Author :Chidera Nneoma Okolie
The novel begins with a requiem; the converging to mother earth of Miss Chinekwu Mbanugo, the second daughter of Late Chief and Mrs. David Mbanugo. Her death had occurred barely a year after, and in the exact manner her father was murdered.
Investigations were half-hearted, the police were impassive, no one seemed to care; no one except Adaugo, the first child of the family. She tried to spark off some flames of revengeful desire from her mother, Mrs Thelma Mbanugo, a yearning for the apprehension of the murderer. Perplexity set in when even her mother exhibited a lackadaisical attitude towards both murders. Someone would expect a movement for a change of environment or any positive act from a woman who had lost a husband and a daughter to a masked murderer right under her roof; none of these did she exhibit.
Soon enough, Adaugo, against her mother’s instruction, involved the Divisional Police Officer, Mr Tunji who handed the case to Inspector Philip after he had displayed part psychosis in his office making Nnamdi, Adaugo’s boyfriend, uncomfortable.
Philip had always paraded himself the best; he had his records to show for it. Finding the case intriguing, he ventured into it with as much zeal as he always had whenever duty called. He believed everyone knew something about the massacre but had chosen to remain silent. Something was amiss, something vital to the case, but he couldn’t place what it was. Maybe he could, but was searching in the wrong direction. He sure had a suspect, Mrs. Mbanugo, who had shown no sign of interest in the investigation, but that didn’t hold water; he needed substance.
He worked closely with Adaugo, conducting the necessary searches and interrogations expected of a competent detective. Soon he found a lead, the oral evidence of Effiong, the chief cook. Philip could sense nervousness from her voice. He tagged her ‘suspect number two’. Putting two and two together, he came to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe Thelma planned the massacre and had Effiong execute them.
Yet something didn’t seem right. Why has the police been silent on the case all the while? Was the police bribed? Were buttons pushed? The silence was becoming too loud. First the post-mortem results were missing, then the DPO, whom he had always held in high esteem, was the detective in charge of the case at the times the murders were committed. He decided to confront him at the comfort of his home. Off course Tunji played his way out of the allegation. He wasn’t sure if he played a fast one considering how smart Philip was. His fears were confirmed. Philip had seen him in a discreet place, discussing in low tones with Sunday, the late chief’s driver.
Confronting Sunday, Philip got a shocking confession. Sunday had planned to kill Chief David on the instruction of Tunji’s father, a god-father David had worked under years back while Tunji covered the crime. However, before Sunday could return from his trip, Mr David had already been murdered. He still went ahead to present himself as the murderer, receiving the ransom he was promised.
Aggrieved, Philip confronted Tunji with the discovery. He corroborated the story while pleading for Philip’s forgiveness, saying his ‘hands were tied’. Philip eventually had him covered after demanding for the post mortem result which Tunji obliged.
Soon Philip began making mental notes to interrogate Mrs. Mbanugo, his chief suspect, who he believed was intentionally avoiding him. His efforts proved abortive as she walked him out of her house before he could begin to ask questions. Philip exited the house but not after threatening her of a possible arrest.
Just as he was reaching his office, teary eyed Adaugo walked in. More shocking discoveries as he learns from the lass that Mrs. Thelma was involved with one Stanley even before her father was murdered. He then ordered for her arrest.
Mrs. Mbanugo was led into the dark room for interrogations. At first she seemed reluctant to say a word but after Philip had spelled out the consequences to her, she began to co-operate. A past event of over eighteen years reveals yet another shocking discovery.
Once she was through, Philip knew exactly who the murderer was. He quickly rushed out of the station to arrest Miss. Adaugo Mbanugo whom he had left in his car earlier. She was far gone with no trace, except for her car parked directly opposite his. In the car was a tape recorder, a tape meant to be read to all. In the dark room with every member of the family (including the domestic staff), the truth is revealed.
Nineteen years ago, she was adopted by Thelma after she (Thelma), with the support of her father (David), succeeded in murdering her biological mother, though it was clearly unintentional. Unknown to them, Adaugo, at the tender age of five, witnessed the brutality. The only crime Grace committed was bringing Thelma, who she thought was her best friend, into her matrimonial home when she had no place to stay. Thelma had her own plans; she would repay good with evil. Soon enough she seduced David, to the extent of leaving his matrimonial home to live with her in a house he bought. He wedded Thelma soon after, and the murder of Grace, Adaugo’s biological mother, with Thelma’s connection with the police force, was swept under the rug. She had been plotting her mother’s revenge since then. In her own words ‘my conscience died with my mother’.
She also revealed how Chinekwu’s death was a huge mistake as the original target was Thelma. Her death brought grief to her; mostly because the poor girl was innocent, but seeing Thelma mourn her gladdened her heart; she deserved to lose a loved one. Since then she decided death was too merciful a punishment for Thelma. Then there was another plan, to pin the murders on her. That way, with the pressure she trusted the police would mount on her, secrets will be exposed. It was an easy decision as Thelma had already been acting suspicious. Thelma was scared that any investigation might expose her dirty deed so she decided to die in silence. Her conscience was killing her; an effortless bait for Adaugo’s plan.
Philip ordered for her to be taken to the cell. ‘We commence court process next week’ he said.
Adaugo is yet to be found.