The Devil Wears Okirika Episode 16 – 20 by Kingsley Olanrewaju Efughi

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The Devil Wears Okirika - Kingsley Efughi

The Devil Wears Okirika by Kingsley Olanrewaju Efughi

EPISODE 16

My love for you knows no bound

You knocked me out in the first round

It goes beyond the physical

You’re my soul mate

Please forgive me for my actions  

I didn’t mean those words  

I am ready to wait for you  

Till you’re ready  

Because I love

I don’t love you because I need you

I need you because I love you

I want to be with you and not just your body.  

Please forgive me. I’d like to see you tonight if you truly forgive me..around 11pm at our normal spot?

Your love  

-P.O- 

 “P.O, What does that stand for?” Amara asked as she finished reading the letter out.

The girls had no idea. They all sat on Ezinne’s bed apart from Amara who paced round the room as she read the letter.

“Wait, it seems they had a quarrel, he obviously wanted sex but she must have refused, I recall Ozioma was bent on preserving her virginity,” Ezinne said.

Amara nodded. She could remember Ozioma had been very vocal about it.

“Oluchi, is your surname not Okoh?” Maama asked suddenly with a thoughtful expression on her face.

“Yes it is, what’s your point?” Oluchi replied rather harshly. “P. O, Paul Okoh.”

“You must be mad,” Oluchi jumped at her, “How dare you.”

“Relax, don’t eat me biko, it’s just a suggestion.”

“What kind of suggestion is that?” 

“Wait, wait. Wait first,” Amara intervened, “Oluchi you can simply check the writing if it’s similar to Paul’s own.”

“It’s not the same,” she said without looking at the paper and folded her arms.

“Wait. I don’t understand. Are you saying Paul is the killer?” Ezinne asked as she stared incredulously from the bed.

“No, of course not,” Amara said hurriedly when she noticed Oluchi’s expression had darkened. 

“We already know who the killer is; have you forgotten it’s Okwudili. We’re only curious about who was dating our friend.” 

“Exactly. I don’t know why Oluchi is getting upset. Besides, that your brother seems like a player,” Mama said jokingly in an effort to lighten the mood.

“It can’t be possible. My brother has been in Lagos for the past 3 years. He wasn’t around when Ozioma was having that relationship,” but even as she said this she looked at Amara and her friend’s expression said it all. “Fine, I’d check. I know His writing very well anyway,” Oluchi rolled her eyes and collected the paper. Her eyes scanned the words for some seconds as she seemed to scrutinize the writing.

Finally she handed the paper back to Amara, “No. It’s not his handwriting. Paul’s writing is more block letters but this is slanted.”

“Okay, you see no problem,” Amara said as she collected the letter. She wondered how far one was willing to go to protect the sibling. She didn’t believe her, not until she confirms for herself that the writing was different.

“Stevenson,” Osi called out as he approached the house. 

The European lived in a small but handsome self contain apartment. Dé Nwachukwu had given him the address along with the extra information that the house had been provided for him from the village purse. 

Osi could see him on the verandah hunched over a notepad as he scribbled furiously. He had on a pair of reading glasses and as he looked up he looked different.

“Ah, pastor, what a pleasant surprise,” he leaned back and smiled as Osi proceeded to climb the short steps.

“Sorry to barge in like this. Hope I’m not disturbing your work?” 

“No. Not at all,” he replied but he looked up with a what can I do you for gaze.

Osi stammered. He didn’t really know how to go about this. He had left the house this morning full of rage and the disturbing image of the dead woman playing behind his eyes. He knew he had to play hardball now. He had to ask the hard questions, the right questions and ask directly and the European was the first name to come to mind. But now here he was watching that polite smile and he didn’t know how to go about it.

“I find this your work fascinating. I have this respect for writers, especially academic writers. I used to suck at writing,” he smiled sheepishly as he tried to get the conversation going.

“Ah, well believe me it’s not your passion.”

“Yours is quite unique, writing about African culture.”

“Well, its my field,” He sighed impatiently, “I’m sorry but you kind of caught me at a bad time.”

“Ok, lest I forget. Where were you last night?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I mean last night. I wanted to talk to you about tomorrow’s service but I didn’t see any sign of you.”

“Really? What time was this?” Steve asked with a frown.

Osi flashed back to the body, he tried to estimate the likely time of death. If rigamortis had already set in by morning then the death might have occurred around midnight.

“Errm, well it was quite late. I think just before 12 midnight.”

“Woa. Midnight, I was tucked in, far away in dreamland by then,” he smiled as he said this but Osi thought his voice had on edge.

He waved it off as paranoia as he joined Stevenson in his exaggerated laughter.

“I should have been asleep too but too many thoughts about the crusade.” 

“I understand. Please I’d appreciate if you come back or better still I’d come see you when I’m done. I need to finish up this chapter today.”

“Okay, no problem. Forgive me for disturbing.” 

Osi took his leave thinking of what he had just learnt. He had been alone meaning there was no one to vouch for him. 

When the girls left, Ezinne locked her door. Amara had emphasised that she lock the door and windows and not go anywhere alone and she was getting scared already. Her parents were not in, her father only came home on weekends as he worked with a transport company and her mother was in the market. She would need to go and join her mother and help her close very soon like she did every evening. 

She suddenly wished she had walked with her friends and from there taken the path to the market. Amara had not only made her security conscious but had managed to scare her as well. She didn’t want to be alone right now.

“Joy if you don’t mind I’d like us to stop by pastor Bartholomew’s house.”

Her sister laughed, “If I don’t mind? If I mind would it even matter? You want to see your boyfriend I cannot come in between.”

“I don’t appreciate your remarks. I have something I want to show Osi that’s all.”

“Osi? You’re already on first name basis?” 

Ovie opened the door. He smiled when he saw Amara. “Hey. You again…eeeerm…don’t tell me…” He snapped his fingers,

“Amaka.”

“No…Amara,” she corrected with a smile.

“Please come in, come in. It’s a pleasure to have you here. This must be your sister, the resemblance is striking.”

They entered the parlour. “Is pastor Osi in?”

“Not yet, but I’m expecting him any minute now,” as he spoke they heard the door open. “That should be him.”

But it was Bukky. She entered the parlour with a nylon bag of vegetables she had bought from the market. 

“Hello pretty ladies, you came to hear the word that’s nice.”

“Actually they came to see Osi,” Ovie explained and Amara thought she felt the woman frown slightly.

She tugged her sister’s hand, “Maybe we would come back. I just wanted to show him something.”

It seemed Joy was in one of her mischievous moods. She didn’t budge, “No naa, sheybe he’ll soon be back. Let’s use this opportunity and listen to the word, after all I have missed all the Vigil service so far.”

Ovie smiled, bringing out a gigantic bible from the TV stand.

“Say no more, dear, say no more.”

“Well…what do you think?” Amara asked Osi as they walked the path home and he reread the letter again. He had arrived just as Joy had agreed they leave, 30 minutes into Ovie’s preaching. 

“This writing. I think I’ve seen it somewhere,” Osi said as he looked at the words for the umpteenth time. “Where did you see it, are you sure?” “Hmm,” He frowned and closed his eyes.

He thought back and remembered earlier in the day when he had paid Stevenson a visit. The man had been writing something and although the pad had been upside down and Osi had only glanced at it, he could almost swear the curvature was the same.

The knock was sharp and swift. The knuckles rapped the door three times causing a kind of tense vibration in the still silence that followed. Ezinne paused as she listened, trying to tell her beating heart that the knock hadn’t sounded from her door. 

As if to prove her wrong it sounded again. Maybe it was Oluchi, or one of the girls, they might have forgotten something and come back. But still she remained on her bed, steady and unmoving. The knock sounded again impatiently this time and she gave herself a mental kick. Whoever was at the door was knocking like he/she had every right to be there. It would have to be one of her friends maybe even her mother.

“I’m coming. Who’s there?” She asked as she stood behind the door, her hand on the bolt.

“Ezinne, its me, I left your mother a little while ago at the market and she said I should deliver something.”

She recognized the voice immediately. Everybody knew that voice, or almost everybody at least. 

She opened the door as her pulse returned to normal and smiled. “So nice to see you.”

“The pleasure is all mine, how are you?”

“I’m fine,” She glanced at his hands and noticed he didn’t hold anything in them. “What, what did my mum give to you?”

His eyes grew serious as the warmth escaped from them, “You have something that belongs to me.”

Osi and Amara stopped at the gate while Joy entered.

“I can see you’re suspecting somebody, but you don’t want to tell me,” Amara said.

“It’s not like I’m suspecting anyone, it’s, its more like a feeling. I have ways to confirm and be sure, and then I can freely tell you.”

“Just be careful, I have a feeling whoever it is would be very dangerous.” 

“Me too.”

“Just today in Oluchi’s house somebody was outside listening to us and he ran away immediately Oluchi called, out which is very strange.”

“Hmm,” Osi frowned, “when was this?” 

“Earlier today.”

“Did you get a look at him?”

“No, he took off immediately, but it’s probably Paul, Oluchi’s brother.”

“What were you people talking about?”

“I think Ezinne was telling us about the letter.”

“Wait a minute; you said it was Ezinne who handed it to you earlier?”

“Yes,” She saw his eyes change and she got worried, “what is

it?”

“Where is Ezinne’s house?” 

“It’s not too far from the market square,” she replied.

He began to run.

She joined him. Her heart was beating madly. 

“What’s going on?” She panted as she tried to catch up. His legs were long and ate the ground quickly and three of her steps equalled just one of his.

“Your friend is in danger.”

From far Amara could see the door was locked. 

Oh thank God. Her friend had obviously locked the door when they left. 

But then she saw the door open as Osi knocked on it. It hadn’t been locked after all; it had just been slid shut.

As she reached the door finally, Osi came back outside. His eyes were strange and he blocked the door with his body as he used his hands behind his back to close the door. “I don’t think you should go in there.” 

“Why? What do you mean?” But she could see it clearly in his eyes. She felt like her world was tilting upside down.

“What happened? Where is Ezinne?” She screamed.

Pastor Osi surprised her by gripping her with surprising strength and clamping his hand over her mouth. 

He strained his ears as he listened. He heard the noise again, a peculiar sound, like the soft slamming of a window. “Is there any road leading from the back of this house?” He asked her. 

She nodded and he removed his hand after she bit him, hard but quick. “There’s a shortcut that leads to the market square from the back.”

“Please don’t go inside. Stay outside,” with that Osi ran through the house, closing the door and running through the parlour, he jumped the dead body on the floor, the third dead body he was seeing in three days, and ran to the first room. This one didn’t even have a window. He noticed it had been turned upside down and hurried to the second room. He saw the window and knew the sound he heard must have come from here.

He hurried to the window, pushing the wooden board open and leaping out. As he landed, he heard the door to the parlour opening. Amara must have entered. 

Women, they never listen.

Well he couldn’t turn back now. The devil was running away and he just needed a glimpse of whoever he was. He took off running down the path.

The devil had never been as scared of exposure as he was right now. He ran with speed as he ducked between bushes trying to stay out of sight.

He didn’t know which was more annoying, the fact that he didn’t get to rape Ezinne or that the letter wasn’t in his possession or that he was running from the foolish pastor.

The girl had confessed when she saw the knife that the letter was with Amara.  

Amara, well that would be taken care of soon enough. Maybe sooner than expected because he couldn’t rest until the letter was in his hands.

Those two letters; P.O gave away his identity more than anything.

He smiled when he saw the beginning of the market square. But his smile disappeared when he thought about Ezinn, he hadn’t done with her like he wanted to, he had been forced to use his knife and using a knife wasn’t his style.

They said what goes up must come down and the height in his trouser would need to be pacified. Oh yes, Amara’s time was definitely up.

“Oh my God,” Amara put her hand over her mouth as she burst into tears. It was a nightmare to see her friend bleeding on the floor. She fell to her knees and wailed.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, oh my God.”

“Amara, Amara.”

Her eyes flew open as she heard the words which sounded more like a whisper.

“Ezine, Ezinne…” she had been stabbed in the stomach but she wasn’t dead yet.

“Amara. Please help my mother to…..help, help my mother, to lock…up her sh….s…shop.” Blood spilled from her mouth as she struggled to talk.

” Ezinne. I’m so sorry, forgive me please.”

“It’s all…it’s alright.” More blood from the mouth. “Ezinne who did this to you? Who did this?”

“Its, it’s, it’s……” Her eyes went blank and lifeless.

Osi stumbled into the market square running like a mad man. He felt eyes on him from  every direction but he felt a certain kind of eye on him. The devil’s eye; whoever he had just chased was somewhere watching him that very moment. He turned frantically as he looked at the faces. Everyone was busy with their respective business.

“Hey, did you see anyone run out of this bush?” He asked a young boy shining shoes. “Yes.”

Ahaaa, Finally.

“Who was it? Who did you see?”

The boy pointed at him and burst out laughing,”You.”

EPISODE 17

“God be with you till we meet again

Till we mee-ee-eeet

Till we mee-ee-eeet

God be with you till we meet again

Till we meeet….”

The voices rang out in the night. Beautiful voices, voices filled with grief. The young girls of Amaife were at the front of the group. Marching slowly and singing, their candles seemed to burn the brightest. Some of them had framed photographs of their friends; the deceased girls of Amaife. It was troubling, the photographs were many.

Amara held Ezinne’s framed photograph but she didn’t hold it out like the rest, instead she held it to her chest. She didn’t hold any candle as her two hands gripped the photograph. Her eyes had a distant look and her lips moved softly as she sang. 

One of the girls held up a picture; heart wrenching. The pretty girl in the picture had to be Ozioma, she had a bright smile, radiant face that seemed to shine even in the night with just the soft glow of the candles as the moon had remained under covers. 

She had her arms round a smiling elderly woman, her mother. Mother and daughter, so beautifull, so alike. 

The picture seemed to hunt Osi as he stared from the road side watching the procession.

Each person had a burning candle in his/her hand, a sorrowful but comforting song on the lips and a tearful eye.

“Whoever did this is a bastard,” Ovie muttered beside him.

“Bastard is a kind word in this case,” Osi replied.

Bukky sighed, “I can’t even caution you pastor, this is too heartbreaking.”

They joined the crowd, following at a distance after the last person had past. 

“Pastor you need to stop blaming yourself,” Ovie said after a while.

“I’m not blaming myself,” Osi replied but he was. If only he had been more conscious when Oluchi had first told him Ezinne had given her the letter. If only he had been faster. If only….

“Pastor,” Gregory caught up, walking fast and breathing hard. “Pastor the deacon is at the house, he came back. He and Samuel arrived about ten minutes ago.”

Osi nodded. He could guess the reverend had given the deacon more than a slap on the wrist and sent him back. To tell the truth he wished the deacon hadn’t come back. The man was a sower of discord.

“He seems to be in a very bad mood,” Gregory said as he settled beside Osi, matching the walking rhythm.

“It would take a very special kind of grace for me to deal with his rubbish this time around,” Osi replied tiredly.

After walking round the village twice the villagers converged at the market square. The candles had all burnt halfway by now and a slight breeze had blown out a third of them.

They formed some kind of circle round pastor Batholomew and Pa Kenneth.

“My people, it is times like this that we need to hold on to our faith more than ever,” Pa Kenneth started his speech with a low voice. He could barely be heard and for the first time, he looked and sounded really old. The past couple of weeks seemed to have added a decade to his real age. The candles were almost at its end when he finished his speech and by that time the sounds of hands striking the legs and arms against the bloodthirsty mosquitoes had almost drowned his voice totally.

Pastor Bartholomew took the stage. “You see this is the time we need to hold on to our faith the most, the devil doesn’t want us to have our crusade. My friends from PortHarcourt are here because God wants to use them to bless us, to use them to speak to us, to use them to direct us in the midst of our present crises, but you see the devil doesn’t want us to focus but my brethren, now more than ever we need to set our eyes on the most high, not on the bitterness, not on the pain, not on the heartbreak. No, we set our eyes on him. Let us pray…”

“I’m sorry about Ezinne. I know how close you people were,” Paul located Oluchi and Amara. He glanced at the framed picture still in Amara’s arms.

“Paul, where you the one outside the gate today?” Oluchi asked. She hadn’t been able to stop crying.

“Outside the gate,when?” 

“Earlier today,” Amara spoke up for the first time. She had a strange look in her eyes, an accusing look. She could vividly remember how he had grabbed her the other day and suddenly she was extremely suspicious of Paul.

“No. I’ve not even come home since I left in the morning,” he replied with a somewhat shaky voice.

“Where did you go?” Amara countered before he could talk.

“Errm, I went to tidy up something,” he said, unable to look her in the eye.

“Just what exactly?” She pressed but her younger sister tugged her from behind.

“Amara, let’s go. Dé Nwachukwu is waiting for us.”

Osi didn’t eat -no appetite- and now he couldn’t sleep. He was back in the parlour thanks to the deacon’s arrival and as he lay stretched on the couch he cracked his brain. There was something he was missing, he was sure of it, something important. 

The letter was the key. He could feel it. 

He made up his mind to pay Stevenson a visit the next day.

EPISODE 18

“Mr Stevenson, I’d like to read everything you’ve written so

far.” 

No, that didn’t sound right.

“I’m fascinated by your research; can I read what you’ve done so far?”

That sounded better.

“Stevenson can you sign an autograph for me?”

No. He needed to study the writing letter for letter, word for word, there was no way an autograph could guarantee that.

Osi skipped down the path to Stevenson’s house. Anyway it went, the European was known for his politeness. Osi didn’t think he would refuse him.

He scanned the house, trying to calculate the distance to the spot in the woods Chinaza had been killed and the distance to Ezinne’s house. He was not yet 100% familiar with all the roads but he thought it was pretty close. 

The house was really beautiful. The gleaming paint and the design was pleasant to the eyes and he found it hard to believe the villagers had arranged the house for him. He noted it in his mind to ask Dé Nwachukwu if the house had been built from scratch specifically for Stevenson.

Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap. He knocked the door, softly at first but after some seconds with no reply he increased the intensity.

Still no answer.

No one was home.

He looked around, although the cottage was in a secluded spot with no visible neighbours, he tried the door -it was locked.

“Hello. Hello, Stevenson.” 

No reply, it was obvious no one was home. 

He walked round the house trying to peer into the windows. Stevenson was a very private person. Everywhere was boarded up.

At the rear of the house, he noticed a smaller window; this had to be the toilet or kitchen. No it was definitely the toilet as it was higher than the others. It seemed having a window net wasn’t a thing in Amaife despite the evil mosquitoes around. 

He struggled with the window for some minutes but the fastened nails were no match for his determination. He wrestled the wooden window open and it dangled on one side. Probably held in place by the fastened catch from inside.

What are you doing? Why not wait for Steve to come back? The voice of reason asked him. 

No he couldn’t wait. He just needed a minute to get something, anything he could use to compare with the letter in his pocket. There was bound to be documents lying about, after all, the man was a writer.

Maybe he also wanted to snoop around a bit. There was something off about the European that he needed to figure out.

It would have been a big disaster if he got stuck midway as he wriggled, huffed and puffed through the small window but finally he went through and almost smashed his head on the floor tiles.

“Wow, they even tiled the place for him,” he mumbled to himself as he got to his feet.

The house was sparsely furnished but it was neat. Strangely there was no reading table, just some chairs that gave the impression of being put together in hurry and a small center table. The table was littered with papers. Aha, Osi strode hurriedly and fell to his knees as he scanned the papers.

None of them were handwritten. They seemed to have been torn off books and research materials. Some words were circled but they had no meaning to Osi.

He knew where to find answers, the bedroom.

The room had a king size bed, a drawer, a closet and a mirror. 

The room was squeaking clean, the bed was made without a crease and everything was in place. The shoes were arranged in a line and he could bet the clothes were hung neatly in the closet.

The pad Stevenson had been writing on was on the drawer. He noticed the edge of the notepad was in line with the edge of the table. Hmmm, obsessive compulsive…. he would have to be careful to leave everything exactly as he found it.

He got his hands on the pad and opened it.

He scurinized the writing as he unfolded the letter from his pocket.

L   L

  • R
  • S

He could swear the letters had the same slant and curve yet some letters gave him doubt. Take m for instance. In the letter, the words forgive me when he compared it to the word groom on the notepad, there was a slight difference in the looping.

Now that he studied the words it seemed the letter g had a different pattern in the way the branch was curved.

“Argghh. What am I even seeing?” He rubbed his eyes. This thing was giving him a nasty headache.

There had to be an expert, someone who could analyze both writings perfectly. He’ll just have to tear a page from the notepad.

“Better not tear from here.” He mumbled to himself and flipped the pages looking for any incoherent scribble he could tear off and Stevenson won’t notice.

He turned to the last page, scanning the contents. His eyes were drawn to bottom of the page.

   Ozioma Chineny Chisom Chinaza Ezinne

These were the names of the girls that had been raped and killed so far. What was Stevenson doing with their names?

Ezinne had been written with a black ink unlike the rest -blue ink- meaning it had been added recently, probably this morning.

Was this some kind of score card?

“This man has a lot of explaining to do,” Osi thought to himself, “Who knows what other secrets are hidden inside the pages.” Maybe he should just take the whole pad away.

As he considered this a noise came from the front of the house. It sounded like the stamping of boots.

He heard the whistle and the jingle of keys.

Steve was back.

Steve seemed to be whistling to the soundtrack to the young and the restless. 

Osi looked round, turning like a drunkard.

Nowhere to hide. There wasn’t enough furniture, no corner he could lay low and pray to sneak out.

No time to squeeze through the toilet window again or was there? 

Nope. The door knob was already turning.

So instead he squeezed the letter into his breast pocket and leaned on the wall, trying to look as innocent as possible.

Or maybe he should sit on the couch, cross his legs or fold his arms, or better still kneel down and pray.

The door opened, silencing his thoughts and the European marched in. He was dressed in shorts and an armless sport shirt. From the look of things he had gone jogging.

He didn’t see Osi at first, he entered and locked the door, whistling merrily. It wasn’t until he turned that he almost jumped out of his skin.

“Jumping Jellyfish!” 

Osi smiled and straightened. “Welcome Steve, I’ve been waiting for you,” he stretched out his hand hoping his smile wouldn’t waver. He had no idea what he was doing.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Stevenson thundered. He didn’t sound polite anymore he sounded shocked and yes, he sounded angry.

“I know you’re surprised to see me.”

“How did you get in here?” His face was red with anger and Osi began to get scared.

“Let me explain, ” He sounded rather weak. He wondered if he should withdraw his hand which was still hanging. “I woke up with a clear instruction in my spirit to share a prayer with you.” may God forgive me -he thought to himself.

Stevenson dropped his trainers on the floor. He had taken it off obviously not wanting to leave a mess on his gleaming tiles. He looked down at the mess now and his eyes held fire when he looked up, “You want to say a word of prayer and you break into my home? That’s an offence.” He moved closer, just a threatening step and Osi hated himself for flinching backwards. He was not a fighter, and the man looked like he could easily snap him into two.

By this time Osi had thought it wise to withdraw his hand. “You’ll have to forgive me but the conviction in my heart was what pushed my actions.” 

“It doesn’t make sense; if you wanted to pray for me and you knew I wasn’t home why break into my house. I’d ask you again. What the hell are you doing here and how did you get in?”

His eyes darted past Osi to his bedroom. “You’ve been snooping around haven’t you?” 

Osi followed his eyes, the notepad had been dropped in a hurry on the center of the drawer.

“No sir, not snooping around, more like laying of hands, yes…I had the urge to touch some things while I prayed, for example laying hands on your notepad while praying for your increased knowledge and academic success. You see the relevance, because a lot of your work is done on that notepad.”

He knew his excuse sucked and obviously the European thought so too because he suddenly grabbed Osi by the collar and pushed him roughly to the wall.

“You’re lying to me, you came in through my restroom. Now my question is why?” He spoke through clenched teeth and his eyes held fire in them.

Osi struggled to breathe. Steve really had large hands.

“I swear I was just doing my pastor duties. I’m sorry I crossed the line. It won’t…”

Steve increased the pressure and tightened his grip. “I don’t know what you were looking for but I’d ask you, what did you find?”

“Cllllliiiiiii…” Osi made a choking noise as he struggled to speak. “N-o-o-thi–clllliii”

He felt like he was going to black out, Steve’s eyes were crimson with rage.

Then just as immediately the European released him. “Well, pastor. I really appreciate you coming to pray for me,” he said in a calm voice and began to inspect his fingernails like he just got a manicure.

Osi fell to his knees and held his throat, struggling to regain his breath.

“Sorry if I was a little rough on you before,” Steve continued, “it was just a big surprise seeing you here.”

Osi looked up. Steve’s eyes were clear and he even had a smile on his face.

“Don’t be a cry baby…I’d have to fix my window after all” the European said jokingly.

Osi struggled to his feet. He didn’t have the mind to ask the white man why the names of the deceased girls were written in his pad, he didn’t even have the mind to hint about the letter and watch his reaction. He had just one thought; This man is crazy. He needed to get out of here fast.

Stevenson slapped him on the back -a friendly gesture but with too much force. “What are you still doing here?” He raised his eyebrows like he honestly couldn’t understand, “get out.”

Osi hurried out. He ran through the path, ran past the market square and didn’t stop until he got to the house.

He was soaked in sweat and breathing like a mad beast when he burst through the kitchen door.

“There he is,” Bukky said pointing at him.

Pastor Bartholomew turned and saw him. “Jesus. What happened, take it easy.”

Osi stumbled through the kitchen to the parlour feeling dazed. He had just looked madness in the eyes and escaped. He felt dizzy from all the running and felt like he was experiencing a little sun stroke. He was suddenly very thirsty.

He fell to the ground before he could stop himself.

“Pastor. Oh my God. Pastor Osi, are you okay?” he heard Bukky shriek. Her voice sounded far away.

“Take it easy. Bring water,” he couldn’t tell who said this but the voice was deep. Gregory, Bukky and Pastor Bartholomew all rushed to his side.

“I’m alright. I’m alright. I’m alright.” That was all he could say as he stared at the spinning ceiling.

“There is our wonderful leader, up to his wiles again,” deacon Oforbuike snickered from the dining table enjoying the scene as he demolished a bowl of cereal.

Osi struggled to a sitting posture. “I’m okay. I guess I ran too fast,” he collected the glass of water gratefully from Ovie. 

“What happened. I came to see you about the Sunday service in church, are you sure you’re okay?” Pastor Bartholomew said worriedly.

“Pastor, you scared me” Bukky added.

He couldn’t reply. He drank the cold water almost emptying the contents with a single gulp. Gregory seemed to know what he needed. Because when a man falls down, what he needs immediately is to get back up. He held his hand and helped him to his feet.

“Thanks,” Osi said, thrusting the half glass of water at Ovie and touching his breast pocket. “Shit.” 

“Ah-Ah why are you cursing?”

“My God. Pastor, what is wrong for God’s sake?”

He smiled apologetically at the faces looking at him. “Sorry, nothing. Everything is fine.”

But everything wasn’t fine, the letter was gone. No wonder the bastard Steve had brightened up and let him go.

“Damn,” he said angrily.

“Jesus.”

“Pastor!”

Deacon Oforbuike laughed. For the first time he sounded really happy. “Our leader is having a nervous breakdown, the pressure and responsibility have caved his fragile bones finally.”

“Dad, I’m really suspecting Paul, ever since he came back the killings have increased and I found out he has been staying really close all this while, meaning he could come into the village and go as he pleased and he lied about it.”

Her father looked up from his food and frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous. Paul is a noble young man. The killer is Okudili, everybody knows that.”

“But dad.” He groped me the other day, he knew Chinaza closer than he let on and I’m very sure he was eavesdropping on Ezinne yesterday outside his own house.

 They all sounded like baseless theories. They didn’t hold any weight and she had promised Oluchi she wouldn’t tell her father about the incident.

So when her father looked up with an impatient look in his eye she sighed softly, “You’re right, Dé, I’m sorry”

Meanwhile the devil smiled as he read the letter.

Foolish words he had written in the heat of passion.

Oh…what unbelievable luck that it would fall into his hands.

EPISODE 19

“Osi what’s going on? You can talk to me, you know I’m there for you. I’m just a phone call away.”

Osi paced the room as he held the phone to his ear. 

The Reverend had called him not long ago. He must have gotten the report about his nervous breakdown

“Reverend, I know so much has happened in this one week, I’ve gotten obsessed with unravelling the killings that have been happening in this village, and as a result I find myself erring from the gospel.” 

The Reverend sighed. “Son, I understand. I know it has become personal for you, but times like this you need to take a break. Throw yourself into the word, throw yourself into prayers and most importantly focus on the crusade. I believe this is the sixth day in that town but you’ve only held one night service, a vigil and a communion service.”

“Actually, sir the reason was…”

“No son, no matter the reason. See, you’re yoked to something else. You know what the yoke signifies don’t you? You know the yoke is used to hold the direction of the oxen while plowing the field.”

Osi blinked, he didn’t understand the Reverend, “Yes, sir, the yoke is used to hold the ox together to the direction of the field so they plough it without…”

“Exactly, that’s the key word, direction. And since you arrived that village you’ve been yoked to something and whatever you’re yoked to is the direction you’re going to plough. Let me ask you something son, are you yoked to God?”

“Yes, sir. I believe I am.”

“Then why is everything so hard?”

Osi had no reply for that. Life is hard, after all.

“You see. I can tell you’re stressed. I can tell you’re wea. That can only mean your direction isn’t on the field God wants you to plough. He says come onto me when you’re heavy laden and I would give you rest for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Osi was suddenly seeing sense in the counsel the Reverend was administering. He sat on the bed and scratched his jaw.

“So son,” the Reverend continued, “you may be yoked to anger, yoked to grief over the killings, yoked to solving the crimes but the burden is too much for you and its forcing you in the wrong direction. Get yoked to God for the burden is light.”

After the call, Osi sat still on the bed thinking of what the Reverend had told him. There was a heavy doze of truth in it and he thought of different ways he could apply it. 

The truth was he had been yoked to the quest of proving the Deacon wrong, the need to prove to everyone that he was a good leader, a good pastor and now he was getting hooked on the idea of exposing Steve as the killer but maybe, just maybe the Reverend was right and he got his priorities mixed? 

He knew what he needed to do, he went on his knees.

It was almost 5pm when he came out of the room.

Bukky hurried to his side. “How are you feeling now, you’ve not had anything to eat all day, let me dish your food.” He smiled at her.

“I’m fine Bukky. Where is everybody?” 

“The deacon is in his room, Samuel is around somewhere. Greg and Ovie said they would move around for a little evangelism.”

“Wow, bless them. Please get ready, we’re holding a Vigil tonight.”

“Tonight? That’s terrific, that may be what everybody needs, but pastor, you really should eat something first.”

“Bukola,” he held her shoulder and smiled, “man shall not live by bread alone.”

It turned out bread was still very essential. And as Osi listened to his stomach growl while he supervised the finishing touches in the market square he admitted he was starving.

The villagers had come out to watch and some of them assisted with arranging the chairs and speakers and even setting up the podium. 

The people really needed the service now more than ever.

Osi felt a little ashamed of himself. He was grateful for the call that had put him in order but as he watched a young man assist Ovie set up a speaker he still thought of how he could expose Steve. He was sure now more than ever he was the one who had retrieved the letter from his pocket. Oh yes, the devil was white.

“What time do we kick off?” Gregory joined him.

“10 pm should be perfect.” 

“Alright. I’m glad to see you bounce back.”

“Where’s the deacon?” He looked around searching for the man.

Gregory just sighed, “Honestly only God knows.” 

Amara passed by with Oluchi and her younger sister when the team was setting up the market square, this was around 6:30 in the evening. She called out when she saw Osi.

 “Amara, .good to see you,” he nodded at the other girls.

“You’re having a night service?”

“No a vigil. Listen I’m really sorry about your friend. I’m so so sorry, I’d like you to attend tonight. I’d like you all to attend,” he corrected extending the invitation to the other two girls.

“I’d love to but the only way we can come is if we have an escort preferably male,” Amara said.

“No problem. I’d come and pick you around 9.” “I think I’d pass,” Joy said.

“Me too, Paul has been acting weird and I’m sure he won’t accept to take me,” Oluchi sighed.

“That wouldn’t be a problem, Osi and I can take the other path and pick you up,” Amara assured her.

Oluchi looked at the pastor. “Hope it won’t be too much stress for you?”

He could see she really wanted to come for the service, “Of course not, just be ready by 9.”

So now it was a quarter to 9 and he instructed Greg, “Put on the generator and let Bukky just be singing. Play the piano, give the

right atmosphere, you know what I mean.”

“I read you loud and clear.”

He started down the path wishing two things. That he had eaten something and that he had brought a torchlight along. Seriously, what was up with the moon nowadays?

“Pastor, how do you do?” 

Stevenson materialised from the dark and smiled at Osi. His white teeth gleamed in the night. He looked like a phantom.

Osi looked at him as the emotions began to simmer. Rage, shame, suspicion. He forced it back bouncing the words; my yoke is easy in his mind.

“Steve. I didn’t see you when we were setting up.”

“I was quite busy pastor, but I won’t miss the service for anything.”

“Okay,” He looked at the man remembering hours ago how rage had filled the smooth pale face and how he had almost choked him to death.

“Pastor, I’m really really really sorry for my reaction earlier,” Stevenson must have read his mind.

“Its nothing. I was at fault, I accept the blame.”

“The thing is I’ve had a bad experience in my country with breaking and entering. I was shot in my stomach by robbers. I’d show you the scar but its dark.”

“Oh. My apologies then, I didn’t wish to trigger any memories with my action.”

“So hope you can understand and forgive me for roughing you up earlier?”

But what about the letter you took? What did you mean when you asked me what did I find? And what are the names of the dead girls doing in your pad?

But he strongly felt not to ask these questions so instead he nodded. “I totally understand, let’s bury the matter”

Steve smiled. “I’d be glad to.”

Meanwhile just on the outskirt of Amaife.

The short man marched towards the stream. He needed to take a bath before anything. Okudili didn’t care much for hygiene but right now he could pass out from his own body odour. The only chance he had, the useless girl had appeared from nowhere and began screaming like a mad witch and he had taken off immediately. 

He had only this one shirt on his back, he couldn’t go home, and his house was under watch by the angered youths. His other shirt had been found ripped at the crime scene of the dibia and mama Ozioma. Okudili didn’t know this, but he knew he was tired of running away from his hometown and from his people.

No one knew this but spending all your days, every minute and second at the center of attraction of the village which was the market square gave him a bird like view of everything in the village. He had seen a lot of things over the years and he knew a lot of secrets. If he was going down, he wasn’t going down alone. He had a feeling once the elder heard what he had to say, the bounty on his head would be lifted.

He stripped at the stream, hiding his clothes and the bottle of alcohol under a bush. He kissed the bottle first. He would need to get really drunk before heading to the market square.

EPISODE 20

Osi himself took the stage. He had a specific message to share with the villagers. He believed God had used the Reverend’s call earlier to speak to him. It had recharged him and he knew the people needed to hear it to. He spoke passionately about the killings, about the effect it would have on the villagers, about the fear, anger, sorrow. He told them how they could not allow themselves to be yoked to all these negative feelings.

“God is telling us tonight….” actually by 12:33am it was morning already, “to come to him., get yoked to him, are you burdened with fear, grief, anger, regret? You need to make a conscious effort today to be yoked to God, because he tells us his burden is light…”

“I know why you won’t give Paul any face,” Oluchi whispered to Amara. She had been watching her friend since the tall pastor began his sermon and she suddenly knew her friend had feelings for the man. 

“Shhh, focus,” Amara cautioned her without looking. She had a serious look on her face and Oluchi sobered up immediately.

Ovie was on usher duty which he hated. He didn’t like standing for long and as a matter of fact he had mastered the drumset partly because sitting down was guaranteed. However they were short on personnel. No one had imagined the turnout for the Virgil would be as much as this. The crowd tripled the number that had turned up during the previous service.

It was ironic that the recent killings had halted the progress of the crusade when in fact the people needed it now more than ever.

But that was by the way. Right now Ovie needed to rest. He scanned around for an empty seat. He walked slowly to the last row and tapped an elderly man who had fallen asleep with his mouth wide open. Only when the man woke up that Ovie realized it was Pa Kenneth. The old man looked very tired and Ovie felt like telling the man he could continue sleeping but he moved on. His legs were killing him he needed to get to the empty seat on the other row.

He gave a sigh of relief and stretched back, causing a creaking sound from the plastic chair. That was when he heard the sound. It sounded like a hissing sound and Ovie had half turned in his seat wondering who was sleeping behind him, at first he saw nothing then he hoped it wasn’t a snake. But then he saw the man, he was half naked or maybe he was stark naked because the light from the bulb didn’t quite reach the tree and a part of his body was in the shadows. 

Ovie stood up wondering what had caused this. I hope he’s under the anointing, he mumbled to himself. He reached the man and switched on his torchlight. 

It wasn’t anointing. No far from it, the man lay twitching on the floor and making convulsive movements. He was dying. It seemed he tried to speak or maybe he tried to shout but his throat had been sliced and more blood sprayed from his dislodged jugular like a bloody fountain resulting in the peculiar sound that Ovie had heard. Something gleaned just beside the head and Ovie looked at it. It was a piece of broken bottle. A liquor bottle. He was sure that was the murder weapon. 

Ovie switched off the torch. He felt he was being watched. Whoever had done this was among the congregation seated here or maybe the killer was in the shadows watching him, waiting to grab him. 

He tried to flashback and recall if anybody had passed him heading towards that direction but he couldn’t recall. 

Whatever noise any struggle would have caused must have been drowned by the massive speakers at the two opposite ends of the podium.

Ovie left the body and returned to his seat. He was not prepared to cause any panic, not when there was finally a sense of order. No sir, he didn’t see anything.

“I didn’t know that your brother still came for the service,” Amara tugged her friend’s hand. The service had ended and people were socialising before leaving. Most would not be going back to bed because in a few hours they’d be going to open their shops or heading to their respective workplace. 

She had been looking out for Osi but then she had seen Paul talking to a young man. But Oluchi wasn’t paying attention. She was talking to Steve and even a blind man would be able to tell she was attracted to him.

Amara gave up. She narrowed her eyes and marched to where Paul stood. Ever since Ezinne’s death, she was looking at everybody with a very big microscope. And by everybody she meant Paul.

“Mister man, Oluchi said you were not coming,” she announced barging in on his conversation with the young man.

“Okay but the thing be say,” he turned around and she could swear he was jittery.

“Oh,  Amara. I changed my mind. This is Sofiri, Sofiri this is

Amara.”

“I know him very well, but we thought you wouldn’t come.”

“Yes, but I could hear the songs from my place and I couldn’t sleep so I decided to come,” he faced her fully, forgetting the man he had been talking with.

“I can’t sleep Amara, you’ve been hunting dreams.”

“Erm, hmmmm. Paul we go see later now. Amara, later,” Sofiri excused.

“Paul, biko don’t start. You’re hiding things from me. How do you expect me to feel? Or how do you expect my feelings for you to grow when you’re not straight with me?” If that was what it took, she was willing to tow the path of seduction.

His ears stood at attention. Did she just admit to having feelings for him? “I can never hide anything from you, I swear it.” “Really. Okay for starters, tell me why they call you Emeka and tell me for how long you’ve been around.”

“Amara, I’d tell you I promise, but its late. Let me come to your place later in the morning, we’d talk very well.”

“Pastor, are you with me?” Bartholomew frowned and followed Osi’s eyes.

Osi shook his head, “Yea yea, I’m listening to you. The Sunday service starts by 9.”

Pastor Bartholomew glanced at him strangely. Osi had been watching Amara and the leather jacket man, not comfortable with how freely they were discussing. At a point she put her hand on his shoulder in a really flirty way.

“Pastor, are you with me?” Pastor Bartholomew asked again.

“Huh, yea I’m with you, pastor. I’m with you.”

A young man walked up to them and Pastor Bartholomew ran through introductions. “Pastor, this is my younger brother Sofiri, he’s the one I’ve been staying with since your arrival.”

Osi could remember meeting the man in the church on the first day. He had been the one to settle them in the house.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I think we’ve met before, sorry for the inconvenience.”

The man smiled, “No, pastor. It’s no inconvenience, my brother hardly visits me so I’m happy to have him with me, before I get tired of him the crusade would have been over and he would have gone back home by then.” They all laughed.

“So, pastor, the crusade ends on Sunday and by Monday you guys travel back?” Sofiri asked.

“That’s the plan,” But Osi did not feel ready to leave, not just yet. There was unfinished business to take care off. He started to say something, “Pastor is it possi…”

“Pastor, I need to see you,” Ovie interrupted him.

“Just a minute Ovie, pastor is it possi…”

“Pastor, I have to see you now.”

He looked at Ovie. The man was moving side to side, bouncing on his heels as if he was pressed.

“Just a minute,” he pleaded with Pastor Batholomew and hurried to Ovie’s side. 

“Ovie, what happened?”

“Pastor ,I saw…”

There was a sudden commotion from the extreme end as a woman screamed. She must have stumbled on the body.

“Remember that short man that came over and punched you some nights ago?” Ovie rushed the words out.

“Yes Okudili or something.”

“Well his dead body is behind a tree.”

They heard someone else shout, “The devil is dead. The devil has been killed.”

Another person shouted, “Praise the Lord.”

Osi rubbed his face in dismay, “Oh God.”

Amara was still waiting for an answer when the first person screamed. When Osi had seen her touch Paul’s shoulder, it hadn’t been a flirting gesture although she had been moving along those lines before the reflection from the nearest overhead bulb had drawn her attention to a peculiar liquid stain on his shirt. “Paul. What is this? Is this blood?” She asked in disbelief as she studied her red stained fingertips.

Now they all heard the joyful shout, “The devil has been killed.”  “Okudilli is gone.”

She looked at him and her eyes must have portrayed her thoughts because he held up his hands. “Amara, I swear it wasn’t me. I didn’t do it.” But he was already moving backwards.

Sunday morning the church was empty. Only about a dozen people had turned up for service. 

The sound of drums could be heard from the market square. The Drumming and singing seemed to drown the drumset and keyboard and the uniform voice of the choir as they proclaimed, “This is a day of joy, a day of joy.” 

The people of Amaife were dancing round the village and thanking the gods. The gods did not abandon them after all; the gods had struck just as they were known to strike, silently and with lethal force. The man who had spat in their face by killing their chosen messenger had been dealt with. The killer was dead. Their women were safe. They didn’t need church anymore; it was a day of jubilation.

Osi stepped outside the church and paced about. His gut was telling him Stevenson was behind this and he knew Okudili had been murdered for a reason. The same way he had been framed for the dibia’s death and mama Ozioma’s death.

 Now the people of Amaife had gone back to their traditional ways and his worst fear was that it would be easier for the killer to strike again because everyone would drop their guard.

“I’m sorry, maybe if I hadn’t frozen last night. He was still alive when I saw him.”

Ovie had followed him outside and now he sat down on the pavement with a sad look in his eyes. Guilt had been eating him all day.

“Don’t do this to yourself. That man was already gone. There’s nothing you could have done.”

“I can’t wait to leave here tomorrow. It’s been a disaster.”

At first Osi thought of different ways he could suggest to his team that they extend their crusade at least for a few days. He decided the best way would be to compel them to stay to make up for the services they had cancelled.

However he was dissuaded from the idea before he could voice his opinion. After the service as they sat round the dining table having lunch, each of them said words to the effect that they couldn’t wait to leave Amaife the next day. 

“Pastor, regardless of how it may look, the crusade was successful. Don’t feel bad,” Bukky seemed to sense his reluctance or rather she mistook his reluctance for sadness. Not that he was happy anyway.

“Taaaar. The crusade was horrible. Since day one, the mistake was when the reverend bypassed me and handed the reigns to Osi.

Who is actually a good man but inexperienced.” 

“Deacon, can you say that to the Reverend face to face?” Ovie challenged him. 

“Of course I can and I have. The Reverend and I have a honest rapport between us.”

Bukky scoffed in an attempt to change the topic, “Pastor, would we hold any Virgil tonight?”

Osi snapped back to the present. He had drifted again. “Vigil? I think not,who would even come? We’d just have a two hour service from seven to nine.”

“What time are we leaving tomorrow?” Gregory asked him.

“As early as possible,” the deacon answered on his behalf. 

“For once I totally agree with you sir,” Ovie said. He had been the most vocal and eager to leave Amaife, ever since he stumbled on Okudili’s dead body.

Osi didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure he would be on the bus tomorrow.

That Sunday, after her father had left to join the victory march, instructing his daughters not to leave the house, specifically instructing Amara not to go to church. Amara kept on replaying the scene from earlier in the Virgil in her head. Paul had been stained with blood and Okudili’s dead body had been found few minutes later. So Paul had been stained with Okudili’s blood.

Paul was a killer and she was beginning to believe he was THE killer. 

Did he kill Ezinne and the rest?

Had he been in a relationship with Ozioma? Exchanging letters with her and coming to see her secretly without anyone knowing? 

Did he maintain a relationship with her from the nearby village under the guise of Emeka?

Did he kill Ozioma four weeks ago and start his rampage on the girls?

She knew who she wanted to share these questions with, Osi, but when Dé Nwachukwu gave a specific instruction, woe betide anyone who went against it. So it was safe to say pending further notice she was grounded.

But still, maybe she could sneak out to the house and be back in no time. She just wanted to see the pastor and she believed she could pull it off. However her younger sister was another case, she knew Joy very well and she knew if left unwatched her younger sister would leave the house the first chance she’ll get. According to Joy, the killer was dead so she didn’t see what the biggie was. But Amara knew what the biggie would be if Dé Nwachukwu saw his daughter outside today.

 It was generally believed the gods had struck the killer early that morning and it wasn’t mere superstition that the indigenes of Amaife believed the deadly gods could still be hovering round the land. Hence, the jubilation and show of appreciation all morning. 

She could imagine the scene; dancing and burning of incense and pouring of alcohol on the earth to whet the gods’ appetite.

Even now the drums could still be heard from the market square.

Someone knocked on the gate and Amara frowned. She remembered Paul saying he would stop by and explain himself but that was before she had seen the blood. Now she didn’t want to see him. She believed he was a very dangerous person and it was just unfortunate he was her best friend’s brother.

The knock persisted and Amara yelled for her sister, “Joy, move your lazy body and go and open that gate osisó.”

She heard her sister grumble but also heard the shuffling of feet as she complied.

She didn’t expect to see Osi. She was in her room when her sister barged in. “You have a visitor.”

Amara didn’t bother asking who it was as she was expecting

Paul. 

She marched to the parlour prepared to give him a piece of her mind, a very large piece that is, but when she saw the pastor standing looking at the charcoal painting of her mother her mood softened immediately. 

“Pastor, I wasn’t expecting you.”

Osi turned, “I know, I just needed to see you.”

She smiled, “Really? Why did you want to see me?” She asked innocently but she was suddenly aware it sounded like she was flirting or she was expecting a romantic declaration from him.

Instead Osi turned to stare at the drawing once more, “I love this art. She’s beautiful.”

Amara smiled as she contemplated the drawing. 

They settled into a comfortable silence as they looked at the drawing but then Osi said “I’m supposed to head back to PortHarcourt tomorrow.”

“Oh,          tomorrow?”    She      hated   herself             for       sounding         so disappointed. What was wrong with her?

“I’m not going with them?” 

“Why?”

“I can’t go back till the killer is caught.” 

“Oh, you really don’t believe its Okudili then?” 

He finally dragged his eyes away from the drawing, “Amara I know who the killer is.”

She gasped, “Me too.”

“It’s Stevenson.”

“It’s Paul.” 

They both said it together. 

“Why do you think so?”

“Why do you think so?”  They said it together again.

Osi smiled and gestured with his hand, inviting her to speak first.

“Why do you say it’s Stevenson?” 

“Yesterday, early in the morning, I decided to pay him a visit.” He narrated his ordeal with Stevenson to her. When he got to the part where the European had him cornered to the wall and shaking with fear, he tried to downplay it and sound a little manlier.

“So the letter is gone?” She sounded dismayed.

“I’m sorry. I’d get it back, I promise. That’s what I’ll use to nail him.” 

“So you mean he had the names of, of…written in his notepad?”

“Yes?”

“That is strange and very suspicious but it doesn’t hold much weight, he’s a writer after all. He wouldn’t have a hard time countering that accusation.”

“That’s the problem, he seems covered. Everyone trusts him, but I know he’s hiding something. He was worried I found something yesterday. He asked me what did you find? And I don’t think he had the names in mind.”

Amara shook her head and sat down, “Now I’m getting confused. I never really liked the man to be honest. He’s too nice, I always thought because he wasn’t one of us but still.”

“Hold up, why did you seem so sure that Paul was the killer?”

Amara patted the space beside her, inviting him to sit. She would break her neck if she continued looking up at him that way. 

Osi settled on the couch and was immediately conscious of her fragrance, it seemed to envelope him.

“So all this while he has been in a nearby village meaning he could come and go as he wished and nobody knew. He must have been very careful and he didn’t answer to his real name, I heard someone call him Emeka.”

Osi frowned as he listened attentively, when she got to the groping incident, he felt his blood get hot. “What? Who did you tell? That’s sexual harassment.”

The nail in the coffin was when she mentioned the blood stain.

“Blood stain. I believe I saw both of you after the Virgil Was it around that time?”

“Exactly. Just before the people started shouting.”

“Jesus. Did you tell anyone?”

“No, he said it wasn’t him. I think he said I didn’t do it or something like that then he took off.”

“My God, he killed him. How else would the blood get to him. He killed him.”

“But why? Why kill Okudili? Why not let him face the judgement first? After all, everybody knows the judgement would be death.”

Osi stood up. Sometimes sitting down didn’t allow ideas flow as it should.

“I’m beginning to sense a pattern here. In the first place why try and frame Okudili up with the dibia’s death?” 

“Hmmm. The dibia had just revealed him as the killer that day so it seemed like an act of revenge.” 

“Exactly. But what if it wasn’t revenge. What if the dibia knew something. Maybe knew the killer or something about the killer and he was killed to silence him.”

He frowned as another thought hit him, “Come to think of it, the very first day the dibia arrived he requested for some items for sacrifice. What if the killer met him later and bribed him to reveal Okudili as the killer? That way he framed Okudili as the killer because Okudili also knew something about him. Maybe he knew something he wasn’t even aware he knew and then the killer couldn’t take chances and he killed the dibia but this time he framed Okudili again, putting him on the run. Everybody would say, oh, the dibia exposed him and he killed him out of revenge.”

“I believe your theory.” Amara sounded breathless. “That way he killed two birds with a stone.”

“Yes…no, he killed about half a dozen birds with a single stone.”

They were silent for some seconds, then she said, “But if Paul killed Okudili last night then that would mean he’s the killer.”

“It would seem so, but I still have a nagging feeling about the white man. The truth is we can’t trust any of them.”

“Me too, but I believe we can crack this together,” she looked at him, “we’re a team?” 

He nodded. Right now even if the Reverend drove down himself to pick him he wasn’t sure he would leave. No. He couldn’t leave those eyes. A man could drown in them easily. He nodded. “We need a plan.”

Pastor Batholomew was at the church office when Osi located him. He stayed outside studying the church building once more.

Finally he a young man came out and signaled him to join Pastor Bartholomew in his office.

“Pastor,” he got up to shake his hand, “I didn’t know when you

left earlier.”

Osi glanced at the wall clock. It was quarter to five. He admired the pastor’s dedication to running the church; he wondered idly if the man had eaten yet.

He got down to business.

“Pastor, there’s every possibility that I’d be staying behind tomorrow.”

“Every possibility.  What do you mean?”

“I mean I won’t return to PortHarcourt tomorrow. I’m not ready to go, not yet.”

“Hmm.”

“You don’t need to provide shelter for me any longer. I’m prepared to look after my own housing as I plan to spend just a few extra days.”

“I understand. Is it just you?” Osi nodded. 

“If it’s just you then there shouldn’t be any problem with both of us sharing the house. It has three bedrooms after all.”

“I’d be really grateful, thank you, pastor.”

“No. I should be the one thanking you. I appreciate your devotion to my village, you’re a wonderful person, pastor and it’s been a great honour to know you.”

“What do you mean you’re staying behind?” They couldn’t believe their ears. They had packed their luggage. The instruments were all locked in the bus in preparation for the next day’s journey. “I feel there’s still work to be done here. We let the distraction get to us and now it’s hard to play catch up but I must do what I must.” 

“Pastor, why do I feel you’re staying behind because you’re obsessed with solving this case?” Ovie asked with a frown.

“Which case? The killer is already dead,” Bukky said.

“Osi thinks otherwise.”

“If that’s the case we’ll all stay then,” Greg declared.

“No.  No. Pastor Batholomew gave up his house for us for a full week, he’s coming back tomorrow. He has agreed to accommodate me for some days.”

“Pastor, this is ridiculous. Let’s all go back,” Bukky protested.

“Bukky, my mind is made up, before weekend I should be back in PH so no worries.” 

He headed towards the room. “I don’t want to tell the deacon now because I want the Reverend to hear it from me first so I better call him now.”

His friends watched him leave, shaking their heads in dismay.

“Maybe he actually cracked up a bit yesterday,” Bukky said.

“He’s really determined. I wish I could stay behind with him. I might speak to Batholomew myself,” Greg said.

“Does this mean we’re still contributing money for his surprise party? I mean his birthday is on Wednesday and he could miss it.” Ovie asked.

Bukky looked at him with fire in her eyes and he raised both hands.

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Grace
Grace
28 days ago

Pls Pastor Osi be very careful. Paul and Steve are the two suspects and I hope the killer is apprehended soon

Egunjobi Omolola
Egunjobi Omolola
27 days ago

Pastor pls be very careful I don’t trust Paul o