Kebba, South Husan
For almost an hour, Henry and his team continued to drive around seeking for direction but unable to communicate to anyone. They had gone far into the community already and were yet to stop when they saw a group of newspaper vendors by the road side at a junction. Henry felt some relief after seeing the vendors, he believed that the one of the newspapers at least should be written in English since English was still the official language of South Husan, and that there should be at least one of the vendors who could read and understand English.
He slowed down as he approached the junction. He turned his car to the shoulder of the road and parked. He opened the door and was about to step out to walk to them when they suddenly rushed him on seeing them. He stepped back into the car and closed the door to wait for them. About five of them stopped beside the window, displaying their items.
“Good evening guys, is there a newspaper written in English language?” he asked and watched as the men begin to step back one after the other. “Is there any paper written in English?” he asked again. They exchanged glances and slowly began to return to their stands. Henry was about to give up and drive away when he saw another man who had initially remained at the stand now coming closer.
“Hello,” Henry greeted as their eyes met.
“Hi,” the young man replied in a funny accent.
“Do you have a newspaper written in English?”
“Oh no, not such newspaper here,” the young man replied answered the best way he could.
Henry heaved a sigh of relief. It was obvious the young man wasn’t fluent in English language but meeting someone who at least understood was a great relief.
“Okay, do you know any good hotel around here?” Henry asked.
‘Hotel?” the young man stood straight and looked around briefly. He bent again to look into the car. “Hotel, far place here.” he replied, snapping his fingers towards the left direction.
“Can you lead us there?” Henry asked, knowing it would be difficult for the young man to make a description of the way in English Language.
The young man looked around for a moment. He obviously wasn’t ready to go and it showed in the expression on his face.
“Selling all these before I go from here,” the young man replied, shaking the papers in his hands.
“I’ll give you the money for all that, just lead us to a hotel.” Henry offered.
The young man squinted for a moment, then he stretched out his palm wide mentioning the amount to be paid in the local currency.
Henry took out some notes from the money he converted at the gate and offered it to him without counting it. The young man’s face lit up brightly as he stretched out his hand to receive it. He flipped it without counting, he was sure with the denomination of each note in the bundle that it far exceeded the amount he requested for.
“I get my bike now and take you to Hotel,” the young man said and quickly walked away. He could be seen packing the rest of his things at the stand. He walked to the back of the stand and came out a minute later with a motorcycle, his things had been carefully tied to the back of the motorcycle. He sat on it and turned on the engine, he then beckoned on Henry with a wave of the hand to follow him.
Henry followed at the speed of the motorcycle. After five minutes of driving, the young man stopped at the front of a building. Henry parked right beside him and stepped out of the car to listen to him.
“Here, hotel,” the young man said, flashing his full set of teeth.
It was a bungalow and it looked more like a residential building. The walls were painted and neat compared to the other buildings that could be seen around. A big sign board hung at the front of the roof at the entrance, the notice on it was written in the Kebban language. Henry assumed that it was the name of the hotel.
“What’s your name?” Henry asked the young man.
“Ern,” the young man replied, pronouncing it with the “r” sound present.
“Hen?” Henry frowned, wondering if the guy understood his question.
“My name Ern,” Ern corrected, stressing the “r” sound in the name.
“Oh Ern!” Henry pronounced the best way he could. “You still have to help us, we don’t understand the language here and we need someone to help us speak.”
“Okay,” Ern nodded with a smile. He turned off his motorcycle and stepped down, standing it properly.
“Is this where we park?” Henry asked with a frown, staring back at the car.
“Yes, safe. Nobody steal, no one.” Ern answered, shaking a finger in the air to emphasize his point.
“Okay.” Henry stepped back and instructed Wilson and Samantha to come in with the few bags with them while he walked into the place with Ern.
The place was neater than what Henry expected and the people at the desk were neatly dressed even though still in the native wears.
“We need to book two rooms,” Henry said to Ern as they approached the desk.
“Makamuri maviri anodikanwa,” Ern relayed Henry’s words in the Kebban language.
“Chiuru,” the receptionist replied with the cost of the two rooms.
Ern interpreted her message to Henry.
Henry took out some money from his wallet and counted the amount requested for, he handed it over to the receptionist.
She collected and counted to confirm. She kept the money under the desk and opened a drawer by the left side. She picked out two different bunch of keys and placed it on the table.
“Chikamu C uye Kamuri J,” she explained in the Kebban language, handing the keys to Ern.
Ern picked the keys and in turn explained to Henry. “Room C,” Ern said, showing Henry the label on the first key. “Room J, facing each other.” he said showing him the second key.
Samantha and Wilson appeared behind them with the bags.
Henry turned and handed a key to Samantha. “You’d stay in a room while I stay in another room with Wilson.”
Ern stood there staring at Henry with a bright smile on his face.
“Can you come with us Ern, I still need your help.” Henry requested.
Ern nodded with a smile and led the way towards the hallway. Henry followed beside him while Samantha and Wilson followed behind.
“Ern, how come you understand English and others do not understand?” Henry asked a question that has been troubling him.
“Not everyone speak English, very few.” Ern replied.
“Very few indeed, we’ve been driving for almost one hour before we met you, no one could help us with directions.”
“Some understand but can’t answer today,” Ern replied.
“I don’t get you,” Henry raised a brow.
“They speak not English today,” Ern repeated.
“They don’t speak English today?” Henry asked to clarify. Ern nodded. “Why? But you are speaking.”
“I not from here, stay here with parents here when I small.” Ern explained. “This is week of consecration, no Kebban man or woman speak another language.”
“Oh! Week of consecration,” Henry exclaimed. He had come across that term before while reading about the Kebban tribe. The week of consecration was 7 long days before a festival, the people were expected to keep themselves holy during that week. Maybe not speaking other languages was part of keeping themselves holy, Henry shrugged.
“Not many understand English, people who speak well not more than five in Kebba.” Ern said as they proceeded further in the hallway. He began to help them check the label at the top of the room doors.
“First room here,” Ern finally said. He turned about and faced the opposite door. “Second room.”
“Please, come in with us,” Henry said as he opened the door to the room. He pushed it in after unlocking and gave way for Ern and Wilson to enter first.
The room was a moderate sized one. It wasn’t too beautiful but it was neat. The couple sized bed was covered with white sheets. A ceiling fan hung at the centre of the ceiling and a white bulb hung beside it. A plastic chair and table were positioned at a corner of the room where the window was.
Wilson walked straight to the wardrobe and dropped the bag while Henry proceeded to the restroom to check it. He opened and took a step in, it was a combined toilet and bathroom. There was a tap and two water buckets in it. He closed the door and stepped back outside.
“Ern, since when did this week of consecration begin?” Henry asked.
“It start every first day week of Kebban, that is on Saturday for you.” Ern answered.
“It means that this particular week of consecration will end tomorrow?”
“Yes,” Ern nodded. “The big Festival is tomorrow and one can speak any language,” Ern added, stressing the word “big” to buttress the importance of the festival.
Henry heaved a sigh. It would mean they could not do anything much for that day, they had to wait until the next day.
Henry closed his eyes briefly as he thought of what next to do. Wilson was already sitting at the edge of the bed and trying to dial a number on his phone.
There was a knock at the door and before any one could answer, it opened and Samantha walked in.
“Any progress yet boss?” She asked, his eyes scanning around the room. It was exactly the same as hers.
“We might not be able to do much until tomorrow,” Henry replied. “The natives of these town are on a week of consecration and tomorrow is their big festival,” he explained, emphasizing on the word “big” like Ern had done.
“So, we should just rest today and continue tomorrow?”
“We can start making enquires today,” Henry replied her. He noticed her eyes were fixed on something behind him and he looked back to find Wilson making a call.
“Hey dear, it’s been a long day. I hope you are safe at home,” they could hear Wilson talking into the phone’s mouthpiece.
“Wilson!” Henry called.
Wilson stared at them and raised his brows. “I’ll call you later baby,” he said before dropping the call. He stared widely at Henry. “Can’t I call Sophia also?” he asked with a shrug. “I left my little sister all alone in the house and you don’t want me to keep watch on her?”
“I instructed someone to watch over her already, don’t you get it?” Henry frowned.
Wilson was there when Henry had given Dave instructions to look after the girl but he still couldn’t keep his mind at rest.
“How can he watch her well? He is not staying in the same house with her.”
“Shut up Wilson!” Henry marched towards him and snatched the phone from him. He turned it off and put it into his pocket. Wilson heaved a sigh of frustration.
“Call Dave and ask him to check what Sophia is up to at the moment,” Henry said to Samantha as he returned to his previous position. Samantha moved closer to the corner where the seat was and sat there.
“Ern, let’s take a seat.” Henry said and pulled Ern gently by the arm to the bed. They sat close to each other at the edge.
Henry got up again briefly to take the wallet out of his back pocket. He also took out Wilson’s phone from the front pocket. He pulled the back cover and took out the battery to access the sim cards, he took out the two sim cards and put them in a small space in his wallet.
“Sorry Ern,” Henry smiled at Ern as he dropped the phone and wallet beside him. “Thanks for helping us get here, we probably would still be on the road if we had not met you.”
“Well, we came here for a purpose. We are looking for someone, our friend.” Henry continued. “But our friend lives with someone who is a native of this town, his name is Ovil Matuse.”
The smile on Ern’s face totally disappeared as he heard the name, his eyes widened in shock and he rose up slowly to his feet. He hit his palms together severally as if dusting dirts off.
“I will have nothing to do with Ovil Matuse, never.”
Henry grabbed him by the hand as he tried to drift away.
“Why?” Henry raised a brow. “We really need to find Ovil Matuse, our friend stays with him.”
“No!” Ern shouted and tried to snatch his hand off Henry’s hold but Henry’s grip was firm and strong. “Allow me go!”
“Relax Ern, you gotta help us.” Henry pleaded. “Just tell me what the challenge is.”
Ern struggled to free himself for some more time but gave up when he saw that his struggles weren’t yielding results. He took in a breath and sat as Henry dragged him down.
“Now, tell me, why don’t you want to have anything to do with Ovil Matuse?”
“Ovil Matuse, evil man. Hate every stranger and say they enemies of the gods of Kebban land.” Ern began to explain in a frustrated tone. “Ovil killed my Pa, and Ma broke her left leg when he and the boys attacked our settlement.”
“Oh!” Henry exclaimed with his eyes wide open. He realized that Ern had every reason not to want anything to do with Ovil. He let go of Ern’s wrist and turned to face the front.
They sat quietly. Samantha had also come closer to them after making the call to Dave.
More questions began to rise in Henry’s heart. Was Ovil Matuse really evil as Ern had put it? It was difficult to judge from the report of only one person, he thought. And why would Rex have chosen an “evil” person to help him?
Henry spoke again after two minutes of silence. “Ern, you see.” He turned to Ern again. “I understand you perfectly, we’re not going to let you get involved in this, all you need is to just tell me how to find Ovil, I’ll go there myself.”
“Ovil stay close to rocks, a very big compound where the Priests stay.” Ern replied.
“Ovil is a Priest?” Henry asked.
“No, Ovil father is a high priest.”
“I see,” Henry replied. “So, how do I get to this rocks?”
“You ask, Imba yezvibayiro ” Ern replied.
“What’s that?” Henry asked, trying to pronounce it in failure.
“The name of the place, Imba yezvibayiro mean Home Of Sacrifice, but in Kebba ” Ern explained. “Say like that, people direct you there, whether them understand English or No.”
“Oh! You called it right,” Henry asked, trying to get the pronunciation.
“No, ” Ern corrected again.
It took about three minutes before Henry was able to learn the pronunciation correctly from Ern. He kept muttering under his breath and even recorded it on his phone to keep in case he forgot.
“Go now?” Ern asked, gesturing with his hand that he was ready to leave.
“Ermm… How can I reach you again?” Henry asked.
Ern frowned. He thought he was done with them and wondered why Henry was thinking of reaching him again.
Henry could read from the expression on his face what he had in his mind.
“Hey relax man, I promise I ain’t gonna get you into any trouble.”
“Ask me at the place we sell, I go there now.” Ern finally replied after some seconds of thoughtfulness.
“Oh! Thanks, take care.”
Ern forced a smile on. He bowed slightly and then turned to leave.
“Till tomorrow right?” Samantha asked as soon as Ern was out.
“Yes, but we can continue studying the map of this area for now.” Henry said as he got up to his feet with several thoughts passing through his mind. He stopped at the window and rolled the curtain to look outside.
“Why don’t we go out to make enquires this evening?”
“We might not get to make so much progress if we go out to make enquires now, I can envisage that they’ll be busy preparing for their festival.”
“Then we’ve got to start early tomorrow if we want to get the maximum results,” Samantha suggested.
“I agree but we’ve got to think about some of the things involved before proceeding,” Henry replied after turning back. “We don’t have someone to interpret our language to them and we also have to be ready for anything we are welcomed with.”
“So, what do we do?”
“We need to find a way to take in weapons with us,” Henry said.
The Wolves Strategy House,
Newland Estate, Bexford.
In the same conference room they had been earlier, Florence was sitting at the center of the short side of the table while five men including Stanley and Aaron were sitting around the table. She was the center of the discussion and all the men at the table except for Stan were asking her questions which she gave answers to.
After a long session of questions and answers, she was able to convince the four executives of the Wolves that she would be an asset to their organization.
“Florence, we have the first job for you,” Aaron said after a silent deliberation among the executives.
She looked up, ready to listen to what her first task was.
“You trust her Stanley?” Aaron turned to Stan.
Stanley nodded affirmatively and turned his face to Florence. He had only known her for a day and had seen how intelligent and skillful she was, he was sure she was efficient and would be able to carry out tasks given to her by the executives.
“Florence,” Aaron called again. “Your first job would be taking Stanley out of the country successfully tomorrow. You have from now till 12am to communicate your plan with us.”
Florence took in a breath and folded her arms as her back leaned against the backrest, her eyes staring down thoughtfully. She looked up briefly and noticed that Stanley’s eyes were on her, he seemed to have some look of doubt on his face.
“Why her?” Stanley questioned. It was obvious from his tone that he wasn’t too confident that she could help him get out of the country uncaught.
‘Why not?” Aaron replied him. “You trust her right?”
“Yes, but don’t you think she’s still too new to be handed that responsibility as her first task?”
“Her credential says otherwise, with her past experience we should be sure that it would be a very easy task for her.” one of the other executives put in.
“I’ll take it,” Florence said before Stanley could speak again. He stared at her face. “I’ll help him get out of the country safely,” she added confidently.
Kebba, South Husan
The festival day came. As early as six o’clock, sounds of drums and music in the Kebban language could be heard from every corner. Samantha woke up with an angry growl as the music sounded annoying to her.
She picked her phone and turned on the torchlight. She laid still in the bed for a minute more, yawning and stretching. The night had been the most terrible one, from the annoying food served them as dinner to the terrible darkness throughout the night due to lack of electricity and the annoying sounds and bites of mosquitoes in the room.
She managed to sit up on the bed and turned her phone’s screen to check the time. It was already past six. She drifted close to the edge of the bed and placed her feet on the floor. She dialed Henry’s number.
“Hey Sam!” Henry replied even before she finished talking. “Hope you are dressing already?”
“Ermm…I’m about to start dressing up,” She replied with a yawn and got up immediately. She had called to wake Henry up but was surprised to find out he was awake already.
It took them much more time than they expected to find the Home Of Sacrifice. They had found it less easier than they thought it would be. Ern had told them people could speak other languages on the day of the festival but they were shocked to confirm that only one out of hundred of the Kebban people could speak English. It was no different from their experience the day before and they now believed Ern who said only about five people in the whole town understood English language.
The Home Of Sacrifice was a big place like Ern had described, an area of land covering several hectares. The fence around the land which was made of bricks and mud demarcated the land.
The place was very busy as expected, people could be seen trooping in and out through the entrance gate. Very few were on horses while most of them were on feet dressed in their casual way. Those on horses were expensively dressed compared to the others and one needed no explanation to know that they were the rich people in the society.
The sound Samantha heard early in the morning was child’s play compared to the sound coming from the House Of Sacrifice. The drums and voices were so loud, the chants of excitement that filled the air were electrifying.
Henry and his team parked their vehicle at a place far from the place and proceeded there on foot. Henry had his usual disguise on and a face cap, Samantha also had some makeups on and a new wig while Wilson only had a facecap and little beards attached to his chin.
There was no one at the gate to stop them as they proceeded in. The only thing they noticed were the eyes of everyone around them. Henry checked the time again. They had gone beyond the time they planned to get there but he was still sure they could do something since the festival proper was to begin anytime after nine o’clock.
Morris eyes popped open again. He took in a gentle breath through his nostrils. It wasn’t his first time of having the same dream in that week of consecration. He felt it strange but there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe it had to do with the week of consecration that was happening, he thought, but all he prayed for was that the dream not to come to pass. He was willing to put the past behind him, but if his dreams were signs forwhat was coming, it was something to dread for him. He didn’t want to meet Louis again.