The ride to the station had been very quick. Very silent also. Nobody reached for the Aux cable. The four of them in the car seemed to squeezing in on themselves where they sat. Ify had not wanted to leave the club premises. She sobbed, crumbled to the ground and then she started to wail. The friend home on holidays, lifted her up with some effort quickly and set her down in the backseat of the star. “What am I going to do?” she repeated and she cried, her entire body heaving.
Ify could tell none of the boys wanted to be driving to a police station around 2am. It was another level of having a dramatic encounter. Nobody wanted to be driving themselves to the police. But none of the boys dared to speak. It wasn’t her best idea, but she didn’t know what to do. The security at the club had told them the camera that faced the only doorway in or out the club, had been down and was due for a fix. So it was the police they had to go to.
“Nawa o! This kine thing you’re saying young woman.” The police man on duty remarked from behind the counter, after listening to Ify try to narrate the night before bursting into tears and then the friend from abroad helped finish the narrative.
“So, five of you went out. Three boys, you madam,” He shot a glance at Ify. “and that your friend that you’re telling me you cannot find again?” She managed to nod.
“What took you there?” The other police officer who had been quiet all the while queried. She had skin like the back of a ripe orange. Her crossed arms over her chest exposed her dark elbows. Ify didn’t understand the ranking of the police, so she had no way of telling what rank she might have been.
“Ma? I don’t understand. We were with–” She started to explain.
“Shut up my friend! You don’t understand what eh? Look at you! Just see what you’re wearing. I can almost see all your breasts and I’m not even trying to.” The police woman shot Ify down. She was standing now, and languidly she walked to the front of the counter.
“Even if you’re saying the truth, how will two girls go out three boys this late at night? What were you people going to do? And according to what you’re saying sef, you don’t know those two sitting there waiting. They’re your boyfriend’s friend” She went on.
“Sorry ma. I’m not her boyfriend.” The holiday guy corrected. Fumbling the keys in his hands impatiently. The female officer rushed towards him and grabbed him by his collar.
“If I slap this your stupid head!” He cowered with his arms up to protect his face. “Oga shey you dey see wetin I dey always tell you. The girl say na her boyfriend but now him dey talk say Na lie.” She didn’t let go of her prey as she spoke.
“This madam carry her friend comot for those other two guys, while this mumu here Na her own. Boyfriend, boyfriend, all na lie. Na fuck for money for ice cream or Shawarma or cloth sef!” Ify wished she had not come to the police station but it was already too late. One the walls of the station were old and new posters with slogans like, ‘The police is your friend’, ‘Bail is Free’.
Upon hearing two words, ‘write statement’, Ify’s fear grew. Her tears soaking up the paper made it hard to concentrate and recount the ordeal. She wrote it all as much as she could. Her brain felt frazzled but she needed to do her best. She just wanted to get to the bottom of the disappearance. She just wanted to find Mary.
Her friend, who wasn’t her boyfriend, took out his phone and made a call. Glancing over at the sheet of paper in front of him, she noticed that it was blank like hers had been minutes earlier. He had not been writing and neither were his two friends.
“My friends, you boys better write thing sharp sharp o.” The police man behind the counter also noticed their inactivity. But the phone stayed glued to his ear and he spoke in hush tones, throwing in a word or two in a language Ify did not understand.
“Babe don’t worry, it’s going to be fine” He patted her on her shoulder as his phone returned to his pocket. “Excuse me sir, we can’t write anything. My father’s lawyer said we should wait till he comes”.
“Ha’an! Very fast o! Now now you’re calling lawyer abi? Who is your father?! All of you are bastards! You must sleep inside cell this night.” The police woman flared up and walked down a dim lit corridor. Ify could hear her hiss echo as she went. The sound of keys and the creaking of hinges in dire need of oil, made Ify start to shiver. As far as she could tell, Rot –the guy on holidays– was the son of some prominent politician on the Plateau but her father was nobody.
Before the lawyer arrived at the cell, the officer –whose name tag read ‘Sunday’– had searched them all. When Ify still sat as he searched the guys, he cursed her mother and shouted that she better stand. “If Na to shake body now nobody go beg o” he grumbled as he patted and ran his hand over her gown that obviously hid nothing underneath. He groped at her buttocks and when she tried to protest, he groped even more. “E be like say you no know wetin time dey talk” He grinned slyly. It was just after she was ‘searched’ that the lawyer rushed in.
A small man with his glasses on, he strode towards Rot who stood up when he saw him walk in. Close to Rot, he was towered over. A deafening slap followed and for a minute there was silence. He peered at Rot through the top of his glasses. “Useless boy”, he hissed and turned on his heels to the police officers by the counter who were staring at the strange man that had just entered the station.
The lawyer spoke to the officers at length, inaudibly from where Ify sat. She watched attentively, hoping to make out what was being discussed but she had no luck. It felt like much talk had occurred than actions, since Mary went missing. Then the lawyer shook hands with the officers and started to head for the exit. “Let’s go” He called after Rot. Relief washed over Ify to her toes and she moved eagerly to leave.
“Nyamiri, where are you going na? Is it you they came for?”
Puzzled, Ify stood steps away from the exit. Her shoes now resting in her hands. “Ma! But–”
“Better come back here for booking. You wey carry person comot loss am. Ashawo.” Officer Sunday warned.
Ify was not understanding the situation. Rot too in shock, stopped in his tracks but he could hear the lawyer calling for him angrily. “Don’t worry. I would come back.” the last thing he said before joining his friends in the black SUV with tinted windows and covered number plates. She watched the vehicle ride out, with someone else driving the car Rot had picked herself and Mary in. For the second time in less than 24 hours, Ify’s legs started to wobble and she fell to the dirty floor with her tears. “Your own na play. You never see anything” The police woman chuckled. Their captive couldn’t escape, she thought as she supervised Sunday’s counting of the ₦200 bills.
At the same moment, Rot had been driving towards the station at Anglo-Jos, a red vehicle slowed down at a checkpoint somewhere.
“Officer! Ha well-done o!” The driver hailed the soldier that stood at his side, peering into the vehicle with his torch light. He didn’t return the greeting as he scanned the vehicle. His light travelling from the front to the backseat.
“Where to?” The solider finally asked.
“House o. Let me rest small before morning again”
“You are a chairman nau. Us your boys, this is our house. Try for us small. Let us be able to buy airtime at least and call our madam”
The driver laughed. “My oga! My Oga! Oya take this one manage” They shook hands to seal their clandestine transaction. Even though it was too late for any one to see anything, the soldier was a creature of habit. Pocketing his gift, he hit the roof of the car lightly indicating he was free to pass. “Make I allow you waka. I sure say one madam dey wait you sef.” He nodded towards the single black shoe on the floor of the passenger seat in front. The driver laughed a nervous dry laughter and eased through the makeshift barricades.
He sighed deeply and picked up the shoe and tossed it to the back. Stepping on the accelerator, he put more distance between him and the checkpoint. Vanishing into the night, he smiled to himself and wiped off the beads if sweat that had crowned his bald head. A little investment in the government had paid off. Crumpled and passed out in the trunk of his car was a girl in black dress missing a shoe on one of her feet.
To be continued…
© Jephthah Temona