He did not answer. She dialed two more times but all she got as a reward for her efforts was some Wizkid song playing back as callertunes.
“Has dialing that number become an obsessive compulsion and are you going to persist in the stupidity of repeating the same action or are you going to twiddle your whiskers together and get out there?” Morkly said.
“And what would you do, all knowing Professor Morkly,” Acharu snarled, irritated for the first time. Senayon threw the professor a look that could kill a bull.
Ignoring them, Morkly said in a matter of fact manner “What any smart cop who listened to their lecturers would do. You go to where the victim is of course. What else? Doesn’t it follow that the killer would be where victim is in order to kill him in the manner this Ring Collector has done so far?”
“Go to where the victim is, you say. How do we know where this victim is? They could be anywhere in this Lagos for crying out loud. If he answered Acharu’s call, we would know…”
“Even the Russian NKVD automatons would have figured this out. Where did you find the other two victims?” Morkly asked.
“We found them decapitated in their…” Senayon said and then realized what he was about to say. It took one look at Acharu to see that she had caught on to what he had been about to say.
Quickly, she enlarged the picture from twitter again and got the name of the street.
“Do you know where Donver Street is located in Lekki? I picked from one of his tweets that he was going past the toll gate to get home. In fact, it’s in Phase 1,” Acharu said.
Senayon shook his head.
“Do I have to do everything for you guy? Haven’t you heard of Google Maps?” Morkly said in mock exasperation, adjusting his trademark sweater.
Taking the tablet from Acharu, he punched Donver, Lekki into the application. Seconds later, the screen filled with maps and a red pin indicating the street. He zoomed in and the details and surrounding streets became clearer.
“You do know how to read a map,” he said as he handed the tablet back to them. Senayon took the picture in with one glance and he began to call the units he had put on standby, instructing them to head to the location and then wait for his orders.
Professor Morkly began to laugh hysterically as Senayon went into hyperdrive darting around as he marshaled his troops. Acharu looked at him, wondering if his madness was ever really cured.
Senayon didn’t like the fact that they had to carry out the operation in broad daylight, when the sun was at its highest. He preferred quiet operations without the unwanted attention of people in the neighborhood. But this was an emergency and what had to be done had to be done. He did the final confirmation via radio that all his men were in position around the house and exits from the short street with houses where trees touched in the middle. Sweat dripped from his brows as he adjusted the strap that held his bulletproof vest.
The shrill sound of Acharu’s phone ringing cut through the hot afternoon. It irritated Senayon, as everything else about this operation did. Some unbalanced heartbroken girl was the reason for all this. He cursed under his breath. The only respite he had was that Morkly was not here to continually throw jabs at him. He might have just lost it and pulled the trigger if that had been the case and probably ended up in the psychiatric hospital just like the prof.
Acharu picked her phone and a smooth male voice said hello.
“Hello, who am I speaking with?” she asked. The number was an unknown number.
“Well, you called me about four times about an hour ago. I couldn’t take the call at that time, but I return my calls, especially those from numbers that call repeatedly” he said.
The realization hit her like a gust of cool breeze on this sunny day. She signaled Senayon and then put him on speaker.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“That’s an interesting question to ask for someone I do not know from Adam. I am not inclined to telling you where I am,” the man responded.
“Gentleman, I urge you to answer the lady’s question. Are you at home?” Senayon asked.
“And what if I am at home?” the man responded.
“Then you might want to come to your front gate, if you can,” Senayon responded.
“Why should I do that simply based on your request?” the man answered.
“Because you will die if you don’t,” Acharu responded.
The phone line went dead. “We give him two minutes to come out, and then we storm the house assuming he’s hostage if he doesn’t,” Senayon said. They didn’t need to; the man was at the small white gate in less than a minute.
Senayon stood up cautiously. The man looked like his picture – tall, dark, fresh, fine and evidently well fed. He oozed money even though he was dressed in only a polo t-shirt and a pair of knee-length combat shorts.
Acharu was not as cautious. She approached the man who was now out on the street. She had obviously not been on the field in a long time, for her to expose herself that way. Four officers emerged from their hiding places and joined her, guns drawn. Senayon dashed forward, taking care to keep low just in case the guy was bait to draw him out into the open. A voice told him he was being paranoid but he countered that he had every reason to be.
Acharu was questioning the bewildered young man and had taken his phones from him, going through his twitter already. “Nothing in his DMs that resembles anything professor Morkly had.”
The professor had joined them without making a sound and they all jumped when he spoke “that is impossible. I am certain this is the next victim,” he boomed.
“Keep creeping up on fully armed men and you might get a stray bullet in you!” Senayon said, irritated.
“Ah, I’ve faced worse. Young man, do you mean to tell me there have been no sudden arrangements of dalliances between you and some new young female via social media?” Morkly addressed the guy. As the guy was about to answer, Morkly interjected “be sure to answer correctly. Lying to the police is a serious offence”.
Bade looked at the scene in front of him, from the strange man in neck scarf, to the bulletproof wearing policemen and this woman and decided he couldn’t afford to play smart. “Yes I have, but it’s a pretty normal thing on twitter, especially for someone with plenty followers like me.”
“Voila! There, you have it. That wily lioness The Ring Collector was teeing him up as prey for the kill, but we managed to get here before her and saved this one” Morkly exclaimed.
“The Ring Collector? The serial killer I’ve been reading about online? Wow!” Bade held his head, as if feeling it to be sure it was still there.
“Yes, you would have lost your head mister if I hadn’t figured things out,” Morkly smirked.
Two sounds from Senayon’s pocket came in quick succession. He reached for his phone and saw he had both a twitter notification and an sms. He opened the sms first.
“Hello Senayon. You failed. We are together now. You are now The Ring Maker. Haha on your wild goose chase”
Senayon threw his head back and laughed as he handed the phone to Acharu for her to read the text. Morkly asked with a puzzled look in his eyes “are you sure you are not going insane? You laugh in a strange manner”.
Acharu quickly opened twitter on the phone to see the notifications that had come in. “Oh fucking no!” she shouted.
Acharu’s shout had attracted Professor Morkly to the scene. “What might be agitating you young lady?” he asked.
In response, she handed him the phone to the professor.
“Oh sniveling snarling hounds of hell! This cannot be real. I was so sure, so certain!” he exclaimed in disbelief.
By now, Senayon had stopped his crazed laughing and appeared to be back to his right senses once again. Unable to take not knowing what the other two were viewing on the phone any longer, Senayon snatched the phone out of the professor’s hands and looked at the image. The Ring Collector had struck again. This time, the twitter handle was different, but it was definitely her. The modus operandi of having a series of tweets mentioning the Senayon’s handle and then mentioning all the news agencies and bloggers was the same. And the images were the same gruesome kind. Another text came in and he quickly switched screens to see what other ominous news it carried this time.
“She has sent the address,” he mumbled.
It took them another two hours to weave their way through the Lekki traffic to reach Sangotedo in spite of employing their sirens. Professor Morkly had at first been talkative, insisting that this wasn’t the real Ring Collector and that it must be some copycat, because he was so certain his deductions had been correct. But after a while, even he became quiet, admitting what they had all been thinking out loud. “She hoodwinked us all, even me, knowing we would try to figure her out. That became our trap. But I swear to the highest heavens I will outwit her and find her” he said. Senayon and Acharu remained quiet with their individual thoughts on the journey.
The main gate of the bungalow was locked but upon trying the smaller pedestrian gate, it gave way inwards. Senayon did a quick sweep of the compound as he entered with two of his men as quietly as they could manage.
Professor Morkly entered behind them, ignoring their attempts to be quiet and making quite a ruckus of his entry.
Senayon spun around and made a “keep quiet” sign with his finger to his lips.
“Oh come off it!” Professor Morkly responded in contempt. “The killer is long gone and except you are concerned about noise disturbing a dead man, I will be as loud as I please”
“It’s the training prof, we follow procedure!” Senayon managed to respond. Morkly simply made a face at him and responded “Well I’m not a robot, unlike the rest of you!” and went past him to the front door and shoved it open. The smell of fresh blood hit him square in the face and stopped him in his tracks. The rest of the team pushed in behind and when he didn’t move, they got ahead of him. The pictures had shown a dining area and that was where they went immediately. Acharu threw up and rushed back past the still unmoving Morkly outside.
Senayon surveyed the murder site, his mind trying to reconstruct the scene. He was in a trancelike state, oblivious to his men running around and making the necessary calls for various murder scene teams to come to the location.
As Senayon expected, the victim was stark naked. This time, he was tied to one of the dining chairs and had what looked like burn marks on his back and chest. What made the site most gruesome however was the decapitation. The head had been placed in a plate on the dining table, complete with a napkin and cutlery as if the body was about to eat its own head.
Behind the chair the body was on, the Ring Collector had left him a message.
“Dear Ring Maker, One More Ring To Go. The Little Bird Has Spoken Thrice and Three Rings Have Been Collected. The Little Bird is Coming Home”