Iniquity reached the uncompleted building and brought out his dope, lit up and began to smoke.
Lukman had seen him. That was not good. Even though he did not seem sure of himself, Iniquity knew that if days passed and the boys were not found, more questions would be asked and Lukman could voice his suspicion to someone. What could he do now? He smoked in silence and continued to think. He thought about going back to the Baba’s place to plead once more. But from what he gathered, he was a wounded man who would be difficult to assuage. Added to the fact that he was into dark arts. How did the man know his story? The one and only murder he had been part of was one he was sure that even the wind blowing that day had not seen. It was the perfect hit. The man had been dropped off by kidnappers after receiving a ransom as they later heard in the news. While he groped around the deserted expressway looking for help, Iniquity and a friend were just returning from a party from out of town and were discussing finding human parts for money rituals. Then their headlights picked up this man. Bashorun was driving his father’s Grand Cherokee. His father was a butcher and had his implements in the car and was getting ready to go out to his business before his son jumped into the car and drove off earlier that morning. They stopped and dragged the man into the bush and executed him and harvested his parts. Bashorun asked Iniquity to drag the man further into the bush while he went to hide the parts in the car. Iniquity returned and did not find Bashorun. Iniquity was a bad boy, but he knew the one person that bested him at malevolence – the boy Bashorun.
If that Baba was able to know that, confused him with the most fantastic story about the snake money, knew about his incest, raped a man, had a beautiful daughter, then he was not one to trifle with. Therefore going back there was not an option. He would wait and see what came out of the whole thing. Even if the boys returned and mentioned his name, this once, he was innocent of wrongdoing. They were with the villain as a result of something they or their families did, which had nothing to do with him. He did not talk because he was threatened by a man whom from the way they spoke about him in the compound, was feared by everyone. He had been manipulated pretty much the same way the man manipulated them all. Why then would he now be the one to play the hero?
Iniquity extinguished his weed and dusted his jeans and stepped out of the building. The night was raucous and humid and he was hungry. He decided to go back home and see what his mother made for dinner. Then he saw Josephine. Iniquity had never had a girlfriend and never needed one. Before he even seduced his sister, the first place he sought out in any new environment he found himself was a brothel. He liked to keep things simple. Attachment to women hampered one’s quest to make money, and Iniquity did not have the temperament for a relationship. He had seen the nurse a few times and he knew about Chisco’s altercation with Ndifreke’s over her. He had laughed so hard when Wasiu explained the whole thing to him. Ndifreke was a wimp and Chisco an insecure thug. Both of them the kind of men he liked to enlighten.
The nurse was walking briskly in the opposite direction coming at him. She seemed to be in a hurry, and the brisk walk made her hips sway and jiggle as if the tissues that held things together were on break. It caused him to have instant arousal.
Iniquity did not know how to bite his words when he saw a woman that he wanted. He had paid to be with so many that he did not know any other way than to go straight to the point. So as she reached where he was he held her wrist and said “Sweetheart, can I be your lover tonight?” Josephine slapped him hard across the face and snatched her hand and continued on her way. Anyone watching would have thought that it was a peck he received on the cheek rather than a slap. He was as cool as ice. He smiled and watched her fade into the night. Then he shrugged and turned and continued on his way home. The nurse had thrown him a challenge. She was going to learn why he was called Iniquity.
What he did not know however was that Chisco, who was following Josephine at a safe distance had seen everything.
They had just had pizza and some Champaign. They were now playing WHOT.
“Pick two! Pick five! Last card! Check!” Castro shrieked in delight as he beat the other two for the fifth time.
“You dey cheat. How come na you dey carry all the number two and five?”
“I be champion. Una two dey learn.”
“Na me go win now. Make we play again.”
“Ahh! Papa Evae don vex o!”
“I don tell una say make una no call me Papa Evae. Call me my guy-name. Call me Agbonyankee or Agbon-fine-boy!”
“Agbon-fine-boy!” Castro hailed.
They played two more games and Castro again won them both. Irikefe pushed the cards aside in dismay and then said “Agbonyankee, wetin you think say dem go do when them see the message wey you send?”
Agbonyibo smiled and said “dem go fear na. dem go think say I pluck una eye and cut una hand.”
The two boys laughed and held their stomachs.
“Agbonyankee! You bad sha!” Irikefe said.
“I say make I show dem small thing to take remember say I never die.”
“So you say make we send another message this night?”
“Wetin we go put for the message?”
“Na only letter I go write. I no go see another thing to put inside. No need sef.”
“Wetin you go tell dem?”
“I go tell dem say make dem give me back my pikin before I go give dem their own.”
Irikefe and Castro fell on the floor and convulsed in laughter.
“Achike go die o!”
“I want make him die.” Agbonyibo said.
“The man don dey behave like say him don reach heaven.”
“My pikin toto dey sweet am. Him never know anything.”
“But wait o, Agbonyankee. Wetin Evae see for that frog body?”
“Him sabi fuck.”
“But my man Castro here sabi too na. Na Castro first nack am but him come go gum for Achike body.”
“Wetin Castro nack?” Agbonyibo said.
Irikefe turned to Castro who was now scratching his head.
“You been lie for me?”
“Him no lie. De tin be say as him just put him preek all him akamu pour comot and my pikin come pursue am comot for my house.”
“Haa Castro, you come tell me say you break her waist! meanwhile na Tonto Dike husband you do!”
“Guy, no be like dat. I no know how the thing manage be like dat. As I put am e come be like say machine dey inside wey dey suck sperm comot for my prick.”
“Churchill brother!” Irikefe screeched.
“No be Castro fault. Na so e suppose be. Man no suppose tey inside my pikin. Una no go understand. I no come know how that Achike take do am. Him show my pikin wetin she never see before.”
“Na why you come revenge for him body?”
“We been dey fear say you go do us the same thing.”
The two boys expected the worst when Agbonyibo approached them tied up to the beam with a machete after Iniquity had left. Castro was still crying.
“Jesus help me! Mr. Agbonyibo, please. Papa Evae, please. I am the first born of my father!”
Irikefe too was begging.
“Papa Evae. We did not do anything. Please sir. Don’t harm us.”
“Shut up!” Agbonyibo said. “I go loose una. But make I warn you. If una try to run, I go catch you. And when I catch you na dat time una go die. Una hear me?”
“Yes sir!” they said in unison.
Agbonyibo proceeded to cut the twine he used to tie them up. They immediately rushed and bound to each other.
“Make una calm down jare.”
“We are calm sir.”
“Una don chop?’
“No sir. We left the house this early morning.”
“Make una stop de grammar. Talk wetin I go hear.”
“I no go do una bad thing.”
“Okay sir. Thank you sir.”
“I dey miss Katakata street so I say make I bring una come here make we play small.”
It did not make any sense to them. But they could see that the malevolent airs about him of an hour before had gone. He appeared genuinely nonchalant.
“Una two be correct paddy. Even though I don old, I no wetin dey down. I dey look una when I dey dat compound and I like una. All dat time wey una dey pursue my pikin, even when una dey even look my wife, I dey see una.”
They did not believe what they were hearing. But his manner corroborated his speech. His scary look aside, he pretty much at that moment came across as an older co-conspirator. His perfect smile when he flashed it this time rubber-stamped this surprise assertion.
“Why you really bring us come here sir?”
“I want make una epp me to return to my house. I no fit pay money for house come dey live inside bush.”
“But why you run sir?”
“Dat boy nearly kill me. Una no see am?”
“But dem say dem go carry police come arrest you when dem see you.”
“Na why I bring una come here. I want make una epp me.”
“We no fit stop dem.”
“I go make dem think say I kidnap una and I don kill una. When dem come know say nothing do una, dem go dey happy sotey dem go even forgive me. I go treat una well. But when una go back, una go beg dem. Una go tell dem say I dey suffer. Una go tell them say I no be bad pesin and make dem let me to come back.”
Irikefe was full of admiration for the ingenious old man. This looked every inch an adventure, he thought. He could not have asked for a better break from the boredom of Katakata street and running a carpenter shop. But he had some concerns.
“But sir, na for inside dis bush we go stay? Something dey bite us for here since morning.”
“No. E get one small hotel wey dey for front. We go just comot for main road waka reach dia. I don book one room.”
Irikefe saw that Castro was still not convinced.
“Castro, how you see am? I believe Papa Evae.”
His eyes were still teary. He said “Papa Evae. The thing wey I dey fear pass na de thing wey you do Mr. Achike.”
“I no go touch una. Achike find me trouble.”
“Are you sure sir?”
Agbonyibo stepped out of the thatch and reached for a pair of trousers on the roof and removed a bundle of five hundred naira notes from its hip pocket and counted five thousand naira and gave to each boy.
“I get money. If una be my friend, I go give una anything wey una want. Make una use dat one hold una pocket fes. If una epp me, more go come.”
That was how Agbonyibo convinced the intractable boys to buy into his schemes. He got dressed and took them to a dingy chalet close by. Ensconced in the room, he told them about his plan to send a note with human parts to the compound. It excited Irikefe even though Castro was at first worried for his mother. But Agbonyibo assured them that he would send a quick second to dispel their fears.
He fed them ‘mama-put’ of two large plates of white rice and beans with assorted meat laced with phenobarbitone, which knocked them out as soon as they finished eating, making it possible for him to lock them inside the room while he went to find the mad man that traded in human parts. He got what he wanted, proceeded to prepare the package which he showed to the boys when they woke up before he locked them in the room again and went and delivered the package and returned.
That first night, Agbonyibo did not leave anything to chance. In his experience, he knew that Africans when in trouble would in secret always seek African solutions to their problems. He knew the caretaker was an old man who would not sit around and pray or wait for the police. So while the boys slept, he returned to the bush and cut his thumb and extracted as much of his blood as he could into a bowl. He made a fire and squatted beside it and caught as much of his sweat as he could and mixed it with the blood and divided it into ten places. That afternoon, he disguised as a mad man and went to ten different locations and poured the blood and sweat mixture. He poured in a bush, on the main road, in gutters, in front of people’s houses, everywhere. He also did not sleep in his body that night, as he knew that the vibration of blood was weaker in a soulless body. He was confident that with everything he had done, he would succeed in escaping the sort of scrutiny he expected.
Therefore that night as the hawk traversed the skies in search of a trace of Agbonyibo using his blood, it was led to different inconsistent locations, all at variance with metaphysical reality. That made the hawk to stay out longer than it was supposed to, and only barely made it back in time to be able to repossess its body.
In the morning, Agbonyibo arrived at the chalet early. The boys woke up and found him staring at them from a corner of the room.
“Today we go go hustle.”
“I go give una better cloth and tie make una wear. As e be say una sabi speak grammar, we go go Isolo bus stop, una go dey meet people dey tell dem say una come interview then them postpone the interview and una need transport to go back to Oshogbo.”
“Wow! Mr Agbonyibo!”
“Nobody know una for dia. Una go make better money. Just make sure say una no beg the same pesin two times o! If una beg pesin and he give una, just go one corner go dey watch. If una see am enter motor comot, then una go go back go repeat una story. Una go fit do am?”
Irikefe could not wait to start. He had never heard of anything more intriguing. Again Castro was wary.
“Oooooh this boy! Wetin dey do you sef? You too slack mehn. After you go say you be big boy!”
“It’s just that, begging. E get as e be, guy.”
“This na corporate begging. Papa Evae is right. Nobody knows us around here. And besides, it’s fun man! Or you don dey miss your mama bress wey you wan stay for house dey suck?”
And so Agbonyibo convinced them. He disguised as a cripple and kept an eye on the boys all afternoon. After the rush hour, he signaled to them that they should return to their chalet. On the way back they entered a supermarket and bought some provision and the playing cards and Champaign to celebrate. They also entered the newly opened pizzeria in the area and ordered half and half pepperoni and American cheeseburger. Irikefe realized N12,500. Castro made N9,800. They did better than Agbonyibo imagined.
“Agbonyankee! Irikefe screeched. You be correct baba aswear.”
Agbonyibo basked in the praises. Everything had gone according to plan. They talked about everyone at the compound. Irikefe then had the opportunity to ask about Iniquity.
“So Agbon-fine-boy, how you manage come know Usman the Iniquity?”
“I lie for am say snake for Bar Beach get diamond. I tell am to bring una come make I pray for una make una fit go thief the diamond.”
“And he believed!”
“All of una no get sense na.” He said it so good-naturedly that it sounded like a blessing. The boys could not contain themselves with glee.
“So we go send another note this night?”
“Wetin that one go achieve now?”
“With that one dem go know say una never die. E go also confuse dem because Achike no go gree. My pikin sef no go gree. But with de confusion dem go do wetin una tell dem wen una go back.”
“I hope we don’t not go back this month. I love this life!” Irikefe declared.
“No o. Small time awa picture go enter news and everybody go see am for dem phone. Dem go catch us.”
“Oh shit! Twitter, Instagram, Nairaland!”
“Maybe one or two days more.”
“Let’s go to CMS bus stop tomorrow. We go hammer for there.”
“E too far. Make una no worry. Una dey with Agboyankee. Una no go regret,” Agbonyibo assured.
At number 225 Katakata Street time had stood still. The despondency in the council of elders could be cut with a knife. It was worse that day because for the first time Papa Efe looked defeated. He had aged considerably overnight. They could not discuss politics or anything of the sort.
“Will he leave them to bleed to death after gorging their eyes and cutting off their fingers?” Akunna said.
“Please don’t be so graphic. Their parents are here.” Mr Cosmas said.
“I want to know because he will obviously not take them to the hospital for fear of being caught. He is not that humane anyway. If he was he would not have kidnapped them in the first place.”
“Dem never die,” Papa Efe declared.
“How do you know?”
“I know. Na my pikin.”
“Who will they cut off their fingers and remove their eye and allow to bleed without care that will not die?”
“What exactly are you trying to do Akunna?”
“I am just being realistic. We are dealing with a kidnapper and murderer and the knowledge of that fact will help us know what to do.”
“Okay now tell us what the knowledge of the fact can do for us?”
Akunna shrugged and said “Well, I guess for start you will know how to pray. You can specifically tell God that he should make sure the open eye socket does not over bleed and that he should also stop the blood from the fingers while we figure out what to do. Come to think of it, when they return, how many one-eyed men will we have? Two and a half. Lukman, Irikefe or Castro. Chisco already has one and a half.”
“Shut up!” Mr Zubi thundered. He could no longer contain his rage.
Akunna stood up and said “I can see that you people do not want to hear the truth. I will leave you here to continue lying to yourselves. I am going to my room.” With that, he marched into the corridor.
The others remained pensive.
“Two missing persons’ reports have been made. We have told the police about Agbonyibo. Only we don’t have a photo of him.”
Papa Efe shook his head vigorously. He alone knew the magnitude of his disappointment. He had underestimated Agbonyibo. He hated it that he was now as helpless as the others. Then suddenly, another nylon like the one they received the previous day dropped in their midst. No one ran away this time. They only looked up to see the deliverer sprinting away. Mr. Zubi picked it up with shaky hands. They wrapped a note around a piece of rock. He threw away the rock and read the note.
You have my child and I have yours. Give me mine and I give you yours.
Achike was in the gathering.
They all turned and looked at him.
“Don’t look at me! I can’t help you!” he said and stood up. He too headed for his room.
The men looked at each other.
“What is this one now?”
“The man’s daughter is here against his wish. He wants us to exchange his daughter for our sons.”
“She is an adult! How do we do this?”
“That is not even the problem. She is an adult who has just fallen in love. You know how new love is. And you also saw Achike’s demeanor.”
“There is even no guarantee that the girl will be safe with him. She defied him. She may even be going to her death.”
“He will not kill his child.”
“Okay she will be returning to ruin and unhappiness.”
“Frankly gentlemen, I don’t care. He can do whatever he wants with his child. I want mine back. And you people forget that these are bloody foreigners! Who goes to another man’s land and behaves like this. What sort of calamity is this, my god!”
“Calm down Mr. Zubi. This new note gives us some hope. We at least now know he has not harmed them.”
“How are you sure?”
“Papa Efe feels so.”
“Get that little whore out of this compound and bring back my son!” Mr. Zubi said and finally succumbed to his emotions and wept.
The others looked at him with pity and shook their heads.
Then Tobi burst into their midst.
“Mr Zubi, everybody! See the news I just see.”
“What is it?”
“Train accident for Iddo where Mama Akunna use to go and buy ogogoro. People die. Two men and a baby. See the picture. This is Dozie and see Mama Akunna for ground.”
“Where bro Akunna?”
“He left to his room.”
Tobi bolted through the corridor to go and find Akunna. As soon as he knocked and heard come in, he crossed the rain embankment and entered the room. Immediately he lost his senses.
Far away at Okitipupa, a medicine man knew that his charm had caught someone.
TO BE CONTINUED.