Chronicles of the Stranger
Location: THE APPEALS COURT
The courtroom is very quiet.
Some people are weeping and murmuring, but the sound they are making is low.
The courtroom is totally full; both lower and upper terraces are filled with people.
This has been a case which has been short but very emotional. The case of young PASTOR ZAC LARBI has really brought emotional tensions to a head in the country.
It is all over now!
The case which has dragged for almost a year and a half is now over.
The judge is going to finally give his ruling.
The thirteen-member jury has returned a unified verdict of GUILTY.
Accusing fingers are being pointed at the young man in a dark-blue suit sitting with his lawyer to the right of the judge.
He is simply inconsolable as he weeps in a most heart-breaking way.
But no one has any pity for him. Indeed, all the eyes that are on him are hard, bitter eyes seeking to devour him.
JUDGE ATINGA AWEDEGA is looking at some notes in front of him and writing something in a log book. Finally, he looks up, pushes his spectacles further up the bridge of his nose and fixes a stern look on the Defendant.
Will the Accused please rise?
LAWYER BIBIO BUABASAH, the portly lawyer of the Accused, stands up.
A moment later he reaches down and grabs the arm of the weeping man by his side, and pulls him up too.
Get hold of yourself, Pastor Larbi. The die is cast, and no amount of tears is going to change the verdict. This is the time for you to be strong and pray that you escape the death penalty.
Pastor Zac Larbi looks up slowly.
His eyes are so swollen that they are almost closed. His nose and lips are also very swollen because of excessive weeping.
Zac’s face is wet with tears, and his nose is blocked with snot. It is quite pathetic to see a man broken down to such a wasted condition.
Pastor Zac Larbi, do you have anything to say before judgement is passed?
The pastor tilts his head back and looks at the ceiling, and then he looks at the judge.
In all things, we have to give thanks to the Lord God we serve. So, even though my heart is bleeding, I have to give thanks to God, and to praise Him. All I can say is that I’m innocent of the charges levelled against me. You’re about to pass judgement on an innocent man.
The judge’s eyes narrow down to slits, and sudden anger and loathing fills his face.
We have heard terrible things, and seen things that have rendered all of us incapable of understanding the sheer malice and cold-hearted disregard for life that you have shown! Almost two years ago, when this case came to court, it shocked the whole nation. You were found guilty by a seven-member Jury and sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Your Appeal came to this court, and this time the thirteen-member Jury upheld the guilty verdict on five counts of cold, meditated and terrible first degree murders. Your actions are detestable, gruesome, fractious and totally hellish, an abomination that even the depths of Hades can’t stomach. I have no option than to uphold your first sentence, which is death by the injection of a measured lethal dose three days from today. May the God you pretend to serve have mercy on your soul!
The frantic wails of the pastor are drowned out by the instant screams of pleasure from the great crowd that has gathered.
Huge police officers approach Pastor Larbi and clamp handcuffs on him. He is wailing now, unable to even stand straight, and then suddenly he collapses in a faint.
There are frantic calls as paramedics rush to his side to help him.
Journalists and spectators are doing their best to get picture shots and video capture whilst the police try unsuccessfully to keep them at bay.
Pastor Larbi’s inert form is put on a stretcher, and an oxygen mask is clamped on his face.
They quickly wheel him through a side-door that closes and is guarded by armed policemen.
On the upper terrace of the courtroom, an incredibly handsome man dressed in an impeccable black suit with a sky-blue shirt and a polka-dotted tie is sitting calmly.
His legs are crossed, and his sharp eyes roam over the crowd.
He has been in court from the moment the trial began, always coming early and making sure he sits at the same spot to observe the proceedings.
He takes a little diary from an inside pocket of his coat, removes a beautiful gold pen from it, and begins to write in the diary.
And now he watches critically as the people begin to leave the courtroom.
He waits patiently until everyone has left, and he alone is sitting at the upper terrace.
He sees that there is a pretty young woman wearing a deep shade of blue dress. She is sitting alone, just a seat behind where young Pastor Larbi had sat.
She is weeping, using a small handkerchief to dry her eyes once in a while.
The man in the upper terrace watches her for a long time, and when she finally stands up she totters for a moment as if she is going to fall down.
Finally, she puts on a huge pair of sunglasses that hide almost the whole of her upper face.
As she begins to walk towards the entrance the handsome man on the terrace stands up, puts his diary and pen back into his coat pocket, and then quickly moves towards the entrance.
He is holding a wide-brimmed cowboy hat in his hand.
He descends the stairs casually, and when he gets to the ground floor he finds the woman in the dark-blue dress sitting down in the Waiting Lounge of the courtroom.
She is holding a handkerchief pressed tightly to her eyes as she weeps in a heart-breaking way.
The handsome man hesitates and looks around quickly. No one is looking at him.
He suddenly turns the hat he is holding downward.
A huge growth of fake facial hair is attached to the hat, and so when the man puts on the hat the hair perfectly frames his cheeks and chin and upper lip.
The fake hair has given him a huge growth of beard, sideburns and thick beard that almost hides his lower face.
He reaches into his pocket, brings out a pair of sunglasses, and puts it on.
The effect is that the man no longer resembles the young incredibly handsome man he is.
By putting on the customized hat and the sunglasses, he has suddenly changed into a middle-aged man with facial hair tinged-with grey.
He takes some Hacks candies from his pocket and pops one into his mouth.
He descends fully to the Waiting Lounge, and then he sits down beside the mourning young lady.
She is in her late twenties, slim, well-formed, dark and very pretty.
She looks at him and begins to get up, but he quickly reaches out and holds her arm.
I understand your pain, my dear. It seems to me that you’re the only one who has been shedding tears for this condemned Pastor Larbi. Even his fiancée didn’t seem to be shedding this much tears. Believe me, I really do admire your complete faith in him.
The lady looks at the stranger helplessly, and then she begins to bawl fiercely.
They’re going to kill him! Zac is going to die! In just three days! Oh, Lord, Lord, Lord! Why should you allow this to happen? Lord, my Lord Jesus Christ! My Heavenly Father, You know he is innocent! Why is he going to die? Why?
The stranger pulls her into his arms and holds her as she wails, her heart tearing up.
There, there, there, young lady! Please pull yourself together! Perhaps, if he’s as innocent as you claim, the God that he believes in will never abandon him.
We have prayed, we have fasted, we have sought the face of the Lord in earnest, but still, no miracle has happened!
The ways of the Lord have always been higher than our own, my dear. With tears, prayer and fasting you sent your supplication to the Lord. What is missing is that you have failed to back it with faith! Let your faith take over, dear, and leave the rest to the Lord.
She relaxes in his arms and cries for a while, but gradually her tears cease, and she sits down with a look of humiliation on her pretty face.
Oh, oh! I’m sorry! I ruined your nice suit.
It is alright, my dear. It is made even more beautiful by the tears of a real woman of virtue. May I ask your name, please?
And you love Pastor Larbi, don’t you?
She looks down at her linked hands and nods without looking at him.
I’ve known him my whole life and loved him my whole life, and I’ll gladly die for him if they will let me.
The stranger reaches out and touches her arm gently.
I’m intrigued, Ama. If you love him that much, why is he betrothed to someone else? Why is he going to marry some other woman?
She looks into the kind face of the stranger and as she speaks her lips tremble terribly.
Because our Senior Pastor, the Apostle, had a vision in which God had blessed the union between Zac and a lady in the church called Yaa Pomaa. Zac had promised to marry me, no matter what, because he loved me as much as I love him!
But, after the Apostle’s vision, when Zac protested that he cannot marry Yaa because he loved me, a Prophet in the church also had a vision in which God was warning Zac not to disobey the Apostle, but to marry Yaa Pomaa. I had no option than to let him go if indeed that was what the Lord wanted.
That, for a fact, is a very sad story indeed! But this is not the time for crying, my dear Ama. I do not know what is going to happen to the man you love, but in all things, the Lord exhorts us to give thanks and make supplications!
How can I thank the Lord at this time, sir? I can pretend and pray, but deep down in my heart I’m dying, and I’m asking myself a lot of questions, about how God could allow this to happen!
If indeed Pastor Zac Larbi captured five women, brutally raped them, cut off their heads and cooked their hearts and ate them to be more powerful, then surely it is evident that he is not of God!
Don’t say such things of Zac, sir! I do beg of you! He is innocent, do you hear me? Innocent! He is not capable of even harming an ant!
The stranger takes her hands and rubs them gently.
He smiles sadly at the young woman.
Indeed, may your faith be so! If truly you believe in your heart he is innocent, my dear lady, then go home now. This is the time for you to fast and pray. No pretense, dear. Tell God what you feel. That is what Zac Larbi needs now, your prayer. Because, apparently, no one is praying for him!
Ama looks at the calm face of the stranger, and for some reason she finds her heart calming down.
It had seemed she was all alone, but now, looking at this man with so much bushy facial hair, she is reminded of the Rabbis of Israel, for no apparent reason, and she feels a certain calmness.
Yes, you’re right, sir. It is time to pray. Please, if you don’t mind me asking, are you from hereabouts? I perceive that you may be a good Christian too, and I might need strength. Maybe, if you tell me your name, or give me a number, I can reach you in my hour of deep need.
The stranger smiles and gets to his feet.
He looks down at her with gentle eyes.
Would you like to see him?
She looks expectantly at him with huge eyes suddenly filled with great longing.
Ever since he was arrested one and half years ago, I’ve tried to see him. I’ve begged the Apostle, and my father has tried with many policemen he knows, but to no avail. I’ve not been able to see him, except in court.
I’ll make arrangements to see him tomorrow morning. Perhaps you may want to come along.
She jumps to her feet and suddenly takes his right hand in both of hers as her face crumbles with acute longing.
Yes, please, oh, yes, please, please!!
Good. It is settled then.
He tries to walk away, but she stands in front of him.
Please, your name? You didn’t tell me your name! I’ve never had any hope from even the people I know, but you, a complete stranger, have suddenly filled me with hope. Please, sir, your name, and where I can find you, please. I’m convinced that indeed, you might be a man of God!
My name is of no import now, my dear. I just want you to know that yes, I’m a servant of God. I’m here to find out the truth about Pastor Zac Larbi. I don’t have much time, and I don’t know how, but if indeed he is innocent, believe me, God will not abandon him, even if he is wrongly killed. However, if he indeed committed those heinous acts, then he will certainly die. I will be seeing you around, Ama.
He turns and, humming a song to himself, walks towards the huge entrance.
AMA BOATEMAAA cleans her face and watches him go.
For some strange reason, new hope is filling her heart, and quickly she gets up and runs towards the entrance.
Yes, indeed, it is time to pray and push God to the wall!
The huge, black, heavily-armoured police van passes through three fortified and guarded gates before entering the main yard of the GRAND CASTLE PRISON.
It goes forward a bit and then takes a left turn towards the administration block.
It stops behind a long, flat rectangular building that has several offices along its length.
The armed policemen get down, and the back of the van is opened with a series of keys.
Two huge policemen climb inside the van and each takes the arm of Zac Larbi and pulls him forward roughly.
Zac is helped down by two burly policemen on the ground as others cover him with guns.
His wrists are handcuffed behind his back, and there are chains around his ankles, weighed down by metal balls which are apparently heavy because he can barely move his legs.
He indeed cuts a pathetic sight as he is dragged towards one of the office rooms. It has an inscription carved into an aluminum plate fixed on the door. It reads:
SUPT. KWESI AKYAW
One of the prison officers knocks on the door, and then opens it.
Zac is pushed rather cruelly into the huge office.
It has a desk and a high-backed swivel chair in one corner.
There is a small fridge and a filing cabinet. On the walls are a few paintings depicting biblical passages.
There are about five armchairs in the room.
And there are three men already waiting in the room.
The prison guards leave the office and close the door behind them.
One of the men in the room is the burly Grand Castle Prison Chaplain, Superintendent Kwesi Akyaw, and he is wearing his uniform.
The second man is the tall, lean PROPHET EBOW BIO, a devout man of God of GOLGOTHA HEIGHTS INTERNATIONAL, the church that Zac attends.
The third man in the group is the short, obese APOSTLE KWAKU ABOAH, Founder and General Overseer of Golgotha Heights International.
The Superintendent is sitting behind his desk.
The two men of God are sitting in the armchairs.
All of them are unsmiling, and have very grim looks on their faces.
As Zac stands there, facing them with a thudding heart, Apostle Aboah gets to his feet, his face enraged, and then he takes three steps forward and slaps Zac hard across the face!
You bastard! You ungrateful murderer! How could you do this to the Church? HOW COULD YOU???
He raises his hand again to strike, but the Prophet gets up and pulls him back.
That’s okay, Kweku! That’s okay! He doesn’t deserve any chastisement from you! Let the Lord God deal with him!
Zac Larbi looks at them, and although his lips tremble, and tears course down his face, he does not utter a word.
The Apostle is shaking with rage as he glares at Zac.
You were homeless, Zac Larbi! Your parents died in a fire when you were only five years old! I took you in, and I brought you up! I gave you the best education and treated you like my own child, and you know I had five children already, three boys and two girls, and I could’ve thrown you to the wolves!
But I treated you even better than my own children! I made you a Pastor in God’s own church! I gave you a house of your own, a car of your own, and gave you the daughter of one of the best and richest men in the country to marry! You grew up under the feet of the Lord! I raised you right! So what’s this? WHAT’S THIS, YOU MURDERING INGRATE?
Five young women! FIVE WOMEN! You captured them, RAPED them, and then BLUDGEONED them to death, you sick little bastard! What the FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU??
His pudgy face is filled with rage, disgust, and pain.
He is trembling rather badly.
I’m glad you remember that you raised me under the feet of the Lord, Daddy-
(cutting in harshly)
I’M NOT YOUR BLOODY DADDY! STOP CALLING ME DADDY! I’M NOT DADDY TO A BLOODY MONSTER, A HEARTLESS BEAST! I’VE DISOWNED YOU!!!
That one really hurts Zac.
He looks down at his shackled feet, and he cries with anguish.
Several times he tries to speak, but his voice is choked with his tears, and nothing comes out, only little croaky sounds.
Finally, after a while, he seems to get himself under some semblance of control and looks up again.
That is the most painful thing I’ve ever heard you utter, Apostle. I never imagined you could ever say that to me.
I’ve said it, AND IT STANDS! YOU’RE NO CHILD OF MINE!! AND I DISOWN YOU!!
So be it, Apostle. I do thank you, though, for taking me in and raising me up in the paths of the Lord. There’s nothing more precious than being brought up right in the ways of God, and for that, I’ll forever be grateful to you.
You’ve seen me, Apostle! You’ve seen how the Good Lord favoured me! In church, at Camp Golgotha when we go on retreats, everywhere, you saw how God used me to minister, to heal the sick, and to win souls! Why then do you ALSO believe me capable of these heinous crimes?
BECAUSE YOU SOLD YOUR SOUL TO THE DEVIL! BECAUSE YOU RAPE WOMEN AND BLUDGEON THEM TO DEATH, CUT OFF THEIR HEADS AND EAT THEIR HEARTS!
THAT’S WHERE YOUR EVIL POWERS WERE COMING FROM, DEVIL WORSHIPPER, AND YOU DECEIVED US INTO THINKING YOUR GRACE CAME FROM GOD!! MAY YOU ROT IN THE HOTTEST DEPTHS OF HELL FOR DOING THIS TO THE CHURCH!!
If you believe this of me, then there’s nothing to say. I will die the day after tomorrow, but I’m not afraid. I know my ways are right with God, and I’m innocent. Even if God does not vindicate me, I still give Him worship, and adoration, and will never condemn my God.
The Superintendent finally gets out of his chair and comes round the desk, his voice is agitated when he speaks:
SUPT. KWESI AKYAW
How can you stand there and claim to be innocent, son? A court of seven jury members found you guilty. The Appeals Court found you guilty. Alright, let’s even discount the verdict of the courts. I also am a member of Golgotha Heights, a great church that holds a Christian Revival Retreat at Camp Golgotha on the mountains twice every year.
Two years ago, five women went missing from the retreat grounds. Our security cameras showed you capturing them and dragging them out of the camp! There is an abandoned cabin in the woods, and that is where the police found the headless bodies of the women! They also found video recordings you apparently made yourself on a camcorder and forgot it in the cabin, and these videos showed you raping the women one at a time, and then bashing their heads in with a heavy stump of wood.
And then you cut out their hearts. You ate some of the hearts raw, and cooked some! And you stand there and claim innocence? Meanwhile there was no question about a disguise because the man in the videos spoke like you, looked like you, and in fact, you’re that man! And there is absolutely no record of your parents giving birth to twins! So how can you stand there and claim innocence, my son? That is an insult to sane people like us!
Yes, sir. I saw the videos, and indeed the man in the videos looks exactly like me, so exact that I’m even shocked to my bones, and I still don’t understand it. But that is the truth…he just looked like me, in every detail, but it wasn’t me! He’s still out there somewhere. But it doesn’t matter now. Everything is in the hands of God!
SUPT. KWESI AKYAW
My God! You’ve no heart! You’re indeed an animal!
The Prophet stands in front of Zac, his long face filled with false piousness, his hands open in a semblance of meekness, his eyes exuding a compassion that Zac knows isn’t real.
Zac, Zac, Zac! You know this little incident has had a very grave impact on the church! We’re losing a lot of our congregation as a direct result of the backlash from this case. Surely, you don’t want the flock to scatter, do you?
What do you want from me, Prophet?
You’ll be dead in three days, my son. Now, the congregation is depleting simply because you have not shown any sign of remorse for these dastardly acts. They want to see the humility you always extol them to show. Remember, most of them came to the church because of your charisma and the zeal you showed, and most of them are in the church because they love you.
Now they see you as a murderer, and they don’t want anything to do with that! But, if you go public and show some regrets, and tell them that you’ve been working with dark powers and that they should stay in the church and learn from the Goodness of Apostle Aboah, it will stop the defection, and bring this glorious church back to its stature!
Zac Larbi stares at the Prophet, totally shocked.
You want me to say that all the miracles I did were by the powers of Satan?
Now, look, my son! You don’t have to believe it! But it is a sacrifice to save God’s church! Just a little sacrifice. Already everybody believes you’re a demon worshipper, so confessing to it in public won’t change anything. In the next office are some selected journalists from some television, radio and newspaper companies.
Just use five minutes to meet them, and apologise and show some regret and confess that you’ve been a Satan worshipper all along, and that the Apostle had no link to what you did! Just as Jesus Christ sacrificed for sinners, this is a small sacrifice you need to do to save the church! If you confess like that the people would stop leaving the church, Zack.
Zac takes a painful step from the man, his face screwed up with pain.
I curse the day I will let the devil take credit for the wonders God used me to do! Let me die, and let me die in shame, but I will NEVER denounce my living God, do you hear me? NEVER!!
The Apostle pushes the Prophet aside, and once again he slaps the hapless Zac twice across the face.
Blasphemer! Satan apprentice! Worker of iniquity, of things vile! You’re a demon, Zac! May you die in pain! May the God we worship torture your soul in hell!
Zac falls to the ground as the man of God continues to punch him.
It takes the combined efforts of the Prison Chaplain and the Prophet to pull the Apostle off Zac.
The chaplain opens the door of the office.
SUPT. KWESI AKYAW
Come, take him away to his cell!
Three prison officers enter and lift Zac off the floor.
He is bleeding from the nose and the lips where the Apostle has punched him.
He looks at them with, incredibly, compassionate eyes.
I forgive you, Apostle! May God forgive you too.
He is taken away, and the three men inside watch him leave with impotent rage!
Location: GOLGOTHA HEIGHTS CHURCH
It is evening.
The gigantic and luxurious auditorium of the church is filled to capacity.
There are the usual congregation, and there are other people who have come to church just because of the court case and Zac’s imprisonment.
And then there are the journalists!
From television, radio, print and social platforms.
They are present to capture the views of the church leaders on the death sentence passed on Pastor Zac Larbi.
The raised platform where the Apostle and the Elders of the church sit is luxuriously-decorated with expensive leather chairs, a deep-seated sofa for the Apostle and his wife, a gigantic gold-framed portrait of Jesus and other Christian paraphernalia.
The cameras are rolling…
The Apostle is preaching, and his topic is on the joys of truly worshipping the living God.
Sitting on the front row in the congregation are Ama Boatemaa and her parents.
She is trying to be calm, but the Apostle’s words are really hurting her.
She begins to cry when the Apostle suddenly states that they visited Zac Larbi in prison, and he confessed to being a demon worshipper and that he got his powers of healing and miracles from Satan.
No, no, no! What’s he saying? That can’t be true? Zac will never say such a thing!
Her mother, OBAAPA SISI, put an arm around her daughter’s shoulders and pulls her close.
Her father, AGYA KOFI, pats her hand reassuringly.
There, there, my dear! Do not fret yourself so much.
The Apostle continues to say a lot of derogatory things about Zac, and finally ends his preaching:
Today has been a sad day for me. Zac is more than a son to me, and to listen to him crying and begging to be forgiven by the congregation really cut my soul open. We prayed for him, and we exorcised the demonic spirits in him. He is going to die, yes, but we are convinced he will die a changed man, and his soul will be for the Lord.
We beseech the congregation to pray for him for the rest of the week. The will of our Lord will always be done, and no one can escape from sin even if they cloak themselves with the facade of being righteous! May the Lord be with us all!
There are cries of anguish from a lot of people in the congregation. People begin to weep again, and the cameras of the journalists go round slowly, capturing every scene.
Apostle Aboah sits beside his beautiful wife on the sofa, and he begins to weep uncontrollably, and his wife puts her arms around him to comfort him.
A tall, well-built middle-aged man stands up and walks towards the altar, his face very sad.
His impeccable suit, shoes, and ornaments indicate that he is a very wealthy man.
He raises a mournful beseeching sinner’s song as he picks up the microphone.
Several voices join in the song, and finally, he stands behind the pulpit and speaks gravely.
(in a deeply accented voice)
I’m Elder Senanu Setorworfia! It is indeed a great shock to us that a man we so much respected, a man we so much believed in as having the spirit of God, finally turned out to be a demon-worshipper, filled with the vilest spirits! We’re going to pray, that God will spare us such a presence ever again in this church…
As he continues to speak, saying really bad things about Zac Larbi, a tall man in a dark suit sitting in the back row stands up.
He is wearing a hat and has a really thick beard, a full moustache, and overgrown sideburns.
Conspicuously, he is wearing dark glasses even in the evening setting of the church.
He begins to walk down the aisle towards the podium with his hands linked behind his back.
When he passes the front row Ama Boatemaa suddenly gasps with shock.
Her mother looks at her with concern.
What’s it, my dear?
That’s the man, Sisi! The stranger at the court! The one who promised to take me to see Zac!
To Be Continued…
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