ADSactly Short Stories - We Would Never Know
We Would Never Know
Takama was a small quiet hilly town. It was a closely knit community where everyone not only knew everyone but also knew their parents, other relatives, antecedents and prospects. A stranger to these parts could easily think that their business was private and nobody else's business but nothing could be farther from the truth.
This is why it was not only shocking but perplexing to the extreme when the inhabitants of Takama town woke up on the morning of September 4th, 2011 to find the neighbourhood shop belonging to Mrs. Akan burned to the ground leaving no clues as to the whereabouts of the proprietress.
Mrs. Mary Akan was a pillar of the community. Nobody knew exactly how she earned the title of missus because as far as the villagers could tell, she was never married and Akan was her maiden name. How missus came to append itself before her name is one of those mysteries that no one bothers to solve. But the villagers seemed to like it because no one called her anything but Mrs. Mary, leaving Akan out. Who could blame them? She could be Mrs. Mary but Mrs. Akan would be dragging her late father into the matter and that didn't seem fair. But Takama people considered themselves a fair people.
As the villagers spread the news of the fire by the grapevine, people, men, women and children trickled in to the location to view the scene of the mishap. If they had become aware of the fire while it still burnt, they would have come in large numbers to quench it and possibly save anyone in danger of being burnt. Now, there was nothing to be done except view the location to have first hand information that would fuel conversations for the next two market days.
Among the visitors to the scene was the king of Takama. King Crowdstrength was the most available, approachable, humble king that ever was. If you think that humility is an unlikely trait in a monarch, wait until you've met King Isendu Crowdstrength. He was known as the king that would never send delegation to any duty within the town. But he never went out alone. So that morning, he and his entourage walked from his palace to the scene of the fire with the appropriate level of pageantry and swag.
Death in the Night
His entourage and security quickly examined the ruins. Mrs. Mary sold assorted fabrics, cosmetics, liquors and most things that the villagers needed. On the floor of what had been Mrs. Mary's shop was a heap of gently smoking charcoal. A closer look at the heap revealed that among the black slowly burning fabrics was the head and torso of Mrs. Mary Akan.
The royal security that found the lump raised alarm and more of the villagers gathered to lift out the remains of the woman. Her hands and legs had totally burnt to ashes. There was no doubt in any body's mind that she had gone to meet her maker.
Mary had demarcated the hall she used as shop into two using plywood. She stayed in the shop until very late every night so most nights she shut herself inside and slept in the inner chamber of the shop and it seems that was the case the night she was caught up in the fire.
The fire seemed like an accident to every eye but when the king learned she was billed to travel to the city to purchase 1205 packs of fabrics for the Women Association that very morning, he swore there was foul play. The information he gathered from his security was that the money for the purchase was kept cash in the shop. The king was convinced that Mary was killed and he suspected that the killers robbed her. But he had no proof.
The king and his entourage returned to his palace.
"What we witnessed this morning has never happened in the town of Takama before now. I am convinced that Mary was killed. So we must obtain proof!" he said. There were nods and agreements to the King's words but everyone grew quiet about how to go about uncovering the true nature of the fire.
"I have already sent out my men to find out the last group of people who saw her last night. These people would be interviewed," the king said.
Among the villagers asked, it was established that the night before the accident, the last people to leave the shop were Ocean, Wealth, Godswill, Odudu and Tiger. This was not strange because they were regulars at Mary's liquor bar. It was not really a bar but Mary provided small tables and chairs on which she served locally made spirits to her customers. It would have been strange if these people were not there the night before the fire because they seemed to be there every night.
Ocean was a regular alcoholic who did not have any known means of livelihood. He did not care much about anything except to drink. Most times he walked a two-kilometre distance to get to Mary's shop where there was sure to be free drinks.
Wealth, a light-skinned, gentle boy, was born in Takama. His father was a juju priest and his mother operated a local diner in the village. He had a run-in with the law at the age of 23 when he was accused of being among the people who vandalised and stole some electric utility equipment in a neighbouring town. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to five years. He went to prison, leaving his new wife and child. He got out five years after, completely changed. He was usually found seated in front of Mary's shop, drinking spirits and keeping a lot to himself.
Godswill was a bus driver and his bus plied the route from the village to the two nearest cities. He was married with two children. He was the only person among the party that was seen at Marys who did not consume much alcohol but his face was a constant feature at the shop. Rumour had it that he and Wealth were both lovers of the late Mary but this was never substantiated.
Odudu and Tiger were two friends. Odudu hailed from a nearby village but was often seen with his friend Tiger in most locations in Takama. According to them, they were the last people to leave Marys shop the night before and they did not see any strange events before they left. Their story fit the story of the other three members from the party the night before.
Mary's only daughter had been recalled from the university where she attended. The news of her mother's demise broke her to pieces and she was inconsolable. Meanwhile, the king and his cabinet members were nowhere close to solving this mystery. They had hoped that someone who saw something would have come up by then. It was already midday and the remains of Mary could not be buried until the mystery was resolved according to the traditions of the land. Because of the condition of the body, they could not take it to the morgue either.
"What shall we do?" the king asked his men.
"Beyond the hills of Akwata, in a place called Bana, there lives a man who sees in the dark. He knows everything under the sun. If we send a delegation of men to him, he shall reveal to us the true nature of this evil that has befallen us", Ichie, the oldest member of the cabinet suggested.
A group of eight men were sent to Bana. They arrived there a few minutes past three in the afternoon. Junta, the seer was seated under a big iroko tree outside his hut wearing nothing but a wrap around his waist. He was a very thin man with wiry body. Around his left eye was a patch of white substance that made him seem to have only one eye.
When he saw the visitors from a distance, he began an incantation:
"You have seen the people that came to see you. You know what they want. I am not the one that sees. You're the eye with which I see. I don't issue poisons. I don't do sacrifices. Through you, what I do is give child to whoever cannot conceive. Protect people from those who want to harm them. This is what I do."
He paused and poured seven cowries in front of him and screamed dramatically, "What I see is terrible! Man's inhumanity to man," He shuddered.
"Welcome my brothers. It was a horrible, horrible thing that happened in Takama this morning. I have seen enough. You may enter the hut if you wish to see what I have seen."
The group walked into the hut and it was pitch black. They heard the sound of movement in the corner of the room and their eyes followed the sound. As if someone had shone a light on that corner, they saw three men standing there with their faces covered.
"Where is the money?" one of them asked.
At the right side was Mary, alive and well.
"Wealth, I know that is you. How can you do this to me?" then she moved with surprising agility removing his mask and that of the second mask man, revealing Wealth and Godswill. They pushed her off at once and she fell and hit her head on the paper weight on the floor. She was lifeless. The third masked man ran away from the room and disappeared.
Godswill and Wealth searched the room and finally lit it up to burn. The hut suddenly went dark and was finally quiet again.
The group was speechless and had goose bumps all over their bodies as they returned to Takama without uttering a word. They arrived the King's palace to find a crowd of the villagers waiting and chanting in anger. Inside the King's palace, the king and his remaining cabinet waited for the delegation led by Ichie.
"The King shall live forever," Ichie greeted.
"Welcome, Ichie, please take a load off and tell us, what did the seer see?" the king asked.
Ichie sat down and looked around the room, "My king, a snake seen by one man is easily reported to be python. I will let my younger friends speak," Ichie said motioning in the of the rest of the delegation. Each one of them seemed to shrink back. The king looked at them and commanded them to speak. Finally, Tiger took courage and spoke. The room was quiet until he had finished.
"Who was the third person?" the king demanded.
"We could not see his face," replied Ichie.
"Send the security to round those two up. They will give up their accomplice," the king ordered.
After searching for two hours, the security and village youth were able to bring Wealth to the palace. The king questioned him about his involvement in what happened to Mary that morning and he denied any involvement. He also denied any knowledge of Godswill's involvement. The king and his cabinet grew exasperated towards the early hours of the morning and released him to the streets.
The boy that wants to join his father and dance surugede does not know that surugede is a spirit dance.
The mob that had gathered outside the king's palace was an angry mob and they could not wait to lay their hands on the accused. They swore that he would tell the truth before the sun came up. He didn't. In the process of trying to extract the truth, they killed him. Soon after they went in search of Godswill. They found him in a neighbouring town and brought him back home. He also denied every wrong doing, denied any knowledge of Wealth's involvement and denied knowledge of the third person. He too was killed by mob action.
The real truth behind the death of Mary was never discovered. Was the seer right? Who was the third person? No one knows. Or did someone know? We would never know.
Pictures were obtained from pixabay
Authored by @churchboy