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|The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 9:34pm On Oct 23, 2012|
‘Abomination!’ Tortoise bellowed, ‘So much for eating faeces!
Wait until the rest of the village hears what you have done.’ (C.N. Adichie, Purple Hibiscus)
RMD––Richard Mofe Damijo wasn’t famous in 1985. Neither was Tuface; a mere schoolboy. Agbani Darego haunted no young men’s dreams. Don Jazzy, Terry G., DJ Jimmy Jatt, Keke and D1––their fame was yet to be established in Nigeria.
General Ibrahim M. Babangida was the President of Nigeria in 1985––he overthrew Major General M. Buhari’s government. That same year, Nigeria won the Under 17 Junior World Cup in Japan.
The best-seller among Nigerian novels was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (though it was actually first published in 1958).
The movies: The Village Headmaster, Taxi Driver, Mirror in the Sun, Aiye.
The music: Orlando Owoh, Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, I.K. Dairo, Majek Fashek, Sunny Okosun, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
It was a different time, a different world.
Nobody knew that a year later, Dele Giwa was going to be murdered by a letter bomb. No prophecy was made that in four years’ time, the great footballer, Samuel Okwaraji, was going to collapse and die on the field of play.
1985. It was the year when Ada Bright was still a beautiful lady of twenty-four.
She was happy, and she believed Samson would be delighted too.
Ada Bright crossed the busy double-lane of Alluta Express road. She was going to her fiancé’s house for the first time––he would really be surprised. She had come to suspect that he didn’t want her to know where he lived; they had been dating each other for almost a year and Ada hadn’t known where her beloved boy-friend resided. Every time she asked him, Samson had always given different unconvincing excuses for not telling her his residential location, and Ada had been left confused––trying everything she could to believe the bad liar, but she could not. At first, she had thought he had been cheating on her but she had overlooked such thought of probable infidelity when, to her amazement three months earlier; he had knelt before her with a ring and proposed marriage to her. She had noticed how he had looked into her eyes with pure innocence and unmasked admiration, and right there she knew Samson had really loved her deeply, this made her ashamed of herself for allowing the thought cross her mind that he was not being entirely faithful with her. She was one of those few ladies who, by instinct or the subconscious mind, knew the guys who really loved them and those who didn’t, in her own case; it had taken her the nuptial ring for the instinct to manifest.
Ada had seen the radiance of true happiness in her boyfriend’s face when she acquiesced to his proposal. Yet, she still felt he was hiding something important from her, something different from her initial suspicion. About two hours earlier, she had cunningly persuaded Obinna, her fiancé’s friend, tell her Samson’s residential address. She had to see her boyfriend today.
She boarded a public transport bus heading for Plateau Way. Jos, which even few of her inhabitants and descendants knew that it is actually bearing the hidden acronym ‘Jesus Our Saviour’, established by the missionaries, had suffered several violent religious clashes between its Muslim and Christian dwellers. It was reported that the original name of the popular city was Gwosh; which was a village situated at the site of her metropolis. The Hausa wrongly pronounced Gwosh as Jos and it had struck since then. Ada sat by the window and decided to pass the time with a book. Books were good companions; you could lose yourself in a book. But it was too much effort to focus on the prints; she found herself reading the same sentence for the third, fourth, fifth time––without the slightest degree of comprehension. Besides, she was bored with vicarious romance. Stories about dangerous love affairs were interesting to read when you yourself had a faulty love affinity with your paramour, but a woman needed more than Barbara Cartland’s gothic romance novels to understand the intricate conundrum surrounding love relationships. She closed the book and returned it into her hand bag. She had plowed through almost the entire oeuvre of Cartland anyway. She looked out the vehicle’s window at the traffic, the people moving on the sidewalks, the shop windows and the blueness of the sky. She watched without interest at a herd of big, fat cattle being driven by a small skinny Fulani boy.
The breeze that whooshed in as the bus gathered momentum felt good on Ada’s body, it was blowing her hair and she made no effort to stop it. Ada knew she was beautiful and she was proud of it. Many a time, she would spend almost an hour in front of the large mirror in her room and carefully check her face and other parts of her body to make sure there was no spot––or pimple to disfigure her perfect countenance. She knew she had a nice face, long black hair, and there was something massive for a man to grab hold of––she always laughed unashamedly at that thought. She had a heavy bosom for a woman of her size. The mirror was Ada Bright’s favourite work of art, and if she had been a bit androgynous she’d have married herself.
She saw him for the first time ten months ago when she was in a night club; he was staring at her. Other men in the club were also staring at her, most of their focus lied on her bristols, but Samson was looking straight into her eyes. Ada had always been brave to face any man staring at her because they never seemed to get their collective pupils off of her two titanic challenges. This particular man was looking straight into her eyes and she found herself feeling uncomfortable. Nobody had looked at her the way this strange man was. She tried to look back at him.
The man had a fine appearance. He was a fine figure of a man: tall, dark, quite heavy around the neck and shoulders, not a tad fat, and with long legs. He had a strong face, clear eyes; his face wasn’t so much as pretty as a celebrity’s, but he possessed that kind of face that appealed to a woman; his face had been so perfect and his eyes so kind that she briefly mistook him for Saint John the Devine, just that this one was dark-skinned. Except for the mouth––that was small and thin, he appeared close to perfect, and she could imagine how he was going to act in bed.
And yet at first he was not the kind of man a woman would look at twice. He had no moustache; his cheeks and chin were so smooth that they seemed never to have known a razor, and his hair was trimmed short–– a clipper probably went over his skull every week. It was as if he wanted to look like a nonentity. She knew that he was a very handsome man and would look sexier if he added more styles to his physique.
She wondered what he would look like undressed. He would have a flat stomach and hair on his Tips, and you would be able to see his ribs because he was slim. Ada found herself doing what men always say they do with sexy-appearing women; she had mentally undressed him.
The man approached her.
“Hi, I’m Samson Oliver. May I know your name?”
My God! He has a deep sweet masculine voice.
“A-D-A” she spelled. “That’s my name.”
“Will you dance with me?” he asked, his hand stretched towards her.
Exactly what I can’t wait to do, she thought.
“Then let’s dance.”
On the dance floor, Sam wasn’t the only male admiring her undulations because most of the men forgot who they were dancing with when they saw her––her appearance caused several pairs of eyes to sparkle with fornicatory intent. He was also a good dancer, and to have herself in his strong arms, feeling his chest against her own bosoms, her hands on his heavy shoulders, his long legs touching hers, gave her a bang she thought she had gotten beyond feeling.
That was how the love story of Ada and Samson started.
Ada had envisaged their first love making occurring at the most expensive suites of Eko Hotels, with beautiful wall paper and a white linen-covered mattress, probably with a view of the sunlight and a beach. But instead, they made love in the backseat of a cosy Volkswagen Beetle and Ada had surprisingly loved it immensely more than any other she had experienced. She had decided that Samson was the man she would marry. She loved him so much that she wore only one kind of panties, an honour to her man. Every pair she owned bore this embroidered phrase on the silky crotch: SAM’S HAVEN. She had stitched the words on the panties herself, with the emblem of a triangle signifying the crocheted ‘Haven’.
Ada got off the bus and carefully checked the address she had written on a small piece of paper. She crossed the road to the other side and beckoned to a taxi driver––a very dark-skinned Hausa man; after haggling over the fare for some time, they struck a considerable bargain and she entered the taxi beside the driver.
Having driven through different junctions and streets, the taxi driver stopped in front of a small building. Samson’s house was a three bedroom semi-detached house in a street of exactly similar houses. This particular area had its houses in close proximity to each other. The tiny front gardens were all being used to grow vegetables. Samson’s apartment, which had its number boldly inscribed on the door, was of a very neat and trim appearance standing in the quiet street. The door was painted brown and the steps were particularly well-whitened, the brass of the knocker and handle gleamed in the afternoon sun.
Ada paid her fare, leaving a generous tip for the driver, and went to the door. She paused for a moment before knocking, and when she knocked, the door was opened almost immediately.
“Ada!” Samson said in an astonished tone, as if he had just met his next door neighbor in the middle of the Sahara Desert. “What are you doing here?”
“Hi sweet,” she greeted. “I wanted to surprise you.”
“How did you know this place? Who gave you this address?”
“Don’t you worry about that, I have more surprises for you. Let’s go inside.” She looked around her, “If I may say, you live in a grand house.”
“You can’t come in now, I’m sorry. You should have informed me before coming here, you know I don’t like surprises. You’ll have to go now; I’ll see you next week.”
Ada was perplexed. She saw it instantly; the change, it worried her. This man she was seeing was not the Samson she knew. “What is happening?”
“I can’t tell you now, I promise to tell you when we see next week, okay? I’m sorry.”
That moment, a little girl of about two years old came to the door from within the house and started tugging at Samson’s hand.
“Hapa––pood!” she slurred.
Ada stepped back. What’s going on here? She looked at the baby––she was a cute fairly complexioned girl, and she possessed that familiar innocence of a little angel. She had a gap where two milk teeth had fallen out from below and new ones were yet to be replaced. Ada looked up questioningly at Samson.
Samson looked away, he could not answer. She realized with awe and disappointment that his solid refusal to talk was as good as a confession. With trembling lips, Ada said softly, “She’s your daughter.”
“It’s not what you think, Ada.”
“Then what is it? Please tell me this girl’s not your child.”
The little girl could not understand why the adults were arguing, she was looking at the two, wondering when the strange woman would leave her daddy alone so that he could come and feed her.
“Answer me, please.” Ada’s voice was shaky now.
“Ada, you know I’ll never do anything to hurt you. I’ll explain everything to you.”
He came forward to hold her but she stepped away from him.
“What do you have to explain anyway?” she asked. “She called you ‘papa’, didn’t she? So, you’re a married man, Sam.” She held her hair firmly with both hands.
She was finding it really hard to believe what she was witnessing. The man she had loved with all her heart, the man she had cherished, adored, worshipped––was a family man. The feeling of disappointment overwhelmed her instantly, she could feel some emotional parts of her evaporating, and another part of her inner body was rendered numb. Disappointment!
Tears began streaming down her cheeks slowly, and then she looked into Samson’s face with anger and said:
“I despise you!” she said with so much vigour that the tendons of her neck stood out.
It’s hard to love, she thought as she walked away, when you know how much love could be taken for granted. Sam was a cheat; he’d cheated on her, he’d done to her what no sane human being should ever do to another. Taking the love another had for you and mocking it, trading the innermost secrets of the manipulated for lies from the manipulator.
She could remember, with sadness, the moments they had both shared––the sweet memories, the exhilarating experience, the love, the care, the laughter, the fun, and so much more. She was still confused, not believing that Sam could so much as betray her trust. But he did.
That was how the love story of Ada and Samson ended.
They never saw each other again.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 9:44pm On Oct 23, 2012|
Richard Philip was angry––angry with life, angry with self, angry with everything and everyone. He was a graduate without a job. He could not imagine himself lacking in job having graduated from the higher institution about a year ago. The ink was barely dry on the certificates of some people when they had started working. Even those with the worst qualifications and grades could be seen knotting ties around their necks and heading for offices.
Although Richard was not the very studious type in school, he still managed to end up with a good result because he had a higher intelligence quotient and assimilation gift than many of his classmates. He had personally seen university life as a four-year vacation from the realities of life. His judgement on the discouraging value of higher education reflected this belief. He had also seen it as a long part of some other people’s life which was studded with parties, dates, escapades, affairs, unexplained absences, threats of expulsion, and an endless parade of yearning for the opposite sex that seemed to be the order of the days. He was generous in addition; he loaned out his lecture notes to truant classmates, coached some of them on the courses they’d missed, covered up the absence of many of his roommates, until he finally got through these four years to acquire a Bachelor’s degree. He didn’t show up for graduation, he had taken off to look for jobs even before finishing school. But his certificate was mailed to him.
He was a twenty-seven year old man of average height with close-cropped black hair, dressed in a blue and white striped long-sleeved shirt, a pair of black trousers and shoes. He was quite beautifully structured, and he possessed the appearance of a man most ladies would fantasize about. As a baby Richard had been so pretty that people thought he was a girl. He had no friend or relative except his mother who was the only woman he had grown to love and respect. When he was in his first year in the University of Nigeria, he had been sexually abused by a gang of girls. It wasn’t in the least a satisfying romantic image; five ladies had taken turns on him as they rode him aggressively, and when they were done he had splattered on the hard floor as if he had been hurled in front of a locomotive in motion. He had always wanted to keep himself till that honeymoon night, but he unfortunately lost that pride to a cluster of university hookers. He had narrowly escaped being infected with HIV; it was that moment when the last lady was about to climb over him that someone had flashed his torch from far off. The ladies had scrambled off laughing to themselves, and mocking that sixth lady who had not been successful with her attempt to do the hot guy. That last lady had just gotten infected with the human immunodeficiency virus two days previously. Since that moment Richard had always been afraid of being alone in the midst of ladies, he didn’t know how lucky he was beforehand. Many seemed to show much interest in him, but he had refused to allow the handshake reached anywhere close to the elbow. Now, what he was really interested in was to get himself a good job, which he never got.
Noise was everywhere, and Richard hated noise. The decibel rate of that room was enough to make a corpse complain. The Cyber–Café was full of people seriously engaged in internet scams. Richard was there particularly to check any available job on the internet––he’d gone to almost all imaginable companies in the city of Lagos but he always ended up empty handed and frustrated.
Sitting next to him in the sordid cyber-café with a computer was a gum-chewing boy of about fifteen years old who was not interested in anything being displayed on the monitor screen but Indecency.
On another computer at his other side was a big, maybe six feet three or four giant with long curly hair and a beard. He wore a bandana around his big head. And a gold earring was hanging on his left ear-lobe. He looked like a pirate. A gold chain around his neck so thick you could look up a bicycle with it. Richard wasn’t exactly a small man but sitting next to this large thug made him feel like a midget. Another man farther beside that Great Wall of China beside him was a short dark young man with tinted white hair which was frizzled out from his head and formed a halo over him, as if he had just stuck a finger in an electric socket, he was looking much like a cartoon character than a human being. He needed a shave, and some little trim of his grotesque goatee. His clothes were rumpled and wrinkled; they hung loose on him like shapeless rags. It was the man’s goatee that annoyed Richard most about him. He believed men should either be clean shaven; like himself, moustached or wear full beards. Another noisy group of five men were standing at one corner, debating loudly on professional football matches.
One boy jumped up suddenly and bellowed at the top of his voice, his raucous laughter catching the attention of everybody around, “Maga don pay!” He began dancing like someone who had just received Chloroquine injections in both his bottom cheeks.
I better get out of this sanitarium before I become insane myself, Richard decided. He logged off the system and got out of the café just when the boy’s fellow scammers were congratulating him on his luck.
The streets of Lagos had changed for the better with the help of the God-sent Governor, Baba Fash. The roads had been re-paved and circular holes had been cut out of the sidewalks to allow the planting of young flowering trees. Old and condemned buildings had been demolished and new ones built. Traffic congestions were controlled, there was no one-way driving, no illegal parking of motor vehicles, and reckless drivers had been committed to hospital psychiatric wards to get their brains observed. Dress like a hooligan and find yourself behind bars. The concrete pole which had fallen across the busy road a week before had been re-erected; the broken concrete had caused a fatal accident on the motorway, claiming the lives of five travellers and making movement of vehicles a complete standstill that fateful afternoon.
There was even more noise outside. In front of a shop was a crazy Nigerian Hip-Hop music thundering from two speakers as large as coffins. Men and women were bargaining, buying, selling, arguing, laughing, praising, criticizing, conferring––over goods like eggs, chickens, roosters, soaps, fish, peppers, butters and cassava flours. Yet, some market women were ceaselessly calling on passers-by to buy goods in which nobody was interested; one sweating woman clutched a screaming infant, she tried to soothe the baby by putting her bosom to its mouth, but the baby itself appeared tired of salty mammary gland, it turned its face away from its mother’s bosom and continued shrieking. The nursing mother in question ignored the crier and continued to unravel with another woman beside her the puzzle surrounding how today’s tomatoes had lost their tomatoey tastes. After walking a few kilometres out of Market Lane into the Chevron Roundabout, Richard took the second exit into Nollywood Road; there were many vacant shops with ‘For Rent’ signs on their walls and dusty windows. People walked up and down the busy streets like ants through sugar. Just at the intersection of the Marvel Supermarket was a purse lying on the ground. Richard stopped when he saw it, the purse was looking fat––nobody would deny that it contained something valuable. Without thinking twice, Richard quickly picked up the purse and continued walking as if nothing had happened. He walked for a couple of minutes before he stopped to search its content. The purse contained a mobile phone, many rolls of money and different cosmetics ranging from a simple nail file to a compact plate of mascara. The amount of money in the purse, Richard found out after counting, was quite tempting. He returned everything into the purse as he had found it; he knew the owner of the phone would call. He had already walked a few kilometers from where he found the purse when the phone rang. He brought it out and pressed the green button.
“Hello?” he said.
“Oh, Thanks be to God.”
It was a cool, gentle, mellifluous feminine voice.
“Who is this?”
“It’s the owner of the phone that you are illegally in possession of.”
Richard was shocked, “I’m not illegally possessing anything, I found it on my path.”
“I don’t care how you got it, okay? I just want it back. I searched inside my bag just now and couldn’t find it, you don’t know how devastated I have been. So, can I just have it back?”
Richard refused to be easily convinced, “How do I know you are really the owner?”
“See, Mr. whatever…it’s not the phone that I need, it’s the SIM card inside. I just need it back, okay? You can keep the phone to yourself, I don’t care.”
The woman had already decided that he was a thief; she didn’t even know him yet. He was in an annoying mood today, but this strange woman had cut him in the raw.
“Anyway, come to The Delicacies restaurant along Queen Aminat way. You’ll find a deserted shed opposite the restaurant, go to the shed and pick up your SIM card.” He terminated the call.
“Hello, hello––” she checked the phone and realized that the man she had called had terminated the connection. She was grateful. At least, the man was kind enough to tell her where to pick her mobile card. She could not imagine how she was going to feel if she lost that SIM card. You rarely lose your phone or money in Lagos and get it back. There was a time, maybe prior to the year the country gained her independence, when they said you could leave your belongings almost anywhere and find them untouched when you returned. These days, even the clocks in churches are being purloined. She paid for the call she had made at a local call centre and jumped into her car; she switched on the ignition and drove to the described location.
Richard stood sentinel at the front of The Delicacies restaurant, keeping a careful watch over the purse he had dropped on a table standing in front of the shed, making sure that no wrong hand got hold of it. Over two decades earlier, the piece of land occupied by the restaurant was formerly holding a large private hospital, and beside the shed opposite was an old bank building which had been neglected. Its strong room was now being used in the nights by weed smokers and sellers. He had decided, after his annoyance had ceased, not to take anything from the purse. He kept everything in the purse as he had found. Richard was no saint, if he had wanted to take somebody else’s property, it wouldn’t have been this way, it was too easy, too clean; there was no likely danger in it. And to Richard, the danger in a crime was what made the crime interesting. When Richard was in the university and in need of some money for handouts, he’d stolen the Professor’s Nokia phone and he had indirectly sold it back to him in another casing and colour. He had once tried smoking cigarettes and Indian hemp just to know how they tasted. He had gambled and conned just to feel what gamblers and con-artists felt. He had even successfully picked the pockets of a pickpocket at the bus-stop.
He leaned against a tree and put his hands in his pocket to await the arrogant woman.
Then just down the road was a glistening black jeep approaching.
She stepped on the brake of her vehicle when she saw the sign board of the restaurant; she switched off the ignition and got out of the car. She was about to cross the road to the other side when she noticed a young man with a hard face staring at her suspiciously. She ignored him and crossed the road. To her utter astonishment, she saw her purse as she got there, and all her things were intact, not even a kobo was taken out of the money. The lady joyfully made her way back to her car and as she was about to climb into the vehicle, the young man presently staring at her came towards her.
“Is that purse you’re clutching your property?” asked Richard.
“Yes, I came here to retrieve it.”
The voice is unmistakable. It’s that same gentle voice, the voice was very soft and sonorous, it might have been a little girl’s voice but not quite.
“Then you’re the arrogant woman who spoke with me on the phone.”
“Are you the man who found it?”
He felt he should feed her a piece of his mind, “Who are you to speak to me in such a manner? You think I give a rooster waste about your things?” his voice was cool but it carried a tone of irritation.
The lady looked at him. The man is angry, really pissed off.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” she said solemnly.
Richard studied her, she was a beautiful woman in any setting; tall and slim with fine bones which defined a regal face that matched her bearing, and her face was soft and unlined. Her nose, ears and mouth had been created with a stunning sense of proportion. She had high-set bosoms and very beautiful supple legs; he had seen her movement when she crossed the road, an unsteady grace in every step, an unconscious and sinuous rolling of the hips that could take many men’s breath away, she had carried herself with a confidence found only in women well able to defend themselves. And she was dressed in a small collarless shirt and a black skirt which outlined the sexy shapes of her lower body. This skirt was worn just above the knees in a season when most of the girls wore them just below the edges of their panties. A gold chain with teardrop pendant laid smugly in her cleavage and her dangling earrings were a primitive creation of stones and beads.
“Apology accepted, but always devote more care to your things; you may not be so lucky next time.” Richard said, after getting his eyes off her lithe body.
“Handsome and kind young men like you are as rare as hens’ teeth these days.”
Richard was not amused. “Thank you for the compliment. I have to be going now.” He turned to go.
Richard stopped and turned. “Can I help you?” he asked
“You look so mean. Don’t you smile?”
“Let me risk repeating myself––Can I help you?”
“Um–actually, my name’s Abby Martins. Can I know yours?”
Richard frowned, “Abby? What does that mean?”
She smiled, evidently at her success in confusing the stranger, “Abigail.” Her smile alone could melt the average man’s ear-wax, but Richard’s ear-wax was not melting.
“Nice meeting you, Abigail.”
“You haven’t told me your own name.”
“I am Richard Philip.”
“Richie,” she smiled, “What a rich name you’ve got.”
“Must you shorten every name you come across?”
She laughed.” You don’t mind being called Richie, do you?”
Richard shrugged, “Anyway, I should be on my way.”
“Oh–it’s been nice knowing you, handsome. See you.” she waved and mounted her iron steed––a black Lexus. Richard watched as she drove away.
He continued thinking about her as he turned to go home, there was no doubt that she was a very beautiful girl and probably a good company. She also possessed the effervescent personality of one of those ladies often seen presenting TV game shows. She might likewise be one of those spoilt rich politicians’ daughters who didn’t know what suffering really meant. Yet, Richard longed to meet the nubile young woman again. He only knew her name; he did not have her address––not even her phone number. Seeing her again was akin to one out of every fifty million chance of winning the Lagos State Lotto jackpot.
Not knowing what fate would deal him, Richard shrugged, giving up the hope of ever seeing Abigail again. What neither the two knew not was the fact that where both of them had met now, another man and a woman had met there twenty-three years earlier, and that meeting had shaped the lives of these two younger people into what they could never had imagined. It was far back in the eleventh month of 1986.
He didn’t even know his own name any longer. All he could remember was his former profession––he was a medical doctor, he therefore named himself ‘Doctor’––because he had become slightly insane after what had happened to him. He was coming home that night when he found his house on fire; everything had been burnt to almost ashes. Then he’d thereafter attempted a suicide which was unsuccessful. He had no home of his own any longer, he lived here and there, and people avoided him on the streets. Every night since 1981 when his house was destroyed by an inferno, he would go to the land his house once stood and he would cry until the energy to cry anymore would desert him. For five years the Doctor cried unashamedly everyday until tears would no longer secrete from the crevices of his eyes. He stopped going to the land when another building was erected on it and another family had occupied it. The land became another person’s because he’d sold it. He never looked as if he owned a cowry; his clothes were always stained and shabby and invariably too tight for him. His shirt was always grubby. He ate anything he saw, feeding himself on the money he had in the bank. His reasoning faculty had been disengaged from that catastrophe that befell him. What little capacity that he had left for rational thoughts had been consumed by the raging inferno of that fateful night.
He sun was shinning brightly from the horizon, but it was emitting no high temperature. It was about past four in the afternoon and the sun was already losing its intense energy and everybody was grateful for that. Every week, Doctor would go to the community bank to withdraw some money for himself anytime he’d exhausted the cash with him. He’d even been told at the bank that his name was Ebenezer, but he only always remembered the name for five minutes before forgetting it again.
He came out of the bank that afternoon pocketing the money he’d just withdrawn. What he was thinking about at the moment was to go to the cheapest restaurant he could find and eat something. After accomplishing that, he would then think about where he could spend the night. There were always the churches and mosques to sleep in. So, spending the night posed no real threat to him. He looked up at the other side of the road and saw the woman who changed his life. The woman was carrying a baby on her back. There was a general hospital on the other side of that road, directly facing the bank; the woman was coming out of the medical centre. He stood rooted on his spot and continued looking at the young beautiful woman. For that whole moment, his psychological systems began functioning as a normal man’s should, it seemed as if his sadness had evaporated from seeing this strange woman because, for the first time in five years, what Ebenezer forgot was not his own name but his problems. As a matter of fact, he remembered his own name. It wasn’t just her look that triggered his consciousness; there was something more about her––something he couldn’t define or understand, but he wanted to know her––he had to.
Having the feeling that there was someone staring at her, the woman looked in his direction and their eyes met. As they exchanged looks, Ebenezer knew he had not only fallen in love with her. But by the way her eyes suddenly lit up; he felt she had fallen in love with him.
On very rare occasions, when a man and a woman see each other, it happens that they immediately know that they have seen their true partners. It’s now left for one of them to make the first move, usually the man of course. This strange chemistry happened to Ebenezer and the woman. The woman was beautiful, Ebenezer noticed, but looking at her alone one would know that she had been lonely––life had not been fair to her, at least they both had something in common. The woman walked to the bus-stop. Ebenezer knew that he would lose the lady and probably never see her again if he wasted more time just staring at her. He hastily crossed the busy road, a bus nearly flattened him, but he made the crossing unscathed. It raised no hair on him, his mission was to reach the young woman, he felt as though his whole life had changed in only a few minutes. He wasn’t sure how, but he knew that this woman––this extraordinary creature––had come to his life for a reason. Ebenezer stood beside the woman for some minutes, unable to say a word.
Then he finally managed to greet:
The woman looked at him for a moment, the moment seemed like eternity to Ebenezer. Then she replied, “Hi!”
More courage on his part, “My name is Ebenezer, can I know your name?”
They got to know each other––better.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 9:52pm On Oct 23, 2012|
Most people considered Monday the first day of the week. It was an early Monday morning; and as usual, people were moving up and down the streets of Lagos to their different offices and workshops. The shops were beginning to open; beggars were already sitting by the roadsides with their bowls, set for the day’s job of begging. Even chickens were going for their morning constitutional walks in search of edible pebbles and the early worms.
The weather was bright, and the soothing morning sun was out giving a beautiful yellow ray to the world, far above was a faint distant insect drone of an aircraft engine beyond the towering cumulus clouds.
Out of the massive population of the inhabitants of Lagos were a vast number of people who had no job to do. It had been reported that some of the world’s greatest con-men originated from here––one of Africa’s most famous cities, they stripped a certain South Asian country of several hundreds of millions of dollars just by convincing her government with a false image of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The act shook the economy of that country, nobody really knew how true the news was. The pecuniary crimes in the state had caused an opprobrious sobriquet of scorn by some other countries. An idle brain they say.
Richard stayed at home; he had refused to go out again in search of job. The best his credentials could do for him was to adorn his dusty little reading table. Fate had not been fair with him; fate had unfortunately merged him with the vast army of the unemployed.
“What are you going to do now?” Mrs. Rosemary Philip, Richard’s mother, asked.
“I don’t know, mother. I really don’t know.”
“But sitting at home doing nothing is not the best, is it?”
“I have nowhere else to go, I’ve trekked almost all the streets of this state in vain.”
“You have to continue trying; God will surely answer you one of these days.”
Richard chuckled in annoyance, “Where was your God when I was out there under the rain and sun in search of job?” he shook his head, “I doubt if God really exist.”
“Richard!” Richard had been born and raised a Catholic, although he had long since ceased attending church his mother had never expected any blasphemous word to emerge from her son’s mouth.
“You heard me right, mama.”
“The wrath of God is the last thing for which you will ever wish. Be careful of what you say about your creator, Richard.”
“Am I not already seeing his wrath?”
“A little patience is all you need.”
“I’m sorry, mama. I don’t think your son can wait any longer.” He paused, “I get increasingly desperate every morning I find myself an unemployed. I can’t continue like this anymore. We’re even finding it hard to pay for the rent. I must do something.”
His mother was about to argue with him when she caught herself, she immediately read meaning to what her son had said and she cast suspicious eyes on him; she took a moment before asking, “Something like what, Richard?”
Richard shrugged his shoulders, “Anything. Maybe a tiny bit of crime will do.”
“My God! You will never be a criminal, you’re not a criminal, and never will you be.”
Says the woman who doesn’t know what I did to survive in the university.
Richard shook his head, “You can’t stop me, mama. Don’t even try to––my mind has been made.”
Richard’s mother could not believe her ears––her only child was turning to crime! “Please Richard, I’m begging you––don’t try it. You don’t want to put yourself in trouble, do you? You might get yourself killed.”
Richard smiled, “No, I won’t, mama. I’ll take every necessary precaution.”
Two salty tears cascaded down Mrs. Philip’s cheeks as she studied her son. The determination she saw in his eyes scared her. “Why don’t you have a little patience and see what fate has to offer you? Do you want to spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulders?”
He did not reply.
She looked at her son and shook her head in sadness, “You give me no choice but to tell you what I’ve been determined not to let you know.”
Richard turned to look at his mother’s face, “What are you talking about, mama?”
“Heredity has been too strong on you, Richard. You need to hear what I have to tell you today, maybe this will change your mind. You’re already twenty-seven years old and you’re old enough to make your own decisions.”
“I’m doing this for us, mama. I know what you went through before you could send me to school after father died. I should pay back for that suffering.”
“That is really why I want to tell you this story. It’s mostly about your father.”
“What is it with my father?”
Another rivulet of tears came down her cheeks and met at the chin, forming bigger drops of liquid.
“He’s your step-father.”
For a moment, the sentence did not mean anything to Richard. Then it dawned on him––the man he had grown to know as his own father was not.
“What!” he screamed.
“Yes, Raymond Philip was not your biological father. I married him when you were three.”
He looked in his mother’s eyes to find any trace of humour on it, that slight smirk in the corner of her eyes to reveal the joke. But her eyes were wet, serious and sad, “This can’t be true,” he said, “I don’t believe you.”
“It’s the truth.” She replied solemnly.
He stood up abruptly, sweat glistening his forehead, he shook his head so vigorously that it was quite painful to watch. “No, this can’t be possible.”
This is just a bad dream, I’ll wake up soon and this madness will be over.
“Sit down, Richard.”
He sat down slowly, “Who’s my father?” he demanded.
His mother looked at him for half a minute before replying, “I don’t know.”
“Oh God!” he sighed. It’s starting to sound true. I’m an illegitimate child. “Oh my God! I was adopted.”
“No, you’re not. I’m your mother, I gave birth to you.”
Richard looked at his mother as if she had just grown horns on her head.
“Did you just hear yourself, mother?”
His mother ignored his comment and continued, “As I told you, I married Raymond Philip when you were a child of about three years but I could not bear him any child. I don’t know why, we visited many medical centres but all the doctors told us we were medically okay. It was a pity. He could not leave me because of the strong love he had for me and you. I even encouraged him to marry another wife but he blatantly refused, he said the only family he ever needed were both of us. He was an extraordinary kind of human being, he continued being optimistic about the child-bearing issue until he died of a mysterious cause. I woke up that morning and found him dead stiff beside me. The doctor said his heart stopped beating…the rarest of all causes. How can one’s heart just decide not to beat anymore?
“The story I’m about to tell you may seem impossible to believe but it’s the truth.” She stood up from the chair she sat in, walked around the room slowly and stood by the window with her back turned to her son.
It was in 1981 when it happened. I was eighteen years old at the time and I was still living with my parents. I was their only surviving child; I had two siblings, an elder sister and a younger brother but I saw it with my own eyes when the canoe they were rowing capsized, I could not even save them. On the morning of May Seventeen, we were attacked by robbers. My parents and I were living in a house with only three rooms; a sitting room and two bedrooms, one of which was mine and the other, my parents’. We were asleep when a loud bang on our door interrupted our slumber. I was instantly awake and afraid in my room, I put on my night gown and went into the sitting room, my parents came out of their bedroom too; they were also looking very scared. I didn’t need to be told to know that we were about welcoming bandits in our home. The door was banged violently again and one of the men ordered us to open the door or they would break it down and kill us. The door was kicked loudly many times, the door was not a strong one; it was the kind of door primarily meant to keep children and uninvited house guests out of the house. It was useless against intruders like these robbers. We all knew that if we didn’t open the door they would break it down in no time.
My father summed up the little courage left in him and went to open the door; he was struck with the handle of a pistol by one of the men immediately the door was opened. My father collapse immediately, the hit from the gun almost cracked his skull. Five masked men came into our sitting room; the only visible parts of their faces were eyes and mouths. They were real armed robbers dressed to kill. Four of the men were wearing army green trousers and black tight long-sleeved shirts which gummed to their bodies like skins. The fifth man, who was apparently their leader, wore a pair of black trousers and a black armless shirt. On his left arm, just below the shoulder, was the tattoo of a cross. Two men were holding a pistol each and the other two were wielding bigger guns. Their leader was holding no weapon; he was even harshly scolding the man who rendered my father unconscious.
“Good morning to you.” He greeted us politely. “Sorry to wake you up so erly, I’ll quick so that you may return to your sleep, I’m only here for that money.”
“W-What m-money, sir?” my mother asked in a shaky voice. She was shivering violently like an epileptic patient.
“The money that sleeping man brought home yesterday from the bank.” He pointed to my unconscious father. He was so polite that I almost found it hard to believe that he was there to do us harm. “I’m so sorry one of my men gave him a little nap.”
“He didn’t collect any money from the bank, he only––”
One of the men cocked his pistol and pressed the muzzled on my mother’s temple. “We’re not here to make jokes, woman.” his voice sounded like something you could scour rusty iron on.
My mother’s fear intensifed.
The leader of the gang smiled warmly at my mother and asked solemnly, “Where is the money?”
“It’s in-in the c-ceiling.”
“Which part of the ceiling?” he did not even look up to confirm that we really had a ceiling.
My mother pointed to a piece of small square asbestos at the corner of the sitting room. One of the men took a stool and stood on it. He drew the asbestos aside and dipped his hand in the dark roof beyond, bringing out a black polythene bag. He jumped down from the stool and flourished new notes of Nigerian currencies, which filled the bag to the brim. Even in the midst of our attack, I wondered how my parents were in possession of such a huge sum of money. The man with the tattoo grabbed a pistol from one of his men and aimed it at me.
“What are you doing?” asked my mother fearfully, “you have t-the money, why don’t you j-just leave us––”
“Shut up, woman or I’ll be forced to splatter your brain all over the floor.” The man pointing the gun over her head admonished, his voice rougher.
The man with the tattoo ordered me to go into my bedroom by jerking the pistol in his hand in the direction of my room. I quickly did as he said. Then he followed me. He was still pointing the gun at me when he followed me inside my room, then he commanded me to UnCloth myself. I was shocked and afraid as the realization of what he wanted to do occur to me, I stood there shaking. He repeated what he told me in a louder voice, I was afraid he would shoot me for disobeying him, so I undressed right in front of him. I felt shame course through the whole of my body as I stood Unclad in front of him.
He stood in front of me looking at my body. His hand holding the gun, I noticed, was shaking so violently that I thought the gun would fall off him.
He kept the gun behind him between his belts, closed the door and turned the key before he removed his mask. Knowing that he was about To Molest me, I studied his face carefully–he was a very good-looking man of about twenty-four I guess. He knew I was staring at him carefully, trying to sink his image in my mind, but I think he cared less. The robber came straight at me and started kissing me passionately. I didn’t know what real kissing meant until that moment, I felt something very strange happen to my metabolism. I did not even know that I had started kissing him back, and when I did know, it was too late for me to stop myself. I felt like I was in the Garden of Eden where nothing mattered, I didn’t know a soul doomed to rot in hell could pivot the emotional system of an innocent girl to the pinnacle of her intimate potential. The robber gently lifted me off my feet, put me on my bed and made love to me. When he finished, he stood up sweating and looked in my eyes.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked.
I could not answer him. I could not even look in his face. I only kept crying like a baby. He came back to me on the bed and put his hand on my shoulder; I shook his hand off me and came away from him like avoiding the plagues of Egypt.
“Answer my question. Why did you not tell me?” he demanded angrily, “Why did you not tell me that you’re a virgin.” This time, he roared in anger. But surprisingly, I was not afraid of him any longer. In fact, I was annoyed at him. I got closer to him on the bed and slapped him until my hand ached. He did not make any attempt to stop me. I stopped myself when I found tears coming down his eyes. I was shocked; I could not believe that the leader of a gang of armed robbers would cry because an eighteen-year-old girl had slapped him.
“You should have told me–– you should.” Tears continued flowing down his eyes. I was speechless because I was realizing that behind this criminal mastermind was a soft-minded man. “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
I was confused. What has really happened? Why did he apologize? Was it really because he Molested a virgin? Was he feeling remorseful for what he had done? Or was he not, maybe he did that so that I would feel sorry for him and not tell the police what had happened––because I had seen his face? I did not know what to believe any longer. I was crying, he was weeping and begging me to forgive him. When he saw that I would not say a word to him, he got on his feet, put on his mask and went to the door. Before opening it he turned back to look at me and said in a very solemn voice, “I love you”. It was so solemn that I thought for a moment that I had only imagined him say those words. Then he walked out of my room.
I rose up from my bed to meet him, to hold him, to tell him how I also felt about him––but it was too late, they had already left. The truth is, I fell in love with him too. I know you’ll be surprised that I fell in love with the monster that came to do us harm. That is love, which is crazy and wicked. Love doesn’t know what’s wrong; neither does it know the right thing. Love sometimes brings sorrow. I truly fell in love with him, it’s what you call love at first sight these days which was very potent in those days. I sat in my room thinking about him. He was really a gentle guy, not a psychopath as most people would view him. My mother came in and found me sitting on the bed with tears on my face; she didn’t need to be told what had happened. She joined me in crying, and we leaned on each other’s shoulder; one trying to comfort the other not to cry. Then we suddenly heard a fusillade of gunshots outside; the screams of agony were even more deafening than the gunshot sounds. We ran into the sitting room. My father was still lying unconscious. Fear gripped our hearts. What is happening? I thought. The robbers had surely turned against one another because of the loot. Maybe they are just shooting the night-watch men on the street. I was afraid the former would be the problem. I was not ready to lose the person I love––even if he was a criminal. Then the gunshots ceased suddenly. My mother and I rushed out to see what had happened––
Mrs. Philip paused, she appeared tired of speaking. And Richard was finding everything difficult to believe. S[i]he kept such a huge secret for twenty-seven years? My God![/i]
“When you went out that night to see what had happened,” said Richard, picking his words carefully, “What did you see?”
“Dead people, what do you expect? We saw policemen dumping the dead bodies of the robbers in their vehicle. How the police came around baffled me, they might have been passing by and told that there was a robbery going on. Two of the policemen were killed but all the robbers kissed the dust. You see, robbers have always been the kind of species lacking in sense and rational decisions. They always seem to be driven by some aching greed that would make them feed until they burst, like ticks. I have never heard of one who had ceased his evil job because he had decided he had enough money. They just get voracious until they die in some violent reward of their silly overconfidence.
“After the bodies have been dumped in the vehicle, the policemen drove away. That was their end––they were probably given mass burial or cremated to have a taste of what they would have to endure in hell. I don’t even know the name of the tattooed one; I don’t have a picture of him––only in my mind. It was after a month and a half that I realized I was pregnant. I felt like dying when the doctor really confirmed it was true. Imagine the shame I went through. I wanted to get rid of the pregnancy but my parents advised me against it––they were afraid I would lose my life or my womb would be damaged. I was their only child and they didn’t want anything bad to befall me. That pregnancy I was forced to keep was you.”
The last sentence felt like a stab to Richard, he stood up abruptly and his body began trembling, sweats secreting from the skin of his forehead. He felt as if he was in a nightmare.
“You mean––you mean my father is––” he could not complete the sentence.
“Yes, your father was an armed robber and he died a criminal’s death. He was killed like––”
“Oh, please stop!” Richard interrupted sharply, “Just stop, this can never be true.”
“I know you’ll find it hard to believe but it’s the truth, I have no cause to lie to you or make you sad. But I just have to let you know the truth about your father before you become like him. I realized it was your father back again when you told me you’ll become a criminal. Your father robbed to make money until he was brutally killed in an avalanche of gunshots. How I wish the police had allowed me see his corpse for the last time.”
“I’ve heard enough of this.” He stood up, walked out of the room and banged the door behind him. He walked far away from the house because he needed time to let the revelation he had just got to sink in. Contrary to his reluctance to believe the story were some nagging issues that suddenly became glaring. It did not help situation; it only made it worse for him. Some of what his mother had told him about his dead father’s personalities corroborated with his. He was also a soft-minded man himself, and he knew he also had the gift of getting away with crimes. He stopped walking suddenly and returned to the house, his mind had been made up––Something must be done about his wretchedness, and he knew what to do about it. No matter what anybody may say, his mind was made up.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 10:01pm On Oct 23, 2012|
The street was an oven! It was a very sunny day; the light of the sun was sharply focused, outlined in heat. The sun kept its angry eye on the city. Beating everything that was visible to it and giving uncomfortable feelings to plants, animals and men.
Richard was profusely sweating under the scorching sun, but he didn’t mind; he even cared less about his peregrination. Getting fried in the heat was preferable to dying of boredom at home. The thought could just not leave him alone. The revelation that his father was an armed robber and was killed by the police was too heavy on his mind. Sometimes, he would painfully bang himself on the head several times to get rid of the horrible thoughts but they would not go. They kept haunting him, taunting and torturing him. The frustration he was feeling in him was gradually evolving into anger, the anger may lead to hatred, the hatred may generate violence, and violence sometimes was soothing.
Two uniformed policemen walked past him, they were discussing; probably about how they would share the bribe they had extorted from illiterate motorists. One police man was a tall, slim man with spotty skin and a face that was almost all noses. He was once a light-skinned guy, Richard noticed, but staying too much in the sun had changed the colour of his face to what Richard could not describe. The other officer was so slim that his waist was almost nowhere to be found on him. His fading black uniform hung on him like rag on a scarecrow; he was an ebony black man with hairless head. The two policemen were armed with nothing but a baton each which they swung mindlessly as they walked away.
Richard suddenly felt a flash of hostility and aggression erupted in him as he watched the two officers, he felt like strangling them. Since hearing the news about his father, Richard had personally disliked policemen––they had killed his father. Though his father was a criminal, he still believed that his father didn’t deserve to be killed. According to the story he had heard, his father didn’t have the nerve to put an end to another person’s life, so why must he be killed? He looked with hatred at the two skeleton-like policemen. He knew that if he had the opportunity to fight them he would probably beat the crap out of them. Policemen of nowadays were not as brave as those of the early 80s. Richard ignored them, they didn’t offend him and they were definitely not the ones who killed his pappy. He knew in the depth of his mind that he was still going to get involved with the police, perhaps he would have the chance to beat one to a pulp; he would really enjoy breaking the nose of one officer. A stretch limousine was driven past him; he was in the neighbourhood of the rich so seeing flashy vehicles should not have surprised him. But that particular limousine seemed too long to Richard, he thought it should have been articulated with a separate driver to operate the wheels of the rear section, some young boys on bicycles stopped and whistled at the sight of the long vehicle. Something caught Richard’s attention and he stopped walking; at the front of a big iron gate was a small board which read:
A Private Drivers Needed
HND or Bsc. qualified in any field.
Richard snorted with amusement, even before getting employed as a driver here one needed to be a graduate. He shook his head and continued walking. He stopped again, a part of his mind telling him to give it a shot, there’s no harm in trying, he had the required qualification and all he needed to do was to tell the employer his salary worth. Maybe by doing that, the employer with the outrageous sense of humour would wipe off the requirement part of the notice board. The building within the gate was what one could call a magnificent architectural masterpiece; it was a large white house at the middle of the Avenue, fenced off by a huge grey concrete wall. Richard turned back and went to the gate. He was still contemplating about how painful his hand would feel from knocking on the gate when he saw the bell, thank goodness. He pressed on the bell button and waited for someone to open the gate, he could hear the melodious tone of the bell singing within but nobody came to open the gate. He pressed again and waited but nobody came around. He was just about to hit the bell the third time when the gate was slowly opened with a loud sound and a sprightly man who looked about 382 years old stepped out holding a shotgun in his left hand. Richard stepped back.
“Who are you and what do you want?” the old man asked in a rough voice. He looked tough; just like a soldier, and wrinkles spread all over his face like a map of Nigeria, Richard guessed the man’s age to be about sixty-five years. But the way the older man carried himself belied his weight and the wrinkles on his face. He was shabbily dressed in dansiki, and he was not totally bald, not quite, but his pate glistened in the afternoon sun. And there was a definite tonsure that appeared on his occiput. Added to his physical qualities, he looked like a mastodon even as old as he was, and what particularly intimidated Richard about the man in front of him was the muscles he possessed––even his muscles had muscles. The image of the older man was enough to calm whatever anger that had been building up inside of Richard, at least for that moment.
“My name is Richard Philip.”
“What do you want?”
“Can I see the boss here?”
The old man looked at him from his feet to his head.
“Why do you want to see him?”
“The notice board there,” Richard pointed, “It says in there that a driver is needed here. I am here to apply.”
“Come in.” The gatekeeper opened the gate wider and stepped aside for Richard to enter. He locked the gate and turned to Richard, aiming the gun at the guest’s head.
“Raise up your hands and turn around,” The gatekeeper commanded sternly.
“What have I done wrong?” Richard asked with a horrified look.
“Do as I say, young man, or you’ll soon need another skull.”
Richard quickly turned and raised up his hands, wondering if he had just stepped in a no-go territory popularly referred to as the Danger Zone, or was he in the land of Oz? The old man carefully frisked him, satisfied that Richard was without weapon, he asked him to put down his hands.
“What did you do that for?” Richard asked.
“It’s my job to do what I did. The protection of everybody in this house is my responsibility, and I’m not ready to be irresponsible.”
“So, you think I’m a bearer of bad intentions?”
“Your face looks like a criminal’s. Now, do me a favour; keep that mouth shut for a while and follow me.”
Richard marveled at the relaxed and salubrious ambience of the palatial surroundings as he followed the older man. His shoes echoed over the mosaics of the white-tiled floor. A part of the compound was full of a panorama of serried huge trees, some of which could be assumed to be many years old. These trees were quite tall and extremely leafy, making that yard look peaceful and sheltering. The sunlight shinning through the branches made filigree patterns on the tiles. The house was beautiful, Richard noticed, it was a house that would be wonderful to own. His longing for a house, a fine and beautiful house, such a house that he could never hope to have, flowered into his mind immediately. A house that in his dream he would live in with the girl that he loved, a house in which just like a child’s silly fairy story they should live together ‘happy ever afterwards’, where he would spend the rest of his life with the right woman and have a lifelong romance worthy of African epic poetry. All pure fantasy, all nonsense, but this house he was seeing stated that tide of longing in him––longing for something he would never likely to have.
The building itself was rather old, no one knew for sure when it was built, probably in the mid-20th Century. Maybe if Richard had heard the rumour about it he wouldn’t have dared to apply therein let alone had a craving to own it. It was said that the house was built by a wealthy man of quite eccentric ways. This man, as the story was told, lived all alone. He had no wife, no children. Since it was weird for a man with such wealth not to marry at all, a lot of things were said about him that could give anybody the fright. Then suddenly one night, the man died in his sleep. About two families lived in the house thereafter but they all evacuated in haste, claiming the house was wretched and haunted by the souls of the rich man’s late wife and children whom he used for money rituals. For a good five years the house remained unoccupied, nobody wanted to occupy a cursed and demon-possessed house, then a wealthy politician bought the decrepit building and rebuilt it to a marvelous taste, having done some cleaning up and massive redecoration of the surroundings, they succeeded in making it look impressively newer and less haunted.
Richard felt building was just too big for a rich man and his wife to live. With the exception of the harassment from the curmudgeon, it was peaceful here, Richard thought. Peaceful and beautiful, had it been like this in the Garden of Eden before the serpent came and spoilt it all? Would Adam and Eve have lived forever in the Garden if Eve hadn’t let her curiosity get the best of her? How could just one man own such a big property? He could see the exquisite looking garage some distance away, it contained rides of different models; some were covered with tarpaulins that Richard could not know what types of cars they were. He saw two jeeps of the same colours and models, and Richard wondered why a man would purchase two identical vehicles, he shrugged; some rich men are crazy, anyway.
When they reached the relaxation quarter by the swimming pool the old man told Richard to sit down as he went in to summon the boss.
Richard sat in one of the chairs by the pool. The breeze blowing in here is quite different from the one out of the gate, Richard decided. This one is very cool and soothing, there was even a butterfly in the air, fluttering around the yard happily. Looking into the swimming pool, he felt like plunging head-on into the clean water, though he was likely to drowned because he had no idea about swimming. Just some distance away in the garden, a beautiful small bird with iridescent blue feathers was carrying a twig to build its nest.
“Hello.” a gentle voice sounded behind Richard. He turned and he momentarily opened his mouth wide in a stunned manner. The woman standing opposite him was very familiar. It was the lady; the purse lady, what a small world. He was particularly dumbfounded, and he was confused about how to greet her.
The lady was likewise surprised, she had not forgotten his face either––that handsome and kind Samaritan.
“What are you doing here? “She asked, but she did not wait for an answer. “Wait, don’t say anything, I want to remember that name of yours––Richie, right?”
“Is this where you live?”
“Yes, I live here. How did you know this place?”
“I was actually passing by when I saw the notice board outside there, so I decided to apply.”
Abigail looked surprised, “You want to apply here as a driver?”
“Do I have much choice? I’ve been walking around the streets of this state in search of a good job for almost a year but I always ended up with nothing.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,”
“I blame our leaders, they promise the world, but nothing ever gets done.”
“I agree with you.”
She was still that beautiful thing Richard saw two months ago. Now, she was simply dressed in skirt and blouse. Except for the gloss that appeared to be phosphorescent on her lips, she was without make-up and Richard liked her smooth face. He slender arms were as smooth and rounded as if they had been squeezed from toothpaste tubes. It appeared as though her body was carefully curved by the angels to display their level of creativity to God.
“You live in a very beautiful building,” said Richard, “Your father must be very wealthy to have built this place.”
Abigail laughed, “You’re funny. I live here with my husband.”
It was a blow, not the kind he ever suspected. It was as though Richard had been struck by the bow of an ocean liner while in a fog-bound sea. For a moment he could not speak because the jealousy he felt in him was too overwhelming, speech was beyond him; he was only capable of lowering his eyes and doing his best to breathe normally. “Your husband?”
Abigail noticed his dull reaction and asked, “Anything wrong, Richie?”
He came out of trance immediately, “No––there’s nothing wrong. I was only surprised. I didn’t know you’re a married woman. Your husband is a very lucky man to have a girl as beautiful as you.” He hated himself for the brief jealousy he felt, hated himself more for letting his emotions show.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“No I’m serious, and he must be very rich.”
She smiled, “Very rich, as in Richie? No, he’s not like you. He’s actually your opposite.”
Does this woman ever take things serious? Richard thought. She seems not to have any problem whatsoever. What a lucky girl!
“I mean your husband must be a man with lots of money.”
“I know what you mean, handsome. I was only joking. Actually, he’s one of the richest men in this country.”
Richard was appalled, “One of the richest?”
“To be precise, he’s the eighteenth richest. Two years ago he was the twenty-fifth. And with the amount of stocks, bonds and shares he possesses now,
I believe that within five years he would be giving Dangote a run for his money.”
“Your God? Don’t call unto God, leave Him alone, Cain is just money crazy. He’s a businessman, an entrepreneur, one monster of a manager. He’s always planning, looking ahead, figuring angles and percentages so much that no one would believe he did not go to the higher institution.”
“Cain, is that his name?”
“Cain Martins. Now, let me take you to your boss.” Holding Richard firmly by the hand like a truant schoolboy, they both entered the big building.
Richard entered the room and was more impressed. The sitting room was a large, well-furnished one; it contained an elaborately equipped home theatre and a giant television screen which covered most of one wall. There was a large bowlegged brown table in the centre of the room, with several upholstered chairs of inviting body curves placed around it. These chairs offered just the right amount of comfort. The floor was covered in a soft brown rug that made Richard feel like going down and rolling on it like a joyous puppy. There was nothing antediluvian about the room, the opulent textures of the furniture in the room was quite appealing to Richard.
“You can have a seat, let me go and wake the old billionaire.” He watched her walk across the room into another entrance. She moved gracefully––like a cat, he thought; no, like a kitten.
He sat in an overstuffed armchair which had known very few fannies and also big enough to accommodate King Kong. He rubbed his hands gently on the upholstery of the sofa, feeling the smoothness and fragility of the material. Above was a big chandelier; the lighting was also good––not too bright, not too dim, but just right. There was a shelf of books at one corner of the large living room. Richard was forced to get up from where he sat to have a fast peek at the books it contained; faint trails of dust run through the surfaces of the shelf where volumes have been dragged off to be read. There were antique collections of literary pieces; a complete work of William Shakespeare in one volume, a hardcover of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the imitated manuscripts of Wole Soyinka’s plays, the revised edition of Treasure Island and Animal Farm, there was an abundance of reading materials for his voracious mind to delve into. He wondered if Abigail was the bibliophile or her husband. Richard was leafing through the pages of an ancient volume of the renowned Oedipus Rex, gawking in admiration at the book when he heard the sound of footsteps, and he returned to where he initially sat. At the left hand side of the room was a big picture on the wall; it portrayed the image of an ugly, elderly man in his early fifties who was staring at him stonily.
Cain Martins came into the sitting room, wielding a cane with the carved head of a fox as a handle, and sat in the middle of a couch facing Richard. He crossed his legs and carefully adjusted the crease in his trousers. The tight trouser the rich man wore bulged offensively in the crotch in violation of all the rules of theology and geometry.
Richard immediately stood up.
“Afternoon, sir.” He greeted.
“You’re Richie, the one who wants to apply as a driver?”
“Yes, sir. My name’s Richard Philip.” Richard looked at the man sitting opposite him, he appeared older and uglier than the person in the picture, but one could see that he was still the same man in the photo, his dome of a skull was barren; the hairs appeared to be tired of the scalp and they had packed their belongings away from the territory with no plan of returning to this desert. The man opposite him was very ugly; he seemed to be trying everything possible to look ugly. Richard believed that planned ugliness appeal to people who are bored with beauty, tired of taste, and fed up with fashion. If not, what did a beauty girl like Abigail see in this man to have married him? Richard thought, probably the money––what else? Cain himself was far from being embarrassed by his own ugliness, especially by his Unclad pate; he glorified in its Unclothedness, and occasionally anointed it with baby oil to heighten its sheen.
“You have your credentials with you?” Mr. Martins asked. He did not ask Richard to sit.
“Yes, sir. I have them here.” He gave Cain the file he was holding. The rich man opened it, what he saw, apparently, made him carry the facial expression of a man quite impressed.
“What a qualification you’ve got here.” He said, “You should be working in a better place. Perhaps, in the oil sector, what are you doing here?”
“Maybe I’m just being unlucky, sir.”
“Do you expect me to buy that? Maybe you’re here because you’re lazy. You have to work tirelessly if you aspire to reach the top, fortunes don’t come home knocking on your doors; you go out there and grab them. You should know that the strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.” Cain Martins was too arrogant for modesty. However, he believed modesty was related to diffidence. Diffidence was related to shyness. Shyness was a synonym for timidity. Timidity was a characteristic of the meek. The meek did not inherit the heart, they served those who were self-confident and self-assertive.
“I tried my best, sir. They just did not employ me.” He stared once more at the older man’s hard ruthless face and felt a qualm.
“Well, I can see you’ve accepted defeat. What kind of salary are you worth?”
Richard had always subscribed to the idea that––ask twice as much as you want, you may surprise yourself and get it.
He said his amount. He could not read the expression on the rich man’s face clearly after this, he thought this man was regarding him with the look he might have given a dog, wondering whether to kick or pet it. Richard was sure this man was not one that had a loving fondness for animals. He held his breath as he waited for this man to either employ him or throw him out of his house.
“Deal, come next week to start work.” Cain rose to go.
Richard was dumbfounded. This man is a money monster, he thought, just to drive him around for that large sum. I would have gladly accepted a quarter of that. He felt for a moment that his new boss was just plain silly about money; an obvious nouveau riche with nary a qualm about the worth of the prices he was charged. However, Richard felt no guilt in him whatsoever in taking advantage of this sinecure.
“Okay, sir. Thank you, sir.” He turned to go. When he reached the door Cain called his name. “Richard.”
“Are you married?”
“Not yet, sir.”
“Good, be here with your belongings next week. You’ll be living here.”
“Okay, sir.” He left.
The presence of the future driver made Cain remember how he was when he was still as old as the younger man; he could recall vividly that he was as wretched as a church vermin before he met Rita Benson. The lady who had changed his life automatically. That cold night, it was very cold indeed––the first time he came across her, it was in 1983. June, 1983.
The night was not the warmest one. A few stars peeked down on the world and a quarter moon played hide and seek behind the scattering clouds. Cain Martins was stricken by a hunger so extreme he feared he might faint if he didn’t soon quiet the growls in his stomach; he hadn’t eaten any thing for the day, not like he always had much to eat before––so, he was always hungry. Even before his starvations, Cain had always had a big appetite. Often he was ravenous; at times his hunger seemed almost insatiable. He was so hungry this night that he felt he could eat an entire cow all alone; with hooves and tail intact, of course. He’d just been released from the hospital and he was a hungry man without any job. Cain Martins was a nobody––he had no one, no family; the mother he’d grown to know and not love had died eight years ago. He didn’t even know his own father. In actual fact, neither of his parents was a resumé enhancer if he happened to possess one. Cain Martins was virtually homeless; he was desperately trying to earn something: not even a living, just eating-money.
The heavy rain that had come and gone earlier had left the night’s temperature almost freezing. Cain dipped his hands in his trousers pockets, knowing fully well that there was no coin on him, but there occurred to him that impossible feeling of sorcery where a couple of coins might miraculously fill his pockets. But it was a time and world where the magical conjuring skills of Aladdin refuse to operate. The hunger persisted.
He continued walking down the dark street; he stopped for a short moment to urinate in the gutter nearby. Even though he was quite famished, he still felt as if Lake Chad filled his distended bladder, and Kainji Dam had been erected in his urethra. The street was already becoming quieter; many of the businesses were closed for the night; youths and adults were already vacating the bars and brothels to their various homes. Two men walked out of one of the buildings struggling with the zippers of their trousers; on the second floor of another building, a fat woman opened a window and shouted down, berating her husband about the projected hour of his return. Other night owls could be seen drinking from gin bottles; an elderly drunken couple argued, their dispute emphasized by two shaking heads of grey hair. In the last house, a lone lady of the night leaned forward from a first floor window, saw Cain and opened her blouse, displaying a large sagging bosom that looked like a funnel. She squeezed it several times and pointed the Tip at him. Cain shook his head and turned away from the view; he knew she was not for him. The street was the end of a particular section of the cities of Lagos.
Cain Martins was a twenty-seven year old man of average height with bushy black hair, dressed casually in a white shirt and black trousers, with a pair of brown sandals on his legs––everything he’d stolen, except of course, his wristwatch which his mother had bought for him about a decade ago when he was in the high school, the watch itself had stopped about a century earlier. He was quite ugly, his lean hard face and hooked nose with thin lips gave him the look of a hawk. His face in particular was distended and carried a scowl that would make his face to a child look like a boogeyman’s. When he was a kid, he’d contacted a skin disease that stripped off his hair. He’d been as bald as an egg ever since. He had no girlfriend––not even when he was in the high school. No girl wanted to date the ugliest boy in the school. Coupled with his bad looks, Cain Martins was arrogant and cruel. During his final year in the school, he’d brutally abused a fourteen-year-old girl sexually. He’d walked straight to the young girl and asked her to kiss him. The girl had felt so surprised and embarrassed that she saw the confrontation as a bad joke and walked out on him. Cain became infuriated by the girl’s action.
It was about a week later when the girl was returning home from school that Cain attacked her. He crept behind her and hit her with a stick on the back of the head, the girl collapsed face-down, he dragged her to the bush at the side of the quiet road where nobody could hear her plea for help, he had turned her on her back, pinned her to the ground, hitched her skirt around her waist. He gave her some few blows on the side of her face to render her weak before he roughly entered her. The shame and another unknown circumstance made the poor girl withdraw from the school. But Cain Martins was never convicted of the crime thanks to his mother.
For his plan to be successful, a cold night and a quiet street was what Cain Martins wanted. He stood under the shadow of an electric pole waiting for someone he could attack and rob. In his left hand was a thick iron rod. The hunger birthing anger in his stomach. He had thought about how he was going to attack his prey. Like the girl he’d Molested, he was going to attack the unfortunate person from behind by striking him with the iron rod on the back of the head; the poor fellow would fall down flat on his face. Cain would turn him over; deposit some battering blows to his face which would leave the victim defenseless before Cain would rob him and then bolt. All these shouldn’t take him more than two minutes before he fled.
He began getting impatient, he’d been standing for over half an hour and there was nobody coming down the street. His stomach rumbled like thunder, reminding him that the worms were getting impatient, they would decide to take little chunks of his stomach wall if he did not find something else to feed them with. Then he found a pie on the ground and without hesitating a second he picked it up, he took it to his mouth and blew off the earth on the snack but he wasn’t able to blow away the green algae stuck on it. To him, the food was a manna from the sky, he took a mammoth bite. It was made with onions, pepper and beef, and it tasted heavenly in his mouth. It would naturally have made a sane man vomit his intestines if he had had nothing else in his bowel to puke.
He looked up the road and saw a car approaching.
Cain was not impressed; he wanted to rob a walking man, and not a driving one. The last thing he wanted to do right now was to carjack. He needed some money, not a vehicle. And robbing a man behind the wheel wasn’t the easiest task; the driver would never be foolish enough to stop for you in this silent night. The car was driven stealthily past Cain and he looked at it as a drowning man would look at a life raft he knew he could not reach. Cain caught the silhouette of the driver–a woman! How sweet, he thought, how sweet it would have been if the woman was walking past? He would rob her easily, and maybe––even have a little fun. Then he watched in amazement as the speed of the car decelerated until it finally stopped. Cain could almost not believe what he was seeing, his mind began racing. He held tightly onto his rod as he watched, sweat oozing from the pores of his palms. The woman got out of the vehicle and opened its bonnet, she looked at its mechanism for some time and banged the bonnet close in anger. Evidently, she knew nothing about simple motor mechanism. She stood by her car looking down the road. For a couple of seconds she looked at Cain’s direction and looked away. Cain knew that he could not be seen as he himself was standing in the darkness like the wraith of a deity, but he could clearly see the woman. She was pretty and he guessed she was not more than twenty-five years old. Looking at her, Cain knew that she was from a well to do background. She would have something worth robbing. And definitely, he thought, she’s got everything worth having fun about. Time up. Cain Martins came out of the shadows.
He walked slowly towards the lady; her back was turned to him. Something kept telling him that the blow he was going to deliver on the woman would literally kill her, and he would have murder on his hands. But Cain didn’t care; he was too desperate to back off now. He continued walking towards her. He could feel the perspiration rolling down his forehead and over his neck. He was four feet away from her. Then the lady turned. Seeing that the lady had seen him the strength slipped out of Cain, and he suspected he might not be able to rob her easily anymore. The lady saw him; he could see fear in her eyes for a moment before her mouth curved into a smile; revealing a mouthful of teeth as white as the keys on a new piano.
“Oh great, thank heavens!” she breathed, “I thought I’m the only one in this world right now.”
Cain relaxed the hold on the weapon in his hand.
“What are you doing here, young lady?” he asked as politely as his arrogant ego would allow him.
“My car broke down and I can’t fix it.”
“Okay, let’s see the problem of the four-wheeler,” He opened the bonnet of the car, meddled with a few parts of the vehicle anatomy and slammed the bonnet shut.
“Is it done?” The lady asked eagerly.
“Not that fast.” He bent down and crawled underneath the car, he spent about another five minute under the vehicle before he ordered the lady to mount it and turn on the ignition. The car took a short time before acquiescing to the command of the key. After some asthmatic engine coughs, it finally came alive.
Cain crawled out from under the car and found the lady had also come out of it, she was performing those clappy-jumpy things spoilt little girls do whenever they’re excited.
“What can I do to thank you enough?” she asked happily.
Give me some money, you silly, spoilt brat. He almost screamed it out.
“You have to be extremely careful next time,” he told her, “You shouldn’t stand alone in a quite street as this. It’s dangerous, you might get hurt.”
“Oh, you’re so caring.”
Caring my bum! It exploded in his mind.
“But there’s one greater thing I will like you to do for me. That’s if you don’t mind.”
What does this of a girl take me for? The Samaritan man?
“What?” he whispered. He knew that if he’d spoken loud, the lady would have immediately jumped into her car and speed away.
“I’ll greatly like you to drive me home.”
Cain looked perplexed, someone tell me I’m not just being made a cheap private driver. Resisting the urge to punch the lady’s pretty face, he asked:
She licked her lips as she smiled, “Because––um––because I think I need a great company right now. You said it yourself, this area is greatly dangerous, and I’m no more very anxious to drive alone down this dangerous road. Some guys could just leap out of the bush and jerk the steering wheel out of my hands before they make me replace their position in the bush. They could even do worse. And besides, I don’t know what I’m going to do if the car develops any fault again on the way.
Cain tried to smile, but he couldn’t, he knew his smile was ugly, just like an old man crying.
“I assure you it won’t develop any more fault.”
“Okay, if not for the second reason, at least help me for the first. My parents are expecting me home for dinner; you can have dinner with us and have a chance to meet my family.”
Cain’s stomach rumbled again, the pie had not curbed his hunger a bit.
“That’d be a good idea,” he said.
“Great!” Cain presumed that must be her favourite adjective. The constant use of that word was what annoyed Cain most about the lady.
Cain opened the car door and sat in the driver’s seat, the lady sat beside him.
“By the way, I’m Rita Benson.”
“I’m Cain Martins, nice meeting you.”
They drove down the quiet road.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 10:13pm On Oct 23, 2012|
“Here comes the bad boy.” Cain greeted as his friend stepped in the room. Cain was sitting with a wine-glass and a bottle of rum. Cain Martins had the habit of taking to alcohols, especially daiquiri, whenever he was in a happy or furious mood. But today, he seemed to be in the happiest of moods. And he always prided himself on his oenophile characteristics. Cain’s knowledge of wine was the most polite moral accomplishment he possessed.
“If you’re looking for a bad boy, why don’t you check in a mirror?”
“Give your larynx a break; you think I’ll ever forget our high school days when you beat the holy crap out of me?”
“Does beating you up decades ago make me bad?”
“I know you’re bad, pigeon-brained.”
He raised one eyebrow, “You know, sometimes, honestly, I do feel like cutting out your tongue. People who lack the manner of speech should be dumb.” Michael Kish said. Barrister Michael Kish was two years older than Cain Martins but looked five years younger than him. He was a tall handsome looking man with jet black hair and a carefully trimmed moustache which adorned his upper lip. He appeared to be almost the opposite image of Cain. Michael Kish appeared to be tall, young and handsome, while Cain Martins was old and ugly. Michael was dressed more like a mortician; a black suit, black tie, black socks and a pair of black shoes. No colour off-mark except that of his eyes, which was not all that blackish. Nobody would see him approaching if he were walking a street in the night. And on his face was a spectacle; contact lenses. This pair of glasses had changed the colour of his eyes from its initial hazel to a colour closer to the African black––it was the least it could do to someone without any eye defect but wore contact lenses. He was a lawyer by profession. When he was twenty-six years old, he had graduated from the University of Benin with a degree in Law.
Afterwards, he travelled to England where he spent twenty years. When he returned to Nigeria in 2001 he was already quite a rich man. He decided to put his profession into practice. It was after about eight years of working as a lawyer and had successfully sent hundreds of criminals to jail, few to the hangmen, tied some to the firing vessels, set hundreds of convicts free, and solved countless divorce or marital problems, that he came in contact with Cain––his high school friend. It was Cain’s name that had brought them together again. Michael Kish had been one of the shareholders of Kane International, one of the country’s most famous rice companies. On the day he bought his shares, he saw Cain’s name and surname on the shareholder’s slip given to him. He could have been knocked down with a palm frond when he realized that the name was really his friend’s. Life’s funny, he’d never thought that Cain could own a company; he decided that Cain’s success was achieved by the fortuitous dint of sheer good luck. Cain, a bad-tempered, never-serious-with-study, bellicose boy managing a company now? Far back in their time in high school, Michael could not remember a day when Cain had seriously picked up his book to study, Cain belonged among the class thugs who invariably gravitated to the back seats of the class. What actually always caught Cain’s interest were girls and getting into physical combats with people. Though Cain was foul-mouthed and troublesome, he was generous with money and was blessed with a great brain. He could assimilate a whole text without any difficulty, and this had been helping him so much in his examinations–––although God gave him an extremely special brain, Cain had never really utilized it as he should have done. He was one of those people that would have become a genius; he could have invented his own model of a motorcycle, light-bulb, gun or even bomb. He could easily quote Aristotle, Horace, Soyinka and some other great literary giants––either dead or alive, and without knowing that he was. Before Cain and Michael could become bosom friends they had fought each other once. Cain with his usual arrogance had beaten almost everybody in class––including some girls. He had always insulted and challenged Michael into fighting with him because Michael never seemed to be afraid of him as other students in the class were. Anytime Cain confronted Michael, the gentle boy would only smile and call Cain a small boy. Cain would always swell with anger anytime Michael referred to him as a small boy.
One afternoon, Cain tried to bully Michael again and he got too far. After trying to annoy Michael several times without success, he punched him hard on his chest and all hell broke loose in the class. For a split second, Cain thought Michael was actually going to kill him on the spot, because the new boy’s face was instantly clouded with a mask of fury. He rushed Cain and slammed a hard punch in his belly, then brought his knee up in a single, crushing assault against the groin. Cain screamed in agony. He gave Cain two back-handed slaps on the larynx. He hammered him twice more in the groins until the pain was so excruciating that no more scream could emerge, only moans of anguish. Cain slumped down, grabbed his crotch with both hands and whimpered painfully.
Thereafter, Cain Martins had always secretly feared Michael for his gentle but deadly features. They had become good friends after the brawl. Michael on the other hand had always liked Cain for his bravery, foulmouthedness and profligate spending habits.
When Michael saw the names on the shareholder’s slip, he decided to see the Cain Martins, not much people in the country bears the name Cain, and Cain Martins was too much a coincidence to Michael not to be the one he knew. Finding him didn’t take much effort because Michael went straight to the head office where he knew he would find the managing director. When he met Cain he was very sure he was not mistaken; the mannerless Cain had not changed much, especially in his well-known vile dispositions. When he introduced himself to Cain and reminded him of their ordeals in high school, Cain could not believe his own eyes. He quickly got up from his seat and embraced Michael in a bear’s hug. A happy reunion it was, they natted about life, job and the economy.
“I can’t imagine myself becoming dumb. I may commit suicide because some idiots like you need serious scolding.”
“Maybe I can help you in the killing yourself part.”
“Oh, thank you, slowpoke. I’m not dumb.” Cain’s rough manner of speech was too well known to Michael to give offence.
“Manners out the window.”
“You know what you are, hm? You’re a nincompoop. A real, honest-to-God nincompoop. Can you help one commit suicide?”
“Let me tell you a secret. I’ve been counting your insults lately and I’m gently waiting till they reach a certain number before I shoot you dead in the face. You’ve given me twenty-three insults altogether, ride on, will you?” they both laughed it off, and then they embraced each other warmly before sitting down.
“You know that’s simply impossible, I’m invincible,” said Cain, frowning humorously.
“Whenever you frown you look like a man who eats live chickens for breakfast.”
“My , that’s not a delicacy I’m looking forward to enjoy.”
“Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself in hell, hip-deep in dung polishing Satan’s boots. It simply means you are dead.” Michael said, smiling warmly at his friend, “You know I have access to any gun of my choice. I can just borrow a bullet from the government to do it all.”
“See goose pimples all over my body, freaky fool.” He laughed and poured himself another glass of rum.
“Mind a glass?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m practically a teetotaler. You should have noticed I never drink anything but water––perhaps fruit juice or herbs. I cannot just bear the taste of spirit.” Michael explained, “And mind you, I’m a devout Catholic.”
“Okay then, I should get you some water.”
“No, thank you. Peeing isn’t one of my favourite pastimes these days. I know that your own idea of water is liquor.”
“Of course, even Jesus turned water to wine.”
Michael grimaced, “Your bibulous personality is enough to make a dog vomit.”
Cain laughed at the statement and asked, “Do you have a gun?”
“Of course, I have license to guns, my profession demands it.”
“For what do you use them?”
“What a question! For self-protection, of course.” Michael answered, “Why do you ask?”
“You call yourself a Christian but it’s hard to see God encouraging his son to make use of guns. I wonder what kind of religion you people who call yourselves Christians practice.”
“You ever read the Bible?”
“Sure––once in a while.”
“If you look through Gideon in the Bible you would find tales of destruction. I quote from Genesis chapter nineteen, verse twenty-three down to twenty-five: ‘The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zo-ar. Then the LORD rained upon Soddom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.’ Those were vile people in both those cities, as is well known. God knew that the world would be better off without those inhabitants, so he wiped out evil people in Sodom and Gomorrah with volcanoes, earthquakes, rains of fire, decided to turn Lot’s disobedient wife to a pillar of salt. He flooded the whole world once in the time of Noah, didn’t he? Made the Red Sea wash over the Pharaoh’s soldiers, drowned them all. I don’t think God is going to be skittish about one of his faithful servants having a little collection of guns for protection purpose. I think you should get one, too.”
“I know the tale about Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back and I loved her for that.”
“And she was turned to a pillar of salt. People are not supposed to look back.”
“Maybe it wasn’t God who turned her to salt. Maybe what she saw from looking back turned her into sodium chloride. I don’t think God turning her to salt was actually printed in the Bible.”
“I quote again, ‘But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.’ We’re never going to know, anyway.”
“Those stories you listed were carried out by God of the Old Testament. Do you hear about God of the New Testament––understanding, compassionate, merciful? Though I don’t believe in your religious fundamentalism.”
“God of the Old Testament and God of the New, what’s the difference? I have much experience in crime field than you. I’ve met with some scum who are not fit to live. They are danger to themselves and the community. I will never hesitate to send any of them to his death. If I thought God always dealt mercifully with their kind, I wouldn’t have had anything to do with God. The word ‘mercy’ cannot be found even in your own lexicon, your profanity can bear me witness.”
Cain smiled ruefully as Abigail came into the sitting room rubbing her eyes.
“I was having a good dream when you two cut it out with your incessant persiflage. Hi, Barrister Kish.”
“That’s the old devil.”
“Cain––Good Lord, what happened to your hospitality?”
“See me; he has been insulting me for about thirty minutes now. Your husband’s only values are stubbornness and rudeness. He didn’t even offer me a lollipop.”
“Too bad of him.”
“Not my fault, I offered him a glass of poison but he refused.” Cain said.
“Where are your manners, Cain?”
“Divorce him and marry me.” Michael said and smiled at his own joke.
She noticed the barrister’s attire and asked, “Isn’t it a little warm today for black, Barrister?”
“No,” Michael replied almost immediately, “As a matter of fact, black is an excellent colour for heat. Black is actually best in heat, efficient radiation. In any case, I wear only two colours; black and grey. These colours are appropriate for any occasion, and they go well with together, should I mistakenly put on a pair of grey socks with my black trousers.”
“But don’t you find it boring to wear only two colours?”
“Not at all. I find it liberating; I don’t want to waste my time thinking about what I wear in the morning. I can’t imagine anything more boring than fashion. Professional football, maybe. Grown men sweating, jumping, running and kicking each other just because of one small spherical object, while the rest of the world pays money to watch, applaud and become fans. But on the whole, I find fashion even more unimpressive than sports.”
Margaret smiled at the lawyer, this was one topic the barrister was never tired of arguing about. Sports.
“Has Richie arrived?” she asked her husband.
“Richie, who’s Richie?”
“Your new driver.”
“Oh, you mean the fool? I haven’t seen him.”
“He’s a lazy chap, I hate his gut.”
Michael threw back his head in laughter at his misanthropic friend’s statement. “My friend finds fault in everybody.”
Cain smiled at Michael, giving him a thumb-up. “Nice sense of alliteration.”
The door was opened gently and the gatekeeper entered. “The young man who came last week is at the gate.” He told Abigail, “Should I let him in?”
“That’s what he called himself.”
“Allow him in.”
“Talk of the devil,” murmured Cain. “What an that gateman is? An old dirty fool he is, his appearance disgusts me. He has a brain even chickens wouldn’t envy.”
“Oh, not again, please.” Abigail pleaded.
“I should find a replacement; he’s spending too long a time here.”
“Is that blood or ice water in those veins of yours?” Michael asked.
Mr. Eze Chima shook his head as he walked out, he’d heard the denigration of him made by Cain. Three minutes later came the knock on the door of the sitting-room.
“Come in.” Abigail answered.
The door was opened slowly and Richard stepped inside. He was dressed in the same black suit he had been wearing since 2006. Cain regarded him with that icy stare meant for cretins, numbskulls, morons and losers.
“Hi, Richie!” Abigail greeted warmly.
“Hey, Richie or Richard or whatever your name may be,” said Cain coldly, “If you are to work under me, you must stick to time, okay?”
“Okay,” said Abigail, “Richie, meet Barrister Michael Kish. He’s a lawyer.”
“Nice meeting you, sir.” Richard greeted.
“You’re welcome. But look here, you’re a young and handsome man who still has a long way to go. You should be very careful here; your job is to drive Cain and nothing more. I’ll advise you like a father, don’t go ahead and involve yourself in any ugly situation or I’m going to stick your behind in wet cement and watch it hard under you.”
“I don’t understand what you mean, sir.” Richard said. Why am I being treated like something out of a zoo?
“Just do your job and don’t get yourself in trouble.” Michael simply replied.
Abigail flashed her disapproval of the sarcasm in Michael’s voice.
“I won’t, sir.”
“I hope so.”
“You’ll surely get into trouble with me if you’re not extremely careful.” Cain admonished.
Abigail noticed the uncomfortable feeling Richard was having in the presence of the two older men.
“Richie, you can go to the gatekeeper to show you your quarter.” She said.
“Yes, madam.” He picked up his bag and went out with a pissed off expression.
“Can someone please tell me what is going on here?” she demanded harshly when Richard had left.
“Going on? What is going on?” asked Cain.
“Stop pretending, Cain. Both of you just treated Richie like a criminal.”
Cain spread his hands, “He did look like one, didn’t he?”
“I don’t just know what he did wrong to deserve that kind of treatment from you two.”
“Don’t burst up in flames, Abigail,” said Michael, “I have no qualm with the boy. I only told him to do his work well. That’s all, no string attached.” He held up his hands in mock surrender.
“He deserves a little respect from you both.”
“Respect my foot!” Cain ejaculated.
Abigail ignored her husband and continued, “Richie is really a good man, I lost my purse about two months ago, Richie found it and returned it. How many Lagosians can do that? Richie is the kindest and most gentle man the Good Lord ever gave life to.”
“You’re breaking my heart, where’s your violin?” Cain joked.
“He’ll appreciate your apologies.”
“Both of you.” Abigail said sternly, with arms akimbo.
Cain laughed out loud and Michael only smiled.
“I saw him staring at your bosoms.” Cain said, chuckling.
“Cain!” Abigail screamed.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Ishilove: 10:17pm On Oct 23, 2012|
I have just witnessed my dad being knocked senseless, my parents have just been robbed,a fully loaded gun is pointed at me, and to top it all i am a virgin about to be ra.ped. Believe me when i say intimacy will be the last thing on my mind.
How can i possibly fall in love with the person behind this seige on my family?? He is the enemy.
Asides this, i think the story is quite nice
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 6:55pm On Oct 24, 2012|
Ishilove: I have just witnessed my dad being knocked senseless, my parents have just been robbed,a fully loaded gun is pointed at me, and to top it all i am a virgin about to be ra.ped. Believe me when i say intimacy will be the last thing on my mind.
Thanks Love, yap...that isn't plausible enough, I guess. Apparently, I'd have to modify that part.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 7:16pm On Oct 24, 2012|
Eze Chima was sitting in front of his small room by the gate and his bowed head was held in both palms. He was deeply thinking about what would become of him if he was sacked now––the mission would be foiled. Mr. Chima had been a security man for thirty years; he had literally spent half of his life watching one gate or the other. Working under Cain Martins was his sixth experience and he enjoyed working here compared to other places he had worked. Here, he hadn’t had a moment when he had to violently face armed robbers or killers, and the pay here was the best. He had endured series of scolds and curses from Cain since the last five years he had been working under him, but he never felt offended from the insults as long as his salary was not being delayed, and most importantly, he needed the assistance of Abel to finish the business at hand first, and if that was done, Eze Chima would not have any reason to work here anymore. Because, by that time, everything would have changed immensely––and he would be okay with that. He had a shotgun which he had been using since 1969; he loved the gun dearly and had always felt safer anytime he held it. He hadn’t shot the gun at anyone since he had been working under Cain. But he strongly believed that it would one day come in handy.
Eze Chima’s responsibility was to protect Cain Martins and his wife, he didn’t like Cain a bit but he had come to respect the wife who had always treated him just like a father. Eze Chima may dislike Cain Martins but Cain Martins paid Eze Chima handsomely. A corpse may not like embalming fluid but it does well to the body. Right now, he was on the verge of losing his job––his dear job. He knew Cain was just being a pain in the neck who found pleasure out of making other people sad–––someone who delighted in watching the life slip away from anything. Three weeks previously, he had caught him cutting the limbs of a live cat. He saw that his boss was enjoying the pain the animal was feeling––just like his illegitimate son, except that the son never killed animals, he only hated them. Eze knew Cain was wicked, very wicked, and probably not more than a dozen people were as wicked as Cain in this part of the world. Yet, he was far from being tough. And Eze Chima knew himself to be the exactly opposite of Cain. Eze knew himself to be very tough and he had little respect for death; he was simply a daredevil. Maybe that was the only reason he lived as old as he was. He had always believed that people who held death in high esteem had always been the ones falling victim to the cold hand of the life-claimer! Yes, Eze Chima was tough, very tough––but never wicked. He had killed many people, but he was not wicked––he was only tough. It was better to be tough in the extreme than to be a bit wicked. Those he had killed really deserved to die. He did not kill them for the fun of it, he actually hated killing but he had to kill them, because they were bad people; because they were wicked. Eze Chima hated wicked people, wicked people deserved to die.
His mind travelled back in time to 1989, twenty years ago; he was forty years old as at that year, when he was still a security man of a famous bank in Warri. One night during the mid-March of that year, he was walking around the compound of the bank when he heard thuds coming from the fences of the building; he instinctively knew that they were robber even before seeing them. Eze Chima became exhilarated; the night was going to be fun. He quickly ducked behind one of the company’s vans. When he saw them, he was more excited; each robber was carrying a gun. They were carrying machine guns with extended magazines. Eze didn’t know much about such guns, just that they were point-and-spray weapons, deadly even in the hands of a lousy shooter, deadlier still when wielded by men who knew what they were doing. He saw the men separated; two of them turned the corner of the left side of the building and the remaining two took the right turn, they were apparently looking for an entrance. Eze guessed the bandits thought he was sleeping in his cottage as most lazy night watchmen do. Nonetheless, the robbers were watchful and very careful not to make any unnecessary noise. Then Eze stood from his hiding and followed the two who took the right turn––holding his rifle firmly in the left hand.
As he turned the corner the two criminal went he was immediately confronted by one of them aiming a gun at his face. Where’s the second ? Probably at the back looking for an entrance, Eze thought. He looked at the face of the man pointing the nozzle of the gun at his head. The man, Eze noticed, was not a man at all––he was a boy. A handsome looking boy of about nineteen. The boy was looking at him with a confused expression. He was debating whether to shoot Eze or call his partners. He was an amateur. Eze, who never allow opportunities to slip him by quickly made use of this to his own advantage––a split second between life and death. Eze Chima reached into a deep place within and began to tremble visibly. “Please don’t kill me, I’ll do anything.”
A gratified sadistic smile came to the face of the boy. He was also a killer; Eze saw it in the boy’s eyes. He had killed many people––such a young boy. Pity!
Suddenly, Eze’s knees buckled, and he dropped down two feet, remaining perfectly erect as he bent his knees. At the same time, his right hand shot straight up, grabbing the wrist of the boy’s outstretched hand.
The boy’s smile faded as Eze pulled his arm down in a powerful wrist lock, the gun fell from the boy’s hand, Eze wrenched the robber’s wrist towards his elbow and twisted it at an acute angle. Now the boy bellowed in pain as the ligaments of his arm were strained and turned, but Eze was relentless, taking a long step back with his left foot and pulling the attacker to the ground. He yanked on the arm with all his strength and heard a pop as the ball joint was dislocated from the socket. The boy roared again, agony mingling with disbelief. Eze fell on him, bringing all his weight down on his right knee, driving it into the boy’s rib cage. He could hear at least two ribs break. The boy gasped, and tears rushed to his eyes. The broken ribs would make breathing exquisitely painful. The boy tried to free his other arm, despite his dislocated joint, but Eze had it pinned between his chest and left knee. Eze turned his right hand into a claw and clamped it around the boy’s throat, lifting and slamming his head against the ground until the boy’s body was limp. Moments later, when Eze reared up, he had the boy’s gun in his right hand. His own rifle was lying on the ground; he didn’t have to use it.
Then he heard footsteps approaching, the others had been alerted by the cries of the groaning robber. It was one person coming; he had seen the shadow, it was the boy’s other partner. The other robber was a skinny, black young man with long legs in fitted jeans that ended in a pair of white high topped trainers. All these took Eze just a second before he fired. The bullet struck the robber’s forehead. The sight was horrific; a fragment of his forehead flew off amid a ghastly spray of blood.
Just some minutes later, the remaining robbers came rushing to the scene. What they saw scared the gut out of them; the boy was groaning, almost at the point of death, and the other was down lifeless with eyes wide open. They were afraid the more because they could not find the person who did it.
Eze Chima was watching the two robbers from under the van which concealed him; he was patiently waiting for the moment to strike again. He himself could see that the men were scared; he could see fear in their eyes. He could smell it in them. It was a myth that it’s only dogs that could smell fear in human beings. On these two men, Eze could perceive the sour, sweaty odour of terror.
Then he decided to let them live, he did not feel like killing anything anymore at that particular moment. He had seen what he wanted: fear. The men were sweating and shaking, although they were hardened criminals––they still have the blessing of fear in them. Fear is good. Fear had saved their lives. Eze shot a bullet and the men fled instantly; almost running on their heads through where they came in.
Eze always found himself smiling broadly at one of the roughest and deadliest acts he had ever pulled; The Bank Adventure was what he’d always called it. He had let the two robbers live because they were afraid. Still, he had shattered one’s brain with a bullet. What magic a bullet can perform. It can take off a head from its shoulders, separate a brain from the skull, and divorce the medulla oblongata from the cerebrum. Just a bullet to the head to do it all. The right place for a wicked soul, a soul condemned to rot in the deep ditch called Hell.
Honk! A car hooted outside the gate, interrupting Eze’s reminiscent. That bastard is back. He got up from where he sat and went to the gate opening it wide. The car accelerated stealthily into the compound. The driver parked and got out. Eze Chima studied the driver; he had been here a month now. He’s a handsome chap––quite handsome but he possesses the face of a criminal. For the past month he had been staying with them, Eze had noticed that the man was always unusually quiet, he seldom laughed and he was always locking himself indoors if he was not driving.
The driver went to the passenger’s door and opened. Cain came down the jeep, he was dressed in his favourite dansiki style; a cap on his head, down on his feet was a pair of black pointed shoes, and in his hand was a majestic walking stick with a gold handle. The rich man was wearing the usual scowl that always made his face uglier than ever.
“Most people push carts faster than you drive.” Cain nagged sarcastically at the driver.
“I’m sorry, sir.” The handsome one apologized, looking like a school boy who had just been scolded by his class-teacher for not doing his home assignment.
“Be sorry for yourself. And you better change or I’ll be forced to kick your pretty young behind out of here.”
“Sorry––sir.” Said Richard, without really meaning it. He got into the car, carried out the briefcase and headed into the building.
Abigail was watching the local TV series: Dominoes, where the stubborn Oscar was complaining to his father about how he had excluded his name from the company’s shareholders list. She got up and collected the case from Richard and as she did that, she noticed the anger on his face. Cain again!
“What happened, Richie?” she asked.
“Nothing.” He replied casually, and he was on his way out when Cain came in raging with wrath.
“Then what the devil are you still doing here?” he demanded sharply, “Get the hell out.”
Richard walked out slowly. Cain went to the bar and poured himself a glass of rum, he emptied the content of the glass in one gulp.
“Where’s my food?” he asked sharply.
“On the dinning table.” Replied Abigail, she was furious at the way Cain treated Richie. She knew Cain just hated the driver for no reason. Who doesn’t he hate, anyway?
He ignored his wife’s stare and went to the dinning table where he began doing justice to a bowl of pounded yam and okro soup, garnished with a large impressive array of assorted snails. The bowl, however, was large enough to hold the head of John the Baptist. Abigail no doubt knew her ways around the kitchen, and the succulent mollusks almost made it impossible for her husband to devour the victuals alongside she who prepared it. He ate with voracity and total concentration, oblivious of the stare Abigail was drilling on his face, his head was lowered as he devoured the food in the manner of a mindless glutton. He devoured every shred of meat in his food and if his teeth had been as a hyena’s he’d’ve ground the bones to meal.
“Mm-hmm,” he occasionally mm-hmmed. “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.”
After the meal, he drank enough water that could have floated the Mary Celeste. Cain sat on the couch with a remote control in his hand, tuning the television from channel to channel, and at the same time probing his incisors with a toothpick.
“Can I ask you a question, Cain?” Abigail asked from where she stood.
“What is it?” demanded Cain, his attention still fixated on the television screen.
“What did Richie do wrong today?”
He ignored the programme on the telly; and he turned to faced Abigail, he had become apoplectic in an instant, “I knew it! I knew your question is about that fool. Tell me, why are you so concerned about him? Okay, I’ll tell you. I should have been here an hour earlier if not for that silly animal. I told him I was hungry while we were coming but he chose to drive as though his limbs have been amputated.”
“Why did you hate him so much? It’s like you always find error in everything he does. Why don’t you give him a chance to––”
“Will you keep shut, woman?” Cain exploded, “Who the gods do you think you are? Who are you to dictate to me whatever I do?”
“I am not dictating anything––I was only––” A hot hand print from Cain exploded on her face.
“I say shut up!” he said wrathfully. “When did I start asking for your permission concerning what I do? I know what you are; a LovePeddler! A filthy, useless LovePeddler! You are already having a crush on him, aren’t you? Do you feel like humping him? Tell me!” he got up and went into the bedroom cursing under his breath. His sudden anger had erupted from the remembrance of the encounter he’d had with a stranger who had broken into their home in the night of November 1984; a year after he’d had met Rita. The night’s incidence had made him hated the poor woman, and he had carried out what he believed was the necessary precaution that would made him forget all that had happened that night. But now, the hatred he felt for Rita afterwards he now felt for his current wife, and this made him ponder about the possibility of carrying another necessary precaution. The kind of hatred he had had for the man who had broken into their home that rainy Saturday night.
It had been declared earlier in the day that there was not going to be any rain throughout that Saturday. But suddenly, the dark sky grew darker, and rain fell in silvery cataracts; the equal of anything that Father Noah had witnessed while hurrying to complete his ark. The water fell off slopes, forming rivulets in every shallow declivity. Rivulets became streams, and streams grew swiftly into rivers. And in time, it was raining fit to drown a duck in the night of that same Saturday; the hard rain fell without warning, no thunder preceded the deluge––no wind, too, until afterward, and it appeared as if someone had just turned a tap on over the city; the sky was seriously purging itself of an entire ocean. A very dark and stormy night it was; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was assisted by a violent gust of wind which swept up the street and rattling along the housetops, and a show of lightening that was accentuated every now and then by the enormous claps of thunder. The rain was forming tears as it streaked the louvres of the houses around, and gushing along gutters in seemingly endless torrents. That night’s rainfall was one of those which, most times, defy weather forecasts––making forecasters look like lying idiots to the world. The street was deserted, except for Jamal who was standing alone in the veranda of an uncompleted building, and he was holding a pistol.
A boat made from a sheet of newspaper floated down a gutter swollen with the rain. The boat bubbled, listed, righted itself again, dived bravely through treacherous whirlpools, and continued on its course towards the intersection of the street and another. Jamal looked at the paper boat as it swam away, a boy of maybe six years old might have dropped it in the gutter from three streets away. He could remember when he was a kid himself––he would run cheerfully alongside the paper boat enjoying himself as the rain would tap the hood of his own clothes, he would hear the music the rain made on the roofs of houses––a comfortable, almost cosy sound.
He waited about thirty minutes for the rain to stop but it was not even slackening, and amidst the noise the rain was making was a faint distant sound of frogs announcing their territory. Jamal was running out of patience so he got out of the veranda into the rain, he was soaked within a few seconds of stepping into the heavy downpour––and he liked it. He walked slowly down the street in the rain, thinking about what had brought him there. Jamal had seen a woman about two weeks earlier, and he had been infatuated by her appearance. She was coming out from the meat market when he caught sight of her; she had had that kind of beauty that could make the holiest man on earth commit a little sin. She was wearing a crispy white blouse that was tucked in a hip-fitted black skirt. A pair of black suede shoes adorned her beautifully straight legs. She walked in a manner that was full of confidence, and there was this attractive chemistry from her that drew Jamal up to her; he felt he could woo her easily like he’d always done. At first, she had allowed Jamal to rant and chant, and when he appeared to have spoken all the words he could think of, the lady had smiled erotically and flashed him her ring finger, revealing to him that she was married before she walked away. Jamal had been taken aback; he involuntarily stopped and watched as the woman walked away. Jamal being one who never gave up on things easily until he got what he wanted, followed the woman. As he tailed the lady, he felt there was a kind of fun in following people who never knew they were being followed. The woman reached her car and drove off, Jamal waved down the next taxi and followed, he tailed her from street to street as discreetly as possible, and she, however, was utterly unaware that she was being followed. A couple of kilometers later, the woman stopped her car in front of a big gate; she got off the car and went to open the gate. Jamal told the cab driver to stop his car a few yards behind the lady’s. The woman got in her vehicle and drove inside the compound. The sound of the heavy gate could be heard as she locked it from within. Jamal waited five minutes before he got off the taxi and paid the driver who drove away. He now knew where his next would-be victim lived.
Jamal was a good looking man, with a soft, high-pitched, almost girlish voice. He appealed to many women because of his sweet voice and because he had a pleasant baby face. He was thirty-two years old but he looked twenty, what many ladies failed to know was that he was just an angelic face masking the demon––he was a Molester. With his good looks, Jamal could take any woman of his choice to bed as easily as he could create a tune out of whistling. He had tasted women of almost all genres; tall, short, slim, fat, obese. But Jamal was never satisfied with them, taking a willing woman to bed was not what he really craved––he wanted an unwilling woman. His first act of molest was with a schoolgirl of thirteen years. He had cunningly made the girl follow him into his room before he forcefully penetrated her, and he had felt a sense of accomplishment he had never felt before. Thereafter, he performed with a twelve year old, eleven, ten––and nine, where each time, he would wickedly tear off their hymens with his barrel-like organ. Then again, he was tired of kids, he desired an adult. He had taken a prostitute home one night and told her plainly that he was going to have her without paying. The prostitute had jumped off the bed as if jolted by an electric shock. For three minutes she moped at him, had she the strength for a fight she would have fought him. But lacking that she rained courses on him before picking up her bag and aiming for the door. Jamal had suddenly drawn her back, gave her a vicious blow on the face and pushed her roughly on the bed before he entered her. The prostitute had screamed, scratched, tossed and turned but Jamal subdued her easily. The cries of his victims; their struggles, innocence, pains––was what turned Jamal on.
For two weeks, Jamal shadowed the young woman, he watched everywhere she went; where she did her hair, the time she went out, and when she returned. He was patiently waiting for the moment to attack her. There were many couples of times when Jamal could attack the woman but he didn’t do it. The woman was always alone in the house most of the time, and he could have easily followed her inside and molest her, but Jamal did not.
Tonight was his right moment.
He walked in the rain towards the gate of the building and pushed it; the gate did not budge––it was locked. Jamal expected to find tens of thousands of jagged pieces of glass to have been cemented on the top of the fence to rip off the hand of anyone who tries to scale it, with a triple stand of barbed wire on top of the glass. But there was nothing like that, the fence was just as climbable one as a mango tree. He went round the fence to the back, he climbed it and jumped in the compound––it must have been about eleven or some minutes past. He had figured nobody would see him scale that fence in this stormy night, and if anybody had, he wasn’t certain the fellow would challenge his action as he believed the party would be busy getting himself away from the heavy downpour. Moreover, they would assume that clean-cut young men, neatly barbered and beardless, are not always suspected of nefarious attempts. Jamal was not only barbered and beardless, he was of neither tattoo nor earring, neither nose ring nor lip ring, and he had not subjected his tongue to a piercing. No scar, tribal marks, birthmarks, warts, or facial skin growth––except that he had only suffered from verruca plataris at a tender age, but nobody would really be interested in his feet. The rain continued beating on him fiercely, coming down like sheets of silver knives, the dark sky filled with darker masses of swirling black cloud. He walked to the front door of the house and turned the handle. The occupants were not as silly as going to bed and leaving their front door unlocked. Jamal dipped his hand in his pocket and brought out a safety pin which he twisted into a certain shape before inserting it in the keyhole. He wanted to avoid signs of forced entry; however, picking locks was not as easy as it appeared to be in the movies. Neither was seducing a lady or beating up five men or anything. It took him twenty minutes to get the door unlocked; he opened the door quietly and stepped in the room. Without much ado, Jamal went straight towards the bedroom door––this was unlocked. He withdrew the pistol he had tucked in his back pocket and stepped in. He found the couple sleeping under a large blanket; they had fallen asleep like spoons in a drawer. He took a stood beside the bed and sat down, watching as the husband snore. He hated snoring people––the sound disgusted him, it angered him. He went over the husband and gave him a hard punch on the stomach, the man reared up into a sitting position with eyes wide open, and before he could make a sound Jamal sent him a backhanded blow on the throat which sent him lying back on the bed. Jamal closed his left hand over the man’s mouth and pinned the muzzle of the pistol on his forehead. With one look, Jamal could see fear in the man’s eyes; the wife was still sleeping soundlessly, ignorant of anything happening beside her. The attacker looked around the room and saw an arm-chair at one corner. Then he faced the husband.
“Shh!” he hushed.
The man nodded.
Jamal withdrew his hand from the man’s mouth and jerked his head towards the chair, “You see that chair over there?” though he was whispering, every word sounded like it was being scraped across a metal file as it left his throat.
The man nodded again.
“Very good,” said Jamal, “Now, you’ll get up slowly from this bed and take a pew over there. Kapish?”
The man obeyed him as one obeys a dangerous madman. He slowly got up from the bed to sit in the chair.
Jamal opened the door of the wardrobe in the room and selected five ties which he knotted together; he went to the husband and tied him in the chair with it. He took another tie and used that to gag him. He stripped himself Unclad before the man and selected a pair of pajamas belonging to the gagged man. They fitted him like they were his. Jamal looked in the man’s eyes and saw one question written on them––Who’s this man?
“Do you know why I’m here?”
The man shook his head.
Jamal smiled, “You should have guessed.” He went over the man and whispered in his ear, “I’m here because I have your wife To Molest, and you are going to watch it.”
The man’s scared face instantly metamorphosed into that of rage. He struggled to get himself off the bondage but he couldn’t. The Molester was a professional in the art of tying and knotting; it was impossible for the husband to get off that chair. Jamal saw the husband’s anger and felt a brief pleasure from that. He enjoyed seeing the veins stand out from the man’s forehead. It was like pouring a drop of liquor on a scorpion.
Jamal went to the sleeping lady and tapped her on the shoulder. The wife opened her eyes slowly.
“Wake up, darling,” he said, smiling at her. “This is Showtime.”
The husband was already sweating profusely and he never stopped struggling to get off the chair, but the rope was not loosening.
The lady abruptly sat up on the bed.
“Who are you?” she demanded, “What do you want?” she became afraid when she saw her own husband.
“What I want, pretty lady, is very simple. Just pull off your nightdress and lie back on the bed. I’ll do the rest.”
She began weeping as the knowledge of what she was told to do occur to her. “Please leave us alone. You can take anything you want, just leave us alone. I beg of you.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jamal breathed, feigning emotion. “I should really leave you guys alone but I can’t. I’m obsessed with you, cute lady.”
Jamal noticed that the woman did not even recognize him. She had forgotten the face of that man who had approached her with sweet words.
Jamal turned to the husband, “I envy you, mister. I can’t imagine how you managed to marry this sexy lady. Did you charm her? I can not just understand. Seriously, it piques my curiosity because this lady is far better off than you in more ways than one.”
“Please leave us alone.” She continued begging him.
“You’re starting to annoy me, young lady. Can’t you just keep your mouth shut?”
“Please…” her voice trailed off.
Jamal rolled his face into a vicious and cruel expression, “This is getting us nowhere.” He muttered. He went to the husband and aimed his gun at his temple; he turned to the woman and said:
“Mrs––it’s either you obey me or I blow your husband’s brain out. This shouldn’t have to be bloody. Just do what I tell you and everything will be okay.”
The woman’s face carried a mask of terror, “Oh, please don’t hurt him, I’ll do anything you say.”
“I’m amazed,” Jamal uttered, “You really love this man, don’t you? Now, get off that bed and stand on your feet.”
The lady obeyed.
“Take off your nightdress.”
She hesitated a mo before she untied her night dress and let it slip to the floor from her shoulders.
Jamal smiled and whispered to the husband, “Isn’t this cute? She’s even got her bra and panties on. Oh God, she’s driving me crazy. God bless the woman who birthed your wife.”
The woman continued weeping sadly, she cast her face downward. She could not look at their attacker’s face and she was too ashamed to dare look in her husband’s eyes because she knew the kind of man she had married.
“Stop crying like a baby; get Unclad and lie on the bed.”
The woman appeared not to hear Jamal. He became slightly angry and struck the husband a double blow on the cheek. Blood spurted out of the man’s mouth from between the gag. She immediately got rid of the underwear. Jamal came at her and pushed her roughly on the large bed.
The husband watched in horror as the stranger victimized his wife, his ears were filled with the screams of his spouse. He struggled with all his strength to get off the chair but he could not. He anger mounted to his face as he watched the intercourse; his body swelled as if he were about to burst. The Molester’s eyes were shut in ecstasy as he humped and pounded his helpless victim. He was sweating profusely by the time he was through.
Jamal looked at the husband and smiled in a wicked fashion, his smile carried a contented expression––like a man who had just won the championship bout in a boxing contest. The rain outside had suddenly stopped, as if it were waiting for the Molester to finish his mission.
“Oh, she’s one hell of a screw,” he said, fanning himself with his hands. “She has all my seed in her.”
Jamal cleaned himself and put on a pair of clean shirt and trousers belonging to the husband. He said to the husband, “Thanks for the hospitality––and for watching. I really did enjoy myself. Goodnight.” He walked out of the room whistling a merry tune.
As Jamal climbed the fence out of the compound, he pictured how the husband had looked. When he was done with the wife, Jamal had seen the husband look at her without getting his eyes off her. Jamal knew the look very well––it was the look of pure unquenched hatred. He knew they would never have a happy home again.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Nobody: 11:48pm On Oct 25, 2012|
one story leads to another, and another. . . and another. hmmmm, make i de watch sha
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 9:41am On Oct 26, 2012|
Thanks Bro, I appreciate that. Here's more...
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 9:54am On Oct 26, 2012|
When Richard went to bed that night he punched the pillow angrily several times. He could not sleep, kept tossing and turning from left to right on his mattress. The thought could not leave him, the thought that had been haunting his dreams every time he slept––his father an armed robber and a Molester. Richard felt rage within him. Evidently, he had always been in an unhappy mood, but the revelation about his father left him sadder than he had ever been. He could feel the blood of his own father flowing in his veins; the blood of a killer. Richard tried to forget about his predicament for the moment and thought about something else––he thought about Abigail. How lucky a girl she is. A girl who had never known sadness all her life. Richard could picture her smiling face; she was fond of smiling at whatever she says or hears. It was a kind of dimple feminine smile that added more beauty to her youthful face. She smiled with her whole face; her mouth, her cheeks, her eyes––especially her eyes. He loved so many things about her; he loved the way she said his name, he loved the way she breathed and spoke and the perfumes she wore. He loved everything about her with a passion that seemed to sweep him right into an emotion he had never before felt. An old ugly man like Cain getting married to this knock-out looking, smart, funny lady about thirty years younger. Richard could not figure out what she saw in him, because Cain was as annoying and cruel and ugly as he was old. Richard remembered an old proverb: love is evil; you could fall in love with the billy goat. And, personally, Richard thought Cain should be hanged for robbing the cradle; he was ready to donate the rope.
He checked the alarm clock by his bed: 10.45 pm. He rolled on his side and shut his eyes, praying that there should be no nightmare this time. In about ten minutes, he was already slipping into that deep, dark abyss when he heard a faint sound on his door. He was not sure at first so he ignored it. Another knock. He got up quickly, switched on the light, put on his trousers and a shirt without buttoning up, and opened the door. He found Abigail standing on the threshold with tears on her face.
“Abigail!” he said, a bit louder than he had intended. Her husband might hear him, and Richard was not looking forward to another vile disposition from the man. Although he knew his boss to be an early-to-bed man.
“Can I come in?”
“Oh, do please come in.”
She walked slowly inside and sat on a chair. She folded her hands on her laps, and they rested like a Mona Lisa’s.
“What happened?’ Richard asked, “Why are you crying?”
“It’s Cain, he slapped me.” She said from a sob.
“Slapped you? What has gotten over him? How dare he slap a woman?”
Abigail said, “Richard, please watch what you say about him. Don’t get yourself more entangled in Cain’s web than you already have.”
“I’m sorry, let me rephrase––kudos to him. He has all the right to slap you because he’s your husband, and he can slap a woman like you till his palm ache. What a gentleman he is.”
Abigail stared at him blankly for about half a minute before bursting again into tears, crying softly and heaving her shoulders like a child. Like most men, Richard was helpless in front of a crying lady.
“Abigail, come on, turn off the waterworks––I’m sorry. I understand the love you have for him, but that doesn’t mean he should maltreat you. I just believe that a man who beats his wife is nothing but a rat with syphilis.” Richard tried to comfort her but she continued crying. He didn’t know what else to say, he drew out a brown handkerchief from his trousers pocket and offered it to her. She took it and thanked him, wiping her tears with it.
“I’m not crying because he slapped me. No, not because of that.” She said at last.
“But why must he go so far? What really happened?”
“Can we forget about that for now?” she continued, “Cain has always been like that since I know him. Sometimes, he would be in a very good mood and won’t really mind anything you say to him. But most of the time he’s always cruel and easily angered. Most times, if I as much as show in any way actions contrary to his satisfaction Cain uses his fists to enforce his viewpoints. I don’t blame him much; I think he was born like that; wicked, arrogant, fierce and deadly.”
“He’s such a wicked man?”
“You haven’t seen any of his wickedness. Cain is meaner than a viper. He has the kind of nature that makes snakes cross the street to the other lane when they see him.”
“And you got married to that kind of man?” he asked her, “Why, because of his money?”
“Do you think I care about his money?”
“Then why did you marry him? There must be a good reason.”
“It’s a long story.”
Abigail sighed, “Can I have a glass of water, please? I’m thirsty.”
Richard rose and produced the glass of water she demanded. Abigail drank the water thirstily.
“I lost my mother when I was about two years old, she died in a vehicle accident and my father had been taking care of me ever since; spending almost everything he earned to send me to school. Four years ago, when I was in my final year in the higher institution my father became ill with the problem of the lungs. He found breathing very hard. I think they call it emphysema or so.”
“Wait,” Richard interrupted, “Was he a smoker?”
“Why are you asking? Are you a doctor?”
“We spent all the money we had but the bill was too high to foot. His condition was getting worse each day. He was barely conscious after just two weeks. I was afraid, I ran to the doctor begging him to save my father but he only told me to go and find some money for his treatment if I wanted my father to live. That was the time I met Cain. He had come to see the doctor for his medical check-up; Cain doesn’t joke with his health. Since the three years I’ve known him there was not a day he had ever fallen ill.”
“Is that a compliment?”
“I thought Cain felt sorry for me when he saw me begging the doctor. After the doctor had filled him in about my predicament he gave me his business card and asked me to check him at his office on the third day. I was very happy, thinking I had found a saviour. But on the other hand, I was afraid my father might not survive the days before I meet Cain so I kept praying fervently to God to preserve his life.
“I went to the address written on the card and I was lucky to meet him there. He called me into his office where he told me plainly that he would pay for my father’s treatment bill. I was very glad and I rained all the prayers I could remember on him. Then he gave me a condition, he said I’ll have to do something for him first. What he demanded surprised me.”
“He wanted to sleep with you before saving your father?” asked Richard.
“Well, that is the commonest thing most promiscuous rich men always wanted, isn’t it? But Richard went farther than that.”
“What did he ask you?” he asked impatiently.
“To marry him. He said I must marry him if I wanted to save my dying father.”
“But that’s preposterous.”
“Initially, I thought he was joking but I became scared when I saw the seriousness on his face.” She sighed again and continued, “I told him marriage is more than that; it’s the union between two people who love each other deeply. He said he didn’t care about that; I must marry him he said. I answered him that marrying him is the last thing I will ever do, but he only smiled and said I have the choice to walk away and let my father die––but the conscience that I killed my own father when I had the chance to save him will haunt me for the rest of my life. He also said the doctor had told him that my father had only two weeks left to live if he was not treated fast.
“I was confused and scared. The thought of getting married to that monster nauseated me, yet, my dad was the only family I had. I went out of Cain’s office in anger but I returned after two days agreeing to marry him. I was hoping that after my father’s treatment and he’s alright I would refuse to marry him. My dear father would not even allow the wedding to take place.
“But Cain was cleverer than I thought of him. He said the wedding first, my father’s treatment after. I had no choice but to agree. He took me to a court where we were legally joined; no well-wisher, only the two of us. Immediately afterwards, he paid for my father’s treatment. But my father eventually died. No post-mortem examination was carried out and there was no autopsy report about his death. Cain purchased a piece of land in a local cemetery where my father was buried; not even a tombstone was erected over his grave.” Another trickle of tears found their ways down her cheeks. She wiped them with the hanky.
Richard shook his head slowly and pathetically, “I’m sorry. Didn’t you think that your husband had a hand in your father’s death?”
“I know Cain killed my father, with the help of his Doctor Frankenstein. Cain is a psychopath; he has no regard for other people’s lives.”
Richard became uneasy; the prospect of working under a boss who killed people as though they were cockroaches was not one that filled him with glee.
“I once had a boy-friend before getting married to Cain, but he was a fool; he didn’t know that nobody messes with Cain.”
“It was already about two weeks of living with Cain, still mourning my father’s death, when Tolu, my boy-friend, came into this compound lamenting that Cain had robbed him of his girl-friend. Can you imagine how insane that sounds? I knew Cain was very annoyed, he felt like killing him on the spot, but he didn’t show his annoyance. He apologized to Tolu and gave him a surprising large sum of money. Because of his greed, he collected the money and walked away peacefully but he came back a week later to demand for more.”
“I’m sorry you had Oliver Twist as a lover. Cain should have known that blackmailers rarely give up after one payoff.”
“He started getting more voracious until he was found floating on the lagoon.”
“Another of your husband’s handiwork, no doubt.”
“Then why are you still with that monster? Why can’t you just leave him? You have nothing to lose after all.”
“I have my life to lose; I can never escape Cain if he’s still alive. I wanted to leave when I realized that Cain was behind my father’s demise but I couldn’t. He caught me packing my belongings one night; he was looking like a devil, I’ve never been so scared in my life, I thought he was going to kill me on that spot. He locked the door behind us and faced me; he told me that he knew I never liked him and he didn’t care, he said I was very lucky that I hadn’t left because if I had, I wouldn’t have survived five days on the face of the earth. I know he was not joking. Everyday, I pray and wish he were dead; felled by a massive cardiac infarction, cerebral hemorrhage, cancer, bleeding ulcer or a plain spiritual, unmedical lightning strike.”
“Maybe he did all those for love. We all can do some crazy things because of love, you know? Initially, I thought you two had the greatest love affair since Hitler and Eva Braun.”
Abigail was wide-eyed, “Oh my God! You are comparing Cain with love? You’re insane; you know that, don’t you? Cain doesn’t have any idea about love. The word ‘Love’ is the strangest thing to him; he can’t just bring himself to love because he doesn’t know anything about it.”
“Okay, why did he marry you?”
“He wanted to be honoured as a married man. He doesn’t have what it takes to keep a wife either so he had to use force.”
Richard leaned forward, “What do you mean?”
“He has a limp membrum virile, I thank God for that. According to what I heard or read, I can’t remember; it happened about six years ago when he was ill with fever and was admitted to the hospital, the nurse who attended to him gave him an injection meant for another patient. The injection incapacitated him sexually. He has been as sexless as a neutered cat since then. I owe that nurse a big thank you, may her soul rest in peace. I can’t just imagine Cain climbing over me and humping the sanity out of me.”
“That’s good news at least, his unplanned sterility is for the sake of humanity’s future.” He paused, “But, the nurse is dead?”
Abigail looked at Richard with more astonishment. “Do you really think Cain would pardon a person who did that kind of thing to him? The patient who was to be given the injection was a woman who came for her menopause treatment. The nurse made a mistake due to a simple mix-up, but Cain made her pay for that mistake with her life.”
“Do you know if Cain once had a wife before you?”
Abigail took a moment before replying, “I learnt from somebody-in-the-know that Cain once had a wife who died after fifteen years of their marriage, the woman had loved him so much that she had never allowed a drop of water fall on his fire. About eleven months after their wedding the poor woman had been Molested by a psychopath. A burglar broke into their home, bound Cain and forced him to watch the molest. Mrs. Martins could not fulfill her marital obligations from that night on.
“Cain’s wife, Rita Martins was already rich before she was born. Her father, Honourable Benson, was a strikingly rich multi-millionaire. He had bought five million units of shares for her when she was nothing but a seven-month old pregnancy. Honourable Benson was one of those who got their fortunes from embezzling the country’s budget allocations. By the time Rita Benson was twenty years old; her net worth could not be valued without the use of a calculator. She married Cain at twenty-three, and six months after her wedding her parents were killed in a plane crash. As the only heir to the deceased, Rita Benson took over her parents’ properties. But somehow, Cain managed to make her sign him as the only beneficiary to the properties incase of her own demise. She died fifteen years later of cancer, I don’t know if that is true.”
“I smell a rat there.”
“You’re not the one here with a sensitive nose. A few months after her molest, Mrs. Rita Martins got in the pudding club.”
“She became pregnant.”
“She carried the child of the Molester?”
“She believed her pregnancy was Cain’s, but Cain believed otherwise. When the child was born, Cain never showed him any care; he kept abusing the child; savagely beating him and calling him a bastard. The boy died at the age of seventeen.”
“Cain killed him, too?”
“Hard to say. According to the little information I was able to gather; the boy was killed by armed robbers during a shoot-out with the police in 2002. The death of the boy was a great relief to Cain.”
Richard sighed and said, “Your husband is not only a psychopathic killer––he’s also rude, if his mother were alive I would have liked to meet her.”
“What would you have said to his mother?”
“For a start, I would severely chastise her for poor parenting.”
Abigail’s eyes suddenly caught the alarm clock by Richard’s bed. “Oh my God!” she lamented, “It’s already midnight. I have to be going now, it has been a relief talking to you––see you in the morning.”
Richard held her firmly by the arm as she rose up to go, “Wait,” he said, “I won’t want you to start crying again after you leave here, okay?”
She smiled broadly, “No, I won’t. You’ve cheered me up. Good night, sleep tight; don’t let the fleas bite, and sweet dreams.”
Richard still held her firmly by the hand. Then he did what he had wanted to do, and had determined not to do. He bent Abigail’s head, put his arm around her and drew her towards him before he gently kissed the mouth he had always wanted to kiss for a long while––those gentlest, heavenliest lips that the Almighty ever made. Before that time, Richard’s relationship with Abigail had been one of careful politesse, but this kiss was a sudden giant leap by this driver. For a moment, she did not resist him. Then he had it––Richard did not see the slap coming, her hand seemed to come from nowhere.
It hit his cheek connected with his ear with a loud clap. She was a good hitter; this was one of her best efforts. It hurt Richard like hell; the inside of his ear exploded with momentary pain, then went numb and became very warm––his cheek instantly reddened where she had slapped him. A high whistling sound began to whine in his head, but the shock was even worse than the pain. What was a gentleman to do?
Richard stared at her in surprise as though what he had just done was the sanest thing ever. He was too startled by the sudden attack to make any reasonable cause of his act. He bowed politely before her and said:
“I deserved that, I’m sorry.”
Abigail ran out of the room like an Indian maiden.
He leaned against his door with his back as the realization of the danger he had put himself began to occur to him slowly; he had kissed another man’s wife. He knew kissing her was wrong but he could not stop himself. Abigail was beautiful, there was no doubt about that, but Richard had met more beautiful women than Abigail, yet he found her irresistible when they were both alone in the room. If she had not stopped me, would I have gone far? He shook the silly thought out of his head.
Cain forcefully married Abigail but he had never taken her to bed, because he can’t. It means that for the past three years, Abigail had not––
Richard locked his door, switched off the light and landed heavily on his bed. Cain. How many people had died from that monster’s hand? Six maybe––or more. He’s just as dangerous as a bomb-wrapped terrorist. Richard was about falling into an uncheatable slumber when a sudden thought brought a cold sweat to his face.
If Cain had killed his first wife, would he not try to kill the second?
This time he kissed the pillow like a demented poet, but his ear was still singing with the inflicted slap.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by avicky(f): 6:02pm On Oct 27, 2012|
Larry, i'm speechless.
U made my day with this. Weldone!
But dis suspense is biting.
I'm bookmarking this, so i can read it to d end & see d end of dt scally wag, cain.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 9:26pm On Oct 27, 2012|
avicky: Larry, i'm speechless.
Thank you so much, Avicky. I'm glad you're enjoying it. There's more to come,
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 8:57am On Oct 28, 2012|
The sky was black, just like a coven of witches’ cauldron; there was no trace of any white or blue cloud in the firmament. He was in the middle of an ancient cemetery; most of the graves around him were open. There were different shapes and sizes of skeletons in each hole; termites, cockroaches, worms and millipedes seeking solace in brainless skulls and eyeless sockets. He shouted with all his might but he could not hear himself, neither could the vultures perched on mahogany branches ready to devour the little rotten pieces of fleshes and sinews remaining on some corpses. It was as if he had entered a weird conduit between the land of the living and that of the dead. The yard was as silent as every grave should be. One tomb appeared before him. It came from nowhere; he knew it was not there before. Fear took hold of his heart when he read the name carved on it––Abigail! It was also uncovered. It can’t be, no. it can’t. He moved closer towards the grave, expecting to see rats eating up her bowels and worms wriggling from the staring eyes of her corpse. Ten steps left, six, four, and one. He looked into the grave–– a sudden loud sound began all over the grave yard, it was so loud that he had to cover his ears with his hands.
Richard woke up cold skinned, sweating and gasping. His first impulse was to scream like a little girl but he repressed the urge in time. He felt his body and looked at his surroundings to be sure it was only a nightmare and nothing more. The alarm clock by his bedside had evidently rescued him from the bad dream because it was still shrilling. It was 6.35am. Just like every other people who had had a senseless dream like his, Richard began at once to forget about it. Half of it was gone by the time he stood up from the bed; three-quarters of it by the time he finished taking his bath and began to towel off; all of it by the time he finished his breakfast of a loaf of bread that tasted like a roll of tissue paper.
Richard dressed up and went to the garage. He was to drive his boss to the airport; Cain would be catching the early flight to Abuja where he would spend three days. Richard resumed his daily protocols of checking the car for any fault; he checked the fuel gauge, the filter, the gear, brake––everything was perfect. He sat in the car to wait for Cain to come out. At exactly half an hour later, Cain came out of the building with a briefcase dangling under his left arm. Cain got in the car and ordered Richard to drive.
On the way to the airport, Richard noticed his boss was unusually quiet. He had known his boss a choleric, prissy-mouthed, mannerless old cow who always complained about anything and anybody. Richard’s mind became restless; Cain’s silence meant something very bad was coming.
“Richard.” Cain called from behind.
Richard hesitated a moment before answering. “Yes-sir?”
“Do you read Shakespeare?” asked Cain plainly.
Richard was taken aback. The last question he expected Cain to ask was the one concerning the Bard of Avon.
“I’ve read some of his books, sir.”
Richard paused again before replying. “Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Romeo––”
Cain cut him short, “Wasn’t he a phenomenal writer?”
Richard could not reply, the strangest thing was happening and Richard was particularly lost. The traffic control system flashed red and Richard stepped on the brake. Cain waited for Richard to drive before resuming his speech.
“Have you read Othello, Richard?”
He could not answer.
“Answer me, Richard. Have you read Othello?”
“Yes, sir. I read it a long time ago.”
“Do you remember its casts?”
“Some of them.”
“Give me the names you can recall.”
“Iago, Desdemona, Roderigo, Emilia.”
“Othello was written between 1602 and 1604 and was first published eighteen years later––1622.” He paused and asked, “You remember Desdemona, don’t you?”
“The Moor’s wife.”
“Let me refresh your memory about Othello. The plot of the story revolved around four distinct characters; Othello, Desdemona, Iago and Cassio. In summary, Othello killed his wife, Desdemona, because he was made to believe by Iago that she was unfaithful to him. He believed Cassio was bedding his wife.” He paused, and then went on, “Cassio himself was also injured, Desdemona was murdered and Othello committed suicide––all because of a handkerchief. See the disaster a handkerchief can cause. Othello found his wife’s handkerchief with Cassio and murdered Desdemona because he suspected her of infidelity.
Richard was feeling uncomfortable. This man is trying to drive at something. Murphy’s Law is in action: Whatever can possibly go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible degree.
The next question almost paralyzed Richard.
“Richard, how did your handkerchief get to my wife?”
He felt as if his world had just come to an end. The handkerchief, oh my God!
Richard had given his handkerchief to Abigail when she was crying and he had not remembered to collect it back from her. How could I have been so careless? Richard was the only person in the house who used a brown handkerchief, and Cain recognized it.
Richard opened his mouth to speak but no word could emerge.
What am I going to say now? He thought, Will I tell him that his wife only spent about two hours in my room discussing all his atrocities and I offered her my handkerchief because she was crying?
The idea sounded silly and insane to even Richard himself. He remembered all what Abigail had told him about this man, that he’s a devil; a wolf that can kill without blinking an eye. Sweat broke out of Richard’s forehead.
“I told you that you will get into trouble with me one day, did I not?” Cain’s voice was cold, “I know that Naughty Lady came into your room at about eleven yesterday evening and left some minutes past twelve.”
“She came to–to–” he could not find the right word to say.
“To satisfy your intimate urge?” Cain asked sharply. “You’ve got a zipper and something’s behind it, isn’t it?”
“Stop that, sir!” Richard roared. He stamped his foot on the brake viciously; the car slumped forward suddenly before stopping. His eyes were glistening with sweat and his eyes were becoming red from anger and fear.
“Now, what are you going to do now? Kill me?” he laughed, “It’s not as easy as that, young man.” He paused for a moment before asking, “Do you like games, Richard? I like playing games. I challenge you to a game of survival, let’s see who wins.”
Cain grinned wickedly, showing a mouthful of yellowed teeth, it seemed like there were a thousand teeth in that mouth. “I have a plane to catch; I don’t want to be late, okay?”
As though he was under a spell, Richard started the car and continued driving. He could feel it within him. The game had started.
* * * * *
It had been exactly four weeks and three days since Richard had left his mother to live with the Martins. After dropping Cain at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Richard decided to check on his mother. Having reached the destination, he parked the jeep and got out, he looked around; the environment had not changed a bit. By his left, Richard looked with horror filled eyes at a rooster mating a duck. Sacrilege! He picked up a stone and hurled it at them. Jesus! He thought, what type of eggs will the duck lay? His mother lived in the same street she had lived in for the past twenty years––a street of drab houses devoid of any kind of beauty or interest.
As he walked on, there was a group of spindly-legged little girls in front of an almost dilapidated building holding hands and dancing to the repeated chant:
Who’s in the garden?
A little fine girl,
Can I come and see her?
No, no, no, no…
As Richard continued walking, he spotted a big and dirty looking black dog sleeping in the shade of the veranda of the building opposite his mother’s. As much as Richard liked animals, he had always feared dogs who grew way taller than the height of his knees from the ground, and he had never tried to move close to any. He crossed to the other side of the road, part of him was waiting for another large retriever to lumber around the corner of the structure adjacent to his mother’s, with teeth bared, just looking for a plump leg to bite. However, no animal or person came forward to greet or attack him. A hen and half dozen chicks scratched in the dirt nearby. Before he reached his mother’s abode, a very bent old woman limped out from a very bent old building from which some children had ran out from moments earlier. She used a walking stick to support her gait and stomped after the little devils giving unsolicited advice to passers-by, most of it very wise. She was chasing the troublesome kids from her house and trying to wave her stick and threatening beatings even the children knew would never be administered.
Richard found the door of his mother’s house unlocked and feared gripped him for an instant; he opened and got into the house quietly. He sighed in relief as he found his mother sitting in a couch doing needlework with her glasses on the very end of her nose, and a glass of water on the stool next to her. She was busily engaged in her stitching so much that she was unaware of Richard’s presence. He stood at one corner of the room studying his mother. As always, Richard had been startled and disarmed by his mother’s beauty. As a young woman, he knew his mother must have been remarkably beautiful. And now, at forty-six, she could pass for twenty-two; when she was thirty-five she had had the power to rivet the attention of every man, a power that she may no doubt still have at sixty. At her age, the hair of most women had begun to go grey but Richard’s mother was not one to yield to nature. She possessed the deeper beauty of the beatified: the sweet humility and the tenderness that came with her gorgeousness, the appealing glow of care and character that, in their last years of this earth, no doubt marked the faces of those who were later canonized as saints.
Richard had meant beauty as a thing apart from intimate desire alone, beauty as an ideal, beauty striking that it spoke to the soul––women and men, babies and centenarians alike, were drawn to Rosemary, wanted to be near her, and deep in their eyes when they gazed at her was something like pure hope and something like rapture, but different and mysterious. The love so many brought to her was love she also gave to them in return. But she refused to get married again. When Richard was a child, he had confused his mother with the Virgin Mary, and now that he was older he saw no reason for changing his opinion.
Why can’t she just find herself a nice, decent man who will take care of her in lieu of just sitting here all alone? Richard thought, I should talk her into that one day.
The rooms had changed since the past month he had left his mother; the whole of the house had been repainted, there were picture of what Richard knew to be his ancestors’ on the walls of the small sitting room. Most of them were pretty bad, he thought, though they might have looked better if they had been cleaned. He didn’t know what prompted his mother to put the pictures there when he was now no more living with her, and he was more concerned about why she refused to get them cleaned when the walls were already painted. He wanted to ask his mother but he thought better of it.
“Mum.” Richard called.
Mrs. Philip looked up and found her son standing at a corner by the door. She got up immediately and a beatific smile spread across her face.
“Oh, my son,” she was happy, “Is this really my Richard? Come and sit down. Oh, Richard. Why are you here this morning Richard, are you ill?” Mrs. Philip had always been paranoid about her son’s health and safety. She knew it, admitted it, but could do nothing about her frequent paranoia. Every time Richard got a cold was little, she was sure it would become pneumonia. When he cut himself with a sharp object, no matter how small the wound, she feared the bleeding, as if the loss of a mere drop of his blood would be the death of him. When at play in primary school, Richard had fallen out of his merry-go-round and broken his leg, she had nearly fainted at the sight of his twisted limb.
“I’m fine, mother,” he replied, “I’ve been standing here for quite some time and you did not even notice me come in. Why did you not lock the door? Don’t you know it’s dangerous?”
“Oh, forgive me. I thought I did lock it.”
“What are you doing with those, mama?” asked Richard, pointing at the needle and thread on the stool.
“No, nothing really––I was only trying to make a shawl.”
“Yes, a shawl, babies’ shawl.”
“What do you need that for?”
She spread her hands, “Nothing. I was only trying to keep myself busy. You know, having nothing to do can be quite boring sometimes. Besides, the shawl can come in handy one day––my grandchild can use it.” She smiled and winked playfully at her son.
Richard did not find it funny at all.
“Did you get the money I sent you?”
“Oh, yes I did. Thank you.”
“I drove my boss to the airport so I thought I should check how you are fairing before returning. I hope there is nothing wrong?”
His mother thought before replying.
“I think there is.” I had a dream tonight and it really disturbed me. The dream was about you.”
“A dream about me?” he remembered about his own dream too; though he had forgotten about that dream in the morning, it still littered the floor of his mind like something broken and not yet swept up, and his mother also having a dream about him made him uneasy. Is there a link?
“In that dream I saw a shepherd with a dog and about two dozens sheep on a green field. A few minutes later, the shepherd went away leaving the dog and sheep. Immediately, the dog transformed into a wolf and killed a sheep. The wolf cleaned the blood which stained its mouth on the shepherd’s garment which he left behind, and the wolf changed back into the dog it was initially. Incidentally, another sheep’s body was stained with the dead one’s blood. The shepherd returned, saw the dead sheep and found the one stained with the blood among the other flock. The shepherd thought it was the stained sheep which killed the other, so he picked up his gun and aimed it at the sheep, intending to kill it. He was about to pull the trigger when I woke up.”
Richard raised his face to the roof, “God, how much awful news it does take a man to endure for a lifetime?” he faced his mother, “What has that got to do with me, mama?”
“It has a lot. Just immediately that wolf turned to the dog your face appeared in the process.”
Richard was baffled, “My face? What does that mean?”
“I don’t know, the dream was an enigma to even me. But you must be very careful––be careful.”
“It was only a dream; you don’t have to take it seriously. Forget about it, mama. It’s mere bagatelle.”
“Richard, the dream is not meaningless––it’s not.”
They were both looking in each other’s eyes for a long time. They didn’t need to talk; they had exchanged ten thousand words in just the brief stare they shared.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 6:47pm On Oct 31, 2012|
Everyone demands a spice of danger in their lives. Some get it vicariously––as in street fights. Some read about it. Some find it at the cinema. Too much safety is abhorrent to the nature of a human being. Men find danger in many ways––women are induced to finding their danger mostly in the affairs of sex. That is why, perhaps, they welcome the hint of the tiger––the sheathed claws, the treacherous spring. The excellent fellow who will make a good and kind husband––they pass him by.
Richard was driving back to Cain’s apartment after finishing one of his mother’s culinary delights; a dish of rice hot enough to scorch his uvula. We think a lot mostly when we are alone. And most of our thoughts then were concerned with what we have done in the past, or what we are likely going to do in the future to come.
Richard knew he had a serious apology to make to Abigail; he had made a complete Bottom of himself when he kissed her. The laughing-always-happy girl had been through hell in life. Who would ever have thought that the girl had been so unfortunate? Nobody would have guessed that she had lost her mother when she was only two and her father murdered by the man who forced her to marry him. Also, she once had a boyfriend who was floating on the lagoon. The platitude that if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back had a new meaning to Richard. That same girl may lose her life by her demented husband. The thought about Abigail being brutally murdered was unbearable to Richard. What method will the crazy husband try to use this time? Will it look like an accident? Surely, the crime would not be connected to Cain. Other atrocities he had committed did not come home to him. Cain was like the perfect criminal on whom no crime could possibly be charged. Moreover, a rich man like him would be difficult to convict. Richard tried to get the thought off his mind and concentrate on his driving.
The horrible thought came again.
Cain had killed his first wife because all her wealth came to him automatically. He had killed Abigail’s boyfriend because he had tried to blackmail him, and Cain hated being a victim of blackmail. What would he gain by killing Abigail? Richard racked his brain but found no motive. A wild thought suddenly struck his mind like a matador––Othello! Othello killed his wife because he thought Desdemona was having an affair with Cassio. Cain might want to kill Abigail because he thought she was having an affair with me. Sweat broke out of Richard’s forehead. Or Cain’s probably a psychopath. Psychopathic killers don’t kill for any reason but for because they enjoyed doing so. They take it as an entertainment––a game. Richard sighed. He remembered what Cain had said on the way to the airport––I like playing games. The greatest punishment was the one inflicted on the people you care about. How much worse that pain would be if you had to live with the knowledge that the innocent person had been dealt early death as surrogates for you, punished for your offence. And the unbearable guilt would be that you didn’t take any action when you had the chance to stop this innocent person from being hurt.
Richard was finding it hard to press the accelerator of the car as the thought continued to expand in his mind. I challenge you to a game of survival. That is what Cain had said. Let’s see who wins. He had said that too. Richard’s hand began to tremble as the meaning of what Cain had said occurred to him. It is simple, very simple––the game. Richard thought with fear gripping his heart, the game is to murder Abigail––and pin the crime on me!
Richard became numb; it was as though all the systems of his body had taken a break. He saw his hand move in astonishment, and he watched it with a certain fascination, not sure if the appendage belonged to him. It must have; when he thought about jiggling the fingers, they jiggled. He held the steering wheel firmly and shifted into reverse. The tyres barked against the tiled road as he jammed his foot down on the accelerator––a bald guy and his wife walking to church, with hymnbooks under their arms, looked at him in amazement as he maneuvered the vehicle roughly. The sweat from the nape of his neck was now trickling down his spine. He drove straight down the road as though he’d signed a suicide pact.
Within twenty minutes of driving like a bat out of hell, he reached the Martins’ building; he drove furiously into the compound as the gatekeeper opened the gate. He jumped out of the vehicle and ran into the main building. He found Abigail in the living room; she was busy brushing her hair and looking at a small mirror she held in front of herself and at the same time was watching Kennis Music Channel.
“Let me start by apologizing for what I did to you last night.” Richard said, out of breath. “I have acted like a complete rotter, and an utter scoundrel. There is no reasonable excuse I can make for my execrable conduct. It was folly and all I can do now is ask for mercy. I know you are a kind-hearted woman and I pray you will be generous enough to pardon my stupidity.”
Abigail laughed, “You have a funny way of asking for apologies. You need not use all these vocs, Richie. What happened last night was just a minor peccadillo.”
“Have you forgiven me?” Richard asked seriously.
“Okay, apology sustained.”
“Thank you––” he breathed out heavily, “Now, you need to get out of here.”
“What do you mean?” she looked at Richard as though he had taken all his clothes off in public.
“You have to leave before he comes back.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your husband. He’s planning to kill you.”
She looked at him suspiciously, “Richie, what have you been drinking?”
“I don’t drink, you know that.”
“Then what have you been smoking?” she picked up her brush again and stroked her hair. She turned her attention back to the TV where a young pretty woman was flinging her arms around Kelly Handsome and kissing him madly.
“Please, Abigail, listen to me. There’s a man out there planning to kill you and you sat here knitting antimacassars. Cain’s plotting to kill you. Can’t you get that into your thick skull?”
“If you had been a teenager I wouldn’t blink an eye. There’s a chromosome that goes haywire when you turn thirteen. I’m really finding it hard to believe that such obscenity and filth is coming from the lips yours.”
“Abigail, this is serious, it concerns your life. Please listen to me. I’m not joking.”
“What has been sowing that unnatural garbage into your head?” Asked Abigail, with folded arms.
“Cain knew you came to my room last night.”
Abigail put her hands over her opened mouth in shock, “Oh my God! How did he know that? He was already sound-asleep when I got back to the room.”
“The handkerchief, he saw my hanky with you.”
“I’ve been a fool.”
Richard narrated his ordeal with Cain in the car. He looked at Abigail after telling her the story; she was looking undeciding, as if there was something in her mind she was afraid to say.”
“Abigail.” Richard called.
“Yes?” she raised her face to meet his gaze.
She was intelligent, Richard knew, one look at her and you knew about a million gears were spinning in her head, all meshing perfectly, well-oiled, quiet and productive. “What are you not telling me?”
“What do you mean by that?” she tried in vain to look puzzled.
Richard grabbed her shoulders and looked in her eyes, “You are hiding something very important. Please, tell me now before it’s too late.”
“You’re crushing my shoulders.”
“Sorry.” Richard released his hold, “Please, just try to reason with me. I will never forgive myself if Cain kills you. Besides, I may probably not be able to save myself after being convicted the murderer. We both know that an earthworm can never be innocent in the gathering of birds.” He knew somewhere deep down at the back of his own mind that if anything happened to Abigail, the world would be a far darker and less interesting place for him to live in, even if he were not convicted.
“What do you want me to tell you?”
“Everything you know about Cain. I think there’s a kind of evil spirit in him–like there’s a kind of mystery which follows him like a shadow.”
“Just like the mystery surrounding your own life?”
Richard was startled, “What are you talking about?”
A few seconds elapsed before Abigail replied.
“I’ve known you for over a month and I’ve known you’ve not been a happy man since. Please don’t interrupt me, you’ve never been happy. And you rarely smile, whenever you try to, the smile never seem to cover that sadness in you. I initially thought it was because you don’t like the job you are doing, but I now understand it’s worse than that.” She paused, “Before I tell you what you want to know, I want you tell me about that sadness–I want to know.”
“Believe me, my only problem is my job, I need a better job.”
“You can tell that to a fool, okay? But I’m not one.”
“Abigail, there are some problems we keep private. It’s not all our problems we share.”
His decisive reticence suddenly annoyed Abigail and she blurted out, “Oh, I’m sorry. I really made a fool of myself by telling you about my own problem. You can take a hike with your problem, I don’t care.”
For the first time, Richard realized that Abigail really looked angry. Even in anger, she looked very pretty.
“You don’t want to hear it, I assure you.”
“Try me.” She replied, smiling broadly again.
“Okay, let’s start with this,” he said, staring in her eyes. “How would you feel if I told you that my father is dead?”
“I feel sorry, really, but my father is dead, too, remember? I guess that makes the two of us.” She returned his stare.
“Okay.” He looked away. Sweat broke out of his forehead, he checked his palms and found them damp with sweat, and then he rubbed them on his trousers. Telling the story was more difficult than he had imagined it would come. “In 1981, armed robbers attacked my mother’s parents when she was only eighteen years old and she was Molested by one of them before their departure. I am the product.” He told her all what his mother had told him, leaving out nothing whatsoever.
Abigail opened her eyes wide, “Oh, my God!”
“The robbers were attacked by the police and killed immediately they left. I am the son of an armed robber––the gene of a cursed soul––the product of a Molester. Who would––”
“Stop it!” Abigail screamed suddenly. Richard raised his head and found tears in her eyes, running down her cheeks in passionate sequence. “Just stop it! Don’t you know girls cry when things like that are being spoken to them?” she wiped the tears with the back of both palms.
“I’m sorry you have to hear it. It’s not a story I tell with pride. We both have sad stories; I just don’t know who has the sadder between the two of us.”
He tried in vain to rid himself of the tears that formed in his eyes. “Now, tell me everything you know about Cain.” He said, forcing a false smile.
Abigail stood up, “I’ll need a modicum of discretion concerning what you are about to know today.”
“Every secret is safe with me––including yours.”
She went into an inner room and returned a few minutes later with a thick file which she gave to Richard.
“I came across that file when I was cleaning the bedroom.”
“When was that?”
“About a year ago, it says in there that on March13, 1978, Cain was admitted in an asylum in Yaba.”
“Christ!” Richard felt a jolt down his spine. He tried to visualize Cain spending some years in a sanitarium, talking to imaginary people and eating flies. He wondered if driving an insane employer hither and yon could subject him to lose his own sanity too.
“In 1983, he was discharged as completely healed. That was when he was twenty-seven years old.”
“Oh––then what are you still doing with a certified lunatic for crying out loud?” he cried out loud.
“Where do you expect me to go?” she demanded sharply, “I’m all alone; I have no family, nobody. Besides, I would be digging my own grave if I tried to leave him.”
“You don’t have much choice now, do you? He’s going to kill you anyway, even if you stay.”
“You don’t know that for sure. There’s nowhere I can go that he won’t know. I think he has employed a private eye to watch everywhere I go. Every time
I drive out, I feel that he’s one step behind me–like a guilty conscience he follows me about. There’s nowhere to go.”
“We can go to––”
“We?” she cast an inquiring look at Richard who carried a silly expression on his face. “Richie, are you suddenly using the royal plural pronoun?”
“Um––well,” he spread his hands and looked away frowning, when he looked at Abigail, worry lines had wrinkled his face.
“For how long will Cain be staying in Abuja?”
“Three days, he will land at the airport on Thursday afternoon.”
Richard became more worried.
“What’s wrong, Rich?”
Richard looked at Abigail pathetically, “I’m afraid when Cain returns something horrible is going to happen.”
Then he looked suddenly determined.
“But don’t worry, Abigail. I promise no harm will come to you. Everything will be under control. Even if it takes the last thing I will ever do.”
“My hero.” Abigail said solemnly.
Eze Chima came in, “Madam, is everything alright?” he glared at Richard, “Why did you drive in like that?”
Richard glared back at him, “Like what, old man.”
“Like a maniac.”
The driver clenched his hands into a fist and advanced towards the gatekeeper. “Keep a civil tongue in your mouth, old man! Or I keep them for you.”
“Richard!” Abigail lashed at him, “What came over you? This man is old enough to be your grandfather. Are you insane?”
“Leave him, madam. Let him show his stunt, I’m not as feeble as he may be thinking I am.”
“Apologize right now, Richard!” she commanded.
Richard unclenched his fist and said, “I’m sorry, sir. That was very rude of me, please forgive me. I didn’t know what really came over me. It must have been the stress.”
Eze Chima smiled, “It’s okay, I shouldn’t have spoken in such a tone to you either.” He turned to Abigail, “Is everything okay here, madam?”
“Everything is fine,” she replied, “We were only discussing the obvious.”
“I was worried.”
“All’s fine. You can go.”
The gatekeeper left.
“I must have lost my head in anger. I almost beat up that man.”
Abigail smiled, “How are you sure you can beat him in a fight?”
“That old man? Come on, Abigail, give unto me a break.”
“He’s an ex-soldier. He fought in the Civil War in 1968. Believe ye me, he would break your bones.”
“You didn’t tell me that before.”
And truly, if Richard had heard about the old gatekeeper’s ordeals in the final battle of the Civil War in the year 1970, he would have kowtowed before Eze. For the old gatekeeper was one of the bravest soldiers in his own time.
About fifty yards ahead of the twenty-one year old Eze, one of the leading tanks was burning, a soldier’s body sprawled across the hatch, the right arm dangling down towards the main turret, his helmeted head spattered with blood. Another tank, to his left, lurched to a crazy standstill as a shell shattered the left-side track; four men jumped down and sprinted back towards the comparative safety of the boundless, anonymous sands behind them.
The noise of the battle was deafening as shrapnel soared and whistled and plunged and dealt its death amidst the thick forest and the scorching sun. Men shouted and pleaded and ran––and died; some blessed swiftly in an instantaneous annihilation, others lingeringly as they lay mortally wounded on the bloody ground. Yet, others burned to death inside their tanks as the twisted metal of the hatches jammed or shot up limbs could find no final desperate leverage.
Then it was the turn of the tank immediately to his right––two officers leaped down from it, one clutching his arm which had been blown off from the elbow downward, and they just managed to race clear before the tank exploded into blinding flame. Eze and the two officers had struggled only some forty yards before flinging themselves down as another shell kicked up the sand just ahead of them, spewing its steel fragment in a shower of jagged metal. And when Eze finally looked up, he found the one-armed soldier dead; a lump of twisted metal embedded in his lower back.
He and the other soldier got up at the same time and began running; they had seen some of the enemies running towards them and shooting blindly. Eze ran like he had never done before, his partner was also a great runner; keeping a regular and even pace behind him. Eze could feel a wheeze as a bullet shot past his head––an inch closer and his head would be splattered on the ground; he ran faster. The two soldiers could simultaneously see a huge rock some few metres before them, and they were both running like hell towards it. They were almost a few steps before reaching their fortress when Eze saw that his partner had been shot. A small geyser of blood erupted from his neck. He staggered forward several yards, like a sprinter who had crossed the finish line. Then he collapsed to the ground. He had been struck in the lower outside part of his neck, near his right shoulder. Eze Chima could not leave him lying there; he bent over the collapsed soldier and dragged him behind the rock. Then the enemies stopped running towards them, they stood away and continued shooting at the huge rock; the bullets ricocheting to different directions.
Eze cradled the soldier’s head, applying pressure with both hands to the pulsing wound on the back of the neck, desperately trying to staunch the flow. The pressure was not working. Eze felt his uniform becoming warm and wet, and he realized what was wrong. There was an exit wound at the front of the soldier’s neck, perilously near the larynx, from which bright arterial blood was gushing. The soldier was trying to talk but it came out as a whisper.
“Wh-what is your name?”
The wounded soldier smiled, “I’m Uche. I like being a soldier I am––but I hate wars.”
Then Uche’s face concocted into that of agony. “I-I feel pain.”
“You will be okay, trust me.”
“I’ll kill those bastards.” He whispered. He wanted to shout but he could only manage a low rasp, loud enough for Eze to hear “Leave me.”
“No, you’ve been hit, you can’t fight them.”
Eze tried to hold him but the wounded one jerked his body away from him. He grabbed his gun and crawled out from behind the rock. He crawled a few feet and then used his arm to raise himself. Immediately, a blast hit his midriff, slamming him to the ground. His abdomen had been torn apart. Recovery was out of the question. For the moment, the enemies’ shooting range was focused on the dying soldier; they were busy disfiguring him with series of bullets. Eze took advantage of the opportunity and bolted; he didn’t want to be trapped behind the rock and then get killed. The enemies would surely not be standing forever waiting for him to come out of his hiding. He ran farther into the thick forest with a speed he didn’t know he possessed. Eze Chima was more satisfied being in the forest than in the open, he could hide anywhere in the forest and never be seen. He could even live in the forest better than most animals.
He was on the run when he met another enemy, they seemed to be everywhere. Eze had always been known by his fellow soldiers to be extremely fast with his weapons, and before the enemy could raise his gun, Eze had shot him as swiftly as he had seen him. The enemy had died instantly but Eze continued firing at him with the stance of a soldier firing at a person who could no more return fire, but whose continued appearance was itself a dire menace. When he stopped firing, the enemy’s gut had been burst open and a small saliva bubble mixed with blood had formed at his lips. Then immediately behind him, another enemy appeared, and in fear, Eze fired blindly, shooting all the bullets in his cylinder. The man staggered backward, making an odd gurgling sound; one of the bullets had pierced his throat, which exploded in a gush of arterial blood. Eze walked slowly towards the dead man, he wiped the tears in his eyes as he saw the dead soldier. They had shot Uche too in the neck, and he––Eze, had paid them back the same way. He was tired and he sat by the dead enemy; he leaned against a tree and closed his eyes.
The sun was fighting its final descent beyond the war zone when Eze Chima opened his eyes. The last orange rays were filtering through the thick foliage of the trees. Eze became confused; he couldn’t believe that he had slept all through the afternoon––so he had been unconscious for a couple of hours now. Everywhere was strangely silent; the cries of the injured soldiers, the explosion of tanks, the sharp cracking sounds of gunshots––everything had all stopped. He stood up abruptly. He was thankful that no enemy had come around to find him sleeping after he had killed two of their men in the same spot, they would make him suffer so much that he would have to beg them to kill him. Surely, they would be kind and delighted enough to kill him––slowly. Sweat broke out of Eze’s forehead; he was afraid. What has happened? He thought fearfully. He walked slowly out of the forest into the open war ground, and then he knew what had happened. He sat where he was, severely shocked but apparently uninjured. His eyes looked down at his legs, then at his arms; he felt his face and his chest, then he tried to wriggle his toes in his army boots. Truly, he was uninjured. Just about thirty minutes before he slept off there had been a dozen enemies trying to kill him. And now, there was one man alive here––him. His first conscious thought was a feeling of ineffable anger, but almost immediately, his heart rejoiced as he saw his other colleagues who were alive being carried on stretchers. Most of them had lost one or two of their limbs each. Only then and gradually did a sense of vast relief surge through him––relief that he had survived, without a scratch, and he said a brief prayer to God in gratitude for making him come through. With another stream of tears flowing down his eyes, Eze found himself sucking his lower lip between his teeth. He had actually bitten into the soft tissue; he could taste a trickle of blood.
The war had ended.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Nobody: 8:44pm On Oct 31, 2012|
i don learn 2 new words today: EXECRABLE and PECCADILLO. OP take am easy abeg. no be effrybodi go school like you.
nice one sha.. .
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 10:34pm On Oct 31, 2012|
brokoto: i don learn 2 new words today: EXECRABLE and PECCADILLO. OP take am easy abeg. no be effrybodi go school like you.Thanks again, Bro. Did I make an overabundant use of vocs? Pardon me for that, sir.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Nobody: 9:58am On Nov 01, 2012|
Larry-Sun:Nothing do you. fire away!
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 12:36pm On Nov 01, 2012|
brokoto: Nothing do you. fire away!You should know that this work is not yet edited.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Nobody: 1:50pm On Nov 01, 2012|
Larry-Sun:how do you mean? do you need a professional editor or you just need somebody to proof-read it for you?
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by uj_sizzle(f): 2:44pm On Nov 01, 2012|
Good one Larry, i'm loving this.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 2:58pm On Nov 01, 2012|
brokoto: how do you mean? do you need a professional editor or you just need somebody to proof-read it for you?You can pardon any grammatical error therein, even if the plot seems jejune and the characterization puerile. I need people to proof-read it.
It is currently going through some professional scrutiny in the States.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 3:04pm On Nov 01, 2012|
uj_sizzle: Good one Larry, i'm loving this.Thank you so much, UJ. You won't be disappointed, scout's honour.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 3:11pm On Nov 01, 2012|
At about 2pm that Thursday Richard drove to pick Cain at the airport. Richard was wearing a blue shirt, blue jeans and black boots; however, he did not seem to be casually dressed. Indeed, in spite of the jeans, there was an air of formality about his outfit. He wore those clothes better than most men wore suits. The sleeves of his shirt had been gracefully pressed and creased. His open collar stood up straight and stiff, as if it had been starched and ironed, with Richard still wearing it––like his shirt, his jeans seemed to have been carefully tailored. His low-heeled boots shone almost like patent leather. Richard had always been compulsively neat. His sartorial physique, however, might pose a serious challenge to the apparel industries.
As he was driving, he allowed his thought to drift to Abigail again; he could picture her smiling faces, the funny way she looked when angry, and she had a sense of humour. He would give anything to share his days and his long, troubled life with a woman like that. Laughter was usually a function of sharing––an observation, a joke, a moment. You don’t laugh a lot when you’re always alone; and if you do, that probably meant you should make arrangement for a long stay in the nearest asylum.
The sky was calm and clear. Rain was forecast for tomorrow, though no forecast could be trusted in Lagos. The afternoon sun blazed beyond the shadows of the vehicle Richard was driving. At the airport, Richard got out of the jeep, hooked his thumbs into his belt loops and stood staring up at the blue sky, feeling the mild sun on his face. A hawk glided in a widening gyre, a dark-feathered bird with a hunt for prey. He was so striking in appearance that travellers’ eyes were drawn to him as though he were a celebrity they did not quite recognize, or a handsome Nollywood star whose name escaped them.
A rich ugly-looking man sat with a laptop in his jeep, working the keyboard and the mouse-attached, fixated on the screen. Maybe he was checking out his company shipping schedules, or playing an internet game, or browsing a Indecency site, perhaps checking his Twitter, You tube or Facebook accounts.
The long double-lined circular drive was filled with dark limousines and expensive cars––Jaguars, Bentleys, Porsches, and a smattering of Lincolns and Hummers. Another driveway was filled with parked cars––Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, and a Volks.
Richard leaned against the vehicle and waited for the arrival of the aircraft, he waited for about fifty minutes before he spotted the aeroplane cruising down from the bright beyond, it came down on the runway with with loud screeches of its tyres as if it was a meteor shower right down from the outer-space. Normally, Cain was supposed to be one of the last people to get off the plane, so that his driver wouldn’t have to go through the rigor of searching for him in the crowd. But Richard knew his boss better; Mr. Cain Martins wasn’t one to obey the normal protocol of reason. So, Richard became more surprised when he spotted Cain alighting from the Bellview Airline; he was actually the last person coming down the steps. Cain was expensively dressed. His brown suit, his white silk shirt and polka spotted bow tie gave him the appearance of a well-to-do dandy, when Richard saw Cain peeked at his watch, he expected it to be a gold Rolex, but from where Richard stood, it appeared to be an old clunky digital; an object somewhat in cotradistinction to the rest of his apparel, which did not surprise Richard much––his boss was obviously a psycho.
Cain smiled when he spotted Richard, a smile which was always ugly to Richard. The smile always seemed to be telling him–‘I’m going to crush you like killing a mouse with a sledge hammer.’
Performing the civic duty of a good driver, Richard went to his boss and collected the suitcases he was carrying; he neither greeted nor complimented his boss. The hatchet each party was wielding was sharp indeed; each man was plotting to play the game in the way he knew how. But it seemed the favourable side of the die had been cast on the boss. Richard noticed that his boss looked unusually contented, satisfied––as if he had no problem whatsoever in the whirling world. Cain got in the passenger’s seat behind the driver’s and Richard went behind the vehicle to open the booth, he deposited the suitcases and was about to close the booth when he decided suddenly to check the contents of the cases. The first he opened contained Cain’s clothing.
“Holy Jesus!” he exclaimed under his breath. Richard had stopped going to church, even if he might go to hell for that, he didn’t care. But sometimes, he found himself using divine names and those of other holy saints of the Bible whenever he was shocked or in pain. He made a sign of a cross; he was suddenly a devout Catholic again. The second suitcase contained money––Nigerian currencies in a thousand denominations filled the case to the brim. Richard didn’t exactly fall to the climax, and no cartoon stars swarmed around his head, but he was rocked. He had never seen so much money in his life. How much is in here? Four million? Seven? Or more? Having the fear of Cain getting impatient and suspecting he had been rummaging through his property; Richard closed the suitcase, then the booth. The overhead sun beat down on him as if he were an egg in need of frying. He got in the driver’s seat, and from the back reflector he saw Cain skimming through the pages of a glossy business magazine and smiling contentedly as if the paper contained nothing but good words. He saw the old man grin and display the peculiar arrangement of his teeth, which were straight and even, but had small irregular spaces between them as though they had once belonged to a smaller person. Richard decided his boss did not know, or Cain knew but pretended he didn’t. Richard turned the ignition and drove the jeep out of the parking lot.
There were dozens of strugglers, dressed mainly in expensive clothes. Taxi stopped and started after picking lone travellers; prostitute made attempts to find profitable beds; lovers embraced their safe spouses who had just returned, while some were giving goodbye kisses to their loved ones who would be boarding the next available flights. Richard’s mind was unsettled as he drove his boss home; something very bad was going to happen soon. It’s in the air, he could feel it–– Cain is planning a dangerous method. A proverb rang instantly in his head––He who sups with the devil must use a long spoon.
* * * * *
There is fire on the mountain
And nobody seems to be on the run
There is fire on the mountain-top
And no one is a’ running…
On the small table in Richard’s room sat a portable CD player and two small speakers. Asa’s record of Fire on the Mountain blared from the speakers. It was Friday, the seventh of August––and the time was about half past ten in the night. As usual, Richard had picked Cain from the office at around six in the evening and he had dropped him home at exactly 7pm. Now, he was on the bed half-listening to the admonishing rhythm of the great Asa. Friday had always carried the worst night of the week for him, but he didn’t really know why. Maybe he disliked Friday because most people dressed up and went out to dinner or dancing or to a show to celebrate the passage of another workweek––while Richard found nothing to celebrate about having endured another seven days in the prison that was his life, and the devil that was Cain. Most of the time, he was always conscious and grateful of an accelerated passage of time. Days flashed, and even weeks seemed condensed, so that Fridays succeeded Mondays, and it was an effort to recall what had happened between.
At about twenty minutes later Richard heard a hard knock on his door. Knocks didn’t always sound on his door, the last knock was about three weeks ago, and it had been Abigail standing on the threshold with tears filling her eyes. The knock came again.
“Coming.” Richard answered. He was lying half-Unclad on his bed. He got up and struggled into a casual piece of clothing. He could feel his heart starting to race; he had wanted so much to get closer to her again. But the last thing he needed right now, he decided, was one more problem. In fact, he was not looking forward to another slap, although he was not really sure that he would not again do what had warranted the first slap. He reached the door, went through the process of unlocking, unbolting and unfastening before he finally opened the door. He had expected to find Abigail again, but it was Cain with his ugly grin standing there. Cain was unusually dressed in a black overcoat which draped down to his ankle; a pair of black trousers, black sandals, and a black hat covered his head. He looked like an undertaker.
Richard eyed his boss’s outfit and quipped, “Who died?”
Cain’s obvious insobriety, however, disallowed his finding offence from the rhetorical sarcasm.
“Disappointed? It’s not Abigail this time.” Sang Cain, a strong odour of adult beverages emitted from his mouth.
“What can I do for you––sir?” asked Richard, slightly rudely.
“Get dressed, we’re going out.”
“What did you just say, sir? Where––”
“Shut up and get dressed, I said we’re going out, or do I have to kick you to the garage?”
Anger rose to Richard’s face, he stood looking at his boss wrathfully.
“Don’t stare at me like that, you damned oaf!” Cain cursed, “You’re wasting my time.”
The moment had come, he could feel it again. An ugly plan was about to be executed––the game is starting, both knew, and they were ready to play it to the finish. Both men continued staring at each other, they were communicating with their eyes––challenging––throwing down the gauntlets.
Richard returned into his room to redress and prepare, shutting the door at Cain’s face. About two minutes later, he came out dressed in a simple shirt and a pair of trousers, with sandals. He walked straight to the garage with Cain close behind him. Richard got in the jeep and Cain got in beside him. This puzzled Richard, because Cain had never sat beside him in the jeep before, he always sat behind him.
“Where exactly are we going?” asked Richard.
The gatekeeper came with a faked confused expression on his face, “Are you going out, sir?” he asked.
“No, I'm going to bed.” Cain lashed angrily.
“We have less than two hours before midnight.”
“Will you keep that mouth of yours shut, old man? Let’s face it, when did the tail start wagging the dog? I know what I’m going to do, you’ll be retiring tomorrow.”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“No, you’re not; you’ll soon be, I assure you, old pal.” He turned to Richard. “Can we go now?”
The gatekeeper shook his head slowly and smiled at how ridiculous Cain's threat was to him now as he headed to open the gate, and Richard drove steadily out of the compound, turning right down the street.
Old Chima waited till he could no more hear the faint sound of the jeep as it sped down the road curve, then he made the call.
It was early morning at about six-thirty. The thin ghostly trails of vapour were left behind from a drizzle that had come and gone during the night. The fifty-three years old Michael Kish was awakened by the persistent ringing of his phone. He squinted to see the time: 6.32am. The shrill ring tone of the Nokia assaulted his ears and interrupted whatever dream he might have been having. The curtains which covered the windows rendered the room dark. Michael fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on.
He picked up the phone.
“Hello?” he said in a voice that sounded like someone had kicked him in the throat.
“Mr. Kish?” a man’s voice asked.
“I hope I have not awoken you.”
“No, you haven’t.” Kish said, wondering if it was a question or a statement. “How do I honour this reveille?”
“Sir, you need to come now.”
“Who is this?”
“My name’s Eze Chima, the gatekeeper of Mr. Cain Martins––”
“What’s the matter? Why are you calling me?”
“There’s something very wrong, sir.” The caller paused, “Mr. Martins actually asked me to call you. Please, you need to come now.”
“Okay, calm down. Tell me, what is going on there? Where is Cain?”
“I can’t answer any question now, sir. You need to come.”
“What about Abigail, is she okay? Where is the driver?”
“Like I said, sir, you need to come. I’m told not to answer any question. The situation here is very serious.”
“Okay, listen to me––can you hear me?”
“What is really going on? Please tell me the truth.”
“There’s a policeman here, sir.”
“A policeman? What is a policeman doing there?”
“I’m told not to answer any question. Just come, sir. Mr. Martins asked me to call you.”
“What’s happening there for Christ’s sake?”
Another pause on the caller’s side. Kish was growing out of patience.
“Hello––are you there?” Kish asked, “Hello?”
“There has been a murder, sir. Come quickly.”
The call was terminated.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Nobody: 6:16pm On Nov 01, 2012|
I hope Mr. Chima was lying o! Hmmm. . .
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 7:34pm On Nov 01, 2012|
brokoto: I hope Mr. Chima was lying o! Hmmm. . .No, he wasn't. Someone really croaked among the household, and it wasn't Chima.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 7:40pm On Nov 01, 2012|
In the subsequent chapters, three other new characters would be introduced, and they also play important roles in this story.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Nobody: 8:11pm On Nov 01, 2012|
Larry-Sun:choi! Ok na. I'm keeping my fingers, yansh and legs crossed. . . Waiting for the update.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 8:28pm On Nov 01, 2012|
Okay, before the next chapter, let's see a short synopsis about the story; and my note about it. Shall we?
However, you should know that The Brand Of Cain is a subtitle. The main title's HOUSEHOLD.
HOUSEHOLD centred on the adventures of different characters brought together by a sheer twist of fate. Some were born to sweet delights while others were born in beds of thorns. Richard Philip was born poor on the wrong side of the blanket. He found employment as a driver of a rich business tycoon, and the shocking secrets he learnt about his new boss and the gorgeous wife culminated into a well-planned, cold-blooded murder.
The second half of the story introduced Detective Georges Lot and his sidekick, Daniel Famous, a twenty-four year old amateur police officer, who, much to the chagrin of the detective, never believed for an instance that the crime could be solved. The 25-chapter story progressed into a shattering climax and an astonishing denouement.
It was already half past five in the morning when a body with a bullet hole in its forehead was discovered by a fourteen-year-old teenager. The unexpected presence of the famous Detective Georges Lot at the crime scene made the affair one of the most baffling ones in the history of the nation.
Shortly after his arrival, Detective Georges Lot realized that he was virtually the only person interested in knowing who actually killed the deceased. The suspicious death was a surprise to the household and the thread with which Detective Lot must darn this mystery was thin indeed, because only Detective Georges Lot would believe the mystery could be solved. A couple of hours before the death, he had been anonymously paid a large sum of money to investigate the case.
With these available clues, the famous detective must bring this criminal to book:
The murder weapon, which was nowhere to be found.
Two different notes written in different handwritings.
A text message sent through a strange number.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 8:37pm On Nov 01, 2012|
BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I WILL ALREADY BE DEAD!
No, no! I’m fine. Everything’s okay. I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention to this little foreword. Lord knows, it would have been all too easy for you to just plunge right in and start reading the story and just skip the introduction (I just didn’t want you doing that), especially to those of you who have had the opportunity of reading my manuscripts before. If you are reading my work for the first time, then I welcome you on board because this is actually my first novel.
Now, a little something about how what you are holding in your hand got to be there. A concept that fuels the fire of every writer’s imagination, I believe, is presented through a divine and mysterious providence, automatically bringing to light the simple fact that the art of writing gives one an insight into human nature. I can say this story you are about to read came to me in a mysterious way; it was as if I plunged my hand into a lucky dip of imagination and came up with a handful of assorted plots.
To tell you the truth, I had a few reservations when I was about to begin Household. I was afraid that the story might not reach the required length of a novel which, I believe, is not less than fifty thousand words. The plots had been fully created in my mind, but that uncomfortable dread still persisted since having a story in mind and putting it in black and white are two extremely different things. I knew that if I should apply myself seriously to the business of writing, then I needed to acquire the fund for real world experiences from which to draw on for the creation of my own kind of art. I needed to venture far and wide, and plunge into the turbulent river of life. I must begin the experience gathering process that would give me the materials needed to be a writer.
Therefore, out came reams of papers (A4 plain sheets precisely), I folded each twenty sheets into halves; I dusted my writing table and played music to drown out the sound of nature that may inhibit the development of the plot. With adrenaline flowing, heart racing and sweat dampening my fingers––I began writing volumes of pages. Writing fiction is intellectually and emotionally satisfying––and great fun. If a writer isn’t having fun when he’s working, the stories that he produces are never going to be a pleasure to read. For me; that is where the secret to a successful, prolific career as a writer lies: Have fun, entertain yourself with your work, make yourself laugh and cry with your own stories, make yourself shiver in suspense along with your characters. If you can do that, then you will most likely find a large audience, but even if a large audience is never found, you’ll have a happy life. I don’t measure success by number of copies sold but rather by the delight that I get from the finished work itself. Besides, you are the reason that I may have a career in writing, and when you lay your money down to buy this book, you have the right to expect some fun in return. Moreover, I don’t want any of you to feel that you have to smack me on the head with this book whenever you see me, yelling at me angrily that I have written a load of trash. If this story doesn’t intrigue you, then I’m in deep trouble.
Sometimes, writing fiction can be grueling when one is in the tenth draft of a chapter. After endless fussing with syntax and word choice, after having been at the writing table for twelve hours stretch, there are times when I’d much rather be working as a clerk in a supermarket warehouse, or loading and offloading heavy goods from trucks––or even washing dishes in a restaurant kitchen. Presently though, I am a high school teacher (maybe there’s really no difference after all). Spending over two years researching and writing a book is a remarkably daunting task for a writer who is determined to have his first novel published. I wrote the prologue of this story a dozen times before finally settling down with the one you are about to read. After completing the prologue, it took me quite some time before beginning the real story. The truth is, the more I wrote, the thicker the plot became, and by the time I was half-way through with Household, the story had taken on an interesting and cleverer turn than how I had initially anticipated it. I had to stop in the middle of some chapters to do more research.
Many successful writers in this country have second occupations. You could see them at bus-stops waiting for buses to carry them to their different offices, you could even find some of them selling spare parts in Alaba. After every hectic day, they still go to a corner of their rooms in the night to write down a few pages before slumping on their beds to sleep–waiting till their alarm clocks scold them to get off their slumbers and prepare for work again. I believe that second occupations for writers need to be colourful in order to make good biographical copies. I considered traveling to Niger Delta to kidnap a Chinese for ransom or breaking government fuel pipes so as to get money from black markets. Fortunately for me, my wonderful ex-girlfriend had had that awesome common sense to advise me against carrying out any of the two plans. She said she doesn’t want me becoming a resident of a federal prison or a pile of charred unidentifiable remains. So, I took to teaching. Well, teaching is immensely satisfying if you really try to jam knowledge into those secondary school demons.
Satisfied with how the plot surprisingly revealed itself, and the characters I had created (take for instance the antics of Hakeem Musa and the gatekeeper who frequently mowed the beards and shaved the grass of English expressions with his incessant use of malapropisms and spoonerisms)––I finished the real story.
It took me another couple of months before I could write the epilogue. It surprisingly proved the most challenging part of the story because it appeared as if my imagination took a long vacation, I think they call it writer’s block. I don’t really know what step I took to break this creative impasse. After about what seemed to be an indefinite break, my imagination returned with a historical plot which will no doubt birth another imagination (I pray you come to understand what I mean after reading this story).
At last, 'Household: The Brand of Cain' became whole; my first finished work. Many people whom I had given Household to read have been kind enough to tell me sincerely that they enjoyed my story immensely. But, sadly, they always expected a Soyinka from every writer. And yet, where is the oxymoron in––the ox is a mor*n? I’m merely a humble story-teller who hopes you enjoy the entertainment in my stories. I make no claim to creating literature; I’m not a writer yet, not quite, but I do strive for intelligent entertainment. After all, a caterpillar, if given enough chance to live, will undoubtedly turn itself to a butterfly. I should really let you know that parting with a portion of your money to buy this book is not a mistake. Welcome to the adventure of my characters in Household who still live and breathe with me.
I do believe that it is worthwhile to try to draw or paint, to compose a piece of music or poetry…or to write a novel.
I hope you enjoy this piece as much as others claimed to have. I’m positive that by the time you see me again you might actually be hugging me…and not smacking me on the head.
Thanks for your attention, and sorry about scaring you before.
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Nobody: 10:02am On Nov 02, 2012|
Nice synopsis you got there. But er. . . Oga, i thought the Author's note should come BEFORE the story begins? Dunno o, just asking. Anyway, keep it coming. You got me hooked already!
|Re: The Brand Of Cain (A Complete Novel) by Larry-Sun(m): 10:24am On Nov 02, 2012|
Yap, the Note comes before the story, likewise the synopsis.
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