He knew that the assailant must have gone far, but they had to deal with the moment. The woman’s sunken eyes caught him first and her silent wails broke his heart.
The officers carried the bag with some drops of mercy.
He barged into his office and met her sunken eyes which had turned translucent over weeks. He wanted to go back but it was too late; he had to face his demons. He pulled his entire weight into the tiny office and murmured:
Their eyes followed his every move, as he went around and squeezed his weight behind his desk.
Francis avoided any form of eye contact. He drew the drawer next to him open and brought out a white dirty looking file. His eyes fell on the word, ‘missing’. He buried his nose in the file before him. His eyes fell on the little girl’s spindly legs and her sunken eyes; it reminded him so much about Klechi, his daughter, when she was five. It was impossible to breathe when the whole town seemed to be expecting something from him which he had no answers to. It would be their fifth futile visit. After some moment had passed, his ears tingled at the call.
Read Also: Saints
Francis didn’t expect to be called that soon. He dragged his eyes from the file before him and peered into the eyes of those before him. The woman’s eyes were unavoidable: she had lost so much colour from sleepless night and her sunken eyes, just like her daughter’s, had withdrawn so much that they were left at the mercy of the stretched tissues around her eyes. The seat nudged forward along with Francis weight. His belt seemed too tight around his waist, he threw his head backward and his hand went straight to unloosen his tie a little bit.
“There must be someone else who we haven’t checked. I have this guts feeling: an uncle, aunt, friend or something?”
Amaka looked at Tochukwu with a glint of hope. She grabbed her husband’s hands, looked at Francis and said:
“Joe, uncle Joe. They were too fund of each other.”
Francis raised a fat eyebrow. He just heard something new after a while.
“Where is he at the moment?”
Amaka wanted to talk but one look from her husband slapped some silence into her mouth. This got Francis more worried. Francis got up from his chair and walked to the only window in the office; his eyes passed the police vehicle, the officers in their uniform, the suspects that were brought in for questioning, and his eyes fell on his old battered Volvo.
His eyes climbed into the backseat and fell on the exact spot where Kelechi bled to death. He remembered how he drove like a mad man when they discovered her body on the roadside. The sounds of his wife’s wail and the pains made him sigh. Afterwards, the many years of coming back from work to call Kelechi, but she never answered.
Jane couldn’t take it; she blamed him for everything. He was busy clearing the streets of crime while their daughter lay in the pool of her own blood after been stabbed and raped. Now, he feared the worse for the couple who sat in his office. He turned from the window and looked at them.
“I once had a daughter her age. I know exactly how it hurts to call her name but she never answers.”
For the first time, he saw something on the man’s face. He left the window and came to perch on the table before them. The table creaked in annoyance. He folded his arms on his chest and a good measure of his distended tummy jutted out and gasped for air underneath his heavy arms. His eyes nearly dug a hole in between them.
“It is too dangerous to keep secrets at this crucial moment. We men have a large appetite for adventure.”
His last words hung in the air like a dark cloud. Tochukwu looked at his wife. He bent his head and fixed his eyes on Francis black sporty looking shoes. Francis would rather walk in something comfy than drove in one.
“We need to find your daughter unless someone more dangerous finds her first.”
Francis could swear that he heard the war that went on in their minds.
“But Joe wasn’t there for her five year party? He said he would be out of town.”
Amaka looked at Tochukwu while she talked. It was the second time the name was mentioned and Francis asked:
“Who is Joe?”
“My brother can’t hurt a fly, much more his niece. Stop it Amaka!”
“How close were they?”
“Quite close. He often came by the house to pick her up.”
“Give me his address.”
Tochukwu gave Amaka an evil look while Francis picked up his phone and put a call through.
Read Also: Ladies night out
The team stopped the car some meters away from the house. It was a serene neighbourhood. The last thing they wanted was to raise any suspicion and have the suspect escape. They made her parents wait in the car while they went ahead. Francis gave the door a few wraps before he confirmed that there was no one at home.
He made way and the door gave way under the heels of one of the members of the team. Inside, the house looked swept, as though the occupants recently moved out of town. Through the living room of the bungalow, he made his way to the backyard and his foot hit something. He noticed a spot on the carpet grass which looked rather misplaced. He looked at the officer with him and said:
“Check that spot!”
The man went down on one knee and to their surprise; a sizeable part of the grass came off. They all drew back with their hands to their nose. Francis went closer and there, a shoe which looked like Kelechi’s poked out through the dirty surface. Her legs stuck out through the layers of dirty earth. His eyes fell on the dark brown patches and the tender skin which was gradually turning into earth, just like the rest they trampled under feet.
Written by Oluoma Udemezue.