All my years on the job, I’d never seen anything like this.
It’s not every day your murder victim turns out to be a middle aged, slightly potbellied Father Christmas.
As I surveyed the crime scene, taking mental notes, the junior officers cordoned off the area from the growing crowd outside the gate of the mall.
“Yusuf!” I called out to one of them.
“Make sure you take photos this time.”
I stood over the body and looked at it closely. Well, there was no need stressing myself to determine how the man was murdered. The knife sticking out of his back wasn’t a subtle something. Dead eyes looked on from a face covered with fake beard and what I assumed was dusting powder. He was in full costume: fake white beard? Check. Fake pot belly to supplement his natural one? Check. Cheap red costume? Double check. I took out my jotter and noted the facts down.
Who was this unfortunate soul trying to disrupt my not-leave? Of all the times to stab a man, it had to be the Christmas season. I was about to leave the office when the call came through. I was the only senior officer on duty, so Oga ordered me to go take a look.
As I mourned the passing of my lunch period and midday appointment, I turned around to look at the witnesses (also potential suspects), their faces contorted with misery. One of my men, Kester, was watching over them in the corner with his gun in his hand and a wicked look on his face. He enjoyed this intimidation thing way too much.
“Round them up and carry them to HQ,” I said to him.
While he led them away, I took another look at the crime scene and the body. What kind of madness was this?
“Madam. Just tell us wetin you know?” I said to one of the cleaners who had discovered the body.
“Sir. I swear to God; I no know anything.” She was already in tears. Out of grief or guilt? That was yet to be determined.
We had spent the last few hours interrogating the witnesses (after eating at Mama Put with Lasisi that is). All the cleaners had denied knowing anything, claiming that they only discovered the body when they went inside the mall to clean that morning.
The night watchman confessed after some persuasion that he was asleep for most of the night. He had imbibed a good bit of dry gin at the joint down the road before coming to work. His confession was corroborated by the security guard who showed up in the morning and met him asleep.
“That idiot dey always dey drink.” He said to me.
Frankly. I was tired already. Instead of being at home or at Mama T’s house, inventing new ways to remove the harmattan chill from my body, I was busy investigating the case of a dead Father Christmas. As soon as we got to HQ, I saw Okoli pass through the back door before Oga could attach him to the case too. He was my guy, so I didn’t bother with it.
“Madam… you can’t tell me that you don’t know anything.”
“Abeg Sir… na Suliat you go ask. She suppose know something.”
Suliat denied knowing anything till Kester began to romance a baton that had what I assumed to be dried red paint on it. Then she began to talk.
“Oga Sah. No be my mouth you hear am o, but that man was involved with Mama Kola. I see them dey kiss one time like that,” She said.
Kester and I exchanged looks.
“The thing be say he dey sleep with Mama Tunji. Na she get that small shop close to gate.”
“Yes o. I even see Mama Kola dey fight with am two days ago over Mama Tunji. E be like say she catch them.”
“Is that so?”
“How you take know say e dey sleep with Mama Tunji,” I asked.
“Them dey do am inside store. I don see them one time.”
Mama Tunji did not deny the affair (Poor Baba Tunji) but pointed out to me that Suliat was a known rumor monger and was jealous of her. Mama Kola denied having anything to do with Father Christmas and suggested he was probably killed by a spirit who seemed to prefer killing with a knife than using spiritual powers. Whether Father Christmas had left the building the previous night, resumed early and was subsequently killed or was killed in the evening after work hours, we did not know. Seeing as the night watchman was dead drunk and of no use to us, I requested that they all be remanded into cells to sweat a bit before we began the next round.
Okoli later came to the office to tell me that Father Christmas’s family wanted to collect his body from the mortuary so that they could bury him fast. Apparently, Father Christmas was also Qudus Ismaila Adekoya. He also informed me that Oga requested us to name suspects soon so that we could announce something to the gargle of reporters standing outside. It turns out that the forensic team never went to the crime scene. No materials to use was their excuse. How did they expect me to solve a murder if the damn forensic team never even left their office?
As I turned my eyes to the witnesses (and suspects) in their cells. I wondered to myself; who the hell killed Father Christmas?
#TalesOfAnAfricanChristmas is a seasonal series. Everyday until Christmas day, we will post a story or flash fiction about Christmas. So come back tomorrow for a brand new story.
About the Author:
Nnamdi Ogochukwu Komlan-Dodoh is a Nigerian writer and occasional poet. He loves music, movies, art and a good story. He tries, through writing, to discover the different facets of the human mind.
He shares snapshots of his thoughts on Twitter: @Primus_unbound and Instagram: @Primus_unbound