The target, Atinuke was clearly visible through the windshield of the Keke Marwa. The words “…Land of the Living” was etched on the faded yellow paint of the diminutive tri-cycle vehicle. In the shadows of the backseat, Atinuke’s generously made-up face was bathed in reddish light cast from the tall streetlights of the Bariga Junction Petrol Station. She looked pretty, eyelashes that fluttered long, false and impatiently at the chaotic night traffic consisting of bleating okadas, keke marwas, and molues and so on. A thorough contrast to the quiet, peaceful place she was headed soon. From within another Keke Marwa, cast in shadow on the opposite side of the narrow Bariga road, Duru took aim, fired.
Pandemonium broke loose.
Cries erupted amidst the crowd, “Egba mi o!” ruthfully rent the air and got drowned in clouds of January’s unruly harmattan dust as all and sundry dashed helter-skelter for safety. A lone officer of the LPF, lazily directing traffic a minute ago, now with astonishing agility leapt over a wooden stall and sprinted into the compounds of CMA Grammar School. Okada riders -predominantly Northerners- further up the junction abandoned their Kawasuki bikes and raced down the road, yelling “Kai!” and other ruthful exclamatory phrases in Hausa. Meanwhile, the poor keke driver of Land of The Living tricycle had darted out of his vehicle and disappeared behind a row of Molue buses parked randomly beside the petrol station. Within minutes, Bariga junction was deserted. The drop of a feather to the ground would have echoed, there now remained only the intermittent racking of the Keke Marwa’s engine as Atinuke’s fingers twitched in death on the bloodied seat. There was no other sign of life.
Of course there were still numerous people on or just around the scene of the heinous murder. And they began to warily slip out of their places of refuge. Two men of solid build began to crawl out of a gutter behind the Marwa that carried the shot girl.
“Shey person dey inside that keke ni?” asked one of the men whose head was covered motely with dried dirt.
“Ah I no know o” replied the other man. But see…” He stopped crawling and pointed to where blood dripped from inside the marwa into a small pool gathered on the rough tar road. The petrol stations dull street lights giving it the color of mud.
“Hey! Oti ku ni?” queried the questioner. The other man said nothing but edged closer. Then stopped suddenly, alarmed.
A feminine leg had shot out of Land of The Living and settled unsteadily on the ground, wallowing in the pool settled there. The two men hastened out of the filthy gutter. They could still rush the survivor to the Beulah Hospital at Pako.
Later, people who had approached from the front end of where the abomination had happened would swear that with a bullet hole between her eyes, the dead girl regained control of her body and got herself out of the Keke Marwa, and in the wake of the once again fleeing onlookers had sauntered off the way she had been coming. At the same time sirens from the Bariga Divisional Police HQs trumpeted from the distance, occupying the air abandoned by the pacified dust.
A few blocks after the University of Lagoon, past semi-exotic hair salons and clothing boutiques with faulty neon signboards, past the open-air stalls that sold asun, chicken and chips, sharwarma and hot, freshly baked bread; a dark, green Keke marwa pulled to a halt beside tall, erect pine trees that cast long shadows along the stretchy University road. A figure, obscured by the shadows, stepped out and briskly crossed the road, slinging behind him a black long bag with a pointy tip. The Keke marwa roared down the lengthy University road with bright head lights and disappeared into a sharp bend by the side of the road. The silhouetted figure walked back to the T-junction and waited. A molue bus soon came around. The conductor perched precariously on the edge and eye balling the vicinity.
“Saboyingbo” he queried, in a voice hoarse and deepened by heavy smoking and gin.
“Oyingbo” Duru echoed back, the bus stopped and he jumped in, the rickety bus coughed and coursed its way down Victory road, into the heart of the commercial town of Sabo.
The news headline appeared on the lower section of the TV News program; “300 level Lagoon University student still missing after several days.” The news anchor spelt out this piece of headline and added “more to follow shortly.” The common room in Skyview Lodge was sparsely occupied by three young men who sat together on a couch beside the TV mounted high on the wall and secured in an iron cage. The couch opposite was occupied by a lone middle-aged man whose head lulled in a battle with sleep. The three men, however, jerked their heads to the TV at the utterance of the young lady on the screen. The young man who sat in the middle, Duru, turned hard eyes set in a misshapen skull to his friend, Tijani. Unspoken words were exchanged and Tijani gestured with his head to move the conversation outside.
Under the hot Lagos sun, Tijani’s bald head glistened with beads of perspiration. His jaws bunched behind chubby cheeks. Hands pocketed in blue denim pants. Head bowed towards the floor as though there was some secret message to decipher on it. They stood at the mouth of the steps that led out of the lodge into the street outside. A day had passed since the incident at Bariga junction. Tijani spoke softly, still gazing at the floor.
“Guy, didn’t you shoot her to death? Did you miss?”
Anger flashed across Duru’s face but disappeared fast enough for it to have been imagined, unseen by Tijani. He spoke through clenched teeth.
“T-Jay, you know me now. How can you doubt me? I gave that bitch a well-timed and calculated shot that went through her eyes.” He put his palm on his forehead and paced irritably, stops to dab the sweat beading on his forehead with a handkerchief before putting it back into his pocket, their friend inside the common room came out to join them. Heads turned briefly to him and then away. He squinted in the sun and muttered to his partners, “Omo… That bastard girl parent’s just dey cry anyhow for TV, they don’t know they’re crying over a monster.” He shook his head in confusion. Then turning to Duru, he said “Duru you carried out the hit, now she’s missing, where she fit be?”
“How you want make i know?” Duru barked. He paced even harder. Tijani’s phone rang just then and he quickly fished it out if his pocket.
“Ahmed,” he answered. “…yeah.” A glance at Duru shifting nervously in faded checkered pajamas.
“…where?!…WHO SEE AM? WHO SEE AM??….” Silence. “…okay. Thanks.” Duru and Dabs had concerned, expectant looks on their faces.
“Ahmed was with two of Atinuke’s friends at S.U.B just now. They saw Atinuke this afternoon in their faculty.” Dabs puffy face paled as Tijani narrated. Duru stood motionless. He gazed with red eyes at Tijani who walked past him and returned to the common room. Then he seemed to recollect himself and marched in in his partner’s heels.
“so what are we going to do now?” In reply, Tijani sank into the couch and tapped at his iPhone screen. The sleeping man was no longer seated there. “what are we going to do?” Duru enquired again.
“we won’t do anything drastic just yet,” Tijani finally said. Then added, “I know what to do.” He raised the phone to his ear and made a return call to Ahmed.
To be continued
By Tony and Temisan