Monitoring: Olukayode Kure [null]
Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria
9:25 p.m. West Africa Time
Friday, March 14th, 2014
20:25 Coordinated Universal Time
Friday, March 14th, 2014
When all is said and done, Olukayode is glad to be leaving. It’s important to keep everyone happy with each other, especially the bank manager, but for all that these meetings are necessary Olukayode finds himself drawn to his wristwatch every time. If he didn’t depend on them to keep the city running and himself out of prison, it would be a much easier life.
Nearly the last one to leave the conference room, Olukayode pauses to make sure everyone important is out of earshot before he lets out a sigh.
Ibrahim makes a gesture with his left hand. The literal meaning is “bad,” but the look on his face is a questioning one, so he’s most probably asking something like, “It was bad?”
Olukayode snorts, but doesn’t say anything until they’ve walked a few feet further. The minister of physical planning and urban development seems to still be packing up, but Olukayode speaks in a whisper just to be safe. One never knows if these offices are really empty. “What kind of bodyguard are you, that you can stand outside the room and do nothing at all while I am being bored to death?”
To his credit, Ibrahim stifles his laugh until they are outside the building.
“We still don’t know anything,” Olukayode says as they descend the steps, where they are awaited by his driver and car, a sleek new Toyota Corolla. While his driver gets the door for him, he takes a moment to admire the car. “It is like a piece of art that you see from the inside. They’ve outdone themselves with this year’s model haven’t they, Solomon?”
“Yes, Mister Chairman, sir,” the driver says, as he puts out his cigarette. They’re an awful habit, but Olukayode supposes that a man has to have some way to cope with marital stress, and from what he has been told there’s been plenty of that in the past two months. At least Solomon doesn’t smoke them in the car.
Olukayode shrugs and turns to Ibrahim in the hope that he’ll be able to supply something that actually resembles a conversation, but Solomon pipes up again. “We’re going to have to take an alternate route, sir. There’s traffic on the main road.”
“Whatever,” he says, and he slides into the backseat. Ibrahim follows him.
“What about the disappearances?” asks Solomon as they pull away from the curb.
“I just told Ibrahim. There’s nothing. If there’s much more of this then there might be a formal investigation from out of the city. It’ll be inconvenient, but if we can tap someone who is sympathetic to our way of doing things then it might be for the best. Evidently we are incapable of doing it ourselves,” he says, looking pointedly at Ibrahim. “It is troubling.”
Ibrahim looks out through the window. “We’re going by the slums?”
“It’s faster than the alternative,” Solomon says.
“Car accident, I heard.” The car bounces as they hit a pothole. “Damned roads,” Solomon mutters, and Olukayode notices the driver’s gaze fall on him in the rear-view mirror.
Olukayode shrugs in response. “I am loyal to those who are loyal to me. I should not take from those who are kind to me and shower it on people who will vote against me anyway.”
Silence settles in among them after that, perhaps taking the empty seat next to Olukayode. No more than half of the streetlights are working properly, so accompanying the darkness and silence is a sort of tension that starts small but slowly grows. A few minutes later there are sounds like gunshots and the car swerves to the right before it comes to a stop. Olukayode nearly has a heart attack over it.
“What was that? Who’s shooting at us?”
Ibrahim has his pistol out and is leaning over to shield Olukayode from at least one angle. Slowly, he relaxes. “I think that was the tires.”
Outside, nothing seems to be moving. Solomon moves as if he is about to leave the car, but Ibrahim holds up his other hand. “I will check,” he says. He exits cautiously, still scanning his surroundings. Olukayode takes out his phone to text the police, but Ibrahim comes back and draws his attention away. “There is a spike strip on the road. Someone may be planning to mug us, though it is unusual that they are not here now…”
“There are tools in the back,” Solomon says as he gets out. “Olukayode, are you coming? If someone laid this here then we’ll need to move quickly. Whoever put this here will be back soon.”
Olukayode shakes his head at his bodyguard’s protests. “Solomon’s right. We should be quick about it.”
Ibrahim pops open the trunk. There is confusion on his face, but before he can say anything Solomon pulls out a pistol. He fires three times before he turns and holds the barrel in front of Olukayode’s head.
“Get out of the car and show me your hands.”
Slowly, Olukayode removes himself. “Why have you been killing us? Solomon, you’ve worked for me for five years. I’m m-married to your cousin! Why?” Solomon’s only reply is to lead him, at gunpoint, to the trunk, where there is only a shovel. “There was never any traffic, was there…?”
“Dig,” says Solomon, as he points to an fallow plot on the side of the road. “There is something that you should see.”
Trembling, Olukayode does as he was told. Every second that he listens is another second that he is alive, improving his chances of escaping and bring justice down on Solomon’s head. To think that he had ever been generous to this scum…
For at least an hour Olukayode digs and Solomon says nothing. Then he hits something. Striking the spot a few more times, he sees a white bone coming through the dirt.
“Which of my friends is this one?” he whispers.
“That is Solomon Ewonwu,” he is told, and despite the pistol at the back of his neck he cannot help but turn around–to laugh, to demand some sort of explanation, Olukayode is not sure. He has no time for any of that, however, before a hand touches his face, and Solomon’s edges melt away like water before Olukayode’s eyes. An inch or so of height is lost but several pounds gained, so that his clothes cling awkwardly to him, and his hair lengthens and morphs into another style. It takes Olukayode no time at all to realize that he is looking at a version of himself.
“W-What are you?”
“I am a messenger from God. I am full of the wrath of the Lord, and I am weary of holding it in,” says the thing that is not Solomon. “Therefore I have come from my place to punish the leaders of this city for their sins.”
There is a gun pointed between his eyes, but Olukayode cannot help but snort at this thing, whether it be angel or djinn. “What sins? That I am kinder to my friends than to my enemies? Nigeria is beset on a hundred sides! Salafi terrorism, the weakness of the rabble, disorganization and feuding between ministries–I am merely taking care of my corner of the country. How can it be a sin to care for my family?”
“Do you know the Book of Ezekiel? ‘As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters didn’t do what you and your daughters have done. Look! This was the sin of your sister Sodom and her daughters: Pride, too much food, undisturbed peace, and failure to help the poor and needy.'” The angel gestures back to the road with its free hand. “The roads are broken, children die from malaria and women die in childbirth, and as they die you push the price of their daily bread ever further as you steal oil from your own people and raise the price on what is left.”
“But it is not just me,” he says, now beginning to tremble.
“No,” says the angel-thing. It pulls a small notebook and pen out of its pocket and hands these to Olukayode. “It has been said that things done in secret must be brought out into the light. Therefore, write down a full confession of your hidden dealings, and your redemption will be partway complete.”
“What of the other part?” he asks, but there is no answer. It takes almost two hours for him to fill the notebook, but fill it he does, and then he hands it back.
“Get down on your knees, and ask God for forgiveness.”
“Please, forgive me. Please–oh God, please!” he begs, as the pistol is pressed against his forehead. “I did as you asked. Forgive me…”
“How am I supposed to take your place if you are still here?” asks the djinn–for it is surely a djinn after all, and not an angel by any means. “With what you have written, and what I have learned in the two months that I have spent as Solomon, I know who else to get rid of. This city will be purged clean, and then I will move on to the next place, wherever there are people like you. Besides,” it adds, “is it not written, that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood?”