The standings as at the end of Week 2 of Write Right Two has been posted HERE. We have two more weeks to go before we have our winner and as they say, a lot can happen in 24hours (not to talk of two weeks). So, keep reading and keep voting. And yes, don’t forget the Meet, Chat and Buy Naija Books event this Saturday. I hope to see you guys there.
ORDERED CHAOS by JEREMIAH NZERE
Tamilore paid off the cab-driver, and hurried into Agodi Park. Daylight was fast fading, and pole-mounted halogen lamps illuminated the park. The last of the day’s picnickers were exiting and the nightlife at the park was just starting to come alive. It was almost six thirty now; she had wasted time looking for the box Ovie had asked her to bring. She picked her phone out of her purse to dial Ovie’s number. It was still switched off. How was she supposed to find him when his number was still switched off? She loitered around the park staring intently at couples seated on benches and clusters of drinking buddies. Ovie wasn’t in any of them.
She turned and was heading for the wooded section of the park when she saw him. Tunde, Ovie’s friend. What was Tunde doing here? The last time she had seen him was on the wedding morning at the church. Now, he was in the company of a short, stocky man. They were approaching her, walking languidly, their eyes darting round the park in predator-like fashion. She instinctively turned away from them and stood behind a tree. As they walked past her, she edged round the tree to stay out of their sight of vision. She caught some of Tunde’s words, helped by the wind to her ears. They seemed to be arguing about something.
“We don’t need to search here.”
What were they searching for? Could she trust Tunde with the information she had? She debated. Ovie had told her to tell no one about their meeting. He and his groomsmen had been at Tunde’s house when he had disappeared. Was Tunde suspect?
She stepped out of the tree’s shadow. She was going to confront him.
“Hello Tunde.” Tunde almost jumped out of his skin. He spun round.
“What are you doing here?” they asked simultaneously. That seemed to douse the tension, as they both smiled.
“I just needed somewhere quiet to think.” Tamilore said. There was no need to tell him everything until she knew what he was doing here.
“Ma binu. Don’t be angry that you’ve not seen me since that day.” Tunde said placatingly.
“Mi o binu o. I’m just bitter.” She shrugged.
“So what are you really doing here?” She queried.
Tunde turned to the short, stocky man beside him.
“Meet Lanre Adeboye, a friend. He is a Manager of a Customer Service Outlet at a telecoms service provider.”
Tamilore nodded at Lanre, her eyes still fixed on Tunde, urging him on.
“With Lanre’s resources, we were able to track Ovie’s phone since it came on. It has been on intermittently, and we narrowed his location to this area. This park is the sixth location we’re searching.”
He lifted his hands in a gesture of self-defeat.
“That’s why we’re here. Just trying to do our little bit. We can’t keep waiting for those Police people.”
Tunde had been understandably aggrieved with the Police since they had detained him and the other groomsmen for five hours in connection with Ovie’s disappearance.
Tamilore believed them, so she told them about the texts she got from Ovie and the blue box he had given her. She reached into her purse to bring out her phone to show them the text messages. As she unlocked the phone, she noticed the message light blinking. There was a new message from Ovie’s number: I’m waiting at the entrance. Where are you?
She showed Tunde and Lanre the message. Tunde punched the air with his fist.
“We were right. Let’s go” He headed at a trot towards the entrance to the park.
Tamilore stood, unmoving “I don’t think that’s a good idea. He specifically asked me not to tell anyone.”
Tunde stopped and turned, “Okay. You go ahead of us. We’ll be right behind you, out of sight.”
She started off. “But leave the box with us here.” Tamilore handed the box over to Tunde. She fully trusted him now.
They started off together towards the entrance, Tamilore twenty paces ahead of them. Tunde and Lanre stopped at the car park, watching out while she walked to the park gate.
It all happened in fluid motion. One moment, there was no car, the very next moment, a blue SUV pulled out of the park and drove right next to Tamilore. She was hurled into the car before she could run.
Lanre started out towards the car, raising his voice to attract attention. It was too late. The car squealed out of the park. Tunde cradled the box in the crook of his left arm, brought his phone out and called Charles Alidu.
WEWE by IFEOLUWA WATSON
Wewe bestrode the counter. She rocked with the wind. Her hands were raised above her head and her eyes closed. She was in her realm; a place where no one could reach. When the transistor radio in the corner struck up a tune, Wewe jumped to her feet on the counter. She thrust her buttocks out and raised one leg mid air and wound her waist to the beats. “One leg up, one leg up,” she mimed. A once-white ceiling fan creaked above, ke ke ke and blew the latent cobwebs east and west. The potbellied policeman behind the counter watched with his jaw slackened.
The train of suspects had marched into Beere Police Station and the two men on duty had rubbed their palms together, in anticipation.
“Olopa, we caught these ritualists at Oja Oba. They wanted to capture this mad woman. They…”the first watchman had recited in a thick Oyo-accented Yoruba.
The potbellied policeman had interrupted him, “Abeg, wait first. Let me open a case file.” Potbelly rolled a finger in his nostril and flicked the dried snot into the air. He dragged the heavy records book close to himself and entered a case number. Then, he brought out a larger book, with dog-eared sheets sticking out.
“Come and write your statements,” he said, sliding the book across the counter. The two night watchmen looked at each other and then cast their eyes on the floor.
“Why you dey look me like mumu? You no fit write?”Potbelly shouted. The watchmen shook their heads.
The second policeman searched the suspects. He emptied their pockets of their phones and money and car keys. It was during the search that the voice in Wewe’s head had banged and sent her flying onto the counter.
Potbelly turned to the other policeman and ordered, “Corporal, oya handcuff that woman.”
Corporal Adeolu, as his name tag read, moved forward. Wewe had upgraded her dance steps. She now waved two fingers and made a rapid open and close movement with her feet. He regarded her for a moment and hesitated.
“Ha Oga! Were leleyi o! This is a mad woman. Let’s do it together sah!”the corporal said and pushed out his chest, stiffening to attention.
“Msheeew, you these young men of nowadays sha. So you can’t handle a common woman?”
Potbelly wrapped his hands around Wewe’s legs and tried to carry her off the counter. Wewe kicked furiously. Rotimi who had been standing quietly rushed forward. “Please be gentle with her,” he said, concern spanned over his face.
Wewe sunk her teeth into Potbelly’s neck. He yelped in pain. “Ah! Mo gbe! I’m in trouble! Mad woman don bite me o!” Potbelly screamed. The racket brought several policemen rushing out of the inner section of the police station; among them was a high rank officer.
“What’s happening here? Inspector Rauf, why are you weeping like a child?” The officer asked.
Tanwa who had been swelling like garri Ijebu soaked in cold water and laced with groundnuts, finally burst like a ripened boil. Acrid words spouted like thick yellow pus from her mouth. “What’s this nonsense? This a total farce! An encumbrance of our human rights! I demand to make a call!”she shrieked.
“Shut up there! Do you know where you are? You this criminal!”Corporal Adeolu shouted. Tanwa was not to be cowed. Her voice hiked. “I have the right to make a call!”she yelled.
Sade had dropped to the floor where she sat with her back against the wall. She looked like a deflated balloon. Wewe and Rotimi cuddled by the side. Rotimi removed his T-shirt and wore it on Wewe to cover her half-nakedness.
Tanwa huffed and puffed. “I will sue all your asses. Just wait till my mother calls the commissioner.” The mention of the Commissioner of Police tingled in the ears of the policemen. The noises subsided.
The high rank officer addressed Tanwa. “Erm, young lady. I’m Superintendent Okon. Come with me to my office. We can talk better there.”
Tanwa quietened. She suddenly felt weak and wobbly on her feet.
Superintendent Okon turned to a policeman beside him. “Sergeant, lock the others in the cell.” Then, he turned to Tanwa and said, “Follow me.”
When Yejide Akinfenwa’s phone rang, she sang along with her Yinka Ayefele’s Gospel Tungba ringtone. She did not pick the call. Yeye sat before her dressing table mirror and languidly applied her night face cream. The phone rang again and this time she peered at the number. “Who can be calling me with this unknown number at this time of the night?” she said aloud. The call persisted for the third time. At last, Yeye pressed the accept key.
“Hallo, is this Mrs Yejide Akinfenwa?”
“Who are you?” Yeye asked, ignoring the question.
“My name is Superintendent Okon. I’m calling from Beere Police Station. We have your daughter with us here. She was arrested….”
“My own Omotanwa? Ko je jebe! It isn’t possible. She is asleep in her room as I speak.”
There was a pause at the other end of the line. Yeye heard the man speaking to someone else. The next voice she heard was Tanwa’s. Yeye’s heart somersaulted.
“Tanwa, when did you leave the house? Why are you in a police station? Ehn? Talk to me now!” Tanwa took a sharp intake of breath. She sounded as if she was on the verge of tears. “Mummy, just come get me. Please,” she pleaded.
Yeye got up in a jiffy. The face cream fell and spilled on the expensive Persian rug. Yeye stepped into the mess and spread the stain in big smears as she pulled a boubou over her head. She rushed into the night.
Outside Beere Police Station, the two bodies nearly collided. They looked at each other, astonished.
“Anike, what are you doing here?” Yeye asked, bewildered.
“I should ask you the same question. A policeman called me that Sade and Rotimi were arrested for trying to kidnap a mad woman.”
“Kidnap ke! Tanwa is also here o.”
The two friends hastened into the police station – Yeye bunching her boubou’s hems in her hand and Anike tying and retying her falling wrapper.
Yeye banged the counter and a drowsy Potbelly stared at her in irritation. “Ehn, ehn? Wetin happen? Why you dey make noise?”
Yejide Akinfenwa regained some of her composure and eyed Potbelly in a condescending manner. “I want to see my daughter now,” she stated. Potbelly’s hand nursed his neck which now bore a plaster.
“How I for know your daughter, she no get name?”he snapped. Anike who was calmer, interfered and explained.
“So na you be the parent of those criminals? O ma se o. It’s such a pity.”
Yeye bristled and jutted her finger in Potbelly’s face. “Mister man, mind your words. Don’t insult me! Do you know who I am?”
“I’m the CEO of the Bejewellers and this, my friend here owns Anikky Motors. So you better know who you’re messing with!” Yeye ranted.
Potbelly stared open-mouthed. Corporal Adeolu offered profuse apologies on his behalf and escorted the women to Superintendent Okon’s office.
Behind their backs, a constable regaled the sprinkling of officers who had come out to witness yet another spectacle, with tales. “Everyone knows those women. They are stinkily rich!” the constable exclaimed. Then, he lowered his voice. “There is a rumour that they both killed their husbands.” His listeners hinged closer, stretching their necks in eagerness for the full gist.
Inside Superintendent Okon’s office, Tanwa stared at the ceiling. When the door opened, she jumped into her mother’s arms. She bawled like a baby.
“Omotanwa, what is this I’m hearing? That you went to kidnap a mad woman, ehn?”
Anike’s eyes swept the office in a quick glance. “Where are my children?” she asked.
Yeye released herself from Tanwa’s embrace and faced her daughter squarely. “Now young lady, you’re going to tell me everything.”
Tanwa relayed all she had written in the statement which still laid on the table. Anike’s hands went from their position on her chest to her head. “Rotimi ati were! My son and a mad woman? This is alarming! Take me to him now!”
Yeye wrapped her arms around her friend’s shoulders. She whispered soothing words into her ears. It worked. Anike flopped into a chair. She trembled like a shimmering water leaf.
Yeye turned to Superintendent Okon. “Officer, you have to release these children to us tonight.”
The officer shook his head from side to side. “Madam, you don’t seem to understand. This is a serious situation.”
He talked about how protocols needed to be observed and how investigation was still in process. “We can’t just release them like that. It’s never done,” he concluded.
Yeye rose to her full height, “But my daughter just explained what had really happened. They are not kidnappers!”
Superintendent Okon remained adamant. He began to rearrange loose sheets into a file. Yeye considered him for a moment. Then, she whipped her phone from her purse. She began to dial a number.
“Hello, Commissioner Oni. Yes… it’s me, Yeye Akinfenwa.” Superintendent Okon’s head jerked up in surprise. He watched as she explained the matter to the commissioner.
He stiffened as Yeye handed the phone to him.
“Is that Beere division?”The commissioner asked.
“Yes sir!” Superintendent Okon responded, striking a salute.
The commissioner ordered him to release the suspects and promised to resolve the matter.
Yeye glared at him. A triumphant gleam shone in her eyes. “So, can we see them now?” Anike asked, impatiently. Superintendent Okon, defeated, forced a smile.
“Yes, wait here. They will be taken out of the cell.” He buzzed the intercom and a sergeant entered. He gave the order for them to be released.
The door whined as they entered. It complained of wear and tear. Sade entered first, her hair askew. Anike rushed forward and hugged her daughter. Then, Rotimi and Wewe followed – the pair with their hands joined. Rotimi was still bare-chested and Wewe had her right palm fixed on his belly.
Anike slowly disengaged herself from Sade and looked at her son. Rotimi’s expression was like a river at dawn – calm and silent. Yeye turned towards the door. Her hand flew to her mouth in horror. She stared at Wewe’s star. She looked intently at her hand on Rotimi’s belly.
“No! No! Oh my God! No!”
Yeye crashed to the floor in a dead faint.
She was stretched out on the hospital bed. Beside her on a stand, the intravenous drip dropped to, to, to into her veins. The doctor at the Moniks Private Hospital had assured them she would revive after a while.
“The room is too crowded,” he’d said and sent Tanwa and the others out into the corridor, leaving Anike by her bedside. Anike sat with her chin cradled in her palm. She was perplexed. “What frightened Yeye so much when Sade and the others entered?” she asked herself.
Yeye coughed and opened her eyes. Anike moved nearer, anxious. “Yeye, are you okay? Can you see me?” she asked, waving her hand before Yeye’s eyes. Violent sobs wracked Yeye’s body.
“Haba, Yeye! Who should be crying between the two of us? I now have a crazy son. Abi, can he be normal? A boy that’s in love with a mad woman!”
Yeye wiped her tears with the embroidered neckline of her boubou. “Anike, she’s the one.”
“Yeye, what are you talking about? You’re getting me scared!”
Yeye sighed and bit down on her forefinger. “Anike, that mad girl is my baby. The one you threw away.” She burst into fresh sobs.
Anike was taken aback for a moment. “Rara o, your baby bawo? It isn’t possible. And what do you mean by the baby I threw away? It was your decision too!”
Yeye reminded her friend of what they had done almost three decades ago.
Yejide and Anike had been students at the University of Ife in the late 1970s. In their final year, Yeye had become enchanted by a young man from the Niger Republic. Every night, Yeye had rushed to Gobaye’s room at Awolowo Hall. It was a two-bedded room reserved for foreign students. Because Gobaye’s roommate stayed off campus mostly, they had, had ample time to play under the sheets. When the seed of their frolicking had sprouted, Yeye had panicked. She’d darted to Gobaye’s room to tell him. His roommate had given her a single sheet of paper. She’d stared at the blue flower-patterned stationery until the words ran helter-skelter on the page. Gobaye had gone home to attend his father’s funeral. He had never returned.
As the days had lengthened, so had Yeye’s stomach grown. She’d swallowed all the local concoctions indicated as abortion remedies. She’d tied her belly so tight with twine until her skin paled for lack of blood. Anike had gone to an old herbalist at Ipetumodu and returned with a greenish liquid in a bottle. Yeye had retched until nothing came out of her mouth. Yet, the life within her had continued to flourish.
“Ha! My father will kill me! What will I do?” Yeye had flailed her arms helplessly. Yeye was already betrothed to the son of her father’s wealthy friend.
Anike had designed a plan. She’d travelled to Ibadan and managed to fleece money off her parents after a tall tale. Anike had also gone to Yeye’s house and repeated the same tale. She’d lied that Yeye had gone on a field trip and could not come home. Anike had returned to Ile Ife with enough money to rent a room in the town.
In that dreary room with yellow peeling paint, Yeye had pushed out a dumpling baby. Anike had always been the brawny stone-hearted one of the two. She had not flinched even once at the sight of the blood. Anike had cut the umbilical cord with a scissors. She’d watched and helped her aunt take deliveries several times at her maternity clinic.
Yeye had held on to the child for minutes that seemed like years to the impatient Anike who hovered over her. Yeye had stared hard at the birthmark on the baby’s head – a dark mark shaped like a four-angled star. Yeye had held the baby’s tiny fingers. She’d been startled when she had counted six fingers on the right hand. Anike had snatched the baby out of her hands.
“I have to do it now, before dawn,” Anike had said in a hushed voice. She’d hurried out into the dark, with the baby in a bucket.
In the years after, when Yeye’s heart had thumped with guilt, she’d comforted herself with the thought that the baby had been dead on arrival. The baby had never cried out.
“So, you think she’s the one because you saw the birthmark and the sixth finger? That doesn’t prove anything!”Anike argued.
Yeye sat up and grasped Anike’s hand tightly. “I could feel it in my bones. Something moved in me when I saw her. She’s my daughter.”
They heard a cough and they both turned towards the doorway. Tanwa stood there. Her horrified eyes formed large discs in her head. She’d heard every word they had reminisced.
“Mum! You’re a wicked soul! You threw away a baby! A human not a Barbie doll!” Tanwa railed.
Yeye and Anike shrivelled before her like corn husks. They could not meet her eye.
“You’re such a hypocrite! So, those your pious sermons on keeping myself until my wedding night and how you had been a chaste maiden are all black lies?”she continued.
Tanwa paused as a big realisation hit her. “Wait… Mum, are you saying that mad woman…the one with Rotimi…that dirty creature could be my sister?”
Yeye looked away and kept mum. Tanwa rushed forward and gripped her shoulders. “Answer me! Answer me!”she shrilled in frenzy. Yeye’s face was awash with tears. “Please, stop. You’re hurting me,” she pleaded.
At that moment, Sade ran into the room, a worried look in her eyes. “Mummy, come quickly! Rotimi and that mad woman are causing trouble at the reception.”
Anike rushed out of the room. Sade noticed Tanwa’s tear stained face.
“What’s wrong Tanwa?”
Tanwa turned and fled past her. Sade turned to Yeye but she got no answer from her shielded red-rimmed eyes. Sade hurried after her mother.
In the reception, benches and chairs had been overturned. Trouble had ensued when Wewe had slapped the backside of a passing nurse. The nurse had reciprocated a slap and Rotimi had gone ballistic. He’d pushed the nurse away and thudded his chest like an enraged lion. Then, he’d begun to throw chairs and benches about.
“These two are raving mad!”The doctor panted, holding his torn overalls. Rotimi had grabbed the doctor by the neck when he’d tried to restrain him. Wewe and Rotimi were on the floor bound with ropes.
“Ah! I’m in trouble o. What can I do? Please tell me, you’re a doctor,” Anike beseeched.
“I’m not that kind of a doctor. Let me refer you to a psychiatrist.”
Anike followed the doctor to his office. He handed a card to her. “His hospital is adjacent Oluyole radio station at Oke Mapo. You can’t miss it.”
The doctor warned her against waiting till morning. “Those two appear schizophrenic to me. It would be dangerous to delay.”
A frail-looking Yeye dragged herself into the doctor’s office holding the drip bag in her hands. “Why did you leave your bed? Where are the nurses?” The doctor asked, agitated.
“Doctor, please remove this thing. I need to leave now.” The doctor opened his mouth to argue but he saw the firm look in her eyes. He led her to a seat. He removed the plaster on her arm and pulled out the cannula needle.
“You need to rest Madam,” the doctor advised. Yeye nodded and stared blankly.
Anike thanked him and supported Yeye as they walked out. They joined a harried Sade who paced the hospital’s corridor.
“Sade, we are leaving now. We’re taking your brother and….” She paused and then reluctantly added, “We’re taking Rotimi and that lady to the mental hospital.”
Sade looked askance at her mother and Yeye. Before she opened her mouth, Anike stalled her questions. “Please, Sade I will answer all your questions later.”
Sade sat in the driver’s seat of her mother’s Prado jeep. The cars driven by Rotimi and Sade and Yeye had been left at the police station when they had rushed Yeye to the hospital. The plethora events of the night weighed heavily on Sade’s shoulder. The security men piloted Wewe and Rotimi into the back seat. Anike pointedly avoided the back seat and opened the passenger’s front door. Yeye, resigned, sat beside Wewe. She kept glancing at the star on her forehead. Wewe bared her teeth at Yeye like a feline creature.
As Sade took the turn out of the Moniks Hospital’s gate, the car’s headlights spotted the huddled figure seated by the elevated culvert ahead. Sade lifted a hand off the steering wheel and pointed. “Mummy, that’s Tanwa. We should pick….”
The rest of her words were tapped off by a tight choke on her neck. Wewe had broken the cords that bound her. She held Sade’s neck in a vice-like grip. Sade had not foreseen the attack. She panicked. Her foot slipped off the brake to the throttle. The car headed for the culvert at a great speed.
There was a loud sickening crunch of metal and bones. Then, a profound silence….
THESE LAST DAYS OF OUR LIVE by AKINWALE AGBAJE
“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given the chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.” – Game of Thrones.
Episode 3: The Night Has Come, We Severe Our Ties
In those early days, Mary-Ann exhibited a rather insufferable measure of adolescent naivety, of unadulterated wonder and unrelenting eagerness.In her defense, she was twelve years old. She had only just arrived at Lagos, at the home of the woman she was to serve for a very long time, and she was overwhelmed by even the paltriest of things that would never have mattered to the ordinary city boy or girl – soaring skyscrapers, seemingly endless bridges … a washing machine.
Twenty-three days in, and that infamous innocence she was known for was no more. Wonder became apathy. Artlessness became duplicity. The joy that burned in her eyes smoldered to hate; hate for her mistress, Yinka, a high-ranking SSS officer who saw the world as nothing more than a receptacle of falsehoods and failures and disappointments, meant to be beaten and broken until its very last breath.
Yet, Mary-Ann’s eagerness lingered, a vestige of her old self that had burgeoned inexorably in her struggle to rid herself of Yinka.
God never seemed to listen when she prayed to him, when she begged him to whisk her away, back to the arms of Mama in the village – indeed, the longer she prayed, the harder Yinka beat her with spoons and pots and big sticks. So, a new god had waltzed into her life – Nancy – and she had accepted her with open arms. She had prayed and Nancy had answered.
Nancy would kill Yinka for her.
The night Nancy had promised to strike, Yinka discovered Mary-Ann’s dark secret. She dragged the little girl out of her room and shoved her to the centre table. Mary-Ann’s knee cracked against the edge of the table and she tumbled in a heap. She made to get up but the pain in her knee shook her and forced her back to the ground.
Yinka stared down at Mary-Ann. Her eyes were different from what Mary-Ann was used to. Usually,odium inhabited them. This time around, amid the hatred, a tinge of fear glinted.
A small wooden bowl, crudely crafted, sat in Yinka’s hand. Inside the bowl, the head of a chicken was submerged in blood.
‘What is this?’ Yinka held out the bowl for Mary-Ann to see, like the girl hadn’t seen it before. She had. It belonged to her. ‘Ehn, Mary-Ann, what is this doing under your bed?’
Mary-Ann rubbed her aching knee. Her lower lip trembled. Her chest heaved.
‘In my house? You’re … you’re doing ritual in my house?’
Mary-Ann had nothing to say to that. She muttered silent words, a chant, kind of. That simply riled Yinka.
Yinka stormed towards Mary-Ann.
Mary-Ann leapt to her feet. She didn’t get far. Yinka yanked her back by the collar of her dress. A stinging slap to her face, a paralysing blow to her stomach … and then the bowl came upon her head, shattering and spilling its contents on the girl.
Yinka wrapped her hands around Mary-Ann’s throat and squeezed.
‘You people think you can kill me, shey?!’ Her eyes bulged. ‘You won’t kill me! I won’t let you!’
Mary-Ann clawed and kicked and wriggled, but she simply lacked the essential strength to free herself. The edges around her vision dimmed.
A phone rang. Yinka’s hands grew lax. That phone never rang, not unless…
She left Mary-Ann and strolled to the table. Mary-Ann collapsed,sobbing, coughing, and spluttering with fear and indignation.
Yinka picked the phone.
‘Yes?’ she said.
‘Madam, we have confirmation,’ said the firm voice from the other end.
‘Are you absolutely sure?’
‘Boko-Haram operatives are here, in Lagos. The source was very clear on that. We know where they are. We should proceed.’
Yinka paced the sitting room, nervous. She glanced at Mary-Ann – the girl had curled herself up in a ball, at a corner, her body trembling. Loathing seared Yinka’s insides.
‘Now?’ she said.
‘The president is taking a lot of heat from the public and the press. If these criminals succeed in whatever they’re planning, it’ll be our heads on a platter.’
‘Fine. Do it.’ Yinka dropped the phone on the table. She pulled a chair towards Mary-Ann – who cowered away – and sat. ‘You’re going to tell me who sent you to destroy me. I swear, you will, or I will kill you this night.’
DPO Adewale was the sort of man who possessed the uncanny ability to inspire whatever emotions he wanted out of a man or woman in the line of duty – fear, respect, loyalty … name it. He was huge, like a human tree – vast shoulders, strong arms; and quick on his feet, too quick for a man his size. His dark eyes, stuck in a permanent squint, secreted his emotions well. One could never tell what Adewale was thinking just by looking at him, unless he expressed it, and half the time he did that, he lied.
The officers in his charge loaded weapons and other tactical assault accessories into the Toyota Hilux truck outside the station. From time to time they glanced at Adewale and thought to themselves, business as usual. But they didn’t know what he knew. They didn’t perceive what he truly felt: the cold hand of terror around his heart in a tight fist, savouring every delicate thump, infecting his blood, his body, his mind with a deep sense of foreboding.
The order had come in from Yinka, and so they were off. For this kind of operation, weekend night time such as this had its advantages, like zero traffic. They moved without sirens. Stealth mode.
They veered off the road into a cleared path through a thicket and halted at a lone shack. It looked deserted. They got off the truck, armed to the teeth, and jogged to the building.
There was no one inside – no one alive, that is. Adewale shone his high-powered torch around the bodies. There were five of them,all adorned with bullet holes. His source had said six. The beam from his torch roved about, and then stopped at an open doorway that led to the thick of the forest in the backyard.
‘Someone left, probably injured. Find him,’ Adewale barked the order.
The officers leapt to action, rushing through the doorway and slipping into the forest at various entry points, their aim to converge on the suspect without giving him any room to escape.
Adewale walked around, inspecting the bodies … machine guns in stiffened hands … bullet casings strewn across the wooden floor. These men had died heavily armed. His money was on the last surviving suspect as the perpetrator. But how could one man had successfully taken on five men, and with what, an A.K? No matter the weapon of choice, the odds were firmly stacked against him. By all accounts, the suspect shouldn’t have survived the gunfight.
Something didn’t feel right about this. Could there have been a second shooter, someone Adewale hadn’t factored in?
Adewale stooped beside a body. He turned the head one way and examined the deep gash on the neck. It looked like something had chewed on him while he was alive.
A terrible cry carried across the air, from the backyard. Adewale stood and pointed his torch at the gaping doorway.
Staccato gunfire resonated. Flashes of light. Bullets wheezed, spearing leaves, snapping branches.
Adewale clutched his torch. His free hand went for the sidearm on his belt but didn’t remove it.
More cries. More gunfire.The rustle of trees and bushes. What the hell was going on in there?
The leaves parted. Adewale aimed his torch. One of his officers stumbled out. He was covered in blood and mud. He struggled … hopped. His left leg was badly torn, trousers shredded. Blood streamed down, sketching a red trail behind him.
‘Musa…?’ Adewale called.
‘Oga!’ Musa said. ‘Run!’
A gust of wind, the sound of a trunk splitting – Musa was hauled back into the forest, the echo of his terrified scream written across the skies, an aide-memoire of something much darker than the black night that loitered behind the thick walls of the forest.
Adewale had had enough. He pulled his gun from its holster, trained it on the doorway, and retreated slowly. He knew he shouldn’t have come here. The source … the message she had left him … it all sounded too perfect … and weird.
He had always been different from his colleagues, forever putting his obligation to his country first before anything else – money, women … power. Perhaps tonight, he should have been a little more selfish and looked out for himself.
A creak … light as a leaf from a tree touching the floor.
Adewale froze. He felt the fruity breath caress his neck. Something was behind him, and for the first time in a very, very long time, his eyes betrayed his emotions.
‘I said, tell me!’
‘You will die today!’ Yinka said with murderous fury. She raised the stick again.
‘I’ll tell you! Please, don’t hit me, aunty, please!’ Mary-Ann shielded her swollen, bruised face. Her dress was in tatters,her skin criss-crossed by fresh welts.
‘What is that ritual bowl for?’ Yinka spat, jabbing a fat finger at fragments of the odd bowl she had discovered under Mary-Ann’s bed.
‘It’s for Nancy…’ Mary-Ann sobbed.
‘Who is Nancy?’
‘Nancy is … She’s—’
‘My friend, answer me!’
‘She’s my god!’
Yinka paused, staring at Mary-Ann, a potent hodgepodge of disbelief and revulsion simmering in her eyes.
‘Your … god?’
The front door opened.
Yinka looked up, confused.
A lithe, beautiful young lady walked in. She had enticing, full pink lips; soft, near-rounded cheekbones;a set of intelligent brown eyes, and short hair. She wore form-fitting blue jeans, white tanks, a red jacket, and trendy black flats.
‘Who are you?’ Yinka asked. ‘What are you doing in my house?’
The young lady closed the door. She smiled, exposing a cute gap tooth, and she kept her right hand behind her back.
Mary-Ann mustered all the strength she could and rose to her knees. She stared at the woman reverently.
‘Nancy…’ She whimpered. ‘You came!’
‘Nancy?’ Yinka said, staring from Mary-Ann to the stranger. ‘You’re the god?’
Nancy scrutinised her surroundings.
‘Well, Tunde… You either have a really active imagination or this is very real,’ she said.
‘Who’s Tunde?’ Yinka edged away, towards the dining table.
‘Never mind that.I need Protocol five-three-six,’ Nancy said. ‘I need it now.’
‘How do you know about that?’
‘That’s none of your concern.’
Yinka was at the shelf, ahead of the dining table. She shot her hand in between some books and fetched out a gun. Mary-Ann shrieked and dived for cover. Nancy, though, looked on in amusement. Yinka aimed the gun at her.
‘You’ve made a terrible mistake coming here,’ Yinka said.
‘Oh, I very much disagree.’ Nancy brought forth her right hand. In it – a bloody mass, dripping red. A heart.
Yinka swallowed. Beads of sweat collected on the furrows of her brow.
‘This belonged to DPO Adewale. He told everything.’ Nancy placed the heart on a side table. ‘Now, about that protocol.’
Yinka squeezed the trigger. Four shots. The first bullet smashed Nancy’s forehead, snapping her neck backwards. The other three found her torso.
Nancy staggered to the door, bent over.
‘That wasn’t … very … nice,’ she grunted.
Yinka’s jaw dropped. How was she still alive, much less standing?
Nancy straightened. She wasn’t smiling anymore. She opened her left fist and out of it fell four compacted bullets. She had caught them all.
‘My turn,’ she said.
By the morning, Nancy had protocol five-three-six etched in memory. Yinka had been relegated to a chair at the dining table, a crimson pool beneath her feet. Her head sat next to a vase of flowers.
Nancy gave Mary-Ann all the money she could find in the house – fifty thousand Naira.
‘You should leave at once.’
Mary-Ann kissed Nancy’s feet, thanked her, and fled the house.
Nancy darted off. She got the restaurant in minutes and occupied her preferred table, the one at the back that gave her a perfect view of every patron, and those who came in and left.
She ordered tea and cake.
The elderly cleaning lady – Patience – swept the floor. When she spotted Nancy she smiled and walked to her.
‘Thank you,’ Patience said. ‘Pastor Chris Oyatie’s people contacted me.’
‘That’s wonderful,’ Nancy said. ‘Just make sure you take Sally to him today. It has to be today.’
‘Of course,’ Patience said. ‘I’ll talk to my boss.’
‘He won’t be any problem.’
‘Did you find what you were looking for?’ Patience asked.
The main door opened and he entered. Tunde. He was in the company of a woman.
Nancy’s heart would have thumped faster and warmed if it still functioned. He looked worse for wear even though he tried to hide it behind his too perfect smile and too happy look. She could always tell what he was thinking, what he was going through. She understood his pain, and this time around she had resolved to give him respite, by any means necessary.
‘Yes,’ Nancy said to Patience. ‘I did.’
Patience nodded and went about her business. She soon disappeared into a backroom.
Nancy checked her watch: 5:36:00.
Their date was short, but effective. Tunde had certainly succeeded in beguiling the woman. She left the restaurant with that heady sensation that convoyed the initial stages of falling in love.
Once she was out of sight, Tunde dropped his mask of pretence. He stood, shoved his hand into his pocket.
That was Nancy’s cue. She quietly got up and walked. Tunde held the ring. She bumped into his shoulder and kept going.
‘Hey!’ he yelled, but he wouldn’t come after her. She knew.
She exited the restaurant, glanced at her watch: 5:36:01. She smiled and breezed off.
THE END by OPEOLUWA OLUBODE
The loud bang of a gun brought an end to my prayers. I looked up for the second time and I saw Simi fall to the ground. It was Kemi who had fired the gun. From the spot I was lying, I could see blood splattered all over her white gown. I just couldn’t believe it, I didn’t expect them to get so violent. Where exactly was the police? Dre could not do much because he had already been tied up, was as helpless as a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
He began shouting and cursing and for the first time in a very long while, I saw my brother cry. I began to cry too. This was not the wedding we had imagined. Oh God, why was this happening? Everybody was either praying or crying. A single shot fired into air was all it took to shut us up again. Then began the reign of silence.
A quarter of a minute later, the groovy beats of Tiwa Savage’s ‘Eminado’ pierced the silence. It took me the better part of five seconds to realise it was coming from my handbag. I honestly do not know how I forgot to set the silent mode. I quickly put my hand in my bag and pressed the reject button.
“Whose phone is that?”. It was Kemi’s voice. I didn’t answer but instead, closed by eyes and began praying hard. “For the second time, whose phone is that? I know it came from the front.” Her voice was deeper this time. I couldn’t answer, these people would deal with me mercilessly . Two of the men began to search and this time, they started from the front because it was obvious that was where the noise came from.
To say that I was scared stiff is a gross understatement! The sound of my heart beating drowned out every other sound…thud! Thud!! Thud!!!
They did not have to search for long because the phone rang again, the second time.
It was very obvious that the sound came from me. Everybody now looked in my direction. I was scared to death and prayed in my heart. This time, I prayed to make heaven. “Stand Up!” One of the men ordered me. He was the burliest one among them and he smelled of something a tad worse than cow dung mixed in with garlic and indian hemp ( yes, yes, I have a B.Sc in exagerration!). I did as I was told.
“Give me the phone, bitch!” Another yelled. I gave it to him. He took it and unfortunately for me, the chat with the DPO informing him of what was going down at the wedding was what he saw. Oh no! Curse all these over-sensitive touchscreen phones that open applications on their own when you forget to lock the screen.
“Ahhh you think say you smart abi? Your own don finish today! Idiot!” He told me. “Omo this bitch don yarn police ooh”. He told the other members of his crew. As if they planned it, both guys slapped me simultaneously, on both cheeks. I know they were hard loud slaps because one of the guests who was still lying on the floor shouted, “Yekpa!”
The men were so hefty, so I thought it best not to fight back. I was dizzy, really dizzy. My head began to pound and I couldn’t even see properly anymore. Everything became blurry. I was shivering and very weak. “Please.” I found myself begging. “Shut up, you bastard.” The bigger man said and slapped me two more times and knocked me hard on my head. In my entire life, I had never felt the kind of pain I was feeling now before. I could not even speak again. I did not know what to do.
“Leave her alone.” It was Kemi’s voice. The men left me immediately and walked away, then Kemi came closer to me. Though I could not see very well, I noticed the bright smile on her face. “Woow Tammy you have become so big now. I didn’t even know it was you.” Really? Was she faking it? I did not understand. She came closer and hugged me hard.
This time, I knew God had answered my prayers. “I am so sorry I let them hit you like that.” Kemi continued and asked me to sit down. “You see, I am not mad at you at all. It’s just that my life is ruined because of your big bro and I have to ruin his life too. At this point, I don’t even care anymore if i go to prison, as long as my Dare never finds happiness.” She was still smiling.
“Our Dare.” Tola corrected her. And they both laughed. I still didn’t know what to do. I was very confounded.
Now everybody was staring at me, like I had planned this with them.
“Tola, Kemi, both of you do not really have to do this.” I said, I was feeling a bit better, the headache had gone down and these people were now being nice to me.
“I know, but it’s too late darling.” She answered me, still smiling.
“Please. Kemi, please” I went on my knees and began pleading.
“Tammy, don’t let me get angry. Get up and sit down.”
This time, the smile had disappeared. I had no choice, I did as I was told. I looked around for the umpteenth time. Dre was crying harder, helpless and weak. Simi was still on the floor, lying lifeless, she had just gone like that. My parents and Simi’s parents were flat on the ground, helpless. Everybody else was lying flat, praying and crying.The rest of Kemi and Tola’s crew were at a corner of the church, talking about what I could not hear.
I started crying again. Why was this happening to us? Why was the very first wedding in my nuclear family being ruined? I was helpless, agitated and very unhappy. I did not know what to do. And where was the police? I had pinged the DPO like twenty minutes ago. Did they have to take so long every time? I decided to pray again. This time, I was saying my last prayers, praying for God to touch Kemi’s heart and praying for the police to hurry up.
I looked up with my teary eyes and what I saw got me baffled. Now, I was even more perplexed. I used my right hand to wipe my tears to see clearly. This time, I was convinced I was not imagining things but what I was seeing was very real. There was Kemi, holding a gun pointed at me. The strange thing was that she was still smiling. Even smiling harder this time. I did not understand.
“I just wanted you to feel relaxed and say your last prayers. Now, you have done just that”. She said to me. Before I had a chance to reply her, she pulled the trigger and the bullet came straight to me.
FATE’S STORE by MIRACLE ADEBAYO
Since the day I’d found out I was pregnant; I’d refused to acknowledge the life growing inside of me. This was the reason I’d avoided discussing it with my husband. What was there to talk about?
It was too much to bear, my emotions were conflicting. The thought that I was going to be a mother again sent my heart racing with a strange anticipation but also brought the memories flooding back.
There was something else nagging at the back of my mind, the secret I’d kept for so long because I was ashamed.
It suddenly seemed like the right time to spill. It was going to be the biggest blow yet to our marriage but I knew that if I kept my mouth shut anymore; I’d burst.
I recalled a conversation I had with my mother when I’d been about to get married to Tade, she’d advised me to open up to him with the truth.
But I’d been afraid he’ll reject me if he found out who I really was. So I’d made my parents promise not to mention it to him but now, after being childless throughout the nine years of my marriage and with this unexpected twist in my life; it seemed I was paying for the sins I’d committed.
I looked at my husband and felt sympathy and affection well up in my heart. This was a man I’d loved for the greater part of my life; a man who I’d shared my dreams with, had anything changed all that?
“Nine years Tade,” I managed to say.
He was silent, his eyes searching my face.
“Isn’t life cruel?” I gave a short mirthless laugh. “It seems bad luck seems to follow me everywhere.”
“Don’t say that Bukky. This is one of those things that happen. There’s always a way out. We just need to find it.”
“The way out here is what? Abortion abi?”
“God is punishing me,” I said softly, casting my mind to my past.
“God doesn’t punish us like that, besides what wrong did you do?”
“You don’t know me well, Tade. All these years, I’ve lied to you. Do you know how long I’ve wanted to have your baby, Tade? It has been my only dream for the past nine years and now, out of nowhere, this nonsense happens and I’m left with a child growing inside me. A child I don’t even want, I’m afraid to say.”
“What do you mean I don’t know you?”
I stalled. Was now the right time to tell him the truth about me?
“I have a confession to make, Tade. Something that might change your whole perception of me from now on. It is something I was ashamed to tell you when we first met, but I’m ready now. You deserve to know.”
“You’re scaring me Bukky. What is it?”
As I opened my mouth to speak, it all came rushing back. The memories.
MAY 2ND 1999
The day began like any other day. Papa dropped me off at school on his way to work and I met up with Amaka my best friend in the classroom. Amaka and I were age mates but she’d always seemed more worldy than I; this was the reason why she’d been carrying on a relationship with one of our classmates for three months.
“What do you like about him?” I asked her during lunch one day.
“He’s beautiful. And he can kiss,” she giggled.
I was a little bit awed by her. Ever since she’d entered puberty, guys had begun noticing her.
“And where did you learn how to kiss?” The jealousy was evident in my voice.
“Where else? TV of course. And if you have a boyfriend it’s not so hard.”
I grunted. I wanted a boyfriend too. I envied my friend the kind of freedom she had. It was the kind I sought, one which I had never gotten. My father was the pastor in our church which means the kind of life Amaka lived was a mirage to me; one that I desperately wanted to hold.
From that moment, I decided that I would taste even if it was a little bit of what Amaka had.
“So what do you people do after school in class?” I asked, curiously.
“Kiss. He likes touching my breasts. I like it too but sometimes he pinches too hard.”
I was getting more excited.
“Let me tell you something, you know Uncle Mike likes you ba?”
“What?” My eyes widened. Uncle Mike was our Computer Science teacher.
“Stop doing like mumu joor. He made you his class rep, then he always asks you question in class, the other day, when you were walking in front of him, I looked back and saw him looking at you.”
My pulse raced. My friend had an eye for these things. It wasn’t hard to believe her.
“I don’t believe you. Abeg, he made me class rep because I’m good at computer. Besides, he’s old.”
“I bet he’s good in bed,” she chuckled, nudging me.
“Amaka!” I hushed.
However, the seed had been planted, I kept an eye out for Uncle Mike. I don’t know why it suddenly mattered to me to freshen up whenever I went to his office to submit assignments. My actions around my teacher changed, I wasn’t seducing him or anything but I was making sure he noticed me. I wanted to see how I could possibly attract a man with my sixteen year old body.
It was a dangerous game.
One afternoon, after school hours, Uncle Mike asked me to stay back to help me mark answer scripts.
I told Amaka and she looked at me with dark eyes.
“Mark scripts after school? Hian.”
“Your mind is dirty, that is what is killing you. Too much of those movies,” I reprimanded.
“Whatever; I sha told you.”
I nodded and packed my bag before going to my teacher’s office. The office was deserted and we went straight to work, he handed me a sheaf of papers and the marking scheme and asked me to get started.
We had only gone halfway when I paused. I realised he’d been staring at me.
I blushed self-consciously, unsure of what to say or do.
“Do you know you’re a beautiful girl, Bukky?”
I smiled shyly, “Thank you sir.”
“I don’t know if anyone has told you before but you can be a model when you grow older.”
My head began to swell. An older man found me good enough to be a model! Me! Not Amaka!
The words kept rolling off his tongue like chunks of well-formed morsels; and without realising it, he was soon beside me.
When he first kissed me, it wasn’t like I’d thought it would be. It wasn’t like Amaka had described it, neither was it like what I’d seen in the movies.
It was sloppy and unpleasant. I pulled away; he crushed me against himself in an embrace.
The second kiss was worse but as I tried to protest, he deepened it.
A kiss I could handle, but the moment his hand began fiddling with my uniform, I knew he was going out of bounds.
“Uncle! Stop!” I pulled away.
“Why are you pretending?”
I frowned, smoothing my skirt, “Please sir, let me go home. I don’t want this.”
“After seducing me?” His eyes were turning an unpleasant shade of red.
“Ha! Me! Seduce! I’m sorry sir, please sir,” I turned away from him to get my bag.
Before I knew it, he walked to the door, banged it and turned the key in its lock. “Oya go let me see.”
“Jesus!” It was a scream. “Help ooh somebody help! Uncle open this door if not I will scream!”
“Scream now; let me see who’ll help you,” he advanced towards me. “I’ll teach you about sex and you’ll enjoy it, just once my darling.”
I tasted my tears as I backed away from him.
“Please sir, I’m begging you in God’s name, please allow me go. Please, I’m like your younger sister ooh! Help ooh! Somebody help me!”
I was trapped; backed against the wall.
I screamed as he jumped on me; no one came to my rescue. I fought and scratched at him, he overpowered me without qualms.
I lost my virginity to a man more than ten years my senior. I was fully conscious and I cried the whole time.
I told no one, not even Amaka. I was so ashamed of myself.
Three days later, it was as though I couldn’t control myself, a force propelled me to his office. He didn’t dissuade me, instead he took me to his house and although he was more gentle this time, the tears flowed freely from my eyes as he thrust himself into me again and again.
It was as though a sudden possession had taken over me. I hated myself every time he finished with me but I couldn’t seem to stay away from him.
My affair with Uncle Mike went on for two months before I discovered I was pregnant.
I wanted to die. At sixteen, with my final exams a few months away, I was pregnant for a man I loathed. I didn’t tell him or Amaka.
Because of my upbringing, abortion wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t have to wait long for my mother to see the changes in my body.
An alarm was raised in my home.
An abortion, Mum suggested. We can’t have our daughter made a laughing stock.
Papa disagreed. Abortion is a sin, he said. She knew what she was doing before she did it.
Mum pleaded, cried and begged Papa for a reprieve.
I won’t sin against God by sanctioning an abortion. He maintained.
And your congregation? Mum asked. What would they think?
She can travel to the village and have the baby.
Eventually, the decision was made. My education was on hold. I was withdrawn from school immediately and taken to the village, where I spent the remaining seven months of my term.
Labour was the most painful process I’d ever gone through and as I screamed in pain, it was then I made up my mind to be a doctor who helped women in child birth.
My daughter Laide was born eight hours later.
Tade hadn’t moved since I’d finished my story. And that had been six minutes ago. The chimes from the wall clock echoed in my ears.
I had kept my secret for fourteen years, no one apart from my grandmother and my immediate family knew about my daughter.
“Tade, I’m sorry but I was so ashamed. I couldn’t tell anyone about my dirty past; it was something I tried to keep…”
“Please Bukky, just shut up. Please…I don’t want to hear anymore,” He raised his head and I saw the film of tears that teased his eyes. “Ten years. Ten years I’ve known you and you never thought to tell me that you had a child!”
In the nine years we’d been married, I’d seen my husband lose control and cry only once; seeing him at the verge of tears now, and knowing I’d brought it to his eyes, made my heart ache.
I loved this man and I’d never wanted to hurt him.
I dropped to my knees in front of him. “I didn’t plan to hurt you, I swear. You can hate me, do whatever you want to me, I deserve it. I think God is finally punishing me for my wickedness.”
He didn’t look at me.
“So all these years, all these years…how many times did you visit her? All those gifts you sent to your grandmother…all those visits…”
Our discussion was interrupted by the shrill sound of his phone. I heard him cuss as he took out the phone while sniffling.
“Hello, Doctor Ini. It’s two a.m. in the morning, what could be so important?”
My ears perked up at the sound of the name of the doctor who’d treated me.
“Yes? What is it?” Tade listened. “Blood of Jesus! What? How? Oh God! Are you sure?”
He listened again and finally thanked the doctor and hung up.
The look in his eyes had changed; there was a mixture of fear and relief.
“That was Doctor Ini.”
“He said he was going through your latest test results and stumbled on something.”
“You’re not pregnant.”
I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. I had lost a baby I never even had.
“The tests showed that you’re not carrying a baby, you’ve…”
His voice quivered and I knew there was more.
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