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The Sledgehammer by Musa Bah, Tha Scribbler

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By Dr Cherno Omar Barry,
President of Writers Association of The Gambia


Wednesday, October 14

Cigarette smoke filled the office as if it were a chimney. The office was a small one with just a few items. There was a cupboard on the left, two armchairs for visitors, and a computer desktop on the large wooden desk and a telephone set. Behind the huge wooden desk sat Modou Mboop, the Chief of Police. He picked up the ashtray and brought it closer so that he could stud out the cigarette he was smoking.

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Modou Mboop was a career police officer who had climbed the ladder the hard way. He had grown up in Banjul chasing tourists at the beach and running away from school. Not that he was a bad boy, but he was not very particular about going to school either, though he managed to pass his exams. He had always had a problem with his father who wanted him to be a doctor. His mother had been his shield from the rage of his father. She was his best friend and always stood by him. He had grown up and married his childhood friend, Binta Faye.

His father was not actually jumping for joy at the match, but he shrugged it off and went along. Now, twenty years and five sons and two daughters later, he wished that he had listened to his father. The wife had bad manners which she expertly passed on to the children, especially the girls. One of them, Mbissin, was now pregnant at just sixteen years of age. She was sick and this particular morning had to be taken to see the doctor, making her father part with the last hundred dalasi he had.

As he was thus engaged in thinking of his family woes, he heard a soft knock on the office door.

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‘Yes, who is there?’ he yelled as if startled by the knock.

The door was pushed in, and an immaculately dressed young man stood at the door. Yaya Ceesay was his adjutant, and he trusted the young lad very much. He was a brilliant officer who was very hardworking and was obviously determined to climb up the ladder and have an excellent career in the force. He had spotted his talents early on during their training while he was still the Assistant Chief of Police. When he ascended the throne of the force, he brought Yaya to work in his office so that he could groom him for more useful ventures in the force later.

‘Yes, Ceesay, what is it?’ he now asked, lighting yet another cigarette.

‘Sir, a call has just come in from Serekunda saying there is a homicide.’

‘Another murder again! What is this country coming to? A few days ago a corpse was found in the gutters in Banjul and now where?’ the chief asked.

‘The call came about two minutes ago, Sir. The body was found in a house in London Corner, Serekunda.’

‘Who among the detectives is on duty today?’ he asked.

‘It is Demba Faal, Sir,’

‘Well, Demba is on another

 assignment right now. What about DI Musa Jallow?’

‘I don’t know, Sir; he closed at around noon after spending the night working on that drug case,’ Ceesay said.

‘Try to find out where he is. I want him on this case,’ Mboop said, turning his attention to something else, indicating that the session was over.

* * * * * * * *

At that particular moment, Detective Inspector Musa Jallow had just completed taking his bath and was about to start brewing attaya. He had arrived home after long hours of work at the office. He was a very shrewd and hardworking man. He had topped his grade in school and was awarded a scholarship for his industriousness and had gone on to study criminal justice, where his talents were immediately picked by the hierarchy. The one thing he did not want to do was a desk job. He was a field man and wanted to be part of the action. So he had specifically requested his superiors to send him to homicides where he was sure to task his brain.

His wife, Gibeh Sowe, was preparing attaya for her husband. This was the best time of the day for her, the time that she spent with her darling husband who was almost always away. Overall, he was a good husband. A gentleman with the most handsome features she had ever seen. He was tall and well built. He had curly hair and a flat nose which made him look a lot younger than his thirty-five years. They had been blessed with a daughter whom they named Isatou Jallow. She was just seven and was attending the nursery school not far from where they lived.

DI Jallow loved the little girl with all his heart. She had his brilliance but had inherited the beauty and serenity of her mother. Her mother was the most beautiful girl in her time and Musa had immediately fallen in love with her then. When he ascertained that she was willing to marry him, he went right ahead and married her even before he completed his studies at the university. He was working as a part-time teacher then and could manage the little he had with her earnings from the small-scale business she ran as she studied banking and finance at Nusrat Management and Accountancy Training Centre.

Now, here he was, seated on a chair under the veranda reading a newspaper, waiting for the attaya he had instructed her to prepare. He was happy to have this relaxing time with her. She always brought him joy, even when he was not in a good mood.

The mobile phone started ringing and it startled him. He searched for it in his coat pocket but the ringing kept on. He fumbled until he found it and flicked it open and said ‘Hello!’

‘Hello, Detective Inspector Jallow?’ he asked.

‘Yes, who is this, please?’

‘This is Adjutant Yaya Ceesay. The chief instructed me to call you. There has been a homicide at London Corner. A man was found dead and mutilated in a house.’

‘When was this, Adjutant?’ he asked.

‘The body was discovered about fifteen minutes ago.’

‘Okay, I’ II be heading there right now. Call the pathologist’s office and let them send someone immediately. Also, have the police photographer and crime scene guys go there now.’

‘They are already on their way, Sir.’

‘Okay, I’m on my way too.’

When DI Jallow arrived at the crime scene, the people from the pathologist’s office were already there. Inside, he could see that the police photographer was also there taking photographs. The pathologist, Rupert Njie, had directed them not to touch anything. He was quietly waiting for them to complete their work so that he could order the remains to be carried to the hospital.

DI Jallow asked about the deceased and found out that his name was Ibou Njie and that he lived in the opposite compound. He asked for the person who found the body but was told that it was the owner of the house and that he was so shocked when he found the body that he fainted and was now recuperating at the EFSTH.

DI Jallow went closer and raised the covering from the body. He was shocked and it showed on his face. Lying face up on the bed was a hammered head of an otherwise handsome young man.

That was just part of the story. When he looked down, he saw to his horror that the young man’s private parts had been cut off. He almost vomited and had to visibly restraint himself to avoid running out of the room.

‘When can we have an estimated time of death, Rupert?’ he asked the pathologist.

‘Well, let’s see. Maybe before 5: 00pm,’ Rupert said, again avoiding being too speculative.

‘Okay, I’ll call on you then.’

He went out and asked for the landlord who sat in the middle of the compound, hands on his head looking really worried and confused.

‘I’m sorry, but can I ask you some questions?’ DI Jallow asked.

‘Yes, I guess,’ he said without raising his head.

‘What’s the name of the owner of that room?’ he asked looking at the house where the body still lay.

‘Ousman. His name is Ousman Njie,’

‘How long has he been here?’

‘Well, about three years.’

‘What is the relationship between him and the victim?’

‘They are… eh… were friends.’

‘Where were you when he found the body?’

‘I think I was in my room.’

‘Did the victim spend the night here?’

‘No, he always went home to his own room.’

‘Was he here last night?’

‘Yes, they brewed attaya together?’

‘How would you describe their moods?’

‘They’re definitely happy. They’re very good friends.’

‘Do you know of any rifts between them?’

‘No. They’re always so amiable; I can’t imagine that you suspect Ousman of murder.’

‘Mr … we’re not suspecting anything yet, just routine questions. Do you know if they had enemies?’

‘I can’t think of anybody as an enemy of those two gentle souls. They were such good young men, very respectful and courteous.’

‘Okay, we’ll be in touch with you again,’ DI Jallow said, handing over a card to the landlord.

‘Please call me if you think of anything at all.’

‘Okay, I will.’

DI Jallow left and headed towards the EFSTH. In his mind, the case was an open and shut one. The young man in whose house the body was found was definitely the culprit. He had killed him and panicked or simply acted shocked to throw people off. He was going to pay for this.

He arrived at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital but was told that the young man was in a coma and that he could not talk to him then. He enquired as to the estimated time in which he could come again to speak to the man, but the doctor just shrugged, indicating that there was no way of knowing.


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Musa Bah was born in 1974 in Mbollet-Ba village in the Lower Niumi District in the North Bank Region of The Gambia. Musa attended Mbollet-Ba Primary School and later SOS Herman Gmeiner Technical High School in Bakoteh. Later, he pursued a Diploma Course in Ghana. Musa is an avid reader who has read hundreds of books of different kinds. His main hobby is reading and writing. He is the author of The Midnight Call, Becheck, The Sledgehammer, The Email, Everyday English, and Did They Commit Incest and Other Stories. He recently coauthored an anthology of poems, The Long Road to Democracy in The Gambia, which professor Pierre Gomez published. Musa is a teacher by profession and is currently the principal of Mbullum Ahmadiyya Muslim Junior and Senior Secondary School.

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