Martins stared at the man seated opposite him; this was not the first time he was dealing with Anthony or Tiny Tony as he was often called but this was the first time Tiny Tony had ever raised his voice speaking to him. He could not blame the man; he would be shouting too if he was in Tony’s shoes.
“Can we just find a solution to this?” Martins asked.
“A solution?” Tony wasn’t ready to get calm yet. “Do you know what this guy wants now?”
“What does he want Tony?”
“He wants to know who you are.”
“That is not an option Tony.”
“Do I look stupid? Of course I know that is not an option. You can’t blame the guy, can you? His fiancée is dead.”
Martins stared at Tiny Tony for a few seconds; he was not exactly sure what to do with the situation. Nothing he did could bring back the woman, but he had business to do. If news got out he was killing the people he robbed, nobody would hire him anymore. His unique selling proposition was his ability to steal almost anything with little or no violence. He was at the risk of losing that.
“Tony, talk to your guy, tell him I didn’t kill his fiancée, okay?”
“You think I didn’t tell him that already?”
“You know how bad this will be for both of us if people believe I killed the woman?”
Tony scoffed. “Bad for you, not bad for me. I can always find another person to deliver the jobs to.”
Martins looked at Tony and laughed. “Another person as good as I am?”
Tony sighed. “Nobody is as good as you are, you cocky bastard.”
“Talk to your guy, okay?”
Tony sank lower into his chair and closed his eyes. Martins felt for him. He had been a middle man for decades. He knew everybody in the game. He knew who had the most expensive jewelries, he knew the people who could steal them and how to sell them. A man like Tiny Tony survived in the business for as long has he had because of his reputation; people could trust him. Trust; that was the same thing Martins had to lose with this incident.
“This guy, your client,” Martins started and Tony opened his eyes. “How well do you know him?”
“How do you mean?”
“How well do you know him?”
“He’s a guy like every other guy I’ve worked with. It’s not like I know his favorite color or anything. Why are you asking?”
“Do you think it’s possible he set this up?”
Tony sat up. “Kill his own fiancée?”
“Men have done worse.”
“Let me get this straight. You mean, he proposed to his babe, hired you to steal the ring then hired another person to kill her?”
“It’s possible.” Martins said. “Think about it, how many people knew about the job. I knew, he knew, you knew.”
“Nah Joe, he didn’t do it. This could be something random, a coincidence. Maybe someone else came to steal the damn ring and found it was gone.”
“There are no coincidences in this game Tony, someone did this on purpose.”
Tony stood. “Joe, let’s hope this doesn’t happen again. My guy is mad but I’m sure when I hand him his ring it will calm him down some.”
They shook hands and Tony headed for the door.
“Tony?” Martins called after him. “If anybody asks, tell them I didn’t kill the girl, I never kill.”
“I know man.”
Tony walked out of the office. Martins picked the key to his his Suzuki GS500 bike and stepped out of the office into his Jewelry store.
Joe Martins Jewels was the biggest jewelry store in the city. It had the best range of jewelry anyone could ask for and he knew everything in the store. Jewels were his obsession and he had made them his work. Stealing them and selling them. Of course he didn’t sell the jewelry he stole in his store, he wasn’t that stupid.
The store was dark but he had walked through the store a million times, he knew his way around. The store was the perfect front for his wealth. He made a lot of money selling jewelry but not anything compared to what he made stealing them. He’d promised himself he’d stop stealing when he had his baby but he did not and he was sure he was not going to. Until he was caught or he was killed. He hoped it would be the later.
He set the security code for the store and closed the door. The night was cold but dry, it wasn’t a night to be riding but he had to. To find out if he was being set up, he had to return to the scene of the crime. It was stupid, he knew, but so was stealing.
He started the bike, clicked on the gears and sped unto the road. He had a simple plan, find out who set him up, no matter what it took.
Twenty minutes later he stopped a few feet from the house. The house was almost the same as when he came earlier; no extra security, no police presence. That was awesome. He pulled a mask from his back pocket and wore it. He ran to the fence of the house and in one bound, a pull-up, soft landing and he was inside the compound. He walked on the balls of his feet to the guard’s room. He could hear the man’s snoring. He was probably snoring while his boss was killed; if he wasn’t the killer.
Martins entered the room, stepped around some plates on the floor and stopped close to the guard. He knelt beside him and with his right hand, grabbed the guard’s neck. For a few seconds the guard slept on like nothing had happened then Martins squeezed the neck. The guard woke up with a cough. Martins tightened his hand around the neck and held the man down.
“Keep quiet if you want to live.” Martins said.
Martins removed a pocket torch from his pocket, switched it on and shone the light on the man’s face. The man looked terrified but he was kind enough not to scream.
“Who killed your Madam?” Martins asked.
“Na thief sir, Oga please.” The guard said.
“Na thief. Oga abeg, I no sabi.”
Martins pulled the man up and pushed him against a wall. He set the torch on the floor and removed a small knife from his pocket. He held the knife against the guard’s neck.
“Do you want to die?”
“No sir.” The guard said. “I no sabi, Oga please.”
“I will ask one last time, who killed your Madam?”
“Please Oga, na thief kill am.”
Martins pressed the knife in, careful not to break skin. He didn’t need to make the man bleed. Not yet.
“Do I look like I’m joking?”
“No oga, you no dey laugh.”
Martins pushed the knife in, this time, cutting the man a little.
“I go talk Oga, please, no kill me.”
“Who killed your Madam?”
“I no sabi am Oga.”
Martins pushed the knife in, cutting a little deeper.
“Oga, walahi, I no see him face. I no sabi the man. He just say when police ask make I talk say na thief kill my Madam.”
“And you did so?”
“Oga, he carry my wife and children. He talk say he go kill them, walahi.”
Martins chuckled. “You bloody liar, you don’t have a family. He paid you, didn’t he?”
“Oga, no vex, na just one-five he give me, I never spend am.”
Martins removed the knife from the guard’s neck and stood. So this wasn’t just a coincidence. Just like he feared, somebody was trying to set him up. The guard was of no further use to him.
“Hey, look up here.” Martins said.
The guard raised his head to look up and Martins struck his temple with his fist. The guard fell to the ground, out. Martins slid the knife into his pocket and picked up the torch. He had a long night ahead of him. Someone wanted him out of the game for some reason. He needed to make a list.
Detective Muritala pulled up the handbrake of his car and turned off the engine. He stepped out of the car and shut the door behind him. He looked at the number of stairs he had to climb to enter the office; they were not too many, they were just too many for him. He buttoned his jacket over his potbelly and went up the stairs.
He had come to see the fiancé of the victim who surprisingly was at work a day after his fiancée died. If he remembered anything from his active days as an investigative detective, it was that in cases of murders, the husband was usually the first suspect. And they were often the perpetrators. He climbed the final step and stopped in front of the door to catch his breath. This was not going to be easy. Years of sitting behind his desk had made him very lazy.
He reached for the door but someone else opened it from inside and the man stepped out. He looked at the man and their eyes met. The man walked away but Muritala stopped and watched him. He knew the guy somewhere. He was a small man who seemed to carry himself with an air of importance. He was sure he had come across this man before, the question was, was he a good person or a bad one? He had no answer so he walked into the building.
He looked around the room and saw the receptionist and a man standing beside her. He walked up to them.
“Good afternoon, I’m Detective Muritala.”
“Good afternoon sir, how can I help you?”
“I would like to see Mr Isong.”
The receptionist glanced at the man standing beside her for a fleeting second and turned back to him.
“I’m sorry sir, Mr Isong is not in at the moment. Can I take a message?”
Muritala looked at the man standing by her side and he had a name on, he was Isong.
“Don’t worry, I will find him myself.” Muritala said and turned to the man. “Mr Isong, can we talk privately?”
The man shook his head and walked towards an open office, Muritala followed him. They entered the office and sat.
“You know why I’m here?” Muritala asked.
“Your fiancée died last night and you don’t know why I’m here?”
“It could have been something else.”
“Did you kill her?”
The man opened his mouth and stared at him. Muritala knew he was out of practice and he probably shouldn’t have been so blunt, that soon. He had asked already though so he had to stick to the bad cop angle he had chosen.
“Answer the question Mr. Isong.”
“I did not kill her.” Mr. Isong said.
Muritala studied the man’s face, he looked like he was telling the truth but he could not trust his gut so much right now. His gut was out of practice too.
“If your fiancée was killed last night, how come you are at work right now?”
“Everybody mourns their own way.”
“And yours was to flirt with the receptionist?”
The man clenched his teeth. “I was not flirting. I saw a visitor to the reception area.”
So the man who walked earlier was Mr. Isong’s guest, it could be important later.
“According to your fiancée’s guard, she was killed by a robber. But I looked around and the house didn’t look like it was robbed. Do you think she was just assassinated?”
“No Detective, it was a thief.”
“And you know this, how?”
“I’d just proposed to her a few days ago and the ring was gone by the time I got there.”
“The ring was stolen?”
“And that was the only thing stolen?”
“That’s the only thing I noticed.”
“Was the ring expensive?”
“Very expensive. It was a gift and I didn’t quite know the value of the ring myself until she went to appraise it.”
Muritala did not like this. If this was merely a robbery gone wrong then it would be less likely that he would find the killer. It was easier when there was a personal connection.
“Is there anybody else who knew about the value of the ring? Anybody else who could have wanted it?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the jewelry store where she appraised it.”
Muritala looked at the man. “It could be you.”
The man shifted in his chair and tried to laugh. “I gave her the ring, why will I want it back?”
“You said it yourself, you didn’t know it was very expensive.”
“Why will I want her dead? I loved her.”
Muritala did not have an answer to that question and to be frank he was not sure this guy was the killer. Maybe he hired someone to do it, maybe not. He stood.
“Thank you for answering my questions and sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you Detective. Please let me know if you find anything. She did not deserve to die like that.”
Muritala nodded. The man seemed to have meant that last statement, so maybe he was not the killer after all. He walked out of the office building. That was a start to his investigations. It might not be a good start but it was a start nonetheless. There was only one thing on his mind now though, he needed to pee.
Martins held the necklace up and smiled, RoseAnne would love it. Nobody sane could resist the beauty of the necklace. He had given expensive jewelries to several girls and after the relationship ended, depending on how it ended, he would steal the jewelry back. He put the necklace back in the box. He was not in a relationship with his daughter’s teacher, through no fault of his, but he would give her half of his store if she asked for it.
He slid the box in his pocket and stepped out of his office. Everything was great at Joe Martins, sometimes he wondered how boring his life would be if he wasn’t a thief too. Nobody except for Tiny Tony knew Martins the thief and Martins of Joe Martins were the same person; that was boring too. Maybe it was time he quit stealing. He smiled; he knew there was no way he was quitting.
A white Toyota Rav4 pulled up in front of the store and he walked towards the door. For all her resistance to his proposals, RoseAnne always went out of her way to be nice to him. He opened the door and RoseAnne and Wura stepped out of the Toyota.
“Daddy.” His daughter screamed and ran into his arms.
He lifted her up and hugged her tight. She was the only thing he loved more than jewelry and he would give up stealing in a blink of an eye if he thought she would get hurt.
“How are you my love? Daddy has missed you.”
He set her down and she ran into the store. Martins stepped closer to the car where RoseAnne was waiting.
“Thank you for always doing this.” Martins said.
“I’m just being a nice teacher.”
“So you are doing this just because parents and teachers should help each other out?”
She smiled. “Yes, it is just a PTA thing.”
“Well, thank you Aunt RoseAnne.”
“You are welcome. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Wait, I have something for you.” He brought out the box and handed it to her. “This is for you.”
“What is this?”
“The heart of Davy Jones.”
She chuckled. “I can’t accept gifts from parents, it’s against school policy.”
“Then the school doesn’t need to know. Thank you for dropping Wura off.”
Martins turned and walked away before she could say something else.
“Thank you.” She called after him.
It was only a matter of time and she would fall for him, only a matter of time. He got to the door and was about to enter when he heard a car pull up in front of the store. He looked back and saw a man struggling to get out of his car, his belly was too big. Martins smiled and walked into the store. He closed the door and looked back at the man and this time something about the man made him uneasy. Could he be a cop? In all his years of stealing no policeman had ever questioned him regarding any robberies. But in all his years of stealing, none of his targets had died. He shook off the thought, there was no way the man was a policeman.
He stayed at the door and waited for the man to enter.
“You are welcome to Joe Martins, how can we be of help to you?” Martins said.
“I need to speak to the boss here.” The man said.
“I am the boss. Is there any problem?”
“I am Detective Muritala.” The man said and Martins froze. ”I will like to speak to you about a missing ring.”