He entered the sitting room and sat on the sofa. He picked up the remote and surfed through channels, his mind pondering the possibilities that existed in his relationship with Susan after this new information he had acquired purely by accident. Ogedengbe did not consider himself as spiritual as pastor E. A Adeboye or Bishop T.D Jakes, but he could recognise God’s providence when he saw it. Listening to Susan’s conversation with her husband was an act of divine providence. It was a sign that God wanted him to move on with his plans for Susan. How else would you explain this wonderful gift that was given to him even without his asking? A placed his hand on his forehead trying to sooth a twitching vein. No matter how he felt, there was only one meaning to what happened this evening: God wanted him to deliver Susan from the hands of that monster called Bassey Akpabio. He will assume the role of a deliverer sent to her by God; his relationship with Susan would be an act of mercy. No, it would be a supreme act of God’s grace on his hurting daughter who desperately needed help.
The thought crossed his mind that he was married and this would be a sin in the sight of God and man, but he waved it off as you would an irritating mosquito buzzing around your ears. As a deliverer he was entitled to some collateral benefits arising from his acts of mercy. What was wrong with Susan thanking him personally with her love if she so desired? She could reward him with some money, but he didn’t want her money. She would be his reward.
The thought he had swatted away returned, this time louder, like an enraged bee. Yes, he knew this would be considered sin in many religious quarters but he refused to be judged by any of those hypocrites who pretended to be better than him. His face creased in anger as he thought about the religious licence his colleagues had given themselves to contravene all the sacred teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by acquiring material things and heaping up money like pagans who didn’t know God, yet they preached publicly that their followers should follow God.
‘Hypocrites!’ Ogedengbe spluttered, throwing out the word like a piece of stone found in a meal of beans.
‘Who are hypocrites?’ Ngozi asked, walking into the sitting room. She had on Brazilian hair. He shuddered at the thought of touching that contraption tonight. He had to make sure he distanced himself from her as much as possible until she took it off. He would not be demanding his conjugal rights tonight. With Susan entering the picture, he would no longer have to endure the torture he went through every night he had to touch his wife’s human hair. This was another reason why he insisted that his relationship with Susan was an act of God.
Ngozi didn’t wait for an answer from him. She dropped her back on the centre table and sat down beside her husband. ‘I was at the salon today and heard something which made my blood boil.’ Ogedengbe turned off the television set and turned to his wife, giving her his full anttention.
‘A lady came into the salon and was mouthing off about her relationship with Bassey Akpabio. She said Bassey was like putty in her hands and would do absolutely anything for her. She said he worships the very ground upon which she walks. Right before me she called Susan a worthless woman. I was about to confront and shame that husband snatcher, but I realised that such public confrontation could mar the name of our church, so I decided against it. It took everything within me to restrain myself from hitting that wicked woman on the face. Maybe I should have hit her so that the next time she sees a married man she would stay away from him.’
Ogedengbe was silent. He made sure his facial expression didn’t betray his emotions which lay hidden beneath the surface of his dark skin like a North Korean nuclear submarine prowling the American coastline. If what his wife was saying was what he thought was happening, then his plan was working out just fine.
Ngozi continued. ‘I didn’t realise things were this bad with Susan Akpabio, I wouldn’t have insisted that you turned the counselling over to Pastor Joseph Odewunmi,’ she said.
Ogedengbe said nothing.
‘Darling, ‘Ngozi continued. ‘Promise me that you will continue counselling Susan. That woman needs help and I don’t think pastor Odewunmi has what it takes to resolve her issues. You must do all in your power to help her.’
‘That is exactly what I have been planning to do: help her and also help myself to my reward when it is due,’ Ogedengbe thought.
‘You should intervene in her situation and if necessary talk to her husband. That man needs some talking to. How can he go around town jumping from one woman without regard to his marital vows? If I have the opportunity, I will shame that man and his whore,’ the pastor’s wife said with anger in her voice.
Ogedengbe wondered if he should tell his wife that the woman she met at the salon today worked for him. When Ngozi insisted that he should stop counselling Susan, he hatched a plan to get her to rescind her decision. His plan was working fine.
‘Last week you told me to have nothing to do with Susan. You told me to hand over her counselling to pastor Joseph and I have done so,’ the ordained minister lied without thinking. ‘Now you want me to resume counselling her. You are sending mixed messages. What exactly do you want me to do?’ he asked his wife.
Ngozi moved closer to him. ‘I want you to disregard what I said in the past about this situation. You are the only one who can talk sense into Bassey Apkabio’s head. The man has decided to destroy himself and take that innocent woman along with him.’
‘I don’t think I should…’
‘But you have to,’ Ngozi stood up. ‘In fact, you must,’ shae said with determination. ‘If I hadn’t personally witnessed that strange woman boast about her accursed relationship with Bassey Apkabio I wouldn’t have asked you to do this.’
‘I will think about it,’Ogedengbe said with caution.
‘Please think about it,’ Ngozi said. ‘This is the reason why you are in ministry, to help people. Susan needs your help and you should be there for her,’Ngozi said and entered the kitchen.
If Ogedengbe had been a drinking man he would have toasted this victory with an expensive bottle of whisky, or light up a Cuban. But alas, the ethics of his office forbade him to engage in such activities. Even his members would frown at their pastor smoking a Cuban.
He went back to his study, picked up his phone and dialled a number.
‘Hello,’ a woman said on the other end of the line.
‘You did an amazing job today. My wife believed everything you said in that salon.’
‘I told you that she would fall for it. When do I get my balance?’ the woman asked.
‘I am sending it right now. Don’t call my number for any reason. If you want to get me you know what to do.’
The woman was silent.
‘And one more thing; keep your mouth shut. If this gets out I will know who to blame for it.’ He ended the call.
His plan was taking shape. Ngozi asking him to continue the sessions with Susan was like bringing a live goat to a hungry lion. Now Ngozi would support him no matter what crazy thing he suggested to her as long as Susan was involved in it. He rubbed his palms together and smiled. Things were working out amazingly well for him.
His phone beeped. The time on the Rolex on his wrist was 10:46. Who had the audacity to call him at this hour of the day? He picked up the phone and looked at it. It was Susan Akpabio. He waited for a moment wondering why she would be calling him at this hour.
‘Hello, Susan,’ he began. ‘Are you…’
‘Help me,’ Susan cried at the other end of the line. ‘Pastor, help me. Something terrible just happened to us on our way to a party on the island. We had an accident on the Third Mainland bridge. My husband is…’ she broke off crying.
‘Susan, what is going on?’ Ogedengbe shouted into the phone.
‘Pastor, my husband is bleeding. There is blood all over my body. I am sacred…I am so scared. Help me pastor…help me…’
‘Susan!’ he shouted into the dead phone.
Ogedengbe fell to his knees, his face creased with remorse. He couldn’t remember the last time he went on his knees in prayer to God for anything. He thought he was in control of his universe, apparently he had been deceiving himself, telling himself a lie and he was about to pay for it.
‘God…Lord…please…please…,’ he stuttered, searching for words which had became scarce like villagers abandoning their homes and escaping at the news of an impending Boko Haram terrorist attack.
‘Don’t let Susan die,’ he pleaded with the God whom he was no longer intimate with. The God he had distanced himself from by his evil desires. ‘She is innocent. Please don’t let her die,’ he cried. This was the first time he had prayed sincerely in weeks and it was for a woman he harboured immoral thoughts for, a woman he wanted to have carnal knowledge with, a woman he planned to make his mistress.
Somewhere in his heart Ogedengbe knew that his prayer was as futile as trying to squeeze water out of a rock. He very much doubted that God would hear him, talk less of answer him.
To be continued.