Sat. Jul 13th, 2024




“All we have now is a suspect and a motive,

and this just won’t do.”


Raheem apparently saw his question about

Tobacco Vanille as instrumental in solving

this case. But I couldn’t see the connection.

I’d tried so hard to figure out the answer on

my own, but with every attempt I made,

success slithered from my grasp.

“What’s it with Tobacco Vanille?” I asked.

Raheem smirked. “That wasn’t so bad, was


“Huh?” I asked, totally lost. “What?”

“I could tell from the start that you had a

hard time connecting the dots between TV

and the murder attempt.”

“TV?” Whoever said anything about a


I waited for Raheem’s response but it never

came. He just stared at me as though

expecting me to figure it out on my own.

And then it hit me. TV stood for the perfume

in question.

“Oh,” I said.

Raheem faked a yawn. “Do you still need a

dictionary, Miss Brown?”

I scowled at him. “Will you answer my

question or not?”

“What was it again?” he asked. A cold

silence from me told him I didn’t buy his

silliness. “Well, we can say I’m a perfume

person. I’ve used varieties of them in my

search for the perfect one. Even with the

faintest of whiffs, I could recognize a

perfume as long as it’s within the range of

the ones I’ve tried. And now, look how this

skill comes in pretty handy.”

I didn’t see how this connected to the case.

But I listened on as he explained. “When I

went in to save Doreen…”

I would ask how he ended up in the ladies’

restroom, but he’d already told us yesterday.

He mentioned finding the door open, and

seeing a pair of legs lying supine. Alerted,

he had burst into the room, only to find the

unconscious girl.

He continued, “I caught a very strong whiff

of a perfume I knew to be TV. I could even

recognize it in a dream.”

“Nengi said Annabel uses the perfume,” I

said. “And she was in the restroom before

Doreen, so it’s only natural that the smell of

her perfume lingered.”

“Of course, Miss Brown. That explains the

first scenario. But what gives out the


Standing outside the cafeteria and

engrossed in a conversation that only us

could hear, we had become everyone’s eye

candy. Rumors would rise. Faces of girls

would redden with envy. But Raheem didn’t

seem to mind. And at this point I didn’t


I snapped back into focus. “What other


“Doreen was bathed in the very same

perfume, which would be highly


I connected the dots. “Unless she was

attacked by the very same person who used

the perfume and had probably reapplied it

during recess.”

This made sense. And it scared me. Every

angle pointed at Annabel. We would be

going to interrogate the culprit. What if she

already saw us as a threat? What if she

already had plans to get rid of anyone who

saw past the Bloody Miri story?

“So…Annabel is our girl?” I asked.

Raheem shrugged. “What can I say? Let’s

see how our meeting with her turns out.”

“Isn’t it crystal clear already? Can’t we just

call the cops at this point? I mean…we have

a suspect now, and there’s a motive. We

should just hand over and let the cops do

their thing.”

“And where’s your evidence to back this up,

Miss Brown?” he asked.

I grimaced at the many butterflies doing flip

flops in my stomach. Something about the

way he pronounced Miss Brown made me

feel special, as though I had a place in this

world. And I couldn’t get past it.

With a mental kick, I cleared my head of this

distraction. I had ample time to deal with

the unfamiliar craziness inside of me. But

now, I had to concentrate, not on the face

before me, but on the case.

“We have a suspect and a motive,” I

repeated, just to make this point clear.

“Surely, the cops will look into this when we

table it before them.”

He clicked his tongue. “It just won’t do.

There’s got to be evidence before we hand

this over. If you’re backing out now, I


Just this morning he had come ask me to

be his sidekick. And now, barely even four

hours later, he tried to lay me off? “Who

said anything about backing out?”

Raheem opened his mouth to speak, but

Mary’s voice cut him off. “There you are!

I’ve been looking all around for you. Looks

like you’re finally having a good time.”

Her eyes met mine. “Oh. You’re with her?”

“Yes,” Raheem said.

“In fifteen minutes or less, break will be

over,” Mary said. “We should go grab some


“Actually, we have other plans.” In a

desperate attempt to escape Mary, he

linked fingers with me.

Everything fell apart. Something just didn’t

feel right inside of me. If only he knew the

chaos his little gesture had thrown my heart

into. Amidst the chaos, an electrical force

surged through me—not the kind inflicting

pain, but one bringing with it a whole new

feeling—leaving me part vulnerable, part


I didn’t want this. I didn’t want Raheem to

be a part of my life, and I didn’t want to get

used to these colorful bursts of emotions he

brought with him. I made a mental note that

once we brought Doreen’s attacker to

justice, I would break off all contacts with

him. He no doubt had similar plans, so this

should be a piece of cake.

“I guess I’ll see you around then,” Mary said.

Winking at Raheem, she walked away.

“Your girlfriend must have the wrong

impression,” I said, pulling my hand away

from Raheem’s.

He didn’t look impressed. This didn’t come

as a surprise. I never impressed people. I

depressed them. Pity, he hadn’t been

warned beforehand.

“She’s my cousin,” he said.

His cousin? Awed into silence, I gaped at

him. Barely giving me a flicker of a moment

to assimilate this new information, he

disappeared into the cafeteria. I dragged

myself behind him.

Standing beside him by the door, my eyes

hovered around the room in search of

Annabel. But instead, they found the table

where Amarachi and Flora were sat.

Needing a moment with them, I made my

way to their table.

I smiled. “Hey.”

They’d already finished eating, but for some

reason they chose to remain here.

Amarachi didn’t smile back. “You sneak off

immediately the bell for recess goes off.

And then a few minutes before it’s all over,

you show up and think it’s funny. Where

have you been? We even checked the


“Sorry,” I said, sitting opposite her. “I had

things to take care of.”

“I see.” Amarachi looked over my shoulder.

Although I didn’t follow her gaze, I knew she

stared at Raheem. “I saw you two walk in

together. What’s this about? You ditched us

for him?”

“I wish I could stay and talk,” I said. “But

I’m on an assignment.”

“An assignment?” she echoed, regarding me

with a fishy look in her eyes. “What subject

is that?”

Flora entertained herself with stealing

glances at Raheem. “Is he waiting for you?”

“What is going on?” Amarachi asked, her

voice tense. “Why is he waiting for you?”

I would have to tell them the whole truth.

Only then would they let me go after

Annabel Lambert. Sat two tables away, she

enjoyed the company of Maxwell and three

others I didn’t care to identify. She rocked

her head back and forth, laughing along with

the others, obviously enjoying a joke.

Turning to face the wide, eager eyes of my

friends, I said, “Raheem and I believe

someone tried to kill Doreen. We’ve been

sleuthing around.”

Amarachi gasped. “Oh heavens.”

“Is there any success?” Flora asked.

My gaze wandered to Annabel. “We’re close.

We want to have a word with Annabel.”

Amarachi followed my gaze. “You think she

did it?”

“Raheem says not to point fingers yet,” I

said, more to myself.

“Please be careful,” Flora said.

I nodded.

Amarachi placed her hands on mine. “Be


“I will.”

“But seriously, I don’t get why you’re doing

this,” Amarachi said, withdrawing her hands.

“Are you even thinking of yourself? You’re

not well. If he wants to be Sherlock Holmes,

then let him. But do you have to be his

sidekick? You are not well. You don’t have

to help him with this.”

“No, you don’t get it,” I said. “You make it

sound like he’s forcing me to do this.”

“Well, isn’t that what it is?” she asked.

“No! I’m doing this because I want to. Look,

if we don’t catch the sicko who attacked

Doreen, she might attack someone else. And

even if she doesn’t intend to harm anyone

else, it isn’t right to leave a criminal

unpunished. Justice must be served.”

“Since when did you become a police

officer?” Amarachi asked. “Vicky, you’re

taking a risk. Do you know this? Do you

know what happens if the culprit finds out

you’re close to catching her? Do you know

the sick things she’ll do to keep her sins in

the dark? You have no idea, do you?”

I did have an idea. But I didn’t want to think

of it. Thinking of how things might go wrong

would only end up poisoning my mind.

“Nothing will go wrong,” I said, suppressing

a surge of fear.

“Why won’t you just hand it over to the

police?” Flora asked. “They’ll know what to


“Once we have evidence, we’ll hand it over

to the police,” I said. “All we have now is a

suspect and a motive, and this just won’t


“So, you’re spending time with Raheem in

the name of solving a case?” Amarachi

asked. “What will his girlfriend think?”

“Mary is his cousin,” I said.

Amarachi waved off my words. “Whatever.

Just be careful. I’m just creeped out. Really

creeped out about you nosing around a

potential murderer.”

“I know.”

“Seriously, I don’t even know why I’m

allowing this. I don’t trust you being with

that arrogant son of the devil to start with.”

Yesterday I’d been thrilled to hear her call

him that. But now, those words made me

cringe. How would Raheem feel about being

given a title as hellish as this?

“He’s changed,” I said.

“You have a murderer to catch,” Amarachi


There. My cue to leave. I walked over to the

table of interest and five pairs of eyes

looked up at me. I could feel additional

three pairs burn into me from behind. While

Flora and Amarachi watched me with care in

their eyes, Raheem’s eyes burned with


I stared at Maxwell for a second too long;

the chubby boy who’d driven Annabel to

madness. He didn’t even have an

exceptional look. What about him drove

Annabel so crazy that she’d tried to kill

someone just to have him for herself? Did

he even know his crazy, jealous girlfriend

had tried to kill someone? Although Raheem

said not to point fingers, I couldn’t help but

tag Annabel as a murderer.

Locking eyes with her turned my stomach to

ice, but I dismissed this feeling. “Come with


I turned away from her and stared at the

door, but Raheem had shifted position. Sat

at a table and indulging in the lunch set

before him, he waved me over.

Flora and Amarachi watched me walk over

to him. I tried not to look at them. My

stomach grumbled at the sight of lunch

served on the table. A can of coke towered

over my lunch tray which contained a

miniature meat pie laying seductively in one

compartment, chicken and chips littering

two other compartments, and omelet in


“This kitchen makes good meat pie.”

Raheem chewed on his food in a way that

made me grab mine.

The contents of his lunch tray could pass

for an exact replica of mine, save for some

cookies, a very leafy meal, and a cup of milk

by the side.

Halfway into my food, I groped for my

manners. I must have dropped them

somewhere. “Thank you.”

Raheem nodded, training his eyes on

Annabel as she advanced to us. The

swishing of her skirt. The lightness of her

footsteps. The graceful swing of her hands.

On the outside she seemed ordinary, but the

inside of her told an entirely different story.

How could a vile creature act so ordinary,

fooling everyone into seeing a cute little girl

where a monster should be?

My muscles tensed. I knew I would mess

things up if I tried to talk, so I trusted

Raheem to do the talking.

“Please sit,” he said.

The beautiful monster complied without a

word. Interlacing her fingers, she let her

gaze roam the distance between Raheem

and I. Moments passed and she still didn’t

say a word.

Why hadn’t Raheem spoken yet? He had his

eyes fixed on her as though he were gazing

at a vulnerable lab rat, not a vicious viper

that could strike at any moment.

Finally,Annabel spoke. “You’re the new


“I am,” Raheem said. “My name is Raheem.”

“I’m Annabel.” She turned to look at me. I

caught a rather faint whiff of the perfume

Raheem had mentioned. More vanilla, less


“Victoria,” I introduced.

Annabel smiled. Not a heartless killer kind of

smile, but a friendly girl’s. “I know who you


Flashing her a stern smile, I emptied my can

and leaned back in my chair, waiting for the

interrogation to begin.

“I understand you were the last person to

see Doreen before yesterday’s incident,”

Raheem said.

Annabel gulped, holding her hands together

on the table. Her face paled. She hadn’t

seen this coming. I could tell though, she

knew where we were headed.

“Yes,” she said. “But…but why?”

“Doreen was attacked, and the culprit hides

behind the Bloody Miri story,” Raheem


Annabel fidgeted in her seat. So much for

an act. She could fool anyone. “I don’t have

anything to do with this, I swear. I mean…

you’re…you’ve obviously got the wrong


“Please calm down,” Raheem said, holding

out his hands. “We aren’t saying you have

anything to do with it. You don’t have to be

scared. Not unless there’s something to

hide. We just need to ask you a few


Annabel nodded.

“Are you okay now?” Raheem asked. “We’re

sorry for the inconvenience, but this is all


“I understand.”

“Was there anyone else when you visited the


“Just me. Until Doreen walked in.”

“We need as much details as you can give,”

I said. Hopefully, there would be a loophole

in Annabel’s story. If we needed more facts

to show we were on the right track, that

would be it. “What were you doing when she

walked in?”

Annabel looked down in shame. “I was

standing in front of the mirror, chanting

Bloody Miri. I filled a sink with water and

kept calling her, but I guess she was too

busy to answer my call, or I was too

impatient to keep trying, so I just got

frustrated and left.”

“Was there anything fishy?” Raheem asked.

“Anything at all?”


“Did you see anyone walk into the restroom

while you were leaving?” I asked.


She thought for a moment, and then her

eyes went round with shuddering fear.

“Someone was probably in one of the


Raheem and I communicated with our eyes.

This piece of information could lead us to

solving this mystery.

“I remember hearing something,” she said.

“What did you hear?” I asked.

“I heard something clink. A kind of sound as

though something clinked against, you know,


“Do you remember anything else?” Raheem


Annabel shook her head. “No. Do you have

any more questions?”

I looked back to where Annabel had been

before we summoned her. I caught Maxwell

staring. “You’re Maxwell’s girlfriend?”


“How did you react to the texts he sent


Annabel grimaced. “How would you react to

your boyfriend texting another girl just as

much as he texted you?”

I shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had

a boyfriend.”

“I was jealous at first,” she confessed.

“Only at first?” I asked.

“Yeah. I was jealous because I thought Max

was texting Doreen. But he wasn’t. Henry is

a close friend of his, and when Henry’s

phone had a software problem and stopped

working, he used Doreen’s phone to text

Max while his phone was being fixed.”

“Who is Henry?” Raheem asked.

“Doreen’s elder brother. He’s Max’s

childhood friend. I think Nengi and Henry

are an item.”

I remembered him. He graduated last year.

Slim, tall, fair guy. He used to hang out with

Doreen, Max and Nengi. “I know him.”

“Thanks for your time, Annabel,” Raheem

said, bolting to his feet.

“Anytime,” Annabel said.

Raheem nodded at the door. I could tell he

had a lot on his mind, but wouldn’t speak in

the presence of a third party. I rose to my

feet and followed him outside.

I’d thought he would speak once we were

outside. But he didn’t. Instead, he balled his

right hand into a fist and glued it to his left

palm. Engrossed in thoughts, he paced the


“Is Annabel still a suspect?” I asked.

Raheem stopped pacing. “Of course. While

the things she told us have given rise to

another suspect, she hasn’t cleared her

name yet.”

“Something doesn’t make sense,” I said.

“Nengi never mentioned Doreen’s brother.

And I’m sure she knew he was the one

texting Max. So why would she speak of

Doreen as the one texting him?”

“That is just one of two points,” Raheem

said. “According to Annabel’s story,

someone was probably in one of the stalls,

no doubt applying the perfume so its smell

would be strong enough to frame Annabel.

The clink she heard was most likely when

the person placed the perfume on the water

closet tank. And if that person was the one

who attacked Doreen, then that was

someone who knew she would visit the

restroom at that particular time.”

“And so she hid there,” I said. “Patiently


“And who knows her whereabouts better

than her best friend?” Raheem asked.

“Nengi herself had even confessed to this.”

“And omitting Henry’s role in the story she

told us only meant she had something to

hide,” I noted. “She wanted to lead us on

the wrong track.”

“Why didn’t we see this before?” Raheem

seemed disappointed in himself. “Come on.

We’ve got to have another word with her

before recess is over.”

I moved to follow him, but a thought

occurred to me. “You go ahead. I need to

visit the restroom. Did you see the way

Nengi acted when she realized she’d lost an

earring? If it fell off during her attempt to

kill Doreen, then finding it in the restroom

would be a vital piece of evidence.”

Raheem did the unexpected. He laughed as

though I’d just told a joke. In a split second,

his amusement morphed into

disappointment. “Twenty four hours after a

crime and this is when it occurs to you to

check the crime scene? That is enough time

for the culprit to visit the place repeatedly.

Besides, who says the janitor didn’t clean

the place?”

He had a point. But I’d hoped the janitor

would be spooked by the ghostly news and

would thus be too frightened to clean the


I sighed. “You’re right.”

“After we revived her yesterday, I returned

to the crime scene,” Raheem said. “It’s the

ladies’ restroom and I shouldn’t be there,

yeah. But it’s all part of procedure.”

“Did you find anything?” I asked.

“Our investigation would be one step ahead

if I did.”


Our schoolmates littered the hallway, as

typical of this time of the day. Standing in

groups, they chattered about whatever they

found interesting. Doreen scowled at us as

we stepped into her class. Nengi, on the

other hand, didn’t seem bothered by our


“Here for more questioning?” Doreen asked.

Raheem played deaf to her question. “Nengi,

can we have a word with you?”

Nengi grew pensive for a second too long,

probably trying to figure out why we

returned. “Yeah.”

“No way,” Doreen said. “You are not. We

can’t entertain them questioning us as

though— I mean, it’s encouraging them.”

“Please relax,” Nengi said. “It’ll only take a

moment. I’m sure whatever they’re doing is

for our good.”

Doreen looked away.

“Shall we?” Raheem asked, gesturing toward

the exit. With Nengi beside us, we walked

out of the class.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Something came up,” Raheem said. “It’s

about the story you told us. Why did you

hold back from mentioning a certain Henry?”

“Henry?” Nengi’s face contorted to a

grimace. “That girl told you about him, didn’t

she? I should have known. She’s basket

mouthed and says even the unimportant


“Unimportant?” Raheem echoed. “Let me be

the judge of that. So, this Henry, care to tell

us who he is?”

“He’s Dory’s elder brother,” she said.

“And?” Raheem asked.

“And my boyfriend.”

“And while you were aware he texted

Maxwell the whole time, you kept that from

us, and kind of turned the whole thing

around to make it look like Maxwell had a

spark for your friend. Why?”

“W-what?” Nengi looked genuinely shocked.

She made to speak again when the intercom

screeched on, cutting her off.

“Raheem Kadir and Victoria Brown,” the

secretary’s voice called over the intercom.

“Report to the main office ASAP.”

Raheem fumed. “What the hell?”

Everyone in the corridor turned to look at

us. They probably assumed we’d gotten into

some kind of trouble. Had we?

“This conversation isn’t over,” Raheem said

to Nengi.


Sat opposite Sir Amadi, Raheem and I

waited for him to speak.

“Thank you,” he said. “Both of you. Thank

you so much for what you did for Doreen.

Really, this can’t be overemphasized.”

“It’s okay, sir,” I said. “We only did what we

had to.”

Raheem rolled his eyes. “I thought we

already got past this yesterday.”

Sir Amadi’s face hardened, but he let it go.

“I fear for the safety of my students. Since

the founding of this school, there’s never

been a case of attempted murder. But with

what happened to Doreen, I don’t know what

this world is turning into.”

“Long story short,” Raheem said, stifling a

yawn. “Where do we come in?”

Sir Amadi shot him a cold stare that

extended far beyond the present. Raheem

returned his vicious look, glaring at him as

though anytime soon he would go around

the table to straddle him to death. Although

curiosity gnawed at my soul, I couldn’t dare

inquire about the basis for their murderous

hate toward each other. It didn’t concern

me after all.

“Talk to me like that again and—” Sir Amadi


Raheem cut him off. “You really should take

a chill pill, mister principal. If I remember

correctly, it was the director himself who

admitted me into this school, so he alone

has the right to threaten.”

“Raheem, show some respect,” I said. I

would not sit and watch him get all saucy

with the principal, a man old enough to

father us.

Raheem fumed. “Whatever. I’m out of here.”

He made for the exit, when Sir Amadi said,

“I thought about having a detective look into

what happened with Doreen. But word

reached me that we already have a Sherlock

Holmes amongst us. Or is it the Agent

Pendergast we have?”

Wow, so Sir Amadi read non-biblical books

just as much as he read Biblical ones.

Impressive. I could never have guessed that.

Although I’d never seen or heard of the

Agent Pendergast character, I could only

imagine what a great detective he made,

considering that Sir Amadi mentioned him

along with Sherlock, the legendary sleuth.

“I care for all my students,” Sir Amadi said.

Holding my gaze, he ignored Raheem the

whole time. “And you are no exception.

Which is why a capable detective must

come in.”

“There are a thousand and one cases, Sir

Principal,” Raheem stated. “What makes you

think any cop is interested in digging into

this? Girl found unconscious in restroom.

End of story. Especially with the Bloody Miri

story and all its silliness. C’mon now, have

you even thought of that?”

“You best round up your investigation,” Sir

Amadi said, ignoring Raheem’s question. “I

don’t want you kids nosing around, or you’ll

get hurt, and another student getting hurt is

the last thing I want.”

“So you’re getting us off this case, is that

it?” Raheem asked. Was it just me, or did a

hint of amusement linger in his voice?

“Don’t flatter yourself now. You never

assigned us to this case, and you have no

right whatsoever to—”

“Raheem!” I warned. “What is wrong with


“I will tell you what’s wrong with me,”

Raheem said. “Now, this man claims to have

respect for life. What about three days ago?

Have you forgotten so soon what you did,

mister Principal?”

So I’d been right all along. Something had

triggered the hate between Raheem and Sir

Amadi. Initially, I’d thought this didn’t

concern me. But now, my ears itched to

hear the untold story.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Are you willing to tell her or should I?”

Raheem asked.

When Sir Amadi kept mum, Raheem said,

“Okay. I will. Here’s what happened three

days ago. I was driving, and so was he.

Without even honking, he burst out of a side

street and crashed into the side of my


An image of Raheem’s car slid into my

mind. Deformed by the crash, it took the

shape of a squeezed can of malt.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Raheem said.

“It was an accident and I shouldn’t react

like this. But this man was clearly at fault.

Number one, he was speeding. Number two,

he didn’t honk before joining the main road

from a side street. And number three, he

claimed right. It didn’t matter to him that I

was hurt or something. He just bolted out of

his car and started a fight right there in the

middle of the road. Not to mention that he’d

been drinking.”

Glancing at Sir Amadi, he said, “By the way,

how is your fist? And no, I didn’t hit him, if

that’s what you’re thinking. Hell, I would

never raise a hand against one old enough

to be my father. Thing is, he took a swing at

me, I ducked and his fist met my car. I

know it’s just a car and I shouldn’t think

much of it, after all it only takes a token to

fix it. But what pisses me off is that that

car was a gift from my uncle. A few months

back, I turned seventeen and he presented

the keys to me. It’s not just a birthday gift,

but a parting gift. My uncle died last month

in one of the Baghdad bombings.

“And then a madman comes around and

does poo. How am I supposed to react? You

all assume I’m racist, and to be honest, I am

hundred percent racist. You know, people

like this man, and others of his kind are the

parasites that cause the moral decadence of

this world. They all belong to a certain race.

And when it comes to them I am racist.”

“My CRS teacher starting a fight in the

middle of the road,” I said. “It’s unthinkable.

Sir, are you not the one who teaches us to

be peaceable at all times?”

Whatever respect I thought I had for Sir

Amadi slowly ebbed away. A man of dignity

would never claim to be right when wrong.

He would never start a fight in public.

“I’m telling you you can’t go in there,” the

secretary’s voice sailed to our hearing. “The

principal is in a meeting!”

“And we’re telling you we need to see him

this minute,” a girl shouted back.

Barely allowing a flicker of hesitation, the

door flew open and three juniors burst into

the office. Their eyes screamed ‘there is fire

on the mountain.’ I didn’t know what to

expect, but my heart lurched.

The secretary raced in after the girls, her

heels frantic against the floor. Scowling at

them, she explained, “I’m sorry sir. I told

them you were in a meeting but they just

forced their way in.”

“You better have an explanation for this,” Sir

Amadi said to the girls.

“Another girl’s been attacked,” one of the

girls blurted out.

“Attacked?” I asked.

“Bloody Miri struck again,” the second girl


My blood ran cold at the news.

“Who’s the victim?” Sir Amadi asked, his

eyes round as orbs.

“Nengi Oruene.”


To be continued

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