“Now would be a good time to tell us what really happened, doc,” Taju said quietly, right after he stopped the playback.
“Men came to my hospital, violent looking men. I initially told them I was going to uphold my professional ethics and report what I had observed. But when they produced my report to you, I realized there was someone in your camp that is working with them. I was still going to resist them, but things got violent. There was a gun pointed at me after that scuffle you heard on your recording. And they followed me around unseen, calling me intermittently to tell me where I was and what I was doing. I feared for my life and had to say what they wanted in this case.”
“So,” Taju pressed, “what is the real result of your examination of my client?” He knew he had to get the witness to actually state this clearly.
“Miss Tricia had evidence of vaginal bruising only attributable to forced penetration without lubrication. She also had fading bruises on her face, signs that she had been recently struck across the face. This is consistent with her story and also consistent with rape. All these indicate that she indeed was raped. However, I was unable to ascertain the identity of the rapist, as there was no semen samples collected to test.”
“Thank you doctor, that would be all.” Then turning to Olu, he said coyly “your witness.”
“No questions, my lord,” Olu said dryly, deliberately ignoring Taju’s obvious gloating.
The judge addressed Doctor Obochi, “doctor, while I sympathize with you as regards your dilemma, and the fact that your life was truly in danger, the law is clear on what you have done. Lying to this court after taking the oath is perjury and is a criminal offence, for which you will be tried and sentenced appropriately, if found guilty by a competent court of law. I do not like a fellow professional who has put in so much work to go down like this, but I also doubt that you will retain your license. So you see, the very things you were trying to protect, you will lose now. Cooperating with criminals and succumbing to their threats is never a good idea.”
With that, Doctor Obochi stepped down from the witness stands and was arrested immediately and taken into custody, amidst murmurings in court. The clerk shouted “order” and the murmuring died down.
Taju got up and addressed the judge “my lord, we can establish that my client was raped, based on the last witness’ testimony”
“Objection, my lord. The witness has been arrested on perjury for that testimony, which makes it inadmissible as evidence in this case,” Olu interjected.
“Objection overruled. While your postulation is true, there are only two options in this case, either she was raped or not. If the doctor stating she was not raped has been prove false, then she was raped.”
You could have seen the smoke coming out of Olu’s ears as he sat down if you looked closely. Taju continued
“What we will establish next is the identity of the rapist, beyond reasonable doubt, and the circumstantial evidence available. We would like these two folders to be admitted as evidence in this case. We have made copies available for the prosecution,” he said, as copies were passed to both the judge and the prosecution corner. He continued
“The first folder contains police images taken of the crime scene, as well as images taken by my client with her mobile phone right after the rape incident. It merely reiterates what the doctor’s evidence has already established.”
Olu studied the images. There were two sets, one set with a high resolution, obviously taken with high powered police cameras. He had those images in his files too. The other, however feeling like he was wearing a donkey head. He had seen the images before – they were the images on the memory card he had destroyed. Kofo had obviously backed them up before showing him. He felt too weak to object anything. He knew the real reason they were bringing this out was not to establish rape but to gag him from making any objections. Taju continued
“The crux is to look at these two images, one a police image and one taken by my client. They both show a cotton bud lying on the bed. The police image clearly shows that the cotton bud has some fluid on one of its head. As the police were unwilling to pay for the DNA tests to confirm the owner of this body fluid, we undertook getting this done ourselves in the United Kingdom. The second document is the report from the lab of the London School of Medicine. It confirms that the fluid was indeed Mr. Bruno’s seminal fluid. We can therefore conclude that my client was raped by Mr. Bruno as she reported.”
Tricia nearly jumped for joy where she was, but she controlled himself with considerable effort. It was the first time she saw the case taking a turn in their favor.
As Kofo expected, Olu did not raise any objections, even though she could see he was dying to. She had correctly deduced that since this was only establishing rape but not precluding Tricia from murder, he would not risk objecting. If he did, questions would be asked about why the police did not have Tricia’s pictures. And he did not want to have to answer those questions. She smiled smugly.
Taju continued “my lord, on the basis of all these, I would request that this court grant bail to my client, as she has not received any treatment after this crude invasion of her body.”
The judge thought on the matter and then spoke slowly and deliberately “I would be the first to admit that this is a most unusual case. The defendant is accused of the murder of the man who she is in turn accusing of raping her, a rape which all the facts point to having occurred. This court will however decline granting bail to the defendant – the charge is murder, and it will be treated as such until proven otherwise. Furthermore, seeing that the evidence shows that the police investigation into the matter has not been as thorough as would have been expected, this case will be adjourned for one week, to enable both prosecution and defense to investigate properly and return to court with all necessary facts to support their cases. The defendant will be remanded in the more hospitable custody of the SRDV pending the determination of the case.” Then she banged her gavel and the clerk quickly shouted “rise”, at which everyone rose, and the judge went into her chambers to de-robe.
Olu rose and walked over to Taju and Kofo. He breathed only the words “Pyrrhic Victory” to them and then walked off with measured steps.
“Someone has been asking about you sir,” AIG Saranja’s informant told him over the phone.
“Someone has been asking about me? What type of questions exactly?” he asked, wondering which of his police adversaries was trying to get him this time. Thankfully, he kept a well oiled informant network running and it was paying off in this case.
“A discreet request came through the ranks to get the identity of the owners of two mobile numbers. It’s not directly under my purview, but I listen for these things here. When the results of the search came out, your name was returned as the owner of one of the numbers.”
AIG Saranja thought briefly and then asked “which of my numbers was this?”
“Let me get the number sir.” there was a slight pause and then the informant came back on the line “08038205231 sir.”
Saranja’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. That was his private number, and few people called him on it. A thought flashed across his mind and he queried the informant “you said there were two numbers that came in the request. Did you get the name of the owner of the other number?”
“Yes sir,” the informant replied.
“What was it?” Saranja asked impatiently.
“Ivie sir, Ivie Ovie”
Saranja wheezed unconsciously and then caught himself. Speaking as normally as he could, he quickly rounded off the call with the informant without giving away the gravity of the information he had just received. This definitely had to do with this Tricia case. He wondered who it was that was already putting things together. But whoever it was, he had to nip it in the bud. There was too much at stake. It took a few seconds before it registered on him that the shrill sound he was hearing was his own phone ringing. He picked it up and checked caller id. It was Olu Williams. He hoped the news he was about to hear was good.
“Sir,” Olu began without the usual courtesies, “the least I would have expected was to be in the picture about your agents paying the doctor a visit.”
AIG Saranja was caught off guards “how did you know about that, Olu? Have you been snooping around behind my back?”
“You would have had a smaller problem if it was me snooping around. Apparently, Tricia’s people had the doctor’s office bugged and recorded the visit. The doctor was shamed in court as a liar. I had the perfect defense set up to still get a conviction even if they were able to establish rape. They also know that someone removed documents from their lawyer’s file. I’m beginning to wonder if this is not more than this girl. No, I’m not just beginning to wonder, in all honesty, I’ve always known. So sir, I need you to come out plain to me, is there something I should know that I don’t?” Olu sounded exasperated as he spoke.
“Olu, I’ll be frank with you, your deductions are right. And it is important that this girl gets convicted for this murder, the stakes are very high. I will take care of this loose end, but ensure you focus on winning this case. I have not reneged on my promise, if you deliver. Now, I’ve got to go. I need to make some calls to sort some things out.”
Olu had more questions to ask, but even now, he didn’t forget that AIG Saranja was by far his superior and in the force, that meant a lot. He would ask later. He politely allowed the AIG to hang the call up.
AIG Saranja swung into action immediately he hung up. He dialed a number and after two rings, the call was picked up. The voice that said hello to him was clear and crisp. The connection was very good. He spoke in low but clear tones
“Change of plans. The girl dies.”
The four of them sat around the hardwood table in Kofo’s air-conditioned office. They had all agreed that there might be serious threats to Tricia’s life and Kofo had detailed four of her best men to watch her cell with at least two being there at any given moment. If they could go to those lengths with Doctor Obochi, there was no telling what they could do. She felt for the doctor. The poor man had lost everything and had a jail term hanging over his head now. She was all the more determined to get to the bottom of this case.
The mood in Kofo’s office was a mix. There were reasons to celebrate, as they had won some victories in court today. The most important perhaps was that Tricia was now in their custody and she would be better treated, and as Taju pointed out, they could ask her questions better. They had also established rape, and with that a viable defense by reducing the charge to manslaughter in the worst case scenario. But, as Kofo somberly pointed out, there was someone in the ranks who was in league with Olu’s people. She was privately happy that none of them knew of Teju. Teju had been right when he had first pointed out the advantage of his anonymity.
“The only person that could have done this is Ivie,” Taju said. Kofo and Maro had been hesitant to point fingers at the obvious choice in respect to Taju’s sensibilities. He had helped them by voicing what they were both thinking.
“The million dollar question is,” Maro paused and opened his palms “why?”
“I would love us to discuss our plans on how to prosecute Tricia’s defense, but I think speaking with Ivie is more pressing as she is the only one that can answer that question. I would even have expected her to have at least called to find out about the case,” Maro said. Kofo nodded in agreement and Taju picked up his phone to dial her. It rang out and he tried again. The phone rang out the second time. “Not picking,” he said.
“I think both of you should go and speak with her at home. I would have come along, but I have another meeting this afternoon that I cannot miss.”
In her cell, Tricia thought all kinds of thoughts. She didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. True, her conditions here were better and that scary albino was no longer her to torture her with his mere presence. But she worried about Maro. There was something she could not place a name to, but she felt he was avoiding personal contact with her. Even here, where she guessed he could see her alone if he really wanted to, he hadn’t made the effort. And she didn’t want to stretch her luck by requesting to see him alone. They were good to her here, but she was still an accused criminal in police custody.
“He is avoiding me, because he can’t stand looking at me now he is certain I was raped,” she said out aloud to herself. She spoke her thoughts out loud; she was alone in her cell anyway. “He seems to see freeing me more as some project he has to complete now. And when I am free, will he take me back?” She shook her head. She did not know for sure, and she wished she knew.
Kofo waited for ten minutes after Taju and Maro had left before she left the office for the café where she was rendezvousing with Tejuola Bello. He sat there, in his unassuming polo t-shirt, with lunch already ordered for two.
“I took the liberty of ordering lunch, since I knew you would keep to time,” he said and flashed her a smile that would have made the toothpaste models jealous.
“Are you attempting to flirt with me, Mr. Bello?” she quipped. “It will get you nowhere sir,” she said with a hint of a smile and then continued “and thank you for coming through with all the evidence that helped so much with the case. I am in your debt.”
“Ah, but you have said the only way I wish to receive payment for that debt is a no no,” he said, a sly upward curve forming on his lips.
She cleared her throat dramatically and then asked him what had been bothering her “we think Tricia’s aunt was the one that stole the doctor’s report from Taju’s file when he went for a roll in the haystack at her place. The question that is bothering us now is why. Why would she do such a thing when she was helping with the case? It’s a puzzle I’ve been unable to unravel. The other two guys are on the way to her house now to talk to her.”
Teju still had a playful smile on his face. “I’ll tell you why if you agree to dinner with me, a no work dinner.”
“Teju, please be serious.”
“Who says I’m not serious? Allow me to increase your indebtedness to me…” he said as he produced the piece of paper that had the two numbers he had gotten owners to earlier in the day with the names written by the side.
“These are the two Nigerian numbers that Bruno’s wife called the most within the three months before his death. I have managed to obtain the owners of the numbers, thanks to your SIM registration exercise. One of the numbers belongs to Tricia’s aunt. The other name, I do not know.”
“What!” Kofo exclaimed. She reached out and collected the piece of paper from Teju. Her eyes widened as she looked at it.
“I know the other name,” Kofo said quietly.
Teju instantly became serious “who is it?”
“He is an Assistant Inspector General of police,” she responded
“Holy mackerel!” Teju exclaimed.
“That explains Olu, and so many other things,” Kofo said.
Teju sat back, looking into space and then said as if to himself “this might get dangerous.”
Maro and Taju arrived at Ivie’s house a couple of minutes after Kofo and Tejuola had made their discovery in the café. The whole house was quiet and Taju decided to surprise her. He had his own key and let himself in, calling out her name. Maro went in after him and they both entered an empty parlor. The television was on but the volume was turned low. The flicking of images on the bright screen soundlessly in the dark room gave some sort of ominous foreboding to both men. Cautiously, they went into the kitchen first, and saw fried plantain in a bowl. It looked like it had been left there for a while. Then Taju went towards the room, Maro keeping a distance, lest he come upon a near naked sleeping Ivie. Taju entered the room while he waited just outside the room.
“Damn it!” Taju exclaimed loudly from the room. He rushed into the room and there on the bed, was Ivie in a flimsy t-shirt, her not so perky full breasts clearly outlined. She would have looked like she was peacefully asleep, but for the fact that those breasts were not rising and falling as they should. And then his eyes took in the pillow beside her, stained with a fluid that he guessed was her saliva.
“Do not touch anything,” he said to Taju, as he brought out his phone.
“I know it’s about to go a notch higher,” Kofo was saying to Tejuola when her phone rang. It was Maro. “Maybe they have some news for us from Ivie,” she said to Teju as she picked the call up.
“Hello,” she said “what’s up Maro”
“Ivie is dead,” Maro replied unceremoniously.
“What do you mean Ivie is dead? How?” Kofo said, and Teju’s eyes shone as he realized the implications of what she said.
“She’s dead dead noni. We got here and Taju let us in, since he thought we should surprise her. We found signs that she was in the house but when we called out, she didn’t respond. We found her on her bed, inside her room.”
“Can you ascertain cause of death without touching her? Any wounds? Does it look like suicide? Any signs of break in?” Kofo fired rapidly.
“I’ve taken some pictures and sent them to you by email. It seems to me she was suffocated with her pillow, there’s no bleeding or external wounds on her. Definitely not suicide, except she could suffocate herself.”
“Okay Maro,” I’m on my way and I’ll alert homicide officers to start coming too. Do not touch anything in the house.”
“Roger that,” Maro responded and cut the connection.
There were questions in Teju’s eyes but rather than answer them, she opened the email that was already waiting on her phone and showed him. This had gotten really dangerous, and whoever was behind this seemed to be a step ahead of them in covering their tracks. But to do this, they were getting desperate too.