Wed. May 29th, 2024

Sleuthing

.

Continues..

“The sooner we find out whoever tried to kill

her, the better.”

***

Our driver pulled up in the parking lot, where

barely a dozen cars had taken their parking

spots. Once Cynthia and I stepped out of

the car, he swung back in reverse and

zoomed out of sight. While Cynthia headed

for class, I lingered in the lot, distracting

myself with a glossy-black power bike I had

never seen before. I wanted her ahead of

me, breathing in fresh air that didn’t have

my breath contaminating it. She mounted

the stairs, out of my line of sight. I followed

at a snail’s pace.

Two pairs of eyes looked up at me as I

stood in the doorway of my classroom.

Confidence and Adamu — the last people I

wanted to see at the moment. Sat together,

Confidence scribbled in her note while

Adamu punched the keys on his calculator.

They seemed to be solving a math problem.

But with a s–t like her and a jerk like him,

nothing good could come out. I turned to

leave when I heard Adamu snort.

“Hey, come put us through…” I walked away,

letting Confidence’s voice trail off. I wouldn’t

want to start my day in their company. Not

unless I planned to ruin it before it even

began.

The corridor seemed good enough for some

quality me-time. Perching my feet beside

the classroom’s exterior wall, I rested my

hands on the parapet, breathing in the cool

morning breeze. Cars and students streaked

in through the gate. Once in ten minutes,

the shuffling of feet would steal away my

attention. I’d turn around, hoping to find

Amarachi or Flora, but would find some

random jerk I didn’t want to waste my voice

on in the name of ‘good morning.’ So I’d just

nod at them and look away.

My thoughts settled on Doreen and her

Bloody Miri tale. Everything about it just

seemed surreal. Impossible. I shook my

head. No way in hell would I believe this.

For twenty-one whole years, this game had

been going on. What did Miriam’s so-called

ghost see in 2017 that forced her out of

hiding, answering the call she’d ignored all

these years?

What if Doreen had fabricated that story in

an attempt to cover up for her attacker

because exposing her came with a price?

Either that, or she’d tried to kill herself. Or

maybe that had been one episode of a

madness to come, and many would come

where that came from. But Bloody Miri?

Bloody hell.

Doreen didn’t strike me as a crazy one

though. Without a second thought, I ruled

out the third possibility, leaving me with just

two. I thought back to the second. Suicide.

She didn’t strike me as one who would try

to kill herself. Like every other kid in our

school, she came from an affluent family, so

she had close to everything she could ever

need.

Why then would she try to kill herself?

Suicide attempts mostly stemmed from

depression and a very chronic loathing of

one’s self. For an adult, the triggers include

unemployment, divorce, inability to find a

mate, and a number of other factors. But for

a teenage girl, I could only think of a few.

Perhaps she’d been bullied and decided to

end it all? Although bullying ended a few

years back, thanks to Sir Amadi’s drastic

measures, it wouldn’t be wise to rule out the

possibility just yet.

I moved on to the next possible trigger.

Perhaps she did not receive much attention

from her family and thought it best to

escape to a better place?

A more troubling question took dwelling in

my mind. What if she had a boyfriend and he

had expressed an unchanging desire to

leave her, perhaps for another? In that case,

wouldn’t she take out her aggression on the

boy himself, or perhaps on the other girl?

What if it happened the other way around,

with Doreen as the other girl, and the ex-

girlfriend of the boy in question had taken

out her aggression on her?

Either way, we had a murderer amongst us,

or at least one capable of it, and until we

unmasked her, we stood the risk of being

attacked. Each and every one of us.

“Do you believe the Bloody Mary poo?”

Raheem asked from behind me. I jumped at

the sound of his voice and hit against the

hardness of his chest.

“I’m sorry.” I bit my lips, hating that I’d just

apologized to him. Even more, I hated that

I’d put myself in a position where I had to

apologize to him.

“You won’t tell me this is what I get from

sneaking up on you like that?” he asked,

leaning against the parapet with his back

and elbows.

I shuddered at our close proximity and took

one thoughtless step to the left, only to

crash into the wall whose presence I had

forgotten.

I would shuffle to the other side of the

parapet, but it would only make obvious my

need to get away from Raheem. He

chuckled. A light, musical sound I never

thought I’d hear firsthand.

Our meeting in the sickbay seemed to have

changed him somehow. The Raheem I knew

would never try to engage me in a

conversation. Somehow, he had cast his old

self in the shadows. For a reason I dared

not identify, this brought a smile to my lips.

“Many students are scared of the restroom

now,” he said. “It’s crazy how they all

believe the place is actually haunted.”

“Indeed.”

“Do you believe this Bloody Mary poo?” he

asked, lifting himself to sit on the parapet.

My breath caught in my throat as an image

of him tumbling over and falling many feet

below flitted across my mind. Curse my fear

of height. I could never sit on the parapet.

And anyone who knew me knew better than

to perform this stunt in front of me.

Ordering my mind away from Raheem’s

fear-triggering seat, I returned his question.

“Do you?”

“I thought when I added poo to Bloody Mary,

my stand was already clear.” Silence crept

in between us, punctuating his not-so-

friendly response.

I could see the old Raheem crawl into the

picture. In no time, he would take

dominance. It seemed I wasn’t the only

living with double personalities. Raheem

shared this similarity.

“Doreen herself seemed pretty convinced

that she’d been attacked by Bloody Miri,” I

said.

“Mary,” Raheem corrected, disgusted by my

apparent inability to correctly pronounce

‘Mary’. How pathetic could his arrogance

get?

‘The problem with people is they believe

they know it all when in reality they know

nothing.’ I loved these words, not only

because of the meaning they held, but

because they had come out of dad’s mouth,

woven in the richness of his deep voice.

Now, though, watching these same words

apply to Raheem made my appreciation soar

even higher.

“It’s Miri,” I said. “Short for Miriam.”

The look of confusion on his face told me I

had to explain. “Twenty-one years ago, we

lost a student.”

Raheem nodded. “The nurse’s sister.”

My lips parted to ask how he knew of

Miriam’s relationship with Stella. But the

question never made it past my lips. I only

managed to breathe out an “Oh.”

“I read wide,” he said, answering my

unasked question. “So let’s see…A certain

Miriam dies, and students come up with a

game taken after the popular Bloody Mary

and name it Bloody Miri? How cliché.”

The bell for first period rang, freeing me

from his company. I turned to leave, but his

next words gripped me, making me stop

dead in my tracks.

“We will be meeting with Doreen during

break. The sooner we find out whoever tried

to kill her, the better.”

“Huh?” I asked. He had involved me in his

plans without giving me an opportunity to

accede or do otherwise? What gave him the

impression I wanted to sleuth around with

him in the first place?

“I don’t see myself doing this with anyone

but you,” he said.

Anyone but you. Those words sank deep in

my heart. I didn’t want to, but I found

myself locking them away in a place safe

enough for retrieval sometime in the future.

“Take Cynthia,” I offered. “She’ll be thrilled

to—”

“Don’t even mention her,” he said. “It

disgusts me how she thinks she can win me

over. And sadly, many other girls think like

that. Is that how little they think of me? A

dog that can be bought with an emaciated

bone?”

Rue-cheerless and a mix of disgust stole

him over. For the next few moments, he

stayed quiet, clenching and unclenching his

sculptured jaw. Maybe I could lighten up the

mood?

“Well, there’s Mary,” I said.

“Of course,” he said. “There’s good ol’ Mary.

But was it Mary and I who stayed by

Doreen’s side while we waited for the nurse

to show up?”

Once again, silence ensued, splitting my

eardrums with its deafening shriek.

Raheem broke the silence. “Look, I don’t

know about you, but I’m keeping this in the

dark from anyone else. At least till we see

ourselves making progress. So, are we

meeting during break? The sooner this takes

off, the better.”

“I’ll…uh…think about it,” I said.

Raheem clicked his tongue. “This isn’t a

date, Toria.”

Toria? As much as I loved the sound of my

new nickname, I didn’t want to get used to

it.

“Don’t call me that,” I said.

In an attempt to elicit a similar response

from him, I designed the prefect nick for

him. “Rah.”

Raheem grimaced. “Don’t.”

Mission accomplished. “That settles it

then.”

“Of course, Miss Brown.” With his words

came a short-lived fluttery sensation in my

stomach. No one had ever called me Miss

Brown.

The smile on his face told me he knew of

my emotional turmoil, and that he’d seen it

coming. “Shall we seal the deal?”

Outstretching his right hand for a shake, two

things sped into my focus. His well-trimmed

nails. And the second, a memory of his

hands ducking into his pockets when

Cynthia had invited him for a handshake. It

wouldn’t hurt to give him a taste of his own

medicine, would it?

I looked away from his outstretched hand

and folded my hands. Fist clenched, he

withdrew his hand. “Some other time then,

Miss Brown.”

Smirking, he headed for the classroom. Four

girls waved at him. Standing outside the

class, they’d been holding a meeting about

God-knows-what. Looking straight ahead as

though they didn’t exist, Raheem swaggered

off into the class.

The girls turned to glare at me, apparently

wondering what I’d done to make Raheem

talk to me while he didn’t even know they

existed. If they pushed aside their egos and

approached me for help, I would give them

the simple tip: help him revive an

unconscious girl and he’ll love you forever.

With Raheem’s departure came a sudden

realization. His presence had triggered no

symptoms of my fragrance sensitivity. This

only meant he had used a different cologne;

one I actually found pleasing to my sense of

smell. Had he realized my reaction to the

other one? Had he come close to me only to

test my reaction to his new spray?

Morning classes seemed to last for eons,

building my anticipation for what recess

would hold. Although, like Raheem said, this

was not a date, I still couldn’t get past the

fact that I would spend my recess with him,

Raheem of all people, when I should be with

my friends. What would Amarachi and Flora

think of this?

Spotting Raheem’s figure just before he

stepped into Doreen’s classroom, I trailed

behind him. More than half of the class had

gone for lunch, but the person we needed to

see remained.

A girl sat beside her, engaging her in a

conversation. Wrapping it up, the girl rose to

her feet and sauntered out of the

classroom, stopping only for a minute to

trade hellos with Raheem and I.

Doreen stared out of the window, her eyes

holding the same distant look she wore

yesterday. She no doubt reminisced over her

encounter with whoever had tried to kill her.

“Let me do most of the talking,” Raheem

said.

I let him walk one step ahead of me.

Moments passed, and Doreen didn’t

acknowledge our presence. Her eyes misted

over and she swiped at them with her

fingers.

She gasped at the sight of us, as though

she’d seen the so-called ghost a second

time. I held my breath, praying she didn’t

pass out and make this even harder.

Regaining composure, she greeted, “Hello.”

“Hello,” Raheem said back.

“How are you doing today?” I asked.

Again, Doreen stared out through the

window. “I’m alright.” While her lips said one

thing, her eyes said another.

I played along. “That’s a blessing.”

“You didn’t just come here to ask after my

health, did you?” Doreen asked without

turning to look at us.

“We’re here to ask a few questions,”

Raheem said. “Tell us about the game.

Bloody Mary.”

“Mary?” Doreen turned to look at him, her

eyes holding a mix of horror and

disappointment. “No. It’s Miri.”

I doubted Raheem had forgotten I corrected

him barely four hours ago. Obviously he’d

made the same mistake on purpose to gain

Doreen’s attention. And so far, it worked.

His face contorted with confusion. If I didn’t

know better I’d fall for it.

“Miri?” he asked.

“You don’t know?” Doreen’s gaze darted

between Raheem and I. When none of us

spoke, she explained, “In memory of Miriam

Adewale, a student who passed away, and

then students came up with a game called

Bloody Miri.”

“How’s it played?” Raheem asked. “Like

Bloody Mary?”

Doreen nodded. “Standing in front of a

mirror, you are to chant ‘Bloody Miri’ for as

long as is needed.”

“And then?” Raheem asked.

“And then the attack,” Doreen said.

“How exactly did she attack you?” I asked.

“She just appeared behind me. She was

dressed in our uniform, which is no surprise,

because that was the cloth she died in. Her

face…it hid behind a curtain of hair. Before I

could react to her presence, she dashed to

my side and covered my head with a dusty

black bag. And then she forced my head into

the water-filled sink.”

“The sink was already filled with water?”

Raheem asked.

 

More stories @ www.chorusman.com

“Yes,” Doreen said. “One variant of Bloody

Mary holds that the sound of water dripping

from a tap was the last sound Mary heard.

And so we incorporated it into our own

game. One of the sinks was already half-

filled with water when I arrived there, so I

could tell the last person who Bloody Miried

had also used the water approach. I moved

on to the other sink, secured the drain and

turned on the tap. I’d resolved to only stop

when the sink was full. The other sinks had

water as well. But I didn’t notice until I saw

myself being dragged sink after sink.”

“Wasthat the only way she attacked you?” I

asked. “Making you swallow water?”

“She wrung my neck. And I tried to fight

back, but she kept slamming my head

against the sink. That’s all I remember

about the ghostly encounter. Next thing I

know is me waking up on the sickbay floor.”

My mind conjured an image of Doreen’s

head slamming hard against the ceramic

sink. I blinked, willing this bloodcurdling

image out of my mind.

“It’s weird how you knew the dangers

involved in this game and yet you played it

anyway,” Raheem said.

Doreen’s eyes dulled as she extended her

lower lip. “I’ve never been one for that

game.”

“So why did you do it?” Raheem stole my

unasked question.

“All day, our classmates were discussing

about Miriam’s death and the game. I went

to use the toilet, and I found a girl from

class there, Bloody Miring, but it didn’t work.

And she seemed disappointed. Shaking her

head, she said it was all crap, and then she

left.”

“So you tried it,” I wrapped up the story.

Doreen looked away. No doubt, she had

started to regret her decision to play the

game. But game or no game, someone

wanted her dead.

“So, about this classmate of yours who was

Bloody Miring,” Raheem said, “I take it she

was the last person to see you before the

incident?”

Doreen’s stern look sent a warning bell

going off in my head. If we didn’t slow

down, we’d end up scaring her and she

wouldn’t want us around her anymore. But

Raheem didn’t seem to understand this. So

much for letting him do the talking.

“Yes?” Raheem pressed on.

Doreen cleared her throat. “Yes.”

“What is her name?”

She narrowed her eyes at us. “Why are you

asking me these questions? Do you think

someone tried to kill me?”

“Yes,” Raheem said. “Someone tried to kill

you.” I shot him a warning look. I hadn’t

expected him to be dead-honest. This could

ruin everything.

“Not a human,” Doreen said, her voice rising

to a near-scream. “A faceless ghost. A

freaking ghost.”

Shivering, she hugged herself and swept

frantic eyes around the classroom. “She

could be anywhere. Miriam’s ghost came to

hurt me because I disturbed it. And here you

are trying to point fingers at some girl just

because she happened to be at the

restroom during that period.”

“Please calm down,” Raheem said. “We’re

not pointing fingers at anyone or anything.”

“Then do you believe my story?” Doreen

asked. She searched my eyes and Raheem’s

for an answer, but she found no indication of

us believing her story. “You think it’s all a

lie, don’t you? You actually believe I’d make

up something like this? What do I stand to

gain, painting myself as the crazy one? That

ghost is freaking real! You can go find out

for yourselves if you don’t believe me.

Seriously.”

Just for the benefit of doubt, I could

actually pay the crime scene a visit. Who

knows what I could find.

“It’s not that we don’t believe you,” Raheem

said. His face, just like mine, showed no

conviction. I prayed Doreen didn’t think

much of this. “Why, of course we do.”

“Then why are you so interested in finding

out the last person who saw me before the

incident?” Doreen asked.

“We have some questions for her,” Raheem

said. I cursed under my breath. The more

honest answers he gave, the more

untrusting Doreen would be. Didn’t he know

this?

One moment, Doreen’s eyes widened, and

the next, she narrowed them to slits. “Why?

You think she tried to kill me?”

“Far from it,” Raheem said. “Since she was,

as you said, Bloody Miring, we want to have

a word with her to know if she had any

encounter whatsoever with the said ghost.”

“That won’t be necessary. I already told you

hers was unsuccessful.” She relaxed her

tensed muscles.

Leaning in to her, Raheem stared into her

third eye. “There could be other things, Miss

Chukwu, tiny details she didn’t tell you. But

she’ll be willing to share with us. And

perhaps we can stop this game and all its

silliness. Everyone is scared. The whole

school is shaken. We just want to end this

game before anyone else gets hurt.”

Doreen thought about it for a moment.

“Annabel Lambert.”

Raheem smiled. He leaned away from her.

“Thank you. You’ve been much help.”

We turned to leave, but then he whirled

around to ask a seemingly urgent question.

“You wouldn’t happen to own a perfume

called Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford, would

you?”

I cocked an eye at him. What did a perfume

have to do with our crime solving?

“No, I don’t,” she said. “I use Wild Urchid by

Tom Ford and White Diamonds by Elizabeth

Taylor. Why did you ask?”

Disappointment flitted across Raheem’s

face but he tried to conceal it. “Nothing

really. I just thought maybe you could refer

me a place to purchase it.”

“No, sorry. You could place an order on

Jumia or Konga. I’m sure they’ll have it.”

Raheem raked his fingers through his hair.

He didn’t seem satisfied. “So, you don’t

know anyone who uses this perfume? It

opens with rather strong tobacco notes that

fade to more vanilla, a hint of spice, and

less tobacco. The tobacco note doesn’t

quite fade. It’s still around, lingering

somewhere in the middle.”

“Isn’t that a male perfume?” I wondered

aloud.

“I know someone,” a girl said from behind

us. We turned around to find the girl who’d

been in a conversation with Doreen. Walking

past us, she placed shortbread and coke on

Doreen’s desk.

“Thanks,” Doreen said. “But really, you didn’t

have to get me anything. I’m not even

hungry.”

“Oh, shush.” The girl waved off Doreen’s

comment with a backward flip of her hand.

Catching Raheem staring at her, she

beamed at him.

“Hi,” Raheem said, reaching out for a

handshake. “I’m Raheem.”

“Nengi.” Her eyes flashed with sheer

excitement as their hands met. Typical.

Girls—except me—would always be girls.

“We already said our hellos.”

“Oh, yeah,” Raheem said. “So where were

we? You really know someone who can

direct me to a shop where I can find this

particular perfume?”

“Yeah. Tobacco notes, right?” When Raheem

nodded, she went on, “There’s one girl in our

class who’s crazy over it. I guess she’s the

only one using it, so you can always ask

her. It’s weird though. Considering that it’s

all masculine and stuff with the tobacco

notes and all, and the market is littered with

varieties of softer, fruitier perfumes that

appeal to us females.”

“What is her name?” Raheem asked.

“Annabel Lambert.”

Raheem and I glanced at each other.

Annabel’s being the last person to see

Doreen before the incident made her our

number one lead. But what did a perfume

have to do with anything?

“Dory dear,” Nengi said. “You’re forgetting

Sir Amadi asked you to come over once the

bell rung for break.”

“Ugh!” Doreen groaned.

“Just go see what he wants.”

“I know he only wants to question me about

yesterday’s event. How many times am I

going to tell them I was attacked by a

ghost! The school is haunted. But the adults

don’t seem to believe me. They think I’ve

lost my mind. But you believe me, don’t you,

Nengi? I mean, even if the whole world

doesn’t, you’ll always believe me, won’t

you?”

Nengi placed a hand on Doreen’s shoulder,

but she didn’t express her support in words.

Once again, Raheem and I exchanged

knowing stares. Nengi had a hard time

believing her friend’s story.

Perhaps we could have a word with her.

Since she probably didn’t believe the ghost

story, interrogating her would be more

rewarding that the session we’d conducted

with Doreen. We could ask her some

questions we could never be able to ask

Doreen based on her stand on the matter.

“Maxwell also has faith in your story,” Nengi

said with a smile.

Doreen grimaced at the mention of

Maxwell’s name. “Will you come with me?”

“I have to stay back and complete your

Biology note,” Nengi said. “Break is almost

over, and you know Madam Pamela will

mark notes today.”

“Oh, right.” Securing her biscuit and coke in

her locker, she said, “I won’t take long.”

“Okay.”

Doreen turned to leave, but then she

grimaced at Nengi. “Where’s one of your

earrings?”

Nengi’s hand flew to her left ear. She felt

around for her earring and found it. Slowly,

she moved her hand to her other ear.

Finding nothing, she gasped.

“Just take off the other one and find

yourself new earrings,” Doreen suggested.

Without waiting for Nengi’s response, she

walked out of the class.

Raheem engaged Nengi in a conversation.

“It must be really hard for her.”

“Pardon?” Her face looked like someone had

just died.

Why would someone grieve over a missing

earring? Probably, it must have cost a lot.

But whatever. She needed to get over her

loss, find herself some new earrings and

move on. How hard could that be?

“I mean, after yesterday’s incident, the

whole school must feel really creepy,”

Raheem explained. “But she’s managed to

pull herself together and be around all the

same.”

Nengi sighed. “Yeah. I’m creeped out too. It

was all so unexpected. Once the bell rang

for break, she went to have lunch, and a few

minutes later, news reached me. We’re

bestfriends, we’re always together. And just

this once we weren’t, look what happened. I

should have gone with her, but I had to

remain in class to do my technical drawing

assignment. Perhaps if I were there with

her, none of this would have happened. I

feel so guilty right now.”

“I understand how you feel, but don’t blame

yourself so much. There’s nothing you can

do about it now. It’s happened, and no

amount of pity-party can change that. You

do well to keep that in mind. Besides, I

doubt you’d have been able to fight the

ghost if you’d been there.”

“Faceless ghost?” Nengi scoffed. She looked

around, and although everyone else had

vacated the class, she dropped her voice to

a whisper, “Just between us, I don’t believe

in the so-called ghost. I mean, Miriam’s

been dead for what, twenty-one years, and

this game has been played ever since, but

not even once has she hurt anyone or even

been seen. So why should now be any

different?”

“Valid question,” Raheem said, perching on

the desk. “So you think someone attacked

her? Someone from our school?”

“That’s the only logical explanation, isn’t it?”

Nengi held a stiff smile.

“I believe so,” Raheem said.

“But who would want to do this? Dory is a

very innocent soul. She never offends

anyone. She stays away from fights and

every trace of trouble. I don’t see her having

an enemy. Why would anyone want to kill

her?”

“That’s why we need your help,” I said.

“You’re her best friend. You should know

one or two things that could point us in the

right direction.”

Nengi nodded, seeming to understand my

point.

“Has anyone made any threats to harm her?”

Raheem asked.

“None that I know of,” Nengi said.

Searching her eyes, Raheem willed her to

think deeply about his question. “Are you

sure?”

Perhaps I could make this easier. “You

mentioned Maxwell. Were you referring to

the guy in my class?”

Nengi looked from Raheem to me. “That’s

the one.”

“Is he in a relationship with her?” I asked.

It took a moment for an answer to come.

“No. Dory’s single, at least for the most

part.”

“Care to clarify your last words?” Raheem

asked. “Single for the most part? What does

that imply?”

“Maxwell’s been showing some kind of

interest in her. I don’t know what it is, but

they’re getting pretty close. The texts, small

talks and all. If he didn’t have a girlfriend I’d

say he’s got a thing for my friend.”

“This girlfriend of his, who is she?” Although

I’d seen Max with a certain junior on more

than one occasion, I had to ask. I didn’t

want to reach my own conclusion.

“Annabel Lambert,” she said. Once the

words left her lips, she gasped. She clapped

her hands over her lips and gulped as

though to swallow back her words. “Oh my

God! Do you mean Annabel has a hand in

whatever happened to Dory?”

“Please calm down,” Raheem said. “We

haven’t reached any conclusions yet. We are

just trying to connect the dots and see

where it leads us.”

“Will you find the culprit?” she asked.

“Of course.” The look in Raheem’s eyes told

me we were done questioning Nengi. But

then, another question popped up in his

head. “Uhm, Nengi?”

“Yeah?”

“Did you ever visit the restroom yesterday?”

“No,” she said. “I told you I stayed back in

class to do my technical drawing

assignment. And even if I had plans to visit

it later, what happened to Dory ruined it all.”

.

To be continued

 

 

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