Bermota returned to the sitting room and soon drove off with Omohafe. The room was well-lit. The girls could now see the owners of the whimpering voices. They crowded in one corner of the stuffy room, tears mixed with sweat. They seemed drained of hope and strength. There was a narrow bed in one corner of the room. Two cuffs dangled from the roof. Two other cuffs were attached to the bedframe. Two young men emerged from the en-suite, stark naked and blindfolded. They were both lanky with little flesh to cover their bony frames as their phalluses laid bare, staring at the floor, seeming shy of the spectators. The men seemed nervous. Friar led them in. They had purple scarves around their forearms. Their breaths were shallow and rapid.
Friar went back in and soon returned with a man who seemed to be the new Numero Uno of the cult. He had cut marks all over his chest -some of which were still bleeding. He snarled, wiped his brow and looked around, his eyes running briskly from one end of the room to the other. He snarled again, hoping to accentuate the intimidation his broad chest already precipitated.
“Who asked to go first?” The new Numero Uno asked, baring his teeth and rubbing the blood dribbling down his belly.
Pheya stepped forward, jittering. She gulped. Her thigh muscles spasmed before her knees almost started knocking. She felt her bladder rapidly fill up. Her belly rumbled. She then noticed there was an elderly man with a white-spotted calabash well-concealed by the Numero Uno’s large body frame.
Friar ripped Pheya’s clothes off. She froze. Janet turned to the wall sobbing into her palm. Fumbi watched helplessly as Pheya was being led to the altar of defilement. Friar cuffed her hands and legs, turned off the light, finally allowing the candles around the bed glow lowly. The elderly man signalled for the ritual to commence.
Pheya hated that she was helpless. She had felt it before. She was only twelve years old. It was a dark night but her light of innocence flickered; before she felt like a wilted rose. The driver bolted the door behind him. He bellowed in a low-pitched call of her name. His body smelled of liquor and sweat mixed with an intriguing sense of lack of judgment. She let out a cry for help and kicked at the air, called out and cursed in every language she could – the Ibibio her grandma taught her, the Yoruba she picked from the neighbourhood, the French she learnt in school, the Spanish her tutor was teaching her and even the Korean she learnt from movies and of course, English language. After about ten minutes of wails, pleas and prayers, the maid woke up from her sleep and got herself downstairs. She pushed the drunk driver off Pheya. He staggered, tripped and crashed into the glass coffee table. He passed out cold. The maid ran out to call the estate guards who whisked him away as soon as he came round.
Tears rolled down her cheeks to lightly soak the bed as the whole event played in her head again. Like the last time, the pain cut through her soul. She muttered psalms and curses and cried in between. Time dragged slowly before the Numero Uno rose up like a jolt of power coursed through his veins. He gave this King Kong gesture, beating hard his chest and gnarling.
The light switch flipped. The darkness faded swiftly, revealing a soul-ripped Pheya, an unperturbed Baba, stunned cultists and hopelessly mewling ladies. At the door were four armed policemen. Baba soon retreated into the wall like a tortoise into its shell and disappeared. The cultists had no time to react. There were enough cuffs to go around. Janet ran to loosen Pheya from the shackles. Pheya laid still, bare of emotions, as frozen as the dry tears that have managed to roll down. She dressed Pheya up. Fumbi offered her kimono to conceal the ripped clothes. They helped her up. The entire world was going to be waiting outside.
Tumininu sat at one edge of the gutter, her head between her palms. James was pacing past her, eyes shuffling between the door and the floor. Three policemen led an entourage of the Numero Uno and the gang – the naked ones wrapped in towels. The other victims dashed outside shortly. Pheya was held between Fumbi and Janet, trailing with a policeman speaking with them. The bad guys were led into a waiting police van. Two police officers immediately started attending to the victims.
Pheya saw Tumininu and James running towards them. She broke loose with some of the energy left in her, picked some pebbles and aimed at Tumininu. James pulled her out of the projectile. Pheya picked more pebbles. Janet held Pheya’s hand before she could try again.
“Devil! Devil!” She yelled as a new batch of tears pooled at the corners of her eyes. Janet pulled her close and threw her arms around her. Pheya took deep breaths. Fumbi came close and told them Omohafe definitely changed the venue as she was aware they planned to attend the party. The relief did not do much but it was only necessary to douse the tension.
Pheya wiped her tears and finally got her nerves calmed. James felt it was finally safe for them to approach. They had a long group hug session. James looked at Janet, seeming to ask “Did we come in time?” Janet shook her head seeming to mean “just a little, a little late”.
James broke the hug and walked towards a black Toyota Matrix. He kicked a tire as hard as his ankle’s ligaments could bear. The panic alarm went off. Tumininu’s face sunk into her palms.
“Wait! Something is not right. That is the black car that followed us. I told you it had a Lagos number plate” Pheya managed to announce, pointing vigorously at the black car James kicked.
James kicked the tire for the last time before uttering loudly, “I shouldn’t have written the sticky note”. He opened the door to the driver’s seat of the black car and sunk into the seat with his two legs outside. The girls came closer trying to really understand his regrets.