Read the previous update here.

IV

 

A month after his mother’s demise, Black was evicted from the house. The deluge that came in the night had not ceased, and yet before the deluge, the night had been quiet, eerily so. But when the rain poured, it brought with it a special kind of coldness. The night had been too cold for Peter to endure with his usual equanimity. The rain that had started had been supported with series of heavy breeze. His mother’s blanket had done little to shield him from the iciness of the weather. The roof was leaking, too, so Black crouched himself at one corner of the dilapidating building. He wished his mother was with him in this darkness, he would feel safer if she were here. Now, Black was terribly afraid; afraid of the world, of the bleak future that awaited him. The ten-year-old child was not unlike a homeless kitten.

The morning came and the rain still hadn’t stopped, and Black lay on the cold floor, shivering. The same ailment which had claimed his mother was gradually falling him, too. He could not rise up to prepare for school; he was running fever and his temperature was rising even in the cold. There was no one to take care of him. He was starving, too; hunger was ravaging him, and he had no strength to go out today and steal his food.

The iron-black clouds that had masked the sky this early morning, and had threatened to punish the day with a heavier downpour, had now hid themselves behind grey veils of the morning mist. Although the cold still abided with its lamentations, the sodden trees remained standing, as still and as solemn as witnesses to a funeral cortege. However, the initial rainstorm of the night was gradually thinning into a drizzle. Black was still shivering under the hole-ridden blanket when three men came into the house. One of the men was fashionably dressed in his royally local attire, and he looked wealthier than the other men who flanked him on either sides. Black knew the rich man; he was the infamous Chief Salami; the criminal was now coronated because he was rich. The chief was responsible for scraping the butter off Black’s bread.

Salami was the friend and business partner of Peter’s father. They had both siphoned some money but Peter’s father was the unlucky partner in the crime; he had been apprehended and jailed. Peter’s father refused to give up his partner, even under series of torture by the police, all was because Salami had promised to take care of his partner’s family all through Black’s father’s time in jail until he returned to receive his rightful share of the loot.

And Salami had kept this promise; he provided for Peter and his mother. Both mother and child lived in affluence. Peter attended the best school and ate whatever he wanted. He had no problem in the world, until his father died in prison. Then the paradise became a wilderness.

Salami had immediately ceased taking care of them as soon as Peter’s father’s demise reached him. He denied ever knowing them and forced them out of the house, making sure they left with nothing. His plans had been successful; he had bribed the wardens to poison the prison. Salami was greedy, he didn’t want to part with half of the loot, and when the boy’s father was almost due for his release, Salami had him killed. He knew his friend had disclosed to his wife all that had happened, so Salami decided that the less he had anything to do with the dead man’s family the better it would be for him.

The news about the prisoner’s death reached Salami’s ears first. The same night he heard the news, Salami visited his friend’s wife and tried to seduce her; but the beautiful woman had denied him access. Even after two years of her husband’s incarceration, she still remained faithful to her marriage. Clouded with anger for refusing him, Salami had slapped the woman and informed her that the husband she was so devoted to had died in prison; then he had pushed the poor woman and her son out of the house.

Peter’s mother, weeping, had taken her son’s hand and they had gone to her husband’s house he had been developing prior his arrest. The next day, she had gone to the prison to collect her husband’s corpse; she buried him in the back of the old building. Now six moths later, Peter had buried his mother beside his father.

The young boy was still shivering under the blanket as he watched the three men approach. Black didn’t know the other two men, but Salami was the man he hated with passion; his mother had told him the truth about Chief Salami’s evil deeds. He swore to avenge his parents’ deaths on the wicked chief. How he was going to do it, he didn’t know, but he was going to avenge. Every breath he took now was that of vengeance.  It was wrong to think that a small fish like him would be able to fight off the leviathan called Salami.

Salami approached him and asked, “Young boy, what is your name? Who are you?”

Peter Black was naturally a dark-skinned boy, but hunger and lack of proper bathes had made him darker and smaller than his years. Chief Salami did not recognise the boy whom he had chased from their home six months earlier.

“What is your name, young man?” Salami asked again.

Although circumstance had forced Peter Black to become a thief, he still didn’t know how to lie. He hadn’t learned how to become a liar. He replied:

“My name is Peter Black.”

The older man recoiled back in surprise. Then he carefully looked at the boy this time. He roughly pulled the blanket off of the little boy to get a complete view of the son of the friend he had had killed. He could recognise the boy now. The little thin thing had become thinner; the child was visibly suffering from nutritional deficiencies. Salami was amazed at what starvation could do to the human body.

He bent over the boy and asked, “Are you the same Peter Black, the son of Ade Black?”

The little boy spoke with effort, “Yes, I am, sir.” Politesse was a virtue already stamped on him since cradle. “You sent us away, sir.”

Salami was amused at the little boy’s reply. He knew the boy was dying; he would definitely die soon if he had no proper care. Salami liked the boy when they were still living healthy. Peter was a sharp, intelligent, jovial and polite boy. This boy’s reply gave him a reminiscence of that brilliant and healthy boy he knew. He wished things had gone in a different direction. He wished he did not have to choose between money and his friend. But he was willing to do it again if the situation repeated itself; he could never trade fortune for friendship.

“Do you know why I sent you and your mother away?”

The boy did not reply at first; he was finding it very hard to find his voice, and he was becoming gradually dizzy.

Chief Salami asked the question again, and Blac forced himself to reply, “Yes, sir.”

“Where is your mother?” Salami asked. He wanted to see Black’s mother. He wanted to see what had become of her. The stupid woman would have become thin and ugly, he thought. He smiled at himself when he thought about how surprised ashamed the little boy’s mother would be on seeing him. He would mock her. He would laugh at her. He would make her life another hell. He noticed that the boy was saying something, but he could not hear his words.

“Speak up, boy, where is your mother?”

“She is dead, sir.”

The answer shocked Salami. He never thought that his friend’s wife would die, too, the same year she lost her husband. He smiled to himself. His secrets were now totally safe, almost safe, save for the little brat here. This one was not a problem to him; he knew what to do about this unimportant variable. Salami gleefully rubbed his hands together like politician who had just won an election. The men who accompanied him stood at one corner of the room watching the man and the child. They apparently worked for the chief.

Salami was still smiling when the boy said, “I buried her in the backyard.”

He didn’t at first understand the boy’s words, “Buried who?”

“I buried her in the backyard, beside my father.”

“What!” Salami screamed incredibly. “You mean your parents are buried in the backyard?”

“Yes, sir,” Black replied weakly.

“On my own land?” Salami screamed.

Peter didn’t understand. What did the man mean by ‘his own land’? The land didn’t belong to him. The land belonged to his father. His mother had told him that the piece of land and the house was theirs. It was the property left behind by his father. Now this evil man was calling it his own land. That wasn’t fair, it was cheating, wickedness. But Peter could do nothing about this; he was too small and young to claim his right. He wanted to speak but his voice would allow him no more word.

“You bastard! How dare you bury your mother on my land?” Salami was very angry now.

The men approached the chief and one of them said, “The rain has stopped, we should go to the second site since we can’t find any thug here.” The men were Chief Salami’s muscles; protecting the chief and attacking his opposers were their jobs. Today, they were on the hunt to deal with any hoodlum that might be occupying any of the chief’s properties.

“Before we leave, you have something to do for me,” he pointed at the shivering boy and said, “This one is also a trespasser.”

“What should we do about him, sir?” The other muscle asked, “Should we through him out?”

“No, don’t throw him out.” Chief Salami replied. “Take him away. Kill him and dump his corpse into the river. Use my car.”

Without further ado, one of the men grabbed Black like a piece of sack and carried him out of the house. They put him in the back seat of the Volvo outside and drove away. Salami stayed at the entrance of the house and watched as the muscles transport the sick boy to where they would kill him. Peter himself was too weak to protest against the men. He had stopped shivering, but still very weak.

A quite intense sun had come out to watch over the world. And the birds had vacated their nests to sing among trees and on top of electric poles. Those who had initially used their umbrellas against the rain were now using it against the heat; an irony of nature, a boomerang of nature.

When they had driven to a secluded location beside the rushing stream that always flowed into the large river in the city square, the men stopped the car and carried out the weakling. He was so light that the man carrying him almost didn’t feel his weight. The boy just remained withered in his hands. But his eyes were open, sharply open, watching the men with pleading eyes. Black knew what they were going to do to him but he could not beg them to show him mercy; he was too weak to speak, he could only plead with his eyes.

He was placed by the bank of the stream.

“How do we do it?” One man asked the other.

“Let’s strangle him.”

“It would be faster if we broke his neck.”

“We can stab him or slit his throat.”

“His blood would stain the stream.”

“Who cares? His body would be discovered anyway, even if we give him euthanasia. I don’t have my knife. Do you have yours?”

“Yes, I have my knife with me.”

“Then do it.”

The man who had carried him out of the car brought out his knife and approached the boy. Black watched him as he came. He resigned himself to what was about to be. His eyes didn’t register any fear. The man bent Black’s head backward and put the blade of the knife against the neck. The knife drew blood immediately.

 

The next update shall be posted on Wednesday, but if you can’t wait, you can contact the writer (via WhatsApp on 09061754872) for the PDF copy of the updates. Thanks.