A Thorn in Her Life
By Olatunbosun Adetula (Nigeria)
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Lawrence and his new secretary Shade were inside the studio; they sat down together in the office and calculated their stock. Suddenly like a bolt from the blue they heard the screech of tyres in front of the studio. Shade went out to check what happened and three men met her by the entrance and pushed her back into the studio. Shade wanted to raise an alarm but one of the men gave her a dirty slap across the face and she became gentle like a lamb.
She took the three masked men into Lawrence’s office. One of the men pointed his gun at Lawrence’s forehead and questioned him. Lawrence was shocked at their audacity and their questions which threw him off balance. He argued with one of the men and wondered what they were looking for in the studio. Suddenly he stood up to fight with the men, but one of the intruders went behind him and hit him on the back of the head with the butt of his gun. He fell down and then the three men beat him, marking his face for preventing them from searching the studio. They went inside and scattered everything they could lay their hands on. Tony went to the laptops and the computers inside the studio and searched them. He deleted some files; they searched the entire wardrobe and took many files from inside the studio. They didn’t say anything to Lawrence. Tony and Rosco worked inside the studio while Kabonski held Lawrence and Shade at gunpoint.
The men didn’t say anything as they turned the studio up and down. Lawrence could sense their growing hesitation as they came back into his office and ransacked everywhere. Later the men went outside and ordered Lawrence and Shade to lie down. They went into their car and sped off. Later Lawrence and Shade stood up. When they discovered that the men had left the studio, Lawrence was shocked. He held his head and wondered what the men came to do. Shade held her cheeks and cried; Lawrence went to her and wound his hand around her shoulder.
“Shade, it is okay?” Lawrence said and Shade wept.
Lawrence went to the fridge; he took a large cube of ice and put it on his head. He twisted his neck several times and called the police.
“They took all the files.” Lawrence said.
“I wonder what the men were looking for in the studio.”
“Well I have no skeleton in my compound,” Lawrence said. He stood up and arranged the studio. Later, as he arranged the files into the drawer, the police came and he stood up to meet them. He gave them the correct account of all that had happened in the studio, and explained that what baffled him most was that the men didn’t take anything from the studio. They only damaged some of the equipment.
Later, when the police left, Lawrence sat on a chair, knowing they were looking for something he didn’t know about. Since he had no axe to grind with anybody, the visit had left him in shock. He racked his brain and tried to decipher why the men came to the studio. As much as he tried, he couldn’t understand and this left him in confusion .He stood up from the chair and checked what remained inside the drawer .When he checked the last drawer he discovered that the men didn’t take the pictures that Alan came to take in the studio. In fact, the men hadn’t even bothered to take a look at the last drawer. He took the brown envelope and kept it inside his bag.
The pain that racked his body was so excruciating that he took a soothing balm and rubbed his body and neck, spreading it on his swollen face. Later he told Shade to lock the studio and they both went to the hospital.
X X X X
Maria paid for the goods she bought at the check-out and went out of the supermarket; she waited in front for Paul. Paul had brought her to the supermarket in his car but when he got an emergency call at the hospital, he had to leave her for a while. He had promised to come back and take her home in one hour. As she sat down and waited for him her cell phone rang. It was Paul calling from the hospital. He told her he would get to her in thirty minutes time.
Immediately she finished receiving the call and raised her head, Maria saw Bath come out of his Navigator jeep. She couldn’t dodge him when he descended from the car and walked toward her. She had been unaware that Bath had been driven into the parking lot and had seen her sitting in front of the supermarket.
“Maria.” Bath said and smiled as he got down from within the jeep. He wondered what she was doing sitting there.
“Hello Bath; how are you?” Maria said.
“I am fine. What are you doing here, Maria?” Bath asked, removing his sun glasses.
“I am waiting for my friend; we came together to the supermarket.”
“Do you mind if I sit down with you here?” Bath said and smiled. He was happy to see her.
“I don’t mind,” Maria said and looked across the road.
Bath breathed deeply and looked into her eyes.
“Maria you have been avoiding me all these days,” Bath said and looked into her eyes. She had a distant look in her eyes.
“I am not avoiding you; I am pretty busy.”
“Maria, I told you I am sorry for all that I did to you.”
“I accepted your apology a long time ago,” Maria said, looking across the road and seeing Paul’s Camry trying to get out of traffic. She stood up and Bath stood up too.
“Bath, I think I have to go,” Maria said.
“How about having a date with me Maria?” Bath said and looked at the car that came toward them.
“Bath, I can’t have a date with you. I wish I could but I can’t. Please try and understand,” Maria said. Her words left Bath really confused.
Bath was mad. He wanted to hold her hand but he changed his mind. She left his side and went to the Camry car when it stopped in front of the cinema. When Bath saw a man came down from within the car and embrace Maria, his blood boiled and he clenched his fist. He was mad like a March hare. Maria had hurt his ego. He saw his driver inside the car and called him. The driver came to meet him.
“Sir, I hope there is no problem?”
“Look John, I want you to tail that red Camry. Don’t come back. I will find my way home,” Bath said
“All right, sir. I will follow it immediately,” the driver said and went into the jeep.
Bath watched as Maria smiled within the car. He vowed to get her by all means; he frowned and went into the supermarket to meet his friend, who was the owner of the place.
Later the Lincoln Navigator jeep tailed the car like a lion after a prey along the road. The Camry stopped in front of Maria‘s house beside the Catholic church. John saw Maria and Paul get down from the car and enter the compound. Paul and Maria had no inkling that a jeep was behind them along the road. When they went into the compound John turned the jeep around and headed back to the supermarket but as he drove along the road Bath called him and told him to come straight to the house.
Soon John parked the jeep and walked inside the house.
“How did it go, John?” Bath asked.
“It went smoothly, sir.” John said.
“Did you locate the place?” Bath said and sipped the wine inside the glass cup succulently.
“I got to the house. It’s along Abram road beside the Catholic Church.”
“Okay, thank you,” Bath said. He stood up and dropped the glass of juice on the table and went inside his room.
The next day was bright and fair as the sun emerged boldly in the sky. Bath was inside his room; he sat down on a chair and looked through the files that the men brought from Lawrence’s studio. As he flipped through the files, his eyes caught a wedding card. He stood up and stared at the picture. When he looked at the picture again, he discovered that the person inside the card was Maria. Bath flinched and his mouth opened in shock when he saw Paul and Maria in the picture. The picture fell out of his hand.
Bath went to the window, his blood boiling. He walked to the bed and scattered all the files and he threw everything to the floor. He perambulated the room, far he hadn’t the faintest idea that Maria was about to wed. Later Bath went into the living room and then, when he became restless, he went back to his room and thought on what he must do before he lost Maria to a strange guy. He vowed to get her by all means as he went to the bathroom.
X X X X
Ruth was happy as she rested her head on Tony’s chest. Tony played with her hair on the bed. Later he kissed her passionately and wound his strong arms around her. She was excited as they kissed but later the phone rang and separated them.
When Tony picked up the phone he discovered that it was Bath. He stood up from the bed. Bath wanted to see him urgently, and his voice was soft and desperate. Tony looked at the wall; the time was around quarter to midnight. Tony went downstairs and got into the living room, sat down and drank a wine at the bar and then Ruth came to meet him. When he saw her Tony wondered what she came to do. He knew that Ruth would try to discourage him from visiting Bath, but he was prepared for her.
“What did you want Ruth?” Tony asked and gulped the glass of wine.
“I want to come and see you before you leave for the Benson house.”
“I know you want to start a quarrel and I am not ready for it,” Tony said and stood up.
“Forget about it, I think I have got used to your leaving the house anytime in the dead of the night.”
“Thank God you know. The earlier you knew the better for you,” Tony said and wanted to leave the living room, but Ruth held his hand.
“What it is this time?” Tony said and turned back.
“I have got news for you,” Ruth said and Tony smiled. In his heart in knew that Ruth just wanted to prevent him from going out.
“Ruth, I have to get to Bath as quickly as possible, right?” Tony said.
“Guess what I want to tell you?” Ruth said and drew him to herself as they both sat down together.
“Ruth, you know I hate guessing. Tell me what happened just to put my mind at rest,” Tony said and Ruth rubbed his hair with her well-manicured fingers.
“I am pregnant, Tony.” Ruth said suddenly. It was like she dropped a bomb. She watched Tony as excitement grew on his face. Tony was so happy that it took time before he could believe her.
“Ruth, you must be joking?”
“I am damned serious,” Ruth shouted. Tony was so happy that he carried her and danced with her all over the living room.
When Tony laid her on the chair, he kissed her and touched her tummy. He bent and wanted to hear the cries of the baby inside her tummy but Ruth told him that it was way too early.
“Ruth, you are pregnant with my baby. I am so happy! I am going to be a father,” Tony shouted.
“Yes Tony, I love you so much.”
“Have you told your mother?”
“No, I am yet to inform her. I want us to plan the wedding before I inform her.”
“Oh my God. Come over here, dear. Come and sleep on my lap,” Tony said and Ruth came to sit on his lap.
Tony kissed her and touched her tummy. Ruth was excited, but a silvery smile cut across her face. Later Tony stood up and went to the car.
“Can I open a bottle of Moet?”
“Not yet Tony. When you come back,” Ruth said. Tony went to her and they embraced.
“Which news do you have for me again?” Tony said and kissed her lips.
“Mike is coming back from Atlanta,” Ruth said.
“When is he coming back?”
“He is coming back next month,” Ruth said.
“Ruth, this calls for a big celebration after I come back from Mr. Benson’s house,” Tony said and kissed her again.
As he wanted to leave the room, Ruth drew him back and they kissed again. He kissed her and looked into her eyes. With her piercing gaze she almost imagine he could read her thoughts as they embraced in the living room
“I will stop this work - cross my heart!” Tony said and kissed her on the lips. He opened the door.
“I will be waiting for you, my love,” Ruth said and closed the door.
Tony went to the garage. He got into the car and drove out of the compound, closing the gate carefully. Later he drove down the road that led to the Mr. Benson’s house thinking about his life and Ruth’s pregnancy. He remembered when he went to visit Ruth’s family and how the mother had looked at him with sinister eyes. He knew the woman didn’t like him, especially because of his eyes that looked brutish like those enclosed in a bull’s socket. Really, she had expected to see a gentleman because Ruth had talked a lot about him. Now he really needed to convince the old woman that he wouldn’t hurt her only daughter.
Ruth brother Mike had promised to secure a job for him in Atlanta, Tony had no certificate; all the knowledge he had was learned on the street. Although he was afraid to leave Mr. Benson, because of his love for Ruth he was ready to take the bull by the horn.
Ruth was not happy when Tony left the living room. She walked in shambles up the stairs and got to the room upstairs. When she opened the door, she went straight to the bed and lay down. Then she thought about Tony. She knew that Tony would have been the perfect man for her if only she could stop and do away with Mr. Benson and his useless work. She knew that Tony killed for Mr. Benson. She had tried to run away from him many times but he would find his way back to her heart. Now she couldn’t afford to lose him. She loved him so much that she couldn’t afford to love another man again if she lost him. A week before she had called him and pleaded with him like a good mother to her stubborn child to stop working for Mr. Benson and like an obedient child he had listened to her word of wisdom and agreed to stop. When Ruth called her brother and explained Tony’s problems to him, Mike had agreed to help. He had promised her that he would work out traveling arrangements for Ruth and Tony.
Ruth was not happy as she lay on the bed. She touched her tummy and smiled. Then she stood up from the bed and went to the window. As she stood there she bit her lip. It pained her that she couldn’t stop Tony from going to meet Bath Benson and there lay the cause of her unhappiness.
Tony lived at Lekki in Victoria Island. His house was not too far from the Benson mansion; Tony drove through the centre of the city and got to Benson’s house. When he drove inside the compound, he got out and he was surprised when he saw Kabonski and Rosco as they drove their cars into the compound. He waited for them to come out of their cars and later they all entered the living room together.
Later, when the men sat down inside the living room, Bath came down from the staircase and went to sit down opposite them.
“Care for a drink guys?” Bath said and the men nodded their heads. Bath called a maid and she came to serve them drinks.
Bath stood up and went to meet one of the maids. He told her to bring the barbecue and she went into the kitchen.
“I won’t waste your time,” Bath said as the maid brought the fried meat seasoned with fresh pepper and laid it on the center table. Bath stood up and cut a little from the meat as the three men joined him.
“Look guys, I have got a job for you,” Bath said, dipping the meat into his mouth. The three men didn’t say anything.
The maid brought more drinks and laid them on the table. Bath brought out a picture from inside a brown envelope and laid it on the table. He told the men to take a look at it. Tony was the first person to pick up the picture. Examining it carefully, he nodded his head but didn’t seem to know the person in the picture. Others also said they didn’t know the person in the picture.
“Okay, you guys don’t know the person inside the picture, right?” Bath asked.
“No sir, I don’t know him at all,” Tony said and others nodded their heads in agreement.
“Okay, this is the guy threatening my life,” Bath said. He stood up and went to the bar, taking five bottle of wine from the cabinets and placing them on the centre table.
“Sir, what do you want us to do to this guy?” Tony asked.
“I want him out as quickly as possible,” Bath said. There was evil in his eyes.
“We shall not hesitate to take him out,” Kabonski said.
One of the guards came to meet Bath and spoke into his ear. Bath left immediately, climbing up the staircase. When he got into his father’s room, he knocked on door and Mr. Benson came out of his room. Together they went to the living room upstairs.
Tony, Kabonski and Rosco ate, drank and talked inside the living room. Then Bath came back to meet them.
“I am so sorry, guys, for wasting your precious time,” Bath said.
“There is nothing to worry about, sir,’ Rosco said.
“Look, I have to change the course of the job for security reasons,” Bath said. He lit a cigarette and went back to his seat.
“What did you have in mind sir?” Tony said and Bath looked into his eyes. Later he told
Kabonski and Rosco to go back to their house, he gave them one bottle of champagne each. Kabonski and Rosco smiled and waved goodbye to Tony. Tony was confused when the men left the living room.
“I know how you felt when I said I needed a professional for this job for security reasons,” Bath said. His father had told him that police were patrolling the island and he should be very careful with whatever he did.
“Tony, you have to help me. I want this guy out. He is fighting with me over a girl, a girl that belonged to me, and you are to look for him everywhere on the island,” Bath said. Tony looked at the picture again.
“I will look for him and track him down sir.”
“Look, my happiness depends on this girl. If I lose her I will die,” Bath said and wanted to cry.
“Don’t say that, sir,” Tony said.
“Look, he normally comes to Maria’s house at Thirty-six Abram Road, beside the Catholic Church on Victoria Island.”
“I know the place like the back of my hand. I won’t miss his head, I promise you sir.”
“I trust you, Tony, which is the reason why I choose you above the others,” Bath said\. He told Tony to wait for him and went to his room. When he came back, he held a brown envelope and dropped it on the table.
“Tony, here is one hundred thousand dollars for logistics and other things,” Bath said and a smile cut across Tony’s face.
“Thank you sir. I will start the assignment tomorrow,” Tony said and picked up the brown envelope. The look of despair had vanished from his face like smoke from a chimney.
“Here are two bottles of Moet. Give one to your fiancée when you get home,” Bath said. Tony was so happy; he clutched the brown envelope under his armpit and used his two hands to carry the two bottles of wine.
“Thank you sir, I think I will be on my way,” Tony said, picking up the picture on the centre table. He was about to leave the room when Bath called him.
“Remember, the address is 36 Abram Road beside the Catholic Church.” Bath said.
“I won’t forget it,” Tony said and went to his car. He dropped the brown paper and the two drinks into the car and drove out of the compound. When he checked his wrist-watch the time was quarter to four.
As he drove home, he pressed the throttle of the car. He knew with a hundred thousand dollars his journey to the states would be as sweet as ever because he wouldn’t have to depend on anybody for his upkeep, Tony had never depended on anybody in his life and he was not really ready to depend on Ruth’s brother Mike for anything.
“Baby, I am coming home now,” Tony hollered and hit the steering of the car many times as the car roved down the empty road.
The stars played in the sky like Lilliputian children in the sand. When Tony got home, Ruth heard the sound and she came down to open the door for him.