He gazed at the birds up above. Even they were flying in pairs. A saddened look fell upon him. He picked up a set of notes from the beach sand. And he wrote the word…Claire. And then he wrote…Revenge.
The rain pelted down turning calm gutters into raging streams. Chaos ruled the streets as people jostled for shelter from the downpour. Wind, vapour and darkness, it was. An unfriendly trio. The wind belted out in fury, whisking rubbish bins high into the air and taking umbrellas in its wake. The darkness that permeated the air was almost portentous.
This though, for this one man, was most welcomed. He moved through the rain with such amazing stealth for a man his size. A man of unwavering purpose he was, even in the midst of the chaos. He knew they would not be expecting him, at least not in this weather. That was his edge. The warehouse was remote. It sat the edge of the docks, the perfect den for an underground street gang. The security men were negligent as usual. It was almost disappointing to him. He had anticipated spilling some blood.
He paused at the entrance listening for sounds. He could hear voices. Men talking. Laughter. And a whimper. It sounded almost feminine. Without hesitating, he kicked the door in. The shock barely had time to register on their faces. He fired two rapid shots from his Beretta M9 into the chest of their leader. The other four gang members in the room bellowed as their adrenaline kicked in. Knives in hand, they launched at him in unison. An almost demonic smile split across his face. He snarled at them as he wiped the sputum gathering at the corner of his mouth. One of the thugs with a nasty burn mark across his face sprung at him and he squatted, catching him in midair. He gripped ‘Burnface’ tight around the middle in a deadlock till he heard the satisfying crunching sound of breaking bones. His knee came up hitting him in the solar plexus. Without letting him catch his breath, he used Burnface to parry a blow from one of the other thugs. The knife dug into his chest. He tossed Burnface aside and butted the thug in the head. He grabbed his arm in a muscle lock that brought him to his knees. One of the other thugs grabbed his free arm and he hit him in the eye with the gun. A swift front kick aimed at his chest brought him toppling to the ground. Almost ruefully McCallugen fired two bullets in rapid succession. He would have loved to finish them off with his bare hands.
He heard a whimper and a movement again and turned quickly, gun pointed. That’s when he saw her. Her face was swollen like someone’s hobby had been to punch her incessantly in the face. Blood trickled down her nostrils and legs as she stumbled towards him. Her greasy hair hung around her face like a dirty cloud but could not be much worse than the rags she was dressed in. The instructions had been: No survivors. He cocked his gun at her and that was when someone hit him in the leg with something hard. He roared in anger, swivelling around until he spotted her in the shadows. He aimed the gun at her. How dare the little brat?
“Claire! Come here” he heard the woman wheeze softly. “Abeg oga no kill am. Abeg!. Claire come here quickquick!”
I see Claire and her Mama when she be just ten years old. She resemble small boy when I see her. My eyes red when she hit me with that stick. Imagine me Timothy McCallugen, twenty-fife years old and small ten years old girl hit me. I would have shoot her and her mama for there but I have mercy. First time I have mercy in my whole life. Her mama have rape. Sory. Her mama been rape plenty times so she want to die. She beg me to kill her because she shame for Claire to see her like that. I not kill her mama. If I kill her mama, I kill Claire because I cannot care for small girl. I give them small money and help them to excape because Moruf boys still in the town will find her and continue to rape her. I wear my big coat and face cap when I take them to bus park. No one to see me. Claire hug me tight like she no afear of me before she and her Mama enter the bus. Then she say “God bless you”.
“How is he doing?” Detective Clarke asked the old woman. She sat crosslegged on the cold floor of the balcony, peeling garlic and popping into her mouth. The detective tried not to wince at the repellent garlic smell. It made his eyes water. She was a puny yet intimidating woman. An overly protective mother. This could be the reason why her mature son had still been living with her even before his ‘ordeal’. Her beady eyes swept him from toe to head and then she hissed.
“How else will he be? When you people will not let my son recover in peace”
“Madam, I’m sorry but your son is the only lead we have in this very important case” the detective explained calmly.
“Oga Detective abeg don’t blow me grammar. Look at my son!!! He’s a vegetable, God forgive me” the old woman cried. “He never should have taken that prison job. But as work no dey nko?”
The detective sighed. “Please you already have my card. If his situation changes, call me”
In the living room of the house, Sebastian sat chanting to himself “Jesus, save me!”
I have not see Claire in long time. Since her Mama die and I come to burial. I stand in back so she will no see me. But she know I am there. She find me after the pasitor talk finish. She sit beside me and rest her head for my shoulder. Then she cry. I just sit there and hold hand. Claire is seventeen years old now. She have grow to beautiful girl, tall and slim like queen. She like to smile and I ask her why. Life not fair to her but she still smile. She say God have give us so much to be thankful for. I not understand but I take it because Claire say it. She call me her hero. Say I save her and her Mama. I tell her I am devil but she say “That means I’m your angel”. She go to UNILAG because she pass Jamb. She want to be doctor. I give her money for school fees and accommodation. I have plenty money. Plenty. Nobody to spend it on top. She say she will still get job. Claire is strong girl. That was last time I see Claire. Next time I see her she is twenty years old. She have boyfriend and I am angry. I want to squeeze his neck till his eyes comot for his head. Claire grow more beautiful everyday. I shame to stand near her because I so ugly. But she take me out to buka to eat fried rice ,then she show me her classroom. We buy ice cream and I am shame to tell her it is my first ice cream in this life. I have to go because I have job in Abuja. I not tell her because she hate my job. I give her some money. She cannot phone me. Only me that phone her. Safer for her like that. I have plenty enemies. She hug me again and I smell her hair. She smell like lily. She tell me “God bless you” and I want to say “I love you”. But I shut up. No use. She cannot love ugly bad man Timothy. She is angel.
She was not answering her phone. He had dialled her close to 20 times already. It was unlike Claire. His neck prickled ominously. They were supposed to see today, or had she forgotten? Without a second’s hesitation, he slipped a gun into his shoes and another one in the waistband of his jeans. Years of running from the law had prepared him for surprises. He got to her apartment off campus in record time. He wondered if her room mates might be around, but the slightly ajar front door negated that. He ran into the house gun hand extended. There were signs of struggle in the living room. His face contorted into a mask of anger and apprehension. Where was she? He wondered. He searched the house until he found her in the wardrobe in her room. A loud angry roar sprung from deep within him. Her clothes had been ripped apart and her mouth was agape as if in a wordless plea. She had been raped and then strangled to death. He caught her body just before it hit the ground and held her as silent tears rolled down his cheeks. There was a note attached to her dress.
He ripped it off and read “A life for a life. You took mine, I take yours. What will you do now?”
The Castellos. The Frankie-Personni. The Hunnayas. The Farouks. Who could have done this evil? He stroked her hair and rocked her back and forth. She was so pale, so still. They would pay. Whoever had done this would pay with even more blood.
“Jesus!!! You scared me. Who are you?” a girl screamed behind him and still Timothy did not move. “Shola! Come in here quick. There’s a man in Claire’s room.”
“Oh my God Call the police. Claire is not moving. She’s not moving, Shola! Quick!!”
The police would find him there, kneeling on the floor with the girl in his arms. He never even resisted the arrest.
“I remember” Sebastian mumbled. “I remember”
“What do you remember?” Detective Clarke asked. “What? Tell me!”
“Ehen! Oga detective, don’t shout on my son o!” Sebastian’s mother shouted.
The detective eyed her and swallowed his retort. Instead he looked gently into the eyes of the only man who had seen Timothy McCallugen and lived to forget about it.
“Take me to Victoria Cemetery” Sebastian said calmly.
“What’s there? Who’s there?” he asked uneasily.
“I can’t remember. I just feel like I need to be there”
The detective sighed, wondering if Sebastian wouldn’t have been better off killed by McCallugen instead of reduced to the nutcase he now was. He decided to accommodate Sebastian’s madness and drove his prime witness to the cemetery. At the cemetery, Sebastian stumbled around between rows and rows of headstones. He could not seem to remember why they were there in the first place. He lost his footing a few times until Detective Clarke heard him shout.
He rushed over to where Sebastian stood in front of a slightly askew headstone. It read: “Here lies Claire Thomas. An angel. Bless her soul.” Fresh lilies had been placed on the grave.
“Claire” Sebastian repeated to himself as the puzzle that was his memory suddenly fell into place.
“Who is Claire? Surely you don’t mean the same Claire McCallugen killed that got him arrested in the first place?” the detective asked. But Sebastian was not answering any questions. He was deep in thought.
“He was here” he said pensively, touching the fresh lilies and letting the petals filter through his hands.
‘Who was? McCallugen? Answer me dammit! Answer me” Detective Clarke yelled angrily.
She always smell like lily. Even when she die. She smell like lily.
To be continued…
Thank you for reading. Please comment,i will love to know what you think. check out other Episodes here
10 things about the author, Donald Tombia
- He is an only child.
- He works two major jobs and several minor ones. The major ones are daytime Security Solutions Architect and night-time Writer.
- He loves eating. The dude loves food immensely.
- He is a true Niger Delta man, and can hustle.
- He is a widespread reader. His hardcover and paperback library span close to 100 books and his kindle softcopy books span close to 30.
- He watched the movie, ‘The First Grader’ and cried at the end when the teacher read a letter to the old man. Let’s just say he’s in touch with his emotional side.
- His mentors are his father, Peter J. Daniels, Mfon Ekpo, Donald Trump and Ted Dekker.
- He used to run the now defunct Sleeickstories and now intends on starting another one.
- He loves his woman.
He loves God.