Alex gasped, he stared at the face and squinted. He tried to speak, instead, air came out of his lung.
He couldn’t believe it. It didn’t make sense. All of it.
No, No, this can’t be her.
He squinted again, as beads of sweat dripped from his wet eyelids into a corner of his left eye. Alex couldn’t believe she was behind all of it. He felt a churn in his stomach and slowly pain swept through his body.
All the cares, the love they had. was it all a stage act? a perfect mask with an ugly face behind it ?. it was a haze he couldn’t clear, all he could understand now was, he was the puppet, She the puppeteer. why was she doing this? And why were they at the penthouse of this desolate building?
The answer he got in his mind sent a shiver through his body. He pictured himself falling from the window, Mary was close too. He pictured what the headlines would say about him.
“ Mary?” Alex said, “ Why are you doing this?”
She smiled, a very faint one, like a fiend’s grin.
‘ Unn, sweety, don’t get emotional. It is not about you, it is about him”
?ℎ?? ?? ?ℎ? ??????? ??????
“ What are you talking about. Baby why are you doing this. You told me some people hurt you, killed your father. But l don’t understand. How am l related to them” Alex said, “ l don’t get this ”
He shook the chains his hand was cuffed to.
Mary stared at Alex as tears gathered in her eyes. She knew she had to tell him now. She had to tell him, it was her only way of relieving herself from the burden— the burden she had refused to let go of.
“ He ruined my life, he took him away from me”
“ I don’t understand…hmm…do you mean the man that killed your father?”
“Your father did it!” Mary wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “ He killed him and today he will jump”
Alex froze, he felt his body tingled by tiny pins. He knew the story very well. But how could dad? He had been looking up to him all his life. He was his model, father, and friend. So he was the same man he promised Mary he would help track down. He knew this day would come, he knew they would get this mystery man but he never imagined his father was the man.
Alex stared at Mary. Her eyes were red, almost feral like the eyes of a rat caught in a trap. He knew she was determined, her eyes said it all.
“ But you never told me, You didn’t. we could have settl…”
“ Settle what?” Mary said and sniffed. “ Mum died after his death. I was left alone. I lived in several homes and had no one to call family. You grew up with him, felt his presence in your life. I didn’t have any of it. I don’t want to do this, but l have to do it”
Mary walked to the incense stove on the table. She gazed at the branding rod at the center of the glowing charcoal. She smiled. She had rehearsed this moment over and over again. This was the last part of her plan. She loved him, but her love for him was held to the ground by her thirst for revenge. Everything she felt for him was melted away like wax, what was left now was an hybrid of anger and hate.
“ When he sees the picture, he will remember.”
“ Please Mary”
“ Am sorry Alex, l have to do this. The scene keeps playing in my head for years. I keep seeing his body. Do you know that last night, he came to me? He told me l must avenge him. He told me.”
Suddenly, she ran to him. Alex glared as she gripped his neck and injected him with a syringe containing a generous quantity of sleeping dose.
Alex began to feel faint, the walls of the warehouse started to spin as he lost consciousness.
Mary walked to the incense stove and pulled the branding rod. By the tip of the rod was a coin attached to it. Written On the surface of the coin was the year: ‘ 1992’.
She walked to him, her hands trembling. Slowly, she pushed the coin against his forehead. His skin hissed and the air was filled with the smell of roasting flesh. She covered her nose with her left hand and pushed the coin against his skin again. When she removed the branding rod, ‘ 1992’ was branded on his forehead.
She dropped the rod and walked to the table. She took a few shots of Alex and sent Professor Agbaje an email, telling him that if he wants his son alive he should come alone without the police or security to the warehouse immediately. Attached to the email were the pictures.
Mary dropped her phone and walked to the chair close to the window.
Professor Agbaje’s phone beeped. It was a message. He clicked on it and he gasped. Fear swept through his body. He dropped his phone, grabbed his car key and ran out of his office.
When he got to the warehouse, he took his loaded pistol he aimed and went up the stairs slowly with his gun aimed.
When he got to the first storeroom he saw the inscription: Push.
He pushed gently and went inside.
“ Welcome, you made it,” Mary said and she gripped her pistol tightly. She had the muzzle of her pistol against Alex’s head.
“ Mary?” Agbaje said.“ What is this”
“ This?” Mary said and smiled.“ This is payback”
“ Pay back?”
“ Drop your gun!”
“ Mary, she is your…”
“ Drop the gun!” Mary said and fired at a pillar close to Agbaje.
He quivered. He dropped the gun. Alex was jarred from his sleep. He was surprised to see his father.
“ Kick it away.”
He kicked the gun away. Mary aimed and walked to him. She picked the gun and gestured towards the window.
“ Go over there”
The middle-aged man walked to the window.
“ Do you know why you are here?”
“ No,” Agbaje said in his calmest voice.
“ Do you remember this year?”Mary gestured with her left hand to Alex’s direction.
Agbaje suppressed a scream. The numbers were caked in blood and the lines that carved the numbers were faint scars.
“ let me refresh your dead memory. Do you remember Mahmoud Dele? The man you killed October, 1952″
“ Yes, l remember. Ar…r…Are you his daughter?”
“ You killed him and you told the world it was suicide. I saw you that afternoon. I was in the office, you made him jump. It wasn’t suicide, it was murder. Just to cover your tracks, you deceived the world that he committed suicide. ”
“ Please forgive me. Release my son, l will do everything you ask of me.”
Mary brought the muzzle closer to Alex’s head. He fidgeted.
“ Climb the window. When they find your body tomorrow, l will mourn you”
Agbaje gripped the frames. The buildings and cars below we’re tiny almost like pictures in a tale.
“ Jump or l kill him. One, two, three…”
“ Dad! Mary please”
Sweat trickled down from his forehead into the corners of his eyes. He knew this day would come. Falade was innocent, but he knew too much. That was why he killed him. He shook his head and exhaled.
He kept falling and falling till he hit the hard earth at the foot of the twelve storey building.
The day she met Alex’s parent, the thirst for revenge returned
After the introduction they went to the dinning. Her mother-in-law ( to be) prepared her favourite delicacy of Fried plantain and fried eggs with grilled tomatoes. She was about to eat when he came inside. She went on her knees as dictated byface closely
“ What’s wrong?” Alex asked.
She felt like jumping out of her skin. She stared at him again and took in his features. Rage began to brew in her.
“ I have a pain in my stomach”
Her favourite food now made her nauseated. She covered her mouth with her palm and ran to the toilet. When she returned she had lost her appetite.
“ You are not eating food”
“ Oh” she picked her fork
“ So our daughter, when are we seeing your parent?” Agbaje asked
She tried to respond, but she couldn’t
Mary held the photo. She picked a rag and wiped dirt that clung to the edges of the photo. In the photo her father, Falade Abimbola, the Journalist famous for his articles and private investigation. He received awards during his lifetime and till date everyone still refers to him as the greatest of all time. The million Naira questions, everyone kept asking was why he committed suicide weeks to the trial of Rufus Danjuma, the greatest drug lord at that time.
The answer wasn’t a mystery to her, she was there and she knew it wasn’t suicide it was murder.
The scene kept playing in her head whenever she remembered him. The day was still fresh in her memory.
It was a Saturday afternoon. The yellow orb of the sky was blazing over the town of Ore. She was outside the storey building where her father had an office.
The ice cream man was filling her biscuit cone with ice cream.
“ Uncle let me go, the sun will melt the ice cream,” Mary said and gazed at the sky and cupped her hands close to her forehead. She squinted when she saw a part of the sun.
“ No, the sun won’t melt it,” He said and laughed. Mary frowned. She thrust her money into the basket attached to the bicycle the ice cream man used for his trade.
“ Give me my ice cream,” Mary said, her hand outstretched.
“ let me fill the top…”
She collected the ice cream and covered it with her palm. Ice Cream man could not help it. He kept laughing as she ran away.
When she got to the ninth floor, she was breathing heavily. She opened her father’s office and walked inside.
“ Daddy, l bought it ”
“ Good. Let me taste it” He said smiling.
“ Okay, beg me and l will give you”
“ Okay, you have to stop this your play play, you will turn eight next month and you will get a brother or a sister when mummy gives birth”
“ The baby will be a girl”, Mary said and licked her ice cream.
“ No, the baby will be a boy”
“ The baby will be a girl”
“ No, a bo…”
“ Who is at the door?”
“ Who is at the door?”
“ Daddy let me go and…”
“ No, wait”
Falade walked to the door, he stared at the little transparent glass attached to the door.
He turned slowly and whispered.
“ Hide! Run!”
Mary smiled and licked the ice cream again.
“ Run and hide in my study” He said again and pulled the knob after Mary ran into the study and she closed the door silently. From an hole that once held a key hole in place, she could see who entered.
The perp was tall, black like tar with dreads. He had a broad shoulder and he was all muscles.
“ Good day, Falade” He said.
“ He sent you…He…”
The man struck him and fell backwards. He crashed into his book shelve. The perp took his gun and aimed at him.
“ Get up!”
“ Please don’t kill me, l will drop charges against Danjuma,” Falade said.
“ Too late. Walk!”
The perp pointed at the door.
Falade walked slowly. The perp followed with his gun aimed. When they got to the balcony, the perp pulled him back.
“ Won’t you say your last prayers?”
“ What do you mean by pr…”
The perp grabbed and pushed him off the balcony.
Mary dropped the photo and sighed. The face of Alex’s father remained fresh in her memory, even after years of her study in the Uk. When she returned she met Alex and it was the day she was introduced to his father she remembered the scene and
the thirst for revenge returned.
She stood from the chair and walked to the bathroom and showered.
“ Why are you not eating your food?”
Alex said and dropped the Menu. They had been served for ten minutes now, Mary didn’t touch her food.
“ Why are you sad?” Alex said.
“ I remembered it again”
“ Oh no, Mary, l have told you to leave this man alone. You told me it happened years ago. Why don’t you just forget it? It’s your past.
“ l kept seeing his face. Every time. I kept hearing his voice when he told him to jump. I keep seeing the gun. I just don’t know what to do” Mary said and pushed the plate aside.
“ Who is this man?” Alex wiped his lips clean of oil with the paper towel. “ You haven’t told me his name”
She felt like telling him but she couldn’t get the words out. She knew her stay in the relationship was over after she saw his father’s face. She smiled, trying hard not to betray her emotions.
“ l don’t know if you will…”
“ I want to visit his grave, will you come with me?”
“ Sure, Sure. We can buy some flowers. We can lay them you know. Perhaps that will put your mind at ease. I promise you, if you tell me this man’s name, l will get him.”
She stood and took her bag. Alex walked to her and he held her hand as they walked out of the restaurant.
Mary injected the apples and dropped the syringe in her bag. The only way to get Agbaje was to put his only son in danger. This was the last card she had to play.
“ Mary, you can’t believe the price florist charged for these roses,” Alex said and opened the door. He gave her the bouquet and gripped the steering.
“ Do you care for Apple?” Mary asked.
“ Oh, l didn’t know you have apple.
give me one. my breath is not fresh again ”
Mary gave him an apple and he bit.
“ Do you know where that apple came from”
“ Hmm. What did you say?” Alex said gawped at her? He bit the apple again.
“ Am so sorry for anything you are going to face today. But l must do it. I can’t stand it. Seeing him every day alive.”
“ Who? Wh…”
Alex became dizzy and as he lost consciousness ,he could see her grinning.
Mary got out of the car and she went to the driver’s seat and dragged him to the back seat. She got behind the steering wheel and drove to the tallest Warehouse in Ore Township.
Hours later he woke from his sleep. He was surprised that he was in a Warehouse. The floor was filled with dust and the pillars had cracks like veins. The pillar close to was bent like the leaning tower of pisa. He wrung his fist and the chains clanged.
“ You are Awake” Mary said. She had her back turned and she was starting at the closest window.
“ Please who are you. Where is Mary ”
Alex gasped, He started at the face and Squinted. He tried to speak, instead, air came out of his lung.
Oladejo Victor Olayemi is a budding artist and a secondary school
graduate. He lives in Ore, Odigbo, Ondo state and wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org