Martins tried his best to act calm but it was not working. The detective did not look like he suspected anything but what if it was just an act? He’d not expected to be this fidgety under pressure, he was ashamed of himself.
The Detective had been sitting for about a minute without talking. He was looking through an old notepad he brought with him. Martins could not take the silence anymore.
“This ring you are talking about, was it bought here?” Martins asked.
“Can I ask the questions please?”
“Sure.” Martins said, flashing a very fake smile.
“You know a lot about jewelry? Rings, diamonds, things like that?”
“That is what I sell.”
“Answer the question please.” The Detective said.
“Yes I do.” Martins said. “Sorry, what’s your name again?”
“Oh, like the former President – Muritala Mohammed.”
“No, my name is Musa Muritala, he was Murtala Mohammed.”
“I was just joking.”
“Please don’t do that.”
Martins sighed, what kind of person is this?
“I’m going to ask you a question now,” Detective Muritala said. “I need you to be as honest as you can be.”
“A ring was stolen two nights ago and the owner was killed. Do you know anything about that?”
Martins considered replying ‘no’ but maybe that will make him look more like a suspect. What was he supposed to say then?
“Mr. Martins, I asked you a question.” Detective Muritala said.
Martins chuckled. “That wasn’t a joke?”
“I do not joke. Please answer the question.”
“I don’t know anything about the missing ring.”
“The stolen ring.” Detective Muritala corrected.
“Yes, I don’t know anything about the stolen ring.”
“Are you aware that that ring was appraised in your store just a week ago?”
Martins stared, not blinking for a few seconds. How did he miss this part? He was not aware the ring had ever been in his store. Was this a coincidence or all part of the set up?
“No Detective, I’m not aware the ring was appraised here.”
The Detective looked at him, his eyes boring into Martin’s.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I am very sure.”
“I already answered that question twice. I did not know the ring was appraised here.”
“Your confidence is suspect Mr. Martins. Do you know which exact ring was stolen?”
“No, of course not.” Martins saw where the questions were going.
“So if you don’t know what ring was stolen, how do you know it was not appraised here?”
What was he supposed to say to this? He had played himself into a corner.
“Detective, did you come here to accuse me of something?” Martins asked.
“No, I did not. I came here to find out which of your staff appraised the ring and find out if anybody else knew the value of the ring.”
“Well, I can find out who appraised the ring if you can tell me what type of ring it was.”
“I’m not sure that’s the question I want to ask anymore.”
“Well, let’s just say you have put yourself on my radar Mr. Martins. There’s something about you that tells me you are guilty of something.”
Martins laughed, he tried to but it came out dry and heartless.
“I don’t know what you are talking about Detective. I am an honest businessman but please feel free to poke around.”
“You can be sure I will.” Detective Muritala said and stood. “Let’s hope nothing else that has been in your store is stolen.”
“Let’s hope so.”
The detective walked out of this office and Martins locked the door behind him. This was trouble, big trouble. Maybe it was time to take a step back from stealing. Maybe it was time to stop it all together.
Detective Muritala knew a guilty man when he saw one. At least, he used to know. He was not sure what Martins was guilty of yet, but the Jewelry man did not look innocent at all. Muritala flipped through his notes and sighed. He did not have enough to make any arrest yet. And until he made an arrest, it was like he’d not made any progress at all.
He looked up and saw a young policewoman standing at his door.
“You have someone here to see you sir.” The woman said.
“Who is it?” He was not expecting anybody. Nobody knew he was here and nobody cared.
“She said you’d want to see her and it’s urgent.”
“Let her in.”
Nobody would be stupid enough to come and kill him inside a police station and he was definitely not worth the effort so he had nothing to fear.
A woman walked into his office and he stood. He looked at her face, he knew this woman.
“As Salam Alaikum.” The woman said.
He heard the voice and immediately knew who she was. He felt weak in his knees and dropped into his seat.
“Sekiya, what are you doing here?” Detective Muritala asked. “I’ve not seen you in more than twenty five years.”
“Twenty seven years Musa.”
“Please sit down.” Muritala said.
He looked at her as she sat. The years had not been kind to her. Well, they had not been kind to him either. She was thinner, a little darker but still very beautiful. He suddenly became very aware of his potbelly.
“Musa, I need to tell you something and please know I wouldn’t be telling you this if I had a choice.” She said.
“Remember when I got pregnant several years ago?”
Detective Muritala sat back in his chair. Of course he remembered. Memories were flooding back and he was not sure he wanted them to. He’d broken up with Sekiya after she’d gotten pregnant. Many times in the years after, he’d wondered if his life wouldn’t be so different if she’d not been unfaithful and he had married her.
“What do you want Sekiya?”
“I had a son.” She said.
“Congratulations. What does it have to do with me?”
“The boy is yours Musa.”
He tried to laugh but no sound came out. “What?”
“You went away before I could explain.”
“How? We never even…”
“Yes we did Musa.”
“You were drunk that night, very rare occurrence and you came to my house. I was a little emotional myself, one thing led to another and we had sex. In the morning you did not remember anything so since you always liked playing the moral guy, I decided not to bring it up.”
“Until you got pregnant.”
“Yes, until I got pregnant. But even then you didn’t listen.”
“It’s been twenty seven years Sekiya. How could you have hidden this from me?”
“You said you never wanted to see me again.”
Several emotions flooded through him. Regret, love, worry. Detective Muritala knew things would never remain the same for him. He had a son, a twenty seven year old son who probably hated him. What was he supposed to do now?
“You didn’t tell me all these years, why are you telling me now?” Detective Muritala asked.
“My son, our son, is dying and he needs a bone marrow transplant.”
“Oh God.” A few minutes ago he did not know he had a son but this news felt like he was the one who was sick.
“If I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t come to you. We’ve been looking for donors but there’s a chance you’ll be a match so I decided to come.”
“Of course, anything I can do.” Detective Muritala said. “Does he know about me?”
“He doesn’t know you are his father and he’s said he doesn’t want to know who his father is. He doesn’t have a choice now.”
In a few minutes, his life had just gone from dull and boring to very frightening.
“So, what do I do now?”
“There’s a possibility you are not even a match.” Sekiya said.
“If he’s my son…”
“There’s no if, Musa, he is your son. Even then there’s only a one in two hundred chance you are a match.”
“One in two hundred?”
“It is a chance worth taking.”
Detective Muritala looked at the notes on his table. He did not care much about whose ring was stolen or who killed who anymore. He had a son in need of a savior
Martins stared into the evening sky, hoping its vastness and boringness will lure him to sleep. It didn’t. He was lying by the pool, in his very large house, the one he could afford because of all the things he had stolen. He already had the house and some other things but he wasn’t done. He’d not saved enough money for Wura’s Harvard education. What if he married again and had another child? What if that child also had to go to Harvard? What if his jewelry store did not produce enough income to give his children the life he wanted them to have?
He looked at the pool, maybe he should take a swim, sleep was not coming anyway. He stood, removed his shirt and dived into the water. The detective had shaken him up in a way he did not like. Part of his game was remaining outside everyone’s radar. The police had no idea he existed and most of the criminal world only knew him by reputation. And that reputation wasn’t even big enough to spook the big players. He’d always promised himself that once his anonymity was threatened, he would get out.
But Harvard will not pay for itself.
He turned and dived deeper into the water. He got to the bottom and stood there for a few seconds. He’d done this so many times. He’d stay till he was out of breath and then swim to the top, fighting for his life. If he was not killed stealing something, he was most likely to die in his pool with this sick game. He saw a shadow hovering above the pool and he swam up.
“One day you are going to die in there.” Tiny Tony said. “That is if you don’t get killed stealing something.”
Martins stepped out of the pool. “That’s exactly what I was just thinking.”
Martins picked a towel and wiped his face. He wondered if he should tell Tony about the Detective. There was already some heat around him because of the dead woman; this would only throw Tony into panic mode. Or maybe he needed Tony to be in panic mode. If Tony did not get him jobs, he would not steal anything and that was great. But Harvard.
“Tony, guess who visited me today.” Martins said.
“No, not him. Although I wouldn’t mind getting a hold of his ring.”
“Hey, don’t joke around with the Pope.”
“You started it Tony. Anyway, it wasn’t the Pope and it wasn’t the Queen either. A detective came to the office asking some frightening questions.”
“Frightening for who?” Tiny Tony asked.
“For me, for you, for the future of Harvard.”
“Tony, I’ve never been questioned by the police.”
“Up until a few days ago, nobody you stole from had ever been murdered, there’s a first time for everything.”
Martins looked at him. “You’re taking this remarkably well.”
“You want to know why Martins? Sit down.” Martins sat. “I have another job for you.”
“Another job? Come on Tony, not right now.”
Tiny Tony threw an envelope on Martins’ thighs. He opened the envelope and brought out two papers. The first was the terms of the job. He looked at it and looked at Tiny Tony.
“This is a lot of money.” Martins said.
“Look at the other paper and you’d understand why.”
Martins looked at the second paper and smiled. He understood. This was no ordinary jewelry. It was expensive, an antique necklace from Spain. It had no business being with people who did not understand its true value.
“This necklace is in Nigeria?” Martins asked.
“It is coming in tonight and leaving three nights after.”
“So I have two nights to prepare for this? That is ridiculous.”
“That is an opportunity. And if you say no to this, I can always find someone else who will do it.”
Martins looked at Tiny Tony and laughed. “I’ve told you never to use that line with me.”
“The target will be staying at a hotel, I don’t know if that makes it easier or more difficult. She’s expected to be alone.”
“In the hotel room? She probably won’t be but that’s okay.”
“Is that it? You’re taking the job?”
“I don’t want to but all I can hear in my head is ‘Harvard’.”
“So you’re taking the job?”
“Yes I am.” Martins said.
“Great. I will get you every other thing you need to know about the target.”
“One question before you go; why is she bringing the necklace to Nigeria if she’s staying only for two nights?”
“I don’t know. Does it matter?”
Martins could not say yes because he had no reason to but a part of him thought that tiny detail was more important than anything else Tiny Tony could tell him.
“Can you please find out?”
“Okay.” Tiny Tony said.
“Okay then. Get out of my house, I’m getting back in the pool.”
“Sure, just don’t kill yourself before you get me that necklace.” Tiny Tony said. “And yeah, one more thing.”
“What is it?”
“Don’t kill the woman.” Tiny Tony said and laughed.
“That was not funny Tony.”
It was not funny at all.
He sat at his table awaiting news. He was the man, people feared and respected him. People died at his word, people became rich because he said so. The only problem was, he was not the man. He was the face of the man but it did not matter as long as the fools he commanded thought he was the man.
The phone on the table rang and he answered it.
“Speak.” He said.
He listened for about a full minute while the minion on the other side of the line relayed his message. When he was done, he ended the call and smiled. He took the job. He was not surprised. Fools like Martins could not stay away from the game even if they had a reason to. The money will always drag them back in.
He stood up and straightened his jacket. It was time for Mr. Joseph Martins to commit another murder.