The New Gong
Publishers of New Writing and Images
A short story
Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema

It was supposed to be a routine assignment but ever since he
got the task Daniyan Kalo had been uneasy. As the H-
hour approached his discomfort increased till it was a necklace
of rocks.He was not a stranger to assassination; as
one of the senior agents in the Head of State's secret Scorpion
Squad critics of the government had seen the
business end of his gun. It mattered little whether they roamed
the earth like birds, breathing God's fresh air or
were cooped up behind an armada of security. Once the
Scorpion Squad commander summoned Daniyan it was only a
matter of time before they were wearing headstones in different
cemeteries.He was a professional of professionals.

And yet he was bothered. Reverend Father John was not going
to be the first holy fool to come into the sights of
his automatic. Apparently the sixty-year old parson of St. Paul's
parish had not read the portions of his
religion's manual that talked about the last days. So his articles
and poems had damned him. Daniyan and his two-
man team got their orders. The hit was slated for the usually
packed 9a.m. Sunday Mass. While the other two agents
would divert attention with stun grenades Daniyan would pull the
trigger from his vantage position in the third
front row on the left side of the aisle. It was effectively simple; the
church security was a joke.

As the choristers' sonorous entrance hymn ascended to heaven
Daniyan took a deep breath and casually unbuttoned his
natty jacket. His placid mien concealed the raging storm.
Another battle like last night's was out of the question.
Killing a priest who gave you your first holy communion, even for
a lapsed Catholic, was the ultimate test.

''Hold the fort for I am coming; Jesus signals still...'' The chorus
of the entrance hymn throbbed as the ministers
of the altar filed in, the rolly-polly priest at the rear. The man
looked so harmless that Daniyan knew he was in
trouble. He steeled himself.

The hymn ceased as Father John paused at the altar.He
reached for the microphone.''In the name of the...''

''Father! Father!'' Daniyan's voice carried in the now silent
church. Everyone was taken aback as he rushed towards
the altar guardrail. The words died in John's throat. Daniyan's
voice shook with intensity:''Father, you are to be
murdered in barely ten minutes!''

The spirit of confusion instantly possessed the congregation.
Only a resounding ''Quiet!'' that boomed out of John
and over the microphone controlled the spectre to an extent.
Daniyan had already vaulted over the rail.''I am one
of the kill...''

The explosion outside rivalled the peals of God's avenging
thunder. Another one followed and a man ran straight for
the altar, a chattering automatic in his hands. Daniyan had
already gone airborne as soon as the first grenade
detonated.''Down!'' he screamed, his pistol in his hand. John
went flat under the altar, mouthing funk-filled Hail
Marys. Another gun-toter followed the first whose weapon
tracked the priest. His colleague fired at Daniyan.

Daniyan barely made it behind the pulpit as something rammed
into his side with the force of a piston. He fired
desperately. The shot landed in the first assassin's skull. His
partner saw him go down but his momentum was too
fast for him to stop. As he swung his gun at the riddled pulpit
Daniyan shot him in the face.

The church was a den of death. John crawled  out from his
hiding-place ignoring his wet trousers. He crawled
towards Daniyan who was crouched by the pulpit.''My son, you
need a doctor.''

Daniyan smiled, detachedly watching the blood spurting from his
side.''I wish I did.'' He bent his head and was
still forever.

The priest closed the unseeing eyes and cried like a child.