A man he used to be.
Chinwelu Okazi. But a lot of things had changed him. Things he couldn’t explain. He wouldn’t have done this if he was that man.
“Do you want to be free?” the priest asked him.
He swallowed hard without giving the words, the words he was expected to say.
“Do you want to be free?” The priest had to reiterate.
But Chinwelu knew freedom was a mirage, an illusion, a magician’s trick. He knew pain and bondage., why would he accept freedom. He had killed a man, lots of men. He could still hear the music of their deaths reverberating in his ears. Yet he wanted to be free.
“What does it profiteth a man to gain…”
They had told him this would be his last. If he killed this man, it would be his last. It was a rainy July. The cult had sent him through the storm, in the darkness of the night. They had never given him reasons. He had never asked. But one thing was certain. A man would be killed. Who cared if it was an innocent or a villain?
A raw tune!
Two, three, four sticks of marijuana. Five verses from the holy bible. He was a born catholic just as much as he had proven he was a born killer.
Fifty-five steps into the mansion, two dead bodies out of the way.
He found the mark with his wife in the bedroom.
It was twelve fifty four am. A time the gods would want silence. In a small town in Owerri, you didn’t expect any excessive or noisy activities at this hour.
But the silence would be altered; a gunshot into the ceilings of the house jolted both bodies out of their sleep.
“Chineke!” it was the woman that responded first. Her name was Amarachi, the wife of Obinna Oluge. The couple couldn’t believe their eyes, they were taken aback by the vision of the late night intruder who seemed to come with a message of death.
He felt the call of his name stab through his veins. This just wasn’t official business. He and Obinna had been friends since they were kids. They had attended the same secondary and primary school. They had grown in the same village of Umuonala, drank water from the same cup and aten from the same plates. Even though he was ‘osu’, Obinna’s family hadn’t shut their doors against him. In fact they had been supportive through his childhood.
And this was how he would repay them?
He was the first person Obinna had told his intentions of going to the seminary. They had shared those happy and youthful days together. It was a graceful thing to give one’s life to the Lord’s calling and Chinwelu had taken his friend’s departure to seminary as divine.
They’d lost touch. He moved to Lagos and tried to make something out of life. He got some gossips now and then; that his friend was now an Anglican priest and was married. There was always good news that made him swell in envy. His friend was doing well in life while he was on a downward trod into absolute failure.
“Chinwelu please don’t do this.”
When he joined the cult, they had offered him wealth and protection. He would have to run some errands here and there but that won’t take too much out of him, they had told him. But now after eight years of helping the organization, he knew what peace it had taken away. Their promises were all lies.
He knew if he didn’t kill him, someone else would be sent to do the job. The priest was a mark and he would have to die. He wondered what Obinna had done to deserve their attention. Had he dabbled into their petty ways?
“Chinwelu, you know you shouldn’t do this.”
After kidnapping three kids in Onitsha four months ago, he had done enough. He couldn’t continue doing this. Even if he had signed up, couldn’t he sign out? He had altered too many lives and handed out enough deaths. He wanted out and he made the demands. That was when he was giving this assignment – his supposed last assignment.
Why would they want a priest dead?
He couldn’t bring himself to it. Killing was a part of his life, but now it seemed so distant. He trembled, even as his fingers stayed on the trigger.
Obinna could see through him, the hesitation and the panic. His wife had fainted perhaps because of the shock or the forbearance. He had known a different Chinwelu then. This person in front of him was different, so wild and furious. Although there was some kind of agitation, he wished it would just go away and disappear at this moment.
Chinwelu feared and genuflected. He needed not to kill, but redemption. He was too unholy. He needed cleansing, perhaps he could be free.
“Bless me father! Save me.”
Now Obinna saw a believer, a repentant sinner. Is this not what Jesus had come to the earth for?
“With tears and grief he asked, “do you want to be free?”
“Yes Father.” Chinwelu finally answered.
Then the prayer began like a slow introduction to a marvelous piece of music. “Today father in the heavens your son has come to meet you. May you bestow your favor and mercy upon him? Please father take him back and show him the pathways of righteousness… Oh lord don’t…”
Chinwelu slammed the car door shut. It was some minutes past the hour of three in the morning. An evil night this had been. He was pained and for the first time in a long time he had to cry. He had to let it out. He had to throw it all away. The grievance was too much for him to bear.
This wasn’t what he had signed in for. All he had wanted was to get out of poverty and shame. All he had wanted was freedom.
Could he ever be free?
They said there was a place called hell fire. He didn’t know if it was below or above, but he’d want to go there. To be consumed and perhaps find ultimate freedom.
He ignited the car, and for a moment he heard nothing… then the explosion… and the consumption of a former dangerous hit man.