Kunle Adebayo had just made Chief Inspector. This promotion is coming after several years of dedicated hard work to the Nigerian Police. The letter bearing his promotion was delayed somewhat but Kunle, being a patient soul took the delay in strides and did his duties without strife or grudge. So when the ‘oga’ sitting on his letter finally stood up, and it got to him he rejoiced in leaps and bounds. Unprecedented and unnecessary delays in work place elevation are common scenarios in the Nigerian civil service, your boss may just delay your promotion letter because he didn’t like the color of the tie you wore one day two years ago or she may just not like the way you walk or talk, something…anything flimsy would do and could just keep you at that spot for a very long time; that’s basically how the system works.
Being Chief Inspector entails a lot of things, one of which is driving back home later than usual, as was the case this day. Generally, the Nigerian system is pretty much a flexible one, I dare say the most flexible in the world, meaning, most people get to do their work in the way and manner that soothes them, or in the way they are most comfortable with, the existence of the job being the only constant factor in this equation. But sometimes the job does fight back, and determines how it should be done, and in cases such as this you probably would end up returning back home way after closing hours.
Kunle has worked in Nyanya police station for seven years. He was one of the longest serving senior officers at the station, and after so long at the station he pretty much was familiar with the way things worked both within the station and in the community generally. Nyanya is a satellite town in the country’s capital Abuja, it’s a settlement occupied basically by low income earners many of whom work in the city center, about 15km from the settlement. The settlement is thickly populated, the most populated of all such settlements. Judging by its demography the nature of crimes that is mostly reported in the station could be regarded as minor, ranging from public disturbance to domestic violence, petty theft to smoking of hemp and sometimes infightings among neighbors over whose turn it is to wash the toilet. So every morning as Kunle prepares for work he can bet his pinkie on it that there would be one or two of those ridiculous reports lying in wait for him on his desk, his days were almost predictable. But all that was about to change, change in such mysterious and frightening manner.
He entered his one bedroom apartment at a quarter past seven, he was completely worn out, the only thing on his mind was take a shower and hit the sack. He was not married yet so there was no reason to explain to anyone why this was this and that was that, he had his much needed peace and silence. Times like these are when he savors his bachelor status, believing this to be one of the many perks of being single. He was in his bedroom peeling off his uniform and getting ready to plunge into the shower when he thought he heard a sound behind his house, just by the back door. He stopped undressing to listen properly. There was no sound, just silence. He concluded his mind was playing pranks on him, possibly due to his tiredness, so he resumed undressing. Barely had he started when he heard the sound again, this time he was sure it was not a trick of the mind, he had definitely heard something. He stopped to listen and then the sound came again, it sounded like a child…it sounded like a child groaning. A child groaning behind his house! He picked his side arm and tentatively walked towards his back door. Despite the fact that what he heard was a child groaning he was not willing to take any careless chance. When he was close to the door he called out;
“Who dey deir?”
He asked in the local lingua franca meaning; who is there?
The groaning stopped and was then replaced by a rustling sound, like someone changing position, someone was definitely there.
“I say; who dey deir?”
He asked again in a harsher tone of voice. After two or three seconds, which seemed to Kunle like an eternity, a timid voice spoke up.
He calmed down, somewhat, but was not of the woods just yet.
“Who are you and what are you doing behind my house?” He asked in a firm but quieter voice.
“I want you to help my friend” was the reply which Kunle suspected was that of a boy of between ten and thirteen.
“Who is your friend? How did you know to come here?” He asked, wanting to know a little more before he considers opening his door.
“We know you. You are the policeman that lives on our street, we use to chase and… sometimes stone your car” The boy said the last part of his statement reluctantly and more quietly than he had been talking before.
Kunle’s brow went up instantly in a ‘oho!’ fashion on hearing the boy’s confession. So this is one of those little imps who normally runs after his car and sometimes climb on it while he drives out in the morning. Karma could be such a nasty lady, see how she works? Now was probably the right time for him to repay the boy back with his coin, perhaps he should just turn around and go to sleep and leave the little thug and his friend to their fate, they most likely deserve what came upon them. But just out of curiosity he wished to know what kind of trouble the little thugs had gotten themselves into, so rather than turn around and go to bed he turned On the back light, which he normally leaves Off in order conserve power bill, and opened the door. Standing by his doorstep was a boy, he could not be more than twelve, and sure enough his shirt was dirty and his short, which was threadbare, had several holes on it. His face and feet were white from the cold dryness of the harmattan. His look was not in the least bit unusual to Kunle, after all this is Nyanya.
“Una don enter trouble again abi? Wetin do your friend? Meaning; you have put yourselves into trouble again right? What happened to your friend?
The boy shaking his head vigorously from side to side replied;
“No o, we didn’t do anything we only watch film”
“You only watched film?” Kunle spat out in disgust, looking visibly irritated. Of what concern was it to him if the pair had seen a movie? Oh! So the little thugs were at it again, he should have known better.
“Yes sir, since when we watch the film Chinedu always behave somehow. If we are playing, when night come I will not see him again, he will now come back in the midnight and be saying “I eat whole family, I eat whole family”. His eyes will be very white, this black thing will not be there” The boy said, pointing one index finger at his pupil “His eyes will just be white. I will be calling him, he will not answer me. His hand will be full of blood. In the morning I will not see anything again and Chinedu will say he did not remember anything”
Kunle listened to all the boy said and for the first few seconds was too dumb to talk. It was like he had recited a scene from a very scary movie to him, the hair on the back of his neck seemed to stand on their toes as goose pimples ran down the length of his frame. Then, suddenly, he snapped back to reality and kicked himself hard within, this was just another prank, a well thought out one though, and he had fallen completely for it, damn him!
“You dey craze, na your father you wan use play, God punish you” He cursed and was turning back to enter his house when the boy went on his knees and started to beg.
“Please sir I am not lying, I am saying the truth, please sir”
He stopped mid-track, his back half turned to the strange boy who had come to disturb his otherwise cool evening. He wanted so badly to walk back in but there was something unusual about the entire thing, the boy didn’t seem like he was playing pranks, rather there was a look of desperation on his face, one that bordered fear and naked terror. Kunle was caught between two; to believe or not to believe, he chose the latter but decided to play along.
“When did this start?”
“E don tey, e reach one month”
“Where are your parents? Why didn’t you tell them about it?”
“We are staying with our aunty, she no dey stay house for night” The boy looked down at his fingers as he said the last part of his statement, like he was ashamed of the revelation.
Kunle didn’t need to ask question, he understood. The aunt is a daughter of the night, there is no end to their number in this part of the city.
“Come to the police station tomorrow, I will see what I can do, it is late now okay?”
The boy nodded reluctantly and made tiny unconvincing movements to leave.
Kunle, glad that he had found a method to discharge the boy, walked into his house and locked the door behind him. Asking the boy to come to the station the next day was his grand scheme of getting rid of the boy totally, he reasoned the boy would not have the effrontery to come into the station to spin his ridiculous tale. In the end he would have won. That was his thought, but how wrong was he. Little did he know that he had been robed into something way greater than his spirituality and his paycheck could handle. Little did he know that this little meeting with this strange boy would come to determine the pattern his life would take for the next twenty years. He turned the light to the back Off and made his way to his room.
The hunt had officially begun.