Even though it was several months since Chisco beat the devil out of Agbonyibo, he returned to the compound with fresh bandages and his face was swollen and he was limping in the right leg and his hunch back was even more pronounced. Half his face was ashen as though blood had not passed through any vessels around there, and his eyes contained fresh blood clots.
The council of elders already seated was in total shock at the sight of him.
Irikefe, Castro and Iniquity did not know whether to laugh or cry.
“Agbonyibo! What happened to you? Did you have an accident?” Mr Zubi said.
“Una think say na small thing dat pikin do me?”
“Wait. Since dat time?”
Agbonyibo attempted to stand straight, winced in pain and said “Una pikin no tell una? If not for Irikefe wey come epp me dey press my bone.”
They still were incredulous. The elders turned to Irikefe and Castro where they stood.
Irkikefe scratched his head and said, “You peple would not have believed us if we told you. We wanted you to see for yourselves. Papa Evae was treated very badly.”
“De boy beat me pass thief. And I never do dat kind tin before.” Then Agbonyibo began to cry. He just plumped on the floor and wept.
The elders and compound members swarmed around him.
“Una no see say I get wife? Dat kind thing happen nobody even ask me say Agbonyibo you well so? Wetin make you fuck man nyash when you get woman for house? Instead, una send him broda make him come beat me like say I thief. Una no even know whether na devil enter my body come use me do am.” Agbonyibo was wailing with his mouth wide open like a child that had just been spanked for stealing meat from the pot. Neigbors were not sure what to do.
“What of your wife?”
“She don run. Which woman go see wia dem beat him husband like dat and e go still stay with am?”
“You don’t say!”
“If to say no be love una think say I for even see my pikin again? Maybe e for follow anoda man go anoda country.”
“Oh dear,” Mr Zubi said.
“And de tin no be my fault.”
“Okay I want to understand,” Mr Cosmas began, “You were attacked months ago by Chisco and your wounds have not healed?”
“I swear.” Agbonyibo said and continued to cry.
“How is that possible?”
“Ask Irikefre and Castro.”
Everyone looked at the boys again, and then back at Agbonyibo. He was a pitable sight.
“So what will happen now?”
“Make I just enter house rest fes. Na because I never close my eye sleep better sleep since dat time. Na for inside market and school and church I dey sleep. I no even get money to take treat mysef well and de wound no gree go.”
“That’s my worry,” Mr Cosmas said. Nature on its own should heal the wounds. It is as if time stood still!”
“Na hin go make you know say I suffer well well.”
“Na because you be winch,” someone said in the crowd.
They all looked around for who had spoken but the voice had vanished in the crowd..
“Okay so should we take you to the hospital? And that reminds me, you disappeared from the hospital that day. How and why did you do it?”
“No be disappear I disappear. I dey fear say una go take police come catch me. I just go outside go enter okada.”
“To mangoro where dem dey enter moto go Togo.”
“Alright everyone. The interrogation is too much. Have pity on the gentleman. Evae!”
“Yes,” Papa Castro.
“Is your room tidy? Is the bed dressed?”
“De room dey okay sir.”
“Alright Agbonyibo, sorry. you may go in and rest now. We will have Josephine come and take a look at your wounds.”
“Tank you sah.”
“And it will interest you to know that Achike has forgiven you.”
At that, Agbonyibo put his face on the floor and cried harder.
Mr Zubi nodged Achike who went over to Agbonyibo and picked him up from the ground. Agbonyibo’s eyes were red and there was phlemn coming from his nostrils.
“I have forgiven you sir. I love your daughter so we are family.”
“God go bless you,” Agnonyibo said. “Evae go born plenty pikin for you. E go born man, e go born woman, and e go born twins three times.”
“Err, that might be too much sir, but Amen.”
“No o! E no too much o, nor talk like that. And no call me sir. I be Agbonyankee.” Then he remembered he should be crying and then let out one big howl.
“Sorry, Papa Evae.”
“Be strong Agbonyibo. We will take care of you.”
Achike led him inside.
Just before he entered the corridor his eyes met Irikefe’s and it sparkled momentarily like the bright star in the East.
Achike waited for Evae in his room. After an hour she knocked and entered. She sat beside him in the bed.
“How is he now?”
“Hin don sleep.”
“Did you give him something to eat?”
“Hin say hin no wan chop. Na sleep be de only thing hin want.”
“Did he have his bath?”
“Hin manage baff.”
“Your dad really suffered.”
“Na so I see am.”
“He was always a nice man. It really could have been the devil.”
Evae swallowed and nodded.
“Darling, you don’t seem happy to see him.”
Evae adjusted herself and said “I happy.”
Achike thought for a while and said “is it because your mum did not come with him?”
“Erm…na so. You know say I like ma mama well well.”
“I know honey. But do you think she left him as he said?”
“I no know. But I go find out. My mama no fit leave me even if him leave my papa.”
“I thought so.”
There was momentary silence and then Evae said “I wan start business.”
Achike squinted at her.
“As my Papa don come back so, small time I know say my mama sef go come. I no want make dem come dey look me like small pikin again. I be ya woman now.”
“That is true.”
“If I dey do business, dem go see say I don mature, even if I dey sleep here every day dem no go worry.”
“Okay so what business do you want to do?”
“I want sell ewa agoyin”
“Ah! designer beans!”
“I go dey waka dey sell am.”
Achike shook his head ad said, “that will not happen.”
“How I go come dey sell am?”
Achike thought for a while and said “in front of your father’s shop. You can use the shed Mama Akunna uses for her businesss in the day time and in the evening she will do her own thing.”
Evae thought about it for a while and said “but to waka na hin for good pass.”
“You will not do that.”
Evae looked him in the eyes and said “you think say if I waka another man go take me?”
“I have heard stories.”
“So you no trust me?”
“I trust you but…”
“Honey, just do the business in the compound. This is Katakata Street. You will not even finish feeding all of us here so what is the point trekking all over Lagos?”
Evae nodded and said, “Okay, I go meet Mama Akunna make hin let me use hin shed.”
“I suggest you tell your father to talk to her so it will be easy. He gave her the space in front of his shop so she owes him a favour. You can never predict Mama Akunna.”
Evae thought for a while. Her father. It portended much more than Achike knew. What was life going to be like now? Was he going to want to go to the rooftop at night? Did he know about Papa Efe?
He was not in the mood to talk to her earlier. He really was exhausted pulling off such a dramatic return and did fall asleep soon as he had his bath. Evae was worried. But there was one person to talk to. Papa Efe. Evae stood up.
“Where are you going darling?”
“I wan go talk to my Papa about the matter.”
“But he just started sleeping and you just got here.”
“Come on honey” Achike said. She recognized the lascivious look in his eyes. She did not stand in his way. As he humped on her and groaned in pleasure her mind was on her father. Agbonyibo was back. And Number 225 Katakata Street had no idea what that meant.
Iniquity walked up to Irikefe and Castro and said “Guys, we need to talk.”
“What about? You sold us out!” Irikefe said.
“I did no such thing!”
“You told us you were taking us to go and prepare us for your snake diamonds and left us to die.”
“That is not what happened.”
“So why didn’t you try to help us?”
“The baba, I mean, for goodness sake guys, what the fuck is going on?”
Irikefe and Castro enjoyed Iniquity’s confusion. It was the first time since they knew him that he looked shaken. He was out of his depth.
“Now listen. I don’t know what you guys know about what you are doing but do you know that this guy came to me like he was a prophet?”
“He is smart. He can be anything.”
“No that is not what I mean. I mean a prophet who knows everything.”
“We know that he deceived you. And we now know you are not Conor McGregor.”
Iniquity thought to explain. They were like infants drawn to the soothing warmth of fire in harmattan but had no idea that they could get burnt until it was too late. They were acting stupid enough for him to abandon the idea of talking sense into them.
Irikefe and Castro watched as his features tightened. The aloofness returned. His moment of weakness had passed. He just shook his head and walked away from them.
“Wetin this guy dey feel like sef?” Castro said.
“It is because they call him Iniquity. See Naira Marley na. Wait until something happen den you go know say him humble.”
“But wait o, guy,” Castro said, “You see Agbonyankee? Mehn, I weak.”
“I understand wetin him do. Everybody pity am. If to say him waka with him two leg enter dem for con dey ask am yeye question. Now dem just allow de Baba to enter house go rest.”
“I want to be as smart as him when I grow up.”
“He is already our mentor. I want to learn everything he knows.”
“So how the carpentary business dey go?”
“I no dey open that shop again.”
“Wetin you go tell your papa?”
“I go ask Agboyankee. He knows everything.”
The return of Agbonyibo dominated every discourse in all the families and groups of 225 Katakata Street that day. Even Chisco went on a guilt trip and tried to prevail on Josephine to help with the treatment of Agbonyibo.
“My Ogbu, I know how you feel. You are a good man. But don’t feel that way. When you did it we all believed you did the right thing, and I still believe so. I know what he did to your brother. But treat him, I will not. Let him go to the hospital.”
“But nurse, you dey help other people.”
“I help normal people. I saw Mama Akunna’s heart stop beating. She was dead and this man brought her back. You beat him up before Christmas and till now his wounds have not healed. I will not touch him.”
Agbonyibo was already properly settled when it occurred to them that he was the man with the mysterious shop and merchandise. He had taken his first stroll round the compound when they remembered that he was the one that wrote them the blood message that scared the devil out of all of them. He had started charming his way through the children of the compound when they remembered that he was the one that played the gory prank of sending them body parts. With the dust settled, people were now wary. But there was nothing they could do now. The owner of the room was back, and all they could hope for was that all went well.
The door opened and the Iniquity boy stepped in. Agbonyibo was cool as ice.
“So what do I call you? Prophet? Rapist? Magician or what? Who you be baba?”
Agbonyibo smiled and said “Welcome.”
“How did you know those things? Why did you choose me?”
Iniquity sat on a stool facing Agbonyibo. They looked into each others eyes for a long time without a word between them.
“How you dey manage fool everybody?” Iniquity said. He voice was now soft.
“He will be fooled who needs to be fooled.”
“Like I am surprised you can also speak English.”
Iniquity smiled and could not look Agbonyibo in the eyes again.
“I like you,” Agbonyibo said.
“I can see that,” Iniquity said.
The thing about same-sex attraction was that you always knew. There was never any need for talk. You always just knew.
“Is there anything you can’t or won’t do?” Agbonyio asked Iniquity.
“I guess that makes the two of us.”
“I was planning to do something bad to you for fooling me.”
“We can do something bad to each other. I give and I receive. I have not received in a long time.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean?”
They locked eyes for a long time. Iniquity could not talk. Why did he find the old man so attractive?
Then there was a knock on the door and Castro and Irikefe burst in.
“Agbonyankee!” Irikefe hollered.
“Agbonfineboy” Castro enthused.
“What is this one doing here?” Irikefe said, gesturing to Iniquity.
Agbonyibo and Iniquity remained quiet and cool. They both looked at the two boys like they were clowns who gatecrashed a board meeting.
The boys noticed the cold stares and paused to understand what was going on.
“Agbonyankee,” Irikefe said.
Agbonyibo looked at Iniquity and then back at the two boys.
“Na who una dey call like dat?”
“Agbonyankee naa…wetin come be dis one? We come celebrate. We deliver.”
“Wetin una dey talk?”
Irikefe and Castro looked at each other.
“Una papa know say una dey here?”
“Before I open my eye, make una vamoose.”
“What? Agboyankee, we were together and did things and planned…”
He rose and somehow appeared to tower over the two boys. His eyes were flaming as he thundered “Get out of here!”
They were out of the door like two arrows.
Agbonyibo returned to his seat and continued to gaze into Iniquity’s eyes.
Then Agbonyibo stood up and locked the door.
Mama Tobi found out that she could not fully understand what happened that first night when she tried to think about it in the day time. So she went through the motions the whole day with all of her activities, waiting for bedtime like she anticipated Christmas day as a child. She did not care about Agbonyibo’s return or anything else. She just wanted to discover her new self more. Night finally came to her relief, and when it was the right hour, she felt the prodding in her soul and arranged herself on the bed as she had learnt in the video tutorial and left her body and transformed into an owl as soon as she was in the open and perched on the roof. First, the owl played back the events of the previous night. Shortly after it landed on the roof it felt strange currents in the atmosphere especially beneath on the ground floor. She was pulled to the currents, but she knew that that was not how things were supposed to work. As she grew weaker, she suddenly saw red flashing light in her mind’s eye and knew that that was danger. She quickly thought about her body and then returned to it.
But on this second night everywhere was calm. The previous night was an aberration she would take to the meeting to seek an explanation for. For now, she wanted to enjoy her new operation alone. She turned her head 360 degrees and hooted. The night wind carried the sound far. She remembered as a normal person how that sound filled her with terror. But producing it then gave her a lift she could not explain. Then she thought of what she could do in her present state. She thought about Achike, the last man she had been with and instantly she was in his room. He had the foreign girl in a spoon position and his waist was moving while she slept. But something strange happened. Within a minute of her appearance in the room, her eyes flickered open and she looked directly at her. Could she see her? Mama Tobi did not wait to find out. She thought about the rooftop and appeared back there. Did the girl notice her? She did not have time to worry. She thought about Ndifreke and appeared in his room. He was not there. He had taken Maya somewhere but Mkpoikanna was there. She went over to him and pressed him. Oh, it felt so good. When she had had her fill she thought about the rooftop and returned there. But something did not feel right. She felt she was being watched the whole time. She also felt a sense of danger, even though not as intensely as the previous night. She then decided to return to her body. Maybe she was not yet ready for solo operations. She would have to attend the meeting at Okitipupa the following night.
Papa Efe, Evae and Mama Akunna were all awake while the owl traversed the compound. They all listened from their respective beds. They were all now convinced that there was a new witch in the compound. They could tell from the naivety of its movement. Papa Efe knew it was not Mama Akunna. Now he was annoyed at her antics the previous day. But there was time for that. For now, he needed to know the person that had chosen the dark side at a time when sensible people knew to stay on the correct side to guard their lives.
The following morning, by some strange coincidence, Mama Akunna, Papa Efe, Evae and Agbonyibo found themselves on the bathroom queue at the same time. While they stood there looking at each other suspiciously Mama Tobi came to the backyard carrying her fufu cauldron on her head. But as soon as she saw all of them, she hit her leg on a stone and fell down and the large pot fell and clattered on the ground. As they all rushed to her aid, they stopped at the same when they saw her eyes.
Without anything being said, they all knew that that night, the skies would welcome many strange birds.
TO BE CONTINUED.