𝐴𝑙𝑙 𝑟𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑑. 𝑁𝑜 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦 𝑚𝑎𝑦 𝑏𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑒𝑑 𝑜𝑟 𝑢𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑦 𝑤𝑎𝑦, 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑐𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑑𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑡 𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑚𝑖𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑟𝑖𝑡𝑒𝑟.
©Marvie Kings 2021.
It's been five days since I saw mum. Just days, but everything is changed. The rough roads have become smooth and the smooth ones have roughened. Standing there on the bridge, many thoughts whizzed past my mind.
Is going back to mum really a good idea?
How would she receive me? With open arms or drawn arms?
How would she feel finding out that her 'well-trained' son had been held in the police cell for five days over murder charges?
As far as she was concerned, her son is here in the city doing well in his career. This is the camouflage we usually put on before our mothers so that, their expectations won't be cut off. One of the biggest fear of every mother is raising a son that would bring shame. But, is it true that she didn't know what I was?
There, barebodied at the cell, sandwiched by true criminals, I judged myself. I condemned myself. The only distance between where I was and hell was time. I foresaw my death. Every killer must be killed. I was condemned by the law, and the judgment was right.
All criminals want repentance, but only a few reach out for it. What is filled in your heart at that moment is guilt and shame. To me, I'm black and stark naked. They all know me and what I've done. They know the stories of my betrayal and ill behavior. No one can vouch for me.
Who would I turn to?
The Omniscience whose presence is everywhere? I was sure the doors of heaven were pretty locked against me. He must have given His angels charge over me to ensure that I don't come close. I failed Him. Yes, I did. I lied to Him. I deceived Him. I told Him I would serve Him with my entire life the day He saved me from being killed. He thought I would and so, He was happy.
“I now have a new son”, He must have said. But once there was another sun for me, I left. Divinity deceived? How then would He receive me?
Have you now known why many criminals choose hell rather than repentance? Do you think, it's their fault? Do you think it was mine? They have dignity too. They hate the shame of standing before those they betrayed. So, what's left for them? They choose one of many options that have become an only.
They want peace, yet, they war;
They want life, but they choose death;
They want health, but they wound themselves.
They see themselves shattered beyond cure; broken beyond mending and frozen beyond fixing. What they want is not a preaching.
What would you have to tell them?
They know that!
Heaven and hell is real and bla bla bla...?
I mean, every child knows that too.
They don't want John 3:16 or that 'All have sinned...' popular verse. In our cell rooms, we have your popular scriptures boldly sketched on every wall and in every soul. Every inmate was once a Saint. Alhajis and Ibrahims are very few here. All you see lying on every corner is Christian, Peter, John, Paul and even sometimes Nwachukwu himself. We know the Bible, but at that point where you have to choose between life and strife, obedience and rebellion, what you have in your head is no more your brains, but your fails.
All we wanted was to die and come again. These bodies are broken and shattered; these lives are summarized and concluded. There is nothing to preach to. There is no hope for a broken bottle. Every heart has a healing and every soul, a binding, but what happens to a spirit that has wandered off to that place of no return? Is there still hope for it?
My judgment would be quite simple. I don't even have a lawyer. Where is the money? Where is my mummy? Standing there at the counter that stood within, what filled my eyes weren't tears, but fears. What would happen to my dreams?
I was a born lawyer. My father died when I was eight, leaving me to the rough hands of fate. Before his death, he made me promise him vengeance. He was shot by his own brother. It wasn't hidden, but we were voiceless without cash. Two years after his death, we were driven out of our own house and I started hawking on the streets. I hawked every fruit in the market: mangoes and guavas, cashews and apples, oranges and grapes, and every edible that has seeds. My sister Tina, may her soul rest on, was raped to death by...
In fact, many things happened. I filled my heart with bitterness right from twelve. I became hardened beyond remedy. I broke a man's head at thirteen and another a month after. I changed my name from 'God'swill' to 'Scales'. However, in all these, I still loved my mum. I didn't want to see her heart bleeding, so I moved off.
“O boy, e be like say we go upgrade.”
“We go grow up, like all these big boys dem. We go come dey run the streets full full. We go fit pack girls like cabin biscuits. I mean legit and clean girls, no be olosho oooo. You go come get better toy wey you go dey groove with.”
“Is that even possible?”
That was my conversation with Obinna before I upgraded. We shared the same quest, 'vengeance'. His mother was killed, my father was killed; my sister was raped, his sister was burnt. We all wanted money. The government of the streets are not people with strong face, but people with strong names. We wanted titles. We wanted to storm the clubs in Range Rovers and 'Mess Ladies'. The upgrading wasn't going to come easy.
“Join us, and we will polish you”.
That was Johnny, the only criminal that speaks correct English. He was my boss and the most wanted free man. We often referred to him as the dark brains. Nobody really knew anything about him. He faked his own death and picked a new life; went abroad for surgery, came back with a new wife. He led the most notorious gang in the country, 'THE MANSTAFFAS'.
I joined him. Did I? No, I was forced in. On Saturday after the invitation, I went back to the hood to have a back door chat with my boys. There, we were raided by the police. They shot Oscar and he died at the spot; Manuel and dustbin managed to escape with severe injuries; Obinna and Kelly were arrested, but something strange happened to me.
“Stop there! If you run, I shoot you.”
Without being told, I knew I was going to stop. I witnessed Oscar's death, his skull was fully blown and I saw his white brains spill out. It was a bad day for us. We were outnumbered and armless. We weren't prepared for any operation, we only wanted to have a discussion and we chose a secret location. How they found us was till after, a mystery.
“Raise your hands and place them where I can see them”, was the second order. I quickly raised my hands and kept them on my head in panic. Is death your friend? I feared it too. The night was warm and somehow quiet. The sound of blood was hushing like a seaside wind and my heart was beating fast within. I looked down at their shadows, they were four behind me and they had their pistols ready. I ran short of plans, so they cuffed my hands, forced me into their van and drove off.
We were on the highway on a high speed when something strange happened. Suddenly, there was smoke in the van and everywhere was filled with it.
“Musa, what is going on?” one of them asked, coughing.
“I don't know”, the driver replied while fighting death.
“Stop!!!” one of them commanded, and the driver halted. We all fell off the van, my hands still tied. Everyone was staggering for somewhere safe, me too. I seized that opportunity to head down the hill towards the Primary School. From there, I was lost, still cuffed.
I trudged non-stop through the path that pointed to the Cemetery hoping to see someone like me with a touch of mercy. It worked. I met a girl, she said her name was Trisha and she claimed to be an orphan and a lone girl. She found a way and got rid of the chains.
“Thanks”, I mumbled quickly, ready to run off.
“Just like that?” she asked quietly. I couldn't even see her face in the darkness, but I knew, she deserved more than just 'thanks'.
“Hmmmm...”, I took a deep breath, “You see, I'm not good in saying 'thank you'. What I gave you was not easily fetched. I'm a tiger, I was only taught to devour.”
“So, what would you do now? Devour me?”
The night had become silent and lonely. It was just the two of us in the world of all.
I walked close to her and whispered in her ears, “What do you want?”
I shouldn't have asked that question. Girls are too good in demanding and I had nothing, but she deserved something.
“Nothing. Just take me with you,” she said, and shrugged her shoulders. I stood aloof staring at her wondering what type of person she would be.
An angel or an agent?
A ghost or a host?
A helper or a melter?
I looked at her again, she was smiling and her smile was cute, her teeth were few, and her tongue shone blue.
“See, Trish...I would have loved to take you. I mean, you're not bad for the night, but I'm on the run now. The police would be on my chase, and I'm sure I'm not safe. I lost a brother this night and a few more to nowhere. I can't risk you please.”
“Look at me baby boy...” I looked.
“Can you risk a risk?” she said and smiled maniacally.
Defeated, I led the way. The unit was no longer safe and all my friends were wanted too. I only thought of one place - home. Every comrade must have a home, so that when everywhere is blown and everyone is thrown, there'd be a place to toe.
I took the girl and we treaded the cuts through the thick bushes. Soon, we were home. It was past eleven and every door was locked. At first, I was scared of knocking. Where am I knocking? The same door I shut and ran off for years? Who am I going back to? The same woman I left and went my way?
“Trish, I think, this is a bad idea.”
“What is a bad idea ehhh?” she questioned in a loud voice.
“Is this not your home?” she asked again...“Call your mother, she should be inside.”
That was when it dawned on me that she was picked from a cemetery. Who knows? I might have brought a ghost, and she was too beautiful a human being.
“Don't be a witch, Trish. Relax, let me think,” I begged with a calm voice.
“Okay”, she consented. Did she?
As I turned to think, what I heard was a loud bang on the door. It was the 'witch' knocking. Before I could rush to save the moment, mum was up.
“Who's that?” she asked. Oh my poor mom. She must've been disturbed.
“It...it's me mum”. My voice showed who I was and who I still am - a prodigal son. She said nothing else. I stood wondering what I would receive from her. A slap would be fair. I prayed she wouldn't open the door wielding a bottle. Soon, the door opened. Oh my God, she spread her arms and received me.
What a moment?
I betrayed this woman. She cried for me, but she was still happy to see me. Real tears of sweet affection she shed. My eyes went wet and my body dropped sweat. I hungered for repentance that moment.
“Mum, I'm so sor...”
“Shhhh...”, she interrupted. “Your sister is asleep. Go and eat first.”
She adjusted her night wear and smiled, then, went back to her room. I sat back in tears, weeping like a baby. I remembered the yesteryears when I was the light of my family. They are long gone now. I've become the black sheep. From four to six, I was mummy's favorite. She called me all pet names. Sometimes, she even called me her own father. Indeed, life is sweet at four.
“Won't you eat?”
I turned, it was Trisha. She had a plate in her hands, and the plate contained rice and a heavy lump of meat.
“Jesus! Where did you get that from?” I became a bit mad.
“The kitchen of course. I was hungry and she offered us food. Don't worry about the meat, there are two more in the pot, and there's enough food for you. She can find something for tomorrow. Meanwhile, your mum is a great cook.” I sat still staring at her in tears while she scooped rice and poured in her triangle-shaped mouth. What a witch.
I had a deep sleep that night. Who sleeps in my shoes? I only had to sleep then, because I found somewhere that gave me a cause to.
“If I slap you ehhhh...Common, bend well osiso!”
“Please sir, I'm so sorry. I am still a...”
Then, I heard the sound of a heavy slap and a soft sob. I witnessed all these from my sleep. Somehow, I felt it wasn't a dream, but I was too weak to wake.
“Lie that place and spread your legs wide. The kingdom of God is at hand.” I heard a loud round of laughter as the sobbing continued.
“Say, you love it...”
“Say, you love it fast.”
“I lo...please sir. I...” I heard the sound of another heavy slap. When I couldn't bear it, I slightly opened my eyes. I could count six armed men standing ready smiling, the room was scattered and I saw a man lying on a woman and blood was all over her. I raised my head a bit. That girl was my sister and that man was Johnny. She was pleading and I watched helplessly. I watched her strength fading and Johnny still pushing. She turned towards my direction and locked her eyes with mine. She wanted to say something but a ball of tear fell of her eye first. Suddenly, she stopped shaking. Her body had grown cold.
“She don die?” one of them asked.
“E be like oooo”, another replied. That was when Johnny had to stand, dress up and smiled mischievously.
“Throw this thing away”, he commanded referring to my sister. My heart was beating even faster and I felt blood pounding in my head.
“Bring out that idiot”, he commanded again pointing to me, just when I thought I was unseen. Anger filled my veins. That girl meant a lot to me. As they dragged me out of my hiding place, all that rang in me was vengeance. JOHNNY MUST DIE!
“I guess, you want me dead now. Well, it's unfortunate you can't even come close”, he said groaning in satisfaction.
“Listen to me sir. You maybe strong, but you're not the strongest. I promise you, I must kill you!” I shouted in tears. I meant every bit of what I said.
“Not so fast my brother. We have someone you must meet.” He snapped his fingers and they dragged a woman out from the other room. Her eyes were tied and she had scars on her hands. My eyes couldn't behold the scene. That was my mother. She was in tears.
“Leave my mum out of whatever this is”, I pleaded.
“We will...”, he promised, “but, you must join us.”
It wasn't an invitation again. It had become a command. I had no choice. They locked mum in an unknown place, promising to release her if I complied with them.
“Just five missions and your mum is out, then, you decide whether to stay or leave.” Johnny was a devil's incarnate. He had men and women at his disposal, but he chose me to ruin me. The five missions were all about assassination. I was supposed to kill five persons and the counselor was one of them. If I didn't, they'd kill mum.
What about Trish?
Where had she been all this while?
She was with them. I should've known. Johnny had everything planned out including the Police, sorry, fake police. All he had to do was to rub some policemen at their checkpoints, tie them down and drive off with their vans.
He wasn't needed, so we was erradicated. Manuel and Dustbin weren't needed too, but fortunately for them, they escaped. Obinna and Kelly were already part of them. Their arrest was fake.
The smoke in the van? One of the fake policemen had a tear gas in his pocket. All he had to do was to leak it at the right time. He was then commanded to stop at a spot where my only route out would be the Cemetery road.
What was Trish doing there at that odd hour?
She was simply waiting for me. Clear plan! Unsuspectable! Unarguable!
“All this stress for me?”
He smiled satisfactorily. “Johnny can do anything to get anything no matter how small.”
The first two on the list for me to kill died easy. All I had to do was to position Trisha and Angela as naked weapons. They were married men but they wanted roadside pleasures. I gave it to them on a platter of gold and slit their throats afterwards. Not every girl you see on the street or by the roadside is a harlot. Some of them are assassins; some, robbers and a few more, kidnappers. The first man had security guards, but they were easy to terminate. I just had to insert a silencer to my 39-bullet pistol and take them out one after the other, then, sneak in and cross the man over.
The second had just his family. All we had to do was to lure him to a hotel. Thanks to Trisha. I walked in as a friend, met him in the act and slit his throat.
Two gone, three more.
The third person was a woman. She wanted a young boy to help cool her off when she's hot, since, she's a widow. I became that boy and cooled her off. Easy!
The remaining two were the counselor and his secretary, they died together. That one wasn't as easy as the rest. I was shot too. In fact, I killed the man with bleeding arms. The operation was well planned out but somehow, one of us was the man's bouncer. In his bid to save his boss whom he swore allegiance to, he betrayed us and the guards were multiplied.
So, when I came in, it was like an ambush. They had AKs and short guns. I only had two old pistols with seven bullets each. It looked like a dead end for me, but Mum... Her thought kept me awake. I wasn't scared of death, but I swore to bring her out first.
They hid the man up-hall in his mansion, and waited for me on the second floor. It looked like the last fight of an action movie. I became many things: a superhero, an assassin, a magician and a lot more. As a skilled killer, I finally managed to gun them down with four bullets inserted in my body.
“Done”, I quickly called Johnny, I wanted my mummy.
“Okay...”, and he kept his promise. Mum was sent back home to arrange the burial of her only daughter, my only sister. I decided not to go home just yet. I had something else to achieve, something important that my going home would interrupt.
I heard words from a little bird that Dustbin just moved in. As an only friend left, I ran to him and had him patch me up.
“Dust, abeg you get tools?” I asked with rage in my eyes.
“Pesin don commit abi? The python never strikes untouched. I gat you covered.” He quickly uncovered a box and gave me a bag.
“Be safe...”, he added. I nodded, although safety was one thing I forgot to pickup.
I took one of his bikes and drove off to the community primary school where I was thrown off that night. I wanted to finish it, the same way I started it. This happened to be the only mission I did unmasked. I always appeared invincible, except for now. I wanted my face to be the last he'd see.
Unzipping the bag, I collected an M4 Carbin and loaded it, then added a Smith & Wesson Model 460 as a sidearm. With these, I was sure to kill. I took off my jacket and wore my sister's singlet that I picked from her death place. Her blood was still on it and it smelt fresh. I also picked up The Sig Sauer P226 as an additional sidearm and equipped my pocket with a short knife.
Johnny wasn't a dummy. He knew, I was coming and he was prepared for my invasion. Shadow and his squad took care of the gates; Tomil and his squad were within the gates round the compound; Tanta the giant stood at the first door; while Obinna and Kelly, the betrayers stood as his side guards. There were a total of eighty-five trained men there. My mission looked like suicide, but I was determined not to die before Johnny.
They secured everywhere, but left one place - the back of the fence. Their calculation was logical. The house was situated in the middle of a thick thorny bush. The only way in was through the front and they had it fully secured. It was impossible for someone to come through the back, but not someone whose determination is burning like furnace. There are two kinds of persons one must be scared of in this life: a determined man and a woman in love. I was one of them.
I humbly walked through the bushes till I reached the fence. Then, activating the Spiderman, I started scaling the fence. Soon, I was in. Boom! An ambush! I had to shoot my way in. I shot, reloaded, changed guns and kept shooting. I shot everything that had breath, then I want in, blood stained.
“Hey, abobi, where you dey go?” That was Tanta, the giant.
Oh God! What does he want? A 'David and Goliath' fight? Well, we fought. He smashed me into chips but vengeance strengthened my bones and I brought him down with a little round neck slitting.
I was already weak and down but I still headed upstairs.
Johnny was sitting on an arm chair, dressed in his ever kingly attire.
“I think, I underestimated you”, he flattered.
“You should've gone home. A tiger can still be a prey. Well, you're welcome to hell.”
In my heart, I was already calculating how best to strike. He was closely guarded by my ex-friends and they were armed.
“I feel your pain...”, he continued, “Losing your dad and sister should be quite painful.”
“Don't mention my dad!” I warned, “You know nothing about him.”
“I know nothing about Dom?”
“Yes. By the way, how did you even know his name?” I became curious.
“Why won't I know his name? Is he not my elder brother?”
Tears rolled down my cheek instantly. I suspected his voice but was deceived by his face. In surprise and anger, I bent low and did something in my shoes.
“Why?” I asked. “Why would you kill him? I'm sure, he did you nothing.”
“How do you think I got here? All the money and affluence? I seized them by force. Your father was more successful than I was. He got lands and businesses, houses and enterprises, leaving me with nothing. I knew that, if I killed him, I'd only have you, his only son, to contend with.”
“So, why did you insist I joined you?” The tears and sweat that were rolling down from my body looked like bloody rocks.
“I wanted you dead, and you trusted foolishly. I didn't just want you to die. I wanted you to die with dents to your name. So, I sent Obinna to suggest me to you. To make sure nobody knew me, I had to travel abroad to undergo surgery. The Umeh that was known became Johnny. I think, today is the judgment day. Not all of us would leave here alive, because I've so waited for this moment.”
I didn't want him to talk further, so I threw him my knife and it pierced his chest and I jumped off through the window. It was also my calculation. Obinna and Kelly fired a few shots but they kept skipping my skin. When I was outside the fence, I shifted a bit and smiled in victory. Just before I faded the smile, there was a heavy blast. The whole house was on fire.
All I had to do was to start planning early. I made sure, I hid bombs in every room and had the switch in my shoe. The bombs were timed. Once activated, they waited for seventeen minutes before going off. I activated them there in the room while we talked and quietly did the counting in my heart. The moment it was about time, I jumped off after stabbing him.
I was victorious, but there were scents of trouble. The police would be after me. I was soaked in blood and it would be very easy for them to recognize me. That was the only thing I didn't plan - my after-victory. They know of the name 'SCALES', but they don't know the man behind the mask.
I decided not to let them stress themselves any further looking for me.
I went down to the Primary School, down to the stream, washed off the blood, tended to the wounds and dashed off to hand myself in.
“It's over”, I said to myself. Somehow, I felt fulfilled.
But, how come I'm not dead?
Just early this morning, I was freed with no explanation. My fellow criminals were left back. Who's behind that?
Well, it's time to go back home and start a new life. It's time to love mum and make her happy.
I boarded a taxi and soon, I was home. With tears, I ran in to see mum, but she wasn't there.
“Where is she?” I asked aloud.
Mama Temi was our only neighbor. She'd know where mum is. I ran to her immediately with tears.
“Your mum headed to the police station where you were kept early this morning. Since then, I've not seen her.”
Oh my God! What did she go back there to do? Didn't she know that I'm out?
I headed back to the police station.
“Are you back?” the policeman at the counter asked.
“No sir. Please, is my mum here?”
“Who be your mum?” one asked.
“One short fair woman with a black spot on her nose”, I described, gesturing.
“Oh! You mean, Scales? Is she your mother?”
I didn't know whether to nod or disagree with the question.
“Please, can I see her?”
He nodded and they took me in to the other part of the cell. There sat my mum in shorts and a piece of rag barely covering her chest.
“Mum!” I called.
“Go my son. Live a good life. I've lost your sister, I won't lose you too. I love you...”
I wanted more from her but there was no time. Nothing made sense to me until three months later when she was paraded in court.
“You're hereby sentenced to death by a firing squad!”
I watched my mum dragged towards the pillar of execution. I kept crying and following.
The firing squad was ready, the journalists too, mum was then tied round the pillar like a criminal.
But what was her crime?
Carrying me in her womb for nine months and painfully bringing me out after?
Taking care of me and my sister even after her husband's death?
Accepting me still no matter how dirty I appeared?
Crying each day she watched me live a bad life?
Praying for me every night?
What on earth was her offense?
I weighed her in the scales, she indeed knew no sin. Now, she had become sin. I couldn't bear it. I felt like dying, but no! What every criminal in the cell wants is not preaching but a new life. My mum had fetched one for me and I must live it.
I watched her spread a broad smile and bent her head while loads of bullets were pushed into her.
Obrigado pela leitura!
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