The Brand of Cain

By Larry Sun
Episode 4–
Having the feeling that there was someone staring at her, the woman looked in his direction and their eyes met. As they exchanged looks, Ebenezer knew he had not only fallen in love with her. But by the way her eyes suddenly lit up; he felt she had fallen in love with him.
On very rare occasions, when a man and a woman see each other, it happens that they immediately know that they have seen their true partners. It’s now left for one of them to make the first move, usually the man of course. This strange chemistry happened to Ebenezer and the woman. The woman was beautiful, Ebenezer noticed, but looking at her alone one would know that she had been lonely—life had not been fair to her, at least they both had something in common. The woman walked to the bus-stop. Ebenezer knew that he would lose the lady and probably never see her again if he wasted more time just staring at her. He hastily crossed the busy road, a bus nearly flattened him, but he made the crossing unscathed. The narrow escape raised no hair on him, his mission was to reach the young woman, he felt as though his whole life had changed in only a few minutes. He wasn’t sure how, but he knew that this woman—this extraordinary creature—had come to his life for a reason. Ebenezer stood beside the woman for some minutes, unable to say a word.
Then he finally managed to greet:
“Good Afternoon.”
The woman looked at him for a moment, the moment seemed like eternity to Ebenezer. Then she replied, “Hi!”
More courage on his part, “My name is Ebenezer, can I know your name?”
They got to know each other better.
Most people considered Monday the first day of the week. It was an early Monday morning; and as usual, people were moving up and down the streets of Lagos to their different offices and workshops. The shops were beginning to open; beggars were already sitting by the roadsides with their bowls, set for the day’s job of begging. Even chickens were going for their morning constitutional walks in search of edible pebbles and the early worms. The weather was bright, and the soothing morning sun was out, giving a beautiful yellow ray to the world; far above was a faint distant insect drone of an aircraft engine beyond the towering cumulus clouds.
Out of the massive population of the inhabitants of Lagos were a vast number of people who had no job to do. It had been reported that some of the world’s greatest con-men originated from here—one of Africa’s most famous cities, they stripped a certain South Asian country of several hundreds of millions of dollars just by convincing her government with a false image of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The act shook the economy of that country, nobody really knew how true the news was. The pecuniary crimes in the state had caused an opprobrious sobriquet of scorn by some other countries. An idle brain they say.
Richard stayed at home; he had refused to go out again in search of job. The best his credentials could do for him was to adorn his dusty little reading table. Fate had not been fair with him; fate had unfortunately merged him with the vast army of the unemployed.
“What are you going to do now?” Mrs Rosemary Philip, Richard’s mother, asked.
“I don’t know, mother. I really don’t know.”
“But sitting at home doing nothing is not the best, is it?”
“I have nowhere else to go, I’ve trekked almost all the streets of this state in vain.”
“You have to continue trying; God will surely answer you one of these days.”
Richard chuckled in annoyance, “Where was your God when I was out there under the rain and sun in search of job?” he shook his head, “I doubt thatGod really exists.”
“Richard!” Richard had been born and raised a Catholic;although he had long since ceased attending church his mother had never expected any blasphemous word to emerge from her son’s mouth.
“You heard me right, mama.”
“The wrath of God is the last thing you will ever wish. Be careful of what you say about your creator, Richard.”
“Am I not already seeing his wrath?”
“A little patience is all you need.”
“I’m sorry, mama. I don’t think your son can wait any longer.” He paused, “I get increasingly desperate every morning I find myself an unemployed. I can’t continue like this anymore. We’re even finding it hard to pay for the rents. I must do something.”
His mother was about to argue with him when she caught herself, she immediately read meaning to what her son had said and she cast suspicious eyes on him; she took a moment before asking, “Something like what, Richard?”
Richard shrugged his shoulders, “Anything. Maybe a tiny bit of crime will do.”
“My God! You will never be a criminal, you’re not a criminal, and never will you be.”
Says the woman who doesn’t know what I did to survive in the university.
Richard shook his head, “You can’t stop me, mama. Don’t even try to—my mind has been made.”
Richard’s mother could not believe her ears—her only child was turning to crime! “Please Richard, I’m begging you—don’t try it. You don’t want to put yourself in trouble, do you? You might get yourself killed.”
Richard smiled, “No, I won’t, mama. I’ll take every necessary precaution.”
Two salty tears cascaded down Mrs Philip’s cheeks as she studied her son. The determination she saw in his eyes scared her. “Why don’t you have a little patience and see what fate has to offer you? Do you want to spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulders?”
He did not reply.
She looked at her son and shook her head in sadness, “You give me no choice but to tell you what I’ve been determined not to let you know.”
Richard turned to look at his mother’s face, “What are you talking about, mama?”
“Heredity has been too strong on you, Richard. You need to hear what I have to tell you today, maybe this will change your mind. You’re already twenty-seven years old and you’re old enough to make your own decisions.”
“I’m doing this for us, mama. I know what you went through before you could send me to school after father died. I should pay back for that suffering.”
“That is really why I want to tell you this story. It’s mostly about your father.”
“What is it with my father?”
Another rivulet of tears came down her cheeks and met at the chin, forming bigger drops of liquid.
“He’s your step-father.”
For a moment, the sentence did not mean anything to Richard. Then it dawned on him—the man he had grown to know as his own father was not.
“What!” he screamed.
“Yes, Raymond Philip was not your biological father. I married him when you were only three years old.”
He looked in his mother’s eyes to find any trace of humour on it, that slight smirk in the corner of her eyes to reveal the joke. But her eyes were wet, serious and sad, “This can’t be true,” he said, “I don’t believe you.”
“It’s the truth.” She replied solemnly.
He stood up abruptly, sweat glistening his forehead, he shook his head so vigorously that it was quite painful to watch. “No, this can’t be possible.” This is just a bad dream, I’ll wake up soon and this madness will be over.
“Sit down, Richard.”
He sat down slowly, “Who’s my father?” he demanded.
His mother looked at him for half a minute before replying, “I don’t know.”
“Oh God!” he sighed. It’s starting to sound true. I’m an illegitimate child. “Oh my God! I was adopted.”
“No, you’re not. I’m your mother, I gave birth to you.”
Richard looked at his mother as if she had just grown horns on her head.
“Did you just hear yourself, mother?”
His mother ignored his comment and continued, “As I told you, I married Raymond Philip when you were a child of about three years oldbut I could not bear him any child. I don’t know why, we visited many medical centres but all the doctors told us we were medically okay. It was a pity. He could not leave me because of the strong love he had for me and you. I even encouraged him to marry another wife but he blatantly refused; he said the only family he ever needed were both of us. He was an extraordinary kind of human being, he continued being optimistic about the child-bearing issue until he died of a mysterious cause. I woke up that morning and found him dead stiff beside me. The doctor said his heart stopped beating…the rarest of all causes. How can one’s heart just decide not to beat anymore?
“The story I’m about to tell you may seem impossible to believe but it’s the truth.” She stood up from the chair she sat in, walked around the room slowly and stood by the window with her back turned to her son.            It was in 1981 when it happened. I was eighteen years old at the time and I was still living with my parents. I was their only surviving child; I had two siblingsan elder sister and a younger brotherbut I saw it with my own eyes when the canoe they were rowing capsized, I could not even save them. On the morning of May Seventeen, we were attacked by robbers. My parents and I were living in a house with only three rooms; a sitting room and two bedrooms, one of which was mine and the other, my parents’. We were asleep when a loud bang on our door interrupted our slumber. I was instantly awake and afraid in my room, I put on my night gown and went into the sitting room, my parents came out of their bedroom too; they were also looking scared. I didn’t need to be told to know that we were about welcoming bandits in our home. The door was banged violently again and one of the men ordered us to open the door or they would break it down and kill us. The door was kicked loudly many times, the door was not a strong one; it was the kind of doors primarily meant to keep children and uninvited house guests out of the house. It was useless against intruders like these robbers. We all knew that if we didn’t open the door they would break it down in no time.
            My father summed up the little courage left in him and went to open the door; he was struck with the handle of a pistol by one of the men immediately the door was opened. My father collapse immediately, the hit from the gun almost cracked his skull. Five masked men came into our sitting room; the only visible parts of their faces were eyes and mouths. They were real armed robbers dressed to kill. Four of the men were wearing green trousers and black tight long-sleeved shirts which gummed to their bodies like skins. The fifth man, who was apparently their leader, wore a pair of black trousers and a black armless shirt. On his left arm, just below the shoulder, was the tattoo of a cross. Two men were holding a pistol each and the other two were wielding bigger guns. Their leader was holding no weapon; he was even harshly scolding the man who rendered my father unconscious.
            “Good morning to you.” He greeted us politely. “Sorry to wake you up so erly, I’ll quick so that you may return to your sleep, I’m only here for that money.”
            “W-What m-money, sir?” my mother asked in a shaky voice. She was shivering violently like an epileptic patient.
            “The money that sleeping man brought home yesterday from the bank.” He pointed to my unconscious father. He was so polite that I almost found it hard to believe that he was there to do us harm. “I’m so sorry one of my men gave him a little nap.”
            “He didn’t collect any money from the bank, he only
            One of the men cocked his pistol and pressed the muzzled on my mother’s temple. “We’re not here to make jokes, woman.” his voice sounded like something you could scour rusty iron on.
            My mother’s fear intensifed.
            The leader of the gang smiled warmly at my mother and asked solemnly, “Where is the money?”
            “It’s in-in the c-ceiling.”

“Which part of the ceiling?” he did not even look up to confirm that we really had a ceiling.
            My mother pointed to a piece of small square asbestos at the corner of the sitting room. One of the men took a stool and stood on it. He drew the asbestos aside and dipped his hand in the dark roof beyond, bringing out a black polythene bag. He jumped down from the stool and flourished new notes of Nigerian currencies which filled the bag to the brim. Even in the midst of our attack, I wondered how my parents came in possession of such a huge sum of money. The man with the tattoo grabbed a pistol from one of his men and aimed it at me.
            “What are you doing?” asked my mother fearfully, “you have t-the money, why don’t you j-just leave us
            “Shut up, woman or I’ll be forced to splatter your brain all over the floor.” The man pointing the gun over her head admonished, his voice rougher.
            The man with the tattoo ordered me to go into my bedroom by jerking the pistol in his hand in the direction of my room. I quickly did as he said. Then he followed me. He was still pointing the gun at me when he followed me inside my room, then he commanded me to undress myself. I was shocked and afraid as the realization of what he wanted to do occur to me, I stood there shaking. He repeated what he told me in a louder voice, I was afraid he would shoot me for disobeying him, so I undressed right in front of him. I felt shame course through the whole of my body as I stood naked in front of him.
            He stood in front of me, looking at my body, sizing me up from feet to crown. His hand holding the gun, I noticed, was shaking so violently that I thought the gun would fall off him. He kept the gun behind him between his belt, closed the door and turned the key before he removed his mask. Knowing that he was about to rape me, I studied his face carefully–he was a very good-looking man of about twenty-four I guess. He knew I was staring at him carefully, trying to sink his image in my mind, but I think he cared less. The robber came straight at me and started kissing me passionately. I didn’t know what real kiss meant until that moment, I felt something very strange happen to my metabolism. I did not even know that I had started kissing him back, and when I did know, it was too late for me to stop myself. I felt like I was in the Garden of Eden where nothing mattered, I didn’t know a soul doomed to rot in hell could pivot the emotional system of an innocent girl to the pinnacle of her intimate potential. The robber gently lifted me off my feet, put me on my bed and made love to me. When he finished, he stood up sweating and looked in my eyes.
            “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked.
            I could not answer him. I could not even look in his face. I only kept crying like a baby. He came back to me on the bed and put his hand on my shoulder; I shook his hand off me and came away from him like avoiding the plagues of Egypt.
            “Answer my question. Why did you not tell me?” he demanded angrily, “Why did you not tell me that you were a virgin?” This time, he roared in anger. But surprisingly, I was not afraid of him any longer. In fact, I was annoyed at him. I got closer to him on the bed and slapped him until my hand ached. He did not make any attempt to stop me. I stopped myself when I found tears coming down his eyes. I was shocked; I could not believe that the leader of a gang of armed robbers would cry because an eighteen-year-old had slapped him.
            “You should have told meyou should.” Tears continued flowing down his eyes. I was speechless because I was realizing that behind this criminal mastermind was a soft-minded man. “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

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