Footsteps pound along the corridor and I feel my heart take residence in my abdomen. The steps fade away as the warden escorts an inmate to meet his lawyer and my breath rushes out in relief–I didn’t even know I had been holding it.
“So Pastor, you don’t want to die?” One of the occupants of the cell mocked. I couldn’t answer him. How could I?
In case you have not gotten it, I am in jail. And on death row too. Any moment from now, I am supposed to, in the words of the Judge, “be hung by the neck till He is dead.” I can still see his stern face as he delivered the judgment and the ferocity with which he brought down the gavel. But I guess I should start my story from the beginning or something that looks like it.
My name is Zeal and I dare say I really live up to my name. I have not always been a Pastor but even while in the Police Force, I guess I was always a bit… well . . . extreme. That should account for the substantial, not large, but the substantial number of enemies I discovered I had when a deal went bust.
It was something everyone did–cut deals with lawyers, drop charges for a fee or a favour, sell confiscated items and some more which I won’t tell you.
In this case, a large quantity of cocaine had been seized at the airport. Before the drug law enforcement officers could step in, some of us had concluded plans to help ourselves with the goods. We succeeded but between the store and the place we were to sell it, things went wrong–horribly wrong.
One officer was dead, another seriously injured and two others, I happened to be one of them, were on the run. Within 24 hours the police declared us ‘Wanted’!
Six years later when I reappeared on the scene, the heat had cooled and I was already a few months old as a Pastor. That’s how I moved from Inspector to Pastor Zeal Kamja.
How did I get here? That’s not very clear but I think it all began one Wednesday morning in my office where I was holding a counseling session. This sister walked in and after she took her seat, she started narrating her problems, the bottom line was that she liked any good looking thing in trousers.
“Ehm,” I cleared my throat, looking for the right opening line. “There is no problem God cannot solve.”
“That’s easy for you to say.” she replied, bestowing a gap-toothed smile on me. “What if I told you I just fornicated before coming here, and looking at you I feel like doing it all over again?” She queried, looking me in the eyes.
I feel like I’ve been stung by soldier ants but I somehow summoned a smile, then I said to her.
“My Father is still bigger than all of that.” She just sighed and said nothing. I am wondering how to dismiss her, when her next words jolted me.
“Pastor, you are very handsome, you know.” Flustered, I stare at her and all of a sudden my palms became very wet. I tried to tell her in an authoritative voice:
“I think you should leave now.” It came out as a croak. To things worse, she had already gotten up from her seat and was sidestepping the table separating us, advancing toward me. I am rooted to the spot, but only for a moment. I muster all the energy I have to shove her backwards. For some minutes she remains sprawled on the floor, stunned.
Gingerly, she picks herself up, touches the back of her head which is now bleeding and looks at her manicured fingers, stained crimson-red with blood. Then she looks at me and says through clenched teeth.
“You will pay for this!” And she stormed out. Pastor Andersen, my personal assistant peeks from the outer office and asks,
“Pastor, is everything alright?”
“Yes.” I reply quite shaken.
“Yes, Pastor Andersen.”
The next occasion: She came to my house on a day I was the alone at home, on the pretext that she wanted my signature on some documents. She came bearing gifts and wearing a see-through dress. She apologized for how she’d behaved in my office and asked me to forgive her.
By that time, she was falling all over the sofa I was sitting on in her effort to receive pardon. I quickly signed the papers for her and got out of the house. By the time I got back in the night she had gone leaving some gifts and a note. The note I flushed down the toilet without reading it. The next day I sent the gifts back to her.
The next time she accosted me was in church. One Sunday after service, she walked up to me smiling but when she was within a few feet from me, her face turned hard and her eyes glittered unnaturally.
The first things she said was,
“Pastor, you are playing games with me, you’re toying with my emotions and that is a dangerous thing. I am going to be at your house tomorrow and if I don’t meet you at home . . .”
She left the threat hanging and walked off. The next day I was not at home. When I got back from my compulsory journey two days later, I saw a letter lying on the floor when I opened the door. This time I read it. It was typed and unsigned. It read:
Since this is how you want it, so be it. But I promise you, you’ll regret it. I mean R.E.G.R.E.T.
Maybe I should have taken that letter more seriously, but I did not. I did however keep the letter in my wardrobe.
For two months, nothing happened. Then I traveled to Freetown for an International Ministers’ Conference. Barely thirty minutes after I stepped into the house back from Freetown after a rather unpleasant flight, a number of policemen let themselves into the house, flashed a search warrant at me and want ahead to take the whole place apart.
At the end they found a Colt .45 and three live bullets plus some wraps of marijuana in my wardrobe. They also found two state of the art micro-chips.
To say I was surprised would be an understatement but I had been a Cop once so I didn’t resist when they clamped handcuffs on my wrists and whisked me away. I only begged one of the officers to call an Elder in our Church which he did.
After spending three days in a damp cell that was so small that I could not as much as lie down. I slept when I could, sitting or standing. Very eager mosquitoes used me for all types of experiments. I was all theirs.
On the fourth day, the D.P.O sent for me. When I walked into his office, he motioned me to a seat. Then he told me why I was in detention. According to him, an armed robbery gang had broken into the Vine Gardens home of a prominent Businessman, shooting to death one of the Policemen assigned to him as Guards. The man,
The man, owner, and CEO of EON CYBERTECHS had then been taken at gun point back to the company where he had to unlock a voice-activated-code safe and part with its contents: seven micro clips. These were in the words the officer, ‘priceless.’ What made the chips so important was that they had been exclusively developed for the government’s missile defense programme.
“Those chips took two and a half years to make, ‘Pastor.’” He made the word sound like something the dog brought home. I looked at him without comprehension.
“My friend,” he said distastefully. “Those chips would take at least six months to replace and you and I know this project is supposed to come on line next month.” Light shone on my darkened understanding but I didn’t see what it had to do with me and told him as much.
“Oh!” He exclaimed. “We received a call that you were the leader of the gang responsible for the operation.” It was now my turn to say “Oh.” Only I added, “my God.”
A Sergeant rapped on the door and walked in. He conversed in whispers with the D.P.O for several minutes and left. The DPO made a steeple of his hands.
“P-a-s-t-o-r, he drawled. The result from the forensic laboratory is out. The bullets found in your house match the one that killed the policeman.
“You of course know that your gun has been fired recently.”
“My gun?” I queried, incredulous.
“But of course: your service pistol that you never surrendered.”
The media had a field day; circulating anything that caught its fancy, from truths, to half-truths and untruths. Even my being out of town at the time the crime was perpetrated was of no consequence. As my lawyer pointed out, the conference was not a 24-hour thing and as I didn’t have alibis covering the 120 hours I’d been away; I could have done it.
They charged me with armed robbery and murder in the first degree–they had lifted my finger prints off the gun that shot the policeman. The recovered chips though bore no prints whatsoever. The judge found me guilty as charged, although my lawyer did a brilliant job.
That was how I got thrown into prison where I met two other people who were to suffer, the same fate as I, though for different ‘committed’ offences. I prayed and asked God why I had to go through such tribulation.
I asked for a miracle; not something as spectacular as Peter’s, whatever guaranteed my freedom would suffice. God however seemed to be miles away.
So, here I am about to die for a crime I did not commit. Though I have resigned to it, I have not accepted it, not once in the 30 hours since the verdict was pronounced. I think that is why I am so nervy.
It is morning, four days since I was brought here and my friends–yes my friends, they have accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour–are saying their prayer while I read my Bible, the one luxury I am allowed.
In walks this Police officer I’ve never seen before in immaculately starched and ironed uniform. His whole appearance was one of exquisite grooming, not a hair was out of place. One look and you could tell this was top brass. He approaches the bars and says:
“Pastor Zeal, follow me.”
I pick up my Bible and hug my new found friends while they prison official on guard opens the door. Bidding my friends goodbye telling them we’d meet someday in that land where there’ll be no tears.
I walk out after the officer blinking back tears rapidly–my friends are more expressive, they cry openly. I do not look back. We walk into an office and I’m asked to change my clothes. I do that and we get into an official car and drive to a police station some twenty five miles away.
Behind the counter is Gladyx–the very same. The sweet ‘loving’ sister who’d decided I was the only man on earth. There she was looking like she’d been to hell and back.
“Do you know this Lady, Pastor?” The officer who brought me inquired.
“I-I-do.” I falter. Gathering more courage: “She’s a member of my church”
“Well . . . she has made some useful statements. We caught her trying to sell one of those chips to a foreigner.”
I react like I have been shot in the stomach. The Superintendent raised a sardonic brow, shook his head and continued.
“According to her, the brain behind the robbery and the real leader of the gang is a former boyfriend of hers, whom she patched up with to get back at you–”
“For refusing her advances.”
“Apparently, gaining entrance to your house not hard: she made a soap-imprint of the front-door key, with that she had a duplicate made. These things are not too hard if you know where to go.” I open my mouth to speak but Gladyx beat me to it. She answered my unasked question.
“I made it the day I brought you papers to sign, when you left the house and fled.” The Superintendent frowned at her before going ahead.
“With that key, she and her accomplices gained access to your house and planted the incriminating evidence.”
I swooned and would have hit the floor had a chair not been nearby into which I sank. I place my hands on my temple thinking, this must be a bad dream. It has all the elements.
I change my mind the next minute when Gladyx kneels at my feet asking me to forgive her–of course I do. Christ forgave me too. Besides, vindication does increase one’s propensity to magnanimity.
Later, I am set free with a lot of apologies but I smile and wave it away.
“It’s alright. God bless you.” I beam at everyone.
I get into a taxi they provided, none too sad to see the last of the place. I’d just learnt one thing: the law is a strange mistress, you can never be completely sure that your alliance with her will work the way you want it.
As the car speeds towards my home, I lean all the way back, shutting my eyes to better savour the smell and taste of liberty. The next time I open them is at a traffic light.
“No not my house. Take me to the church.” I tell the driver in a soft whisper.
My wife and son can wait. I thought to myself.
“Let me go thank God for His deliverance.”
“And pray for Gladyx.” I add as an afterthought.
I believe she won’t be executed, only given a jail term to serve. She didn’t pull the trigger that released the shot which proved fatal to the officer. I just hope for her sake the other member of the gang will be found: if not. . . .
Read this story here on the importance of apologies and how it can save your relationship