Victims – Episode 34
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
He hung around the Catholic church for a while waiting for the appropriate time to make the move. As time drew near his heart pounded heavily. He looked at the boy again, he was battling with the ice cream that was melting away and wetting his hands and his sleeves. He wondered if the boy knew what lay ahead of him.
They were seated under an abandoned store, they had started getting along after being together and the boy had resumed calling him ’Uncle’ like he used to before all this started. But it was obvious that the sudden appearance of that woman jolted the boy back to reality and he had resumed his fuss and protest again though it didn’t last.
Umaru was scared and confused earlier that day, as men came in and left the stuffy hotel room they were lodged in, he had fussed and cried when the belt was strapped on him, as if he knew what it was, before the heavy woolen T-shirt was placed over the belt to hide the bomb.
The thought of leading the boy to his death made his sober all of a sudden, and imagining his flesh torn and licked by fire suddenly made him want to throw up, he remembered Fatima; he wasn’t there to see, but he heard it; ‘Boom!’ and he knew it had happened, pieces of her flesh mixed with the rubble never to be joined together.
“He is paying for what his father did” he had said but the responds from the man over the phone had trailed him since then: “Who will pay for the once you did?”
His new phone rang and he picked
“Call him and tell him where you are before going in, my boys are positioned”
He had his uncle’s phone number at heart, so he dialed the number, it rang once and was picked by him
“Where is my son?”
The two women have been walking around the market and its environ for more than forty minutes, sometimes they found themselves at the same spot they started. Kafaya didn’t want to continue, her legs were sore and her cloth was drenched in perspiration even with the heavy January wind.
Her wig which has gathered dust big enough to start the foundation of a building was in disarray while strings of hair slapped her face and flew inside her eyes once in a while, yet Ukwuoma urged them to continue the search.
Kafaya didn’t know the best way to convince the woman, it was both ridiculous and annoying watching her march like a duck in search of her chicks, it was as if the woman was battling with the wind, a battle she was determined to win as the wind blew her skirt recklessly like a torn flag.
Kafaya was about to hold Ukwuoma’s hand and urge her for them to go back when the woman picked her pace and started running towards the road while Kafaya ran after her, she limped as she followed, her feet hurt.
“I have seen them!” Ukwuoma was shouting while running across the road and was almost hit by a truck filled with yams. The truck driver blasted his horn ‘Puuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!’ while trying to control the truck that has lost its break pad.
“Dan banza bura ubanka (b******, your father’s d**k)” the truck driver swore, spatting on the woman but missed.
Kafaya saw the man with a little boy at the entrance of the church, the man must have said something to the old guard at the gate to make him smile and opened the small gate for him and the kid. Before she could get to Ukwuoma, she was already exchanging words with the old guard who was determined not to let her in.
Yusuf knelt down and bent his head in a fake meditative mood, he watched the woman seated next to him with fascination. Her fingers where moving on the beads with ease like a silk cloth on a smooth surface, and she had her eyes closed and her mouth moving in a rhythm pattern he didn’t understand.
Someone would call out the prayers, aided with a loud mic and the members would respond like they also do in the mosque, he would have loved to stay long and watch them but this wasn’t the time.
He looked at his watch, the time was ticking fast and he had to leave the boy here without raising suspicions from people,
“Zauna a nan bari in saya wani abu (Stay here let me buy something)” He ran his palm on the boy’s head, rose from the pew and walked out, leaving the boy gazing at him till he disappeared.
He met two men standing outside the church auditorium, closed to the church chapel where the huge molded image of ‘the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus ’ stood. They stopped whatever they were saying immediately they saw him and started walking towards him. He didn’t want to take the risk of waiting till the men approach him, they may be men from the brotherhood or from the army, but which ever one, he had to stay away from them.
He pulled his phone again and dialed a number;
“The boy is positioned…I have not seen him yet…I think he has some men on ground…yes…yes…” the phone went dead.
He would get back inside the church and would find a spot far enough from the blast and close enough to watch the Imam finds his son and tries to get to his son, then he would press the button.
“Our lady of Fatima catholic church, thirty minutes or he is gone with the worshipers”
The call had finally come, he had waited to hear from Yusuf for two days but to no avail, even his phone was switched off. His nephew was playing games with him and it was making him mad. For once in his life he felt out of control.
So he made his move, it was a taboo, a ‘Haram ’ to step his feet in a church but not on this circumstance, Allah would understand. He knew how obvious it would be to enter the church with his caftan and his long beards, he needed a disguise and very fast.
In less than two minutes he got what he wanted, dressed in a normal chinos trouser, a shirt and his beards gone he became one of the numerous worshipers that troops into the big cathedral. On a normal day, Imam Husayn would not let any string of his beards plucked from his chin, ‘It is Haram for me’ he would have said to anyone who would have suggested that to him. But now he felt like a featherless chicken. He had refused to look at himself in the mirror for fear of what he would see.
He had sent three of his boys inside the church to search out where Yusuf was hiding and they have found him.
“Follow him” He had ordered them
As he entered inside the church auditorium, with its worshipers standing and kneeling in harmony almost like what they do in the mosque, he felt dirty, soiled and the blasphemy they were doing in the name of worshiping stung him, yet he needed to find his son and get him to a safe place before he would set this sinful place ablaze as an atonement for defiling him.
This would be the third blast that would rock Abuja that same day if Major Usman does his part well, it would be in the news for a long time, the thought excited him.
Lieutenant Abdul sat with the old guard chatting and making the old man happy while he gazed at his watch periodically and spoke into the ear piece that was almost invincible. He has been in the church for about an hour, he saw when Yusuf entered the church with the little boy and had even eating ‘ gworo and debino’ while waiting.
Now he was getting worried, his boys had called him to confirm whether their target would still make it into the trap
“Be on guard…search everywhere follow every movement, he may have even come…” he had told his men severally. But he wasn’t sure anymore, nobody who had entered the church in the last one hour fitted into the description that was given to him.
“Oga officer, na your papa be that?” the old church guard asked, chewing bitter-kola with what was left of his tobacco stained teeth.
“No…just a friend”
“He resemble you o, I think say na your papa”
Lieutenant was still trying to figure out what to respond to the guard when someone opened the small gate and walked in. his eyes followed the man who stopped two times to asked questions.
“Gafara dai (Excuse me)” he said to the Guard and hurried towards the stranger
Abdul stood few feet behind the man and watched him closely, he saw the man said something on the phone, unconsciously the stranger combed his chin as if he was combing a beard.
“Are you looking for someone?” Lieutenant Abdul asked
“I am fine” answered the Man. Abdul noticed the stranger wouldn’t turn to face him, ‘was he trying to hide his face?’
“I can help you if you need help” Abdul walked side by side with the stranger, trying to look him on the face
“I can find my way” the man said piously, he hastened his steps, leaving Abdul wondering where he had seen the face before.
Abdul pulled the picture given to him again, there was a striking resemblance but the hair and the beard was gone, the man he just spoke to looked like a younger version of the man in the picture.
He shoved the picture back inside his jean pocket, alerted his men and followed the man inside the church.
To be continued
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