The whole air was filled with tear gas like a gas chamber. The dispersed crowd was shedding tears from the after-effect of the tear gas as they went their different ways leaving behind the bean cake woman whose fire spot would have been a place for murder. Some labs had engaged in a physical combat over the woman’s daughter whom young men had been striving to win her hand in a relationship when mayhem ensued. The police van on patrol drove in as they fired some tear gas in the air and the crowd began to run helter-skelter like oil-bean seeds under the threat of tropical sun. The woman was left in a sleazy condition and tears dropped on her cheeks as the time struck ten p.m. Pali covered his nose with his brown hankerchief to deter the tear gar from his nostrils. He saw Ndu approaching to ascertain the reason the town had gone haywire.
“It was some fools fighting over a girl,” choked Pali. Ndu wondered why some would choose to reek havoc over trifle.
* * * * *
Ndu had learnt the techniques of peddling. The white substance wrapped in a black polythene always found its confinement in the dry gutter covered with slovenly rag.
Off, both of them boarded a bus to the nearby village the next day, to see the medicine man. As the got off the bus, they trekked down the dusty track, then into the compound. It was deserted unlike before. Pali was shocked, they had not missed their way. The compound was empty like Sahara desert without a single plant for a soul.
“Salaam maleku! Salaam maleku!” Pali called out as he bestrode the threshold.
“Maleku salaam,” answered a male voice inside the inner backyard. A young man of twenty or thereabouts came out.
“Yes, can I help you.”
“I came to see Baba,” announced Pali. While Ndu was looking at the man from head to toe and could not write home anything of him.
“Which of the Babas are you looking for?”
“The medicine man that stays here.”
“I’m afraid, the medicine man is no longer here.”
“Please where can I locate him?”
“That would difficult,” the man intimated, watching Pali with digust “the medicine man was sick and was rushed to the hospital. After two weeks, he passed on.”
“Did I hear you say passed on?” Pali asked rhetorically, “when? How? Where?”
“Terrible!” Exclaimed Ndu.
“What about the assistant?” Inquired Pali.
“What assistant?” Quizzed the man.
“The medicine man’s assistant.”
“I wouldn’t know. But the only thing I can tell you is that, the whole family has travelled to his home town. And that means the family will be staying over there.”
“Please do you know the ‘medicine’?” Inquired Pali.
“What medicine? I have no idea of what you’re saying. I think you had better go home and find something else to do.”
Now, standing astride the threshold, he looked down on the ground as if he were counting the grains of sand. They left the man behind as they walked down the dirt track homeward.
In the bus back home, he stared into space in mute confoundment. He had sunk into oblivion when Ndu spoke to him.
“We can get another medicine man in town.”
“I wouldn’t know. I’m worried because the Baba did a job for me and I need to renew it.”
“Then we’ll have to locate another.”
“Another?! I’m even scared of this.”
“So what do we do now?”
“We have to follow it with prayers.”
“Prayers, huh?” Chuckled Ndu, “since I knew you, how many time have you gone to church?”
“I’m very prayerful.”
Ndu burst into laughter as he heard him say that, “prayerful indeed.”
They climbed down from the bus and off the two motorcyclists they had flagged down disappeared up the busy road with them.
It was a very hot Wednesday afternoon, Ndu sat in front of a new apartment he was living, having left his former place after completing his National Service. At Sarki Yaki street, Noman’s land, where the new apartment was, a tall man in a pair of black trousers that hung over his shoes neatly, and a brown long sleeve shirt walked down towards Ndu.
“Hello,” began the man, “I’m an envangelist; can we share the word of God.”
Pali burst onto the frontage as he had got off a motorcycle.
“What have you this time around. You had better hold it, this is business time,” gasped Pali.
“God loves you,” uttered the man.
“I know that; He loves you too. Isn’t it?” Pali was staring at him.
“Then, magana yakare. Yes, discussion is over,” added Pali.
“You too.” Pali still staring at him as the man headed up the street.
“You should have allowed him finish his sermon,”
“This is business time, Sarko has given us stuff worth several million naira and we have to peddle this within two weeks before the NDLEA men track us. I hear they are tracking down any how these days,” emphasised Pali.
“Can we beat the deadline within two weeks?” interrogated Ndu.
“Why not. We have to. . .” Pali was distracted by a milk coloured old model Land Rover van that had passed, and now began to reverse and finally stopped in front of the house. Pali thought it was the NDLEA men, so he ran into the backyard of the house and hid. Ndu had seen an inscription written on the passenger’s door of the van: Mega Oil Services. A young man in orange overall alighted from the passenger’s seat, and walked upto him.
“B-U-L-L! Jooohhhnnn B-U-L-L. What are you doing in the centre of commerce, in Kano?” Screamed Ndu in a joyous mood as they hugged each other.
“We came to do a job here in Kano, and we were on our way to Port Harcourt before I saw you,” replied John Bull.
“Look at you. You were retained after your service.”
“Not really, you kow my father, one of his contacts got me a job at Mega Oil Services. In fact, the job was already waiting for me before I could get done with my service.”
“You are lucky, you know.”
“I have been trying to get you but to no avail. You know we lost contact. Any way, let me get my business card.” He went to the van and brought out a business card from a bunch from the pigeon-hole and returned, “this is my business card. You can get me with the number especially during office hours.”
He made a gesture, indicating departure and said, “you live here?”
“Yes, it’s where I’m staying for now.”
“That reminds me, were you retained?!
Ndu shook his head.
“Where do you work now?”
“There is this place I went for an interview. By monday, I’d be informed about my fate.”
“Well, call me and tell me the out come,” they shook hands and hugged.
“I’m glad meeting you in Kano.”
“The world is a small place, and you never can tell. I’m pleased, too,” surmised John Bull.
“Take good care of yourself.”
“You too,” as he was leaving, Ndu stopped him, “isn’t it late to travel to Port Harcourt this afternoon?”
“We will have to beat Kaduna and Abuja before night falls and find a place to lodge. Then, tomorrow we continue the journey. I have to be in PH by tomorrow.”
“Alright. Safe journey.”
Ndu bade goodbye to the driver and John Bull when the van’s engine came up. The Land Rover van disappeared up the road.
Pali emerged when he had heard the dying sound of the van in the distance.
“Who was that?” interrogated Pali.
“He was my room-mate at the university.”
“This is his card.”
“Woah! Mega Oil Services!” Pali stared at the card, “you should have called me.”
” You ran away. . . He’s heading to PH.”
“I thought it was anti-drug law.”
They moved into the housed for the great task ahead.
* * * * *
Two weeks had gone. The peddling so far was successful. Then, as the duo moved on, to get done with the remnant kilo, they seemed to perceive something sinister about the place. Pali kissed the ring on his right index finger and shrugged his shoulders, resigninng to fate, having lost faith on the ring after he was not able to renew the charm when the medicine man passed on.
“Just be alert about the movement of peopld around here,” warned Pali.
“I don’t like the movement of people here,” Ndu affirmed frightfully.
“Just be alert.”
As the duo were at New road trying to complete their task, unknown the anti-drug law men had been trailing on them on a tip off. Pali had been marked by them as a wanted person to be held on an evidence.
An anti-drug law man in mufti approached them, “please I’m looking for Alhaji Dankano.”
“Am I Alhaji Dankano?” replied Pali furiously.
During this brief interval, the anti-drug law man suspected what Pali had hiden in his armpit, a wrapped content. His colleaques closed in to the direction where they stood. Ndu vanished literally when he had seen them approaching. The moment Pali looked for an escape route, the man got hold of his belt and the wrapped content fell on the ground.
“For the past three mouths, you have been smart enough. Finally, you fell into our hands. Take him!”
They swooped on him and trussed him up onto their van and drove off leaving behind the crowd of people at New road. While the upheaval was going on, Ndu had disappeared from the scene.
Nearly frightened out of his life, he escaped to Tropical Hotel in search of Sarko, but he was no where to be found not even at Tavern 44. Though, the barman had intimated him after a tip, that he overhead Sarko inform a lady to check on him at Dandala Hotel.
At Dandala Hotel, Sarko was drinking with three ladies in the lobby of the hotel with German and French wines and Cuban cigar packet on the table. Sarko shocked when he saw Ndu step into the lobby.
“Ndu, what happened? How did you know I was here?” He stood up and met Ndu halfway, to ascertain his mission, “What happened?”
“They have caught Pali.”
“What?! My money, my cash, my life, shit! I’m in a deep water.”
“What’s the matter?” Asked one of ladies.
“Nothing serious,” he told the ladies and whispered to Ndu, “we need to leave here. And I mean fast.”
He settled his bill and returned to the ladies and announced, “please ladies, ehm. . . I had a call by a friend at the G.R.A. Let me see him briefly and I will be back in no time.”
“We would oblige you provided you are snappy about it,” added another lady.
“Yes, snappy. Promised.” Sarko and Ndu hurried down to Hotel de Vanilla upstairs to room 212. Sarko packed his clothes, shoes and bundles of money- he never banked his money, into his luggage and they headed off to Noman’s Land where they got Ndu’s bag.
On their way escaping, at Sarki Yaki street, Noman’s Land around airport road junction, some uniformed men frightened off the incoming and outgoing vehicles on airport road as they conveyed the remains of the head of state who had passed on few hours earlier at the Federal Capital Territory.