Chief Eseme guffawed with his friend, the DPO at the police station after telling him about the maneuver his wife tried to pull on him concerning his son.
“At least, it was a pleasurable maneuver,” the DPO commented with a chuckle.
“Yes, very pleasurable, but then, I still, regretfully, have to do something about my son or he’ll end up bad if I continue to allow him run amok.”
The DPO stood up, he was a painfully skinny man who had the mannerisms of a woman. People usually suspected that he might be gay, but the man was a hundred percent heterosexual, in fact, in his younger days, he had capitalized on the fact that ladies were friendlier with him and had become a quasi womanizer. But, as he grew, he left his bad ways behind, got married and had three kids at the moment.
“So, what do you have in mind?” the DPO asked while backing Chief Eseme, he too had a son and he understood what his friend was going through. He wasn’t a stranger to using the law to threaten his children into obedience, so, he fully supported what his friend was doing.
“I don’t know, Ralph, what should we do?” Chief Eseme asked his friend, trusting that he would have the best suggestion; he was refusing to think what his wife would do to him, or better put, what she’d not do when she found out that he’d still carried out his earlier threat.
“I say we arrest him, and treat him like a criminal for a few days,” the DPO suggested. “I have used this formula on my son too, and I can assure you that it works.”
“But, your son is just a teenager,” Chief Eseme pointed out with a wry smile.
“But very stubborn; I know how I was at that age, and my wife wasn’t any better, it is as if the boy sucked up our combined bad features, character wise,” the DPO complained, while turning into his seat.
“So, do you think it will work?” Chief Eseme asked.
The DPO shrugged, “It depends, is your son hardened?”
Chief Eseme thought for a while, “I don’t think so, but this few months that he left home…in fact, leaving home was a strange attitude in the first place. I had thought that it meant he was trying to be independent and that soon he would be searching for a job, but…”
“I really don’t know, Ralph, but then I’m out of options and I’m desperate to save him from himself.”
“Then we will arrest him; good thing he doesn’t know me as your friend. Do you know his current location now?”
“Yes, I finally had one of my office assistants trail him in a non-descript car, he is at the University campus…”
“Strange,” the DPO broke in with a frown, “But he is through with school.”
“He has an MBA,” Chief Eseme pointed out.
“Then what is he doing at the school?”
Chief Eseme spread both his hands in a universal posture of a lack of idea.
“Could he have joined a cult?” the DPO asked after a short moment of thought.
Both men looked pensive, Chief Eseme, painfully so, then with a deep breath, the both refuted the idea at the same time with shakes of their heads, “He’s not that stupid.”
“Is your assistant still trailing him as we speak?”
“Yes, and will continue to do until I say otherwise.”
“Good, then we will make our move in the evening, the fall of darkness makes everything more ominous.”
“True, true,” Chief Eseme agreed.
“So, tell me about this Kayanmata, where can it be acquired?”
Emma groaned when she saw the caller ID on her phone. She would be extremely but pleasantly surprised if her mother was calling to wish her a happy Valentine.
“Hello,” she answered the call, not hiding the fact that she wasn’t happy doing it.
“Yes, mummy,” she answered with a persevering groan. “You know you don’t really have to call my full name to get my attention, right?”
“It’s my voice and you are my daughter, I’ll do what I like,” Meg retorted.
Emma sighed wearily, it was always an onerous task having a conversation with her mother.
“What is it, mother?” Emma asked sarcastically, she had no energy, nor the patience to be nice to her mother today. The pregnancy was increasingly making her moody.
“So, you went and got pregnant, eh?”
At the last minute, Emma stifled the laugh that bubbled up from her stomach, but it still slipped out as a cough; her mother had been the second person to know about the situation, the first had been Fred.
“I told you that already.”
“I couldn’t believe it; I mean, it won’t be the first time you have played a practical joke on me,” Meg accused.
“So, uncle called you,” she made it a statement, her uncle, the one she was staying with was the only person her mother would listen to, well apart from her tyrant of a husband.
“He did and I’ll be at Uyo later today.”
The announcement shocked Emma a bit. It had been months since she’d seen her mother and it was only on the rare occasion when her husband deemed it fit that she escort him to an event at Uyo.
“Your husband is allowing that?” Emma couldn’t hide the surprise in her voice.
“Well, things change, Emmaline, things change.”
He should have changed while he’d had the chance. He shouldn’t have waited so long to reach out to Emma, he was even afraid that she might not want anything to do with him any longer.
In the midst of his doldrums, there had been an underlying fear that Emma would appear at his door step with her family elders and he had never figured out how he’d react to them; and even though he’d spent a long time thinking about it, there still was no particular idea of reaction.
But then, there were other pressing issues, like what the head of a particularly vicious cult wanted with him; he was temporarily forgetting about the weird episode in the VC’s office.
Having been led to a surprisingly well furnished house and this had been done without apparent coercion and there had been no need for him to scream for help; he had then been led into one of the rooms, this one wasn’t furnished at all, a chair had to be dragged in and it wasn’t for him.
A mean faced guy came in after Fred had been made to wait, standing, for thirty minutes, while anxiety clawed his intestines. Surprisingly, he introduced himself.
“I’m Mask,” he growled, his mean face had no relief at all, his name a befitting one.
Fred swallowed his trepidation and straightened from leaning on the wall, “I’m…I’m Fred…”
“I know,” he snapped, cutting him off abruptly.
He was afraid to ask but he had to when after ten minutes, mean faced Mask had not said anything, except pace like a hungry tiger savoring its eminent meal, knowing with full confidence that it would get its kill.
“What is all this about?” he stammered but got the question out all the same.
A flash of what could have been a smile appeared on Mask’s face for a nano-second which made him meaner. “This is about you coveting the alpha-wolf’s girl,” Mask replied his eyes hardening to sleets.
And the only thing Fred got from that sentence was the dismay that Mask wasn’t even the head of the cult. What would the head of the cult look like or be like? He wondered this fearfully and forgot to defend himself or refute Mask’s reply.
“You don’t even deny it?!” Mask roared, and walked threateningly towards him.
Fred snapped out of his fear and shifted from Mask’s approaching bulk. “I don’t even know who the head wolf is and definitely do not know his girl!” Fred hurriedly denied.
“I don’t believe you,” Mask said and continued his approach and Fred kept going backwards without the benefit of sight.
“And I’ve got you where I want you. Strip him boys,” he ordered without looking back. The guys that had cornered him at the campus moved forward and proceeded to grab his shirt roughly, Fred didn’t put up any struggle, he was only glad that they left him with his singlet.
But in seconds he understood why Mask said he had where he wanted him; he had stalked him until he stood directly under a rod that ran across the width of the room, and there, he was forcibly tied, hands stretched over his head.
“Please, I don’t know this girl you are talking about. And if I have unfortunately spoken to her unknowingly, I am, from the bottom of my heart, very sorry. It won’t happen again,” Fred cried in terror, he definitely wasn’t going to like what was about to be done to him.
The guys pulled their shirts and cracked their knuckles ominously, getting ready to do damage.
“Get him,” Mask commanded but in the softest of tones.
The soft tone didn’t stop his order from being taken out, or reduce the ominousness behind it. The guys approached slowly, their expressions grim and invariably gruesome.
Fred whimpered fearfully, “Please, please…I swear, it’ll not happen again…”
Two guys approached him first, one went behind him and one remained in front of him. Fred couldn’t imagine what was about to be done to him. In the next second, he stopped whimpering and accepted his fate with a determined mien; he sucked in his breath and waited for the pain to assail him.
His last thought was that he was cosmically being punished for the wrong he’d handed to Emma. He loved her, he never thought he’d be able to love anybody after his brother died, but he loved Emma. It had taken months of depression and this violent situation to give him clarity on the matter.
“Begin,” Mask directed again in the soft tone, sending Fred’s heart into rapid staccato. Even though he was accepting of his fate, he didn’t stop the abject fright that pumped in his heart.
The guys cracked their knuckles again, causing Fred to shut his eyes in anticipation of the pain…but, both guys began tickling him ferociously.
A shocked gasp busted out of him, his eyes flew open, his body twisted this way and that, trying valiantly to get away from the unfathomably ticklish sensation that invariably made him expel a half-laugh, half-scream kind of sound.
“What…what are you…doing?” he managed to gasp out the question in between loud gasps, body twists and a failing determination to hold back wild mirth.
Mask stood aside, his face stoically watching what was being done, “Concentrate on the armpit,” he directed.
Fred laughed and laughed and laughed…it was a mindless kind of punishment. He screamed and begged them to stop and then he began crying hysterically, his body hitting the walls rather painfully in a bid to escape the punishing tickles.
“Stop,” Mask said and the guys stood back while Fred hung by his wrist, heaving raggedly, sweat pouring from every pore and his face drenched with tears.
“Why did you mess with the alpha’s girl?”
It took him a moment to catch his breath enough to gasp a reply, “I – don’t – know – who – she – is,” he managed. “Please…”
And the tickling continued, Fred could actually feel his throat go rag, it was so dry, he feared it would crack into splinters any second. His body suffered from the thrashing and getting hit on the wall countless times and with wild force.
“Enough, Mask!” Udeme called from the door with more force than he’d intended. He had been at the door for a couple of minutes and had been trying to stifle his own laugh from what was being done to Fred and to understand why they would be tickling him as opposed to the violent blows he’d been expecting.
Fred couldn’t even look up, he was fatigued and ragged, he hung limply but his breathing filled the sudden silence of the room.
“He just said he didn’t know her,” Udeme pointed out but made no move to enter the room.
“Jurisdiction are for people in the room, so…” Mask shrugged carelessly and nodded to the boys who resumed tickling.
It took a Udeme a while to make himself be heard above the hysterical shouts coming from Fred; or maybe, Mask had only been ignoring him. He was recalling what Silvia had warned him about, slights to the alpha-wolf and the level of punishments were mainly decided by the next in command, in this case Mask.
He had always wondered what would be ascertained a slight in Mask’s book, and apparently, his supposed woman leaving for another guy was slight enough. Udeme wondered if nobody had sensitized them about civil rights and privileges; Silvia could go where ever she chose, it’s wasn’t as though they’d been married.
The guy shouldn’t be punished because the girl liked him and followed. Apart from that, this guy had been set up by that depraved old man, Mike Okpo, it was rather unfortunate that Mask had been in a foul mood for a while and had been looking for who to transfer his aggression on; Fred just came in handy.
“I don’t recall such a rule,” Udeme pushed the matter.
“You wouldn’t; in between your grieve and the appalling playlist of R‘n’B , you had no time for anything else,” Mask said sarcastically and managed to portray a smirk on his stoic face.
Udeme looked sheepish and then guilty because at that moment he realized that he was responsible for Fred’s predicament. If he hadn’t been so broken about Silvia leaving, Mike Okpo’s lie wouldn’t have had any leverage and Mask wouldn’t have been in a foul mood.
Even though he was fatally terrified of Mask, Udeme took a deep breath and made up his mind to help the poor guy. First of all, he stepped fully into the room and shut the door.
“You are right, Mask,” he conceded. He moved in deeper, his heart hammering loudly, “I am in the room now and I invoke my authority as the alpha-wolf, leave this young man alone, he has done nothing,” he said reasonably.
“That’s not the information we got,” Mask shrugged and actually smiled slightly at Udeme’s spunk.
Udeme wanted to scream angrily that the information had been fake but he nodded and swallowed, breathing deeply. “We both know Mike Okpo had lied, this guy knows nothing about Silvia.”
Fred heard the name and even in his fatigued state, his light bulb clicked on in his mind. He recalled the weird old man and obviously he was also vindictive. His beautiful time with Emma had completely swiped his mind of the man. Everything made sense now, he could fully and undeniably imagine the man putting all the traps in place.
From the VC, to the cultists, and God knew what else the lunatic old thief had planned.
The story continues
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