THE HAND OF GOD (Part 7)

The Hand Of GodThe faint throbbing on the left side of his face roused AbdulMalik Saful Islam from his unintended stupor. With a mild startle, he realized he’d almost fallen asleep, right there, at his desk, in the office where anyone could have walked in and seen him in such a state of vulnerability. He cleared his throat and straightened on his seat, lifting calloused fingers to massage the damaged skin.

It would not do to appear weak to his men, and Malik saw the spectacle of a sleeping form as a sign of weakness. None of his men had ever seen him sleep, a  circumstance that fanned the belief that he was indefatigable, indestructible, untouchable, not even by Mother Nature.

His face throbbed again, faint echoes of pain ricocheting in the neural structure behind the skin, causing him to grimace and flooding his left eye with a network of redness that appeared to eclipse its opaqueness.

And then he remembered. Not that he ever forgot. Even if memory failed him, the pain was there to remind him, constantly, of how much he hated Godwin Fimibama. It was the kind of emotion that was pure in its fluidity, undiluted, as it coursed through his veins, at once setting afire and icing over every nerve in his system it touched on.

The man would pay for what he had done. For all he had done, Malik amended. It was as simple as that.

The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson. Don’t give up in the middle. Whoever was responsible for that coinage had him in mind, Malik believed. The past was one long dirt track of mistakes. Misplaced trusts. Foolish hopes. Deeply-seated betrayals. Unplanned strategies, most of them boomeranging in the collective faces of his sect. And all because of that cursed president. Last year had been the worst. Acting on an Intel the eyes and ears they had in the Aso Villa had passed on, Boko Haram had believed Fimibama was going to be traveling to Kogi State by road, protected by a fleet of armoured vehicles. The three top generals they had – men who were like fathers to Malik, dedicated veterans in this war they were fighting against the unclean Republic – had wanted to be part of the team that would capture and eliminate the president. In that time, Malik had felt a little discontented by their intrusion. The mission was his to accomplish, and despite their assurances that they were not meddling because of any lack of faith in his capability, he hadn’t been happy passing down orders to his men which he took from them, during the planning of the mission.

But they had underestimated Fimibama. The president had the NIA on his side, a formidable institution with US-trained operatives who worked to protect him. The plan hadn’t gone as they had planned. In fact, it had been a disaster. The ambush failed abysmally. A gunfight, complete with grenades exploding here and there, had raged right there in Abaji, and the aftermath of it all had seen the capture of the generals and Malik’s sustenance of a wounded and bloodied face. A week later, the generals were executed in the most public way the world had ever seen, one that served as a humiliating reminder to the jihadists of how woefully they had failed.

Malik had sworn that it wasn’t going to happen again. That he wasn’t going to fail again.

And then he sent an air missile that struck a presidential plane with no president in it. He could still taste the bile inside his mouth, even though he had recovered from the dismay of seeing Godwin Fimibama reveal himself to the shocked nation, showing himself to be alive and well, and unharmed by the airstrike that was captured on the television. He watched the TV screen as the man gave a press conference, he took in the self-satisfied expression on those smug, handsome features he wanted to smash his fist against, and the spectacle made him want to howl in his rage. He had had everything planned, down to the minutest detail. It had been expensive, and he had had to make promises and cede an amount of control he wouldn’t have been bothered to do ordinarily, all because of his burning desire to see Fimibama eliminated. And it would have worked too, except he hadn’t factored in with one thing – a rat in his camp.

He had learned an important lesson when he was a child. Back then, he must have been thirteen or fourteen, his father had gifted him with an unusual pet – a snake. A baby Ball Python. A sleek serpent with striking colours patterned all over its muscular body. Malik had fed him small white rats; the snake would kill them first before gobbling them up. Then Malik went out one day and returned to find the snake dead, with a hole in the side of his body and a bloody white rat still alive beside it. Apparently, the snake had gotten lazy and swallowed the rat before it was dead. Once inside, the rat had chewed its way out. Malik’s father, a believer in the Islamic cause himself, had waited until his son was done grieving for the loss of his pet, before using it as a lesson point for his son. You may face dangerous enemies and fortify yourself against them, the elderly imam, withered by age, had said, but don’t forget that your death can come faster from those within.

The past is where you learned the lesson. . . Every day, it seemed, Malik was exposed to new understandings of that neologism.

“Malik,” a voice cut into his musings.

He looked up. Wahab, one of his lieutenants was standing at the doorway of his office.  He was a wiry, coal dark-skinned man with alert eyes and a brooding manner.

“Has he been made ready for me?” Malik asked in Hausa.

Ah,” Wahab replied with a nod.

Malik gave a nod of his own and waved the man away. Wahab hesitated, as though he had expected orders and was surprised by his boss’s curtness, then he turned and left. Malik liked Wahab; the man had an intensity that he brought to his work which pleased him. He remembered Wahab’s brother, Umar, had been killed three years ago during a raid the Nigerian military had conducted on one of their properties in Kano. A lot of good men had been killed that day. Malik, however, did not make small talk with his men. Such familiarity led to their getting ideas. Ideas were not good. They only needed to follow orders. He also had no desire to get too close to the all-too-disposable men who worked for him. It was far easier to mourn the loss of someone you didn’t know well than the loss of a close friend.

He waited a few moments after Wahab’s exit, brooding some more on his thoughts, before picking up a white square envelope from his desk, getting to his feet and walking out of the office. He moved through a maze of corridors, walking past men, some of them hooded, all of them wielding various guns, predominantly AK-47 assault rifles. They all acknowledged their general with a bow of their heads and a muttered greeting. He didn’t return their greetings. He simply walked on, descending down a flight of stairs to a floor in the basement level. The smell of blood, urine and faeces was a strong indication that this was the place where prisoners were held and tortured. Malik could already hear the whimpers of the man he was down here to see. Two men stood at the doorway of the room he was headed for. A rechargeable lamp stood on the floor beside them, flooding the area with its fluorescent light. They were still without power in the basement. Without having to be told, the men moved away from the door and greeted him as he passed them.

He entered the room. A man sat naked in the middle of the room, and he was tied to a metal chair. One man was standing beside him, and another, Wahab, was in front.

Immediately the prisoner saw him, he started saying pleadingly in Hausa, “Malik, you have to believe me . . . I don’t know anything about this – please, I don’t. I’m innocent . . . I’m on your side–”

“Are you?!” Malik’s bark cut him off. The general swept a scornful look over the prisoner’s battered face. His eyes were swollen, and drying rivulets of blood coursed from both nostrils. His lower lip was split down the center, and he appeared to have lost a tooth or two. Malik approved of the brutality of the beating his men had given this traitor. “Are you, Bala, really on my side?”

“Yes. . .” The word trembled as it came out.

“Then explain this photo to me.” Malik opened the envelope, lifted out the glossy picture in it and faced Bala with it. The man’s eyes widened as he took in the grainy exposure that clearly showed him huddled close to Tekena Anieye, President Fimibama’s chief-of-staff. The sigh he let off deflated him with a realization of his fate. As Malik stared at him, a sneering dislike stamped on his face, he thought about the incident of his pet snake and the rat.

“I am sorry, Malik –”

“Save your apologies,” Malik snapped, switching to English. “That’s not why I am here.” He took a step forward. “You see, Bala, I know my organization well. I may not know my men and the level of treachery they are capable of, but I know how things work around here. And I know the level of information you have access to.”

Bala was looking back at him, a puzzled look on his bruised face.

Malik continued, “It is obvious to us all that you are a traitor, but a traitor with limited access. There is someone else who is betraying us here, someone with the kind of information that is causing very grave and deadly repercussions out there that I’m not responsible for. I do not know who this person is, but seeing as you two are traitors, I’m thinking perhaps he’s your partner.”

Bala’s denial came out in a rush. “Malik – please, I do not know anything . . . please, believe me. I don’t know any other person, I really don’t. You have to believe me –”

“Why should I believe anything you say, eh, Bala?” The general turned and walked over to a small cart. A variety of tools were lying on the surface. His hands danced from one to the next. He did not want to do anything that would require medical attention at this point. Finally, he settled on a pair of pliers. He walked back to the prisoner and held the pliers in front of him. “I am neither nice nor patient, you know this. You will tell me what I need to know. If you do, I will kill you. Swiftly. If you don’t, I will still kill you, but I will make the journey to your death so painful you will shudder to think about it in your afterlife.” There was no threat in his tone, just the unflinching timbre of a promise made.

Bala began to cry, the tears leaking from his eyes to mingle with the blood on his face. “Malik, please, please, I beg of you. . .”

“I will ask you one more time. Who is your partner?”

“Malik, please . . . just kill me, please. . .”

“You’re a traitor, Bala. And traitors don’t deserve such grace.” Malik reached out and straightened the prisoner’s forefinger on his left hand. He clamped the pliers down on the quarter inch of nail that extended beyond the tip of the finger and rocked it back and forth a few times. The prisoner began to squirm. A line of crimson blood appeared at the edge of the nail bed. “Who is your partner?”

“Malik, please –”

“Who is your partner, Bala?”

“Malik, I have no partner –”

“Lair!” And with that, Malik tore the man’s fingernail completely out of its bed, eliciting a bloodcurdling scream from the prisoner which reverberated in the room, bounced around the walls of the basement, and resonated up the stairs to the floor above.

I am @Walt_Shakes on twitter

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15 Comments

  1. Syrene

     /  January 25, 2014

    Oooooooh maaaaaai gooooodness!!!!!!!
    Blaady.

    Reply
  2. Holy molly! You had me squirming on my seat with the graphic details of the torture…

    But, like all mortal, malik’s weakness lies with his driving force- the motivation to kill the president at all cost. It is such emotion that is not seen as a weakness that is left unguarded, and that will make him act without thinking things through in the heat of the moment

    Reply
  3. Yemie

     /  January 25, 2014

    Topazo, you echoed all of my thoughts down to the last, t. For a guy who tweeted he was struggling and finding it extremely difficult to write about something really tortuous and dark a coupla of days back, cos ‘darkness’ doesn’t come easy to him, I say, ‘Really Walter’? *rolling eyes*. That means if ‘darkness’ came easy to you, then Bala the snitch would be absolutely fried or baked by now, not that he isn’t anyhow. LMAO!

    The plot thickens and I wait to see when the Hand of God wrestles the wheel outta the hands of those killing machines.

    As always Walter, you delivered and I’m seriously searching for more adjectives to describe this your gifting, I’m totally spent. U don exhaust all my adjectives finish. If to say you understand Yoruba ni, you fi hear am o, because e get where person go speak English reach, wey the thing no go just ‘gel’ again till you’re homebound. ROTFLMAO! Na u biko! *wink wink*

    Reply
  4. Getting more interesting. Kudos

    Reply
  5. louisa

     /  January 25, 2014

    Some bloody shiii.

    Reply
  6. Wow, nice and dra-ma-tic

    Reply
  7. Gawd!!! Wally Scally Walter.
    The narrative technique is second to none

    Reply
  8. Fantastic piece, Uche. Honestly you had me squirming in my seat as you described the torture scene. I think you have something here- you can write suspense, action, and we dont really have much of that, if any, in Naija and so…publish sometime soon?

    Reply
  9. This si great work, Uche. You had me squirming in discomfort as you described the torture. Honestly, you’ve got something here- action, suspense and detail, all ingredients for a great book…abi? 🙂

    Reply
  10. Kachi

     /  January 26, 2014

    *clutching my fingers and looking scaryly @ you Wally* damn stinky and blaaaaady! Tufiakwa to this write up for being darkly awesome

    Reply
  11. anderson

     /  January 26, 2014

    Waaaaallllter! Nawa to u sef. Ur toomuchness too much sha.

    Reply
  12. Excellency

     /  January 27, 2014

    Excellente! Very good write this is sire, the suspense is tight! Next one please…

    Reply
  13. Abikoye Oluwatosin

     /  January 27, 2014

    this is really bloody.

    Reply
  14. Beautiful, just beautiful! This was worth the wait. The descriptions are so vivid, and it’s my favourite yet. Roll on Walt.

    Reply

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