Here’s an excerpt from John Ukah’s cozy mystery, Murder at Midnight.
Alex Simpson, an ex-police officer, decides after a bout of typhoid fever to take a break in a serene and therapeutic environment. The last thing he expects is to be called upon to solve a murder at the Kinging Guest Lodge. But that is what happens, when the delectable and vivacious Maria Marshall is found dead in her bedroom at midnight.
The gallery of characters living at the guesthouse and thrown into the mix, do not make his task of solving this chilling and brutal murder any easier …
There was no friend or relation waiting for me. I was not expecting any. To my family, I was an outcast. My father had disowned me. To my friends, I was a disgrace and an embarrassment.
“You have ruined your life!” my father had shouted at me, after Morgan died. He had trembled with anger and his hand had been shaking, even as he pointed his finger at me. “You’re no longer my son!” His anger had not come as a surprise. The fact that he had not shot me with his gun or cut me down with a machete, had surprised me. I didn’t deserve any better.
I had killed Morgan and Stephen. I hated myself for that, even more than my father hated me. This was the same father who had proudly embraced me, when I came back from the last Olympics games, with a silver medal in freestyle wrestling.
“Welcome back, my son!” he had said, with his face beaming with pride. Everyone had been proud of me. I was a worthy ambassador of the country. My victory been celebrated at the State House Pavilion. I had shaken hands with the President. I was a hero. To Morgan, I was his personal hero. He wanted to be like me. But I disappointed everyone. The depth to which I had sunk, was painfully obvious.
Morgan was my immediate younger brother. Though I was about five years older than he was, we were about the same size and build. He also looked like me facially. People often mistook one for the other. They said that we were almost like identical twins.
Stephen had been my best friend since childhood. We were more than friends. Our relationship had grown from mere friendship to the strong bond of brotherhood.
In retrospect, it was not surprising that Morgan was the first to notice that I was taking drugs. He was shocked at first, but had no position on the issue because I was his role model; if I did something, that meant it was right.
Then, more noticeable, negative changes began to manifest. I was often stoned, drunk and irritable.
“People are saying that these drugs are not good for the body,” said Morgan, one day. He had always found it difficult to directly criticise me. He waved his hand at the table where I kept my drugs.
“I don’t care what people say,” I replied. I was already high.
“But do you really need it?” asked Morgan, looking into my eyes.
“I need it just like you need air. Now, mind your business,” I said, taking my time to prepare a joint. As I started sniffing it, Morgan left the room.
I was also starting to look unkempt. I was no longer frequent at the Sports Complex for my training sessions. Even when I went, I was not particularly serious; I managed to get one everyone’s nerves. One day, my head coach reached the limits of his patience.
“Philip, I have actually had enough of your indiscipline,” he finally said. “I put in an entry personally for you at the wrestling event of the State Sports Festival, three weeks ago. The weigh-in was last Wednesday, but you didn’t attend. Luckily for you, it was moved to Friday. You had a bout on Saturday; again you failed to show up. This behaviour is just unacceptable for a professional wrestler like you. I’m washing my hands off you.”
Some other professional wrestlers had tried reasoning with me, but as far as I was concerned, they were the ones who had issues. Strangely, my parents were blissfully unaware of my antics.
One fateful day, I returned home from chilling with some friends. I wasn’t completely drunk; just a bit tipsy. I swayed on my feet feeling good and singing some bawdy songs. I entered my room and immediately reached towards my bedside table for my regular dose. To my astonishment, the table had been swept clean of my usual stuff. I was mad with anger. I flung the table with one hand and it went flying to the other end of the room. I ransacked the house, but I could not find my stuff. When I returned to my room, I remembered that I had stashed some of the Megamix powder in one of my trouser pockets. I grabbed all my clothes from the wardrobe and threw them on the floor. Then, I rummaged in the pockets of my trouser pockets. I became gleeful when I found what I was looking for.
I snorted more than my usual dose. I had never felt so good. My breathing was faster than usual. There was some music playing in the background on the radio. I had heard it before, but now it was simply fantastic. I turned up the volume so much, that items in the room began vibrating with the sound. I started doing some drug-inspired dancing. It was like paradise.
In a sudden flash of inspiration, I knew who had taken the drugs. Morgan! Some will tell you that certain drugs induce an altered state or higher level of consciousness. The Megamix was one of them. I went to his room and searched, thoroughly. I found them in one of his bags. My anger spiked. How dare he? What gave him the right?
Unfortunately, that was when he walked in with Stephen and Young, another good friend of mine. I do not really recall much of what happened next. I was not myself. They told me later that I seemed to have taken leave of my senses. Morgan it seemed, after clearing my table, had gone to call Stephen to talk to me about the dangers of doing drugs. I was also told that as soon as I saw Morgan, I lunged at him. Meanwhile, Stephen and Young tried to restrain me. Somehow, I overpowered two of them and grabbed an empty bottle, which I smashed on Morgan’s head. The bottle broke into pieces and Morgan’s head started bleeding.
Still unsatisfied and clutching the neck of the bottle, I attacked Morgan again. I cut him in the hand. Neighbours were called and I was finally overpowered. Stephen and Young went out to get a cab. Morgan was taken into the cab with blood all over him and together, they had headed for the nearest hospital. It was on their way that they had a ghastly motor accident; an oil tanker, whose brakes had failed, ran into their taxi. Both Stephen and Morgan died instantly in the huge explosion that followed.
Where to find it!
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About the Author
John Ukah is a seasoned banker and Associate of the Institute of Capital Market Registrars (ACMR). He is a graduate of Business Administration from the University of Benin, where he was listed as University Scholar. He also holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA).