“We should go now,” Adebiyi said to Tiwa. “The first victim's family is expecting us.” She agreed and went to the passenger seat. He didn’t ask her the reason, he wasn’t bothered about that but to solve the mystery. He gave the address to his driver and he drove them there in ten minutes. A man appeared to be in his late sixties with a woman presumed to be his wife welcomed the two of them. He introduced Tiwa to the old couples. Their names were Mr. and Mrs. Okere and their late daughter’s name was Miss. Ndidi Okere.
“I still don’t understand why we have to do this all over again,” the old man said looking at Adebiyi Gold. “We have told the police everything they need to know about my daughter.”
“I know sir,” he said. “And I am sorry for reminding you about what happened to her. We are investigating the case without the involvement of the police. The agent here with me works for a private investigating agency.”
“But we don’t have money to pay.”
“It has been paid anonymously.”
Tiwa stared at him surprised and back at the woman who sat close to her husband and stayed quiet. Her eyes were weary and she felt huge pity for her. “Was she your only child?” She asked the woman.
The woman closed her eyes and made a faint sound as if she wanted to cry. When she opened her eyes, tears fell. Her husband wiped them off and whispered. “I think you should go to the room. You need enough rest.”
She glimpsed at him. “I have rested enough.” Her voice was low and sad. She sighed and glanced at Tiwa. “She was my only child. I waited for fifteen years before I could get pregnant for my husband. It’s depressing that she is not here with me but I will be grateful when you get the person that took my baby away.”
“I will do everything I can.” Tiwa said. “Was your daughter in a relationship before she died?”
“No. She was focused on her modeling career. She was only twenty-three years old.”
“What really happened the day she didn’t come home?”
“I sent her to the market in the evening to buy some foodstuffs for the house but she didn’t come back. We became worried because she had never behaved liked that before. I called two of her closest friends who said they had not seen her. I knew my Ndidi was in trouble because she would never have left me like that. We tried her number but it was switched off. We had to make a report to the police and they searched everywhere but couldn’t find her. It was seven days later the police found her naked body by the side of a road. She was unrecognizable; it was the birthmark on her left hand we had to know it was her.”
‘I shouldn’t have believed you.’ Adebiyi said to himself. ‘I was irrational to think you would not hurt women.’
“That will be all for now,” Tiwa said and stood. The three of them rose on their feet.
“Thank you for what you are doing.” Mrs. Okere said.
“If she wants to ask you anymore questions,” Adebiyi said. “I will call first before coming.”
“No problem. Thank you.” Mr. Okere said to him.
They left there and headed to the second victim’s family. The deceased name was Mariam Yusuf. They met her mother, Mrs. Aisha Yusuf at home. The house was huge and it seemed she was the only one living there. They met her drinking whiskey.
“I couldn’t look at my daughter.” She said and cursed in Hausa language. “Mariam never listened to me. She was always going to parties, neglecting her four years old daughter. I thought she was really serious when she discussed with me recently about auditioning for a modeling job.”
“She was a model?”
“Yes and an unserious model.”
Tiwa and Adebiyi stared at each other and glimpsed back at the woman.
Mrs. Aisha spoke “I gave my daughter and her siblings everything they wanted. Mariam was the only one that gave me a hard time. She never wanted to go to school I agreed. She got pregnant at the age of eighteen and wasted all my effort for her to contest for Miss Nigeria and I didn’t stop taking care of her. Her father and I paid her every month but she squandered the money all the time. She made me a laughing stock among my husband’s other wives. Their children are doing great, why should my own be different?”
Tiwa swallowed and asked. “When did you notice she had disappeared?”
“Her maid called me and informed me Mariam went to pick her daughter and had not returned. I called her number but it was unreachable. I went to my granddaughter’s school only for me to find out she never went there. I thought she ran away but I got the unfortunate news some days later.”
“How many days later?” Adebiyi quickly asked.
“I think six or seven days later. I am sure she followed a man but didn’t know he would use her for experiment and money ritual.”
‘What kind of a mother is this?’ Tiwa thought quietly. She thanked God for her own mum. She was eager to leave the premises of the woman. “Is there any time Mariam did not pick up her daughter from school?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“So why assume she ran away?”
“She must have gotten tired of taking care of her child. Anytime I called her on the phone, she was always complaining of looking after her baby. She said she no longer had time for herself. I am sure it is to party and follow married men about. We don’t even know the father of the baby!”
“She claimed not to have time but she hired a maid to assist her.”
“Thank you for creating the time to see us.” Adebiyi said to cut off the questions and he rose. He didn’t like the woman at all. She didn’t appeared to be grieving the loss of her child.
Mrs. Aisha took the last sip from her whiskey and followed them to the door. “Thank you for coming.” She said and looked directly into his eyes. “Don’t hesitate to come over if you need anything.”
“Thank you for your time.” Tiwa said and gave a side eye to him.
They were about to step outside when Adebiyi turned back to look at Mariam’s mum with his angry eyes. “I think I can imagine the kind of a mother you were to your daughter before she died.”
“Excuse me?” She asked shocked. Tiwa looked at him dazed.
“She might have made bad choices before she was killed but she was your responsibility.”
“I gave her money!”
“Money is not everything! Did you give her your time? Find out why she liked to party? Her reasons for living that kind of life? Did you even know if she wanted to change? She might have complained about taking care of the baby but she must have loved the little girl and never planned to run away. Your daughter actually went to pick up your granddaughter but was abducted before she got to the school!”
“Abducted. No one asked for a ransom.”
“Christ! You are…” He gave her an irritated look and shook his head. “I have no words to describe you. You need help.”
“Adebiyi Gold or whatever you call yourself.” Mrs. Aisha said angrily. “I want you to leave my house right now!”
“I am leaving already!” He walked out hurriedly to his car. He didn’t want to exchange words with her anymore. Tiwa followed him behind. There was a huge smile on her face. She did not say anything on their way to the third victim’s residence. She could hear him breathing very fast. “Stop the car!” He yelled.
The driver obeyed and parked the car. Adebiyi hopped outside and started kicking his back tyre. Tiwa came out and went closer. She didn’t touch him, did not want to have body contact till the investigation was over.
“You have to stop this!” She said. “Don’t feel guilty anymore.”
He hit his fist on top of the boot and turned away from her. He placed his hands on the waist. “I made a terrible mistake. I should have done something to stop him from doing this.”
“If I can’t stop you from blaming yourself, you have to concentrate on the case. I think its best I do this alone.”
He rotated to face her. “What if we can’t catch him?”
“We will if we pay attention to the case.”
“Was I harsh to Mrs. Aisha?” Mr. Gold asked.
“No.” Tiwatope answered. “You spoke the truth. You mentioned the victim was abducted.”
“Don’t you think so?”
“Yes. I think he is kidnapping these women, torture them for a week before he kills them and dispose their bodies on the last day.”
“Which is the seventh day,” he said. “But how come he is doing this randomly?”
“He must have studied these women before carrying out his plans. Did you notice they have another thing in common?”
“Maybe his ex-girlfriend was a model or a beauty queen. Let’s see the third victim’s family before we conclude.”
“Yes we should.” Adebiyi granted and both of them went into the car. The family of Bisi Kosoko, the last victim, welcomed the two of them. The father, two brothers and a sister sat down with them in the living room. Their faces expressed sorrow and the atmosphere was dull. They were all dressed in black.
“My sister didn’t deserve to die,” Busola, the eldest sibling said with tears in her eyes. “She was young, kind and ambitious.”
“Was she a model?” Tiwa asked.
“Yes but why did you ask?”
“My partner and I believe he is targeting models.” Adebiyi Gold answered. Tiwa wore an uncertain expression for him to call her his partner. She kept quiet.
“Few days before Bisi didn’t come home,” Dave said. He was the second sibling. “She told me she felt someone was watching her.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Mr. Kosoko, his father asked.
“I am sorry dad. We thought it was one of her admirers. She said ever since her agent has been offering her jobs, she received love letters and many requests from her Facebook account. She was a good girl, a Christian that didn’t deserve this. No one deserves this kind of a thing.”
“That person watching her is likely to be her killer. He was waiting for the right moment to capture her.” Tiwa spoke.
“Oh my God!” Dave exclaimed. The Kosoko’s burst into more tears.
Tiwa used her index finger to wipe off the tears about to come out from her left eye. She inhaled in and out. “Was it after a week her body was found?”
“Yes.” Busola managed to answer.
“What time did she leave the house?”
“In the afternoon. She said she was going to see a friend but she never got there. Her friend who is another model called my brother to ask if Bisi had changed her mind because her number wasn't going through anymore.”
“Did Bisi ever saw the face of who was following her?”
“Not really but he was black in complexion.” Dave said. “That was what she told me.”
“Do you have her agent’s phone number?”
“Yes.” he cleaned his face, dipped his hand into his pocket and brought his handset to call out the number for her. He also wrote down the office address of the agent on a piece of paper. She thanked him and left with Adebiyi. She decided to sit beside him at the backseat.
“I think you should go home with your driver while I take a taxi to the office.” She told him.
“No. You should eat lunch and talk about the case before we go together.”
She simply gave a nod.
The driver drove them to a Chinese restaurant. They placed their orders and the meal was brought to them few minutes later. They began to eat.
“If you take note of something,” Tiwa said. “He is going after the three major tribes in Nigeria.”
“The first victim is Igbo, second is Hausa and the third Yoruba. They are only three but do we have to wait for another murder to know if he will kill one of these tribes again?”
“We can’t pray for a fourth victim. God forbid.”
“I don’t know what I will do if it ever happens.” He stopped eating.
She gazed at him and dropped her fork on the plate. “Don’t do this.”
He folded his hands and frowned. “Don’t do what?”
She took his fork, rolled some spaghetti and pointed it to his mouth.
Adebiyi face changed into a sarcastic one. “What do you think you are doing?” He asked.
“I hate to do this but I have to feed you.” She said in a serious tone. “Eat!”
He laughed and grabbed the fork from her. “I am not a baby.”
“If you are not a baby then you eat your food. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this is not your fault. You would not have done anything to stop him from killing if you didn’t retire. How would you have caught him when he called with a private number? If you had stayed, he would be furious and kill women. You actually saved lives that period. This heart-taker is a psycho who should be stopped. He believes he is brilliant and unable to get caught but he should also know two heads are better than one. We will catch him.”
He ate some spaghetti, drank water and cleared his throat. “What does the agent have to do with this?”
“We are looking for a black man.” Tiwa said. “I want to see what he looks like and ask him questions. These women are aspiring models and we have to know if he knew them. I also thought of something, this man does not really capture his victims at night. Ndidi left the house in the evening and was kidnapped probably when it was getting dark. The other two left in the afternoon and everywhere must have been bright for people to see a man trying to kidnap a woman. If someone is trying to take me somewhere without my consent, I would shout and call for help. I don't think they did that.”
“So what are you saying?”
“He’s either he approached them as an agent, a beggar or someone who they can easily trust."
"The third victim's brother mentioned Bisi was a Christian. The killer could even disguise himself as a pastor."
"Exactly. They might have followed this particular man willingly without having any idea what he intended to do with them. He should own a car or a bus to carry out his plans. It could be a car.”
“Why a car?”
“He is a narcissist. He should be doing this alone. A car has a boot and it will be difficult for someone to know a human being is inside there.”
“Let’s finish our food.” He said and looked at his wristwatch. “Time is no longer on our side.”
After thirty minutes, they arrived at the location of the office of the agent. His secretary went inside to inform him he had visitors. He agreed for them to come inside. He’s name was Monday Okorie. The moment they saw him, he looked nothing like a black person. He was very fair, and seemed mixed-raced. He had curly hair. They introduced themselves and informed him the reason for their visitation.
“I was shocked to hear the news.” Monday said. “Bisi was respectful and a serious minded person and she wanted to be one of the best models in the world. It was her dream. I couldn’t believe it when her brother told me.”
“Did you know Mariam Yusuf and Ndidi Okere?”
“Who are they?”
“They used to be models. They were killed too.”
“Wow!" he exclaimed. "I didn’t know. I come across so many women in one day because of the nature of my job. I know some of them facially but not their names but Mariam Yusuf’s name is familiar. Let me check one of my files.” he stood up, walked to his cabinet, and obtained a file and he glanced through it. “Yes, I knew her. I met her twice. She wanted me to link her up with billboard modeling jobs. I have not heard from her since the last time we spoke. She sounded serious and spoke she wanted to be independent and take care of her child. She was in tears and said she regretted so many things she had done in her past life. I felt pity and got a job for her but when I tried her number several times, it was unavailable. I thought she didn’t need it anymore.”
Adebiyi Gold closed his eye tightly and opened them to look at Tiwa. She saw how depressed he was and offered a faint smile to try to cheer him up. It didn’t work. She was unhappy too.
Tiwa looked at the agent and asked. “What about Ndidi Okere?”
“I know two Ndidi but I have no clue about their surnames but let me ask my secretary.” He placed a call to her. He asked her to check her list for the surnames and she confirmed Ndidi Okere was among the new clients that registered with him a month ago. He explained it to them. “I can’t believe this! These young women are actually dead?”
“Yes.” She replied. “Someone is targeting your models.”
“The killer must have seen your list.”
“No one has. My secretary does not even have all the names. The list she has are the names of the models that recently registered with me.”
“Who has the right to enter your office?”
“No one. I am always here even when the cleaner is here.”
“How many workers do you have?” Adebiyi chipped in to ask.
“I have a secretary to myself but I work with others that have no desk here in my office. The only time all of them come together is at the end of the month.”
“Come together for what?”
“The people I work with get to meet and interact with the models.” Monday answered. “The models get to know each other too. We listen to music, eat good food and have fun. Ndidi and Mariam must have attended last month. I didn’t take note of them though because there were numerous girls that day.”
“Are other agents welcomed to your get together?”
“Do you want them to steal my clients? No.”
“We just entered the second week of this month. Can we have the list of all the models you work with and the people permitted to meet them?”
He laughed. “You have to be kidding me. Don’t tell me you believe that one of the people I work with is killing these girls?” They didn’t answer him but stared back. “No way! That is impossible. I work with so many girls and I will not share their names with you. I also work with reliable people and it could be a coincidence that these girls are the target.”
“You have to help us.” Tiwa said.
“Did you say help? You told me these women were killed and you want me to be involved in the case, not possible. I cannot risk my life. I have a family!”
“If you don’t want to give us the details of the people you work with at least give us the names of the models. We will discuss with them and see if we can get information that can help us with the investigation.”
“Never! I can’t do that and you can never force me to give you. I know my right and you need a warrant to get the list from me.”
Adebiyi knew there was nothing to say to convince the agent. He told Tiwa they should leave.
“But we need the list.” She said to him in a saddened tone.
“There is nothing I can do about it.”
She said to Monday. “You will regret this!”
“There is nothing to regret. My other models might not be the target anymore. Look elsewhere and find the killer.”
To be continued on Saturday.