Writer, Poet, Social Commentator
CONTINUED FROM PART ONE – http://wp.me/p3Ozd6-6p
The black chicken watched carefully as the six of her speckled chicks pecked at the grains she had dug up on the side of road. This was a luxury. Hers was perhaps the only feathered flock in Victoria Garden City, Lekki that still had its freedom. She proudly surveyed her chicks enjoying their feeding frenzy, but they had to move on. She had to go and find new food for them across the road. She stood by the edge of the road and scanned it for a few minutes then ran across.
The bus didn’t swerve. It crushed her bones and her skull, in one swift climb. She died with only one thought: why did she cross the road?
Jolomi hissed as he climbed over the chicken. Damned chicken, he cursed and swerved unto Road 54. He stopped before an impressive marbled walled house and jumped out of the Ford Ecoline van. The van was now covered with campaign posters for a Hair Product. Many beautiful half-dressed ladies posed in various positions, displaying their long legs and well toned bodies, all for a hair product. The bus attracted everybody’s attention and everyone perused the ladies displayed on its side; no one gave Jolomi a glance.
The house was huge, the compound more so. The paved floor directed entrants to various parts of the compound, while carpets of green covered all other areas of the house. The reflection of the setting sun, on the shiny brown marble walls, danced on the paved floor as a butler escorted Jolomi to the cottage behind the main house. He walked slowly conscious of the watchful eyes of the Three Doberman guard dogs basking in the sun. At the corner of the compound, four members of the paramilitary arm of the Nigeria Police Force hung around a small thatched roof marquee; their well-starched Mobile Police uniforms gave them an impressive look. Jolomi nodded across to them as one of them strolled across to him and searched him. Jolomi surrendered his Beretta and silencer before stepping unto the porch of the cottage.
The man in the living room was dressed in khaki shorts and a T-shirt. He had a book in his hands. He had paused from reading it, to follow a discussion on CNN. He acknowledged Jolomi’s presence with a raised eyebrow and only grunted when Jolomi bowed his head in greeting. He dropped the book in his hands: Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ and waved Jolomi to a seat beside him as he continued to follow Richard Quest’s financial projections of Africa’s economy and the role of the banking sector. Eventually he grunted and turned to face Jolomi.
It was a raspy and deep voice, unsettling the air with the scent of cigar. Jolomi could not look him in the face.
“Otunba, I have the girl,” Jolomi began. “She is at No. 14. I haven’t started working on her yet. What do you want me to do?”
The man he called Otunba grunted and rubbed his smooth round head. No matter how hard he tried, his sixty-five years was evident in the crow’s feet on the outer corner of his eyes, the greying of his beard and the flaccid pot belly underneath his T-shirt. He reclined in his seat, looking into the expensive African Blackwood ceiling.
“Break her. I want to know how she knew.”
To catch a criminal is a difficult thing, more so in a country like Nigeria and worse still in Lagos. With over fifteen million people and counting, including the regular tow of incoming and outgoing “Marcopolo buses”, finding a person who wanted to stay hidden was almost impossible for the unmotivated. It was like finding a needle in a haystack.
But Inspector Fadiga was motivated. He did not believe in age-old myths. He totally agreed with the “Mythbusters” that modern technology can render the phrase “like finding a needle in a haystack” obsolete. There were three ways he was going to find this needle: by Fire, Wind and Water.
It had been two days since the death of Corporal Musa. The burial had taken place the evening of the same day and in accordance with Muslim rights, as Musa would have wanted it. Koiki did not attend the burial; he could not bear it. The guilt he bore weighed him down. Even if everyone thought he was a hero by killing one of the assailants, he knew better. He could have handled the situation much better and Musa would still have been alive.
He sat at his desk staring at the inscriptions on his ‘crime board’: the caption was simple and clear, ‘Catch Talatu Ndeda’.
His office was fairly large. It was meant for 2 inspectors but since LEAD was still recruiting, he had the office to himself. There was a mini fridge at the end of the wood finish floor. A Samsung 32-inch screen TV adorned the wall, right next to the Crime Board. There were two lockers in the room where he kept his personal effects. He couldn’t ask for better.
Stella peeked into his office and handed him some papers. She was a petite, pretty lady attached to LEAD by the National Youth Service Corps. She doubled as Receptionists and Secretary to the Inspectors. The moment he collected the papers, she turned to go.
“Hey, hold it” Koiki called after her, “what about the TV and Radio placement reports?”
“It’s all in there, inspector. At least read it first; and don’t thank me yet, you owe me lunch.” She shouted her response as she walked away.
He shook his head, and smiled. She wanted lunch out of his meagre salary. Funny girl. He glanced through the sheets of paper, scanned the alerts to be placed on TV and radio. There were two mug shots at the end with “WANTED” headings. The first one was of a beautiful smiling lady. He lingered a little staring into Talatu’s face before looking at the last picture; a hand sketched photo of Jolomi, those deep black eyes and the brutish look. The artist had done a fine job of reproducing the features as Koiki could remember. In a few minutes these pictures would be on all the Local TV Stations, on street walls and there would be hourly alerts announced on radio stations. Someone had to know something. He wasn’t very hopeful though, as Nigerians were not too eager to come forward with information, but he had faith. This was Fire.
It was time to go and stir up some dust. He shut the door from the inside and slipped out of his tie and blue shirt. If he was going to go underground, he couldn’t be looking like James Bond. He changed into a pair of baggy jeans and grey hooded sweatshirt. He sat down to lace on his black sneakers and surveyed himself in the reflection from his window. He looked the part.
He took one glance across his office, picking up the remote to turn off the Television. He paused a little to listen to the vibrant young Presidential Candidate of the Democratic Alliance Party, speaking as a guest on a programme;
“The country is in the process of Change… we can’t stop now! It’s ironic, at times like this you pray, but a bomb blew the mosque up yesterday. There are bombs in the buses, bikes, roads, inside your market, your shops, and your clothes. My friends, you have got a lot of fear I know But enough pride inside not to let that show. Meanwhile, our leaders just talk away, Stuttering and mumbling at every nightly news replay and the rest of the country watching at the end of the day, all scared and angry like ‘What are they saying’?”
He turned off the TV.
Talatu was scared, not of the darkness but of the thoughts that evaded her mind. She wasn’t sorry for what she was doing but she didn’t want to die; didn’t plan for it. She had a fair idea who her abductors were. She had thought them to be her rescuers. She had been happy to escape the police at first, but now she desperately needed them. She needed to get in touch with the inspector. Inspector Fadiga; for a moment she forgot about her surroundings, allowing herself remember how she toyed with him, coy and subtle, already knowing what he was up to. She remembered the look of surprise in his face when she mentioned his name, wondering how she had known. How had she known? She was not sure anymore. The text message just said, ‘…don’t trust him, he is a policeman. His name is Inspector Fadiga.’ Now she was really confused.
She wasn’t sure what they were going to do with her but she knew they wanted the money, but they couldn’t get the money from her, they needed others first. She was just a part of the whole. Even Inspector Fadiga was clueless! How could he think she was the leader of Pyramid? She shook her head in disdain. The police could not even do a proper investigation. But she was doing the right thing. This was exactly why the country needed something drastic, something worth dying for.
She heard steps outside the door and pretended to be asleep. Jolomi opened the door and turned on the lights. The room was large and bare. A metal six-spring bunk with a mattress was placed right in the centre under the bulb that had now been turned on. Talatu lay on the bed. There was a wooden chair at a corner. There were thick grey drapes preventing the sun from getting in through the windows. The room had nothing else. It was not hard to see that someone was trying hard to make the room look harsh but it was part of a modern house. Jolomi was carrying a tray with a plate of food and a sachet of ‘Pure Water’. He set the tray on the floor and dragged the chair across to side of the bed. He tapped Talatu awake from her slumber and unlocked the cuffs on her hands.
“Eat and then we talk.” He sat in front of her, watching as she rubbed her wrists, trying to adjust her eyes to the bright light.
“Why are you doing this?” She asked, afraid.
He ignored her questions. She seemed genuinely unaware of the reason she was held captive. He was going to enjoy breaking this one he thought. His lips curled with mischief as he remembered how her face initially displayed surprise, shock, then outright fear, when she realised she had literally jumped from fry pan to fire. The moment they turned the corner leading to No. 14, he could see her panic. She was still cuffed with the police cuffs and could not do anything. He had ignored all her questions and concerns until he applied the chloroform and dumped her here. Like a caged bird he had prodded and poked her until her senses deadened, her fear in full control. The occurrence with the police was an unfortunate one. He had intended to kill both policemen but the inspector escaped. He would have liked to break the Inspector’s face when the Inspector first grabbed his shirt. There was nothing he could do about that now. He won’t be seeing the Inspector again. He watched her sniff at the food, scared. He laughed. If only she knew what she had coming, she would ask for poison.
No. 14 was a dangerous place.
In the Swearing in Ceremony of May 29, 2007, Lagos State, welcomed its 13th Administrator/ Governor and with him came the exorcism of Lagos State’s finest slums and hoodlums. First, it was Oshodi, Obalende, and then Mushin; but in the ebbing years of the Governor’s eight-year tenure, it spread to Ajah, Okokomaiko, Abule-Egba and other notorious neighbourhoods. Consequently, the criminals went underground. They formed gathered in a new colony called No. 14, in honour of the one who was to come after their arch nemesis. Unfortunately for the residents of No. 14, the new Governor continued the good work of his predecessor. They were locked in, hurt and dangerous.
No. 14 was a dangerous place. It consisted of large portions of Fadeyi area, stretching along Ikorodu Road. The police only went in there when necessary and heavily armed. No policeman dared to wander there for any reason, except the corrupt ones. There were many undercover officers of the police operating in No. 14 but their discovery always led to public executions.
Koiki Fadiga sauntered along Akinola Street, Fadeyi, in his sagged baggy jeans and grey shirt, with the hood on. His ‘area boy waka’ was very authentic. The different groups of young men in various criminal activities only paused long enough to certify his street credibility. There was gambling everywhere enveloped in the smell of marijuana. The prostitutes didn’t need to hide here. They approached him in throngs but he was there for only one woman. The marijuana merchant with the stall at the end of the road watched wide-eyed as the Inspector strolled to his stall and ordered a joint. He ignored the Inspector and attended to two teenagers who purchased several wraps of marijuana. The Inspector drummed his fingers on the wooden counter, resisting the urge to arrest the teenagers. When they were alone the merchant eyed the Inspector.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” the Merchant hissed. He was a slim quiet looking man with a thick moustache that made him look like Charlie Chaplin. He was an undercover agent with the Police.
The Inspector just smiled and brought out the mug shots and pointed at Talatiu’s photo. The Merchant shook his head and sighed.
“No, I am not touching this one. Please. Do you know how long I’ve held this cover? Nah, nah don’t try to convince me Koiki.”
“Come on, just point me in the right direction. I need to find this girl.”
“I’m not sure you know what you think you are doing, but this is No.14; you can get both of us killed. What if someone recognises you?” The merchant was beginning to panic.
“Look Kunle, you owe me and you know it. I need to get this girl. I need a car too, something I can get away with if things go south.”
“Oh my, I always knew that event was going to come bite me in the butt, you foolish hothead, strutting around like you are in Ikoyi.” The merchant took a surreptitious look at the photos again.
“Nope, I don’t know the girl. Never seen her.” There was relief evident in his voice.
“Are you sure?” Koiki asked, watching the merchant intently. The merchant seemed convinced.
“Hmmmmm, Okey dokey, artichokey. I guess I will just keep looking around then.” Koiki gathered up the photos and folded them into his jacket, openly flashing his Glock; guns were commonplace at No.14. He picked up a wrap of marijuana and started off in the direction of a group of young boys rolling dice.
“Wait!” The merchant stepped out of his stall and walked towards Inspector Fadiga. He whispered, “You asked only about the girl, but I have seen him the man in the drawing.”
“Where?” Fadiga asked his pulse racing.
“Don’t get too excited, man, people are watching from everywhere.” The merchant tapped the Inspector lightly on the shoulder, smiling for all to see, like they were having light conversation.
“I don’t know his name, but if you take the next turn to your left unto Ayonuga Street and then the first right unto New Balogun Street, you will see a block of green flats. He lives there.”
The Inspector turned to leave but the merchant stopped him. “You didn’t hear this from me.”
The Inspector nodded.
This was wind
The music was loud, the smoke thick, the lady was sprawled face down, her hands and legs were spread wide and fastened to the four corners of the six-spring bed. The scene was a graphic replica of a Quentin Tarantino movie. There was blood on the floor but she didn’t know from where she was bleeding. Her sides hurt from some broken ribs and her face was swollen. Jolomi danced around the bed, bare chest, holding in one hand a wrap of marijuana and in the other a horse whip; he was enjoying himself. This pretty damsel was going to spill her guts when he was done. His phone rang.
“Hello?” he barked into the phone.
“Jay Man, heads up, someone is coming up to your apartment.” The phone went dead.
Jolomi quickly turned off the light in the room and dashed to the sitting room of his apartment. It was a modestly furnished room, with bare necessities. The sitting room was dimly lit, the windows panes were tinted black; a pool table, occupied most of the room. His large sofa sat in front of his 54-inch Samsung Smart 3D TV, backing the pool table; it was one of the new hi-tech products that had motion sensors and mood detection capabilities. It was his pride. He snuck behind the front door just in time to hear the creaking sounds of someone trying to pick the lock to his apartment. He pulled out his Beretta from the back of his Jeans and waited. There was a click and the door swung inwards slowly. He saw a grey hood peep through the door looking around the dim lighting of the sitting room. The hooded person tiptoed cautiously into the apartment. Jolomi stepped out from behind the door and moved silently behind the person. He placed the barrel of his gun on the hood and the person froze. He turned the person around and was shocked to see the face of a teenager.
Inspector Fadiga sprang unto Jolomi’s back and knocked the Beretta off his hand. He tried to choke Jolomi in a Chil sik sul but Jolomi responded swiftly with a Paegi, flinging the inspector over his back and unto the Pool Table. The Inspector rolled quickly off the table as Jolomi’s fist came crashing down where his skull had been seconds ago. The Teenager scrambled away to the side of the sofa as Jolomi found one of the cue sticks leaning by the pool table and attacked the Inspector. The Inspector raised his hands in a Chookya Makgi, as Jolomi swiped hard severally with the Cue stick aiming for the Inspector’s head. As the cue stick smashed to pieces, Koiki reached for his Glock in his jacket and shot at Jolomi’s shoulder. The sound was deafening and the teenager screamed. Jolomi stopped for a moment, looking at his, bloodied shoulder.
“You want the girl, eh?” Jolomi drawled his voice exposing the amount of marijuana he had consumed “You will never get out of here alive.”
“Leave that to me, you fool. I should kill you right here you know? But I think you will enjoy being locked away forever.” The Inspector stepped up to Jolomi and smacked him in the head knocking him to the ground.
“Now where is Talatu? Where is that innocent looking criminal who thinks she can escape the law?”
Jolomi hissed and laughed, nodding in the direction of the room.
“She is all yours, Inspector, or whatever is left of her”
The inspector handcuffed Jolomi’s hands behind him and dragged him up.
“Lead the way”, he ordered.
Jolomi walked towards the room, but the inspector stopped him and turned towards the teenager, pulling out his wallet.
“Here”, he offered the boy a Thousand Naira note, “Keep watching the door. Let me know if you see or hear anything.”
He prodded Jolomi towards the room. The pungent smell of marijuana in the room was choking but it was the Inspector’s eyes that widened in shock at the sight of Talatu spread-eagle on the bed.
“What have you done to her?” the Inspector was confused.
“You have no ide what is going on here, do you now, Inspector Fadiga?” the mockery in Jolomi’s voice was obvious. Koiki smacked him in the head again.
“Sit down” Koiki ordered Jolomi to the seat at the corner of the room and leaned over Talatu. She was not moving but he could see the gentle rise and fall of her body. She was alive. He unfastened the ropes on her legs and hands, and turned her over, keeping an eye on Jolomi who was eyeing him from the corner, in open contempt. Her face was swollen and her clothes had caked with blood. He tried to sit her up and heard her mumble several incoherent words. His mind was racing with possibilities and uncertainties but he was sure he had to get her out of Jolomi’s apartment.
The inspector knew he could only leave with one person. He removed his jacket and wrapped it around Talatu’s shoulders and tried to bring her to consciousness. She wasn’t responding. He set her on the bed and walked towards Jolomi.
“OGA! OGA!!” the teenager screamed from the sitting room. “Somebody is knocking the door!”
“It’s your lucky day, but I will get you.” He smashed Jolomi at the temple with the butt of his Glock, knocking him unconscious. He searched through Jolomi’s pockets and took his wallet. Then he went into the sitting room, signalling to the teenager to be quiet. There was banging on the door again.
“Who is there?” Koiki asked.
“It’s me. Please open quickly.”
The Inspector recognized the voice of the merchant and opened the door. The merchant didn’t waste any time.
“You need to leave this place now. A Gunshot was heard from this apartment and everyone is wondering what’s going on. You are lucky the owner of the apartment has been known to be quite trigger happy.”
“I need your help.” Koiki sighed and led the merchant to the room.
The merchant quickly surveyed the situation and assessed what needed to be done. He was used to working under extreme pressure and tightrope situations.
“We need to get these people out of here. All of them.”
The Merchant was giving the instructions now.
“Can you carry the girl?” He asked. Koiki nodded. “Okay, let the kid help me here, we need to get this big brute out of here. I have a van waiting at the back of the building. You take it and get out of here”
Koiki lifted Talatu from the bed in foetal position. He felt a pang in his chest as he examined her swollen face. The bile rose in his mouth at the thought of what she had endured at the hands of Jolomi.
The teenager and the merchant struggled to carry Jolomi’s huge frame out of the room. Koiki called the merchant.
“Hey man, Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it Koiki.” The merchant replied. “You saved my life once. This is my payment.”
The van was a white Toyota HI-ace bus, with panelled windows. The merchant reversed it so that it was backed into the rear service door of the Jolomi’s apartment building. They dumped Jolomi and Talatu in the back. Their legs and hands had been tied.
“Where did you find the kid?” the merchant asked Koiki.
“I just met him around the corner and promised to pay him.” He noticed the merchant’s worried look. “Don’t worry, I don’t think he will talk. But you may want to keep an eye out for him. He did well today.”
The merchant scratched his beard, looking at the boy who was sitting on the culvert, beside the house.
“You know your way out, Inspector?” he asked. Koiki nodded. “Then get the hell out of this place.”
The inspector got into the bus, revved the engine and drove towards Ereko Street. He was going to head towards the Government Primary School and out from Idi-Oro. He looked through the rear view mirror at the merchant talking to the teenager. Satisfied, he stepped on the gas as the radio announced that the Law Enforcement and Avoidance Department of the Nigeria Police, was on the hunt for two people. The announcer went on to give descriptions of the people.
Inspector Fadiga smiled to himself, there was no need for the alert any more. He had found his needle in the haystack. This was water.
********************* To Be Continued *****************************