He was relieved to find Emeka still alive. Indeed, the foolish one had not been killed.
“You just killed the man!” Emeka carried a horrified expression, “You killed – you killed your father!”
“That man was not my father,” said Lucas.
“How come you are still alive?” Lucas could not help asking.
Emeka grinned stupidly, “I didn’t see anyone.”
“That’s strange, because I can swear I heard the sound of gunshots.”
“That was me shooting randomly to scare away potential shooters who might be after my life. And I think it worked; but I think I’ve used all the bullets in my gun, for nothing comes out again each time I pull the trigger.”
“You talk too much. Shut up and let’s go.”
They both returned to the car and drove away from the abandoned industrial location, Lucas sat behind the wheel while Emeka sat beside him. The bags of money were deposited on the backseat.
“You used me!” Emeka suddenly bellowed, “You used me to carry out your evil machination. I feel raped!”
“I did it for a friend,” was the reply Lucas gave him.
Emeka looked confused. “A friend? Which friend?”
Emeka’s jaw almost dropped. “You’re not Christopher?”
“Who is Christopher, really?”
“Christopher was my friend.”
“What killed him? No, scratch that. Tell me everything from the beginning.”
The clock on the dashboard read 08:03PM.
Lucas turned to the passenger and asked, “What makes you think I would tell you?”
“Because you know I deserve to know. You pulled me into this mess. The least you can do is tell me everything.”
“The bags of money behind us belong to you. They are compensation for everything I made you go through.”
“Wow! That sum of money is mine?”
Emeka grinned, “This is good business. When are you going to kidnap me again?”
“I’ll drop you back at Shoprite. You’ll take the money and disappear.”
“That’s not enough!” Emeka said emphatically.
“What else do you want, young man?” Lucas said exasperatedly.
“If you don’t tell me what happened, I will not take your money and I will never forgive you.”
Lucas hit the steering wheel in frustration. He looked at Emeka angrily in the dark, wondering whether to blow the idiot’s brain out and get it over with; but he was already liking the rugged guy. “Okay, fine. I’ll tell you everything.”
“Yes!” Emeka wriggled happily, much to the chagrin of the piqued driver. “I’m all ears, no pun intended, please.”
Lucas sighed and began: “Christopher was my saviour. He was my messiah. If not for him, I would already be dead, because I was the mark of a dangerous gang named The Mantis.”
“Yes, do you know it?”
“Who doesn’t know The Mantis Gang? They slaughter people in dozens and pray over their corpses.”
“Well, I was marked to be killed by The Mantis Gang.”
“Why? What did you do wrong?”
“What I did was terrible. I truly deserved to be killed, but not by The Mantis. As a matter of fact, TMG ought to honour me with medals, not bullets; but I was marked to be eliminated. You see, I was a Mantis myself; my job was to penetrate a rival gang called KK, this stands for Kabba-Kabba, whatever that means. For two years, I was feeding the secrets of KK to TMG. Spying is a risky but an exciting avocation. The secrets I was feeding TMG caused the gang to have an upper hand over KK. The Mantis were killing the Kabba-Kabba in multitude, and Christopher was a Kabba. He was the one who suspected the presence of a spy among them. Christopher was a powerful member of the gang;almost everyone feared him, because he could hide his identity and blend among enemies. I had to run to TMG to seek refuge, for I knew that I would be killed if I was discovered to be the spy among them. When I returned to TMG and narrated my ordeal, the leader of the gang, Mandela, ordered my execution.”
“According to him, it would be to the detriment of the gang if I was eventually captured by the rival gang and tortured into revealing the secrets of Mantis. He couldn’t allow that; and so the only way to ensure the safety of the gang was to have me taken out. Another Mantist could easily be sent to penetrate KK. So there, I had to run from my home gang too. But Mandela kept sending killers after me. There were so many times I’ve tried to kill Mandela himself, but I’m no match for him. He has killed people tougher than I am without breaking a sweat. He’s just too fast. No one touches him. Touch him and you die. I ran from his killers and killed some of them. Mantists came after me, KK came after me. I was getting tired of it all. I knew it was only a matter of time before either of the two gangs catch up with me and hack me to pieces. I resigned my fate; a soldier does not die twice. What will be should be. I couldn’t run forever.
“Finally, the day of reckoning came. I couldn’t run anymore when five Mantists cornered me. I gave up my fight and surrendered. I knew they were not there to take me in, they were there to take me out. I knelt down before them and shut my eyes, waiting for the one bullet that would penetrate my skull and end it all. The bullet came but it was not for me. I opened my eyes and beheld something strange. One of the five Mantists was shooting at the other four. The killer’s face was shrouded. After killing them all, he removed his shroud and there, right there, was Christopher.
“This wasn’t something I was expecting would happen. I couldn’t wrap my befuddled brain around the realisation that Christopher was a Mantist. Then it suddenly dawned on me that Christopher was just like me. He was a KK spying on TMG. With this revelation, it was easy for me to understand why he had saved me. He knew what might happen to him too if his cover was blown; he might suffer the same fate as me if TMG, too, suspected a spy among them. He might also be hunted by both gangs.
“Before long, Christopher and I became good friends; it was the two of us against the whole TMG and KK. We fought, ran and bled together. We became the most wanted among the community of killers. Christopher was a great shooter; ‘Never let any bullet to go to waste,’ he would always say. He also believed in equality and fairness. He would rather die than cheat a friend. We shared everything equally. It was Christopher who taught me the art of disguise. On so many occasions, Christopher had turned himself into a total stranger. There was a day I nearly shot him, I thought he was an enemy. He was able to kill a lot of TMG and KK members with this gift of his. And soon, I was getting good with disguises like him. However, no matter what disguise I pulled, Christopher was always recognising me. Christopher was just too much; he was always many moves ahead of me. He’s also a great chess player, except for his lack of sense of humour. Christopher had no sense of humour whatsoever. Even though he always saw beyond my disguises, I was always walking freely among enemies without the fear of discovery. Christopher and I were formidable. We shared secrets of the two gangs. I told him everything about my past and he did the same about himself. We became like mirror-images. Our friendship grew deeper and stronger. Then one afternoon, tragedy reared its ugly head.
“I was relaxing at home when I received a call from Christopher. He had been shot twice. He said he was okay but I knew he wasn’t. You don’t feel okay on sustaining two gunshot wounds. I wanted to go and help him out but he refused to devulge his location. All he said was that he was going home. He told me to vacate the house immediately because the others were coming for me too. The last words I heard him speak were ‘It was such an adventure’ – that was it; I didn’t hear anything from him again. I tried calling him many times but the call never went through. I didn’t know what had become of my friend. I decided to follow his warning and fled the house. For two months, I stopped being Lucas. I changed my identity totally. I went off the grid. I cut loose my ties with anyone who knew me. I became a different person entirely. That was what Christopher would be if he was still alive. But I refused to believe my friend was dead; Christopher was not an easy kill. Then I suddenly recalled that he had told me he was going home. I decided to seek out my friend after three months of his disappearance.
“He had told me he had a family in the eastern part of the country. I decided to seek him out there. Perhaps that was the home he was talking about. The journey to the East took me two days by road. His family home was hard to find but I eventually located it. The house was an aold building with the paints already peeling. I knocked on the door and was greeted by an old couple. They were nice people; they welcomed me like an old relation and offered me cold water. I thought they were Christopher’s parents until I asked them about their son. They smiled at me and said they had never had children. They were a model couple. They grew old together without children. How many couples could be like them? I initially didn’t believe them. I thought they were trying to hide Christopher from me but they seemed honest about their conviction. They didn’t know anyone named Christopher. Then the wife suggested that maybe I was talking about the family that had live in the house before them. I begged them to tell me about this family. What I heard shocked me.
“Thirteen years ago, armed men had attacked the family and killed everyone. Rumours had it that they had actually come to eliminate the oldest child of the family but they didn’t find him. The family membered were tortured and questioned to tell them the child’s whereabouts; his younger sister was raped and the younger brother beaten senseless. When none of the members could give them any information about the location of whom they sought, the men killed them all. I couldn’t control the tears that ran down my cheeks as I listened to the news. My friend had lost his family. If he had really come to seek his family out, then the news must have broken him. I was about to leave when the old couple told me that someone had come before me to ask about this family. They said the young man had wept much more than I did, and he looked wounded. They swore they noticed blood on him. He was trying to hide it but the blood still seeped out. So Christopher was alive after all. The sadness in me mixed with the joy of the news I had suddenly heard, and the combination of these feelings left a strange sensation in me. I implored the couple to tell me where he went but they refused to divulge his location. They said they could not because Christopher had told them some people were after his life. Even these old people were loyal to Christopher, a total stranger to them. Then something happened.
“As I was still pleading with the couple to tell me where my friend, two men suddenly broke into the house with cutlasses drawn. I didn’t know who they were, and i was sure they didn’t follow me from Lagos. By the local way they were dressed, I could tell that they were thugs from the neighbourhood. They must have been watching the house to see if any stranger would visit the couple. They didn’t even acknowledge my presence as one of them tried to hack the old man down with his cutlass. In a second, I drew out my gun and blew his brains out. The old man was baptized in the killer’s blood. The other one that tried to kill the woman got his own in the spine. He fell down lifeless immediately. The couple didn’t even scream; they must have witnessed worse in their lifetimes; but they were visibly shaken. I had to make them some tea to calm their nerves. I didn’t know who those men were but their mission was to kill the couple first. The old people knew them; they were among the street nuisances that always terrorised the locality. I told them they were not safe there. Others might come. I assisted them in packing the few things they could and saw them to the bus that would transport them far away from that area. I bid them farewell and wished them luck, the bus was already moving when the woman put her head out of the window and gave me a new address in another village. And her husband had also poked his head out and said that was my friend’s mother’s hometown where it all began before the buses faded into the horizon. And so my second journey began in earnest. I just had to see Christopher.
With the new information I had, it didn’t take too long before I located Christopher’s mother’s family house. The house seemed deserted except for a bent old man. The dilapidating house was built with mud and thatched roof; the old man didn’t seem to mind the situation of this godforsaken hut. This was his house, and he would either die in it or under it. I greeted the man but it seemed like he didn’t even understand English, so I had to relate with him in the local language i was sure he would understand. He initially regarded me with suspicious and wary look until I told him my name and asked after Christopher. He said Christopher had told him I might come. Right there, sighed with relief. I had finally reached the last destination. The man invited me into the hut and offered my the oly drinks he had – palm wine. He skillfully avoided my question when I asked him about Christopher; he was rather talking about things unrelated to my visit – the birds, the trees, the music, the cultures and traditions of the ancient village. I thought old age must have been denying the man of his sharp mind for him to be talking about things that didn’t concern me.
“ ‘Where’s Christopher?’ I interrupted him sharply. I was getting tired of his unending spiel.
“ ‘He’s dead, my son,’ the old man replied, ‘Christopher is dead.’
” ‘What!‘ I couldn’t believe my ears. what nonsense was this old man talking about?
“Let me explain everything, my child,’ said the man, ‘Christopher came in here with two gunshot wounds on his body – on the stomach and on the back. I didn’t know who he was at first but I decided to treat him. his wounds were too deep and infected; he didn’t get himself treated on time, so it had gone beyond redemption. I knew he was going to die; all I could do was relieve him of his pains.’
” ‘You killed him?’ I was about to pounce on him and beat him black and blue.
” ‘No, I gave him some medicines to relieve his pains. then he told me who he was. He was my grandson. he was the son of Ifeoma who left this village many years ago because she had a child out of wedlock. He was the child of Ifeoma my daughter who was killed with her family thirteen years ago. I asked him why he left his family for thirteen years and he replied that a stranger had accosted him on the street and told him Mr Oka was not his real father; his real father wanted to kill him.
“ ‘Why would a father want to kill his own son?’ I was confused. Nothing the man was saying made sense to me.
“The old man continued as if he had not heard me, ‘The stranger had told him to run for his life and not tell anyone his whereabouts..
“ ‘Does that mean that it was Christopher’s biological father who ordered the execution of his family?’
“The old man nodded sadly.
“ ‘Why did the man want his son dead?’ I asked again.
“ ‘Mazi is a public figure with a family. He is the village’s most powerful man of wealth. He has a family with children. It was rumoured that his wife’s family helped him to attain the fame and power he got; but he could not put his zippers on check when he saw Ifeoma. He ended up raping her; but his wife must not know about this lest he be stripped of all his fortune and power. He wanted to kill Ifeoma as soon as he discovered that she was pregnant. His wife must not know about this. Sleeping with a random girl was one thing, impregnating her was another. His wife’s family would destroy him. We managed to hide Ifeoma from him until she put to bed. Somehow, someone had informed him that the baby had been born; and so we had to send Ifeoma and her baby to another village where we believed she would not be found; but after almost twenty years, Mazi still tracked her and her family down. One of the many regrets my grandson had before he died was the fact that he would not be able to avenge his family’s murder on Mazi.
“And so the old man struggled upright and led me to the back of the hut where he showed me my friend’s grave.
“ ‘That’s my grandson buried beside his grandmother,’ he had said, with sadness etched on his wrinkled face. He told me that Christopher was initially named Emeka. He shared the same first name with you. Can you see why I had to use you?
“Filled with so much anger at what Mazi had done, I stood over my friend’s grave and swore that I would avenge his death. Mazi, TMG and KK would all pay for their wickedness. I turned to the grandfather and asked him to grant me the permission to adopt Christopher’s name. It was only both of us who knew that Christopher was dead; and no one really knew what he looked like except me and the man. Mazi didn’t know, neither did Mantis and KK. I would go after Mazi first then return to square off with the gangs – they had killed my friend; they, too, would pay the steep price. The old man blessed me and told me that Christopher would always be with me. Barely two days after I became Christopher, I lured Mazi to Lagos by killing one of his operatives and leaving a threatening letter for the rich thug to find. In a week, Mazi left the east for Lagos.
“Lagos is a big city. How was Mazi able to locate you?” Emeka asked.
“I located him. I tracked down one of his goons and beat Mazi’s whereabouts out of him before I killed him. Then I proceeded to give Mazi a false location about Christopher’s whereabouts.”
“Please go on.”
“Two days ago, I contacted Mazi again and told him that Christopher would be appearing at the Tafawa Balewa Square in the afternoon of today. With the anger of hearing about how Christopher had been killing his men, he didn’t even verify the information that reached him; he just gave the order to have Christopher taken to him alive. He had a personal score to settle with him. The truth, however, is that I led them to chase after a more dangerous person. The bearded man in the red cap would kill them all in a single stroke; that was actually what I was counting on. I stood far away watching how they would all be wasted on trying to confront the man. But my plan was foiled; I thought Mazi himself would be there when they try to attack the bearded man, but that was not to be. I didn’t suspect that Mazi would ask that Christopher be brought to a certain location.
“When that realisation occured to me, I quickly sought out Mazi’s right-hand thug and killed him within that hour. I took his phone and went to the only place I knew would be crowded after TBS. I went to Shoprite. I needed to find a mark fast. I sat down in the restaurant and ordered for a bottle of wine as I looked around for a suitable bait. I had another plan in mind. I was still searching when you picked a table close to me and ordered for a meal. You made a call at that moment and I heard you introduce yourself as Emeka to the person at the other end of the line. On hearing your name, I knew I had found a bait; you share the same name with Christopher, and your full beards was enough to convince the abductors that you were really Christopher. I walked out of the restaurant as soon as I heard you mention your name. I walked away and made a call to the men waiting in TBS. Then i went to the restroom wth my bag, changed into these casual shirt and faded trousers, fixed the false moustache and wore the wig.
“By the time I came out of the restroom, you were already leaving the restaurant and walking towards the staircase close to me. I had to act fast or I would lose you. As you reached the staircase, I suddenly came before you and tripped. You grabbed me immediately. Then I knew I had had you. The rest you know.”
Emeka sighed. He was silent for a moment before he asked, “Is that why you didn’t allow me to escape after the accident?”
“The accident was an unfortunate incident. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I couldn’t allow you to go. All my plans would be jeopardized if I did; I would not be able to give Mazi the ultimate element of surprise before killing him.” Lucas paused and said, “Why did you come back to wake me?”
Emeka shrugged, “I couldn’t just leave you at the mercy of those callous men. Thank goodness I came back; I wouldn’t be rich now if I hadn’t.” That ridiculous grin appeared again.
“Thanks for coming back.”
Emeka frowned and said, “There’s still something baffling me. You said you had Rough-88’s phone with you; but one of the thugs still made a call to him after they had forced us into the car.”
Lucas nodded, “Yes, he indeed made a call. The phone was in my pocket at the time he placed the call. As soon as he dialled the number, I had my hand in my pocket and picked it at the first vibration. In the same manner, without bringing the phone out, I cancelled the call as soon as he had relayed the news. He thought he had spoken with Rough, but I knew better.”
“Wow,” said Emeka, “I’m speechless!”
“Good. Now listen very carefully to me, Shoprite is just fifty metres ahead. You will get out of this car, take the two bags of money at the backseat and disappear. You have served your purpose well. The money is your compensation.”
Emeka stared at Lucas for a moment. He wanted to say something but thought better of it and opened the door.
“One other thing, Emeka, you must not breathe a word of everything I told you to anyone. If you do, I will find you wherever you are and I will kill you. I don’t make empty threats. You didn’t hear anything about Christopher, Lucas, Mazi, Rough-88, Mandela, The Mantis Gang or The Kabba-Kabba.”
Emeka stepped out of the car without replying. He opened the back door and retrieved the money.
“That was such an adventure,” he said as he walked away with bags containing money.
Lucas zoomed off immediately. The time was 10:25pm.
That was such an adventure!
The revelation hit him like a raging matador. He pressed the brakes sharply and the car screeched to a stop.
“Oh my goodness!”
He made a sharp U-turn and zoomed back to where he had dropped the passenger.
The loose pieces of the puzzle were slowly engaging themselves in his head as he drove on. Emeka had intentionally called out his own name to his hearing at the restaurant – he wasn’t making any calls. Emeka didn’t grab him at the staircase by chance – it was purposeful. Emeka didn’t take the silenced pistol from the abductors – the dead men didn’t have silenced pistols. Emeka didn’t shoot aimlessly at the warehouse – he had actually killed all the men outside, because no bullet must go to waste. Mazi had stared with surprise at the entrance and had seen Emeka before he fell down dead – that was because he saw a resemblance I didn’t see; he knew whom he was staring at. Emeka had removed his glasses that short time. The eyes! God gracious! The eyes!
The table had turned a long time ago. He didn’t use Emeka; instead, Emeka had used him. Emeka had always been many steps ahead of him right from the beginning. Another revelation suddenly occured to him and he groaned out loud. The master deceiver was not dead – the god of disguise had done it again!
Emeka was the grandfather he met in the village!
The grave he was shown was Christopher’s grandfather’s.
Emeka, the brown-haired rapper, was Christopher!
Christopher was alive. And he had used him (Lucas) to kill his evil father, because he didn’t want to commit patricide. His friend was alive!
The joy that filled his heart was beyond description. He finally felt whole again.
But there was no Christopher where he had dropped him. He laughed out loud. He had told Emeka that he didn’t want to see him again. His friend would make him sweat a little bit before revealing himself. The knowledge that Christopher was alive and well was enough to keep him happy for the rest of his life.
However, he knew Christopher too well. He would not stay hidden from him for too long. Christopher himself had told him in the village that he would always be with him. He had always been with him.
He looked behind him and found two of the four bags of money. Typical Christopher; he had always believed in equality. And talking of equality, he knew what Christopher was going to do next. He had used him to kill his father, now he would pay back the favour by fighting the one ultimate battle.
TMG and KK, watch out, Christopher is back in town.
The first person Lucas knew Christopher would be going after was Mandela – the bearded man in the red cap.
And lastly, Christopher would unleash terror on his enemies with one single name – Lucas!
©Larry Sun, January 2017