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A Thorn in Her Life

By Olatunbosun Adetula (Nigeria)

Chapter 4


 

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Chapter 4.
    

 Maria was disturbed as she wrote a note on a piece of paper on her desk. A ray of sunlight penetrated a corner of her office on the third floor of the tall building and down below the building the traffic along Moloney Street moved slowly.

      Maria stopped writing - she thought about Bath, wondered why he continued to disturb her peace just when she was about to get married. . Bath was the last person she hoped to see in her life again. She wondered why she disturbed her with text messages. Bath sent many love messages to her phone. Maria wondered why he just refused to piss off. In her heart she considered Bath to be very stupid. How could he think that she would ever come back into his life after what he did to her, Maria believed that on the hilltop such a thing was never done. She had obliterated what happened between them in the past from her memories, but for an obscure reason, she wondered why Bath wanted to become a thorn in her life.

      Maria couldn’t understand the medieval tactic Bath wanted to use to sneak into her life. She knew he would come with persuasion, but she had already made up her mind never to kowtow to him. Maria was shocked by Bath perverted logic. She wanted to visit him in the office and warn him not to disturb her with text messages again. In her mind Bath was a knight of old.

      A wave of panic swept over her when she remembered that Bath could visit her at home. She was also afraid because she knew Paul would see the text messages that Bath sent to her some day and get angry. Maria vowed never to allow Bath to ruin her happiness - like the saying goes, once bitten twice shine. Maria vowed to stop Bath.

      She couldn’t write again for a terrible headache struck her head. She could hardly think straight, so she got up from her desk and went to the window, knowing she had to do something before Bath turned her life into a jigsaw puzzle. She thought long and came to a decision; she vowed to visit him in the office. As she went back to her seat, Angelina came into her office with a cup of hot tea.

“Maria, what happened to you?” Angelina asked, her cheek tingling with surprise.

“Nothing, I was busy.” Maria said, her voice soft and cool.

“So you won’t go for lunch?”

“No Angelina, I have got to finish this report before I leave this office.” Maria said and laid her head on the desk.

“May I use your phone?” Angelina asked and Maria told her to go ahead.

“Yes with all pleasure.”

“Maria, you won’t believe that I have been running around manically trying to finish my own report,” Angelina said and sipped the tea.

“I haven’t finished mine, I have been thinking.” Maria said and alarm came over Angelina face. She shook her shoulder as if she didn’t care.

“Do you care for a cup?”

“I am okay, thank you.”

“Maria, you said you have been thinking, right?”

“Yeah, I have been thinking about Paul.”

“When last did you see him?”

“Two days ago.”

“But why, Maria? I can’t stand a day without seeing my boyfriend.”

“Well, Paul is busy. He traveled to London and came back yesterday, and we spent last night talking to each other,” Maria said. Angelina stood up and went to the small fridge inside the office.

“Maria, let me invite you to a club in the neighbourhood. If you get bored, you will meet many girls there.”

“Angelina, I can’t go to any club.”

“We are going there together.”

“You are not serious. I can’t go anywhere. I hope you won’t drag me there.”

“I will drag you along, trust me.” Angelina said and she left the office. Later in the evening Maria left the office.

      The sun broke through the clouds as Bath sat inside the study in his father house. He picked up his phone on the desk and began to write a text. Later he sent the love messages to Maria. Bath knew he caused her a lot of pains in the past but he was ready to make it up to her day by day, only if she would agree to go out with him. It pained him that Maria tried to avoid him. His mood alternated between happiness and gloom. He dialed her number, hoping to hear her sweet sonorous voice. The phone rang for a long time but Maria didn’t pick it up, so Bath became worried. He stood up and went into his room where he opened the drawer and brought out her business card. He perused it for some minutes and dropped it into his breast pocket.

      The next day, Bath brought out Maria’s business card and read it as he sat inside his office along Wharf Road, Victoria Island. He knew he needed to convince her that he had changed and wanted her back in his life. He knew he had hurt her badly but now he was ready to right the wrong of the past years. He believed that he would never love any girl again except Maria. He was tired of all the girls in his life. He didn’t trust any girl again ever since Rebecca hurt him. Most of the girls he met after Rebecca death didn’t love him; they were only after their own pleasure and his money. Bath wanted to be loved and he wanted it desperately.

      Bath stood from his seat and checked his wristwatch, the time was quarter past four in the evening and he put a call to his secretary. They talked for some minutes inside the office and then he left, entering his car and driving fast to Maria‘s office.

      As he drove along the road, Bath thought about Maria. He prayed she would give him a second chance. In his heart he believed that if Maria forgave him, he would start the preparation for their wedding. It would be the biggest wedding in the city. Bath felt happy; he pressed the throttle of the car and it accelerated and went past other vehicles on the road. It took him no time before he located Maria’s office. When he parked his car in front of the office, he came looked for Maria car. He could still remember the colour of the car. He walked around but, when he couldn’t find the car, he shrugged his shoulders and brought out his cell phone. Again, when he called her number, the phone rang and Maria refused to pick it up.

      Bath was disappointed and as he made an attempt to leave the office. On the way to his car he saw Angelina, who\ came from inside the building. He closed the door of his car and ran after her.

“Excuse me please madam, I am looking for Miss Maria Anderson,” Bath said as he squinted his face from the sun’s rays. Angelina looked at him from the head to the toe; she wondered where she had seen the face before and then she remembered him and smiled.

“Bath Benson, right? I hope am correct,” Angelina said.

“Yeah, Bath. You got it right,” Bath said and stretched forth his hand to greet her.

“I am Angelina nice to meet you.” Angelina said as they shook hands.

“How are you, Angelina?”

“I am fine. And you?”

“I am cool.”

“So what brought you here?”

“I am looking for Maria.”

“Maria?”

“Yeah, is she around?” Bath said and Angelina looked into his face.

“Yes, yes, she is inside the office; you can go ahead and check her, third floor.” Angelina said.

“Thank you, Angelina.” Bath said and walked toward the building. Surprised to see him, Angelina watched him walk toward the building. She wondered what he came to do with Maria. When Bath entered the building, Angelina brought out her phone and dialed Maria’s number.

      Maria was buttonholed by Peter in the corridor. They were talking together when her phone rang and Angelina warned her someone was on the lookout for her. When she tried to ask for the identity of the person, Angelina cut the phone. When she called back; Angelina refused to pick up her call.

      As she talked with Peter her eyes roved around the corridor and looked for the mysterious person. Suddenly, like the flash of lightning, she saw him. Bath stood in front of her office. When their eyes met, Maria nearly yelled at him to go away. She had difficulty talking with Peter again, so he noticed her uneasiness. Suddenly he looked behind and saw a man, so he made an excuse and went into his office.

      When Bath had reached the third floor, the first person he had seen was Maria. When Peter left and Maria went to meet Bath, she didn’t give him any chance to enter her office. She nodded her head and he followed her out of the corridor. When Bath observed her keenly, he knew she was angry but she kept it fathom deep. He knew she still nursed the wound of the pain that he caused her and he knew she was shattered, but he had to convince her that despite all the pain she had suffered at his hand, he had come back to ameliorate it and rub soothing balm on it forever.

      When they got outside, they stood in front of his car, anger was clandestine in her heart but she managed to thank him for what he did the other day when she had bashed into his car.

“Don’t worry about it.” Bath said.

“Thank you.”

“Maria, there is something I want to tell you,” Bath said in a cool and calm voice.

“Bath, what do you want from me?”
“Please do calm down your nerve,” Bath said.

“So what do you want from me. I have got no pretty time; I am busy in the office.”

“Maria, it has been a long time. I just can’t take my eyes from loving you ever since we met again,” Bath said and Maria smiled

“What are you saying, Bath?” Maria hollered and she got restless.

“Calm down Maria,” Bath pleaded.

“Okay, okay, okay,” Maria said and shook her head.

“Maria, I am sorry for what happened between us in the past. Please forgive me,” Bath pleaded. He wanted to touch her hand but she drew it away.

“Listen Bath, I can’t love you again. I have got a fiancée.”

“Maria dear, please give me just one more chance to prove my love to you,” Bath said and looked into her eyes.

“It is late Bath; it is over between us long time ago. I just can’t love you again,” Maria said.

“Please Maria, forgive me,” Bath shouted and almost fell on his knees.

“Look Bath, I just have to go,” Maria said.

      A wave of panic swept over Bath and he tried to hold her hand but Maria hid it from his grasp.

“Bath, I have to be going,” Maria said and walked toward the office.

“Maria please,” Bath shouted and almost shed tears.

      Bath was thunderstruck by Maria’s action; he didn’t believe she could be so angry and when they talked he could feel a tinge of sadness in her voice. He knew she was terribly hurt by what he did to her. Bath looked like a drowned man that trying to clutch at the last straw. He nodded his head in defeat and went into his car.
     
As he drove along the road back to his office, he looked sad. He was bruised, badly bruised, and his pulse throbbed with pain. He was absolutely struck by what Maria told him. He was tired and his skin was damp with perspiration. He was disgraced by the woman he loved most in the world. As he got into his office, he sat down red with embarrassment

      Meanwhile, Maria’s head was in a whirl as the wind blew into her office. She was mad at herself for the business card that she had given Bath the day she crashed into his car. Torn by sorrow as she remembered the day. The appearance of Bath in her life, just when she was supposed to be happy, made her sad. When she closed from work, as she walked to her car, she saw Peter entered the building.

“Maria, don’t worry about it all.” Peter said lightly and went into the building.

      Maria was shocked. She thought that Peter must have heard the discussion between her and Bath. She was afraid because Peter might think she was having an affair with him. He knew Bath very well and he saw them outside when they talked together but he didn’t have the nerve to ask her what went on between them. Later when she got into her car, she remembered it had nothing to do about she and Bath but about the place they were both going the next day. She smiled and drove fast to Lagoon Hospital.

      It was about to rain in the evening; dark clouds brooded over the city. Paul left the ward and went back into his office; later a man came to meet him in the office.

“Please, Doctor Paul, what is my wife’s condition?” the man asked with worried look on his face.

“Your wife had a broken vessel on her nose and cheeks.”

“I don’t understand doctor,” the man said and stood from his seat with fear.

“The car accident was fatal. The vessels that transport blood to the cheek and nose were destroyed. It was only this morning that we discovered it had broken,” Paul said, he wore his glasses and was reading through a file on the desk.

      He watched the man silently, seeing pang of sorrow spread across his face.

“What am I going to do doctor?” the man said and looked at his face.

“She will need an immediate surgical operation,” Paul said and wrote down some notes into the file.

“When will the operation take place?”

“It will take place around nine tomorrow morning.”

“I will be around at exactly nine.”

“Okay, I shall be expecting you.”

“Thank you, Doctor Paul, I will come around as early as possible.”

      The man left the office. Paul looked at the wall, stood up and was about to leave when one of the nurses came to drop some file on his desk. He read the files, wrote some notes and gave them back to the nurse. The nurse shook her buttock at him in a rolling gait like a sailor on a ship as she left the office. Paul breathed deeply and lay back on the chair. As he thought about what to do, his phone rang and he picked it up.

“Hello, Doctor Paul.”

“What happened, Nurse Sola?”

“Your fiancée is around; she is waiting in the reception room.”

“Tell her to come straight to my office.”

“All right sir; I will tell her immediately.”

      Paul quickly arranged his office and waited for Maria’s arrival. When she entered the office, she looked tired and went to sit down on Paul’s lap. Paul carried her and stood up; he went and laid her on the couch and touched her face. He thought she had malaria fever.

“You look like a drowned rat,” Paul said and checked her pulse.

“Worse than that; I am ruined.” Maria said and rested her head on Paul’s chest.

“I am sorry I was a bit short with you on the phone this morning.”

“It is not about the phone call,” Maria said and sat on the couch. She wasn’t happy. The appearance of Bath in her office had put tons of fear into her mind. Paul stood up.

“Let‘s go to my house,” Paul said he lifted her to her feet; he went to his desk and arranged the office before they left.

“Where is your car, Paul?” Maria said as they got out.

“I didn’t bring my car; I took a taxi to the office today.”

“You will take the wheel then.”

“No problem, love.” Paul said and he took the wheel of her car.
     
 Maria looked at him in the face and spoke, her voice gentle and emotional.

“Paul, I have many things to tell you when we get home.”

“Okay, spread it when we get home,” Paul said, turning the key so the engine sprang to life.

     
                                                 X   X   X   X

 

Alan checked the address in his hand; he knew he was in the neighbourhood where the photography studio was located. He had seen some posters around some few days back. He knew that he hadn’t missed the road. When he was about to turn to a street, he saw a young girl on the walkway. He stopped the car and beckoned to her and the girl came close to the car.

“Please I am looking for the Law Photography studio,” Alan said.

“Down the road.” the girl responded, pointing.

“Thanks for your help,” Alan said, turning the car and driving toward the road.

      When he got to the photo studio, he got down and walked inside. The first person he met was Sade, the receptionist. Later Lawrence came outside and invited him into his office.

“Have your seat sir.”

“Thank you very much,” Alan said and looked around the office. It was tastefully furnished with new laptop, printers and other photo equipment. A portrait of a half-naked woman hung on the wall. Behind the office was a large studio. As Alan stretched his neck, he saw a tripod camera and other equipment in the large studio. Lawrence looked at him and explained to him what they do in the office.

“Well if I need a bigger work, I will always get in touch with you,” Alan said after Lawrence had finished marketing his studio.

“So what can I do for you sir?”

“I want to print out some hard copies from the video inside my phone,” Alan said and explained to him how he wanted the pictures to come out.

“What are the pictures all about, sir?”

“A film we are acting,” Alan lied.

“That is our job; a pretty little job. Let me see your phone,” Lawrence said.

“Here take it,” Alan said and gave him the phone.

      Lawrence collected the phone, removed the memory card and gave the phone back to him. Alan smiled.

“Give me a few minutes,” Lawrence said, dropping some photos on the table for Alan to peruse .Lawrence went into the studio and worked on the video inside the memory card. He called on his secretary and they both worked on the photos together. Later Sade went out of the office to meet Alan.

“How many copies do you want, sir.”

“I want many copies of the pictures,”

“It will cost you more; it came out in colour, sir.”

“Money is not a problem.” Alan said.

      Lawrence finished the work and gave it to Alan. When Alan looked at the pictures as they came out on the paper he smiled.

“These pictures are weird, sir,” Lawrence commented.

“Yeah the video looked weird,” Alan said. Lawrence didn’t know that it was Bath that was inside the picture.

      Lawrence gave the memory card to him and sat down inside the office. He looked at Alan as he viewed the pictures and continued to smile.

“You are such a fast and professional photographer, the video came out successfully,” Alan said and smiled.

“We always give satisfaction to our customers.”

“That is great, so how much is my money?”

“One thousand bucks, sir. But you may pay nine fifty.”

“Discount, right?”

“Yes sir. We give discounts to our customers,” Lawrence said and gave him a large brown envelope. Alan quickly dipped the pictures into the envelope. He brought out his wallet and paid the money.

“What a swell picture; I am very grateful,” Alan said and stood up; he clutched the brown envelope under his armpit as he left the studio.

      As he was about to step out of the office, he looked at Lawrence and asked, “Lest I forget, I hope you have deleted the video from the computers.”

“Yes sir. Trust us.”

“I believe you,” Alan said as he went to his car and drove away.

      Lawrence went back into studio as soon as Alan left the shop. As he sat down and worked, he saw some copies of the video that Alan had come to print; Alan had mistakenly left them on the desk. Lawrence looked at some of the pictures and saw Bath but he couldn’t remember where he had seen the face before. He examined closely. He couldn’t understand what it was all about, so he opened his drawer and dropped the photos into it. He knew that Alan may come back for them.

      When Alan got home, he removed his clothes and went into the bathroom; he had no trepidation that he had forgotten some pictures in the studio. As the water touched his skin, he thought of how he was going to deal with Benson and his son. .Later, when he left the bathroom and went into his room, he sat down and did a lot of mental gymnastics. As he lay on the bed, he thought of what to do with the pictures in his hand. He thought of visiting the police but he changed his mind, so he stood up and went to the window. He knew that the commissioner of police, Mr. Raymond, could not be trusted. Later as he stood by the window, he came up with a decision. First he would visit Mr. Benson and go to his friend Simeon, the editor of The Island News. He was the only person that he could trust in the world.

      Later, after he made up his mind, he went to the bar and fortified himself with a glass of Brandy .He paced all around the living room, knowing that Mr. Benson was no spring chicken when it came to this type of matter. He knew his onion so well and could peel them with much skill and dexterity, but still he needed to work on how he was going to deal with him .He knew he had to be very bold before he confronted Benson and his son. He drank more of the Brandy and his nerves became steady.

      Alan took his phone on the table and put a call to Mr. Benson. Mr. Benson came on line quickly as if he was expecting his call all this while; his voice was abrasive, tough and hard. He seemed happy to hear Alan’s voice after all this while.

“Where have you been all this while?” Mr. Benson said, his voice deep and thick like the bark of a tree.

“I was busy, Mr.  Benson, and moreover I wasn’t in the country,” Alan lied.

“Oh I see - vacation is good for young men like you.”

      Alan made a deep breath; he shook his head like an agama lizard and spoke in studied politeness.

“I want to see you sir,” Alan said. In his mind he could imagine Mr. Benson bowled over by the news.

“What a surprise! You know the road to my house. You are always free to meet the lion in his den. Knock on the door, and it will open. Seek me, you will find me,” Mr. Benson said and cut off the phone. Alan smiled and shook his head. Talking to Benson gave him the confidence he needed to confront him in his house.

      Alan looked at himself in the mirror. He wiped his mouth with a tissue paper and left the building. The sun was shining brightly in the sky as he left for Benson’s house. As he drove along the road, his confidence was high. When he got to the house, he could hear the rhythms of his heart beating like a tom-tom. When he drove into the compound, he gently parked his car in the parking lot inside the building. He took the brown envelope at the back of the car and went into the building. He was ushered into the living room by one of the guards.

      Mr. Benson saw him as he was parking this car. He smiled and waited for him patiently inside the living room .When Alan   entered the living room, he saw Mr. Benson on the couch, smoking a cigar that was close to a filter. Sitting beside him was his lover Gina, a beautiful damsel. Actually, there was a rumour on the island that Mr. Benson was the one responsible for the death of Gina’s husband .Gina saw Alan come into the living room. She greeted him, took an excused and went out of the large living room. Alan went to Mr. Benson and shook hands with the big man. Mr. Benson seemed delighted to see him.

     When Bath came and saw Alan when he came into the living room, he wondered what Alan had on his mind and he looked at his father because Benson hadn’t warned him that Alan would be coming to the house.

“Surprise, surprise, you really surprise me,” Mr. Benson said and dropped the cigar inside the ash tray.

“Dad, what is happening?” Bath shouted, becoming crimson.

“Bath have your seat; we need to forgive ourselves sometimes,” Mr. Benson said. Bath gave Alan a nasty look and went to a seat.

      Mr. Benson called one of the maids.

“Do you care for a drink Alan?” Mr. Benson said.

“Oh thanks Mr. Benson.” Alan said.

“I like it when someone becomes remorseful for what he has done,” Mr. Benson said and gulped the drink in front of him.

      Bath stood up and went to the window. Alan remained silent.

“I believe you have changed your mind, coming back into the family after a long absence,” Mr. Benson said and smiled sheepishly, Alan could only nod his head.

“Dad, I will never allow Alan to come back into the family, I swear.” Bath shouted.

“Calm down son; you really need to calm your nerves.”

“I will never calm down, Dad.” Bath shouted. He had wanted to go and meet Alan but when his father stood up, he went back to the window with anger.

“Bath, I have not come to beg you, which I will never do,” Alan said.

“It is okay, Alan. I think we have another meeting later, right?” Mr. Benson said when the temper in the living room became flayed.

“Dad, I don’t think I will ever have anything to do with this son of a bitch,” Bath shouted and went out of the living room with anger.

“Bath, Bath, Bath,” his father shouted but Bath didn’t answer.

“Look Alan, can you come to the office the next day so that we can have a discussion?” Mr. Benson said.

“There is no need for that, Mr. Benson.”

“Alan, I promise to take a look at your former position and find how we can restore you back.”

“I don’t come here looking for job, sir; I came for a very important matter.” Alan said and Mr. Benson smiled.

“Look Alan, you have got another chance to prove your worth. Make it count, Alan.” Mr. Benson said and paced up and down the room. Bath came back into the living room and wondered why his dad was still having a discussion with Alan.

      Alan thought long and hard before he came to a decision. He wanted to hit Benson and his son where it pained most. He brought out the envelope from inside the couch, where he had hidden it as he sat there. He dropped the envelope on the table.

“Look Mr. Benson, like I told you, I didn’t come for your job because I don’t need it. I have got something to tell you,” Alan said and Mr. Benson suddenly became alert like a young ferret.

      Mr. Benson picked the envelope on the center table. When he opened it and looked at the pictures inside the brown envelope, his face twisted. Bath became alerted when he looked at his father’s face; he looked at Alan’s face and saw him smiling. When he went to his father, his father pushed him away and he fell on the chair. Thick sweat formed on Mr. Benson’s fore-head as he continued to look at the pictures .The pictures showed how Bath had killed his wife and then gone to throw her away .His father flung the envelope to him in anger. When he looked at it, he was shocked. He looked at his father’s face but there was no respite. When he looked at the pictures again, he bit his lip; he didn’t have the slightest idea that someone could see him the night when he killed his wife.

“Son you have left a crack in the wall; you have invited the lizard to the party.” Mr. Benson said and gave out an embarrassed cough. He knew his reputation was at stake and he needed to protect his only son. Bath looked like a drowned rat. Alan watched the men’s faces; he knew he had hit them in the scrotum where it pained most.

      Mr. Benson’s anger frayed against his son in the living room, Alan enjoyed the whole scenario. Bath bowed his head, full of regret because Alan had defeated him. Alan knew his secret and there was no way to escape. Mr. Benson fell on the couch; he looked at Alan and spoke.

“I Hope this picture has not gone out yet?” Mr. Benson said. He was shocked and afraid, not believing that Alan could come and double cross him in such a way.

“Mr. Benson, the picture hasn’t gone out yet but it will be in the hand of every man’s hand on the island if you don’t co-operate with me.”

“Well, we can settle everything together as a family, right?” Mr. Benson said as he sweated very hard. He called the maid and ordered her to close the entire window and switched on the air-conditioner inside the living room.

“Mr. Benson, I don’t think this is a family issue.” Alan said.

“You want revenge, right?”

“If that is what in your mind, then I think I concur.”

“Remember Alan, revenge is the sweetest morsel ever cooked in hell, right?” Mr. Benson said. He went to the bar and poured wine into his glass cup. Bath couldn’t say anything. He wondered how Alan had obtained the pictures he displayed in the living room.

“Look Mr. Benson, I don’t have pretty time.”

“It is okay Alan, so what did you want from me?”

“I need a sum of ten million dollars and my ship,” Alan said without hesitation as Mr. Benson came back and sat down.

      Alan stood up and went to the bar. He poured wine into the glass cup. On top of the table, he found a packet of cigarette and took one from it. Bath couldn’t do anything; he watched with shock on his face.

“That money is too ridiculous Alan. Are you trying to blackmail me?”

“No, I am finding a way out, a way that will benefit the three of us, Mr. Benson.”

“Alan, remember we are buddies and buddies don’t disagree,” Mr. Benson said. He was buffeted by Alan’s demand.

“We were buddies before - that was when the going was good,” Alan said as he finished the drink and went to take another one. The wine gave him confidence to confront the two men. Mr. Benson remained speechless; he was shocked by Alan’s demand.

      Mr. Benson tried to convince Alan to change his mind but Alan remained adamant. Bath had left the living room and gone back to his room.

“Alan, you will never get away with this - I promise you,” Mr. Benson said. Alan was not shaken by this threat, and when Bath came back into the living room; he looked drained like a plant whose tap roots were severed.

      Bath got angry. He went to Alan and hit the glass cup out of his hand. Alan stood up and Bath gave him a blow on the face. When the two men fought, Mr. Benson called his guards and they came into the living room and separated them. Alan cleaned the blood that came out of his mouth; Bath was breathing hard and struggling with the guards as they held him down.

“Don’t do that son, it is too early.”

“Dad, let me deal with the son of a bitch. He can’t blackmail us like this,” Bath shouted as he went to the bar. The guards left the living room.

      Alan cleaned his face and went to sit down. He looked at Bath and nodded his head.

“Bath, I won’t fight with you but very soon you will rot in jail for what you did, I swear,” Alan said.

“Alan go ahead and do your worse.”

      Alan stood up. He wanted to leave the room but Mr. Benson called him back.

“It is okay Alan, you got me,” Mr. Benson said.

“The ball is in your court. Pay the money and give me my ship and I promise you I will destroy the picture.”

“How will I trust you Alan?”

“Look – I cross my heart. The only trust you have got is to give me the cash and my ship and I won’t disturb you in this life,” Alan said.

“Okay Alan.”

“And don’t try to play smart; you make any moves and I spill the beans.”

“Okay, that is a deal.”

“Yeah, it is a deal.”

“So how do you want the money?” Mr. Benson said, Alan thought for some minutes. He knew that Mr. Benson was a smart aleck and he didn’t want to play into his hand.

“I want the cash now or no agreement, Mr. Benson.”

      Mr. Benson thought for some minutes and then he nodded his head. He looked at the time, close to three thirty. He took his phone and called the bank manager of Island City Bank, explaining his dilemma and how he needed the money desperately. The manager grumbled for some minutes and later Mr. Benson had his way. Mr. Benson made a gesture to Bath who went outside and drove to the bank. Mr. Benson was so angry that he went into his room .Alan sat and drank the cup of wine on the table. When Benson came back into the living room, he tried to cajole Alan to change his mind but Alan was adamant.

“I believe you will change your mind and come back to the family.”

“I told you that will be the last thing for me to do, cross my heart,” Alan said and looked at the wall clock.

      Alan stood up and went to the window as Mr. Benson took his phone on the table and called to see whether his son he had gotten to the bank.

“So Mr. Benson sir, when will I get my ship?” Alan said as he came back and sat down.

“In two weeks’ time. It is on the high seas. When it berths, you get it,” Mr. Benson said, bowing his head and thinking of what he could do to make Alan change his mind.

“I want my ship next week,” Alan said. He knew the ship was in the dock. Someone had told him that the ship was there. He saw it a week before, and he knew Benson wanted him to change his mind, which he was not ready to do.

“Okay you win; you will definitely get it, and this I promise,” Mr. Benson said, he looked drained like a drown rat.

      Two hours later, Bath came back from the bank with two brown bags which contained ten million dollars. The guards helped him carry the bags and lay them on the table. Mr. Benson looked at the bags and nodded his head.

“Here is the cash, Alan. It contains ten million dollars - you can count it.” He nodded to Bath to open the bags. Bath unzipped them and Mr. Benson told Alan to go and check the money.

“I believe the money is complete, right?” Alan said and dropped the envelope on the table.

“It is complete, no short change,” Mr. Benson said. He was hot, tired and he had difficulty thinking. The loss of ten million dollars was his albatross, so he was particularly mad with Bath for what he had done. Bath had brought him into collision with Alan.

      Mr. Benson called the guards to help Alan carry the money outside. As Alan walked behind the men, he glanced back. He knew he would need to be intelligent if he needed to deal with Mr. Benson. He knew the man to be ruthless, sparing no effort to deal with him.

“Mr. Benson sir, I also want my ship as promised.”

“You will get your ship unfailingly,” Mr. .Benson said with a false smile.

“Okay let me be on my way,” Alan said. He looked at Bath and smiled. Bath was so angry that he wanted to throw his cell phone at him.

“Alan you will never get away with this,” Bath shouted in anger.

“You are a dead rat, Bath; you can’t do anything to me.” Alan said.

      Mr. Benson was tired. He looked worried. He stood up and went to the bar. As he poured wine into the glass cup, Gina came into the living room and went to meet him. She had heard the men arguing in the living room. Thrice she made attempts to come in but changed her mind.

“You are sweating dear, what happened?” Gina said and removed Mr. Benson’s clothes as Bath left the living room.

      Gina helped Mr. Benson get up. He wound his arm around her neck and they both went out of the living room.

 

 

 

      Tony was thirty four, fair in complexion, six foot four in his stocking feet. He had a strong look and was muscular. He held Ruth tightly in his strong arms and planted a kissed on her red ruby lips. Tony was an assassin, a ruthless killer. Long before Mr. Benson had employed him, Tony had shot a man at a drinking spot. Some years later he had kidnapped and killed the daughter of an ambassador because her father wouldn’t pay ransom. He became a wanted man and later the police caught up with him and the judge sent him to jail. Later a reprieve came his way when some human rights organization pressed for his release because he was underage. Tony was fifteen when he killed his first victim.

      Tony was sent to a remand home pending the time he would be eighteen and become mature enough to face prosecution. After a year in the remand home, in the thick of the night, he escaped the security men at the home and escaped and to be back on the street. Mr. Benson found him on the street and employed him as one of his guards.

      Later Tony met Ruth at a fashion show on the island. Tony had followed Mr. Benson to the show, where Ruth eyed Tony. She was flabbergasted by Tony’s heights and strong muscle. Tony was her dream man. Further, Ruth believed that Tony was rich and handsome, so after the fashion show, she went to meet him.

      Ruth fell in love with Tony. At first Ruth she thought he worked in Mr. Benson Company but didn’t know that he was an assassin. Later, when she got to know, there was nothing she could do about it. Moreover, Tony didn’t suffer her with anything. She found herself deeply in love with him.

      On this night Ruth was deeply asleep, Tony watched her as she snored on the bed and then he prepared and wore his clothes. He knew that Mrs. Mark would be at home. When he checked the time, it was quarter to nine. He wore his gloves and dark glasses. He looked for his helmet inside the living room. He found it and took it, going to the garage; he brought out the black bike. Tony knew that if he met Mrs. Mark at home, his life would never be the same again.

      Mrs. Mark lived alone in the bungalow which her daughter built for her before she was killed. Long before she died, she employed two maids. Life was a bed of roses for Mrs. Mark until Rebecca had died. When Rebecca died Mrs. Mark sent the two girls away because she couldn’t afford their wages.

      After Mrs. Mark left her husband, she went out with different men but when she fell sick, all her male admirers and lovers ran away, disappearing like a ferret. When she fell sick, life became tough for her and her daughter. It was during the time that she fell sick that Rebecca met Bath; it was Mrs. Mark had encouraged her to snatch Maria’s lover.

      Mrs. Mark didn’t know her father. She only knew the man when she got into the University. Bath really helped her a lot in the University. Bath also made sure that Mrs. Mark received the best treatment in a private hospital; she survived the sickness and came back to her beat.
     
Tony was sent by Mr. Benson to deliver five hundred thousand dollar to Mrs. Mark. He was alarmed when Mr. Benson gave him in the money and told him to put it inside a bag; he hadn’t seen such a large amount of money in his entire life. He wondered why Mr. Benson decided to give such a large amount of money to the woman, since that day Tony planned to steal the money. He knew if he converted such a large amount of money to the local currency, it would run into several millions of dollars.
    
 Tony didn’t wake Ruth up from the bed. He stealthily sneaked out of the house, went to the garage and brought out his bike. Minutes later he drove fast to Mrs. Mark’s bungalow. Tony needed money desperately; he wanted to please his wife and didn’t want to depend on his wife’s family if they traveled abroad.

      When Tony got to the building, he stopped the bike in front of the gate. When he got down on the bike he looked around and found the whole place deserted like a graveyard. Apart from the tree that swayed gently in front of the building, there was nothing else in sight. Tony wore his dark glasses and went to the gate to open it. He got into the compound and walked to the house. He got to the front door and looked out through the window; he waited for some minutes and knocked the door.

      Mrs. Mark was in the living room, watched a television programme. Later she got up and switched off the television set, leaving everything in pitch darkness. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, she heard a strange knock on the door.  Mrs. Mark was happy because she thought the person at the door was one of her boyfriends. She turned back and went to open the door.

      Mrs. Mark was shocked when she opened the door and found Tony staring long at her. In her heart she knew that he was evil, so she tried to close the door. Tony held the door open with his strong hands. Then, when she tried to close the door again, Tony gave her a hard slap on the wrist and Mrs. Mark shouted in pain as Tony pushed her into the living room and closed the door.

      Mrs. Mark looked like a ghoul, terrified. The appearance of Tony in her house pumped adrenaline into her heart. Tony went to meet her and dragged her to the couch. Then he stood over her and shouted at her face.

“Where is the money, Madam?” Tony shouted.

“I have got no money with me,” Mrs. Mark said in a gentle calm voice.

“I won’t touch you in the world if you give the money to me,” Tony said and brought out his pistol, putting it on her neck.

“I beg you; I have no money with me,” Mrs. Mark pleaded. There was a tinge of sadness in her voice.

“You talk too much, Madam, I am asking you for the last time. Where is the fucking money,” Tony said and put the pistol into her mouth.

“Please spare my life. I don’t have a dime with me,” Mrs. Mark pleaded and begged Tony.

      When Tony heard the statement, he gave her a hard slap across the face; he dragged her away from the couch and flung her across the dining room. Mrs. Mark fell over the table and rolled on the ground. Tony went to meet her as she reeled in pain. He carried her back to the living room and hit her head on the television. Mrs. Mark’s face dripped with blood. She couldn’t stand up again, wanting to talk but much as she tried she couldn’t say anything again.

“Where is the money, bitch?” Tony shouted and gave her a blow across the face. Mrs. Mark fell down like a pack of cards.

      Tony left and scattered the whole house, rummaging through the whole room and looking where the woman kept the money. When he didn’t see the money, he wanted to carry her up but she couldn’t stand up; there was blood all over her body and face. Tony looked at her and shouted.

“Where is the credit card?” Mrs. Mark fell back to the floor. He didn’t know that Mrs. Mark could die; he wanted to threaten her so that she could give him the money she had at home. Tony hated to collect money from the machine after the last time he was caught by the police.

 

      Tony looked at Mrs. Mark again. He knew she wouldn’t survive the beating. Seeing a wine bottle by the cabinet, he went and picked it up and gulped it down his throat. Later he went out of the building.

      Mrs. Mark breathes with pain as blood gushed out from her head. She crawled toward a corner inside the living room and dialed the police emergency number. Later the police ambulance came and took her body away. She had lost so much blood that she died on the way to the hospital.

“The woman is dead sir,” Sergeant Roger said.

“Did the killer leave any trail?” Inspector Johnson said.

“No sir, he disappeared into a thin air.”

      Inspector Johnson thought for some minutes and spoke. “What did you find in the house?”

“Sir we found four hundred thousand dollars in a bag under the television.”

“What is that woman doing with such a large amount of money?”

“Remember sir, she is Mr. Benson’s in-law.”

“Okay, I will catch you at the station,” Inspector Johnson said and cut the phone.

      Later, as he drove toward the station, Inspector Johnson thought about the dead woman. He had only met her once, when he went to tell her about the death of her daughter. Inspector Johnson thought about his killer and why they killed her. He thought that maybe she had engaged in business with someone and the fellow had killed her. Many questions jostled in his heart as he got to the station. Later, Sergeant Roger briefed him about the murder and how they took the corpse of the woman to the mortuary.

      Inspector Johnson had difficulty. He couldn’t follow his perverted logic as he drove out of the station. As he drove toward Broad Street, he remembered Kazoo, turned the car around and sent it to Lewis Street, Victoria Island. Once a murder case of this nature occurred, Inspector Johnson knew who to get in touch with. He swerved the car into the street. There were just a few houses on Lewis Street, two brothels where prostitutes were plying their trade under the cover of darkness, and one of the brothel belong\ed to Kazoo. When the inspector stopped his car in front of the brothel that belonged to Kazoo, the prostitutes in front of the brothel scampered to safety and ran into their shell. In one minute the place was deserted.

      Inspector Johnson soon got down from the car. He looked around and went into the brothel without a care in the world, saw a bouncer that smoked weed in front of a room, and asked him of Kazoo. Kazoo was a police informant, a former jailbird who was rehabilitated by the police. He had used the little money the police rehabilitation committee had given him to establish the brothel. Over thirty ladies worked inside the large building.

      When the bouncer told Kazoo a police officer was there a wave of panic swept over him, Kazoo got up from his seat, closed the door of his office and went to the bar, his eyes roving around the bar for the mysterious stranger. When he saw Inspector Johnson, he smiled and went to meet him, heaving a sigh of relief when Inspector Johnson smiled back at him and they shook hands.

“Inspector, long times no see,” Kazoo said and smiled.

“Good to see you Kazoo,” Inspector Johnson said.

“Come with me sir,” Kazoo said and took the inspector to his large office on top of the one storied building.

“Have your seat, sir,” Kazoo said as he removed his reversible coat and put it on the table. At six foot tall and with a long mark across his forehead; Kazoo was a hard man long before he changed his violent ways.

“Thank you very much, Kazoo,” Inspector Johnson said and sat down.

“Good to see you inspector,” Kazoo said.

“Your business is thriving, Kazoo,” Inspector Johnson said and looked all over the office, which was tastefully furnished with new computer and a big portrait of naked women on the wall. There was no air-conditioning in the office but the ceiling fan turned slowly.

“Would you care for a whiskey? Inspector?” Kazoo said.

“I want my whiskey neat,” Inspector Johnson said. Kazoo took his phone and made a call. Soon half-clad ladies brought two glasses of whiskey on a tray and laid them on the table for the two men.

      Inspector Johnson smiled and looked at the young lady that brought the whiskey; she was a lady to behold.  She had long curved legs and a bust that would send a thousand pints of blood into a man’s groan. He licked his lips and looked at the girl as she laid the whiskey on the desk.

“That is my wife; she is very beautiful. Her name is Melinda.” Kazoo said and smiled. He took the glass of wine and sipped it.

“She is beautiful; I like her.” Inspector Johnson said as Melinda shook her hips and disappeared around the corner.

      The inspector watched Melinda disappear and he licked his lips; he wondered what she came to do with Kazoo in a brothel.

“What brought you here, Inspector?” Kazoo said.

“I came here to find some information, Kazoo.”

“What information inspector? If it is at my disposal, I am ready to give it to you,” Kazoo said and lit a cigarette; he looked at the inspector as he drank the wine succulently.

“A woman got killed around this neighbourhood; I came here to find information about her killer.”

      Kazoo brought out another cigarette from under his desk; he chided himself that he didn’t ask Inspector Johnson if he would like to smoke.

“I am sorry Inspector; here take Marlboro, a nice cigarette,” Kazoo said and pushed the packet of cigarettes to Inspector Johnson.

“No thanks Kazoo; I have had enough today.”

      Later Kazoo stood up; he adjusted his trousers and spoke.

“If you can bear with me sir for a couple of minutes, I will be able to give an answer,” Kazoo said and left the office.

      Inspector Johnson looked at the wall clock inside the office, noticing that the time was quarter after eleven. He drank the wine and went into deep thought. Then Kazoo came back.

“I am very sorry for keeping you so long, sir; I hope you are not mad at me?” Kazoo said and sat down.

“Not in the least; the wait made me think really hard.”

“I met one of my boy’s inspectors; he told me he saw a man on a bike coming out of the woman's house.” Kazoo said. He looked at Inspector Johnson in the face and gulped down the glass of whiskey on the table.

“Thank you Kazoo. You have really made my day,” Inspector Johnson said as he stood up and removed some wads of money from his pocket and dropped them on the table.

“No thanks inspector, don’t worry about the money.” Kazoo said and Inspector Johnson took the money back.

“Okay, let me on my way then,” Inspector Johnson said.

      Inspector Johnson left the brothel. As he got out, he heard the sound of broken glass and other noises, he shrugged his shoulders and went to his car. He opened the door and got in. When he turned the ignition key the engine sprang to life. It was a pitch black moonless night when Inspector Johnson drove off from the brothel.

 

                                                 X   X   X   X

 

The window threw a patch of moonlight to the floor but the rest of the room was in shadow as Paul and Maria lay on the bed. They were talking together on the bed. Maria told Paul how she met Bath and why she tried to keep her past life from him. She told him how Bath had tried to sneak back into her life.

“Paul, I am lost. I don’t really know what to do. He came to the office and has been sending text messages to me,” Maria said and looked at Paul.

“I know you made a mistake when you gave him the card but he had no right to disturb you at the office.” Paul said.

“He came to my office; I don’t know what he wants.” Maria said in an emotion laden voice.

“Maria you didn’t tell me all this while until now,” Paul said, his eyes becoming serious.

“I didn’t want to hurt you; I didn’t know how you would feel.” Maria said and rested her head on his chest.

“I understand your situation, Maria.” Paul said and touched her cheeks.

“I hate him, Paul. I swear I would have strangled him when he came to see me in the office.”

“Thank goodness you didn’t do that. Maria.”

“So what am I going to do?”

“In a situation like this, you need to be very careful,” Paul said and Maria looked into his eyes.

“I am thinking of changing my job.”

“Cutting the head will never solve one’s headache. You really have to calm down, just relax.”

“I have told him to leave me alone several times but he won’t piss off,” Maria insisted.

      Paul thought deeply; he pitied Maria for what she had gone through at the hand of Bath. He promised to stay by her side through thick and thin. Later Maria stood up from the bed and went downstairs, went into the kitchen and made tea. Then she came back to the room and gave Paul a glass of tea. She sat on the bed and sipped her tea succulently.

“Maria, I think we have to inform the police.”

“What a swell idea but what are we going to tell them?”

“That he is threatening your life.”

“I think that is better. If he won’t stop by next week I will report him to the police,” Maria said.
    
 Paul thought silently. He feared he might lose Maria if he didn’t do something very fast. Maria came back to the bed and slept; Paul rolled to her side and looked at her in the face.

“What is on your mind?” Maria said.

“Making love to you, dear,” Paul said.

“You are not serious, right?”

“I don’t want anyone now but you,” Paul said and kissed her. He held her to himself. They romanced and he covered her with the bedspread and switched off the light.

 

 

      The clock chimed eleven times when Tony stealthily climbed back into bed and slept beside Ruth. Minutes later, as If he expected him, Ruth moaned softly as he touched her. She continued to moan softly as Tony touched the two ripe mounds on her chest.

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