You would think it was easy and sweet busting up bad guys like Sherlock Holmes, won't you.
Well, I thought so too.
But I'll have you know that Holmes was in the know of when and how to bust the bad guys. And so, it appears all slick and easy — which, mind you, really isn't.
I take that back.
It's honey sweet when you bust them up, before they, you. But then, the build up is usually a long, slow and tiring process. Did I mention boring? It really is boring. First you have to listen to the account of your client which most often than not makes you bored and sleepy. Yea, you'd hear livelier accounts in audio versions of epitaphs.
My name's Femi Gold by the way, and I haven't the least idea why I'm letting you know this. The last time I introduced myself, I got two punches in the bress.
Goddam your thoughts, I'm not a girl!
The mannequin I hid behind. Damn if she wasn't busty! Getting beat up is all in a day's job and I do my best to take holidays as quickly as I can although hunger makes swift my return.
You see, I'm a personal eye and solitary ranger. In other words, a private detective. Although in my part of the world; Choba, Rivers; there's not much call for private detectives, but as is said, "necessity is the mother of inventions." Or, correctly put, "Hunger is enough an inspiration."
Being a private detective in no way correlates with my course of study, but unique as Uniport, I felt trying new grounds wouldn't hurt.
So I thought until work began.
I got my first breakthrough since opening business on a Friday. It was a sunny day and I was treating myself to a cup of 'drowned,' salted cassava flakes. Emphasis on the drowned, there wasn't much of it and my spoon maneuvered in the salty water, coming up with barely a mouthful.
A sharp knock on my door tore my attention away from the worn out copy of Animal Farm that accompanied my pathetic meal.
"Who's there?" I barked.
Silence greeted my question, followed by another knock. I sauntered to the door, unlocked it and strode back to my meal. The door pushed open and the smell of female perfume swept into the room. I spun around to see Idara shut the door behind her.
"No way!" I drooled, jaw slackened. Idara was by far the prettiest slay queen in GES classes, and literally the most snobbish too.
Spellbound, I stared at her. Damn if she didn't have plush lips and a beautiful neckline! Need I mention the firm behind that wiggled with her every step!... Hoe lawd!
"If you're just going to stare at me, I might as well get going." She said, snithing off my perverted chain of thoughts.
"Oh... Uh... Sorry." I chuckled nervously, "Please make yourself at home." She glanced from the messy bed to the threadbare carpeting and back to me.
I got the message alright. I gave up my chair for her to sit and put away my meal.
"What brings you to my house, Idara?" I began, lowering myself to the ground.
"You could at least say hi before quizzing me." She shot back.
I studied her face, holding her gaze.
"I suppose you're here to teach me manners then, pretty face." If Nigerians could blush, I'd wager my arm she did.
"Don't flirt with me, Gold."
"I'm surprised you know my name...and address. What's the big secret?" I asked.
"Of course I do. Don't tell me you also think I'm snobbish." She pouted. I admit she looked cute, but then, it could be a ploy. Idara Umoh rarely ever noticed anyone.
"Well, what can I help you with, Idara?"
She cleared her throat. "There's been a leak."
My ears shot up like a hound's. Exam leaks. Pad leaks. Bet9ja leaks. Us students lived for leaks.
"GES again?" I asked, excitement choking my words. She nodded. "How?"
"Well," she stared down at her perfectly manicured nails, "my uncle is an exam official and he kind of sent me the exam questions last week..."
"And now it's missing." I finished rather than asked.
"Well, I didn't take it, Idara. Matter-of-factly, I'm just hearing of it."
"I know you didn't. I just came to enlist your help. My uncle would go bananas if he finds out."
"My help?" I scoffed.
'Top GES slay queen enlists the help of class nerd' sounded funny a caption to my ears, more so the school's media.
"Well, I was going through your wall on Facebook and you stated yourself as a detective of some sort." Idara said.
The gears in my head turned. It was a tad rusty from too much garri but it did just fine.
"So, what's the deal?" I asked, getting into character.
"Find it, Gold."
"Femi." I corrected.
"Whatever." She shrugged, "Just find it before the paper on Tuesday."
"I'll need every detail I can get. Places, times, paper colour and length." I said and she explained.
Minutes later, Idara was on her way, leaving me a 10k promise on finding the papers and a big cooler of steaming hot jollof. The first thing I busted there and then was the cooler. A detective needed all his energy.
Monday, I got dressed and made for school. Tuesday wasn't a lot of time now and for all I knew anyone could have their hands on the papers. It wasn't going to be easy finding out a crook in an institution as big as Uniport, but it was all I could do to try, what with the money I stood to gain. I'd worked up a failsafe plan over the weekend and was eager to hit the ground running. Whoever had the papers may yet try to duplicate and sell it; or keep it to himself. I would try to label the papers as fake. That would draw a lot of attention. The thief's especially.
I arrived at the PS Halls and seated myself by a window. Students in groups talked and shared laughs, awaiting the lecturer. I whipped out my phone and logged into Google play. Being an admin in the class's WhatsApp group afforded me the numbers of many so I knew just what to do. I duplicated my WhatsApp app, creating an anonymous account. Using my initial account, I added the new account to the class's group and got down on business.
"The leak in the GES questions has been discovered and the exam, rescheduled and changed."
I hit the send button and raised my head to observe. Few students who had their data connection turned on got a buzz and checked their messages. A series of 'ohs' greeted the discovery.
My phone buzzed with replies from students quizzing the anonymous sender. Halfway through the rants of students, a user popped up, debunking the credibility of the message in very bad English.
"GES leak but exam didn't change.”
I smiled coyly. Obviously, no one knew of the leak except Idara and paper thief. Tapping on the suspect's number, I clicked the profile. The smile melted off my face as quickly as my phone began to ring. The profile had the default 'Hey there, I'm using WhatsApp!' status and no picture. A dead end.
It fitn't be!
The call was no encouragement either. Idara had panicked when she heard the news. She also told me of a wilted hibiscus bulb in her bag and an anonymous message asking her to deposit a sum of N100,000 in cryptocurrency value to a certain LodGaye if she wanted the papers back.
I had to give the crook some credit. Bank accounts were a lousy way to keep off the scent.
I picked up my bag and headed for home to do some critical thinking. I'd miss the lecture, but then, the lecturer almost always bored us to death with his biography so it wouldn't be a big miss. The only clues I had floated about in my head, having no connection whatsoever. All I knew was, whoever had the papers had tried to sell them; had very poor English; ran a cryptocurrency account and an anonymous WhatsApp account.
On getting home, I cogitated, trying to extract the faintest leads from the clues. It'd have been easy if everyone spoke correct English but then, some still didn't know 'I'm' from 'am.'
My next clue was owners of cryptocurrencies. As far as I knew, Bari was the richest in cryptocurrency amongst all GES students and was seldom ever in school. I mentally crossed him off my suspect list. Bari might be an airhead with a fat account but he wouldn't stoop so low and perhaps, his father had the dough. After thorough scrutiny, I crossed off all the others. They weren't entirely saints, but none fitted the tag of criminally minded. Not even the bully, Peter, that'd given one of my eyes a purple makeover once.
My last clue was to try looking up the WhatsApp number in the class's database. After hours of rigorous skimming and scanning, I came to another dead end. The number hadn't been entered in the directory. A thought came to mind. The crook had either changed number or was himself new in the group. The group had five admins, and about any of them could've added sweet paper thief.
I rang up Dele, the head admin, and he denied adding anyone lately. So did Gina and Lois. I braced myself for the worst as I put through the final call to Boma. Boma agreed to having added someone recently and not having time to update the directory. He gave me a name and before the call ended I had a big grin on.
The name had pieced it all; the poor English, the unknown number, the cryptocurrency, the hibiscus bulb, the message. They all fitted my prime suspect to the letter and I just couldn't wait to nab him. Fulfilment rang in my ears like the bell announcing closing time in school.
I had a hurried bath, threw on some clothes, and like a criminal case detective, strapped on an imaginary handcuff. I headed back to school to await the crook.
Usually, Gabriel came by bus, and standing by the tree adjacent to Mandela Hostel, I hoped I hadn't missed him. A while later, he alighted from a bus that'd just pulled up and started in the direction of the PS Halls.
"LodGaye m'nigga!" I accosted him, and we shook hands.
"How e dey be?" He asked.
I sized up Gabriel before making my move. I had to know the odds of getting beaten.
Low, by heaven. Very low.
"Gaybunnaya one, I dey o! Your phone don land, I see." He chuckled and I continued, "You don tell Boma to add you for group?"
I smiled. Gabriel had answered to LodGaye and had had Boma add him up. Time to cuff the culprit.
"Idara wants her papers back." I blurted out, the smile disappearing from my face.
"Which paper?" He halted abruptly.
"We could do this the easy way, Gabe. You give me the papers and this case dies."
"You're mad sha. Which case?"
"About last week, Gabe, while we hung out at the café, Idara walked passed and you told me of your plans to woo her when you got a phone. Then I'd dared you to give her the bulb of hibiscus you'd plucked from the hedges. Prior to that, you'd complained about Peter and his gang teasing you for not having any cryptocurrency. You wanted one desperately so you could rub it in their faces.
"Then I'd gone home and you'd gone to carry out the dare. You hadn't the balls to walk up to Idara so you put it in her bag during lectures. That's how you found the GES questions and stole it. You had a carryover in GES last year, and Idara, being in 100L had the answers. Now what? You forward her a message asking for a ransom. That way you'd get some cryptocurrencies and pass your carryover course. Would you need more convincing?" I asked a visibly shaken Gabriel.
"You're just lying on me."
"Right! You do know Idara's uncle is a high ranking staff, don't you? If he finds out it would mean bad for you. You could be expelled, hombre." I made sure to keep him fretful.
Gabriel retrieved a booklet from his bag and shoved it into my hand.
"Attaboy!" I grinned.
"Please tell her am sorry, Femi....I just...Just tell her am sorry."
"Will do." I said, taking my leave.
Never had you seen a happier slay queen than Idara when she came for her papers. She asked for my account number but I turned her down.
She pecked my cheek before slipping through the door. I held the spot where her lips had brushed my cheek.
Speak of magical!
I opened the cooler of food she'd again brought me and froze. In the depths sat my worst nightmare — Jollof spaghetti. It may have been an otherwise wise choice trading 10k for a kiss then, but I didn't feel so wise now. No. I felt stupid. Very stupid.