A TRUE STORY
30 September, 2012. Maiduguri, Nigeria.
The silence at the other end of the line was deafening. I lack words to express how much pain was communicated to me in that brief moment of silence. I had gone straight to the point because Shizzy’s dad was a military man and so I believed that he would’ve been capable of bearing the news. Furthermore, I couldn’t bring myself to call Shizzy’s mum and tell her that her son was missing; I didn’t just have the courage to do that. Looking back now I think I might have delivered the news in an insensitive way. Shizzy’s parents and Heych’s parents had gotten to know each other quite well because of their children’s relationship. Heych had even spent a few days of her previous holiday in Shizzy’s house in Abuja and her mum had become quite close to Shizzy’s mum. The news of Heych’s death must have hit Shizzy’s dad really hard for she was like a daughter to him.
“Tell me the truth Damsha… Is Abdul dead? Just tell me the truth…” There was so much distress in his voice.
“Daddy I can’t lie to you about something like this… I’m really worried coz I haven’t heard from him since yesterday.”
“Ok. Don’t call Abdul’s mum yet. She won’t be able to bear it. I’ll be the one to tell her. I’ll send some soldiers to meet you so that you people can look for Abdul. Please my son, I need you to do everything you can to find him”
“Ok sir. I’ll do my best. I promise!”
The sun was just coming up and the town was unusually quiet. I paced up and down trying to calm myself down. A-Maz was sitting by the veranda, a serene look on his face. Blaq was leaning by the car, absentmindedly fiddling with something in his hand. The news and reality of Heych’s death was beginning to sink in, and the pain that followed this realization was too much for us to bear. Heych, oh sweet Halima! My heart ached as I thought of her beautiful smile and her fragile physique. There was simply no other girl like her in the whole wide world and anyone who had known her would testify to that. Jovial and gregarious, stubborn, strong-willed and extremely self-confident yet, humble, caring and extremely generous. She was a perfect mix of opposite qualities and she had something about her that made you just love her. Tom-boyish in nature and probably the best female rapper in Unimaid, one could probably never guess that she was an indigene of Borno State from the prestigious family of the Damcida’s. Heych was easily Unimaid’s most popular girl and her ‘reps’ in school was unquantifiable. Heych was one word; Awesome! That anyone would want to harm her was simply unthinkable for me. I felt empty and I knew that I would probably never recover from the loss.
Where was Shizzy then? And where was D2 anyway? Could D2 have been the guy murdered with Heych? Highly unlikely for if he had been the one found with her, Umar and many other people would have instantly recognized him. I needed to find D2 for he was perhaps the only one who could point me in the right direction. I made up my mind to head into 202 and meet up with I.B so I could get proper eyewitness accounts. I would head to D2’s place from there and one way or the other, get to the bottom of all that was happening. I told A-Maz I needed to borrow his car and he gladly gave me the keys. I was almost at the door of A-Maz’s car when my phone rang;
“I.B., wassup man!” I spoke into the mouthpiece. “I’m headed over to your place right now…hope you’re home.”
“Yeah sure…ummm… Von-D something really bad just happened man…I dunno how to tell you this.” I felt like my heart just dropped out of my chest.
He went on, “Shizzy was just found in the same compound… He is dead bro! He’s gone…”
I.B was sobbing at the other end of the line. For me, life had just changed permanently. I looked at A-Maz and broke the news to him. I didn’t wait to see his reaction. I jumped into the car and zoomed off. Shizzy was not dead and there was no way I would ever believe that! Even as I headed for I.B’s place, I knew deep within me that the course of my life had been irreversibly altered. My life was literally falling apart.
What do you do when you are told that your closest friend has been murdered? For me, I just did not believe it. I was driving slowly, absent-mindedly chewing hard on my fingernails and heading towards I.B’s apartment. My mind was blank… My phone was continuously ringing but I kept ignoring it. My mum had called a few minutes back and she had been devastated to learn that Halie was dead. She’d wanted to come over immediately and meet me but I insisted that she go to church and that I would update her whenever anything came up. In between sobs, she kept asking about Abdul and I kept reassuring her that Abdul was alright and that I was doing my best to locate him. Was that a lie? I don’t think so for I actually did not believe that Shizzy was dead. I was never going to believe that unless I saw and held him myself. Slowly, reality began to sink in and for the first time since the previous night, I began to truly contemplate the possibility and implications of Abdul’s death and the enormous responsibility that was going to fall on my head. Emotions were beginning to churn within me and it took a huge effort to bottle them in, for I needed to be strong for what lay ahead.
I got to I.B’s residence and found him sitting outside. I.B’s was looking dejected and his eyes were bloodshot. It was easy to tell that he had wept a lot in the past few hours. I parked by the gate and slowly shuffled to where I.B was sitting. He rushed and gave me a very emotional bro-hug and I found myself speechless. We sat in silence for a few minutes before I found my voice again.
“What really happened man? I.B, tell me all you know!” I said coolly, showing no sign of the turmoil within me.
“I’m not really sure what happened bro…all I know is that Ayo came back from school yesterday in the evening and found Heych and another guy butchered in you and Shizzy’s old apartment. He spent the whole of last night getting the JTF on scene, answering questions and…you know how police wahala is now. I actually thought the guy found with Heych was Shizzy but apparently, it was someone else. A JTF convoy just went back to the compound a few minutes back and did a thorough search and that’s when they found…” I.B’s voice trailed off and there was pain in his voice.
“Are you really sure it’s Shizzy they just found?”
“Von, that’s what eyewitnesses are telling me o! The JTF are still in the compound right now sef and people are running away from that street because no one really understands what’s going on… and you know how the JTF can be if they start questioning people…” was I.B’s reply.
It took me less than a second to make up my mind;
“I’m going there now”, I said as I stood up.
“No wait, Von-D…”, I.B stood up and tried to hold me back. “The soldiers are all over the place man and they may mistake you for… Calm down bro. I don’t think it’s safe to go over there”
I was about to start arguing with him when my phone rang. I picked up the phone and Umar’s broken voice spoke at the other end, “Bro, have you heard what’s going on? They just found…they just found your bro, man…. He’s gone… He’s…” Umar’s voice was really shaky and I could not even fathom what he was going through. I was silent for I had nothing to say.
“The JTF just called me to come over to the compound so I’ll be there in a few minutes. I’ve told them that you are coming to stand in for Shizzy so I’ll call you when I get there…”, Umar continued.
“Thanks bro. I’ll be waiting. I’m even nearby. Stay strong man”, was my reply.
I sat down again and a look of relief swept over I’B’s face. He assumed that I’d changed my mind and was glad about it. I told him about the conversation I had just had with Umar and he grew apprehensive again when he learnt that I was still to go over to the scene and meet up with the JTF. I chewed my fingernails as I fiddled with my phone and scrolled slowly through my contacts down to one of the entries. I dreaded the phone-call I was about to make and it took the greatest amount of willpower I could muster to make that phone call. I had the responsibility of breaking this final piece of bad news to Abdul’s parents… I found it really ironic. On another day, in another place, at another time and on a different turn of events, it would have been Abdul’s responsibility to call my parents. But here I was, alive and breathing while my best friend had crossed to the other side. I must confess that I lost my faith in God at that point.
I called Abdul’s dad and there was a faint glimmer of hope in his voice when he picked the call, for I guess he believed I was calling him to give him some good news.
“Hello sir… umm… we found Abdul sir… He’s… umm… Abdul’s gone sir… He’s gone…”, I said softly.
A very pained wail went out from Abdul’s dad and he pushed the phone away from himself for a while.I could still hear the mourning in the background though. It was very touching to hear a soldier weep, quite unbearable to hear a father shed tears for his son. I was about to drop the call for I could not bear to listen any more when his voice spoke to me again from the other end with remarkable composure.
“I’m sending my brother to meet you my son, so be calm and stay strong. Make sure you don’t call my wife. I’ll be the one to tell her myself. I’m booking the next flight to Maiduguri so please try and do what you can to get Abdul to the hospital before I come, OK? Call me every few minutes and continuously update me on whatever’s going on.” There was a certain coldness to his voice now and I was surprised by how quickly he had composed himself. He was a military officer after all…
“OK sir, no problem” was my muffled reply. A few minutes later, Umar called me to come over to the compound so I left I.B’s house and headed for Shizzy’s old apartment
I walked towards Abdul’s apartment for it wasn’t far from I.B’s place. Actually, the apartment belonged jointly to I and Abdul and we’d rented it the previous year when we were trying to set our music studio up. It was a self-contained apartment having a single room, a kitchen, parlour, toilet and bathroom. The house was in the last compound on our street and it overlooked a valley just behind 202 Housing Estate. The view from behind the house was breathtakingly picturesque and the cool evening breeze that blew consistently made it an ideal place for relaxation. Abdul had stumbled across the house at some point in our 2nd year and had immediately fallen in love with the place. In his usual boisterous manner, he had put up all the money he had, which was roughly equivalent to half the rent before I had even gotten to see the place and before I knew it he had already secured the place for us. I was mad for a while but as always, he knew just how to placate me and within a few weeks, I had managed to scrape together the remaining half of the rent money and the apartment became ours. I turned into the street and spotted the gate of the compound from afar and a million memories came gushing at me. I sighed to myself, for the scene that confronted me was a sharp contrast to the fond memories I had of the house. From my vantage point, I could see two JTF Toyota Hilux cars parked at the gate of the compound. Uniformed men were all over the place and I hesitated for a second; I suddenly felt like I didn’t want to be there at all. Umar, who’d met me while I was walking into the street, gently gave me an encouraging shove and silently communicated the words ‘Be strong bro’ to me. I closed my eyes still hoping that I would wake up but I opened them to see the continuation of my nightmares. We were almost at the compound and I could see a group of policemen talking to two men dressed in kaftans. From their looks, I could tell they were Halie’s uncles. Her car was parked under a tree outside (in her favourite parking spot) just opposite one of the JTF’s Hilux truck. I heard a gun cock and looked up to see it pointed at me;
“Yessssss! Stop right there my friend and identify yourself!”, said a uniformed man. I couldn’t blame them for their rudeness for they had suffered a lot of casualties from innocent looking suicide bombers and thus, were extremely cautious and suspicious of anyone that crossed their paths.
“He’s the one I was telling you about. The boy’s friend… he can get you in touch with the boy’s family.” Umar quickly said and the weary soldier let his gun drop down. A look of pity actually came over his face and he encouraged me to be calm.
“Where is he?” I asked Umar as we got to where the vehicles were parked. Umar pointed to a Hilux and I slowly walked towards it. My breath became really shallow and time seemed to freeze for an eternal moment, as the corpse that was in the truck slowly came into view. Abdul lay peacefully in the back of the truck and his eyes were partially open. Blood was still flowing a bit from the back of his head where a blow had inflicted a serious injury and his throat was slit… and not by a sharp knife from the looks of it. My God! ‘Why didn’t they just shoot him, Lord…. Why!? This is just too brutal’ was the thought that kept ringing through my head. I felt faint headed and nostalgia overwhelmed me. I stretched my hand and adjusted his hair, held his hands and stared into the face for a very long time allowing the truth to finally sink in. Shizzy was really dead.
Someone gently pulled me away from the car and the JTF began questioning me. In the background, I could see the soldiers receiving tactical orders from their leader and assuming some sort of formation. They all split up and fanned out in different directions and I deduced that they were conducting a detailed sweep of the surrounding areas, especially in the valley. I faced the policemen left behind and absent-mindedly answered all their questions. It was decided that I would accompany them to the morgue to drop Abdul’s corpse and also facilitate their meeting with his family members. Before leaving for the hospital, Umar asked me to accompany him into the apartment and help him search for Halie’s car key. A shiver ran down my spine when I set foot in the compound. The compound was completely deserted and the door of our apartment was partially ajar. The door showed no signs of a forced entry and there was little to indicate that a struggle might have occurred in the compound and this seemed peculiar to me. With Umar in the lead, we slowly walked into the apartment and I immediately felt nauseous. The living room was…somehow, blood covered every inch of the floor (Abdul had packed out and so there was no furniture in the house). Splashes of red littered the walls and I shuddered at the thought of the savagery that must have occurred the previous night. My heart ached as images of what might have transpired flooded my mind. I tried to picture the men overwhelming poor sweet Halie, putting a knife to her throat and… I couldn’t take it no more so I silently stepped out to get some air.
“Is this where they were all found?” I asked Umar when he finally emerged from the apartment.
“No. Halie was found her with the other guy last night while Shizzy was found there…” He said pointing at the third apartment in the compound. I sighed and said no more, turned around and went back to where the JTF men were still discussing. When they had finished their arrangements, we got into the truck and were soon on our way to UMTH (University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital leaving Umar and his uncles behind to take care of things at the apartment with the other JTF officers.