BOOK EXCERPTS, BOOKS

EXCERPT FROM FEMI OWOLABI’S ECHOES IN THE WEB

Jumoke worked late into the night the previous day, and when it was about 7:30pm she had called her niece to let her know that she would be staying over at her office till the next morning since she wasn’t comfortable driving at night. Her working late was actually pre-planned to meet some self-set work targets. It was about that time that Yetunde left the media firm. In a calm tone, she said she was okay and was going to be fine, “I’ve gotten the letter aunty! And I’m on my way home” she added joyfully. Whether or not Yetunde actually got home was taken for granted by Jumoke as she never bothered making a call to confirm. She however busied herself going through the numerous case-files on her desk.

After lengthy hours of reading and writing, sipping through a straw bent across her laptop keyboard from a chilled pack of Five Alive she got tired and dozed off in her armchair.   

******

Dr. Fred got into the theater and met Yetunde gasping; he hurriedly removed his stethoscope from around his neck, tucked the earpiece into his ears and placed the hollow-disk on her chest. He bent towards her when he noticed she was trying to say something.

“Please call my aunty, Jumoke, on this number,” she gasped out.

Fred wanted to ask her about Bolaji but decided to accord first priority to the number she was about giving. He immediately ordered the nurse standing by to get him a pen and paper. Yetunde was gasping for breath and was only able to give ten digits out of the eleven mobile digits. Then, she gave a heavy gasp and her head fell into the pillow with her eyes wide open. Fred again wore his stethoscope, checked her heartbeat and after withdrawing it from her body, shook his head, and slid shut her eyelids.

Without hesitating, the nurse pulled up the white cover-cloth over her face.

Fred went back to meet Bolaji at the reception and told him that the girl had been lapsed into a coma and that Bolaji should kindly wait till they could get across to any of her family members.

‘And please what did you say your name is?’ Fred asked as he walked away towards his office.

‘Bolaji Ajayi,’ he answered grudgingly as he eased himself back into the chair, buried his face in his palms and started murmuring. “What the hell is this?”

Fred, pretending not to have seen Bolaji’s reaction, went straight into his office.

For Fred, the murder case had taken precedence over the earlier rape case he planned reporting against Bolaji. He picked his phone from his drawer and made a call to ‘Inspector’ David, his friend.

‘Inspector’ David had risen above other officers with whom he shared a resumption date in the Nigerian Police Force. He gained fame when as an Inspector when he led the crackdown of a major criminal gang.  He has just been promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police due to his strides in criminal investigation. He resisted complacency and remained steadfast in his commitment to fighting crime and consequently achieving his goal of becoming the Commissioner of Police.  

“Hello David,” Fred exchanged greetings with his ambitious police friend and delved straight into the matter.

“I have the criminal right here at the hospital, he claimed to have hit the girl unknowingly but I find it simply unbelievable. He appears to be of high social status, so I don’t know how you are going to arrest him for interrogation,” Fred said.

 David laughed in a prompt response, “What are you talking about Fred, at most I will get a Warrant of Arrest from the court to come pick him up; and by the way what’s his name?” 

“Bolaji Ajayi he said,” Fred replied.

“Fred, even if he is another military man, he won’t be shielded; he will be left to face justice,” David said this as a sarcastic allusion to Fred’s father’s death, consistent with his unbridled and insensitive sarcasm.

“Don’t tell me that! Military men killed my father with impunity! They’d once condoned murder! Just be fast and get down here!” Fred’s response was curt and matter-of-fact. He terminated the call abruptly.

From his chest-pocket Fred brought out the paper where he wrote the numbers Yetunde gave and employed a trial-and-error method in an attempt to arrive at the accurate missing last digit, starting from 1.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Fred; please I request to speak with Jumoke…,” He kept trying and the responses were the same, “sorry, wrong number here.” He was finally left with numbers 9 and 0.

Somewhere in a campus, some friends had just settled the quarrel between one final year student and his 200Level girlfriend. The lady had come very early to her boyfriend’s room and while both exchanged smiles and kisses, the guy’s phone started ringing and he answered it quickly.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Fred; please I request to speak with Jumoke,” the caller said. Immediately Dapo pushed his girlfriend off him, “So you this old idiot is still after her, huh? God will punish you if you dare call me again requesting to speak with her,” he said angrily as he terminated the call. He rushed back to grab his girlfriend and started punching her. “You this cheat! Didn’t you tell my friends that you weren’t seeing Dr. Alfred?”

“It’s not true,” the girl screamed as she struggled under the weight of her boyfriend as he landed more punches. There were rumors circulating that she was going out with the acting Head of her Department, Dr. Alfred. It was inconceivable that it was a mere coincidence for a certain Dr. ‘Alfred’ to call to speak with his girlfriend whose name was Jumoke.

In his jealousy he had missed out that the caller had said Fred and not Alfred.

Dr. Fred, left with a last digit, hoped for the best.  After dialing, it rang and wasn’t answered. After several attempts with no response, he got frustrated.

Considering the seriousness and urgency of the matter, Fred persisted with the call.

Barrister Jumoke was woken up by the repeated ringing of her phone. But since Jumoke had a practice of not answering any call not on her contact list, she didn’t pick. Jumoke’s decision was to her a security measure— she was being careful not to fall into opposing counsels’ trap.

Fred, worried and disturbed, thought of what next to do. He resolved to send a text message to all the lines he had tried.

This is Dr. Fred from St. Claire’s Hospital, Victoria Island Lagos. One of my patients was rushed here; a lady, connected to an accident or rape aftermath. It was an emergency and she is still in surgery. She has managed to name her aunt, Jumoke. Please if you are Jumoke and you have any niece in her early twenties, your presence is needed in our hospital urgently.”  

Jumoke, sleepy-eyed and still feeling dizzy in her office armchair, lazily picked her phone to read the text message whose sound alert doesn’t stop until a button is pressed. She opened the new message and cleared her eyes to read. The message got her out of her chair in a spring, and she first frantically dialed her niece’s line which was unreachable.

She immediately returned Dr. Fred’s call, but the doctor did not give her any additional information on phone. He only told her to come immediately, that she would be availed the details of what happened as soon as she arrived the hospital. Jumoke hurriedly washed her face in her office bathroom, shut down her computer, slammed her door and rushed to the parking lot in the office complex to get her car.

******

Inspector David had gone to a Magistrate Court to get a Warrant of Arrest, and had just arrived at the hospital. He came with ten policemen. He stationed five outside and ordered them to seal off the exit, not allowing any movement out of the building, while the other five followed him inside. He had to take such measures after Fred called him a second time to warn him that the suspect’s face was a fierce one.

Bolaji jumped out of his seat as Inspector David and his men stormed in, obviously on a serious mission. To Bolaji’s surprise, as soon as Dr. Fred came out of his office, while still walking to the scene, he pointed to Bolaji, eliciting a nod from Inspector David.

Bolaji stood still as Inspector David walked slowly to him, with his armed men pointing their guns toward his direction.

“I am David Yahaya, Assistant Commissioner of Police from the State Divisional Police Headquarters. I have a duly signed warrant for your arrest in connection with the death of a yet-to-be-identified young lady.”

Bolaji chuckled as he looked keenly into the paper spread out before his face by Inspector David. He glanced at Fred who was standing at a distance; head lowered. “Inspector Yahaya, this is perhaps a colossal coincidence. I was on my way to the airport before an emergency arose at home. I had to return and was on high speed when I hit the girl in question; it was an accident. I never intended her dead that’s why I had to rush her here while she was still breathing,” Bolaji calmly explained. “It’s a real pity,” he added.

“Well Mr. Bolaji, I am well experienced and so I understand protocols. I would not dare unduly implicate you. But you see, the death was actually associated with rape which obviously brings you into question,” David said courteously.

“For God’s sake, how will I do such? You can’t be serious!” Bolaji thundered.  

“Then tell us more about the blood stains on your trousers, Mr. Bolaji!” The inspector shouted back at him.

Bolaji looked at the stain on his trousers and smiled. “I got that stain while fighting a burglar who attacked my wife this morning.”  

“Ha ha; Mis-ter Bolaji?” David said, mockingly. He thought to himself that Bolaji wasn’t a good liar. “Fighting a man who burgled your house this morning while on your way to the airport?” He exposed the contradiction in Bolaji’s statements.

 Dr. Fred moved closer and whispered into David’s ear.

David nodded and continued his questioning, “Mr. Bolaji, I am a senior crime investigator and I’m aware of the inconveniences but we must do our job. As a major step in determining your role in all this, can you please allow the Doctor to test the blood on your stained trousers? It will help in our findings.”

“Inspector, I hope you are not taking me as a rapist?” Bolaji chuckled as he excused himself. Inspector David and his men waited while Dr. Fred led Bolaji to a section inside his office where he pulled off the stained trousers which was handed over to the lab-man.

Bolaji, left with his boxers and a white vest, brought out his phone to call to his office and his wife, but Inspector David wouldn’t allow that.

“Sir, right now you cannot make or receive any call, until we figure out what’s happening,” he said as he stretched his hand to seize his phone. “And don’t forget, you are under arrest,” he added. Bolaji still concealed his military identity, remained gentle, and obeyed David’s orders as a civilian would. 

Bolaji was later ordered into Fred’s office again. David’s men guarded Bolaji closely, with their guns aiming his head. Fred sat opposite him while David stood behind him. Bolaji kept looking around to see the men’s faces as they all awaited the result of the blood test.

After a while of silent anticipation, Fred’s door opened quietly and it was the lab-man. “Here is the result Doc.”

 “Thank you,” Fred grabbed the paper from his hand.

“Hmm, see this!” Fred slammed the paper on his table. “The lady’s blood group and genotype matched the blood on this pair of trousers!”  

Bolaji’s countenance changed in anger as his heart palpitated.

fEMIoWOLOABI (C)

____________________________________

Femi Owolabi is an engineer, a poet, and a writer. He is a columnist and the Editor-in-Chief of www.iyemishi.com – an online journal of arts, culture and politics. Echoes in the Web is his first published work.

Discussion

One thought on “EXCERPT FROM FEMI OWOLABI’S ECHOES IN THE WEB

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