The Devil Wears Okirika by Kingsley Olanrewaju Efughi
The next morning, Osi was full of mixed feelings as he watched his team drive off.
The deacon seemed indifferent to him staying and Osi suspected he must have called the Reverend with the news already. Good thing he had thought ahead.
The Reverend didn’t object when Osi called him last night, he had listened patiently and said “Hmm, whatever you feel in your heart you should do, do but remember you have a youth church to run.”
Now Osi stared into the distance after the bus as the dust from the tires settled.
He would miss his friends. He was already missing Greg’s gentle but solid personality, Ovie’s playful but direct attitude and Bukky’s caring nature.
And even Samuel, he would miss the driver’s presence. And strange but he just might miss the deacon’s sarcastic and antagonistic nature.
But now it was time for work, operation expose the devil was underway and he was to tackle the Paul chapter.
Amara knew he would pass by sooner or later, preferably sooner. The European was frequently seen in the market square mingling with people.
So even though she wasn’t with any money, she moved around. It was a market day and the market was crowded as usual. She was tempted to buy some foodstuffs and considered running home to get money but she decided not to risk it.
“Amara, check out this antelope, my traps caught it this very morning. Let me cut it open for you and you prepare pepper soup for Dé.” Benedict the butcher called out from his stall as she passed by.
She smiled and walked towards it. The bushmeat in question was big.
“I would love to but I didn’t come with any money.”
“You know what, it’s not everything that you sell, let’s call it a
“Wow, thank you Benedict. It would be a pleasant surprise for Dé Nwachukwu when he gets back. I’m already thinking of the spices I’d get.”
The butcher smiled as he sharpened his knives. “No problem, so how are you?”
“I’m fine. I’ll be right back please,” she dashed away from his stall causing him to frown.
She had seen the white skin that could only belong to Steve from the corner of her eye and she dashed after him.
He stopped and turned when he heard his name and she smiled.
“Steve, how are you doing? I hardly see you around nowadays.”
He seemed surprised but pleased. She never went out of her way to talk to him like this.
“I’m fine. I saw you yesterday at the vigil, anyway how’s your father?”
“He’s fine. But Steve I need your help,” she pouted slightly.
“My help? Walk with me,” he took her hand, enveloping it in his king Kong hand. “I’d be glad to help you in anyway that I can.”
“Oh, thank you. The thing is I’d like you to coach me just for today and tomorrow there’s this competition I entered in the next village and I’d like to win.”
“A writing competition?”
“Yes. Essay writing.”
“No problem dear. Just take it that you’ve won already,” he surprised her by bringing her hand to his face and brushing his lips against her knuckles. “So how do we do it. You come to my place later today.”
She winced, “Actually this is where I really really need your kind heart. You see, my father would never agree and I won’t be able to sneak out either. I would deeply appreciate it if you could come over instead.”
He thought about it for only a second. “No problem, the honour is mine. So what time would be convenient for you?” Amara smiled. This was easier than she had thought.
Following the directions Amara had given him, Osi located Paul’s house easily. He met an elderly woman outside peeling groundnuts in a basket. He greeted her and told her he was here to see Paul who he presumed was her son. His luck was in because it seemed the young man had been preparing to go out. When he came outside he was already dressed and Osi couldn’t help wondering why he was always wearing the leather jacket even under the scorching sun. He also noticed it was far from a second hand piece. He didn’t no much about fashion but he thought it was a good designer brand.
“What’s this about?” Paul frowned as he shook his hand reluctantly.
Osi decided to play it tough and hard. “This is about yesterday, during the vigil.” He didn’t need to say any more because the man pulled him away from his mother whose ears no doubt received audio signals like a satellite dish.
“What about yesterday?” Paul asked when they were a safe distance away.
“Oh, so you still need to ask?”
The man sighed. “I knew somebody must have seen me.”
Osi couldn’t believe his ears. It sounded like a confession. “Oh, so you admit you killed Okudili?”
“What? I did no such thing. I arrived the vigil almost at the end and heard some kind of noise. I investigated it and stumbled upon the body. I tried to check for his pulse but I found out he didn’t have one.”
Osi narrowed his eyes at the young man. That would explain the blood stain but he didn’t know if he should believe him. He got mixed feelings; not fully believing him, yet not really doubting the story.
His phone rang just in time. The fake call he had set eight minutes ago had come in.
“Excuse me,” He picked the call and listened to the recorded message. Thinking how unfortunate it would be if he should get a real call just now.
“Hello. Listen to me. I’ll be in Port Harcourt soon enough. Can you hear me? I said, hello, hello?” The 20 second recording had finished and he held his phone up muttering, “This network is too bad.” He shielded the phone with his left hand as if blocking the sun but the truth was he wanted to get the young man’s face perfectly in his camera.
Paul was looking sideways, frowning and watching his mother.
“Sorry for the interruption. I’m trying to call him back,” Osi apologized and the man looked at him just as he had hoped. He quickly clicked the side button, freezing Paul’s face in the picture but the shutter made a snapping sound. Oh. He had totally forgotten about the sound and failed to consider it.
“Did you just take a picture of me?” Paul asked. He sounded like he couldn’t believe it.
“Take your picture? What for? What do I need your pic…oh, you heard that sound. That’s my incoming message alert,” even as he spoke with the phone at his side he clicked the button once more repeating the shutter sound.
“You see. That’s another message. This network sef, because you don’t have credit they would send you a million messages.” He thought that was smart,
Paul seemed to believe it anyway, “please are we done here? I need to rush off to somewhere.”
“No we are not,” he returned the phone to his pocket. “We’re not done, there’s no one to back up your claims and besides the
person who saw you put it differently.”
“So it wasn’t Amara that told you?”
“Amara? No, someone saw you, mister man and he put it a
“That’s a lie. I only bent over the body for some seconds.”
“Be that as it may, the fact remains you’re a chief suspect. The only suspect and even if you’re innocent the fact still remains that you messed with a crime scene.”
“Crime scene?” Paul scoffed. He couldn’t believe his ears, “so what are you going to do about it? You’re not a police man.” he glared at Osi.
“Amara, you just don’t get tired do you? I never knew you were a whore but it seems you don’t get tired of attention.”
Amara couldn’t understand what her friend was saying. Oluchi had stormed into the compound breathing fire and brimstone and calling her names.
“What do you mean? How can you call me a whore, Oluchi?”
“From Paul. You played with his emotions, turned him upside down to something else and then to the tall pastor but now to Steve. Steve too? Even when you know I like him. I can’t believe you.”
Amara was confused, “I don’t. I still don’t understand you.”
“Oh please, spare me, I was in the market today. If anybody had told me I won’t have believed but I saw it with my own eyes.”
“I only asked him to teach me something.”
“Amara, you were flirting with him, smiling and just,” Oluchi friend threw her hands up, “you surprised me, you disappointed me.”
“Believe me, the flirting was unintentional,” or to be truthful it was intentional although intended for another reason altogether.
But her friend wouldn’t understand.
So now Amara sat under the mango tree in her father’s favourite spot and replayed the encounter. She expected Oluchi to come around; they had come too far for this kind of issue to last.
She was surprised when Osi walked into the compound. The gate must have been left open when Oluchi stormed out. She hoped her sister hadn’t sneaked out. Their father had since lifted the curfew, being convinced the killer had been buried and the gods would not vomit the body. But Amara was sure the killer was still on the loose and had placed a personal restraining order forbidding her sister to move about alone.
“Osi, did you see my sister on the way?”
“She’s outside the gate with some of her friends.”
She gave a sigh of relief , “I’m sorry, good morning or good afternoon.”
He checked his watch, “It’s just noon now. How are you?”
“I’m fine. I heard the crusaders had gone back.”
“Yes. This morning.”
She nodded, “Did you see Paul? Did it work?”
“Yes, I left him not long ago,” Osi brought out his phone.
“What did he say about the blood stain?”
“He said he stumbled on the body in the dark. I accused him outright but he denied vehemently.”
“Do you believe him?”
“That’s the strange thing. I’m not really sure what to believe.
I’m also sure he has something up his sleeve.”
“So when are you going to the neighbouring village?”
“I was thinking maybe later today or early tomorrow but that depends on your success with Steve.”
“Well, he agreed to come over whenever it would be convenient for me. “
“Convenient for you, but he’s the one doing you the favour now.”
Amara just shrugged.
“In any case, I’d need you to hold him for about an hour this evening while I snoop through his things.” “Again?” She sounded scared.
“Yes I have to check for the letter and uncover whatever it is he’s hiding.”
“If he catches you this time he might kill you out of rage.”
“That’s why I need you to make sure he doesn’t come home early.”
“No problem, I’d try and delay him for as long as possible. But I think we should work with the timeframe of an hour.”
“I agree, That’s more than enough.”
“So what about Paul, when do you intend to do some digging?”
“By tomorrow, today is for the European, tomorrow is for Paul.”
“Be careful, Osi. I have a feeling we’re playing a dangerous game.”
“You’re right Amara,” he took her hand, “but this is no game, it’s life and death.”
The village was already ripe with the news that the crusaders had left for their Town but the tall pastor had remained. It seemed he had fallen in love with Amaife.
One thing the devil knew was that the people could be very welcoming, the same way they could be very hostile. Still he planned to have Amara THIS week. And if the opportunity didn’t fall in his lap he had a plan. There was no two ways about it, before weekend he planned to be remembering and reliving the sweet experience of drilling the innocent beauty. And there was no way the pastor could stop him.
Osi watched the European from his spot in the bush. The man rubbed his hands excitedly as he waited. After some seconds he knocked the gate again.
Osi was suddenly worried. If indeed this man was the killer then wasn’t it foolish and risky to be leaving him with Amara?
He tried to convince himself that nothing would go wrong. Joy was in after all so it wasn’t like Amara would be alone with him and he didn’t expect the man to cross any boundaries, not in Dé Nwachukwu’s home.
He watched Amara open the gate and let him in. Just before she locked the gate, she looked across and her eyes met his.
Immediately the gate was locked, Osi emerged from the bush and went his way.
“Are you the only one in?” Stevenson asked Amara as she locked the gate.
“No, I’m not,” She wondered why he asked her and she was suddenly aware that even with her sister around that was no guarantee of her safety if he had any other motive. The man had a herculean physique. He better not.
“I was thinking we should stay on the bench under the tree, it’s windy and more comfortable,” she offered.
“Really? I would have preferred inside.”
“Okay, would you like to drink anything?”
“For now I’m okay. You’re looking beautiful by the way.”
“Ehen. There you are. I heard you stayed behind.”
Osi heard the voice and stopped reluctantly. It was Dé John. The elder seemed to be in a good mood and when he got closer, Osi knew why, the man was drunk.
“You’re very welcome to stay, you seem like one of us already.”
“Thank you, sir. Actually I’m in a…”
“It’s very bad the circumstance you met us in, but as you can see after all, our gods didn’t forsake us.”
Osi frowned, he didn’t have time to banter with the elder. He knew the man was traditional plus he was conscious about the time that was counting down. He had about 56 minutes left. He needed to keep moving.
Dé John had other ideas. “My friend, I have about 5 litres left, the palm wine is undiluted and fresh, hours ago it was still on the palm tree.”
“I’m sorry, sir, maybe some other time,” Osi was already restless, he was prepared to be rude if that was what it would take.
“Oh, you want to tell me you don’t drink?”
“Actually I don’t, sir, and I’m hurrying somewhere.”
“Nonsense. Even your Jesus, didn’t I hear he turned water into wine? What kind of wine do you think he turned that water too? It wasn’t red wine, it was pure natural palm wine. Come with me let’s drink to the safety of my village.”
He made to grab Osi’s hand but the pastor was already desperate.
He dodged the elder and hurried away. “Some other time sir.
I’m really really pressed right now.”
“So what kind of competition is this?” Stevenson settled on the sofa and instinctively Amara settled opposite him. She wasn’t prepared for another groping.
“Its the wife of our State Governor that’s sponsoring it. Basically it’s for all the villages and the best essays would be chosen, with monetary prizes.”
She agreed it was nice indeed. For a pastor, Osi actually came up with very good lies.
Steven cracked his knuckles in a manner that said he was ready to impact wisdom. “Okay so let me start with the major guidelines.” When Osi finally got to the house he had already used up 10 minutes. He would have to make due with 50, the fact that the house was sparsely furnished should enable him find whatever it was he was looking for under half an hour but the fact that he didn’t really know what he was looking for, apart from the letter, might double that time.
He made his way to the backyard just as he had done before but this time, when he got to the toilet window he was disappointed.
The European must have really taken his breach seriously because he had boarded up the window, running slabs of wood across and nailing it. He obviously didn’t intend the window to be opened again.
This was an unexpected twist and Osi wondered what to do. He couldn’t give up, that wasn’t an option and he couldn’t think of any plan that would require the European let him into his house. Maybe Amara, he had a feeling he would welcome her in literally with open arms but Osi had no plans of that happening. No way! He would find another way.
When the younger sister answered the gate he cursed his bad luck.
Joy looked at him with an amused expression. “You’re here to see Amara right?”
Osi decided to risk it. “Please I want you to do something for me”
“So you understand what I mean? That would be the best way to write the intro, that way you’ve managed to capture your readers’ attention.”
One thing was for sure, Steve certainly had passion for writing. Amara was actually learning something. She just might give writing a try after all.
Then her sister barged into the parlour with the
announcement:, “Amara, Oluchi is at the gate.”
At first she panicked, thinking of her friend’s reaction if she saw Steve sitting comfortably in her parlour.
“She isn’t coming in?” she said but Joy insisted, “she said she’s not coming in, she just wants to give you something quickly.”
Amara frowned, “Please excuse me,” she said to Steve who nodded and she hurried outside.
“Osi. What happened?”
“I need you to do something for me. The window is shut tight, it would be impossible to get in through there. I need…” His voice trailed off.
“I think we should call off the plan, I was never comfortable with it. Wait, you need what?”
“I need you to collect his keys.”
“What?” She looked behind earnestly and closed the gate, and came outside fully. In a lower voice she said, “how do you expect me to do that?”
“Amara, look at me, do you have any bar soap?”
“Yes,” She blinked, “what does that have to do with anything?” “I want you to just make an impression of the key on the soap.
I studied the lock and it’s a single key and can easily be duplicated.”
She was shaking her head, “You didn’t answer me, how am I supposed to get his keys from his pocket?”
Osi thought hard then shrugged, “I don’t know, there has to be a way.”
Joy opened the gate suddenly, “I don’t know why pastor wants you to steal something but I’d like to help. I think you and I can pull it off.”
“Joy. You were eavesdropping on us?” Amara asked her younger sister crossly.
Joy rolled her eyes, “I only wanted to hear the romantic words this pastor used to sweep you off your feet but instead it’s key you people are talking about.”
Amara was about to snap but Osi interrupted.
“How do you think you can retrieve the key?”
Stevenson smiled at Amara when she returned. “Why didn’t your friend come in?”
“She was going somewhere she just wanted to pass a message.”
“Okay, very nice. You need to come closer, you’re too far away.”
Amara nodded. “I’ve told my sister to bring a jug of palm wine and some garden eggs.”
“No, that won’t be necessary.” Amara sat down really close to him.
“Please. Do you have any idea the trouble I’d be in if my father should come home and discover that I did not serve you any refreshment?”
Steve laughed, “In that case, no problem.”
Joy appeared with a saucer containing about four garden eggs and groundnuts. She placed the saucer on the center table and went out again.
Amara held her breath as her sister came out the second time. Joy had a jug of palmwine in her hand and a big mug in the other. Instead of dropping the mug or the jug on the table and carrying it, she proceeded to use her left leg to drag the table to Steve’s front where she stood holding the mug and jug in her hands.
She lost her balance and the jug tilted. Half of its contents landed on Steve’s laps with a splash.
“Oh m God, I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry.” Joy began to plead.
“Joy, why didn’t you drop the jug first. Why are you so careless?” Amara stood up and made to hit her sister.
“No leave her, don’t fight, it’s fine.” Steve got to his feet looking down in dismay at his trousers. The outline of the map of Asia had appeared on his crotch and he was very uncomfortable.
“Please I’m sorry, forgive her.” Amara apologized.
“It’s alright, It’s no big deal. I have to go.”
“No no, no. Please I won’t forgive myself if you go. Please sir, my daddy would kill me.” Joy got to her knees and tears threatened to flow. Amara was amazed. Her sister was a terrific actor.
“Why don’t you tie one of Amara’s wrappers and I’d spread the trouser within minutes it would dry off,” joy suggested.
Steve seemed amused. “That won’t be necessary, I’ll dry off at home.”
Amara touched his arm. “Please Steve we can’t allow you to walk around with that stain, it’s against our tradition. It’s shameful to us and to our father.”
Osi jerked when the gate opened. He had been resting to the side and had been so lost in his thoughts he didn’t hear any footsteps.
It was joy. She held the key to Osi.
“I heard him shout, was he angry?” Osi asked her immediately.
“No, he was almost apologizing to me instead,” she giggled and handed him the key.
“No. I can’t take the key and risk him finding out. Just do what I told you before. If possible moisten the soap and get it soft. ” She nodded and hurried back in.
Osi hoped it would work. He had successfully cloned a more complex looking key before back in school and this was meant to be easier. The key was quite ancient; the type with teeth and a long length. Still he wondered if he could pull it off.
He shuffled his feet impatiently as he waited and tried not to think about the half naked man in the house with Amara.
Pastor Bartholomew wasn’t in thankfully and he hurried straight to the kitchen. After moving about the kitchen for five minutes he placed the soap on a metal tray. This would serve as his base. He went round the house digging for metal. Preferably zinc which melted easily and was the best for key casting. After some minutes he turned up with some pieces of coins, a few nuts and an empty tin of milk which he peeled the label.
This was the tricky part, back in school he had access to a torch burner and had melted the metal by firing the burner like a gun or flame thrower, melting the metal in minutes but here in the small clustered kitchen in Amaife, there was nothing of the sort.
Thank God there was a gas cooker in the kitchen but he would still need to improvise a great deal. For one he would need a crucible, a heat resistant container to melt the metal in. Once more he snooped round the house. This time after searching the house with no likely solution he was struck with the idea to use the clay flower pot in the verandah. Pastor Batholomew had about three flower pots where he planted aloe vera and resurrection plants.
Dé Nwachukwu entered his house and was shocked to see Stevenson sitting down tying a wrapper with his polo shirt. At first he chuckled, thinking how the white man had come to love his culture down to the dressing but then he noticed the wrapper was his.
“What’s going on here?” He thundered.
“Dé. You’re back,” Amara stood up guiltily.
“Why is Steve in my wrapper?”
“Actually sir, it was my fault. Your daughter was very hospitable and served me palm wine but I somehow managed to soil myself,” Steve said.
“Ooooh, where’s your trouser?”
“Joy spread it outside,” Amara answered.
“Let her use the coal iron on it. It should dry quicker.” he eyed his wrapper suspiciously and Amara could tell he was wondering if the white man had any underwear on. He didn’t look too pleased.
Twenty minutes later she escorted Steve to the gate.
“Thank you for taking the blame back there,” she said as she opened the gate.
“No problem, I know your father is a no nonsense man.”
“Exactly, I’m very grateful”
“You owe me something though,” he smiled at her.
“Owe you? What’s that?”
Instead of answering her he asked, “When next do we have our lesson?”
She thought about it. If Osi’s plan works out he would need to sneak into the house the next day. Preferably early in the morning. “I’d like it tomorrow morning, if you’d be free.”
“Okay I’d be here tomorrow, you’d repay me with a kiss then.”
Osi was outside arranging the flower pots back when pastor Bartholomew returned. He smiled at Osi as he stumped his foot on the welcome carpet, “Someone once advised me to plant that aloevera, it has a lot of benefits infact it’s a gold mine, but I hardly use it.”
Osi straightened up, “I agree, my mom was really into it, I grew up surrounded with the products,” he wondered if the pastor could smell the faint odour of melted metal or if it was just him.
“Did you try cooking anything? Something smells burnt.”
He scratched his head thinking of a lie or to put it better, an excuse. “I tried to warm some of the stew Bukky left behind. I might have over heated it.”
The pastor laughed cheerfully as he entered the house. “I can imagine. We really need to settle down, pastor. Sometimes I end up burning water.”
Amara waited until Osi was alone in the veranda before approaching the house. She had been about to call out when she noticed pastor Batholomew arrive. She couldn’t hear them clearly but immediately the pastor entered inside laughing she neared the house.
“Pastor,” She called out in a whisper.
The minute he saw her he hurried down the porch.
“Did he suspect anything?” He had so many questions to ask. “No. Were you able to duplicate the key?”
“Hopefully. I had to make do with the materials available. It needs to solidify now, by morning it should be okay and I pray it works.”
“Alright. We agreed he’d come in the morning.”
“Okay, that would be perfect. I’ll have to postpone my trip to the nearby village till evening then.”
“He expects me to kiss him.”
“Steve, he expects me to kiss him as a sign of gratitude.”
Osi’s eyes reddened, “The man must be mad.”
Later that night the devil hunted. He didn’t roam the village like before, not this time. He had a specific prey on his mind.
He positioned in the bush- the very same bush he had seen the tall pastor hide this morning and smiled at the irony. The very same man who saw himself as the defender of the universe had been responsible for showing him such a promising spot.
Now all he had to do was wait, Amara could come out this night. He really hoped so, because he was ready to pounce and seize any little chance he might get.
As if his mind had conjured it, the gate opened and his pulse began to race. He blended in the shadows as he waited eagerly.
Could it be?
He was a bit disappointed when he saw it was Joy.
She held a big nylon bag and she stood to the side of the gate as she dumped the nylon in a big dustbin and covered it.
He wondered if he should settle for her, this was not the main prize but she was pretty close. He could imagine it as an appetizer.
He watched her as she reentered the compound and locked the gate.
Hmmm…he smiled wickedly, whichever one that fell his way he would sieze the opportunity and strike. He had a perfect hiding spot after all.
Steve woke up very early. He brushed his teeth and shaved. Whistling softly as he observed the mirror. He had always had an eye for Amara but then again who wouldn’t? And to be fair he had always had a thing for dark skinned girls.
He bided his time a bit and then decided 8:35am wasn’t too early. He was already out the door when he stopped. He thought hard. Two days ago, he had dodged a bullet and since then his mind hadn’t really been at rest. Especially with the pastor still around.
He decided not to risk it. He entered his room and opened his wardrobe. He dug inside and retrieved a slim case. Stevenson opened the case, using a 4 digit combination code and stared at the contents. Satisfied, he locked the briefcase and carried it with him. He didn’t feel he should let it out of his sight today.
Osi had it in mind to stroll by Amara’s place and talk to her before taking up his new found hiding spot just as he had done the day before. However, from a distance he could already see the European talking to Amara as they stood outside the gate.
He suddenly remembered the kissing statement and frowned.
Amara must have been standing outside on purpose maybe for him to see them and know the 60 minutes countdown had begun. However he maintained his position until they entered the compound.
He hoped Dé Nwachukwu was indoors today.
He didn’t notice the slim case in the Europeans hands. Although Steve had both hands in his front and held the case up to his chest.
Amara asked herself for the thousandth time what was in the case Steve held. The manner in which he griped the case, like his life depended on it, he did’t even drop it on the floor but kept it in his lap, drumming his fingers softly on the hard leather exterior. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she had to ask him.
“Stevenson,” she settled on the bench beside him. The lesson was outside today. Dé Nwachukwu was around. “What’s in your suitcase, research materials?” She asked him innocently.
He smiled. “Ah, noooo, everything I need to tell you is right here,” he touched his head.
“Oh. Are you going anywhere from here? You look like you’re going to work.”
“Aaahh, no, actually, it contains the manuscript for my books.
I’m working on the final editing.”
“Oh,” She didn’t believe him one bit and she suddenly thought whatever Osi was supposed to find today wasn’t in his house, it was in the case. She flashed him a charming smile, “can I read it? You’ve been here for like a year now, I’m dying to see the output of all your research. Let me see what you plan to tell your people about my people.”
“Actually, I’m a very strict kind of writer. I don’t normally allow people view my work until it’s in print, especially at this final stage.” “Surely you can make an exception.”
The key required a little support, a little tug on the door handle, and a slight push while turning the lock simultaneously but it worked.
He checked his watch. He had roughly 48 minutes left.
The first thing he did was to bring out his phone and snap pictures of the apartment from every angle. He couldn’t afford to miss anything. Stevenson was very specific in his arrangements and it would be a clear giveaway if he didn’t leave everything the exact way ithey were.
The notepad was nowhere to be found. But there was no hurry, he was sure he would see it. He started from the drawer first. The top drawer didn’t really contain anything of importance. A paperback novel, some coins that looked alien, a bunch of fountain pens with about 5 colours of ink and a piece of paper. There was nothing written on the paper.
The second drawer contained a deck of cards, a bunch of keys and a photograph. There was no sign of the letter.
Osi studied the photograph. A much younger Stevenson with his hair longer in a ponytail smiled at the camera. His chin rested on the shoulder of a young and beautiful smiling woman. They wore matching clothes and they looked happy and in love.
Osi studied the picture for minutes as he wondered where the woman was. The European apparently had no family to leave behind if he recalled correctly so who was this? And where was she? In fact, when was this?
Osi brought his phone and took a picture of the picture. He would study it later. He replaced the picture carefully and when he was sure he had replaced everything the way he met them he closed the drawer.
Next he went under the bed, nothing. No box no bag, not a single thing. Not even a speck of dust.
He opened the wardrobe and smiled. The wardrobe held much promise. He brought out each clothe from its hanger. He looked for any matching clothe with the torn pink material he had discovered at the scene of Chinaza’s murder or the green material from the stream.
No such luck, but one thing was certain, Steve had a lot of second hand looking clothes. Next he searched the pockets, the shirt pockets and the trouser pockets. He found some notes, a foreign currency he didn’t have time to contemplate and a bunch of rubber bands. He didn’t see any important paper, no letter, nothing.
This was impossible. He looked round the room and scratched his head in puzzlement.
By now, Amara had decided that something extremely important was in the case. In fact she was sure that Osi wouldn’t find anything in the house. Just from his body language she could tell he didn’t want the case out of his sight. Even now he held it in his laps, drumming his fingers on it softly as he rambled on. “….So you see, that’s the best format I feel you should use in this case” “When is your birthday?” Amara asked him suddenly.
He blinked, “What?”
“Your age, how old are you?”
He shook his head, “You mean you were not paying attention to me?”
“Actually,” She smiled, “I was just listening to you speak and I couldn’t help thinking, you’ve taken up a lot of my thoughts lately and I hardly know anything about you.”
“I’d be 45 later this year,” Stevenson licked his lips.
She smiled at him and spared a quick glance at his briefcase. She did the maths and hoped that somehow on some stroke of luck the combination of the case would be 1-9-7-2 even though she didn’t have any idea how she was going to get the chance to try it.
They spent almost an hour under the tree. Steve spent too much time talking about rules. It seemed there were too many rules in writing, at least according to him and she was actually fed up.
He wrote a draft and she studied his writing, trying to recall the pattern from the letter.
She could see the similarity in both writing style and she was getting fully convinced that this man might be the killer after all.
Locking the door was harder than opening it but the key did the job.
Osi left the house feeling disappointed. Steve must have transferred whatever it was he didn’t want him to find somewhere else. He was angry. All that stress for nothing. Well, it wasn’t for nothing, at least now he knew whatever it was, Steve was determined that no one find out his secret. And Osi had the photograh to think about. He felt it was very important.
He considered going to Amara’s house but decided against it. He was sure he had put everything in order back at the house but just in case, it was important that Steve not see him that morning.
Instead he headed for the church.
Amara received help from an unlikely source, Dé Nwachukwu.
She had forgotten her father was around till he called her.
“Yes, papa,” she replied hurrying into the house.
Her father was seated on the couch. He had an arrangement with someone from the town and received a copy of the newspaper twice a week. He liked to stay home on those days and enjoy every bit of the news.
“Yes, Dé,” Amara entered the parlour and greeted him.
“Who has that male voice? Is it Paul?”
“No papa, its Steve.”
Her father frowned, “Again? What’s he doing here this time?”
At first Amara was about to tell her father the writing excuse but then she was struck with a wicked plan.
She sat down beside her father.
“Actually papa, the man is disturbing me for my hand, I told him he’d need to see you but he kept on telling me that in his culture, the man courts the woman straight without seeing the parent.”
Her father sat up immediately, “But that’s impossible. That’s a very bad behavior. That’s a taboo, how old is he?”
She shrugged, “Papa, I don’t know ooo, but I think you should talk to him.”
Her father nodded, “You’re right, call him for me.”
“My father would like to see you.”
“Is there any problem?” Steve asked in a surprised voice.
“I think he wants to know your intentions, please be free with him.”
Stevenson looked at her in confusion as if to say what intentions? then he stood up and walked rather stiffly to the house.
Amara sighed when she realized he had carried his briefcase.
She counted up to ten then entered the parlour.
Her father broke off in mid sentence as he saw her.
“Amara, we’re having an important discussion.” He signaled with his head that she excuse them.
The irony was not lost on her. They were supposedly having an important discussion about her but she was not supposed to be
|However when she turned to leave her father said|
|what, these walls have ears.|
|take a walk, come with me|
|Stevenson made to pick up his br|
|iefcase from the table but her|
|father stopped him.|
|“Don’t worry leave it son, I won’t take much of|
|The man didn’t seem pleased and Amara thought he was going|
|to insist. But finally he shrugged in acceptance and followed Dé|
|Immediately the door was locked, Amara attacked the case.|
|She rolled the combination, fixing the digits that stood for his date|
|of birth. She knew the first thing that would come to her own mind|
|when thinking of a code|
|date of birth|
|hoped it was the same case|
|She set the date 1|
|and couldn’t believe her luck when it|
The briefcase contained documents and pictures. Amara was very hasty as she leafed through the contents. The notepad was the first thing she saw but there wasn’t time to go through it. Underneath the notepad were some newspaper clippings. The newspaper was foreign and she guessed it was from Steve’s country. The headlines made her blood run cold.
-Man stabs his wife to death.
-fresh evidence as police discover slain wife was brutally raped.
Underneath the headline was the picture of a beautiful woman. She had a lovely smile.
What on earth is Steve doing with these newspaper clippings?
She thought to herself
Then a particular page caught her attention:
College professor still on the run; by Salander Ljunberg
College professor Patrick Kristenssen is still on the run after strangling his wife to death. Police determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation and further investigation determined Christie 32, was brutally raped and D.N.A found matched that of her husband Patrick, 42. It is unclear as to what caused the murder and friends and families have professed their shock stating that the couple was very much in love and hardly fought. Police have offered a handsome reward for anyone with any news concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Patrick.
Last spring Mr. Patrick was involved in a scandal when his nudes ending up in his female students possession but managed to hold onto his job by claiming his phone was hacked…
If Amara had any doubt as to who Mr. Patrick Kristenssen was then the attached picture cleared the doubt. It was Stevenson alright. He wore his hair in a ponytail and wore glasses and had a long goatee.
According to the newspaper he was 42 when this had happened. A quick scan at the date confirmed her suspicions. It was two years ago. Stevenson was a killer, and a rapist. He must be the devil and she was sure it wasn’t just research that had driven him here. She leafed through the contents hoping to see the love letter but then she heard the voices getting closer. She could hear her father laughing as both men approached the living room. She hurriedly replaced the documents and snapped the case close. She had seen enough. Stevenson was definitely the killer, case closed!
The ministers meeting consisted of four individuals; Pastor Batholomew, his brother Sofiri and two other men Osi didn’t know, although he could remember seeing them during the vigil service. Pastor Batholomew was pleased to see him. Osi took a seat beside Sofiri and tried to focus on the matters arising as Pastor Batholomew put it.
“So, according to our budget we can kick off our building project next month, our plan to move to an even bigger premises, the architect has submitted the plan and everything is in place.”
“Please, sorry for interrupting, but I feel this current location is still okay,” Osi said.
“Yes. I understand, but you know this place was once a supermarket with stalls? The walls were taken down to make it
bigger but its time for the church to grow.”
Osi shrugged. It wasn’t his church afterall.
One of the young men who Pastor Bartholomew had introduced as Michael spoke up.
“Sir, one other thing that has been bothering my spirit. I feel the people might have shifted from their faith. Ever since the death of Okudili they have gone back to their traditional ways. They believe some kind of deity carried out vengeance on their behalf. Take last Sunday for instance, we’ve never had such a low turnout on a Sunday before and I only fear its going to get worse.”
Pastor Batholomew was nodding, “I admit it didn’t escape my notice and I’ve been thinking of the different ways we could counter it. On the bright side, the killer is gone and it’s just a matter of time before things would get back to how it was before.”
“Actually, I believe Okudili was not the killer,” Osi said, “he was murdered and I believed he was killed by the real killer because he knew something.”
“What? But that’s ridiculous,” Sofiri sounded surprised.
“Everybody knows Okudili was responsible for the hideous crimes.” “What exactly is the evidence? The declaration of a dibia? Unless God himself assures me that Okudili was the killer then I’m not buying it.”
An uncomfortable silence followed as everyone seemed to chew on what he said. Finally Pastor Batholomew sighed, “Honestly
pastor, I sincerely hope you’re wrong.”
Osi nodded, “So do I.”
He skipped lunch after the meeting, offering the excuse that he was pressed and doesn’t eat yam porridge.
“You’re missing, pastor. My wife is a terrific cook,” Sofiri said opening about four different huge coolers.
He didn’t doubt it. The aroma was something else, he believed he could even perceive stock fish, his personal weakness but he couldn’t wait to see Amara. The lesson should have been over by now and he earnestly hoped that Steve hadn’t gone through with his promise to kiss her.
Osi shouldn’t have worried. Amara didn’t know what her father said to the European but he had entered the house, carried his briefcase and bade her goodbye. She couldn’t even escort him or reply because the words she had read kept on dancing behind her eyes.
At first she wanted to tell someone so bad. She was jittery and almost spilled the news to her father immediately Steve left but she controlled herself. That would be very rash and her father might not believe her and the worst case scenario it would be her word against Steve’s.
She almost blurted it out to Joy but then she thought: why burden her sister with such news. Although she could see it as a strategy to get the gossip mill turning because Joy was bound to talk to her friends and the bush fire would spread no doubt but that still didn’t seem wise. Steve was a man of the people, the people’s favourite and the rumours would be discarded immediately so she held her peace. When Osi came by later in the afternoon she waited impatiently as her father joked with him. “Young man, I can see you no longer want to leave us. You’ve fallen in love with my village, haven’t you?”
Osi smiled and looked at Amara, “Actually sir, I’ve found something priceless and I can’t afford to leave it behind just yet.”
De’ Nwachukwu seemed to read the hidden meaning and he laughed heartily. He really liked the sharp young man and he could tell his daughter did too.
“Okay, Amara, let me go and see Pa Kenneth. We are making plans for a general meeting,” with that he was gone, whistling happily. His village was gradually regaining its serene atmosphere and he was happy.
The minute they were alone Amara asked Osi, “Did you find anything?”
He shook his head in disappointment. “Nothing, it’s like he knew I was coming,” he brought out his phone and scrolled through the pictures, “Actually, I saw this photograph in his drawer. What are your thoughts?”
Amara studied the picture and gasped. She could see the picture clearly now. “It’s her. It’s the same woman.”
“She’s his wife, or she was his wife. She’s dead.”
Osi got more information about the murder online. The internet trully had answers to everything. The murder case had been a very popular one in Ukraine and he even saw some recent updates about a few months old. The college professor whose wife had been a doctor were a power couple, one of society’s finest and so it had been a terrible shock when the wife had been murdered and Stevenson or Patrick had fled the country. His whereabout was still unknown.
Well that wasn’t quite true, Osi knew where he was and it seemed Steve had brought his thirst for murder along with him. When he left Amara’s home, Osi was a bit confused. Now he knew what the man had been trying to hide but how could he link it with the recent crimes that had happened in Amaife. Should he confront the man again or should he meet with the elders?
He brought out his phone to look at the picture once more. He had studied it for minutes wondering what would have made Stevenson kill his wife and rape her brutally. He swiped the screen and Paul’s face glared at him. He had almost forgotten about the leather jacket man.
He was fully convinced the European was the killer but what if he was being too hasty? This man was a prime suspect in Okudili’s murder after all.
He considered the factors for some seconds then changed his direction and headed for the bus park. It was time to open the closet and have a glimpse at the skeletons.
It took Osi precisely 30 minutes to locate the village. He marveled at the closeness to Amaife and he was beginning to see sense in Amara’s earlier suspicions. It would be possible for Paul to strike in Amaife and retreat back to this village under the alias, Emeka.
At first he moved around quite aimlessly as he sought someone he could show the picture to. He noticed an elderly man walking at a snail’s pace. He had a walking stick.
“Good day, sir. Sorry to disturb you, please I’m looking for my brother. It’s very important, we lost touch for years and I managed to trace him here. His name is Emeka.”
As he spoke he held up the phone for the man to see the picture.
The man didn’t even glance his way but kept on wobbling about.
“Sir, please help me out, have you seen this man?” The man still ignored him and Osi gave up.
Next he targeted a road side mechanic shop.
He showed him the picture with the same story. This time the man was willing to help but unfortunately after studying the picture for minutes he decided he had never seen the face.
After showing the picture to two more men and getting negative replies, Osi knew what he must do. If anyone would recognise Paul/Emeka there was every possibility it would be a female. He approached a young girl Wheeling a barrow full of cassavas.
“Excuse me, please I learnt my brother has been here all along and I’ve been searching for him, there’s something extremely important I need to discuss with him.”
The girl was friendly, she stopped moving and collected Osi’s phone to observe the picture closely.
After some seconds she asked, “What’s his name?”
“Hmmm,” She studied him again, “you’re his brother you say.”
“Actually first cousins, please can you help me out?”
“Okay. There’s a big catholic church few miles away. The third compound opposite on the right, knock on the gate and explain yourself.”
“Oh, thank you, I’m grateful.”
On his way to the Catholic Church his phone rang. It was Reverend Okonkwo.
“Osi, what’s going on? How are you?”
“I’m doing great sir. I believe I’m on the edge of an important discovery.”
There was a short silence then the reverend said in a solemn tone, “Osi, we are interceding for you fervently from this end, but also you must endeavour to remember, don’t be yoked to anything else apart from God if not you’ll miss the fertile soil God wants you to plough.”
They spoke throughout the duration Osi used to locate the church. He located the third house on the right just as the lady had described and then quickly but stylishly ended the call.
He knocked on the gate.
He knocked again and waited. He could hear approaching footsteps from inside.
“Oluchi, believe me, Stevenson is a killer. I’m 80% sure he is responsible for the crimes.” The other 20% was reserved for Paul.
Amara had gone to visit her friend as she couldn’t stand Oluchi being mad at her.
To her dismay her friend was dressed in an outrageously skimpy costume and she had told her rather boldly that she planned to seduce Steve.
“Oluchi, snap out of it. This man killed his wife in his country and ran all the way to Amaife. He’s a writer all right but his primary objective here was to lay low and stay undetected.”
“Where’s your proof? Where did you see such? Or are you that desperate that you revert to lies? Eh Amara? When did you develop feelings for Steve? But even if you like him, the noble thing to do would have been to step down if you truly take me as your friend and know how much I love him.”
“Oluchi, why are you like this? Am I speaking French? That man is a murderer and I can’t allow you go and see him.”
Suddenly her voice broke down, “I can’t afford to bury any of my friends again.”
Osi smiled at the woman that answered the gate.
He offered the same story, this time adding a smile he hoped was charming and not scary.
“Hmmm. Emeka never mentioned a brother. I know he has a
“Actually, we’re cousins ma’am.”
“Well, come in, come and see him for yourself.”
Osi blinked, “You mean he’s in?”
Osi was surprised. He followed the woman down the narrow hallway thinking what Paul was really up to.
“Emeka, you have a family friend here to see you,” the woman announced and turned away. Osi noticed her hands were soapy with dried foam. She must have been washing clothes or dishes.
Paul was astonished to see Osi. He stood up in disbelief his mouth hung open for three full seconds until he blinked and said,
“You, what are you doing here?”
“I came to see you of course.”
Paul scratched his head, “Why? What business do we have together?”
“For starters I’d like you to please explain why you’ve been here all along but lied to your family that you were in Lagos?”
“It’s none of your business.”Paul seemed worried and both men looked each other in the eyes, a stare down to see who would blink first and finally, he gave a resigned sigh, “Okay. But it’s getting dark. I’d tell you tomorrow morning, or better still if you could wait for me and we walk to Amaife together.”
Osi wanted to tell him to just spit it out and get to the point but then a little girl ran out from one of the rooms. “Daddy, daddy, carry me.”
She must have been about two years and there was no mistaking who her father was as she hurried to Paul and hugged his legs.
The devil had just settled in his new hiding spot and seconds later he heard voices.
Female voices laughing and drawing closer.
This was it…Amara was going home and she would pass by him and he was going to strike. He grew hard in anticipation
“Okay dear, see you tomorrow. Please don’t forget that Nora Roberts book you promise me o,” Joy waved her friend as they split up.
She walked happily to the house. Life was indeed romantic and her recent yearnings for romance novels had increased recently majorly because of young George. The teenager had asked her out and she was very attracted to him.
Suddenly she felt a presence behind her. Not just any kind of presence, an evil presence. She half turned but strong arms grabbed her from behind, holding her in place. She managed a short scream before the hands clamped over her mouth.
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