Papa Efe did not think he needed to be elaborate this time. He would even allow her to go as far as the front or back door of the corridor before realizing she would not be able to return to her body. If she acted as some have acted in the past, she could even thrash about in bird form till daybreak and be caught red-handed. So he sprinkled the mixture on the corridor only and placed only one broomstick in front of her door and returned to his bed.
In all his life, very few things had jolted Papa Efe as much as going out to the corridor that morning and seeing Mama Akunna. He was so shaken that he first sat on the embankment in front of his room and breathed hard before mustering the strength to get up to walk to the backyard.
Mama Akunna had seen the broomstick when she opened the door and understood its significance. She could even feel the trap that was set and knew that if she had gone out of her body that night that they would have caught a bird in the morning and she would not have woken up.
But in the protection of her body, the trap was of no effect. It would wear off by evening anyway, and she did not have any plans to leave her body any time soon.
The way things were, she was going to have to be unassuming again. No one would know that she was in that compound. She had had a close shave with shame and disgrace and she knew that witches did not have nine lives. She would quietly do her ogogoro business and pray that Akunna did not return home any time soon.
But when she got to the backyard and saw Papa Efe’s face, Mama Akunna suddenly had an idea.
If she was going to remain in Katakata street as she planned to, how much better would it be if she did so without having to be looking over her shoulders at the enigmatic warlock that was the caretaker? If he had thought that he had set a trap for her and the trap did not get her, and he was looking so unsure of himself, then that was a situation she could exploit for her benefit.
Mama Akunna walked up to him where he started drawing water from the well when he saw her and said “Papa Efe! The original caretaker of katakata street.”
“Good morning” Papa Efe said and looked away.
Mama Akunna chuckled and drove four knuckles into the small of his back. Papa Efe flinched and shifted two paces. Mama Akunna then leaned closer and said in his ears “you surprise to see me ehn?”
Papa Efe continued to avoid her. She leaned even closer and said:
“You think say you wey dey ground go sabi yonder pass us?”
Papa Efe continued to draw water into a metal bucket without saying a word.
“You think say when you take my pikin say I go keep quiet make you follow take me?”
Papa Efe’s hands were now shaking. He could not fathom what was happening.
“You think say you go just wake up one day come scatter wetin we don dey use helep oursef all this time just like dat? If you no wan do, why you no go mind ya business make we wey wan do to do our tin?”
Papa Efe lifted his bucket and turned to go.
“You see dat my pikin wey you kill, I go do you back aswear.”
Papa Efe started walking towards the bathroom. Mama Akunna tagged behind him.
“If you try dat nonsense again, I go show you say this white head wey I get no be for market I buy am.”
Papa Efe got to the front of the bathroom and placed his bucket on the queue. He looked defeated.
Mama Akunna would squeeze out all she could from the situation.
“You no go fit kill me. I go dey comot as I like. Mind ya business. If you try that nonsense again I go kill ya pikin. Ya power no work yesterday, e no go work wen I go do you back.”
With that, Mama Akunna trotted away from him.
Mama Akunna knew Papa Efe did sense something before he went out to set the trap. Only he assumed it was her. That would only mean one thing. There was a new witch in the compound.
Now all she needed to do was to find out who it was.
So much for an unassuming lifestyle, she thought.
Papa Efe had his bath and brushed his teeth and went out to meet with the elders. Their Saturday meetings were different. And that day they were going to be discussing Agbonyibo. That did not fill his heart with joy because he knew where it was headed. He got to the gathering and took his seat. He was hard at thought. All the others were there already. Mr. Zubi was already reading the newspaper headlines and the discussions had started. They were not going to jump into Agbonyibo’s matter at once and Papa Efe understood that. Until someone said…
“Nigerians sef! Imagine say Nigerians dey go lie for Canada say dem be homosexual so that dem go grant dem asylum? Nigerians are now the nationals that top Canadian asylum seekers of all the Nations of the earth, and two out of every three claim that they were seeking asylum for homophobic reasons. That they would be jailed in their country if they stayed and practiced their right to be homosexual.”
“Dem de crase? How man wey never collect prick for nyash before, wey never know say strong prick no dey show mercy go go talk dat kind thing because of asylum?”
Most in the gathering cast furtive glances at Achike as that was said. But Achike remained unflinching. They could even have been talking about the weather from the way he looked.
“Meanwhile President Trump has said that all those who have overstayed in America and are seeking asylum should start packing their bags. That man nor send anybody o! I dey sorry for our people because dem reach one million wey go return to their village.”
“But why Mr. Agbonyibo no go seek asylum for Canada? E better pass to come back here. Me I dey fear o!” Mama Cowbell’s husband said.
“Did you people see that Governor Gan-dollar succeeded in installing new Emirs despite a court order to the contrary? Now Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is just one of five emirs in Kano,” Achike said.
They knew he did not want to talk about Agbonyibo and they understood.
“They can do whatever they want about the emirates. The traditional monarchy practiced across the country is the most useless thing in this pseudo-democracy.”
“Bauchi Assembly pass bill to ban Sports betting.” Mr Zubi read.
“What is wrong with these people? Is this a military regime? They have no right to stop anyone from gambling if they chose to do so. There are bigger problems. Is gambling worse than the looting they are all engaged in?”
“Well, for one, they will get our youths thinking of proper vocations for themselves. It is becoming a problem.”
“Were they given jobs and they refused to work? Is it not better than yahoo-yahoo?”
“It encourages laziness and the get rich quick malaise. I can’t wait for it to go national.”
“Meanwhile, Governor Akeredolu says Ondo state now wants to focus on cultivating marijuana for export.”
“Marijuana! Is he mad?”
“There is a thriving legal Marijuana market for which he has projected revenue in excess of $140 Billion by 2025! It is not madness. The man knows what he is saying. Little by little the world is warming to the idea that marijuana is not all bad. It is wisdom to elevate it to the status of cash crop.”
“Well, people are saying he should dump the idea. Igbo is not a good thing, period.”
“Anyway we shall see.”
“Lai Mohammed said that Atiku is planning a coup against Buhari. He says PDP is planning to truncate our democracy.”
“Atiku has asked him to show proof.”
“You know he has none. They are jittery over Atiku’s chances at the tribunal and are saying all sorts of nonsense to divert attention.”
“Alright gentlemen. You all know we have an important pending issue we said we were going to address today. No need running away from it,” Mr. Cosmas said.
“Now the thing is this. If the man wants to return, we really cannot stop him.”
“He is a danger to us. He will repeat what he did before.”
“I don’t think so. Out of respect for Achike I do not want us to over-flog the issue. His rent is still running and really if he walks in here now we cannot stop him from entering his room.”
“We will report him. He committed a crime.”
“He is asking for forgiveness.”
“He offended only Achike, really. So Achike, would you forgive Agbonyibo and withdraw the case against him?” Mr Zubi said.
Achike knew this was going to happen and he was already prepared. He was in love with the man’s daughter. Even though she refused to be drawn into it, Achike knew the strength of family ties and knew that with time Evae would begin to miss her family. She had already started talking about her mother. So he decided that if it came down to his decision, he would let Agbonyibo return and withdraw all charges against him. No one expected that as they all knew him, but he was going to be a bigger man this once.”
“I forgive him,” Achike said.
There was a collective sigh of relief in the gathering, even though there were still one or two murmurs and someone repeated that Agbonyibo was better off going to Canada.
From where they stood Irikefe and Castro punched the air and shared a hug.
Everything was now clear to Iniquity. But he felt used by the baba and he did not like that. Of all that was said, no one mentioned anything about the supernatural powers Agbonyibo possessed, something he had experienced himself. They were only worried about his homosexuality but the man was much more than that. Iniquity considered going to the chief elder to warn him, but how was he going to explain how he go to know? And what was he going to warn them against? The barber did say that Agbonyibo performed some kind of magic when money was stolen in the compound so they were not completely oblivious of his abilities, even though they had no idea that he could transform into whatever he wanted and could tell people’s darkest secrets. But as he continued to think about it an idea struck him.
He was going to wait for Agbonyibo to return to the compound.
He was not called Iniquity for nothing.
Maya sat at the top floor balcony and watched as the men deliberated. Ndi was not there. There was no way Ndi would have been in the compound and missed the Saturday morning gathering. Had he slept over at her house? Her heart began to race the more she thought about it. The woman was pretty and lonely. Ndi was handsome and vulnerable. Maya did not see why she would invite him in after helping her change her tires if not to seduce him. And knowing poor Ndi and the way she had treated him, and what she had done, it was probably justified that he was in that situation and open to such possibility. But that did not make her feel any better.
Then she saw him.
He was returning to the compound but from the opposite direction from where the pretty widow lived. Did he sleep at Eno Sunday’s? Was it another woman? What really was going on in his life? It gnawed at her heart as she saw him looking unkempt and crestfallen. Had he even eaten? Oh! Her baby!
Maya then decided to go to him. The sun was now over the roofs and the men were going to disperse soon and she had seen Mkpoikanna leaving the compound already. So she rushed to the bathroom, took her bath, wore one of the short gowns she knew that he liked and went out to the prime eatery in the area and bought his favorite stir-fried spaghetti with plantain and turkey and pack of juice and returned and stood in front of his door, took deep breathes and knocked.
Ndi knew it was Maya. He opened the door and let her in.
He turned and lay in the bed while she stood holding the food.
“Baby I brought something for you,” she said.
“Good morning” Ndifreke said and made sure not to look at her.
“Good morning baby,” Maya said and placed the carrier bag on a stool and went and sat close to him in the bed. Ndi would still not look at her.
“You are not looking at me.”
He hissed and turned her back on her.
“Have you eaten? I brought you breakfast.”
“Thanks but I’m not hungry.”
“Please Maya. You have hurt me enough already. Please go.”
“No baby. I can explain.”
“What do you want to explain?”
“What is everything?”
“Oh I see.”
“I didn’t sleep with him.”
“I swear down.”
“Save it Maya.”
“I know it is impossible for you to believe. He is a weird guy. If you ask him he would say he did but it did not happen.”
“So you went away for two nights or so, and all he did was show you weirdness.”
“I hardly saw him.”
“But the times you did?”
“For goodness sake Maya!” Ndi thundered and spun out of bed and stood and faced her.
She stood too and covered his mouth with her hand and went in and hugged him. He did not push her away. He stood like a pole but she could feel his heart pounding against hers.
“I’m sorry baby. Everything was just overwhelming. My mum’s health. It was driving me crazy as well. Please baby. Nothing happened. Even if it did, you are the one I love. You are the one my heart belongs to. He was a distraction but a distraction that helped me to realize how lucky I am to have you. Please baby. Hold me, baby.”
The neediness of recent times! The love he had for her! The madness he escaped from the night before. His Maya. If she had been with Jonjo with all his wealth and sophistication but still wanted him, how was it possible that he would say no? He was lonely and he truly loved her!
She felt his arms soften and then circled her. It was the hug of all hugs. Her baby. What was the point in telling him the truth? He did not have the steel for such and it was only going to hurt him and leave him with a bruised ego and he could never truly forgive her. What was not known did not hurt. True the doubts would remain, but what was it that time did not heal? in the end, they loved each other as they did from the first day. She had strayed but she had returned a wiser woman. She would take care of him. She would win him back.
Ndi was desperate for it to be true that she did not sleep with Jonjo. He had his doubts but Maya had never lied to him. Evae, Josephine, and Elizabeth may feel differently but he knew his Maya. She was not a whore like all of them. He chose to believe her. Why should he not?
“I missed you Maya.”
“I missed you too Ndi.”
“Promise me that you will never hurt me like that again.”
“Baby, I will never hurt you like that again. I am so so sorry.”
He pressed her tight to himself and kissed her. She wanted to start ripping off his clothes but he held her hand.
“What’s wrong baby?”
“I want us to go somewhere else.”
“It will be my first proper makeup sex. I want to remember it.”
“Where should we go?”
“Don’t worry. That’s my surprise. Meanwhile, what is in that nylon?” He reached for the bag and found his favorite spaghetti. He was ravenous.
Maya felt disappointed. Ndi usually tore her apart after they had not been together for a while. Could he still be in doubt?
Oh Maya! she thought to herself. The boy clearly was hungry judging from the treatment he gave the food. And there she was overthinking and second-guessing him. Was that what dishonesty brought to a relationship?
He was giggling like a little boy that had just unwrapped his favorite toys as he ate. He offered her but she did not have any appetite for food. She could only look at him with a mixture of pity and regret. He seemed so alive again.
TO BE CONTINUED.