The knock came late at night, sharp and sudden as the deluge that followed it. Skies loosed their astral tears upon the tumble-down motel as Afua stirred and wrapped her aged bones in a tattered shawl.
“Who is it?” Kojo rasped from the bed adjacent her own.
“I don’t know.”
“Well go and see, woman.”
She nodded dutifully and rose from her bed in the left corner of the motor inn and rubbed the sand from her eyes as thunder roared in the distance with Apophitic fury. Pulling back the curtain no forms revealed themselves to her. Nothing and no one stood beyond in the frigid downpour that coated the gray gravel drive beyond the abode’s confines in a sheen grayer still. She looked through the view-hole of the door and beheld a tall man standing in the rain, he wore a dark navy ball cap low over his face and a albescent jacket of white with red geometric patterning upon the shoulders and elbows. Afua straightened and raised her voice, taking care to abate the fear that rose within her soul.
“Who is it?”
The door caught her in the face from the man’s kick with such ferocity that it took the frail old woman off her feet, the whole of the world spinning to a singular blur; nothing but motion, sound and endless fright. Kojo leapt up from his bed and lunged for the lamp which stood upon the nightstand adjacent the bed. With a grunt of exertion he swung the artifact at the intruder’s head but connected only with the powerful right hand of the intruder who ripped it from Kojo’s own and dashed it back against the wielder. Kojo staggered which gave the trespasser all the time he need to swing a haymaker into the dark man’s gut. Kojo dropped to his knees, recovered and with a howl of rage charged the entrant. The tackle drove the intruder up against the wall, from some hidden belt-sheath the intruder produced a black-glistening combat knife and drove it into Kojo’s shoulder, retracted it and then kicked the African in the gut where the punch had previously landed. Kojo fell to one side, gasping for air and bleeding out upon the carpet, groaning in pain.
“What do you want!” Kojo sputtered, straining against the searing sensation in his clavicle.
The man with the combat knife did not answer. His ghastly xanthous eyes shining through the dark, his body ferine in the flashing emergence of the tempest. Lynx-like in its limber austerity.
“We have n-nothing! We’re poor. There is nothing to take here. We have nothing!”
At last the man responded.
“You have your lives.”
Kojo, eyes wide and breath erratic, sprang for the door as the xanthous eyed man made to piece his spine with the deadly blade. Before he could reach his quarry the old woman latched on to his leg, crying hysterically. The blade whisked through the air, slicing nothing but shadows.
“He’s all I have! He’s all I have!”
The woman distracted the xanthous-eyed man just long enough for Kojo to make his escape and vanish into the gravel drive, now fogged by skyfall. Spiraling black arms and expanded brown eyes and the sound of rain and footfalls of the harried and then Kojo was gone.
The man turned and watched Kojo flee; Afua could see a strange sigil upon the back of jacket as he crooked. A red and mathematically perfect chrysanthemum. Then the man with the chrysanthemum jacket returned his attention to the old woman and removed a small drawing from his back pocket. It was the artwork of a child, drawn in crayon, it depicting a scene of three adults and a little brown boy. One of the figures born a considerable resemblance to Afua herself. The drawing was signed: Adam. Afua began to cry again, shaking her head, eyes shuttered, grasping the man’s leg in vain entreaty.
“He was a cursed child!” She looked up pleasingly into remorseless yellow eyes, “We h-had no c-choice… no choice…”
“There’s always a choice.”
Then he plunged the knife through the top of her skull.
Kojo pulled over at the curb of the highway which let back into the city, cursing under his breath and attempting to calm the frenzied buzzing of his mind. He looked to his bleeding shoulder and rummaged in the glove box, pulling out the bottle of rubbing alcohol he’d kept there for Adam who had sometimes cut himself playing around town in the rubble of The Tombs or the ramshackle odds-and-ends of the Old Wharf. A momentary grief seized him and the whole of his consciousness began to shatter as a building rent by the roaring earth. Tears filled his eyes as poured the liquid upon the wound, half from the searing pain, half from memories and dreams remembered. He closed his eyes and leaned heavily against the leather upholstery of the car-seat and thought of Afua and Adam and their times together and of his homeland, the harsh and overbearing light of the suns upon the Safari and the chattering of his fellows where they had gathered around a late-night campfire and told stories up unto the moon and of the warnings of the wise oracles and of the witch doctor from Uganda who he had once conferred with and of the Evil Forest where he had buried three children at the behest of the concoction men of his village in Bongo. He had resisted – at first – but the elders had convinced him that administration of the poison was all that could dissuade the evil spirits. He knew they were right. Knew way back then that what he had done, no matter how trying, was necessary to secure the welfare of his family lest they starve in the coming of hard times. He was less sure now of the validity of the elder’s wisdom. At length he collected his wits and dug his cell phone out of his pocket and punched in a number, the call was answered in a matter of moments.
“It’s me. Someone is after me.”
“I fail to grasp how that concern us.”
“Karol owes me. He owes me after everything I’ve done for him. I need help.”
The line clicked off to silence. Kojo looked to his phone in disbelief and then gave a howl of despair and slammed the steering wheel with his rough and battered hands and then fell silent as the downpour redoubled beyond the stuttering, little machine.
At length he stilled the raging flux of inner mind and pulled off the curb, vanishing into the pall of the rain-cloaked waste. Back to the city.