I stood staring out of the window. The night looked like a widow mourning her husband. It had looked that way to me since I received that note. The note that would become a death wish.
Three days ago I was just a regular dude, few friends and a family I spoke to casually. Today, I’m still a regular dude with more mystery to solve than the local police.
I woke up that morning to see a note and a black artificial rose slipped neatly on my window pane. I left the window open the night before because of the power outage. The weather was increasingly unbearable lately and my alternative power supply was still at the repair man’s shop.
This wasn’t the first time leaving my window open especially since I lived in a country where the power supply was poor. But it was definitely the first time a present or should I say curse was placed on my window.
It had no address. The signature was a lousy attempt at a joke. I couldn’t even understand it.
It was an ugly painting of a clown, the type that would depict “The Joker” but it was no close to the class and painting of the Joker. I would murder my art designer if he ever made such poor shack of my signature. And to think he dropped a black rose alongside the note, he probably saw himself as the Nigerian Joker.
But none of these bothered me as much as the content of the note or the anonymity that came with it. I was also bothered as to why I am a target.
I had such an impressive no-crime history for a 35-year old whose residence was a hideout for every vice imaginable. I lived in a slum in Lagos. I could have been easily influenced. The strong smoke from weed and cigarettes was enough conversion. Or the loud moans as my neighbours exercised straight from the pages of Kamasutra’s handout. Somehow I stayed aloof of the happenings.
Now I wondered where the note came from. I couldn’t ask my neighbours for fear of raising an alarm. I couldn’t talk to the police too, they would ignore me. And I couldn’t talk to the few friends I had nor my family for fear of endangering them. Now I was left alone with a mystic note, dark rose and a lunatic lurking in the dark waiting for me.
Three days I’m still waiting. Waiting for a man I don’t know, for a man whose words read “Darkness is coming, it’s coming for you. Soon we meet”. Maybe I should take this as a joke, I thought to myself. I skimmed through the brief note again, it was probably a stunt. Maybe someone was fooling around, I thought to try to reassure myself of any impending danger.
I imagined him. I imagined that he laughed at me wherever he was. I imagined that he choked on his laughter as he watched my steps that were an updated detective walking steps for the past three days. That he applauded his genius as he watched me look out of my window continuously.
I imagined how he felt at his ability to take every positive energy left in a man like me. Well, three days was enough time for that circus play. Darkness happens every night, I shouldn’t be scared. I made up my mind to treat this as trash.
I reached to lock my window and saw another note with the same kind of rose. How possible? I asked surprisingly. I stood behind this window the whole evening except for when I needed to use the loo and which was a while back. How did I not see anyone or sense any movements?
Now, this got me really scared. The creepy nature of this lunatic unnerved me. I wondered whether to open the note or not. Cold shivers ran through my body as I quietly lifted the note. This time it read “Soon. For we know not when the thief cometh nor what he cometh to do. To steal or to KILL”
I dropped it in fear. He had to capitalize the word “kill”. If he really meant to kill me, why? I wasn’t rich nor troublesome. My existence bothered no one. Who was he? Why couldn’t he drop a number to call?
Why am I being tortured?
One am and my eyes are still wide awake. I thought about how he dropped the note without being seen or suspected even while I stood at the window. I couldn’t afford to sleep anymore.
I needed to fight for my life at least. If there was someone waiting to kill me, I shouldn’t make it easy for him too.
Come to think of it. I didn’t know if it was a man or a woman. The note didn’t reveal any gender. But what woman would be crazy enough to hunt down a man. Suddenly I brushed off the thought of a woman ever doing something like that. Thinking of it would ruin every soft touch I felt towards the female gender.
I started to think of anyone I may have hurt in the past. The only person I thought of was Jide. It was in junior secondary school. I beat him up wrong when I thought he took my food. Jide had a track record of taking other boys food. So when my food disappeared, I only thought of Jide.
Without asking questions, I sought for him and when I found him playing football I lost control and beat him to a pulp. No questions asked no time to explain. Thank God for the boys at the field who found a way to separate me.
By the time my explanation was needed, it was already too late. I beat the wrong man. I learnt the essence of dialogue that day and I swore never to approach issues like that anymore. I couldn’t even beat the culprit. I had enough questions to answer already at the school’s panel.
I wonder how I escaped expulsion. Luckily I was given a week suspension. The suspension wasn’t as hard as getting Jide to forgive me. I guess we both learnt lessons. He knew why he needed a good reputation. I bet he never stole food again after that day.
But I got his forgiveness eventually. And it has been over fifteen years since the incident. He couldn’t be that petty. Or was he? I was confused. I hadn’t even thought of him till date.
I quickly logged in to my Facebook mobile App and searched for him. Aha! There he was “Jide Kosoko”. His profile said he was a banker at one of the top Nigerian banks. He even had a family now.
Oh! So definitely Jide couldn’t be the one. He was too busy chasing his dreams to think of a lowly peasant like me who beat him over fifteen years ago.
Could it be a jealous girlfriend? No! I didn’t have any former girlfriends who felt bitter about me. In fact, dumping me was good riddance to bad news for all of them.
So who was it? The puzzle, mystery, wait drove me insane. It was five am, no sleep yet and no sign of any intruder. I needed to bath. I worked at the Island and if I had to beat the famous Lagos traffic, the time was now.
So I tiptoed to the bathroom wondering why I tiptoed and still didn’t stop till I dressed up and was ready to leave the house. I thought of arming myself with a penknife just in case the person was waiting for me to come out.
Christ! I screamed.
I saw a huge teddy bear hanging off the window. Who dropped this? I looked down checking to see anyone. But no one. There was a note there too.
Couldn’t this person let me be? I cried out. I was already exhausted. My heartbeat was competing with Barry Allen of “Flash”. He was one of my favourite Superheroes. But this wasn’t a time to think of Superheroes.
I picked the note carefully. It read “Let’s not steal. Kill? Maybe. But you must get the PAY”
What pay? Who was he? What did he want? I screamed not caring who I disturbed with my scream. I couldn’t even understand the notes. It was just crazy. Just insane. I needed to go to work otherwise I would be late. But I needed to solve this too or else I will be killed.
I chose work, I would do all to survive and when I did, I didn’t want to be unemployed.
I walked very briskly holding my pen knife firmly to my side while checking every angle to see if anyone lurked behind.
I got into the bus suspicious of everyone. This manor thing, whoever he has messed me up a great deal.
Thankfully I got to work early, ten minutes before my usual check-in time. I looked around for everyone. Hoping to see what was suspicious, who greeted me in a funny way or looked at me in a funny way. No one gave away any clues, I guess I was the mad one here.
I checked my phone to see a message from an unknown number. It was a private line so I couldn’t trace the caller ID. The message read “Hope you like teddy bears. I almost don’t know what you like anymore, but we could start over. Can’t we? PS: You can’t find me. I will find you, Soon. 0408”
I almost dropped my phone. He knew my house address, knew I loved teddy bears not anymore as a kid I did a lot. What did the code represent?
I checked my phone again hoping he texted me again maybe with a traceable number. This time it came from my mom “Happy birthday Pumpkin”
Shit! It was my birthday. 0408! I finally understood. My birthday! Fourth of August.
Wait! He knew my birthday too. Could it be any of my brothers? No! Ebuka and Dozie couldn’t try that. No way! It wasn’t even possible. Maybe I should call and warn them off. I picked my phone and called Dozie, he claimed he didn’t know anything about that. Apparently, he forgot today was my birthday. He never remembered anyway.
So I called Ebuka, he also said the same thing. I both asked them not to be concerned expressing my confidence in finding out who was behind the expensive joke. It wasn’t a joke to me. It made my life look like a thread floating in the air waiting to be snatched.
I couldn’t work anymore. So I asked for permission to go home claiming I was ill. As soon as I got home, I paced wondering who it could be.
Another message from him “7 pm. Ikeja City Mall. Shoprite. Left wing. Time to pay”
Finally, he asked to meet. I thought about it, he asked to meet at a public place. He surely couldn’t kill me at the mall. It was too risky. He would be caught. For the first time, I felt confident.
Another message from him “Haha, you must think I’m stupid. The mall? No way! 7 pm, Ojota Garage. Don’t be late. Come with Cold Stone Ice cream. A sweet way to die right?”
Oh my God! I exclaimed. I thought as much. He couldn’t be that stupid. That garage was rowdy with no light. Everywhere was dark and packed. Any crime could happen there undetected even if that crime was my death.
I truly didn’t believe I was going to die. Did I? Now I wondered if I should go or not. Whether I go or not, he knows every move I make. I checked my time. 5:30 pm. I better start going else I wouldn’t make it.
“Chocolate, it’s your favourite right”
I ignored him and headed towards Ojota. If he wanted to eat Ice cream, he could get it himself. He was a shameless murderer masquerading under my likes to beg, I thought to myself as I tried hard to imagine what I was going to face.
I thought about him. Who he was, what he wanted? If he had to kill me, I deserved to know who he was all and most importantly why.
I got to the garage at 6:55 pm. And waited.
“Walk to the Pedestrian bridge”
I did. And couldn’t spot anyone who looked a murderer. Well, no one wore “MURDERER” on their faces.
This man should kill me already instead of deafening me with message notifications, I swore.
“Turn back and face your death”
I was scared. It dawned on me anything could happen. So I thought about how best to attract people. To avoid my own death! I shouted “Kill me a coward, why do I have to turn” Then I felt something hit me on my back.
A bullet I thought. This was it. I died for no reason. I died because a mad man said so.
One minute later. No pain, I hadn’t fallen like in the movies or was their blood tricking from my body. No one had also approached me yet. I slowly opened my eyes, and I saw what drove blood away from my body.
Jeff! Jeffrey Nduka!
My bloody, most hated cousin. I didn’t know he was still alive. I hadn’t heard from him in thirty years. Ah! Finally. I know who I had offended. It was Jeff, I was five years then. I disliked him a lot. Jeff’s parents weren’t so rich. In fact, they sent Jeff to come to stay with us for a while when things got really tough for them.
He always wanted to play with my teddy and I pushed him away anytime he was close to it. I didn’t share anything with him. Even my chocolate ice cream. I truly treated Jeff badly.
I was so little but spoilt and mean. No wonder life was paying me back. Now Jeff was here to end my miserable life. I can’t imagine how he felt.
He hadn’t changed much after all these years. His big forehead was still legendary. And his fugly nose. It took a while to recognize him but I finally did. He still didn’t say a word. He just stood there grinning foolishly.
I didn’t know what to add to calling his name. Should I start apologising or feign ignorance or rant at how he stupid his plans of killing me was.
My butt hurt this time. Something similar to what hit me the last time hit me again. I winced in pain. Jeff rushed to my side.
Chika, what is it? Jeff asked
I don’t know, something hit me. I replied. Now I started to wonder who it was. If it wasn’t Jeff hitting me. Who was it then?
We both turned back.
There he was dressed like a clown only that his face wasn’t masked.
I wasn’t so innocent after all. I had obviously offended a lot of people. And believe me, what I did to Bruno Maxwell deserved whatever he gave me today, maybe not death but I know Bruno can be brutal. I saw it first hand, wonder why I still delved in.
Well, I couldn’t stand here recalling what I did to Bruno Maxwell. For now, it was my life or his.
“Where is my Ice cream”
I was certain after this question I was going to die.
Pray for me.
I might take Jeff with me if we don’t kill Bruno first.