Mike Kpodo looked up when the heavy oak door of the office opened. He was sitting behind a huge mahogany desk in the neat office. The windows were opened, and the curtains across them were tied with a sash to let in the cool afternoon breeze. Apart from the desk and the chairs, the office contained a minimum of necessities. There was a felt board against one wall on which were pasted slips of paper of various items to attend to, a list of wanted persons and a few reminders. There was a covered earthenware pot in one corner that kept water cool and sweet.
On the floor was a Mexican rug depicting an Indian with a spear hunting a foraging lion, and in one corner were a few comfortable deep chairs. Hanging on the walls were watercolour drawings of landscapes and nature. On the wall above Kpodo’s head was a very beautiful drawing of himself, one of the things that first captured the attention of anyone entering the office. To his left was a door that led to an inner room. Kpodo, a man who slept in his office often so he could attend to the constant flow of issues requiring action, had a complete bedroom and washroom in that inner sanctum.
The huge man entered, flanked by two armed agents of the Federal Security Corps. The man was still wearing only a pair of shorts and a loose gown made with coloured stripes of coarse cloth. His feet were bare, and his hair was overgrown, just like his beard.
Bawa’s hands were handcuffed in front of him, and a chain was linked to the shackles around his feet, making him walk with short restricted steps that made the metals around his wrists and feet jangle with a most nasty set of sounds. His wrists and ankles looked red and chafed. If he were uncomfortable, or hurting in any way, he did not let on. His scarred handsome face remained impassive as he stopped and surveyed the room calmly. Kpodo leaned back in his chair and gestured toward the agents.
“Why is he still in restraints? Take off those cuffs!” he said curtly. The two agents exchanged uneasy looks. One took a bunch of keys locked to his belt, whilst the other took a step to one side, putting his hand on his gun butt and keeping an unflinching eye on the prisoner.
The agent with the keys worked deftly, and a moment later the handcuffs and shackles fell from Chris Bawa. He remained absolutely still as the agent picked up the irons and looked questioningly at his superior.
“Thank you, Sammy,” Kpodo said brusquely. “I’ll be speaking to Mr. Bawa alone, gentlemen.” Again the agents exchanged puzzled glances, but they retreated dutifully toward the door.
“Yes, sir,” said the one who had been referred to as Sammy. Kpodo indicated one of the chairs across the desk.
“Have a seat, Mr. Bawa,” he said, returning his eyes to a sheaf of papers in front of him and barely glancing at the big man. Chris Bawa walked forward without haste, pulled back a chair and sat down. Mike Kpodo appended his signature to the document in front of him and then he leaned forward and looked fully at the man sitting opposite him like a rock. He mentally acknowledged the sheer presence of the man, feeling the palpable malevolence emanating from the giant.
Kpodo knew Chris Bawa was a cauldron of ssizzling emotions, a highly lethal volcanic explosion fighting to erupt. He could feel the fury in the eyes of the man, the unrestrained animosity, and very briefly he wondered if he was doing the right thing in having this man released from prison. Chris Bawa was a killing machine, a cold-blooded murderer, and that was the unbridled truth. Whatever death-fights Commander Ayeh had forced this mountain of a man to partake in had turned the man into a cauldron of hate, and had sharpened him into the most terrible fighter the mind could ever imagine.
Listening to the tales of the prisoners about this man’s capabilities with his hands, and with a gun, had seemed at times like a fairy tale, but in the cold eyes of Chris Bawa, Mr. Kpodo knew he was looking at stone-cold reality. This man was cast in iron.
“Mr. Bawa, I had extensive discourse with you, just like with the other inmates of the prison after the unfortunate incident that happened. Now, I haven’t been able to see you again because I was arranging various transfers for the prisoners we took from the Fort James Prisons, finding other places for them to complete their terms. It was on a case-by-case basis and took a while. I took up your case to my superiors.” He waited, half-expecting Chris Bawa to make a query, but the giant remained impassive, waiting for Mike to give him whatever information he had. Kpodo reached for his gold cigar case and flicked it open. He extended it toward the bleak man. “Care for a smoke?” Bawa didn’t bat an eye. If anything his face became a shade darker.
“I don’t smoke,” he drawled calmly. Kpodo selected one cigar. He picked up a cigar cutter and carefully trimmed the end of the cigar. Carefully, he put it in his mouth, and slowly took a box of strike-anywhere matches. He selected a long matchstick and dragged it across one of the drawers in his desk. He lit the cigar, puffed on it a couple of times, then leaned back and blew smoke across the desk.
Chris Bawa just sat there and watched the lawman impassively. Much against his will, like on previous encounters he had had with the man, Kpodo found himself admitting inwardly to a grudging respect for this man whose life, to say the least, had been absolute hell in prison. He sighed and then opened a black folder. He took the first official-looking sheet on top of it and leaned forward slightly and tossed it toward Chris Bawa.
“Well, Mr. Bawa, I’ll get straight to the point,” Kpodo stated briskly. “I, for one, wanted you dragged to court again and your prison sentence increased for the murder of Roger Ayeh. But like you said, I don’t have any evidence that you did kill him, although we both know you murdered the son-of-a-bitch in cold blood.” He waited for a response. Chris Bawa didn’t bat an eye. He just looked at the lawman without expression.
“Now, like all the other prisoners, I sent your case up to my superiors, hoping to get you transferred to one of the high-security prisons. However, it came to light that within the ten years you served, Ayeh treated you like an animal. Several witnesses swore to this, and this softened the hearts of some of my superiors who felt that you’ve suffered enough.” Mike Kpodo leaned back and regarded Chris Bawa through a pall of heavy cigar smoke. “I don’t think so, Mr. Bawa. I think you’re a bloody killer and you do not deserve to breathe free air,” he continued, his voice very cold. “If I had my way I would’ve locked you up and thrown the key away, Mr. Bawa. But, as it stands now, that letter officially sets you free. Signed by the Vice-president himself and Judge Richard Ababio, who has oversight powers over the jurisdiction in the whole New Territories, that document is a full presidential pardon. You’re free to go, Chris. Get the hell out of my office, because I can’t stand vermin like you!” Chris Bawa reached across and picked up the pardon. He made no attempt to move as his eyes scanned the document slowly. His total lack of reaction and his air of disdain made Kpodo inwardly ecstatic, but he fought to remain visibly furious and piqued as the big man finished reading the letter, and then he got slowly to his feet. He folded the letter slowly along its fine lines and then tucked it carefully into a top pocket of the coarse gown he was wearing. Looking up at him, Kpodo saw that Bawa was not as unaffected as he had imagined. He saw a higher rise of the man’s shoulders, and a deeper smouldering rage in the depths of those eyes that sent a shiver down Kpodo’s spine. He knew he was looking at a killer, and what he saw in the eyes of this giant made him cold.
Suddenly he knew that being an enemy of this man would never be a worthwhile luxury for any man. Without a word Chris turned toward the door.
“Bawa!” Kpodo barked out, and Chris paused and turned cold eyes to him. Mike Kpodo picked up a brown envelope from his desk and tossed it across. It landed on the floor near Chris’s feet. “I was also ordered to give to you what you had on you at the time of your incarceration, which was just a damn old wallet and some bills of money. It’s in there. Remember, boy, I’ll be watching you. I’ll be investigating the Roger Ayeh murder, and I’ll still be piling up evidence against you. Enjoy freedom for now, Bawa. It won’t last long. I’ll bring you back, if it’s the last thing I do. Your days out there wouldn’t be long.” Chris Bawa bent and picked up the envelope. Without another word he opened the door and went out.