The Reformed Thug (Excerpts)

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

It had been a warm day and the evening wasn’t different. Stephen arrived at the church before anybody. There was going to be an all-night service and as the person responsible for power, sound and other equipment, he needed to arrive before anyone to start setting them up.

Most of the equipment, especially the sound equipment was old, and due for replacement. But until they are replaced, it was his job to manage them and keep them going. His experience with the condition of the sound equipment meant he needed time, somewhere between forty-five minutes and an hour and a half to set them up to prevent them from breaking down during use.

When he left his shop at around 6.00 p.m. earlier that evening, he spent less than an hour at home before he left for the church. On the way he had grabbed supper from a roadside restaurant in a disposable pack and two sachets of water. He arrived at the church building minutes before 8.00 p.m. He opened just one of the two front entrance doors, grabbed one of the plastic chairs on the back row, dragged it outside the building, down the three steps which led up to the church and sat down to eat.

When he finished his meal, he emptied both sachets of water. He placed both sachets of water in the disposable packs and dropped them on the ground next to the chair. He leaned back on the chair as he waited for the heaviness of the meal to pass. Twenty minutes or more went by as he thought about his day so far, and how he was going to go about preparing the sound and the music equipment for the programme.

When he felt relaxed and light enough, he picked up the disposal pack, got up and picked up the chair. He carried everything with him as he made his way up the stairs into the church. He dropped the disposable pack which he had tied up in a waterproof nylon bag in a tiny dustbin inside the church just to the right of the door, before going to drop the chair where he had collected it from.

After pausing for several seconds to switch on the torchlight feature on his phone, he made his way deeper into the church. He walked up the single aisle of the church towards the altar and turned to his left when he was about four metres from it. He walked towards the door which was located in that direction and stopped in front of it. Just next to the locked door to the right was a generator which was about a metre high, and a metre and a half long.

He pulled back the bolts holding the twin metal doors locked together where they met in the middle. He pushed them outward to open them as far as they would go, almost lying next to the wall on the outside. The generator had two wheels at one end and handles on the other end which made it easy for it to be pulled or pushed from one place to the other. He grabbed the generator by the handle end and pushed it down to the front of the door. That was the easy part.

The next part which entailed getting it over the door frame and down the three set of steps was the hardest part. He was going to need all his strength. The generator was easier to get down the steps when two or more people carried it. For one man, it was a back breaker.

He took a deep breath to ready himself before he lifted up one end of the heavy generator, the side with the tires over the door frame which was about four inches high on the inside and five inches high on the outside. Holding it to stop it from falling over to one side he moved to grab the other end. Using all of his strength, with his biceps and triceps and every muscle of his back straining, he lifted it up and managed to drop it on the other side of the door. That was the most difficult part, and he had managed to accomplish it even though his muscles especially his back muscles were throbbing with pain. But he was going to be okay.

After resting for some thirty seconds, he got ready to get the generator down the steps or downhill as he likes to call it. He grabbed the handle of the generator and began pulling it down one step at a time making sure it doesn’t fall down the steps because they were steep. Terrible construction and years of use had made the steps steep and dangerous. He had to take his time to steady the generator on each step before pulling it down the next one. When he got to the ground, he breathed a sigh of relief.

Making one last charge, he pushed the generator along the ground to a small house which looked like a large cage built next to church. The cage was constructed with metal bars and had an aluminum roof. The cage was made to keep the generator at first, so they wouldn’t need to move it down and back up the church building. But after the first generator was stolen from the cage days after it was kept there. It became just a place they kept it chained up when they were using it.

He removed the bunch of keys from his pocket and bent down to open the padlock which was holding a chain together which was tied around the generator cage. When he opened the padlock, he removed it from the chain and freed the chain. He used the chain to go around one of the metal frames which held up the generator’s body and then the cage before he padlocked it together. He walked back to the steps and sat down on the lowest step to catch his breath proper.

When he had rested enough, he made his way back to the generator. Using his phone’s torchlight feature, he checked the fuel levels of the generator. He had filled it up to the brim the last time there was a service which meant there was still fuel, which by his estimation could last them for about four hours. But just in case the power company doesn’t restore power during the night, he decided to fill up the tank to the brim which meant it would last for about seven hours.

He hurried into the church’s store and returned with a forty litre keg which contained twenty litres of fuel in it. He filled up the generator’s tank and put it on with a key which was attached to its ignition. The easy process of putting on the generator almost made the whole physical effort of bringing it down worthwhile, almost.

He untied the wire which would supply the power from the generator to the church building from the frame of the generator cage where he had kept it in a simple knot. He plugged it to the generator and headed for the church building. When he entered the church, he stopped about a metre after the door on the left where the power lever with which they switched between public power supply and the generator was fixed to the wall about two and a half metres from the ground.

The lever was hanging in the middle which was a neutral point. He pulled the lever down, switching it to the generator. He switched on the light switches closest to him and moved around the church doing the same thing for all the other lights.

When he finished putting on the lights, he moved to the right side of the altar and plugged in all the extension leads to which the music and sound equipment were plugged to, putting them on. He stopped at the amplifier to which all the other musical equipment and microphones were connected to and switched it on.

He was about to begin setting up the microphones when he heard the sound of running coming from the front of the church. A frown formed on his face as he wondered what could be making whoever it was to run. Before he could work out what was happening, seven girls who were dressed in ways he could describe as suitable for highway prostitutes burst through the front door of the church carrying their high heels.

Four of the girls were wearing mini-skirts and just as small revealing tops; two were wearing gowns which were as scandalous as the mini-skirts if not more, and the last girl was in a very tiny pair of shorts and a crop top T-shirt. Their make-up and jewelries especially their earrings were over the top.

They were so desperate to get into the church, they all tried to enter at the same time and hurt themselves in the process. One of them tripped on the door frame as she managed to get through the door. She was so frightened she picked herself up staggering as she did, and bolted after the others who had run up the aisle towards the altar.

If they didn’t look so terrified of whatever was chasing after them he would have thought, they were running up the aisle towards the altar to hurt him. The girl at the very front came to an abrupt stop about three feet away from the altar. The others crashed into her, and they all fell to the ground.

Before he could say a word, two young men who couldn’t be more than thirty walked into the church using the door the girls had taken. They were dressed in jeans. One of them was over six-foot-tall and had bulging muscles like a wrestler and weightlifter. He was wearing a basketball player’s vest. From the distance, Stephen could see his exposed arms and chests were covered with several tattoos.

The other was smaller and slimmer. He was about five feet, eight inches tall. Standing next to the other man, he looked like a kid. He kind of reminded Stephen of the smaller spokesmen who accompany some wrestlers to the ring and interviews, and also spoke on their behalf in the World Wrestling Entertainment. He was wearing a multicoloured T-shirt. Though he was much smaller, he appeared to be the leader of the two.

The look of terror in the eyes of the girls at the sight of the two men was enough for Stephen to know these were the persons they were afraid of. All the girls were speaking at the same time in fear as they pleaded with him not to allow the men take them away. He couldn’t hear what most of them were saying because they were all speaking at the same time with loud voices.

The two men stopped for a few seconds to look around the church before walking onto the beginning of the aisle where they stopped.

“Come on girls, let’s go,” the man in the T-shirt said.

“Please… please… don’t let them take us,” one of the girls shrieked in terror with pleading eyes. The eyes of the others were also glazed with terror.

Without giving it a single thought, Stephen walked down to the front of the altar and stepped around the girls placing himself between them and the two men. Two of the girls grabbed hold of him from behind. He turned to look at them. From the look in their eyes, it was clear they were using him as a shield, like holding him would prevent the men from reaching them.

“It’s going to be okay,” he told them as he freed himself from their frantic grips which required a little force.

He walked forward towards the two men who had stopped just at the beginning of the aisle. “I’m going to need you both to turn around and leave.”

Both men looked at each other like they couldn’t believe what they just heard and started laughing. “This guy’s a comedian I think,” one of them said to the other, and they laughed some more.

Stephen didn’t say anything as he continued walking towards them. He stopped when he was about two metres away from where they were standing. “As I said, I’m going to need you to leave. And right now too.”

“You think we came here to listen to some idiot tell us what to do?” the muscular man said.

“Well, when we have the girls we’ll leave,” the man wearing a T-shirt said. “And if you apologise, we may just take the girls without teaching you a lesson.”

“I’m sure we’re going to find out who’s going to beg, or have to run away for fear of his life between me and you two.”

They were both shocked. “Really?” the one in the T-shirt who appeared to be the boss of the two asked. He never thought Stephen would challenge them.

Stephen shrugged in response.

“Go teach him a lesson,” he told the man wearing a basketball player’s vest.

“I thought you’d never ask,” he said with a devilish grin before he charged at Stephen.

Stephen remained calm. His only movement was his right foot which he moved away from the side of the left and placed it behind his left foot in a more stable stance like he wanted to push something.

The man swung his right fist at Stephen when he got close enough, but Stephen was expecting it. He was swift with his movement as he backed away from his attacker’s reach with a grace that can only be found in professional athletes who participated in fighting sports.

His attacker was stunned for a moment like he couldn’t believe how Stephen was able to move that fast away from his reach. It had to be luck, he told himself as he readied himself for another attack which he launched right away.

This time, he went with more force. He swung his right fist in a sweeping arc, followed by his left fist and then his right fist again all of which Stephen dodged by going under the right arm, stepping away from the left arm and dodging again by going under the right arm with ease.

The girls behind him were wowed with almost all of their mouths wide opened. The other man in a T-shirt was also looking at what was happening with disbelief. But the giant in the basketball vest who was now panting from the efforts of his swinging attacks was very angry he was being made a fool of.

“I’m going to warn you again. Please leave right now for both of our sakes,” Stephen said looking from his assailant to the other man in the T-shirt.

The man on the basketball vest looked back at his colleague who had a mix of expressions etched on his face none of which was encouraging. He got angrier. He turned back to Stephen and charged at him again, only this time with more anger and desperation.

This time Stephen was done trying to convince them to leave with talking. The desperation and anger of his assailant made it all too easy for him because his anger had blinded him and made him reckless. He ducked under his assailant’s right swinging arm without backing away for more than ten inches and then his left arm which followed after the right in quick succession. He came up under the left arm swinging his own right arm with the hand rolled into a tight fist which connected with side of the head of his assailant around the area of his ear and left temple.

His assailant crumbled to the ground in a daze, falling flat on his back in the direction of the punch.

Stephen could hear the gasp of the women behind him. He looked up and saw the man in the T-shirt swallow and move back a step. Stephen looked back down at his assailant and waited for him to regain his senses.

After about ten seconds during which time no one moved except the man on the ground who was stirring from his daze, and the hushed voices of the women behind, the man managed to pull himself away from Stephen who watched him from where he stood. He crawled away in a daze towards his colleague who didn’t lift a finger to help him up.

“So, are you going to leave now or not?” Stephen asked.

Both men looked at each other and started walking away with the man in the T-shirt leading the way. Stephen watched them until they stepped out of the church’s building.

“Don’t think this is over,” the man in the T-shirt shouted as they faded into the darkness.