“Drop that wallet!” A woman’s piercing voice rang out, over-shadowing every other persons’.
The boy in question lost hold of the wallet at the sound of her fierce voice, which made it leave immediately for the ground.
It all happened fast! As soon as the edge of the wallet touched the ground,
the eyes of the mob literally took a 360 revolutionary change and fell on the boy’s retreating figure.
The boy had heard about the citadel as ruthless, and one of his older friends had adviced him never to get caught playing in Hancho’s garden.
He knew from when he picked that man’s wallet that he had made a wrong decision,
but he didn’t really have any choice if he wanted to sleep inside a shelter that night.
Now he knew that there was no escaping punishment for thieves in Hancho’s citadel, and that the closest he could get to freedom was if he took to his heels.
Before he finished his thought, some of the agile youth had started yelling, for him to be chased,
like ravenous beasts fighting for the carcass of their prey, different hands grabbed different parts of his body.
He was screaming at the top of his voice saying, “I’m sorry” repeatedly, all to no avail.
In fact, his incessant pleas seemed to have incited a sect of the youth to grab dried sticks and worn tyres,
and some ‘concerned’ women to send reminders so that the ‘mopol’ won’t catch them unguarded.
The boy was crying profusely begging to be set free, but he had heard about Huncho’s citadel,
the neighborhood where all petty thieves and pick-pockets were burnt at the stake.
Despite the agitating crowd and his great fear, he found himself whispering prayers to God, who he wasn’t sure existed.
The kind of enthusiasm that was suffused amongst the mob made fresh tears cascade down his face; they had no regard for human life.
He needed saving but maybe he was not worth any kind of salvation, afterall his mother had left him, just the way his dad had.
He wiped his tears away with the back of his hand with the resolve that life would end for him that day.
He looked around from the height he was at, searching for an iota of beauty, but everything he saw was ignorant hounds, seeking for justice where there was not.
He was yanked down from the arms of those that carried him and was moved to where the sticks were prepared, the tires were worn around him,
like an accessory; a death accessory, and his myrrh was petrol.
They all stood, some in the comfort of their cacoohony anticipating, he in the fear of impending death,
and some scouting with their eyes for a police vehicle, in wait for Huncho to come out from his throne room and strike the match.
As they waited, the boy was being choked by the smell of the petrol so much that he felt that he would die sooner from the pungent smell.
Loud thuds and intimidating noises interrupted his thought, and from the instant change in the countenance of the mob,
from that of confidence to that of reverence, he knew death had come for him. Huncho had arrived.
Huncho’s sardonic gaze, grazed down the boy, he was a scrawny little boy of 12 at the most,
probably, looking for ways to feed. He could have let him go, but a rule was a rule.
Huncho had to be the most intimidating person the boy had ever seen, 6 foot 6 inches tall, hefty and huge.
He was mocha skinned, methuselah-bearded and kept his haircut low.
He looked like death personified as his features were tense and a scar ran from his right temple to a little below his right eye.
He was clad in a black singlet, carton coloured cargo pants, a red beret, clean white boat slippers and his bone necklace.
He took a central position so that the crowd and the boy could see him. “A thief must die!”
he said in his resounding barritone which got cheers from the crowd, they were screaming ‘Huncho’ like it was a mantra.
“Small boy…” He started irritatedly, “how much was in the wallet?” Someone in the crowd screamed one thousand naira.
“A thief!” He enunciated moving closer to him.
“What is your name?” Huncho asked after a dramatic pause.
“Gbane” the boy’s little voice said, as he dared to look eyeball to eyeball with Huncho.
“Gbane.. Gbane..” He said the intensity of his voice reducing as if he had heard the name somewhere
“you understand that life will remain bad if the bad apples are not plucked out.”
But the boy didn’t reply, his gaze fixed on Huncho, not moving and not saying a word.
“A question should be answered” Huncho said darkly.
“Answer me brat!” He shouted angrily. Still no response.
“Being a thief is bad, but what is worse is having no remorse!” He deadpanned
The crowd cheered.
He stretched his hand for the matches box to be placed in it, when it was done, he bent down, took the petrol can and poured on the sticks upon which the boy was tied.
“Say your last prayers boy.” Huncho hissed.
“I already did” he whispered.