The evil that men do lives after them—William Shakespeare
Sade was walking ahead of Pilah. This was the only way to kill a Sade, Pilah thought, while she was backing you. So much like the proverbial stab on the back, but that couldn’t be helped. Pilah raised his gun on Sade’s spine.
Pilah turned, his eyes red with hatred. A young female agent stood at the mouth of the bush. ‘What is it?’
‘Sorry to disturb,’ she said. ‘Shaka is still alive.’
‘Alive? He wasn’t captured?’
‘Yes sir, there is no trace of him and his top aide Husseini.’
‘We have to go after him,’ Sade said. ‘Now!’
Mark joined them. ‘I’m onto something, Pilah.’
‘What is it?’
‘One of the terrorists has agreed to take us to Shaka’s hideout on the condition that we allow him a safe passage into any country of his choice.’
‘Unacceptable,’ Pilah flared. ‘No terrorist should be allowed to dictate to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mark!’
‘Why don’t you hear what the NSA has to say about it?’
‘Who the hell is this peacock terrorist?’
‘His name is Sami,’ Mark said.
‘I don’t know any Sami.’
‘He was Sade’s partner,’ volunteered the lady agent.
Pilah’s righteous glare fell on Sade.
‘Indeed, Sami was my partner during the Niger Delta Operation. He had since gone offside. I captured him earlier today and tried to buy him in before terrorists intervened. But I must note that he was in breaking point.’
The situation had broken like an egg before Pilah’s eyes and he was having problems gathering the albumen in his palms. ‘W-where is the goddamn terrorist?’
‘This way sir.’ The lady agent led them out of the bush into the field where Sami sat on the ground, surrounded by four or five agents.
‘Mark, this bastard ought to be in cuffs,’ Pilah said.
‘He won’t run away.’ Although Pilah and Mark were in the same rank, Mark made deference to him as Pilah was from the office of The National Security Adviser who has political control of the Secret Service.
‘Where is Shaka?’ Pilah demanded.
‘I am not saying anything till I get a guarantee of a safe passage out of this country.’
‘You have the goddamn guarantee, where is Shaka?’
‘I don’t trust you,’ Sami said.
‘Then I am going to beat the information out of you!’
‘Why don’t you try?’
‘Indeed, I will…’ Pilah advanced dangerously. ‘We are wasting time,’ Mark said. Pilah stopped. He turned. ‘What does this stinking peacock want?’ he asked Mark.
‘How do we guarantee our trust?’ Mark asked Sami.
‘I don’t trust any of you. But I trust Sade. If Sade gives me her word that I will get my free passage, I will take you guys to Shaka’s hideout.’
All eyes fell on Pilah. He brought out his mobile phone and dialled the National Security Adviser. ‘Shaka is alive, sir.’
‘Get after him!’
‘We need Sade on the assignment.’
‘Of course,’ agreed the NSA, ‘but assign someone to kill her as soon as the assignment is over.’
‘I don’t know whom to trust.’
The NSA understood. Sade could outlive the person assigned to kill her.
‘I trust you, Pilah,’ said the NSA. ‘Join the team and as soon as the assignment is done, put Sade out.’
Pilah’s scorching glare fell on Sami. ‘Where is Shaka?’
‘We will go by helicopter to where it is safe enough to approach them,’ he said.
‘Get us a pilot and make a chopper available,’ Pilah said to Mark.
‘I can fly a helicopter,’ Mark said.
‘No Mark, I don’t need you on this operation. Cordon off this area and see that the girls get safe to town.’
‘Reuben will take care of these,’ Mark said. ‘Shaka is a high profile criminal. We need our best men on him.’
‘We already have Sade.’
‘I will be happier if Mark joins us in this operation,’ Sade said.
Pilah allowed a crooked grin. If Mark went with them that would mean two of them. From the appearance of things, Mark wouldn’t approve of him killing Sade, so Mark too would have to go. And Pilah would never allow a terrorist like Sami leave unpunished. So that made three of them… Four even, counting Shaka himself. No, not four. Sade would kill Shaka which meant he would take care of three… or less. Shaka would surely kill someone before he died. Most likely Sami, or even Mark, or both of them… However it came, Mark’s work was cut short for him by circumstance. But it never occurred to Pilah that Shaka could kill him too, but then such thoughts never cross the minds of the arrogant brave.
‘Let’s get to the chopper,’ Mark addressed himself to Sami.
‘Sade hasn’t said anything about my free passage.’
‘Sami, I give you my word, I will do whatever it takes to get you a free passage out of the country.’
‘If you get us to Shaka, of course,’ Mark added.
‘What is that hut over there?’ Sade shouted as their helicopter flew over a stream towards a hut in the middle of a cluster of trees.
‘Just a hut.’
‘Shaka could have come this way, right?’
‘It is unlikely,’ Sami said.
‘Mark, turn the chopper around and let me drop on the stream.’
‘Shaka isn’t there,’ Sami said.
‘There is no harm in checking. Turn the chopper Shaka!’
‘You are with us on Shaka,’ Pilah reminded her.
The craft made a half circle turn on the sky.
‘I will join you guys,’ Sade said. ‘How long to landing Sami?’
‘About three hundred metres.’
‘I will join you guys.’ And Sade jumped.
‘Stop, three hundred metres up,’ Sami shouted and jumped too.
‘What is the fool doing?’ Pilah barked.
‘He dropped.’ Mark was unmoved. ‘Between the two of us, we can nip Shaka, can’t we?’
Sade broke surface. Sami broke surface. ‘Why did you jump?’
‘I had to.’
‘I don’t trust that Pilah guy.’ Sami wiped water from his face.
‘I gave you my word Sami.’
‘Your word won’t stop Pilah’s bullet in my spine…’
On reflex, the two agents slumped into the water as gunshots torn apart the water. The terrorist who had shot them stood watching the water for sign of any movement. Sade showed a head some metres from where she submerged and the terrorist shot at her… wasted as Sade had disappeared as soon as she emerged. The terrorist had his eyes locked on the area for another emergence of Sade.
Sami come up water and shot him on the head.
Sade came up air. ‘What have you done?’
‘I shot him.’
‘You killed him.’
‘He is a terrorist.’
‘You were a terrorist but I didn’t kill you, Sami.’
‘I am a hustler, not a terrorist. These guys don’t see reason. You can’t talk sense into them. The only language they understand is a bullet in their skull…’ A terrorist emerged with a gun from the rock. Both Sade and Sami shot at him. While Sade’s bullet hit him on the leg, Sami’s bullet hit him on the forehead. The man fell.
Sade was mad. ‘You fool, Sami! Don’t you have any sense inside you?’
‘They are terrorists.’
‘We need them to lead us to Shaka!’
‘We don’t need them,’ Sami said. ‘I will take you to Shaka.’ And he swam to the shore. He kept watch as Sade swam out. As soon as Sami came out, she gave him a push. ‘You take orders from me Sami, and don’t argue with me!’
‘Sade, we can’t waste precious time on terrorists, I know where Shaka is!’
Sade began to walk towards the hut. ‘You don’t talk like someone who wants a safe passage out of Nigeria.’
‘You have given me your word.’
She stopped walking. ‘And I give you another word. If you disobey my order again, I am going to skin you alive.’
Sade stopped before the door of the hut and raised her gun. ‘Ready?’
Sade kicked the door open and fell on her knee, ready to fire. No one was in the room. ‘Clear,’ she rose to her feet as Sami entered.
The room was empty except for a large cupboard covered with dust and soot.
‘Burst it open,’ Sade said.
Sami looked bored. ‘There is nothing in there.’
Sami aimed his gun at the lock.
‘No,’ Sade said. ‘What do you think we have in there, snake? You can’t use fire, what if we have an explosive inside!’
Sami sluggishly got out and returned with a giant rock. He shattered the padlock. Inside the board were two crude bombs the size of tennis balls.
‘Ah ah.’ Sami winked.
Mark landed the helicopter on a small hill in a field only cut off by a cluster of nomad’s tents, where a herd of malnourished cattle marched into dear graze. Pilah and Mark got down the craft.
‘This is just a nomad land.’ Pilah hissed. ‘I know that Sami isn’t to be trusted.’
‘We can’t drop our guard,’ Mark. ‘Let’s look around then we radio Sade for Sami.’
Pilah shrugged. Then they saw the herdsman, wearing a raffia hat and a sleeveless Fulani dress. He was over a hundred yards away but they could see that he was grey.
‘We have been deceived,’ Pilah moaned.
Mark said nothing. The men, their guns drawn approached the herdsman.
‘Who are you?’ Pilah demanded.
‘Eh?’ It was evident by his rattled eye brows he didn’t speak English.
‘Who are you?’ Mark asked in Hausa.
‘Drop your guns!’ Four terrorists were behind them, pointing their guns on their spines.
‘I never trusted that Sami snake,’ Pilah managed.
Disarmed, the government agents were led into the aisles of the tents till they came to an opening enough to contain a dozen people. Shaka and Husseini were seated on low stools. While Shaka had an evil knife in his hand, Husseini had a tattered pieces of Arabic scribbles on his laps. A tall, thin fellow stood behind the leaders.
‘Bring one of them here,’ Shaka ordered.
Two of the gunmen dragged Pilah to Shaka’s feet and forced him to his knees. ‘Read his crimes to him,’ Shaka said.
‘Utter rubbish,’ Pilah said.
One of the captors slapped Pilah.
The second hit Pilah on the head with his gun. Pilah gasped and cursed. They continued to club him with their firearms until he was quieted. The thin fellow behind Shaka and Husseini began to video cover the scene with an android. Husseini read out Pilah’s crime. After which Shaka stepped forward, his evil knife glistering on the sun. Pilah fought like a beast but his two captors held him like chains on the ground.Shaka placed the steel edge of his knife on Pilah’s neck.
Pilah intensified his struggle but only his mouth was of much use to him, so he cursed them. Shaka began to cut, Pilah cursed louder. Shaka cut through flesh, bones and tendons; Pilah’s curses turned into an incoherent muses as blood gushed out of his mouth and nostrils. Shaka cut harder. Husseini made supplications to God. The thin fellow continued to video them.
Mark had seen a lot of ills in his days as field agent but nothing this cold and gruesome, barbaric. He watched helpless in his subdued humanity as Pilah’s head was separated from his body. He bit hard into his lip till he tasted blood. Pilah’s neck was pumping blood on the ground like a burst pipe.
Shaka lifted Pilah’s head with its wild, frozen eyes and swollen, protruding tongue to the camera and declared, ‘Behold the head of an infidel!’ He dropped the head on the body and faced Mark. ‘Bring him here.’
As they led Mark to his death altar, Shaka’s hand-held phone began to ring. He snapped at the phone with livid impatience.
‘There is a problem,’ said the caller.
‘What is it?’
‘We saw a man and a woman approaching the tents. And the woman looks and walks like Sade.’
At the mention of Sade, Shaka’s face contorted with devilish rage, hatred, evil… and fear.
‘If she looks and walks like Sade then she must be Sade,’ Shaka said. ‘Don’t try to stop her. Retreat into the tents and we would trap her among us.’
Mark was no longer starring at his death… he had seen a glimmer of hope. Sade was here! Even in the tip of the mouth of death, he couldn’t suppress his feeling of instant relief, and he let out a quiet ambiguous sigh.
Mark nearly smiled.
Tweets to @Oke4chukwu
With Sade drawing to a close I want to announce the coming of another series to be titled Calabash on the Wall, a story of the Nigerian Situation served with humour, sarcasm and irony of errors, in diary form. You will like it, I assure you.
Yours truly, Me.