Shade saw murder in Soleye’s eyes. With what she had seen tonight in his home, Soleye would not let her walk out of his home alive. She glanced at Uche and Agnes standing by the car. If she didn’t do something Uche would die and she would be responsible for her death.
‘Get out of the car,’ Soleye ordered.
The events that brought her to this moment played in her head like a movie. She had been driven by her greed and accepted a gift from Soleye. She thought it was harmless but apparently it wasn’t. If she had told her fiancée about the gift he could have saved her from all this trouble. Now she had put herself in danger and also brought her best friend into a trap. She had to make things right even if it cost her life.
‘What are you doing?’ Soleye barked. ‘I said you should get out of the car.’
Shade shut her eyes and uttered a prayer. ‘Lord, forgive me for what I did.’ When she opened her eyes, she turned to Soleye with a determination that made the cultist take a step backward.
She pressed the ignition button. ‘I am done being scared of you. I am leaving your house and I am taking my friends along with me.’
Rage spread on the deacon’s face like an ugly rash. ‘How dare you talk to me like that?’ He turned the gun on Uche and Agnes. ‘Shade, you will do as I say or you will watch your friends die before you.’
There was a loud bang on the gate. ‘Open this gate,’ someone shouted. Soleye and the security guard turned away from the women to see what was happening at the gate. Shade saw Uche reach behind her back and pull out the knife she took from the scene of the ritual. The security guard never saw it coming. The knife struck him from behind. He gasped in pain, fell to his knees and hit the paved ground with his head. Uche threw the case containing the money coming at Soleye. The case hit him on the waist. As he fell down he dropped the gun, it went off and a bullet hit the car.
‘Open this gate,’ the person at the gate shouted louder.
Soleye stood up, took one look at the guard on the ground and fled inside the house.
‘Shade, are you okay?’ Uche asked as she came around to the driver’s side.
‘I will be fine,’ Shade said. ‘That could be Kola at the gate. You should open it.’ Uche put the case in the trunk of the car. She turned to Agnes. ‘Find out who is at the gate. Open it if it is Kola.’ Agnes nodded.
Uche looked in the direction that Soleye fled.
‘Uche, don’t go into the house,’ Shade warned.
‘Are you coming with me or not?’ Uche asked.
Shade got out of the car. Uche picked up the gun, brought out the magazine, checked it and put it back in the gun. Shade regarded her friend with suspicion. Apparently there were many things she didn’t know about the intercessor. Uche kept the gun in the glove compartment of Shade’s car.
As she followed Uche into the building Shade couldn’t resist the urge. She had to know. ‘Uche, have you ever used a gun?’ Shade asked the former prostitute.
Uche took a breath. ‘Shade, there are things I have done that I am not proud of, things I didn’t want to share with you because they would not edify you. This is not the time or place to talk about such things. I promise you that when we get out of this situation I will tell you whatever you wish to know about my past. We should go after that man before he escapes.’ Uche entered the house. Shade stayed at a safe distance behind her. They entered the kitchen and found the back door to the kitchen open. ‘It looks like he ran to the servant quarters at the back.’
Suddenly Shade buckled at the knees and fell against the door.
‘Are you okay?’ Uche asked.
Shade touched her right thigh and her fingers returned smeared with blood.
‘You are hurt,’ Uche examined the wound. ‘This is a bullet wound.’ Blood flowed down the right side of her dress and dripped on the white kitchen tiles.
Shade gritted her teeth and pushed away from the wall. ‘I will be fine,’ she said in agony.
‘Shade, you have to take care of this wound. You don’t have to come with me. I can handle that dwarf on my own.’
Shade shook her head and looked at her friend in the eye. ‘No, I have to do this. It began with me. I must end it.’
Uche put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. ‘You don’t have to prove anything to me. This could be dangerous. I don’t want you to get hurt.’
‘I want to do this,’ Shade insisted.
Uche moved towards the back door, paused and turned to Shade. ‘To answer your question: yes, I have used a gun before.’
‘You have used a gun?’ Shade shook her head in disbelief. ‘What kind of life did you live?’ Shade wondered.
‘The dangerous kind,’ Uche forced a smile.
There was a sound above them. Both women looked up.
‘He is upstairs,’ Uche said.
Shade followed Uche up the stairs. She gritted her teeth which each step she took but she moved on. Her top was soaked in sweat and stuck to her body like a second layer of skin. At the top of the stairs she stopped to catch her breath. Uche stood before the door to the room where the ritual took place. She held the knife in her right hand, then pushed the door with her left hand. Smoke emerged from the room. She took a step back.
‘Come inside if you dare,’ Soleye said from inside the smoke.
‘Please don’t go in there. Let us get Agnes and get out of this house,’ Shade said.
Uche stood for a moment contemplating what to do. She turned around. ‘You are right. He is not worth it. Let’s get out of here.’ They turned to go down the stairs.
Soleye emerged from the room behind them. ‘My dear Uche, I have always suspected that you were a coward. I knew that behind all your fiery display of vacuous spirituality lies a fearful little girl who thirsts for power, who desires to be in control of her life but does not know where to get that power from.’
The women stopped on the staircase and looked up. Soleye stood at the top of the stairs with a horn in his right hand.
‘You see Uche, I have studied you for a while. I know all about your dubious past as Trinity. I know about your connection to the criminal underground in Lagos and Owerri.’
Shade turned to the intercessor. There was a dangerous look on Uche’s face that Shade had never seen before. She looked so different from the woman who prayed with her a few hours ago.
Soleye saw the surprise on Shade’s face and laughed.
‘Shade you didn’t know that your friend still has connections with criminals? Who do you think sponsors her lifestyle? That beautiful apartment she lives in, the cars she drives, you think she got that from her job?’
Uche pointed the knife at him. ‘If you don’t shut your mouth I will shut it up for you.’
‘My dear Uche, you have no idea the kind of resources I have at my disposal. I have information concerning your exploits in Owerri.’
Uche’s eyes opened wide.
Soleye continued with gusto. ‘Oh yes, I know a lot about you. But that is beside the point. Right now I am offering you a chance to join me, come over to our side and experience more power than your Christ offers you. I offer you power to do and be whatever you want in this life without asking anything from your God. I can give you real power from the water goddess, osun. You will live like the queen that you are. Give up this childish pretence and join me and osun,’ his body trembled as he mentioned the name of the water demon.
The former prostitute regarded him for a moment. ‘You are mad,’ Uche said. ‘I can see that you have completely lost your mind.’
Shade watched as Soleye moved closer to Uche and kept ranting. Uche stood there listening to him, not moving.
‘All great men in history have been called mad by the ignorant. It takes genius to recognise greatness when you see it. There is going to be a rising of the water goddess and she will rule over the earth,’ Soleye said with excitement. ‘And, you can reign with me as my queen,’ his eyes twinkled with spiritual insanity as he spoke. He stood close to Uche, almost touching her. He reached out and stroked Uche’s hair. ‘I have waited for this day when your eyes will open to the truth of the river goddess Osun. You will kneel before her as your goddess.’ He reached forward and placed his lips on hers.
Uche did not move.
Shade gave Uche a curious look. It seemed like she was coming under Soleye’s spell . Shade prayed under her breath.
Soleye kiss lasted a few seconds then he stepped back with a look of triumph on his dark face.
‘Your Jesus has failed you. Go on your knees and serve the goddess.’
‘I will….never…,’ Uche said.
Shade watched Uche struggling with an invisible force that was pulling her down to her knees. As she stood there a feeling of total helplessness overshadowed her. She didn’t know what to do.
‘I…will…not…,’Uche struggled as she went down on one knee.
Shade saw sweat trickling down Uche’s forehead and the side of her face. She saw Uche’s hand trembling as she wrapped her fingers tightly around the handle of the knife. She saw Uche pull back her hand like an archer pulling the strings of a taut bow but Soleye was mesmerized with occultic power to notice that death awaited him at the tip of the intercessor’s blade.
‘Kneel!’ Soleye shouted lifting up both hands in maniacal exultation and occultic triumph.
Shade watched as Uche’s trembling hand stopped moving forward. She seemed stuck, unable to move her hand to complete the trajectory.
Soleye looked down nd saw the knife in her hand. ‘You dare raise a weapon against me? You will pay for this,’ the occultist said. He spoke some words into the horn he held in his right hand.
Suddenly Uche started turning the knife away from Soleye, turning it on herself. She fought to control the knife but it kept turning in her direction. Shade watched as she raised the knife and began to bring it down on her own chest. Soleye let out an evil laughter which reverberated around the house. Shade was paralysed with fear as she watched her friend struggling with an invisible force which was about to kill her.
‘Shade help me!’Uche cried out.
Shade shook her head vigourously. She reached down and grabbed her friend’s hand. ‘Lord, help me,’ she prayed. Sweat broke out on her face as she struggled with Uche to reverse the direction of the knife towards Soleye.
‘This is impossible,’ the occultist said in disbelief as Shade turned the knife towards him.
Shade locked eyes with him. ‘Don’t you read the bible? With God all things are possible,’ she said and thrust the knife like a well aimed arrow towards him. The cold steel struck Soleye in his left thigh.
‘Agh,’ Soleye dropped the horn, staggered backwards. The wooden handle of the knife protruded from his leg like an ugly appendage from a horror movie. Blood flowed from the wound forming a red patch on his robe.
‘You…’ he pointed at Shade, shock written on his face. He fell to his knees, his hands holding the handle of the knife that protruded from his leg. Blood formed a pattern of death on his robe.
Kola ran into the room and bumped into Shade who stood behind Uche. ‘Are you okay?’ Kola was breathless.
‘You came…,’ Shade flung herself into his arms and burst into tears.
Kola looked down at Soleye on the floor, covered in blood. ‘What is going on here?’ he asked his fiancé.
‘Kola, I will explain…’ Shade started.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ Uche said.
Shade took two steps and stumbled but Kola caught her before she fell.
Kola saw blood on her leg. ‘You are bleeding. You need medical attention,’ Kola said.
Uche regarded Soleye.‘ We can’t leave him like this. We should call the police.’
‘You will do no such thing.’
They turned to see a man in a grey suit standing at the door. Two men stood behind him dressed in black. The man who stood in front carried an air of authority. He regarded everyone in the room in silence then his eyes settled on Soleye who was writhing in pain on the floor.
The man in the grey suit shook his head in sadness. ‘Soleye you are pathetic. You have failed us again,’ the man said.
‘I have not failed you. She is here. You can finish what I started…’
‘Shut up,’ the man in the grey suit cut him off.
‘Who are you people?’ Shade asked, her eyes searched for answers in the faces of the strangers but she found nothing.
The man ignored her question. ‘You will leave this house immediately and never mention what happened here tonight to anybody. Do you understand me?’
Shade and Uche nodded their heads.
Shade could feel Kola’s eyes piercing into the back of her head like acupuncture needles. She turned to look at him. She saw the confusion and questions in his eyes. She wasn’t ready for him right now. She would answer his questions when the time was right. Her attention was on the man in the grey suit.
‘We will be watching you,’ the man said.
Uche locked eyes with the man. ‘Who are you?’ she asked.
‘You don’t want to know,’ he said.
She took a step towards him. ‘Yes, I really want to know. Are you responsible for what happened here tonight? Are you part of this…this cult?’ she pointed her finger at him. ‘Answer me,’ she raised her voice.
Shade pulled back her hand. ‘Uche please let us go,’ Shade pleaded with the intercessor.
Uche brushed off her hand. ‘I want answers. You brought me here without my consent. This beast tried to rape me. You all will be brought to justice.’
The man smiled. ‘Point of correction, your friend Shade brought you here. She is responsible for that. And Shade came here of her own volition. Didn’t you?’ he asked.
Shade looked at the floor.
He pointed to the door, ‘Now leave and never return.’
‘Please, give me another chance,’ they heard Soleye begging as they went down the stairs.
‘You had your chance,’ the leader said.
‘No, no, no…’ Soleye’s voice followed them down the stairs.
Shade looked at Uche. ‘Do you think they will kill him?’
Uche moved down the stairs. ‘I don’t care what happens to him. Let us get out of this house.’ She hurried out of the front door.
Agnes was waiting for them by the car.
‘Some men entered the house. They looked dangerous,’ she said.
‘Help me…somebody help me…’ Soleye shouted. A blood chilling scream ripped through the night. Then there was silence.
Shade looked up and saw the man in the grey suit gazing at Uche through the curtains. Uche looked up to see what Shade was looking at.
Their eyes met.
They stared at each other for a moment, then Uche took her eyes away.
‘What was that all about?’ Shade asked.
Uche avoided her eyes ‘I am not sure, but I think I know him from somewhere…,’ she broke off. She got into Shade’s car and Agnes sat with her.
Shade knocked on the window. Uche wound down the glass.
‘Uche, I am sorry for what happened here tonight. Please forgive me,’ Shade said.
Uche bowed her head for a moment, when she raised her head her face was wet with tears.
Shade saw the pain in her friend’s eyes. ‘Uche, I am so sorry…’
Uche did not bother to wipe away her tears. ‘I am crying not because of what you did to me. I am crying because of what I discovered about myself tonight. I thought I was strong, that I could never fall back to my old ways but tonight proved me wrong. I never knew that part of me still existed. I thought it was dead and buried in my past.’ The intercessor shook her head in sadness. She looked at Shade. ‘I will see you later.’ She drove off.
Shade waited for Kola to drive away from the street before she turned to him. ‘I have something to tell you,’ she started.
‘We can talk after you’ve seen a doctor,’ Kola said, his eyes on the road.
She placed a hand on his thigh. ‘No, I have to tell you now.’ She took a deep breath. ‘I am sorry I brought you into all this…’
‘Don’t apologise,’ Kola glanced at her and turned his eyes back on the road.
Shade paused, watching the cars race past them; early risers on their way to work, on their way to earn a living, to pursue their dreams. For some, their dreams were leading them to a better future. Others had elusive dreams which refused to become a reality. For some their dreams were nightmares, tormenting, like the nightmare she experienced tonight. She rubbed her hands against her thighs, trying to feel…feel something, anything. Sleep was wrapping itself around her head like a turban. She wondered if Kola would still want her, if he would still want to go ahead with the wedding after learning what she did. She had to let him know the truth.
She exhaled. ‘It started with a gift….’ she began.
Kola glanced at her. ‘A gift? I don’t understand.’
She kept talking as they drove over the dark waters of the lagoon.