I’ve never killed before” he said and looked up and around the darkness filled room as if he suspected somebody eavesdropping from the window side. “Paul’s case was such an unfortunate one”; he continued “I didn’t kill him. Those guys were chasing after us so furiously without let up. As I ran, I looked back to see one of them already close to slicing my head with his machete, I increased my pace. Unfortunately I bumped into Paul and he staggered and stumbled on the ground. Next I heard was his voice screaming my name in agony.” He paused, looking me directly in the eyes. Maybe he was expecting me to ask him who the “guys” were and when it happened. I already knew about their encounter with the Axe-men and I knew Paul did not die in that ordeal. I had seen Paul at the Round House tavern beside SUG building a day after. Paul had stood watch for him at the gate and alerted him when he saw a group of Axe-men approaching from the other end of Onuiyi road.
It was the night he dispersed a pocket of Axe-men drinking at Pa Jomo’s pub behind Zik’s flat – a suicidal act nobody would ever think of. He had over turned their table with a swift kick and broke the serenity in the air with two thunderous gun shots accompanied with the clattering noise of broken battles. He had shot at Stone and missed the target. He had sworn to kill Stone that night for sleeping with his girl friend. All the students patrolling behind Zik’s flats had run amok. He too had run for his life after the shot before the Axe-men could regroup and hit back. They sort for him through all the nooks and crannies of the school for no avail. Paul had sashayed home safely without being notice. Nobody knew he was not a Jew-man. Johnson’s eyes didn’t blink as he looked at me. I could still see his eyes in the dark emitting fear and blood thirst. Maybe he was trying to guess what went on in my head. I shrugged and looked down without a word. He coughed and cleared his throat to interrupt the uneasy silence that set in. his eyes were red and his smoke-darkened-lips making some unsteady moves as they did whenever he lied.
Johnson was never a good liar. Yet he never said the truth. At least I’ve never seen him do. When I looked up, my eyes met his again. “What about Chuma?” I managed to ask with my voice quaking with surging emotion and choking tears. “Which Chuma?” he jerked and squint his eyes as if to remember something. “No, that one died of his stupidity” he paused, sucked in air and continued; “why would he go behind Zik’s flats to fight an Axe man without a back-up? He fought them in their territory and they killed hi…” he was disrupted abruptly by the movement of a rat at the door. His right hand swiftly ran into his jacket and stopped dead. Then he saw the two flashing white eye balls of the rat glowing in the dark at the gap under the door. I saw his milky white teeth shine in the dark. He might have smiled. Then I removed my left slippers and flung it at the door and the rat disappeared. Johnson stood up and pushed a stick of cigarette in between his dark lips. I heard the sound of his lighter follower by a flicker of light exposing the dark scar on his face. “I will light the candle” I said in a finality tone without asking his opinion and groped to the reading table’s chest behind my seat. He murmured something I did not understand and paced towards the window. Then I lit up a candle and watched him puff the smoke through his nose with his revolver now on his right hand and the burning cigarette in-between two fingers.
“I am sorry bro” I heard him say and I turned again looking at the cloud of tears congregating round his eye balls. I knew what he meant when he said he was sorry – not for smoking in my room but for being such a bad example for me. For not being there for me as big brother since our parents died in a ghastly motor accident. “I am sorry” he said again with his lips puckered and the cigar stick making to fall out. Then I stretched out my opened palms without a word and said a silent prayer that the police should not meet him with the gun. He placed the revolver on my open palms. I opened the table chest and put away the gun and heaved a sigh of relief. As we hugged, I recalled how we used to play together in the rain when we were young. We stood there hugging in the silence. I could feel his pains. My phone gave a beep and I ignored it. I knew it was the police. They were around. I felt a little regret informing them and betraying my only blood brother.
The phone beeped again and suddenly we heard the deafening bang on the door as it swung open letting in a flood of light that blinded me for few minutes. Johnson pushed me down immediately and dashed towards the chest for his gun. He stopped dead in front of the chest as he heard the rattling sound of guns in the air followed by the commanding voice of the Hausa police men: “ip you run I’ll pire!”. Then I opened my eyes and saw Johnson with his hands on his head and his red eye ball watching me accusingly. I crossed myself and thanked God that Johnson didn’t pick his gun. Now the innocence of his face reappeared. I couldn’t juxtapose the face with his heinous deeds. “Did you do it?” he asked in low whispery voice, looking straight into my eyes and I nodded slowly with regrets hoping he would understand that I meant good for him. I would not afford to have my only brother killed by the blood sucking Axe-men. I rather have him alive in jail than dead. He continued looking at me with disbelieve and his eyes emitting hatred.
“I am sorry” I said amid quaking lips. Then the police man came close and cuffed his hands to the back. As the police led him to the door he turned and gave me a wicked grin and moved on. “He is in safe hands” the other fair police man said in a polished English accent and winked at me. I couldn’t move but stood there watching as they went out of sight. Then came the voice taunting me in my head again: “you betrayed your brother!”