Papa Efe stood frozen over the horrific package and the note that faced him. Seeing his reaction, Mr. Zubi went close, saw what it was and raised an alarm. Compound members came scampering over. As it was getting dark, they produced their phones and torches and pointed as they got close. Each exclaimed and expressed shock on seeing the fingers and bloody eyes and the note in particular. Someone said:
“No be person finger and eye be dis?”
Another said “Yes o! Na wetin we see be dat o! Read wetin dem write for the paper!”
“Which boys dem dey talk?”
“Irikefe and Castro. Dem don loss since morning. Na de kidnapper send de letter.”
Behold your boys. I told you I was coming.
“Na him promise us say him dey come with blood.”
Papa Efa had still not taken his eyes off the package. Mama Willy-willy was rolling on the floor. Then suddenly Papa Efe shouted “Quiet!” He said it in a voice that they were not accustomed to. It was a voice of supreme authority.
They quieted down. Mama Willy-willy’s wailing instantly became a whimper.
“Who see dem when dem dey comot? Papa Efe said.
They were all looking at themselves and murmuring.
“Na Katakata street be dis. Somebody must see something.”
“Please if anyone saw anything I need them to speak up,” a shaken Mr. Zubi said. His wife was hysterical. He did not know what to do.
“How dat one go help us?” Mama Cowbell’s husband said. We don see de hand and de eye. We don see de letter. We know say na Agbonyibo.”
“We have to know if he came here to take them. We have to know how vulnerable we are.”
“This is Nigeria. From the moment you are born you are vulnerable.”
“Efe say him dey go buy something,” Papa Efe said.
“Castro said he was going for counseling in a new church he discovered. He said he was feeling suicidal again and needed the face of God! And he ended up with the devil.”
“Please which one belongs to my boy o?” Mama Willy-willy wailed. “Is it the eye or the fingers? What else did they cut off from him? Does he still have his head? Somebody please tell me o!”
Someone then said “His daughter is here.”
They had mostly forgotten. They all turned to look at Evae who was by Achike’s side. Achike locked hands with her and held her tighter. “Don’t say anything,” he whispered into her ears.
“Where is your father?” Mr Zubi thundered.
“Don’t say anything!” Achike retorted. “Leave her alone!”
“I said it that her presence in this compound is not good. He kept her here to use her to get us!” Mama Willy-willy cried and rolled on the floor.
“She has been with me since she came back. She has not done anything wrong.”
Evae and Papa Efe locked eyes. Then Papa Efe bent and picked up the eye and the fingers with his bare hands and wrapped them in the note again and proceeded to his room.
“Wait! Papa Efe. Where are you going?” Mr Zubi said.
“I wan go check something inside house.”
“We have to take it to the police.”
“I dey come.”
Papa Efe got to his room and tore a piece of cardboard from amongst Irikefe’s things under the bed and emptied the package onto it. Then he carefully smeared some of the blood from the fingers and the eye on the cardboard and packed it up again and went back outside.
They were all still waiting.
“Who dey go the police station?”
Mr. Cosmas and Mr. Zubi stepped forward. Papa Efe handed the package over to them and turned back into the corridor.
“Are you not coming with us?” Mr Cosmas called.
“Your son is involved.”
“Una know wetin una go tell police already,” Papa Efe said and entered his room.
Evae released Achike’s grip on her and entered the corridor.
“Where are you going?”
“I wan go talk to Papa Efe.”
“No I won’t let you. Don’t get involved. I know you haven’t done anything.”
“I no do anything but make I go talk to am.”
“Don’t.” Achike said and held her firmly.
“Abeg, bro Achike. You no go understand.”
He saw her eyes and knew it was probably right that he let her. There was no way she would not be affected by what happened. Papa Efe was a reasonable man. He was the only person he would allow to get close to her.
“Let me come with you.”
“No. Make you no make this thing hard for me. Do as I talk.”
Achike shrugged and released his grip on her.
PapaEfe heard a knock. He guessed it was her. without saying anything he opened the door and Evae walked in.
He returned to his seat on the edge of the bed and continued staring at the cardboard with the blood smears on it.
It was the first time they were close to each other since they recognized each other. There was not going to be any pretense. She spoke first.
“I know what you are trying to do. But you won’t be able to achieve it in the flesh.”
“I can’t leave my body.”
“You have been thinking about it. Out there I could see you were not looking with your physical eyes. You want to go. That is what you have collected the blood for.”
“I cannot go against my word. Already, I made it impossible for the palm wine tapper to return. The boy is dead. How now do I do the same thing I took life for?”
Evae went close and squatted beside Papa Efe. She peered at the cardboard in front of him. Even with her ethereal eyes, everything was hazy. She knew it was also what he saw. Then she looked at him again and said:
“Remember what you told me when I asked the question about leaving our bodies.”
“Self defense. Remember that. When under great threat, you must defend yourself and your loved ones with everything you have. It is not natural not to fight. Be circumspect where you need to be but be ever willing to strike back. Never be a martyr. It is stupidity. Nothing is worth dying for. We will never change from what we are or be delivered as the church people think they can do. We only change our ways if we wish to because of the new recognition we have. But knowing what you know and having what you have will come in handy at any time. Use it with courage. But do not look for trouble.”
“Those were your words Papa.”
She called him Papa. He understood what that meant. It was an affirmation of absolute trust. It was telling him ‘my real father has failed. I don’t care about him anymore. Do what you have to do. you are my father now.
“I will come with you.”
“No you don’t have to.”
“You have a man now. You can’t be by his side and leave your body.”
“I am a woman. We always have our way.”
Papa Efe did not doubt that.
Achike saw her coming out of the room and rushed to meet her. She was crying.
“What did he say to you? What did hat old man say to you?”
“Him no talk anything. I just dey feel bad for wetin my papa do.”
“Come let’s go inside.”
Evae thought quickly. It made sense to go to his room instead of hers. She could leave when she wanted to but if they were in her room, it would be harder to get him to leave. She allowed the tears to flow in torrents now. Achike led her inside.
“What did he say?”
“Him ask me whether I know where my Papa dey. I tell am say I no know.”
“Then why are you crying?”
“Na because him dey cry. I no happy at all.”
“So what is going to happen now?”
“We go dey pray, then we go wait for police.”
“I want you to stay out of this Evae. I know that this has nothing to do with you.”
“I go stay out of am.”
“I know how the stupid police people are and I heard what Mama Willy-willy was saying. They may be looking at you. But I will be with you all through and ensure that no one messes with you.”
Evae continued to cry and Achike gathered her in his arms. As he cleaned her tears and dabbed her sweaty body he cupped one of her breasts and squeezed the nipple and moaned. Evae seized the moment.
“Wetin you dey do?”
“You’re so beautiful Evae. I can’t resist.”
“This kind thing dey ground and you dey say ‘you are so beautiful?’
“But you are, my darling.”
“You think say I fit do dat kind thing when I know say because of my papa people dey cry for this compound?”
“No Evae. Please don’t see it like that.”
“How you want make I see am?”
“I want to comfort you.”
“Don’t say it like that.”
Evae stood up.
“I wan go my room.”
“What? With all that is going on? No way. You are not leaving my sight.”
“Achike I wan go.”
She always called him Bro Achike. There was trouble, he thought.
“Look. I apologize. I won’t touch you. But please don’t go.”
“I wan go. I no like this thing wey you do.”
“I no dey vex. I just wan dey by myself.”
“I don’t think it is safe.”
“Nothing go do me.”
Evae moved to the door but Achike rushed and blocked her.
“Leave me make I go. Every minute wey I dey inside here my vex dey increase.”
“Please Evae. Stay. I won’t touch you. I’m sorry that I did that.”
“If you no comot for road make I pass, I no go talk to you again.”
“Ah. Come on. It hasn’t come to that.”
“Abeg make I pass!” Evae cried and plumped on the floor and began to weep. “I say I wan go so dat I go fit pray. Na God we need now. If I dey here you no go let me pray. If you say you love me you go consider how I dey feel.”
“I love you Evae.”
“Then leave me to go.”
“Promise me you will be alright.”
“Nothing go do me.”
“Do you forgive me?”
“I forgive you.”
“Do you still love me.’
“Abeg make I pass. My mind nor good.”
“Just tell me you love me and you will be fine then I will let you go.”
“I love you bro Achike. Nothing go do me.”
“Alright,” Achike said and stepped aside and let her leave the room.
“God protect her for me” Achike caught himself saying. When last did he actually pray? Oh love!
Evae reached her room and changed into her night attire and entered the bed.
Midnight could not come quickly enough.
Iniquity sauntered into the barber’s shop. Lukman did not have any clients but Tobi was there with two other boys who did not live at number 225. The boys were admiring Tobi’s newly acquired tokunbo keyboard – Maya’s first ever gift to him to help his music aspiration – which was stationed at the far a corner of the shop. Tobi was talking to Lukman about the events that had just transpired in the compound. But when Iniquity stepped in, he changed the topic and was talking entertainment news.
“Bro Lukman. Tiwa Savage left Mavin. I no think say that na good idea you know.”
“She has gone to Universal. She now shares the same label with Rihanna and Lady Gaga. When Universal releases her songs, they will be released in sixty countries simultaneously. What can be bigger than that?”
“Leave that thing bros. Is it not better to be a big fish in a small river than to be a small fish in a big river? She been beFirst Lady of Mavin. She will not even be hundredth lady of Universal. Burna Boy say him feel sorry for people like her because them no know wetin dem dey do.”
“At least she has international exposure. We want our artists to blow!”
“I hear. I just pray make Mavin sign me to replace am.”
“Continue to dey dream you hear?”
“I go send my demo tape to Don Jazzy. I meet one guy for Reggae Songs Splash for Ajegunle on Sunday. He said if I give am 20k him go fit make my tape reach Don Jazzy. I no know how to ask Maya for the money.”
“Lucky you. You have a sister who can give you money. But this your plan na scam. They will eat your money.”
“It is not! I trust the guy. He has helped a lot of people. I have seen him with African China many times.”
“You and African China. No say I no warn you sha. First, get a slot to perform at the Reggae Songs Splash and let someone notice you before you start thinking about a recording deal.”
“I am close bros. This month I go do my first performance.”
They glanced at Iniquity where he sat at the customer’s couch. He was calm and quiet and was listening to them.
“Bros you wan barb?” Lukman said.
Iniquity only shook his head and remained quiet. He had always been aloof and they knew he only spoke to Irikefe and Castro sometimes. He looked at the rest of them with disdain and Lukman had seen him on two occasions with freshly cut hair coming from outside. They had since accepted that he was out of their league but what was he doing walking into his shop and not even saying a greeting and sitting down like it was his father’s parlor?
Tobi noticed Lukman was uneasy. He was as well, but he would not let the intruder ruin their evening.
“Bros you hear as Tonto Dike say him husband no fit perform?”
“Tobi that one is not a gist I will have with you.”
“Comot joor. You know wetin I know na. But wait o, how person go marry fine girl like that he no shift hin womb?”
“Wen you see him, ask him.”
“Tonto fine aswear. As soon as I make am. I go pursue am.”
“She no be your mate my guy.”
“See Wizzy and Tiwa na. Na money polish the guy. For him ojuelegba days him resemble monitor lizard. But now him dey roll on top premium chick like Tiwa Savage wey senior am with fifteen years.”
“First concentrate on making your stage debut and getting a recording deal. Tonto na pipe dream. And also be ready because she go snap the picture of your prick upload am for YouTube. You know say she dey craze.”
“And dem say Regina Daniel don get belle. Four months! And dem say she don follow her husband convert to Islam. Her name be Fatima now.”
Iniquity stood up and went over to where the other boys were fooling around with the keyboard. They moved aside when they saw him. He pulled a stool and sat down. He tapped a few keys and then went on to play a perfect rendition of the national anthem. He finished and got applause from everyone in the room. Then Tobi rushed over and said “Will you teach me? I was planning to join the choir and then get the musicians there to teach me.”
“Is it yours?” Iniquity said.
“Yes it is mine. My sister just gave me.”
“You can teach yourself. I thought myself.”
“Haa. That will be hard.”
“It isn’t. There are many ways but the best is to play by the ear. Play with it and identify the middle tones, the flat tones, the sharp tones, bass tones, and high notes. Really listen, buddy. Do this until you can tell the difference between them. Learn the major keys, learn the cords, notice the patterns and then start humming the songs you want to play. Be humming like a mad man until you internalize the songs. With the notes that you now know so well you can play the songs that are inside you. It’s not automatic. It takes a lot of practice and hard work. If you are lucky you will fuck a celebrity in twenty years time.”
That got all the boys kicking. No wonder he was so aloof. He was really a cool guy after all. Even Lukman could not hide his admiration.
“Okay, at least you can come and be having your hair cut here na. Even the counselor comes here. I see that you go out to do it,” Lukman said.
“Alright I will,” Iniquity said.
Tobi was by now already humming African China’s ‘Mr. President’ and fondling the keyboard.
“I am a rapper. Maybe we will do a collabo one day,” Iniquity said.
“Really?” Tobi shrieked. “Why not we form a group? Let me freestyle for you.” He jumped down from the stool and shaped his mouth and body before Iniquity raised a hand and said, “There is time for that. For now, I want someone to tell me about that package that we received. Who is Agbonyibo? I keep hearing his name.”
“Haa!” Lukman began. “He is a mysterious guy bros. He used to sell snakes, monkeys, scorpions and every wicked animal in this world. He once performed magic here when Tobi’s mother’s money got missing. Then…” Lukman looked around for help and then Tobi blurted “One day he fucked Mr. Achike’s anus. Mr. Achike’s brother beat him up and he ran away.”
“He lived here?”
“He did for up to six months. That fine girl you see with Mr. Achike is his daughter.”
Iniquity remained calm. Being who he was, his mind was busy as the boys proceeded to tell different stories involving Agbonyibo. Now he understood. The Baba was on a revenge mission. And used him.
Iniquity stood up.
“Are you going?”
“Yes.” He was once again the straight faced assassin.
“Will you come back?”
“Will you teach us the keyboard?”
As he stood up to go, Lukman followed him outside. Iniquity stopped and Lukman said “Bros. I’m not sure but it looked like I saw you with Efe and Castro this early morning. I came out to take my charger from the shop.”
Iniquity coolly said “Do you have malaria?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Still, treat yourself for malaria because something is definitely wrong with you.”
“Okay, no offence. I thought I should ask.”
“Just don’t repeat it,” Iniquity said, and headed for the uncompleted building down Katakata Street.
The hawk and the canary stood over the cardboard with the blood from the severed fingers and the eye. Papa Efe had also pricked his finger and put some of his blood on the cardboard.
“I don’t think the fingers or the eye belong to my son,” Papa Efe said.
“How do you know?”
“I put my blood on the cardboard. The vibrations do not match.”
“Are you his real father?”
“I am, though the boy heard stupid stories and sometimes doubts. But I am.”
“And the vibrations don’t match.”
Then both birds stood on the cardboard and turned their beaks upwards and listened.
“Only one of the blood samples belong to a living person. Me.” The hawk said.
“I see that.”
“He has killed the owners of these body parts.”
“I doubt strongly that he has killed your son and Castro,” the canary said.
“Do you have anything that belongs to your father? Like his unwashed clothes?”
“The clothes he wore when Chisco beat him up is still there. I locked it in a bag and threw it under the bed. I did not know why I did so at the time but I think it will be useful now. It has his blood all over it.”
“There can’t be anything better than his blood to use and find him.”
“Then I should go and get it.”
“Do so. It is time I paid your father a visit.”
TO BE CONTINUED.