The Devil Wears Okirika by Kingsley Olanrewaju Efughi
Paul sat down on the couch. He looked defeated. He carried the little girl and bounced her on his laps.
Osi sat down without waiting for an invitation.
“You need to promise me you’ll never tell anybody what I’m about to tell you,” Paul said.
“Honestly, I can’t promise you anything but I’d do my best.”
Paul sighed. “Okay. When I left Amaife for Lagos three years ago, I spent just six months there before I ran into trouble.”
He fell silent and Osi urged him on, “What kind of trouble?”
“I got mixed up in the wrong crowd. I allowed a friend talk me into what he called hustling. The thing is, I was carried away by his lavish lifestyle. His cars and riches, he promised to link me up and I couldn’t wait, but then he introduced me to his people and I found out they were kidnappers.”
“You joined them?” That was the last thing Osi had expected to hear.
Paul was silent. His silence was all Osi needed to hear.
“So in your quest for riches you began kidnapping people?” Osi couldn’t help his voice from rising a bit.
“Yes,” Paul nodded solemnly, “but the truth is I was never comfortable with it and I never accompanied them for the operations, my job was always to look after the victims in the safe house.”
Osi looked at the young girl clapping excitedly as Paul bounced her on his knee.
“So what changed? What happened?”
Paul took a deep breadth and Osi knew what was coming would be difficult to swallow.
“After every pay out, the six of us, two girls and four guys, would always split up, move to different states till the trail goes cold and we have another possible hit then we’ll team up again.” Osi shook his head in dismay but he said nothing.
Paul sighed tiredly. “I always came to this village because I wanted to be closer to Amaife, but there was this girl, she was an only child and she stayed alone as her parents live abroad. She was part of us and her house was mostly used to hold the victims. Now I was the one who watched over the victims and we were mostly together all the time and somehow we fell in love and started a relationship and I started having second thoughts about everything.”
“So she is the mother of the child then?”
He nodded painfully. “While she was pregnant, we had already planned to run away and leave the life of crime. We were just waiting for the birth of our child, but the problem was the gang could never let us leave like that. They planned to kill us if we tried to quit. The day we escaped in the dead of the night she went into labour. She died but gave birth to her,” He stroked the child’s hair softly.
“I couldn’t run home but I needed to be close by so I came here. Chinaza used to come and look after her some days and she kept on telling me to tell my mother, but I just couldn’t bring myself yet. I planned to tell her when I arrived last week but with everything happening in the village I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
“The woman that answered the gate, who is she? A babysitter?”
“Something like that.”
A short silence followed but finally Osi cleared his throat. This was crazy. By far one of the craziest stories he had heard. “So are you telling me that you plan to raise her without your family knowing?”
“Pastor, it has been eating me alive. I’m going to tell my mother and sister but I keep on thinking about the gang back in Lagos, if they’re after me, I can’t endanger my family.”
“Hmm,” Osi scratched his day old stubble, “but I’m convinced you’ve not done enough. The least you could do is hint the police about everything or at least try to locate the parents, they lost their daughter and they don’t know they have a grand daughter.”
He scoffed, “Please, her parents never cared about her, they’d hardly noticed her when she was alive and Pastor, all these would definitely end up with me being locked up. I’ve been asking Sofiri for help and his opinion hypothetically but I’m yet to tell him the full story and he doesn’t know it’s me.”
“Mr. Paul, .I’m grateful your conscience is not yet as seared with a hot iron as the bible put it. You still have a heart, no matter how tiny it might be, but you know the law of seed time and harvest, what you sow is what you shall reap. You have to pay for the consequences of your actions.”
“You’re going to rat me out aren’t you? God, my mother must not hear this. She’ll just die. My father abandoned us right since I was little and she’s had to fend for us all her life. I finally managed to make her proud. I’m not proud with what I did, but I did all these to be able to provide financially for my family. You see right since my childhood my father was…”
Osi interrupted him. A thought had just occurred to him and he was not ready for a history class. “Wait, did Okudili know of your actions?”
“Okudili? Well, he knew I was in the nearby village all along, I recall seeing him on more than one occasion. Wait, are you thinking I killed Okudili?” His eyes went wide and white from either guilt or disbelief.
Osi could wager it was the former. “Honestly, you’re a very big suspect. I’d need you to tell me where you were the night Chinaza was murdered and the day Ezinne was killed as well as mama Oziom.”
Paul thought hard. He was suddenly restless and stood up and began pacing. He carried the little girl who had already fallen asleep.
“Honestly I don’t know, but I swear I had nothing to do with the murders. I’m innocent.”
“Be that as it may, if I were a cop I’d arrest you immediately,”
Osi replied and stood up. He was a good foot taller than the man and the result was quite intimidating even though his shoulders were not as broad.
“So what now? You’re going to turn me in I suppose.”
“Not yet, the most important thing is to reunite this girl with her remaining family and secure her safety and the best way to do that is to at least contact the grand parents.”
“I knew this day would come. I’m so screwed.”
Joy struggled but to no avail. She was a fighter and very tough but the man was really strong. His hand muffled her screams as he held her mouth tightly and she couldn’t see a thing, every where was pitch dark.
She realized with horror that he was taking her farther from the gate and into the darkness. She kicked madly, catching his sheen with the back of her heel, but it seemed the devil didn’t feel anything.
With his left hand he tried to put a piece of clothe over her eyes and she lost whatever control she still had as the fear intensified. She bit his palm hard and he swore in a voice that was faintly familiar. He must have been extremely offended with her biting because he pushed her roughly to the trunk of a nearby mango tree. Slamming her face into the tree bark.
An impossible pain shot through her face and she almost lost consciousness as she slid to the floor.
“Little bitch. Have a little fight in you eh?” Well good thing he had a sock over his face. He might not blindfold her after all. He would enjoy seeing the terror in her eyes. There was no guilt here, just raw wicked lust.
He unbuckled his belt hurriedly stopping her weak movements with his leg.
He was about to rip her skirt open and dive in. There was nothing as sweet as a Virgin and he hoped he would see blood. Blood always threw him in a crazy frenzy.
But then the gate to the compound opened and Dé Nwachukwu stepped outside.
“What’s that noise? Amara? Joy? Who’s there?”
He held torchlight and the devil took off immediately before the beam fell on him.
He cursed and ranted as he ran. This was not over.
Dé Nwachukwu had never felt as angry as he felt that morning.
“My daughter. My Joy. Almost killed, almost raped,” he kept on lamenting.
“The key word is almost my friend, the gods didn’t let that happen,” Dé John saids. He was the most traditional of the three men and had voiced his disapproval concerning the crusade right from the beginning.
But this morning Dé Nwachukwu was not in the mood. “To hell with the gods,” he snapped. He could remember vividly how his daughter had looked, her face swollen from the impact with the tree, her lips bleeding and her eyes wide with fear. It drove him mad.
He sighed then repeated himself, “To hell with the gods. They misled us in thinking Okudili was the killer but now there’s another one in our midst.”
“It must be a copycat, we’d get him very very soon,” pa Kenneth spoke up and managed to stop Dé Nwachukwu from walking about. “My friend, let’s be thankfull that your daughter is still alive, she was not raped and she’s healthy.” Pa Kenneth adviced
Dé Nwachukwu agreed but He shuddered as he thought about how close his daughter got. “I have to take her to the hospital for check up. A really good hospital not the clinic we have here”.
“I’d only hope she can recognise the person,” Pa Kenneth said after some time.
“No,” Dé Nwachukwu sat down finally, “she can’t recognize him, he had a mask on. My fellow elders you know what this means? Okudili was not responsible for the others, he was set up” Amara sat on the bed beside her younger sister.
Joy was still resting and the pain killers had lulled her into a deep sleep. Amara was really shaken to the core and she knew she couldn’t stand it if anything happened to her sister.
She listened intently to the voices coming from the parlour. Her mind immediately drawing a mental picture of the European.
Yes if Steve was indeed the devil then it was high time they set him up before he hurt someone else.
Osi was 26 today. The day didn’t feel special, instead he had woken with a bad feeling. He needed to see Amara.
Pastor Batholomew came in just as Osi was contemplating leaving the house. He had been holding onto the the house key and thinking if he should leave it in the flowerpot as usual.
“Pastor, where you thinking of going out?”
“Yes, I wanted to see someone.”
“That may not be such a good idea, at least not now,” Pastor Batholomew unknotted his tie and Osi wondered where he had suited up to so early in the morning.
“Because our people can look at it and decide you’re behind the crimes, especially as you stayed behind. They would build ridiculous connections and link you to the killings.They won’t remember you came just this previous week and that you are associated with me.”
“Pastor, I’m still not getting you. Is there something I’m missing? What happened?”
“Oh, you didn’t hear,” He hung his coat on one of the chair and approached Osi. He lowered his voice, “The killer struck yesterday.”
“What?” Although he knew the killer was still on the loose but still he was shocked.
Pastor Bartholomew went on, “It seems Okudili was innocent after all, or at least innocent of crimes of this nature.”
“Who did he kill?” Osi asked breathlessly. The truth was he was tired of seeing and hearing of dead bodies. The pictures from the candle night still had some lingering effects on him.
“She’s still alive; she’s in the hospital, that’s where I went from Church when her father called me. She’s a very lucky girl.”
“Thank God,” Osi was suddenly excited. He would need to speak to the girl. Whoever she was she was extremely favoured and she would have important details that can help crack this case once and for all. “Who’s the girl? Have I met her before?” Osi asked again, rather impatiently this time.
Pastor Batholomew sat down and began rolling his shirt sleeves to the elbows. “Her injury is not life threatening, it’s not really serious. She was slammed into a tree and when I saw her I thought…”
“Pastor who is the person? Who was attacked?”
“Her name is Joy.”
“Joy? Amara’s younger sister?”
“Yes, you know her?”
Osi remembered Joy handing him the bar soap after making the impression of the key, he remembered Joy listening intently as he went through a plan, remembered her witty humour and sharp mouth. He earnestly hoped she wasn’t traumatized and he prayed her spirit was not broken.
Pastor Batholomew was looking at him like he was waiting for an answer to the question Osi couldn’t even remember.
He had just one thing on his mind now and he asked Pastor Batholomew, “Pastor, which hospital is she in?”
The hospital was on the outskirts of the Amaife on the other end, between the village and the main town. When Osi located the place he wondered if the hospital was Government owned because it sure didn’t look like a private hospital. It took few minutes and some serious explanation to the extremely slender nurse at the reception.
She also had a foul mood to accompany her looks. She observed Osi with her head bent slightly so she could look at him above her glasses. She sneered when he introduced himself as a pastor who was a close family Friend.
“You’ll need to come back,” she pointed at a piece of paper attached to the wall. It read: Visitation hours: Mon-Sat: 1:00pm- 4:00pm
“Please I really need to see her. It is very important, please I won’t waste time..I request for just five minutes, pleeeaasse.”
Maybe she wasn’t that bad after all because she studied him for some seconds and led the way without saying anything. Osi followed her.
They ascended a flight of steps and Osi couldn’t help but wonder how injured Joy would be. Pastor Batholomew had contradicted himself, first indicating the bruising was horrible but later he had said she looked okay and wasn’t really hurt.
Amara was surprisingly holding it well. Or so it would seem, the truth was, on a closer look she was barely holding back from bursting into tears. Dé John and Pa Kenneth who had accompanied them had left the hospital about an hour ago.
Amara sat on the chair beside the bed. She held her sister’s free hand. The doctors had said her skull was not fractured and no serious damage had been done. “Joy, Joy if you can hear me, its alright, you’re going to be okay,” she whispered gripping her hand tightly.
The door opened and a mean looking nurse stepped in. Amara thought she had probably come to change the intravenous bag but then she turned and addressed someone behind her.
“Five minutes, be snappy.”
“I’m grateful, thank you.”
She recognized Osi’s voice before she saw him and her mood lightened.
“How’s she?” Osi asked.
They both looked at Joy in silence.
“She’s alright. She would get better,” Amara said confidently. She had decided to make a conscious effort to be positive.
“That’s the spirit. I don’t have much time here. I just need you to explain to me exactly as it happened.”
“Actually, I wasn’t around. I was with Oluchi when Joy left me earlier with some of her friends, she said they’ll escort each other home. Only for me to hear she was attacked.”
“Did you speak to her? Did she tell you anything she noticed? Anything at all?”
“No. She’s been sleeping since, she only woke up for about two minutes and slept back almost immediately.”
Osi decided he would go and check out the intended crime scene. There was every possibility he would find some kind of clue. He would need to talk to Joy also. He hoped she had seen the attacker even if for just a second or maybe she had recognized the voice or maybe a distinct smell.
“Did you find out anything about Paul?” Amara asked him invading his thoughts and he blinked.
“Yes, Oluchi’s brother.”
Because he could read her eyes clearly and see the meaning, he thought it best to tell her right away. “Actually, Paul was around, I saw him myself and spent time talking with him. There’s no way he’s behind this attack.”
Amara nodded but she seemed unconvinced, “Pastor, if there’s anything I’ve learnt recently, it’s not to put a limit on the capacity of man’s wickedness.”
He nodded. She was right. If indeed Paul was the killer all it would require his dedication and speed and he would get into the village from the other end before Osi stepped foot in Amaife. Or maybe he had an accomplice? He thought about mentioning it to Amara but decided not to. He would need to visit the scene immediately first.
He had about three minutes left and decided to share a short prayer with the sisters.
His phone rang as he was about to begin; distorting his thoughts and he silenced it immediately. Although Joy was obviously in a deep sleep and the ringtone would definitely not wake her.
The caller was Bukky. “Hello?” he whispered.
“For he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow.” He could hear Ovie and Gregory’s voice over the line. He had even forgotten today was his birthday. Gregory seemed to be going off key and he smiled genuinely for the first time that day. His friends asked him when he was coming back to PortHarcourt and they assured him they had a nice gift for him. He thanked them and didn’t mention Joy’s attack when they asked about the progress of the investigation. “I believe I’m making progress,” he replied, “I’d like you to make some research for me about a crime that took place in Ukraine. Ovie are you there?”
Ovie grunted in reply and Osi rambled on apparently satisfied.
“No problem. I’d send whatever I dig up as an attachment,” Ovie assured him, “this is about the white man right? Yes. I never really liked him; he’s too nice that you suspect something is definitely fishy.”
When he ended the call, his five minutes was up. He expected to see the nurse poke her face into the room and drive him out any minute from now.
“Today is your birthday?” Amara asked.
“Yes, how did you know?”
“Your phone is quite loud and I heard them singing for you.
They’re nice people. Happy birthday.”
“Thanks.” He moved closer to Joy for a close look.
The doctor finally arrived. She touched her watch impatiently and gestured with her head signalling Osi that the five minutes was over.
The time was 11:45am. He decided he would be back in the next 1 hour, 15 minutes.
The truth was, he needed to find out how the devil attacked. It looked like impulse, like he hadn’t really planned it thoroughly and Osi could only hope that he would make an important discovery.
It took Osi just some seconds to determine that the spot behind the bush had been used as the hiding spot by the attacker.
He couldn’t believe it. The very same spot he had waited for Steve while hiding had been used as an ambush. He couldn’t help but feel guilty about it. Maybe Steve had seen him that day and decided the spot was a good one to keep watch on the house while waiting for the sisters to pass by. He shivered at the thought and moved around observeing the path behind the bush, he checked the tree branches for any torn piece of cloth (okrika) but he found nothing. He spent about 30 minutes walking around aimlessly; he didn’t find any clue, nothing at all.
He remembered seeing an empty bottle of alcohol sometime last week and he looked round but there was no such luck this time around. Maybe the killer hadn’t made a mistake after all. No, he shook his head.It was his fault. He had brought attention to the hiding spot and he cursed himself for not thinking ahead earlier. He was filled with guilt as he recalled hiding in this exact same spot waiting for Steve to show up.
He stopped his thoughts and movements suddenly and fell to his knees observing the ground intently. He removed the leaves gently until he could see the print clearly.
A shoe print.
Judging by the markings on the sand it looked like the print had been left by sports footwear. Probably from a trainers or sneakers. He wasn’t really knowledgeable on footwears and didn’t really know the difference but it was hard to imagine formal shoes would have markings like this. He suddenly remembered back in Steve’s house, when he had broken in and Steve had dropped his footwear in shock. He had gone jogging and Osi had noticed it was some kind of trainers. Could it be the very same?
He studied the ground some more but then he became less convinced. If he could recall perfectly Steve was a giant of a man with massive feet but the print he was looking at was left by a medium sized shoe. Or maybe the print was left by someone else, maybe a farmer?
He shook his head. He couldn’t allow his conviction of Steve’s guilt allow him make excuses.
Osi was so deep in thought he didn’t know when he sat on the floor. Confused.
When Joy woke up, Amara had dozed off on her father’s shoulder.
Dé Nwachukwu returned not too long ago and had told her to go home and get some rest and eat. But she had refused. She wasn’t going to leave her sister’s side. But she was tired and dozed off not long after and her father stroked her hair gently as she slept.
He was elated when Joy woke up and he patted Amara gently. “Shhhh, Joy is awake, Joy has woken up.”
Hey eyes fluttered open immediately. She hurried to her sister’s side. ”Joy how are you feeling?”
“Amara, what happened?” Joy looked at her surroundings then she seemed to remember it all of a sudden. “My head is soo heavy.”
“Its okay, do you want anything? Should I get the doctor?” Amara asked placing the back of her hand on her sister’s neck to feel her temperature.
“Joy, did you see who attacked you last night?” Dé Nwachukwu asked.
Joy was quiet as she tried to recall the unpleasant event.
“I didn’t see his face, he grabbed me from behind,” A single tear rolled down her cheeks as she seemed to envision the attack.
“Joy, its okay, you don’t need to talk about it,” Amara said.
“Actually she does. You, what are you doing here?” her father said.
Amara turned and saw the question had been directed at Osi.
The pastor had returned and since it was visitation hour, he had walked undisturbed straight to the room.
“Sir, I came to see your daughter. I’m sorry about what happened.”
Dé Nwachukwu nodded. If it were someone else he wouldn’t hesitate to send him away but he liked this tall man and besides he could remember him warning him that Okudili was not the killer and the warning had fallen on deaf ears.
“How is she?” Osi asked Amara. He gave her a nylon bag, “I bought some fruits for her.”
“Thank you, that was really thoughtful.”
“I’m fine. I wish I can sit up, I’m tired of lying down,” Joy complained.
“You need to rest, the doctor would come and remove the needle very soon,” Dé Nwachukwu assured her. “But please try and answer my question, can you remember anything that would make us recognize the attacker?”
Osi held his breath and prayed for a miracle as Joy closed her eyes deep in thought.
“No, I remember he said something and I know I have heard that voice before, but everything happened too fast.”
Osi spoke up this time, “So you can’t remember anything at all. Maybe you glanced at his skin colour?”
Dé Nwachukwu looked at him. For him to mention skin colour meant he was definitely thinking of the European. After all he was the only one with a different skin colour in the village.
“No, it happened really fast and before I knew it he had pushed me to the tree and I fainted.”
“It’s alright. The most important thing is that you’re safe.”
“Wait. I remember he smelled nice, like a very strong aftershave or strong body spray the scent was really sharp and when he held my mouth it almost choked me.”
“Hmm,” Osi thought about this new piece of information. It really didn’t feel like a clue. He didn’t see any need to mention the shoe print, maybe he would tell Amara later and mention the hiding spot and also the fact that he might be guilty of unknowingly showing the killer the hiding spot. One thing was certain, he had to expose this killer before he returned to his church duties. And he was on duty this coming Sunday. So he had three more days.
He bade them goodbye and assured Dé Nwachukwu he would come by the house later when the man requested to see him.
Amara said she wanted to escort Osi and her father nodded. The doctor had come in and he was focused on the scary looking woman as she attended to his daughter.
“So what are you going to do now?” Amara asked Osi as they descended the stairs.
“You mean what are we going to do?” He corrected her with a smile. He seemed to forget every worry whenever he was with her and right now he was aware of only her presence, the killer could go to hell.
“You’re right. What are we going to do?”
“I found a shoe print that possibly belongs to the killer somewhere in the woods where he must have been hiding”
“Shoe print?” She sounded excited, “Did you discover anything else?”
He shook his head. “Sadly no but I took a picture of the pattern and if I have to go round the village looking at the sole of peoples feet then so be it,” although he had a particular shoe sole in mind.
Amara held his hand stopping him till he looked at her. They were face to face and he suddenly had a powerful urge to kiss her.
What kind of pastor am I? I’m backsliding terribly. He thought to himself as he stared at her mouth. He was sure she would have the softest lips.
But Amara seemed to have other ideas. Something her sister said had caught her attention. “I can point you in a good direction to start.”
“I remember Paul used to have this very strong deodorant and it almost choked me the day I hugged him and the other day he grabbed me.”
“Hmm,” Osi scratched his jaw. He hadn’t shaved in days the stubble was increasing rapidly by the day.
“Do you have an idea the size of shoe he wears?”
“Errm, I’d say average.”
“He’s back to being a prime suspect then, but does he wear okrika?”
She shook her head. “Not that I know of, right from time he used to love wearing designer clothes. But everyone at one point or another must have worn okrika.“
“Stay with your father and sister and please don’t go anywhere alone, I need to pay the man another visit.”
“Okay,” She held his hand when he wanted to turn and he looked at her.
She decided to go for it, she had never kissed any man by making the first move before but she had a feeling she could grow white hair waiting for Osi to make a move.
She gave him a quick kiss on the lips and Osi blinked trying to clear his scrambled vision. His brain was spinning like a planet but without any axis.
“What was that for?”
Amara smiled at him shyly, “That was for good luck, please be careful.”
Countless times, Osi subconsciously touched his lips as he remembered the kiss from earlier. Although it had been brief, it felt like heaven.
He cringed at the comparison and sighed inwardly.
My God, you’re really backsliding.
But the kiss isn’t a sin now, as long as my thoughts are clean right?
And who told you your thoughts were clean?
Arrrgh, okay I’d remember to pray for forgiveness.
Don’t forget to pray for grace too, you’ll need it. Imagine if you got hit by a bus now.
He put an end to the internal debate raging in his head and continued towards his destination. His mind was on Paul now, Amara’s point about his strong perfume had been too strong to ignore. He still had Steve on his mind; his clash with the European was too fresh and violent in his mind to be ignored also.
He reached the house finally and just like before he met the same woman (Paul’s mother) outside but this time she was cracking palmkernels with a large stone and dropping the seeds in a basket.
“Mama Ndewoo, please I’m here to see Paul again. He’s my close friend,” he added when she looked at him suspiciously. Another lie. His conscience reminded him.
The woman smiled, “Welcome, my son, please go inside, Paul went to run an errand for me but he’d be back very soon.”
“Okay, I appreciate,” he gave her a charming smile and entered the house.
The parlour was modestly designed with a three seater couch and a soft shade of red carpet that matched with the curtains. On the wall were some pictures and Osi stood still admiring them for some minutes.
There was Paul and his sister smiling as children and different portraits of them as babies. He noticed there was another child in the picture. He couldn’t tell if it was a boy or girl and he spent time on the photo and traced his hand on the face.
He felt there was a slight resemblance between this baby’s face and Paul.
“His name was Peter.”
He jerked involuntarily at the voice and turned around trying not to look guilty. He smiled at Oluchi. “Hello. Peter you say, what do you mean by was?”
She dropped the bucket in her hand and sat down. She had been going to fetch water.
“Yes, my immediate elder, after Paul. He died of pneumonia at the age of 6.”
“I’m so sorry.”
Oluchi nodded solemnly, “it’s alright. I wasn’t even born yet. “
Osi sat down beside her. He had been entertaining the thought of snooping through Paul’s things quickly, thinking he was the only one in the house which was why her voice had jolted him. But now he wondered if he could get information from her about her brother.
“Have you been to the hospital too, how is Joy?” Oluchi asked him first
“Yes, I left there not long ago.”
“I wanted to take my bath and go over there, I hope she’s okay and Amara too?”
“Yes, she’s much better.”
Paul was affiliated with a band of kidnappers meaning he was no saint, Osi wasn’t sure but he thought Paul didn’t really have large feet, he’d need to confirm though. And to top it all according to Amara he had a strong deodorant or aftershave. The only glitch was that Paul didn’t wear okrika, he wore expensive designers but Osi waved it off. It was possible that Paul had a stash somewhere and wore it during his evil operations or perhaps he left the pieces as a distraction to point all suspicions somewhere else, to Okudili and it had worked. Yes it was highly possible maybe the devil didn’t wear okrika, after all, they say the devil wears Prada.
“Hello, are you still with me?” Oluchi asked him worriedly.
He blinked, “Yes, yes, you were saying?”
“I said who would be trying to copy Okudili and continue these terrible crimes now that he’s dead or do you think it was just a random coincidence?”
“No. I don’t believe in coincidences,” he hesitated about telling her Okudili was never the killer. If he should tell her and ask questions about Paul she might become suspicious and refuse to answer. On the other hand he had a responsibility to alert her for the sake of her safety. Although the irony was if Paul was indeed the killer then she was safe. Or was she?
So he looked into her eyes and told her convincingly, “Look, I believe Okudili was innocent, the real killer framed him and then killed him probably because he knew something.”
“Jesus. But who?”
“I don’t know.”
Oluchi was visibly shaken and uncomfortable, “I don’t think I can go anywhere alone, even to the hospital. Please would you take me?”
Osi saw a possible opening to make a move, “No problem, your safety comes first. I just have one problem.”
“What is that?”
“My shoe has been killing me, I don’t know if my feet doubled in size over night or the shoe shrunk,” she glanced at his feet. He had big, long feet like most tall people were known for but the shoe looked comfortable.
“I don’t know if,” he scratched his head like he was shy and unsure.
“If what? Tell me now.”
Yes, curiosity works every time. “You know what, forget it. I’ll manage, it won’t be proper.”
“What won’t be proper? Seriously tell me I’ll do it for you.”
“Okay. I meant if your brother has any spare footwear that I can borrow because I can’t walk in this shoe. Not that kind of distance.” With the lies he had told this past week. He would need to spend a whole day begging for forgiveness.
“Oh, okay. Paul has about a dozen shoes and I’m sure he won’t mind as long as you return them.”
“Surely, before evening,” He was going to change his mind the minute he could get his hand on the shoe and run a mental comparison between the print size in the sand and the shoe size or better still, “I’d prefer if its a sports shoes, preferably trainers.”
She nodded and got up, “He has one of those, although it’s his favourite.” She frowned suddenly, “Uh-oh.”
“What, what’s wrong?”
“What size do you wear?”
“Oooh, Paul’s shoe would not size you his feet is definitely smaller than 46.”
Osi sighed. He just needed to look at the shoe, although, she had just told him what he wanted to know and she wasn’t done.
“46. Your feet is really huge. I’m not even sure Paul’s own is up to 42.”
“Hmm.” He chewed on this information and was about to ask her if he owned any second hand clothes with the excuse of donation to the less privileged when the door opened and Paul came in.
He frowned immediately he saw Osi and struggled to hide his discomfort. Osi noticed it and wondered if he was bothered about what Oluchi might have learnt from him or what he might have learnt from her.
The doctor after running some tests and observing Joy decided she was ready to be discharged.
“The blow to her head was quite hard. Thank God it didn’t result in amnesia. Or something worse.”
Dé Nwachukwu shook his head angrily. If only he could get his hands on whoever had done this to his daughter. He had almost had a heart attack last night seeing Joy on the floor, unconscious and unmoving.
“I’d recommend a lot of rest and that you finish your drugs, follow the instructions and don’t miss any one.”
“Yes doctor, I will,” Joy assured her. She couldn’t wait to leave the hospital. She had been horizontal for hours and she hated hospitals.
“I’d make sure she takes it,” Amara added.
“Okay, we just have to wait for the last drip, we never rush it you know.”
It took 30 minutes for the drip to finally finished.
After disturbing her father that she was uncomfortable, Dé Nwachukwu stood up, “Let me go and get the doctor, baby ndo’ oo. Amara will prepare groundnut soup, your favourite when we get home.”
Joy’s face brightened immediately and Amara smiled, her sister loved the dish.
Dé Nwachukwu exited the room to look for the doctor.
Immediately he was gone and out of earshot Amara asked joy: “Are you sure you didn’t forget anything. The slightest detail might be very important.”
“No, I don’t think so; honestly I just want to forget about everything.”
Amara nodded then looked at the door as it opened, expecting to see her father come in but instead it was Paul and Oluchi.
“Aaaw, my baby, my sister.” Oluchi cried over Joy as she hurried to the bed.
She turned to Amara. “The youths are finally starting to act, the church is organising a rape awareness program and Pastor Bartholomew announced there is going to be a special youth task force in charge of the program. You were nominated today as one of the leaders, the secretary, I think. We’re about ten, me too I’m the treasurer. We are supposed to have a meeting with Pastor Bartholomeu tonight in church.”
Amara nodded, “That’s a good one, good initiative,” but her mind was on Paul and she eyed him suspiciously as he strode towards her with uncertain movements.
“I’m sorry to hear what happened. I’m just glad your father was there to save her.”
“Yes, yes, whoever this killer is, his time is up, he’s going to pay for everything,” it was definitely a threat and her gaze didn’t waver as she stared Paul in the eyes.
He was the first to look away.
“Yes. I totally agree with you, the son of a bitch needs to be caught.”
Osi roamed the village thinking about what he had learnt so far which was a lot but still didn’t amount to much. Paul had said he would take his sister to the hospital instead and he had been ushered from the house in a polite but hasty manner. He sighed in frustration, the missing letter, the okrika clothes and the shoe print. Those were the major clues he had. Now he had to figure out how to connect them to the killer. It was either Paul or Steve.
The letter was tied to Steve because of the similar writing and the strange manner it had disappeared in his home but the shoe print was tied to Paul who had feet the size of cloth pegs. What he needed to do was to link the okrika to one of them. That was the major clue and then the case would be solved.
He saw a familiar face in the market and searched his memory trying to recall the name. “Sofi, Sofiri.”
Pastor Bartholomew’s younger brother turned and scanned the faces looking for who had called him.
He saw Osi smiled and came over, crossing the short gutter and Osi noticed he wasn’t alone. A woman was with him. She had to be his wife, the one Pastor Batholomew had said provided lunch and dinner everyday and Osi couldn’t help noticing that they made quite an odd couple. For one she was huge, Ovie’s size actually and while Sofiri exactly slim there was still a sharp contrast in their size.
“Pastor, it’s so nice to see you. You’re still around?” Sofiri pumped his hand furiously.
“Yes. I have some unfinished business but I’d be gone by
“Oh. I thought you were going to remain as one of us.”
“No. I have responsibilities in PortHacourt but I’d surely visit once in a while.”
“Okay, this is my very lovely wife Mabel.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mabel.” Osi took her hand and returned the smile.
He suddenly felt in his spirit that this moment was important. Although why it should be important was lost on him.
Mabel was a ray of sunshine. She was still smiling, yet to let go of his hand and saying, “You need to come over for dinner one of these days, before you travel”
“Baby, I’m sure the pastor is really swamped with responsibilities,” Sofiri said. There was a certain edge to his voice that set off alarm bells in Osi’s head.
Osi couldn’t remember when he had eaten a proper meal. Since Bukky had left with his friends his diet had consisted of cereal and noodles and today was his birthday after all.
“You know what, I’d love to drop by, if tonight won’t be too soon, it’s my birthday actually.”
Sofiri was surprised but before he could speak his wife beamed, “Really? You’re very welcome then and happy birthday.”
There was a knock on the gate and her father called out, “Don’t worry, I’d get it.” He hurried outside and Amara could hear voices from the gate as she set the meal on the table.
She shook Joy gently. “Joy, wake up come and eat.”
Her sister’s eyes fluttered open and Joy smiled as she sat up.
Dé Nwachukwu returned to the parlour. “Amara, have you eaten yet?”
“No, I’m not yet hungry. Who was at the gate Dé?”
“It was our pastor.”
Her father smiled, “Osi is now our pastor abi? I meant Pastor Bartholomew.”
“What does he want?” she slapped her face, “I totally forgot about the meeting.”
“He requested your presence, he said he is setting up a special youth group to raise awareness and Mama and some others.”
“Oh, it’s about time, that’s a very good move.”
“Why didn’t he come since?” Joy frowned, “it’s now late at night he wants you to start going to church?”
“He said Mama has been here severally today but no one was home,” Dé Nwachukwu explained, “He said he’d bring you back himself but I agree with Joy. Enjoy your meal and rest, leave it till tomorrow.”
“No papa, it’s okay. I’m so in love with this plan, I’m sure it was Osi that gave him the idea. I’d go with him, it shouldn’t take time.”
Osi turned up at Sofiri’s doorstep ten minutes to seven.
He held a bottle of wine in his hand and he returned Mabel’s smile as she opened the door.
“Dinner is almost ready, how are you doing?”
He stepped inside and handed her the bottle of wine.
“Oh you shouldn’t have,” she squealed in delight. But she took the bottle and placed it on a nearby table.
“Once more, happy birthday, pastor, I forgot to ask you your favourite dish earlier but I made white soup and I pounded yam I’m sure you’d enjoy it.”
“White soup? I’ve never had it before.” Osi admired the house. He decided Pastor Batholomew would have been very comfortable here after all. The house was spacious and beautiful not to mention the benefit of having someone like Mabel as an occupant. The woman was simply wonderful.
“Where’s Sofiri?” He wasn’t sure the man was in, or maybe he was in one of the rooms.
“Sofi went out, but he’d be back very soon.”
Osi had a feeling Sofiri wasn’t pleased when she had invited him and they had a minor fall out. On a normal day he would have turned down the invitation politely but for some strange reason, he had accepted it and even forced it for tonight.
Mabel directed him to the parlour. “Please make yourself comfortable, let me just round up in the kitchen.”
Osi settled into a leather sofa and sighed. It was very comfortable and he was only aware now that he hadn’t really rested in the past few days. Even the few hours he slept were either haunted by the unknown killer or thoughts of Amara. He observed the parlour. A television stood in one corner with a CD player and wine shaped speakers. He wondered idly if it would be appropriate if he switched on the television. He thought Mabel was a very free and open minded person and one didn’t have to pretend with her but he decided to wait till she returned.
So he feasted his eyes, taking in everything.
He admired a wedding photograph of Sofiri and Mabel. She even looked fatter in the picture and he smiled as he wondered how many years ago it was.
“Pastor, so you said you’re going back on Saturday?” Mabel called out from the kitchen.
“But you’d visit us every now and then?”
“Yes, I will,” her voice sounded distant and he wondered how many rooms were in the house.
Out of curiosity he got to his feet.
Amara smiled at Pastor Bartholomew.
“I’m glad with what you’re starting up and I’m pleased to be a
part of it.”
“How is Joy, I heard what happened to her.”
“She’s fine, she’s eating now, I love this new idea of yours. I’m in hundred percent.”
He smiled, “Wow, thank God. Let’s head to the church quickly then, we have a brief meeting. The new leaders have been in church and even Benedict the butcher accepted my invite.”
“Really, that’s good, the butcher has a lot of influence on people.”
“Exactly. I’d take you and Oluchi home after the meeting.”
He offered her his hand and she took it. She slid the gate shut and followed him.
The bungalow had about four rooms. Osi made this deduction after checking out the doors. The kitchen was at the other end and there was another door which he took to be the the visitor’s toilet.
He could hear the sound of plates being set on the counter and knew Mabel was probably dishing the food. He returned to the parlour, licking his lips but then he decided to relieve himself first before the meal. He planned to demolish that pounded yam very well. He whistled softly and headed to the toilet.
He opened the door and gasped.
A knock sounded again and Dé Nwachukwu swore angrily. He was just midway through the meal and he was enjoying it immensely. He hated disturbances especially at this crucial time. He hadn’t eaten all day as he had been in the hospital and had been too worried to eat.
Joy stood but he held his hand up. “Baby, don’t disturb yourself, eat your food I’d answer the gate.”
So for the second time that night he opened the gate.
It was Oluchi. “Dé, good evening.”
He looked past her and didn’t see anybody else. “Evening dear. Don’t tell me you came alone?”
“Yes, Dé, I did. Paul escorted me most of the way although. I just came to see Amara and Joy one more time.”
“Okay, come in please. Wait, aren’t you supposed to be in church for the meeting?”
“Church? Which meeting? Oh the youth awareness program, we’ve had it already. It wasn’t even as I expected it to be, the pastor just rushed through it.” Oluchi was clearly dissappointed.
“You mean it just finished? That was really quick,” De’ Nwachukwu glanced at his wrist reflexively even though he didn’t have a watch.
“No sir, it ended like an hour ago.”
Row after row after row of clothes stared back at Osi. On the bed, on wooden rails, on hangers, folded on drawers and spilling out of dozens of boxes round the small room.
They were Okrika clothes.
“Jesus,” Osi whispered as he entered the room.
He must have shouted because Mabel came running to the room. “Pastor what happened? Are you okay?” No, he wasn’t okay.
Sofiri, Sofiri, Sofiri.
“Pastor?” Mabel asked him again worriedly. “Who is the owner of all these clothes?” “Oh,” She smiled.
“The current church building once used to be a shopping complex and Batholomew formerly used to sell clothes in a tiny shop before he received the divine call and now look at the church today, expanding every second..God is indeed faithful.”
But Osi heard only one thing, Pastor Batholomew used to sell clothes before.
He rolled his eyes and suddenly felt very weak. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh no.”
“What, what is it pastor? You’re scaring me.”
They talked about the plans for the youth group as they walked to church. Pastor Batholomew said she could come up with a name for the youth ministry and she suggested several as they walked to church.
When she finally noticed they were on another path. She looked round her surroundings surprised.
“Pastor, where are we going? The church is the other way.” She looked at him but his eyes were unreadable.
“Pastor, what are you doing? What’s happening?” Amara asked pastor Batholomew. She was beginning to panic. She tried to remove her hand from his but he held on firmly.
“Pastor, let go of my hand,” She shouted.
“No one can hear you Amara. We’re deep into the woods.” he gripped her hand tighter than ever.
“What’s going on? What are you doing? What has come over you?” But she already knew and she feared the worst.
“For so long I wanted you. I dreamt about you, you pushed my buttons. Remember the day you and Ozioma came to church to see me, that was when it started. The both of you haunted my dreams since then, it started with her and it will end with you.”
“What did I ever do to you? You’re my pastor, I….I look up to you.”
“I realize it’s over now but I can’t help myself. When you turn up dead I may be exposed but I have a plan, but it wouldn’t change a thing. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
He drew her to him suddenly pressing her body to him and holding her waist.
Amara’s first reaction was to scream. Her heart was pounding, hammering against her ribs. She knew she had to keep him talking until she could find a slight chance to escape. She could already feel the bulge in his trousers pressing against her pelvis.
“You were the one involved with Ozioma,” she asked him.
He grimaced, “Ozioma, it’s all her fault, she led me on. Just like you she made me believe she wanted me at first, it was love, sweet love and I adored her. She promised me we would consummate our relationship after I pleaded with her and when she sent for me one weekend to meet her in the farm I happily went there, decked in one of my unsold shirts,” He laughed bitterly and shook his head then moved his hands lower, cupping her backside and squeezing roughly.
“But the bitch wanted to end it. I lost it, we quarrelled I grabbed her and when she slapped me… “He pulled her even tighter and closer which seemed impossible. “I knocked her unconscious, tore the sleeve of my shirt because I did love her, I loved Ozioma and I couldn’t afford to watch her eyes, to see her pain, but that was a mistake.”
Amara knew time was going. Any moment now Pastor Batholomew was going to attack her. He was getting rougher by the minute and his voice was changing. The man wasn’t fully balanced and with each passing second he was getting closer to the edge. Amara knew she had to keep him talking. That was the best chance she had. “Wait, so you wrote the letter? I don’t understand, what does P.O stand for?”
He loosened his hold for a second and Amara considered making a dash for it but she knew she wouldn’t get far.
Batholomew smiled at the memory, “She used to call me okrika pastor, later it became pastor okrika, and that became my alias.”
His voice grew hard, “fuck it, I loved her but she’s gone. Now it’s you I want, I’ve waited too long for this.”
“Please let me go, I won’t tell anybody I swear.”
“You know why I don’t care if I’m caught?” He pushed her to the ground roughly and began fumbling with his belt. He unhooked it and began removing his trousers. Amara was too terrified and paralyzed to move. “Aren’t you going to ask me why?” He sneered as he rolled his trouser down struggling with it at the ankles. Amara moved her hand around her and felt the grass for some kind of weapon. Her fingers brushed over a stone and she cusped her hand over it.
“Why? Why are you doing this?” she stuttered as she tried to work her courage. The stone wasn’t big but with the right force it could do enough damage.
Bartholomew had gotten one leg out of the trouser but he struggled with the other. He seemed to be too excited and the unbelievable bulge in his briefs was proof. He was still talking, “It’s who I am. For so long I’ve been trying to be someone I was not, but it’s in my blood. I’m the son of my father after all,” he began laughing like a maniac and took off the trouser finally and fell to his knees rubbing her legs greedily. “This is going to be rough but the pain wouldn’t be much if you cooperate. You would even enjoy it, like the bitch Ozioma did.” he ran his hands up her thigh. “Ooh. I’ve dreamt about this for so long, sweet Amara.” He closed his eyes in ecstasy for a brief minute and Amara struck immediately.
She closed her fist over the stone and brought it to the side of Bartholomew’s head with all the force she could muster. He howled and fell to his side holding his temple and shouting in pain.
Amara scrambled to her feet and took off, running frantically through the woods. It wasn’t long before she heard what sounded like an angry bull charging behind her. She increased her pace, darting past trees in a zigzag way trying to lose the killer. Her foot caught on a tree stump and she fell to the ground, bruising her knees but she scrambled up immediately and continued running, taking short deep breaths.
She could hear the sound of twigs breaking behind her. The chase was hot.
“Mabel, answer me, where’s pastor Batholomew?” Osi demanded from the woman.
She was clearly puzzled, “I don’t understand, what’s going on?”
“Where did you say Sofiri went to?” he barked. He couldn’t keep his voice from rising.
She didn’t reply. She took a step back, his eyes were very wild that very minute and she felt confused, “Pastor, why are you…?”
He didn’t wait for her to finish. He hurried out of the house.
I have to get to Amara! His spirit was deeply troubled and he ran towards her house. He had a bad feeling something terrible was happening this very moment.
He came across her father on the path to her house. Dé Nwachukwu was with Joy and Oluchi and the trio were moving in a worried half run.
“Dé, where’s Amara?” Osi called out as he hurried to his side.
“The pastor took her, Bartholomew.” His voice shook with fear and Osi almost collapsed as his legs became rubber all of a sudden.
“Where did he take her to?” He tried to keep his voice calm but failed woefully.
“I don’t know, the church is empty and no one is at the house too.”
Osi stopped moving. He was genuinely afraid. He had never been this scared in his entire life. He couldn’t imagine Amara getting harmed like the rest, no way it wasn’t possible.
But where was she?
Slowly his eyes focused on the trees. The woods were eerily quiet but he suddenly knew Amara was in there.
He broke into a run and he prayed….and prayed…and prayed.
The Devil Wears Okirika
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