A Thorn in Her Life
By Olatunbosun Adetula (Nigeria)
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Paul and Maria went to Lawrence’s studio but it was under lock and key. Paul brought out his cell phone and dialed his number. He was surprised when Lawrence said he was at home, for Lawrence hardly ever stayed at home on Saturday. He would either be in a function or working in the studio, but when he said he was at home, Paul and Maria got in the car and drove to his house.
When they got to his house and entered the living room, they were surprised when to find his face rubbed with balm. Paul was shocked when he saw him; he went and sat beside him.
“What happened to you, Lawrence?” Paul shouted when Lawrence sprawled on the chair.
“Many things, Paul. Thank goodness I am alive.” Lawrence said and sat down properly on the couch.
“What happened?” Maria asked.
“Some men came to the studio and ransacked it.”
“Are they thieves?” Maria said.
“No, they were searching for something, things that I don’t really know about,” Lawrence said.
“I am confused by what you said,” Paul said and looked into his eyes.
“They didn’t take anything from the studio; they just turned it upside down and nothing more,” Lawrence said.
“Maybe the men were thieves.”
“They were not thieves.”
“Well, thank God they didn’t kill you,” Maria said and looked at him.
“Look Maria, the men took your pictures,” Lawrence said.
“Don’t worry about it; we can always take another picture,” Paul said.
Lawrence stood up from the couch; he wanted to go into the kitchen.
“Let me prepare a meal for you,” Lawrence said, but Maria stopped him on the way to the kitchen.
“No Lawrence, I can do that for you,” Maria said and Lawrence went back to his seat.
Later in the night, when they left Lawrence’s apartment, Paul drove to Maria’s house. Unknown to them a car was parked in front of the Catholic Church. Paul stopped the car in front of Maria’s house and they embraced and kissed, later Maria waved to Paul and walked into the compound. Paul went back to his car, waved to Maria and drove off.
Tony secretly watched the two lovers. He lit a cigarette and threw the butt out of the car’s window just as Paul drove past him. He threw the cigarette away and turned the ignition of the car and it sprang to life. Tony turned the car around and drove behind Paul, tailing Paul along the road. Tony pressed hard on the throttle. He wanted to double-cross Paul when he saw a police checkpoint in front of him. The police officers waved Paul car on but Tony was unlucky. His car was stopped and one of the police officers told him to come out of the car and bring out his papers.
When Tony emerged and handed the car’s document over the officer looked at the document and nodded his head. The car was searched for some minutes but the police officers didn’t find any incriminating objects inside the car, but they wouldn’t let him go because he looked suspicious.
“Where is your driving license?” the police officer asked. Tony dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out the license.
“Here, take it,” Tony said and went to lock the door of the car.
Later the police officer told him to go after they finished searching the car, Tony drove with full throttle but he couldn’t see Paul’s car any longer. Tony was dejected and sad; he cursed the police officers who had stopped him.
Tony had tried to kill Paul many times but each time he missed him by a hair’s breath.
X X X X
Ruth came to Tony’s house and found the whole place deserted. She got her own spare key, brought it out and opened the gate. She walked to the front door and opened it. When she got inside the living room she found the whole place dirty and odoriferous - empty bottles of champagne, moets and packets of chewing gum littered the whole living room, which was pervaded by strange odor. It was so putrid that she had no choice but to roll up her sleeves and patched into cleaning the room. She worked all over the living room with her protruding belly; sweating as she worked.
Later she walked upstairs, brought out her key from her handbag and opened the door to Paul’s room. Inside she looked at the bed. On the top of the bed was a brown bag, Ruth was surprised when she saw the brown bag and the picture. She carried the brown bag and opened it. She was shocked when she saw crisp dollar bills inside the bag. Ruth didn’t believe that Tony could keep such a large amount of money inside the house. It explained why he had been partying all night long. She knew he must have brought a lot of girls to the house with his friend, all in the frenzy of a night party. When she searched through the bag she was surprised to find it empty. She took the picture beside the bag and looked at it over and over again, realizing that the person inside the picture was familiar. She stood up from the bed and went to the window, opening it wide so sunlight rushed in. When she looked at the picture again by the window she was convinced that it was Paul’s picture. Her face concocted with shock as she wondered where Tony had found the picture. She was confused and dazed by the sudden discovery. She wondered what Paul picture was doing inside Tony’s bag.
Many questions troubled her mind as she sat on the bed. In her mind she believed that Tony had killed Paul. She became really confused and restless. A pervading mood of fear overshadowed her inside the room as she looked at the picture again.
When Tony opened the door and stepped into the living room, as if he knew where she was, he stomped angrily up the stairs. He opened the bedroom door and started to pitch into her when he saw the picture in her hand. Ruth dropped the picture on the bed but Tony had already seen her holding it.
“What the hell are you finding inside my bag?” Tony shouted and went to carry the bag on the bed.
Ruth sat on the bed with her hands folded across her chest. As if reading her mind Tony placed his hand on her shoulder. He looked at her eyes and sat beside her on the bed.
“Look dear, this is the last job I will do in my life,” Tony said and Ruth stood up from the bed. She turned away and went to the window; Tony was surprised by her action. Then he noticed the picture on the bed.
“Did you know the guy inside the picture, Ruth?” Tony asked.
“Yeah, why did you kill the guy Tony?” Ruth said and went to pick up the picture but Tony drew her to himself and she sat on the bed with him.
“Sit down dear.” Tony said and meekly she obeyed him.
“Look Tony, you haven’t answered my question,” Ruth said. By now she was boiling with anger.
“Dear, I never killed the guy; I haven’t touched him in the world,” Tony said and looked into her eyes. Tony told her that Bath wanted him to kill the person inside the picture because of a girl.
“Look Tony, this guy can’t fight over a girl, I know him very well,” Ruth said and Tony was shocked to realize that Ruth knew Paul.
“Look Ruth, Bath loves the girl so much. That’s why he gave me such a large amount of money to get Paul out of the way.” Ruth stood up from the bed and went to the window looking at the distant sky.
Tony looked at her by the window. He stood up from the bed and went to meet her by the window, encircling his strong arms around her waist and talking to her in a whisper. He told her many sweet things, using the journey to the United State to convince her, and he told her how they needed money for their wedding and the journey. He promised her that it would be the last job he would do for Mr. Benson and his son. Ruth made him swear that it would be the last job he would do for Mr. Benson. He swore to this commitment by kissing her forehead. Then he drew her to the bed and they both lay down.
“Ruth, this guy needs to die. If he doesn’t, I will lose the money,” Tony said.
Ruth thought for some time. She wanted to convince Tony not to carry out the plan; but she changed her mind when she realized that they needed money desperately for their wedding and journey to the states. When he noticed that she was in thought. Seeing her look of fear, he restated his opinion clearly.
“We need this money. What is in your mind?” Tony said as they lay on the bed.
“I am confused, very confused. This guy is my sister’s fiancé. I can’t hurt him.”
“Remember, your sister is dead.” Tony said “and dead sisters don’t speak.”
“But I like the guy and my family likes him so much,” Ruth said and shed tears.
“Okay, okay. Then we can stop the marriage and the journey.” Tony said, his eyes becoming crimson. He left the bed and went downstairs.
Ruth cried on the bed but she didn’t want to hurt Tony. When she noticed that Tony wanted to open the front door and leave the house, she got up quickly from the bed and went out of the room, descending the staircase so fast that she met him as he was about to go into the garage.
“It is okay Tony. Let’s go inside,” Ruth said and they went to the room upstairs.
Later, after they had made love, Tony came up with another idea.
“Look Ruth, I have another idea up my sleeve,” Tony said.
“What idea, Tony?”
“Look we can make still more money,” Tony said.
“You have come with your sinister idea again.”
“I will tell Bath that I can’t get the guy killed, but I will tell him I met a lady who will help me.”
“Remember Bath is not an exhibition doll.”
“He will definitely believe me; the last time we tried to kill Paul together but a police patrol officer saw us and chased us down the road.”
“So how will you make money through this plan of yours?”
“I will tell him the lady needs one hundred thousand dollars to poison him,” Tony said. He thought for some minutes and looked at Ruth. Ruth eyes were strong as she looked at him.
“I need your help Ruth.” Tony said and Ruth blinked.
“How may I help you, Tony?” Ruth said and wrinkled her face.
“I have got apple inside the deep freezer. I will inject the apple and you will visit him at home,” Tony said and explained how he intended to kill Paul.
“Your mind is full of evil, Tony.” Ruth said.
“You can say that again.”
Ruth looked at him and shook her head. Tony held her hand and told her everything would be okay; the fear that she would murder an innocent man being penetrated deeply across her heart.
“Look Tony, I don’t know the guy’s home address again. I have misplaced it,” Ruth said.
“You better look for it before the money slips out of our grip. Two hundred thousand dollars is not chicken change, remember,” Tony said and stood up from the bed.
“Okay, when I get home I shall look for it,” Ruth said and Tony went to kiss her on the bed.
Tony smiled because he had won Ruth’s heart. He went out of the room and descended the staircase, went to the bar and gulped a whole glass of wine down his throat. He sat down and smiled; he couldn’t believe that Ruth could kow-tow to his suggestions without a string attached.
Ruth sat on the bed and thought. She wondered why she had fallen into Tony’s trap. In her heart she knew she was gullible and had gotten herself sucked into a dishonest scheme. She was afraid. Then, as she thought, Tony came into the bedroom with two glasses and a bottle of wine. Ruth looked at him and wondered why he brought wine into the room.
“What is happening to you, Tony?” Ruth said in astonishment when she saw two glasses in Tony’s hand.
“I am happy my dear. I just want to drink. Here, take a glass,” Tony said and gave one of the glasses to her. She was reluctant to collect it.
Tony smiled and sat down beside her on the bed as she sipped the wine. Ruth wondered why Tony was so happy, for the excitement on his face was so deep. Tony moved closed to her as they sat on the bed. Ruth spoke gently.
“Tony, before we rush into something irrevocable, let’s sit back and take stock of the whole situation.”
“Okay, what did you want us to do? I am all ears,” Tony said and gulped down the wine.
“You say you will inject the apple, right?”
“Yes, I have got plenty of apples inside the freezer. I will inject them with arsenic and pack them inside a brand new basket and pronto he is dead with just a little bite,” Tony said and stood up from the bed; he went to the window and looked toward the gate.
“Where are you going to get arsenic?” Ruth said.
“Remember my friend Jingo I told you about the other day? He has plenty of chemicals in his store.”
Ruth looked at him with scorn and wondered why she had agreed to help him in the first place. Now that she knew Tony was a murderer, she wanted to change her mind but she couldn’t. Hard as she tried she couldn’t remove the chain that he wound around her. Ruth was particularly of afraid to lose Tony. She looked at him as he stood by the window and spoke.
“You have got two strings in your bow, Tony,” Ruth said as she got up from the bed.
“What do you mean, Ruth?’ Tony asked and walked behind her.
“You are a bloody thief,” Ruth said.
“Remember you said two bows - and the second one?”
“You are a murderer,” Ruth said and Tony went to her. He drew her close to himself and planted several kissed on her red ruby lips. Ruth pushed him away and went downstairs.
Tony laughed when Ruth pushed him away. He went to the window and carried the glass of wine and gulped it down his throat. He had a faraway looked in his eyes. He changed his clothes and went out of the room and left the house stealthily without informing Ruth. He went to the garage and drove out. Ruth was standing by the window and watching him as he drove out.
Jingo was inside his small store when he saw Tony’s car. He squinted his grey old face and tried to remember where he knew Tony from. He was confused and he came out of the store and waited patiently for Tony as he walked closer.
It had taken Tony one hour to locate Jingo’s store. Jingo sold chemicals in a tin for the local people in the slum. A year before, due to the criminal activities that came to Victoria Island, the slum around the city was destroyed and many of the people were displaced. Jingo was lucky the government didn’t demolish his house too. Although the street was empty, Jingo’s dilapidated house and small shop stood alone like a vulture in the desert on the street. Rumors had it that Jingo house wasn’t destroyed because one of his children worked in the ministry of environment, but nobody was sure.
Tony got to Jingo’s store and introduced himself to the old man. Jingo looked at his face for so long. He racked his brain and tried to remember who he was. Later, when he remembered, he drew Tony close to himself and they embraced. Jingo was happy to find his old pal. Jingo took Tony into the small shop, smiling when Tony sat down on an old chair inside.
“Old boy, it is good to see you,” Jingo said.
“Good to see you too old man.”
“What can I offer you?”
“No, don’t bother yourself sir,” Tony said and Jingo brought a packet of cigarettes to the desk and gave it to him.
“Do you care for a cigarette?”
“I don’t mind,” Tony said and removed a cigarette from the pack. Jingo threw the lighter to him and Tony lit it.
Jingo smiled at him and they discussed inside the small store. Later, when he checked his wristwatch, Jingo looked at Tony’s face and wondered what he came to do in the store.
“What brought you to my store?”
“Like I told you sir, I miss you so I came to check on you.”
“I know, but I also know you have something on your mind,” Jingo said. He knew Tony must have come for a very important mission.
“Look sir, I need a pint of arsenic,” Tony said and looked at Jingo in the face.
“Are you going on a suicide mission?” Jingo asked and removed his cap; his head was full of white silvery hair. Tony looked at him and watched him scratch his head. Jingo was the craziest guy he had ever known.
“I want to kill a big rat inside my house,” Tony said and watched Jingo smile. He stood up and went to a corner, on the shelf inside the store, and took a small tin that contained arsenic. He set it on the table.
“Here it is. Bring one thousand bucks,” Jingo said and Tony brought out his wallet, dropping some money on the table.
“Here, take this little cash for all your trouble,” Tony said.
Jingo was surprised when he saw the wad of money that Tony dropped on the table. He looked at Tony’s face and spoke.
“You are a good guy,” Jingo said.
In the evening Tony went to Bath’s house and told him the dilemma he faced as he had made several attempt on Paul’s life. He told him about a certain lady he met and how the lady was very close to Paul. He told him the advantage of using the lady to eliminate Paul. Bath was happy when he heard the revelation; he went inside his room and brought out another one hundred thousand dollars, giving it to Tony. When Tony got home and told Ruth about Bath and the money, the two were so happy that they left the house and went to sleep in an expensive hotel.
The sun appeared through the rift in the cloud. Ruth dropped the bag of apples in the living room and went into her room. When she got inside she foraged through the bags inside her room and looked for Paul’s business card. Ruth hardly stayed at home; as she turned the room upside down her mother came to meet her. When she had come in the morning the old woman wasn’t at home. When Mrs. Graham saw that she was happy it brought joy into the old woman face. Her mother embraced her. They talked for some minutes. As she left the room she wondered what Ruth was looking for inside the room but she shrugged her shoulders and went out.
Ruth thought she would never find the bag again. As she searched through all the bags inside the room, the rhythms of her heartbeat were loud. She got tired and sat on the bed. She got tired, wondering whether it was right to kill Paul. Confusion lay heavily on her mind, but after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing she vowed to help Tony. She remembered the two hundred thousand dollars and she agreed with Tony that they needed the money desperately. She was still in thought when she suddenly remembered where she kept the card. She stood up and brought out her file under the bed. Inside she found the card, smiled and went to lie on the bed. She fell asleep, but her mother came to wake her as she had prepared food for her. She left the bed and went to the dining room. When she finished her food, Ruth went into the bathroom and took a cold bath.
Ruth’s long silk skirt rustled as she walked into the living room. She took the basket of apples she brought from Tony’s house, waved good bye to her mother and left the house. Her mother stood by the front door and watched her as she took a taxi.
“Take me to the Lagoon hospital please.”
“Your money is one hundred bucks.”
As the car took her to the hospital, Ruth thought about her life and Tony. She thought about their journey and the baby clandestinely in her womb. She knew that once they left the country, Tony would change his life style because he would no longer see Mr. Benson and his forty thieves again. These were the things she had planned long time ago.
As the taxi driver maneuvered the car into the road that led to the hospital, her cell phone rang and she picked it up.
“Hello Ruth, where are you?”
“Oh, Mike, long time! I am happy to hear your voice.”
“I am coming home on Sunday; get ready for the trip to Atlanta.”
“We shall be ready, dear brother,” Ruth said and they talked for some minutes before he cut off the line.
When the taxi got to the hospital a smiled cut across her face and she breathed deeply. She touched her tummy as the baby rolled around in her tummy. It was as if the baby was telling her not to do it. She shook her head and went into the hospital.