Iniquity arrived back at the compound trembling. For the first time, he went into his room and curled up in a corner. His mother thought he was sick and brought him paracetamol. He asked for tea and his mother brewed him a large cup – black with turmeric and lots of sugar.
“me kuke yi a wannan lokaci?” she said to him.
Iniquity ignored her and drank in large gulps in silence. It burnt his throat and he liked it. Hot tea with turmeric powder calmed him when he could not smoke.
“Wetin you don do again eh Usman?”
“Leave me alone!”
His mother shook her head and walked out of the room. She knew he would tell her eventually. He told her everything.
Iniquity did not know if he should tell her at once. But he did not even understand what had happened or what it was all about. The baba had assured him that he would get to know in a few days. How was he going to know anything when the only two people he talked to had been held captive, with his help, even though unwittingly. He continued to drink his tea and intermittently shook his head vigorously as if that would bring him the answers he needed. Now he was worried whether anyone had seen them leaving the compound together. Then he decided he would have to be watchful and keep his ears close to the ground. He would eavesdrop at every gathering – especially when the men gathered and he would spend time at the barbers’ shop as well. Soon they would notice the missing boys and without any doubt, he would learn what he needed to learn.
What worried him was that for some reason, he knew that this was trouble. Bigger trouble than he had ever known.
Maya walked back upstairs and fell on the bed and covered her head with a pillow. She remained like that for five minutes before her mother walked in.
Mama Tobi watched her daughter. Something did not seem right with her Maya. She noticed her mood and look had altered from the moment she stepped out of the nurse’s room. Could it be that she was pregnant again?
“Maya. My angel.”
Maya removed the pillow from her head, regarded her mother and then covered her face again.
“What is wrong my girl?”
Maya wanted to ignore her, but on second thought, she decided to square up to her mother. She sat on the edge of the bed and continued to regard her mother where she stood like a traffic policewoman holding her fufu ladle like it was a baton.
“What is it? Are you not going to work today?” Mama Tobi said.
“Why are you nice to Ndifreke Mama? Why?”
Mama Tobi pretended to be giving it a thought by peering at the ceiling for a full minute before saying “Nice to him? How?”
“Yesterday you called him your son. Hugged him. refused that he should leave and you ordered me to treat him well.”
“Errm, when did all that become a crime? If someone visits you, you accord them some regard, not to behave as if you don’t know our ways.”
Her mother was not looking her in the eyes. Maya knew she was not being sincere.
“He did not visit me, mama,” she said calmly. “He was fooling around with Achike’s brother and they came in here and knocked my food to the floor. Knowing you, you would ordinarily be on their necks. Because it was Ndifreke, you would be telling him his life, that is if you did not go the police as well.” Then in an even quieter tone, she said: “Tell me, mama, what is going on?”
“Nothing o! I swear to God!” Mama Tobi said lifting both hands to the ceiling.
Maya stood up and went closer to her mother. Their noses were almost touching.
“Mama, I forbid you to like him. I forbid you to accord him respect. You are going to be with him the way you have always been.”
“But my daughter, are we not supposed to live in peace with our neighbors?”
Maya was struggling to remain calm.
“You are not supposed to live in peace with Ndifreke. When you should have done so you did not.”
“I don’t understand you my daughter. Don’t you love him anymore?”
“Listen, mama. I don’t want you playing games with me. Whatever it is that is happening or has happened to make you behave like this be rest assured that I will find out. But for now, you will continue to hate him and antagonize him or I will leave this house.”
“Wait wait wait my daughter. What is the problem?”
“You hated him, you did everything to make sure we were not together. You pushed me into the arms of another man and now you are hugging him and calling him your son?”
Mama Tobi now put her face down and slowly took a seat.
“Did that man treat you bad?” she said.
“No. He showed me what I have been missing in the world.”
“Then what is the problem?”
“The problem is that I was not supposed to return to this house to find you hugging Ndifreke. Take note mama. You can’t do that.”
With that, Maya stormed out of the room.
Mama Tobi thought about the exchange with her daughter. She could not make head or tail of it. All she knew was that Maya now had plenty of money. It was typical that when children began to have more money than their parents they began to put on airs. Well, she could live with that. Anything was better than losing her daughter to the cold hands of death as might have happened if she had eaten that fufu. But would she have died? Didn’t the baba say that what he was giving to her was for her to be able to get her money back?
She still wanted her money. The potion to be ingested was always the tricky one. That one having failed, she would consider the next one. Oh yes, she would. The witch was not going to get away with stealing her money. The God of justice was with her. If it was not so, something would have happened to Maya. Maya surviving the fufu scare in such bizarre circumstances told her that the Lord wanted her to succeed in getting her money back. Which of the remaining two was she going to use now? She decided to use the one she would place for the culprit to step over. That was the easier one. She would place it in front of their door. No one ever entered their room so there was no risk of it affecting the wrong person. All she needed was the opportunity to place it.
So she took the medicine that was wrapped in dry leaf and put it in her waist bag and headed downstairs. If the coast was clear, she would place it that same afternoon.
The day was now far spent. People were returning from work and from their businesses. The crowd at the backyard was evident. The noise, the struggle to fetch water from the well and the queue at the bathroom was now swelling. Mama Willy-willy was making dinner in front of their self contained. Then something struck her.
“Where is your senior brother?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he has gone to smoke igbo.”
“Everyone knows Castro now smokes igbo everyday.”
Mama Willy-willy knew. Only she did not know it was talked about like that. But that was a matter for another day. For now, he had not seen Castro and it worried her. Usually, when he smoked he became hungry and would return at the first chance to eat five people’s food all by himself.
“Will you shut up and go and look for him?”
Willy-willy sprinted outside and returned twenty minutes later and told his mother that he had checked everywhere and did not find Castro.
“Carry my phone and call him.”
“I did so already and his number is switched off.”
“Go and meet your father where he is solving the problems of Nigeria and tell him that Castro has not been seen since morning.”
It also occurred to Papa Efe at the same time that Irikefe had not returned from the market where he went to buy materials for the shop. Papa Efe did not want to ask him where he got the money to buy things for the shop or why that seemed so important to him when he had not had a single job of note to do. But he was glad to see his son’s application and thought all he could do was to let him carry on. But at that moment he felt trepidation. He knew that Irikefe was in some kind of danger. But the other men kept on talking.
“INEC has proceeded to change all their servers across the country. We can now see that Atiku was right. The ruling party is jittery. Indeed Atiku is coming.”
“Where is he coming to? What you have just said reinforces the fact the APC is holding tight to power. They will change servers, change the chief justice of the federation, do everything it takes to hold on to power and the best you can do is to keep wailing. These guys learnt from Jonathan’s naivety. It’s Buhari till 2023.”
“I was reading somewhere that people are pushing Atiku to bring out all the money he looted. Some of his men are feeding fat over all this.”
“Has anyone noticed the silence of Peter Obi? In fact, whenever he has been sighted since after the elections he has been smiling.”
“That is because he has played a smart Igbo man on them all. Man kept all his money in his pocket and offered only his eloquence. As the thing failed, he just went back into his shell, his bank account has healthy has day one.”
“Na wa o.”
“Listen, gentlemen, you are talking about Atiku and Buhari. Have you people not heard that we should stop eating ponmo because there is poisonous ponmo in the market?”
“That is not going to happen. What sort of stupid news is that? How do they know the ponmo is poisonous? How many people died eating it? Who told them the process of preparing ponmo is like baking cake?
“It is not the first time they are doing this kind of propaganda. A while ago they started campaigning that the Federal Government is losing revenue to the consumption of ponmo. They say that we should stop eating ponmo so that the leather can be exported for foreign exchange. And I say where is the foreign exchange they have been making from oil sales and agriculture and everything else? Is it this ponmo that the poor man is using to help himself that will change the fortunes of this country? Is it a crime to be poor again? Why won’t they let us enjoy the ponmo we can afford in peace?”
“The Bayelsa assembly passed a bill to be paying lawmakers 500 thousand naira retirement pension for life.”
“Luckily for them, the Governor refused assent due to public outcry. These are the type of people that will want us to stop eating ponmo. God will punish them.”
“Did you hear that Boko Haram fighters get paid three thousand dollars daily allowance compared to one thousand naira daily we pay our soldiers?”
“So if it is you, who will you fight for?”
“No wonder even Igbo boys are fighting for Boko Haram now. Three thousand dollars daily!”
“With no good guns or anything. I don’t know why people are still doing it. I swear I’d rather die of hunger.”
“Sirs, why don’t we spare a thought for Arsenal and Manchester United? They are both losing left right and center. Barcelona has won the league again. Everyone is also beating Real Madrid despite reappointing Zidane. And Juventus and Ronaldo are champions again in Italy.”
“Mancheter United and Arsenal cannot come out of a combined fifty years with only two coaches and be the same again. Now we have seen that the Manager was never the problem at United. Mourinho was right all along that some of the players were not good enough. Emery, on the other hand, is trying too hard not to be seen to be pampering his players like Wenger did and everything is backfiring. It all boils down to the difficulty of change. They are wealthy establishments. Las las they will be alright. Give them time. Ronaldo’s title winning with Juventus should not even come up for discussion. Who was going to challenge them with or without Ronaldo. Inter Milan? As for Barcelona, what do you expect? They have the GOAT.”
“Ronaldo is the GOAT.”
“Oh not again.”
Willy-willy then burst into the gathering and announced to his father to the hearing of everybody that Castro had not been seen since morning.
“Is that why you have come to disturb me? Gerraway! Ewu Gambia!”
“Me too I never see Efe,” Papa Efe said.
It was then they noticed a beggar who had been standing on the other side of the road and had been watching them for some thirty minutes. He clutched something under his dirty torn kaftan. It was getting dark and past the time beggars wandered about.
As soon as he saw that he had been noticed, the beggar, a short man with indiscernible facial features, threw a package in a cellophane bag into the gathering and disappeared into the sunset.
Thinking it was a bomb, the men scampered in all directions but Papa Efe did not move. He regarded the cellophane while the others had reached their rooms. Only Mr Zubi stayed and watched from a safe distance.
Papa Efe picked up the cellophane and opened the small carton it contained and immediately threw it on the floor spilling the content.
It contained two fresh human fingers and an eye wrapped in a paper with a note read: “Behold your boys. I told you I was coming.”
TO BE CONTINUED.