A sharp sting in Addison’s head woke him up the next morning. His eyes felt glued shut when he tried to pry them open. The lights in the room glared at him and he tried to shade his gaze with his hand, but his hand was heavy and stiff in a cast. At first, his mind was blank, then the memory of the beating he’d suffered trickled through his foggy memory. With difficulty, he propped himself up on his working elbow and took in his surroundings. In the ward were 6 other patients all suffering from various degrees of injuries.
Eyes now fully adjusted, he picked up his framed arm and observed his fingers, puffed up and sticking out of the open end of the cast like toes. In the corner of his eye, he spotted a nurse in the corridor and tried to call for help. It came out as a croak. She turned to look at him casually and continued her way down the corridor. Addison had no other option than to ease back down. The pain meds were beginning to wear off and he hurt all over. A short while after, a doctor was at his side examining him. A few days after, he was discharged.
With a dislocated elbow, broken ribs, and an all-around broken spirit, Addison hobbled out of the hospital with one thing on his mind – revenge.
His journey to full recovery at Kumi’s in Kasoa was slow. Luna called countless times and sent him messages asking where he was, why he wasn’t showing up at work, and threatening to find someone else to fill that position. Addison refused to answer or respond to any of her messages. His only call was to his mom and Amerley’s mother who regularly updated him on Amerley’s condition. He promised to visit as soon as he got better.
Sitting at the edge of the bed one night, he felt miles away from where he’d hoped to be; as though he took one giant step forward only to fall into an inescapable patch of sinking sand. Totally distraught by the events that had coloured his life in the darkest shade of black, he ached for happiness and hoped his buzzing phone was a sign. It was Amerley’s mom. At the sound of wailing from the other end of the call, Addison fell back in the bed, broken, knowing that Amerley was gone.
The next morning, he was still drowning in a sea of grief. He lay awake in bed for hours ruminating over every happy moment he’d had with Luna and recolouring them with resentment. A deep bitterness crept through his insides and settled its tentacles across his once warm heart, bringing with it an idea that was sure to challenge his humanness. He wanted Luna to suffer. To feel every bit of the pain Amerley felt before she died.
Kumi was all too eager to go along with his idea, so he reached out to his connections in the neighbourhood and found 2 ladies of notorious character who were able and surprisingly very willing to go through with it. The plan? To kidnap Luna, drive her to some remote location on the outskirts of nowhere, rough her up a bit, hold her for a hefty ransom and then abandon her when they got the money. They would leave her somewhere in the Dodowa forest with nothing – not even shoes on her feet – and hope some wild animal took the bait.
The plan was set. Addison was to tail Amerley for a few days, map out her movement and determine the best place for the grab. For a week he did just that. He followed her from her father’s house to a number of shops and restaurants in the capital, noting the route she took home most nights. During that time, Addison noticed that she’d hung out with the same guy on 3 separate nights. Her next victim, Addison supposed. Handsome, muscled, and hungry for success. Addison recognized the look given that he had once been that guy.
The following week, the kidnapping was scheduled. Addison and Kumi would follow her in separate cars, make sure she was alone then signal the crew who would be on standby close by.
The evening of the grab, Addison, wearing a black nose mask and a black baseball cap, parked his old Nissan in the darkest spot in the parking of La Lumiere. Addison looked at his watch nervously and texted Kumi who was parked down the street, “Still here.”
Dinner was going on longer than usual. They were expected to leave the restaurant by 9:00 pm, but it was well after 10:00 pm. At about 11:00 pm, the two came through the doors. Luna, leaning heavily on her date for support. She looked drunk. Addison found that quite curious because he’d never seen her drink more than a glass of wine when they were out. Her date helped her into the passenger side of the car and hopped in the driver’s seat. “On the move,” Addison texted Kumi as he started his car and followed them. Instead of their usual route home, they chose a different direction; one that was unfamiliar to Addison.
Addison followed closely as they jumped on the main highway and headed further away from Luna’s home. When they stopped at a traffic light, Addison thought he saw some struggle in the car, but he was about 4 cars behind and could not see through the tinted windows. The inside lights kept flickering on and off and during the seconds it was on, Addison could see arms beating around wildly.
When the lights turned green, the car moved ahead and took a sharp left turn, went down a dark road, and stopped near some shrubbery. Maintaining a safe distance, Addison watched as another guy crept out of the bushes on the side of the road, ran to the front passenger seat where Luna was, open the door, and threaten her with a knife. He then dragged her out of the car and started to beat her up, kicking her as she lay on the floor begging for her life. Addison sat watching, uncertain whether to intervene or let karma do its worst. God knows she deserved it. After wrestling free from his evil conscience, Addison reluctantly turned his headlights on and honked hard his horn. Two other cars that were driving by saw the incident did same. Startled, Luna’s attacker dragged her aside, jumped in the front seat, and drove off with the other guy, leaving Luna on the curb.
Should he drive on and ignore what he’d just seen or take her to the hospital? Addison pondered. What if they accused him of attacking her and send him to jail like the last time? Not wanting to have her death on his conscience, he got out of his car and ran to her. Other cars had stopped and people were beginning to gather around her. Most of them, more curious than helpful.
Semi-conscious, Luna was bleeding from a gush to her head and a stab wound to the chest. Addison knelt by her and called out her name. He looked around hoping for a volunteer to help get her into his car but they insisted she was dead and advised him to call the police instead.
Weaving her way through the crowd, a lady came forward, introduced herself as Amma, and volunteered to help take Luna to the hospital. She explained that she was a nursing student and could administer first aid in the car if needed. Before they lugged Luna into the back of Addison’s car, Amma checked her pulse and confirmed that she was still alive.
When they arrived at the nearest hospital, Addison made sure she was seen to by the doctor on duty, and before leaving with Amma, he left Mr. Wilberts’s number with the hospital staff.
* * *
Eight months went by. Addison found a new job with an insurance company as a Claims Officer. It didn’t come with the same perks as the GM of Wilberts Rentals, but the pay was decent and it offered more benefits than his job at the savings & loans company. Also, the chance meeting with Amma that night had borne fruit. They kept in touch after that night and had recently started dating. She was by far the sweetest girl he’d ever dated and Addison felt hopeful about their relationship.
One morning in his office, he saw two women waiting at the reception: an elderly lady wheeling another lady in. The lady in the wheelchair had on extra-large shades, a shoal over her head that covered most of her face. Addison saw one of his colleagues huddle over them and then point in his direction. He watched from his office as his colleague walk them over to the door of his office.
Before ushering them into Addison’s office, he went in first with their case file, handed it to Addison, and explained their situation. According to him, they were there to follow up on their insurance claim after a fire burnt their house down. The claims officer working on their pay-out was no longer with the company and their boss had reassigned the case to Addison. As his colleague stepped out to bring them in, Addison took a quick glance through the file. His hands trembled when he saw the name Wilberts on it.
Addison got up from his chair and introduced himself as the older woman, presumably the mother, walked in, leaving the other lady behind.
“Good morning, Ma. Welcome. My name is Addison and I’ll be handling your claim.”
“Good morning, my son. How are you?”
“Very well, Ma,” he responded. “I’ve gone through your file and everything seems to be in order. Although we are still missing the police report. We will need that to finalise our end of the process before we can process payment,” he added.
“Hmm, okay. I thought we had brought everything. I will speak to my brother and make sure you get it as soon as possible.”
“Okay, Ma,” Addison replied.
“But how soon can we get the money?”
“It’ll depend on a few factors, but it can take up to 3 months.”
“Eii, that’s too long. You know, we’ve been chasing this thing for 2 months already. It can’t be sooner?”
“I don’t think so, Ma. But I will try.”
“Please try for me, my son. My daughter needs it badly for her reconstructive surgery. You know she almost died in the fire? If not for God, she would have been completely burnt.”
“Oh wow. I’m sorry to hear that, Ma. What really happened?” Addison asked, curious to see how the Wilberts went from super rich to needing insurance payout.
“Hmm…my son, even now, I’m not sure what happened. We were at home one night, she was supposed to travel back to the US to start work, but she had postponed her flight to the next day because we had buried her father only the day before. He died from a heart attack, you know?”
“My sympathies,” Addison offered.
“Thank you, my son. I insisted she leave that night, but she didn’t mind me. She likes to have her way, you see? That very night, I heard shouts and screams from outside. When I opened my eyes, the whole house was filled with smoke. One of the men climbed through my window to help me down. Before we couldn’t get to my daughter Luna.”
Addison’s heart skipped a beat when he heard her name. Luna’s mother continued.
“The fire had swept through the corridor and no one could get to her. Eventually, she fought her way through the fire and jumped down from the first-floor balcony. That’s how she broke her spine.”
“Yes, I saw that on the file,” Addison added.
“Thankfully only one side of her body got burnt. But it left her face, arms, and legs with serious burns. The doctors say they can repair most of the damage on her face, but it won’t be like it was at first. ‘Luna, why didn’t you just leave that night, eh?’” she said to herself.
“That must have been a terrible experience. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“Hmm, thank you, my son,” she said staring into space. “In such a short time we went from owning everything to becoming nothing.”
“How come? I know the Wilberts to be a very wealthy family,” Addison asked.
“My son, we were only living on borrowed money. My husband owed the banks so much money from investments that never paid off. When the last investment fell through, he couldn’t take the pressure from the banks to pay the loans back. He fell ill and died days after from a heart attack.”
“I see,” Addison said nodding.
“When he died, the banks came and took everything: the houses, cars, and all the businesses he used as collateral. Everything. He died and left us with nothing. Nothing, my son. Nothing.
“Now, this insurance money is our only hope. So do everything you can to help your mother, okay? Perhaps even in another life, you could have been my son-in-law.”
Addison smiled and asked, “Is that your daughter out there?”
“Yes, come and say hi.” She led the way through the door.
“Lulu,” she called, spinning her around so she could see Addison. “This young man has promised to handle our case for us.”
“Hi Luna,” Addison said.
She jumped in her chair and quickly pulled her scarf over her face and arms. Up close, Addison could see the once beautiful, smooth, even-toned skinned now marred and disfigured. With the exception of about 60 percent of her face, her entire body was covered in scars from the burns.
She pulled her shades down her face to look at Addison. Her left eye was covered by scar tissue that dropped from her once before well-manicured eye-brow. Addison’s memory flashed back to the first day she gave him that look from her Range Rover. Today the tables had turned. She needed his help and for the first time since he’d known her, he pitied her. That sparkle in her eye, that self-assured confident smile was absent. She was nothing like he remembered. All the anger and grudge he held against her gave way to sympathy.
“Thank you,” Luna mumbled. Mrs. Wilberts thanked him again and off they went. As they wheeled her away, she stopped, turned to look at him, and turned back around. Addison could see a tear trickling down her good eye.
As he watched them leave and get into a waiting taxi, Addison thought of the family whose wealth he once admired and craved. He looked at his life and found himself very content with who he was and what little he had. He had found wealth in something much more than money – his worth as a decent human being.