‘Do you want to tell me where you were on Friday night?’ Kola asked.
Shade looked at her hands in silencel.
‘We can’t go on like this. If you are not willing to tell me where you were maybe you are not ready for this wedding.’
‘I don’t remember what happened,’ she said. ‘I spaced out and remember waking up on my bed.’ This was not completely accurate, but she wasn’t going to tell Kola about Soleye until she had some solid evidence to show him. If she told Kola a part of the story he may take matters into his own hands. She loved Kola and she didn’t want to see him rot away in prison for attempted murder. She wished she could tell him what Soleye did to her and allow him beat the living daylights out of that evil man. But she didn’t have any proof. But today at the luncheon she hoped to get some proof.
Kola regarded her with concern. ‘This has never happened before. Do you think you should see a doctor?’
Shade nodded her head from side to side. ‘No. That won’t be necessary. It was probably some hormonal imbalance caused by my monthly flow.’
‘Are you sure about this?’ Kola asked.
‘Yes, I am. I didn’t want to alarm you yesterday that was why I didn’t tell you what happened.’ She reached out and touched his hand, looking into his eyes. ‘I know how much you love me and would do anything to protect me.’
‘I still think you should see a doctor,’ Kola insisted.
There was a knock on the window of the car. It was Uche Okpara. ‘Shade please come with me. The pastor wants to see you.’
‘I will see you at your place tomorrow after work,’ Shade leaned over, gave Kola a kiss and got out of the car. She and Uche walked towards the church were people gathered in small groups chatting after the church service.
‘What did you tell him?’ Uche asked.
‘I told him that I must have slept off at home.’
‘Do you think he believed you?’
‘With Kola you can never be sure what is going on in his mind. He keeps thinking about a matter long after it is over just to make sure he didn’t miss anything. Of all the people I met it was the one with the inquisitive mind that I decided to marry,’ Shade said.
‘God works in mysterious ways,’ Uche said. ‘This man is good for you. He will make sure you don’t get carried away by strange gifts of jewellery from strange men,’ Uche chastised her friend.
‘Speak of the devil,’Shade said looking beyond Uche.
‘Good morning, ladies. Are you ready for the love feast at my house?’
Uche turned around. It was deacon Soleye.
A frown creased Uche’s face like a white man eating bitter leaf soup for the first time.
Soleye brought out the blue bed sheets that the cult leader had given him. The leader assured him that these sheets were special. He had immersed them in charms for weeks. Soleye removed the old sheets and spread the blue one on the bed. His wife was returning from China on Tuesday afternoon. By then he should have completed his assignment.
The leader had promised him that the blue sheets would get the job done.
‘What will happen to the sacrifice?’ he asked.
‘You don’t have to bother yourself about that. Your business is to make sure the woman lies with you on the bed. The rest is mine to worry about,’ the man said.
He opened the first door of the wardrobe and it led to a secret room. Inside were various charms, amulets and effigies scattered around the room. He picked an amulet, wore it under his clothes. He muttered some incantations, opened the black pot on the floor and brought out a small tortoise tied with seven cowries and red pieces of cloth. He lifted the tortoise and looked at it to make sure it was still alive. The charm would be useless if the creature was not alive. He returned to the bedroom, lifted the bed and kept the tortoise under the mattress. He looked around the room with some satisfaction on his face. ‘Now to make sure I bring the sacrifice to the altar.’ He rubbed his hands together and left the room.
Uche watched deacon Soleye come out through the front door of his house and join the love feast taking place in the open space in front of the building. The music department of the church had set up in one corner singing praise and worship songs. She poked the salad in her plate but ate nothing. There was a bottle of water on the table before her. She examined the seal of the bottle to make sure it wasn’t broken before it was placed on her table. She didn’t trust deacon Soleye and she wasn’t taking any chances. Her eyes followed the diminutive deacon who manoeuvred his way to the senior pastor and they began chatting.
She pushed her plate aside and turned to her friend. She regarded Shade who was stuffing some chicken into her mouth. Shade swallowed the chicken and drank some grape juice.
‘Why are you eating this food? I thought we agreed that we wouldn’t eat any food in this house? ’ Uche said.
‘I am so hungry,’ Shade said, reaching for another piece of chicken in her plate.
‘Why don’t you wait until you get home and eat your own food?’
She bit into another piece of chicken. ‘Uche, sometimes you can take this your religious correctness too far. Look around you,’ Shade gesticulated with the piece of chicken she held in her right hand. ‘Everyone is having fun. All the pastors are eating and drinking. Are you telling me that you are better than them?’ Shade asked her friend. Before Uche could reply she continued. ‘You should learn to relax and enjoy yourself.’
Uche studied her friend. There was something about the way Shade spoke. She was too feisty for someone who had a horrible experience with this man two nights ago. She was eating and drinking without caution. That could only mean one thing. Shade needed some more prayers.
Uche stood up. ‘I am going to the restroom.’
‘Do you know where it is?’ Shade asked.
‘I don’t, but I will ask,’ she nodded in the direction of deacon Soleye.
Minutes later Uche was inside the house. She saw the restroom by the staircase.
As she reached for the door handle, she heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. ‘Go upstairs.’
Her hand froze on the door handle.
‘Go upstairs,’ the Holy Spirit repeated.
Uche knew this voice. When she followed it she was never wrong. For a moment she struggled with her thoughts. Was this the Holy Spirit or was it her own curiosity getting the better of her?
‘Go upstairs now.’
She looked around. There was nobody in the house with her. She went up the stairs as quickly as she could.
‘Enter the second room on your left.’
She tried the handle and the door opened. She stood at the entrance of the room looking at a large bed dressed with blue sheets. There was a strong smell of incense in the air. The bed seemed to pull her to itself. She moved towards it.
‘Lay your hands on the bed and pray.’
This was insane! She was in the house of a man who seduced her friend two nights ago and here she was in his bedroom about to lay hands on his bed and pray. She hoped she wasn’t following her own heart because if she got caught she wouldn’t know what to say.
‘Pray now,’ The still small voice was more urgent.
Uche laid her hands on top of the bed, shut her eyes and exhaled.
Then she began praying fiery prayers in the spirit.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ Uche grabbed her bag and phone.
Shade regarded her friend with suspicion. ‘Why the rush?’ she asked.
Uche looked in the direction of deacon Soleye who was laughing with some pastors. ‘I have had enough of this love feast. If you are not leaving, I am.’
‘What took you so long in the restroom?’ Shade asked.
Uche did not answer her friend. From her periphery vision she saw deacon Soleye approaching their table. ‘Are you coming or not?’
Shade stood up, but Soleye was already at their table. ‘Are you enjoying the love feast?’ he asked the ladies.
‘Yes, we are. But I have a busy day tomorrow and I have to tidy up some things at home,’ Uche said as she made her way to her car. Soleye followed them.
Soleye stood by the car near Shade. ‘Why are you in a rush? Why don’t you leave at 7pm?’
‘Yes, why don’t we leave at 7pm?’ Shade repeated like a robot.
Uche gave her a stern look. ‘No, we are leaving now.’
Soleye placed his hand on Shade’s hand. Uche locked eyes with him. ‘You can deceive the whole church but I know who you are. Take your hands off my friend,’ she said.
Soleye regarded her with disdain. ‘You have no idea who I am,’ his eyes turned into thin slits.
Uche regarded him for a moment. ‘Would you like to tell us who you really are?’ She turned her head in the direction of pastor Cornelius Akande who was still enjoying the love feast. ‘I am sure he will be interested in knowing who you are.’
Soleye was silent.
Uche started the car. ‘I know why you gave Shade that gift. Whatever you are up to in this church God will expose you before you carry out your evil agenda,’ Uche said with clenched teeth.
Soleye laughed. ‘You watch too many movies.’
He looked around to make sure no one was listening to their conversation. ‘You don’t know what you are dealing with. Even your pastor cannot touch me,’ he boasted.
Uche wanted to say something but Soleye continued. ‘Do you think he will believe anything you say about me? He will think it is the senseless rambling of a mind under spiritual delusions. You think you are better than me, don’t you? I will teach you a lesson you will never forget,’ he said with an angry crease on his face.
Uche looked at Shade for some support but she was silent. She wanted to say something but changed her mind. She put the car in drive and Soleye stepped back.
It was when she had driven out of the compound that she realised that she hadn’t used the restroom.
Deacon Soleye looked at the Rolex on his wrist. It was 10:20pm. He went up to his bed room. He lit seven red candles and placed them around the bed in a circle. He lit some incense and placed it at the entrance of the room. He brought out a ram’s horn and started making incantations.
‘Uche Okpara,’ he called out her name in a strange voice. ‘Come to me,’ he commanded.
Uche was reading her bible when she heard some noise coming from Shade’s room. She dropped her bible on the table and went to check up on Shade. She opened the door and saw Shade sitting on the bed with her back turned to the door.
‘Why are you awake? I thought you have an early day tomorrow…’ Shade turned around and Uche stopped talking. In her hand she held the jewellery Deacon Soleye had given her. Uche looked at the jewellery in trepidation realising what it portended. ‘Shade, we prayed over this jewellery and I told you to throw it away.’
Shade caressed the gift like a pet. ‘Well, I didn’t want to throw it away. I like it and I decided to keep it,’ she spoke in a dreamy voice.
Uche knew what this meant. Shade’s deliverance wasn’t complete. She blamed herself for trying to pray for Shade alone. She should have asked for help from other members of the prayer team.
Uche stretched out her hand. ‘Hand it over right now,’ Uche said.
Shade regarded her friend for a moment. ‘As you wish,’ she tossed the necklace towards Uche who reached out to catch it.
As the necklace launched into the air and covered the distance between them, Uche’s eyes opened wide in fear as she realised that she had made a fatal mistake. A soft cry escaped her lips but it was too late. Thoughts raced through her mind like a squirrel trying to escape from a wild cat. As an intercessor, one of the primary lessons she learned in conducting a deliverance was to destroy all objects and clothing that have been dedicated to idols or contaminated by demonic power because they were contact points leading back to the entity which owned them. She should have burnt the jewellery or at least thrown it away, but she didn’t. She had approached this situation with spiritual arrogance thereby breaking the first law of warfare: never underestimate your enemy. She had totally underestimated her enemy, now she was going to pay for her error.
The necklace made contact with her right hand. An electric shock ran through her body, she felt a mysterious wind blowing inside the room, then she began to shiver like a tree caught in the middle of an African thunderstorm. Suddenly strength began to drain from her body like a car tire punctured by a nail. Her eyes lost focus, she became disoriented and tried to hold on to the door but her legs became rubbery and gave way under her and she fell to the floor. She hit the dressing table with her head on her way down and scattered the cosmetics placed on it. She felt like she was floating between two dimensions. In one dimension she saw Shade standing over her with a wicked smile on her face. In the other dimension she saw Soleye speaking into a cow’s horn. ‘Uche, come to me,’ he repeated three times. She tried to stand up but her limbs wouldn’t obey her commands. She laid there on the floor like a cripple. The last thing she saw was Shade bending over her to disentangle the necklace from her fingers.
As she descended into darkness, she cried out, ‘Lord Jesus, save me.’
Then, there was nothing.
To be continued…