The Devil Wears Okirika Episode 5 by Kingsley Olanrewaju Efughi
Osi raised both hands and dropped the thick branch he held,
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Amara blinked, placing a hand on her chest. Her heart was beating like a talking drum. She could literally hear it against her ribs, “You…you from the park.”
Osi nodded in reply. He hadn’t meant to scare her. He had been walking around aimlessly for the past 15 minutes trying to find his way but it seemed he kept getting more and more lost. He had doubled back or so he hoped and was beginning to get worried especially when saw a furry animal dash into the bush by his side. He quickly thought it wise to have some kind of weapon handy just incase of snakes although the most dangerous animal he had ever killed was a rat. He managed to break off a thick branch and continued his walk, searching for civilization and trying to assure himself he wasn’t lost and then he heard a voice, her voice. He couldn’t discern what she was saying but he had followed the voice till he saw her standing in front of a grave. There was something painful and heartbreking about the way she stood there and he had stared for some seconds before deciding to approach her. Not until she turned around that he realized she was the very same girl he had seen earlier in the park. But the look of fear in her face rendered him speechless. She looked so frightened.
“What are you doing here?” She demanded. Her pulse was returning to normal now. Maybe it was still racing, albeit for a totally different reason now.
“I was taking a walk and I got lost, I tried to find my way but I ended up….” He gestured awkwardly.
Amara nodded slowly but she remained where she was. “Who are you?”
“My name is Osi, I’m a pastor.”
“You’re here for the crusade?”
He nodded, “Yes, how do you know of that?”
“It was announced earlier today.”
He took a step closer, looking at the grave, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Where are you heading to?”
“Pastor Bartholomew’s house,” Osi replied. He desperately wanted to say something, he could only guess whose grave that was and who she had been talking to but she seemed to be on her guard and instinct told him not to push it.
She was talking to him now and her voice had gotten lighter and friendlier, “Wow, from pastor’s house. How did you end up here?” she smiled, “you’re really off, but don’t worry, I’d take you.”
“Thank you. I don’t know your name yet.”
She smiled, “Amara.”
The devil couldn’t believe his eyes. He had been about to jump out from the bush when this tall baboon had appeared from nowhere. He watched in disbelief, listening to their exchange. So this was the pastor?
The devil gritted his teeth in anger as he watched them leave, rage clouding his vision when he saw Amara take the man’s hand.
He needed to break something. He clenched his fist in rage as he imagined breaking the pastor’s face.
Pastor Bartholomew also mistook the deacon for pastor Osi, “I’m sorry I’m late sir, we had a meeting and I had to stay behind to talk to the leaders,” he explained as he shook hands with all of them.
The deacon didn’t look impressed, “No problem, but time is of the essence and valuable time has been lost. You know it takes less than a minute to win a soul.”
“Exactly pastor, believe me it couldn’t be avoided, I’m glad you all came in now, when the reverend called me about the crusade, I was quick to accept. We need you all now more than ever.”
“Why, what’s going on?” Gregory asked.
“Actually he’s not the pastor, the pastor isn’t in yet,” Ovie corrected.
“Oh….” Pastor Bartholomew looked surprised. “I’d rather wait till he comes then.”
Deacon Oforbuike once again didn’t look pleased. He was about to say something when they heard voices from outside and the backdoor opened.
“Thank you, hope I’d see you again.”
“Yes, hopefully but in the mean time try not to get lost again, oya come Joy let’s go.”
Pastor Osi entered the parlour looking flushed.
“Sorry I took long,” he looked at Bukky, “I missed my way.”
“Welcome back, pastor,” the deacon greeted, “hope we can set up the crusade or should we all go sight seeing?”
It was becoming natural for Osi to ignore the deacon. He shook hands with Pastor Bartholomew and took a seat. His eyes drifted to the dining table where a plate of food was covered.
“Welcome pastor,” Bartholomew continued, “like I was saying, when the reverend called me, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to have you all here,” he rubbed his hands, looking at each of them, “the thing is, this past month has been a very dark one for us, someone has been raping and killing our daughters, in four weeks three girls were raped, beaten almost unrecognizable and killed, so everyone in our community is living in a state of fear and despair.”
The team was shocked. Even the deacon couldn’t help it as his mouth hung open in disbelief.
For once Ovie didn’t have a reply or a comeback. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably.
Osi was shocked. He remembered meeting Amara earlier and the look of terror on her face when he had startled her. He felt his heart bounce against his rib cage like a wrestler on the ropes as he imagined the possible danger she could have been in earlier.
Pastor Bartholomew continued speaking, “We have no idea who is behind these dreadful acts and we had a meeting this morning to talk to the villagers who are understandably agitated.”
The deacon was the first to speak, “We are pastors not detectives, we don’t solve crimes we preach the word of God.”
“That is why now more than ever my people need you, they need this crusade, they need the word of God, they need to discover the peace which only God can provide.”
Osi could see there was a retort coming from the deacon so he spoke up hurriedly, “I totally agree with you, we need to seek God for direction. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence or that we are here by chance, God wants us here and we have to make ourselves available for his use.”
Pastor Bartholomew gave a sigh of relief.
“When was the last girl killed?” Gregory asked. “Her body was found three days ago.” “Who found her?” Bukky asked.
“Two very young girls saw her body floating on the stream, the younger girl is still traumatised as we speak.”
“Has any autopsy been carried out? Test for semen, any DNA samples?” Ovie asked.
The pastor laughed. A strange sound considering the mood everyone had been thrown in. Even Samuel the driver sat at the dining table, a solemn look on his face.
“We don’t have any medical examiner. The state police have been informed and according to them they are carrying out their investigations.” He twitched his fingers behind his ears.
The Deacon shook his head and for a second he looked sad, “this is dreadful, just dreadful but now can we go over this evening’s schedule, we are behind already.”
“You like him, don’t you?” Joy teased her elder sister as they walked home.
Amara shook her head, “No I don’t, I just helped him out because he was lost,” but her eyes betrayed her.
She had been surprised at the easy connection. After the initial awkwardness, she and Osi talked freely like they were old friend and she had been surprised to find out she could be herself around him.
They met Joy walking home with her friends and she had bid them good bye and followed her sister curious about the tall stranger who was no doubt the reason for the abundance of smiles that was so rare on herister.
Joy and her sister didn’t really get along but they loved each other. “Is he one of the pastors that pa Kenneth talked about?”
“He’s cute,” Joy said.
That drew a frown from her sister, “He’s too old for you.” Joy laughed, “I only said he’s fine biko, don’t cut off my head.” They continued walking in silence. Each girl lost in her thought.
Stevenson walked round the market square, a pad and pen in his hands. He wore khaki shorts and his shirt from the meeting earlier but had unbuttoned his shirt. He wore a white v-neck underneath and the breeze blew his shirt open as he walked.
“Our very own oyibo,” Dé John waved at him. Stevenson forced a smile and walked over.
“Dé John, good afternoon.”
“Afternoon, my son, why? You look frustrated.”
Stevenson sighed, “I’ve been asking questions, trying to get information about the new yam festival but I’m not really getting much background. I need to know as much as possible.”
“Ohoooo…I knew it must be your book that would make you frown, anyway you met the right person,” Dé John chuckled cheerfully. One thing he enjoyed most was talking about his culture and tradition especially to a foreigner.
“Let me collect this fresh palm wine, undiluted and we would go to my compound while I tell you everything you need to know.”
Stevenson smiled, “I’d appreciate that sir.”
Osi’s sleeves were rolled up to his elbow. He was sweating profusely as he balanced on the ladder to fix a light bulb. He was yet to set up the speakers, tune in the amplifier and run sound tests.
Gregory and Ovie were setting up the drum set and piano respectively while Bukky had set up the banner and arranged the podium.
Pastor Bartholomew had promised to bring people to help with the set up but presently there was no sign of him.
“Arrange the chairs three here, two there so that there would be space to walk through the middle,” Osi gestured as he instructed Samuel the driver who was busy arranging the chairs.
As he got down from the ladder and began rolling up the excess wire he noticed a white man making his way towards him.
“Good evening pastor, anything I can do to help?” The man asked cheerfully as he offered his hand for a shake.
Osi was surprised the man had figured him to be the pastor and not the deacon. Probably because the deacon was not around, he thought.
He shook the hand vigorously, noticing the man had a firm handshake.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you sir, if you wouldn’t mind assisting to set the chairs, I’d be very grateful.”
“It’s my pleasure, you can call me Steve.”
“I’m Osi, that’s Greg and Ovie, the lady laying the carpet is
Bukky and the young man setting the chairs is Samuel.” Steve waved in their direction. “Nice to meet you all”
“Dé I’d like to go to the evening service,” Amara told her father as she set a bowl of water before him.
Dé Nwachukwu washed his hands and studied his daughter. “I don’t have any problem with that, as long as you don’t go alone.”
“I won’t papa, Oluchi would go with me.”
“How did you find out about the service this evening? Did you go to the market square?” He stopped rolling the ball of fufu and frowned at his daughter.
“No I didn’t, I met one of the pastors earlier and he invited me.”
Dé Nwachukwu continued eating, satisfied with her answer. “Speaking of Oluchi, her elder brother came to see me today,” He announced after a while.
Amara remained quiet.
“He’s a fine young man,” her father continued, “I remember him as a young rascal and very stubborn but now he has really grown up and mature.”
Amara still had nothing to say. Instead she sat opposite her father and continued sifting the grounded cassava into a basin.
“He wants to settle down and he wishes to marry you. Of all the suitors who have come for you recently he stands out and it’s my wish that you two get married.”
“Papa I do not love him, when I marry I want to marry for love. I want to have something like you and mama shared.”
“You know your mother was chosen for me, we grew to love each other. Love is something that grows and develops,” her father said as he attacked a piece of stock fish.
“I promise I’d think about it,” Amara assured her father. This was the first time he was speaking to her directly about a suitor. Paul must have really made an impression on her father.
The man of the hour himself showed up half an hour later. He strolled into the compound whistling cheerfully and waving at Joy who was spreading clothes on the line.
“Where’s Oluchi?” Amara asked with a frown.
“She couldn’t make it, she has been having stomach pain since we got home so she asked me to escort you to the service while she rested,” he replied with a charming smile.
Amara didn’t really believe him; she sensed it was all a setup to get her and Paul alone together.
“Okay let me just get my scarf and we can go.”
“All right, what of Dé Nwachukwu, is he around?”
“Yes but he’s sleeping,” she replied hurrying into the house.
Osi was pleased and surprised with the turn out for the service. The chairs which numbered up to 300 were almost filled.
He stood behind the amplifier board, tuning the knobs as he followed the melody of the worship song led by Bukky. When he saw Amara his face brightened immediately. He noticed she was with somebody and felt a foreign feeling come over him. What kind of pastor am I? He asked himself as he almost went off key.
She looked at him and smiled and he looked away hurriedly, his eyes running into the stare of a short thick man who glared at him in a way that got him worried. He noticed the man had a bottle in his hand and he didn’t need anyone to tell him it contained alcohol.
The man wasn’t involved with the worship, his eyes were wide open and he looked like he had only come to check out the strangers, Osi in particular judging by the way he kept glaring at him.
Osi shut his mind from all thoughts and focused on the worship song, singing along, “you are alpha and omega….”
The devil had seen the exchanged looks between the pastor and Amara. He also noticed the way she had responded to him earlier, blushing and smiling like a school girl while he boiled with rage and animal lust in the bush.
He was beginning to suspect the pastor was going to be an obstacle.
That wouldn’t be a problem, he knew how to take care of obstacles.
“That was a very powerful sermon Greg,” Osi grabbed Gregory by the shoulders shaking him excitedly.
Greg laughed, shrugging modestly.
Osi turned around full of energy. He was extremly pleased with the way the crusade had started. He saw pastor Batholomew and called after him.
“Pastor that your choir is good, the special number was on
Pastor Batholomew beamed with pride.
The service had drawn to a close at 9pm and everyone had left feeling refreshed. A certain kind of peace and calm had seemed to settle on the villagers as the overhead bulbs had illuminated the podium, the speakers pulsed with sound vibrations and the open sky afforded a view of countless beautiful stars whenever one looked up to the sky. For a minute, every thing had felt soo…divine.
They had all left the service half an hour ago with the feeling that God was in town, the devil must flee.
Osi could hardly control his excitement, the crusade had started really well, he hadn’t even realized the amount of tension he was in, or the amount of pressure he was under but now he felt it was all going to be alright. He wasn’t going to fail.
“So I’d meet you up for the evangelism tomorrow.”
“No problem pastor, have a good night.”
Osi shook hands with pastor Batholomew and the latter took his leave.
Paul walked Amara back home that night. The sky was laden with stars and it just felt all romantic.
He took her hand in his. “Hope you enjoyed the service?”
“Yes, I did,” She gently removed her hands from his. “Paul.” She began.
“You know what? I think the weather is too cold for that shirt you have on,” he interrupted her. Somehow he just knew what she had been about to say and he didn’t want to hear it. He removed his leather jacket and put it round her shoulders.
They continued the walk in silence, each of them lost in their thoughts. However, Amara’s next question would be an indication of the region her thoughts had strayed. “What did you think of the pastor?”
Paul blinked as he stared at her trying to clear his own thoughts. He had been going through different romantic lines in his head trying to come up with one that would be perfect.
“Pastor, what pastor? Oh, the one that preached?”
“No, the first one that gave the opening talk.”
“Oh…he’s a pastor?”
He shrugged, “Amara what do you have planned tomorrow?”
Amara looked at Paul and shook her head. She knew she had to make her thoughts clear towards him. They could only be friends but she wasn’t ready for anything else. She was about to say something when she heard a noise, a rustle of leaves coming from the bushes. She stopped, taking Paul’s hand in hers, stopping him also.
Chinaza was a light skinned girl in her mid twenties. Friends was too strong a word to describe her and Amara, they spoke to each other in the market square and whenever they saw they exchanged greetings but it was no deeper than that.
Now she emerged from the darkness, carrying a log of firewood on her head.
“Chinaza, where to? It’s too late to be out alone,” Amara said.
She sighed, “Amara, I had to get this firewood, it’s important, I need to prepare something overnight,” she glanced at Paul, “Paul, I heard you’re back, welcome, how was your trip?”
“It was wonderful, Chinaza. How’s your dad?”
She sighed, her eyes getting downcast, “He’s alright. Well, let me be going, see you later Amara, Paul.”
“Wait, why don’t we walk with you till you get to your house’s path?” Amara asked.
Chinaza was surprised, “But it’s not along your own path.”
“Don’t worry I’ll take the longer route, we have to look after ourselves and I’m sure Paul won’t mind.” She said glancing at him.
“Of course I won’t… it’s no problem.” He led the way, walking slightly ahead of the girls while they talked. But his shoulders seemed tensed. In fact Amara thought she could detect a little tension between Chinaza and Paul.
Osi and Gregory waited behind at the market square. The driver had carried the last batch of the chairs and carpet and instruments but the remaining space in the bus could only take three people. Ovie equalled two already and Bukky was definitely the first choice so he and Gregory stayed behind, praying and thanking God for the service.
Just as Osi was finishing the grace, he felt a presence from the shadows. Behind a banana tree he saw a kind of movement, or was it his imagination?
He squinted hard pointing the flash light he held towards the direction.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Gregory asked.
“Nothing, I thought I saw something?”
“Saw something? Who’s there?” Gregory called out.
“Relax, it must be an animal, no need to get worked up for nothing.”
When Samuel returned, revving the engine of the bus and waiting for the pastors to get inside, Osi suddenly felt courageous to check out the tree from earlier. Majorly due to the fact that the bright beam from the vehicle’s headlights illuminated everywhere and dissolved the eerily shaped shadows from before.
He pointed his touch behind the tree noticing nothing in spectacular, just rubbish littered on the floor. A banana peel, an empty alcohol bottle, a cigarette butt and a basket of rotten tomatoes which must have been dumped by one of the market women. He decided that was probably what had attracted the animal, maybe a cat.
He directed the beam back to the bottle on the ground trying to remember where he had seen it before.
His phone rang, breaking into his thoughts and causing him to jerk involuntarily. It was the reverend, from Port Harcourt. He answered the call and hurried towards the bus.
Chinaza’s father was suffering from severe arthritis. However it was rumoured that he had been afflicted by a dibia in the neighbouring village over a land dispute he had.
And truly, should one ever experience him shouting from pains, one would think the symptoms were too severe to be severe arthritis.
Chinaza had been given the special recipe by one of the concerned women in the village and concocted the herb mixture every two weeks. The procedure was stressful, she would have to boil the herbs overnight, waking up at intervals to add more firewood and pour the then coloured water into different jugs before refilling the pot but whenever her father drank the mixture he seemed to feel better, the pains lessened and he could sit up, talk easier and even stand.
She was the only child and the only one to look after her father as her mother was late so she performed her duties diligently, she couldn’t bear to see her father in pain.
When she got home, after saying good bye to Amara and Paul, she hummed to herself as she thought of Paul; he had behaved so aloof, so indifferent.
She focused on the task at hand when she heard her father cry out in pain from his room. She arranged the massive pot, set the fire then put the leaves in the water.
She placed her hands on her hips, deep in thought as she studied the basin of water and then the log of firewood she had fetched. She knew she would need more.
The devil roamed in the night.
The interruption from earlier had left him feeling foul, he had been primed and ready, eager to strike then that man had shown up….that…that…
He kicked the sand in anger as he remembered the interruption.
He was tuned up and there was no way he could get tuned down unless he strikes his desired target. He had to hunt. He could lose his sanity if he didn’t get satisfied. He walked round the village looking idly about but no such luck. Every female in Amaife would be in the safety of their home around this ungodly hour. He needed a quick release from the primal lust and violent anger that boiled in his blood, it was getting worse with each day and a lasting solution was needed. He saw Amara as the solution, the kill that would finally satisfy his insatiable urge. If not he knew he would make a mistake, slip up in public and he couldn’t afford to let that happen…
Amara knew her father would be waiting for her and she could tell he had been happy to see Paul bring her home. He even offered the extra room to Paul saying it was too late to move about but the young man declined his offer. He waved Amara goodnight with a smile and hailed Dé Nwachukwu with eulogies before taking his leave.
“Such a nice young man, he would make a fine son in law,” her father said as he shut the gate.
Amara rolled her eyes and went to bed.
Chinaza walked the bushy path in the woods with her axe in hand. She couldn’t help it as her mind drifted to the recent killings. The first girl who had been killed had been her close friend and it was still hard to believe that someone in their midst was responsible for these horrible killings.
It was also scary. But Chinaza could take care of herself, she was tough; she didn’t grow up under the roof of a man like her father only to end up soft.
She swung the axe with precision splitting the log. She wouldn’t hesitate to use the axe in defending herself. She stopped suddenly and listened.
The Devil Wears Okirika
To be continued. …