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Inspector Senayon fumed in his office, mentally kicking himself over and over again. He always lost nerve at the most annoying of times. When the brash young lawyer had threatened earlier, he should have called her bluff. But no, not timid Senayon, he told himself. He replayed the scene in his head now. She had threatened that she would make him a scapegoat with all the women’s groups and human rights groups for Sumbo’s treatment and he had held out until the last moment, WHEN SHE WAS ALREADY AT THE DOOR, before calling her back and releasing the lady to her.

“If I intended to kill you, DPO, you would be a dead man,” he heard a female voice say.

Without looking up, he quickly reached for his gun, wondering how whoever it was had gotten past all the men at the counter with such quietness that he hadn’t heard a thing.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the voice said, and he looked up. He found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.

Fuad thought he would feel a searing pain after being injected, but he felt nothing. In fact, he found himself strangely feeling more relaxed than he remembered ever being. He tried to say something but what he heard was some slurred speech that didn’t make sense to him. He knew clearly in his head what he wanted to say; the problem was actually saying them. With each word he tried to say, the next became even more difficult to frame. He gave up on trying to speak. Interestingly, he could hear everything and see clearly. He just couldn’t move a single muscle.

The lady threw her head back and laughed now, a high pitched piercing laughter. And for the first time, he didn’t see a sexy laugh. He saw the psychopath where he had seen the sexy just a few moments ago.

“Mr. Fuad, let me explain something to you. You cannot move an inch for the next ninety minutes. There were two options I considered injecting you with, Anectine and Pavulon. I decided to go with Pavulon since it’s effect is quicker, and lasts longer, without affecting your involuntary muscles so you’ll be able to breathe fine. See, the injection isn’t meant to kill you, or you would be dead by now. Let me read from Wikipedia what Pavulon does,” she said with a smile.

Fuad could hear her loud and clear but even as he tried to move, he found the effort futile.

“The part I really want to read to you is this one – the controversy section. Pancuronium bromide has no hypnotic effects, and, if the anaesthetic agent used in lethal injection is ineffective, the individual may never achieve unconsciousness, and thus be able to feel all of the pain associated with the procedure, but unable to cry out or move due to the pancuronium’s complete paralytic action. Oh and Pancuronium is what Pavulon is made from. So, let’s test that assertion.”

With that, she retrieved a large scissors from her pouch. A thought occurred to him as his mind drew up images of his exposed genitalia being cut with the scissors. He tried to gather his strength to wriggle free but the drug was too strong. He was thankful when she went past his waist but his respite was only short. She placed the point on the exposed inner side of his left elbow joint and began to push it into the soft skin with increased pressure. The pain shot through him like a bolt of lightning as he felt the blood begin to seep out. He winced inaudibly and hot tears poured from his eyes.

“Good,” she said as she observed his tears. “You might wonder, why me? Who is she? What have I done to her to deserve this?” she asked and then paused as if waiting for his response. She chuckled and continued “well, I ask you to think, is there anyone whom you have made ask these questions sometime not too long ago?”

She retrieved a small case from her bag and climbed the bed, careful to avoid touching him with any part of her body other than her now gloved hands. She opened the case and there were three engagement rings inside it. He didn’t understand. He had been engaged to only one woman all his life, so three engagement rings didn’t make sense to him. True, he hadn’t been kind to his ex, but who could marry such a girl? She slapped him hard “you still do not understand?”

She stood up from the bed and straightened herself up. “You are obviously a blockhead. Anyway, I won’t waste my time explaining anymore to you. You are one more ring collected.”

That raw fear crept up his spine again. Had she killed three men already, with each ring representing one man? He cursed himself internally for being so stupid as to allow a stranger tie him up. And then he cursed himself for realizing his stupidity too late. He remembered what had trended on twitter the day before, the gruesome image of popular twitter personality Charles Obaro with his head on his laps. Oh my God, oh my God, he thought.

Cartoon illustration of a barefoot angry scowling young man tied to a chair with ropes around his ankles and arms isolated on white Stock Vector - 18870969

She was observing his eyes keenly. It was the only part of his body that still had expression. She knew fear when she saw it, and the fear that comes when a man realizes he’s about to die is recognized by only the few who have actually killed a man before. She saw it creep into Fuad’s eyes now. Finally, she thought to herself. To him, she said with a smile “the Ring Collector has come for you, Mr. Fuad”.

“Is this what you have fallen to, Senayon?” the policewoman said scornfully to him from the other side of the gun.

He was angry. First, with himself for being so occupied with those annoying thoughts that he hadn’t heard her come in. second, because of all the people who should  have one-uped him like that, it had to be her. Acharu Gyang had been his course mate in the police college. Beautiful, bright and ambitious, there had been chemistry between them from the start. But she had quickly seen that being with him would hold her back and she had made the pragmatic decision of ending their relationship. Now, she was the Police Public Relations Officer for Lagos State and he was the divorced DPO of this station. He forced himself to stiffen and salute her, since she now outranked him in all parameters.

She smiled that smile that told him she was looking down at him again and said “at ease, officer”.

“To what do I owe the honor of this unexpected august visitor when it isn’t August,” he said, attempting some humor which he suspected sounded extremely lame. She ignored it and responded in a businesslike manner

“Senayon, there is a case in your station that has significance to the top brass.”

There was only one case that could fit the bill so he volunteered “the murder case of this Charles Obaro, I presume”.

“Yes, that one. It has set all these activists on fire, is all over the news and they are already protesting a government cover-up of something sinister since he was a thorn in the government’s side with his activism. And that fit quite nicely with how you have handled the arrest of his ex fiancée without any concrete proof. Where is she?” she asked.

As such things go, Senayon was now glad he had lost in the battle of wills to that activist lawyer and released Sumbo. “Well, I have released her already. Her arrest and questioning was merely a routine part of the investigation. And after we were satisfied she couldn’t be guilty, she was released first thing this morning. I’m sure your office job has not made you forget the rudiments of casting your net wide and then eliminating the impossibilities from such scenarios. Basic investigative work,” he said smugly.

“Ow,” she said with a raised eyebrow. “So which part of not letting her have access to a lawyer or torturing her with sleeplessness and harassments all night did you pick up from these investigative classes, en, Senayon?”

“What! You have been talking to my men to get information? Quit being sneaky Acharu” Senayon shouted, before bringing his anger under control. It was her smugness that got him. She always had a way of getting under his skin. She smiled in that goddamn manner of hers now and responded “You are just living in the stone age, Mr. Flintstone. You haven’t heard of the internet and social media? Well, it’s one of my portfolios, as the PPRO, and I take my job seriously. She took to twitter along with her lawyer and what they call twitter overlords as soon as she left here and together they captured the lucid details of how you treated her all night. You are just an embarrassment to the force, but you are unfortunately the one in whose laps this case has fallen.”

Senayon’s face tightened in anger and that vein that had an annoying habit of suddenly appearing on his forehead graced it now. He searched for a comeback but he couldn’t find one. This twitter business was getting under his skin. It was how they had gotten the picture of the body. It was how they had gotten his number and disturbed him all night. It was how that annoying lawyer had found out about where and who was holding Sumbo. And now it was what equipped Acharu with the information that he thought was secret, in order to torment him. Couldn’t someone just ban the thing?

“Anyway, since you’re involved, let me brief you on what we must do. These twitter activists, with people like Charles Obaro and Sumbo have been tools in the hands of the opposition for very long. We have been looking for an opportunity to scatter them, we even tried to push a law through the senate, but it has all backfired so far. We’ve only succeeded in making them more popular and they have become quite skilled in riding on the crest of the waves we throw at them to become even bigger problems for the government. It is annoying to say the least.”

Senayon was listening with rapt attention now. It was one of the gifts that Acharu had. She knew how to make any subject she spoke on come alive and you would be drawn into listening to her whether you liked her or not. It was what got her the PPRO job. She continued “We raised our own crowd, but apart from their general incompetence save for a few, there was a problem we noticed. The fact that people could link our crowd clearly to us while these twitter activist couldn’t be linked publicly to anyone made them look selfless, while our own people looked like what they were, paid lackeys. We put our resources into finding their sponsors, with evidence.”

She dumped a thick folder on the table. It was still very new, not the typical paper case file that the police used, or the dusty folders from the police archives. This was clearly something new, current and important. Senayon reached out to take it and began to open it.

“You’ll have all day to go through the folder. For now, listen.” She said sternly. Senayon felt like a child who had been rebuked while stealing candy. He closed the folder, clenched his fist in anger and listened.

“We found a treasure trove. Frankly, we had been so stupid not to have looked in the past. They were simply not being very discreet. That folder contains documentary, voice and picture evidence of exchanges of large payments from opposition figures, agents and other shady people within the government who are backstabbing to these supposedly clean activists. But there was a challenge.”

She had him again, waiting for what the challenge was when they had all this information. Why didn’t they just make their move and nail these people.

“Our experience had taught us how masterful these people are at spin. They’ll take whatever we throw at them and ride on it if we stupidly do it the way we have been doing it before. So we needed something special. Like an answer to a prayer, this murder happened. We have in our hands the tool to start the perfect storm that will sweep all of them, the activists and their sponsors away. The president can easily ride on that same wave to a win in the next elections.”

Clarity was coming to Senayon now, but he played dumb and asked “so how is this? Why is the murder so important?”

Acharu rolled her eyes. This DPO work had dulled this man up. The Senayon she had known years ago would have picked the plan already. She slept it out to him plainly.

“We are going to use this murder as the cause belli. We will use their own tools and methods against them. First we release insinuations of a political undertone to his murder without mentioning any specifics. We do the usual not leaving any stones unturned to bring the perpetrators to book speech. His colleagues on twitter will jump on it, sensationalize it and make it very popular for us, without it coming from us. They will fall over themselves to look like they have an exclusive. Then we will begin to release the evidence linking him to his sponsors in succession and finally pin the murder on a couple of them. Then someone will anonymously release the documents and images linking the rest of them to their sponsors. They will be destroyed, we will be seen to do our job and one of the government’s key opposition figures will be in the docks for a gruesome murder. All I see is win, win, win for us. Your part should be clear to even you by now.”

Their phones beeped almost simultaneously and they both jumped for it. The 21st century and the reflexes it has brought to humans. They both laughed at the other, seeing from the other’s actions how they must have looked to each other. “Text message, the twitter activists,” he said.

“Phone call. Ogas at the top,” she said as she got up and walked to a corner to take the call.

He heard her saying “yes sir” repeatedly to whoever was on the other end of the phone and then returning to the table to pick up her other phone without hanging up mumbling “damn twitter” as she did.

Since he had nothing else to do while he waited for her to finish her phone call, he opened the text message. He wished he never did.