The Devil Wears Okirika by Kingsley Olanrewaju Efughi
They paired themselves in twos; Osi went with Ovie leaving Gregory and Bukky as a team.
The deacon was a lone ranger. He said he’d rather be alone but Osi affirmed, rather firmly that he would be joined by Pastor Bartholomew later in the day.
Evangelism wasn’t show business and he was literally putting his foot down in this case.
The day was bright, the sun was on full blast and Osi took a deep breath as he bounced on his heels on the porch. He felt refreshed, recharged, energized.
“So we’ll cover the market square while you and Bukky would take the other direction, towards the stream,” Ovie said to Gregory as Bukky handed them bunch of fliers and tracts to be shared among the villagers.
“I’d be going towards the market square too,” the deacon announced.
Osi jumped in, “That’s a good idea, I think pastor Batholomew said today should be the market day, there’d be more crowd.”
He paused, a thoughtful look on his face. “You know what, I’d rather Ovie and I took the other path and the three of you go straight to the market square, we would double back and join you there.”
“That sounds fine with me,” Gregory agreed.
The deacon shrugged. For the first time he seemed to agree with Osi.
“….I accept you this day, amen.”
“I accept you this day, Amen.”
Osi opened his eyes and smiled at the young boy he had just prayed with. “Congratulations friend, you’re a new person.”
The young boy who was about 14 shook his hand excitedly and skipped off.
Osi watched him for some seconds then went in search of Ovie.
He saw him ahead talking to an elderly woman. He was speaking to her and she had an intense look on her face and Osi hoped it was a look of concentration not confusion because he knew Ovie’s Igbo was not very good.
He couldn’t see any other person to preach to at the moment and decided to find a shaded spot to relieve himself. That moment, all the cups of tea he drank during breakfast didn’t seem like such a good idea. He had been urinating like a pregnant woman. He sighed as he went deeper into the woods, which was strange as the path was deserted and there was no one to shield from. He closed his eyes as he struggled with his zipper, humming the tune of a hymn. The zipper must have gotten hooked on the fabric. He opened his eyes and looked down. His eyes darted to the right, he saw something peculiar and focused back on his zipper but his eyes swung back again as the image registered in his mind.
It was a hand, just a hand protruding from inside the bush.
He almost screamed like a girl, he actually jerked and would have screamed too but his voice was too deep to pull off the kind of high pitched scream his shock warranted.
He turned away, hurrying out of the woods but then he stopped.
He was a pastor; he owed it to whoever lay dead in the bush to offer at least a prayer.
Slowly, very slowly he turned around and approached the body.
He had never seen a dead body before and even as he thought about the cause of death, he knew what had happened; she had been raped and beaten to death.
He thought the ground looked rough, he bent down and noticed some broken twigs and concluded a struggle and the deadly act had occurred here. There was an axe sticking out of a log of firewood on the ground and he wondered who it belonged too. If it belonged to the now deceased girl, why hadn’t she used it to defend herself?
Slowly, keeping a lot of space between him and the body, he turned a semi circle till he could get a good view of the body.
He moved closer.
He was not prepared for what he saw.
Her face was no longer a face, it had been brutalised and pounded shapeless. He felt like vormitting but still he forced himself to study the face, wondering how he was able to stomach such a sight. He was seeing signs of blunt force trauma, some kind of object had to have been used, it couldn’t be a fist, if not it would have to be a very large and strong. No, there was no way a fist was responsible for this ungodly sight.
She was naked and he observed what he figured to be bite marks on her neck, breasts and…good Lord.
He looked away hurriedly as a shiver ran down his spine. He had seen enough. He knew he would never forget this sight. He tuned away but looked back almost immediately; something had caught his eyes yet again.
He squatted down and picked up the item.
It was a piece of clothe, a pink material. The colour looked faded and the material looked washed like it had seen better days. Yet it had that distinct smell. The distinct smell of okirika clothes. It was obviously a second hand material. He wondered if it was connected to the body or if it was there by coincidence but it had been too close to the body.
Plus it looked like it had been torn off some kind of clothe roughly.
He shut his eyes and prayed for the deceased, prayed she would find peace and her family be comforted.
Closing his eyes was one of the most difficult things he had ever done. The sight had shaken him badly and he felt like he could open his eyes and the body won’t be there anymore or worse, the body would be standing looking at him.
He rounded up the prayer quickly and opened his eyes slowly, the body remained partially hidden behind the bush, it wasn’t a dream.
“Pastor Osi…Pastor…pastor where are you?” He heard Ovie’s voice and hurried out of the woods.
“Amara I don’t have time. You buy the ingredients let me just run to Mouka’s shop so that she would finish my hair,” Joy snapped rather rudely at her sister.
Amara nodded absentmindedly and her younger sister took off to get her hair braided.
She stood in front of a shop about to select a bowl of fresh pepper; she didnt notice the pepper was not fresh but was getting soft, she didn’t notice the quantity was not enough for the steep price the woman insisted on.
But she noticed a lot of other things…
She noticed Okudili from his spot under the tree as usual looking at her with a satisfied look on his face and this time the pig had his hand in his trouser.
She noticed the lady pastor and her colleague as they moved together opening bibles, sharing fliers and mixing with people.
She noticed pastor Osi was no where to be found.
And she noticed something that confused her and made her frown in thought. Last night Paul had asked Chinaza “how is your father?”
She had replied, saying he was fine.
The question was; how did Paul know about Chinaza’s father’s ailment? His strange sickness had only started about 11 weeks ago and Paul had been away for almost 3 years. She shrugged, Oluchi must have told him about everyone in the village, obviously.
Suddenly she noticed some kind of commotion as Dé John emerged from the other end, he walked briskly with a pale look on his face.
The tall pastor followed behind, walking slowly with his fat friend.
They both looked like they had seen a ghost.
A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted Because they are no more.
“The pastor found her body.”
“What of her father?”
“He had a stroke and died when he heard.”
“How did he hear?”
“No one knows.”
“Why does God allow this kind of thing to happen?”
“Who is this demon?”
There were many questions in the land of Amaife. The double tragedy had shaken the villagers to the core. Chinaza had been their daughter. Beautiful and hardworking, she took care of her father and was known to be a very serious minded girl.
For her to be killed in such a gruesome manner had been almost too impossible to fathom.
When her father went into stroke and died few hours later, everyone lost it.
The women ran outside the streets, weeping and wailing, half naked and tearing their blouses and wrappers.
The young men held bamboo sticks, broke tree branches and marched round the village shouting. But there was no one to vent their frustration on. The devil was in their midst, not just a needle in a haystack but a unique kind of straw amidst the hay.
In Pa Kenneth’s compound, there was plenty shaking of heads and sighs. The village was in a state of turmoil and it was up to them to find a solution but the elders were just as confused and clueless as the villagers.
Osi and Pastor Bartholomew were present. Osi sat on a bench staring blankly at a lizard on the wall as the image of the dead body stuck in his head. Pastor Bartholomew paced before a group of women. Their hairs were scattered, their clothes were torn, their eyes swollen and their feet bare. They sat on the floor. Some cried, some wailed, some cursed, some shouted incoherently while some just stared, looking lost into space.
They were the mothers of the victims. Three of them: Mama Ozioma, mama Chinyere and mama Chisom. They mostly stared into space, lost in their world of grief.
The remaining women had accompanied them, breaking off from the rest to join the march to their leaders.
Their leaders were clueless. Dé John had tried speaking parables after parables but had soon given up. He was as lost and as bitter as they were.
Pastor Bartholomew had done the talking, quoting scriptures and prayer points to calm the women. He paced the compound, his bible in his hand and a painful look in his eye as he spoke. He looked at Osi for backup but he was still in shock and was lost in his own world.
Someone tapped Osi on his shoulder causing his eyes to finally leave the lizard sunning on the wall. It was Dé Nwachukwu.
He gestured with his head that Osi follow him outside.
“You’re pastor Osi, aren’t you?”
“Yes…yes I am.”
Dé Nwachukwu shook his head sadly, “As you can see we have a tragedy on our hands, it’s very unfortunate.”
Osi nodded, that was the only reply he could think off.
“I know my people, they are getting more agitated by the second, they need someone to vent the anger but they can’t. No one knows who is behind this.”
Osi nodded again, he didn’t know what the old man was trying to say.
“The thing is, it would be better if you lay low, maybe leave, as a stranger you could become an easy target. The youths are frustrated, things are escalating, there’s just too much pressure.”
Osi took a deep breath. “I understand, sir, thank you for your thoughts, however I can’t leave until he who brought me here tells me to leave.”
Dé Nwachukwu looked surprised, “Pastor Bartholomew?”
“No, I mean God, sir, the God I serve.”
Dé Nwachukwu shrugged indifferently. “This your God, anyway I’d advice you to be careful when mixing with the native. You need to thread carefully.”
The girls conveyed in Dé Nwachukwu’s compound. Oluchi and two other girls. Maama and Ezinne as well as Joy and all her friends, almost a dozen of them.
Amara and the three girls (Oluchi, Maama and Ezinne) sat in Dé Nwachukwu’s favourite spot; under the pear tree while joy and her friends had gone inside the house.
“I can’t believe Chinaza is dead,” Oluchi said in disbelief.
“And her poor father. May who ever killed her never know peace,” Ezinne said with much chagrin. She was quite close to Chinaza.
“The thing is, I saw her last night and Paul and I even walked her close to her home safely, I don’t know why she went back,” Amara said sadly.
“Eeya…I remember she used to like Paul, always asking about him all the time and telling me to greet him,” Oluchi shook her head sadly, “Paul hardly even remembered her, talkless of to ask about her.”
“Where is your brother by the way?” Maama asked.
“I think he’s with the youths rioting in the market square.”
Amara was still trying to recover from the shocking news of the death. But something Oluchi said made her frown. She couldn’t put her hand on it at the moment, her mind was on poor Chinaza and her father.
Okudili smashed his bottle on a tree and joined the chanting. He tore his shirt from his body, which wasn’t difficult considering the material was worn out. “Yeee! We no go gree oo!”
Benedict was seen as the youth leader, an unofficial title he carried because he had that leadership quality, in this case; strength, popularity and a penchant for violence. He owned an abattoir in the market where he slaughtered and sold beef. He had always liked Chinaza and even though she had turned down his advances, he admired her and had always given her extra chunks of beef whenever she passed by the slaughterhouse.
When the news of her death spread, it took only minutes for him to round up young men in the market square. They would have destroyed some things, they felt like destroying everything they saw and they might have too, if it didn’t belong to them and their parents.
“This killer must pay.”
“He must confess.”
“We no go gree o.”
Okudili joined them; the hot gin he had just swallowed burning down his lungs. “My brothers…my people…think very well…we all know who this person is,” he said loudly.
They all fell quiet as they looked at him.
“What is it? You drunkard, nobody has time for tricks, speak up or forever remain silent.” Benedict shouted. His eyes had a deadly gleam in them.
“This white man in our midst, the one everybody loves and respects so much, we never used to suffer these attacks before he
joined us. I say it. I say that ‘baboon’ is the killer.”
Everyone was silent, they all liked the man but Okudili had a point. Their chanting broke down as they looked to their leader for direction.
Benedict was heavily influenced by his emotions. Right now he was ready to consider any argument that even painted Pa Kenneth as the killer.
He hit the bamboo stick on the ground and started marching, shouting, “we no go gree o..we no go gree…!” The dozens of young men followed him.
Okudili smiled when he realized they were going towards Steve’s house.
He never liked the man.
Osi held Dé Nwachukwu’s hand when the old man tuned to reenter the compound.
“Sorry sir, if I may ask, was any piece of clothe found at the site of the other, the other girls?”
Dé Nwachukwu looked at him strangely but frowned as he thought hard.
“The very first girl to be killed had been blindfolded with a piece of rag and there was some kind of clothe around the second girl also, but the third was found in the stream. Wait, why do you ask?”
“Hold on sir, you say the first girl was blindfolded?”
“Yes she was.”
“Can you show me her mother in there? I want to ask her some questions.”
Dé Nwachukwu looked at him strangely, “Are you sure that’s a wise thing to do? You could easily be viewed as the enemy.”
“Please sir. I’d like to speak to her and pray with her, nothing more.”
He believed one doesen’t just wake up and start committing these kind of crimes out of nowhere. There had to be a starting point and a tipping point, a stressor and Osi strongly believed the first victim could answer a lot of unasked questions.
“The crusade is over, you know that? It’s spoilt. Brought to an early end, at least we had a nice service last night,” deacon Oforbuike complained as he attacked his lunch.
They were holed up in the house. The frightening shouts from outside had made the driver bolt the door.
“Samuel hope there’s fuel in the bus? We leave first thing tomorrow” the deacon announced.
Bukky jumped to her feet, “Speak for yourself, sir. I came here to make an impact and I’m not just going to jump and run when they need me the most.”
“Hmmm…I’m writing a report about your attitude, all of you. The Reverend must hear of this disrespect,” the deacon threatened as he pushed his empty plate away.
“The least we can do is wait two more days for the communion service,” Gregory said.
“Who are we to be making plans when our leader isn’t with us?” Ovie asked.
“Pray, do tell me where your so called leader is?” The deacon shouted.
“For God’s sake he found a dead body today.” Bukky shouted back.
The shouting continued, everyone was riled up. Everyone in Amaife was angry, everyone.
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