“Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?”
Patricia’s eyes held in Victor’s turned moist at his question. This was a man she loved. A man who had shown more than a few times that he could be relied on. Yet, she couldn’t trust him. She couldn’t trust anyone. And it wasn’t for the fact that she felt anyone could easily betray her; it was that Samuel could get anyone to do anything, including betray their loved ones. For that reason, she kept her plans to herself. Not even Victor whose body she had intimately known on several occasions.
“Or don’t you trust me, Tricia?”
Victor’s stare went deeper but Patricia let her eyes down.
“You’re right. I should not be trusted.”
He tried to take her hand but held back. He moved away from her and chose a wall in his small sitting room that had a window looking out to the entrance of the house. From there, he could spy anyone coming in.
His apartment was much like him – shipshape and revealing nothing about its occupant. The sitting room had the basics of a radio set, a pair of two-sitter settees facing each other and a table resting between them. They were no artworks or anything elegant. The most elegant thing that probably ever graced the space was the woman sitting beside her sleeping baby.
Patricia was a remarkably beautiful woman. She possessed the type of beauty that the Igwe wives were known to have. Their husbands always went for exceptional exquisiteness and Patricia, so far, stood out from the others, but in a subtle manner. She didn’t have a flashy fashion taste. Her clothes were often plain and a size larger, to hide her curves,which was what marked her out. She went about, devoid of makeup and often carried her hair in a simple bun. Still her beauty was captivating.
Victor had met her when he was assigned to the Princess’ security detail six years ago. Igwe, who was yet to be Head of State at the time, preferred the services of the NSS and thus Victor found himself with a team dispersed to Elyon Villa. He met Patricia, a younger, happier version of herself. Then, she was clearly in love with Samuel and everything Igwe. But as the years flipped by, Victor watched as she slowly turned miserable, shying away from the family at events. His affair with her began when, three Christmases ago, while driving her home from a family dinner at the villa, she asked if he could make her disappear from her present life. The strange question sparked a conversation in which she revealed things about Samuel that gave Victor the chills. But they would not get intimate until a full year later when Victor walked into the house and found her crouched at the foot of the stairs, crying. In that moment of consoling her, they found each other.
The affair didn’t go like normal ones. It ran based on Patricia’s need for him which was irregular. Her fear of Samuel put her feelings for Victor in check but it didn’t stop her from feeding him with information about Samuel and the other members of the Cabal.
“You were supposed to tell me everything, Tricia.” Victor’s tone was soft on her.
“I was scared. He said he was going to kill me if I spoke to anyone about the things he did.”
Victor turned. “How did he know you were speaking to someone?”
“I don’t know. That’s the way Sammy is. He knows things he’s not supposed to know. He can see them in the…spiritual.” She looked around with guarded eyes as if suddenly feeling a presence. “I’m sure he can see us now.”
Patricia clasped her body with both arms as if she was keeping herself warm from the cold. She leaned forward and began to speak.
“It was on a Tuesday night, just last week. My nights were often busy with Ishi keeping me awake. On that particular night, I was glad to have him fall asleep at a normal time. So, I was also preparing to go to bed after just having had my dinner. But from nowhere, I heard Aaron scream. Panicked, I ran into his room… Victor, I can’t explain what I saw. I mean, I could, if I saw it on an adult but he was just a child. Just four years old and Samuel was killing him.”
Patricia slipped farther into her chair and stared into the air with haunted eyes. The night in question came to her with a force she couldn’t stop. Victor and his home vanished as she was hauled into a scene that had been her nightmare for days.
She found herself standing before Aaron’s bedroom door. The little boy was sprawled on his bed which was soaked with blood running from cuts on his arms. At the first sight of the horror before her, Patricia screamed out and dashed in but Samuel who was hunched over Aaron, stretched out a hand that was wielding a dagger to stop her. Still she edged forward. But Samuel flung his hand across her face and had her falling to the floor. She put her hands out to protect herself from impending assault but he wrenched her up.
“Did I say it was okay for you to leave your room?”
He put the dagger to her neck, squeezing her chin.
“Mm? Did I?”
Patricia shook her head.
“You want to know what I’m doing?”
He whirled her around to face Aaron’s bed where the boy lay motionless. He appeared dead save for the spine-tingling hum that came from his lips.
“He’s dying,” Samuel whispered into her ear. “I’m bleeding him out. Bleeding out the evil. Your son has the devil in him. We need to let it out.”
Too traumatized to speak, Patricia fell into a sob. She recalled the story of Samuel as a little boy, as told by him to her, when he had to watch his mother bleed to death after being shot by hired assassins. The woman had told her son in her dying moment, in an attempt to shield him from the horror he was witnessing, that she was bleeding out the bad things from her life. The blood was taking away the evil. And that when she bled out, all would be well. But he had watched her blood run, warm and thick through his hands, taking her life with it. Samuel was never the same from that day.
He grew up developing an obsession for blood, cutting himself many times as a child just to see, feel and smell the thick, red fluid through his hands. At the age of fourteen he murdered his younger sister, driving a knife into her stomach after an argument that got him enraged. After stabbing her, he watched her bleed from the early hours of the morning until noon when she stopped breathing. With the help of Luke, they took her corpse to an abandoned street and dumped it there. When she was eventually found a day later, it was hard for anyone to prove that Samuel had committed the act, even though Igwe was certain that he did.
To feed his mania, Samuel became a surgeon, enjoying mostly the moments when he cut people open. He didn’t care much for stitching them back up after treatment. His colleagues and nurses were well aware of this but because he was genius with what he did nobody bothered about his methods.
With Patricia, he didn’t hide his demons, the ones that drove him out on dark nights to engage in activities that brought him home with bloodstained clothes. She had reported him to Igwe on a few instances but because he left no trace of his atrocities, nothing had been done to him. And so Patricia lived with his darkness every day, finding peace in the drugs he injected into her. On his own, he had declared her medically insane. On his own, he treated the insanity. But it was him whose mind was deranged. His fascination with blood extended to vampirism in which he had a craving for Patricia only when she menstruated. Sometimes, he would bury his face between her legs, lapping up every drop of blood as it came.
From this sick torture she sought her freedom; however, the fear of Samuel and what he was capable of doing to her always kept her bound. But as she stared at Aaron bleed to death on his bed, she felt pushed by that same fear to run and never look back. She would not have Samuel lay a finger on Ishi. She would protect him no matter what it would take from her.
This, she said to Victor as she concluded her narration.
“How did Aaron survive all the blood loss?” Victor asked.
“I don’t know. Sammy dragged me away and injected me with that drug as usual and then I woke the next day and saw Aaron fine and well. If it wasn’t for the bandages on his arms, I would have thought I imagined everything. That’s what happens to me most times. I don’t know the difference between reality and my hallucinations anymore.”
She looked around.
“Who knows if this moment is even real and I’m not under the influence of that drug?”
“How about you and me? Were those moments real?”
Patricia looked at Victor. “Were they?”
Victor left the spot where he was standing and looked out the window again before doing a short walk about the room for no apparent reason.
“Aaron told me things about them…” Patricia said.
“Them, the people you call the Cabal. Two nights ago when I went to put Aaron to sleep he told me things no four-year-old should know.”
“It was like somebody removed his brain and inserted an adult’s brain in him. But it was his cry for help and I was helpless because I was so afraid. I could do nothing.”
Patricia stopped as huge tears escaped her eyes. “He said that the blood Sammy had taken from his body belonged to people that Sammy had killed and that if he didn’t let it flow, the demons…they were going to kill him. The people were going to haunt him. How does a four-year-old speak like that, Victor?”
“It is obvious that Samuel told him those things.”
“Sammy had done worse and it was right under my watch. He had made Aaron watch him kill people. He killed them right in front of his four-year-old son. Who does such a thing, Victor?”
Patricia broke again. Victor felt she had suffered enough, so he went to her and held her. “It’s okay, Tricia. You’ll kill yourself with all this crying.”
She continued, “he said, ‘Mommy, go away. Take Ishi and go or Daddy will kill you and make Ishi like me’. Then he told me something was about to happen. He said that a hundred children will be kidnapped and killed this evening.”
Victor looked into her eyes as he subtly pulled away from her.
“He said they’d be killed? He said exactly that?”
“At least, that is the plan.”
“Did he say where they were taking them?”
“No,” she sniffed, “he only told me who was behind it.”
“He said, ‘if Daddy steals the children, he will become part of the five’.”
“Five? What five?”
“I don’t know.”
“He didn’t mention any other names?”
“He didn’t give you even a hint at their location?”
“I think he wanted to but Sammy walked in. I managed to stay in that house for two more days but today, I said to myself that I couldn’t stay around and watch him kill me and Ishi. I had to leave.”
A sudden sound coming from outside startled them both and Victor shot up to his feet.
Patricia clutched her blouse in apprehension. “What’s that?”
Victor went to the window. “It’s just my neighbor.”
She stood up. “I have to hide inside.”
“Tricia, it’s okay.”
Something in Victor’s face didn’t sit right with Patricia. Her eyes darted to the door. At that moment, it burst in and Samuel in the company of two menacing-looking men stepped in. Patricia glared at Samuel, and then at Victor. Victor looked away.
“Vic, you betrayed me?!”
“You’re one of them?!”
“Believe me, I’m not.”
Victor’s heart broke at his act of betrayal. He hadn’t set out to hurt her but Luke had given him no choice. Earlier that day he had visited Emem at Luke’s house because he was told someone had rung his office and left a message in her stead, saying she needed to see him urgently. He was given Captain’s home address, much to his surprise. If there was anywhere he would imagine her staying other than the hotel, it was not at Captain’s.
When he visited her in the house that was manned by armed soldiers, she narrated in tears how Luke had raped her through the previous night and then brought her to his house under the claims that he was going to wed her. Victor was enraged but all attempts to have an audience with Luke or take Emem out of the house, proved futile. The kidnap of the orphans didn’t help the situation either, as he was called to his responsibilities, shortly after. However, hours later, when his team had apprehended Patricia, he got a phone call from Captain himself.
“Special agent Okon.”
Victor could hear the amusement in Luke’s tone. It set him on edge.
“You retarded son of a whore! What did you do to my sister?!”
Captain laughed. “Your sister? Come on, Victor. You and I know she’s not related to you. Igwe paid you to take care of her and keep her away from her father who up until this moment does not know she exists. The only reason she’s here in Lagos is because Judith doubled what Igwe gave you. I wonder how the old man would feel if he knew you betrayed his trust.”
Victor grunted. “What do you want?”
“First of all, I’d like to let you know that I’m responsible for all the chaos today. You and your little team of rats secretly investigating me and my friends can’t do nothing. You’ll only waste your time, Victor. So, I want to give you an offer to work for me. It promises a better stipend, better benefits…”
“I’m not interested.”
“Of course, you’ll keep your job as an agent. We need you there.”
“I am not interested. All I want from you is to let Emem out of your house. Or else, I swear to God, I will use everything within my power to bring you down, Luke. Everything!”
“You underestimated me.” He sniggered. “And what is even more stupid than that is you now threatening me.”
Victor bit down his rage by clasping the edge of the table.
“Hello?” Luke called. “Are you still there?”
“What do you want?!”
“Now, listen. There’s a woman in your custody. She was supposed to be taken to her husband but your people and their efficiency got to her first. You know the woman, don’t you? Patricia Eresoyen? The one you’ve been fucking?”
“Get to the point!”
“I really hate your tone with me, Victor. I am, after all, the president’s son.”
“Be the son of God for all I care!”
Luke sighed. “Get Patricia to us and you’ll have your sister back, untouched. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about her virginity.”
Victor ignored Luke’s statement and said almost pleadingly, “Patricia has been through hell with Samuel. Let her go elsewhere and live her life.”
“That you had the guts to fuck an Igwe wife does not mean you can parley with me, you lowlife.”
Victor considered his dilemma. Who was of more value to him? Patricia or Emem?His feelings for Patricia were genuine but he had an obligation to protect Emem. His greed had already seen her in the mess she was presently in. For the sake of her dear, old mother, he felt it best to save her from Captain. For Patricia, he would make a proper escape plan in the near future.
“Fine. I’ll do it,” he said to Luke.
“Good boy. All you have to do is take her to your house—that shouldn’t be hard if you show the whore your cock—and Samuel will take it from there. And of course, you’ll get your Emem back. Oh…one more thing, Victor. Samuel will enjoy seeing you bleed to death for touching his wife. You’ll never get away with it. Come to my side and I’ll offer you immunity.”
Victor’s secretary walked in with a file. Victor looked at her and tapped the table. She dropped the file on it and waited for further instructions.
“Is that all?” Victor asked Luke.
“You don’t want my offer? Well, good luck. And yeah, that’s all.”
“Good. It’s done. You do what you have to.”
And so the deal was made. Patricia for Emem. Victor had no pleasure in betraying the woman he loved but something told him Samuel had no intentions of hurting her. If he wanted to, he would have done so a long time ago.
“I’m sorry, Patricia,” he said to her now, eyes down.
Patricia threw a disdainful stare at him.
“I trusted you, Victor. You were my friend.”
“And lover,” Samuel added.
“I’m sorry, Tricia. They have my younger sister.”
“You are a Judas!” She drew up spittle and spat at him. “That’s the nicest thing anybody will do to you from now on, that is if they let you live to remember it!”
Victor cleaned his face. Samuel nodded at one of the burly men he came with. “Get the baby.”
Patricia rushed to Ishi and took him in her arms. “You’re not taking him anywhere!”
“Step away, Trish. My men are not as kind as I.”
To the second man, Samuel gave instructions. “Take him away.”
The man clasped a strong hand on Victor and led him out as his colleague took Ishi from Patricia. She made to run after him but Samuel held her back.
“Leave me, Sammy!” she cried. “Victor! Victor, don’t let them take my baby! Victor come back here, you coward! Let me go Sammy! Leave me, you devil! Leave me!”
Patricia didn’t see it coming. Samuel’s attack was sharp and quick. Her screams came to a low as she felt a familiar prick on her neck. Her words slurred and she slumped into his arms, holding his eyes.
“It’s okay, baby,” Samuel whispered. “I’m here. I’m right here.”
As her eyes shut, she caught a foul smile on his lips and she knew she was as good as dead.