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FORTY SHEKELS OF SILVER
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FORTY SHEKELS OF SILVER 

30th May, 1979, Charles Ilodiegwu’s Premises

The night was cold and windy. Darkness was thickening in on earth, embellished with unfriendly knocks of thunder and accompanied by dazzling flashes of lightning, seemingly voicing out the anger of God and leaving His glories in the consciousness of men. The raindrops in contact with the roof produced incessant harsh sounds of two tambourine struck against each other in painful revolt. The force of the wind making the window shutters squeak.

She was alone in her room upstairs, terrified. There seemed to be a naked vulnerability about her. She laid on the bed, neatly folded in the duvet. Her mind carefully replaying all that had happened in the past month. The more she thought about those, the more horrified she became.

Charles’ death was not an accident,” she thought.  She had had terrible nightmares, and in each of these nightmares, Charles had appeared to her. His face swollen, skin sallow and with a sober voice he would plead for immediate vengeance. She had tried asking him, in one of those nightmares, whom it was that killed him. But before he could speak up, she would be awoken back to reality. After that night, she had waited patiently for another nightmare, just like the watchman waits for dawn. Her waiting had the patience of a hunter. She would intentionally miss work and appointments to wait for Charles’ appearance but he never came. She had suddenly started suffering from insomnia. However, tonight she had made up her mind that Charles must come, if not, she would have no reason to wait anymore.

Having swallowed three pills of benzodiazepine sedative hypnotic sleeping pills (Triazolam (Halcion), she was good to go. Prior to taking the drugs, she had performed some sort of stupid ritual which she strongly believed would summon the hallowed though broken spirit of Charles. She had placed his best suit, the blazers Charles had worn on their first date and spread it on the bed, his Emporio Armani designers shoes she also dropped beside the suit. Lastly, she sprayed the room with incense and Charles’ best perfume which she thought would quicken his arrival. With all these done, she slipped in beside the glorious idol of Charles she had made while she held in her hands the note he dropped for her on that doomsday; which read, “See you soon, my doppelganger.” Those words were resonating in her, bringing back old-buried memories. She became nostalgic.

“I’m still waiting here for you, dear,” she cried, “make haste.” Closing her eyes, ready to meet Charles and have the secret which had been bottled for months open up. The drugs started taking effect, she suddenly became dizzy, her eyes too heavy to control. She heard footsteps climbing the stairs, moving towards her room.

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“It will sure be Charles,” she thought. She suddenly felt hungry but she dared not stand. His coming was a promised feast for the hunger that burnt within her.

The door flew open by a hard push, she attempted opening her eyes but her eyes were too heavy. As the footsteps came nearer and nearer, she became curious and more curious. Suddenly, everything became quiet like a graveyard; no sound of the footsteps, no thunder, no window nor door squeaky sounds.

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“Eunice, say your last prayer,” a masculine voice whispered, breaking the silence. Recognizing the voice, she forced her eyes open. The picture of the man was blur with an iron rod in his left hand, she knew him very well by his voice.

“So it had been you all these while,” she was barely heard. She gathered the remaining strength she had trying to stand and run but it was too late. The man struck her with the iron rod straight to her temple, the excruciating pain sent some pangs up her brain.

The striking continued. He only stopped when she stiffened. He mounted her motionless body without conscience, his male hardness forced deep inside her, tearing her like a lion. He pounced and pounced on her dead body until he achieved orgasm.

In a gentle weird voice, he whispered, “FORTY SHEKELS OF SILVER.”

 

 

GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER FRONT PAGE READS: “Wife of Late Chief Charles Arinze Ilodiegwu gone missing with no trace of her whereabouts, barely two months after her husband’s mutilated body was found lying helpless in front of their house.”

 

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18th August, 2006, CISTERCIAN MONASTERY, MOUNT SAINT MARY’S ABBEY, OWERRI

At the end of the Novitiate years, Sr. Anastasia and Sr. Mary-Cynthia were ready for their solemn profession and monastic consecration into the order of St. Benedict. After a significant number of years of living, praying and working in the community, growing in self-knowledge of God and others, being in continual prayer, service and understanding of God and fidelity to their vocation. The women were ready to throw their lot with this community and way of life as a means to Union with God.

“By monastic profession, a sister is consecrated to God and joined with the monastic community that receives her. At this time, the consecration received in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation is renewed and given vitality. The sister binds herself in faithful stability to a sincere conversion of life through ready obedience until death.” OCSO Constitution 8.

The evening before the final profession, Sr. Anastasia and Sr. Mary-Cynthia, the sisters to be professed and their abbess prostrate themselves before the Blessed Sacrament after Vespers as they make profession of the three Benedictine vows.

First, the vow of stability of place, obliging themselves to make constant use of the means of the spiritual crafts in the community, and trusting in God’s Providence. Second was the vow of conversatio morum, that which binds a sister to follow the gospel and binding herself to the practice of Cistercian discipline. They were to retain nothing to themselves, not even authority over their own bodies, for their bodies are the temple of the most high. Vow of obedience seals the profession as final, by this vow they desire to live under a rule and an abbess promises to fulfil all that lawful superior’s command in accordance with these constitutions. The next day, they were professed and were clothed with the habit of Christ.

The next day Sr. Anastasia was assigned to take care of the sick while Sr. Mary-cynthia was assigned to take care of the children with down syndrome. The sick were kept at Block B building while Block A housed the special children. The Block B was an old yet clean two storey building, with faded yellowish paintings, whistling pine trees and flowers which gave it a nice view. At the right side of the building was the statue of pieta and a large crucifix, an epitome of holy land. There’s a bold inscription on the front of the building which reads, “Jesus, the name that heals our diseases”.

Sr. Anastasia was following an older Sister who was showing her around. There were 6 of them who were terribly sick. Almost every one of them, as she was told were picked up from where their families abandoned them. Out of all she saw that day, she had taken fancy to one, she was an old woman introduced by the older Sister as Mary.

Mary was on her sick bed in room 69 of the monastery building for the sick. Her eyes were dull, body pale and sallow, her face still bore that remnants of beauty. On the foot of her bed was a chart which gave some details about her. Sr. Anastasia, whose new function was to replace the older sister started by reading out Mary’s chart, her face tightened as she read:

Name: Mary

Admitted:  4th June, 1980

Location: Nil

Family: Nil

She stopped abruptly when her eyes caught the last words. She had not spoken since admitted, guessed to be deaf and dumb.

“SHE’S CHRIST IMAGE, TREAT HER LIKE YOU WOULD TREAT CHRIST.”

Sr. Anastasia was shocked by those words. She cast an eye of pity on her. “The book which keeps the detailed account of every Patient admitted into this place, has her as the oldest patient,” said the oldest sister. “Where can I get the book?” “At the Monastery library, shelf 18.” The next day she was at the Library reading Mary’s record. She felt bad for her. She made up her mind to care and pray for her, hoping she would recover soon.

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1978, VENICE LAW FIRM, VICTORIA ISLAND, LAGOS

Rex O.A Esq., owner of Venice Law Firm, a short, stern and undemonstrative man with an aristocratic face was heading a meeting at the third floor of the law firm house in Victoria Island. Gathered for the meeting also were three strong-headed men, each with his complex nature, tribe and background forced into an irretrievable brotherhood by a mere adoption by Victoria Robinsons.

Rex, the company lawyer was about reading out the agreement of the company head in Britain to whom Victoria sent the name of her successor. Seated at Rex’s right hand was Charles Arinze Ilodiegwu, the swarthy dapper Igbo man, whose intelligence had gotten him into the family of Victoria and James Robinson, the pleasant British couple, who were the Managers of Shell D’archy, a British owned multi-billion oil dynasty that girded the globe. Charles had every sense of undercurrent that flows beneath the deceptively calmed surface. He knew the operations of the colonial rulers, how they drill out oils from his motherland, sent them back home and brought it back to be sold to them at a higher cost. He was waiting for the perfect time to debunk all those and the time had come.

Seated after Charles was the famous Femi Ade. The handsome Yoruba man, with his full hair, charming eyes and an engaging smile that made women want to wear him like a badge. Someone had sometime said that he looked like a god. To add it up, he had become part of the Robinsons by mere adoption and the combination of all those was irresistible.

The last man seated at the left side of Rex was Ahmed Musa Bello. The most concrete Hausa man, with gruff impatient manner and a temper that could melt an iron. He was always aloof from the other adopted children of the Robinsons. In fact, if there were any eerie little cult of young weirdos, Ahmed would definitely be made their leader.

So many years ago, these three men had their mothers working at the Robinsons’ residence as cleaners. Bitterly enough, a gas explosion at the Robinsons took over their mothers’ lives at their tender age together with that of James Robinson. Leaving Victoria Robinson with no option than to adopt those three sons of her cleaners and raise them as hers. She loved them, and gave each of them the attention they needed. She was intelligent and a perfect mother. She knew the faintest details of any of them. Starting from their tribes and religions and running down to their favorite dishes and birthdays.  The three children were different in all things except in the color of their skin. Even though she had housed their bodies to unite them, the blood in them triggered behaviors which shouted loudly their differences. She was controlling three super minded nations.

To Victoria, Charles was that child who asked a lot of questions. The questions came deeply rooted; questions which sometimes got Victoria wondering if he was a man in a child’s body. He was too curious for his age. In his innocence, he would ask; “Since you’re English, why are you here?” “Why are there so much whites at the company than blacks?” Thus, she began picking interest in him more than the other two. When he came of age after graduation, she made him her personal secretary, attending the company’s board meetings and events, writing minutes at meetings, drafting documents for customers, making out researches for new areas where oil may be found at commercial quantity, navigating midnight calls, and fixing schedules for their mothers to meet with partners. With time, Charles learned so well and faster too. His productivity was second to none. By the time Femi and Ahmed were through with schools and ready to join the company, Charles had chewed and diluted every bit of the company. And when the company was printing her success on the sands of time, Victoria Robinson died.

Rex tore the parcel which contained the conclusion of the company on who takes after Victoria. “The company had deemed it fit to select as a replacement of Victoria…Eu-“ the name choked him “Eunice Ilodiegwu.” The mention of the name surprised everyone except Charles. Eunice was Charles’ wife, who had never been to any of the company’s meetings but knew more than anyone who sat on the board meetings. She was an enigma. Most of the brilliant works Charles had done for the company were all prompted by Eunice. At Victoria’s death bed months before, she was congratulating Charles for an agreement he reached with a Chinese company but Charles had told her that Eunice was the person to be thanked, not him. And he innocently told Victoria about Eunice’s creativity, and the details got Eunice the work. When the news got to Eunice, she was shocked, she became happy and afraid at the same time. Charles promised to be at her side.

After One month, she was inaugurated into the board. Chairing a meeting of ten powerful men. They were all surprised at her intelligence, the way she tackled difficult situations. She was larger than life. Charles was proud of his wife, same as his brother Femi Adesina, but to Ahmed, she was a threat which had to be removed.

Barely two months after the inauguration, Charles was leaving to catch a flight heading for Britain, he had woken earlier than normal at the wee hours of the morning. He surreptitiously dropped a note for her wife avoiding waking her up, then drove off. He noticed a car coming after him, the car was speeding up to catch with him. He sped up too but it was too late. He was double crossed by another car. The man in front fired five bullets into his skull. He was dead. The next three days, the mutilated body of Charles was seen lying in front of his residence. Charles’ funeral took place at his premises. Eunice was looking at the faces of all that came. She focused more on Ahmed who was weeping bitterly.  “He’s the wolf in a lamb’s clothing,” she thought. She was flanked by Femi Adesina and his wife, Ella Adesina. They were all she had. She was ready to avenge Charles’ death. After the funeral, the police headquarters in Ikeja had started an investigation into Charles’ death. After three weeks, the police reported that nothing was found. Eunice encouraged them to search deeper even if it meant increasing their pay.

On 30th May the next year, she got a call from a stranger who asked her to meet him at 28 Omani Crescent, G.R.A, Lagos. On arriving that morning, people were gathered in front of the address the man had given her. She asked one of the persons standing what was happening, he told her the man was murdered and his corpse was found this morning in front of his house. She felt bad, “maybe if I had arrived earlier, I would have met him” she regretted. The next morning, Eunice was declared missing.

 

CISTERCIAN MONASTERY

1ST OCTOBER, 2007

It was the first Sunday of the month of October, a day complacent with no promise of surprises. The Sisters of the Cistercian Monastery were having their recollection, a day graciously preserved for examination of one’s conscience. Not much work was done on such days, except prayers and wholesome recollection.

As contemplatives, the Sisters gave themselves faithfully to Liturgy, prayers, vigils, sacred readings, fasting, solitude and silence according to the rule of St. Benedict and the constitutions of the order. The community lived by the labour of its hands. The 48th chapter of the rule of St. Benedict states, “For then, they are Nuns in truth, if they live by the works of their hands.” The main source of income was the making of Alter bread which is supplemented by a large yam and rice farm and garden palm and fruit tree plantations and some candle making. The community also maintains a spirit of generosity, care of sick and hospitality.

The environment was serene and quiet until a scream was heard from Block B building which housed the sick.  It was terrifying. Sr. Anastasia and Sr. Mary-cynthia had to rush to the place the scream was coming from. Lo and behold, it was Mary shouting! She was saying things Sr. Anastasia couldn’t comprehend.

“This is a miracle!” shouted Sr. Anastacia. It didn’t matter whether her words are incoherent, at least she talked after so many years. Within an hour, all the sisters were at the foot of Mary’s bed. Each wore on her face, a look of glory.

“Where am I?” she asked, “And how many years have I been here?”

“Mary, you’re at the Cistercian Monastery in Owerri,” the Mother Superior answered.

“Who is Mary?” she asked in confusion. “Me?”

“Yes, some of our Sisters picked…. sorry….” she paused, to search for the right word, “found you helpless in your pool of blood near our gate in 1979, we thought you were dead but at a close examination, we found out you were still breathing. After one week of care, you opened your eyes. We waited for you to speak but you didn’t, we thought maybe it would take some weeks, not knowing it will take years. So, we needed a name for you, Mother Superior gave you the name Mary, believing that the mother of Jesus would intercede for you and she sure did,” she said.

“I’m Eunice Ilodiegwu,” she cried.

She went down memory lane sharing her story with the sisters gathered around her. At the end of it, they were all crying. The next morning, an aged woman and a Nun were driving into the magnificent Robinsons residence.  “We have a very helpful information for your Boss,” said the Nun to the man at the entrance. “A nun and an aged woman said they have some information for you, should I allow them?” the man spoke through the phone. Minutes later, they were led into the hallway. They were ushered into the man’s office but only the Nun entered. Femi Adesina and Ahmed were seated waiting to hear from the religious woman who appeared from nowhere.

“I have a privileged information for your company but I would like to address this to all the board of directors,” she politely said. The next minute, the board members were seated at the conference room. The Nun entered with the old woman. Seeing her, they recognized her. All stood on their feet in shock. “I’m alive and I’ve come to avenge my husband’s death,” she said. The room was in a frenzy. She looked at the direction where Ahmed was sitting. She nodded her head and said, “Appearances are deceptive, I’m sorry Ahmed for thinking you killed Charles, but I was wrong. It has always been the closest person to him. Femi Adesina can you tell the board how you did it or…”

All face looked towards Femi Adesina. “They offered me forty shekels of silver,” he cried. “What’s forty shekels and who?” asked Ahmed furiously. He opened his mouth to talk but collapsed.

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