“You bastard. You fool.” Amanda lambasted Emmanuel Ogheva with a litany of obscenities.
“Charming language, Amanda.”
Shut your lying mouth, you son of a bitch.”
Fury radiated from her like the red waves from a toaster. Her body was taut and bristling with rage. It burned in the depths of her eyes. “You never intended to leave your wife, did you?”
“Amanda, I – ”
“During an election year, it would be political suicide. But that doesn’t mean – ”
“You goddamn liar. You slimy, stinking piece of rat shit. I could kill you.”
“For God’s sake.” He ran his fingers through his afro. “You’re overreacting,” he said in a calming tone, trying to prevent another outburst of her violent shrieks. “This is only a temporary solution, Amanda. It would be best – ”
“Best for you.”
“Best for both of us if we cooled it for a while, at least until after the election. I’m not breaking off the affair permanently. Do you think I want that? I don’t. You’re my life.”
“Bullshit. Utter nonsense.”
“I swear to you that once the election is over, I’ll – ”
“You’ll do what. You’ll bless me with a few measly hours of screwing every week or so? For how long? For life? And since when did human morals and values affect an election in Nigeria, Senator? Go to hell. I’m not putting up with this.”
“I don’t expect you to be happy about it. God, I’d be crushed if you were.” He spread his arms in a gesture of appeal. “What I do expect is a little understanding. My schedule is a nightmare, Amanda. I’m under constant pressure.”
“Sugar, you don’t know pressure.” Her voice thrummed with foreboding. “When I get finished with you, you won’t be worth shit in this state or any other. This girl is through messing around with you. This party is over, darling. Now you are going to pay.”
She headed for the door. He rushed after her. “Wait, Amanda! Let me explain. You’re not being reasonable.” He caught her shoulders and turned her around. ‘Please.” His voice cracked on a near sob. “Please.”
She made no further attempt to leave, but her eyes continued to smolder like live coals. Emmanuel gulped oxygen and blinked rapidly, looking like a desperate man about to plead for a stay of execution.
“Amanda, darling,” he began haltingly, “you’ve got to cut me some slacks. Promise me that you won’t take this to the media.”
The words went through her like lances, opening up pockets of pain and outrage. “You don’t give a shit about how I feel, do you? You’re only thinking of yourself and your bloody image!”
“I didn’t mean that. I – ”
Issuing a savage cry, she lashed out, scraping her fingernails down his cheek and drawing blood from four long gashes. With the other hand, she ripped out several strands of his hair.
For a moment, Emmanuel was too stunned to move. Then the pain struck him and he cried out, raising his hand to his cheek.
“You’re crazy!” he shouted when his hand came away dripping blood. “You’re a lunatic.”
Amanda allowed herself several seconds to revel in his astonishment and agony, then she stormed from the rood. On the way to the elevator, she encountered a man and a woman in the hotel corridor. They stared at her and gave her a wide berth. She realized then that tears were streaming from her eyes and that her blouse was flipping open.
She buttoned it haphazardly and shoved it into her waistband as she rode the elevator down to the street level. She also replaced her sunglasses. As she moved through the hotel lobby to the exit she kept her head down. She retrieved her car from the parking lot and headed across Adeniran Street.
It was a mild evening. Many were getting a head start on the weekend. The streets of Aguda were crowded with people who tied up motor traffic and jammed the narrow sidewalks. Amanda had difficulty finding a parking place and finally left the car in front of an office block. She still had to walk several back streets to reach her destination. She made eye contact with no one and drw as little attention to herself as possible.
The place was still open, but if she hadn’t known it was there, she would never have noticed it. Several shoppers were browsing among the shelves of herbs that would find their way into gris-girs and portions.
‘I’d like to see the priestess,” Amanda said, speaking softly to the attendant, who was smoking a joint. The street urchin withdrew, then returned a moment later to signal Amanda to follow her.
The Altar Room was separated from the shop by a dusty red velvet curtain. The walls were decorated with African masks and metal carvings which evoked powerful spirits. A large wooden cross stood in one corner, but it wasn’t a traditional crucifix. Curled around the center post was Damballah. The snake was used in the voodoo rituals in the swamps outside the city. On the altar itself were statues of Christian saints, photographs of people who claimed to have been blessed by the spirits, flickering candles, burning sticks of incense, and ju-ju, the bones and skulls of animals.
The priestess was seated in the queen’s chair adjacent to the altar. She was immense, her enormous breasts overlapping a belly comprised of several rolls of fat. Her large head was wrapped in a turban. Dozens of gold chains were suspended from her short, thick neck. On at least half of them were dangling charms, lockets and other amulets. Her hands were as large as baseball gloves. Several rings glittered on each finger. She raised one of her giant hands and motioned Amanda forward.
The priestess was Yoruba, as black as ebony. Her wide, round face was oily and shiny with sweat. In a trance-like state, she observed her visitor through heavy-lidded, slumberous eyes that were as small and brilliant as onyx buttons.
Amanda addressed her with more reverence than a devout catholic would address a cardinal. “I need your help.” The dense smoke from the incense was intoxicating. Amanda felt light-headed, but she always did whenever she visited this underworld of black magic. Dark powers seemed to emanate from the priestess, from her paraphernalia, from the murky shadows of every corner.
In a flat monotonic voice, Amanda told the priestess about her married lover. “He’s lied to me many times. He’s an evil man. He must be punished.”
The priestess nodded sagely. “Do you have something of his?”
The priestess raised one beringed hand and an assistant materialized. She offered Amanda a small crockery bowl. Amanda scraped the human tissue and speck of dried blood from beneath her fingernails and carefully dropped the particles into the bowl. Next she removed the strands of Emmanuel’s hair that were still wrapped around the fingers of her left hand and added them to the bowl.
Then she lifted her gaze to the priestess. Flickering candlelight was reflected in her agate eyes, making them appear animalistic. Her lips barely moved, but her sibilant message was clear. “I want him to suffer badly.”
to be continued…(maybe)