The Day the Devil Came Knocking

Short Story

The Day the Devil Came Knocking

By Lawrence Kadzitche

 

For whatever reasons, most popular Pentecostal preachers are rich and conduct themselves more or less like movie stars. They dress in expensive suits and drive the latest posh cars. Pastor Ben Kalebe was one of the most popular Pentecostal evangelists in the City of Lilongwe. But unlike these other popular men of the cloth in the evangelism field he was not rich. And true to this, as the City was enjoying a sunny afternoon, Pastor Ben Kalebe made his way back home from visiting a recent convert to his Church in Chinsapo on a rickety bicycle. Then he saw it. A medium sized black satchel lying in the middle of the road.

He stopped. His first thoughts were that it contained books. Someone had obviously dropped it.  Picking it up, he was so shocked when he saw that it was stuffed with money.  The satchel was pregnant like a cow about to give birth with two thousand kwacha notes in tight bundles.

What must he do? He asked himself. But this was a useless question. All he had to do was drop the satchel at the police station. They would find the owner. After all, the police station was just ahead. However, something made him dart his eyes around him. The road was deserted. No one was in sight.

Taking one last look about him, he slipped the satchel into his briefcase and hesitantly walked away. The police station came into sight. He was a man of God and therefore couldn’t steal.  The satchel must be handed over to the police.

Then another idea crossed his mind. This was Saturday afternoon. Why not first announce to his congregation about the satchel during prayers the next day?  The one who had dropped it could be one of his sheep.  After all, the police were corrupt these days. They could decide to keep the money themselves.

Although this logic rang hollow to himself, it propelled him to walk on confidently.  When he arrived home, he hid the satchel where he knew his wife could not find it.  He did not tell her about it even when she inquired how he had traveled.

The following morning he somehow “forgot” to announce in church that he had found a satchel. His wife sang in the church choir.  Late in the afternoon, when she left for practice, he decided to check how much money was in the satchel.  He went into the bedroom, locked the door, and produced the satchel from its sanctuary.  With trembling hands, he opened it.

Tight wards of brand new two thousand kwacha notes greeted his eyes! Jesus Christ! He was rich! The money was more than what he got from the congregation in a good year. He literally jumped with joy, thinking of the house he always wanted to build for himself. The money was enough to kick off the project.

He was about to start counting the money when he heard a knock on the door.  Who could it be?  He ignored the door, thinking the caller would think no-one was around.

“Open up, Pastor Ben,” a voice came from the door.

The Pastor’s heart skipped a beat. No one called him by that name.  It was always Pastor or Pastor Kalebe.  Who could it be?

He took a deep breath and told himself to relax. Why should that bother him?  He hid the satchel and went to answer the door. Outside, stood a handsome young man dressed in a black suit. Kalebe was sure he had never seen him before.

“What can I do for you?” asked the pastor.

The young man flashed a smile, showing a neat row of white teeth. “Aren’t you going to ask me in, Pastor Ben?”

Again he felt the irritation. Why should he be irritated? He quickly remembered that he was a pastor and should play the part.

“Why, yes, come in young man,” he said. “Sorry, I have some pressing issues on my mind.”

“I know,” the young man said, following him into the sitting room.

Pastor Kalebe glanced sharply at the youth. What did he mean by that?  He let it pass. Maybe he was imagining things. Anyway, he needed to quickly get rid of the youth.  There was something he didn’t like about him.

“Sorry, I’m busy,” he said without opening pleasantries.  “Can I help you?”

“Yes, Pastor Ben,” the young man sinking into a sofa. “That satchel looked very fat.  I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea splitting it into two.”

If the young man had introduced himself as the devil, the pastor would have been less surprised.  So he had been seen!  His heart came to a halt and then started racing.  It took a few minutes for him to recollect himself.

“I …I don’t understand what you’re talking about…” he said in a weak voice.

The young man leaned forward and smiled.  Kalebe felt like a snake striking at him and involuntarily recoiled.

“Cut the dilly-dally, Pastor Ben,” the youth said.  “Your wife will soon be here and I don’t think this is something you would want discussed in her presence.”

“Who… who are you?”

“Does it really matter who I’m, Pastor Ben?  The issue is the satchel.  I saw you pick it.  We split the loot into two and then I’ll be gone.”

The pastor’s shock was now wearing off.  He should not let this cheap crook get the better of him.

“Yes, I picked the satchel,” he said slowly.  “But it’s not mine or yours.  Tomorrow, I’ll announce in church that I found it and the owner can collect it.”

The young man laughed. His laugh had a peculiar sound, like the grating of metal.  “You expect me to believe that?  This is a big town, Pastor Ben.  Not everyone prays at your church.  Why didn’t you hand it over to the police?  After all you passed the station.”

The pastor’s hopes crashed.  “What do you want?”

“The loot.  I said we split it fifty-fifty and you will never hear of me again,” the young man said, the smile fixed on his face.

Pastor Kalebe knew there was nothing to be gained by prolonging the discussion. The young man would not leave without a share of the money.  He went into the bedroom and re-appeared with the satchel.

There were six bundles in the satchel.  The pastor put them on the table.

“An odd number isn’t it?” remarked the young man.  “Like 6-6-6 in the bible. The mark of the beast.  A bad omen for a pastor, don’t you think so, Pastor Ben?”

The pastor breathed deeply to steady his nerves.  He felt like bashing the face of the smiling youth before him. “Just take your money and go.”

The young man picked a bundle and removed the rubber band.  “What games are you playing, Pastor Ben?”

The Pastor had to hold his jaw to prevent it from falling to the stool.  His eyes stared unbelievingly at the bundle of money.

Apart from a note on each side of the bundle, the rest were just pieces of papers.  Like a machine, he tore the other bundles.  It was the same.  Bundles of paper with a two thousand kwacha note covering each side!

“Pastor Ben, where’s the money?”  the young man asked with disbelief.

“This is the money I picked up,” cried the pastor, his head in his hands.

The young man let out a terrible short laugh.  “You can’t fool me, Pastor Ben.  Unless you give me my share, your whole congregation will know about this.”

“But … but … this is the money that was in the satchel.”

The sprucely dressed young man shook his head.  “Why should somebody put bundles of paper in his satchel?  There was money in here, idiot.  Produce it now!”

The violence in the words shook the pastor.  “I swear to God this is the money that was in satchel!”

The young man rose.  His hands shot out and grabbed the pastor by the scruff, jerking him to his feet.  “I’ll forgive you for this trick, pastor, if you produce the money now.  Otherwise, I’ll report the matter to the police.”

Suddenly the pastor saw it! Saw it as clearly as he would ever see it.  He had been fooled.  Obviously the satchel had been a plant.  And he, a pastor, had fallen for the trick!

“Well, the papers are what I found,” he said shakily.  “But I’ll pay you just to close this unfortunate chapter.  How much money do you want?”

The young man was silent for a while.  “I don’t want to steal from you.  I’ll just count how much pieces of paper you have substituted and divide by two.”

He quickly counted.  It came to K6 000 000.  “You give me MK3 000 000.”

“But…”

“No buts, Pastor Ben.  Are you paying or not?”

The Pastor swallowed.  “I’ll pay.  But I don’t have that kind of money now.”

The youth smiled.  “I know.  You’ll have invested the loot.  You just give me what you have now and I’ll be calling now and then to collect a little until you finish the balance.

And that was the beginning of the pastor’s woes.  His wife found him a changed man.  It seemed as if in between the time she had been away and now, her husband had added ten years.  He had about him the look of a haunted man and the stooped shoulder of a man carrying a heavy load.

“What’s the matter, dear?  Are you ill?

But how could he tell her that he was being blackmailed? He hadn’t told her about the satchel in the first place so how could he now?

And so he started paying the young man.  The stipend he got wasn’t enough to pay him as well as feed his family so he started dipping his hand into the church’s treasury.  The young man came late every Sunday afternoon when his wife was away.

The pastor grew dejected as the months passed.  He knew even if he paid off the young man he was still in trouble.  Sooner of later, someone would discover that he had been swindling the church.  That would be the end of everything.

The church elders noticed his condition.  He couldn’t concentrate in church.  How could he thunder against sin when he himself was in its deadly grip? He no longer visited his flocks.  Some thought him ill.  Some even started questioning the way he was managing the church’s finances. They decided to convene a meeting of the Church Council so that they could find out what was wrong with him.

The meeting was held on Sunday after church service.

“Pastor, we’ve been wondering that over the past several months you haven’t been yourself,” began the Council’s Chairman.  “So we though we should hold this meeting so that we can find out what have been troubling you.”

“I appreciate your concern,” Pastor Kalebe said carelessly.  “But you shouldn’t be bothered any more because I’m resigning with immediate effect.”

The church elders were shocked.

“Resigning?”  asked the astonished Chairman.  “May I ask why?”

“Because this evening, I’m going to kill a person.  Would you like a murderer for your pastor?”

With that, he walked out of the meeting, leaving behind the bewildered elders. Unanimously, the elders agreed that the pastor had lost his head and must be committed to a mental hospital.

Pastor Kalebe went straight home.  He was finished.  Disgraced.  But he would go down together with the person who had brought him down.

The young man arrived at half past four in the evening to collect his money.  Pastor Kalebe had lost count of how much money he had paid or how much was remaining.  He didn’t know that what he would have to pay was the last installment. But it didn’t matter because he didn’t intend to pay.  In his pocket was a sharp knife.

“Good evening, Ben,” the youth had stopped calling him pastor.  “I’ve come for my dough.”

“Here it is,” he said.

The pastor’s hand shot out of the pocket of his jacket in a scything arc.  The youth found himself clutching his slit throat and then sliding to the floor.  Then he was still.

Pastor Kalebe went to the phone and dialed the police.  “I’ve just killed a man.”

END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lawrence Kadzitche

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