GRACE - Episode 4

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Gringory and Clarus of the New Masquerade, Nigerian Television Authority, Pete Edochie-like aura, anger, old 504 Peugeot, cheque, rape, Lagos, First Bank of Nigeria.

Benjamin hit me across the face with a gun sending me into a concussion. I lost consciousness for quite some time. I guess they packed me into a taxi and took me back to the house in the village. Two days after delivering and losing my daughter, I was locked away in the steaming, hot store room. Benjamin and his men were out to punish me into submission. At night, I could hear him mounting Atinuke relentlessly, perhaps in a desperate attempt to get her pregnant. Foluke moaned and yelled all night too, perhaps under the influence of one of Benjamin’s men...maybe it was Benjamin having himself a wild night. There was no hiding at this point. The gloves were off. It was obvious Foluke was working with them and she knew that I was aware of that. I did not sleep a wink all night.

By morning, I was tired. They dragged me out of the store and began to wave the cheque at me again. They slapped me and pierced my body with the tip of a pen knife. Then, they took turns to rape me. I wished I had a terrible disease that I could have passed on to all three of them. Atinuke could not stop crying. “Please stop it…do you have to do this?” She begged them. “Sign this cheque or the punishments will get worse,” Benjamin warned. For me, what could be worse than losing my daughter hours after she was born and being beaten and raped subsequently. I was ready to die, if only they could make it quicker. Not even the fear of death would make me sign that cheque.

My resistance drove Benjamin into a maddening frenzy. He dashed to the kitchen, placed logs of firewood in the fire and threw kerosene on them. Then, he struck a match and lit a fire. He waited for the logs to make enough hot coal before placing a knife in the fire. When the knife turned red-hot, he returned with it, running as fast as he could to keep the knife from cooling down too much. Without warning, he placed the knife on my left hand, pressing it hard. I have never felt such pain in my life, ever since nor did I feel any before. I fought hard to free my hand from his grip, but he two co-criminals held me in place. My body revolted and twisted in sheer agony. One of them covered my mouth with his palm as I cried out from within my soul. I am very sure that if his hand had not covered my mouth, my loud cry would have reached the neighboring town miles away. My heart was beating violently.

“Are you ready to sign the cheque now?” He asked me maliciously. “Over my dead body,” I yelled after his colleague removed his stinking hand from my mouth. “We’ll see who gets tired first,” he said. He returned to the kitchen and placed a pot of water over the fire. “I have water boiling over the fire, Abimbola. When it is ready, I will pour it on your belly. I am not sure you want that,” he said sadistically. “Nothing will hurt as much as the rapes, my miscarriage and losing my beloved daughter. If I die, no one gets the money,” I fired back at him. “Do your worst, Benjamin. Go ahead and do your worst,” I repeated. They went outside leaving me in the room. They talked in low voices. Foluke was with them as they worked on their next line of action. Then, a rickety old 504 Peugeot dangled into the compound, shooting dark fumes into the air with utter disregard for the environment.

From my position, I could see the old, battered car even though my eyes were tear-covered as I stared at the open wound inflicted by the hot knife on my hand. I had seen that car before. The moment I saw his figure, anger – ‘raging anger’ erupted in me. James Adenkule emerged from the car. Atinuke began to shiver the moment she saw him. “What is he doing here Foluke?” Atinuke shouted. “So you have been working with them all along? You, you got me pregnant pretending to be a friend of the family. You are all evil,” she yelled. For once, I saw her angry and somewhat strong – not crying and begging. “Shut your mouth. As if you did not enjoy it. I heard you lost the baby. They had better get you pregnant soon enough, unless they need my help because we have a couple lined up to pay for another child – your child,” James said conceitedly.

Atinuke rose to her feet abruptly and charged at him. She was too weak for the tall muscular man. He took her by the arm, twisted her arm and pushed her to the ground. “Someone should put this riffraff in her place,” he said to Benjamin and the other men. One of them picked up Atinuke and dragged her into the store, but he did not lock the door. “Welcome sir,” they all said to James as they scurried to obey his instructions. Clearly, he was the boss – the main boss.  He carried himself with annoying respect, exuding Pete Edochie-like aura as he walked into the room where I was sprawled on the bed in pain. “Long time Bimbo,” he said. I glared at him with indescribable hate and anger. I wished my eyes could shoot bullets; I could have ripped his evil heart to shreds with them.

“I hear you are proving tough,” he said. I did not answer him. “Well, there is no need to make life difficult for everyone. If you behave yourself, then everyone will be out of here soon,” he explained. I knew he was lying. The only thing keeping me alive was the money in the bank, and I was not about to sign it away. Now, I knew who they were and where they lived and how they operated. Both Foluke and James would not return to Lagos with me and expect me to keep quiet; not at all. They were planning to kill me and get rid of my body as soon as they had the cash. “Three hundred thousand is a lot of money you know,” he added. Foluke and Benjamin stared at each other, biting their tongue. I was not going to speak to that beast James, but right there, it dawned on me that this was a heaven-sent opportunity to spark discord in their camp.

“It seems you don’t know how to count anymore,” I said to him. “What do you mean?” He asked “You said three hundred thousand.” “Yes, I did.” Benjamin and Foluke stared at me like a laser beam focusing on an object. Their eyes pleaded with me not to spill the beans. “How come five hundred thousand Naira got reduced to three hundred? The documents I signed at the bank have half a million Naira on them,” I replied coldly. James looked at Benjamin and Foluke. He literally stared at them like a laser-guided bomb flying ominously to its target. Foluke was shaking with fear. Benjamin was afraid too, but he tried to mask his fear. “Mr. and Mrs. Olabisi increased the amount at the last minute,” Benjamin explained even before James asked him any questions. “So I sent them to you and you renegotiated my deal and planned on keeping the difference for yourself? Are you a part of this Foluke?” “No…no,” she lied.

“To my knowledge, it was her idea,” I said quickly. “She suggested they keep the difference between them,” I added, throwing fuel over an already raging inferno. “Adebayo! Jibola!” James called to the other two men. They ran inside like Gringory and Clarus of the New Masquerade that aired back in the day on Nigerian Television Authority. “Take these two out of here. Tie them up and dump them in the backyard. I will deal with them shortly,” James instructed them. “Please James. Please, I knew nothing about this. Don’t listen to her,” Foluke cried. While they were tying them up and carrying them to the backyard, Atinuke crept out of the compound, running as far as her legs could carry her. In the meantime, the entire group focused on me and how to extract the money from me and punish Benjamin and Foluke.

I saw Atinuke creep out of the store, walk quietly to the entrance and hit the ground hard as she sped up the dusty, hilly road. Poor girl, may God help you, I prayed quietly in my heart. “So, you know I will not be merciful if you waste my time,” James said turning his attention to me. “Neither will I,” I answered. He was surprised. He had expected me to be shy, afraid and shaky like a rabbit. “I can see that you are acting tough of late. I will blow your brains off with relative ease if you waste my time.” “That will not release the half a million Naira,” I replied. He said nothing. I could tell that he was in deep thought. “So, what do you want?” He asked. “I want to be released from here. I will only sign the cheque in Lagos. As soon as I am free from here and safe in Lagos, I will sign the cheque.” “But if we let you lose in Lagos, you’d have no reason to sign the cheque.”

“If I sign it here, you’d kill me anyway,” I replied. “In that case, you have to trust me. I will not harm you, Abimbola.” “The last time you said you’d take care of me, I ended up here with pregnancy staring me dead in the face.” “There is half a million Naira involved. Let’s come to an agreement here,” he said, almost pleading. “Let’s go to the First Bank of Nigeria branch in the neighboring town. There, you and Benjamin will sign the cheque and you can leave from there,” he offered. “I don’t know the area. I doubt that I’d be able to go far before your men catch up with me and shoot me. I’d rather sign it somewhere like Lagos, Abeokuta or Ogbomosho,” I suggested. Again, he thought about it for a moment.

“Okay, we’ll sign off the checks in Ogbomosho,” he agreed. I was somewhat relieved, but I still had a long way to go in getting my plans executed with some luck. I had just bought some time for now. As far as the money was tied to me, I knew I’d still be alive. “Can I cook something to eat? I am so hungry.” I asked James. “Yes, you can,” he answered, eager to please me. The sun was going down quickly. I wondered how far Atinuke must have gone. I went to the kitchen and tried to reignite the fire Benjamin had made earlier. He and Foluke were gagged and tied behind the kitchen. They looked helpless. I walked into the chicken house and fished out my ten thousand Naira, which had been hiding amongst chicken manure and dust. Thankfully, it was still there.

I wrapped it tightly at the edge of my wrapper, went to the toilet and then hid it in my shorts. Mrs. Olabisi had bought me some shorts weeks earlier at my request. I tucked the money in my inner pocket and wore my skirt above it. Then I began to make rice and stew. As soon as darkness had settled in above, I walked to the back of the toilet, made a crack in the thatched fence and climbed out through it. Benjamin and Foluke saw me, but they were gagged, so there was nothing they could do. As soon as I was out of the compound, I began to run. I had never ran that fast in my whole life and I had only delivered a baby girl some days back. I looked over my shoulder every few minutes to find out if they had found out that I had escaped.

After about half an hour of non-stop running, I came to a small town. You know those sorts of towns by the roadside in rural areas. There was a chemist on one side and a provision store on the other side of the road. There was a big house near the provision store. It was probably owned by the richest man in the land. It was a one storey building. There were a few other small houses along the road. I wanted to find out where I was. I walked along the road until I found a church. It was an Anglican church. I walked in and looked for the parish house. When I found the pastor, I told him that I needed somewhere to sleep. He told me that the next hotel was several miles away. “I can drive you there, but I there is a room in the parish house where you can stay,” he offered. I knew James and his men would comb the town that night. Can I trust this priest? Should I stay here? Do I tell him I am in trouble? A lot of thoughts went through my mind simultaneously.
Story continues...

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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GRACE - Episode 4
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Gringory and Clarus of the New Masquerade, Nigerian Television Authority, Pete Edochie-like aura, anger, old 504 Peugeot, cheque, rape, Lagos, First Bank of Nigeria. An African Literary Blog
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