If you are an ardent reader of this column, you will recall the Wednesday, July 13, 1946, publication narrated how Mr. Gobas’ corpse was found by Odogwu River after he went to bed the previous night, hale and hearty.
The family — along with Mr. Gobas — had all gone to bed that night, like every other family, without a premonition of the impending doom.
The sudden appearance of his corpse, not on his bed, but by the river the next morning was a rude shock to his family and the community.
People had surmised that he might have sleep-walked to the river and was probably still sleeping when they found him. That theory evaporated as quickly as it came, like fog under a blazing sun, as there was a piece of undeniable evidence that someone killed Mr. Gobas. Clobbered to death by the big stick found close to his corpse and the gash on his head.
The question that set tongues wagging was if we had a killer prowling in our community.
The rumour mill spurned wildly, accusing Mr. Ache of the murder since the duo — Mr. Ache and the late Mr. Gobas—had unresolvable land issues that had lingered for years.
It’s been four weeks since that column was published. Things had taken a complex turn within the last few days.
Last week, Daily Times met with late Mr. Gobas’ son, Jeremy, who confirmed he knew the murderer.
“I know who killed my father.” The 14-year-old Jeremy told us with confidence oozing from every pore of his body.
When asked how he knew, and if he had a shred of evidence to ratify his claim. He launched into a horrifying tale.
Jeremy narrated how he knew his father left to God-knows-where at midnight—not every night, but enough to rouse Jeremy’s suspicion.
Jeremy determined to know where his father went at those unholy hours. He schemed and waited patiently for when his father will do one of his nocturnal outings. Bent on uncovering what his father was doing, he felt in his heart of hearts that whatever his father was doing was wrong.
“I knew whatever Papa was doing was not good. If it were, he wouldn’t be doing it at night when everyone had gone to bed.”
On the late evening of the said day, Jeremy’s father came in from the main house where he served his British master, ate the egusi soup, and pounded yam, served by Jeremy’s mother. Jeremy noticed his father was unusually quiet. He felt in his mind that all was not well with his father.
They all went to bed and Jeremy patiently waited for when he will hear the now familiar movement.
“I heard his usual movement and knew I had to follow Papa this time around. I knew it was a monumental risk, but it was all I could do.”
Jeremy quietly let himself through the window. The determination to find out what exactly his father was up to, dragged him out of the comfort of his bed and diminished every thread of fear in him.
The community was sleeping-quiet. It was not totally dark — thanks to the fishhook moon that was dangling lazily amongst the sea of stars in the sky. It was eerily quiet. The silence would have been complete if not for the sounds of crickets and owls and his father’s quiet footsteps on the sandy path.
What fueled his curiosity was when he realized his father was taking the quiet path that led to Odogwu River.
Farmlands covered by corn stalks and a blanket of green grass flanked the path to the river. The curtain-like stalks gave Jeremy the covering he needed.
Jeremy went on to reveal the appalling story of how his father finally got to Odogwu. Jeremy struggled a little because the brightness from the moon was not enough, but his father seemed to have embarked on the trip so much that he would have found his way with his eyes closed.
When Jeremy got close to the river, he saw a tall figure waiting for his father. The thread of light that came from the scythe-shaped moon sculpted his face, showing his high-cheek bones, his straight nose, and shoulder-length hair. It was Mr. George, a British; Jeremy’s father had worked with before leaving to join his present master, Mr. Lincoln.
It was Mr. George who introduced his father to Mr. Lincoln when he came in from Britain six months before the incident. Mr. Lincoln was visibly wealthier than Mr. George, by all standards.
This piqued Jeremy’s interest. He crawled quietly, hid behind a tree that was close enough to hear what his father was saying to his former Master in his broken English.
“Papa told Mr. George that he couldn’t steal the money Mr. George had wanted him to steal for that day and had nothing to give him. He added he was afraid Mr. Lincoln had started to suspect him. Mr. George angrily warned Papa that if he came again empty-handed, he was going to kill him. He added that Mr. Lincoln had confided in him the amount of money and jewellery he had lost so far. He had done his calculations and had suspected that it was less than what Papa had given him.”
“The white man warned Papa that he would kill him if he found out that he was double-crossing him. He spat at Papa and left him standing by the river. Papa’s shoulder slumped. I heard him heaving, and I knew Papa was crying. It broke my heart in several places to see Papa cry, but it was all I could do not to reach out to him, to console him. He would have been furious at me and might thrash me for following him.”
It was more than Jeremy could bear, helplessly watching his father’s suffering. Blinded by his tears, Jeremy quietly left the same way and crawled back to his room to sleep with a heavy heart. He was afraid for his father and wished he could help him.
For those days that followed that incident, Jeremy watched his father’s steady decline of spirit. He walked with slumped shoulders and was edgy.
Four days later, Mr. Gobas left and never returned. Jeremy suspected what must have happened to his father. He knew nobody would believe him. He carried the burden of what he knew in his broken heart.
Mr. George had killed his father just like he threatened he would. It was as clear as day.
It sounded like the story of the century. A colonial official killed his friend’s servant. Daily Times needed to gather more facts before publishing. Publishing this was identical to playing with the tail of a cobra. We needed more proof to nail Mr. George as the murderer prowling in the community.
A break came when we approached Mr. George’s servant. We knew it was a dangerous game, but we were desperate to unravel the mystery behind the murder.
Mr. George’s servant wrestled with the idea of talking to us. He didn’t want to be in trouble, but later caved in and gave us his side of the story.
He narrated how Mr. George had diarrhea on the day Mr. Gobas died.
At about midnight, he was in his quarters when his master, Mr. George, came to him and sent him to collect a package from someone at Odogwu River. He did not know who he was to meet, or the package to collect.
The starlit night made his walk to the river easier than he imagined. He got close and noticed two figures at the river. Thanks to the fact that he moved quietly.
On a closer look, it was Mr. Lincoln and his servant, Mr. Gobas. He quickly hid when he realised the two might not be having a friendly chat.
The servant claimed he heard Mr. Lincoln tell his servant how he knew Mr. Gobas and Mr. George had connived to rob him blind.
He had monitored him closely and knew when he met with his supposed friend at the river —Mr. Gobas with his family lived in the small quarters behind the main house where his master lived alone. Mr. Lincoln said he had deliberately set several traps for his servant, who had blindly walked into those traps.
Mr. Lincoln added how he poisoned Mr. George’s food that evening and how Mr. George was ill and wouldn’t make it to the river that night.
Of course, Mr. Gobas denied the allegation. Mr. Lincoln searched Mr. Gobas and found some money and his jewellery in Mr. Gobas pockets. He angrily picked a big stick and hit his servant on his head.
Mr. George’s servant was too frightened to move. He hid until Mr. Lincoln left. He went back and told his master that Mr. Gobas was not at the river that night.
When the news of Mr. Gobas’ death broke out the following day, Mr. George didn’t have the vaguest idea of what transpired at the river the night before.
The harsh, ugly truth staring at us in the face is, we now know who killed Mr. Gobas. It was not Mr. George as Mr. Gobas’ son Jeremy thought. It was Mr. Gobas’ master, Mr. Lincoln.
We will keep you updated as things unfurl. Keep it a date with us next week.
Roselyn Sho – Olajide works with an Audit Firm in Jos, Plateau State. She loves reading and writing and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org