Man in the Mask
The night was cold. The few stars that sat on the doorstep of the sky could not light up the poor earth. As darkness ruled, fruit bats had a field day. They flied and fed all night. When it was midnight, Mr. Ajayi and Tolu had already surrendered to the subtle call of nature and was fast asleep. The farmer and his worker were snoring hard in a corner when the thief emerged from the fence. The man who was as dark as the midnight wore a mask he felt could hide his identity. Just as he had always done, he climbed down from the tree.
As soon as he touched the earth, he adjusted his huge frame as if he had just won a lottery and flung a glance about. Sensing that no eye was watching, he flashed a menacing smile at the farm, nodding quietly. It was time to steal. He placed his filthy hand on his torch as his sack hung loosely on his broad shoulder and began to move quietly to where the eggs were. But after five steps or more, he paused and looked carefully about. Fear seemed to have crept in and was taking its toll. Afraid that he could be caught off guard, he looked about more carefully again, and flashing the torch. As expected, he dropped the confusion on the doorstep of the past and moved on. The thief had barely gone a distance when he caught his foot on a log of wood and fell. The man yelled as if he had lost a vital part of his body and quickly jumped to his feet. Panting, he flashed his torch about and was happy that there was nothing to fear about. Not sensing danger, he adjusted his mask, for it was the only thing that begged for attention. He did not bother to dust his clothes, he sighed and moved on.
Unknown to the thief, his miserable fall had woken Mr. Ajayi and Tolu. They jumped to their feet and looked about. They saw someone moved into the corner where eggs were kept. Without wasting time, they grabbed their weapons with an iron grip and followed the man quietly. When the thief got to where he usually stole eggs, he quickly brought out his sack. But when he moved closer, his hope was dashed. His jaw dropped, he gasped and beat his chest because there were no eggs! The thief thought he was in dreamland. Then he pulled his mask up and looked out under it about the poultry, flashing his torch in disappointment. Not to leave the farm empty handed, he decided to steal some hens. With filthy hands, he grabbed hold of a hen and twisted the neck. The fowl stretched and he placed the lifeless creature into the sack. The wicked soul smiled faintly and turned to the next hen. But just as he grabbed it and almost robbed the hen of its life, Mr. Ajayi and Tolu rushed in, flashing torch and wielding their weapons at the thief.
Seeing the men, the thief was alarmed and he almost died of fear. He threw the sack away and took to his heels. As he faced the exit with his legs almost touching the back of his head, Tolu ran after him and brought down the thief with a blow. The criminal groaned in pains as he crashed on the floor. Mr. Ajayi and Tolu stood over him with torch to his face. “Show your face!” Mr. Ajayi thundered with his cutlass hanging in the air, though, he was not ready to shed his blood.
Afraid he might get killed if he refused; the thief reluctantly took off his mask. Mr. Ajayi did not believe his eyes. He thought he was in dreamland. So, he wiped his face with the back of his hand and looked carefully again. His mouth and eyes were widened in surprise when he realized that the thief was his friend, Mr. Bode. He exchanged sad glance with Tolu and shook his head. “So, you are the person doing this to me!” the farmer roared as he returned same glance to his friend.
Mr. Bode looked foolish and tried to hide his face in shame. “Please, don’t kill me. I will return what I have stolen!” He could not help the quiver in his voice.
“Shut up! Why did you decide to ruin me, Bode?”
Mr. Bode burst into tears and tried to explain: “It’s the devil. I don’t know what came over me!”
The farmer chewed his lower lip angrily. Then he paced up and down, pondering what next to do. After a time, he paused as if an idea just flew into his head. Then he turned to the thief and ordered: “Tolu, tie him to the tree. Before mid day tomorrow, I would have decided on what to do with this old bat!”
Before Mr. Bode could blink, Tolu dragged him to the foot of the almond tree. He tied him hand and feet to the tree. Thereafter, Tolu and the farmer moved into a shadow.
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