“We’re going live in two minutes.”
Ese adjusted her dress and smoothened her hair. The bright lights in the studio stung her eyes. She felt nervous even though it was not her first time of going on air, in fact TV was her life. From her days in secondary school, she had known she was going to end up in front of a camera, and she had. But there was something a little strange about the show they were about to have. Richard sat beside her, looking cool in his custom made shirt. They had eavesdropped on Adam, gotten some information and were now going on air with them. Adam had instructed everybody he talked to not to talk to the press, so it was a good thing they had eavesdropped. Or was it?
“You’re sure you want to do this?” Richard asked.
She knew she wanted to be on the show, it was the only reason she would stand a jerk like Richard. He knew she was not convenient with how they had gotten their information and he had repeatedly offered her the door.
“I am fine.” She could picture Adam’s face when he found the bug, he would be absolutely livid. It was not her problem how he felt though, he deserved it. “Do your part, I’ll do mine.”
“Alright guys, we are going on in five, four, three, two, one”
“Hello Nigeria, you’re welcome to TBC, I am Richard Musa, with me tonight is Ese Johnson.”
“Good evening Nigeria, this is crime watch Nigeria. This evening we will be talking about two murders that have shaken the city of Ilorin.”
“We will also be talking about what people are now calling ‘The Church Street Murders’.” Richard announced. It was not people who gave the name to the murders, he did. The Grinch had loved it and it was stamped. It would soon catch on.
Richard explained the details of the first murder like he was talking about a South African dish recipe. It bothered her.
She tried her best to smile as she watched him try to think through the brain of the killer. She had to give it to him, he was good at what he did. Seeing through the killer’s eyes was not an easy feat. The girls were from different backgrounds, so maybe it was just random, maybe they were not selected by any process. Serial killers usually had a type. Maybe his type was just young females.
“You know what baffles me Ese?” Richard asked.
“What is that Richard?”
“Why dump the bodies in front of these two churches? We will answer that question when we come back from this break. Stay with us.”
The red light went off. She took the glass of water in front of her and took a sip.
Why dump the bodies in front of those churches? She had thought hard about it. Richard had dug deep into the history of both churches, looking for any connections. He had found something. The pioneering pastors of both churches had attended the same seminary. They had then proceeded to open their churches on the same street. Of course one of the churches had moved away from the street. She did not know if it had anything to do with the murder but at least it was a connection.
She stood up from her chair and moved away from the cameras. A report was going live next. It would explain the roots of the churches and how they were connected. Richard was a jerk but she knew she could learn a few things from him.
“I’m sure you won’t feel so bad about us eavesdropping after this show.” She spun round to see Richard coming up behind her.
“I’m sure I will, I have just decided to forget how I feel.” They were yet to use any of the information they got through the bug.
“I’m sure you’re wondering what your detective boyfriend will say as he watches the show tonight, am I right?”
“He’s not my boyfriend and…”
“Wait, he’s not? That’s the best news I’ve heard in months. “ She looked at him, shook her head and walked on. “Wait! Wait! Could we grab a bite later tonight, see where the night takes us.”
She stopped in shock. She looked at him, he was not joking. “Are you serious?”
“Do I look like I’m joking?” He was serious.
“There’s no way I’m going out with you Richard.” She said and started walking away. He hurried after her.
“What if we’re stranded on an island and there’s just you, me, Tonto Dike, Fela Kuti and Clifford Orji, who would you sleep with?”
“One of those guys is a woman, one of them is dead and the third is a man-eater Richard.”
“So you’ll pick me? Okay, forget about the part of where the night takes us, let’s grab something to eat. As colleagues.”
“Okay. As colleagues.” She had nothing to lose. It was not like she was dating anybody. “By the way Adam never watches my show.”
He set the bottles on the table, opened one of them and sat on the couch. He picked the remote and switched on the TV. Ese was on. He smiled at the coincidence. He rarely watched her station, all they did was report news, most of which were depressing. He had slept off watching a special news report on liver cancer the night before on the station. It was depressing but it had caught his attention. Now he had turned on the TV hoping to catch some late night action movie, but instead he was watching his dear Ese Johnson trying to solve crime on TV.
She looked good. She had always looked good on TV, she was born for the camera somebody had commented. She did good work too. At least as a political correspondent, he had to wait to see how she would do in her new love of crime reporting.
There was something about her partner that irked him. He was a smug little prick who thought he owned the world. Adam laughed at himself, he barely knew the man and he had already formed an opinion about him. It was the way he looked at Ese that made him even more uneasy. He had a smile on his face every time he looked at her, like there was something he knew that the whole world did not.
He shook his head, trying to clear off his nefarious thoughts. He tried to concentrate on what they were saying.
“Does the fact that the second victim was a student of Kwara State Polytechnic have any bearing on this case? The first victim was a commercial sex worker. Do you think they have any connections?”
They had a visitor on the show, a retired police officer who supposedly had some crime solving experience. His opinion was that the student could have been involved in some prostitution herself. Maybe they met the same person.
“You know that is really possible. We gathered that the girl was supposed to be attending a party the night she went missing.” Ese said.
Adam shook his head. He knew the friends of the victim would jump at the first chance to talk to the press. He had strictly warned them not to talk to anybody after he had talked to them. Apparently the press now knew all that he knew.
He had also considered that the prostitute had a connection to the second victim but he was yet to find it. The girl had gone for a party alright, but she was not invited alone. She had gone with a group of friends. They all claimed they did not see her leave the party and she had danced with several men so there was no way to know who she left with. According to them, it was not the first time she was going to these parties and she always left with somebody, mostly somebody she met that night. That made it even more difficult. She could have been lured away by the killer or she might have been picked up after she left her appointment. The coroner said there was no sign of a recent sexual encounter so it was safe to assume she was picked up by the killer.
He returned his attention to the show.
“Another question most people are asking is, why the churches?” Ese asked the man again.
“That’s a question I’m finding difficult to answer.” The man said. Join the queue, Adam thought with a smile. “He could have been a member of the church at a point, or maybe they were picked randomly.”
“That’s very unlikely, don’t you think?” Richard, the arrogant partner asked. “Especially now that we have a connection between them.”
Adam sat up. They had a connection? He had not been able to find one. He listened to them explain how the churches were connected at the roots. Maybe that was it. Maybe there was an aggrieved church member who attended both churches, after all they were on the same street. Could be somebody who lived in the area. He would have some of his detectives working on that as soon as he got to the office the next day.
Maybe the press was not a total waste after all.
He placed the empty bottle in his hand on the table. All four bottles were now empty, he felt like he needed more. He dragged himself off the couch and walked to the refrigerator.
“Now, about the murders themselves, do you think the killer will stop?” Ese asked.
“Our prayer is that he does, or he is caught. In my professional opinion I think we have more hope with the latter.”
The man was right. The killer might have planned to stop but he would not now, especially with the kind of press attention he was getting. Their best shot at stopping him was catching him.
Adam settled down into the couch, this time with two bottles. He promised himself they would be his last for the day.
“He seems to be getting more aggressive too, because we gathered that the last victim was killed alive.”
Adam spilled his drink as he turned sharply to look at the TV. Nobody was supposed to know that. Only a few members of the CIB knew about that part, he had made sure of it. It was a detail that would do more harm than good. How did they find out? Somebody was feeding the press information at CIB?
He drank the whole bottle at a go and set it on the table. Ese had gone behind his back to turn one of his own against him. Whoever gave them the information would pay for it, and Ese… he would deal with her at the right time.
He drove his car into the parking lot and turned off the engine. He watched her come out of the car three cars away from him with her boyfriend and walk out of the parking lot. They were talking so loudly and laughing like they were the only ones in the city. He let them go a little distance before he slid out of his car. He had made sure he looked like every regular person in the cinema. Of course he was a regular person, so what if he had killed two people and the whole city was afraid and looking for him.
He rubbed his sweating palms on his jeans and moved towards the exit. He had made sure to park far away from the any camera. He could not take the chance of anybody connecting him to the girl when they found her body. The parking lot was dark. Despite the efforts of the cinema to lighten the underground parking lot, a lot of bad things could happen there without many people noticing. He noticed a couple kissing in a dark corner not far from where he was parked. If only they knew who he was. He had thought of getting a girl himself, but he could not. Not with Diana possessing all of him, he doubted she would want to share.
“Oga, good evening o.” The guards greeted him. He had hoped not to be seen but coming to a cinema was not a crime, he just had to make sure he was not someone they would remember.
“My chairmen, how work?” He said with a smile, all the while avoiding eye contact.
“We dey where you leave us o. Drop something for your boys na.”
“Make I come back, I go settle you, you na my people na.” He said and quickly walked away before they said something else. He had already talked more than he wanted to.
He walked out of the parking lot and climbed the stairs that led into the cinema. The men had delayed him, he hoped to catch up with the girl before he missed what movie she and her boyfriend were going to watch. He saw them holding each other next to the vendor who was collecting their money in exchange for a big bowl of popcorn. He had not been one to frequent places like a cinema and he had always wondered why people wasted their money watching movies for so much money in cinemas when they could watch the same movies at home. A large screen and a bowl of popcorn, which you also paid for did not look like value to him. But then what did he know?
He lingered close to the stands where several yet-to-be-released movies were displayed and pretended to be engrossed by a vampire movie. Vampire movies were so many that he expected a vampire to surface in the near future. This particular one was one of the horror ones, it did not have any beautiful girls in love with vampires. Just a single vampire devouring poor reverend sisters in a convent.
The girl and her boyfriend moved towards the counter to pay for their movie. He moved closer. He tried his best to be casual. He knew he looked just like every other person but he felt as though ‘Murderer’ was printed on his head. He moved as close to them as he could to hear them but far enough not to be noticed. The cinema was showing a few romantic classics that night. He was a huge romantic himself and he was lucky that his escapade had fallen on a night when he could enjoy one of the few pleasures of life. He picked up the movie catalogue, he had seen most of the movies, anyone Romeo and Juliet picked would be a good watch.
They picked ‘Before Sunrise’. He was yet to see it. He felt almost as happy to see the movie as he was doing Diana’s bidding.
He waited for them to leave and he walked to the counter and paid for the same movie. He paid cash, he could not afford any trace.
The movie had already started when he entered. He saw the couple, moved past them and sat four seats behind them. He looked at the girl and smiled. Very soon she would be in his house, his guest, Diana’s sacrifice.
The movie lasted for about ninety minutes. It was a nice one, he had enjoyed every bit of it and so had Romeo and Juliet. They were already headed for the door, he joined the crowd and headed for the exit. He wanted to go ahead of them, he would wait in the car.
The night had been planned and the easiest part was over. He walked out of the cinema briskly. He looked over his shoulder once to make sure that the couple were heading for their car. They were, a little slowly though. They looked genuinely in love, he felt bad for them, it was not his fault. She had been chosen. He walked into the dark parking lot, one of the light bulbs was out. The guards had forgotten about him and were now trying to coax money out of another man. He walked past them and walked towards his car. He slowed as he got close to his car, he looked back again, the couple were in the parking lot now. The plan was simple, follow them till the boy dropped her at her house then he would do his thing.
The girl was a virgin, so he knew she was not going home with him. He waited for them to get into their car. They did but did not move. He craned his neck to see them, it looked like they were kissing. He hissed and slid deeper into his chair. He got comfortable in the chair and waited.
He eyes snapped open, he was blinded by the headlights of a car approaching him. He had dozed off. He looked at where the couple had parked, they were gone. He punched the steering wheel and turned on the engine. He slammed the gear into ‘drive’ and moved. He was fortunate he knew where she lived. But they could have been long gone. He was not sure how long he had slept for, they could have been gone for hours. He cursed and punched the steering wheel again. He pressed his foot down on the accelerator and drew insults from other drivers as he sped past them.
He slowed down as he got close to the girl’s house. There was no car, they were gone. The girl could be asleep, his plan had failed. He looked at the house, he could still go in, but it would be deviating from his fool-proof plan. He banged his head against the head rest of his seat. Of all times to fall asleep he had chosen that special day.
The bright light of a car approaching from behind him caught his attention. It looked to be slowing down behind him. Cops? He had no busniess being were he was. He started the car and drove away as fast as he could without drawing attention. He looked in the mirror, the car had parked. It was them! The couple had just arrived. He slowed the car and moved to the right side of the road. He could reverse and go back, but the boy friend would notice him. The next turning was far away, the girl would be gone before he could get back.
He picked up speed and moved away from the house. Maybe it was a message of caution to him. He was getting too desperate, Diana could wait.
But in truth Diana could not wait, he did not want her to wait. The girl had merely added a few hours to her life. Diana would not be denied. She would have her sacrifice. A pure one. A virgin.