A Dread In The Spine- Chapter 3

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3 The Visionaries
When Nosa left the houses of the missing women, the evening was already crawling over the sky; yet, he made sure he didn’t get angry at any of the careless drivers that were either drunk or rushing somewhere, probably to their family. He ensured his own anger was locked in the treasure box because he was still in a good mood.
When he got to the house of Victoria Akachi Amadi, he knew it would be a dramatic evening because the compound was buzzing with people. There, he wished people were moving in his house the same way. At least, that would prevent his wife from staying aloof or refusing to accept the death of her loved ones. Unlike his former patterns of finding out missing people, he started his investigation from the first missing person to the last. In fact, he was already tired from the way they answered his numerous questions. The question and answer sessions were tiring.
There was no way he would understand their fanaticism; yet, he needed the understanding to get the reason behind the kidnapper’s and the killer’s motive for doing what they were doing. Luckily for him, none of them was forcing their belief on him, and he loved it that way. His hope, as he walked in the midst of mourning fanatics, was that he would only ask questions and leave to start the real search for the serial kidnapper and serial killer. Nevertheless, he wouldnt lose focus on the fact that he was employed to find the missing women and not the serial killer.
As he entered the compound of the missing lady, Mr. Johnson called him, and he felt like slapping him for disregarding their agreement: he wasn’t supposed to call him for anything until he finished his present investigation. They had to make the agreement once, when Mr. Johnson was too quick to call the police to help Nosa when Nosa informed him that he was trapped. The police came in with their loud siren and made the criminals escape with the child Nosa was about to rescue. It took Nosa another three days to find the missing child.
‘What do you want?’
‘Nosa Obaigbenwen, you need to learn to revere the trough that provides grains for you’.
‘That is if the trough is not an obstruction. What do you want?’
‘I wanted to remind you of your job. Just as you don’t trust agents, so also do we not trust you freelancers. You all want to be heroes, and to return with the spiky head of the dragon, and most times allow the princesses die in the process’.
Nosa gritted. ‘Mr. Johnson, if you’re not careful, I’ll return to the house to sleep and wait by the radio to hear the town crier’s announcement about how the princesses died in captivity’.
‘The horse that refuses to go to war with its owner would remain in the stable without food. Be grateful Eagle Eyes Security is helping everyone. Me. You. Everyone’.
‘I’ll disconnect this call if you won’t tell me something of importance’.
‘It is only a fool that needs one to say all one has in mind’.
‘Don’t be rude to your money bag’, Nosa said trying to mimic him. He wished he had the same ability as Chloe.
‘I don’t talk like that. Meanwhile, I’m only telling you to make sure you return with the ladies- dead or alive. That’s all Eagle Eyes Security needs. Don’t return with the head of the ladies or that of the criminal, and for God’s sake. I don’t need your head. I need you. In case you’re in any horseshit call me, I’ll be there to pull your face out of it’.
‘Oh! All you’re saying is that you’re fearful for my life’.
‘Me? Afraid? Impossible? I have the heart of iron. I feel nothing. All in all, never let what that thing is or whoever they are to swallow you’.
‘Don’t you ever call me during operations again’, Nosa said, hissed and pocketed the phone as he walked into the compound. He was right: Mr. Johnson’s call was another bottle of urine.
The reactions of the people in Victoria Amadi’s house enlightened Nosa on what the Bible said about the world being near its tail end. Random people cried about how Sister Victoria had brought their salvation to them. In fact, a lot of people were commiserating with one another, testifying about how God used her to save them. He wished he could agree with them or be one of them. But despite his distaste for cultural religion, hes still had a sound knowledge of the Bible and knew all these things were ephemeral. Very soon their hunger would be for something else.
Thunder roared overhead. A slight breeze passed through the house, then the intensity increased for no reason. Someone yelled that God was ready to fight on behalf of Sister Victoria. Someone else shouted, glory to God. And a lot of people began to chew the word in their mouths. The house wasnt really a comfortable one. The compound had no fence, and the little compound it was built on had a lot of vegetables planted around it. The banana leaves beside the house rumbled in accord with the cry of the people. From streets away, the sound of knockouts reverberated as if they were competing.
He meandered to the door of the house and asked the nearest person for the mother of the missing Victoria Amadi.
Oh! Im sorry. What of her father?
Dead too. Haven’t you been paying attention to her meetings or reading her books with all your mind?
Err No.
He had to hold himself from yelling at the lanky woman that he wasnt there to discuss books. If he needed to discuss books, he would go to a book club. He knew of many; like the Bookworm café Nigeria, Onkawe Book Club and even Rainbow Book Club. Like Chloe would say, he was only there to sniff out the killer, and not to hear someone’s cry for him to become a fanatic.
HmmWho are you?
I want Im an investigator and I need to find the missing women.
An investigator? What power do men have to find our own? The Lord is our refuge. He is our help and shield. We will lift up our eyes to the hills. From whence cometh our help? Our help cometh from the Lord who made the heavens and earth
Nosa held his breath with the hope that it would suppress the anger that was on the verge of controlling him. Madam’
However, the woman kept rambling, and was getting on his nerve, which would soon make him unleash his already-spoilt-mood. He was supposed to be happy from meeting Moriah again, but these people were punching holes into his balloon of happiness.
‘Mummy The Lord would send help to his own with a human being. Strong, solid, touchable human beings. He wont come to investigate or find her himself. Now, where is a real human that I can talk to?
The woman shook her head and pointed at the sky. Why do the heathen rage? With God, all things shall be possible and
I’d I know. Just show me someone.
Well as the Bible encourages, I will follow peace with all men, with you. But not before I show you that the God of Elijah is whom I will call’.
‘Oh! This woman is making me become weak by the second’, Nosa mumbled as he decided to go against courtesy and barge into the partially plastered house.
A woman came out and rushed past them. Nosa hurriedly turned to her. The woman wore a lace material sewed into blouse and wrapper. The neck was cut as if they were meant to wrap the woman’s throat. He jogged after her while shouting, ‘Excuse me, ma’.
‘Do you know anyone I can talk to here? That woman sitting there is frustrating me’.
The woman in lace was in a hurry. So, she pointed to the house and rushed off.
Nosa shouted after her, ‘What should I do inside?’
‘Her younger sister is inside’.
Nosa sighed and turned towards the house.
‘Jehovah Jireh, the Lord our banner, would find her for us. He would get her before you do.
As if I care who finds her first and it is Jehovah Nissi, Nosa mumbled as he entered the parlor. Despite the fact that people had visited him more than once to commiserate with him on the death of his children, he still felt it strange to see people gathered around a plump teenage girl, who would have been beautiful if she didnt tie her scarf around her head, covering her ears also. It made her look round like a jester, and awkward. An elderly woman rose and enjoined everyone present to begin to pray, stating that the devil was the one at work because he knew salvation was surging into the different parts of the world through Sister Victoria.
‘Good evening’, Nosa said to the nearest person. The woman scanned him with her tired eyes and pointed to the end of the parlor. He was able to vaguely examine the room for a while; the room was barely designed. However, on the right side of the parlor was a huge wallpaper of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross, and a lot of inscription on different sizes of paper, pointing people to heaven and hell and a lot of mumbo jumbos that the Bible said had been forgiven men. Placed at the end of the room was a table that was draped with a beautiful blue linen wrapper. On it was placed a lot of books and CDs from the missing sister Victoria. It also had a big picture of the missing Victoria. She looked horrible, making him wonder why Christians first instinct at salvation was to deface themselves and look next to ugly.
‘I want to see…’
‘As faithful followers, we are donating a reward for whoever finds Sister Victoria as well as the other missing ladies’.
He was astounded. ‘Like for real? That’s….’
‘You can’t do anything here before making your donation. It is a mandate for her followers’.
He rolled his eyes the way Chloe would have done and headed for the end of the room. The woman’s face looked drab like every woman in that house. None of them wore an earring. He wished he had listened to some of Victoria’s messages before he got there, but he didn’t have time for such frivolities. He had better problems to solve like how to handle his double romance life. He had to make sure his mistress, Shayla, wont destroy his marriage with her agitation and fear. She had been stubbornly demanding his attention of recent. She didn’t demand any other thing than his presence and rejected every other thing he offered her. Truth be told, he had left her for a while now to comfort his wife. But how would he leave her especially this period when his wife and he had just lost their three-year-old son, the second child lost?
When he got to the book the woman directed him to write in, he felt like throwing up. The whole bunch of them promised ridiculous amounts to get Victoria and the missing Christian women back. Nosa glanced back as they kept singing hymns. He loved hymns- they were cool, serene and helped him think of God once in a while- but he hated these ones they sang. They were sad and reminded him of death. He hurriedly scanned the room. Everyone there had the same look of being poor, yet many of them promised extremely high amounts. He couldn’t fathom such dedication, such reverence, such fanaticism. Whatever she had taught or whatever message anyone taught, the end time should point at God, not them. He grinned the moment he noticed the path he was threading. He reverted to his policy- no thought or talks about anyone that proclaimed they were a servant of God.
After pretending to write something, he went to the woman and asked for the parents of the missing lady.
‘She doesn’t have parents anymore. She lives alone with her younger sister’.
‘Oh, I’ve forgotten’.
The woman, with her puffy eyes, looked at him quizzically. ‘You should know all about her by now’.
‘Like seriously? Why? Is she a goddess?’
‘That’s profane. You should have read her messages and watched her videos’.
He scratched his head and knew the truth should do better. ‘I’ve not really watched her videos. I only heard of how people say God was using her’.
‘How people say? No. It is how God is using Sister Victoria. We shouldn’t talk while they are about to pray. But I see you’re a lost soul and I need to quickly explain things to you’.
‘Seriously? I need to see her family members’.
The woman brandished an unusually firm grin that showed she wouldn’t allow him to do anything until he had heard the gospel according to Victoria.
‘Okay, but let’s be fast’.
She led the way to the back of the house and began to explicate the word of God. He was lost in her great account of heavens and was aloof until she got to talking about hell. She burst into tears. He shook his head to ward off his aloofness.
‘Are you fine?’
‘Yes. The feeling is overwhelming. I mean the horror she must have seen. Even the one I’ve seen I mean the ones I’ve read about. You need to see when she began preaching about them. You need to see the horror. It’s scary. I don’t want to miss heaven’.
He was flabbergasted by the sudden change in her demeanor. ‘Why do you think you will miss heaven?’
The woman looked at him as if he was a dog that had wandered off from home. He swallowed hard and refused to flinch because doing so would make him stare at the ground. If you were raised by a cruel Pastor as a father, you would know that life could make you a wimp. And he had promised to stop being a wimp.
‘You need to really listen to her messages and read as many as you can of her books’.
‘So do you know how she got missing?’
‘I don’t have full details. I just knew her sister said she wasn’t answering calls and didn’t return home afterward’.
‘So, you don’t know of anything at all that can help me know where she is?’
‘Look for her? Are you with the police?’
‘A journalist?
‘Then, what are youWho are you?’
‘Why not let’s shift our focus from who I am to how I want to help’.
The woman, short and plump, gave him that her firm look again, but this time he wouldnt succumb. She looked up into his eyes and he stared back at her.
‘I just want to know who I am dealing with’.
He shook his head. ‘I’m a P.I’.
‘P.I? What’s that?’
‘Seriously? In this generation? You are seriously kidding me about not knowing what P.I means. Well, it means private investigator’.
‘Oh! Who hired you?’
‘This is seriously not where we should focus on at this time’, he said and glanced at the house and watched the darkness that wrapped itself around the light that emitted from the bulb in front of the house. Thunder roared again.
‘Yes… I know a lot about her and I have my own problem too’.
‘We can find a solution to your problem someday, any other day, but today we need to look for her’.
‘I need protection first. I need a guarantee of your privacy’.
At this point, he felt like squeezing the information out of the woman. She was delaying him and was dragging the event like a typical serial movie. This one should be done like an Instagram clip or a regular skit. At least, those ones could be moved forward to see the result. But she was a reality and must be attended to as such.
‘Yes. Seriously, I need to leave to read the files about others and maybe their books. But first, I need to talk to Victoria’s sister. Since youre not ready to tell me anything tangible, I have to leave now…’
‘Are you promising me your secrecy?’
‘I swear…’
‘Don’t swear by heavens or earth or your head they all belong to God’.
‘Whatever! Seriously Say whatever you want to say. Im getting tired’.
‘I know things that could help matters, but I’m afraid to say it. What if God strikes me dead or the devil, yes the devil, destroys me? Oh God! Help me. Take this cup away. Roll this stone away from me’.
What did she think she was? Was she Jesus Christ? Even Jesus Christ carried his cross across the country despite being weak. Yet, there she was lamenting about nothing. Nosa stood straight and glared at her for some seconds. The way Christians took the reality of God with levity still baffled him. Of course, he had backslidden, but his brain and knowledge were still as fresh as the new TV series he was watching. The people of Greencity were talking about seeing visions as if they were watching Jenifa’s Diary or Lagos Housewives. He wasn’t there to listen to the figment of someone’s imagination. Madam, youre delaying me. Were you set up there to delay me?
‘No. Please, Im not lying. I speak the truth and the Holy Spirit is my witness.
As if I can see him here. He is also my witness. But in the court, we need something tangible. Please, tell me something fresh. You cant play the regular script for me.
The woman folded her fist as if she was hanging from a tiny rope and must stay there like Christiana in the movie, Divergent, who was hanged from the chasms by Eric because she said she was tired of fighting against a dauntless recruit.
My life would be in danger. Do you see how puffy my eyes are?’
He checked her eyes but couldnt see it well because of the darkness. But he had seen it earlier. The eyes, big and red, were filled with lack of sleep and tiredness. Remembering that, he calmed himself a bit. He rolled his tongue within his mouth as he stared at her. Although the darkness had descended, he still felt the sincerity in her voice.
‘What do you need me to do? I’m sworn to secrecy. But if you need me to assign a police to you, I have friends in the force. They would really be of help’.
The woman backed away. ‘I don’t need them. They are devious. My spirit says you’re to be trusted but I don’t like your reaction to things. You are…
‘I know…That’s me. That’s my policy. I don’t like to judge. It poisons my heart. But I dont take rubbish’.
The woman nodded. ‘But can you help?’
‘After I hear what you really know that is making you afraid. Did someone know you saw them or what?’
The woman pointed to a bench, which Nosa hadnt noticed was there all along, and they sat. She sat straight and gaped off into the dark night, while Nosa looked around impatiently. This woman should say what she knew and they should be done. She was delaying him, but his stupid instinct insisted that he must stay with her to listen. He felt she was too traumatized to explain what happened, and he was ready to listen to her if only she could tell him what he needed, and not for her to start behaving as if she was sent from the pit of hell to stop him from finding those girls. Well, even if she was an angel, he would pull through and find the missing ladies.
Yet, he sat still. He would have to pull the information out of her, one pebble after the other. Although he was tired, he felt he shouldnt be tired. Jack Bauer would never sleep until he got to the end of whatever problem he was trying to solve.
‘I was a prostitute’, the woman said and didn’t look at him. He was startled and his eyes roamed over her body as he quickly profiled her to compare her with a typical prostitute. Despite the darkness, he could still see the frame of her body. He also tried to recollect how she looked when he first saw her. She was fat, short, and looked too drab to be referred to as a prostitute.
‘Reduce the lie, and how does that help matters?’
‘Well, it’s not a lie. You would be surprised, I know. You needed to see me those days’, she said and gave a curt laughter. ‘At those Junctions, even the holiest men of God couldn’t hold their object of destruction in their pants. So, when I got wind of the fact that Vicky, a prostitute with whom I and others spent years feeding men’s lust, had suddenly begun to lead people to Christ, I was curious and attended one of her meetings. My plan was to see how she was pretending, and how she managed to fool Christians. Alas! After listening to her testimonies I got so scared of what I was doing that I gave it up immediately and became a Christian’.
Nosa brought out his phone to check the time. The light from the house wasnt powerful enough to help him check his wristwatch. At least, with this woman, he could buy time so that those inside the house would have left before he returned to talk to Victorias sister. This fat woman was delaying the information that was crucial to him; she was giving him crumbs when he needed the loaves.
‘After about two months of being saved, I wanted her to know I was also saved, but I couldn’t get to her’.
‘No, I mean why did you need her validation?
She shook in her position as if to turn to stare at him. I never needed her validation. God was my validation. But it was wise, and was a thing of joy to share my testimony that I got saved through her.
Oh-oh. So, the protocols prevented you from seeing her?
He nodded in the realization of what she must have gone through. It was typical for great men to be surrounded by protocols, who saw men as bomb and would do everything to ensure that no one even got a whiff of their perfume or get the chance to explode in excitement in front of them.
‘So, one day, I was able to run into her in a restroom. It was an exciting moment for both of us. She has really changed. She no longer had her tarty looks; instead, she had this unusual, unique but ominous gait’.
There, she caught Nosa’s curiosity in two ways. But he had to pick the one at the top. Her previous rambling wasn’t doing much. ‘Unusual in what way?’
‘I can’t explain it. But there was a feeling that she was enjoying herself. And that was unusual for even a Christian’.
‘I don’t get you. Are Christians not supposed to have this type of joy?’
She shook her head and frowned. ‘It was strange, queer. I don’t know, but whatever it was I couldn’t help being curious. So, when I told her I was leaving the restroom, she nodded and said she still wanted to freshen up. I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy allowing such opportunity pass by. It was like meeting a celebrity. I wanted to run into her again. So, I stood back at the door. That was when I heard her making calls to someone or maybe receiving calls’.
‘Yes…She was telling the person something like she was tired or something’.
‘Yes. Why are you repeating my words?’
‘Seriously, is that what you’re focused on? Did you get the person’s name?’
‘Yes, that’s my focus. Your repetition is distracting me. She didn’t mention any name. Ah! Yes, she mentioned. But I’m not sure it was the person she was talking to. She mentioned a name. Or was it my imagination? No, I remember that she mentioned a name because she said if it was that person she was dealing with, she wouldn’t have much trouble like the one she was having at the moment. His name is…’ She said and stared at him for a while.
He held his breath and was all set to catch the name. But the name wasnt coming forth. Her head kept moving in different directions as if she was trying to untangle her head from a web.
‘Yes? What’s it? Talk. This might be it. The He said and scratched his head as he ransacked it for the right word.
‘I don’t know. The time… It’s been long. I can’t fully remember the details. Especially now that I have my own problems and I should still talk about my safety. Youre selfish. Youre so focused on the people youre finding. Dont you know that if I also go with them, it would be one more added person?’
‘Joana. Call me Joana’.
‘Madam Joana’.
‘Just Joana. Don’t add any prefix’.
‘Yes. Mad… Joana. Okay. Joana. Let’s take it one after the other’.
‘I’ll… Am I not? Ehn Look at me? I haven’t slept for two days now because I was afraid of Jesus taking my body into the spirit’.
‘You should be excited that the Lord has counted you worthy, but that is not our discussion’.
‘Don’t you get? I’m afraid. I’m afraid of many things. I’m afraid of what I’ll see. You need to see demons. You will go crazy at the sight of one’.
He stared at her and wondered if she was crazy already. ‘It’s nothing’.
Joana withdrew her head and the way she looked transfixed, he could bet that she was giving him one of the million evil looks women possessed. ‘This is serious. I’m afraid of missing heaven. What if I miss heaven? What if I spread the message and still do not make heaven? What if I say the message in a wrong way?’
‘Calm down. You will make heaven’, he said, placing his hands on her meaty arm.
She flung his hand away and scrambled out of the bench to face him like Captain America. ‘Don’t you dare tell me to stay calm. I’m the one that knows what will happen. I was the one who saw the vision. It was horrible. It made me fear God and made me fear the devil. I can’t tell people what is coming because of my fear. I’m afraid’.
‘I need you to tell me about this lady. Erm. Victoria Akachi, and the name of this person she mentioned during the call that transpired night or day or whatever. If I dont get his or her name, how will I ever save you from whoever it is?’
‘I can’t tell you about her or about others until I’m assured of my security’.
‘What do you mean by others…Are you saying you know where others are…?’
‘No, but I know how they got missing’.
‘The police too know about them. I have spoken with their people’.
She shook her head and turned away. The night that seemed to have remained calm suddenly started picking momentum. The breeze suddenly began to make trees yell as they swayed them from side to side. He rose and led the way towards the building. Nosa was very sure he would get the opportunity he wanted with missing girls sister.
‘Police didn’t know about them. They all know what everyone told them. What they didn’t know is that someone else is at play here’.
‘How do you know all this?’
‘I knowSomething happened to my friend, and I was so sure she didn’t see a real vision, but I couldn’t prove it. She ended up dead. I know things. Only that my memory is scrambling. My fear is taking a toll on me. Im sorry. I had a terrible accident once, so my memory tends to struggle. And I seem to forget things. I really need to remember these details’.
Yes… Youll need it to stay sane and safe, Nosa said and felt himself boiling with anger, which he would unleash like the molten magma in Pompeii. Whatever she knew was supposed to come out quick. Why was she stalling and making a hill out of such simple matter? She needed to give him concrete details. ‘What’s your friend’s name?’
‘She is dead’.
‘Yet, I need her name to know how to trail her death’.
‘She is dead. You need the name of the living’.
‘Stop hoarding information. Your friend’s name, you’re hoarding. The information is crucial’.
‘Don’t you understand? Someone called my friend that night and she was shouting at the person that she was tired’.
His interest was piqued again. ‘So what was she saying? What were they saying?’
‘She was also saying she was tired’.
‘That’s like Victoria. Since your friend was found dead, what assurance do you have that Victoria isn’t a criminal?’
‘Sister Victoria? That’s impossible. I guess the person she was talking about was another person’.
‘Does that mean you’ve remembered the name?’
‘I don’t know I don’t remember. I told you the one I can remember’, she said and slumped on the ground. ‘I need to remember his name. I know you need the name, but I also need it, and I want to remember. Oh God! Help my memory. I must remember this name in Jesus name’.
‘Was it about being kidnapped?
She stared into space for sometimes and shook her head. ‘No’.
‘Then, what?’
‘I don’t know But it was like the person was threatening her’.
‘That’s seriously good’, he said as his phone rang. He brought his phone to silence it when he saw Shayla was on the line. ‘Try to remember what she said or the name while I receive this call’.
‘Come outside before I barge in’, Shayla shouted from the other line.
‘Come out of your house. I’m outside’.
Her heavy boots crunched the leaves and echoed in the dark. The journey down the empty estate in the cold night was hectic but was really worth it. Time was of essence in this their work, and project, and she couldn’t let anything stop her from getting what she wanted.
She sauntered into the stuffy, smelly room to see things herself after she had collected a mask from the member of the Gragus gang without the house. They’ve informed her that the different methods weren’t working, and she couldnt take the bad news anymore. According to their reports, these people were doing the exact opposite of what she needed. Even if her people needed all the money in the world, she would find it for them. The project was very essential.
The kidnapped women cried out from the place they were chained to. She sucked in her breathe and wished they could get what they needed early. So that these women would have no reasons to suffer anymore. She touched the mask on her face. Her rule for everyone working with her on that project was that they must always put on their mask. The last person to mistakenly remove his mask was instantly killed because if the women saw him, they might later track them through him. However, if the person was shot, the women would forever be traumatized by the blood splashed on the ground than to even remember the shape of his head.
Despite how loud their wails and prayers were; they couldnt be as loud as the person within the research room. The doctor stood over the crying woman and recorded what she was shouting. Another man held a gun to her head and her eyes kept darting to the masked Gragus member, and the unconvinced eyes of the doctor.
She stared at the process from the observation room, but the woman on the table kept shouting. The doctor shook his head, and nodded at the man holding the gun, he placed his gun in its holster and pinned the woman down. The doctor injected her and she yelled again, and shook vigorously for some seconds and suddenly went into oblivion for another minute, then, she began to ramble.
As she stood in the observation room, she was happy that she got this new idea when one of those working with her felt their old method was proving abortive. Although it was yet to get her what she wanted, it proved to be useful in filtering the grain from the beans.
She pressed a button, and the doctor looked up and shook his head. They weren’t progressing. She pressed the button twice. The doctor nodded and glanced at the gunman. He understood the doctor, who walked towards her. She turned just as the gunman placed the gun on the temple of the rambling woman.
Just as she moved out of the house into the empty, deserted, dirty estate, she heard the echoes of the leaves her heavy boots crunched, and a loud bang from the research room. Dejected, she strutted home.