- The Storried Platform
WORKING CASES – By Uchechi Princewill
It isn’t often that a homicide detective comes across a cut-and-dried case. I should know; I’ve been one for eighteen years. And in those eighteen years, I’ve seen what, four? …Five or so? Because a case that’s straightforward is almost always planned. Because in the world of murder, anything that makes too much sense and falls all too well in place, was most likely made to do so.
So when I found myself staring at the headless body of Duncan Ajayi, his body riddled with two dozen knife wounds, at twelve in the afternoon with no clue whatsoever as to why or by whom he was dead, I believed this case was anything but cut-and-dried. Don’t put it past the universe to surprise me.
People saw it. There were over a dozen witnesses and everyone claimed to have seen something. The crime happened at around seven in the morning. The old woman came out to the well at six. She saw the men go into Duncan’s house. There were three of them. Thirty minutes later, the first three gunshots were fired, our trail of useful information ended, and people who didn’t even live on the street began to give firsthand accounts of the conversation between Duncan and the men that killed him.
They told us how Duncan insulted the boss and the angry man decapitated him with a spoon, how Duncan was an armed robber who ratted his mates out to the police and they came for him, how Duncan served the occult men fresh fish—apparently, fresh fish can spoil the powerful enchantments that grant invulnerability—and they had to take his head to their meeting in order to renew their power. We heard everything from the state governor ordering Duncan’s death for crying out against his injustice toward unpaid workers, to Duncan killing himself and making it look like a murder so people would not throw his body in the river. We heard everything. We found nothing. So much for the universe’s surprise.
I went back to scratch. Being visited by three men suggested the murder was premeditated and carried out by more than one person. A gang, maybe? Decapitation meant Duncan was dealing with some bad hombres. It pointed to him being dealt with for wronging someone who was quite powerful. But the stab wounds? You don’t stab someone twenty-four times if their death didn’t mean anything personal to you. This was a crime of passion, and the person who wanted Duncan dead was the one who killed him. The problem was, Duncan’s killing being a crime of passion was in direct conflict with the theory of him being taken out by a ruthless gang.
Was it personal and made to look like it wasn’t? Or was it a gang with a member with a knack for inflicting multiple stab wounds? Or was it both? A gang working with someone Duncan personally wronged? And there were still those three gunshots unaccounted for. I looked back to the room full of witnesses and sighed. If I wanted the truth, I’d have to get something from them. All I’d been doing was speculation. None of it was fact. I might as well have been one of those witnesses, concocting stories to make myself more relevant to the case.
The thing about working homicides is that after a while, you begin to realize that when there’s been a commotion, the moment gunshots are heard, the moment the crowd becomes aware of trouble and you have a room full of ‘witnesses’, then nobody can explain what happened next. Not even you.
By Uchechi Princewill
It isn’t often that a homicide detective comes across a cut-and-dried case. I should know; I’ve been one for eighteen years. And in those eighteen years, I’ve seen what, four? …Five or so? Because a case that’s straightforward is almost always planned. Because in the world of murder, anything that makes too much sense and falls all too well