Devil's Pawn, a story of death, love, politics and the metaphysical, is an unpublished novel by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson, published as a serial exclusively on Students Pulse section of Pulse.ng. Stay with us...
continued from last week...
Simon stopped when he could no longer hear the pounding footsteps behind him. He had run quite a long distance. And he was unfamiliar with the lay of the place he found himself in. I
n his fear, he had run blindly with only his instincts left to lead him. Now he was on a footpath in the middle of nowhere. Neat rows of young maize and cassava plants were all he could see for miles ahead.
He doubled over with his hands on his knees, winded up.
I have to get a hold of myself now before I lose it finally.
Hearing footsteps approach, he straightened, ready to get moving. It was a woman and her children. He relaxed. They crossed over to the other side of the road when he looked up. There was a funny look on their face as they walked carefully past. It was him; they were looking directly at him.
He looked himself over and realized why they had been wary of him. His body was covered in grime and his clothes were torn.
Only God knows what is happening to me. Guns can’t kill me, and now cars can’t either?
He walked on for another twenty minutes before he saw a cluster of houses. From the way the houses were arranged, he knew instantly that he was near one of the university quarters.
Each of the colonial style duplex had a wide lawn, its own driveway and a wide variety of trees surrounding it. Eucalyptus trees with large boles borders ? bordered the area behind each house. They were probably a kind of fence, Simon thought.
The colonial masters who had built the university buildings before independence had definitely done a great job.
The area looked like the Area C quarters reserved for the senior academic staff of Buscan University. If he was right, then he was miles away from the X-zone. Somehow, he had been transported over the University buildings, across two small settlements.
He wondered how he had gotten that far. He had visited one of the lecturers in his home once when he was in his first year.
There was also the time he was dating a lecturer’s daughter. The lecturer, a Faculty Dean, lived in a house that looked exactly like the houses so neatly arranged before him.
But all that was before.
Before all this mess, before the Black Cats, killing, disappearing and surviving bullets.
Now he had a problem on his hands. It was impossible to go into the town in the same clothes he had on. Only in total darkness would he venture near his house looking so grim. Even then, it would be almost impossible to slip in unnoticed, not in the kind of area he lived.
Now he had a problem.
He surveyed the area, house after house, giving each house a curious stare that would have earned him a serious questioning session if anyone had seen him.
But typical of all Buscan University staff quarters, there was nobody in sight, and the trees provided good cover. The twelfth house looked most promising; he needed a house where he could steal some clothes.
The house he picked was newly painted; maybe that was why he had decided on it. Casting furtive glances all around, he approached it from behind the L-shaped boys’ quarters behind the main house. The house and the boys’ quarters were about sixty meters apart.
Some washings were hanging on the clothesline between them. He saw a pair of corduroy jeans and a T-shirt that would fit him.
And now I have become a thief. O Lord, have mercy on my rotten soul.
There was a little herb garden beside the boys’ quarters, so he had to choose between stepping over the herbs and walking around it and risk discovery. After a few seconds of indecision, he chose the former, careful to ensure that he made the minimal damage to the plants.
He was jumping over the last row of garden egg plants when a loud growl shocked him. Simon froze midstride at the growl.
It was a dog, and a big one; the rumbling growl said it all.
To Simon, all dogs were enemies. Once they grew fangs, it didn’t matter how small or friendly they were. He turned back and ran as fast as he could manage.
This time, he did not spare the garden at all, treading all over the plants as he made his getaway. The dog bounded after him growling and barking.
Once, he managed to turn, and seeing the solid black German shepherd bounding after him, he screamed. His next step landed on a rotten log. His foot sunk in, he tripped and fell on his face.
He turned and saw the dog leaping after him. He scrambled to his feet just as the dog flew at his legs. The large muzzle and huge fangs were almost snapping over his ankle away, when someone shouted, “Stop it, Black! Come here!”
The dog stopped as if a bullet had hit it. It looked at Simon for a moment, as if to say “you are damn lucky, dude”, and walked away.
Simon heaved a sigh of relief, but he did not wait to say anything. He just turned around and fled.
He was luckier at the next house he tried. He threw a large rock into the compound to see if there was a dog there before going into the compound. There was no dog. He entered the courtyard.
Some old household items lay strewn around. It did not look as though there was anybody living in the house. There were patches of lichen growing on the wall and the front door was open.
He entered the house. No one was living in the house. It was almost empty. The living room was bare but for an old sofa and some old antimacassar bundled on the floor. A few other items were strewn all over the floor round the house.
They must have been left behind by the last occupants of the house.
He tried the shower. It was still working, so he had a quick bath. One of the wardrobes had some old clothes hanging in it. He looked for something he could wear. A faded pair of jeans and an oversized shirt was the best he could find among the lot. He had hoped for better, but they were good enough. He had no choice and they were clean. He put them on quickly.
Twenty minutes after he had come in, he was out of the house. He was looking fresher and cleaner, and he felt so too. Even as he walked away from the house, he was yet undecided as to his next move.
He could not know for certain if the police were already on to him. He had taken nothing personal to the X-zone, so there was nothing linking him to the scene.
But then, there was Emeka. He was alive. That was why Cynthia had talked about the last stone yet to be turned. If he was alive, then the policemen would certainly have him in their custody.
Emeka could have blabbed. If that was the case, the police would be all over his place in no time. Five murders and one attempted murder is no joke.
Now where do I go to?
By the time Martha was done with him in the shower, it was already a quarter to ten. His phone showed fifteen missed calls; twelve of them were from Joshua. The others had come from the doctor handling his prisoner’s case.
“Joshua will kill me today,” he told Martha as he rubbed some cream into his wet hair.
“I waited all through the night. He can wait too.”
He scrambled into his clothes in less than five minutes. At the table, however, he could not hurry. The feast she had laid out on the table was too much to be rushed. He tackled everything on offer with vigour. By the time she joined him at the table, his second helping of fries was almost gone.
Martha smiled. She liked cooking, and the only X? that made her like it was Judd. She liked to watch him make her cooking disappear as he was doing at the moment.
“I think it’s time you got going,” she said, “before you stuff yourself up and spoil your day.”
“Let me eat my fill, dear. This is going to be my lunch too, you know?”
“Don’t worry; I’ve packed you a couple of sandwiches.”
Judd gave the bundle at the far end of the table a glance, then he faced her, his brows twisted in mock surprise. He had seen the pack earlier and had just pretended otherwise just to humour her.
It was not the first time she would pack him a lunch. She smiled and motioned at him to get up from the table.
“Okay.” Judd stuffed his mouth full of fries and eggs before getting up from his seat. He picked up the pack and hurried out the front door.
“Make sure you get back home on time,” Martha called after him.
Judd couldn’t reply. His mouth was full. He grunted in reply as she pushed the door shut.
He was smiling.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEDNESDAY.
Click Here To Read All Devil's Pawn EPISODES.