Blood on The Altar – Chapter 12

Chapter 12
THREE WEEKS’ LATER
The day was a Sunday, and as usual, the Choirs converged at the basement for their morning rehearsals and prayers. There was nothing unusual about the ritual except the presence of Sarah, a fugitive whom, no one, except Blessing, knows why she hasn’t been around. Everyone was on her, but she was already armed with a perfect lie as a backup for her sudden disappearance.
At the gallery, since the service hasn’t started, during the morning rehearsals, most choir members charges their phones there. But this faithful Sunday, something unusual happened- something that was different from the presence of Sarah. After the morning rehearsal, Sister Sarah announced a missing phone.
“Maybe you didn’t bring it along. Have you tried calling your line? You may have forgotten it at home?” Rucks suggested.
“Sister Rucks,” Sarah replied her, “I clearly said I was charging my phone here, at the gallery, and you’re talking about me ‘forgetting it at home’?”
“I’m sorry, but that was just a suggestion. By the way, I didn’t think anyone actually came up here after…”
“Well, since you seemed to know this much, kindly explain how I got my phone missing. Look at the charger here,” she dangled it in her face and threw it at her feet. Rucks was taken aback by the sudden outburst.
“I didn’t say you didn’t bring your…”
“Well, you said that.” Bukky came in. “And you said it right there,” she maintained and pointed to her previous position.
“Oho!” Sarah said, folding her arms.
There was silence, and the aura was tense. There were about six members of the Choir who had either come to the gallery to collect their phones or feed their ears. Eventually, they decided to go meet the Coordinator in his office.
“I don’t know what I can say to this.” Mr Ade, the Coordinator said, leaning back on his chair. “This is just embarrassing; I just hope this won’t get to the Pastor. And that is only if you guys behave as adults.”
“You mean to say if the thief returned the stolen phone?” Sarah asked with a scoff. The Coordinator nodded.
“You know that is not possible, right?” Sarah countered again. “Who do you think will return a stolen phone? Think about the embarrassment. She would rather not do that…”
“She?” The Coordinator interjected with a chuckle. “You can’t be sure the founder will be a she. We can’t say we are looking for a thief, we should rather say we misplaced it, and will appreciate whoever found and returned it”
“I didn’t misplace my phone, and the thief is not a founder, a thief is a thief! Besides, the male members, just three of them anyway, went straight to the podium to arrange the musical instruments. None of them was upstairs. The thief is definitely a she!”
“So, who are you suspecting?”
“Sir, I am suspecting no one.”
“So, what are you suggesting then?”
“We search the bags.”
“Come on, that is embarrassing. We need to find another way…”
“There is no other way, Sir. And I got to do this before the Sunday school starts or else…”
“It is okay, it is okay, Sister Sarah. You just came today after a long hiatus and this is what you brought with you!” The Coordinator said, much to Sarah’s annoyance.
“Oh, so, now, this is my fault, right?” She shouted.
“I didn’t mean that.” He checked his wristwatch. “It’s almost time for the Sunday School. You have just fifteen minutes to do that. I don’t want the Pastor to meet us in this mess.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Sarah said with a frown and exited the Coordinator’s office. At the entrance, Bukky was waiting for her.
“So, what did he say?” She asked as they walked towards the Choirs’ area.
“He wanted me to check your bags.” She replied without stopping.
As they emerged inside the main auditorium, Bukky clapped her hands to gain the attention of the other members. Sister Bukky, a lousy, dirty lady, who was always left alone due to her incessant gossiping. She is fat, had no friends, not even Blessing was her friend. And she wasn’t alone because she was fat, but because she was always nosy, dirty, cheeky and lousy.
“We are here to catch the thief who stole…”
“Sister Bukky, enough please.” Sarah stopped her. “There is no ‘we’, okay?”
Bukky sighed and sullenly walked through the ambulatory to join the rest of the members standing in front of the altar. The members all converged afar and watched as Sarah went into the Choir stalls and started ransacking the bags- one after the other. The males watched in silence, each one whispering. The suspense was all upon them, and as each bag was picked, hairs were raised in anticipation, and as each one was dropped, people sighed.
“I told her she didn’t bring her phone to Church. I saw her when she came in. She didn’t even bring a bag.” Rucks said again.
“You can’t be sure of that,” Bukky countered again. “Are you scared?” She asked Rucks, half smiling.
“Scared of what? “For your information, my bag has been checked, I don’t think yours has.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Sister Rucks, she just dropped my bag too.” Bukky said with a smirk.
“Enough of this nonsense!” Blessing came in. “This is a total embarrassment and a shame. There is nothing to be proud of here. A colleague just came back after a brief illness and all you welcomed her with was to steal her phone.”
“She said she travelled.” Michelle said, calmly, with folded arms.
“What?” Blessing asked, puzzled.
“Sister Sarah said she travelled.” Michelle repeated herself. She faced Blessing. “You said she was ill, but, Sister Sarah said she travelled. That was why she was away from church.”
Everyone was silent. Blessing looked uneasy and hated Michelle for making her look stupid in front of the others. Michelle continued,
“Sister Michelle, why don’t you just shut your mouth and start living on facts?” Blessing snorted angrily, and the members gasped. “Did you visit her at all, to know if she just told you she travelled just to keep you off her tail? I mean, everybody knows you are nosy….and proud!”
Bukky whistled and scratched her head. She looked at Michelle with a squint. Michelle replied Bukky,
“You know, this is why you have no friends!”
“I beg your pardon!” Bukky fought back. “Now, because you were able to get a job with a multinational company, courtesy of the tool between your legs, didn’t give you the permission to just talk to me that way. I wasn’t even the one who said you were nosy and cheeky. I was just a mere observer in this matter.”
“The truth is, being my leader in this choir, and being older than I am, coupled with the fact that I was also well brought up, I will not insult you.” Michelle said to Blessing who was ready for trouble.
Blessing hissed. She never liked Michelle for all the reasons she has refused to admit. She is beautiful, brilliant, has a good job, dresses nicely and she lives large with a nice car. But she refused to admit that these have been the crux of her attitude towards Michelle, instead, she simply maintained that Michelle was too proud.
“But you,” Michelle turned to Sister Bukky, “we all know you are a ‘nobody’ with a mental disorder!”
Rucks cleared her throat; she started fanning herself with her hand. “This place is too hot.” She said with a smile.
“You are just a fool!” Bukky told Rucks who couldn’t control her laughter.
“Seriously?” Rucks said, “How did mine get into this matter. I was just an observer in this whole matter!”
The whole member laughed hysterically. But some, like Blessing, refused to see the fun in it. Not that she cared what happened to Bukky, but she sure wasn’t comfortable with the easy getaway of Michelle.
“Please, it is enough” Blessing said. “Like I said, we haven’t even…”
“This is serious!” Sarah said as she held a bag in her hand, smiling and shaking her head.
“What is it?” Blessing asked, with confusion clearly written on all faces.
Sarah walked between the ambulatory and started coming towards the members who converged at the front of the altar. She held the black bag, wearing an unbelievable look of surprise.
“What is it, what did you see?” Sister Blessing and others asked.
“That… that is my bag!” A voice shrieked out, and all eyes were on Hannah, whose horrific look on her face was priceless!
“You stole her phone?” Bukky asked.
“I didn’t even go upstairs. I was right here; I didn’t go to the gallery after the rehearsals. I was…”
“I couldn’t find my phone inside any bag.” Sarah finally relieved their suspense, but that even brought more suspense.
“But, I found this.” Sarah said, and displayed a pack of condom she took from the bag.
“That is not mine!” Hannah shouted in horror!
The whole members were astonished, more like disappointed.
“Oh, yeah?” Sarah said. “What about these, then?” She lifted up two used condoms knotted at the top, with semen still resting safely inside it.
“Jesus!” Some of the members shouted.
Blessing wore a look of abject disappointment; she looked at Hannah, shook her head and asked, “Why did you do this?”
“I swear Ma, I didn’t know anything about this, I swear to God!”
Hannah started to cry when she saw the look on Blessing’s face. Just two days ago, Blessing just accepted her as her church-daughter, and it would be disastrous to have blown it this quick.
“You put it in my bag!” She shouted and charged at Sarah.
She was prevented from getting to her by some of the members. She struggled and kept pointing to Sarah. Sarah stood at bay, looking at the aggressive Hannah, who was crying and trying to break free.
“I didn’t put anything in your bag. God only wants us to see who you really are.” Sarah defended herself.
“Ha, Sister Sarah, may you die like…”
“Shut up!” Blessing stopped Hannah. “This is a house of God, and I will not watch you place a curse on each other! Not while I am the leader.”
“I swear to God,” Hannah sobbed hard, “I didn’t know anything about…”
“Then how did it get into your bag?” Sarah queried again.
“Hey guys,” Blessing called out, “we will get back to this later. It is almost time for Sunday school.” She clapped consecutively, “Please fall into place.” She turned at Sarah, “We will get to the root of this. I think someone planted it there. I don’t want this to go farther from here, okay?”
“What?” Sarah Shrieked loudly. “You can’t be saying I planted…”
“You did!” Hannah shouted at her amidst her tears.
“Shut up, please,” Blessing barked at Hannah. “You are relieved of every duty today. Sit with the congregation. This is not a punishment. Just try and get yourself together.” She said to Hannah.
“Hey, Sister Blessing, you know I didn’t planted the condoms in her bag, right? You are not implying that I ….”
“Relax, Sister Sarah, I didn’t say that, and I am not saying that.”
“You found the phone?” The Coordinator asked from nowhere. “You stole the phone?” He immediately asked Hannah when he saw that she was the only one crying.
“We couldn’t find the phone. And no, Hannah didn’t steal the phone,” Blessing responded.
“So, why is she…?”
“She lost someone,” Blessing cut him short. “Please… Sir, if you don’t mind…”
“Sister Hannah, see me in my office after the service, okay?” The Coordinator ignored Blessing.
“No.” A deep voice replied him. It was the Pastor, with a dejected look on his face. Bukky was beside him, half smiling.
“You, Brother Ade, Sister Sarah, Sister Blessing, and you,” he shook his head, “Sister Hannah, should all see me in my office after the service. Jesus! I can’t believe this!” He finished and disappeared back into the opening leading to the passage to the office.
Blessing moved to Bukky and whispered, unbelievably, “You told him?”
She tried not to smile, “What? Should I cover this up? I’m sorry. This is the house of God.” She said and left them all in awe.
“I told you,” Michelle said, “she is not going to have any friend.”
Then, there was a sound of something crashing on the plastic chairs; it was Hannah- she fainted! The Coordinator turned to Rucks,
“Sister Rucks, is Sister Hannah the one who stole Sister Sarah’s phone?”
Ebveryone rushed towards Hannah, no one replied him!

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