For everyone who missed when I first published this, I’m sharing this first episode of Biyankavitch again. There was a major downtime from my host and I lost some posts. I apologize for the inconvenience.
The gangly policeman who wore his beret on his forehead and went about with droopy shoulders was going to kill somebody tonight. It didn’t matter who. He was going to wrap long fingers around somebody’s neck and smother them for waking him up from a much-desired nap. He hadn’t winked an eye in three days. From a sick toddler, to a troublesome wife, a desk plagued with cases and a boss that ordered him around like an errand boy, the man had had to endure more than he normally took. The station was understaffed and so he found himself doing the job of two or more police officers. Sometimes, it felt like he was carrying the workload of all the policemen in Nigeria. He constantly bore a sleepy face which came off mostly angry. Or maybe he was always angry. No one could tell. He didn’t talk much. He just went about his business in his characteristically quiet manner, doing what he was told. Doing much more than what he was told.
“One day, I go just fall down, die for here,” he had said somewhat loudly a couple of hours ago when the DPO sent him down the street to the woman who sold akara and fried yam. “Una go just carry my dead bodi. I fit die now sef.”
No one paid him any mind. He was sometimes considered insane. The kids in the neighborhood called him mahaukachi, mad man. It didn’t bother him. He knew everyone believed something was wrong with his head. He believed the same, but didn’t have the strength to find out what the problem was. He had stopped bothering about things he couldn’t change a long time ago. He was simply waiting for the day he would cease to exist. He looked forward to it with much anticipation. A fast moving car would be a quick way. Maybe a stray bullet from an armed robber in a gun battle with his more capable colleagues. Poison would be painful, an illness too expensive. The best would be just to sleep and never wake up. He had always wondered how that would happen. It was while going into these thoughts after returning from his akara errand that he rested his head on the counter and went into a nap.
At first he wasn’t dreaming. His mind floated freely in space and nothingness. And then images begin to fill themselves in little by little. A house here, a shoe there, a car elsewhere – his dream came to life in his subconscious. No wearisome wife, no sick son, no police station. He had finally arrived. But just as he began smiling into his nirvana, he heard a shout, and another and more voices.
He lifted his head slowly, eyes still snapped shut, holding on to the dream that was rapidly vanishing. He hissed, slapped off a mosquito from his neck and hissed again before his eyelids lifted off his view. A dirty wall which once was painted sky blue glumly stared back at him. He hissed one more time, picking his beret off the counter. Particles of the bitter kola he had chewed earlier had leached out of the gaping spaces between his teeth while he slept. He felt them now on his gums. His tongue did a sweep of them and slapped them back on his molars for one last chew before he swallowed.
Outside, the voices that had roused him up continued. He wasn’t interested in knowing what the commotion was, but he hated that his colleagues would regale him with some boring tale later in a manner that would leave the famous Chimamanda Adichie feeling inadequate as a storyteller.
He dragged his long limbs outside, flailing away another mosquito that was buzzing past his ear. His colleagues were crouched over a spot, speaking animatedly.
“This one na hospital get am o!” someone exclaimed, voice louder than the rest. Our dear friend ventured on slowly, blocking his ears to the other voices. He wanted a firsthand account from what his eyes would tell him. Long ago, when he was a fresh recruit in the police force with high dreams of becoming the inspector general, he had fancied himself a Sherlock Holmes of some sort, picking out details others overlooked, using his eyes alone to piece together a story. These days, he didn’t care to think too hard. His eyes saw, his mind drew its conclusions, either right or wrong. He never bothered to correct himself afterwards. In his head, he had solved the mystery and that was enough.
He shoved forward, making way between two colleagues, and thus he pushed his head through. Lying almost unconscious on the ground was a young man, handsome and well-off in appearance. The story was that he had been caught stealing from an old woman who sold black market petrol by the roadside. A crowd would have almost lynched him had not a policeman on patrol intervened. The thief was badly wounded, needing medical care, but the policemen on duty were more interested in questioning him.
Our gangly cop, having fed his eyes enough, found his way back behind the counter. But the DPO who had been looking for him had another errand he needed him to attend to.
“Take this money to my wife,” he instructed, throwing a few thousands on the counter. “Tell her to use it for the thing she said she wanted to use it for.” He dropped an extra thousand. “Buy me sangria on your way back.”
Exhausted, sleepy, our friend started out again.
“Dey walk like man nau, Falade! Why you dey drag leg like woman?” the DPO shouted. His words fell on stone as Falade continued to count his steps out of the building. He walked past the crowd and onto the street. There was darkness in the neighborhood, brought on by an electrical blackout. A few buildings and shops had their generators on. The buzzing nightlife of the quiet town breezed past him as did the warm breeze that blew wearily. Conversations in Hausa and different local dialects dotted the air. Falade strode on, unaffected by the world around him. He walked too close to the road. Cars and bikes avoided him. No one had the mind to knock down a policeman. Perhaps, they all now knew him not to be of sane mind.
The DPO’s residence was a good distance away, in a secluded area. Falade knew he ought to take a bike back and forth, but he was in a mood to punish himself. He ignored his ringing phone (certain it was his boss calling to remind him not to trek the entire distance) and kept walking. In a little while he was away from the busy street and was trudging a path that was hardly used by motorists, fringed by reedy stalks of wild plants that stretched to expanses on either side, dotted by the occasional tree and building. He was talking to himself again, grouching about how much he had spent on his son’s health that week alone. Life was a lot cheaper in Shagamu where he came from. He had relied on native doctors for healthcare, saving himself money he hardly ever had. In this place, one couldn’t trust the northern man’s herbal remedies. He didn’t think the people looked healthy to him. There was always one twisted limb or shrunken hand. Too many diseases in these parts.
Falade heard a car coming behind him. It added to his annoyance as he made up his mind not to get out of the path until he came to the junction that was just a few paces ahead.
Headlamps from the car which neared him now lit up the path before him. Stubbornly he kept his pace and trail. The car came close. He waited for the sound of a horn, but all he heard was the soft hum of a sound engine. Falade was tempted to turn around. He could tell that the car had decelerated.
He continued, as did the car. It began to trouble him that there was no move by the person driving to get him out of the way.
“Why this one dey follow me now?”
And then Falade gave break to his feet, turning a little to view the car. But brightness from the headlamps and a hint that the vehicle was painted black was the most he could get. He also noticed that the car had stopped. He stepped back a little.
“You dey craze? Dey go jare!”
He waved to his left like a traffic warden, instructing the car to drive on. But it remained there.
“I say dey go!”
Nothing happened. Falade felt the first signs of fear creep in.
The engine suddenly died. The headlamps went out, and it was only then Falade realized how dark the night was. The moon and the stars had chosen to be shy tonight. His head prompted him to keep on his journey, but his training kept him curious.
“Get out of that car!” he barked, annoyed that he felt apprehension. He didn’t expect a response. He almost jumped when the door opened and a figure emerged from the vehicle. Tall, black and…female?
His annoyance went up a notch and just as he was about to make a derogatory statement about it, blinding lights from the female assaulted him.
“Falade Otubanjo,” she mentioned. Her voice fell upon him, deep and eerie. “Second son of Ayepola Otubanjo, only son of Ashake Ajala, grandson of Matthew Otubanjo, native of Laogun. You are a long way from home.”
Her words were in Yoruba. They sent shivers through him.
“Ehn?” he responded. “Who are you?”
“Today, your life changes.”
“I say who are you?!”
“Get into the car, Falade.”
“Car keh? Are you mad? Remove that torch from my face young woman before I arrest you! Who are you talking to like that? You don’t have respect?!”
“I seriously don’t have time for this. Get into the car.”
“Who are you?”
And without warning, the light on his face went dark. At the same time, he saw himself falling to the ground, the world around him shutting out.
Falade opened his eyes a short while later, but he wasn’t sure how long he had been out. The earth beneath him felt hard and rough. His mouth tasted of dust. It took a few seconds for his sight to adjust to his strange surroundings. There was hardly anything to see save for a door-less entrance to his right and a window to his left. It appeared he was in an uncompleted building with no roof.
Falade tried to get up but the sound of approaching footsteps stopped him. He looked up and a pair of long legs stretched upwards to reveal the female he had encountered a short while ago. This time, he was silent. Maybe this was the day of his death. Whatever she wanted of him, she could have. She had shown that she was no regular female.
“I have a couple of gifts for you,” she continued in Yoruba. A bundle of one thousand naira notes dropped to the floor before him. “Use this to take care of your son and buy yourself new shoes.”
Falade looked at the money and upwards again.
“The second gift is in that room.”
He saw her hand pointing to the left. His eyes followed it and found another room where a man was lying on the floor as he was, but with hands and feet apparently bound. He could tell that the person was writhing in pain.
“Imam Gazali,” the female said. “A highly sought-after Qari, stationed at the Masallacin Juma’a. He’s been responsible for defiling the little girls that hawk around during the day. He has done this for years and gotten away with it. One or two reports were brought to your station but the DPO received cash beneath the table and killed the cases. Tonight, those innocent girls have gotten their justice and Imam Gazali is willing to confess to all his crimes to save his life. Or else, I will haunt him down and finish what I have started. I leave him in your hands, Falade. I expect to see his face splashed all over the news tomorrow. Is that understood?”
“Hm?” Falade looked at her.
“Do you understand, sir?”
“In return, I would expect you to report similar cases like this, brought to your counter, to me. I will pay you handsomely. Goodnight.”
Falade lifted himself the instant she turned away. He wanted to have a glimpse of her, but all he got was a back view that revealed a slim frame with a curvy figure, dressed completely in black. He soon heard the sound of her car and dashed to the window. He saw nothing but dust rising into the air in the wake of her disappearance. The experience left his heart pounding and had him wondering if it wasn’t all a dream.
He remembered the money and the imam. He grabbed the money off the floor, taking out his phone from his pocket. He turned on the flashlight and directed it on the imam. The man was in his underwear, bruised and terrified. He stared at Falade with wide, petrified eyes as he approached him. He began to whimper, speaking gibberish in Hausa. However, it was not his words that interested Falade. It was the injury he bore on his chest. For a second, Falade could only see blood and a deep, consistent cut. But when he peered closer, he found himself looking at an inscription.
“B?” he muttered. That was all he saw. B.
And then it came to him, filling him with fear and excitement at the same time. He had just met with the fabled Black Winch. The one people believed walked through walls, disappeared and appeared at will, moved about only at night, and of course, possessed other supernatural powers. The punisher of filth amongst men. Most dreaded amongst women. But mostly believed to be a myth. And because she didn’t strike all the time, people like Falade had refused to accept the stories about her existence, not even with glaring photos online, of her victims, marked by her.
Today, however, his eyes had seen and his ears had heard. The Black Winch was real.
The clock struck 12 when I got home. Time was told to me with a little beeping of my watch. When I peered at it, the word ‘midnight’ blinked at me. I smiled in the dark. I loved when things went the way I planned them.
I unlocked the door and walked into the cold, dark apartment that was my home. I shut the door and leaned on it, taking the air in as I kicked out of my shoes. I unzipped my jacket too. It had water stains on it. A light shower had begun outside a few minutes ago and I had gotten some of it. I had wanted to stay a little longer just to feel the rain. It was my thing to stand outside while it rained. It was one of the pleasures I missed about childhood.
I slipped out of my jeans and t-shirt and walked into my bedroom with just my underwear. Cooler air welcomed me in. I always loved my room precooled before I slept, but tonight, I hadn’t turn on the air conditioner here before leaving. This was somebody’s handiwork, and I could see his scrumptious male form sprawled on my bed as my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room.
“Where are you coming from?” he asked.
“From walking to and fro the earth,” I answered, sauntering to the bed with the relish of a woman who had not been with a man in a long time. When I got on top of the bed, I got on top of him too.
“Six months, Lanre. Six long months.”
He lifted himself to have his lips meet mine. Our kiss was fierce and gluttonous. If we could swallow each other’s mouths we could have done so.
He flipped me over and I spread open my legs to have him rest between them.
“Six months,” I repeated. “Or did you choose her?”
“Her? Who are you talking about?”
He shifted my thong and pushed the entire length of his dick into me. Twenty-one years of sex and I was yet to get used to the moment of first entry. It always came with pain and the face of the man who had forced himself into me at my tender age. Looking up at Lanre now, I saw the bastard – dead eyes, grey brows and sparkling white teeth. But Lanre lowered his face on mine and breathed me in. Pulling me to him while his fingers dug into the virgin curls of my hair as he put his lips on mine again.
“I’ve missed you, B,” he whispered, kissing me. “Don’t leave me again.”
But it was he who had left me for another. Not that I minded. We could never be together. Not with what we were. Not with the jobs we did. We would continue sharing special moments like this until our grey years met us. Maybe then we would settle down with each other. It was not love that brought us together. Mutual loneliness did.
Tonight, Lanre and I fucked. We didn’t make love. We never did that. It was always savage and nasty, but deeply satisfying. Afterwards, we would sit and talk. We always talked. That was where the bond lay. We understood each other more than we wanted to admit. This night, however, Lanre wasn’t talking. He was brooding. I was mixing him something to drink.
“I’m moving back to base,” I told him. “Of course you know that.”
He had his face to the ceiling, long legs stretched out to the end of the bed. His toes were pressing into the headboard. He said nothing in reply to the words I had just said.
I served him a glass of coke and rum, with a slice of lemon tossed in.
“She left me,” he muttered. “Got married to some white dude without telling me. Her reason was that I was hiding things.”
“Aren’t we all?”
“Don’t, B. Don’t make light of my pain.” He chewed ice in his mouth angrily. He was heartbroken. The woman he talked about had been deeply loved by him.
“Nothing to be sorry about.”
He drank all I had given him and tugged me towards him. “I’ll be happy to have you back at base, B. Maybe we can pretend we don’t do what we do and that we live normal lives, and then we’ll just get married and have kids.”
“It’s your broken heart speaking, Lanre. You know we can’t be normal. Not even if we eloped to some romantic island somewhere and forgot about this life here. We can never be normal.”
He gritted his teeth and pulled me close. I wrapped my arms around him to soothe him in a cuddle. I understood his pain. I had been there, and I was soon going to face it one last time.
Lanre and I fucked again. All through the night. At noon the following day, he began to help me pack my things.
“I have an apartment all to myself in Lagos. Maybe you could come, live with me?”
“With you? Isn’t that against the rules or something?”
“You’re working undercover, aren’t you? I could be your undercover brother.”
“My brothers are my undercover brothers.”
“Not like they know.”
I laughed. Lanre came behind me and swept me off the floor and into his arms to kiss me. It was a tender moment for both of us, one of those times when either of us could have easily uttered the L word.
He let me down and we continued packing. I had a new life waiting for me. I couldn’t afford to let my emotions get in the way.
By 3 p.m. we both stopped for air. I picked my phone and dialed for pizza while Lanre picked his to catch up on the latest happenings online.
“Another one bites the dust,” he said as I entered the bathroom for a shower.
“The Black Winch. She strikes again. Some Imam in Keffi.”
“What was his crime?”
“Child molestation. He has a record of more than ten years. That’s insane.”
I gave no reply.
“She branded him on his chest. Her last victim got branded on his forehead.” Lanre sounded amused but he said no more about the Black Winch. I enjoyed my shower until the lunch guy showed up. When I stepped out of the bedroom, I found photos of the imam Lanre had spoken about on the different laptop and plasma screens in my bedroom. He was leaning on my reading table which was basically a worktop for the numerous gadgets I loved to toy around with.
Lanre was holding my phone.
“I thought you said you were done with this vigilante shit, B.”
“I never said that. I said I was taking a break.”
“Somebody is going to be on your case soon.”
“This is Nigeria. Nobody cares.”
“Give it up.”
Lanre dropped my phone. I watched him walk around in circles. He was appealing to gaze at, with all that burly formation and brooding eyes marked by bushy eyebrows. He was my boss and my lover. My friend and hero. He could be much more, but like I said, what we did was never going to let us lead normal lives.
He stopped and looked at me.
“I admire the fact that you want to save the world from scum, but heroes are meant only for comic books. Too bad you’ve had your head in those comics for so long you can’t tell reality from fiction.”
“The world needs people like me. Think of all the evil we can erase…”
“We can’t, B. For good to live, evil must strive. You can’t fix all the world’s ills. You just can’t.”
His words met heedless ears.
They say men are scum. I say I eat scum. For dinner mostly. I get hungry and angry after a long day’s work and wander off into the dark to snack on the filth of the earth. You know them – rapists, wife beaters, misogynistic worms, the type of men your typical Nigerian mother warned you about, but ended up marrying, and then begged you to marry so you don’t become a lonely, childless, bitter spinster.
I enjoyed when the pigs begged for mercy, after I brought their frothing bigoted egos to nothing. I’m not sure there’s some deep thrill that comes with what I do in the shadows. It’s more of a special kind of appetite I have that never gets gratified. I just get hungrier and angrier, prowling the dark like the proverbial She-devil, looking for whom to devour. And in a country such as ours, there’s always one bastard in the scum brigade to deal with.
I was named Bianca at birth. Codenamed, Biyankavitch by the man who abducted me when I was a child and turned me into what I am today. But Nigerians, they called me the Black Winch.
They said I move about at night only. True.
They said I hated men. Not sure how they came into that conclusion.
They believed I had mystic powers. I could walk through walls, disappear and appear, kill with just a look from my eyes, feast on blood, etcetera. None of those were true. Nigerians cook up lies a lot. Is it not the same country where rats chased people from a government office and a snake swallowed thirty-six million naira?
They also said I was a feminist. Smh.
Biyankavitch was no witch and no feminist. I was just doing the Lord’s job. Sometimes I felt God had too much on his hands and that was why he let evil reign. Ergo, I helped him with the workload occasionally, putting his fear into the hearts of men.
Why didn’t I go after women? It was simple logic. I couldn’t hate on my own kind. Still didn’t mean I didn’t fuck women up now and then or that I hated men. I loved men. I had a father and four brothers. Male friends too. Also the random guy who ended up in my bed. And then there was Lanre.
But you see, nobody knew Bianca. At least, not everybody. By day, I was the thirty-something year old unwed daughter to one of the richest farmers in the country and also a gym instructor. The job was a front for my other job, which was also an undercover occupation in the National Intelligence Agency where Lanre was my boss. I had diplomatic access to certain countries, and at home, I could be anything I desired. I took that privilege literally, exercising my right to be brutally amoebic. I was right there in your face, but I was also like the wind. I blew wherever I desired. You didn’t see me coming. You didn’t know where I was going. Heck, I didn’t even know where I was going most of the time. That’s the thing with us spies. We’re the sexier versions of zombies. But ‘sexy’ was relative here. Our obligations weren’t less dangerous, neither had they been drained of the psychological effects that came with having so much power over a life and ending it without mercy. Our destinies were lost in the hands of those who pressed the buttons and told us what to do. When you’re working undercover, you give up your real life while holding tightly to it at the same time because it’s all you’ve got.
My family, I treasured them like lost gems found after thousands of years. I could kill anyone who touched them, even my sister, Muna, who was inarguably my rival. We were the Bahagos, an ethnically-assorted clan. Idris Bahago some thirty-nine years ago tied the knot with Victoria and they had two sons, Yohanna and Tanko. Soon after Tanko was born, they got divorced. Victoria then got married to Doctor Fakorede Fabumni, a renown surgeon in the United States. The union produced an only heir, Apollo, before the marriage went south. While Victoria struggled with Fakorede’s lawyers, fighting for half of all the doctor owned, she got involved with Idris again and found that she was with child. Luckily for her, she got what she wanted from Fakorede and moved on before he discovered she was pregnant. At the same time, Idris briefly dated an African American who passed away while birthing me. Thus, I came into this world a month before my sister, Muna. But Idris and Victoria did not reunite after our births. In fact, Victoria married her third husband in 1998 and continued to have an affair with Idris. The husband found out about the affair and divorced her in less than a year, not caring that she was carrying his son. Jethro was born the following year, on the eve of Idris and Victoria’s quiet remarriage. They have been together ever since. And all of us, their children, have been with them. Except for that time when I disappeared on my eighth birthday and returned on my sixteenth.
My disappearance broke my father’s heart, I was told. It was Victoria that kept him sane through those tough years. When I returned, he and I built on what we had – the strongest bond a father and daughter could ever have, but he was unaware of the person I had become. I was no longer his little girl. What I had seen and gone through, the ears of a father should never hear about it.
But I was only starting to live that clandestine life. My family had now become my cover. The idea was to live as every normal teenager would while I was dunked deeper into the dark side. This man who took me away from my father and gave me this other existence, he was and still is the vilest person I ever met. And I became a lot like him, a reflection of what he was. His evil ran deep in my DNA, even after all these years; even after I joined the NIA to do good for my country; even now as I prided in being a vigilante, enacting justice on the dregs of the society. I couldn’t erase the fact that I had been programmed to be this person, and I felt helpless to overwrite this code, which was why I looked for joy in every place I could. My source of greatest joy – the Bahagos.
We were not always together. All of us, busy in our personal worlds, always look forward to holidays and family reunions. This year, Muna’s wedding was bringing us together. We had all flown in from our different zones for her nuptials. I was coming in from Abuja. My best friend was at the airport to welcome me. He stood outside, waiting, cutting a striking image of pure sex appeal in a pair of jeans and a blue shirt folded at the sleeves. He was sure making heads turn, but in typical Archibong manner, he was unaware of his effect on women.
I frowned when he spotted me. My tummy did some flips too. Archie wasn’t just my friend. I had nursed some annoying type of unnecessary sentiment for him over the years, the type that came and went like someone diving deep underwater and swimming back up and doing it again, repeatedly. These days, however, the feelings remained, as if I’d missed my steps on a staircase, but my heart never calmed down and the butterflies persisted.
“Hey, best man.” Archie came forward, his arms spread out in a hug.
I hated hugs, I didn’t do them. But Archie and everyone in my family felt they needed to constantly hug me to make me feel human.
I allowed him hug me. It was meant to be brief, but Archie hung in there, rubbing my back and rocking me and telling me how much he had missed me as if I had asked.
I stayed there in his arms, stiff as a stone. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to respond. I was trained to react to these things. I had even had lovers who I’d gone up mushy hill with. But there I stood, unable to reciprocate the warmth Archie was giving. The obvious reason was that I was a tomboy. The unspoken one was that I was now turning off whatever I felt for him.
He stopped the weird hugging eventually, took my luggage and began to drag it towards the exit.
“So, I had Muna occupy herself with the job of picking out your tux,” he explained as we walked. My eyes were ahead of me and all around me at the same time. I could pick out every single soul in the area, what they wore, their body type, and the not-so-obvious aspects of their personalities that the ordinary eye didn’t notice at once. I did all these while listening to Archie. He seemed excited about getting married to my sister. He had no idea who she was, even after dating her for a little over a year. She was perfect for a wife – beautiful, sexy, intelligent and raised to cater to a man’s needs. She was spoiled too, but Archie considered it normal, bearing in mind her background. That was all he knew about her, though. I was certain my sister would rip the heart out of him soon. She was incapable of loving any man because the only man she had truly loved, broke her heart and stole her soul on a rainy evening, abandoning her for her best friend while she sat waiting for him in a Prada he had bought for her the Christmas before.
That night, a Prada-hating devil was born.
Now, Prada meant a lot of things to this devil called my sister. It connoted love and men. One of them could be lived without; the other was a necessary evil. And so the devil picked a necessary evil – my Archibong. She screwed with his mind and made a boyfriend out of him barely five months after being dumped by her ex. I tried to warn him but he was too smitten, having already sunk in his third leg into the forbidden fruit she offered, finding it pleasurable above all things. Thus his soul was snatched by the Prada-hating devil.
I loved my sister, don’t get me wrong. But she was still stuck with the wretched, jobless alcoholic who had messed her up and enjoyed screwing her mind and body occasionally. Theirs was a dangerous love story I was soon going to end. I had my eyes on the bastard, having recently discovered he had been abusing Muna physically for a while now. If she was going to stick with Archie, she had to forsake all others. That was the ultimatum I was going to give her tonight. She was either going to choose her beast or Archie. Failure to pick the latter would lead to me ensuring her wedding would not hold. Whatever the outcome, though, her abusive sidecock was sure to bite the dust.
Look, I loved Lanre, who was always wise and had the right words to say, but in this matter of fixing the ills of the world, he was wrong. It was possible to save people like Muna from herself and Archie from her. Charity, they say, begins at home. Tonight, Muna was going to have a taste of my charitable side. Heroes are not meant for comic books alone.