By Larry Sun
“If you say so.” Michael turned to the gatekeeper, “When you called me you said Cain asked you to do so, am I right?”
“You’re right, sir.”
“Then how come he’s lying dead outside? And why is there only one jeep in the garage?”
Before Eze Chima could answer the lawyer the door of the room was opened and a tall policeman poked his head inside. “There’s a young man at the gate, he called himself the driver.”
The detective smiled at the lawyer, “Maybe he’s come to surrender as you have said.”
“Allow him in.” Lot told the policeman at the door.
“Yes, sir.” The policeman disappeared and Richard came in a few minutes later, he was looking tired and angry. Lot, who was fond of looking closely at new faces, studied Richard and smiled.
“You’re Mr. Richard, right?”
“I’ll prefer you call me Mr. Philip. But you can call me Richard all the same.”
“Nice meeting you, Mr. Philip.” They shook hands. The man’s handshake wasn’t exactly a bone-crusher, Richard noticed, but it threatened to dislocate his second and fifth metacarpals. Richard quickly withdrew his hand before he ended up with dangling phalanges. However, he checked his hand still thereafter, to confirmed that there wasn’t one of his fingers still hanging from the detective’s palm.
“I’m Inspector Lot,” said Lot, wondering how many times and people left he still had to introduce himself.
Richard knew the man—the famed Criminal Nightmare, as Silverbird Television had described him. He was not surprised to see Lot, and he did not feign any.
“I believe I wouldn’t be wrong if I concluded that you’re here to investigate the death of my boss.”
“You’re right, and I trust you’ll help us in arriving at the truth.”
“I’ll tell you all what I know.”
“But Richard, honestly, I’m surprised that—how can I put it? Your boss’s death didn’t affect you emotionally.”
Richard sat down, the detective also did.
“And why should that man’s death affect me?” he asked lightly.
“He was your boss, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, he was. Any problem with that? ”
“You don’t seem to show any concern about his death.”
Richard shifted in his seat, “Well, I cannot help my flippancy, can I? But let me tell you one truth, sir. I hate Mr. Martins, and he’s a man I would
hate even in heaven if by chance we ever meet there.”
“Don’t you think what you are saying may later be used against you?”
“I don’t care. If you don’t know, Mr. Martins had the manners worse than those of a lunatic when he was alive and it would be hypocritical of me to pretend I am moved by his death when I’m not.”
“De mortuis nil nisi bonum,” Lot quoted, “Freely translated: Say nothing but good of the dead.” The detective believed that in death, the very worst man should be accorded respect even by those who knew that he was a scoundrel all his life. Because every one of us must die, belittling a dead man is in a way like belittling ourselves. Moreover, if you speak badly about the dead, you somehow are mocking the great inevitable end—and mayhap inviting God to punish you for your arrogance.
“Even if the dead were an annoying nincompoop in his life. That crazy idiot! May he rot in the deepest pit of hell!” Richard growled, which surprised Abigail since she knew Richard to rarely use even the mildest of oaths.
The detective looked at Richard with a blank expression and nodded. Nobody in the room could guess what was running through the detective’s chain of thoughts unless he said it out. Even saying it out might be complicated to understand sometimes. But from his look at Richard, one might be able to deduce correctly, or incorrectly, that he noticed in the younger man that, in spite of the angry look Richard carried into the room, Lot could detect a spice of suaveness in the young driver.
“Anyway, we’ll talk about that later,” he said, “Right now I want you to meet these people sitting here. That’s Barrister—”
“I know him.” Richard stared coldly at the lawyer.
As both men shook hands, the lawyer leaned forward and whispered in Richard’s ear. “I told you to watch your steps here but you didn’t; now you’re in for trouble. How would you like spending the next Christmas in a nice little jail? Be sure that I will arrange for you the durance vile you deserve.”
Richard glared into the lawyer’s eyes and whispered in reply, “Let’s wait and see.” Soft-spoken, yet as sharp as a harpist’s plectrum his words were.
Detective Lot noticed the transparent animosity between the two men but he decided not to comment about it.
“Okay,” said Lot, “That’s Doctor Adam of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, he’s probably going to help us on this case.” He pointed to the police officer, “That’s Officer Daniel Famous and beside him is the boy who reported seeing the body.”
Daniel waved in greeting and Richard nodded in reply. I’ve got a policeman I’m going to kick in the gut, he thought.
“That’s the photographer.”
“The photographer is the only one here without a name?”
The photographer was about to speak when Eze Chima quickly helped him out, “His name is Leba.”
“Leba? What a strange name.” Richard commented, “Let me guess, he isn’t here to take my pictures.”
“Can I ask this scoundrel a question?” Kish asked the detective.
“No question is needed for now. Questions can wait,” said Lot, “Now, we need to clear up the mess around.”
The doctor stood up, pushed his spectacles up to the top of his nose with the middle finger of his ringless left hand, and consulted his wrist-watch,
“It’s almost ten, we have to move the body to the morgue before the morning sun starts darkening it.”
Doctor Adam went outside in the wake of the others; he called his men and spoke to them. A wheeled-stretcher was carried out of the van, and Cain’s body that was put on it was covered with a black rubber sheet. The stretcher was slid into the back of the ambulance, the door slammed shut and the vehicle pulled slowly away, the siren beginning to moan—destination: The State Morgue, for autopsy.
Before his departure, Doctor Adam called the detective aside and told him something, Lot nodded and shook the doctor’s hand appreciatively.
Without any other person around knowing, the doctor had just told Detective Lot the estimated time of death of the deceased.
The sensational death of Cain Martins prompted headlines in almost every newspaper in the country, and was featured in network TV., not only because he was a wealthy man, but the interest of Detective Lot in the affair had also spiced up more debates among the media houses and others—Was it Murder or Suicide? Though most people considered Cain Martins a reprobate when he was alive, (and he on the other hand, had not integrated with the society in character-wise since his aberrant behavior did not allow him that humility) his death still pulled a large crowd. The cream of the society were present in the funeral of this wealthy Nigerian. Cain’s death was also considered a paradigm of the destructive side of humanity bad acts. Even the details of the newspapers were vilifying in the minutest degree. And surely, fathers would perhaps forge out didactic stories from the affair and admonish their stubborn wards about the tragic ends of villains.
That same day, the State Morgue released the body of Cain Martins to his wife, Abigail, who announced that a funeral service and burial of her late husband would take place on Friday—a week’s time.
Though there hadn’t been much time, Abigail did her best, with the aid of Barrister Michael Kish, to arrange a grand funeral for her late husband. The chosen church was St. Paul’s Catholic in Anthony Village.
A Requiem Eucharist was arranged, with full choir and a bishop and some others to officiate. Pallbearers included Cain’s associates and staff, all drawn by Abigail’s summons like iron filing to a magnet. Being the death of a rich Nigerian, the church was filled, though inconspicuously absent was Mrs. Philip, Richard’s mother, who had heard the news but did not attend the funeral for a reason Richard could not fathom. He had urged her to attend but she had blatantly refused, saying that she hated attending funerals; he thought his mother was just being too spiritual. Also absent was Cain’s business colleague, Mr. Dele Hassan, who was residing in Rivers. Most people present there were dressed in the familiar funeral black.
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