Hymns rendered by a live band blared from the Odukoya compound and a swath of expensive cars littered the usually quiet street, as Abuja’s most influential arrived at the compound for the reception following Sola’s funeral. Canopies had been set up inside the compound, one housed the live band who were playing sombre songs and hymns and another sheltered the massive buffet table crowded with an assortment of dishes. Waiters were busy attending to guests, and everyone generally seemed to be in a contemplative but resigned mood.
All the Odukoyas were busy either accepting condolences from eager-to-please guests or running around to sort out one issue or the other – Mosun juggled the roles of both host and bereaved mother, making sure everyone got served, greeting, and sometimes seating guests when they arrived, and instructing caterers. Chief Odukoya sat under a tent with some of his closest friends, drinking and discussing out of earshot of everyone else. They had chosen to ignore tradition which stated that a parent should never attend their child’s funeral proceedings in favour of this. Bisola was occupied with playing host as well, and also overseeing the welfare of the younger people in attendance. The only Odukoya who seemed to be removed from the entire event was Yinka who simply sat in a corner, observing the scene around him, lost in thought. Having tried to pull him out of his wallowing without any success, his friends had moved to another section of the event and were drinking with much more seriousness and less laughter than was usual for them.
From the onset, Yinka had voted against this entire reception. In his opinion, Sola’s death had been a tragedy and shouldn’t be made a spectacle of as such; a funeral service would suffice. But of course, everyone else had argued that her life, however short, was worth remembering and even in some controlled manner, celebrating, and Bisola, forever the attention seeker had pushed and prodded until their parents saw it her way. Because his mother had pointed that the least he could do was be present, he now sat and watched the happenings around him with ill-disguised disgust, staying out of everyone’s way, wanting nothing more than for the reception to just be over so he could retire to his room. Sitting by himself, he began to contemplate changing his ticket to an earlier flight and leaving the country as soon as possible; the thought of being around his family for an extended period of time made him sick to his stomach.
Chidera and Inspector Mustapha stood in a corner not too far off, observing the scene as well. Being at the funeral service had been another reality check for Chidera, once again letting him know that all this was real and was happening. He’d spent so much time hunting for the password to Sola’s blog, he hadn’t exactly had time to properly process the death, talk less of mourning. Well, it’ll all be over soon. He thought to himself as he sighed. Watching Yinka now, sitting by himself and looking deeply pained, he felt a pang of guilt, but quickly brushed it off and turned to the inspector. “What now?”
“We’ll make our move, just not in front of everyone.” No point creating a scene. He’d never understood why the reception for a funeral had to be so elaborate, almost looking more like a particularly sober birthday or wedding, but he’d chalked it up as one of those cultural differences. But, it was a funeral reception, the family was mourning and it would be inappropriate to arrest someone right there in plain sight, much more so when the person being arrested was the brother of the deceased. The whole situation actually, as Chidera had laid it out for him, still had his mind doing backflips and shaking silently, but his job was to bring the boy in, not pass judgement, and that was what he would do.
Chidera sat on the couch, hands clasped on his knees, watching Inspector Mustapha pace up and down his living room while reading the printout. Initially, he’d been so focused on retrieving the blog post that he hadn’t really given much thought to what he would do with it. All he knew was that he couldn’t let it get published. Words could not completely capture the elation he’d felt when he’d figured out the blog password and realised that Sola hadn’t scheduled the post after all. He thanked whatever had caused her to forget something she was hell-bent on doing inwardly. All he’d had to do after logging in was backup the blog, print out the posts, and then shut it down.
Of course, on hearing about the arrest and pending conviction of a school cleaner, he’d immediately known what to do. Studying the Inspector’s face, he watched for the slightest reactions as he read Sola’s last blog post – the failsafe that was to go up on her graduation day. Smiling, he thought to himself how Sola could come up with the most radical of plans sometimes, and wondered how things would have turned out if the post had indeed been scheduled and gone up for everyone to see. If she hadn’t died…
Struggling to maintain his composure and keep a straight face, inspector Mustapha read through the printout in his hand detailing the secret lives of one of the most influential families in Abuja. He wasn’t so much bothered about Chief Odukoya’s mistresses or his wife’s affair, or even Bisola’s promiscuity, no. What truly tore at the fabrics of his sanity was the bit about Sola and Yinka engaging in sexual relations. Wrapping his mind around why siblings would do such a thing – a taboo, for that matter – was proving extremely difficult. And then, of course, she’d gotten pregnant and told the brother and he’d gotten mad. No surprise there. People everywhere are denying getting girls pregnant; will a brother now accept he got his own blood sister pregnant? To birth an abomination? He found the whole thing extremely perverse, almost too perverse to be completely believable, in fact. But this was the only solid lead he had gotten since he’d opened the investigation and he wasn’t going to throw it away just because he couldn’t understand or believe it. Putting the printout away, he faced Chidera squarely “So, the brother did it?”
“I believe so, sir.” Chidera unclasped his fingers and uncrossed his legs “When I heard the cleaner was in custody for the murder, I knew I had to do something.”
“You’ve done well. But, honestly, speaking, there isn’t much to go on here.” He needed to know everything, to really tie this case together, but also to satisfy his own curiosity. Finding out this bit wasn’t enough. “This is a murder investigation. One draft blog post isn’t going to be enough to bring in the son of Chief Odukoya.”
Chidera sighed “I have more posts printed out, if that will help.”
“Good, good.” Mustapha nodded slowly “We’ll start with those and see what we can build up.
Snapped out of his thoughts by a group of screaming kids running past him, Yinka glanced up and spotted Inspector Mustapha and Chidera watching him from a corner of the compound. He held Chidera’s gaze for a bit and smiled. He knew Chidera had always had a soft spot for Sola, and he’d suspected he’d wanted more than just to be her best friend and casual hook-up, but Chidera had never acted on any emotions he might have had, probably biding his time, Yinka thought. Frankly, Yinka had never really cared for Chidera and he knew the feeling was mutual. There were times when it had seemed like they were both contesting for Sola’s attention, but Yinka had brushed the thought away considering how ridiculous it would be to be fighting for the attention of his own sister. Seeing Chidera with the inspector at the funeral made him slightly uncomfortable. Nothing to worry about though, he consoled himself. They can’t possibly do anything to me. Grunting, he stood from the chair and headed into the house, nodding his acceptance at guests who greeted and said how sorry they were about the whole matter as he passed.
Seeing their chance, the Inspector and Chidera followed close behind, trying to keep Yinka in their sights. Weaving through guests who were now standing and chatting a little louder made it a bit difficult to keep up, but they managed to make it into the house soon after he did and found him standing at the foot of the stairs, talking to his mother.
Mosun had her hands on her waist and looked irritated “What is wrong with you, Yinka?”
Spotting the inspector approaching out of the corner of his eye, Yinka started heading up the stairs “Not now, mummy. I need to go to my room.”
“Don’t walk away from me, my friend! Are you mad?!” she was vibrating now “Since Sola died, you’ve been acting so strange.”
“Mummy, I said not now, please.”
“Ehenn?!?! Not now, abi?! Then, when?!”
“Yes, Yinka…” Inspector Mustapha supplied, coming up behind Mosun “When?”
Startled, Mosun turned around to see who was behind her hand then placed her hand on her chest when she saw it was the inspector “Ah, Inspector. How are you? Is everything okay?”
Mustapha glared at Yinka “Why don’t we ask Yinka?”
“Honestly, Inspector,” Mosun continued, turning back to Yinka “I don’t know what has gotten into him lately. Since Sola died, he has been so distant, avoiding everybody, not saying anything.”
“Maybe it’s because he killed her.” Mustapha said rather bluntly.
The statement stunned Mosun and she turned to face the Inspector again, shock and disbelief stamped on her face. “Excuse me?”
“We have reason to believe your son killed your daughter, Mrs. Odukoya.” Mustapha said in a matter of fact tone “I’m here to bring him to the station for questioning.”
“Haaaaaay!” Mosun put her hands on her head. “No. Oti o. You can’t be serious! In fact you are mad! That cleaner did it. We know he did it. Why are you saying this nonsense? Oya, Yinka!?! Tell him he is mad!” she turned to her son again “Abi?!”
Before Yinka could say anything, Bisola entered the hallway hand-in-hand with Kareem. They both stopped abruptly at the scene unfolding before them. Bisola walked up to her mother who was now sinking to the floor “What’s going on?”
“Bisola, go and call your father. Everybody here is mad. Call your father o! Tell him to come now! Call uncle Jide too.”
“Yinka,” Inspector Mustapha moved to the foot of the stairs “You’re going to have to come with me.”
“What for?” Yinka protested “You can’t just come into someone’s house and start throwing accusations around!”
“Leave my son alone o!” Mosun’s voice was getting louder.
Just then, Bisola returned with Chief Odukoya, Jide trailing a few steps behind him. When he spoke, his baritone cut through all the commotion of his wife’s and his son’s shouting “Inspector, what is the meaning of all this?”
“Sir, your son is now a prime suspect in the investigation of your daughter’s murder.”
“Didn’t you people already arrest someone?!” The Chief boomed. “Didn’t that cleaner already confess?!”
“Sir, I understand your confusion, but new evidence has come to light.” Mustapha retrieved the printouts from a brown envelope and handed them to the chief “You might want to read this. Meanwhile, Yinka will have to come with us.”
Chief scanned the first few pages of the printouts and flung them aside. “These are words on paper.” His voice a bit shaky “Hardly evidence at all.”
“I thought you would say that.” Mustapha signalled to Chidera who had been standing at a corner, and he stepped forward with a velvet bag “After reading this, I followed Yinka around for a bit, hoping to find more proof that he is the killer. I saw him toss this into Jabi Lake.”
Mosun noticed Chidera for the first time and gasped “Chidera! You too?!”
Ignoring Mosun, Chidera pulled out another brown envelope from a messenger bag and handed it to Chief Odukoya who tossed it to the ground.
“Those printouts are from Sola’s blog, where she recorded a substantial amount of information about this family. The very last one was a tell-all supposed to be scheduled to go up during her graduation party, but I’m guessing Yinka got to her first.” Chidera pulled out a blood-stained knife placed in a transparent plastic bag from the bag and Mosun screamed again. “This is the knife he used to kill her.” Yinka sunk to the floor like his mother, and shook his head repeatedly “No! No! No! I swear I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it… I didn’t do it,” he muttered, as Bisola, who had retrieved the discarded printouts and had been reading through frantically, froze in place, mouth wide open.
“Ah! Yinka, did you sleep with Sola?!”
Yinka buried his head in his hands and started to cry, a barely audible “Yes” escaping his lips.
Mosun groaned as though she was in physical pain and started to mutter madly “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus…”
Chidera’s eyes darted from one person to the other, taking in the shock and revulsion coming from the revelation. It was all going according to plan so far.
“I’m sorry, I’m so… so… sorry…” Yinka continued to weep. Bisola’s grip around Kareem’s arm tightened as she asked, almost screaming.
“Ah! You are the one that got her pregnant?!”
Chief Odukoya shook his head continuously, before finally shouting above the din of wails, sobbing, insistent voices and mumbled disbelief.
“Everybody shut up. Now.”
Silence washed over them like waves over rocks at shore. Inspector Mustapha could not mask his pity for the family as his face furrowed. But it was then he had an idea. He smacked himself for not realising it sooner, the moment he saw Sola’s blog post about being pregnant – something the family and the doctor had kept hidden from him and the entire police force. He knew chief would not give up even with the knife and documents as proof but he had it now. His definitive proof was in that doctors autopsy report – the real one, not the one that the family had obviously paid him to produce and give the police. He made a mental note to make a call once he got to the station.
He looked at chief Odukoya who was trying to rally himself together.
“All of you have read some nonsense that Sola allegedly wrote and you are already weeping and gnashing teeth? We must stand together as a family. My son will not spend a single day in jail.”
He turned to face weeping Yinka, dragging the boy up to his feet by the elbow.
“Yinka, man up. Don’t worry. I will make a few calls. Let us go and sort this rubbish out now.”
He pushed the boy forward and they all followed, heading for the car park as surprised guests watched on in wonder and confusion. When they got there, Chief Odukoya stood beside his Range Rover watching his only son get into the back of Mustapha’s police car before getting in beside his inconsolably tearful wife and telling his driver to follow the car.
HOUSE ON THE ROCK
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