CSP John Okoroafor wiped sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. The temperature in the car was chilly, but he was sweating. He was also dehydrated, even though he had downed a full bottle of water minutes ago. He wished he was behind the wheel, so that he could get to his destination faster. Andy, or whatever his name was, drove like an old man on sleeping pills.
John went for an unopened bottle of water resting on the center console beside him.
“Andy, dey drive like man na! Move, move!” John ordered, eyes on the road ahead. He saw traffic building up in the distance as he opened the bottle of water. He grunted and gulped the entire thing at a go. He burped loudly, tossed the bottle to the backseat, and peered behind him to check if there was any strange vehicle gunning for them. He looked to his left as well, then to his right.
“Oga, traffic dey o,” Andy informed him.
“I know,” John replied in annoyance. This was the worst time to be caught in a hold-up. He cussed, wiping his forehead again. His tummy rumbled in response to the ongoing discomfort he felt in his gut, but that was the least of his problems. Even the loud thumping of his heart didn’t bother him. All that mattered was his escape from the people who wanted his life. He had to get out of town and the country, entirely. He shuddered when he recalled the phone call from his contact at the State Security Intelligence Service earlier.
“Somebody high up thinks you’re a chink in the chain and they want you gone,” his contact told him.
“Me? A chink?”
“John, the accusations against you and your station are too heavy to be overlooked. There’s overwhelming evidence. As I speak, the IG is in talks with my boss. When they’re done, a warrant for your arrest will be issued. Your trial will be made public, as a show to the people that the government is listening to them. Unfortunately, you will not survive that trial. You will die of a heart attack or something related in your cell because no one wants you to mention names.”
“But I won’t do that. I-I won’t say anything.”
“We have a list of the politicians and government officials with whom you have had deals. They can’t afford to take the risk, John.”
John’s tummy rumbled.
“I don’t need to tell you what to do.”
The line went dead, and John switched on his television to see what was on the evening news, although he already knew what was trending. Protesters were presently surrounding the police station where he had worked for eleven years. The infamous Umuchi station. He and his unit had reigned there in terror, unchallenged, holding down the south-eastern region. Even bigger and more equipped police stations brought stubborn cases to them. He was famous for not being afraid to get his hands dirty. It had put food on his table and given him the funds to build three houses and send his sons out of the country to school. He had commenced plans to build his fourth and biggest house, but the EndBARS protests, which had erupted across the country, halted him.
At the outset, the Inspector General of the police had ordered all policemen to take control of the situation at their various regions, to ensure that the protests did not get out of hand. He believed that everything would die down in a day or two, but when three days went by and the protests became stronger and more widespread, the IG made a call to re-strategize, as what had been supposed to be an unplanned outbreak of protests was fast turning into a dangerous social movement. It was backed by loud outrage on social media and solidarity demonstrations by Nigerians in diaspora and sympathizers all over the world. The call was to end police brutality, specifically the abuses perpetrated by the Buoyant Anti Robbery Squad, popularly known as BARS. In extension, activists demanded for a reform of the government. The protests had been sparked by the recent killings of two students by BARS operatives. Someone made a video recording of the incident and it went viral online.
Following orders from the top, arrests of protesters were made by John and his unit. His squad was just one out of a hundred-and-twenty across the country, carrying out mass arrests to discourage people from being part of the rising movement. But so far, nothing had worked. The demonstrators increased in number by the hour, supported by prominent leaders in private sectors, celebrities, and even clergy people. Human rights organizations, alongside senior lawyers, volunteered their services to help release arrested individuals. This morning, police stations were targeted, including the Umuchi station where John worked. He had been advised to lay low as he had been trending online for three days over his atrocities across the years. There were harrowing stories from his victims—people whom he had extorted and tortured, citizens whose loved ones had disappeared under his watch, parents whose sons he had murdered after labeling them criminals, young women his boys had raped. They demanded that he be arrested to face the law.
The problem, however, was that CSP John Okoroafor did not commit his heinous crimes in isolation. He belonged to a much larger ring of criminals that were involved in human trafficking, murder, and extortion. If he went under arrest and was asked by the prosecutor to mention names of his cohorts for a reduced sentence, a good number of government officials and politicians would go with him.
John had been smart to keep a record of all his dirty dealings with men of power through the years, but he wasn’t ready to go down that way. It was a better option to disappear, as he had been subtly advised by his friend at the SSIS. Hence, he had called another trusted friend who could get him safely across the border without detection. The friend furnished him with an unregistered sim card, which he inserted into an old phone. He then asked John to wait for him in one of the houses where they carried out their atrocities. John had been skeptical about the plot, at first, but his friend assured him that all would be safe.
“I go meet you dia dis night. By 2am, you go dey on your way to Seme border. I get person wey go help you cross. No call your wife and daughter o. You dey hear me so?”
John nodded. He had never been so afraid in his life. Minutes ago, his wife had called to inform him that protesters were headed for their home. She had barely escaped them, having driven off to a different neighborhood where she parked her car and was now hiding in a friend’s house. John instructed her to switch off her phone. After that, he did the same with his and tossed it into a gutter. He left the house seconds after his friend’s departure. Dressed as a civilian with sunglasses and a hat, he found his way out of the neighborhood. His friend had provided a car and driver for him, waiting at a certain location. John felt no relief when he found the car. Rather, his fear mounted as they tried to escape town. Now and then, he pressed a hand on the weapon he hid in his waistband. He was trigger-restless, and the current traffic situation, coupled with the fact that they still had a long way to go, didn’t help his state of mind.
He looked through the sideview mirror and glanced toward the back, as he had been doing for the past twenty minutes.
“Na protest dey cause dis go-slow o,” Andy, the driver, said.
John didn’t respond. A button from his fitted shirt popped. He was constipated and was getting bloated by the second. His mouth was still dry, and he wouldn’t stop sweating.
“Make I put siren?” Andy asked. John glared at him. “If I put am, dis road go just clear now-now-now.”
“You dey craze?”
John spied the other cars around him again. Everyone was a suspect, and the traffic situation would make it easy for one of them to step down from their car, come to him, and shoot him through the window.
He shook his head. “No.”
Andy looked at him as he unlocked the door and opened it.
“Oga, wetin happen?”
John ignored him and stepped out of the car. He made a dash between two trucks and ran across the street to the sidewalk where an okada man perched on his parked bike. The man sat straight as John approached him.
John mentioned an address and got on the bike. The okada man rode off with him.
The sun had set when John hopped off the bike. He paid the man and faced the lone house in the area, surrounded by imposing vegetation. The nearest house was two kilometers away, at least.
John knocked on the gate and a baritone voice asked who it was.
The gate opened, and a young man, smoking a joint, let him in. “CSP!” He saluted.
“Obi, how far na?”
“I dey, sir.”
“You don change the money?”
Obi nodded. “E dey inside house.”
“Abeg, lock dat gate.”
John headed toward the house. There was no electricity, and the air in the place stank of decay. Buried in shallow graves were corpses of young women, raped and murdered by Obi. Some of them had had their organs harvested, others were missing body parts that fetched a good sum in the rituals market. Obi often worked with John and his men, selling body parts to his clients on their behalf. Sometimes, they spent the night in his house, engaging in debauchery, especially after a successful deal.
“Lock that gate well!”
John secured the front door as Obi turned away. He then followed a small hallway on his right that led to a bedroom whose windows had been blocked off with black curtains. On a bed without beddings, a bag rested. John unzipped the bag, revealing stacks of dollars. He breathed his first sigh of relief at the sight of the money. He zipped it up, put the bag aside, and dropped his handgun on the bed. He then entered the bathroom to relieve his bowel. Afterward, he smoked a joint he found by the window and had a cool shower. Subsequently, he stepped out. By now, it was dark.
The first thing his eyes fell on, illuminated by the flashlight from his phone, was a voodoo doll on the bed. Second thing he noticed, his handgun was gone.
John froze for a second, then moved closer to be sure of his observation. When he confirmed his fear, he went into panic, flashing the light around the room in erratic movement.
“Obi!” he called. There was no answer. “Obinna!”
He took another look at the doll. It was made of a black cloth, with poor stitching and mismatched buttons as eyes. The thing was eerie.
He spied the dollar bag on the floor, the money untouched. John backed away, directing his light outward as he reached for a metal rod resting on the wall behind him.
If this was the person he suspected it was, he was done for. It would be better to be arrested and sent to jail for the rest of his life.
He froze a second time, his breath racing. The voice that had just called his name was feminine, soft, and breathy.
Many strong policemen had fallen by the hands of the woman behind that voice. She was a hater of men, brutal, and diabolic. She had turned a colleague at his station to an invalid after he suffered multiple strokes from a horrifying encounter with her. Another long-distance friend now used a wheelchair and adult diapers because of her. People believed she walked through walls, disappeared and appeared at will, moved about only at night, and of course, possessed untold supernatural powers. She was called the Black Witch, most dreaded amongst women—and men. And because she didn’t strike all the time, John had initially refused to accept the stories about her existence; not until after his colleagues received her calling cards, which came in form of the voodoo dolls that announced her impending social calls. Subsequently, she visited them.
Now, it was his turn, and he was on the brink of peeing on himself. The Black Witch was not known to show mercy. She was wanted for murder and assault of police officers. A ten-million-naira bounty had been placed on her head, but the citizens had vowed not to turn her in. She was the people’s hero.
“My men are on their way o!” John threatened, refusing to move away from his spot.
“I just want us to talk,” she said, her voice getting closer to the bedroom.
“They will kill you if they come here! You better leave, young lady!”
The Black Witch chuckled. “I’m not the one who should be worrying about your men. You think they would come here to cancel bottles with you and molest the underage girls you kidnap for your pleasure?”
She appeared at the doorway of the bedroom. A tall hooded figure in black. Her appearance almost made him jump, but he held his breath and tried to flash his light at her. She beat him to it with a more powerful torch, blinding his sight.
He shielded his eyes with one arm as he swung the rod in her direction. “Remove that light from my face before I arrest you!”
A sudden sound from the exterior of the house caused him to stop. It was from the gate. Someone had just come into the compound.
Still pointing the rod at her, he shifted toward the window nearest to him.
“I told you they’re coming,” he stated as he peeped out from a crack at the window. His good friend, Livinus, who had been kind to lend his car and driver to him earlier, had just gotten into the compound.
“My boys are here! They’re going to—”
The Black Witch was gone, along with her blinding torch. John cocked his head for a better view of the doorway, but he saw nothing. He swiveled around, scared that she might be behind him.
“John, you dey?” his friend called from outside.
“Livinus!” John responded. He heard Livinus trying the handle of the front door.
“Livi, I dey come!”
With vigilant steps, John walked toward the bathroom. Then, he burst in suddenly, but the Black Witch wasn’t there as well.
“John!” Livinus banged on the front door.
“I dey come o!”
John emerged from the bathroom, maintaining his attentiveness. Eyes ahead of him while keeping his watch on his margins, he left the bedroom and walked out to the hallway. He swung his flashlight, left and right; and when he was certain he was alone, he proceeded to the living room, albeit with stealth.
Outside, Livinus banged the door even harder.
“Calm down nau!”
John unlocked the door and Livinus marched in. “You don set?”
“I’m good to go.”
“Di cash dey with you abi?”
“E dey room.” John started toward the bedroom, his eyes and body still on alert. “Abeg, lock dat door!”
“Johnny,” Livinus called. John ignored him and continued walking, but the unmistakable sound of a gun’s safety being released caused him to stop. He gave a sharp turn and found his best friend pointing a gun at him.
“Livi?” He was confused. “Wetin… Wetin be dis nau?”
“Dem threaten my family, Johnny,” Livinus replied, coldness in his tone. “Dem say if I no make you disappear—”
“No dey confuse me, Livi? Why you dey point gun at me?”
“I say dem threaten my family—”
“Livi, dat one no mean!”
“No! Don’t tell me that! My wife and children suppose die because of you? Abi you don mad?”
A tapping sound in the living room caused both men to turn in the direction of the door that connected to the hallway. The Black Witch stood there, silhouetted in the dark.
Livinus pointed his gun at her. “Who are—?”
He barely completed his question when a gunshot rang out and he dropped to the floor. John ducked as well, but not so much that he didn’t see the Black Witch walking toward Livinus, who was clutching his left thigh. He yelled out, cussing, as she approached him. She kicked his weapon away and placed a foot over his neck.
“Bullshit, Livinus Osakwe. Nobody threatened your family. You sold out your best friend of thirty-six years for a promotion. You also did that to clear your name, just in case he ever got caught and mentioned you as being part of his gang. To ensure that the chances of this was slim, you promised your bosses you’d do the job of making him disappear yourself.”
“I didn’t have any choice!” Livinus groaned.
“Come on, Livi! You guys have been friends since childhood. Same primary, secondary, and university. Same police academy in Kano. You got separated for a short while and ended up here. Your wives are friends, and Johnny’s only daughter is dating your first son. There is no one on earth John would trust with his life more than you, yet you were ready to take said life. Where’s the loyalty in this world again?”
“Ah, Livi!” John shouted. “After everything I don do for you!”
“Shut up. You’ve been fucking his wife for nine years.”
“What?” Livinus exclaimed.
“I guess there’s no honor amongst policemen.” The Black Witch shot Livinus’ second thigh and he screamed out. “You disgust me.”
She went for his gun, picked it up, and faced John who began to crawl backwards.
“Abeg, don’t kill me.”
“I told you I only wanted to talk. Now, you’ve wasted my time, and we have to do more than talk.”
“Get up, old man. Up!”
John scrambled up.
“Get back to the room.”
Tied to the bed posts, both hands and feet, John was splayed like a chicken over a grill. He was nude, save for his briefs. The Black Witch had her torch on him. She stood by the wall facing the bed with her phone also trained on him.
“We’re about to go live, Johnny boy. Just as we discussed, you will confess to all your crimes and mention names of your accomplices and clients. Every single name. Dates and locations would be nice too. If you do exactly as I ask, I won’t kill you. Any wrong move and your brain matter will decorate the wall behind you. Do you understand?”
John nodded. The bitch was crazier than people believed she was. Clearly, she enjoyed doing this. It was best not to anger her.
“Are you ready?”
“Don’t forget that introduction we discussed.”
“Fantastic. Okay, you’re live in five, four, three, two, one!”
John felt a sudden need to cry. He had never been this humiliated in his life. “Good evening…” He sniveled. “G-good evening my fellow Nigerians… My name is CSP John Okoroafor.”
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages
Phot Credit: Amnesty International