After it is ascertained that Amauche Benson is still securely locked up in the psychiatric hospital at Yaba, naturally the police turn their attention to her twin sister, Chisom.
“Young lady, how do you now explain how that girl ended up in your kitchen then?” a policeman asks, tone brash, his eyes narrow with suspicion.
They are standing outside Chisom’s house; two policemen
peering down the front of her V-neck as she struggles to keep her high heels from sinking into the soft sand. She curses under her breath at the crowd that has gathered, craning their necks, curious to catch a glimpse of the dead body. She had been trying to avoid this circus, which was why she had called her sister’s doctor instead of the police. But the man had convinced her to inform the police. She was beginning to regret the decision the psychiatrist had convinced her to make, her dislike for Dr. Banji Bankole deepening by the minute as the two policemen peppered her with rude questions.
There is a general aaaahh as two policemen emerge from the house, hauling the flopping headless body between them. Another one follows, gingerly cradling the gory head. Phones flash as the crowd draws closer to the rear of the Toyota Hilux in which the policemen dump the body. Chisom’s anger intensifies.
“Can’t you guys just send all these people away?” Chisom hisses at the two policemen interrogating her.
One of the policemen shrugs.
“These people are not your biggest problem right now, madam.” The policeman with the suspicious eyes is trying to stare her down again. “You have to follow us to the police station to answer some questions…”
Chisom’s lips tighten. “The only thing I have to do is come write a statement. And I’m only going there with my lawyer who is on her way.” She returns the man’s stare. “Unless you’re arresting me for finding a dead body and reporting it. I don’t think that’s a crime.”
The policeman scoffs. “This is not an oyibo film where you will be shouting I have rights, I have rights…”
“I do have rights.” Chisom cuts in. “And trust me, I know them. I’m a lawyer.”
The policemen back off subtly. The word ‘lawyer’ is delivered with a tinge of intimidation the average Nigerian policeman has learned not to ignore.They are so cowed they wait even though she has to call another colleague in the profession to accompany her to the police station. Her own lawyer has failed to show up despite the numerous messages she has sent.
Two hours later, statement given, she leaves the police station and immediately flags down a taxi to her lawyer’s house. Bose is her friend as well as her colleague and Chisom is worried because she cannot get through to the young woman. She has last seen Bose the weekend before, when the lawyer left her to attend the salsa dancing class she had registered for, somewhere in the high-brow part of Lagos Island. Chisom has resisted the temptation to join the class; the registration fee is steep and she has bills to pay. It is a luxury she cannot afford.
The taxi winds through the similar-looking streets of Surulere, navigating tight corners and slowing down to avoid bumping into half naked children who dart in front of the vehicle’s path, throwing smouldering mini-explosives at each other.
Bangers, Chioma thinks to herself as the night is filled with loud bangs and excited yells. It was one of the reasons she hated the yuletide season. The indiscriminate ‘bomb’ throwing scared her.
What’s the other reason, Chisom? Is there something else you fear?
She ignores the jeering inner voice, as she always does.
When they arrive at the gates of the compound where Bose lives, she tells the taxi to wait. A feeling of foreboding has been building in her chest all evening and as she reaches the front door to Bose’s flat, it peaks into a sorrow she cannot explain.
The door is open and she pushes it in to find what she was somehow expecting.
Bose’s body is sprawled in the middle of her living room, and her head is placed in the exact centre of the glass-topped table, a bloody number nine etched between her eyes. The air smells of coppery blood and Bose’s favourite perfume. Chisom steps closer, her feet numb, hitting the floor with all the sensation of wood. Her friend’s mouth is slightly open; she can see the edge of a bible page jutting out. Words are scrawled in the pool of half-dried blood circling the severed head. Chisom squints, her heart thumping. She recognizes the handwriting.
The Ember Killer has taken a ninth victim.
“Nine ladies dancing.” Chisom whispers, a small laugh escaping her mouth. Her voice startles her; it sounds strange, high-pitched and scratchy. Careful not to touch anything, she makes an about-turn and leaves the apartment, shutting the door firmly behind her.
This time she will not be reporting to the police. She cannot trust them not to lock her up and throw away the keys. Because other than the fact that she is the only connection between the new victims, she suddenly realizes something very important about the murders – no one ever actually asked Amauche Benson if she was the killer.
As the taxi pulls away from the apartment with the body of her friend in it, Chisom sits in the back and shivers as she searches her memory.
Amauche has never once said she was the Ember Killer.Not even once.
Everyone just assumed she was.