matter if the chief really wanted to get involved. The boy was on his own here. The chief probably didn’t want his son to be involved with an accused murderer any longer. He had obtained Chief Dickson’s number and now dialed from his official landline. He had to make this look as official as possible. The chief’s Pete Edochie like voice answered from the other end. His boy had done well, this was the chief’s private number not one of the numerous ones his PAs carried.
“Hello,” the man said
“Hello Chief, this is AIG Saranja from force headquarters.”
Chief Dickson became more attentive where he was. Why was this man calling him “hope all is well o, this one you are calling me.”
“Haaa, oga, all must be well. It is just a small matter that came to my attention that I thought might be of interest to you. It is about your son.”
“Which of them and what about him?”
“The youngest one sir. There is a case one of my boys is handling, a murder case involving a girl, Tricia. Your son was at the station today claiming he had a relationship with her. I’m sure there is a mix up somewhere, I know he cannot be linked with the likes of her. That is why I brought it to your attention first sir.”
“Yes, yes,” Chief responded “that is the correct thing to do, my good man. These children en. I will handle that, it is nothing to worry about, AIG errrr”
“Yes yes. Thank you for calling.”
“The pleasure is mine sir.” He respectfully waited for the Chief to end the call. He was sure the man would talk to his son, and he would not make more trouble on this case.
Maro and Taju were ushered into Olu’s office. “We will be having the doctor’s examination to give an opinion on whether my client was the victim of a rape by the deceased on the morning she was arrested,” Taju said, as soon as they were seated.
Olu’s eyes shone. “Your client? How?”
Maro spoke “well, I had to get her a lawyer and this is the lawyer I got.”
Olu was livid “I thought you were a gentleman, I mean, I allowed you see her and you tricked me like this. You must feel very pleased with yourselves for this coup.”
Taju responded “you are the prosecuting lawyer, yes? So I take it that beyond being a police officer, you are a qualified lawyer. That means you know what the law says about innocence until proven guilty, right to an attorney and the burden of proof on the prosecution in a criminal case.”
Olu peered through hooded eyes at the young lawyer before him. The overconfident, doe eyed type who thought they were smart because they had read and read. They however didn’t understand the grit of the real legal battles on the ground. He would easily outflank this one. He smiled “so let us agree on a doctor that will examine her. As the onus is on me to prove she is a murderer, you also have to prove she was raped, beyond reasonable doubt. And you do know that it is only the state that can prosecute a criminal case like rape. So even if you can prove rape, we can simply choose not to prosecute rape.”
“There is a doctor we would like to recommend, and we don’t believe you will have objections.”
“Who might that be?” Olu asked.
“Dr. Conrad Obochi, of Wintonton Clinic.” Maro said.
“Okay,” Olu said.
“What?” Taju said.
“I know Kofo gave you that name, it’s the man she uses. Her involvement explains many things. Now, if you will excuse me, I do have a lot of work to do preparing to beat you in court. Today is Tuesday. I will do you the favor of having her appear in court next Monday, a sort of fast track. Good day gentlemen”
As they stepped out, Maro’s phone rang. It was his father. “Hello Daddy,” he said cheerily, glad at the victory they had won in Olu’s station.
“Oghenemaro, what are you doing in Lagos in the police station over that girl’s case? I thought we agreed it was over with her and her wretched family?”
Maro was taken aback. How had his father come to even know he was in Lagos not to talk of what he was doing here? He stopped talking for a few seconds and then said “Hello. Hello. Hello. Haaa, these networks.” Of course he could hear perfectly as his father tried to say something about his leaving Lagos right away. “Dad, I’ll call you back. The network is really bad here.” With that, he cut the call and switched his phone off.
Oloye returned home to make arrangements for his wife’s burial. He did not talk to anyone. That night, he drank like he had not done in a long time.
The next morning, Teju called Kofo right on time and they agreed to meet in XFactor Café on Ogunlana Drive over breakfast. Teju chose to have a light sandwich breakfast and thick black coffee while Kofo went with two donuts and tea. When breakfast was served and they were alone, Teju began “I have reason to believe that Bruno’s murder is not something that just happened, that it was in fact planned. Ahhh, I get ahead of myself. I’m Teju Bello, ex UK policeman and now a private investigator.”
“Kofo, and I’m a superintendent of police. So go on. Why do you think Tricia didn’t simply murder Bruno?”
“First, there is someone who stands to gain hugely financially from Bruno’s death. Four million pounds richer from his life insurance payout.”
Kofo interrupted “let me guess, his wife. But she was in the UK when he was killed. So that sort of gives her a very strong alibi.”
“I know,” Teju said “but when there is such a strong motive, she is suspect. Especially considering the fact that she had all the papers to file for the insurance payout ready that same morning!”
“Hmm,” Kofo said, rubbing her chin “that is definitely suspicious. Some of those documents were meant to originate from here in Nigeria and things simply don’t move that fast. Plus she has not made any moves to come and id her husband and claim the corpse.”
“Exactly. If she did it, she would probably have had local help. Now this Tricia, what’s her story?”
Kofo briefed him in five minutes and it was Teju’s turn to rub his chin. After pondering for a few minutes, he asked “when is the first hearing in a proper court?”
“Monday,” Kofo said “and they’re visiting the doctor to get his opinion today. As it is, it’s already almost four days late.”
Teju stood up. “I think I’ll pay the doctor a visit.”
“Okay,” Kofo said as she got up. “Keep in touch.”
The next day, at about noon, when the sun was at its highest and your shirt stuck to your back except you were in an air-conditioned car, they hit the road. In one of the new police cars donated by the governor which was still in good enough shape that the AC was working, Tricia was taken to Wintonton Hospital. Dudu drove with another armed plain clothes policeman in the front seat while Olu and Tricia rode in the back. Taju and Maro drove behind them and it took about forty five minutes to weave through traffic to get to the clinic on Bode Thomas from Ojuelegba. Dr Obuchi was a small eggheaded man in sparkling white overalls. He didn’t wear glasses, and their absence made you feel like something that was meant to be there was missing. Without much ado, Tricia went into the examining room with him while the men waited in silence, occupied by their blackberries.