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STORY: The Trial: By Valcee

The Trial

– a short story.
By Azuka Valentine C.
Valcee [Honest Pen]
All right reserved
©2021

******

UNAC Campus
Thursday
4:00 AM
Zoba
******

The shrieking sound made by his phone’s alarm woke him up and he woozily snoozed it.
He continued sleeping. After five minutes which seemed to him like five seconds, the alarm cried out again; now louder. He snoozed it again and continued sleeping.

Five minutes later the alarm cried out yet again. He hissed but didn’t move, his arms felt too heavy to reach for his phone.

Fifteen minutes later he sprang from the bed as if he were stung by a bee. He reached for his phone, checked the time and it was 4:25 AM. He had a quiz scheduled for 8:00 AM that same day and he had to study. His plan had been to study from 4 AM to 7 AM. At least three hours would be enough for him to get somethings upstairs.

Studying the previous night had proved problematic because he had been busy with an assignment which would be submitted by 9, immediately after the quiz. Dashing to his cupboard, he took a sachet water, drank half of it and used the remaining liquid to wash his face. Carrying his textbook on human metabolism to his reading table, he checked his watch and seeing that it was 4:30 AM, exclaimed
“Damn! Thirty minutes gone.”

He knew too well there was no way he could go through all the topics, so he decided to read the last topic the lecturer taught them in class. That was ‘DNA Repair Mechanism’.
He was barely five minutes into his reading when the noise came.
“Skrrrrri…rororobo..sssshhhh…sherimamama…tatatata…” Someone was praying in a very loud voice just outside his room. This was a distraction, he couldn’t study in a noisy place. He waited for some minutes hoping the person would stop or at least move away from his door but he, the guy praying, didn’t. He stepped outside to speak with the prayer warrior.

“Good morning bro, please…” He was saying but the guy cut him short.
“Good morning brother, I’m Ken. Nice to have you with me in this morning fellowship. Hope you can speak in tongues?” He asked, smiling.
Angry, Zoba who was trying hard to control his anger and frustration replied.
“No brother, I don’t. Actually I came to tell…”
“You don’t speak in tongues? That’s too bad. Are you a born again? Where do you worship?”

“I’m an Anglican and I’m a born again.

“Ah! No you’re not. Sorry to say this but brother, if you’re a born again you should be able to speak in tongues like the apostles. But it’s not too late brother, you can still…” Zoba couldn’t take it anymore so he cut him short.
“Erhm Ken, sorry I’m not here for this. I came to beg you to move away from my room, I was trying to study when you came and the noise is distracting me.”

“Ah! The devil is a liar!” His face grim with disdain. “You must be insane to say that I was making noise. Get behind me Satan, you man of little faith. I only do as the spirit guideth. The spirit guideth me here and I’m not going anywhere else unless the spirit says otherwise.”

“Please I’m sorry I didn’t mean it like that. But I have a serious quiz by 8am this morning and I need to prepare for it, you’re distracting me. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pray all I’m saying is that you go somewhere else”
Zoba said.

“Thunder fire you!”
“I say thunder fire you, I rebuke the devil…Sherimamama…”
“Wait wait, is it me you’re referring to as the devil?”
“Yes it’s you, what were you doing since that you didn’t read erh…?”
A stream of anger ran through Zoba and he pushed Ken to the ground. That was how the fight started. Fortunately someone coming back from night class was there on time to separate them.

Zoba went back to his room and tried to continue with the textbook but he couldn’t assimilate. Finding it an ardous task to continue studying, zoba took a shower and lay back on his back, lost in his own thought.

Three hours later, he was in the class for the quiz. It was a thirty-minutes quiz and all the questions were from the topic he wanted to study.
He knew he had failed the quiz.
“Damn you Ken!” He cursed.
******

Friday
9:47 AM
******

Zoba entered his room and met his roommates, he greeted them and fell on his bed. He noticed they were all silent and looking at them was surprised to see the way they were all starring at him.
“What?” He asked no one in particular and half expected an answer.
“Guy where are you coming back from?” Ebuka one of his roommates asked but Zoba ignored him.
“Chizoba! Where did you go last night? Where did you sleep?”
Zoba sitting up on his bed gave Ebuka a stern, suprised glare.

“Guy I don’t understand,” Zoba said to Ebuka. “Why are you suddenly acting like my dad? I went to see a friend. Do you have any problem with that?”
“Hmm guy, wahala dey o” Ebuka mumbled.
“Chizoba haven’t you heard?” Emeka enquired with a worried tone.

“Haven’t I heard what? Ww…whaa…what’s that?” Zoba asked alarmed, turning to face Emeka.
“That Prayer warrior guy you had a fight with yesterday morning…” He paused.
“Ehee…? What about him?” Zoba asked impatiently.

“He’s dead. He was found dead this morning near the multipurpose building. Apparently, he had been stabbed to death on his way back from night class”
“What!? No no this can’t be true. Oh my God. How? No no. Hope it’s not what I’m thinking?” He looked at them.
“No no… you guys don’t think I… I d-did…that, do you?” He asked with teary eyes, unable to force the words past the lump that had occluded his throat.

“It doesn’t matter what we think,” Ebuka chipped in again “What matters is what the police thinks. The school’s security came looking for you this morning, they said you should report to their office immediately” Ebuka paused to see if any member of the room had anything to say. No one.

The akward silence was now unbearably loud and Emeka noticing this tried to clarify zoba further on the basis for their suspicion
“I’m sorry bro, but you’re a suspect and you know that. Many people knew you had a fight with him. You didn’t go to night class neither did you sleep in your room the morning he was murdered.”

“Oh God!” Zoba exclaimed bitterly.
******

10:20 AM
******

Zoba was in an interrogation room in the school security department, where he was been questioned. He sat facing the Chief security officer, an elderly man in his late sixties. He stroked his moustache for some seconds with his eyes looking directly into Zobas. He cleared his throat to speak.
“Finally.” Said Zoba in his mind.
“My name is…”
“I know who you are sir” The man smiled.

“Son, I heard you’re not cooperating but I advise you do because soon the case will be handed over to the state police. And when that happens, you’re on your own”.
He paused for a moment then continued.
“Did you kill Ken?” He asked in a tranquil tone.
“No sir. I did not kill him.”

“Where were you last night?”
“Oh God! This question again. Can’t they just investigate Ken’s death without asking me this question?” He thought to himself.
“Sir I was outside the school visiting a friend. Her name’s Stella.”
“And where is this place?” Asked the man, almost reflexively.
“Sir I don’t really know, I’m not familiar with the area. That was my first time of being there.”

Staring down at the table, he knew he had to come up with an answer and he knew the answer had to sound plausible if he were not to implicate himself any further than he already was.

“Erhmm…I think it’s Mayor. Yeah, it’s Mayor Sir. That’s the name of the place she stays.” Mr Ezeh, the Chief security, looked at him thoughtfully.

“How do we verify your story? How do we know you’re telling the truth? Do you have any alibi?” Zoba was silent.

“I need to speak with the friend you claimed you visited and verify your story. Can you get her here?”
“Uhm…that wouldn’t be possible. She traveled to Lagos earlier this …” Mr Ezeh scoffed interrupting Zoba who was starting to think that the man wasn’t buying what he was selling: a lie.

“I’m sorry but we need to verify your story, that’s the only way your name can be cleared. If not, I’m afraid son…”
“I need a lawyer” Zoba said firmly.

Mr Ezeh knew he had to get something out of Zoba before he lawyered up. With this in mind he tried asking a couple of more questions.
“What? Is there no way we could verify your story? The girl you supposedly visited; did she have any roommates that could attest to your being there?” Zoba looked at the floor dejectedly and feeling the room getting smaller he blurted out another lie, “She lives alone.”

Mr. Ezeh knew that Zoba was trying to sell him a lie, so he tried easing the tension with the hope of building trust ad getting more information out of Zoba.
“See, I’m trying my best to help you here. You seem like a nice boy and I don’t think it’ll do anybody good if you’re remanded in custody. I’ve been on the job long enough to know when someone is lying and that’s what you’ve been doing all morning”
“I need a lawyer. I didn’t kill anybody!” Zoba insisted, this time more audibly.

“Well suit yourself. The police are here to escort you to their station, when you reach there you tell them you need a Lawyer.” Mr Ezeh retorted with a grim frown plastered across his forehead.

Zoba was handcuffed and taken away. As he was about been taken into the police van his parents arrived. They requested to speak to their son before he would be taken to the station.

“Son. What have you gotten yourself into? What is it I’m hearing about murder?”
“I didn’t do it. I… I didn’t kill him” Zoba said, near tears
“Zoba m we believe you; we know you didn’t kill that boy” said his mother.
Zoba started sobbing.
“Son you need to tell the police everything you know. Tell them the truth of your whereabouts on the day of the incident and please don’t lie.”
“I’ve told them everything dad…”

“We spoke to the Chief security. He said his instincts told him you didn’t kill the boy but he believes you are hiding something.”
“Oya time up! Make we dey go. You people should come to the station” One of the police officers barked in broken English, signaling the party that it was time for them to take Zoba to the station.
“Small boy like you with your innocent face, you get mind stab your fellow boy four times”

The police officer continued with undulating indignation lacing his every word.
“Move! Criminal.”

“Dad please I need a lawyer!” Zoba said with a sense of urgency as he was been manhandled into the police sedan.
“Don’t worry, we’re on it.” Said Zoba’s father with a notes of solemnity and sorrow in his voice for the boy he had raised.
******

2:43 PM
******
“Aduka Chizoba? I’m Barrister Uzoh” a young, corpulent barrister introduced himself offering him a handshake which Zoba took reluctantly.
“Erhm… let’s begin. First of all, I want you to know that everything you tell me is protected and confidential, so you can talk to me. I’ve been briefed by the officer in charge and your dad too.” The barrister continued.
“I want to hear the true version.”

“What’s the story?” He rested his back fully on the plastic chair. On a second thought, he figured resting half his ninety-six-kilogram mass on a plastic chair in a Nigerian police station wasn’t a very bright idea so he readjusted his weight, sat upright, leaned in and gave Zoba a rather serious look. Zoba seeing this almost comical reflex beamed with a little smile inwards. But then again, the overweight lawyer was here for business.

“Zoba Did you kill Ken?
“No, I didn’t kill him”
“Did you stab him?”
“No. You’ve asked essentially the same question.”
“Okay.”  With a confident smile he asked “where were you last night?”
“Damn it” Zoba muttered. On the barrister’s request, Zoba narrated the whole story.
“Common boy, this was the exact story I was told and I think you’re hiding something. If we’re going to get through this you’ll need to tell me the truth. That’s the only way I can help.

Zoba bowed his head thoughtfully, and without looking up, he spoke, “Okay, you’re right, I lied. I lied because I’m scared of the truth, I don’t know how to face my family with the truth, especially my Mum and Dad.”

“It’s fine. No matter what it is I’m sure your parents would understand. Let me hear it first”

Zoba looked up, looking his lawyer in the eyes. “I wasn’t at Mayor last night. I wasn’t with anyone named Stella. In fact there isn’t a Stella. I made her up.” Perceiving he was sounding a bit frantic, he paused and tried to calm himself.
“Okay?” The lawyer urged with his tiny eyes drawn open to full extent, barley blinking and fat fingers interlaced in sincere interest.

“I was not in the school premises either. I was at the Hotel de Comfort”

“With who?” The lawyer enquired. Zoba now exhausted from the incessant questioning that wasn’t necessarily doing a lot to exonerate him, decided to give Barrister Uzoh the benefit of the doubt and spill his guts. At least, he thought, anything he was going to tell this chunk of a man seated before him was bound by law to be a secret.

“Two years ago…” Zoba started, then paused to see if he’d be able to get himself to rethink his decision to spill but he couldn’t get himself to stop. He needed the catharsis so he continued…

“Two years ago, during my 2nd year I took a combined course with other departments in my faculty that was being handled by a young female lecturer. Not that young though, she seemed to be in her late thirties. I was staying off campus then and one day I saw her outside the school, her car had broken down and it was something I thought I could handle and so I helped her get the car running. She was very happy and a bit surprised at how a medical student like me could fix a car. I tried telling her that it wasn’t much trouble but she wouldn’t have any of it.

She told me she owed me a favor and gave me her card to call her whenever I needed something. Long story short, I did call her one day and that was how it started.”

“I am having, or rather, was having an affair with a female lecturer in my faculty.” He crossed his arms on his chest. “A widow. That’s it. I was with her last night at Hotel De Comfort.” Barrister Uzoh sighed exasperatingly.

“Now I get it. So, this is what you were hiding?
“Yes”, Zoba replied.

You didn’t kill Ken; you were only hiding your affair with your lecturer?
Zoba nodded.

“This is serious. Do you think Mrs. Ani your lecturer would accept and testify that she was with you last night?”
“That’s the problem. She would deny everything. There’s no way in hell she’ll do that. Sacrificing her job for me? No!” Zoba shook his head hysterically.
“Do you know what scares me the most?” Zoba asked his lawyer.
“What?”

“What if I confessed about my affair with Mrs. Ani, she denies everything, I couldn’t prove it and end up being charged for murder.
“Yeah, I understand your fear, the police are too lazy to conduct investigations. They would rather hold onto the suspect they have and make him pay for it whether he committed the crime or not. But I will make sure to get you out of this.”
“I hope so.”

“The hotel you guys went to last night can help us. At least they should have records of their customers. CCTV could help too.”

Barrister Uzoh suggested but Zoba shook his head.

“I’m afraid they might not be able to help. It’s an old hotel, their CCTVs don’t work. I’m sure of that and she doesn’t book rooms in her name. She uses fake names. Now I know why she chose that hotel. She was being careful. That snake!” Zoba cursed.

His lawyer was now starting to sense the hysteria growing in Zoba’s voice and tried to steer him back on course.
“Can you remember the name she used last night?”

“No”
“There has to be something”
There was an awkward moment of silence as both seemed to be lost in their thoughts.
“Maybe I should talk to her”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea. She won’t talk to you. She doesn’t even know you and you’re not a police officer.” Zoba said.
“I have to try. Where does she live?”
Zoba told him.
******

Maryland, Enugu
Barrister Uzoh
4:53 PM
******
Pausing at the front of the door to catch his breath, Uzoh cursed the flights of stairs he had to ascend to talk to this woman he wasn’t sure was going to cooperate with him. Deep down he knew he had to start looking at his health. He figured the wraps of fufu he had sent down as breakfast weren’t helping his case either. He brushed this thought to the back of his mind, readied himself and rapped on the door.

“G-Good afternoon.” Barrister Uzoh greeted the young woman.
“Good afternoon handsome what can I do for you?” Mrs Ani responded with a smile holding her door.
“I’m Barrister Uzoh. May I?” He asked pointing inside, requesting he come inside.
“Sure! Please.” They went inside.
“I’m here on behalf of your student Aduka Chizoba” He paused to observe her reaction. She was quite alarmed at first but managed to compose herself.

“Okay what about him, hope there’s no problem?”
“You seemed to know him quite well” Barrister Uzoh said still watching her closely.
“Yeah I mean He was once my student and very brilliant. He was one of the few students that got A in my course.” She explained plainly.
“Okay. Well, there’s is a problem. We need your help.”
“And how may I help you?”
“Yesterday Zoba had a fight with his fellow student and this morning the student was stabbed to death.”

She was quite for a while before she finally spoke.
“If we had met in a more pleasant condition I would have allowed you buy me a drink even though you’re married. But here you’re accusing me of being an accomplice to murder case. How dare you officer?” She was outraged.
“Like I told you earlier I’m not a police officer, I’m Zoba’s lawyer and I’m not accusing you of murder. As I’m talking to you right now Zoba is close to being pronounced guilty of  murder, a crime you and I know he didn’t commit. He is the prime suspect in the murder case of Ken.”

“What do you mean you and I know he didn’t commit the crime? See I don’t know much about Zoba.”
“I know you don’t know much about him but at least you know where he was last night. That’s all we need now, please. This is not an arrest but a request.
“Leave my house!” She shouted pointing to her door. Barrister Uzoh seemed not to be surprised of her outburst. He stood up and adjusted his tie.

“you’re our only hope mah. We need you to come testify that you were with Zoba last night” He tried to persuade her. He wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“W-What? I-I was with him? Where? You must be out of your mind”
“Mrs Ani I know everything. I’m his lawyer, he told me everything. You’re his hope, only you can end this,” He pleaded.
“Mr man I don’t know what you’re talking about, leave this minute!”
******

Uwani Police Station
Uwani, Enugu
4:33 PM
Zoba
******

“From the look on your face I’m pretty sure it didn’t go well right?” Zoba asked his Lawyer as he came back into the interrogation room standing by the door.

“Nah it didn’t. She denied everything. She wouldn’t testify. But I’m pretty sure she was with you last night.” Barrister scratched his head vigorously.
“She even flirted with me, can you imagine” Zoba was mute.
“But honestly that lady is smoking hot” Zoba threw him an angry look.
“Sir don’t tell me you’re drooling over her already” Zoba asked his Lawyer with a frown, not so sure how he felt.
“No no just appreciating the good work of God” He said with a smile.

“So now, what next?” Zoba asked dejectedly.
“You tell the police what happened. That’s our only shot, it would give us some time while the police investigate her.” Zoba sighed and closed his eyes in deep thought.
“You have to, your parents would find out anyway.” Barrister Uzoh pressed on.
“I think you’re right. I think I may have a lead. I’ll speak to the DPO” Zoba chipped in with a smile and flare of hopes in his eyes.

“A-and… what’s your lead?”
“Her Bank transactions. I can’t remember what name she booked the hotel room with but I still remember she didn’t pay with cash last night. That was her first time of doing so. She couldn’t withdraw so she did transfer.” A line of smile appeared on Barrister Uzoh’s face. He pulled out the chair and sat.

“If I confessed to the Police that I was with Mrs Ani last night, The Police has the warrant to go through her Bank transactions right?”
“Yeah, hopefully.”

“She made a transfer of 15k from her Zenith Bank account to UBA the hotels’ account around some minutes pass 8 PM.”
“This information could really be of help Zoba, but hope you’re very sure of your informations? Every bit of the details must be correct and accurate, any error could jeopardize the whole thing” Barrister Uzoh warned.
“They’re correct sir.”
******

Saturday
9:17 AM
******

The next morning after a terrible night for Zoba in the police custody and what seemed to be eternity, Barrister Uzoh walked inside the room with the DPO. Zoba made his statement and told the DPO everything that transpired the previous night, his whereabouts and who he was with. He also apologized for not opening up earlier. The DPO After listening to what Zoba had to say with rapt attention cleared his throat.

“Eerm boy you know this is a serious accusations and I hope you’re right because if otherwise you would be charged to court immediately.” Hearing that Zoba felt goosebumps all over his body.
“Well, we’ll have Mrs Ani brought in for questioning. But before that is there any other thing you could remember that happened that night that could also verify that you actually slept in the hotel?” The DPO interrogated. Zoba was silent with confusion written over his face.

“You know this is a murder case and it’s usually very serious and requires carefulness. Mrs Ani paying for a room in a hotel doesn’t really prove you actually slept in the hotel room.” The reality glared at Zoba that instant and he looked at his lawyer with a broken spirit.

“I’m sorry Chizoba but he’s right. I’m sorry this didn’t occur to me earlier. Don’t give up yet think, is there anything else that happened?” There was a pin drop silence.

“In the morning, Mrs Ani ordered for breakfast which were two plates of Noddles and two cans of Hi-malt. Mrs Ani’s plate of Noodles contained two boiled eggs while mine was one fried egg. She doesn’t like her egg fried.” Barrister Uzoh was all smiles.
“Okay, this is fair enough. Let’s see what we can do, once we verify your stories you would be free to go.” The DPO stood up and shook hands with Barrister Uzoh.
“I’ll have Mrs Ani brought in.”
“Thank sir”
******

12:10 PM
Zoba
******

I watched as the DPO re-entered inside the interrogation room alongside a furious looking Mrs Ani who threw me an angry look before reluctantly sitting down.

The DPO asked me to make my statement again which I did as exactly as I did earlier.
He asked Mrs Ani if she could verify my story to which she denied. I wasn’t surprised but disappointed. She was still ranting and insulting me when another police officer came inside with a report which he handed to the DPO with his two hands and a young girl who I guessed would be in her early twenties.

“The transaction report from the Bank sir,” He saluted the DPO and left. Mrs Ani seems to be familiar with the girl because I noticed the way she was staring at the girl who seemed nervous. The DPO put on his glasses and went through the report that was handed to him. I was nervous as he cleared his throat.

“Mrs Ani, you said you slept in your apartment last night. Here is a Bank report from Zenith Bank.” He handed the paper to Mrs Ani who reluctantly took it. “According to the Bank report you’re holding you made 15k transfer to Hotel De Comfort’s UBA account last night at 8:16. It corresponds to Zoba story…” He was interrupted by Mrs Ani’s outburst.
“This is nonsense, it doesn’t prove…” The DPO waved her to keep shut.
“I’m not done. How did Zoba know about this if he wasn’t with you?” She was quite.
“Also, there is another part of Zoba’s story this young girl here can testify to.” The DPO probed further pointing to the girl. The DPO asked her some questions about herself which she answered.

“Okay Chioma…” That was her name. “Which shift did you work yesterday?”
“Morning shift” She answered at once.
“Did you receive any breakfast order from room C10 yesterday morning and what was the order?” The girl was silent for a while before she spoke.
“Sir I can’t remember all the rooms I attended to yesterday morning, but I do record customers’ orders in my account book” she explained, opened her handbag and brought out a thick cover short notebook.

She opened and flipped through the leaves while the rate at which my heart beat increased. “What room again sir?” She asked looking up from her note book.
“Room C10” The DPO and I replied simultaneously.
“Okay, y-yes sir. I got an order from the room sir. It was two plates of Noodles and two cans of Hi-malt, one plate of the Noodles contained two boiled eggs while the other was one fried egg.” I saw a smile appeared on my lawyer’s face.

“Well, that would be all. Thanks for your cooperation Chioma, you can go.” The girl left quickly as though the DPO would change his mind if she wasted a second. Nobody likes Police Station. The DPO put a call through and after some seconds the officer that brought the girl earlier appeared.

“Sergeant Uche”
“Yes sir!”
“Did you enquire from the security of the Hotel about their closing and opening time?” The DPO asked sergeant Uche.
“Yes sir. They opens at 5:30 AM and closes at 11:30 PM sir”

“According to our investigations, the informations gathered and all the cognitive exercises taken, I hereby pronounce Aduka Chizoba not guilty of the murder of Ken as he was in the Hotel De Comfort when the incident occurred at 3:12 AM around the multipurpose building UNAC Campus. There’s no way he could have committed the murder from his location. So until further information which proved otherwise, Zoba you’re free to go. But don’t leave town pending when the investigations are over.” I shook hands happily with my lawyer and my eyes met with Mrs Ani, she was dejected.

I really felt sorry for her. The police would brief my school authority on the reason for letting me go which would definitely expose our affair and affect her career.

“I’m sorry mah” I apologized but she didn’t respond. I went to meet my parents with my head bowed in shame.
I told them I was free to go and they were all happy and excited. My mom took me in her embrace and I felt at home. When she finally released me, my dad opened his arms for a hug, I was surprised, I couldn’t remember the last time he hugged me.
We hugged and he whispered to my ear “I don’t blame you son, that your lecturer is hot.” My phone rang that instant and I excused myself. It was my girlfriend.

“My Sunshine” I greeted her in my usual way with a smile accross my face.
“Tell me it’s not true. Baby tell me it’s not true” She asked repeatedly with sad tone. I became numb. ‘How did she find out?’ I asked myself. I told my roommates not to tell her. I was lost in these thoughts and she repeated the question.

“Babe I’m sorry I didn’t want you to know about this but you know me nau. I can’t kill a chicken talk more of killing a man. I didn’t and moreover, I have been set free.” I explained.

“That’s not what I’m asking you. Of course I know you didn’t kill him” She replied from the other end. I asked her what she was asking about then.
“Did you sleep with your female lecturer?” I froze for some seconds.
“Who told you that?”
“It doesn’t matter. Did you or did you not?”

I looked at my parents as they chat and laugh and wished I could join them. I brought out the phone from my ear as I thought to the best answer to give her with my eyes on the azure. Her faint voice kept screaming and shouting, begging me to tell her what she wanted to hear. Telling her the truth seemed the right thing to do but it also meant loosing her and saying farewell to a four years relationship.
Can a man really be free?

The End.

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