DAYS OF CHAD DAY FIVE: ALL IS WELL THAT ENDS WELL?
I will always remember two things about the man called Ken. One, he was the most ruthless man I have ever met. And, Ken took no prisoners. It was past four in the morning on Wednesday when I became aware of these important facts. He was revving the car I was driving when I was abducted on Saturday morning. This time around, however, I wasn’t inside.
There is a reason I’ll forever respect our father. Not because of anything Tango said he did for me. No. I’ll always respect him for being the best father Tango could have had. He was the sole reason Tango got a chance to have lived this long.
When we were five, mom started our significant birthday tradition, and as I was technically the first born, I was given the preference of having the maiden one celebrated on my day. The next one – ten years – would be celebrated on Tango’s day.
Two days before I would turn ten (three before Tango would), we were both playing with our four-year-old sister Lesotho. Tango was talking to her about how colorful his birthday would be. How it would be much better than mine. He boasted to her about how many of his friends would come over. The picture he painted was of a day that would be so much fun. It made me feel bad. He kept calling it ‘his’ day and not ‘our’ day. That was when it happened.
Tango was in the middle of his talk and I was starring him in the eyes when he stopped mid-sentence and ran up the stairs to Dad, who was the only parent at home that day. Tango began telling him he wanted him to make sure I celebrated the day in the best way possible. That it should be my birthday. For a second time. That he could do his own any other time. He said that was what he wanted and he said it with all the resolute finality a 10-year-old could muster.
That was not the first time I would invade my brother’s mind with my thoughts. That was the first time father would know. I didn’t know, he had been watching the way I was starring quietly and resolutely at Tango while he ran his mouth. He knew what I did.
That day, Dad had taken me aside and questioned me. I had confessed that I could sense my twin brother’s thought-flow, but couldn’t actually know what he was thinking, though, sometimes I could guess with a high degree of accuracy. The scary part of it was that I could transfer my thoughts into his mind and it would flow with his thoughts seamlessly that he would think they were his own actual thoughts. In effect, I could make him to what I wanted by thinking them and moving the thoughts into his own mind.
All I needed to do that was to be able to look into Tango’s eyes. Dad had been amazed. He had said he had always been wondering why Tango would sometimes do my house chores for me, although, he was the lazier of us at house chores. He said he had been looking out for any sign of twin telepathy between us because we were exact copies of each other. He said it had baffled him that there was no proof of such existing between us because our interests and personalities were so different. Until that day. He said there was no telepathy between us, it was just one-way. I carried our telepathic abilities solely. Dad was terrified.
He had reasons to be. Tango was the livelier, more intelligent between us and also, the more talented. I had no special talents or gifts. I was ordinary. Dad had made me promise him that day that except my life depended on it, I should never use that advantage on my brother again. He promised me that he would do everything to make sure that I had no reason to be afraid or envious of Tango. He said he knew that if Tango ever became a serious enough threat to me, I could destroy him. He would make sure that never happened as long as he lived. He had lived up to his word till the day he died. He had allowed me do what I wanted and made Tango the seeming victim.
That was why he ensured we didn’t attend the same school from secondary school till tertiary institution. He had separated our lives as much as possible with me having the opportunity to do whatever I wanted and Tango being made to do what he didn’t want. I chose to be an Engineer, Dad made Tango a Medical Doctor. It is my guess that when Dad knew he would be dying of cancer he had willed his stock options to me, knowing how rich it would make me be. He wanted to ensure that after his death, I would never have a cause to be threatened in life by Tango. If I become rich enough, I’d hopefully never have a reason to be. He obviously meant well, but he had lost all the same. Tango obviously didn’t understand it. At all.
The few times I had been able to see Tango since we were undergraduates, I had known there was something I couldn’t understand in his thoughts pattern. It was not the melancholic pulse I’d always felt since he started feeling victimized by Dad. It was energetic and dark. It was unreadable. Behind the tired and bored expression he displayed then, there was energy. I had been mildly worried. I had tried figuring it out but I couldn’t. I had to put it down to a secret lover that he didn’t want anyone to know about. I couldn’t ask him. I couldn’t tell Dad. I wasn’t supposed to have known. My guess hadn’t been too off the mark, obviously.
When I had met with Mary-Anne after Dad’s death, it was easy. Anyone would have loved her. She came as just the kind of girl I would fall in love with. I had. Over time, I had felt an attraction between Tango and Mary-Anne but I had put it down to her being Tango’s in-law-to-be. I was wrong on that count.
Truth be told, I had known something was going to happen on our 30th birthday. We had been planning over the phone and on Skype. Seeing his eyes on Skype, I’d tried again to feel his thoughts-stream and again I couldn’t understand the energy in it. There had been a significant difference then, however, I could feel a tremendous effort to hold back a surge of dark excitement and I could tell the excitement was about what we were planning for. I hadn’t known what to make of it, but I had known it was not good.
I had even thought it was another prank. I had decided I would find out what the whole excitement was all about and if possible what the secret energy was about. How I would do that, I hadn’t known but I had a gut feeling that I would when I got to Lagos for the birthday celebrations. I had and it had been way over my head. I had known about the champagne, I hadn’t known about the hypnosis. I had lost the link when he was in his Nightmare costume; I guess the telepathy only worked when I was aware it was Tango I was looking at.
Tango’s story was completely surprising. I didn’t know it was that deep, dark and evil. As he told his story, I had felt sad because he had got Dad all wrong. Everything that had happen, happened because of him. He was the one Dad loved. I was the one Dad dreaded. And everything Dad had done, he had done to protect him from me and the things I could do to him. As I sat there listening to him, I knew Dad would understand what I would do to him. He had said if my life depended on it was only when I was allowed to put my thoughts in my brother’s mind. And at that moment, my life depended on what I could do with my gift.
After Tango had finished his story and Omobolanle had been brought in, I had smiled inwardly as I prepared for my move. That moment, there was no darkness in his mind, there was only joy. A victor’s joy. His confidence was as high as it would ever be. That was when I made my move.
I had waited for him to carry out the thoughts I had put in his mind and he had. It was simply that he walked out of the room to go check on his Nirvana as the doctor that he was. Without his costume. He had. It was my good fortune that Mary-Anne had followed him. She had not objected to him going without his costume. As soon as they were out, my life started counting in seconds. I only had seconds to take my chance to live. Mary-Anne could come back for the costume any moment. I had braced myself for Ken’s blow of the steel pipe that was supposed to knock me out. It had hurt but the fear of death kept me conscious.
“Stop!” I had said sharply through teeth gritted in great pain. He was going to hit me a second time.
He did and stared at me, surprised.
“You can be sure of one thing; he won’t allow you walk out of this alive! Use your head, Ken. Use your head!” I blurted out in the seconds it took him to be surprised at my initial order. His hand and the pipe were suspended in midair.
“I am his only brother and he’d kill me so that he can live. What do you think he would do to you? If things work out the way he planned, you will be the only person alive who isn’t Mary-Anne who can connect him with all that happened here. Do you think he would allow that to happen?”
I could see Ken’s forehead furrow. He was thinking. I needed to add fuel to the fire.
“If he kills you, who will spend all the money you have worked for all these years? Should you die so that he can live? Think, Ken. Thin-“
“Sshh! I’m thinking. Just shut-up.”He lowered his arm and the pipe.
I silently prayed he’ll think right.
“What should I do?”
With great effort, I kept excitement out of my voice as I replied him.
“Remove my cuffs. I will put on this costume he forgot and then I will become him. You will obey me as you would obey him. It’s our best chance.”
“Me, too!” Omobolanle spoke for the first time since she came in.
“We’ll come for you later. You will be safer here.” I said as I donned the costume. Its smell was nauseating. I was adjusting the hands when I saw Ken hit Omobolanle.
“Noooooo!” I was too late. She slumped.
“I only have a pact with you, not her. She is an extra luggage that may get in our way.” Ken said, daring me to say anything contrary.
“Let’s go, then.” My voice sounded hoarse with suppressed anger. There was nothing I could do and he was probably right. I had just seconds to act. The smell of the costume was overpowering that my stomach turned. I didn’t mind. It was my salvation.
When I reached for the office door I had almost collided with Mary-Anne. She gasped when she saw me and I grabbed her hand. I placed my other hand over her mouth because it was obvious she was going to scream. In the turn of events, I felt powerful. Ken was on my side. For the second time in the space of two minutes, Ken slugged a woman. The guy was very fast. I couldn’t stop him. Or maybe this time around I wouldn’t have stopped him. Mary-Anne deserved all the pain she could get. And some more. He dragged her slumped form into the office and cuffed her to the seat I had occupied. Tango was next. I had learnt a crucial lesson in human nature in the few minutes I’d had Ken on my side. When a man’s survival is at stake, there are no friends – only partners. At that moment Ken was my principal partner though I was under no illusion that our partnership was rock-solid. It could change any moment.
I strode confidently as Ken led me to the ward where Tango would be. He had picked the steel pipe again. At the door, Ken waited for me to go in first. I did. The room was empty except for Tango who was at the opposite end of the room. He had a gun in his hand and it was pointing at my chest. Ken was still outside, invisible to Tango.
“Dad told me everything about your special gift the year he died. He wanted me to know why I was subjected to the treatment I got. He wanted me to understand. But it was too late. I was already who I am. That was why I said earlier that he lost and I won.” His gun hand was steady. And his voice too.
“I chose to stay away from you because I wasn’t sure if you would keep your promise to him. I trained my mind to hide my thoughts whenever I am around you. I also avoided eye contact with you as much as I could. I kept all thoughts about Mary-Anne out of my mind. It worked, obviously. Like I said, you never stood any chan –“ He didn’t complete the statement when something from the doorway flew towards him with lightening speed. His head jerked and the gun went off. I screamed as a searing pain hit my shoulder. He had shot me. It was Ken from outside the doorway that threw the steel pipe in his hand at him. I wondered what he couldn’t do. I was sure he was the one that punched me in the car on Saturday morning. The pipe had hit Tango on his forehead. His finger had tightened on the trigger at the moment of impact. He was on the floor, unconscious.
I was still wincing in pain, my hand pressed over the gunshot wound when I saw Ken walk to an intercom on the wall of the room.
“Garba, come to L4 right way.” He hung up.
“This should work for now.” He picked a roll of gauze and tied it around my shoulder.
A fair, bulky man came in ten minutes later. He stiffened when he saw Ken.
“Get one of the trucks that we brought in on Saturday ready immediately. The one with the car inside its back cabin. I need to get Master out before the sun comes up and I need to take some guests with me. Get some of the boys to come carry the guests. Now.”
“Yessir!” Garba left.
“Come.” Ken said after Garba left. He took me back to the office and opened a cabinet. It contained a black tarpaulin.
“Cover yourself with this. It’s how he goes out whenever it isn’t night.”
I was doing that when three hefty, mean-looking men came into the office. Garba was behind them. He pointed to the two unconscious ladies. One person to each. He instructed the third to go to L4 to pick the one there. I couldn’t see after I’d finished wearing the tarpaulin so Garba and Ken held me and led me. I felt them hoist me into what was obviously the back of the truck. I was made to seat on what felt like a cushioned stool. I heard it when the three unconscious bodies were dropped and I could guess they were each strapped like I had been. I wondered why none of them thought to ask why Mary-Anne had to be handled that way. Then it dawned on me that my costumed presence was all that counted. Nightmare was all to them. No one questioned anything as long as he was there. The door shut and a few seconds later the truck started moving.
After what could have been an hour or a year (for that matter) later, the truck stopped and the door was opened. I heard Ken call at me that it was ok to remove my coverings. I couldn’t wait to do that. It was already daylight. I could see the car inside the cabin. It was wedged at the four wheels. The wedges appeared to be bolted to the floor. The glass was still broken where the punch had come through. I saw the three people on the floor. They were still unconscious. I felt they should be awake by now.
“Stay where you are. I am the only one with you. When we get to where we are going, you’ll come down.” I nodded assent at Ken’s instructions.
Where we were going turned out to be over twenty hours away. The truck stopped twice, I guessed to refuel. I was treated to moans from the three people on the floor when they came to. They didn’t know I was there, so I kept quiet. In that time, I thought of what was ahead. If I live through this, what would happen then? I didn’t know. So, I kept my thoughts on simply living through this. The pain from the gunshot wound had dulled.
The truck finally came to a stop and when the door to the cabin opened, it was dark. A powerful flashlight was in Ken’s hand as he motioned me to get down. He unstrapped the three figures and carried their trussed forms out. He placed them on the ground. I could hear the sound of an occasional fast-moving vehicle somewhere nearby. We were close to a major road, possibly a highway judging by the density of the forest around us.
Ken went to the driver’s cabin and I saw a ramp come out of the truck. These people are efficient. With my twin brother heading the outfit, they had to be. Minutes later, he had the car on the ground.
“This is what we would do, I will drive all five of us to the road, and when we get to where I will stop, I will have these three assume driver and passengers positions and I will push the car off the highway. I’ll be stopping where the highway is steeped on both sides. Trust me; it would be the perfect accident. No survivors. It’s not the first such accident I’ll orchestrate.”
My heart went cold at those words but I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t easy knowing my brother would die nor was it easy knowing the innocent Omobolanle would die, too. Mary-Anne could go to hell for all I cared. I wished there was something I could do to stop this ruthless machine of a human being. I was no match for him. Even without the gunshot wound on my shoulder. I sat with him in front; the other three were propped at the back, trussed. He drove off and almost a half-hour later, he stopped. No vehicle passed at that hour. I got out at his command. He untied the weak trio and positioned them. Each of them struggled weakly. Tango was the driver, Omobolanle his passenger. Mary-Anne sat at the back. The two in front had their seat-belts strapped on.
I watched as he revved the car, obviously pressing on Tango’s leg. He had pushed the car to the edge and he wanted the engine working when he pushed. I could see from the car’s headlights beam that it was a very sharp steep more like a precipice. Any slight shove and the car would topple. It had a couple of trees on it. But he had chosen where the path would not be blocked by any tree till it got to the bottom, meters below. He made to shut the door and walk towards the back of the car for what would be the final push.
As he made his way to the back, I knew the brother in me couldn’t bear to watch his own brother murdered. I lunged at him with all the strength I could muster. He didn’t see it coming and that counted. He staggered towards the front of the car, where the precipice began. I didn’t see that he still had not shut the door completely. As he staggered backwards, he pulled the door with him for stability. And it worked. He stood. For the two seconds it took the car to topple into the precipice due to the force of the pull on the door.
Ken fell with the car still holding the door.