Sitting on the dusty floor, with back against the wall and knees propped up, shivering in the dark,
Happy Boy could see the sky, but there were no stars, no moon, only gloomy clouds moving
indecisively. There were noises coming from the lower parts of the uncompleted building, raised
voices of other shady, illegal squatters. Then, silence fell for a while, followed by suspicious
whispers. Intermittently, pleasurable moans from rogue lovers would waft through. Uncompleted
buildings like this one could be found all over Fair Weather.
At that moment, something small, wrapped in black polythene landed on his arm. He observed it
closely, unwrapped it in utmost haste to see that it contained half a loaf of dry bread. Looking to
the side, in the direction from which the bread was tossed, he saw Go-Slow staring down at him.
“Eat it! We will move out soon.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Voraciously, he began munching the bread without paying any attention to the fact that it may
have been a few days old. In no time, the bread disappeared. Despite the biting cold, he felt
strengthened. As he stood up, he walked over to Go-Slow, who was staring down through a
window opening, which overlooked the unfinished balcony and the empty, night-time street.
What could he be thinking, or is his mind as empty as the street? The little boy thought.
“When I was a little child like you, I usually runaround in a neighborhood, just like this
Happy Boy looked at him eagerly, excited to hear that bit of information. Go-Slow rarely talked
about his past. Perhaps, some experiences are better left buried. Slowly, Go-Slow turned around
and rested his gaze on Happy Boy, whose eyes twinkled in the dark. He tossed his half-smoked
cigarette through the window space and watched the light brighten momentarily, and then die on
its way down–brief moments of illumination, then darkness. This is the way of all life, Happy
“As we set out, when I turn left, you turn left. When I turn right, you turn right. If I stop
moving, you stop too!
“Do not look back; do not look to the left or right. I don‟t want to hear you make a sound,
simply walk on the same path I walk.”
“I will walk just like you, sir.”
“Alright, let‟s set out.”
To the sound of barking dogs and unsteady illumination of distant flashlights from local
vigilante, man and boy walked the quiet streets in the piercing cold, doing well to keep away
from the major roads. Dressed in his famous, striped, over-sized shirt and shorts, Happy Boy
quivered uncontrollably as he struggled to keep pace with the fast-moving man. Years of
roaming the streets of Fair Weather as an errand boy for anyone who cared had equipped him
with sufficient knowledge of the neighborhood. However, this dark night, with Go-Slow making
quick turns into street corners and moving so fast, he felt at a loss.
Soon enough, they were walking in an open field. They had left the cluster of houses that was
Fair Weather behind. Happy Boy heard the sound of running water. He realised they were
already at the stream. The stream, as the major landmark, separated Fair Weather from other
communities to the south. He had never gone beyond this stream; never had reason to. His
abductors, who brought him and a few other children from the north, were shot at by rival gangs,
and everyone had to run away. Running as fast as he could, sleeping in the open fields at night,
and begging for food in the day time, Happy Boy walked his way for many days and weeks until
he arrived at Fair Weather.
His heartbeat accelerated, as Go-Slow bent low to roll up the legs of his trouser. Go-Slow had on
rubber boots that reached all the way to his knees. Without a word, the slim, tall man deftly
picked him up, slumped him across his shoulder like an empty bag of grain, and began to cross
the stream. In the slow-moving waters, Happy Boy could see the moon bopping gently. The
waters came just above the ankles of Go-Slow. What fate awaits me? What is Go-Slow up to?
The boy thought.
He had only known Go-Slow for two months now. The older man had saved him from a group of
bullies in a quiet street at Fair Weather. Since then, he had followed the man everywhere,
running errands for him in return for a meal a day and a place to sleep without getting roughened
and beaten up by bigger boys. He had never seen Go-Slow engage in theft, or waylay innocent
passers-by for their phones or belongings like other petty criminals occupying the uncompleted
building. Everyone knew to stay away from Go-Slow. He was vicious and notorious for making
people disappear. „Disappear‟ was his favorite word.
“Unhand the boy immediately, or will you lot prefer to disappear and never be seen?”
Aside brandishing a vicious-looking dagger, that was the only thing Go-Slow said to the bullies
for them to unhand Happy Boy that fateful day. Although Happy Boy had never actually seen
where Go-Slow made a person disappear, a secret, high-profile syndicate was suspected to be
behind the numerous cases of kidnap and murders, and in the small underworld of Fair Weather,
all fingers pointed to Go-Slow. He kept to himself, didn‟t say much, but was hardly seen at night
times. Sometimes, he would disappear for days, and while he was gone, the news would be rife
of a recent kidnap or murder. No one ever had the courage to confront him. Nearly 7ft tall, his
hair falling in locks, thin eyes, thin lips, and coal-black complexion, Go-Slow had no known
After fording the river, climbing up a little hill, and taking two turns through narrow bush path,
they soon arrived in front of what looked like the entrance to a market area. The brilliant beam
from a flashlight blinded them momentarily, and they both raised their hands to protect their
“Who‟s out there?” a thick voice behind the beam of light roughly demanded.
“Go-Slow,” Go-Slow confidently responded.
The light instantly lowered to the ground. A man in what looked like a security uniform walked
up to them. Happy Boy instinctively stood behind Go-Slow.
“What do you want? and who is this child?”
“Let them pass. The boss is expecting them,” another burly voice, concealed in the
The security guard observed Go-Slow suspiciously. Straight-faced, Go-Slow walked right ahead,
unperturbed by the security guard‟s scrutiny. The place wasn‟t a market after all. It was a
mechanical garage. The light from the moon was sufficient enough for Happy Boy to make out
the shadowy shape of unusable cars pillaged for their relevant parts. Junk cars were piled, one on
another, and in-between the skeletal remains of dead cars, they walked, Go-Slow and Happy
Boy, following a big bearded burly man who wore a faded fez cap, washed-out, baggy jean
trousers, military boots, and a very light singlet. In no time, they arrived at an iron door nearly
concealed by scrap metals and old worn-out electrical wires. Their guide suddenly turned around
and roughly ran his hands through Go-Slow‟s pockets and trousers. They had no idea what he
was searching for. Aside a jack knife which he quickly confiscated, he found nothing. Feeling
satisfied, he looked at the little boy suspiciously, shook his head slowly in affirmation, turned
around, and gave a single hard knock on the door. He waited for 3 seconds, then he repeated the
knock; waited another 3 seconds, then supplied four knocks in quick successions. In no time, the
cranky sound of metal against metal filled their ears, and the door flew open, unbolted from the
other side. The burly man stepped inside, while Go-Slow nudged Happy Boy to follow him.
The duo stepped into a badly lit room large enough to accommodate a little over a hundred
persons. There were two malevolent-looking men at the door, who were dressed in mostly black
and had on over-sized, leather jackets, with riffles hung over their shoulders. They regarded the
new entrants coldly. Under the lone flickering light bulb, Happy Boy could immediately see little
boys about his age sitting on the bare floor in a corner of the room. They were about 20-30 boys,
all poorly dressed and looked weary. Some had no shirts on. An atmosphere of terror hung over
them. Although he couldn‟t see their faces clearly, Happy Boy felt their eyes on him like a
warning. Away from them, on a huge pile of car wheels, a man sat. The smoke from his cigarette
blurred his face. Through the smoke, he took a long, indifferent look at Go-Slow, glanced at the
watch on his wrist and smiled. Happy Boy recalled the face. This was the same man in the house
that Go-Slow had taken him to. The man was dressed in a black T-shirt, black, fitting jackets,
blue, jean trousers, and hard, military boots.
Onotu David Onimisi