“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
“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
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
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
“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
He didn’t look impressed. This didn’t come
as a surprise. I never impressed people. I
depressed them. Pity, he hadn’t been
“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
“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
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
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
“Raheem says not to point fingers yet,” I
said, more to myself.
“Please be careful,” Flora said.
Amarachi placed her hands on mine. “Be
“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
“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,”
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
“Are you okay now?” Raheem asked. “We’re
sorry for the inconvenience, but this is all
“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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
“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,
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?”
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
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.
To be continued