… the world through the eyes of the rambler.
Waiting in the wings.. part one.
She drove pell-mell on the narrow dirt road, towards the interstate highway, a bumbling mass of strained nerves and cold fear. Her hands trembled at the wheel, teeth chattering as the cool June breeze seeped through the pores of her scantily clad skin.
She wore a spaghetti top and pure cotton shorts. Should have taken the time to put on a sweater, she thought, frantically navigating the Toyota Camry onto the expressway. The tires of the car skidded on the tarred road at the abrupt turn, causing the vehicle to swerve sharply, across the wide expanse of road to the right.
A glance at the rear-view mirror had her muttering a silent prayer of thanks: the nearest car had been a considerable distance away. Forcing her hands to hold steady, she took a deep breath and swerved back to her lane.
She was a coward. She knew that. She was running – taking the few possessions she had and fleeing for dear life. There was no way she was staying with Hal after what happened that morning. She would be a fool to even consider it.
Hot tears burned in her eyes as she contemplated the nightmare her life had become. Her aim now was to get to her mother’s house in one piece. It wouldn’t do for her to have an accident, while fleeing from the most dangerous man she had ever had the misfortune to meet.
Harrison Lolade, was not the amiable, intelligent businessman the rest of the world thought him to be.
Their first meeting was at a party, about two years ago. One of many her brother threw for his legion of business associates. She had played the hostess for David that night: welcoming his guests, and mingling freely. As part of her role, she’d steered conversations whenever necessary and ensured that food and drinks were in abundant supply.
It was while making the rounds that she came across him. Julia had been standing by the drinks table, when Harrison cornered her and introduced himself.
“I’m afraid we’ve not been formally introduced. I’m Harrison Lolade, chairman of the Lolade Group”.
“Julia Jang.” she replied, accepting the hand he thrust forward. If she objected to his squeezing her hands longer than necessary, she’d given no indication of it. Her smile was pleasant, when she responded politely to his next statement.
“You must be David’s beautiful sister, the one everyone’s been raving about”.
“Thank you Harrison, I’ll take that as a compliment. You might feel differently though, if you met my twin Tracy.”
His eyes had widened in mock horror. “You mean there are two of you? God help the defenseless male population.”
Anticipating the inevitable come on that was sure to follow, Julia had murmured an excuse and retreated hastily; feeling his eyes on her back as she walked away. She hadn’t seen him again for the better part of the evening.
Later, having wandered to the terrace overlooking the gardens at the back of the house, he’d materialized again at her side.
“Dance with me Julia,” his mouth had commanded, while his hand rested on the small of her back.
Julia could still remember her cool rebuff, and his wry amusement. He had been stubborn in his insistence on furthering their acquaintance, even though she had hinted quite plainly that she was not interested.
Unwilling to make an unnecessary fuss, she’d given in and agreed to dance with him.
That was the beginning of what later developed into a whirlwind affair. Harrison called Julia everyday, and took her out to exclusive hangouts whenever he had the time.
He was rich, handsome and very charming. Before long, Julia became captivated by his charisma and fancied herself in love with him.
She thought he was one of those men who commanded attention whenever he walked into a room. He had the gait of a military man, the astuteness of a power broker, and the effectiveness of a sexual predator. Every second she’d spent with him was an education into the mind of an assured man. Julia had known she was out of her league. Harrison, the man she knew, was a man whose place in society was never in doubt. His kind wielded enormous influence on the corridors of power, and he never hesitated to use that influence.
An air of ruthlessness was palpable beneath the veneer of urban sophistication he wore, yet Julia had brushed it aside completely. So caring he’d been to her, so attentive to her needs.
He said he loved me.
That he couldn’t live without me.
He swore if I ever left him, his soul would shrivel up and die.
Liar! She screamed silently, hot tears rolling down her cheeks.
Everything he’d said to her was a lie.
She had watched him kill a man in cold blood. Right in front of her. So that she would know that he meant every word he said, when he threatened to kill her.
“You can’t leave me Julia. If you do, I’ll kill you. I promise you that.” He’d sworn quietly, when he saw her packing.
You don’t terrify the ones you love. Her mind insisted.
You just don’t.
Miles and miles fell away as she drove. Her mother’s house in Kogi was about a hundred kilometers from a small village she’d left behind a while ago. Another hour and she would be home.
He would come after her of course, she thought in trepidation. It was in his nature to be vindictive. He would seek revenge on the one that got away. She remembered the locked room in the house and shuddered. It was not enough to escape his clutches, she had to alert the authorities to what he was doing.
She maintained an even speed and tried not to imagine what would happen to her if he ever found her.
He had warned her not to meddle in his affairs. From the very first day she moved into the house with him, he had told her that the room was off limits to everyone other than himself.
She hadn’t listened. Her natural curiosity always got the better of her, and Julia had wondered what he was hiding.
She’d tried everything to gain his confidence. Pleaded and cajoled to no avail. Not even in the throes of passion had he let his guard down.
Harrison was always controlled. Too controlled. He would come to her room at night and make love to her; always, he would leave immediately after. She couldn’t recall one time when he had slept over in her room till morning.
The dam broke and tears streamed down her face. She eased the car off the road and parked at a safe corner. Resting both arms on the wheel, she succumbed to the flood of emotions that threatened to engulf her and sobbed loudly.
She felt dirty. Could not believe she had given herself to such a man… a murderer.
Julia had always prided herself on being a good judge of character, but Harrison had proved smarter by far. He had said the right things; taken advantage of her vulnerability over her father’s death.
Jonathan Jang, Julia’s father, had had a heart attack that was sudden and painful. It was the time when Tracy was away in college, and David had been so busy dealing with his own grief and funeral arrangements, that Julia had had no one else to turn to.
Harrison had been there, comforting her. After the burial, he’d casually suggested that she move in with him. Her gratitude had been so profound that she’d immediately agreed.
She should have let things be, she mused.
That morning, she shouldn’t have gone into the room when she saw the forgotten key in the lock. It was always her cursed inquisitiveness that put her in trouble.
The room was sparsely furnished. An open cabinet in a far corner and a reading table the only furniture. For a reason she couldn’t explain, Julia had felt drawn to the cabinet like moth to a flame.
The first drawer was full of files, and she’d been going through the documents, when Harrison walked in and demanded to know what she was doing. Flushed with guilt, Julia had been too stunned to say a word.
Enraged, he’d grabbed her arm and dragged out of the room to his study, where two other men were waiting.
The sensation of fear had barely settled in her stomach, when Harrison nodded to the man he called his second in command, and Julia had watched in confusion as the latter retrieved a gun from his pocket and shot the fourth occupant in the head.
She couldn’t recall what happened after that; only that she’d doubled over in horror at the evidence of his monstrosity. She must have stumbled out of the room; because less than half an hour later, she was in her own room stashing her clothes quickly into a travel bag.
Harrison burst in then, and issued his threat. To ensure that she stayed put, he locked her in the bedroom and took the key.
Thank God she always kept a spare in her purse. It had seemed like an eternity before she heard his car leaving the house, and before she could make good her escape.
Julia restarted the car and resumed her journey. Her mother’s house was only the beginning. She knew she might have to leave the country in its entirety, if she really wanted to be free.
All rights reserved. Copyright 2013 by Idowu Oluwatoyin aka @tee_hidee on twitter.
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... the world through the eyes of the rambler.