The silence was deafening now, even the flies knew something wasn’t right. Every body’s attention was fixed on the spectre in front of the line. Abarimo asked the man to get on his knees, he had on his left hand a small clay pot, he raised the man’s chin and sprinkled some liquid from the pot on his face. The obviously scared militant jerked feverishly while the witch doctor looked into his eyes.
The whole camp watched spellbound as Abarimo worked his magic, after some seconds he straightened up slowly, turned to Ebika and said no gently with a shake of his ugly head.
Zeifa one of Ebika’s trusted friends and confidantes pushed the next man on the line forward roughly. The same procedure as the first was repeated, only as time went by the brutality intensified, probably out of Ebika’s frustration anytime he got a negative nod from the witch doctor.
Leo was kicked forward by Zeifa when it came to him. Ebika looked like a fiend, his eyes were a dark shade of red and he was sweating all over, like a rain forest storm was pouring exclusively over him.
“Where do you come from?” He asked, anger oozing from his voice like a provoked elephant.
“Okerenkoko” Leo answered boldly. Ebika switched languages to Ijaw.
“What is your surname?”
“Awana.” Leo replied boldly again, keeping the bravado up.
Ebika nodded, then shouted to Abiye, who was a shot distance away talking on the phone.
“This man here says he comes from your village and his surname is Awana, do you know him?”
Abiye walked over and stared down at Leo.
“I know there’s a family that go by that name, but I have never seen this boy in Okerenkoko and I don’t forget faces.” He paused in thought. “Who is your father?”
“John Birima Awana.”
He raised an eyebrow and reflected for some seconds, then exclaimed. “Ah, I know the man, but he left Okerenkoko years ago.”
“Yes, I grew up in Lagos…”
Leo’s words were choked in his mouth, as a kick from Ebika cut out air supply to his lungs momentarily.
Ebika brought his face closer, as Leo fell on his knees, his face contorted in pain.
“Who told you to speak?”
Leo just stared back, anger and bile welling up within him.
Abiye put a restraining hand on Ebika’s shoulder.
“So you never stayed in Okerenkoko?” Abiye asked gently.
“I stayed for 3 months before I came here.” Leo answered gruffly.
“My uncle, Ikimi Awana.”
“We will send a man to confirm all you’ve just said.”
As soon as Abiye stepped off, Leo was dragged by the scruff of his neck to the witch doctor. Abarimo asked him to kneel in a hoarse barely audible voice, while he muttered incantations, his eyes staring pointedly at the calabash on his left hand.
Leo felt his head throbbing like somebody was drumming inside it, and pains anytime he inhaled. He hoped to God that the kick hadn’t punctured his lungs, that could lead to a slow painful death in a part of the world that had no name on the map; with no family, no friends, nothing.
The prospect of an unmarked muddy grave was glaring at him when Abarimo lifted his chin. He sprinkled the evil smelling liquid on his face. Leo felt a strange cold all over, his eyes bulged painfully on their own volition though mysteriously he wasn’t seeing anything just a weird shade of yellow.
Moments later when things started feeling normal, Leo looked up to meet the snakelike eyes of the witch doctor. His heart sank when Abarimo pointed at him with his gnarled fingers.
Spontaneously, Zeifa and Ebika grabbed Leo and dragged him some metres into the camps shrine. They tied his arm firmly from behind and let him drop like a log in front of the Egbesu figurine and walked out.
The camp watched entranced, from inside the shrine Leo could see Capt. Abiye making a call. The remaining men on the line were still been interrogated by Ebika with renewed vigor.
It took hours before anyone came, time he spent wondering how the witch doctor had fingered him. He had never believed in the supernatural, he wanted to believe that he was fingered because his roots weren’t well defined as he had said he came from Lagos, or that this was Ebika dealing with him because of Francesca but he couldn’t deny deep down that something out of the natural had happened out there.
Abarimo entered the shrine rear first. He made his way slowly as he sang incantations, he walked carefully past the body on the floor turned around and sat on a stump on the left of the idol, he gesticulated as he consulted the oracle. The duo of Ebika and Zeifa waited impatiently outside for the sorcerer to finish.
Almost everyone on the camp had formed a thick semi-circle outside the shrine when Leo was pushed out. There was excitement on their eyes, then he saw Tam. Their eyes had locked for only a quarter of a second, but in that instant he had seen bewilderment, betrayal, anger and pity all rolled into one glance.