We've got a treat for you. An exclusive excerpt of the opening chapter of TEMENOS by Obinna Obioma which is featured in the Love and The Lawless anthology. Check it out.
That Saturday morning, the sun had burst forth earlier than it should, but it hid behind a foggy Harmattan cloud, unwilling to behold some murderous plot thought through the night. Just a few persons graced the St. Thomas Catholic parish by this time, sinners in need of Father Edmund’s ablutionary grace. By seven-thirty a.m., the confessionals would be over, and the priest would be ready to retire to the vestry.
Ericson ‘Eric’ Kamalu had chosen this specific time to lay waste the wanton priest, his erstwhile counsellor, through a clean shot to his balding head—a smooth transition to Purgatory where, if lucky, he should be able to repeal his middle-aged soul from the fiery damnation of Hell.
“One blessed bullet.” Eric kissed the .38 Smith & Wesson he’d always had, bought from a gun dealer in the black market. He blinked, his eyes scratchy and hurting as he tucked the gun behind his back, away from prying eyes.
He’d left the house and had barely walked to his parking lot when two police vans screeched into the terrazzo-ed compound. Three uniformed men in their deep shades of black, armed with assault rifles, jumped down from the tailboard of a Hilux 4x4 where they’d been perched.
Eric stood rooted in his spot upon noting that these were not ordinary mobile policemen. These came directly from the Department. These were trouble.
Three crestfallen Catholic nuns in their white and blue apparels emerged from the other van, took a glance at him, and whispered conspiratorially to another female in mufti who had a DSS badge dangling from her neck.
In a moment, the young woman, probably in her early thirties, beckoned to two of the rear guards and walked over to him.
“Good morning. Ericson Kamalu, I presume? Agent Lisa Rafferty,” the slender-framed, athletic-built detective said as introduction.
She looked pretty—average height, chocolate-brown skin—but she struck him as the kind of lady who walked about and worked in unisex clothes, having no care for fashion. Her face said this was the usual broaching parlance, and Eric was in no mood for felicitations, either.
“What is going on here, Agent?” He gestured to the home invaders now strolling about his premises, unchecked.
“How long have you known Father Edmund?” She fixed him with cold eyes.
He frowned. “As long as he’s been priest in my parish.”
“And you were with him yesterday, yes?”
Eric was now very aghast. “Why do I think I need a lawyer, Agent?”
“Father Edmund was found murdered in his office a little while after you drove out of the parish—”
“Wait! Hold up!” he interrupted. “What does this have to do with me?”
He could ask nothing else when the profundity of the demise of the very man he’d wanted to murder came as a hard purchase.
“Were you with the priest yesterday?”
It seemed Lisa had decided to play hardball, her gaze narrowed as if in impatience while she awaited the indicting confession which she probably thought wittingly or unwittingly would come now.
“I was with the priest yester— No, I was supposed to be with him, but I never went in to see him,” he stuttered. “I didn’t kill him, if that’s what all these seem to imply,” he protested.
His had just been a murderous thought. Someone, obviously, had beaten him to his game, and for that, he would be eternally grateful. For now, he tried desperately to exonerate himself from the very complicated fix he’d found himself in.
“Unless everyone who’d come to see the Father for counsel yesterday is culpable here, then I am not,” he tried vehemently again.
Surely, whoever had seen his face to recognize him must have seen the face of every other person, his whoring fiancée included.
Yesterday, after working hours, he had gone for his usual marriage counsel session with the priest. This, in accordance to church doctrine, would hold for a week, after which he would tie the nuptial cord with his fiancée, Samantha. They had agreed to meet at the Cathedral and then drive home together after the session with Father Edmund, but she had not been about the premises when Eric had gotten to the rendezvous point a little after four p.m.
As he’d taken the last flight of stairs into the vestibule that held the priest’s office, something had caught his attention, causing him to demur on his path. The sinfonietta of ‘Hail Judea’ had aired andante from somewhere behind the vestibule— surely the choir at practice, it being Friday. But he thought he’d heard something else, a sound that did not belong.
He’d listened closely, deadening his ears to the cascade of the orchestra and at the same time listening above it.
It had come from along the hallway through to the church offices. A stifled scuffle, screech of wooden desk; a few second later, frantic slapping sound of maybe sweat-embossed flesh, then a deep guttural groan.
Eric had wondered what atrocities belied the inner veils of Father Edmund’s chamber, as he’d been sure the sensual sounds emanated from within. Sensual, intense, and rough—like starvation fed by desperation, he’d thought, and a devilish grin had pursed his lips.
The priest was human; God’s acolyte, but fickle still. Even clerics proved vulnerable to such arousing allurements the fair daughters of men have in their employ to lure mundane men out of their wits!
He’d decided to let the busy priest be. Of course, if the priest was able to absolve men of their guilt, he should be able to do the same for himself now he’d fallen away, had still been falling away as the moaning struggle had intensified from within, and the intermittent scraping protests of the office desk could still be heard. Even to the heights of sin, he’d been sure the Father, sworn to a celibate life, could redeem his soul.
His heart gleefully alight, Eric had turned to go. He’d decided to call Samantha to cancel their meeting with the priest. But the phone had rung aloud from the hallway a few paces behind and kept on increasing. He had frozen on his path, the naughty smile vanishing from his face, smothered with a grim perplexity as he’d listened to the familiar Safari ringtone of his soon-to-be-wife’s cell phone air from the priest’s office?
He’d dialled again. Seconds later, his surety had come, unanswered. It was his fiancée’s cell!
“What in the heavens!” had been the words repeatedly torn from his throat as a thousand premonitory questions had jumbled his senses, almost benumbed by the shocking possibility that his bride-to-be was having an affair with his church priest!
How he had loved her. Once, he’d rescued her from mortifying dishonour, saved her from the shackles of self-abasement inadvertently caused upon by the miscreants of society. He’d loved her and told her to breathe and live, even though the very air she had to breathe was polluted with the vileness of men’s guile.
Three years was not a long time to forget, was it? Eric had decided he must save his face and hers from this eternal shame before they made a bigger mess by walking down the aisle. It was the only way.
But judgment had to be passed on Father Edmund. The priest was way over his head in sin, found wanting in three out of the six commandments that affected men—Eric had added stealing. Nothing but the blood of the priest himself could absolve him of this guilt and quench the thirst of vengeance that had dried Eric’s lids and heart. How would the Father ever even stand to wed them? No sin, no cross. No blood, no forgiveness …
“I’m sorry, Mr. Ericson.” The detective’s voice brought him back from his distant thoughts. “The closed-circuit TV footage placed you around the office section exactly at the same hour one of the nuns testified you went in to see the priest— his only visitor for the day after confessionals …”
Eric’s head reeled in a thousand direction as the detective explained away. Who had been with the Father in his office when he’d come around? And now, there were CCTVs in the house of God? The cams should have placed Samantha at the scene, too, for he had heard her phone ring from within, twice!
Or had he not? What fortuitous coincidence had he been made to face in the strained heat of yesterday? He’d been filled with every punch and peep and disdain and then a seething apathy when Samantha had come back later in the evening to confess she’d had her hands full in the market and could not pick his calls …
“Sir, if you would please come with us for further interrogations,” the detective said cautiously. “This is a formal arrest, and you have a right to a federal attorney—”
It happened so fast. Eric, quick as lightning, pushed her away and drew his gun. How was he to be convicted for another’s crime all because a camera had caught him entering and leaving the dead priest’s office section within same hour he was found dead by an aged nun who could as well be lying?
“Suspect is armed and dangerous!”
“Suspect is armed and dangerous!”
The warning rent the air as everybody dove for cover, and Eric fled up the stairs into his house. But he was not fast enough. Bullets riddled his back before he’d made it to the door.
A horrified Samantha heard the splitting gunshots and came out to see her husband-to-be crumpled in a heap on the front porch, bleeding, dying. She cradled him in her arms and wept bitterly.
About TEMENOS by Obinna Obioma
A bloodthirsty assassin on the loose, a website that cannot be hacked, and double locks on every door.
DSS Agent Lisa's primary objective is to find the vigilante behind the ritualistic murders. But her quest to unmask the evasive enemy might cost her everything including the love of her life.
GRAB YOUR COPY OF LOVE AND THE LAWLESS ANTHOLOGY
STORIES IN THE ANTHOLOGY
PURPLE AND WHITE by Emem Bassey THE MESSENGER by Julie Onoh TEMENOS by Obinna Obioma HONOUR by Kiru Taye