He ran as fast as his legs could carry him. Sweat was pouring down his body and he was breathing heavily. He rounded the street corner where he knew the tarred road ended and a thick bush began. Without thinking, he ran into the bush. He did not look back. She was probably pursuing him for all he knew. He would not risk being caught and trapped. He kept running. His chest began to ache and burn as his heartbeat accelerated rapidly. He felt fire between his ribs with every move, yet he did not stop. He knew his body was revolting the insufficient oxygen it was getting, but he ignored the throbbing in his chest and kept running. He ran until he was sure he had outpaced her by a wide distance, then he hid behind a large Iroko tree, panting furiously. He was grateful for the bush at the end of the road. He knew that with the way she cared for her body, there was no way she would venture into the thick bush in search of him. But that woman can be crazy, he thought to himself. Today was especially bad. She was hot on his heels as he ran from the house. He thought she would give up once he ran out of the gate but she did not stop. That was when he decided to head for the bush. He shook his head. Which kain wahala be dis one? He asked himself. There was ruffling of leaves nearby. Instinctively, he crouched, hiding himself further behind the tree. His eyes swept his surroundings. His ears were attentive, hoping to hear footfalls. He held his breath for a few seconds. He heard nothing but the chirping of birds. Maybe the breeze, he thought. He sat on the grass, his back resting on the coarse trunk of the tree, and examined himself. No footwear—he did not have the time to wear one as he ran out of the house, torn shirt, claw marks on his right arm where the blood was starting to clot, a missing belt. He shook his head again. His breathing was returning to normal and the sweat was starting to dry from his body, leaving him slightly cold. He contemplated his current situation. He couldn’t go back to that house, to that crazy woman. His master was not due back from a business trip for another day, but he couldn’t sit behind a tree in the middle of a thick bush for a day either. He would be hungry. He had no money with him. He would be cold at night, and there was no telling what insects or dangerous animals lurked about in the dark. He was ill prepared to stay there and he knew it, but he shuddered at the thought of being alone with Madam Justina. She had torn his clothes, and her long fingernails had dug into his arm as he tried to wiggle from her tight grasp. He remembered how she pressed herself against him, telling him how handsome he was and how she couldn’t resist him anymore and how she needed him to satisfy her and how her husband would never find out about it. He was terrified of her massive breasts with which she tried to suffocate him, and her large arms with which she held him in a vise grip. He shook the dreadful thought away and focused on the present. He decided he would wait for nightfall, then sneak out of the bush. He did not know his way around the area, since he had been brought from the village only 2 weeks ago. He only knew his way to the nearby stalls and market where he went on errands. He reckoned he could sleep by one of the stalls. He could endure without food, but he vowed to only return home when he knew his master would be there. The breeze dried what was left of the sweat on his body and he drifted off into a troubled nap.
Something startled him from his sleep. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness of dusk, he quickly assumed a crouched position. He had heard voices. Yes, he had heard voices that startled him from his sleep. He listened. Were the voices in his dream? He kept listening. Nothing. Only birds and crickets. In the distance he could hear other soft sounds—nocturnal animals rising—but no footsteps, no humans. A mosquito rested on his shoulder. He thwacked it with his palm, making a loud slapping sound in the process. Suddenly, he was surrounded by blinding flashlights and shouts of “Don’t move, don’t move!” Several men in police uniform pinned him to the ground, put his hands behind his back and handcuffed them. He tried to speak, “What did I do? Wha—” He felt sharp pain on the back of his head and groaned loudly as one of the policemen hit him with a blunt object.
“Shut up, you criminal.” Another police man shouted.
They dragged him up and shone their flash lights in his face. He squinted, temporarily blinded by the harsh lights. “Madam, is this him?” He heard a gruff voice ask.
To his utmost shock, he heard Madam Justina’s voice reply, “Yes. He is the one. He stole my expensive jewelry.”
A hard slap. “Where is the jewelry?” An officer asked.
He tasted blood in his mouth, “I…I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Another slap. He felt dizzy. His head fell. “Do we look like jokers?” The same gruff voice asked.
“My husband will be very displeased when he returns. He bought me that jewelry at a high price. This thief only came to live with us two weeks ago and has taken my prized possession. I don’t know what to tell my husband,” Madam Justina cried. She sounded distraught.
“Don’t worry, Madam.” Another officer spoke, “He will confess by the time we are finished with him at the station. We don’t care if he’s only sixteen years old. These young boys grow wings fast.” With that, they carted him away, kicking, slapping and hitting him with their batons on the way. They reached the tarred road and shoved him into the back of their van. He was unconscious.
Madam Justina took out some Naira notes from her purse and gave them to one of the policemen, “Buy drinks,” She said.
He laughed heartily and collected the wad of crisp notes, “Madam, don’t worry. We will do our jobs well. If he refuses to confess, we know what to do.”
“My husband and I will have to look for another house-boy.”
“Madam, try to get one who is very mature. These small boys can be dangerous.”
“I certainly will,” Madam Justina smiled a wry smile and the policemen drove off with their prey.
As she walked back to the house, she called her husband from her cell phone. It rang a few times before he picked. “Hello Honey?”
She feigned a panicked voice, “My love, that useless boy has just been arrested.”
“He stole my jewelry. Remember the one you bought me from Dubai? It’s gone. I had to call the police. He is in their custody now. I don’t want him near our home anymore. We need a new boy.” She burst out crying, “I’m so sad. I loved that jewelry!”
“It’s OK dear. I’ll be home tomorrow evening and we will sort it out. Just try to stay calm.” He reassured her.
“I love you,” her voice was syrupy.
“I love you too, bye.” He hung up.
She smiled a satisfied smile and walked into her house.