The Devil Wears Okirika by Kingsley Olanrewaju Efughi
Mama Ozioma was one of the women with the blank stares. She had probably broken down and wept earlier in the month when the devil had started his rampage with her daughter as his opening act and now she just looked drained.
Osi studied her as Pastor Bartholomew rounded up the grace.
She had her back on the wall and she constantly shook her legs and swiped a piece of her wrapper at her legs to ward off the mosquitoes that were quickly descending.
“Good evening, mummy,” Osi greeted her squatting down.
She only looked at him when he said mummy, with a painful look in her eyes and Osi winced as he realized it had been a very bad choice of word.
“I pray the Lord grant your daughter peace in Jesus name.” The woman didn’t reply. She didn’t even look at him again.
Osi could feel stares boring into him from all directions so he hurried up. “Mu- please ma, I need you to tell me about your daughter, how old was she?” No reply.
“Please it’s very important, please, what kind of friends did she have? How did people treat her? Did you notice any strange behaviour before her death?”
The woman looked at him, staring into his eyes for some seconds. She was about to say something when they heard commotion from outside.
Stevenson barged into the compound with such force that he fell to the floor. He sprang up immediately and ran for safety as big pieces of stones sailed in after him.
“What is going on?” Pa Kenneth shouted standing up from the bench.
“They’re after me, they say I’m the killer,” Stevenson shouted, horrified.
His shirt had been torn and his skin had red bruises all over.
The noise grew louder from outside and Osi feared they would storm into the compound and he’d receive a beating.
“What’s going on?” He said to Pastor Bartholomew who had come to stand beside him.
“Don’t worry they won’t come in, it’s a taboo if they do,” the pastor assured him when he sensed his apprehension.
The women who had been embittered few seconds ago began to complain on Steve’s behalf about the ill treatment he had received and Osi marveled when he sat in their middle and they began tending his injuries.
The three elders hurried outside and Osi could hear Dé John’s voice as he addressed the crowd.
The voice of the youths had lessened but there were still cries for justice every now and then as the leaders tried to restore peace.
“But wait, pastor. For how long has he been in the community?”
“Almost a year now.”
“And there never used to be any incidents like this before then?”
“Not at all.”
Back at the house, the shouting had stopped. They had immediately reduced their voices when they heard the chanting of the youths and heard the breaking of sticks on someone’s body and what sounded like the hooves of a thousand rhinos.
They fell silent and during that period each of them must have thought about the situation and calmed down because not a word was argued again. Or maybe it was fear that had calmed them down.
The deacon remained at the dining table, his pen in hand as he wrote what looked like a thousand word composition on a note pad. His report.
No one cared.
Bukky had since returned to her room, the deacon had sent Samuel to his to pack his clothes while Gregory and Ovie remained in the parlour. They were getting worried about their pastor.
“Maybe we should go out and look for him,” Gregory said.
“Okay, good idea, I’d stay here in case he comes but if you see him the both of you should return immediately,” Ovie agreed.
Gregory frowned, “Why don’t we all go together?”
“Hmmm…Okay you and Sammy can go.”
Gregory didn’t bring up the suggestion again instead he said,
“The least we can do is pray for his safety.” They began to pray.
In Pa Kenneth’s compound, Osi was instructed to remain inside with Stevenson and the women while the leaders reasoned with the young men.
“Wait pastor…” He called Pastor Bartholomew, halting him in his tracks as the man neared the gate. “Pastor, I really wish I could speak to them. I’m a youth pastor and I believe I’d know how to relate with them.”
“Hmm, Pastor that would be a terrible idea, please just remain here, see what they did to the Steve,” he nodded towards Steve who sat with the women relaying his ordeal and nursing his wounds. “Not to talk of someone they do not know at all. Maybe later you could speak to them but not right now. There’s too much tension.”
“Okay, I understand. Please do help me inform them about the communion service next tomorrow.”
“Oh. No problem, pastor, please remain inside.” Pastor Bartholomew went outside to join the three wise men, shutting the gate gently behind him.
“Pastor, I heard you say something about communion”
Osi jerked when he heard the voice behind him. He didn’t know when Steve had gotten so close to him.
“Yeah, yes, on Thursday we’d have a communion service.”
“In the market square?”
“Its supposed to be in the church, but the market square might not be a bad idea I’d discuss it with my team and pastor
“No problem, I won’t miss it.”
They were silent for some minutes then Osi asked, “How are you feeling? I know it’s quite painful to be attacked by people you’ve come to see as your family.”
He shrugged casually, “Pastor I’ve spent my whole life studying history and culture. You don’t do that without studying human behaviour critically as well. Trust me it would take a lot to surprise me.”
“Did you know Ozioma?” Osi asked directly.
Stevenson didn’t blink, “Ozioma? Who’s that?”
“The first girl that was murdered.”
“Not really. I can hardly recall her face.”
Okudili was in a vibrant mood. He had hit the white fool the hardest and with the biggest stick and he had been the fastest in chasing him down. He wasn’t paying any attention to the love and unity speech being given by Dé Nwachukwu at the moment.
His eyes caught a familiar jacket and he sauntered towards it with a frown on his face.
“One that does not know the meaning of the rattle of a snake would dance to the sound,” he said as he watched the man with narrowed eyes.
Paul stood with his arms folded across his chest. He looked at the short man in disgust, “I beg your pardon?”
“You are always following Amara like fly follows the tail of a buffalo. Better be careful.”
“What do you mean…what is your business with Amara?”
Okudili looked like he was going to respond with a slap and Paul also looked like he was ready to fight but the voice of Pastor Bartholomew caught their attention.
“The communion would come up the day after tomorrow. Please let us endeavour to be present, it’s our obligation to break bread in remembrance of our Lord.”
The tool that had been used to calm the youths was that the village dibia had been summoned. He was going to expose and/or afflict the killer. He was a powerful native doctor; he would be able to help them. And so they waited while Osi grew uncomfortable and wondered when he would be allowed to leave.
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. If castor beans are chewed and swallowed, then Ricin is released.
If someone swallows a significant amount of the poison, he or she would likely develop vomiting and diarrhea that may become bloody. Severe dehydration may be the result, followed by low blood pressure. Other signs or symptoms may include seizures, and blood in the urine. Within a few days, the person’s liver, spleen, and kidneys might stop working, and the person would die.
Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans.
It can be in the form of a powder, a mist, or a pellet or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid.
The devil had a stash of castor beans from his time in the North and he wondered how it would dissolve in wine, he suspected it would dissolve perfectly.
On Thursday he was going to find out. He had to take care of the tall obstacle.
Osi looked cynically as the dibia wailed like a man in pain and stared hard at pieces of stones and cowries on the ground.
The dibia arrived at the compound just before night fall wrapped up in white cotton with some kind of white powdered substance painted on his body. A young boy of about thirteen accompanied him carrying a folded mat and some other strange items and Osi couldn’t help but wonder about the young lad. The boy looked strikingly farmiliar and he wondered how someone so young could be in this kind of life already. He whispered his thoughts to Pastor Bartholomew who replied him with a look that said silence would be very much appreciated.
The boy spread the mat on the floor and the dibia got down to business. It was a taboo for him to work in the midst of women so the women had since left before the dibia arrived.
Osi wished he could leave too but Pastor Bartholomew had adviced him they wait till night. Stevenson on the other hand looked on; he was intrigued by what was unfolding before his eyes and wished he had a note pad and pen or his camera. He would have to rely on memory. This was priceless information for his book.
“Yeeeee….ooooooo……aaaaaaaa…” the dibia wailed some more then threw a bunch of cowries on the floor and studied it intensely after which he asked for a bowl of water.
Pa Kenneth directed the boy to a keg and the boy proceeded to fill the bowl.
The leaders all looked on eagerly with hope and anticipation on their faces, this was it; they were going to know who the devil was. “Mamaseimamaseimamaseimamaseimamakoosai!”
The dibia looked away from the bowl and nodded to the young boy who spoke in Igbo, “This demon is just like the wind, it is like the breeze. One cannot catch the breeze with a net.”
“Just as one can not see the back of his head with his eyes, this demon can not be seen.”
The young boy intepreted again. The only one who could inteprete the dibia’s words which to Osi was gibberish.
“This is no man. It’s a spirit, we need to appease the spirit, and the gods require a sacrifice.”
When Osi got home, he met the deacon on his high horse as usual, “We are leaving first thing tomorrow morning,” the deacon announced.
“Back to PortHarcourt of course, this crusade is a failure, although it’s not entirely your fault.”
Osi was not in the mood for this, he felt dirty from all what his eyes had seen today, from the dead body then the exercise with the dibia.
He went straight to bed without uttering a word.
The reverend’s call woke him up around two in the morning. He struggled to open his eyes, trying to locate the phone and hitting someone -maybe Gregory- in the face.
“Osi. You were sleeping.”
Osi knew what was coming next and so he said it along with the reverend, “Men ought to pray always and not faint. I know it sir, but yesterday was really overwhelming.”
“Yes, the deacon left some disturbing messages for me. Why don’t you tell me everything that’s going on?”
It was almost Three when Osi ended the call. Talking to the Reverend always seemed to help, he felt energized again as he got up from the bed, he couldn’t sleep again. He knew what he had to do; pray…pray and plan.
“Oga, I don’t want to go. I’d come back,” Samuel assured Osi as he carried the deacon’s bags outside. The deacon was going, they were all staying. They still had five more days remaining for the crusade and they were determined to see it through.
“What do we do now?” Ovie asked as they watched the bus drive away.
“Pastor Bartholomew said the girl would likely be buried this evening, we should help officiate and counsel the family.”
“But before then? What do we do?” Bukky asked, “I’m tired of staying indoors all day.”
“I think you all should stay behind and pray for direction, I feel in my spirit we should prepare to have the Virgil service like we planned tonight.”
They nodded in agreement but then Ovie asked, “Where are you going now?”
Osi stopped at the door, “I have some directions I’d like to explore.”
“You shouldn’t go alone, I’d come with you.”
Dé Nwachukwu and Pa Kenneth awaited the arrival of Dé John in the latter’s compound. Pa Kenneth had a chewing stick in his mouth while Dé Nwachukwu smoked his pipe.
“So we need three native fowls, the head of an alligator, 30 pieces of cocoyam, a pregnant bat and tobacco plants,” pa Kenneth said.
“Hmmm…Old one, it is that tobacco I don’t understand, so the gods smoke?”
Pa Kenneth sighed, “One doesn’t have to be colour blind to take the colour red as yellow, my brother let us do our part and let the dibia do his,” the elderly man advised, “things are getting worse, we need any kind of solution right now.”
Amara refused to let her sister leave the house that morning just as her father instructed.
She turned a deaf ear to Joy’s whining, shouting and rude remarks as her sister threw tantrums.
“Amara you cannot keep me in this house. Esther’s house is not far naa, oya please naa. I won’t be long. It’s not fair. I hate you.”
Amara only chuckled as she busied herself with picking the melon seeds.
She heard someone open the gate of the compound and hurried, thinking it was her sister trying to sneak out.
It was Paul.
“My dear, how are you this morning?” He asked cheerfully.
“I’m fine. What of Oluchi?”
“Oluchi is fine, she’s helping mother with something but she said she’d be here very
Amara nodded and was about to turn but she stopped, she was not one to beat round the bush, never had been, “Paul, please what are you doing here?”
“Why? I came to see you.”
“Please, Paul, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, you know I’m not interested in any form of relationship?”
Paul raised his hands, “Hey, we’re just friends, after what happened yesterday I had to check on you.”
“But you asked my father for my hand, didn’t you?”
“Yes, Amara, because I love you, but we are friends. Friendship comes first.”
She shook her head but suddenly a thought occurred to her,
“Paul, how did you know Chinaza’s father was ill?”
He blinked, “What?”
“Chinaza, the other night you asked her how her father was. How did you know he was sick?”
“Sick, oh. I was catching up with Oluchi about everyone and when I asked about Chinaza she told me.”
Amara frowned, something was still not adding up. Paul was looking at her strangely and she was about to ask him why he had lied to her. His sister had told her just yesterday that he never asked about Chinaza.
Her eyes were drawn to the gate when she heard voices and footsteps from outside. She could see the outline of two pairs of legs from underneath the gate. She yanked the gate open just as the fat pastor had raised his hand to knock. The tall pastor was with him.
“Sorry to disturb you please, is this Dé Nwachukwu’s, you, Amara,” Osi said suprised when he saw her.
“Pastor Osi,” She smiled, “welcome, good morning,” she greeted Ovie.
“Morning, is this Dé Nwachukwu’s house please?”
“Yes, he’s my father. Come in.”
The two men entered the compound and she closed the gate.
Osi noticed the young man frowning at him and offered his hands. The man shook his rather indefferently.
Osi gave Ovie a look his friend didn’t have trouble deciphering; engage this man…I need to talk with the lady.
“Hope your dad is around?” He asked Amara.
“Actually, he stepped out.”
“Okay, I’d like to talk with you then. Just some questions I have, maybe you can help me out.”
“Sure, no problem,” she took his hand, “let’s go inside.”
“Actually we were…” Paul began to say but his protest was cut short by Ovie.
“Mister, the Lord didn’t bring me here by chance, I have a special word for you today…”
And so Ovie held Paul back opening his bible to read a scripture while the young man looked at Amara and Osi as they entered the house.
“Would you like anything to eat or drink?”
“No. I had breakfast not too long ago.”
“Okay, you wanted to see my father?”
“Yes. I spoke with him yesterday,” Osi’s eyes flew round the sitting room and rested on a charcoal drawing of a woman.
She looked like an older version of Amara, she was beautiful and the artist had managed to capture the intensity in her eyes.
“You saw my father yesterday?” Amara said, whenever a young man saw her father it was always for one reason. This time she was surprised she wouldn’t mind at all.
“Yes,” Osi tore his eyes from the painting and focused on the younger version.
“Yes, erm…about Ozioma, the first girl to be killed, did you know her very well?”
“Oh, we were friends, really good friends.”
She and Oluchi had been the closest but Ozioma had been their friend, along with Ezinne and Maama, their little group used to do a lot of things together until one afternoon a farmer had gone to till his soil and found her dead body partially buried. Wicked things had been done to her.
Amara’s eyes grew misty as she remembered and Osi felt bad, “I’m very sorry to bring it up. I just have a strong feeling that a very important clue lies in her murder.”
She looked at him strangely. “I thought you are a pastor?”
“I am, or I hope so but I feel this urge in my heart and I need to find out about her.”
When she was silent he got up, “If you don’t feel like talking about it I understand, I’m sorry.”
“No, its fine. What do you want to know?”
The Devil Wears Okirika
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