1.

There were four knives and two guys. They had come from nowhere. The gun I had with me was empty; all the bullets had been expended on Pain. Now I was practically naked, defenseless. I had to find a way to get rid of these armed killers before the others joined them. These two had calculated my movement and had somehow found a way to discover my route. I thought I had escaped from the horde already. Suddenly, they had appeared from what seemed like nowhere. One stood in front of me, flourishing his two knives and the other stayed behind me with his weapons, too. They were trying to corner me. I looked down at the useless gun in my hand. I raised it at the one before me and pressed the trigger, hoping somehow that a bullet would magically escape from it, but I was only greeted with an empty click. The Scarecrow before me did not even flinch. It was either he knew that my gun was useless or he was willing to become a martyr among his fellow cultists. Surely, they would be having the notion that being killed by the elusive Kanu would be a great privilege; that’s probably why some of them that had fallen before me in the past had acted so dumbly. It was a simple equation to them; it was either I killed them or they killed me. At first, I only usually harmed them with permanent bodily injuries, but I eventually realised that such was not enough to stop the best of them, or the worst of them as the case might be.

Naturally, I had to return fire for fire. When I knew that they were terribly bent on ending my life, I had to kill them in return. The more Scarecrows I delete, the less enemies I have behind me, even though more were recruited on daily basis. They had killed the only people most important to me; they had ended Jumai’s life so cruelly, and had made me a lone wolf by torturing the only person who believed in my ideals. Tony was the only person who was just, even though he was a part of the dreaded Scarecrows, but he sought only justice. He was tortured to death by his own people.

I don’t entirely blame all these unranked cultists. Even though they had chosen to lie down with dogs and wake up with fleas, they were only used as tools; there were people in the background pulling their strings, using these ones for their dirty jobs. However, a man is responsible for the path he chooses. The only thing I had to do for these nonentities to stop coming after me was to terminate the bastard called Mr Anderson. But I didn’t know who he actually was. The first and only time I related with him, prior this moment, was when he called Pain’s phone. I had only heard his voice, and that was it. Even all those following his orders like zombies did not know what he looked like – all they knew was that his orders must be carried out.

“I’m giving you a chance to walk away peacefully,” I told them quietly, making my voice sound as daring as possible. I stood between them, turning my head from one to the other, watching who would make the first attack.

“Look up and down,” said the idiot before me, “This is your last moment on the face of the earth.”

I gave a chilling laugh just to plant the seeds of doubt in their minds. “I can see that you are willing to go where I sent your other mates. If you are willing to die, I can only oblige you both.”

“The only person dying here is you,” spoke the guy at the right side of me. He was wearing a pair of trousers that seemed to have a disagreement with his tiny waist. I wondered how he was able to walk around comfortably dressed like that. It must have been a miracle for him to have caught up with me while dressed that way.

“Bring it on,” I spoke daringly, “I have no time to waste. Like others before you, I will kill you and move on to other Crows.” I was hoping both of them would come at me together at once; that would make the fight end a lot faster.

But the one on my left rushed at me first. The knife in his left hand extended forward and the right raised above his head. I did what he least expected, I rushed towards him rather than retreating. I expected that was what the one on my right was expecting too; but my reaction had been too swift for him to take action. Fighting is a matter of psychology; like chess, you have to predict the move of your opponent and then use it to your own advantage. If you are able to do that, you will be able to take on five people at the same time and come out victorious. Most amateur fighters usually have the same patterns of duel. They throw wide punches out of annoyance and leave themselves vulnerable to experienced opponents. Make yourself totally unpredictable to your opponents and you will take them by surprise.

As I moved closer to him, I noticed that his steps towards me were slowed but he didn’t stop. He knew stopping would be an expression of his own cowardice; besides, he was armed and I was not – I had thrown my empty gun down when it refused to shoot – and so he had a better edge than me. He is such a stupid idiot. I knew what he was thinking; he figured that with all my fighting skills, the only thing he had to do was make one deep stab in a fatal place and I would go down. That was exactly what everyone before him had thought but where are they today?

At the moment when I was only about three steps away from him, I slid with my legs pressed forward, kicking him off his own feet. He lost his balance and fell on his stomach. When he turned on his back, the knife in his right hand was still intact but the other one was embedded in his chest right to the hilt. He was looking up at the clear sky with his mouth open. He seemed to want to say something but was chocking in the blood that rushed to his mouth. He gave a final breath and remained still.

I bent down before the corpse and pried the other knife from his hand. I was carrying a deadly grin on my face as I stared at the dead guy’s partner. He was horror-stricken. I was sure he was still finding it hard to believe what he had just witnessed.

“I gave you the chance to walk away,” I told him, “But you were too dumb to listen. This is what happens when you are too stupid to see reasons.”

“You’ll die for this!” he tried to scream but his words came as a whisper.

I realised that he was still ready to fight me even after what I just did to his partner. A head that is meant to get a knock will surely leave the space even if it ties a thousand turbans. And to show him further brutality, I bent over the corpse and pried out the other knife from his chest. It was coated in blood but I didn’t mind, that was the idea anyway.
Then I did what the other idiot should have done but remained watching and mouthing off like the buffalo he was. I threw the bloodied knife at him. It caught him in the mouth. I had never thrown anything more accurate in my life. It caught him when he was about to say the word ‘I’. He trembled on his feet for a few seconds before he fell down to continue his trembling. From his face, I could see that he was crying, but he was not shedding tears, he was shedding blood instead. His eyes were as red as the pit of hell. Well, isn’t that where we are all going? Let him set the tables for the arrival of the VIPs.

I pocketed the other gun and ran further away. If I tarried there any longer, I might be faced with an army of at least a dozen people. It would have been easier if I had guns with surplus bullets; but as things were, all I had was a knife – not fast enough. You don’t sail the Titanic with a paddle. I must search for enough weapons fast; most importantly, the right kinds of weapons – allies.

The only allies I must build would be the Crows’ ultimate foes – the Paws.

***

The only reason I am still alive is because no one sent after me has been lucky enough to kill me; they all usually ended up unfortunate. It was either they received my bullets in their heads or they joined the leagues of bladed bastards. I am alive because I fancy that I am smarter than most of those sent after me. Besides that, I am still alive out of sheer good luck. Professional killers have displayed their professionalisms, of course, but somehow I usually came out of the battle unscathed, generally speaking, save for a few bruises here and there.

After killing Pain, after speaking with Mr Anderson, and after escaping the horde of killers, I moved from my hiding spot to another. I had become excommunicated, and I must always be on the move if I still wanted to be alive. I never stayed in a particular place for more than a week. Thankfully, I had more than enough money in my bank account to last me for a very long time; so, seeking accommodation was not really a challenging feat. I soon gave up on renting an apartment and decided on lodging in hotel rooms, where I never spent more than seven days. And I always carefully chose where I laid my head; some of these hotels are cultists havens, and to sleep in a hotel populated by cultists is like laying my tired head in the comfort of the open but warm mouth of a hungry lion.

But Scarecrows are determined cultists. If they set their sights on a marked person, they don’t give up until they see the end of that person, especially if someone like that proves to be as smart and as calculating as I am. They have brought down people in the past, and they have no doubt that they are going to see the end of me too. But I am not like their past victims, no, I am more dangerous. I am the most dangerous person in the world of cultism. I will not be threatened, I will not be bullied. They want war, I am ready to give it to them.

But I am not John Wayne. I am Kanu, and I know when I cannot single-handedly bring down an entire organisation, or corporation, as the case may be. Scarecrows are a numerous bunch; kill one and ten others will surface. I knew I couldn’t possibly take them all, no one can – not a single human being can battle the Scarecrows alone. Jumai had tried to evade them but they managed to get to her in the most brutal way. They had sent Pain to do the evil deed, but he, and all the other bastards who had been involved in her death, have been sent to the other side. But the blood of the brutality has not only thickened, it has damn well congealed.

I knew delay was dangerous; I had to take time by the forelock. And so, without wasting further time in hiding, I sought out salvation from the demon-yard itself. I found out the time of the Southpaws’ next meeting. I took my time to observe everything they usually did; from the lowest ranked member to one of the highest CEOs of the underworld. Armed with the necessary information, I dressed up in my smartest black, two new pistols in my belt loop and stepped out of my apartment at about 9pm.

I climb on my bicycle and pedalled away towards the dungeon of hell. I had bought the BMX for the sole purpose of escape from my pursuers. It was an easier getaway; even easier than cars or motorcycles. You don’t have to face the risk of a car not starting on time, or a motorcycle not kick-starting fast enough. A bicycle is always handy, as far as the chain and pedals are still intact. And you can easily dispose off of a bicycle without having too much sense of a loss. I reached my destination in less than half an hour. At about a hundred metres away from the meeting point of the Southpaws, I parked my bicycle, hid it in the bushes and trekked the rest of the way to the territory of the Paws. I pulled out one of my guns and held it firmly in my left hand, and walked boldly. The worst they could do was kill me, but I was not going to give them the chance of an easy kill. Even if they were not going to take me in, I was going t prove to them that I was a formidable foe; not an insect they could just stamp upon.

As I walked through the bush paths towards the Southpaws’ sanctuary, a familiar sensation ran through me. I started remembering the tragedy of Jumai, it was as if I was walking back to the same place where Jumai and I were tied down before she was raped and killed. Everything felt the same; the smell, the leaves, the atmosphere, even the trees, but I knew that was not the same place. That arena of fatality was a place I would never visit again. Like Tony had said, that was the same place he had buried my Jumai; and even if he hadn’t been killed and gone with the exact location of the burial site, I wouldn’t have loved to know; for the knowledge would bring back a lot of sad memories once again. Remember, I was blindfolded when I was taken to that site, and had almost died from gunshot when I was carried out of the place by Tony my friend. So, I can’t possibly have known the place all on my own even if I wanted to. And all those bastards who took us to that place are already dining with the devil, all thanks to me. It’s not exactly something I’m proud of horning out loud but it was a necessary thing to do. All those steps I had taken where what brought me to the territory of another sect of cultism. Southpaw is just as terrible as the Scarecrow, but to save myself, I was willing to choose the better evil, considering the circumstance. Indeed, if I was being hunted by the Southpaws, there was every possibility that I would seek refuge among the Scarecrows. It’s not a matter of choice, it’s a matter of survival.

The Southpaw safehouse was like a warehouse in the middle of a forest. No one, definitely the uninitiated, would suspect that a structure like this existed in a place like this. I was only able to discover the location just because I carefully tailed a few Southpaws. As expected, the door of the barn shut, but I could see the traces of fire burning within, and they were singing their anthem. I walked quietly; I could feel the faint cracking sound of dry twigs under my boots. The world was illuminated by a giant moon in the sky. I felt like I was in a rural area; a village where small children sat under a tree to listen to an old man’s tale. Surely, I was entering into another world though not of underdevelopment but of brutality.

When I eventually reached the barn door, I breathed in very hard, extracted the second pistol and kicked the door open. That was not the best kind of entrance for someone seeking the assistance of royally dangerous people, but I must not show any sign of weakness or I would be destroyed even before I was given the chance to express myself. I had just invaded the territories of lions, I must not come as a mouse or they would skin me alive, I must appear as, at least, a tiger.

The song stopped immediately I stepped into the yard of the Southpaws. One thing surprised me as I entered. In front of all the cultists – about a hundred of them – was a pile of guns. I had never seen so many guns all my life. Different kinds of guns were piled up close to the burning flame. For a moment, I blamed my decision to have come in so roughly. The men stared at me like I was a cockroach that had found its way into a poultry farm. They regarded me like I was raving lunatic for a few seconds before they – the hundred of them – reached for the guns piled on the floor, cocked them and aimed at me. I stood there like an idiot. If they all decided to shoot me, I would be so torn apart that my bits would have to be shovelled up.

I took my time to stare in their eyes as they aimed at me. They were obviously waiting for an order to finish me. Then someone stepped out between them. He was a slim man, tall and dreadlocked. He was holding no weapon, and he didn’t tell the others to lower their guns; I had been expecting – even desperately hoping – him to tell them to stand down.

He stared at me from the sole of my feet to the crown of my head. When he eventually spoke, his voice was in total contradiction from his appearance. He had a feminine voice, and that quality almost made him effeminate to me. I felt like I was not really seeing a man anymore; the poor lights shielded his face. His dreadlock now appeared to me like a woman’s wig.

“What madness brings you here, young stranger?”

I didn’t reply immediately. I reached into my back pocket and extracted a piece of paper and a cigarette lighter. I unfolded the paper and showed them all. On it was the picture of a scarecrow; I made sure they all saw the picture before I set the paper on fire. I was sure they all understood what I just did.

Then I dropped my guns and said, “I need your help.”

The effeminate walked, no, catwalked towards me and gave me a blow that put my lights out. He was no so effeminate after all.

 

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