The Devil Wears Okirika by Kingsley Olanrewaju Efughi
Karma they say is a bitch. As Okudili fled down the pathway, he couldn’t help remembering the European fleeing in such manner while Okudili himself threw the biggest stones. Now the stones were behind him and he was the one being chased. This had to be karma, and only hours apart.
Okudili had been lazing around as usual feeling sulky at the lack of girls out in the open for his eyes to feast on when he had seen the youths marching his way, at first he thought it was for another protest and riot but then he saw the elders in their midst and noticed they were really marching his way and the intent was clearly written on their faces. He took off immediately. Darting like an arrow towards the woods. The youths had pursued him. This time they were not armed with sticks and branches but with machetes and broken bottles.
Dé John attempted to join the chase but gave up few steps later.
“My friend, gone are the days,” he panted to Dé Nwachukwu.
Okudili was a short man with short legs but the lack of distance covered was made up for by the rate at which his legs ate up the ground. He was well ahead of the youths and zigzagged through the forest. If he was caught now, worst case scenario, he’d be beaten to death. Best case scenario, trial by kangaroo court and death by hanging come nightfall.
He ran through a thorn bush, bruising himself badly but he needed to be out of the line of sight. He immediately took a different path as he emerged before anyone could see him. He ran. His life depended on it.
Gregory always complained that his phone didn’t receive good signal in the house. So every time he wanted to make a call, he stepped out. The signal was slightly better outside; at least he could hear the other person. He was currently speaking to his younger brother who had called him from the university asking for money.
“Hello, junior, wait I can’t hear you. I’ll call you back.” He strode towards the parlour but then he stopped, he decided to go through the kitchen, the kitchen door opened to the backyard which was at the mouth of the woods and thus quite private. He was still being careful. The shouts from the day before had really scared him and he wasn’t ready to take any chances.
He opened the door and stepped outside, his eyes on his phone as he waited for the notification of his credit balance.
He didn’t see the man until it was too late. The man came from nowhere, he barged into Gregory, sending him stumbling back into the kitchen.
The short man got up and locked the door. He looked scared, scary and mad.
“Jesus! Who are you?” Gregory was stunned. He felt this man would kill him.
“My friend keep quiet, you want them to kill me?”
Bukky came running out. “What is going on here. Who are you?”
For a split second Okudili calmed down, at first to ogle the lady, but then he realized they were not indigenes. They were strangers.
In a show of devilish intelligence, the short man fell to his knees, “I want to come to God. I want to give my life, these battles are too much.”
“What battles?” Bukky asked.
“Is that why you ran into me? Are you blind?” Gregory flared up.
“I’m sorry. I can’t control myself. I need your prayers. I’m a troubled man,” he made a groan like he was in pain.
Gregory was not really convinced. He got to his feet slowly, “You smell of alcohol.”
“Greg,” Bukky said. He looked at her and shrugged, “We have a duty to pray and bring this man to Jesus were he can find the peace he desperately needs.”
Gregory frowned. He wasn’t still convinced. He seemed wary to shut the door, but he did.
Osi and Ovie met Stevenson on the way to the house.
“Pastor, pastor,” Steve shouted as he hurried to meet up with them.
“Did you hear?”
“The devil…the devil has been exposed.”
“This is good news…wonderful news that means we can go on with the crusade like we planned, we may even experience significant increase. The deacon was wrong. God is indeed faithful,” Ovie was in good spirits as the both of them walked home.
They had encountered many youths on the way, they seemed to be searching for the killer but nobody was hostile to them anymore.
Yet Osi frowned as his brows were drawn together. He was deep in thought.
“Ovie, do you know the person the white man described.”
Ovie looked at him with a puzzled expression, “Why would I want to know someone like him.”
“Well, from the description I can vaguely recall seeing him once or twice and I don’t know, it doesn’t just fit with what I was thinking.”
“Well thank God you were thinking wrong, this animal deserves to be caught.”
The animal was currently seated on the couch, listening to Bukky as she read from her bible. His eyes were on her chest. Her breasts stretched the fabric of the sweater she had on.
Women. They had always been the bane of his existence and he had long accepted that a woman would be the cause of his downfall and maybe demise but he couldn’t help himself, he loved women. But he had to be smart. He wasn’t ready to die yet, he knew he had to come up with a plan, maybe run to the nearest village, or maybe he could work his way into this house and lay low for the time being.
As he entertained these thoughts, he heard voices from outside and a knock.
Oluchi shook her head in disgust as her best friend reported her elder brother to her. What a shame. When Amara described how Paul had grabbed her rear with Joy offering both sound and visual effects, Oluchi shook her head. “He says he’s sorry, he doesn’t know what came over him.”
“Do you know what my father would do if he hears this?”
“Chai. I can imagine, biko forgive him please for me,” Oluchi badly wanted to change the topic. “By the way, did you hear that they’ve announced the killer?”
“Ehn. who is it?”
“Who else but Okudili? Who else?”
“I knew it. That man is a pervert. Just the way he’d look at you sometimes, you’d feel abused.”
“They don’t know where he is. But they say the youths chased him out of the village.”
“At least our girls can have peace of mind.”
Osi couldn’t believe it. He was looking at the very same man Steve had described earlier. The man who had glared at him two nights ago at the opening service.
The man was sitted on the chair, head bent as he held Bukky’s hand while she prayed.
“Who is this?” Ovie asked Greg as they watched them in silence from the kitchen doorway.
“I don’t know,” Greg replied.
“He’s the killer,” Osi said at the same time.
Both Ovie and Gregory were startled. “What?” “Shhh….I don’t think he’s the killer,” Osi said.
“My God, he has been with Bukky all along.” Gregory said.
“Okay. It’s okay, here’s what we’d do. I’d have a word with him then you can call the villagers.”
“What? No. I’m going there right now,” Greg said.
Osi held him back. “You’ve been with this man alone for an hour. I just need five minutes, there’s something I need to find out.”
“Pastor, before I reach the market square or see a villager it would have been five minutes already, I can’t believe you want to risk our live like this.” Greg wasn’t hearing any excuse. He sneaked out the kitchen and was soon on his way, walking as fast as he could.
Okudili could sense something was wrong. He was not the kind of person to sleep with both eyes closed. And so from the corner of his eye, he could notice the movement and feel the tension from the men as they hovered around the kitchen.
When he heard the door slam, he opened his eyes. Cutting the prayer short.
“Thank you for the prayer. I have to go, I’d come back for the
“Oh. Let me get you some tracts first,” Bukky headed for the room. “I didn’t know you were back, welcome. Where is Greg?” She asked Osi when she saw him.
“He’s coming,” Osi said as he passed her, moving towards the short man who was watching him with an unreadable expression on his face.
“Okudili, right? Nice to meet you,” Osi sat opposite the man. “Did you know Ozioma personally?” He asked the man, trying not to blink when he leveled his gaze on him.
“No. I did not,” Okudili stood. He seemed restless, he had a strong dislike for this tall man.
“Okay. Please just try and answer my questions objectively. Do you have a pink shirt or maybe shorts or trouser that has part of the material missing?”
“You’re trying to keep me here until they come for me abi?
Your plan can’t work. Okudili is not stupid.”
“Believe me I want to help you,” Osi said also standing.
“If you want to be helpful why don’t you donate your body as an electricity pole? I’m sure the villagers would be happy,” he pushed Osi aside and hurried to the door.
Osi gripped the man on his shirt tail stopping him. “I’m sorry, I can’t just let you leave.”
He knew he had made a big mistake when he saw the fist coming.
“Where’s my belt? I’m going to kill you today.”
He began to cry, “daddy please, daddy please. I would not do it again.”
“Ugo where’s my belt?” His father shouted for his elder brother. “You. You this boy, are you sure you’re my son? How can you have such a wicked heart?” his dad slapped him with the famous backhand and he stumbled back crying in fear.
“What do you even know green card means? You took scissors and started cutting up everything in my drawers, your sisters’ birth certificate, even my work ID card.”
“It’s because, it’s because….” he sniffed as he tried to explain himself, “Sarah said only me did not have green card and that you people will leave me and travel.”
“Ohooo, so that is why you cut everything. You terror, I’d kill you today,” His father didn’t need the belt anymore, he descended on him.
“Don’t kill my son for me ooo,” His mother came to his rescue like she always did. “Osi. Osi. Osi…..!”
“Osi…Osi…Osi…” Bukky knelt over him shaking him gently till his eyes fluttered open. “Mom…?”
“No. It’s me, it’s Bukky.”
He struggled to sit up, his head was pounding and the unpleasant memory from his 12th year still lingered in his mind.
He looked round the parlour, seeing some strange and familiar people.
Dé Nwachukwu, Stevenson, Dé John, Gregory talking to pastor Bartholomew, Ovie and countless young men crowded the small parlour. He noticed the young man he had seen in Amara’s house earlier, He stood beside the white man and looked at him strangely or maybe it was the poor lightning.
“What happened?” He asked holding his head in his hands. The headache was killing him.
“The killer attacked you, son, how are you feeling?” Dé Nwachukwu replied helping him to his feet.
“Osi, I think you should stay behind and rest,” Bukky said in a low voice.
Osi looked round at the faces, he didn’t know why but he felt a little bit ashamed. He would have shaken his head vigorously if he didn’t feel it will fall off. That short man had a hell of a right hook. “It’s okay Bukky, I’m fine, the vigil must hold tonight”
Coming back to the house was very easy for him. It was past 12 midnight and everybody was at the Virgil service which meant the house would be empty. He headed towards the house careful to remain in the shadows. He had a bottle of wine in his hand. He didn’t care if they all drank the poison tomorrow, as long as the pastor died. He had no trouble forcing the door open. He was good at this. He moved about the darkness, his palm over the torchlight as he shielded the powerful beam. He opened the cupboard and saw the bottle of wine. He smiled and exchanged it.
The communion service was scheduled to hold by 12 noon. It had been estimated that by that time, everyone would have rested after the previous Virgil and still have time to rest before nightfall brings another.
Osi looked at the mirror as he adjusted his tie. He was the one officiating the service and so he had decided to wear a suit.
He studied himself for some seconds then shook his head removing the tie. He never really liked ties; they disturbed his bulging Adam’s apple and gave him a choking sensation.
Ovie walked into the room, a towel round his waist as he headed to his luggage.
“Ovie, for God’s sake we should be in church at least two hours before the service and it’s already 11.”
Ovie just looked at him and began creaming his body. They had gotten home by 6am that morning and Ovie had over slept. He still felt tired and blamed Osi for taking him round the village the day before, looking for clues.”
“Hurry up so we can have our own communion before leaving,” Osi said.
He walked to the kitchen where Bukky was busy wrapping the unleavened bread in foil.
“I can’t find the other bottles of wine,” Bukky complained as she rolled the foil expertly. She was a work machine.
“Samuel and I already moved it to the church yesterday, we left one behind,” Gregory came in from the parlour. He was already dressed and held his shoe in his hands. “I think we left it….” he scanned the cupboards with his eyes, “here.” He transferred both shoes to his right hand then stretched with his left and opened the cupboard.
“Ahhh, there it is,” he took the wine.
Somehow he thought he could close the door of the cupboard with the back of his hand while holding the wine.
The bottle slipped from his hand and crashed to the floor.
“Oh my God, you’ve broken it,” Bukky shouted. She had been sounding stressed lately.
“Hope you didn’t cut yourself?” Osi said as he scanned the kitchen for a broom or mop.
“Why didn’t you drop your shoe first or you should have just left it,” Bukky said.
“Bukky,” Osi frowned, “We still have half carton of wine. I think about 11 bottles in church, it would be more than enough.”
The departed Chinaza and her father were being buried today in their compound. There was going to be a short service, singing hymns and prayer in the church before the communion and before they were laid to rest.
She had no family in Amaife but had uncles from her mother’s side coming from the nearby village. Indeed her father had been involved with a land dispute with one of her uncles. The acre of land was supposed to belong to her mother and her father had been fighting for the land ever since the death of his wife but her elder brothers held on to it. As a matter of fact it was rumoured that he had been afflicted as a result of the land dispute. Over the past one month, Chinaza had made frequent trips to her mother’s home to plead with her uncles for her father’s sake. Whenever she visited, she talked with her cousin and the two had grown very close.
Her cousin’s name was Kosara. She had arrived Amaife with her brothers and sisters and her father and two uncles. She could see different people moving about. They held bibles in their hands and were mostly headed towards the church. Her younger brother who was just shy of his eighteenth birthday held her hand and pointed at a man in a leather jacket.
“Is that not Emeka, Chinaza’s boyfriend?”
Kosara followed his finger and was suprised. “That’s Emeka now, he’s been in our village for about three months.” He used to come and see Chinaza whenever she came visiting and Kosara knew for a fact they had been lovers. She never knew what had happened but they seemed to have had a spat and broken up sometime last week. She was surprised to see him.
Osi studied the building as he left the church. The service of songs was going on inside but he had come outside to receive a call from Reverend Benji.
“The deacon arrived here this morning, with a lot of negative comments. Osi what’s going on?”
Osi tried to explain as clearly as he could.
“So what do you want to do? I think you should come home,” the reverend concluded.
“Sir, when you sent me on this assignment, you said God had a purpose for everything. My being in this village was not by chance and I remain committed to that word sir.”
There was a short silence then, “Alright. I understand and respect your choice. I would intercede for you with prayers, you can be sure of that.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
He ended the call and studied the building idly, noticing the structure of the building was like a group of shops that had been joined together.
“Pastor Osi, your sermon is coming up soon,” Pastor Bartholomew announced, poking his head out the doorway.
After the service, some villagers lingered behind to ask questions. Most of them had never taken communion before so they had a lot of questions.
Osi was already sweating and had since removed his blazer. He heard a familiar voice and turned to see the white man coming his way.
“Hello, nice service, sir. The communion was powerful.”
“Thank you. We give God the praise.”
“I guess you all had your own communion this morning before coming?”
“We were supposed to, however the wine bottle got broken.”
“Wow, sorry about that. Hope no one was hurt?”
“No, not at all. Wait, how did you know we planned to take communion this morning?”
“When you were out cold on the floor last night and the youths arrived. I happen to look around out of curiosity. Pardon me but as a writer I have an insatiable curiosity and when I saw the bread and the bottle I guessed as much.”
“It was too bad it got broken, that was why we participated with the congregation. I feel it was even better this way.”
Amara was with Oluchi, they were both looking in the direction of Osi and Steve.
“Amara, I’m glad I found you. Please forgive me. I beg of you, it would never happen again, ” Paul said walking up to her. He sounded sad and she softened.
“It’s alright Paul, but I would prefer you keep your distance at least for a while.”
He nodded meekly.
As they spoke a young lady walked up to them. She tapped Paul on the shoulder.
“Emeka, I’ve been wondering were you were we never see you around again.”
Paul turned to study the person and his face went pale.
Oluchi frowned, “Who’s Emeka? His name is Paul. Okay are you from Lagos too?”
The girl seemed baffled, “No, I’ve never been to Lagos. I come from Gorabe the neighbouring village.”
Amara had a feeling something was about to be revealed. “So how do you know him?”
“He arrived in our community few months ago, he was a good friend of Chinaza and everyone in the village likes him.
Paul looked like he had been slapped. “There’s a misunderstanding, you mistake me for someone else,” he said in a weak voice.
Oluchi looked at her brother in disbelief.
“Paul, you mean you didn’t come straight from Lagos like you said? You’ve been in a village fifteen minutes away for the past 2 months?”
He scratched his head. “I can explain…”
The dibia was in his shrine enjoying the tobacco as he puffed on his pipe.
Jelemba his young protege had gone to the woods to get some local herbs he was making, a fertility concoction to give to a woman who had been childless for 10 years.
He puffed on his pipe as he relaxed in his shrine staring at the cowries. He suddenly heard footsteps and shouted, “Jelemba is that you?”
He stood, opened the tent and saw the crowbar descending on his skull.
He fell down immediately and died within seconds as his head split open.
“About three months ago I ran into some bad company in the City,” Paul explained looking into disbelief and shock in the eyes of both girls. Kosara had excused herself when the awkwardness got too much to bear. Afterall she was grieving.
“What kind of bad company?” Oluchi sounded confused. She folded her arms as she glared at her brother in disbelief. Amara watched the drama unfold silently.
“I owe people, some very bad people money. I had to leave Lagos for my safety but I couldn’t come home straight, I had to sort myself and lay low somewhere close by, so I-“
“Paul all this one you’re saying I don’t understand, the day we picked you at the park did you arrive from Lagos or you just strolled in from the next village? That’s my question.”
“Not to mention that girl called you Emeka,” Amara added. Plus she had said he was Chinaza’s friend. The same Chinaza who had been murdered. That would explain the tension she noticed between the both of them that night.
“Oluchi, Amara please now is not the time, not here in the open,” Paul said weakly as he noticed the tall pastor walking towards them.
“Amara, nice to see you again, hello. I can’t remember your name,” Osi said cheerfully as he caught up with them.
“Very nice to meet you, hope you enjoyed the communion?”
“Yes, I did.”
Osi finally looked at Paul. The young man looked flustered and Osi studied him with an intense gaze.
“It’s nice to meet you once again. I’d like to have a word with you if you’re not too busy.”
But Paul had his shoulder up. He didn’t look comfortable. “I’m sorry but not today, or not at this moment I’m really busy.” With that he walked away briskly leaving his sister behind.
However Oluchi was not done yet and she followed, calling after him. “Paul? Paul? Talk to me now.”
“Hope I didn’t interrupt anything?” Osi said to Amara as they watched brother and sister walk away.
“No you did not,” she smiled at him, “I enjoyed the sermon and the communion. It was my first time today.”
“Wow. How was it?”
“It felt strange at first but I’d go for more now.”
Osi smiled, “The important thing is to understand the concept and what it represents. Are you ready to go home? I’d walk you.”
“Actually I was planning to pay my last respect to Chinaza and her father when they bury them later today.”
“I’d be heading there myself, we can walk together, I just have to make sure that everything is okay over here first.” “No problem. How is your investigation going?” “Investigation?” He looked at her surprised.
“You were asking some questions about Ozioma.”
“Oh, well the questions haven’t really brought any enlightenment.”
“Thank God the killer has been identified.”
Osi frowned, he hoped that was true and that he was wrong to have his doubts. “It just struck me, do you have any idea where one can find plenty second hand clothes that he can tear out a piece of material at will?”
She thought hard for a minute then shook her head, “Nope. I can’t think of anything at the moment.”
“Okay. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you remember anything.”
Little Jelemba ran round the village wailing and crying, stopping every now and then to pick up sand and throw in the air as he shouted.
The dibia is dead!
He soon drew a loud crowd and people began to follow him. No one talked to him and they kept their distance.
Jelemba was a chosen one, handpicked by the gods in his early years. Only few people dared speak to him. They followed him silently to the dibia’s shrine to see for themselves if what the young lad said was true.
Before long, just as Bush fire is known to spread, the news of the dibia’s death went ahead the wailing messenger and reached the elders’ ears.
“The dibia is dead. Murdered in cold blood.”
“It’s an abomination.”
“It’s not possible,” Dé John began pacing frantically. “I dare say our land is cursed.”
“They say his young one is weeping on his way here.”
“What do we do? What about the body?”
“This means that Okudili is still in our midst.”
“How could he not foresee his own demise?”
“That bastard Okudili.”
“What do we do now?”
It was not a good day to be a leader.
“Please leave him alone, Pastor Osi you are a stranger, you don’t understand how things are done here. Let him be. The kind of news he’s carrying has so many evil spirits attached to it, biko let’s mind our business.”
But Osi wasn’t listening. All he could think of as he watched young Jelemba wailing round the village was, this misguided lost soul!
“Amara, believe me. It is because of people like this young boy that I’m here,” with that he moved closer to the boy who was busy writing something in the sand.
“Hello, young one, peace be unto you.”
“He’s dead. He’s dead. The one who calls the rain when our soil is dry, the one who calls the sun when our land is flooded. He’s gone. Killed like a dog…ooooohhh, the gods have cursed us.”
“Listen to me, you are not cursed, no one cursed you, the bible says cursed is he who hangs from a tree. Do you know what that means? When Jesus hung on the tree, he took your curse, he took
my curse. its left to you to believe and claim it”
The boy blinked. It sounded alien to his ears. “Jesus?”
“Yes, lemme tell you about Jesus, and then you’ll tell me why you are crying, okay?”
Surprisingly the boy nodded.
Amara watched in disbelief then the disbelief gave way to pride, then the pride she felt for Osi melted into something else. As she watched him interact with the child, she knew it.
The devil always made sure he never regretted his actions. Which was why he took his time to plan out every attack and why he hated losing control when he was overpowered by rage and lust. But he was angry now, the Pastor was obviously very much alive and healthy, the poison hadn’t worked.
And then the dibia had been murdered. That was good news. Besides the dibia really knew secrets and chances couldn’t be wasted.
But he wondered about the piece of clothe he had left at the scenes. He had gone with impulse then and had thought to make it his signature but now he wondered if it was such a smart move. Especially as a little serious digging could link the clothes to him. Although no one had made the connection and he was sure no one ever will.
It didn’t really matter. What mattered was that he was beginning to feel the urge surfacing. The urge to have Amara to himself, the urge to ravish her body and it was getting stronger than ever.
Amara would be his last. His final performance before the curtain falls, but deep down he knew it was a lie. He was a killer now. That was who he was.
The dibia’s shrine was in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by trees and rocks. It was more or else on the outskirt of Amaife and closer to the next village. And as the few villagers marched grimly towards the shrine, a heavy silence descended on them as they stomached the fact that their messenger, the one they turned to for advice and held in high esteem as their liaison with the gods was as vulnerable as every one of them. So vulnerable that he had been killed.
Dé Nwachukwu led the small crowd walking in a very slow pace, eulogizing the dead and greeting all the spirits sure to be hovering about in a dialect most people didn’t understand.
At the front of the shrine, they all saw the dibia’s legs protruding out of the tent as he had been knocked backwards. And this time everyone noticed the torn piece of clothe around the deceased legs. It was from a shirt that had definitely seen better days. The fabric was stained with blood and had smudges of dried alcohol stains.
Everybody knew the shirt. It belonged to Okudili.
“Joy, what do you think of Paul?”
“Which Paul, Oluchi’s brother?”
Joy shrugged, “I used to think he was cool until yesterday.
What got into him?”
“I don’t even know. He really scared me.”
“Have you told daddy?”
“Eh. Please no o, you know how Dé Nwachukwu is.”
Both girls continued their dinner in silence. There were so many things to think about.
Osi walked back home with Bartholomew and Gregory. They had left Pa Kenneth’s compound not long ago after deliberating about the crusade. The elders had requested they cancel the Vigil service tonight in honour of the fallen dibia and in order to avoid angering the gods further. Osi personally thought it was a load of hogwash but he could only hold his peace.
“Pastor, what can you tell me about Steve?” He asked the pastor as they drew closer.
“Stevenson?” Pastor Bartholomew sounded surprised.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“I’m merely curious about him. I mean, to just get up and leave your country, and your continent and take another strange land as your home… “
“Well, what can I say? He claims to be in love with African culture, specifically Nigerian Culture and more specifically Amaife. From our previous discussions coming down here wasn’t really difficult as he doesn’t have any wife or any family back in Ukraine.”
“What do you think about his work, his research and all?”
“Well, he once brought a piece he had written about the spiritual lives of the people, he said he needed my input. He’s a good writer and I have a feeling whatever book he writes about his experience would be a best seller, over there of course.”
They had gotten to the entrance of the house already and they stopped.
“So, I’d advice you to rest, tomorrow we’ll just kick off in the morning, let’s forget about the Vigil tonight.”
“No problem. I don’t even know where you stay, I know you gave up your house for us.” Osi asked his new friend as they shook hands.
“Oh, that’s no problem. I have so many places to rest my head. But I’m living with my younger brother right now. I believe you met him the day you arrived.”
“Yes, I can recall.”
The deacon was gone and it felt good to have more than enough bed space. Osi stretched his long body to the fullest as he stared blankly at the ceiling.
So many things were on his mind.
They had only three days remaining for the crusade. He didn’t feel they had really connected with the villagers and brought them closer to God. The case of the serial killer was beginning to give him sleepless nights.
He tried to decipher what he had found out so far.
The killer had started his rampage a month ago.
His first kill had been his stressor; something had snapped him to kill and unleashed the beast in him.
He had been romantically involved with Ozioma and she had been the first victim.
What had made him to rape and kill her so horribly?
He had enjoyed the act and had begun to hunt unsuspecting girls.
Was he selecting girls randomly or he had a list or a specific target.
He frowned as he envisioned Amara’s face suddenly. He shook his head trying to clear his thoughts and her image from his mind.
The killer had access and probably wore second hand clothes and had given Ozioma the clothes as a present sometime back.
He was leaving behind pieces of material, at first as a blindfold but now Osi felt it was some kind of signature. Like the one he had found at the stream. He decided this was the ultimate clue. The one he needed to solve, the one that would bring clarity.
He still felt he could learn one or two from mama Ozioma. She had been interrupted the last time she wanted to speak to him. He made up his mind to pay her a visit tomorrow.
Dé John arrived at his friend’s compound very early in the morning. He banged the gate till a sleepy eyed Amara opened.
“Don’t tell me you’re still sleeping?” He entered the compound.
“Dé, good morning,” she tried to stifle a yawn but failed.
The girl was beautiful. Even straight from bed in the morning. That was true beauty. He thought idly to himself while she hurried inside to call her father.
“Dé John, I knew it would be you,” Dé Nwachukwu commented as he chewed on the stick and shook hands with his friend.
“My brothe, anyone that looks up and sees a vulture flying and circling about must surely look down to find the cause.”
Dé Nwachukwu frowned. Whenever his friend spoke like this then something was wrong, very wrong. “Have you heard from the search party, any sign of the bloody Okudili?”
“No” Dé John shook his head, “I’m beginning to think that someone is harbouring him in our own village. Under our very nose.”
“Haba. Why do you think that? Who could do such a thing?”
“Okudili struck again yesterday.”
Dé Nwachukwu’s mouth hung opened in shock. “My God.”
“It’s becoming something else, I tell you.”
“Wait, who did he kill?”
“It seems he is now revisiting the mothers of his previous victims.”
“Dé John, be direct and don’t give me a heart attack,” Dé Nwachukwu scolded as his voice rose.
“Mama Ozioma was killed last night. He entered her compound and strangled her to death.”
“How are you sure it’s Okudili?”
“Because the other half of the shirt we found at the dibia’s shrine was tied round her neck.”
“Was she…was she…?” Dé Nwachukwu didn’t need to complete his question.
“Honestly I have no idea. She was naked from the waist down when I got there. She was supposed to host the market women tomorrow but because she’s been mourning it was shifted to someone else. Gladys only went to her place this morning to collect the remaining contribution money and she found the body.”
“Where’s Gladys now?”
“She’s in my house. We can’t afford to let this news spread like the last or else it would send everyone into panic”
Dé Nwachukwu was already on his feet. “But why? Why has Okudili brought this kind of curse upon us, eeerrrn? Amara. I’m going out come and lock the gate.”
That morning Osi woke up as early as five. Actually he hadn’t really slept. There were so many things on his mind. He engaged himself, praying in tongues that morning as he had his shower and made a jug of coffee. He strolled round the house just praying and singing and walked round the compound. He did this for an hour and felt energized just like he had intended.
Bukky was the next to wake. She always woke up early because she was tasked with preparing breakfast and making preparations down for lunch. Osi deeply appreciated her efforts and the rumble in his stomach made him very happy to see her suddenly.
“Top of the morning to you. How was your night?” He asked her cheerfully.
She frowned in reply as she studied him with an intense gaze. “Osi let’s leave this village. My spirit is not at rest here. I have a bad feeling.”
“Woa.” He got up and placed his hands on her shoulder. “Where did that come from? Everything is fine, that’s just the enemy trying to scare us away because he’s scared, scared that we’re winning this village for Christ and he’s losing his grip.”
But she didn’t look convinced, she frowned deeper. “Osi I had a dream. A very bad dream. Please let’s just leave this village, we’re already divided.”
“Divided? The deacon was never one of us and Samuel is returning today. What did you dream about?” “Osi I dreamt…I dreamt you died.”
“It seems the dead has a way of attracting you,” Dé Nwachukwu commented watching him with a suspicious look.
“I beg your pardon?” Osi didn’t understand the question or the look either.
“Or you came to pray for her soul then?” Dé Nwachukwu asked. He had been tasked to stand outside because no matter how you tried to curtail it, news still spread, especially news of this kind. They couldn’t afford any villager to come by.
Pa Kenneth and Dé John were talking to Gladys the hysterical woman who had discovered the dead body.
“I’m sorry, sir, am I missing something?” Osi asked the elder.
“You don’t know then, why are you here?”
“I just have a couple of questions for Mama Ozioma concerning her daughter.”
“Too bad she can’t answer your questions. She was killed last night.”
“What!” Osi was shocked. “By who…who did it?”
“The very same man that is wanted for the others…Okudili” “Jesus…!”
“….was nowhere to be found when he was needed last night” Dé Nwachukwu said skeptically.
The door was slightly ajar and Osi studied the frame, running his fingers along the edge and studying the catch closely.
“What are you checking for?” Dé Nwachukwu asked him.
“For sign of forced entry…don’t you think she would have raised the alarm and shouted for help if she found out that the person wanted for her daughter’s murder was at the door?”
“Hmmm” Dé John looked around thoughtfully “she didn’t scream…her neighbours aren’t far away, they would have heard her otherwise”
“Exactly! Which means she probably knew her killer or atleast trusted him to an extent”
“So what are you saying…Okudili is not responsible?”
“I could be wrong…I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think he’s behind this one”
“Oh my God” Dé Nwachukwu rubbed his jaw tiredly “no one should hear this”
Dé John came outside looking like a white bedspread. “Okudili is a bastard and a devil. It shall not be well with him.”
“What’s wrong? Where’s Pa Kenneth?”
“He’s still inside. It’s horrible..I never noticed it before, she was raped.”
“My God,” Osi put his hands on his head.
“You mean in her elderly age she was raped like the others?” Dé Nwachukwu asked.
“No this is worse, he used her pestle, imagine…pestle.”
“My God,” Osi’s legs turned to rubber and he felt like fainting. He didn’t want to believe he was somehow responsible for her death.
“I’d like to see the scene. He may have made a mistake,” he said slowly.
“Do so at your own risk,” Dé John replied him, “and send for pa
Kenneth, we need to plan our next move and we need to act fast.” Judging by Dé John’s horrified reaction, Osi had an idea of the kind of eyesore that awaited him inside the house. A part of him was reluctant to look at the violated body of the woman he had set eyes on just the day before. But a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. He knew she had been killed for a reason and he could bet she knew whoever the killer was. It was up to him to search and observe and hope he would find answers.
He could hear voices coming from the parlour. Pa Kenneth was talking in a calm voice. He was speaking in his native dialect which Osi didn’t understand but he guessed the elder was trying to calm the woman who had to be Gladys. He avoided them and went straight to the room. He stopped at the door and scanned the room, purposely averting his eyes from the bed as he studied the room. The first thing he noticed was that the room was a mess. Clothes were strewn about, the table was upside down and the little wooden drawer in the corner had been emptied and dumped on the floor.
He moved around gently, subconsciously edging away from the bed. He was not ready for that, not yet.
He decided the killer had turned the place inside out. He must have been searching for something. Searching frantically for something important.
He looked around for 5 minutes but didn’t see anything of interest. Maybe the killer had been looking for something that ties him to Ozioma, maybe a gift, who knows maybe the clothes he had given her or maybe a letter, a love letter with his identity. That sounded more like it.
He could see the pestle on one side of the bed and thankfully someone had covered her body with the bed sheet. Still he had an idea of what lay underneath as the whole room was stained red and it wasn’t zobo.
He felt his guilt turning to anger. Whoever this person was he; Osi Azikiwe would not rest, would not sleep and he would not leave Amaife until the killer is exposed.
He made the solemn promise to the corpse before him.
“I saw him. I saw Okudili. I saw the killer. He’s hiding along the stream path.” Ezinne ran round the market square, screaming at the top of her lungs. She held an empty pot in her hands and she thrust it up to emphasize her point.
“I was going to fetch water but I saw him hiding in the bush drinking. I thought he would pursue me.”
“Where did you see him?” Someone asked from the growing crowd.
“Along the stream path, near the palm trees.”
“What are we waiting for? Let’s nab the bastard,” Benedict shouted and was rewarded with a high spirited roar. They began marching towards the stream but they soon broke into a frantic race. None of them had any weapon apart from Benedict who had been on butchering duty and thus held a machete. It didn’t matter though, the sheer volume of the mob and their anger was enough weapon.
The house had two rooms and a parlour which suprised Osi because from outside it looked like it was just a room.
The second room was smaller however and when he stepped in he knew it must have belonged to Ozioma.
This room had also been searched. It was even messier than the first. Her clothes had been dumped from the closet and the other furniture in the room, a small reading table had been pushed on its side.
Osi felt the killer hadn’t found what he was looking for but he himself had no idea what it was. Still he began to poke around praying for some kind of clue that would serve as an insight into the kind of life Ozioma had lived.
“Pastor, young pastor are you there?” Dé Nwachukwu called from outside.
“I’m in the second room. I’d be out soon,” he replied as his eyes scanned a bunch of papers that must have fallen off the table.
He heard footsteps and turned just as Dé Nwachukwu entered.
“I think you were wrong. It’s Okudili that committed this crime.” “Why do you say so?” Osi stopped and observed the old man.
“Because he was spotted in the village just now and our youths are combing every corner for him as we speak.”
“Who saw him?”
“One of our daughters going to fetch water. In fact it looks like he was ahead laying ambush for her but she spotted him first and ran away.”
“So he’s been in this village, but that doesn’t mean he…”
“Look here, boy, I like you that’s why I’ll tell you this. Whatever theory you have its best you keep it to yourself, we’re not buying it and frankly it would only put everyone in a state of panic.”
“But it would be better they know the killer might still be out there so they can be security conscious and aware of the danger.”
“The keyword is might, you yourself are not sure. Is there a high possibility that Okudili is the killer?” Osi nodded.
“Then that’s good enough,” Dé Nwachukwu said.
“Ezinne calm down, calm down. I’m sure our youths have caught him, they are probably beating him to a pulp right now.”
“Or forcing his rotten eggs down his throat,” Oluchi added with so much venom that Amara winced.
“I just saw him hiding there. He must have been waiting for me, I didn’t even know. If not that I heard him belch.”
“You heard him belch,” Amara said with a frown, “he was drinking then?”
“Yes. As usual.”
“And I heard he killed Ozioma’s mother last night.”Oluchi whispered.
“I heard she was raped with fire wood,” Mama added, almost breaking down as she forced the words out of her mouth.
“So he plans to go for the mothers now? Okudili is very sick. I so much hate that beast, I wish he would suffer greatly. Death is too lenient for him.” Amara’s voice hardened.
“I heard pa Chisom got himself a gun. In case he comes for his wife,” Ezinne said.
“I trust pa Chisom,” Oluchi said standing up, “I want to get water, who else is thirsty?”
“I’d like some. Stupid Okudili didn’t let me fetch my water again,” Ezinne said.
The girls had gathered in Oluchi’s house this time around. Joy had gone to a friend’s house just a stone throw from there and that had been the main reason Amara had insisted to Ezinne they visit Oluchi. They had met Mama on the way coming to the house and so they all converged in Oluchi’s cramped compound.
There was no sign of Paul.
Speaking of Paul, Amara leaned in so Oluchi wouldn’t hear as she went inside the house. “Do you know Paul has been in the
neighbouring village for like two months now?”
“Are you serious? I thought it was Lagos.”
“Me too, apparently he used to visit Chinaza’s maternal home and one of her cousins recognized him during the burial.”
“Poor Chinaza, we’ve lost a lot of girls to this beast,” Ezinne said shaking her head.
“I just knew it had to be Okudili. Deep down everybody hated him, no girl ever gave him the chance but he loves women and that would have angered him a lot,” Mama said.
“You just reminded me of something the tall pastor asked me and I’ve been thinking since,” Amara said.
“What is it?”
“Ezinne, you were the closest to Ozioma, if anyone can remember it would be you. Can you recall her dating anybody few months back?”
“Hmm,” Ezinne narrowed her eyes and frowned as she thought.
“Not really. Okay there was this man that used to give her clothes one time like that, you should remember now.”
“Yes I do, but I can’t remember who the person was. Can you?” Ezinne thought hard but she was already shaking her head slowly, “No, she never told us. I can’t count how many times I badgered her but she was tight lipped about his identity. I thought she really loved him then.”
“Why are you asking that all of a sudden? What did the pastor say?”
“He believes she dated the killer.”
“No. I can assure you that Ozioma didn’t date Okudili.”
“How can you be so sure? Ozioma was a secretive person,” Mama added.
“I’m sure because I have a letter. She gave me a love letter he wrote to her. She was scared her mother would see it and wanted me to keep it safe, Believe me Okudili can not pen what was written there.”
“Paul,” Oluchi shouted her brother’s name suddenly from inside the house.
Amara was too excited to notice, “The letter, you have it?”
“Was it typed or handwritten?”
“Typed ke? It was handwritten.”
“Then we can check the handwriting.”
“I’m not sure Okudili knows how to write sef so what would we be crosschecking?” Ezinne asked with a slight frown.
“Unless you think Okudili is not the killer,” Mama gasped as her eyes went wide.
“Of course not, I’m just curious. I’d like to find this clue, a part of my friend’s memory and discover who it was that she loved so much and left her heartbroken.”
“How are you sure they broke up?” Ezinne asked, the frown deepening.
“Remember for like two days before her death she was a wreck, very sad and didn’t come out but locked herself inddors and cried. I know because I stopped by once. It was very sad.”
Oluchi appeared with a glass of water which she handed to Ezinne. She walked briskly and opened the main gate and looked both ways before locking it. When she returned she was out of breath.
“What’s wrong?” Mama asked her.
“Sometimes this my brother used to fall my hand,” she complained shaking her head dismally.
“What did he do? I’ve forgiven him so don’t worry,” Amara assured her.
“No not even that, from the kitchen I noticed movement and saw this reflection of someone standing outside close to the gate. The way he was standing like he was eavesdropping on what you people were saying.”
“Did you see who it was?”
“Not really, it happened fast, when I called out Paul? The person took off immediately which was strange.”
“How long was the person standing there?” Ezinne asked.
“I can’t really say, but its probably nothing. I’m sure Paul was feeling bad about that incident and thought we were talking about it,” Oluchi offered. Recently she wasn’t as proud of her brother like she used to be.
“Is it possible for someone to hear us from outside?” Amara asked.
“Honestly, I think so.”
“Ezinne we need to see that letter now and I think you should be very very careful,” Amara told her.
“Now you’re scaring me,” Ezinne said.
“Me too,” Oluchi said.
“Me three,” Mama added.
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