EIGHT

Everyone demands a spice of danger in their lives. Some get it vicariously—as in street fights. Some read about it. Some find it at the cinema. Too much safety is abhorrent to the nature of a human being. Men find danger in many ways—women are induced to finding their danger mostly in the affairs of sex. That is why, perhaps, they welcome the hint of the tiger—the sheathed claws, the treacherous spring. The excellent fellow who will make a good and kind husband, they pass him by.

Richard was driving back to Cain’s apartment after finishing one of his mother’s culinary delights; a dish of rice hot enough to scorch his uvula. We think a lot mostly when we are alone. And most of our thoughts then are concerned with what we have done in the past, or what we are likely going to do in the future to come.

Richard knew he had a serious apology to make to Abigail; he had made a complete ass of himself when he kissed her. The laughing-always-happy girl had been through hell in life. Who would ever have thought that the girl had been so unfortunate? Nobody would have guessed that she had lost her mother when she was only two and her father murdered by the man who forced her to marry him. Also, she once had a boyfriend who was floating on the lagoon. The platitude that if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back had a new meaning to Richard. That same girl might lose her life by her demented husband. The thought about Abigail being brutally murdered was unbearable to Richard. What method will the crazy husband try to use this time? Will it look like an accident? Surely, the crime would not be connected to Cain. Other atrocities he had committed did not come home to him. Cain was like the perfect criminal on whom no crime could possibly be charged. Moreover, a rich man like him would be difficult to convict. Richard tried to get the thought off his mind and concentrate on his driving.

The horrible thought came again.

Cain had killed his first wife because all her wealth came to him automatically. He had killed Abigail’s boyfriend because he had tried to blackmail him, and Cain hated being a victim of blackmail. What would he gain by killing Abigail? Richard racked his brain but found no motive. A wild thought suddenly struck his mind like a matador—Othello! Othello killed his wife because he thought Desdemona was having an affair with Cassio. Cain might want to kill Abigail because he thought she was having an affair with me. Sweat broke out of Richard’s forehead. Or Cain’s probably a psychopath. Psychopathic killers don’t kill for any reason but for because they enjoy doing so. They take it as an entertainment—a game. Richard sighed. He remembered what Cain had said on the way to the airport—I like playing games. The greatest punishment was the one inflicted on the people you care about. How much worse that pain would be if you had to live with the knowledge that the innocent person had been dealt early death as surrogates for you, punished for your offence. And the unbearable guilt would be that you didn’t take any action when you had the chance to stop this innocent person from being hurt.

Richard was finding it hard to press the accelerator of the car as the thought continued to expand in his mind. I challenge you to a game of survival. That is what Cain had said. Let’s see who wins. He had said that too. Richard’s hands began to tremble as the meaning of what Cain had said occurred to him. It is simple, very simple—the game. Richard thought with fear gripping his heart, the game is to murder Abigail—and pin the crime on me!

Richard became numb; it was as though all the systems of his body had taken a break. He saw his hand move in astonishment, and he watched it with a certain fascination, not sure if the appendage belonged to him. It must have; when he thought about jiggling the fingers, they jiggled. He held the steering wheel firmly and shifted into reverse. The tyres barked against the tiled road as he jammed his foot down on the accelerator—a bald guy and his wife walking to church, with hymnbooks under their arms, looked at him in amazement as he maneuvered the vehicle roughly. The sweat from the nape of his neck was now trickling down his spine. He drove straight down the road as though he’d signed a suicide pact.

Within twenty minutes of driving like a bat out of hell, he reached the Martins’ building; he drove furiously into the compound as the gatekeeper opened the gate. He jumped out of the vehicle and ran into the main building. He found Abigail in the living room; she was busy brushing her hair and looking at a small mirror she held in front of herself and at the same time was watching Kennis Music Channel.

“Let me start by apologizing for what I did to you last night.” Richard said, out of breath. “I have acted like a complete rotter and an utter scoundrel. There is no reasonable excuse I can make for my execrable conduct. It was folly and all I can do now is ask for mercy. I know you are a kind-hearted woman and I pray you will be generous enough to pardon my stupidity.”

Abigail laughed, “You have a funny way of asking for apologies. You need not use all these vocs, Richie. What happened last night was just a minor peccadillo.”

“Have you forgiven me?” Richard asked seriously.

“Okay, apology sustained.”

“Thank you—” he breathed out heavily, “Now, you need to get out of here.”

“What do you mean?” she looked at Richard as though he had taken all his clothes off in public.

“You have to leave before he comes back.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your husband. He’s planning to kill you.”

She looked at him suspiciously, “Richie, what have you been drinking?”

“I don’t drink, you know that.”

“Then what have you been smoking?” she picked up her brush again and stroked her hair. She turned her attention back to the TV where a young pretty woman was flinging her arms around Kelly Handsome and kissing him madly.

“Please, Abigail, listen to me. There’s a man out there planning to kill you and you sat here knitting antimacassars. Cain’s plotting to kill you. Can’t you get that into your thick skull?”

“If you had been a teenager I wouldn’t have blinked an eye. There’s a chromosome that goes haywire when you turn thirteen. I’m really finding it hard to believe that such balderdash is coming from the lips yours.”

“Abigail, this is serious, it concerns your life. Please listen to me. I’m not joking.”

“What has been sowing that unnatural garbage into your head?” Asked Abigail, with folded arms.

“Cain knew you came to my room last night.”

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