“My mother was all I had; all I knew. And Doreen took her away from me…And so, I will take away everything she loves. So she can know my tears, so she can feel my blood.”
Funke Aminu, The Witch of Blood and Tears
Detective Robins sat at his desk with a pawn between his fingers.
He was white, the other side was black. He had lost his knight and his bishop. He still had most of his pieces, but the black had more. And the pawn he held in his hand was the decider.
He had five days until he had to turn in a report to Ganiyu, five days until his job could be gone. Five days before his world as he knew it changed and turned on its head. He needed a report, just one. He just needed to bring in someone big. And the witch was all he could think about.
He twirled the pawn between his fingers. This was his last visible advantage on the board. If he lost this, he’d be playing in the dark with the Unknown. His risk would be high but so would his reward. It was a gambit, but was it worth it?
His assistant peeked through the door.
“I told you,” he said, his voice gruff, “that I was thinking. And I told you not to ever disturb me when I was thinking.”
Her name was Safiyat or Sophia or something like that, either way, she chalked at his outburst. “I’m—I’m sorry sir,” she said. “But—but someone is here to see you.”
Detective Robins sat up. “I don’t get visitors.”
Safiya/Sandra took a breath. “I know sir,” she said. “But she said she knew you personally. From Gbagada.”
His hand froze, still holding the pawn, and his mind went back to the flames, to the horror, to the blood.
He placed the pawn on his desk and stood up, his eyes scanning the room. Then the windows. Possible places of escape.
“What color are her clothes?”
She looked at him closely, her eyes full of question she couldn’t quite verbalize. “Uhm red, sir.”
“Let her in,” he said. When the door was closed, he reached under his desk, tapped a button and took out his gun. He checked if it was loaded then put it down.
“It’s a nice gun,” a voice said. He jumped backwards, his gun aimed at the head.
“Too bad it won’t do you any good,” the woman said, looking at him, smiling, “against me, that is.”
Detective Robins looked at the door. “I didn’t hear it open.”
She shooed the thought. “Doors are for people without imagination,” she said. “Now, won’t you sit, Detective? We have a lot to discuss.”
The detective looked at her for a solid count of three, and when he was sure he couldn’t feel his heart bursting through his ribcage anymore, he sat down. But he never once let go of his gun. She glanced at his hand and smiled.
“Ask,” she said, her smile disappearing.
He looked at her. “Ask what?”
She placed her hands on his desk, picked up a Chicken Republic nylon bag, and wrinkled her nose in disgust. She looked at him again. He felt a shiver run through his spine. Her eyes, they were so dark, so sharp, that he thought they were made of shadows.
“I don’t have time to waste, Detective,” she said. “Great things are upon us. Ask the questions you need to ask. I will engage your questions, and after, we can talk.”
He was shaking now, tears falling from his face. “Why?” was all he asked.
She looked at him coldly. “She wasn’t the person you thought she was,” the woman said. “I did what I had to do for my coven, for the good of all witches.”
“She had nothing to do with you,” his hand tightening around the gun. “She had nothing to do with any of you!”
“Cassandra was a dangerous witch from the second she entered this world,” the woman said. “That kind of power, even without an initiation? It was too raw to remain unchecked. There are witches like that, witches who have the power in their blood without the need for a coven or a guide. Those witches are to be silenced…they upset the balance.”
“She was a good person.” Detective Robins said, looking at the ceiling fan, as it turned around and around. “She was the best thing that happened to our family.”
The woman shrugged. “I sincerely don’t care about the bond you had with her.” She paused. “But you’ll find that the more you try to remember her the more the thought of her slips away. That was how strong her magic was. It affected the subconscious of the people around her. She had to die that day in Gbagada, and I was the one who had to kill her.”
Detective Robins looked at her as his breathing became more ragged. In front of him was the woman who took everything from them, in one night, in one fell swoop.
“What’s your name?” He asked her, pointing the gun to her face.
“Funke,” she said. “Funke Aminu.”
“I’ve searched for you for ten years. Why haven’t I been able to find you?”
“Witches have existed in this land for centuries. We know how to hide ourselves.” She looked at the chessboard spread between them. “A nice game,” she said, looking up. “I never liked it, though. I prefer checkers. Your questions, Ayomide, ask them to me.”
“What do you want?” His finger on the trigger.
“I want to make a deal.”
Detective Robins scoffed. “You think I’m going to make a deal, with you?”
“Yes…Yes, I do. And you’ll like it too.”
He looked at her, stilling pointing the gone right on her face.
“I will turn myself in. But only after you arrest some of my witch friends. My conspirators.”
“Why can’t I just arrest you now?” he said, his lip curled in disgust. “And be done with you?”
“I killed your sister,” she said, leaning forward. “I punched her so hard that her jaw snapped under my fist, and then I put my hand inside her chest, and I ripped her heart out.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Detective Robins asked, his hand shaking, his voice garbled, his face wet with tears and sweat. “Just shut up! Shut the hell up!”
She smiled. “I’m telling you all this because I want you to try and understand, if you can, that I’m evil. That I will cross a river of the blood of thousands of innocents if it meant I would reach my goal on the other side. After killing your sister, I went to my coven, and I slept. Like a baby.
“But, get this, Detective, I told you that your sister was powerful. Untrained, but powerful… even I couldn’t have taken her on my own.” She looked down the barrel of the gun and licked her lips. “I had help. Help from another coven, right here in Surulere.”
“Who?” he asked, his voice cold. “Who helped you?”
“They’re a notorious bunch,” she said, resting back into her seat. “Known for their bloodlust and needless carnage. They’ve done so much to ruin this little world of yours.”
“Who are they?”
Funke smiled. “They’re known by many names,” she said, “but the most popular is The Witches of Auchi. They helped me bind your sister while I killed and mutilated her body. Arrest them first, and I’ll turn myself in, happily.”
“I can just arrest you now,” he said, his voice coarse.
She shrugged. “Maybe. But then you wouldn’t be bringing all your perpetrators to justice. I have an informant in their ranks, and I know dark charms, forbidden spells that can ebb magic itself.”
His finger was on the trigger, and he felt how close he was to pulling it, how much he wanted to.
“It’s a gambit,” she said, looking at the chessboard again. “To sacrifice the pawn for the queen.” She looked up at him. “To sacrifice something small for something greater. What will you do?”
His gun never went down. But he said, “I want you to know that if you double-cross me, I will do worse to you than what you did to Cassie.”
Funke smiled. “I’m sure you will.” Her phone beeped. She looked at it, her smile widened. “It seems that things are in motion. My little snake has told me where two of the witches will be tonight.”
Detective Robins put down his gun and looked at her, his blood raging in his body. But this was the only way, he knew, to bring all of them to justice. To bring all of them under the law. He knew too little, and she knew everything about their little cults.
“Where will they be?”
“Now,” she said. “I guess I have a question for you. Have your men ever raided a club before?”
He sat down on his bed that day, the one he made out of newspapers on his office floor, and watched the ceiling fan spin endlessly. His eyes following its numbing motion. He had been listening to it over and over again, but he still couldn’t believe it. It still didn’t feel real.
He tapped play on the recorder on his phone.
“It’s a nice gun,” he heard Funke’s voice say.
“Too bad it won’t do any good, against me, that is.”
He played their meeting again until he had memorized all she said by heart. The laughter burst out of him like a broken dam and drowned the sound of the tape recorder. It was the only sound that could be heard in the room. The sound of his laughter, reverberating and crashing against the walls of the office.
Again and again and again.