When the phone rang out without being picked, Acharu heaved a sigh of relief. Senayon could at least not accuse her of not trying. She turned to him and said “see, he didn’t pick up. Can we now try a more reasonable option instead of…”
The soulful voice of John Legend cut her short. She realized her phone was ringing. “He’s calling back,” Senayon said, stating the obvious.
When she didn’t make any moves to take the call, Senayon slid his thumb across the screen and connected the call, and then tapped the speaker icon once to put it on speaker. She eyed him but didn’t say anything. The voice that came over the phone’s speaker was clear and rich, somewhat Wole Soyinka-ish and with the Nobel laureate’s kind of command of the English language.
“And to what do I owe the honor of the interruption of a five or is it seven year spell of silence?” he asked.
Acharu seethed. It annoyed her that she remembered exactly how long they hadn’t spoken for and he clearly didn’t keep track of such. She was that unimportant. Thirteen years before that time when Nigeria’s new democracy began, she had been a green-eyed recruit at the police college, and most of the instructors had been exactly what one would expect of the police force – crass, uncouth and uncultured. She had started to wonder if all her friends and parents hadn’t been right to call her mad when a graduate like her told them that she was going to join the police force. And then she found kindred spirit, first in Senayon, but more dramatically in a superlatively brilliant professor. Professor Othniel Morkly had been like a full moon in a dark starless sky in the midst of his more mundane colleagues. American educated and a celebrated psychiatrist with the NYPD, for reasons he never revealed to anyone, he had resigned his position, left America, and come to lecture at the then rundown police college in Nigeria. Senayon hadn’t stood a chance with the good looking, brilliant professor. She started an affair with him and thankfully, the few other policewomen had not been competition. And then the Clifford Orji matter had come up. The authorities had insisted on the narrative that Clifford Orji was a ritualist who was working for certain political elements and used him as a leverage to silence many of their political opponents. Clifford Orji had cooperated and agreed to testify against those people in exchange for leniency and even reward. But Professor Morkly, with his American police experience had profiled many serial killers and insisted on treating Clifford Orji as that. He had stubbornly held on to that view and even written about it and publicly defied the authorities. That had been the genesis of his downfall. He had been framed as being mentally unstable and committed to Yaba Psychiatric Home. He came out seven years ago, and it was the last time Acharu had seen him before today. She had found that the experience in Yaba Left had eventually left him truly mentally unstable. Deep down, Acharu had known he was probably correct in his assessment of Clifford Orji, but shouldn’t he have save himself the stress?
“If you are not going to say anything, I might as well hang up,” Professor Morkly said now and Senayon quickly spoke up. “Sir, it was the network, we were speaking”.
Senayon poked Acharu to get her into the present and mouthed “Are you sure you’re okay” to her. Maybe she wasn’t really over what she had seen in the room yet, he thought. She shook her head to say she was okay though and then said “I’m with you prof, it was the network as Senayon said.”
“Senayon. Senayon,” Morkly mumbled.
Of course he can’t remember who I am, Senayon thought. I was just one of the unfortunate recruits whose girlfriends he charmed away from them when he was the star of the police college.
“I was your student along with Acharu.” Senayon said in a flat voice.
“Okay, Acharu, why did you call a demented old man?” he asked again.
“We have a situation which we think you will be the best to help us with,” she responded.
“By that, I take it to mean you have a case which the official position is different from what your sapient reasoning has told you the true case is,” he responded.
That was one of the uncanny things about the prof. He had an eerie way of getting to the bottom of issues with nothing but connecting the dots. He figured things out.
“Yes, you are correct sir. We have a killer on the loose. The selection tool is something we aren’t very familiar with, it’s social media, primarily twitter.” Senayon explained.
“Oh shush. Unlike you cavemen in your police force, I know what twitter is. So the killer uses twitter as a selection tool, you say. That’s very interesting. New frontiers these guys are breaking into,” he said, more to himself than to them.
Senayon continued, ignoring the insult “the killings follow a certain pattern. High commands wants it to be the paymasters of twitter activists that it should be hung on and that might have stood with the first murder but the second one shattered that possibility even though they insist we make it stick to the paymasters. We think a serial killer is on the loose and we need your help to profile the person.”
“I will not be involved with anything those nattering nabobs at your high command have set their minds to twisting. I did that once and look where it got me. And if I recall correctly Acharu, you moved on smoothly to some other police star once I was sent to rot in the mad house” Professor Morkly boomed. Acharu could imagine how he looked saying that, even through the phone. His eyes would be flared, his right fist clenched and his left hand in his pocket. She hissed and responded loudly, letting the disdain drip from her voice as she spoke “Senayon, we are wasting our time. The prof is past his best, and he is a scared chicken now. We would be better off with one of those UNILAG or LASU psychiatrists I suggested. Or even maybe one from Yaba Left.”
She waited for it. He didn’t disappoint. “What do you say girl? You dare to compare an erudite mind like mine to some quacks in some Nigerian universities and those idiots in Yaba who drive their patients mad? Even in my near senile state, I’m sure I’ll do a much better job than all of them combined. Where might both of you be at the moment?”
Senayon shook his head silently at Acharu. She knew what she had been doing, this woman. “At the scene of the last murder. It happened this morning.”
“Ow? That’s splendid. Tell your goons not to move a thing around the body. I’ll be there in a jiffy. Now where exactly is this place?”
Senayon reeled out the address and description to the professor and then hung up. Acharu hadn’t left to go and instruct the forensics people to hold on with the body. He knew why. She couldn’t bear to see the room again. Then he remembered that the body was already bagged anyway. The professor would have to make do with the pictures they had taken.
She perched on her bed again, wearing nothing but her black lingerie. She couldn’t stand being in clothes once she didn’t have to wear them. She opened the case and counted even though she knew the number that was there. There were four rings in the case. Two down and two to go. One body for each ring. Those stupid police officers had released a story that Charles had been killed by his political associates and released a slew of documents showing he had been receiving payment, along with other twitter activists from politicians. She didn’t mind the scandal. Charles and his ilk were a lecherous bunch and deserved to be exposed, their adoring followers needed to see that their angels of light were really devious climbers in the background. But the issue she had was that they were taking away from what she was doing. She wanted the public attention, she wanted the public to be afraid. The pictures of Fuad she had released had done that and now, the police had been forced to announce that they were exploring other leads provided by the new murder while not discounting their political story earlier. They had basically admitted they had been wrong. No one took them seriously anyway, especially after Charles’ ex-fiancé’s piece on how Senayon had treated her. The blogs and even the news media were driving the mass hysteria now. Everyone was afraid of The Ring Collector and were wondering who she would be hitting in the next two days. She smiled. She was looking at him now on her laptop screen. And something was about to change about the rings she collected. Before meets after. She smiled, imagining how confused Senayon would be after this one. I have my Ring Maker, she thought to herself and rolled off the bed to set her plan into motion.
Professor Morkly arrived by taxi thirty minutes after Senayon hung up. He was dressed in an impractical getup, as if reverting to his American dressing habits which were impractical in Nigeria’s weather. He was wearing a shirt under a heavy lumberjack jacket. A red wool scarf was wrapped around his neck and his wrinkled chinos trousers were tucked into near knee-length brown leather boots. Thankfully, he wasn’t wearing a head-warmer and his unruly hair was in full display. In the early morning sun, he looked like someone who had stepped out of a New York winter into the Lagos sun. The lines on his face were deeper than Acharu remembered seven years ago and there was more grey than black in his hair now. But his eyes had not changed – quick, alert, but calm like they sucked all the knowledge within the space they looked in.
He had acknowledged Senayon with a quick nod of his head and Acharu with a stiff handshake and then asked to be led into the room where the victim lay.
“I’m sorry but they had moved the body before we called you. I tried to…” Senayon said
“You mean you made meander through a Lagos morning to come here to see an empty bed?” Professor Morkly said in anger. Senayon tried to explain but he simply waved it aside and the anger was gone. They went into the room and the prof looked around silently for some minutes. Then he asked “Do you have pictures or this scene and the other one or are you still in the stoneage and we have to wait for the lab to send you shiny glossy images?”
“Oh can you quit being snotty for a moment? The pictures are all over the internet already and we took more when we got here.” Acharu intervened when she saw a muscle twitch on Senayon’s forehead. He should calm down, she thought. Wasn’t he the one that insisted on Morkly? He should be ready to stomach all the jabs.
“Oh great, let me see them,” Morkly said. “And my leg isn’t as good as it used to be when I would give you hours of lectures. Isn’t there somewhere I can sit?”
They left the room for the living room. By now, the forensics and evidence people had left and they were alone in the house.
Professor Morkly continued as he studied the pictures on the tablet Acharu handed to him “We know a few things. She is young and tech savvy, and selects single young men who live alone to murder in their own homes.”
Acharu flared up “She? Just like that you concluded that it has to be a she? And why if I may ask? Is it because the victims are men or would you have concluded otherwise if the victims were women without any evidence?”
“Calm your quite full tits young woman” the prof responded sharply. “All the pictures showed the men in some sexual connotation. The first was naked, the other was tied to bedposts, also naked. The houses showed no evidence of break-ins, so they must have let the killer in themselves, someone they recognized. No one else had seen the killer come in, from what you tell me all the neighbors said when you questioned them. You did question them, didn’t you?”
“Prof, you aren’t lecturing us here, and yes we did question them.” Senayon responded with some irritation.
“So even with the possibility of the neighbors lying due to the silly reputation your force has for prosecuting witnesses, let’s assume they all didn’t. That means the killer was let in discreetly. Men typically let women they don’t want to be seen with into their houses discreetly only when they are having a sexual rendezvous. So my dear feminist Acharu, except these men were closeted homosexuals, their killer was decidedly female. Any questions?”
Acharu didn’t have any. As usual, Morkly beat everyone around him down with his logic. It was perhaps the quality that caused his colleagues in the police to pull him down so bitterly once they had a chance. She was sick of this house. “Can we at least leave this place for an office or something?” she asked.
“Whilst being in the crime scene inspires me somewhat, I guess I need to be civil and accede to the request of the damsel. Plus, I need proper, fast internet. I’d like the names and any information you can dig up about the past of the two victims. By observing her victims, we can piece together the mind of the killer. How long did she say you had before she killed again?” Morkly asked.
“Two days.” Senayon said, remembering that this was some sick game this killer was playing, challenging him to find her or be responsible for the deaths.
“We should have a profile before the day runs out and match with whichever potential suspects you come up with. Kapish? Now, let’s make the lady happy,” Morkly said, bowing.
The young lady lay under the duvet, finally exhausted from darting from place to place that morning. But she had one more call to make before she finally let herself rest. The next ring to collect. She had checked the DM of one of her twitter accounts a couple of minutes ago. She saw the message she had been looking forward to getting. It had a telephone number and said “Call me”. The guy was super confident that she would call. She wondered how many times he had done this. She had cultivated him carefully, retweeting all his religious tweets, responding and sharing insights and being a devoted follower. It had taken a week for him to follow her with a different account and ask for a follow back. She had been expecting this. The DMs started after that, first explaining that he wanted to share deeper things that the general account did and it was best done through DM on this private exclusive account which only a select few knew about. She had played the part and gushed about being honored and all. Now, he wanted to seal the deal. She smiled.
When the call connected and she introduced herself with the name she had chosen, the rich male voice greeted her warmly and then said “Would you like me to show you a new level of grace?”