He saw her, with her kinky afro hair tied back with a scarf, and her hands stuffed in the pocket of her hoodie. She was afraid; he could tell by the way her shoulders stiffened and the way she walked, her heels barely making contact with the ground. She avoided making eye contact with anyone. Her head was bent low as she ambled through the crowd, trying to avoid body contact with anyone.
As if she knew she was being tailed.
He walked on, elbowing the unfortunate ones out of his way as he kept up his pace with her. He couldn’t lose her now. He hummed a low tune as he walked—whistled even.
Heads angled in his direction and sinister looks glared his way. He winked at an elderly lady and gave a crooked smile. The woman hissed, scrunched her face in detest, and hurried into the nearby tricycle.
She cursed at this insolent generation where children made passes at their elders without any iota of shame or the common sense to uphold morality.
He walked past, snickered, and wondered what it’d feel like to grab her there, in the middle of the buzzy street, ram his fist into her face, and garrotte her with the wire mesh he carried around in his pocket. The thought stirred a longing in his loins and made the blood roar in his ears. He’d watch her trash and gasp for breath, while her eyes would widen with fear. The busy street would stand agog; some touts might even try to attack him, but of course, they wouldn’t know that this game was his, not theirs.
Here, he called the shots, not the other way round. But then, the thrill would have to wait. He was pursuing something bigger.
The lady turned into a less busy street, her face still hidden beneath the enclaves of the hoodie. He kept a safe distance, letting his eyes trail the neighbourhood as she walked. A cat and mouse chase, he’d called it. He was getting better at this. He came to a standstill, watched her skid across an untarred road, before disappearing into a fenced compound.
He waited five minutes, then went in.
The compound had a set of flats facing the entrance, about three doors standing apart from each other. Two kids played inside a barricaded metal protector, squealing at the top of their voices as their little faces shone with infectious smiles. He cringed as he watched their display of affection. Their mother had sense, else, if the metal protector wasn’t there…
He let his thoughts stray from them and back to why he was there in the first place. He glanced briefly at the doors, his eyes flickering with the thrill of his master plan. His mind made up, he walked to the third door from his right and rammed on it twice.
“Yes?” A muffled voice echoed from within. “CY, is that you?”
“It’s Kense, a friend to Suzie.”
A rattling sound signalled the turning of a key from the lock. The door swung open, a shrill sound emitting from its hinges. A plain-faced girl stood before him, her short hair in disarray. She had a petit nose perched atop a slim face. Her eyes squinted when she met his face.
“I’m sorry to barge in on you like this. I’m here to see my girlfriend, Suzie.”
“Suzie…” Her lips moved up and down as she tried to dig the name from memory. Her brows were furrowed in concentration.
Try all you want, he snickered inwardly, yet maintained a friendly countenance.
“I don’t think there’s any Suzie living here.” She shrugged and looked at him.
“You can’t be so sure.”
“I am. Next door lives Peter, then Seno, then…”
Seno. That was her. She lived two doors to this one. He felt an excitement course through his veins. Images of what he’d do to her made the pulse in his neck tick.
“…and Mr. Timothy. Are you listening to me?” A puzzled expression crossed her face.
“Oh, yes,” he said and smiled. “I was thinking. I just remembered she mentioned that her compound has a black gate.” He gave her an apologetic look.
“No wonder. You should have said so. I guess you missed your way. The two compounds flanking this one have black gates. You could check there.”
His lips tugged up in a most charming smile he could muster. It had worked countless times. “You’re right. I’m sorry for having bothered you,” he offered.
“No, it’s nothing. It’s fine.” A small smile flickered across her face.
He nodded, stepped back, and walked towards the gate. The voices of the kids as they squealed and rasped at the metal bar in childish glee snaked their way into his ears. He scrunched up his face and thought of choking them by the neck. Nonsense!
Once outside, he dug into his pocket and fingered the wire mesh he’d kept there. This wouldn’t be his last visit. Next time, he’d pull a stunt that would shake the dying street to its very foundation.
Seno Akpabio half listened to her friends, Nene and ToroAbasi, as they debated about the theories of natural law as propounded by some philosophers. She was on edge. Something didn’t feel right, but she couldn’t quite place her finger on it. Each time she felt she had pinpointed the main reason for the nagging feeling that clawed at her belly, she missed it still and felt her nerves straying out of control.
“Let me reiterate it for your benefit. According to Thomas Hobbes, that era man found himself in, was where the state of nature was solitary poor, nasty, brutish, and short. That means a state of lawlessness. The Hobbesian man concerned himself with acquiring security for his life, that’s why they surrendered their rights irrevocably to a ruler in exchange for security. That’s how monarchy came to be. How difficult can that be for you to get?” Nene had the floor, her poise frame tilting back and forth as she gestured with her hands.
“Aunty, I’m not disputing that. I’m only making a comparative analysis between the Hobbesian man and the Lockesian man. The Lockesian man wanted survival, that’s why he sought society to protect him, but what did society do in turn? Introduce war and chaos—the very thing he was afraid of. These two philosophers propounded different views,” Toro countered, her eyes glazing with intensity.
“You’ve got it all mixed up. The Lockesian man wasn’t living in fear and timidity. That theory was put forward by Jean Jacque Rousseau. Cast your mind back to the last class we had. The Lockesian man lived in a state of nature where there was equality and complete liberty. He craved security for his property. That was why he entered into a social contract where he submitted just part of his liberty to the sovereign, in exchange for security for his property. Your theory falls under Rousseau’s proposition.” Nene raised her brows and gave her a resigned look.
“Whatever. Lockesian, Hobbesian, or Rousseau’s theory, at least I know a thing. I’ll just ask…” Her voice trailed off as she caught a glimpse of the expression on Seno’s face.
“Seno, are you okay?” She tapped her lightly on the shoulder.
Seno jerked, her foggy mind trying to regain focus. She had veered off, staring into space as she chewed on the corners of her lips, while her mind swirled with different theories of what could be happening to her.
The concerned look on the faces of her friends loomed before her eyes. She swallowed, then said, “Girls, I think I’m being followed.”
For a nanosecond, none of them spoke. They exchanged glances and stared back at her, their faces filled with bewilderment. Then Nene hissed, shook her head, and fixed her with a quizzical look, the kind a mother would give a petulant kid.
“It’s high time you stopped watching those crime movies. They’re starting to get into this head of yours.”
“I’m not kidding, girls. I mean it.”
“Amina.” Toro cut in and rolled her eyes.
“I have proof. The other day I had this impulsive feeling that someone was tailing me. I couldn’t shake it off no matter how I tried. I was returning from the mall by Traffic Light. But when I turned, I didn’t see anyone.” Their faces glowed with curiosity. She continued. “When I got home, the feeling still stayed with me. I got in immediately and locked the door, but I thought I heard footsteps outside my door. When I finally decided to open it—”
“You saw no one,” They echoed in unison, and burst out laughing.
Seno pursed her lips and gave them a hard glare. “Really, girls? I’m serious here.”
“Oh please. You see what this crime thing of yours has done to you? It has clogged your senses that you think everybody is a potential serial killer or criminal stalking you. Soon, you’ll run away from your family because you feel they’re after you,” Toro said and they both laughed.
A small smile carpet up Seno’s face. These were her friends, crazy as hell and dumb as shit. But she loved them still. “But you know my hunch is always right.”
“Miss hunch back. Let it be.”
She laughed. Maybe they were right. She might just have been paranoid for nothing. “So, are you girls coming over to my place for the night?”
“Hell no,” they yelled.
“We have plans.” Nene finished off with a wide smile.
“I’m sure these plans include going to a man’s house. Dirty girls.” She mimicked a scrunched-up face and they all burst out laughing. This was what she craved for—the happiness that came with just being with the ones you love. Her friends knew how to get her off the hook each time.
“Don’t worry, tonight, you’ll see a man in your house.” Toro winked.
Seno inserted the key into the keyhole a third time and tried to get the lock to give way. This had always happened. She had plans to change the locks but for now, she had to manage it this way. She wriggled and pulled, yanked this way and that. Finally, she heard the click, heaved a sigh, and pushed the door open.
The apartment was pitched dark when she stepped in, the familiar warmth enveloping her in its embrace. She groped for the light switch, flickered it on, but nothing happened.
She remembered paying her electricity bills just two days ago. She trudged in the dark to where her lamp lay, turned it on, and walked into the kitchen with it. A bag of sachet water lay against the wall. She took a sachet. She bit into it and relished the soothing taste of the liquid as it glided down her throat. Truly, water was life. She dumped the empty sachet in a trash bin behind the door, stepped into the bedroom, and froze in her tracks.
Something had made a sound.
A slim shiver licked at the base of her spine, just enough to get her heart racing. She stood for a while, listening to the stillness of the house. A ragged sound filled her ears—her breathing. She ran her eyes through the room. Had the curtain been that way when she left? It looked crumbled like someone had run a hand through it. Her eyes fell on the stack of books she kept near her bed, and her eyes narrowed. It hadn’t been that way. Tess Gerritsen’s ‘The Surgeon’ had been tilted to the right, almost touching the table when she left. Now it lay atop the others, well arranged and in order. Could it be… No, she shook her head and wondered what was wrong with her. Her friends were right, she had become absorbed with these crime things a great deal. She had even begun to hallucinate.
Spirits didn’t exist, at least not to her. With only her in the house, anything was possible. Besides, she had a reputation for being so orderly. She left the lamp on the table and walked towards the closet. Her fingers made contact with the handle, and she hesitated. She heaved, pulled the closet apart and a scream tore through her throat.
She reeled back, tripped over herself, and smashed her head on the wall, her eyes wide as they settled on a figure that rose from her closet. He stalked towards her, his face hidden, from the position she was crouched in. A steering pain shot through her head as she fought to get away from him. He yanked at her ankle, propped her up, and pummelled her face with his fist.
Seno clawed at his face, her arms flailing as she struggled for dear life. She was no match for his strength. He smacked his fist across her face once more. Her lips cracked and warm liquid flowed into her mouth. Her strength was fast waning.
He dragged her to the bed, pinned her down, and groped his pocket.
Seno brought her knees up, aimed for his groin, and swung with all her might. He doubled over. A groan escaped his lips. She glided off the bed, fell in a thud to the floor, and tried to crawl away. Her body ached and her eyes watered. He returned, growled in a feral tone, and hit her repeatedly on the head. He hissed, and brought his hands to her neck, and slipped something around it.
She gasped. Her eyes bulged. Her lungs were on fire. Instinctively, her hands came up to her neck, clawing away the wire mesh that bit into her neck. She felt wet there. She choked. This would be her end.
An image flashed in her head—Dr. Cordell from Tess Gerritsen’s novel. She had fought back. She had killed her intruder, Capra. Cordell was her model, and like her, she wouldn’t give up on her life.
She let her hands grope underneath the bed, the other clutched at her neck. Her body felt detached. She had no time left. Just before the fire in her lungs fizzled out, her hand made contact with the steel end of the flint blade she had stashed away under her bed. With the last ounce of energy left, she aimed for his neck and buried the blade near his carotid vein.
Warm liquid spluttered around her. His hands gave way as he crumpled atop her. Her eyes dimmed, the room spun a slow waltz, taking her with it.
In that infinitesimal second where time stopped, where one’s last moments flashed before one’s eyes, she saw hers—her friends’ faces.
They had been wrong all this while. She was right. Her hunches were always right.
DayeAbasi David is a Nigerian writer, born and raised in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. A final year student of law in the University of Uyo, Nigeria, she is a passionate lover of life and nature, from where she derives her inspiration. She is an avid reader and loves telling stories. She writes intriguing crime fiction set in tropical Africa. Apart from reading and writing, she enjoys singing and watching thriller TV shows.