By Larry Sun
Also present in the church were Detective Lot, Daniel Famous, the photographer, and Doctor Adam. Although nobody, except Eze Chima, was aware of the presence of the photographer. The gatekeeper had intentionally invited the man to the funeral to take any more necessary snapshots. The photographer on the other hand, busied himself by taking photographic shots of the corpse lying in a casket so grand that a wretched man could be forced to look forward to dying. Detective Lot in particular was not there as a mourner but as an observer, his eyes scanning the congregation. Despite the thin possibility that Cain committed suicide, Lot strongly believed that he had been murdered, and experience showed that murderers are morbidly drawn to a victim’s funeral.
After the funeral, the body was being transported to the cemetery for burial. The detective did not follow them to the site. He had concluded there was nothing there to go for. He never found a personal sanity in interring a body, they would be wasting time and efforts digging a deep, vertically sided hole in orange-coloured earth of the cemetery and lowering the poor body down on straps. He had seen the sort of thing on TV many a time and he had always had much distate at the acts. He asked Daniel not to go for the burial either, and the young police officer had reluctantly stayed back. He had wished he were closer to the widow rather than the gumshoe.
When they were having a walk the detective said, “I want us to work on this case together.”
Daniel did not say anything.
Lot asked, “You saw the body first, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t, it was Hakeem who did.”
“Not here, sir.”
“Don’t be dumb—I know he’s not here. Where does he live and how did you know him.”
Daniel had never worked with Lot before. He therefore felt insulted by the harsh words lashed at him. “He’s just a son of the neighbour living adjacent to where I live.”
“Um—Famous, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, sir.”
Not far away from them were six teenagers playing football. The impressed Daniel watched as the kids were using the front walls of the two houses on either side of the street as goals, and showed amazing accuracy in never hitting any of the windows. He was so captivated by the youngsters’ skills that he wondered if he wouldn’t be the one who ended up breaking a window had he joined them. One of the kids missed either of the houses and the ball went in the direction of the two lawmen. Daniel skillfully controlled the rolling ball and did a little pre-intimacy with the sphere-like object before he kicked it back to the kids, smiling.
“With the way you carried that ball,” said Lot, “Football must be your favourite sport.”
“No doubt about that, sir.”
“You’re a fan of the Pillars, right?”
Daniel was startled, how could he possibly know that? “How—”
“The jersey you wore last week.” The detective explained, “It was the Pillars’.” He paused, taking his time to study the young man’s physiques. “What would you prefer? Being the country’s best footballer or being the country’s Commissioner of Police?”
The policeman laughed heartily, “With all due respect, sir. I think that is a far-fetched question, I would surely like to be the footballer. That is my dream, my passion.”
“Then what are you doing in the police force?” Lot asked sharply.
“It’s a long story, sir.”
“Tell me, I like listening to stories.”
As they continued walking on, Daniel let the tale unfold:
He had never wanted to be a policeman; police work never had been Daniel’s first choice for a career. He had applied into the force so as to get even with his folks—an act of rebellion against his parents, for it had been the last thing they had wanted for him. He had been drawn to the uniform and badge because being a policeman had seemed the easiest way to prove his masculinity. Police work was not and never for him. He was still a young man; there was still time to change career.
When Daniel graduated at the age of seventeen he had told his parents that he wanted to go to the university to study Mass Communication, but his parents had disagreed with him, they wanted him to study Medicine and become a doctor. He had also disagreed with them; he got himself recruited in the police force.
In the force, he had always been very unlucky. Two years earlier, he had stopped a motorist at the checkpoint for a bribe, and the motorist had stopped him with a pistol fired point-blank. He’d narrowly escaped being locked up in a coffin because the bullet had only gone a few inches away from his heart and grazed his right shoulder. He spent a month in the hospital. Since then, Daniel had never stayed at the checkpoint nor engaged himself in any act of venality.
Sometimes, he could not remember why he had become a policeman. It seemed not a career choice but an act of madness. A couple of months after his discharge from the hospital, he had wounded a belligerent drunk whom he thought had been armed. Instead of a gun; the man he’d accosted had had a mobile phone in his pocket. With all his misfortunes, he had never allowed himself to be deterred from performing his obligations; even though some of his colleagues in the force mocked and called him names. He was known to most of his colleagues by his nickname Stu, which was short for Stupid.
Initially, he had always wanted, when he was a younger boy, to be a footballer, but he gave up when realized how hard it was to become a professional footballer in this country. Daniel had always admired the country’s football heroes—and he had been a life-long fan of the Pillars.
“But out of everything,” continued Daniel, “My father had not been able to forgive me for the decision I took.”
“You’re the black sheep of the family?”
“Blacker than black.”
“Do you ever visit them?”
“The family? Now and then. The prodigal son returns. They kill the fattest calf like the biblical tale. My parents are always glad to see me, my siblings too. But I always see it in my father’s eyes the disappointment he had in me, no matter how much he tried to hide it.”
Detective Lot frowned, his expression looked serious, “You’re the master of your decision, I can’t decide for you.” He was now letting himself the pleasure of thinking that this young police officer was not perhaps the nonentity that his appearance might seem to signify.
“I know, but it feels better having to tell someone this.”
“I also like football,” Lot said, smiling, “At least I enjoy watching it.”
Daniel beamed, “Really? Which club do you belong, sir?”
An engaging smile crept across Lot’s mouth. He thought he and the boy would get on well together. “I’m a Gateway fan.”
“That’s interesting; we played with you last week Friday.”
“I learned that the match was played at about eleven that night. I never got around to watching it, did you?”
Famous looked disturbed, he started stuttering, “I—um-uh-I didn’t watch it either.”
Daniel replied quickly, “I went to vigil, but I heard on the NBC Sports that it was a tie, a goal each.”
“Maybe one day I’ll be watching you play on the television.”
Daniel was perplexed, he hadn’t expected that kind of statement coming from anyone, “What are you saying, sir?”
“What I’m saying is—when the opportunity comes, always go for what you desire. One Nigerian football player you know was once a restaurant waiter receiving a meager salary before he became a world-class footballer.”
Daniel lowered his face, when he looked in the detective’s face again; tears had formed lenses in his own eyes. “Thank you, sir,” he said, “Your faith in me has renewed my strength.”
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