It was morning. 8:24 AM precisely. Car horns blared endlessly in the busy road while people went about their own activities.
Among them were feet covered in black snickers, walking briskly down the busy Sapele road. A school bag hung over her shoulders and a portable leather folder rested peacefully in the left hand.
Dressed in a casual blue jeans pants and a red t-shirt, Fegor Obaro wasted no time with the scenery. She walked fast while nodding rhythmically to a tune filtering into her ear through an earpiece. Her braids were packed into a ponytail and her face was rid of makeup.
She was slender, five feet tall, dark-skinned and a little muscular. She was the fifth and only girl child of her parents, Mr and Mrs Obaro. Right from her days as a teenager, she had been a tomboy and proud of it.
Of course, everyone around her complained. They wanted her to be more ladylike. They said she won’t get married – no one will marry a tomboy.
Fegor silenced them all with a wave of her hand. Was it her fault she was born among boys? Was it her fault that her parents, at her tender age, could not afford good clothes for her, thereby making her share clothes with her brothers? Was it her fault she got used to the ways of men?
She had tried to be more ladylike, but how could she? Members of her sex were just so annoying; gossiping at every turn, crying all the time like babies, wearing skimpy clothes, swinging hips, and doing so many annoying things. There were a few decent ones though, but no one recognized them since they weren’t LADY like. Her aunties and uncles made being ladylike sound the same as heaven. But she knew better.
“Whoever can’t accept me as I am, shouldn’t bother seeing me,” she told everyone who talked to her for the same reason. “You people made me who I am. So stop it,” she yelled at them one time. They couldn’t say anything more. They knew she wasn’t interested in anything they had to say…
Before getting on the road that morning, Fegor had a similar argument with her mother over the phone. She loved the woman too much and didn’t want to raise her voice at her. “I can’t hear you, mom,” she said and cut the call before putting it on aeroplane mode while playing her favourite music collection. Music always had a way of helping her unwind.
After about 15 minutes walk, she arrived at the police station opposite Oba Market, Ring Road. She walked into the premises boldly, ignoring the frown from some of the officers on duty.
At the same time, two policemen dragged in a bus conductor. Although he pleaded with the men, all plea fell on deaf ears. Fegor ignored their drama and headed straight to the building. She got to the DPO’s office and knocked gently at the door.
“Come in,” a hoarse and unfriendly voice invited.
She pushed the door open and stepped in. “Good morning sir.”
“Do you have it?” The DPO, Sam Asuen, asked, ignoring her greetings.
“Yes.” She sighed at his rude behaviour. It was typical of him. Smiling or being friendly had always been an issue for him. She didnt bother to wonder why. It was a waste of precious time. She dropped the leather folder on the table and slid it across to him. “Everything is inside.”
“Ok,” Sam said, collecting the folder. “You can go.”
“You haven’t paid me my balance,” Fegor said. Her eyes moved to a narrow slit as she observed him. How cunning does he think he can be? She thought.
From across the table, the DPO watched her. His expression was enough to scare anyone. But not Fegor. For a woman, she had guts. Well, what else could one expect from a tomboy? “How much is it?” He asked impatiently.
“I don’t remember agreeing to pay you fifty.”
“I have your voice recorded,” Fegor said, stubbornly. “You promised me fifty. Or do I have to play the recording just to remind you?”
“Don’t you know better than to threaten me?” The DPO scowled.
“I only want my money, sir.” She didn’t flinch.
“You kids don’t ever learn.” He opened his drawer and brought out a bundle of one thousand naira notes. “This is thirty thousand. Come back in the evening for the rest.”
Fegor quietly picked up the bundle and counted it before keeping it in her bag pocket. “With all due respect sir, I’m not a kid.” She walked out, ignoring the fresh anger on his face. He could turn red for all she cared, that was his business.
An hour later, Fegor walked into her apartment. “I thought you two were out?” She asked as soon as her eyes rested on her housemates sitting casually in the living room. Photos laid carelessly on the table.
“We went out. We’re back,” Chigozie said. Her black strap top accentuated her fair skin. Her long braids hung loosely over her shoulders. Her slender figure laid easily on the couch with one leg crossing the other.
From her tone, Fegor could tell something was off. “What happened?” She asked, moving closer. “How did it go?”
“You first,” Zino, the boy amongst them, requested.
“Phew!” Fegor sighed. “It was just as we suspected. He denied promising 50k. I insisted. He paid 30,000 and asked me to return later today for the balance. My instincts tell me he won’t pay. He might frame us up or get us arrested.”
“Well, the atmosphere is heated. He’ll have good reasons to throw us behind bars.”
“How? What are you saying? We didn’t do anything wrong. We only spied on someone.”
“Look at the photos,” Chigozie pointed at the pictures scattered on the table.
Curious, Fegor dropped her bag on an empty seat and moved to pick up each photo. She frowned as she realized she was staring at the photos of the dead lady; the same lady she and her roommates had spied on the day before, late into the night. For some reasons, she had asked her friends to follow her so as to take more intimate photos of the lady and her lover. The extra pictures were to be used as leverage to get their contractor to pay in full. But not any more.
“How did this happen?” Fegor asked. Frowning.
“I don’t know. I can’t say,” Zino shrugged. “One moment they were having a go at it, the next, she was not responding. Her lover simply ran off. I’m sure he was scared of being accused of murder.”
“If we really want to know what happened, you know where we should start from.” Chigozie chipped in.
“Why would I want to catch her murderer?” Fegor’s frown deepened.
“Because you are the good Samaritan, and you always find a way of dragging us into your good deeds,” she replied, sarcastically.
“Forget her, forget the case,” Fegor spoke, “We did what we were contracted to do. That’s all that matters.”
“The DPO won’t be happy,” Zino said and threw his feet on the table, so as to assume a more relaxed position.
“Okay,” Chigozie said, getting to her feet “If you’re not going to take on the case, I better go get dressed. I’m meeting my boyfriend this morning.” She left for her room.
“I’m out too,” Zino said, getting up. “I’m working afternoon shift and it will soon be afternoon.
Fegor gave an understanding nod before throwing herself on a seat. She sighed deeply. Her thoughts took a different turn as regards the pictures before her. She understood her friends’ reluctance to find out what happened to the girl.
Through recommendations, the DPO had contacted her four days ago and asked her to spy on the dead lady. She started her spy business during her days in Uni. It helped solve a lot of her financial needs but it was quite risky. However, soon after school, she returned to her neighbourhood and recruited her best friends, Chigozie and Zino, into the business. She needed more hands and only from friends she could trust. They had been in business, and every job had been successful until this.
When she first got the job, Chigozie didn’t want it. It was like she knew something would go wrong. She’s always had good instincts but they needed the money. Now the lady was dead, under her watch. The DPO wouldn’t think twice about arresting them. Before that happened she had to find out what went wrong. She just had to and she was going to do it alone.
To be continued…