One – You lied to the Police Officer!
I was lying, legs across the arm of my polyester-covered sofa, enjoying the replay of the Paris Saint Germaine vs. Chelsea match.
The rustling sound of Lola bustling about somewhere in our two-bedroom apartment was the only noise sipping through my football-frenzied mind as all other sounds from the Estate were blocked out by the total shutdown of not just my doors but also my windows.
It was Saturday. And Saturdays, I wanted my peace, quiet and football… of course my food and cold bottles of beer were all part of my Saturday relaxation hour.
I stretched out my hand and lifting the now not-so-cold beer bottle, I took a slug and lowering my hand, I considered the almost-empty bottle for a moment, I should call out to Lola to bring me another bottle.
The sharp knock on the front door put paid to that thought. I twisted my neck to stare at the door irately, who the hell was daring to disturb my me-time? The knock came again, sharper this time.
I flung my legs down and cursing whoever was at the other side of the door, pushed to my feet and stomped across our small sitting room to the door.
I pushed aside the chiffon-layered curtain and flung open the door, temper-ready to bellow and thunder at the interfering miscreant I’ll find there.
The wild words on my lips died down even before I could utter them as I stared at the lean, muscled frame man in black Police uniform. My earlier stormy temper was now frozen ice as if it’d just been exposed to the snowy Antarctica and with it was every sane thought I possessed.
I hated the Police – let me rephrase – I hated the Nigerian Police… more than half of Nigerians hated them.
But my hatred was owed to the fact that they scared the shit out of me. They don’t need to know your crime or even if there’d been a crime to pluck you up from wherever you were unfortunate to meet them and toss you behind bars. They just needed their uniform, their spooky-large-ever-ready-to-fire guns and their mean-looking faces to do so.
And the man standing at my door staring at me like I was meat on his slaughter table had at least two of those things – his black uniform and his dark, mean-looking face made worse by two straight-lined tribal marks.
“Good day sir, I am making inquiries about your next-door neighbour.” He said. His voice sounded like a grunting, rusty engine.
“Ah… my next-door neighbour?” The words struggled out of my now heavy lips and sounded like a froggy croak. “I don’t have any next-door neighbour. I live here alone with my wife.”
The meaningless response was coming from my fear-frozen, now dim-witted mind.
The uniformed man arched his really bushy eyebrows, revealing beneath the left brow a scar of an already healed wound. For some reason, the sight of the short-straight-lined scar further frightened me.
“I meant your neighbour from the adjacent apartment.” He indicated with a nod of his clean-shaven in the direction of the apartment facing me. “By the way, I am Detective Kola Davies, a Police Inspector with the Pen-Cinema Division.” He slipped his hand into his pocket, withdrew his ID and flashed it in my face.
I saw nothing. My vision was hazy and my mind still empty and thought-less.
“May I know your name sir?” Detective Kola Davies asked now, slipping the ID back into his pocket.
“Ah… my name…” should I give him a false name and which false name?
That eyes-narrowed prompt forced the answer from me. “Elvis Tariah… my name is Elvis Tariah.” And please don’t use it against me, I thought wildly.
“Okay Mr. Tariah, as I said earlier I am making inquiries about the whereabouts of Miss Christabel Ezeani, your neighbour from the other apartment.” Detective Kola drew out a rumpled jotter and pen. “It’s been observed that she’s been missing since yesterday’s evening.”
“Observed by whom?” I blurted out.
He eyed me for a moment, assessing my tall, slightly muscular frame with those mean-looking eyes and it took all my willpower not to whimper out an apology for my audacious question.
“I observed.” He told me, eyes hard and unblinking, I nodded mutely. “Christabel is my woman.”
“Your woman.” I repeated hoarsely. Great!
“When did you last see Miss Christabel Ezeani, Mr. Tariah?” Detective Davies asked me brusquely.
“I haven’t seen Miss Christabel, Detective.” I answered striving to steady my voice. “I mean I can’t be sure when I saw her last. I go to work and come back late… you know, Lagos traffic.” I laughed.
It sounded weak and hoarse.
Detective Davies ignored it. He merely made the scar reappear by raising his brows again.
Flustered, I added hastily. “You see Detective, I don’t really know Miss Christabel that well. We hardly related at all.”
“You hardly related with a neighbour sharing the same building with you?” He looked at me like he could see into my soul.
“As I earlier told you, I live here with my wife and you know how women are about their husbands relating with other women.” I tried my earlier laughter, doing my best to liven it up this time.
It only sounded like the shrill, wiry sound of a China phone and it still failed to amuse the eyes-narrowed Detective.
He only bent his head and scribbled whatever on his rumpled jotter.
“Very well, Mr. Tariah, thanks for your cooperation.” Giving me one last look and a perfunctory nod, he turned and marched off in the direction of Christabel’s apartment.
I pulled back into my own apartment, shutting the door with the vehemence of a man running for his life. Turning, I leaned against the door, puffing out hot breath from my opened mouth and nostrils, my eyes thankfully shut.
“You lied to the Police officer!”
I flung my eyes open, jerking involuntarily.
Lola was leaning against the door that led into our kitchen.
“You saw Christabel yesterday evening when you got back from work.” She folded her hands across her generous bosom. “So why did you lie to the Detective?”
I paled, my eyes widening as I tried to hold her scrutinizing, accusing gaze…
Indeed I’d lied to the Police officer!
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Episode Two here