The devil, filled with envy and malice and poised on destroying the bloodline of David, entered King Herod and tried to eliminate baby Jesus.
The Sergeant stood by the road side. A diminishing white and gold cigarette dangled on his quivering lips. Smoke spiraled from the lit end of the cigarette as his squinted eyes moved left and right. His black uniform rippled in the harmattan breeze. His complexion was sun burnt, and he had a nose too large to belong to his face. It was the kind of nose the locals called God Knows Best. This was because they claimed people who had such noses cheated others by breathing in large amount of oxygen. Twin vertical tribal marks ran across his cheeks like elongated equals sign. The sun was setting and flocks of black and white broods were flapping across the clouds in an airplane pattern. All around the Sergeant the Garden City bustled with life. Pedestrians hurried to and fro like they were escaping unforeseen forces, others stood waiting with the Sergeant as gleaming and scrappy motorists galloped across the untarred brown road.
The white part of the cigarette was finished but smoke still billowed from the gold stub. The Sergeant bit the stub like he was reluctant to part with it and spat it on the ground. It was followed by a generous glob of reddish-brown mucus, which landed on the stub. He cleared his throat and spat again. Some disgusted bystanders moved away. The wind was dry against the skin, and the Sergeant licked his lips continuously to save it from cracking.
Hours earlier, he and his three colleagues— they were nicknamed The Reckless Four—had dispossessed an undergrad of his laptop at an illegal checkpoint at Ewikiza Roundabout. They ordered the poor boy to fetch the original receipt to show proof of ownership. Despite the young man’s image on the screen saver and plea that the laptop was his and that he was on his way to a business centre to print out an assignment, they insisted on confiscating the laptop. As the boy left their presence, they dispersed. Their ordeal at the roundabout was as famous as roasted plantain in the Garden City. They collected tithes from motorists and frustrated the ones who claimed to know their rights. After the proceeds of the day had been shared unequally amongst the four at their rendezvous—an uncompleted building—the Sergeant was gifted the laptop as the leader of the group. He had already sold his loot at the famous Sin Village and had left with his pockets bulging with illegal tender. Salaries hadn’t been paid for the past three months and Christmas was two days away. He was now sure of getting his wife, concubines and numerous kids Christmas gifts. But before that, he had to make a quick stop.
A blue, rusty taxi rattled along, and the Sergeant waved it down with the air of a man in charge of affairs. Altogether, there were four passengers in the taxi; two men and one woman behind and one man in front. The man in front shifted his buttocks towards the driver and the Sergeant entered. The man was now wedged in between the gearbox and the Sergeant. Everyone ignored the new occupant. The taxi groaned and spluttered to life again before screeching away in a cloud of dust. The taxi driver slapped the radio which spluttered to life and the jingle Twelve Days of Christmas filled the taxi.
Dusk was thick against the clouds as the skylight waned. The taxi rattled on like a child’s rattler. Outside, the inhabitants of the city were gearing for the night life. The taxi passed the overcrowded market along the One Mile Road where shoppers were seen haggling over wares, pushing bags of rice and holding cackling fowls. Green plastic fir trees adorned with bright ornaments sat in front of open shops decorated with colorful ribbons and balloons. The arena was a jamboree of some sort. The atmosphere blossomed sweet melancholy in the heart of the Sergeant. The taxi was held in the traffic. A young girl walked by, her buttocks wiggling in the clinging gown she wore. All the masculine eyes followed her plump behind. As the traffic flowed, the Sergeant reached out a hand and smacked her buttocks. The girl froze, shock plastered on her face. She recovered and stretched a hand towards the crawling taxi, opened her palm and spread her straight fingers. The words, “Thunder Roast Your Mother. Rotten Yansh Bastard,” sailed towards the taxi. The men in the taxi chortled while the woman behind hissed and grumbled about useless men. The encouraged Sergeant told all who cared to listen that the girl was a wandering ashawo looking for whom to devour. His statement elicited wild laughter and grumble.
The woman behind stopped at her junction, and, as she alighted from the vehicle, she addressed the men, “May God have mercy on your rotten souls.” They shouted her down with invectives as the taxi jerked along. Other passengers disembarked at their destinations and new ones boarded the taxi. The sky was dark now. Above, the stars were twinkling pimples on the face of the dark sky and the moon— the royal eye of the sky— looked down seductively. Neon lights flashed past and street lights blinkered. The air was getting chilly, and the night traffic increased. The taxi passed the traffic light on Knab Road, turned left at Noitats Junction and connected Irikorob Road. Irikorob Road was a red light district, and the Sergeant ordered the driver to stop at Red Cats. The taxi rattled to a stop in front of a bungalow with colorful lights. The Sergeant disembarked and walked briskly towards the entrance. The din outside Red Cats was explosive. Loud music blared from giant speakers stationed at the entrance of the building and mixed with the hullabaloo of merry beer guzzlers sitting in small numbers on plastic chairs while loosely clad women cajoled men into patronizing their wares. Cars sat double parked on the road and no one cared.
The taxi driver descended from his car, shunned the wailing passengers and hurried after the retreating Sergeant demanding his fare. The Sergeant feigned ignorance and continued in his strides. The taxi driver caught up with him and held his hand.
“Pay me my money oga Police.”
The strobe bulbs on the walls showered their rainbow lights on the face of the Sergeant making his face hideous.
“Get your stinking hand off my hand moron. Bloody civilian! I be Policeman and we no dey pay!”
The taxi driver retorted, “No be my taxi you go do that nonsense you hear? My friend pay me my money.”
“Be like say you are mad? You start taxi work new? Leave me alone before I show you pepper.”
“Oga Police, pay me my money, leave your stupid talk.”
A crowd of curious onlookers watched the ongoing imbroglio. The Sergeant snatched his hand from the grip of the taxi driver and made to enter Red Cats again. The taxi driver didn’t relent. The rest of the passengers had also gathered and were urging the driver to abort his mission which wasn’t going to yield any fruit and come take them away, but the taxi driver remained adamant. He held on to the Sergeant’s starched uniform. The Sergeant lost it. He turned and delivered a punch on the face of the taxi driver. The taxi driver doubled over the force of the blow but still held on to the uniform. The Sergeant grabbed the taxi driver and soon both men crashed into the plastic tables and chairs lined there, overturning empty and half filled bottles of beer. The beer guzzlers paved way for them.
The crowd bayed for blood and urged them on. The Sergeant was at an advantage since he was atop the taxi driver. He started pummeling his face with heavy blows while spitting invectives, each blow eliciting cracking sounds and whimpering. The crowd brought out their phones and started recording the bout. The taxi driver screamed beneath the weight above him and tried blocking the raining blows. The Sergeant was determined and the taxi driver looked helpless. His face was becoming bloodied and the crowd jeered. Nobody tried to separate both men. The exasperated taxi driver flailed weak arms, and his right hand came in contact with something cold and hard. In the confusion, the Sergeant didn’t notice. He was focused on finishing the taxi driver off with determined fists. The weakened taxi driver willed his armed hand and swung it on its target. The Sergeant’s head exploded and shards of bottle and fluid showered his slumping body. The crowd screamed with delight. The panting and bloodied taxi driver shoved the bewildered Sergeant off his body and drove the jagged end of the bottle into his wheezing chest.
It was as if the jinx had been broken. The crowd got to their senses and everyone screamed murder. The entrance of Red Cats was in disarray as everyone fled the crime scene. The taxi driver staggered to his knees, slowly dipped his hands into the spasmodic pockets of the Sergeant and collected all his palms could grasp. He got to his feet, wobbled out of Red Cats, entered his empty taxi and screeched out of the area.
Minutes later, the owner of Red Cats emerged from the building. He was a large spectacled man blessed with a generous paunch. He looked at the gasping Sergeant, grimaced and entered the building. Soon he emerged with two bouncers who carried the dripping body inside. Two fat women armed with pails and mops also emerged. One wiped the puddle of blood at the entrance while the other trailed the dripping body, wiping the drops of blood. Thirty minutes later, Red Cats resumed its activities like nothing happened.
Away from Red Cats, every nook and cranny of the city was cloaked in the toga of festivity. The aroma of Christmas was in the air.