GOING DOWN CHINESE ROAD (DAY FOUR)

Sade 5

‘Why did you join a dangerous organisation like the secret service?’ Dorcas asked Sade. It was mid-morning and they had just finished their meal of thin tea and cheap bread. Dozie had gone to town to meet with the contacts for Sade’s papers.

Sade looked at Dorcas’ expectant face. She rose to her feet and walked to the centre of the room, backing Dorcas. ‘I joined the Service to run away from myself. Life had been rough.’

She turned to face Dorcas. ‘I was born without a father. My mother took in while doing her Youth Service somewhere in the East. She gave birth to me in her father’s house in Ondo. When I was three she married an army officer and took me with her to Kaduna where he lived. It was a bad marriage, they fought a lot and after eight years my mother left him. I returned to leaving with my grandparents in Ondo with three sickly step siblings.’

Sade looked at her hands as though her history was jotted on her well-manicured nails. ‘I was twelve when my grandfather died. I and my step-brothers and sister were shared among uncles and aunties in various cities. I went to live with an uncle in Port Harcourt. I laboured for his wife, hawking and working as cook, baby-sitter, house maid and all that. When this became unbearable I ran away from home. I was seventeen then. I joined street gangs. We fought, smoked and even stole. Three years in the street, I was involved in an accident in which I broke my leg. I returned to Ondo with crutches under each arm. My mother was at home; she was now married to a divorced retired agent. He said my stubbornness was made for the Service and insisted I joined them. When I recovered from my injuries, I applied and was accepted.’

‘You enjoyed being in the service?’  Dorcas asked.

Sade nodded. ‘I have my low points but overall, I don’t regret.’

‘Then why do they want to kill you?’ Dorcas wondered.

Sade regarded the other’s calm face. ‘It’s complicated, my dear.’

‘Are you a virgin?’ The words seem to be falling out of Dorcas’ mouth.

Sade looked at Dorcas sharply. ‘Why do you want to know?’

‘I just want to know.’

Sade regarded her for a long time then shrugged. ‘If a man is about to rape you and you have a gun, will you shoot him?’ 

Dorcas frowned. ‘Of course.’

‘So you will rather be a murderer then a non-virgin.’

Dorcas tightened her teeth on her lip. She nodded.

‘Now, what if a class of eighty pupils is about to be bombed and the only man who has information that will stop the blast asks to sleep with you in exchange for the information, in exchange for the lives of eighty people, what will you do? Will you keep your virginity and let the country dig eighty little graves?’

Dorcas had no answer for this.

‘I worked for the government; I have no life of my own. I have seen a lot and have been faced with grave, dirty situations. I have served Nigeria with all I have, and when I say I gave my country all, I know what I mean.’

The two women regarded each other, each thinking her thoughts, sorry for the other. ‘Any more questions?’

Dorcas shook her head.

A moment passed.

‘I have a confession to make,’ Dorcas broke the tension.

‘What is it?’

‘I was the one who called the police the day you came to our house to hide. I am so sorry, I-I didn’t know what I was doing. I guess I was…’

Dozie entered the room with the hide-out leader, Bony and Mark on his heels. Sade rose to her feet but Mark pointed his gun at her, ‘Sit down!’

Sade was surprised. ‘Dozie, what’s the matter?’

‘I told them I have made plans for us to leave and they started acting funny.’

‘Get her gun,’ Bony said and Mark yanked the gun off Sade’s hip.

‘What on earth is going on here?’ Sade demanded.

‘Sit down,’ Bony said. ‘Let’s discuss like family.’

They all sat down, the women on the bed, Dozie and Bony on the bench; only Mark remained on his feet, his gun covering Sade.

Bony began with an enormous smile on his face, the smile as artificial as a mud mansion. ‘We have a little problem; Dozie is my friend so I met him and discussed the problem with him. We are in debt and can only offset it with the sum of five million naira. We begged Dozie to borrow us the money and he said no.’

‘Because all the money in my account is not worth more than a million naira,’ he cried, his husky voice sounded like a sigh.

‘You can borrow from your friends,’ Bony suggested.

Dozie stamped to his feet. ‘Who is going to borrow you that kind of money in a time like this?’

‘Please sit down.’ Bony’s voice was steel.

Dozie sat down, rigidly, his eyes red with protest.

‘Think of your girlfriend and sister.’

‘I beg your pardon.’

Bony stood up. ‘Get us five million by this time tomorrow or there will be trouble here. If you don’t return tomorrow, Mark will shoot your girlfriend; next tomorrow and he will shoot your sister. The ball is in your court.’

‘So you are keeping us for ransom?’ Sade asked.

‘Must you put it that way?’

Sade smiled. ‘Why don’t Dozie stay here while I go look for the money. I am a professional, I can get the money in whatever means.’

‘You are a professional, which is why we can’t trust you. Relax, Dozie is a miracle worker. He will certainly come back for you girls.’

Bony turned to Dozie, ‘It is time to go.’

‘This is cheap blackmail, Bony, and you know it. After all I did for you guys? I defended you in court for little fee, I put my life and reputation in line just to…’

‘You talk too much,’ Mark interrupted him.

‘It is one minute past 12 o’clock. You have 23 hours, 59 minutes,’ Bony reminded him.

‘Go to hell,’ Dozie shouted.

Bony dropped his restraint; he grabbed Dozie by the collar and hit his forehead on Dozie’s face. Dozie’s nose broke with blood. Sade stamped to her feet. ‘Don’t move.’ Mark was ready to shoot. Sade clenched and unclenched her fists.

‘You want a bullet in your chest?’

‘Why should I want that?’

‘Then sit down!’

Sade sat down.

Bony led Dozie to the door and threw him out. Dozie hit his head on the passage wall. Dorcas began to cry and made for the door but Sade held her back. ‘Calm down dear, it will be fine.’

‘It’s your fault,’ Dorcas cried. ‘You caused it!’

‘I am outside,’ Mark announced. ‘The only way to escape is to jump out of the window.’ He laughed. ‘Sade, you try anything else and I will kill you.’ He left, hit the door shut and locked it from outside.

‘Stop crying while I think of a plan for escape,’ Sade whispered to Dorcas.

‘It’s your fault.’ Dorcas wept.

‘I know, that’s why I want to save us. You keep quiet and let me perfect my plan!’

Dorcas stopped crying but continued to sniff. Sade sat down beside Dorcas who had her face in her hands.

‘What of my brother?’

‘We will call him on phone once we escape.’

‘What is the plan?’ Sade looked at Dorcas’ emotions-soaked face and decided not to discuss it. ‘Don’t worry. We will wait until it is dark, then we take action.’

‘ ‘‘We’’?’ Dorcas couldn’t see how she could help in whatever plan this crook was hatching.

‘Just wait. When the whole building is asleep we will act.’

#                                  #                                  #                                  #

‘Is she ready to be flown away?’ The man’s voice had a strong Latin American accent.

‘No,’ replied the other, speaking quietly on the phone.

‘How soon can we take her?’

‘Three days.’

‘I will hold you on your word.’ And the conversation ended.

The other sighed. He prayed that he got the opportunity to keep his word.

#                                  #                                  #                                  #

It was now pitch dark. The entire building was dead asleep. It was time to act. Sade stepped down from her bed. She couldn’t see Dorcas sleeping by her side but she knew the girl’s position. She lifted her leg and gave Dorcas a vociferous kick on the belly. Dorcas heaved awake. Her scream was interrupted by a slap on her face, and another then an upper-cut. Dorcas released a cry that pierced the cold, dark night. Sade continued to beat her.

Mark opened the door and entered, a kerosene lamp in his hand. He saw Sade straggling Dorcas with one hand and yanking at her hair with the other. Barbaric! Mark gapped. He placed the lamp on the floor and rushed to separate the lioness as she battered the antelope, his gun raised. Few inches from the bed, Sade surprised him. She swamped her feet on his shins, sending him off balance.

As he fell on top of Sade, his gun rattled on the floor. Sade grabbed Mark on the neck.

‘Get the gun,’ she bellowed to Dorcas.

Mark landed a blow on Sade’s ribs. She held tight on his neck, he gave her another smash on her ribs. Sade’s hold on his neck weakened. As he made for the third blow, Sade blocked the blow with her hand. His neck was free. He made to dive for the gun but Sade held him on his shoulders. Together they crashed on the floor.

Like an idiot, Dorcas just sat and watched.

‘Get the gun, Dorcas,’ Sade cried. Mark sent an elbow breaking into Sade’s nose. Pain and anger tore into her heart. Sade tightened her two hands around his shoulder, pressing hard to link her hands.

‘Get the gun, Dor-cas!’

Dorcas stepped down the bed, trod to the gun and picked the pistol up by the barrel and held it in her hand like a frightened child would hold a dead lizard.

‘Place the gun on his head and fire!’ Sade urged her. Dorcas had exhausted all the actions in her, so like a lifeless dummy she stood, watching, her mouth agape.

‘Dorcas, I said…’ Mark had succeeded in pushing the distracted Sade off his back. Now his elbow pinned her head on the floor, but Sade held him tight on the waist. Pain burnt her head like hot stove, burning off her energy. Sade knew that her only way out was Dorcas.

‘Come on Dorcas, you can’t miss him now, press the trigger and SHOOT!’ Sade could have been shouting to a deaf-mute.

Bony entered the room, saw the two fighters on the floor and his jaw dropped. Then he saw Dorcas with the gun. He shifted his bulk back. ‘Hey, drop that gun,’ he said with little steel in his voice.

‘Take your thing,’ Dorcas said and handed the gun over to Bony.

Sade shut her eyes, it was over. She let go of Mark who stood up, grabbed his gun from Bony’s hand and began to club Sade on the head with the head of the gun. Sade didn’t resist, she took the blows like constructive criticism. Infuriated by her lack of resistance, Mark knocked her harder after each blow. By the time Bony ordered him to leave her, Sade’s head and face were covered with blood.

Dorcas heaved a sigh of relief when the two men left. ‘Thank God they didn’t kill her,’ she said.

The minute hand of the clock joined the hour hand at twelve. End of Day Four.

OLIVIER TWIST (EPISODE ONE)

Olivier

Olivier looked down at her belly and shuddered at the thought of carrying a human being inside. How time flies! Last month, she was alone in her room dancing and giggling in celebration of her seventeenth birthday. Today, she was not only pregnant for her step-mother’s brother, she was about to commit murder. Her step-uncle, Tony had called it abortion but Pastor James had always said that girls who committed abortion were murderers and had blood in their hands. Olivier didn’t want to have blood in her hands but Tony had insisted that this was no murder.

‘Murder is when the baby has reached its second trimester. Now it is just foetus and has no life in your uterus.’

Trimester. Foetus. Uterus. What on earth was he talking about? Olivier wondered. He was in the university but spoke astonishing grammar, using big words that her father who was a medical doctor and her step-mother—that wicked woman—who taught at St. Peter’s School didn’t know.

Tony had handed her the bottle with the blackish liquid for the abortion.

‘Is it painful?’ she had asked him, the anxious beads of sweat in her forehead shining at the coloured light in her room.

Tony shook his head. ‘It is absolutely painless. You drink it tonight and you will piss the pregnancy in the morning as urine.’

It was so easy.

‘You think the baby is a boy or girl?’ She smiled shyly at him.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ he snapped. ‘Just drink this.’ And he quickly left the room. It was awfully risky to sneak into Olivier’s room with his sister in the kitchen.

Olivier didn’t eat dinner nor did she help Andy, her five-year old step-brother and Sandra, her three-year old step-sister do their home works. She stood before the mirror on her room, studying the reflection of her bare belly. In her hand, she held the black-content bottle.

Abortion!

Murderer?

She didn’t know what to think. Tony had said it was no murder and he must be right. He had told her that one sixth of the world lived in China and that the moon had no light of its own and only reflected the sun’s. He had been right on these. He must be right on abortion too.

She looked at the bottle and sighed for the thousandth time and a cold stone tumbled down her spine. What if I die? She thought. Her mother had died delivering her second child. Olivier was four then. Perhaps, she as her mother’s sole offspring would also get killed with the child she was about to remove.

She sighed.  She walked to the bed and knelt down before it. ‘Sweet Jesus,’ she prayed. ‘Please don’t let me die.’

Her step-mother entered the room. She never knocked. She always just walked in. ‘What are you doing?’ she asked, her hard unforgiving lips twisted forward like a spear.

Olivier hid the bottle by her side. ‘I am saying my bed-time prayer.’

‘Have you eaten?’

‘I am not hungry.’

‘Before I count one, you run to the kitchen and carry your food! Witch, you want your father to accuse me of starving you.’

Olivier rolled the bottle under her bed and rose to her feet.

#                                  #                                  #                                  #

Tony entered the kitchen to return his plates as Olivier was taking her food out.

‘Have you taken the medicine?’ he asked in a whisper.

She said no.

‘Why?’ he asked, his eyes shifty, like two unsteady bulbs.

‘Nothing.’

‘You—’

‘What is the matter?’ Olivier’s step-mother asked. She had appeared like a spirit, no one saw her enter the kitchen.

‘She said she has headache,’ Tony lied.

‘Do you have headache?’ the woman barked. No sane headache could resist this hard voice.

‘It is not serious,’ Olivier said.

‘Have you taken medicine?’

‘I—’

‘I don’t want anybody to accuse me of not taking care of his daughter o,’ she said, loud enough for the entire neighbourhood to hear. She stamped away.

‘Make sure you take the medicine before you eat,’ Tony said without opening his mouth.

#                                  #                                  #                                  #

Tony was restless. He stood in his room, pondering. He should have thought about condom. But the mistake had been made. Now, he wouldn’t let it ruin his future. Olivier’s father was his sponsor in school. If he found out about Olivier’s pregnancy, he would throw Tony out and Tony’s dream of graduating into a great pharmacist would hit the last rock. He was sure he would find the cure for Aids, but not if he left school in his third year.  No, he wouldn’t let that happen.

He picked up his hand-held phone and dialled Olivier’s number but she didn’t answer the call. It was time to frighten her, he decided.

Olivier was angry with Tony. He had been very kind to her, so kind that she was sure she would cry when the university lecturers’ strike was called off and he returned to school. But during this one week, since she told him of her pregnancy, he had become another person, and not the soft spoken friend and lover she was used to. She remembered how kind he had been to her; she didn’t want to go to bed with him, but he had convinced her with raw kindness.

The first time they did it, it was very painful but he was so kind and endearing, she continued to endure the pain for him, to please him.

‘It is very painful,’ she had complained on the first day.

‘It is because you are not used to it.’

Then she saw the blood. ‘Jesus! See blood.’

‘It is because it is your first time.’

They did it the next day, still painful but she never complained again.

He had answers for every issue and he was so calm and unoffended even when she hit him or raised her voice at him. Although he was nine years her senior, he forgave her rudeness. Not anymore. He was the one being rude now, and she wouldn’t take the medicine until he apologised to her.

A small tap sounded on her door. It was ten pm, her step-mother had retired for the night and her father who was in night shift at the hospital wouldn’t return before six am. Tony put his finely cut face inside then began to walk quietly in.

‘What do you want?’ she snapped.

His face crumbled. ‘Have you taken the medicine?’

‘No.’

‘Why?’

‘Nothing.’

He nearly hit her. ‘Are you crazy?’

She caught her breathe then looked up to the stranger she had called love.

‘Do you want to ruin my future?’ He shook her shoulder.

‘You are hurting me.’ She forced her shoulder free and stood up. He grabbed her wrist.

‘Are you mad? Do you want me to lose everything? Can’t you use your head for once?’

She felt betrayed by his tone and her resolve not to take the blackish medicine hardened.

‘Leave my room,’ she ordered.

He didn’t hear well. ‘What sort of nonsense is this?’

‘Leave or I will shout.’

He was rooted on the floor.

‘If I count three and you are not gone…?’

He didn’t budge.

‘One… two…’ she stopped abruptly when she saw the kitchen knife in Tony’s hand. He smiled evilly at her.

‘Get the bottle now and drink the medicine!’

Her jaw dropped. His heartless eyes frightened her more than the knife. He came nearer and placed the cold steel of the knife on her neck. ‘Get the bottle, baby girl.’

The icy edge of the knife on her neck blew shivers down her spine.

‘Get the bottle.’ Tony’s voice was rough.

Olivier picked up the bottle under her bed. Slowly, she opened the seal. She lifted it to her jaw then stopped. The smell cut through her nose like blade.

‘Drink it!’

The door was pushed open and Olivier’s step-mother appeared at the door.

Tony who had his back to the door had managed to bring the knife down when he heard the door move.

‘What are you doing here, Tony?’ the new comer asked.

If she came in, she would see the knife he was holding before him. ‘I brought her medicine for her headache but she wouldn’t drink it,’ he said, his voice, surprisingly calm.

‘Now, take the medicine,’ the step-mother roared.

‘Ma, the medicine is very bitter. I have been taking it for two days now and it isn’t working,’ Olivier countered.

‘You are lying,’ Tony attacked. ‘You never took the medicine. That is why I am here—to make sure she takes the medicine.’

The step-mother didn’t know whom to believe.

‘He is threatening me with the knife,’ Olivier said to add to the tension.

‘I collected the knife from her,’ Tony responded sharply, ‘she had always joked about suicide and I wasn’t comfortable when I saw her with the knife.’

‘What! Olivier, you want to kill yourself!’

For a moment, Olivier thought she had been trapped.

A surge of inspiration stabbed at her vocal cords. ‘The medicine is evil.’ Olivier cried. ‘I will rather kill myself then take it.’

The step-mother walked in. ‘Let me see the medicine.’

Olivier handed over the bottle.

‘Where did you get this from?’ the step-mother asked her brother.

‘I am a pharmacist,’ he said.

‘You are a student,’ she corrected.

He nodded. ‘But the medicine is genuine.’

‘Ma, let him drink a little.’

‘I don’t have headache,’ he snapped.

‘Go back to your room,’ the woman ordered Tony. ‘I will keep the medicine.’

Olivier couldn’t suppress a smile.

‘I will need it,’ Tony said tersely, ‘It cures everything for me; I only gave it to Olivier to drink a little.’

‘You are a pharmacist, you can make another.’ Olivier sneered.

‘Yes Tony, make another one.’ The step mother turned to Olivier. ‘Get panadol for your headache immediately!’

‘Yes ma.’

The others began to leave the room. ‘Tony,’ Olivier called. He turned. ‘Good bye.’ She winked.

‘It is actually good night,’ Tony said. He was sure that this wasn’t the last of it.

To be Continued…

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