Hall Silicon

Michelle Enehiwealu Iruobe

CHARLIE-BOY

Hall Silicon is like one shuttle bus, two keke and twenty minutes trek from main gate. From the university I talk about. It’s not far at all, for person like me who grow in the village and live there since I was small. In village, we go to be fetching water from Papa Ehis’ house kilometres away from our compound when we are in dry season, so it’s not far at all.

When I come for clearance some month before, Papa did not follow me, so I have to look for hostel space by myself. My friend, San-Jude, tell me then about Hall Silicon. He tell me the place is fine; it have three storey-building and small car-park and I tell Papa that one. ‘O mose gbe,’ I tell him. The room is big, but is expensive. San-Jude tell me I will share the rent money with like seven other boys if I want to live there. There is shelf and cupboard. The shelf for my book, and the cupboard for provision. I tell him that time I don’t have provision, but Papa give me one bag of garri, (San-Jude say I should not call it ‘garri’ again, that it is cassava flake. San-Jude come from Ajebo family. He say he don’t drink garri in his house. He use to give me some of his abroad provision sometime; the one his mother use to bring from overseas anytime she travel) and Mama add one bottle of groundnut and chin-chin when I go. Mama chin-chin is sweet. The other boys for my room in Hall Silicon use to move some of it sometime when they think I don’t look. It’s only Ikenna, the Igbo boy with the brown teeth that use to ask. He use to say with his Igbo tongue: “Nna, bikonu, knack me some shin-shin dere.”

I stop giving him after some small time because when I ask him for some of him provision, he does not give me. And it’s not as if he have many provision. San-Jude provision is more many than Ikenna own. But San-Jude room is very far from my room so I cannot come and be asking him every time.

I eat Mama groundnut as I trek the twenty minutes from main gate to Hall Silicon. As I chew, I see Mama by the fireplace, fanning the wood so the fire can catch and using the other hand to turn the groundnut inside the white sand inside the pot with her giant ugbebai.

When Mama disappear from my eye, I focus on my leg as I walk, and I feel that I am smiling. I look around and see whether anybody is watching me and slowly change my walking step and place my bag well on my shoulder. My roommate in 400 level (I don’t know his real name but everybody call him Paapa, because he use to take everybody to buka to eat every weekend. I have not follow him before) tell me yesterday that I use to walk like the Jambite that I am. The other one now laugh and say that I am a bloody fresher. It is what he say that day I told him I use 150 naira to enter taxi from main gate to faculty because I did not know that shuttle bus use to carry passenger for 30 naira. I don’t change my walking step this time because I don’t want anybody to call me ‘bloody fresher’, I change it because I am happy and I have plenty money inside the bag I carry. My NaijaBet game dinnor cut for this week, and I just win like 20,000.

Tamuno, my roommate who use to call me bloody fresher is the one that introduce me to NaijaBet the first week I come. That day, I see him in the junction, in the queue in front of the game house and ask him what he is doing there. He tell me then, that it is the easy way to make plenty money, even for me, the fresher. I surprise that day, and tell him to tell me how to do it. I tell him to show me the way. He did not tell me easy. He tell me to get one of my course mate number for him. He tell me he like the girl. “Bloody freshers always dey do anyhow when senior dey talk to dem. Nor to talk of the girls inside,” he tell me that time. I hear it before that Tamuno is in one of the biggest cult group for campus. Let me remember, whether it is Black Axe or Enyimba. But sha, I thank God he did not tell me to join the group he is in so he can show me the way to get money from NaijaBet.

Tamuno will shock when I show him the money I win today. I know he will not be in the room by this time. Maybe he will be in class. But I will wait for him to come so that I will see how his face will be looking. I know he will want me to spend the money on his guys. He will tell me to buy suya and sharwama from soakis shop this evening but I will refuse. Maybe, I should not even tell him at all. Maybe I should just hide it and move early in the morning tomorrow because I know Ikenna will want to move another hand of chin-chin from my bag so he will see it. (Except I don’t put it in my cupboard). But I small small want him to know. I want everybody to know so that my name will be everywhere for Hall Silicon like the way Mastermind name is everywhere.

I shiver when I think about Mastermind. Mastermind be many guy mentor for Hall Silicon. I remember the day I pack inside my room. Tamuno, Paapa, and one other guy is inside the room that day. Mastermind come inside the room after some time. The guy is fresh, have one fine goatee that he have spray gold now, and thick muscle and abs. I hear later that he use to gym every day.

“The Mastermind! The Mastermind!” My roommates hail him that time. Even in the Mama-put shop inside the hostel on the ground floor when we use to go and eat, everybody use to hail him. He is the celebrity for Hall Silicon.

Mastermind is yahoo boy. He’s one of those guys that use to fraud all those white people on Facebook. Mastermind is not one of the small small yahoo boys who still serve Oga in the ring, but the made-for-life yahoo boy. Some boys tell me that he have abroad connection to yahoo; that his two elder brother in Italy are confam yahoo boys. They even say that his only sister use to work in one very big ashawo house in Dubai. That all those big big Arab Alhaji use to pay big big money for one night with her. They say Mastermind is a big guy. I also see that he is a big guy too. I use to see his haircut. He use to barb one bastard hairstyle like all those foreign celebrity. I see the phone Mastermind use to carry too – X10. San-Jude tell me once that he buy the X10 that time when X10 was X10; not now that small small yahoo boys can now buy X10.

It take time before I meet Mastermind face-to-face. As in, I use to see him before, from far, maybe inside buka when I use to see his heavy plate of just meat – beef, liver, shaki, ring, then maybe sometime, chicken. I also use to see him going inside Club Harris. They say that he use to baff and dress up there. I’m sure it’s true. I never see him inside Hall Silicon bathroom or the courtyard where the mumu boys use to do their thing inside cellophane.

I know that he is a big guy so I shy small when I first hail him personally. I shake him with my full elbow and bow my head as I greet;

“Mastermind sir, your boy is loyal sir,” I say. He look me and say: “Guy, how far?”

Even his voice is big-guy voice. I smile and nod my head and tell him that I have been seeing him around in town and in school. He tell me ‘enhen?’ and I say ‘yessir’. I tell him with style to show me the way – to tell me how he use to do it that he is fresh like this and he say: “Guy, you need to have influence and networks”

I confuse then, and I say, “Ehn?”

One of his friend now laugh and ask me if I am a fresher and I tell him yes. He now say: “Wetin dat one mean be say, you gats know person wey know person wey know person.”

I now understand and tell him thank you. I tell him I will gum him body, I will be close to him. He tell me okay, and I leave him.

I think of Mastermind for long, even when I start to climb the staircase to my room floor. I meet Archibong, the Akwa-Ibom boy by the door of room 100, carrying bucket of water and towel on his shoulder. He greet me with him Calabar tongue and tell me Tamuno have been waiting for me. I surprise and ask him if Tamuno is around. He say yes, that he have been in the room since morning – that he did not leave. I say okay and pass him. My room is the last in the first floor. I pass like six room before I reach my own. Nobody is in the first and second room. The third room have like three guys smoking Igbo. San-Jude have tell me about the guys before. He say they use to sell weed to some big big men in town for night market. They use to make sharp money. He say that their weed is very strong; San-Jude that have not tasted it know. One guy nearly die when he pass their door one day. Another day, one of the boys cook weed inside beans for some girls.

Now that I think of San-Jude again, I think about where he is now. He should have finish class for today so he should be in his room on the second floor. He move up from the ground floor two months ago. It have been long I go to see him in the second floor. It is hard to pass there. Second floor is full of mature men. Big, clean, mature men. Many of them is studying big-big course like medicine and law. Second floor is clean die. They don’t smoke Igbo or drink hot gin like many of them in first floor. They have reading room there. The reading room is for everybody but room 103 boys use to smoke Igbo sometimes there. I use to follow San-Jude sometimes to read there. San-Jude is in Pharmacy and many Pharmacy-mature-men use to give him small small tutorial. But I am in Agric Education and no Agric education mature-men is in second floor. There is only one guy doing Agric extension in first floor, room 104 and he don’t use to be around. When he is around, he use to go to room 103 to smoke Igbo. I am not sure I have see third floor guys since I pack inside Hall Silicon. Third floor guys are few. Only like three rooms is occupied. I would have enter third floor, but the staircase is too long to be climbing every day, and Tamuno and the other guys tell me that third floor is for Marlians. Even San-Jude tell me one time that he have catch them using soap in the bathroom. He say sometime they even do it with fellow guys like them.

But I think I don’t know ground floor guys even more than I don’t know third floor guys, except that Mastermind is in ground floor. I use to see him in ground floor common room with his friends, and I use to see his room all the time when I go and hang my jeans and polo in the downstairs hanging rope. His door is always lock. Henry, one boy from engineering that use to stay in ground floor say once that his room is fine scatter. It have new white wall paint, big fridge and plasma TV. He say something else in his room that I cannot remember. Right now, I am thinking of Tamuno and my other roommate face when I tell them my bet slip for this week dinnor cut. I open the door to my room 106 and enter. Paapa is not around, but Tamuno is there, with three other guys. I know them – one from ground floor who stay in the room close to kitchen, two from room 105 (the room before our own) and three, not in Hall Silicon. I think he should be in the next hostel, or from Tamuno’s department. I cannot remember where exactly I see him before.

I see Tamuno now, relaxing on the bed and looking at me. Waiting for me. I feel he know what I want to say.

“Charlie-boy,” he say slowly. “I hear say your bet nor cut. Oya, where our own for inside?

I don’t use to fear Tamuno before. He have been my roommate for close to one year now. And even when he use to call me ‘bloody fresher’ that time, he have been my friend. I still don’t fear him now, but when I see him very well, lying on the bed, and asking me question about my bet, I start to fear.

 

MASTERMIND

He never particularly liked going to Club Harris. But then when Osama Bin-laden and the other guys would come to call him he would say, ‘I just dey reason am now now. You should have come since,’ as if he actually had been looking forward to an outing. It was the same this time. He was enjoying his quiet time in his usually quiet room in Hall Silicon for the first time that week when they all burst in and literally dragged him out of the room and out of the hostel. Now, they were sitting in a round table in the VIP lounge at Club Harris, the thick scent of weed and shisha filling the air, the dark blue and red lighting seemingly on a mission to blind his eyes. The room was loud, the large sound system courtesy of the DJ blasting off trendy Naija tunes while people grooved on the dance floor. Within five minutes, over eight guys greeted him, told him they had heard of him, asked him to connect them with some popular ring bosses, collected his number and tried to buy him drinks.

He suddenly felt the need to use the toilet after a while, but Osama Bin-laden’s voice beat him to it.

“Mastermind! Wetin dey for us na? You just sidan? You nor know as we dey do am?

He had carried his wallet with his Union Bank ATM card while he was coming but it did not matter that he did not want to give it to him. Squirrel’s sharp hands and eyes beat him to it again. The dwarf had snatched up the wallet and was dangling it in the air. The boys squealed in delight and someone whistled. Mastermind managed to smile, trying to make them believe he was totally comfortable with them wanting to rob his wallet without his outright permission. He could hardly do anything now anyway, Squirrel had already started taking everyone’s orders. He watched them all say whatever they wanted – whatever expensive things they wanted. Huggies wanted a plate of chicken pepper soup. Friday wanted suya (the mallam should ‘pepper’ the meat very well before roasting).

“Tell him to give you Mishai! The h’egg must be plenty o, it’s not only me that is h’eating it” Tolu yelled over the loud music in his heavy Yoruba accent. He always bought extra noddles, egg and bread for his guys in room 82 – those guys that would be forming ‘strong men’ anytime Mastermind talked in Hall Silicon. Mastermind knew that one of them was now under one of his friends’ rings. They were still small boys, compared to even the ones worthy to be under his ring. He wasn’t sure they knew exactly where their evening food came from.

“Drinks nko?” Squirrel asked. They began to mention names of expensive alcohol. Black Label. The League. Even Chakra. That was a new one.

Only God knows what that one does, Mastermind thought.

“Mastermind, what do you care for?”

He smirked. “The usual. Assorted” A bowl of beef, shaki, liver, tongue, pomo and ring.

“Yessir!” Squirrel saluted and scurried off to the bar stand.

“Only Mastermind would come all the way from Ugbowo to Harris only to order for cow intestines,” Huggies teased, raising a red cup filled with what Mastermind did not know.

“Is that what you would call it? Guy, if you nor know better thing dey your lane o… You wey dey chop chicken soup, nor be the same thing dat your babe dey cook for you for Hall Silicon?” He replied. He remembered vaguely the fleshy bleached-skinned girl who always came to the hostel to cook for Huggies, thinking she would be added to the list of ‘wife-material’ chics for him to choose from. What she did not know was that she was probably the last on that list. A very long list, by the way.

Guy, for real o, wey dat your babe? You have broken her heart already or what?” Friday asked. Osama Bin-laden laughed.

You still dey ask Huggies? Huggies wey be the ultimate heartbreaker? Guyy, nor go fuck o… Na another babe I see for Huggies room yesterday. I know the girl. One pastor pikin wey dey stay girls hostel for inside school

Mastermind did not know the Pastor’s child who was Huggies’ new girlfriend. She must have come to Hall Silicon during the week. He had not slept at the hostel throughout that week. He had not slept anywhere throughout that week.

Tolu leaned towards him and said, in a whisper only he could hear:

“They say that Karma h’is h’in town”

“Hmm”

“Be careful, my guy”

As the party thickened and the scent of weed tried to swallow him whole, Mastermind felt his bladder gradually loosening after what seemed like the longest hold of his life. Strangely, he could feel something gather in his stomach and he felt the urge to throw up. It must be the smell in the room, he was sure. Squirming in his seat, he yelled over the music like the others did while they talked.

“Guys, Abeg make I rush go toilet small

Immediately he locked the door behind him, he felt a great relief from the discomforting sound and smell but not relief from his bladder. He quickly raised the toilet cover and pissed, ignoring the mess of what looked like used condoms and bloodstains. When he was done, he locked the toilet and leaned against the bathroom door, closed his eyes and breathed in.

It was like this that time; when his mother had found out that he had not been attending classes in school for 3 months. He was standing this way, back to the door of his room, while his mother barked outside. His sister was speaking soothingly in the background, her voice a sharp contrast to that of his mother, who was howling wildly, her voice cracking.

He had just come to collect fresh clothes he planned to change into and to wear for the next unknown number of days he was going to sleep in the garage of his Boss’ estate with the excuse that he washed all of his clothes in the hostel. His mother had arrested him then, and the first wave began with her screaming almost incoherently at the top of her voice that she had heard what he had been up to and she knew what he was doing and she was warning him of the consequences of his actions.

When the second wave came, he was already behind his room door, his back against it. It was only then his mother started to make comprehensible sentences.

“This boy, you will not kill me! We mwan sabo gbi me ah! So, you dropped out of school so that you can go and be doing yahoo-yahoo in those boys’ house abi? So that you can go and be smoking Indian hemp and sagging your trousers and wearing nose-ring and earring abi? Do you know what will happen to you if you continue like this? Na your dead body e go end! You will die o! Uwu ii gia ah gue na. We can no longer do anything when the head is off”

He had not always thought highly of his mother. She had cursed him for being a truant and a cultist; comparing him daily to his elder brothers and sister. Ede and Moje had got their own freedom from their respective 419-rings the previous year. Moje had gifted his mother a very expensive lace wrapper for her birthday and she never questioned how he got the money. His sister had been doing ‘low-key’ prostitution at Ekosodin Junction every night with her roommates in the school hostel and she used the money to make up for the meagre amount his mother sent her and his mother did not know. She only saw Cecilia, Mastermind’s sister, with her in the corridor, begging their mother to stop shouting at her criminal son. He had not been doing yahoo then—had not even got to the level of carrying Boss’ laptop. He and Mikey were only doing ‘boy-boy’ for the guys in the estate. They were messengers; only running petty errands. Then, Mikey started to wash Boss’ jeep and he started to open and close the big gate. When Mikey graduated to holding Boss’ laptop, he was busy writing his carry-over exams and was being extra careful with his mother’s eyes watching him so Mikey started handling jobs before him. Mikey was somewhere in Lagos now – a very big boy. But they say he was living in seclusion and only came out of his estate in Lekki at night.

He remembered Mikey and him, staring with wide eyes at Boss.

For some reason, he also remembered the fresher who had greeted him in the downstairs buka at Hall Silicon. He could not remember his name now.

“Boss, show me the way abeg” The guy had said.

He had told him about amassing connections and Osama Bin-laden had explained to him what it meant. He did not seem to understand.

You be fresher?” Bin-laden asked. It was a question Mastermind wouldn’t bother to ask. It was obvious the guy was in first year. Mastermind had watched his wide-open gullible eyes dart and glow like fire embers while he answered. He did not say much to him afterwards. For some reason, he wanted to tell him to forget about being ‘shown the way’ and concentrate on his school work. He wanted to tell him to run away. But he didn’t.

“I am telling you boys. Just stay with me for three months and you will see how your life will change. You will be able to do anything you want to do in this Benin,” his boss had said.

They say Karma h’is h’in town

With a wince as if he felt pain, Mastermind zipped his trousers and strolled back into the loud, discomforting party room. His friends were busy gobbling down pepper soup and Suya and foreign alcohol.

“Mastermind, abeg abeg, come fast o, before Huggies go finish your meat for you,” Friday shouted as soon as he saw him coming towards their table.

Mastermind raised his hand as if he wanted to give the thief a slap. Huggies cowered, his mouth full with stolen meat.

I think say na cow intestine and you dey forbid am? You have finished your chicken pepper soup. Leave my own alone.” Mastermind drew his plate closer.

Friday was telling the tale of his latest escapade with one middle-aged Jamaican woman who found out that she was being defrauded and threatened to hunt him down.

Sheet… I told you before that the way that woman was doing, e be like say she know,” Squirrel said.

Huggies raised a red cup to his lips. “Hmmmm”

“I never experrred it…” Friday said with a dry laugh. “The woman be like who be complete mumu before.”

Guyyy, na you fuck up na…” Bin-laden was pouring some white powder from a small, transparent cellophane into his red cup of chakra. “You dey always dey do all these kind thing. Was it not you who tried one woman from Italy, only for Bug to find out that she was actually male – and gay?”

“What the hell is that?” Mastermind asked, squinting to see whatever it was he was putting in his drink.

Osama Bin-laden smirked. “My newest bomb. I call it chakra salt. Only for the strong men. You need?”

Huggies took the cup from him and took a sip. He shivered. “Wetin you use make this one? Jesus!”

Tolu hissed. “Huggies, you dey join this h’one wey h’e life don condemn. H’e never h’over you dats why.”

Bin-laden continued to drink his ‘chakra salt’ with a contented smile on his face. Osama Bin-laden lived up to his name – making ‘bombs’ with drugs and weed and crafting out extreme and wicked plots. Bin-laden was second only to him when it came to schemes. He was the first one in the group Mastermind made friends with.

They had started discussing more wild knaveries when a scuffle ensued at the entrance of the club. A group of guys were trying to get in but the hefty bouncers at the door refused to let them.

Who be those ones?” One of the guys at the table whispered. Mastermind was staring at his plate. In this life, he had learned to always mind his business.

Some people were shouting over the loud music. There was the sound of glass shattering, tables turning and someone yelling.

“Mastermind, you sure say we nor go comot for here? Let’s go, abeg. Today don spoil already,” Friday said.

Osama Bin-laden got up.

There was a squeal: “Jesus! Gun!”

It was then Mastermind turned, just in time to see the clad-in-black guy shoot one of the bouncers. The music stopped at once.

Oluwa o!” Tolu gasped.

People were running helter-skelter. In minutes, Mastermind became lost in the fast-moving, madding crowd. He looked around confusedly for the guys. He could not make out a single familiar face.

“Bin-laden! Tolu!!”

The sound of a gun going off again made him stop yelling and start running too. Then, he was inside the bathroom stall. And he was alone.

He locked the door behind him and took deep breaths.

People were still screaming. The gunshots became more frequent and deafening. Mastermind suddenly felt the need to urinate again. He opened the toilet lid and unzipped his trousers.

Egbon, Mastermind” Came a voice from behind him.

His blood turned cold on hearing the voice and his fingers froze on his zipper. Then, he felt something hard pressed to the back of his head.

E don tey o. It’s been a long time”

Mastermind turned to face a man clad in all black with a sly grin on his face. The man’s fingers tightened on the gun he was holding. He was still smiling.

It was like it was just him and this man in the world. Mastermind could no longer hear the gunshots from outside or people screaming. He could only hear the man speak.

“The end has come, Mastermind. Egbon, ogbon ti òpòló fi pa efòn lófi ńje e – the same cunning with which the toad killed the buffalo will show it how to eat the prey.”

Mastermind breathed in his last gulp of air and braced himself, seconds before the man pulled the trigger. Thrice.

*

Ole yo Ji kakaki Oba, oku boon ti afon.

The thief who steals the King’s trumpet will find it difficult to blow it anywhere without being discovered.

They say that shortly before one dies, memories of how one has lived one’s life flashes through one’s eyes like an old film tape; blurry and distorted, playing like a slideshow with voices and moving pictures. Mastermind’s film tape started rolling from the very beginning. When his name was not Mastermind, but Oseghae Imalele – the name he answered that very first day of school when the teacher called out the names of students in the register; when he was just a simpleton in the village, riding crude cars made from tomato tins and soft drink covers and dancing half-naked in the rain, feeling cold hailstones fall on his back; when he fought in the red sand at the village primary school and had stuffed sand into the boy’s mouth, deriving joy from his muffled moans and the cheers of his peers and then afterwards, his mother had used her giant wooden spatula she used to make eba to pound him, the cooking equipment inflicting long, thin marks on his back; when the new neighbours came to greet his family and Harry Potter had come into his life.

Harry Potter, then Idemudia, had stood by the door beside his father, chewing on his lower lip, even as Oseghae’s father greeted him. He had murmured his name then, his voice having a girlish tint. At first, Oseghae decided that he did not like him at all. He looked so frail, so quiet, so boring. But he was soon to discover, like his father always told him that he should never judge a book by its cover.

Idemudia got into more fights and did poorer than him in school exams. Still, they remained friends, finished primary and secondary together. Because of his poor senior certificate results, Idemudia did not get into the university the same year Oseghae did. Oseghae had to part briefly with his friend when he went to study.

It was in his very first year, the very first semester, that he met Mikey. Mikey was a big boy in his class then, always having enough to live on and enough to spare, even though his family, everyone knew, was not rich.

Oseghae was curious, and sought to know his secret. Mikey took him to meet Boss.

Boss was the leader of the largest 419-fraud ring in the city. Mastermind was in awe of him from the beginning.

“I am telling you boys. Just stay with me for three months and you will see how your life will change. You will be able to do anything you want to do in this Benin,” Boss said that very first day.

And that was what happened. Three months later and Oseghae became Mastermind – the best plotter Boss had. His life was changing, and he was able to do whatever he wanted.

Mastermind’s life-tape fast forwarded to when Idemudia came from the village to his hostel in the University. He had just got an admission, and he was to stay with him.

“Guyyy, it’s really hard for Fam at home o,” he had said that day he arrived, while they ate cold water garri and groundnuts.

“Uhhum?” Mastermind murmured, his mouth full of garri. “How come?”

Idemudia began to narrate how difficult it was for his parents to get the money for his school fees and other expenses, how they had to sell their family land and a part of their farm, and how his younger brother may not be able to continue his own schooling when it became his turn in a few years.

Mastermind introduced Idemudia to Boss without delay. Idemudia joined the ring and became Harry Potter.

Things went on smoothly for some time. Harry Potter was able to live on campus without any further help from his parents and Mastermind and he remained best friends. However, things started to fall apart and the duo’s relationship started turning sour when Harry Potter began to get special treatment from Boss. Boss never followed the orders of seniority when it came to Harry Potter. It was clear that he had a special preference for the younger ring-member to the others, including Mastermind.

Mastermind was highly dissatisfied.

There was a party the members of the ring had to attend during this time. Mastermind was gulping down shots of alcohol in a corner of the party hall when some group of people entered. They were all clad in black with red bandanas on their heads. The man in front, their leader from the looks of it was darkskinned and had golden braces on his teeth. He was smiling as he walked to the end of the hall, where Boss was sitting. He nodded in greeting and sat down some tables away from Boss.

“Who is that?” he asked Pinnochio, one of his ring-members.

Pinnochio did not need to look at who he was referring to. “Karma. He’s the leader of one of the most powerful cult groups in the city.”

“A friend of Boss?”

Pinnochio gave a dry laugh. “For where? That is if Karma is really anybody’s friend. He just gets hired by whoever is willing to pay the price. Most ring-guys join cults like his to get more powerful. You know na… Some kind power pass power.”

Mastermind paid close attention to Karma after that. He watched him closely whenever he appeared at ring-parties and did some background checks on him. He was the most powerful cultist he had ever heard of.

Meanwhile, his hatred for Harry Potter grew until the last straw broke the camel’s back. Boss was stepping down, and Harry Potter was taking his place. Junior ring-member, Harry Potter, the boy he had himself introduced to Boss was taking Boss’ place, and not him.

When he confronted Boss, he refused to hear him out.

“Mastermind my boy, I don’t know why you’re complaining about this. You are one of my favourite ringlets here. You have everything. I give you virtually everything you ask for. What is this? Ajaee gbagbe i’oiye owuo. The dog does not forget its morning benefactor.”

Mastermind had had it. His fury was all-consuming. He decided to meet Karma.

The scary-looking man spread his golden-braced teeth wide on seeing him.

“If it isn’t Boss’ boy,” he said.

“You know me?”

Karma only smiled. “What do you want, Boss’ boy?”

Mastermind explained himself and asked him for advice. Karma smiled and nodded.

“Ogbón lajá fi ńpa ìkokò bo ifá. It is craftiness that the dog employs when he wants to sacrifice a wolf to Ifá. You have to be very careful when you’re dealing with this”

“Will you help me?”

“I don’t get involved in Boss’ matters,” he answered. “It would be better to talk about this with him. Once I get involved…” He spread his teeth again.

Mastermind swallowed.         

“Bi eegun nla na ni ohun ori gonto, gonto na a ni ohun ori eegun nla. If a big masquerade claims it doesn’t see the smaller masquerade, the smaller masquerade will also claim it does not see the big masquerade. I have been wronged by Boss. Boss does not respect me in the ring anymore. Why should I respect him? I hear you believe that every man gets his due. Do you think it’s fair?”

Karma smiled – the first satisfied smile since the beginning of the meeting. He rubbed his hands together.

“I think I like you. For one thing, your Yoruba make sense,” he said.

Karma agreed to help him ‘take care’ of boss – on one condition, that he would join his cult. Mastermind agreed. It was easy.

Once again, his life-tape moved to the moment of his life when he found out that Boss and Harry Potter were dead. Pain and fear gripped him and he fled, too chicken-hearted to put it all behind him and fulfil the promise he made to Karma. Since then, he wallowed in guilt and moved from place to place trying to run away from Karma and other members of the ring who found out about the role he had played in Boss’ and Harry Potter’s death, and who would make him pay the price of what he had done.

One day, while he was staying in a hotel in Delta state, he met Karma. It was in one of those Ring-parties. Boss’ ring had dissolved with Boss’ and Harry Potter’s death so he did not belong in a ring but he had gone to the party anyway. Tolu was there too. He was a member of one of the rings there and had heard of Mastermind, Boss’ ring and Karma. Tolu helped him escape without Karma noticing he was even there.

Mastermind moved back to Benin, and rented a small room in Hall Silicon. It was one of the safest places to hide. He was sure he wouldn’t have an encounter with his enemy for a long time. Until he met him again, at Club Harris, in a bathroom stall, Karma’s fingers on the trigger of a gun aimed at his head.

 

CHARLIE-BOY

“Ehn?” I say to Tamuno. I no longer want to tell him that I win money. I don’t like what I see in him eye. Tamuno climb down from him bed and look me up and down.

I hear say you don get small cash. Where e dey?

The other guys for the room is looking at me with big, red eyes. I sure that they have smoke Igbo. I shake my head and do my shoulder like I don’t real care.

The bet cut. Na one game do am”

Tamuno eye become small at once. Everywhere quiet for some long time. If eye can kill somebody, I will have die by now.

“Are you sure? Hope say you nor dey play with me?”

One of the guys come close to me and hit me small at the back of my head. I feel small pain and want to scratch it but I don’t move.

“Tamuno, this bloody fresher dey lie. See him face like wetin I nor know”

“How I go lie to you? The game cut. True, true. I swear”

Tamuno and the other guys look me another small time before Tamuno stroll pass me. “Okay o, fresher. The bet cut abi?”

“Yessir”

“Okay”

He and the other guys go away. I lie down for my bed and breathe well. Tamuno will have catch me just now. They did not search me, if not, they will have catch me. I get up, look if someone is near the door and open my bag. I smile as I see the 20,000.

I lie down back nd think of the many things I can use the money to do.

When I wake up, I am in the floor, naked inside bathroom. I want to start to shout but somebody cover my mouth and another person slap my head.

“Shut up! Shey you say your game cut? Shey you say you nor get money?”

By this time I am not seeing very well again. My eye is turning me. I hear Tamuno voice.

“Charlie-boy, you lie give me” He say.

“Bros, I nor…” I want to say I did not lie but somebody just pour one bucket of water for my body. I start to shiver.

“You will not keep quiet now… See e head. Wetin dis one dey do for school sef?” One boy say.

I hear the bathroom door open and some guys enter and be shouting “Guys, everywhere don burst o!! There is fire on the mountain”

“What happened? What happened?” One of the guys inside the bathroom say.

“You people did not hear? Dem say Mastermind don die o! Dem say dem don kill Mastermind!!”

I open my mouth as the other guys start to shout: ‘Chei!’, ‘Chineke’, and ‘Osalobua!’

Na lie!” one guy say. “Are you sure? Na Mastermind o.”

I know wetin I dey talk. One guy just dey bring the news come from Club Harris. They still killed two more people”

“Ah ah!” somebody say. “Nawa o… Nor be mastermind I see for inside Buka this afternoon?”

The guys have forget that I am sitting inside bathroom floor and I am not wearing any cloth. Even me too forget small. I did not believe them. They say Mastermind have died.

“Come, you. Oya, get up! Foolish boy!” One guy slap me again and I struggle to get up the bathroom floor. No towel or cloth is anywhere and I know that they will not gimme if I ask so I leave them in the bathroom and run inside my room 106. I fast fast cover my body with one towel I find and sit down on the bed. I begin to be seeing very much clearly.

I check my bag when I have dry myself small. The 20,000 have disappear.

“Charlie! Charlie!” Somebody call me. I am recognising the voice before I see the person. It is San-Jude. He come to meet me on the bed and shake my shoulder.

“Did you hear?”

“Where do you go to since?” I ask him question for question. I am angry small with him.

“Did you hear?” San-Jude did not answer me. “Mastermind is dead!” He say small small, as if the whole hostel don’t know already.

I shake his hand from my shoulder. “I hear. Where do you go to since?” I ask him again. “Do you know what just happen to me just now?”

It is then he look me up and down. “What happened?” he ask.

“My NaijaBet game did not cut this week.”

“How much did you win?” San-Jude ask, already smiling like goat. I eye him up and down.

“Tamuno and the guys ask me and I say the game cut. They carry me to the bathroom when I am sleeping and beat me,” I said.

San-Jude mouth is open. He look at me with pity. “EiyahSorry. You would have told them. At least, they would have left small for you.”

Abeg ee, them will just finish everything inside for me. I will not see shi-shi.”

“Ehnnn…now that you lied, shey you have shi-shi now?”

I look San-Jude and I know he is correct. I did not talk again.

“I will sha sleep in your room today. I cannot sleep here this night,” I say to him after small time.

“Okay,” he agree.

We are quiet again. I use that towel to cover well.

“I think of Mastermind today o… When I come from school this afternoon. I think of him. I tell you I meet him in buka one time naw, abi?” I say.

San-Jude nod. “The thing is surprising o… Somebody I passed yesterday night when I was going downstairs. How will he just die like that?”

I imagine Mastermind now, as San-Jude is talking. I remember him very well in my mind. I remember him looking me and saying, “Guy, how far?” in buka last time. I remember Hall Silicon boys hailing him ‘Mastermind! Mastermind!’ every time.

I still don’t believe he have die.

Michelle Iruobe is a 19-year-old Nigerian writer, currently in her third year at the Faculty of Law, University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria. She juggles her time between studying and storytelling and is very interested in experimental fiction and speculative writing.

 

*Illustration: ‘Mastermind is my role model’ by Sef Adeola.