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A Thorn in Her Life

By Olatunbosun Adetula (Nigeria)

Chapter 10


 

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Chapter 10
    

 

The beautiful sun put Maria in a happy mood. She stood up from her desk, went to the window and closed the curtain. She came back to her seat and stretched her neck and then she took her cell phone on the desk and dialed Paul.
    
 Maria sat in breathlessly as the cell phone rang into her ear but Paul didn’t pick up the call. She stood up and dialed the cell phone again, miffed, and she perambulated the whole office as the phone continued to ring. Tension built up in her body and she went back to her seat. When she looked at the wall clock in her office it was four o’ clock in the afternoon; she packed her things on the table and stood up.

      As she was taking some of files on the table Angelina came into her office with a bottle of Coke and a wrap of sausage. Angelina knew she was hungry because she didn’t come out for lunch.

“Do you want to finish all the things in your hand?” Maria asked and salivated when she saw the coke and the sausage in Angelina’s hand.

“Here take it and eat. I know you are very hungry,” Angelina said and gave her the Coke and the sausage.

“Thank you very much, Angelina. Where did you buy the sausage?” Maria asked.

“I bought it at the fast food joint down the road,” Angelina said and sat down.

“It is so delicious,” Maria said and then they talked together inside the office.

 Peter came in and greeted the two ladies, looking bright and breezy in a white shirt and black trousers. As soon as Peter sat down, Angelina stood up from her seat and was about to leave the office but Peter called her back.

“Angelina, I have really disturbed you.” Peter said and urged her to come back to her seat.

“You didn’t disturb me at all; I have many things to do, for it’s closing time already,” Angelina said and jammed the door of the office. When Angelina left the office, Peter and Maria began to talk.

“Have you finished the report, Maria?”

“No, I will complete it tomorrow morning unfailingly.”

“Okay. When you are through with it just let me know please,” Peter said and stood up.

“I will definitely holler at you,” Maria said as Peter was about to leave the office. He suddenly glanced back.

“One more thing please, Maria.”

“What is it Peter?”

“My birthday is coming up in two weeks’ time; I need a good photographer for the party.” Maria looked at his face.

“What about the one near your house?”

“I was dissatisfied with his service, for he is not a professional, and his work is too poor.” Maria thought for some minutes and spoke.

“Okay, I have a friend of mine who can help you out,” she said and Peter smiled.

“Can I see him today so that I can book an appointment with him?”

“You need it so fast.”

“Yes of course.”

“I will come and meet you in your office; just let me arrange my office.”

“Okay, no problem,” Maria said and Peter left the office.

      Later Maria and Peter talked in the car as she took him to Lawrence’s photo studio. Lawrence was very happy when he saw Maria. He thought she came with Paul but when he looked at the face of the man behind her, it suddenly dawned on him that the man wasn’t Paul as he had presumed. Lawrence exchanged banter with Maria as she got to the studio and welcomed Peter with a smile.

“Have your seats, gentleman and lady,” Lawrence said as they came to the studio and sat down. When they sat down Maria introduced Peter to Lawrence properly.

“How is business, Lawrence?” Maria said.

“Well, business is moving fine,” Lawrence said “What about soft drinks Maria?”

“We don’t mind,” Maria said and Lawrence told his secretary to bring three bottles of soft drinks for them.

      Inside the office, Peter looked at some of the pictures that Lawrence had taken on the wall as Maria went into the studio. He liked the pictures so much that he fixed his gaze on them. He saw many pictures of exotic and fascinating places where Lawrence had traveled abroad. Peter was specially fascinated by the picture of a woman and her daughter at a beach in Rio de Janeiro.

“Lawrence, you really have a beautiful studio here,” Maria said and sipped her drink succulently as they came back to the office.

“I am still working on the studio; I had a plan to bring a cord 64 here by next week,” Lawrence said.

     Maria breathed deeply and looked at Peter in the face but Peter urged her to speak. Lawrence looked at her eyes and he spoke.

“So what brought you to the studio, Maria?” Lawrence asked.

“My friend and boss Peter is celebrating his birthday so he needed a photographer urgently,” Maria said. Peter looked at her and he smiled. Lawrence opened one of the drawers and brought out a brown paper and some pictures. He also laid some albums on the table.

“I don’t want to talk too much; I think my work will speak for me,” Lawrence said and dropped some pictures and a brown envelope on the table. Peter took some of the pictures.

     Peter picked some of the pictures on the table and began to look at them, opening the album and looking at some of the pictures inside. He soon took the brown paper and looked at it. Suddenly the pictures made him squeeze his face. There was something strange about the pictures in the brown paper that made Peter flinch. His face became distorted and he raised the pictures up to the light. Maria looked at him and wondered what went wrong.

“Peter, why did you quiz your face?” Maria said and dropped the pictures in her hand on the table.

“This is Bath Benson,” Peter said and looked at Maria in the face. Maria was startled when she heard the name, and she thought Peter was joking.

“Where is Bath Benson, Peter?” Maria said.

“Here, look at him. Look at him very well,” Peter said and gave the pictures to Maria. Maria collected the pictures and looked at them. He gave some to Lawrence who was astonished by the discovery.

      Maria was shocked when she saw the pictures. In one of the pictures she saw Bath carrying a sack on his shoulder. In another he hooked a woman to the ground. The pictures were indeed strange; Maria dropped the pictures on the table and gazed at them in utter confusion. Lawrence too was confused; the emergence of the pictures sent shockwaves through their skin.

“Where did you make all these pictures, Lawrence?” Maria said and looked at Lawrence in the eyes. Lawrence thought for some minutes as Peter and Maria looked at the pictures and waited for his response.

“Now I remember. A man came to the studio sometimes ago to print the pictures from his phone. He left some of the pictures here, so I kept them for him pending the time he would come back,” Lawrence said and looked at the face inside the pictures. Suddenly it dawned on him that the face in the pictures belonged to Bath Benson, the young man he saw at the Victoria Hotel.

“There is more to the pictures than meets the eyes. I think Bath was trying to hide something,” Peter said and passed one of the pictures to Lawrence and Maria.

“Look at his face here. It is so scary and dangerous and he is carrying a sack on his shoulder,” Maria said.

“These are no ordinary pictures,” Peter said and looked at Maria’s face.

      Peter stood up from his seat and walked to the window. Maria watched him as he stealthily perambulated the whole office. Lawrence was confused; he looked at Peter as he went to the window.

“I believe Bath didn’t come here to take the pictures,” Peter said.

“I told you a man came here to take the picture,” Lawrence said and tried to look at the name he had printed on the brown envelope.

      When Peter came back to his seat, Lawrence looked at the envelope and saw the name he had written on it.

“I think I have the name of the man that came to print the pictures in the studio.”

“What is the name?” Peter asked.

“Alan Wilson,” Lawrence said and looked at Peter’s face. Peter and Maria exchanged glances.

      Peter was shocked when he heard the name. He sat down and breathed deeply, and Maria was shocked too. Peter tried to link the picture with Alan’s death.

“Did you know anyone bearing Alan?” Maria asked.

“Yes, he is a very good friend. He is also Rebecca’s lover. He worked for Mr. Benson but he was killed in a mysterious circumstance,” Peter said and tried to link the death of Rebecca to Bath. He gave one of the pictures that captured Rebecca’s face to Maria.

      Maria looked at the picture. Although it was a little bit blurred, she could still recognize that it was Rebecca because of the black wool chain on her neck.

“Oh my God, this is Rebecca,” Maria said and went to a corner.

“I think we have to inform the police about these pictures,” Peter said.

“You are right, Peter,” Maria said.

      Lawrence agreed to follow them to the police station. They went outside and Maria drove straight to Kem’ House. When they got there they were taken to Inspector Johnson’s office, they got in when Inspector Johnson was about to leave the office. They showed him the pictures and explained how they had obtained them. Inspector Johnson called Sergeant Larry and Roger and they examined the pictures. After some minutes it dawned on them that Bath had killed Rebecca.

“I think he killed her and wanted to go and throw her body away. Then the gardener saw him, and that’s the reason why he was murdered also,” Inspector Johnson said after they were able to pull the puzzle together.

“I told you before sir, that the guy was a serial killer,” Sergeant Larry said.

“Well, he will never escape. I have told all my men to be on the lookout for him.” Inspector Johnson told Peter, Lawrence and Maria.

“We shall get him,” Sergeant Roger said.

“I want to thank you gentlemen of the press. We have importance evidence in our hand that we are going to use to prosecute Bath,” The inspector said and thanked Peter Lawrence and Maria.

“Inspector sir, I want to commend your efforts to sanitize this city. I believe when Bath is caught it will serve as a lesson to all individuals who commit crime with impunity on this island,” Peter said.

“Thank you very much,” the inspector said and escorted them out of the office.

      When they went home around nine in the night, Maria was full of fear. When she eventually dropped Lawrence and Peter at a popular bus-stop, she drove home very fast. As she drove she didn’t believe that Bath could kill Rebecca. Now the sudden revelation sent a terrible pain into her brain. So Bath was a killer. She regretted the day she agreed to go out with him. She cried in the car as it accelerated.

                                       
                                              X     X    X   X

Bath didn’t believe that Ruth could survive the barrage of bullets that tore into her body. Had he known she would survive, he would have strangled her in a bad way. When they told him that Ruth survived and was in the hospital, he had gone to the place with Kabonski under the cover of darkness but they were stunned by the number of police men and women that surrounded the big hospital.

      When Bath saw that the police had declared him a wanted man, he went to his father’s house and packed all his personal effect under the cover of darkness and drove to his new mansion at Epe. From there he vowed to find a way to sneak out of the country. When he left the house with Kabonski in the night he stopped whenever they saw a police road block in the distance and would took another route. There was no police road block along the road that led to Epe until they got to their destination. When he was about to get to Epe, he bought a newspaper from a vendor along the road and read of his father’s arrest and all the atrocities committed in the past were written in the newspaper. They didn’t write about him but he was a wanted man; the newspaper even carried his picture on their headline. He felt terrible about the news, so he packed the ten newspapers and threw them out of the window as he drove along the deserted road.

      As they almost got to the mansion, he brought out his diary and tried to look for the name of his father’s friend Bissy. Bissy was a pilot. When he saw his phone number, he put a direct call to him. Bissy was surprised to hear his voice.

“Hello Bath, how are you?” Bissy said.

“I am fine Bissy. How is work?”

“Fine, how is the big boss?” Bissy didn’t know that Mr. Benson had been arrested.

“He is fine and okay.” Bath lied.

“Hope there is no problem Bath?”

“I need your help, Bissy.” Bath said there was emotion in his voice.

“What type of help Bath?”

“I need to get out of Victoria Island.”

“Where are you going, to be precise?”

“I am going to Canary Island.”

“No problem. If you are ready, just holler,” Bissy said.

“Thank you Bissy. I will definitely call you when I am ready,” Bath said and smiled.

      In the evening when he got to the mansion at Epe, Bath switched on the television and the first person he saw on the screen was Maria. Bath couldn’t remove his eyes from the screen when he remembered her and the entire things they had done in the past. He was determined to get her by all means. Bath loved the mansion but he knew his joy would never be complete without the lady he loved most in the world. Later in the evening Kabonski brought some exotic girls to the mansion for his fantasy. The next day Bath had the lady taken away from the mansion.

      Three days later, after he had disguised himself, he left the mansion in the evening and drove straight to Victoria Island. As he went along the road, the police waved him on. It was 9.30 am when he got Abram road and stopped the car in front of the Catholic Church.

      Kabonski stopped the car in front of the Catholic Church and, with Bath in the car, they both waited patiently for Maria’s arrival from work. Bath lit a cigarette and allowed the smoke to drift out from the window. Police cars blasting their siren zoomed away like rockets along the road.

      It was late when Maria left Paul’s house. They were both talking together when her phone rang. It was her father. He was sick and he needed to see her urgently, so she left Paul’s house very late in the night. Maria got home and stopped the car in front of the house and then she went to the gate and opened it.

      It was Bath that saw her when she stopped her car in front of the building. He saw her open the gate and drive straight into the compound. She soon opened the front door and went into the house.

      Kabonski was asleep inside the car; he rested his head on the steering wheel. Bath tapped him gently on the shoulder. When he woke up they wore their masks and together they came down from within the car and walked stealthily to the house. They opened the gate and entered the compound, finding everything silent inside the house. Mrs. Anderson was with her husband when they heard the strange knocking on the door.

      Mrs. Anderson heard the knock and stood up from the bed; she took excused from her husband and went to open the front door. When she opened the door, she was shocked to see a barrel of gun aimed at her forehead. She wanted to shout but Bath warned her of the dire consequences if she ever raised her voice. He told her to keep her mouth shut or risk being shot.

      Kabonski ordered her to go into one of the rooms. Mrs. Anderson took him to another room, knowing if her husband saw the men he may die. Kabonski locked the room and went to meet Bath. Bath ordered him to climb the staircase and bring Maria outside.

      Maria was tired as she came out of the bathroom. She was wearing her pants when Kabonski entered the room and pointed the gun at her. Maria quickly wore her night clothes. She wanted to yell but Kabonski went to her and covered her mouth with his hands and drew her downstairs. Later Maria was taken into the car and the car was driven to Epe by Kabonski. Mr. Anderson heard the men talking between themselves and he stood up from the bed immediately the two men left. Minutes later he opened the door for his wife, when she came out from the room where she was kept, Mrs. Anderson called Maria’s name. When she didn’t answer, she climbed the staircase and went into the room. She found the whole place empty like the barrel of a gun. When she came back into the living room, she wept. Mr. Anderson had already called the police before she came down.

      Mr. and Mrs. Anderson tried to subdue their pain but they couldn’t as the tears on their faces flowed freely. They gave the police the description of the men that came to kidnap Maria. The police radioed all check- points on the road.

      The next day, when Peter was told that Maria was kidnapped, he made the television station broadcast her kidnapping, showing her picture and running it momentary every hour. Paul was mad when he was told that Maria was kidnapped. At the police station he wrote a statement that linked Bath to the kidnapping. The police went to Bath’s house but found it empty. Then they locked it. They also went to Mr. Benson’s house; they drove all the workers away and put the house under lock and key.

      Paul became a wreck at the office. He couldn’t concentrate. The disappearance of Maria had sent shocks into his heart. When Paul went to the Anderson’s house, he found Maria’s dad and mom with relatives, sobbing in the living room. He went to Mrs. Anderson and tried to reassure her that Maria would be found. The police gave Bath’s pictures to many broadcasting stations on the island.

      A week after Maria was kidnapped, Paul came to the hospital and stayed inside his office all day long. Throughout the day he had thought about nothing but Maria. He found it hard to know the reason why Bath would kidnap her. Apart from his statement, from the description of the men given by Mrs. Anderson, the police were able to trace and link the kidnapping to Bath. The description fitted Bath very well. The police did consider other angles, but they concentrated their effort on finding Bath.

      Paul stood up from his desk and went to the window and opened the curtains. When he looked at the sky, he thought he saw Maria behind the distant hill. As he stood by the window, one of the nurses knocked at the door and came into the office.

“Sir, Mr. Bruno would like to see you,” The nurse said.

“I told you Grace, I don’t want to see anyone today.”

“Sir, he told me it is very important he sees you today.”

“Okay, it is all right, tell him to come in.” Paul said and went to sit down. When he sat down he wondered why Bruno was looking for him. It was only yesterday that his wife was discharged from the hospital. In his heart, he feared whether the woman’s nose was paining her, probably the reason why her husband came to see him.

      Later, as Paul thought inside the office, Mr. Bruno with happiness on his face came in. When Paul saw him, he stood up and greeted him.

“Good morning, Doctor Paul,” Bruno said and shook Paul’s hand.

“Morning Mr. Bruno, how is work today?”

“I didn’t go to the office today; I stayed with my wife at home.”

“How is she faring?”

“Great, she is doing fine.”

“So what can I do for you, Mr. Bruno?” Paul asked as he looked at Mr. Bruno in the face.

      Suddenly Bruno saw a picture on the desk. He took it and looked at it several times.

“Do you know this girl?” Bruno said.

“Yes sir. She is very close to me,” Paul said and almost shed tears.

“They said she disappeared, the television stations have been running the announcement of her disappearance almost every day,” Bruno said and looked at Paul in the eyes.

“Yes, yes Mr. Bruno.” Paul said and sobbed. Paul’s reaction shocked Bruno and he wondered what was wrong with him.

“Did you know her?”

“Yes, Mr. Bruno. She is my fiancée; we plan to get marry in a month’s time.” Paul said.

“You don’t mean it. It‘s okay, Doctor Paul,” Bruno said and thought for some minutes.

 While Paul and Bruno talked, Inspector Johnson called his cell phone and he told him to bring Maria’s current picture. When he finished the call, Bruno looked at him and spoke.

“Do the police have any clue about the kidnapping?”

“No sir, the only clue we have gotten is Bath Benson.”

“Bath Benson, I don’t understand.” Bruno said he was shocked when Paul mentioned the name of Bath.

“Yes, Bath Benson was responsible for kidnapping her and he has disappeared into thin air,” Paul said and Bruno thought for some minutes.

“Calm down doctor, you really have to be patient,” Bruno said and stood up.

“Wait a little bit sir; let me write some of the drugs you are going to buy for your wife,” Paul said and wrote on a pad of paper.

“Thank you, Doctor Paul. I am very grateful,” Bruno said and put the paper into his trouser.

      Bruno left the hospital. When he got home he went to see his wife inside the room, he gave her the drugs and they both talked for some minutes. Later he went to the visitor’s room, sat down on the bed, and thought. He knew he owed Bath a lot of money and if Bath should go to jail because of what he did, then he won’t have to pay the debt again and his business would flourish because Bath wouldn’t be around to monitor his business. When he stood up from the bed, he vowed to reveal where Bath hidden himself to Paul. He thought for some minutes and brought out his cell phone and dialed Paul’s number.

 

                                                             X   X   X   X

 

Paul went to Lawrence’s house and told him what Mr. Bruno said concerning Bath’s hiding place for Maria. After their discussion they concluded that Paul should go to the mansion. Paul told Lawrence that Mr. Bruno advised him to go to the house alone and, if the need arose, he should not hesitate to call the police. He didn’t give him one hundred percent assurance that Bath kept Maria inside the mansion but he only told him to check the house over.

“I will give you a call if there is anything,” Paul said.

“Okay, I will be expecting your call unfailingly,” Lawrence said and Paul went into his car and drove away.

      When Paul got home he went straight to the bathroom. As he took his bath, he thought about the information that Bruno gave him. Bruno had given him the address and the description of the mansion at Epe. According to Bruno, the mansion was built in the middle of the forest with tall fences; he advised him to check the mansion first and inform the police later if there was a trace of Maria in the large mansion.

      Later, when Paul left the house, he took his bag, locked his apartment door and went out of the compound. He didn’t take his car for security reasons. Paul walked to the bus-stop. Waiting for a gap in the busy traffic, he and crossed the road. His wrist-watch flashed in the sunlight as he took a bus to Epe. Inside the bus Paul was confused and afraid; many question jostled for space in his mind, for he feared that Maria might die.

Two hours later the bus stopped at the last bus-stop in Epe. Paul got down within the bus with the other passengers, brought out his diary and checked the description that Bruno gave him. Bruno had told him that when he got to Epe, he should take another car going to New Haven where the mansion is located. Paul saw a tar road in the distance and he walked toward it; there were just few houses on both sides of the road.

      Paul stirred his stump. He knew that if he didn’t hurry up, he won’t find another vehicle going toward the road, as he waited by the roadside. He saw a truck going toward the long lonely road, so he waved his hand and the driver saw him alone on the road and he stopped the big vehicle by his side.

“Please sir, I am going to New Haven,” Paul said and pleaded with the driver to take him there. The driver looked at him and smiled.

“Hop in. Adventure, right?” The driver said, he looked at Paul in the face, he knew he was a stranger in the community.

“Yeah I am going on an adventure,” Paul said and got in into the truck. Paul exchanged pleasantries with the driver, and driver seemed delighted to see him for he had been alone as he drove.

“I love adventure but I hardly go out any more. I stay in the truck all day long,” the driver said and smiled. Paul wiped his face with a handkerchief as the truck went down the road.

      The man brought out a case of cigarettes; he took and lit it, allowing the smoke to get out of the car. The man threw the case of cigarettes on Paul’s lap but Paul shook his head.

“What is the name?” the man said.

“My name is Paul - and yours?”

“Joe, but my friends called me Humpty Dumpy,” Joe said and smiled.

“That is a funny name.”

“Yeah it is a funny name. Well I am fat and the name fit me so well,” Joe said.

      Paul looked around and saw many houses dotting the road. They were beautiful and exotic.

“So where are you going in this lonely place, man?” Joe asked and pressed the horn to scare some goats that fed on the roadway ahead.

“Well, I am going along the road. Please drop me in front of the abandoned petrol station,” Paul said.

“Okay, I will drop you there but please do remind me if I forget,” Joe said and sang old familiar songs as he held the steering wheel to his chest.

      When they got to the abandoned petrol station, Paul came down from the truck and thanked Joe. He waved to Joe and brought out his dictionary and checked the description that Bruno gave him; he saw the wide and beautiful road dotted with exotic flowers that led to the mansion.

      Paul crossed to the other side of the deserted road and trekked along, hearing the chirping of birds and the gibberish sound of monkeys in the distance. The whole place was covered with tall beautiful trees with their leaves dotted with beautiful colour.

      Paul walked along the road. There were just few houses, beautiful and rare, with exotic designs in their frontage. Then suddenly, when he walked for some time, he saw the mansion in the distance. There were sculptures of horses in front of the house. When Paul walked toward the mansion, he felt the hot sun on his back and the day seemed to flash by. When Paul eventually got to the mansion, he hid by the fence and waited for some time.

      Later, as he hid by the mansion, a small boy came. Paul stood up from where he hid himself and went to meet the boy.

“Hello guy,” Paul said and smiled at the little boy. The youth looked at him strangely.

“I am fine,” The boy said, his voice innocent and gentle.

“What is your name?” Paul said and smiled to the little boy.

“Tito, but my father calls me Tee,” the boy said.

“Tito, so where are you going?” Paul said and looked at the boy’s face.

“I am going to the orange tree over there,” the boy said and pointed to the orange tree in the distance.

“Okay, let’s walk there together,” Paul said and he walked along with the boy to the orange tree.

      When they got to orange tree, Paul climbed the tall tree and plucked a lot of oranges for the small boy. Later they sat under the orange tree together. They tore the oranges with their hands and licked them at the same time.

“You are my good friend,” the little boy said and Paul smiled.

“You are my friend too.”

“Where are you living?” Tee said and began to peel another orange.

“I am living down the road,” Paul said and smiled.

      Paul helped Tito to peel more orange, and then began to questions him.

“You live inside the compound, right?” Paul said and looked at the boy face.

“Yes, I live with my daddy,” Tee said and licked his hand.

“Who are those in the compound again, apart from your father?”

“Master Bath is inside the house with his wife and his friend,” Tito said.

“Thank you, Tito,” Paul said and Tito stood up, Paul dipped his hand inside his pocket and gave the little boy some money.

      Later, as Tito walked away, he glanced back and spoke.

“What is your name?” Tito said.

“Paul - Called me Uncle Paul.”

Tito left the orange tree.

     When Tito left, Paul wiped his face with a handkerchief, sat down and thought how he was going to enter the house. He brought out his phone but there was no network in the area. Later Paul stood up under the orange tree and went back to the mansion. When he got there he hid stealthily beside the fence, which was tall with barbed wire on it round about. At the back of the house he could see a guava tree whose branches reached into the house and stopped close to a window of a room.

      Paul went to the back of the building, breathing deeply. He looked up and saw that the guava tree was very close to the window of a room behind the house. Paul waited in the luxury of time, and then he made up his mind to climb the fence.

      Paul climbed the fence and his hand reached one of the branches of the guava tree. When got to the top of the fence he removed the barbed wire stealthily, crouched gently on the tree branches, and moved carefully as the branches became weak under him. He knew that if he made any mistake he would fall down from the top of the tree. He looked at the whole compound as he got closer to the window. The window was not closed. In fact, if he got close to the window, he could stretch forth his hand and hold the window.

      Paul got to the window and held it tightly; he struggled and made an attempt to enter the room. Maria sat on the bed and looked at the carbuncle under her eyes in the small mirror which she carried in her hand. Then suddenly she saw a face emerged in the mirror on the window. Maria dropped the mirror in her hand and yelled but Paul quickly jumped into the room and closed her mouth.

      Maria was shocked when he discovered it was Paul. She looked at him several times. His sudden appearance had left her in utter shock. She ran to him and they embraced and kissed many times. Maria’s mood changed the moment she saw Paul, as they kissed and cried together inside the room, Kabonski came and knocked the door. Paul went and hid behind the door.

“I heard your scream, Mrs. Maria.” Kabonski said.

“Yeah, I saw a lizard on the window,” Maria lied and Kabonski smiled.

“Calm down, Mrs. Maria. A lizard can’t do anything for you,” Kabonski said.

“It is all right, thank you,” Maria said and Kabonski closed the door.

      Paul went to meet Maria when Kabonski left. They embraced and kissed again like hungry lovers and rolled together on the bed. Her happiness at seeing him submerged her former sadness.

“Paul, I miss you terribly,” Maria said with tears of joy cascading down her face.

“I love you, Maria,” Paul said and they kissed again.

“How did you get here?”

      Paul touched her on the cheek and told her how he got into the building. He explained how her parents almost died in agony. Maria told him how Bath had come to the house in the night to kidnap her. They kissed again.

“How are you coping in this place, Maria?”

“I lived by hope that one day I will be rescued. He wanted to keep me in the cellar but he changed his mind yesterday and kept me here.”

“Where is he now?” Paul said sotto voce.

“He is in the living room.”

“We must get out of here, Maria, as quickly as possible.”

“Paul, I am afraid.”

“Calm down your nerves Maria; we must get out of here,” Paul said, standing up from the bed and going to the window.

      Paul looked out through the window and saw the evening shadows stealing across the sky. He looked at the tree branches and made up his mind to climb down. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, he went to Maria and lifted her up from the bed.

“Maria, let’s get out of here fast,” Paul said and Maria looked at his face with fear.

“I am afraid.”

“Be bold. Look, you hold the tree branches over there and climb up. Then you crouch on it and get to the fence,” Paul said and pointed to the tree branches scattered on the fence.

“I can’t do this, Paul. Call the police fast.”

“Look, the phone network is bad over here; I haven’t been able to get through to the police since I came here in the morning.”

      As they prepared to leave the room, Maria heard footsteps coming from the staircase. Frozen with fear, Paul left the window and went to hide behind the door as Maria opened it.

“Hello madam, how about rice and salad?” Kabonski asked.

“I am okay. I will eat later,” Maria said.

“Okay, suit yourself,” Kabonski said and closed the door.
    
 Maria breathed deeply and Paul came to her, reassuring her that everything would be alright. Paul held Maria and they went to the window together. She looked at the tree that spread its branches to the fence and breathed deeply.

“Everything will be all right Maria,” Paul said he looked into her eyes and squeezed her hand.

      Paul guarded Maria as she held to the tree branches with her leg and hand. She crouched on all fours and rested on the branches. When Paul saw that she had stabilized herself on the branch, he went after her and together they crouched gently toward the fence.

      Maria almost got to the fence when Tito saw her with Paul on the branches of the tree. Paul he put his hands on his lips and warned the little boy not to talk but the boy called his name.

“Uncle Paul, come down here,” Tito shouted.

“Shhhhhhhh……….” Paul whispered.

“Come down here, I want more orange.” The boy shouted and his father came out from inside a room.

      When he heard his son’s voice, Gab went behind the building and saw Tito pointing to the guava tree. He was shocked to see Paul and Maria crouched like serpents on the branches of the tree. Then he shouted and brought out his pistol, pointing it to Paul. Bath and Kabonski came out of the house and spotted saw Paul and Maria on the guava tree.

      Paul urged Maria to move quickly toward the fence but Bath threatened to shoot Paul down if Maria moved an inch, so she stayed glued to the branches. Bath threatened to shoot Paul if he didn’t come down from the tree. Paul waited for some minutes and dared him to shoot the gun in his hand. Bath hesitated, but when Paul looked at Maria’s eyes, he decided to jump down from the tree branch.

      When he got down, Kabonski and Gab took him away. Maria was rescued and taken into another room. Paul hands were tied. Kabonski and Gab tortured him. Bath was mad he wondered how he got into the mansion, so they tortured Paul and tried repeatedly to force him to say how he got to the mansion. Paul didn’t say anything as the pain penetrated deeply into the fabric of his heart and when he wouldn’t confess, they hit him on the head with a plank and he fainted.

“The guy must be a witch. How did he know this place?” Bath shouted as they left the room where Paul was kept.

“Someone must have told him about this place, sir,” Kabonski said.

“Who could that be? I didn’t tell anyone except Bruno,” Bath said and lit a cigarette as they went to the living room.

      Maria cried inside the room where they kept her. She knew Bath would kill Paul. She didn’t know what to do, so she went to the door and twisted the handle but it remained stuck. She tried to figure out a way to escape but as much as she tried, she couldn’t find a way. All the windows inside the room had iron bars across them and it was firmly locked. When Maria couldn’t find a way of escape, she went to the bed, sat down and cried.

    Paul felt terrible pain all over his body. The beating he received from Kabonski and Gab made his spinal cord weak, so he cried and reeled on the floor inside the dark room. He cried as the room became darker. Throughout the night he couldn’t sleep. As the pain racked his bones and spine he thought of Maria and wondered where bath was keeping her.

      Bath sensed trouble. He wondered how Paul knew the location of the mansion. He stood up and perambulated all over the room, unable to think straight. He went to the window and brought out his own networked cell phone and dialed Bissy’s number.

“Hello Bath, long time no see,” Bissy said. There was excitement in his voice.

“I need your help urgently,” Bath said with urgency.

“Is it about the Canary Island?” Bissy said.

“Yes, how did you know, Bissy?”

“Your father told me you bought a house there some months ago,” Bissy said and laughed out loud.

“Yes, I am ready to pack there; it quite urgent.” Bath said.

“No problem. When will you be ready?” Bissy said.

“Tomorrow morning,” Bath said.

      He gave Bissy the description to the mansion.

“I know that place like the back of my hand,” Bissy said.

“That‘s nice of you.”

“Where will I land the helicopter?” Bissy said.

“The abandoned airfield. I will be waiting for you there unfailingly.”

“Time please.”

“I will be expecting you around eight in the morning.”

“I will be there,” Bissy said.

“Thank you very much, Bissy.

“Bye Bath, take care.”

“Bye Bissy”

      Bath smiled; he called Kabonski and Gab and told them to start preparation because they would be leaving the mansion.

 

                                                         X   X   X   X

     Lawrence waited for Paul in the evening. When he didn’t call, he tried to call his cell phone but found a network failure. Lawrence became restless, believing something must have happened to Paul, so he changed his clothes, went into the living room, and he was confused. Finally he made up his mind.

      The next day Lawrence drove to the police station where he met Inspector Johnson and narrated what happened. He gave the inspector the description to the mansion. Inspector Johnson collected the paper from his hand and read it, barely able to hide his anger because Paul and Lawrence had not told the police about the mansion. He particularly blamed Paul and wondered why he decided to go to the mansion alone without informing anyone. He brought out his cell phone and collected Paul cell phone number from Lawrence. He called Paul with his Thuraya phone but it complained of network failure too. Then he called his men. Sergeant Roger and Larry came into his office. They looked at the inspector and wondered what was wrong.

“I think we have discovered where Bath hid himself,” Inspector Johnson said and the two men looked at Lawrence.

“Where is the son of bitch? I will be the first to lay my hands on him.” Sergeant Roger said.

“This gentleman said he hides somewhere at Epe,” Inspector Johnson said and gave the paper to Sergeant Roger. Sergeant Larry went to his side and they read the paper together.

“So he hides in Epe all these days?” Sergeant Larry said.

“Holler at your men - the man who went to look for him is in a precarious state,” Inspector Johnson said and stood up.

“Can I follow you, inspector?” Lawrence said.

“You can come along. Remember, this is not a fiction, right?” the inspector said and took his gun from the desk.

Thirty minutes later, Inspector Johnson led a team of police officers to Epe.

 

                                                        X   X   X   X

 

Bath told Kabonski to bring Maria out from where she was kept. She looked weak as Kabonski took her to the car, and she couldn’t utter a word. As he sat with Bath behind the car, Bath paid Gab and instructed him to lock and leave the mansion with his son Tito the next day. Bath went to meet Paul where he was kept.

“You will rot here, you son of a bitch,” Bath said and spat at him. He wanted to hit him, but his cell phone rang. It was Bissy.

“Where are you Bath?”

“I am still at home,” Bath said.

“I will get to the abandoned airstrip in forty –five minutes time,” Bissy said.

“I will be waiting for you,” Bath said. He looked at Paul and left the small room Paul would be trapped forever. Bath went back to the car.

“Take me to the abandoned airstrip, Kabonski,” Bath said.

“Yes sir,” Kabonski said and turned the ignition. The car left in a great deal of speed.

     Tito heard Paul crying inside the dungeon where he was kept, in a boy’s quarter behind the house. Tito started to play very close to the small building. He went to the door and made attempts to open it, but it was locked with iron bars.

“Master Paul, Master Paul,” Tito shouted but Paul could not hear his voice. As he wanted to call out to him, Tito heard the police siren and ran outside.

      Inspector Johnson had the description of the mansion. They got there ten minutes after Bath had left. Inspector Johnson came down from the car as some of his men ran and hid all over the building. He walked to the gate and banged it.

“Who is there at the gate?” Gab shouted as he pretended not to hear the police siren. His brutish face was shocked with surprise.

“Inspector Johnson! Please open the door!” Inspector Johnson said and Gab opened the large gate.

“I hope there is no problem, Inspector?” Gab said.

“There are plenty of problems, sir. Where is your master?” Inspector Johnson said and told the police to search the whole building. Over thirty police officers got into the building.

“He left the house ten minutes ago,” Gab said and his son Tito came to his side.

“Where did he go?” Inspector Johnson said. He looked frustrated and wondered whether Bath had disappeared with Paul and Maria.

“I don’t know inspector; he didn’t tell me anything,” Gab said.

      As the inspector was questioning Gab, the police officers came to meet him with was disappointment on their faces.

“Sir, the mole has escaped,” Sergeant Larry said. Inspector Johnson looked frustrated and thought about the next line of action.

      As the inspector thought of what to do, Tito walked up to him timidly. He looked at the inspector’s face and spoke.

“Sir, Uncle Paul is inside the house,”

“Uncle Paul, inside this house? Okay, let’s go there!”

“He is kept at the boy’s quarters, I will take you there,” Tito said. His father tried to tell him to keep his mouth shut but Tito was adamant.

      Inspector Johnson told five of his men to follow the little boy. The five officers followed Tito and he took them to the boy’s quarter behind the house where Paul was kept. Gab, when he saw what his son had done, smiled sheepishly and made and made an attempt to escape but one of the police officers saw him. He was immediately taken to Inspector Johnson.

      The five police officers were shocked when they got to the house and heard Paul’s cries. They called five additional officers and it took them ten minutes before they could open the door and bring Paul out. When Lawrence saw him, he couldn’t identify him again, so he went and embraced him. Paul was so weak and emaciated. When the officers took him outside Lawrence and three of the police officers took him to the ambulance .Paul couldn’t speak very well because he was so weak. Suddenly, just before he fainted, he looked at the inspector and told him that Bath had gone to the airstrip.

      Inspector Johnson and his men raced to the abandoned airstrip. Police cars burst through the road in a cacophony of loud noises that brought the town alive, Inspector Johnson believed they would never see Bath again as he looked at the distance. The car sped away. He checked the time, quarter to ten.

      Bath saw the helicopter in the distance and told Kabonski to bring Maria out from inside the car, but when Kabonski went to the car, she got out of the car and ran inside the bush. Kabonski saw her and ran after her. He soon caught up with her and dragged her to Bath as the helicopter came down from the sky. Bath waved to Bissy as he made an attempt to land on the airstrip.

      Inspector Johnson saw the helicopter as they got to the gate of the abandoned airstrip and told the driver to drive very fast. Inspector Johnson fired a warning shot at the helicopter as it made its attempt to land and then there were sporadic gun shots at the abandoned airstrip.

      Bissy saw many police cars on the airstrip coming toward them he knew there was a problem. Suddenly one of the bullets hit the windscreen of the helicopters. In spite of the problem, he landed on the airstrip, Bath was frozen with fear. Then he brought out his gun and ran to the helicopter.

      More gunshots ensued and a bullet nipped Bissy in the hand as he opened the helicopter door. He shouted and flung the door closed, started the engine and flew to the sky. Bath was crazed when he saw the helicopter fly away. He looked at his back and saw many police officers behind him. Kabonski covered him and they both dashed to the bush with Maria behind them.

      Bath ran deep into the bush with Kabonski and Maria. They ran but another team of police officers had gone to intercept them. Unknown to Bath, he had run into a trap set by the police. He made attempt to fire but a bullet nipped him in the leg and he fell down. Kabonski was caught as he went to help him up .Maria was rescued and taken to the hospital; Bath and Kabonski were whisked away to the police station.

      Paul saw the ambulance come to the hospital. He left his ward immediately and went outside. He saw the nurses meeting the ambulance and he knew that Maria would be inside. He walked to the ambulance and saw her. When Maria was put on the stretcher she turned to see Paul.
    
The nurses who held the stretcher waited as they embraced and cried together for so long. Then everyone went into the hospital together.

                                                          THE END.

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