The Great Escape
When I finally opened my eyes, I was in a dinghy room and all tied up. I had a splitting headache but that seeemd to be the least of my problems. I looked up and uttered a small scream as I saw Sammy with the dagger in his hand. Was Sammy a ritualist? What had I ever done to deserve this. Girls rejected their toasters every day after all. My thoughts fled as Sammy turned to me suddenly unsteady then I saw his eyes roll back and the next minute there was a loud thud and Sammy was beside me on the floor and he looked like he had passed out. I looked around for an assailant or my hero but it was just Sammy and I. I really began to shake like a leaf. I tried calming myself down and took deep, measured breaths. I heard the door open and closed my eyes, hoping I did a convincing job of playing dead. I heard a man with an igbo accent and it seemed like he was talking to someone on the phone. I didn’t dare open my eyes because there was no way of knowing if he was staring right at me.
“Sargeant mission accomplished”
“Yes sir, will confirm if victim is dead or still unconscious”
“Take no prisoners, I understand you clearly, over and out.”
I was terrified. What did he mean by taking no prisoners? Was he going to kill me? What had Samsudeen gotten me into? What kind of gbese was this? God, I didn’t want to die. I began to pray, it was a silent prayer from my heart because I couldn’t risk moving my lips. I would give my life to God for real if He got me out of this mess alive and unharmed. I wondered which oga at the top was behind this. could it be Alhaja? She was Alhaji’s first wife and had somehow managed to remain his only wife. Something always mysteriously went wrong with Alhaji’s concubines and bethrothed. Was she after me now? Why did she wait till now to strike? She must have known for a while that I was sleeping with her husband. Maybe it wasn’t her. The room was strangely quiet but I still didn’t have the guts to steal a peek especially since I hadn’t heard the door open or shut.
My mind searched for the next possible suspect. I was no saint, I had definitely stepped on toes on my way up, sometimes the person had it coming like Charles. Charles had been my knight in shining armour and not even mama’s disapproval could stop me from falling for the tall, rich and handsome yellow pawpaw when he moved into my neighborhood. He had eyes for I alone and had showered me with expensive gifts. The whole affair had been hush hush because he said he didn’t want to disrespect my mother since she disapproved of him. In his arms I became a woman and he taught me every thing he needed me to know about sex and not getting pregnant. I wasn’t like Siki who gave it out to the highest daily bidder, I was decent and had been promised marriage by my handsome Urhobo man. Some weeks after mama’s death I had moved in with him as his unofficial wife. He had promised to visit my village soon and pay my brideprice. Mama was my only relative in Lagos so there was no one to object. Sammy had objected but really who listens to a maga’s selfish advice anyway? Three months after we moved out of my neighborhood, I was a joyful housewife and pregnant with our first child when my world came crashing down.
Charles had run into the compound one afternoon sweating like a he-goat at Christmas. He had informed me that his wife and three children were back from the States and that I mustn’t say a word to them or he would kick me to the streets that he would find a way to sort things out. My eyes were as big as saucers and flies were dancing around my open mouth in the afternoon heat. He had never once mentioned a wife or kids and I had no say as I was not his legal wife and the terror in his eyes and desperation in his voice made me know he meant business. I was about to say something- anything, when a woman and 3 small girls walked in. My Charles had been reprimanded for leaving them waiting in the car under the hot sun and he had stammered a reply that he wanted to make sure the house help had the house in order before they entered. I had been introduced as the househelp and when she asked for my name in an authoritative manner, I knew I could kiss my old life goodbye and could barely stammer my name.
I had never known such hatred as the one Charles wife Adanma meted out on me. She hated me with a passion as if suspecting that I was more than a help and made my life a living hell. Charles initially would beg me every time her back was turned. He couldn’t even give me money or gifts because madam searched my bag at random. When my pregnancy began to show, my nightmare really began. Madam would beat me every day calling me a whore and asking me who the father was. I was so tempted to tell the truth but I feared for my life. It didn’t help that every day Charles would beg me not to reveal his secret. I despised the man I loved. My love had all but vanished in the face of this weakling of a man. I never responded to his words. I had considered running away so many times but where would I go? I had food to eat and a roof over my head in Charles’ house but there was no guarantee of that anywhere outside the house. One day when Charles’ had travelled, Adanma accused me of stealing her gold bracelet and beat the hell out of me till I began to bleed. She had always been physically stronger than I was and coupled with the fact that she had an array of weaponry for my torture, I never thought to fight back. She had noticed the blood and suddenly dashed out of the house and locked me in. She had been gone for hours and I bled and bled. I wept for my baby knowing that he would not survive this. Adanma came back with drugs and injections and forced me to take the medication. She said she had been a nurse in the States. Soon after I went into intense labour and hours later my premature, stillborn came out of me. I wept when I gazed at his dead form. Adanma laughed an evil laugh, asking me if I actually believed I would give Charles his first son. I had no answers, my spirit was broken.
Two days later, I felt the craze deep within. I was alone at home and finally I could take no more. I remembered that before Adanma became a part of our lives, Charles had told me that he didn’t trust banks and always kept his valuables at home and that was why he wanted me to always double check that the doors were locked at all times. His bedroom was always locked and only he and Adanma had the key. That day as the plan began to take shape in my mind shrouded in uncontained rage, I picked up a pestle and broke down his wooden door. I searched his room frantically for any thing of value. In a ghana-must-go, I found plenty documents and a wad of hundred dollar bills. I took the money and poured kerosene over the documents in the bag then broke down the kitchen door and put the bag outside then I went back to the house and carried all Adanma’s clothes, shoes and bags. I found a bag that had certificates with her name printed on them and added the bag to the heap and then I literarily struck gold. I found Adanma’s trinkets and packed every single item of value. When I was done, I brushed my hair, wore my best outfit and a pair of comfortable shoes and walked out the door with only half a gallon of kerosene and my plunder in hand. I tossed the gallon contents on the heap and set it ablaze and walked out the gate without a backward glance.
I was brought back to the present by a moan from Sammy. I opened my eyes cautiously and surveyed the room. Thankfully we were alone. I saw my chance.
“Samuseedeen” I hissed in as low a voice as I could muster. I had to call him four times before he responded.
“It’s a set-up, your friend must have drugged you too. He was talking to one sargeant on the phone and the man asked him to kill two of us, abeg Sammy please help me and help yourself, please I don’t want to die….”
Sammy looked utterly confused and I prayed he would listen to my plea. He was the only one who could help us as his friend had forgotten to tie him up. Sammy rose up unsteadily and I held my breath. He took some minutes to get himself and regain composure, I kept praying the other guy wouldn’t walk in and end the show. I could see Sammy was still trying to beat the effects of the drug, his movements were still unsteady. He stumbled away from me towards the table and picked up a knife. I was filled with terror and began to beg as he walked towards me.
“Please don’t kill me. I know you hate me but please have mercy on-”
“Quiet woman!!!” He hissed.
He proceeded to cut me loose and I was on my feet in a second ignoring the cramps I was feeling in my arms and legs.
“How will we escape? What if he is outside the door with a gun?”
“I am not leaving, you can jump out the window and make a run for it. I have unfinished business…”
He had a look of determination in his eyes and I turned away and ran to the window. I gasped when I looked down, I had never jumped that distance in my life. There was no time to worry about breaking a leg, a broken leg was a far better option than imminent death. I jumped without a backward glance.
……….To be continued……………..