Victims – Episode 33
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
“This one na how much?” asked Kafaya as she picked a medium sized ‘skumbia fish’
“two hundred naira…” replied the seller
“Madam…two hundred for this small fish? You no go sell am for hundred?” she haggled with the seller who was determined to make sells, they finally settled for a hundred and fifty naira, the woman cut the fish into five pieces, wiped her bloody palm on her apron before she brought out a black ‘waterproofed’ bag and packed the fish. Kafaya handed a neat two hundred naira note to the seller who placed the note on her forehead, kissed it with a smile and shoved the money in her apron, bringing out a dirty fifty naira and handed it over to Kafaya.
“Thank you Auntie”
Kafaya and Ukwuoma moved over to another shop where they wanted to buy Garri, that was when an image caught Ukwuoma’s Attention. She stretched her neck, tilting her head side by side while dodging the human bodies that paraded the marked and blocking her view. By the time she caught a glimpse of the pair, a man with a little dark boy, the image was almost fading but she was sure it was him, it was her Ogugua and the strange man who took him away from her months ago.
Like a mirage, the shadows were fast fading, she couldn’t tell whether it was still the pictures in her head or she was actually seeing them, she dropped the ‘walking-talking bag’ she was holding, and hastily made her way towards the moving Images.
Utako Market is always busy with sweaty armpits meeting sweaty faces, while spittle from different mouths wet sampled food stuffs. A child can be stamped if care is not taking while ‘job men’ with up to three huge bags of grain on their hunched backs ceases opportunities to transfer their aggressions on buyers in the market. It was difficult for Ukwuoma to push herself through different sizes of body and kept her eyes on the man who was hurrying away with the little boy.
She lost them for a while, but when she turned towards the Yam zone, she saw the man talking with two men on caftan, the boy was pulling on something he wore inside his blue stripped t-shirt. Ukwuoma moved closer,
“Ogugua!” she called out with uncertainty, both the boy and the Man looked back at her. She saw the shock on the big man’s face and the recognition on her son’s face, but before she could voice another word, the man whisked the boy off the ground and walked away in a hurry, increasing his pace, half running- half walking, the two men that were talking with the big man barricaded her from moving further
“D’ana (My son!) Ya sace d’ana (He took my son!)” she was screaming and pointing to a direction,
“Ta ne a tabin hankali hakuri, muna shan ta mayar da su zuwa asibiti (She a psychiatric patient, we are taking her back to the hospital)” one of the men said loud enough to prevent them being lynched by passers-by that gathered. They were about to take her away when Kafaya intervened,
“She is my patient; I will take it from here”
Yusuf didn’t expect to see anyone who would recognize the boy, the Woman was the last person he had imagined, but there she was, not only did she recognize the boy, she would have jeopardized his plans and effort.
He spoke on his phone for some minutes while walking and looking around. He was supposed to meet those men for a change of phone before heading to the government school where the job would be done;
“This means he is in Abuja now” the voice at the other end of the phone commented
“Yes, he is making threats”
“Typical of him…like I said, he is desperate so his threats should mean nothing to you”
“You promised me security”
“Yes and I will fulfill my words if you don’t mess this thing up, the boys are already waiting, they would be watching”
“The army don’t know you planted a bomb on him, so they will not bother to check both of you…it’s unfortunate the boy would have to be used as a bet”
“He is paying for what his father did…”
“And who will pay for your?”
The line was dead before the question could sink. Fatima paid for what he did in the past, as for what he was about to do, he had no one who would pay for it yet ‘I will probably pay for it myself’ he thought.
“Na gan shi (I saw him…)Ogugua my son…that man took him away from me…”
As much as Kafaya had wanted to help this woman, she found it difficult to believe that she actually saw anything. She was about paying for the ‘ Mudu ’ of Garri when she suddenly noticed Ukwuoma was no longer standing by her side. She had looked around, and stretched her neck in search of her but she couldn’t find her,
“Na that your sister you dey find?” the woman beside the Garri seller had asked
“eh!” she had responded
“I see am as she waka go this way” the woman pointed to a direction “The way she comot, e be like say she dey find person”
Kafaya had ran towards that direction, twice she had collided with cart pusher who rained abuses on her. Then she saw her struggling to free herself from two men. Kafaya had panicked, she couldn’t imagine what would have happened to Ukwuoma had she not hurried to the scene.
Kafaya would have followed the men to know who they really were; she would have even called the police but everything happened so fast, Ukwuoma was seeing things again and the men had disappeared immediately.
“He is not here Ukwuoma, let us go home you need to re…”
“No! I saw them, they were here…he looked at me…he saw me Doctor…and the man too, he ran away with him again…”
Kafaya looked around with uneasiness, they were beginning to gather more people and she wasn’t comfortable having a mental disordered woman crying in her arms
“Madam pretend say you wan follow her na” an onlooker retorted
“Make she follow the woman, she fit dey talk true” another added
“I for call my pastor make him come pray for her, na evil spirit dey worry her…chai…fine woman like this”
Kafaya have hard enough, they needed to leave the market and get Ukwuoma to take her drugs and sleep, but to do that she had to play along,
“Which direction did they go to?” Kafaya asked. Ukwuoma pointed towards a direction “Okay let us go in search of them” She wasn’t certain what to look for or how to convince Ukwuoma that there was nothing to go after, but she braced herself for a long walk in search of whatever the woman said she saw.
His palms were sweaty as well as his head even under the Air conditioned office. The two men were on their way down to meet him and he was not sure he would be able to pretend like he was with then in their mission. He was supposed to pull this through without suspicion and he knew his life and that of his family was on a thin line if anything goes wrong on both side.
“Some Men are here to see you sir”
“Okay…ehm…send them in” he looked around his office to make sure he doesn’t have anything that could convince the men otherwise, cleared his throat and forced his face to light up with a smile as the men walked piously inside his office”
“As-salaam alaikum ” The men greeted with their hands placed together in a sign of peace. Major Usman kept his smile on even though his forehead was soaked with perspiration.
“Imam sent us to you” One of them said, his face was as heard as a stone,
“Yes…everything is set, the vehicles are waiting outside with some of my men”
“Allah hu akbar! ” the second man was pleased
“you know where the mission would be?” the one with the hard face asked without looking away from the Major’s face
“Yes, he told me everything and I have instructed the drivers”
“Toh (That’s good)”
The three men chanted the brotherhood’s creed of dedication and total allegiance, while his heart pounded with guilt, the two men were reminiscing of the glorious reward that await them once they offered their flesh to be burnt for Allah.
“la ilaha illa llah, muhammadun rasulu llah” they chanted before they left for the mission, they never got to their destinations neither did they return alive.
Contrary to what Major Usman was told, an instruction was given for the vehicles to be diverted to a lonely road, the two men were shot multiple times, their dead bodies taken back to the heard quarters as exhibit.
Major Usman got the news of their death and a congratulatory message from the chief, he closed his eyes and clutched his phone with missed feelings,
“But how did you know they were planning this attack?” the chief of Army staff had asked him
“I did my investigations sir…ehm…I pretended to ehm… be interested in them to gain their confidence sir”
The Chief had paused for few seconds “It was a risky one major, one that would have put all of us in danger…anyways the force thanks you…you will be highly rewarded”
Usman should have been happy, but he was not. Tomorrow the news of the death of the suicide bombers would be carried on every media station, he would be celebrated as the hero, some of his men who he had initiated into the brotherhood would wonder why he betrayed them, and if the Imam succeeds, he would put a price on his head, Usman would probably be a dead man before the week would run out.
To be continued
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