Sweating, shivering and acutely aware of the eleven eyes in the room, all staring at him, John Okafor contemplated his situation. He could hear the big clock at the far end of the hall ticking; tick-tock, tick-tock. He could hear his heart beating in his chest, thump-thump, thump-thump. The gun in his hand felt so heavy he could barely hold it up with both his hands. Sweat from his clean shaven head ran across his eyebrows, dropping onto his glasses, momentarily blinding him as he looked down upon the helpless sedated woman on the floor. She seemed to be staring at him with all the strength that was left in her. When he told Chief Bodurin that he would do anything to move up within the party ranks, he didn’t mean it literally. He certainly didn’t think anything would include murdering a pregnant woman in cold blood.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
There were three candles around the woman. A sliver of moonlight filtered in through the hall windows and rested on him and the woman like a natural spotlight. He only felt more vulnerable; naked. The eleven pairs of eyes that he knew were trained on him were beginning to drill little holes into him.
It was midnight! It was now or never. If he didn’t shoot this woman dead, it would be the last thing he didn’t do. He had no doubt in his mind that one of them had to die.
A lot of thoughts started to course through his mind. How could he not have seen this coming? The party had hidden their ruthlessness so well but surely he had been so naïve.
He thought about his family; what would they be told about him? Will they even be told anything at all?
He looked at the gun in his hand. He didn’t realize he had been lowering the gun for a while. Perhaps he ought to shoot the woman. Surely he’s in an impossible situation. Surely it’s a matter of self preservation. Not quite self defense but it’s kill or be killed. Could he live with himself afterwards? The pregnant woman will be killed after anyways so why not by his hand? He began to raise the gun again.
No! If he did this thing, he would be owned, dictated to, a pawn. What sort of leader would he be? Perhaps he ought to shoot one or two of these bastards before he went down. If only he could make out their places in the shadows.
He thought of killing himself. Die with honor. His eyes met the woman again. She was staring at him like a statue. Does she ever blink? Her expression was as if she understood his situation and was giving him permission to kill her.
He closed his eyes
He opened his eyes.
‘I can’t do it,’ he said to himself. He let his hand drop, dangling by his side.
‘What was that?’ asked the Chief.
‘I can’t do it!’
His time was up. In a flash, a body was by his side. His body tightened, awaiting the inevitable blow that would end his life. But the body only touched his hand gently, relieving him of the gun. Lights came on from seemingly everywhere. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing!
He couldn’t believe what he was not seeing! There was no one in the room except the Chief and the body which he now recognized to belong to, James, the Chief’s chauffeur and the poor mute girl who was now getting up now looking suddenly very young and healthy as she removed the prosthetic that had made her look pregnant. It was obvious he was part of some elaborate prank. But what for? He looked up at the Chief who was smiling from ear to ear.
‘Mr. Okafor, you have passed the test’
‘You didn’t kill the pregnant woman, you were prepared to die rather than take innocent life. I salute you, Mr. Okafor. I’m not sure I would have done the same in your position. The gun was not loaded by the way’
Mr. Okafor’s heart rate was returning to normal. ‘But why was this all necessary?’ he asked.
‘I’m sure you must have heard rumours about me being the kingmaker. Well, rumours mostly have a ring of truth to them. I am the kingmaker and more besides. You are now going to be our candidate. The primaries will be a formality. Do you understand what I am saying?’
‘Yes, Sir’ Okafor said, already beginning to forget about all he had been through.
‘Good. No more questions; for now. Go get some rest. James will take you home. We will talk more next week’
James was suddenly by his side again. He concluded this man was no mere chauffeur. He followed him to a car outside.
Sarah, the hitherto pregnant woman was smiling. ‘What if he had pulled the trigger, Chief?’
‘He would still have passed’ the Chief replied.
‘Oh? How come?’
‘Then I would tell him he passed because he was ready to do anything for the party and the greater good. The important thing is to make him think he did the absolute right thing. But in a way that he would be terrified of me. He will never forget who made him President’
Sarah felt a chill down her spine. She didn’t how what to say
‘ I know what you’re thinking, Sarah. Please fix me a drink’