‘If you are a prostitute and you bring your tithes to this church, may God punish you’, the pastor thundered in his business-like fashion, jumping down energetically from the altar immediately after reading the day’s scriptural text. ‘I don’t have the conscience to collect your tithes when I know fully well your eternal destination. I am not like other pastors who would do the same and tell you it doesn’t matter. That is why their churches swell in their thousands, but they are really garnishing souls for the devil. They accept every and anything-women in men’s clothing, ordain women as pastors and deacons contrary to God’s injunctions, celebrate ungodly feasts, baptize wrongly and smile to the banks with spoils of evil. I won’t do that to you people. The Bible says a shepherd should take heed of his flock, and by the grace of God, each of you here is a burden on my shoulders. That is why I do not want a large congregation……’ On and on he went, as shouts of ‘That’s right,’ ‘Fire on, preacher’, coloured his sermon for two long hours, and just as he finished praying in his office a few minutes after the service, his i-Phone 3 rang shrilly.
The Toyota Tundra i-Force roared along the expressway like a lion whose death bullet had just been released. It was not too clear if the monstrous throatiness had something to do with the muffler of the exhaust pipe, or simply the hybrid twelve cylinders doing more than their normal routine of supplying torque to the shaft of the momentary road-king. It simply commandeered the road with both sound and aura, nosing and snaking between other cars who surrendered their space intimidated, like little wimps. But it was simply surprising that the ebullience of the machine which responded so mightily to his little caresses on the pedal and steering wheel had no bearing to the person at the controlling end. It was Pastor Bart, a slimming, wizened man in his mid thirties who had been through a lot in his five years of serving in the Lord’s vineyard. In fact, his mind had been sifting and turning over the various dreams and revelations he had been having in the past few weeks, all having a similitude gravitating towards a shake-up in his ministry and reputation, and where he was going presently was a disturbing manifestation of those dreams. He was actually on his way to the State Security Service office to honour an invitation which was at the instance of a sudden crediting of his bank account with over a hundred million naira. It had come in a five-day trickle of twenty million each, and his account had swelled enough to arouse suspicion. He hardly could tell how he made the twenty –kilometre journey in less than 45 minutes.
The smart, suited gentleman behind the mahogany desk looked official, but cocky. He got down to business almost immediately.
‘Mr Bartholomew, what do you do for a living?’
‘I am a clergyman, a pastor’, Pastor Bart replied, crossing his legs and connecting to his eyes.
‘Very well, we know that. We have run our checks, but we are disturbed about a certain lodgement of over a hundred million naira in your account. Do you engage in any other business, Mr Bartholomew?’
‘No, I do not. I do not understand this. I am a law-abiding citizen of this country, a servant of God. The money you are talking about is tithe I received from one of my new converts, Brother Henry. He is a top-flight business mogul. Am I not of the right to pay my own money into my account?’
‘Do you have any investments, Mr Bartholomew?’
His cold stare communicated his impatience. He remained mum, and the Christian in him was becoming overstretched. He was handed a cool, searching and direct stare for thirty full seconds.
‘I am sorry, Mr Bartholomew, your explanations sound believable, but we have reason to believe you are remotely or directly connected to a multi-million naira fraud we are currently investigating. You have even been directly fingered by some incriminating evidence, which we will not be willing to divulge to you right about now. You will have to oblige us your presence here every week for routine questioning, and where house searches are necessary, we will have no other option. Thank you for your time, you may leave now.’
Pastor Bart had the huge restraint of slamming the door, as he stalked out of the office, by the flooding of his memory of five successive visions he had seen concerning what he was presently going through. What was this? Sufficiently buoyed up suddenly, he was surprised he laughed loud and long, as he pressed the button to automatically let himself into the truck. He inserted the key in the hole.
‘You are Alpha and Omega! We worship you, my God, you are worthy to be praised!,’ his phone rang, and he put it to his ear. His eyes widened, and his brow rose a few inches, and folded.
‘What? Sister Jane! Where are you? Your house? I will be there, right away. Wait, do you have a bottle of anointing oil in the house? Okay, I will make the detour. Just hold on!’
Nearly throwing the mobile out the window, save the sufficiently wound up glass, the journey to the SSS office was a walk in the park compared to what the Tundra suffered in the journey to the ailing sister’s house. He bounded up the stairs, and knocked on her door, clutching his Bible.
There was some hesitation. ‘Pastor Bart?’ a weak female voice groaned from within.
After two full minutes, the door slowly opened to let him in, but there was no Sister Jane in the living room. Before he could call out to her, the curtains to the adjoining room parted, and a wild, racy and raunchy version of Sister Jane appeared, and was inching slowly towards him. Her full feminine features were graciously and generously served his eyes, though barely veiled with the hapless effort of her see-through negligee. Pastor Bart took one look at her and felt the steel with which he survived smaller and inconsequential versions of sights as this, whether in the streets or in ay other place, melting gradually way. Even the hair on his skin stood at attention.
‘Pastor Bart…… let’s have some fun. I am sorry I lied.’ she sashayed closer to him.
The Bible fell from his hands.
‘I thought you were sick, to the point of death, Sister Jane. What is this? Will you go put on something reasonable, or I leave this house, this minute?’
She suddenly stopped in her tracks, and started backing away towards the wall behind her, with some effort of swinging her hips. When her back touched the wall, she reached behind her, and a .45 magnum was staring the pastor full in the face, at less than two metres. The holder was Sister Jane. The safety catch clicked.
‘You either lie with me here and now, or we both go to heaven!’ There was no joking, neither in her manner, nor her voice. Her eyeballs re-echoed her stance, even more effectively.
Pastor Bart raised both hands, and kicked off his shoes.
‘Sister Jane, why are you doing this?’
‘Now the suit. I don’t have time, be quick about it.’
‘Please, would you put that gun away? I can’t oblige you under this kind of duress. Please.’
Feverish with a desire heightened by narcotic, she let the gun drop, and dove for him. He edged and ducked, allowing her to fall flat on the floor, her sizeable mass of flesh vibrating with the impact. She sprang up quickly to prevent him from reaching the gun by vice-gripping his foot, but she was a fraction of a second too late.
The globe of the gun was against her neck. ‘Back off!’ Pastor Bart screamed, and she immediately obeyed. He darted to the door. ‘May God forgive you’, he muttered, and hurled the gun at her face. He had little time to catch a glimpse of her lacerated mouth, before slamming the door.
On the long run down the stairs, he crouched down and covered his head tas the bullets aimed at him from the .45 pinged and sparked along the metal rails, but none thankfully hit him, as he reached his Tundra. He was grateful his keys were still in his pocket.
A large cloud of dust was all her tearful eyes saw of Pastor Bart when she looked out of the window of her room, upstairs.
Please make it a date with the second part….one love!
Ogbonna Nnaemeka Henry.