The Man Behind The Mask

The moment his head rested on the fluffy pillow stuffed into a varicoloured, flowery pillowcase, Kelvin fell asleep -the first time in three days. Since moving into Okigwe from Owerri the state capital, three months ago, he has changed jobs four times and is currently on the run.

Before his relocation, George his former classmate, had promised to link him up with an Uncle of his, whom he said would need Kelvin’s services as a front desk operator until the University would review his letter of application to be their IT support specialist. They had promised to get back to him in no time.

While waiting to hear from the institution, Kevin talked a friend of George’s neighbour, who owned a unisex hair salon, into hiring him as a Guard. He started out quite nicely and got along well with the customers who enjoyed his silly jokes and funny remarks.

During his second week on the job, he set the brand new Generator ablaze while attempting to refuel it. A colleague of his who disliked him for ‘being too friendly’ with customers,  exaggerated the situation of things while on a phone call with the Oga, who was out of town.

He further explained that a customer’s car was torched in the process and the repairs would cost approximately half a million naira. Oga, who didn’t want the issue to escalate, made a transfer of half the money and contacted the police department to escort Kelvin out of the complex, with a warning not to step his foot into the premises ever again.

He was taken to the police station and released after a week, when no one came forward to bail him after he had beaten his cellmate into a pulp over a cup of water. He hit the streets, scouting for odd jobs like mixing gravel and crushing stones and once broke the arm of a mason who called him a bastard for defeacating on the stack of cement bags. The site Engineer took a big stick and chased me out of the compound.

He stuck around a dry cleaning company for long and luckily got employed as their deliveryman. He took many deliveries per day because of his swiftness and efficiency in delivering the clothing without rumpling or swapping them like the other deliveryman did until customers began to complain about missing clothes.

The dry cleaning company did not take the complaints seriously until the Manager got a call from a groom, whose suit and those of his groomsmen were yet to be received. It was his wedding day and he had personally contracted them to do his laundry. Worse still, his father was the state governor.

The Manager went berserk and checked their records which indicated that the suits were delivered a week before by Kelvin. Kelvin did not show up for work on that day, neither did he pick up any of his calls. He had read the text message and knew what he was up against.

After a few hours of trying to reach him, he switched off his phone and crept into hiding. He knew that they would not make the mistake of going public because they would create a panic and suffer a decline in patronage. He stayed low for a while, feasting on the money he had gotten from the sale of the suits and changed into a better apartment.

When there was nothing left, he got employed as a bar tender in Bablu Hotels, the trendy and exquisite hangout joint for the big cats of the town. They thronged in every evening to crack jokes and close business deals over bottles of red wine, barbecue and left holding hands with beautiful women whom they had just met.

Kelvin began to recruit underage girls from the street who gave him a percentage of whatever they got from the rich businessmen who ‘patronized’ them. He bought a mansion in a estate on the outskirts of the city and employed a middleman to do his dirty job while he monitored him closely.

Soon, pictures of missing schoolgirls flooded television stations and radio stations reeled out a long list of girls who disappeared from school. Activities in the town were shut down and everyone was asked to stay indoors during the curfew while the search for the twenty five missing school girls began.

Clubs, bars, hotels, motels, fast food joints and every possible hid out was raided in the hope of finding them but when they weren’t making any headway, a 50 million naira bounty was placed on anyone who would give any useful information on how to find them.

Churches and human right organizations funded the security outfits who spearheaded the search. Every able-bodied man volunteered to join and swept every nook and cranny of the town. The file of every criminal case that had taken place in the past decade was reopened and this was followed by mass arrest.

The state Commissioner of police was given a 30-day ultimatum by the President to find the culprit. Movements in and around the town was monitored, people were asked to report any suspicious movement in their neighbourhood and unscheduled house-to-house visits began.

When Kelvin saw tweets of the house-to-house raids, he knew that his time was up and if he didn’t take any drastic step, they would soon close in on him. Around midnight, he did a final routine check on the girls whom he had locked up in one of the underground rooms in his mansion and dropped a note for the middleman whom he was expecting and scaled the fence since he didn’t want his gateman to see him leaving.

He followed a long, winding and narrow path to get to George’s apartment. He would observe the unfolding events from there and decide on his next course of action. It took him three days to get there on foot since vehicular movements were restrained and he only moved in the dark. Walking around in the daytime was a no-no.

George was surprised to see Kelvin whom he thought had returned to Owerri but welcomed him into his home all the same.  He was having a lunch of Plantain porridge and invited Kelvin who declined and went into the bathroom to have a shower. ‘Kelvin is very spontaneous and unpredictable,’ George said aloud and continued eating.