They caused a stir as they arrived at the party. Deinde could not be described as handsome by any stretch of the imagination, but he had a bearing that was almost regal, and his imposing physique always made him stand out wherever he went. Deidre though was naturally pretty, and tonight, she looked absolutely stunning. Her made-to-measure dress fitted her like a second skin without being vulgar, and her hair rippled down to the middle of her back as she gave the performance of her life. She was a professional actress, and no-one seeing the bright smile that wreathed her lips could ever have guessed at the turmoil that lay behind it. They were attending a pre-production party that was all the more important because the leading lady for the upcoming movie was to be announced after dinner. Genevieve, Omotola and Stella were all in attendance too, but none of them could hold a candle to Deidre who had never looked better than she did tonight. She was at the pinnacle of her career, and all she needed to complete her happiness was a man to call her own, and she felt that she had found that man in Deinde. She was complimented on her hair and her outfit by her friends, and she caught the envious glances of those who would rather choke than admit that she looked stunning. It was their first public outing as a couple, and she happily showed Deinde off as if he were a trophy, which indeed to her he was. Deinde too was proud to have Deidre’s attention, and he also relished the opportunity to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers of the Nollywood movie industry. Although he was not consciously aware of it, he was a social climber, and being in the company of such people made him feel as if he had truly arrived. He liked the ease with which Deidre flitted from person to person, and his mind flashed to Shade, and how uncomfortable she would have felt in this setting. He wondered again why the oil hadn’t worked, but his hand was no longer itching or hurting under the bandage, and he firmly put away all thoughts of what had happened, and threw himself into enjoying the party.
Smoke swirled around the shrouded figures as they huddled around in a circle. They were from different walks of life, but were united in their service of Shango. Ijawunmi knelt in the space between them and they listened in silence as she stated her case, and requested their assistance. Her pursuit of vengeance was taking its toll on her, and her strength was fast being depleted. She finished speaking, and still the silence remained till their high priestess spoke up. ‘Have you told us everything my daughter?’ she asked. ‘There is one more thing…’ Ijawunmi stuttered. ‘There is a woman of the Light.’ An audible gasp arose from the seated figures as they considered this added complication. Still they sat still as they awaited their leader’s decision. ‘Just one woman?’ she asked. ‘Yes mother’ Ijawunmi replied. ‘We are many, she would not be able to withstand us’ was the leader’s response ‘The festival is coming up next week, there will be many sacrifices, and blood will flow like a river. The blood will give us the strength we need, this battle is not yours alone my child. Rest, and regain your strength. Be patient for a few days, and then we’ll go on the trip together.’ She stood up, touched Ijawunmi’s head and muttered an incantation, and Ijawunmi fell to the side in a deep swoon. ‘Make her comfortable’ she ordered the others, ‘and then we have to prepare. There is much work to be done’.
Baba Apata was a charlatan except none of his affluent clients knew it. His real name was Leke, and he was a Theatre Arts graduate who had minored in Linguistics. After going for more auditions than he cared to count without success, he had despaired of getting any work in his field until a friend had asked him to dress up as a babalawo to scare his debtor into paying back the money he owed. The ruse had worked like a treat, the terrified debtor paying up in record time under the threat of spiritual consequences if he failed to do so, and thus Baba Apata had been born. He rented a two-room apartment in Yaba, solely for the purpose of meeting his clients, and it had proved to be a much more lucrative career that he could have ever imagined. He spoke several Nigerian languages fluently, as well as regional dialects, and he often amused himself by trying to translate Shakespeare into one language or the other while his clients sat in bemused fascination, thinking he was chanting incantations to the spirits. He dispensed powders and potions as required, no one but himself knowing that they were harmless placebos, designed to give nothing more than an upset stomach at the very worst. People went away from consultations convinced that he was a powerful herbalist, and before he realised it, his fame had spread far and near. He never asked for livestock for rituals, insisting on cash so he could carry out the necessaries himself in the heart of the forest. He knew his luck would run out one day, and he was beginning to tire of the theatrical makeup he had to apply to transform himself into an elderly hunchbacked man anytime he saw a client. He looked at his phone thoughtfully as he mulled over what Deidre had told him. Even though she had been almost incoherent with hysteria, he had garnered enough to realise that she was dealing with a real spiritual threat, and she expected him to be able to deal with it. The thought of actually coming into contact with spirits of any kind made him shudder, and he made a sign of the cross as he pondered over what the next day meant for him.
To be continued……