Mr. Kingsley called early at Mr. Cosmas’ the following morning. He took his regular seat close to the door. Mr. Cosmas’ famous shortwave radio was on. He was listening to the BBC. Mr. Cosmas did not know the sort of mood Mr. Kingsley was in so he did not bother to say a word to him. Greetings were usually unnecessary between them. It was not uncommon for them to sit together in the compound for an hour or longer and not say anything to each other, and then when they were tired they would get up and go their separate ways. It was Cosmas alone who understood Kingsley and Kingsley was grateful for it. That morning, however, Cosmas sensed that he wanted to talk.
“You’re talking to me today old boy?” Cosmas said.
Mr. Kingsley looked around furtively and said “I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about – Oscar Wilde”
“Indeed. You are here at 7 am to talk about nothing,” Mr. Cosmas adjusted himself on the chair and brought his radio closer to his ear. They sat like that for another twenty minutes while the radio chirped on and Mr. Kingsley stroked his beards.
Then he said:
“I don’t want to be married just to be married. I can’t think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse, someone I can’t be silent with – Mary Ann Shaffer.”
“Okay, so this is about Esther. You were with her last night. Not surprised because I saw the look you two exchanged, in spite of everything I said.”
Mr. Kingsley did not say anything. So Mr. Cosmas continued: “I never ask why, but I have this to say to you. Anything you do not use, sooner rather than later you will lose. One day you might open your mouth to talk and nothing comes out.”
Mr. Kingsley scoffed and said, “Speaking of things robs them of half their terrors – Ivy Compton-Burnett.”
“Oh dear,” Mr. Cosmas breathed. This time when he raised his radio to his ear, Mr. Kingsley knew he was no longer going to pay him any attention.
Then Mr. Kingsley looked around again and spoke, normally, this time.
“She misunderstood everything you said yesterday. While we were at it, she was singing “Judge me! judge me! Give me judgment Kingsley! Judge me harder Kingsley!”
Mr. Cosmas put down the radio and looked at his weird friend.
“Did you understand what I said?” Mr Cosmas said.
“Of course. But it is not about me. My mind is made up like you know. But you have to find a way to tell her that we were only fucking and I do not judge with my dick.”
“You don’t have to be vulgar old friend.”
Mr. Kingsley chuckled and said “how do you do it?”
“Stay without a woman.”
“I don’t need one.”
“I’m just fine.”
“So this judgment no reach your side?”
“Kingsley, the point I was making was that we are at a time in creation when things are happening at an accelerated rate. If Esther decides to jump into bed with you using what I said as an excuse, it also buttresses my point. What I urge her and everyone to do is to be more aware; knowing what is going on in creation at this time; to practice mindfulness and see what help truly abounds. Her Bible puts it succinctly in Psalm 41: 1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.”
“Well, whatever. I just thought you needed to know what you unwittingly unleashed yesterday.”
Cosmas shook his head and said “The Word is not for everybody.”
The elders and compound members continued to stare at Irikefe and Castro. Mama Willy-willy ran from the backyard and took both boys in her arms at the same time. She held their hands and counted their fingers. She used two fingers to part their eyelids as far as she could and saw that the eyes were there. Compound members laughed at her drama. Then she screamed “praaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiase Gaaawd!” when she was convinced that they returned whole. Then the inevitable questions followed.
“We only played a prank on you guys. Papa Evae wanted us to see how he was doing. And for us to know that everything that happened here was just one big misunderstanding. He knew it would be difficult to convince you in any other way so he arranged for us to pay him a visit.”
“Pay him a visit. Where?”
“He is a nomad now. That is the problem. You know he is a hard working man. He goes from place to place to sell his products and usually sleeps either in the market or when business is good he rents a room in a cheap hotel. His wife left him and returned to their village in Togo. His daughter, well, you all know where his daughter is. He has become a lonely man. He said we should tell you that he regrets everything that happened and has asked the elders to prevail on Achike to forgive him.”
“Does he know that what he did to Achike was a crime? It is not even in our hands. He has to face the law. Jail time awaits him.”
“But we can settle out of court. I hear that all the time when the person that is wronged has forgiven.
“Anyway, that is what he wanted us to tell you. And we believe him. he was good to us as you can all see.”
Evae stealthily left the gathering. It was a difficult one for her. She could see through the boys and she knew her father. But there was nothing she could do in the matter. It was better she was not involved. She went to Achike’s room and lay in the bed and waited for him.
Achike was quiet all through. He resisted the temptation to follow Evae to the room immediately. He was an integral part of the council and he would not be running from difficult situations every time.
Irikefe and Castro continued their story. They even told how they spent one night at a prophetic service in one of the church camps in Ogun State. Compound members were nonplussed.
Then in the days that followed, the boys became models of good behavior in the compound. Irikefe opened his shop on time every day and stayed till the closing time even when he had no work to do or customers and in the evenings, he went back into the compound and cooked for his father and even washed plates.
Castro was obedient to his mother, was not seen going to the uncompleted building and even began to call his father ‘sir’!
Compound members were surprised how after two decades of the boys’ lives when they had failed to instill any morals in them, Agbonyibo could achieve the same in two days! Perhaps it was true that Agbonyibo was really a good man who only had a weakness. The evidence was that he did not molest the boys as well. The council of elders decided to meet at the weekend to take a look at the matter and to decide whether they should allow Agbonyibo return to the compound where he still had more than a year’s rent to go.
Irikefe and Castro kept him informed the whole time.
Elizabeth returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses. She sat and crossed her legs in front of her. She made her best model impression on Ndifreke. She indeed was a beautiful woman.
“Has he slept with your girlfriend?”
“I don’t know. But I suspect so.”
“How long have you known him?”
“More than six months I think.”
“Okay that is enough time.”
“What do you mean?”
“He is a smooth operator. He never rushes. He will first give the impression that he is disinterested and then lull you to sleep literally, and then strike. He likes other people’s women. And he is very patient.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I have known him from school.”
“Oh I see.”
“I was his first real girlfriend.”
“We drifted apart when he married a rich girl. We were living together off campus. He just returned one day and asked me to find another boyfriend because he had just been taken.”
“I didn’t see him after that. Until I started modeling. We met a few times and he never paid any attention to me until I got married.”
“Do I need to tell you? It is bad enough that he was my ex and that in itself was always combustible. But knowing I was someone else’s then increased his desire for me.
“He got me. But my husband was a good man who did not deserve the kind of woman I was becoming. So I quit modeling and returned to school for my masters. I have been working in the bank for the past six years.”
“And your husband?”
“He died two years ago.”
“I have overcome that, so it’s ok. But when I saw that you and your girlfriend worked for him, and lately I have not seen you two on the street holding hands, I knew it had happened.”
Ndifreke thought for a while and then said “I hit him.”
“And for that I can’t return to work for him.”
“I understand. He will hurt you back.”
“So how did you want to help me screw him?”
“His wife is a cripple and semi-retarded. Her father paid him a handsome price to marry her. The family also set him on his way to riches. His wife is made to believe that he is a saint. He is supposed to worship her. What we can do is get to her with evidence of his philandering.”
“Then what will happen?”
“His in-laws will destroy him.”
Ndifreke thought about it. What was he really going to gain by doing that? In the end, he was not only going to hurt Jonjo but an innocent woman that needed compassion. How about the time it was going to take to find the evidence he needed? What was really in it for the woman Elizabeth?
“What is in it for you?”
The question jolted her.
“Uhm nothing, I mean, he hurt you right?”
In that instant his phone beeped. It was a ring tone assigned to Maya only. He had not heard that sound in days. At that moment he was beginning to feel queasy about his companion. She noticed, crossed and uncrossed her legs.
That was all Maya needed to say.
Ndifreke stood up.
Then the phone beeped again.
I saw you. Please don’t do it
He stayed still and continued to look at his phone. She was only concerned about him not doing what she mindlessly did. It rang hollow.
“She knows I’m here.”
“She doesn’t want you to revenge.”
“I guess so.”
“Would you like to revenge?”
“Are you offering me a chance to?”
“On you helping me to screw Jonjo.” It came out of Elizabeth before she could stop it.
She wanted to use Ndifreke to get to Jonjo for reasons Ndifreke did not know.
“Is there something you are not telling me madam?”
“I am not your madam!”
“I want to leave.”
“I will scream rape.”
“This is not America, madam.”
Elizabeth stood up and put her hand through her jumpsuit and ripped it apart. Ndifreke was swift to get to the door. He was already outside when he heard her cries, accompanied by laughter. Crazy people everywhere! he thought as he ran past number 225. He would not be sleeping at home that night. He would go to Eno Sunday’s.
They danced around the fire for what would have been two hours of earth time. Then they stopped and sat on the floor in a circle. One by one they came out to the centre to give their testimonies. The first person that came out, a woman, said “Yesterday I took my son’s life. I had afflicted him with tuberculosis three years ago and watched him suffer. Yesterday I pulled the plug!”
The others cheered and Mama Tobi found that she enjoyed the story too.
“The feeling of euphoria that I had as he drew his last breath cannot be explained. Brethren, if you have not killed before, you don’t know what you are missing.”
The cheers rang even louder as the chief wizard came to the centre of the circle and handed the woman a staff and said “you have earned your promotion. And that adds another ten years to your life. You would have been gone next year but now you have exchanged your head with that of your son. So you will be around to enjoy many more Igogo festivals.”
The others cheered again and made space for the woman to return to a position in the circle nearer to the chief wizard.
Another came forward and said “I caused my son to lose his job yesterday. I so enjoyed the look in his eyes when he called me on Facetime to tell me. My sympathy was the loudest. They could not stop me crying!”
Again, cheers rented the forest. The chief wizard came out and handed her a medal. She returned to her former position.
So it continued until it was Mama Tobi’s turn. She approached the centre circle. She liked the lightness she felt. She felt as well as she was at seventeen. The night breeze felt refreshing. Even the silence before she spoke filled her soul with joy.
“I made my son run mad,” she said and they cheered. And when I got home and saw my daughter who is doing well as a model looking sorrowful I enjoyed it. Now I am thinking…how will I feel if she lost the job? Surely it would be heaven!”
“Yes it will be!” She heard in the crowd.
“And my younger daughter was smiley and happy and I felt sad. She likes school. If she fails an exam she will be broken. That is something I want to see.”
They cheered and said “Do it!”
“I am new. Show me how.”
The Chief wizard came forward and pointed a horn towards an iroko tree in the forest and images began to show like advertisements on TV. It was like a YouTube tutorial on how to carry out different forms of evil. Mama Tobi soaked it all in. Then the chief wizard said, “You did not really need that. But I wanted you to see that in our world everything is possible. Before they invented live television we already had it. Now take a look.” He pointed the horn at the tree again and the image of her room in Katakata Street appeared. Then the whole tree was filled with Maya on the bed touching her breasts and calling Ndifreke’s name.
Mama Tobi saw that she smiled easily. She loved what was happening.
“Looks like she is broken hearted,” the chief wizard said. But when we leave here, I will go and give her a helping hand, with your permission.
“Please enjoy yourself my Lord.” Mama Tobi said.
“So like I was saying. I only showed you that tutorial to entertain you. You are already one of us so everything you need is in you already. Nobody taught you to be happy at the sorrow of your child or be disappointed at the happiness of the other. It is already in your nature. When you want her to lose her job, you will know what to do even without what I showed you.”
“Thank you my Lord.”
“You will see that the more you make those things happen, the happier you will be, and the higher you will grow in this kingdom.”
“Thank you my lord.”
“And if you don’t get caught, the longer you will live as well.”
“This is great knowledge my lord.”
“Finally, when you are unable to come here or you want to operate on your own at night, you will have to take the form of a bird. We can all take the form of owls. But we also have unique forms we can take when there is no pressure.”
“I like the owl, my lord. I will do the owl until I feel it necessary to take any other bird form.”
“Alright,” the chief wizard said and pointed the horn at her and she immediately turned into an owl and lifted off the ground.
The others cheered even louder. The owl felt so good. It flew round and round the coven and continued to enjoy the cheers. It did not want that first flight to end. So it bade them goodbye and started the long flight back to Katakata street.
Then at about 2:30 am it landed on the rooftop.
As soon as it did Papa Efe awoke instantly. He stood up, reached for a bowl and filled it with water and prepared the same mixture he had prepared once before and stepped out of his room into the dark corridor.
TO BE CONTINUED