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Chuma Nwokolo, Jr.

Chuma Nwokolo, Jr.

Nwokolo, author and advocate, is writer of  Diaries of a Dead African and publisher of .

Poetic Justice is short fiction from the series, Tales by Conversation.

 Poetic Justice

…'Scuse me, did you see an Englishman here? My houseboy said there was an Englishman waiting by my gate.

I am the Englishman, Mr. Gargazin. My name is Laurence Hughes.

But you are not...

I’m a black Briton.

Of course, of course. It’s there in your accent. – Hope I’m not sounding racist, it’s these assumptions people make...

It’s okay. Perfectly understandable.

I don’t know who you are, Mr Hughes, but I must tell you right away, I don’t bring Ministry work home. Any private meeting between us will disqualify your company’s tender documents from consideration.

That’s fine with me Mr. Gargazin. I’m not a contractor. I’m just a retried pensioner on holiday, who happened to have read your poetry many years ago.

You’re joking!

You are the same Bakre Gargazin, aren’t you? Oxford University, graduate class of 1997?

You read my poetry? Where?

In your old hall journal, The Parapet. My nephew, Blake Henry, is the current editor and I looked through some back issues during a summer barbecue. Your poem, Nemesis, struck a chord.

Nemesis! You're really serious! It’s been years since I left that foolishness behind. Come in Laurence Hughes, you must forgive my inhospitality, but the world has become a very cynical place. Come in, come in!

I don’t want to...

...impose? Naturally! Aren’t you British? Ha ha ha. Well, you’re in a Nigerian home and you’re just in time for dinner.

I had lunch in the hotel...

...and it’s almost dinnertime. Pull up a chair and help yourself. I’m sure you need no introduction to jollof rice.

I think we’re quite acquainted. I had an Ivorien friend in my... ah team.

The Ivoriens don’t cook it like we do. This is my wife’s favourite dish and when you’ve tasted it, it will be yours as well. I’ll just get some drinks from the fridge, in case it’s too hot for you. There. What do you think?

It’s... ah... different from the Ivorien dish. But nice. Very nice.

Well, here’s the jug of water. The pepper grows on you doesn’t it.

Indeed. Your wife?

Gone to a PTA meeting. I’m alone with my houseboy, who’s just left on an errand. I’m afraid I can’t send for a beer.

Water is just fine. I’m actually teetotal.

So tell me, are you a poet yourself? I haven’t written any poetry myself in many years.

I’m afraid I’m just a poetry lover. I was a public servant. Like you, it seems; are you on a tenders board or something.

Oh that. Forgive me for coming down on you, but I get pestered left right and centre. I work in the Ministry of Rural Development and it’s a madhouse just now.

You seem to have strayed some distance from your world view in God-forsaken.

You really have read my poems! Look, the gap between poetry and life is the gap between a full stomach and an empty one. Poetry is sport for the rich.

You don’t look very hungry, Mr. Gargazin.

You've eaten my food so you’d better call me Bakre.
    You see, my wife’s kitchen doesn’t satisfy every kind of hunger. Come, I have an orange tree in the backyard.


I have to tell you, Bakre, I had never eaten an orange under her tree. One shouldn’t have to be sixty and retired to have a treat like this.

Smell your hands, Laurence.


You hear that?

What? The muezzin? The children? The...

All of it. When I wrote about lazy afternoons, this is what I meant. My professor said it didn’t sound very lazy to him. What do you think?

You didn’t seem to get on very well with the critics then?

Hmm. You know something Laurence, there’s something about your questions: they are more... 'investigative journalist' than 'pensioner'. Tell me, are you from The Sun or The News of the World?.

... I am not that obvious, am I?

Let’s just say that Nigeria is not exactly in the middle of Africa's tourist belt. Plus, I left Oxford eight years ago. I may have been a good poet, but I am not Christopher Okigbo. Nobody has yet traveled three thousand miles to tell me how heavenly my rhymes were.

I will level with you, Bakre. I retired from Thames Valley Police last month.

  Is that not the police authority in Oxfordshire?

You have a good memory, Bakre.

Am I under investigation then? Is that why you are here?

That would be an abuse of your hospitality. No.

I’ll be the judge of what amounts to an abuse of hospitality. Just what are you doing in my house?

I’ll tell you something about me, Bakre. All my life, I’ve been dogged by a reputation for denseness, but the major mistakes I’ve made have come from trying to disprove it. I married a flamboyant would-be actress to prove that I was fashionable… big mistake…

What are you doing in my house, Laurence?

That’s exactly what I’m explaining. The turning point for me came when I was 50, when I stopped trying to prove myself. I had just joined the Thames Valley Police from Humberside. I went into the reverse of denial. I began to draw out my sentences. Sometimes I’d spend an hour at my desk, mulling over a piece of evidence and a blank sheet of paper. During the first few months in Oxfordshire, everyone thought my first performance review would sweep me out of service. Yet, when the reviews did come in, my bosses noticed something: case files did linger on my desk - but my cases were never thrown out of court. My success rate was at the top of the division.

Mister Laurence…

Then came the case of my career: the homicide of Sir Anthony Augusto, Poet Laureate of England. We got a conviction alright, which is now on my conscience. That’s the case that brought me to Lagos.

I left Oxford eight years ago!

The case is eight years old. - And It has taken me that long to decide we got the wrong person.

Let me get this clear, Mister Hughes, you turn up on my doorstep under false pretences, you eat my wife’s jollof and sit under my orange tree - and all the while you were secretly interrogating me...

The jollof was your...

Get out of my house

I’m sorry if I....

You know, I said the world was a very cynical place. Now you know why. Goodbye Mr. Thames Valley.

Um, goodbye... I’m really sorry... do give my regards to your wife... The jollof really was...

This way, Mr. Thames Valley  - that’s my bedroom door!

I’m sorry, it’s such a maze... I…

My house? A maze?

I meant -

This way!

no offence... thanks... it was just my obsession with his wife... seven years so far, on a life sentence that she may not...


...um... are you alright?


...um...no offence meant, but in the movies, you’re supposed to slam the door... Mr. Gargazin?... Mr. Gargazin...

I’m fine! How many times do I need to tell you, my name is Bakre.


They convicted Selena Augusto?

For first degree murder. She got life.

Olopa o!

You didn’t know?

It was accepted as a suicide when I left the UK. It was months after my final exams. I made a statement to the coroner... and I had a job waiting for me here... I shook the dust of Oxford off my feet when I arrived home. For me, it was ‘chapter closed’. You think I was sending out for your local Daily Mail all the way from Lagos?

It was national news in Britain. Her trial was reported in all the broadsheets, in all the tabloids. Sir Anthony’s murder was a national tragedy. He was three months into his term as the most popular Poet Laureate when his poem won the E-National Poetry prize.

I remember. I was his P. A. at the time. I mailed out the poem myself.

Well, he died on his desk on the very morning the prize was announced. His temple was pierced by his gold letter opener. His blood soaked the newspapers that reported his latest triumph.

It was so obviously a suicide! My God! How on earth could you have convicted Selena.

Well for everyone else in Britain, it was so obviously a murder. It was the morning of Sir Anthony’s great triumph. His poem had trumped all comers. He was headline news. The critics were raving. And then there was the instrument of death: it wasn’t exactly a stiletto. A forensic specialist demonstrated how only a demon-possessed man in the prime of his life could marshal the sheer manic rage that could drive the blunt instrument six inches into his own skull. Sir Anthony was a frail seventy-eight-year-old.

Why Selena? She had an alibi as I recall…

She was thirty-six at the time, wasn’t she? A former lap-dancer, a shameless gold digger. She claimed to have left Sir Augusto alive, and returned from a card game to find him dead. The gardener had witnessed Sir Augusto’s new will that morning. He heard Sir Augusto’s howl an hour or so before Selena raised the alarm. For anybody connected with the case, the puzzle was how she thought she could have gotten away with it.

And her alibi?

Very foolish. Turns out the card game was with her lover. Did you know her? Personally?

Of course I knew her. She was my employer’s wife.

Was there... anything between you?

Don’t be silly. Why are police minds permanently in the gutter! The fact that she was half Augusto’s age - and that I quarreled perpetually with the old man - that doesn’t equate a love affair.

The tabloids didn’t need you anyway, they had other affairs to dig up. Imagine laying out that scenario to a jury...

You might as well come in and sit down.


The penalty for adultery is escalating.

Adultery, eh? You don't think she killed him then?

Does it matter what I think? What convinced Thames Valley Police to reopen this investigation?

Nothing, actually.

You haven’t come out here to sniff out an old case on your pension?

I’m afraid I’m quite obsessive.

You look like a rational pensioner. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to be cynical here.

Your privilege, Bakre. Truth is, to do my job well, I had to sleep with my cases and wake up with them... Selena is on a twenty-four hour suicide watch, yet she has slashed her wrists many times in the four years since she lost her final appeal... it kind of comes together with my misgivings during the trial. Haven’t been sleeping very well lately. So when I retired I put Nigeria in my world tour circuit. To find a witness my bosses did not think material enough during Selena’s trial.

I have nothing to add, beyond my testimony to the coroner.

You seemed shocked, just now, Bakre, to learn that Selena was convicted for Sir Anthony’s murder.

Only because I thought it was accepted as a suicide.

It was more than that, Bakre. You know it.
    Augusto changed his will on the morning of his death. That was the first nail in Selena’s coffin, the increase he made in his provision for her. But there was something else that the mob missed: something for you... and you've just said there's no love lost between you.

No point denying that, is there? But I was in London, eighty miles away, when he died.

I know. But, your gut reaction to Selena’s conviction jelled with mine. You seemed instantly, absolutely, convinced she was innocent.

Well, I have had a few minutes to think it over. I think justice was served after all.

Your idea of justice? Or the British idea?

You won't get me to add anything to my statement, Laurence. Anthony Augusto has suffered enough. He was not my friend. To be honest, we were courteous enemies... but the greatest hell is that of a public cuckold, and he lived in that hell for years. Augusto knew she was cheating, he knew she was waiting for him to die on her. But he was so hopelessly in love. The idiot. All he’s got now is his reputation, let him be, Laurence. Forget your British justice, you couldn’t have worked this out better if you were God.

Sir Anthony wasn’t that concerned about his reputation; he wrote a suicide note.

Don’t play mind games with me! If he did you won't be here, and Selena won't be in jail.

Forensic found pen impressions on his open notepad. Unfortunately, in falling forward he spilled an ink pot, which obliterated the text. - And he was a frail man, his nib impressions were not firm enough to be legible. My bosses felt it was probably just another poem... I am convinced it was a suicide note... We will never know, now. It is one of those great mysteries. Like what Jesus wrote on the sand when he was confronted by stone-throwers in John 8:7. But, knowing Sir Anthony as you did, do you think he’d want Selena in prison, just for the sake of his reputation?

...A suicide note... no! He couldn’t have wanted the truth to out. He killed himself to hide the truth... to preserve his reputation...

What truth, Bakre? What are we talking about here?

Nothing. I have nothing to add to my statement to the coroner. I’m sure your actress wife is worried...

I'm divorced. Plus, I won’t be thrown out of your house twice in one evening, Bakre, your bark doesn’t scare me anymore.

Haven't barked yet, Laurence.

Don’t you think Selena has suffered enough? You know the law of course, a criminal cannot benefit from her own misdeed, the probate court nullified her inheritance and gave Sir Augusto's estate to his only child from his first marriage. It took the crack addict 12 months to sell it all. Sir Augusto's fortune is gone.

So if Selena comes out today she gets...

Her liberty, period. She’s in her mid-forties. Too old for lap-dancing. She’ll probably have to get a real nine-to-five job for the first time in her life.

More likely sell her story to the same tabloids that ruined her. And then there’s the compensation money for wrongful imprisonment… But you’re right Laurence, there’s no justice in this world. Just travesty, irony and more travesty... Come to my study, I’d like to show you something.

This is the largest study I’ve seen.

I can build large, I don't have to worry about heating it in winter! I have a sheaf somewhere... here! Here they are! Look at this one, mister policeman.

‘Daydreaming.’   Listen Bakre, I love poetry just as much as the next buff, but I‘ve waited...

What you’re holding in your hand, Laurence, is one of my favourite poems.

I'm glad to hear that, but...

I insist you read it, Laurence, out loud. Read it. Or our conversation is over.

Well, if you put it that way...
   Did I dream?
   or was I marched
   through long and branching corridors
   embroidered by tribes of bitter litigants
   clustered in knots of flurried duologues
   and trialouges and thin conspiracies...

Listen, Bakre..

Read on!

    or did I dream I walked past courts
    where truth was dressed to pass
    and failed for want of dress
     and fiction donned the garb of truth
    and lived a snug and prima facie life...

I see from your face that that will do.

You signed the poem!..

Good eyesight! It is stuffy here, isn’t it? Let’s return to my favourite chairs under my orange tree. We have another couple of hours before the mosquitoes start biting.
    So tell me, policeman, did you discover where I first met Anthony Augusto.

It’s a matter of police record. And, Bakre, have mercy, yes? I’ve waited eight years, I’ve traveled three thousand miles and my expense account is my pension. If you’re going to tell me something after all, put some chronological order in it, yes? ...what's with this poem.

I’ll try with the chronology bit, mister policeman. As you said, my first meeting with Augusto was a matter of police record. It was my last year in university. There was a jubilee year poetry competition running in my hall, and it came with a prize of a thousand pounds. My bursary had just run out and I was a major charity case, so I gave it my best shot. I wrote Daydreaming within an hour or so. It was the fastest poem I ever finished, and strangely, when I was done, I knew I had written my most enjoyable piece - forgive me, but I never talk in terms of best or worst. I talk in terms of enjoyment.

You wrote Daydreaming?

I don't have water in my mouth, Laurence. So I emailed my entry and waited anxiously for the prize award night. To be honest, it wasn’t losing that depressed me. I’d entered dozens of contests and I've never won anything. What enraged me was to hear the winning poem read aloud by the sole judge,

Sir Anthony Augusto.

I can still see him in his black-and-whites, on stage, reading Jean Placid’s poem in his tremulous voice. Oh it was a good poem, I’m not going to go overboard and say they junked my poem for an incompetent one. But, call it ego if you like, I felt that Jean’s poem wasn’t a close second to mine. So I went off and calmed myself down,

How many bottles did it take?

Don’t know, and that's the truth. It must have been about ten pm when I headed back to the hall from the pub. I took a short-cut through the car park. I met him there. He was coming from a cocktail party in honour of Jean Placid, all fluffed up and floaty.

Fluffed up? Floaty?

You can also get drunk without alcohol. Just float around in a sea of praises and platitudes all night long. That was Augusto’s condition. Well, the contrast vexed me! I should have been the one floating home, drunk without booze, like this man, like Jean Placid… and it was all down to his racism.

Here we go.

I’m afraid I challenged him. Oh, I was probably louder than I could have, should have been, before all the booze and all, but there was nothing to be hysteric about either. He shouldn't have phoned the police. His wallet was never in any danger. It was not a potential mugging.

The police record says you were drunk but cooperative. That you were detained overnight.

It was my first - my only - police detention. I suppose I ought to be grateful to him. By 7 am the next morning, he was at the station to withdraw his complaint. He had spoken to my lecturers at the college...

Actually there was a witness. A salesman sleeping in his car in the car park.

Oh. Well, there he was, withdrawing the charges, then I started as his Personal Assistant.

This is one aspect of the story I find... difficult. What did you have on the old man? It is one thing coming along to the station to apologize. A job as a P.A. is a different thing entirely.

He never really offered me a job.

Sorry. You’ve lost me there.

Selena offered me the job. She was waiting for him in his car in the car park on Cowley Road when we left the station. There was an awkwardness between Augusto and I, but Selena did most of the talking. Asked me what I was doing, what I was reading... it turned out to be an informal interview, and when she finished, she turned to her husband: here’s your Private Secretary!

And he went along with it?

He never refused her anything. We both fell in with Selena’s will reluctantly. For me, I was broke, and it beat stacking shelves at the local Tesco. On his own part, he drank heavily. That’s something I guess your British public doesn’t know. And his laureateship had tripled his correspondences. I started as his P.A. that very next week.

Did she.... betray any other motives for hiring you...

There you go again, gutter-brains! She had other irons in the fire at that point and if she got anything out of the hire it was more freedom. Before I came along she was obliged to help out her husband with his letters. Anyhow, I worked for him for the few months until he died.

So tell me about 19th June, 1997.

June 19th! Actually, the endgame started weeks before the suicide. One April evening, we were half-way through his Hennesy when the argument started. Modern British Art was trash, I said. Swap half the Tate gallery with a primary school exhibit and you’d still get the Ohhhs and Ahhhs from visitors and reverential reviews from the critics...

Not very original, as drunken observations go. That shouldn’t get under Augusto’s skin.

It didn’t. Until I said that if he signed a poem written by his gardener, it would win any poetry competition in Britain - and few reviewers would be bold enough to write a scathing criticism.


He was furious. Said I was mentally lazy, lacked the application to amount to anything - ha! You know of course, that I made a first class in Oxford?

Is there anyone who does not know that, Bakre?

Hmm. Anyway, he went on and on, saying that any poetry competition worth its salt was judged blind - that means the -

- judges don't know the identity of the poets - go on, Bakre,

Exactly. He said that if the same poets kept winning, it wasn’t cronyism, it was consistent quality.

Again you hadn’t said anything terribly original. Why do you suppose he went ballistic?

Maybe he took it too personal. I mean, despite his encouragement, I had refused to write any other poetry since Daydreaming. And Jean Placid had just won another mid-level competition with an entry that even Augusto had felt was not her best work. I had told him that the latest judges were merely bringing credibility to their own competition by choosing a poet who had been chosen by Sir Augusto - and that only provoked him the more.

How does any of this connect to his suicide?

You’ll see. Read this poem.

‘The Tresses of Doom!’ Listen, Bakre, I’m not going to read another poem till you tell me what this is all about.

Turn the sheet over, Laurence.

‘By Sir Anthony Augusto.’
    What’s going on? This is not in Augusto’s collected poems, it is not in his posthumous…

This is the format for competitions like the Poetry E-National. You write your 40-liner poem on one sheet and your name and address on the back of it. The administrator gets your entry in the post, photocopies the top page and sends it off to the judges. The judges judge them blind. When they have chosen the winners, they send the three or so poems back to the administrators who turn over the originals and announce the winners, even to the judges. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Please Bakre. Can you explain what all this has to do with the homicide of 19th June, 1997?

You know that Augusto entered the E-National contest...

And that he won first prize! And died that on the morning of the announcement, yes!

What nobody else in the world knows, is that he didn’t win the prize. His entry was ‘The Tresses of Doom.’ It may have won, of course. But it never got into the competition. It was my duty to mail it out for him and I swapped it around.

You what?

I took my poem, Daydreaming, which Augusto passed over for Jean Placid's, wrote his name behind it, and mailed it off. It was a drunken prank, if you will, but I did it. The rest is history.

What do you mean the rest is history? You were drunk and you slept it off and you owned up to the stupid prank the next morning! Well, didn’t you do that?

No. And I’ll tell you why I didn't. I was at that stage of life, weeks from graduation, when you’re wondering what to do with your life. I felt a burning inside me to write poetry. But I had never won a prize in my life. I had no validation to say that I was any good at all. My best - my most…


Thank you. My most enjoyable work had sunk without trace in a competition judged by the Poet Laureate. On the other hand I had a job waiting for me in Lagos. I had to decide one way or the other, was I any good? Could I turn my back on the Lagos job and spend my life in literature?

Why didn’t you just resubmit your poem? In your own name?

Despite the so-called blind judging rules, I felt I was fighting a racist glass ceiling. Bakre Gargazin doesn't sound very British, does it? That morning of the announcement, I took a copy of the newspaper. The entire poem was printed on some front pages. I was shaken to my core. For a moment, I was transported: I was going to scrap the Lagos job, I was going to spend my life in poetry.... but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the success of Daydreaming meant nothing, proved nothing. The real winner was the combination of the Augusto aura and my poem. I could write poetry twice as good as Daydreaming and still fail to find a publisher. It was the glass ceiling all over...

What ceiling are you talking about? Black writers have won the Nobel Prize in Literature for God’s sake! Bakre, your story beggars belief, forgive me for being frank.

Just be yourself, Mister Hughes. And if you don’t believe me, well, that’s your own funeral. Of course it was also Augusto’s, but I didn’t realize it then. Isn’t that life, mister policeman? You’re having a spot of headache but others have lost their heads entirely. Back in Augusto’s swank house in North Oxford, the situation was a little different. I’d thought that my swap would embarrass him, end of story. I never planned to claim the poem. It was going to be a point made between the two of us. He would either have to admit that he wrongly judged me out of the reckoning at the College Jubilee competition, or insist that the poem was trash but concede that the E-National Poetry judges were swayed by his name and reputation. By the way, what do you think is the likelier probability?

You really don’t want to know, Mister Gargazin. There are other, less flattering, options.

Unfortunately, Sir Anthony Augusto found one of them. He had been writing poetry for fifty-five years and he had a knighthood and six solid collections to show for it. He was Poet Laureate, the highest plaudit England could offer a living poet. His reputation in poetry helped him survive Selena’s public shenanigans. Now, here I was, making him a front-page laughingstock, in his poetic forte, on the front pages of the national papers. Thinking back, I know that is what pushed him over. Selena could have posed nude for Playboy and Augusto would appear at a poetry reading that afternoon, head held high. But if he heard a titter in the audience that concerned his poetry, no... that was not something he could deal with.

I’ll be polite with you, Bakre Gargazin, I think you’re a cruel liar. If this is true, why didn’t you claim your poem? Why did you come back here to Lagos if your poem could electrify a country? I mean... shake any high school kid out of sleep and he’d recite Daydreaming...

Would you kill yourself over forty lines that don’t even rhyme?


Precisely, Mister Hughes. Forgive me for being formal, but that is exactly how I felt when Augusto died and how I feel right now. Poetry is a sport for rich fools. Did Daydreaming become so famous because it was such a wonderful poem? Or because your Sir Anthony Augusto bled his brains out on the Guardian cover with the poem? Why should I claim a poem with blood on it? What pride should I have in the fact that my poem murdered Augusto? Was there anything to be proud about in my prank? It was silly, childish. Even if Augusto did not die, I would never have claimed the poem. I am only telling you this story because Selena has spent seven years in jail.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, Mister Gargazin, you’ve taken your time to tell me all this... but it is implausible... it would never pass muster in court.

Now you’re boring me. Did you expecting me to confess to hiring an assassin? What possible motive would I have for that?

I was hoping to hear that from you. I know you’ve had more than enough time to dream up a defence, but this is ridiculous. I’ll tell you something you probably don’t realize that I know. It’s a police habit that dies hard, keeping critical evidence out of the public domain, so you can test the authenticity of potential witnesses.
   Your bequest from Sir Anthony. I happen to know that years ago, the law firm handing his estate finally traced you to Lagos but you rejected his money. Now why would anyone reject a handsome bequest from a dead employer? Could it be conscience? Or a wish to avoid police attention in a murder investigation?

Do you remember how much the bequest was, Mister policeman?

Eleven thousand pounds.

Now think carefully. Why should he read the papers that morning, change his will to leave me eleven thousand pounds, and then kill himself with an instrument of his art?

If he killed himself.

How much was the prize money for the E-National Poetry, back in ‘97?

...ten thousand…

I see comprehension dawning on those heavy eyes. You're still slow, Mister Hughes. You remember of course that the prize money he awarded to Jean Placid was a thousand pounds. When my poem won the E-National Poetry his sense of justice told him I deserved the money. But I couldn’t take the money. Call it honour among poets, but I couldn’t take the money.

My God...

Aha... conviction at last. I don’t blame you, Laurence, it sounds a tall tale. Despite your conviction of Selena’s innocence, you find it difficult to believe me; maybe there’s no point in airing this, Augusto has bought his reputation at a steep price...

There’s a way to prove it.


Who ran that Jubilee competition for your hall?

The Parapet.

Exactly. I could reach my nephew Blake, there’s a chance he might have a copy of your 1997 entry.

Not a chance... No judging body would keep failed poems for eight years after a competition.

Maybe, for paper copies, but what's the cost of keeping electronic copies for thirty years? Ten  pence? It’s worth a try.

I would offer my phone, but...

It’s alright, I have a mobile, do excuse me... Blasted reception... there, I have a ringing tone... Oh - hello Blake... yes. I’m calling from Lagos, Nigeria... You’ll call me a fool, but I’m here on that Selena case... No... actually that’s why I called... really?... Oh... Oh... No I didn’t, thanks... Bye.

What was that about? Was he busy or something?

Selena died two days ago. She finally slashed her wrists deep enough. She'll be buried today.

No! O God!

I’m sorry I took your time.

And I’m sorry you spent your pension, but I think this story should end here. It will serve no purpose now, to wreck Augusto’s reputation.

There seems to be another major reputation on the line here, don’t you think?

What are you talking about? The judges of the ‘97 E-National?

No, I’m talking about the reputation of one Bakre Gargazin. How would History judge the resentful prankster extraordinaire whose irresponsible practical joke procures the suicide of a Poet Laureate, whose cavalier silence puts away an innocent woman for 7 years on a life sentence, eventually leading to her death?

I don’t mind being judged by History, Laurence, but I do mind the angst of your yellow press, that is a different thing entirely. I will go through it to bring Selena out, but if she’s dead, what’s the point?

The point is: that same yellow press - and History - will judge her for ever! Every anniversary of Sir Anthony’s death will bring another harvest of savage attacks on the name and memory of an innocent woman. Is Sir Anthony’s entitlement to a reputation any greater than Selena’s?

You can’t be serious, Laurence, to want to go through this for a dead... I see! There’s a fourth reputation in the picture! I can see the headlines already: Ace Policeman Cracks Case on His Pension! Investigator of the Decade Awards! One Case for the Road for Britain's Black Sherlock Holmes! You won't need a pension will you, with all your TV appearances and lecture fees...

You want to be crass about it, fine, Mister Gargazin, but this story’s got to out. You’re going to have to claim your poem. Everybody to his or her true history and let God judge us all.

I wish I slammed the door on you ten minutes ago!

And I wish I subpoenaed you eight years ago.

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